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Day-to-Day Trials of a Longsuffering Cloud: The Diary of Head Eunuch Jang

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Date: Sungjeong 205, 3rd Month, 9th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 4

Majesty still working hard to further reform court, four full days of court audience in morning and reading submissions in afternoon. Candle consumption up this week – suspect Majesty also reading late into night. Ordered kitchen to add more ginseng to Majesty’s diet. Will monitor for progress.

New recruits settling in, will assign to posting areas soon. Majesty’s quarters needing higher number than usual, with rise in position and loss of Eunuch Hong. Will turn out well – feel good about this year’s intake!

Must remember this time: not only looking for quality, but also for eunuchs not secretly women!


Date: 3rd Month, 13th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 8

More court audiences. Junior Minister Jeong’s stutter truly unfortunate; smart boy, but even humble eunuch finding difficult to properly appreciate quality of suggestions when take s-s-s-so l-l-l-long to g-g-get w-words out of m-m-m-mouth. Some of other Ministers laugh each time – aigoo, think being Andong Kim loinfruit is great personal achievement?

Majesty surprisingly patient, however – grace of maturity? If so, perhaps will bring first trial recruit to help attend Majesty in morning. With increased duties, regrettably cannot spend as much time with Majesty as in former years – will jump in and grab pluckiest recruit before poached by other senior eunuchs!

With luck, Majesty will take shine!


Date: 3rd Month, 14th Day
Weather:  Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

No luck, no shine.

Trainee yelled at by Majesty, almost wet pants.

(Not as plucky as initially thought – will spend half hour in self-reflection over hasty decision and own undiscerning eye.)

Regardless, instructed trainee to wait on Majesty during midday walk through gardens. Majesty escaped into city, unaccompanied, for four hours.

Will add lack of foresight to self-reflection list.


Date: 3rd Month, 21st Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 3

No success on trainee front – Majesty not taking to any, and had to reassign two this week.

No trouble with new court ladies, but for some reason, every single eunuch. ... Could Majesty hate eunuchs? (Must own, a bit hurtful!)

In times like this, miss Eunuch Hong a lot.

Possible solution: staff Majesty’s household with only women?!

No, ridiculous idea.

(Or is it?!)

 

Unrelatedly, Eunuchs Do and Park veeerry interested in one particular trainee. Not sure what to think – will keep monitoring situation.


Date: 4th Month, 1st Day
Weather: Cloudy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

Idiot Minister presented submission to Majesty about taking queen from among daughters of noble families (specifically, Andong Kim family. Pssht, even humble eunuch knows).

Majesty now absent from three morning courts in row. Almost certain Majesty was in city instead – again without escort!!

(Guard Officer Kim, humble eunuch truly sorry for lack of appreciation during past ten years.)

Will increase guard presence and make sure to stay within easy running distance to provide wise counsel when Majesty stopped at gate.


Date: 4th Month, 2nd Day
Weather: Cloudy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

Majesty climbed over wall. Aigoo.

(Guard Officer Kim-ah!!!)

Will spend hour in self-reflection for failures in duty.


Date:  4th Month, 10th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 7

Thought idiot Minister wise enough to drop queen issue – WRONG.

All hat, no brains.

More importantly, Majesty certain to run away again, avoid court audience tomorrow.

GUARD OFFICER KIM-AH!!! ;O;

Actually, wait – not as if Guard Officer Kim the only bodyguard in Joseon! Will speak to head of Palace guard regiment – surely can assign someone.


Date: 4th Month, 11th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

New guard lost track of Majesty within first hour.

Forgot that all Palace guards trained by Guard Officer Kim – and more importantly, that training programme left unfinished!

SELF-REFLECTION.

 

Other news: something definitely strange about new trainee eunuch. Will assign to Consort Park’s household and make someone else’s problem.

(Consort Park so easy to serve, existing household eunuchs grown complacent – need preparation for when Princess Yeong Eun becomes teenager. Majesty already so protective of Princess Myeong Eun while crown prince – now king and Princess Yeong Eun – cannot imagine.

