Somewhere between July 1500
“Good morning, Father, Mother.” The youngest son of the Oh family bowed to his parents and nodded towards his older brother and sister-in-law who were seated in the living hall.
“Sehun, we have good news to share with you.” Old Master Oh’s eyes almost disappeared as he smiled, a feature whom the youngest son inherited from. “Your husband-to-be will be arriving with his family on the 15th.”
It would be two weeks from now. “That’s very soon.” He spoke in a low voice.
“I hardly think so. I think it’s been too long. We had been waiting for this day to happen for so long.” Mrs. Oh clapped her hands. “We need to make preparation to welcome their arrival.”
“Yes, yes. Of course.” Old Master Oh agreed. “Sehun, make sure you will be home by lunch tomorrow.”
“Yes, Father.” He glanced at both his parents. ““If I’m no longer needed, may I retire to my room?” His father nodded. He heard his mother’s voice beckoning for the servants to prepare for their guests’ arrival before leaving the living hall.
Closing the door behind him, Sehun let out a long, tired sigh. He really shouldn’t complain. Nothing came free in the world, especially not when you were born into the richest family in Hanyang. He knew he was fortunate compared to his peers from similar background. He did not need to be involved in his family’s business, his brother more than capable expanding the business, allowing him to pursue his passion in educating young minds in the most renowned academy in the city. All his parents have ever asked of him was to marry the son of their family friend.
“It’s a fair trade,” Sehun said to himself. But the thought of marrying someone whom he didn’t know before still did not sit well with him.
Two days ago, he found out he had been promised to someone when he was still an infant. His betrothed was the son of his mother’s childhood friend, married to a Chinese man in northern China.
“Youngji’s my best friend and we promised each other that our children will marry each other when they grow up.”
“But why must it be me?”
Mrs. Oh gave him a look. Sehun knew he had asked a stupid question. Of course it must be him. He was his mother’s only son. His older brother, Junmyeon was of his father’s first wife.
Although he knew little about love, marriage, to him, should be about spending the rest of your life with someone whom you love dearly, just like his brother and sisters-in-law. But, how could you love a complete stranger whom you had never seen in your life?
He had wanted to object but his father argued about how parents should decide for their child’s marriage. And it didn’t help his case that his mother was very fond of his future life partner and adamant that he would make a great son-in-law.
“From how Youngji described him in the letters, Luhan would make a great husband. You will learn to love him in no time.” His mother’s smile was so wide and bright that Sehun didn’t have the heart to say no anymore.
His mother said that despite born to a Korean mother, Luhan had never learned Korean in his entire life. The Lu grandparents thought since Luhan was born into a Chinese family, that made him a Chinese man. They did not see the need for him to learn Korean.
Sehun tried to imagine his future husband – a young man who had never left his country and could not speak Korean was to live with him for life. How were they going to even communicate with each other?
Sehun sighed as he sat down at his study table and picked up a book titled “Introduction to Chinese Language”.
Two weeks later
“Young Master Sehun?” His servant, Sungmin called out from the door.
“Yes, Sungmin hyung?” Although he was of higher status than Sungmin, Sehun addressed Sungmin as ‘hyung’ as the servant was much older than him. “Why are you here?”
“Master Oh wants you to be home right now. Your … “ Sungmin bit back a smile. “... husband-to-be has arrived.”
“Oh.” Sehun had completely forgotten about meeting his future… spouse.
“Just give me a moment. I’ll be ready in a minute.” The young man cleaned his desk and once he made sure that everything was neat and tidy, he headed back to the Oh residence.
“How would he look like?” Sehun wondered on his way back home. He was told that Han people in the northern region had fair complexion and were good looking, making the area a popular place for people to seek potential husbands and wives.
He had been studying Chinese language for the past week but there was only so much he could learn about the foreign language from a book. He hoped that it would be sufficient to at least initiate a conversation with the Chinese man.
When he arrived in the living hall, he was greeted by his parents’ disapproving look and Junmyeon’s ‘you-are-in-big-trouble-little-brother’ raising brows and cheeky smiles.
“I am sorry for being late. I got caught up with work in the academy.” Sehun bowed towards his parents.
