Title: Bu Bu Jing Xin (Startling By Each Step)
Pairings: Kyuhyun centric, there will be various pairing/friendships, main wonkyu though hankyu, eunkyu, kyumin, changkyu also present. Also Hanchul, Eunhae, Minsu, and so many others I can't actually remember them all.
Genre: Historical, humour, angst, romance
Warnings: There will be character death (near the end though), plus some characters will have really sad endings (for spoilers watch the drama!) and also will probably add smut sometime.
Summary: Kyuhyun gets hit by a car and wakes up not in the the body of a 25 year old computer analyst like he expected but in the body of a 16 year old noble boy in the Qing dynasty. Confused and annoyed he then ends up entangled in the lives of the Princes he had learnt about in history class, as well as one of the messiest battles for the throne in China's history.
A/N: This is a SuJu version of the drama Bu Bu Jing Xin. I don't know whether anyone has written one before, if they have let me know, I'd love to read it! I will be sticking to the plot quite closely, I am in no way amazing enough to think up all this, I will change some stuff and add side stories of some characters that I love to bits and wanted developing more. I have no idea why I decided to post this. I think my love for this drama and Kyuhyun one day decided to drive me crazy. Also this is betaed by my wonderful friend Miki.
Sungmin entered his mother’s quarters, eager to see his mother. His mother was good natured and intelligent. She was well read, compared to many of the other wives, and had passed on this keen intelligence to her two sons, both who she believed had been raised well even though they were both removed from her at a young age. She enjoyed learning new things and was sharper than most so she was able to read what exactly was going on in many situations. Sungmin admired his mother greatly and knew that she would happily do him this favour even though she may protest teasingly.
When he entered her sitting room, he found Siwon was already seated and about to be served tea. His mother exclaimed when he came in, “Sungmin! This is rare, that both my sons would visit me at the same time.” Her eyes twinkled in pleasure; one of her biggest upsets was that her children were not closer to each other. They had been separated from each other much like they had both been separated from her; it was to stop them from being bias towards each other. The brothers were to treat each other equally, not favour a brother they shared a mother with to a brother they did not.
“Fourth Brother,” Sungmin bowed, tensing up in uncertainty at seeing his elder brother here.
“Fourteenth Brother,” Siwon returned. He both sat down and eyed each other trying to work out how to speak in each other’s presence.
“So to what do I owe the pleasure of having the both of you here today?” Sooyoung, Noble Consort of Emperor Kangin asked. She was seated opposite her eldest as she pulled her youngest to sit next to her.
“Mother, I have a favour to ask of you,” Sungmin started, grinning cutely, knowing his mother could never resist any of his demands. He was still a child in many people’s eyes, just on the cusp of manhood. “Could you remove Eighth’s brother-in-law Cho Kyuhyun’s name from the selection lists?”
“Really? This is the first time my two sons have ever wanted the same thing!” Sooyoung giggled. “Siwon just asked me the same thing before you arrived.” Sungmin and Siwon threw questioning glances at each other before turning their attention back to their mother. “Is he the one the Emperor praised at the last feast?”
“Yes, that’s him,” Sungmin smiled, wanting to stay on topic.
“So who is this boy that I am removing from the list? What’s so extraordinary about him that both of you are pleading for him?”
“He is a friend Mother. I don’t think he would suit the life of a concubine well. I would rather his name be removed than him face the Imperial Father and risk losing his head by upsetting him.”
“I understand. I will of course do this for you both. Especially since both of you are in agreement.” Sooyoung’s smile lit up the room and she got answering ones from her sons, though Sungmin was more expressive than his silent brother.
“Mother, you are the best! You really spoil me!” Sungmin hugged his mother as his boyish side showed. “I thought for sure I’d have to buy you something before you agreed.”
Sooyoung’s keen eyes viewed her children, she gently teased, “Have you fallen for this boy, Sungmin?”
“No Mother! And you shouldn’t say things like that in front of Fourth gege,” Sungmin half whined as he flushed.
“Mother, may I make a suggestion? Why don’t you ask for Kyuhyun to serve you and stay here? He can become your lady-in-waiting.”
“That’s a good idea,” Sooyoung agreed, nodding. “I need a caring servant to help me and it will nice to have company. Especially if having the boy means getting more visits from my sons,” She added looking in Sungmin’s direction.