Aigoo.)


Date: 4th Month, 28th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 17

Messengers returned with reports on conditions in the provinces on 12th, Majesty working hard on relief measures and reforms ever since. Offered to send trainee eunuch to act as secretary, lighten workload – Majesty stared at wall for very long moment before answering (No).

Lack of sleep and overwork already taking health toll?!

But royal physicians unable to put any more herbs into diet – already too many herbs!

(Also, Majesty complaining about bitter taste of everything. Is bitter taste of good health, Majesty, GOOD HEALTH!)


Date: 5th Month, 15th Day
Weather: Cloudy, but Majesty not shining?!
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 34

Majesty still working hard – almost record of time spent without sneaking out of Palace. Court increasingly free of corruption, reforms progressing well, but Majesty still looking a bit … empty?

Try to fix with chicken leg?

Junior Minister Jeong and Teacher Da Senior Minister Jeong also working tirelessly, coming to see Majesty every day with reports and proposals. Senior Minister Jeong bringing so many documents, no longer tea mountain, more like scroll mountain!

Every three days, Senior Minister also brings letter – sometimes make Majesty laugh, sometimes make him look sad, but keeps every single one.

(In box in bottom drawer of bedroom cabinet – thinks humble eunuch not know. Pssht! Nothing about Majesty’s bedroom humble eunuch doesn’t know. Does Majesty also think humble eunuch not know about pink bracelet in pouch underneath pile of letters?

Aigoo, Majesty, humble eunuch not born yesterday.)


Date: 5th Month, 20th Day
Weather: Windy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 39

Private audience with idiot Minister and supporters. Small mercies – with reforms, always run out of time before Ministers can raise queen question at court.

(Reforms, and enormous volume of submissions from Junior Minister Jeong. Suspect not accident that always so much to discuss about military whenever Marriage Contingent next in line to speak. Stuttering not nearly so bad at other times, either.

Must make note of Junior Minister’s court days when scheduling Palace errands, especially if need to borrow eunuchs and maids from Princess’s household.) 

Therefore, Ministers requesting humble eunuch’s help with marriage business.

No, humble eunuch not raise matter in Majesty’s private time. Yes, humble eunuch also worried about royal succession. But succession in even greater danger if Ministers scare Majesty off into city without bodyguard AND NO SLEEP.

(At next state function, will seat them at draughty end of banquet hall.)


 

Date: 5th Month, 23rd Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 41

Received report about Eunuch Park and Eunuch Do’s trainee – strange behaviour, suggested further investigation.

Refused permission. Trainee good worker, good with Princess Yeong Eun – already short of hands as is, humble eunuch NOT WANT TO KNOW.

Aigoo, truly is more power, more problems.

 

Majesty sighing a lot lately. Never thought would say this, but almost wish he would sneak out of Palace again.


Date: 5th Month, 29th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 48

Majesty still sad. Not eating much, not sleeping well, working too much.

Cannot continue, must do something. But what?


Date: 6th Month, 2nd Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 50

Majesty still not resting. Recruited physicians, Ministers and Consort Park to help humble eunuch in urging, but Majesty still not taking advice.

If Eunuch Hong Ra-On here, Majesty would listen to her – certainly not overwork self like this.

No time during day, of course, but if only could sneak Hong Ra-On into Palace at night, without anyone catching ––––

–Wait, what nonsense, WHO TO CATCH?

Am Head Eunuch, can do as please!

FOR JOSEON!!


Date: 6th Month, 3rd Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 51

Caught by Ministry of Rites and censured.

Will spend two hours in self-reflection for Joseon.

Withered old goats.

(Still, only caught after coming back from getting Hong Ra-On out. Success!)


Date: 6th Month, 7th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 55

Change in Majesty astonishing, even four days after Hong Ra-On’s visit.

Must arrange more regular meetings – not at night, but perhaps can rearrange Majesty’s schedule, make time for non-secret visits during day. Must speak to Hong Ra-On.