“This is Sehun, Luhan’s husband to be.” His mother spoke, introducing him to their guests. Sehun turned to the direction where they were seated. Old Mr Lu was a stern-looking man, his eyes looking up and down, inspecting Sehun, a satisfied grin plastered across his face. Seated next to him was a woman around his mother’s age. She smiled at Sehun when the young man bowed at her. A teenage girl with her hair styled in high ponytails and slightly red cheeks whispered into Mr Lu’s ears as his mother spoke. Sehun assumed that she was the translator that his family had told him about when he brought up the language barrier to escape the marriage arrangement.
And they were right.
His husband-to-be was easily the most beautiful person he had seen in his life. His eyes reminded Sehun of a fawn and he had really fair skin. Their eyes met, and Sehun could not help staring into that pair of doe eyes. The latter held his gaze and none of them looked away for a while.
Behind him, someone cleared their throat. Taking the hint, Sehun broke their gaze, but not forgetting to smile at him. The latter turned away, his cheeks flushed pink.
Maybe it won’t be as difficult as he thought it would be.
After the brief introduction, their families began to discuss about the wedding preparation. Throughout the whole time, Sehun kept stealing glances at Luhan, but the latter seemed to be embarrassed and tried his best not to look at him. After what Sehun thought was the longest hour of his life, their parents thought that they should get to know each other better and suggested that they should take a walk in the garden.
Sehun turned to look at Yuqi, who was following closely behind them. He guessed that this was the closest they could get to being alone. They stopped next to the cherry blossoms, where the flowers were blooming pink.
“Ni hao, wo shi Sehun.”
Luhan’s eyes lit up when he heard Sehun spoke in Chinese. “Ni hao,” He repeated, but emphasizing the right intonations. “Sehun.”
Sehun nodded with a smile. “Dui.”
“Where did you learn to speak Chinese?” His Korean pronunciation was thick with Chinese accent but Sehun could understand him.
“How did you…?”
“I can understand a bit.” Luhan’s eyebrows furrowed, trying to think of what to say but gave up eventually as he turned to Yuqi for help.
“Young Master Luhan used to learn Korean from Mrs. Lu.”
“I was told that your grandparents did not allow your mother to teach Korean.” There was a twinkle of mischief in his eyes as he smiled in reply to Sehun’s question.
Sehun smirked. Interesting.
Their wedding was the biggest event ever held in the town this year, every high ranked official and aristocrats invited to the celebration. His family hadn’t held back, hiring only the city’s best performers and cooks to serve their important guests. He didn’t remember his brothers’ weddings being this extravagant.
As someone who liked to have peace and quiet, the entire wedding was almost unbearable. Well, except for his groom. From time to time, Sehun couldn’t keep his eyes off Luhan, who was sitting next to him, gripping his hands tightly in his lap. The lilac purple hanbok brought out his fair skin. He was glowing in the traditional outfit.
He realized that Luhan hadn’t eaten much, taking only a small bite of the pastries served before them. Sehun made a mental note to get the kitchen servant to bring something into their room later in the night.
As the night was getting late, the grand feast eventually ended. After sending off their guests, the newly-weds returned to their room, very much aware of the giggling servants behind them. Sehun never knew awkwardness could kill until now. From Luhan’s blushing cheeks, he knew his groom had an idea of what the giggles implied.
After helping them to get ready for bed, the servants greeted them good night. Sehun waved them away and shut the door, only to regret that he probably had given the servant girls the wrong impression.
“You probably hadn’t eaten anything, so I asked the kitchen to cook something for you.” Sehun spoke as slow as he could, gesturing at the same time in hope that he could understand.
Fortunately, Luhan did understand as he nodded. “Xie xie.” He looked at the table filled with a pot of porridge and roasted peanuts, then turned to Sehun, whose back was facing him, searching for something in his wardrobe.
“You can sleep on the bed.” Luhan stared at him with hesitance. “I have this.” Sehun smiled, tapping the thick blanket he just pulled out from the wardrobe.
Sehun smiled, laying the thick blanket on the floor next to the bed. He took his nightwear to change behind the panel divider. Ever since he had arrived at the Oh Residence, his future husband – now, husband- had been so kind to him, making efforts to communicate with him in his native language and taking care of him. Luhan had known about this marriage since he was a child. Although his mother had moved to a foreign country, their friendship remained strong over the years through letters and gifts exchanges. When Aunt Minjung gave birth to her youngest son, his mother was ecstatic and vowed that their children would marry each other when they reached 20 years of age.