She was rewarded with a cute pout but Sungmin nodded his agreement. “I think that’s a good idea also.”
“I will happily look after Kyuhyun if it means my sons will become closer and more similar minded,” she beamed, not noticing the shared look the men took, both slightly wishing the same thing but knowing that they were too different in too many ways.
Sooyoung happily inquired about their lives and what they had been doing; the court issues they were facing and the duties they had each been assigned. She loved seeing her children and was sad to see them off later.
Both of the brothers walked out together and naturally started conversation, Sungmin asking what had been bothering him since he heard Siwon was there for the same favour, “Were you sent by Changmin?”
“It was a simple favour to grant him and it will give him some peace of mind,” Siwon replied. Then asked, genuinely curious, “Did you come for someone else?”
“No, I am just a good friend so I decided to spare Kyuhyun a fate he would not like,” Sungmin answered easily, not wanting to give away the relationship he knew had only just started to develop.
It was the day of the selection and it was nearly time for Kyuhyun to leave. He stood in ZhouMi’s sitting room and looked about, knowing he would not see this for at least 10 years. His attention went back to his elder brother who was standing in front of him, his face calm yet his eyes watery. Sunny was sniffling in the corner and Kyuhyun felt like his world was ending and it was in a way. This was far worse than moving out when he was 18 and had to go to university, at least then he knew he could visit if he got homesick, he could phone his parents if he wanted to hear their voices. Mi hugged Kyuhyun tightly, holding his hands when he released him, telling him, “I’ll miss you Kyu.”
Kyuhyun smiled weakly, knowing he had to be the stronger one, “It’s not like I’ll be far away.”
“But it’s not like we can visit,” ZhouMi spoke softly and forlornly, his eyes showing his deep sadness. His eyes were near to tears when they heard Hangeng enter the room, “It’s time to go.”
ZhouMi embraced his younger brother again and whispered, “I love you Kyunnie, be safe.”
“I love you too Gege,” was the quiet reply. And then Kyuhyun left, following the prince and leaving ZhouMi, who refused to allow himself to cry until after the younger had left. When Kyuhyun was gone, he broke, sobbing into Sunny’s arms, desperately wanting to never be parted from the only person he still loved, but knowing there was nothing he could do.
Kyuhyun was led outside by Hangeng who grasped his hand before placing him inside the carriage, “Don’t worry, I will take care of everything and prevent you from being mistreated.”
“Thank you, your Highness,” Kyuhyun murmured, his voice thick with the sound of his suppressed tears.
Eunuch Leeteuk, the head of the palace servants stood before the line of young boys and girls, aged between 14 and 17. The maiden selections only took place every 3 years and only the children of the 8 primary clans could be entered. This year, seven stood in front of him in a line. All looked nervous, though some more so than others. Part of his duties was to welcome these youths and give them some advice. He started his introduction, hoping that this group would be well behaved.
“I am Eunuch Leeteuk and this is my aide Shindong,” Shindong, a chubby man smiled and bowed to the audience. “You have all been put forward in the maiden selection, whether you get chosen as a concubine or remain as palace maids you should all abide by 4 words, this is the my mantra and the mantra of many. These will guide you through the palace; Careful words, meticulous actions. Those not chosen will have to serve until their duties are complete. Only with the Emperor’s permission are you allowed to leave the palace for an arranged marriage.”
He nodded to them all and left them, trailed by Shindong, the capable hands of the Empress’ lady would take care of them now. She was in charge of all the palace maidens, looking after them until they had been selected or been placed. On being left, the group started chattering, exchanging names and clans. The lady immediately reprimanded them, “Do you not remember the words just spoken to you?” The courtyard silenced with the young people settling back into a straight line.
Kyuhyun bit his lip as he turned to follow the line as they were led out the courtyard by an older palace maid. The lady approached Kyuhyun calling his name to get his attention, “Be careful Kyuhyun, the palace isn’t like the outside world and the walls have ears. I have been asked to look after you.” She smiled kindly and indicated that Kyuhyun should follow the others. Kyuhyun looked worried as it sunk in that he was in a completely different world now, if he thought life was hard on the Eighth’s estate, then how was he going to cope in the Forbidden City?