Date:  6th Month, 9th Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 57

Hong Ra-On REFUSING TO COME?!

Says happy to visit at night, but needs to mind bookshop during day. But cannot visit at night!

Surely someone else can mind bookshop? Many people capable of selling books in Joseon, but no one else to jolly Majesty out of bad mood!!

Must find bookshop replacement, as urgent matter of state.

If only had contacts outside of Palace …

–Wait.


Date: 6th Month, 15th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 63

Successfully contacted Ma Jeong-Ja, recruited his Wol-hee as new shopgirl.

Will pay wages out of Majesty's household funds. Have portion allocated for gifts to favoured court ladies, consorts, etc. – Majesty won’t be using anyway.

Tangentially, also foresee increase in court lady/eunuch trysts by boiler room in future.

Note to self: reduce foot traffic in area. Cannot afford to lose any more good people than already have. Small price to pay.


Date:  7th Month, 8th Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

First round of reforms complete.

Majesty’s day off well-earned – at least Hong Ra-On with him, this time.


Date: 7th Month, 16th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 1

With lull in other court business, marriage talks recommenced, Majesty back to disappearing every other day.

Not unsympathetic, but also true that issue must be resolved eventually.


Date: 7th Month, 27th Day
Weather: Cloudy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 2

Idiot Minister told Majesty that only want Majesty to take queen, no opposition to keeping Hong Ra On as concubine or consort, “only natural”.

Can’t remember last time Majesty kicked someone through door. Almost nostalgic.


Date: 8th Month, 3rd Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 6

Marriage contingent not letting up this time. Determined to see this through to end, rest of court also starting to support efforts.

Even Senior Minister Jeong – look on Majesty’s face when he joined appeal quite upsetting for humble eunuch to see.


Date: 8th Month, 5th Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 1

TRAINEE IS SECRETLY WOMAN.

Why so many Joseon women insist on becoming eunuch?! PSA TO WOMEN OF JOSEON: CAN ENTER PALACE AS WOMAN, ALSO!!

Aigoo.

Will warn Eunuchs Do and Park to do better job in helping her cover up. Young eunuchs these days not resourceful at all.


Date: 8th Month, 9th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 3

Push for royal marriage continues.

When serving evening tea in study, Majesty asked if humble eunuch ever been in love.

In loveAS IF HAVE TIME. Told Majesty as much.

Majesty advised humble eunuch to make time.

Make timeWHOSE FAULT THAT HUMBLE EUNUCH IS LOSING BOTH TIME AND HAIR??


Date: 8th Month, 11th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 2

Majesty’s constant escaping untenable – approval needed for things to get done!

Have enlisted Hong Ra-On in preventing further excursions.

 

Have never considered digging pits around Palace wall, but desperate times.


Date: 8th Month, 12th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 3

SUCCESS!

Always knew Hong Ra-On had good head on shoulders. Maybe consult on marriage problem, too, Ministers’ nagging beginning to get up humble eunuch’s bum.


Date: 8th Month, 15th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 0

TERRIBLE MISTAKE, MAJESTY FURIOUS, PLAN ABORTED.

Three hours of self-reflection.


Date: 8th Month, 17th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 2

Majesty convened court, proposed that, as part of plan to reduce distance between king and people, will take commoner Hong Ra-On as queen!

COURT IN UPROAR.

Aigoo, especially with memory of gisaeng imposter queen so fresh, hope Majesty knows what he’s doing.


Date: 8th Month, 20th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 5

Stand-off at court. Ministers from key noble families oppose. Other Ministers, including Senior Minister Jeong, Senior Minister Cho and Junior Minister Jeong support.

Opposing Ministers argue tradition. Majesty argues reform.

Opposing Ministers argue morals – Mother of Nation must have unimpeachable background, Hong Gyeong-rae traitor, Hong Ra-On daughter of traitor. Majesty argues demonstrated patriotism – advocacy for people, work for future of Joseon, contribution to stability of royal family.

Wonder what Hong Ra-On thinks?