He wasn’t surprised when his mother told him that his wedding would be this soon. His half brothers and sisters were already throwing him the ‘good riddance’ look. He wouldn’t blame them. Who wouldn’t be happy when there was less competition to fight for the family inheritance? It was for the best, Luhan had thought, ignoring the tightness in his chest. He was realizing his mother’s dream and at the same time, doing his family a favor.
“Luhan,” He turned to Sehun, who smiled, his eyes turning crescents. “Wan an.”
“Wan an. ” Luhan returned the smile.
He sat at the table and began to ladle the porridge into a bowl. He took a bite. It was far from how his family cook used to make them but he could get used to the new taste.
“Hua.” Sehun repeated while pointing at the pot of bougainvillea in their garden. “Kkot.”
Luhan’s eyes twinkled. “Kkot.” Sehun nodded, putting his thumbs up.
Since he had learnt Korean when he was young, it was easier for Luhan to catch up. Compared to when he first arrived, Luhan could say short, simple phrases without Yuqi’s help. She was always in close proximity, lending a helping hand when Luhan struggled to express himself in Korean. Sehun appreciated Yuqi’s help but sometimes he wished he could master Mandarin faster so he could talk to Luhan without needing translation in between.
They bonded over their effort in learning each other’s language. Luhan worked hard to master their language and Sehun wanted to learn Chinese so that his husband could speak to him more comfortably.
As they learned each other’s language from each other, Sehun also learned more about Luhan. Luhan did not say much but his expression and body language said otherwise. He had this twinkle in his eyes and twitch in his lips when something amused him; his brows furrowed when he focused really hard. He would roll his eyes (he thought no one was looking)when he heard Junmyeon telling his sister-in-law jokes that weren’t funny. Sehun knew he was more than what he presented himself to be and he was eager to discover more.
“Ni yao chi fan ma?” Luhan burst into laughter, crow’s-feet appearing at the corners of his eyes.
“I said it wrong?”
Luhan shook his head, a fond smile gracing his lips. “Ni yao chi fan ma?” He repeated, hoping that Sehun would notice the correct intonation.
“Ni yao chi fan ma?” Sehun spoke slowly, looking at Luhan hesitantly.
Luhan nodded, grinning.
This, Sehun decided, he could do this for the rest of his life.
Despite wrapped in layers of clothings, Luhan still found himself shivering when the chilly Autumn wind blew past as he headed towards Sehun’s study room. Carrying a bowl of soup in his hand, Luhan carefully balanced the tray before knocking on the door.
“It’s me, Luhan. Can I come in?” Luhan heard rushed footsteps and he was greeted with Sehun’s exhausted but relieved face. “Luhan.”
Luhan stepped in, his eyes casting a quick glance at the stack of books on Sehun’s study table.
“I know you said you were not hungry but you should at least eat something or else you might fall sick.” Luhan could now speak Korean fluently to the extent he could hold a full conversation in Korean with his mother-in-law. The Ohs were very pleased with Luhan and they could not been more fond with their son-in-law, pampering him with herbal supplements and luxurious Chinese cuisines.
Although men were favored in this society and had privileges to serve the country and being breadwinners of the family, Luhan was not allowed of such opportunities because he was not a Korean citizen by birth. Hence, while Sehun teached in the academy during the day, Luhan had to stay home and help out with the household matters, especially now as his sister-in-law, Joohyun was pregnant. And Luhan, he had not complained, not even once.
“I asked the cook to prepare this soup. It’s called…” Luhan rubbed his chin, his face scrunched up in the most adorable way as he thought hard.
Sehun took a whiff. “Samgyetang?”
“Yes, that one. Samgyetang!”
Sehun smiled, sitting down at the table as he watched Luhan poured him a bowl of the soup. “Thank you for bringing it to me. You are my savior.”
Luhan looked at the study table which was full with his students answer sheets. “Let me tidy up your table.”
“It’s fine, Luhan.” Sehun tried to stop him but his husband was already a step ahead.
“This,” As he tidied the stack of papers, he saw familiar Chinese characters that were written in a vertical manner.