Hangeng visited his own mother two days after seeing Kyuhyun off to the Forbidden City. He needed to confirm that Kyuhyun was safe from being selected as his father’s concubine. The fear had been eating him up and by now Sungmin’s mother should have acted and removed Kyuhyun. Sooyeon, his mother, Consort of Kangin, entered her chambers where her son was waiting and approached him with apprehension on her face. She suspected that Hangeng would not be happy with the news she brought.
“What news, Mother?” Hangeng asked as soon as he saw her near.
“Kyuhyun has been taken off the list of concubines-to-be.” Hangeng smiled in relief, he would be able to rest with more ease. Sooyeon continued though, “However, two of the Noble Consorts wanted him to serve them so the Empress has sent him to be the personal tea maid to the Emperor.”
“Who requested him?” Hangeng’s brow creased in confusion. He knew that Sooyoung was going to ask for Kyuhyun, who else in the palace knew of him though.
“Lady Yoona and Lady Sooyoung,” Sooyeon answered as she poured herself some warm tea. It was cold outside, they were in the midst of winter and Sooyeon would normally remain in her quarters but she had to go to inquire after her son’s young brother-in-law.
“Why would Lady Yoona request for Kyuhyun?” Hangeng was perplexed. He had no dealings with Yoona, she wasn’t someone he had encountered, what with her being several years older than himself and being married to his father before he entered the court.
“I asked,” Hangeng’s mother took a sip of the liquid, letting it heat her insides. “I was told Heechul asked her to. You know that their mothers are close.” She gazed at her son as his face became set in anger.
Her own face was tired. She struggled to live in this place and if it was not for her child she would not have been able to cope. On the flip side, if not for her son she would not be in the palace. She would not imagine a life without him, though she often wished for him to have a better, more influential mother. That he was so powerful with her as his weakness showed her that he could have been amazing if not for his low birth. The two of them were closer than many mothers and sons, she expected him to resent her or hate her but he seemed to just love her more for her weaknesses. She grasped his hand in reassurance as he bid her goodbye.
Hangeng decided the first thing he should do was visit Kyuhyun, so he found himself asking the lady in charge of the palace maidens to send the boy out to see him. Kyuhyun walked out, curiosity coating his face. He bowed in greeting and Hangeng smiled to reassure the younger that he didn’t have anything bad to say. “You’ve been taken off the selection list.”
Kyuhyun smiled in gratitude and was about to speak when Hangeng interrupted him to continue, “But both the Ladies Yoona and Sooyoung requested for you to be assigned to them. To prevent offending either of them, the Empress has sent you to be a personal tea server to the Emperor.” Kyuhyun’s eyes widened, but Hangeng continued as he watched Kyuhyun’s mouth move without him able to think of anything coherent to say. “It will be even harder for you to be allowed to leave the palace if you are at the Emperor’s side.” Hangeng’s voice became pained as he uttered the last sentence.
“Maybe it’s for the best,” Kyuhyun finally spoke, drawing the prince’s gaze back to his face from where it had been resting in the distance, “I can learn to make tea.” Kyuhyun spoke the words lightly, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Hangeng’s eyes seemed so lost when they found his that Kyuhyun felt his breath leave him.
“It will be even harder for me to see you in the future,” Hangeng leant forward and grasped Kyuhyun’s hand, wary of doing anything more when they were in the open. He was already too open about his affections to the younger, if anyone suspected it then they may report it to the Emperor. Palace maids aren’t allowed to be in relationships, they are at the Emperor’s command and the Emperor himself decides who they should marry, they have no choice. Hangeng scanned Kyuhyun’s eyes, “Always be alert and I will do anything to help if you face any difficulties.” He allowed himself to brush Kyuhyun’s cheek quickly.
Kyuhyun felt that the heat of the touch seemed to brand his skin. “I will do my best.”
Kyuhyun has been attending the Emperor for a little while now, a few weeks. He has learnt how to make tea, he picks the flowers in the gardens and dries them. He is slowly learning what tastes good and what tastes bad. He is learning which teas the Emperor prefers at which times of days. He records everything about from how the Emperor reacts to certain desserts and snacks to certain blends and certain drinks. As one of the tea maids who directly served the Emperor he only answered to Leeteuk. The elder servant is dedicated to his master; he is by his side most of the day and on call at night. When he is resting Shindong takes his place, standing behind the Emperor, never letting him be left alone. Kyuhyun has not had much chance to speak to the elder servant directly and he is unsure what the head servant thinks of him. He seems aloft as if he is waiting to make a judgement on the young boy.
