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Mother

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Mother.

He never placed much thought about his birth mother before. He never even bothered to find out her name. The only other mother figure he ever knew was Lady Yoon; but he never received any love from her, no matter how much he yearned for it. But he never once thought he wanted to know his real mother. Because she left him... right?

When he first met her, he did thought that her face was familiar.

Strange... isn't it? It was not like he remembered how his mother had looked like after she gave birth to him. And that face would have been much younger... and prettier. Not that he didn't think she was pretty then. His mother, dressed to look like a Japanese woman; was beautiful. And perhaps, somewhere in his heart had recognised her at once. He just didn't realise it. Then it wasn't just because she was pretty that he told her his name... that he used to live in Hundred Year Inn.

Even if it was only by instinct, he felt drawn to want to tell her everything about him. Because she was his real mother.

When he heard her telling Jo Gwan Woong that she didn't care what happened to him, his heart hurt so much. He liked her. Even when they only met briefly. He didn't want her to despise him. So, it really hurt. Even more than the harsh words Lady Yoon used to throw at him.

So when he found out that she was his real mother, he felt crushed. He didn't want to have anything to do with her! It was better for him to cling on that illusion that his real mother was dead and didn't mean to leave him behind right after he was born.

But then... he found out that his mother still thinks about him.

xxx

“Ah! Kang Chi... why are you crying now?”

He couldn't help it. Mother was with him now, his real mother. It's not anyone else's mother... it's his. No one else could tell him that he could not stay beside her because this is his mother. It was not a dream!

“It's nothing. I'm just so happy... I always wanted a mother of my own!”

His mother laughed, as she gently caress the side of his face. Kang Chi bashfully took the chance to lie on his mother's lap. His mother laughed again. Kang Chi giggled as her fingers tickled his ear.

“What's this now? Tired already?” she asked. He shook his head.

“Unn. I always envied other kids for doing this before. I just wanted to do this at least once.”

“I'm sorry...”

Kang Chi turned his face around towards his mother to see her looking so sad. “Don't be,” he said. “You're here now. Besides... back then I have Lord Park, and dad...”

His mother caressed his face again. “It felt so long ago... when I touched you like this. You used to be so small... I shouldn't have left you behind. Even when you kept clinging on me to not leave. But I couldn't bear to stay... not after what I did to your father. Not after all of the horrid things I've thought about you... fearing that you'd be a monster that hated humanity for the things that happened to your father.”

Kang Chi took his mother's hand in his, before holding it close to his heart. Without warning, his mother placed a kiss on his forehead. “Now... you're all grown up.” she said before sighing.

Then his mother started having a faraway look in her eyes as Kang Chi hastily spoke out.

“Gu Wol Ryung... how was he like, before this?”

His mother smiled dreamily. “He was so kind... and sweet. Wol Ryung always tried to make me smile. When I saw you before... I thought you looked a lot like him. It's been a while... I thought I won't be able to remember how he look like anymore.”

Kang Chi frowned at her as his mother looked so sad. “I hated myself. For letting my brother and Dam die. For letting your father 'die'. For going out of Moonlight Garden and letting myself be seen by the soldiers. Because, if I didn't do that... I might not have to find out the truth about your father. He would have been able to become human. The three of us would have been able to live together like a normal family.”

She sighed. “Back then I wondered if I also wanted to die; not just because I didn't want to give birth to a monster, but because I wanted to be with him. To set things right.” His mother looked down to him and smiled. “But you kept me alive, isn't it? Back then... no matter how hard I tried to stop you growing inside my womb, you kept doing your hardest to keep on living. I wondered, if the reason I managed to stay alive after being slashed with a sword... was because of you.”

Kang Chi smiled weakly, but then frowned and gripped his mother's arm tightly. “Stop talking about all the sad things! Tell me about the happy things! Mother...”

His mother sighed. “All right. But I still have to tell you something.” She smiled. “Thank you, for not hating Wol Ryung. For not letting him get hurt by those archers,”

He nodded to her, before letting his mother tell him about all of the fondest memories she had together with Wol Ryung. He thought this moment could last longer. To make up for lost time.

If only he noticed her intention much earlier, he would have called her 'mother' a lot more than he had.

xxx

The admiral finally let him go after he promised not to stop his mother from reuniting with his father. It wasn't that far after all, if he used his abilities and take the familiar shortcuts. He might as well be able to—

PANG!

His heart went still for a second before he willed himself to head closer towards Hundred Year Inn. And then he saw it... a lot of soldiers ahead of him. They were looking at something... and then he saw them.

His mother... and his father. Both of them were in an embrace now. A part of him felt happy for them, to be able to be reunited. A part of him... felt sorrowful. There's no way he could rush towards them and be part of that reunion. There's no way...

Almost on cue, a strong gust of wind blew in... and he saw how the soldiers' attentions were distracted for a moment. But he saw it. His father carried his mother in his arms, and left. It'd be the first and last time he could ever see his parents together like that again.

xxx

He was walking aimlessly... and found himself heading right towards Cheonhwagwan. It was quite close to Mount Jiri as well. He wondered if he had been heading towards Jirisan without thinking. But he would not go to Moonlight Garden. He promised.

Staring towards the trees yonder, Kang Chi wondered where exactly have his father stood when he first saw his mother here. When exactly have he fallen in love with his mother? How it had been... when his father rescued his mother. If that time, his mother didn't meet his father... she might have killed herself much earlier. Compared to falling into Jo Gwan Woong's grasp, his mother would have prefered to choose death. Then he wouldn't have been born!

If his mother didn't leave him to Monk So Jung, if she had raised him herself alone in the mountains... he would have grown up differently. The person he was now, no matter how he thought about it... in the end was shaped by the choice his mother had taken.

The core of his existence. He knew his answer now.