“This is an idiomatic expression. It means out of the blue.” Holding the bowl of soup, Sehun came behind him. “But, in Chinese, it meant something else.”
Sehun’s eyes went wide. “Really?”
Luhan chuckled. Sehun looked so much younger than his age when he got curious or fascinated.
“Do you learn calligraphy?”
Luhan nodded. “When I was young.” The man chuckled, shaking his head. “But I’m not good at it.”
Putting his bowl away, Sehun took out a brush and laid out a piece of blank paper before them. “Lucky for you, I’m quite good at it. I’ll teach you!”
“I didn’t say I want to learn though.” Luhan replied, grinning.
Sehun rolled his eyes in fake annoyance. After living with each other almost a year, they have somehow settled into this – friendship, maybe?-where they were comfortable to tease each other “Then consider doing me a favor by humoring me. I need a break. I have been doing this the whole night. I think I can lose my mind if I continue like this.”
Luhan laughed. “Only because you say so.”
Wrapping his arms around from behind, Sehun placed the brush into Luhan’s hand, his large hands over his slender ones. With every stroke on the paper, Luhan’s heart began to palpitate. His stomach did this weird flip as Sehun’s warm breath hit his neck.
These days, Luhan realized how his body was reacting weirdly when Sehun was around him. He didn’t know what exactly this was about but he had an inkling of what it really was. He had read it in books and heard it in operas performed in his family’s garden by Beijing’s popular troupe.
“And that’s how you do it.” Sehun looked at the four letter idiom written on the paper and beamed proudly at Luhan. But Luhan just could not take his eyes off Sehun.
He was going to spend the rest of his life with him anyway, so having feelings for Sehun wasn’t a bad thing. But Luhan was afraid. What if it was one-sided? What if Sehun just wanted to stay as friends?
A knock on the door interrupted them. Luhan pushed Sehun away. Sehun realized he didn’t want to let go.
“Young Masters, Mr. Oh and Mrs Oh require your presence at the common hall. They wanted to discuss about the Lunar New Year preparation.” Sung Min entered the room, unaware of the awkwardness between them.
“We’ll be there.” Luhan released himself from Sehun’s hold. He might be thinking too much but he felt Sehun’s hand lingered for a tad bit longer than necessary before letting go.
Mid January 1501
As the Lunar New Year was around the corner, the Oh household was busy with the preparation to welcome a new beginning. Sehun noticed Luhan was very quiet recently. He hadn’t been responding to Sehun’s playful teases and he was acting like the early days where he first arrived in Hanyang. He wondered what was wrong until he saw how his husband looked sad when his mother reminisced her childhood days celebrating New Year with Luhan’s mother.
Luhan was homesick and Sehun wanted to do something for him. Taking him back to see his family again would be impossible, especially not when his parents had been planning to introduce their new son-in-law to every guest visiting their home.
“Luhan haven’t seen the city right? Why not bring him on a little tour around the city?” Joohyun, his sister-in-law had suggested. She was right. Ever since Luhan had arrived in Hanyang, he had been busy with their wedding preparation and then helping out his sister-in-law with household chores.
“Ah, I have an idea! Why don’t you bring Luhan to Starlight Lake? It’s a beautiful spot for stargazing, don’t you think?” Starlight Lake was within the property owned by the Oh family near the city’s border. When Sehun was a child, their family would spend the summer at a small cottage. He remembered him jumping into the lake with his brothers and they would swim and splash water to keep themselves cool. During the night, the place was only lit by street oil lamps, making it a great place to look at stars especially on moonless nights.
“Do you think he’ll like it?” A knowing smile appeared on Joohyun’s beautiful face. “He will love it.”
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll know when we get there.” Between the two men, only their soft footsteps and sound of crickets chirping could be heard as they ventured through the Oh Family’s private property, aided by an oil lamp.
Luhan yawned. Sehun had woken him up in the middle of the night and asked him to get dressed. He didn’t know where they were heading but it must be urgent because it wasn’t like Sehun to wake someone up in the middle of the night.
“We are here.”
The surface of Starlight Lake reflected the full moon in the sky. Luhan followed Sehun to the pier. Sehun sat down at the end of the pier and gestured Luhan to join him. The latter settled next to him, sitting closely, their legs against each other.