Date: 8th Month, 28th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 2

News from outside Palace: flyers being distributed in capital, as well as provinces – treatise on why king, in order to rule for people, cannot take hundreds of women for self, and where possible, should only take one.

Opposing Ministers trying to confiscate, but copies still being smuggled even into Palace. Haven’t seen yet, but suspect an exact match for certain document in bottom drawer of Majesty’s bedroom cabinet.


Date: 9th Month, 14th Day
Weather: Windy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 7

News from outside Palace: public opinion overwhelmingly in favour. Possible marriage candidates the biggest discussion topic across city and all provinces, but seems most popular is daughter of rebel-leader Hong Gyeong-rae, to show true royal commitment to change and symbolic accord with hearts of people.

Masterful work, Majesty. Humble eunuch proud beyond words.


Date: 9th Month, 18th Day
Weather: Cloudy
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 3

Majesty currently pacing floor of room, extremely tense. Awaiting arrival of Hong Ra-On to apartments, going to personally ask her to marry before sending formal proposal letter to family.

Sitting in adjoining study, only way to keep self calm is to write diary. Heart pounding, so exciting!

Ah, hear footsteps–!

 

Majesty and Hong Ra On in room now, Majesty asking right now. Aigoo, so tense!

Silence, why silence? – HONG RA-ON, WHAT YOU MEAN “YOU NEED TIME TO THINK ABOUT?!” Of course unqualified, all prospective queens unqualified, so Palace provides training, aigoo, Majesty, tell her, tell her!!!

 

LIFE OF QUEEN TOO MUCH WORK, WOULD PREFER TO REMAIN BOOKSHOP OWNER–––––

 

–Aigoo, joke, was all joke, Hong Ra-On laughing and Majesty yelling. Household eunuchs and maids all running outside to spread news. Own hands a bit shaky, better go and sit quietly for moment to recover.

Aigoo, humble eunuch too old for heart to take this kind of stress.


Date: 10th Month, 2nd Day
Weather: Rain
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 12

Formal engagement preparations begun in earnest, wedding preparations to follow. So busy, almost no time to wipe own bum!

Hong Ra-On now living in Palace, undergoing formal training. No complaints about conduct in lessons, but constantly disappearing from quarters during free time.

(Still, as long as can find Majesty, can always find her too, so not big problem. Seems to often help with secretarial work – good, since never did find eunuch for that position.)


Date: 11th Month, 17th Day
Weather: Snow
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 17

Majesty, generally disinterested in wedding preparations, specifically requested that particular chicken to be served at banquet.

Was wondering why, out of all of Kim Heon’s confiscated property, Majesty insisted on keeping those.


Date: Sungjeong 206, 3rd Month, 5th Day
Weather: Sunny
Days since Majesty’s last escape: 21

Wedding rites a great success from beginning to end!

Food and drink in plentiful supply, all dancers present and accounted for. Standard fights between drunken Ministers fully anticipated (with exception of Senior Minister Jeong, who fought dog), all valuables moved well out of range beforehand.

To great relief, Majesty accounted for at all times for almost full month before – adherence to royal protocol during ceremonies also unimpeachable, aside from moment at banquet when tried to feed new Queen “chicken leg of affection”.

Just clean up left now, and then humble eunuch can finally rest.


Date: Sungjeong 207, 2nd Month, 10th Day
Weather: Clear
Days since Majesties’ last escape: 28

Queen pregnant! Radiant with happiness, entire Palace in celebration.

Majesty a constant hovering presence beside her, almost as if wearing same pair of pants. Will probably get worse as Queen’s belly grows bigger, can’t wait until–

–Wait.

1. Royal baby is Majesty’s child.

2. Majesty almost never leaves Queen’s side, meaning she will spend entire pregnancy looking at him.

Therefore, chances of second, smaller version of Majesty running around Palace in few years (as well as third? Fourth?!) almost guaranteed.

King can abdicate, but for head eunuch – how to retire??

Aigoo.