Gu Yong Ha sank into his seat with his usual poise and arranged his brilliantly colored robes about him. “It’s an excellent wine,” he promised as he poured for Moon Jae Shin. “Nothing but the best for my old classmate.” He set down the cup and leaned forward with a knowing smile. “Tell me, what brings the King’s officer to visit me?”
Moon Jae Shin, across from him, was slow to answer. His visits here were hardly rare, but Yeorim was right that he had the King’s business on his mind this time. He turned the cup in his hand and drank.
Gu Yong Ha frowned as if in thought. “It must be something disturbing the peace of the city. But there haven’t been any major crimes lately. So, let me guess . . . the Blue Messenger?”
Moon Jae Shin went still with his cup halfway to his lips. “How did you know that?”
His friend shook his head, with a smug expression. “Of course I know. I’m Gu Yong Ha!”
Moon Jae Shin could not restrain a brief grin. He finished his drink and put the cup down on the table. Gu Yong Ha was still the same as in their student days.
Gu Yong Ha lifted his cup to drink. His pose was careless, but his eyes were alert. “Do you think it’s a student from Sungkyunkwan?”
“It seems likely.”
“What, you don’t approve? This student is following in your footsteps, Geol Oh! You should be flattered.”
Moon Jae Shin pulled out a blue slip of paper and slammed it on the table. “His writing is terrible. Look at the mistakes.”
Gu Yong Ha slid around to Moon Jae Shin’s side of the table to look at the paper. The two of them were pressed close together, but Moon Jae Shin did not pull away.
The anonymous rebel’s declaration had been carefully corrected in Moon Jae Shin’s bold handwriting. Gu Yong Ha did not try to hide his amusement. “What does our young hero have to say this time? Oh, criticizing the court officials who are against ending slavery . . .” He looked up. “The arguments are very well-reasoned. This might even get a passing grade from Sungkyunkwan Professor Kim Yoon Shik.” He frowned thoughtfully. “But Professor Lee Sun Joon is stricter about correct writing, even when the arguments are well-phrased, so I don’t know if he would let it pass.”
Moon Jae Shin ignored this and refilled his cup. Yeorim’s warmth next to him seemed to spread all through his body, unwinding his tense muscles. “Have you heard anything about this person?”
Gu Yong Ha looked smug, as he always did when Moon Jae Shin came to him for help. “Some people say it’s a breakdown of law and order and that the Blue Messenger should be caught and punished. But many secretly support him and say he does a useful job in calling out the corrupt officials at court.” Gu Yong Ha picked up his fan and flipped it open with a dramatic gesture. “But! I have learned one more thing, something that no one suspects.” He leaned closer and whispered into Moon Jae Shin’s ear, “The Blue Messenger is a woman.”
Moon Jae Shin choked on his wine. “Are you all right?” Gu Yong Ha asked solicitously.
“Impossible that a woman could be a Sungkyunkwan scholar? Or leap over rooftops with your inimitable grace?” He snapped his fan closed. “Have you forgotten our old friend Daemul? Or a certain courtesan with a secret identity?”
“But Daemul is . . . Daemul. No one else could do that.”
“Are you sure?” Gu Yong Ha’s eyes were alight with mischief. He swept up his wine cup from the table and drank down the contents. “Ah, that is a good wine. I’ll have to get more from the same supplier.”
Moon Jae Shin was silent for a few moments. “Tomorrow night I’m going to follow the Blue Messenger and confront him face-to-face. The King wants me to get a sense of what he’s like.”
Gu Yong Ha nodded. “But you’re not on duty tonight. Why don’t you stay for a while? We can reminisce about old times--” He wore a mock-earnest expression, but beneath it Moon Jae Shin could tell he was serious.
Moon Jae Shin gave another of his rare smiles. “I’ll do that.” And he pulled Yeorim to him for a kiss.