“The moon’s really beautiful tonight.” Luhan looked up to the sky. “I used to look at the moon every night back in China. It’s been a while since I did this.”
“It must have been hard for you to leave your family and come all the way here.” Sehun looked at Luhan, feeling guilty. Neither had a say in this marriage but Sehun had always thought of how unfair it was for Luhan to get the short end of the stick.
“I’ll be honest with you. It is,” To Sehun’s surprise, Luhan reached out and placed his hand on Sehun’s. “But you make things easier.” Under the yellow candlelight from the lamp, Sehun could see the blush on Luhan’s face.
“I’m sorry that you can’t go home to your family to celebrate Lunar New Year.”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“You look sad that day when Mother mentioned about her celebrating New Year with your mother during their younger days. I thought you are homesick.”
“No, I’m not sad.” Luhan chuckled. “I’m just worried about my mother. I’m wondering if she’s doing well.” He paused. “Besides I wouldn’t say I miss home, not when you spend most of your life with step mothers and half-brothers and sisters who hate you. The truth is I am so glad that I don’t have to endure another reunion dinner with them.”
Sehun tilted his head, looking like a confused little puppy. “Step mothers? But your mother…?”
“My mother is the third wife.”
“Her family was poor back then and my father came with wedding dowries that could feed the entire family.”
“You don’t have to feel bad. It’s part of my life and I accept as it is.” Luhan smiled. “Did you bring me here because you thought I was homesick?”
Sehun scratched his nape, nodding with a bashful smile. “I thought it might cheer you up a little.”
Luhan chuckled. “That’s, that’s really nice of you.” He looked at their hands and began to draw circle on the back of his hand. “I have never said this enough but thank you. Thank you for helping me. You learn Chinese for me, and you are always so kind to me. I owe you so much.”
Sehun caressed Luhan’s knuckles. “You are my husband. It’s my responsibility to take care of you.”
Smiling, Luhan leaned closer to him and kissed his cheek.
When they returned from their late night trip at Starlight Lake, neither had spoken about the kiss, both shy about their newfound feelings for each other. They let go of their linked hands and quietly undressed for bed. While Sehun was about to lie down on his makeshift bed, Luhan caught hold of his arm.
“Do you want to sleep with me?” Luhan asked.
Sehun choked. Luhan, upon realizing what his words might have implied, became flustered. “I mean, the makeshift bed must have been uncomfortable to sleep on and…”
“Luhan,” Sehun smiled. “You don’t have to explain. I understand.” Sehun cleared his throat. “Are you okay with us sleeping on the same bed?”
Luhan nodded, making space as Sehun climbed onto the bed. As they both laid on the bed next to each other, he thought of the moments they shared at Starlight Lake, how it had changed their relationship.
Sehun turned to look at Luhan. “I promise I’ll take care of you. I’ll make you happy.” He held out his hand and Luhan, who in turn smiled, linked their fingers together.
“I know you will.” Sehun heard the promise in his voice. I’ll make you happy too.
“Come in.” His father called out within the study room after Sehun gave three rasp knocks on the door. When Sehun entered, his parents’ grim expression did not go unnoticed. His father had asked him to see him after dinner. Tonight’s dinner had been a solemn occasion. Joohyun had a miscarriage yesterday and the disappointed look on their faces pained him. They had been trying to conceive for 4 years now and this was a cruel twist of fate.
“Take a seat, Sehun. There’s something we would like to tell you.”
“Joohyun had a miscarriage.”
Sehun nodded. “I’m truly sorry for what happened.”
“Joohyun had tried her best but she has no luck to receive the blessing from the Goddess of Motherhood.” His mother sighed. “Luhan, well, Luhan is out of the question.”
“What are you trying to tell me, Father, Mother?” Sehun sensed something ominous was going to happen.
“We thought that you should consider getting a wife.”
Sehun froze. “No, absolutely not.”
“Sehun, please. Our family needs an heir to continue the Oh family lineage.
“I can’t do that to Luhan.”
“Luhan will understand that we are doing this for the family.”
“He left his home country and marry a complete stranger in a country that he could hardly speak the language. And now you want him to share a husband with another woman.”
“We don’t have a choice, Sehun.”
“Father, Mother, aren’t we rushing through things? Shouldn’t we wait? Perhaps the good news shall arrive soon if we stay patient.”
“We have waited long enough, Sehun. Your mother and I are not getting any younger. We really want to have a grandson before we die and face your ancestors in the afterworld.”
“No,” Sehun stood up, balling his fist. “Father, Mother, I am Luhan’s husband and I am responsible to make him happy. He had been a great husband and a responsible son-in-law, taking care of our family even though he didn’t have to. I will not repay his devotion with betrayal as such.”
The young man stormed out of the room, not noticing a figure who had been standing outside the study room, having to overhear the entire conversation.
“They are getting more and more unreasonable!” While putting away their freshly laundered clothes, behind him, Sehun returned to their bedroom, huffing in anger. The unnecessary loud screeching of the stool dragged across the floor filled the room as Sehun sat down and poured himself a cup of tea, attempting to cool down.
“If that’s what’s best for the family, then go ahead with the arrangement.” Sehun turned as he stared at disbelief at his husband. Luhan had overheard their conversation.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. Father and Mother had called for me too. I was going to go in when I heard you quarrelling.” Sehun bit his lips, anger coursing through his veins. His parents had planned for this.
“I know you care for me. But family should come first.” Luhan’s voice was calm and collected but Sehun had been around him long enough to know that it was far from the truth. “You don’t really believe that.”
Luhan stayed silent, continuing his chores. Sehun stormed towards him, grabbing Luhan by his arm. The Chinese man refused to look him in the eyes. “Are you really that keen to share me with another woman?”
Luhan tried not to let his voice tremble. “Please don’t do this, Sehun.”
“No, I am begging you, please don’t do this to me, Luhan.” Sehun’s fingers pressed into his skin but it did not hurt as much as his heart was. “Don’t say like the thought of me with another woman doesn’t bother you at all.
“Sehun,” When Luhan finally looked at Sehun, he saw indignation in his eyes. And he did not like that look on Sehun. Sehun deserved everything wonderful in this world, not this.
“Tell me that you want me for yourself. Tell me you don’t want to share me with other woman.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Then tell me, Luhan. What can be so difficult with wanting what you want?”
“I can’t be selfish, Sehun.” Luhan’s voice cracked. “Your family needs you.’
“Answer my question, Luhan. Do you really want me to marry another woman? To share a bed with a woman? To love another woman like how I love you?”
Luhan stared into Sehun’s eyes, his fingers balling into a fist, the latter’s words conjuring images that tortured him.
“Just say the words, Luhan. Just say you want me for yourself and I’ll go against the world for you.”
Luhan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, his eyes were dark with want. “I want you, Sehun and I don’t want you to marry anyone else.”
The next thing Luhan knew was Sehun was kissing him. He immediately melted in his embrace, putting his hands on Sehun’s hips and kissing him back with all he got. And Sehun found himself unable to stop. He couldn’t do anything else than kiss Luhan again and again and never stop.
“Sehun,” His voice was a low, breathless whisper when they eventually pulled away for air.
With their foreheads against each other, Sehun whispered: “I won’t have anyone else but you. I promise.”
“Sehun,” And Luhan decided even if the world crumbled or burn, it won’t matter because he trusted Sehun. Sehun won’t do anything that would hurt him. Because Sehun loved him.
This time, Luhan kissed Sehun breathless.
Despite his father’s scoldings and his mother’s pleadings, Sehun refused to go for any match making that he was arranged for. Dinners became awkward occasions because they would always end up fighting that eventually Luhan and Sehun had dinner separately in their room. His brother tried his best to talk him into getting a wife but Sehun would retort by telling him to do the same (but Junmyeon’s hurt expression hurt Sehun even more) so in the end Sehun chose to ignore his brother. Many times, Luhan wanted to give up and told Sehun to comply his parents’ wishes because he couldn’t endure seeing them quarreling every day.
“No, Luhan. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to say yes.” Sehun said after Luhan tried to convince his husband for the umptieth time.
“I believe it’s just a matter of time before Joohyun noona will get pregnant. We just need to wait.” Sehun said, marking his students’ answer sheets without looking up at Luhan. Luhan knew it was his method of getting him to give up on this topic. But Luhan wasn’t one to admit defeat easily.
“But your parents…?”
Sehun finally put down his brush and turned towards Luhan. “I’m in love with you, Luhan. How can I marry another when you own my heart and soul?”
With a tired but fond smile, he reached out for Luhan’s hand and his fingers moved to caress his knuckles. “Women are not commodities. They are not tools to bear children. Wives who can bear children are blessings to the family. But we can’t just dispose them when they are unable to give birth. If we do that, then what makes us different from monsters?”
“If I really marry another woman, I’m not only doing you wrong, but also robbing the woman a chance of love and happiness. She would have to live with a man who could never love her the way she deserves to. This is cruel. I can’t do this to someone I have yet to meet.”
“I, I’m sorry. I didn’t think of that.” Luhan didn’t really think it through. He didn’t knew there was such reason behind his husband’s firm decision of getting a wife. He was embarrassed. Being born into a family where women were treated lowly, he should have known better.
Sehun kissed Luhan’s forehead. “Trust me, all right? Things will get better, I promise.”
And Luhan believed him. Luhan always believed him. “All right.”
Sehun regretted that he agreed to have dinner with his parents. After weeks of ignoring each other, Luhan persuaded him to have dinner with his parents.
“They are your parents. You can’t ignore them for life.”
“Promise me you’ll go or I’ll make you sleep on the floor tonight.”
Tonight, all of them were seated on the same table but none said anything. Sehun hated this and how he wished to leave if it wasn’t for Luhan’s firm grip on his thigh and that ‘leave-and-you-are-sleeping-on-the-floor-tonight’ glare.
Sehun looked up.
“I’ve arranged a meeting with you with the Jung family’s youngest daughter. She’s about your age and passionate about language and arts. I think the two of you will be a perfect pair.”
Sehun slammed his chopsticks on the table. “I told you that I am not going to marry another woman!”
“Oh Sehun, you are the male descendant of the Oh family. It’s your responsibility to continue our family lineage!”
“You want to talk about filial piety? Let’s talk about it then! I have done all you have ever asked of me! Since young, you wanted me to learn about languages and art and martial arts, and I did. Despite I hated martial arts, I went for classes, enduring bruises and aches without any complaints. I was not interested in politics yet you asked me to sit for exams to become government officers. And I still did. You asked to marry a stranger from China and I married him. And now you are telling me that I am not doing my part as the Oh family?? Have you ever thought of my feelings? Am I a puppet to you, existing only to be told what to do?”
“Sehun!” Luhan grabbed onto him.
“Oh Sehun!” His mother exclaimed, while his father stared at him, eyes filled with suppressed rage.
“Just because Luhan is not a Korean and is married into the family, all of you are treating him like he’s a mistress, with no regards to his feelings or thoughts. Have you ever asked him, is it okay for him to share a husband with someone else? With someone who could bear a child and thus making her more worthy of him because of her childbearing ability?”
“Our society,” Mrs. Oh started but Sehun stopped her. “Why do we have to let our society dictate everything in our life? Just because the society treats men that are married into the family like that doesn’t mean we have to do the same!”
“Oh Sehun, don’t challenge our traditions with your preposterous ways of thinking! Luhan knows his place and he is mature enough to know that it’s not always about ourselves. It’s about keeping the family together.”
“That’s just bullshit.”
“Oh Sehun, mind your language!” Mr. Oh bellowed.
“Please stop fighting!” Joohyun finally stood up, sobbing. “Please, please just stop. I know I failed as a wife. But there is no need to punish others for my mistakes.” She turned to her husband, who was dumbfounded to see his wife crying. “Joonmyeon, I give you my blessing to marry another woman. Find someone who can bear you a child.”
Joohyun wanted to leave the room but Joonmyeon stopped her, pulling her into his embrace. “I can’t do this to you, Joohyun. You are my wife, one and only.”
Sehun’s head hurt. Why was everything getting more complicated? He just wanted to stay faithful to his husband. He tried to reach out for Luhan’s hand but his husband pulled away, his head hung low. Had he gone overboard?
“I failed you, Joonmyeon. I’m sorry.” Joohyun was so upset that her personal servants and her husband tried to calm her down. But her emotions got the best of her and she collapsed in Joonmyeon’s arms.
“Call Physician Kim right now! Quick!”
All of them were outside Joonmyeon’s bedroom, his brother pacing back and forth as they waited for Physician Kim to finish his diagnosis.
When Physician Kim came out from the room, everyone rushed towards him.
“Is my wife all right?”
Physician Kim smiled. “Mrs. Oh is currently three months pregnant now. She’s a little weak and needs to rest a lot.”
“You mean my wife’s pregnant?”
“Yes, Mr. Oh. Mrs. Oh is pregnant. Congratulations.”
“Oh my god, thank you Physician Kim.”
“Million thanks to Goddess above.We finally have a grandchild!” Old Mrs. Oh prayed to the heavenly above. Old Mr. Kim could hardly hide his grin.
“I’ll send you out, Physician Kim.” Luhan offered as he led the family doctor out of the residence.
“I need to tell Joohyun. She would be ecstatic to hear this.” Joonmyeon hurried inside to break the good news to his wife, leaving Sehun and his parents outside the bedroom.
“Father, Mother, there’s something I need to speak to you about.”
His parents glanced at each other, then nodded.
“Now that Joohyun noona is pregnant, I do not think it’s necessary for me to marry a woman.”
Old Master Oh and Old Mrs. Oh exchanged looks. Old Mrs. Oh turned towards her son.
“Sehun, are you sure about this? Luhan, Luhan can’t give you a child.”
“I assure you, he’s more than enough.”
“If you ever change your mind,” Old Mrs. Oh spoke but Sehun interrupted her. “I won’t, Mother. I won’t change my mind.”
“You really love him,” Old Master Oh said, realizing that his son was serious about his decision.
“I do, Father, I really do.” His parents was taken aback by his firm answer. Even Sehun was surprised by the determination by his voice. Sehun had always been more of a agree to disagree kind of person, but this time was different. He could feel in his bones that he only wanted Luhan and only Luhan.
“Youngji was right, after all.” His mother chuckled. “We apologize for our behaviour for the past few months. We just got too anxious and got ahead of ourselves.”
“It’s fine, Mother. I was rude to you and Father too. It was immature and I apologize for my behaviour.”
Old Mrs. Oh stroked Sehun’s cheeks. “Our son is all grown up, Oppa.” Old Mr. Oh nodded before tapping his son’s shoulder.
“Let’s check on Joohyun.” Sehun’s mother nodded before following her husband into the bedroom.
Sehun smirked, shaking his head. His situation was the best example of the old saying, ‘between family members, there is no overnight dispute’. He turned around and saw Luhan smiling at him. He beckoned Luhan to come to him. When the Chinese man was close, Sehun held him in his arms, wanting to give his warmth and everything he had to this man that he loved so much.
“Told you it’s going to be alright, didn’t I?”
Luhan leaned into his embrace. “Thank you, Sehun.” Luhan could not give him a child but he would give everything he had. I’m going to make you happy too, Sehun, I promise.
A year ago, they were at the same spot, standing under the cherry blossoms, future spouses who couldn’t communicate with each other without a translator. But now here they were, holding hands as they watched the first snow together. Ever since Joohyun noona was pregnant, the topic of getting wife was never once brought up, as if they had not spent the past six months arguing about it. His parents, probably feeling very guilty of their hasty decision, now treated Joohyun noona very well. Regardless, Sehun appreciated how things were getting back to normal.
Although Luhan did not express his opinion, Sehun knew his husband was glad that it was over if his good moods said otherwise. After the ordeals they have been through, their relationship had definitely grew stronger. In public, Luhan was still the same - the obedient son-in-law who was smiling all the time. But in their own private space, he was more expressive and he always held Sehun’s hands, and looked at Sehun with gaze so filled with adoration that he couldn’t look away.
“What do you think about a trip to Peking next week?
Luhan’s eyes grew wide.
“Sehun, are, are you sure?” Luhan hesitated. He could not believe his ears. Was he really going back to his home country?
“It’s been a while since you have seen your family. Besides, I think we should pay my in-laws a visit.”
Luhan kissed Sehun’s cheek before looping his arms around his neck. “You are the best.”
“I know.” Sehun nuzzled his neck as he wrapped his arms around his waist. “I promised I’ll make you happy and I intend to keep my promise.”
Luhan chuckled as he hugged Sehun tighter, not intending to let go of him, ever.