One night, after several late nights, Leeteuk standing in the corner of the Emperor’s study, with Shindong standing in the other, sighed to Kyuhyun, who was also standing at attention in the corner, “The Emperor has been staying up all night recently reading these petitions. He should rest, he is not as young as he used to be.”
Kyuhyun looked at the frowning and tired drawn face of the monarch and couldn’t stop himself from saying aloud, “Your Majesty, you should rest now. Read the petitions in the morning.”
Everyone held their breath as they realised that the tea boy had just told the Emperor what to do. Shindong and Leeteuk fell to their hands and knees, praying to themselves that Kangin not take what Kyuhyun said the wrong way. Kyuhyun followed a second later cursing himself, “Did you just tell the Emperor to go to bed? You are an idiot Cho Kyuhyun! I’m going to get myself killed!”
Kangin looked at Kyuhyun with a wistful look and chuckled at the audacity of the young one. “I thought I saw my Tenth Princess for a second. She used to like to nag me to rest. I miss Seohyun now she is married.” His good mood continued as he told his personal servants to rise, “Leeteuk go and have my bed chamber prepared.” He eyed Kyuhyun and chuckled once more. “You really do seem to be death-seeking Thirteenth’s twin.”
Kyuhyun sighed in relief that he seemed to amuse the Emperor rather than offend him. He knew that there was a thin line between life and death when working for the Emperor directly. Just one offence would get you killed.
The next day he was visited by Leeteuk and Shindong. Both greeting him with smiles. Kyuhyun had expected to be reprimanded for the previous evening not being graced with the head servant’s happy face. After bowing to the more senior man, Kyuhyun waited for him to speak. “Your behaviour last night was extraordinary,” Leeteuk laughed lowly at the nervousness that Kyuhyun was exhibiting. “It earned my respect.”
Kyuhyun gasped lightly at the smile the elder gave him. He felt the lighter than he had since he entered the palace. Gaining this man’s approval meant the world to him and would help him greatly in the future. He didn’t think he had earned it though. He was foolish last night, he could have got himself killed. “I am just lucky that the Emperor reacted that way.”
Shindong snorted, “You are too modest. Master Leeteuk doesn’t compliment people often so you should accept it in good grace. I only get scolded.” He stopped when he noticed his master’s glare aimed towards him. His mouth ran away from him, like it often did.
“I have been watching you for a while Kyuhyun,” Leeteuk continued, smiling once again when his gaze was on the youngest male, “You behave with diligence and care, never speaking out even though you have a reputation as ‘fearless’ and ‘death-seeking’.” He indicated his approval and called out of the door, two young boys entered and bowed to the group. “These are now your personal assistants and servants, Ryeowook and Jinki.” He pointed to each boy when saying their names. “I have to go, I have been gone long enough.” The head servant swept out the room, followed by his own servant Shindong.
Kyuhyun examined the two boys who must be either his age or slightly younger. Both with delicate features, one slightly smaller than the other. “Your names are Ryeowook and Jinki?”
“Yes Miss,” they both spoke in unison.
“You don’t have to call me Miss, you can call me Gege,” Kyuhyun didn’t like the idea of having his own personal servants; he would rather consider them potential friends. They wouldn’t have been given to him if they were unsuitable, especially since they would join him in serving the Emperor.
He gasped when a eunuch he recognised as one of Hangeng’s knocked on his open door. “Lady Kyuhyun,” he called out.
Kyuhyun spoke quickly to the two boys, telling them to go to the gardens, he would join them in a moment. They both rushed out as he approach the young servant boy. “I’m Minseok, this is from my lord, the Eighth Prince,” the boy bowed and held out the package, waiting for Kyuhyun to take it before hurrying away. While he could easily make the excuse that Hangeng wanted news of his brother-in-law, his Master had asked him to try to avoid being seen.
Kyuhyun slowly opened the package, curious about what the other man could have sent him. He pulled out of the silken bag a bound book and a patterned handkerchief. Scrunching his forehead, he opened the first page and smiled in delight. The prince had sent him a book describing how to make tea, each page was filled with detailed drawing of different leaves, plants and flowers as well as information on their properties and how to prepare them, which leaves tasted good with what and which leaves should be avoided. He looked in awe at the beautiful book and was happy at the thoughtfulness Hangeng was showing to him. This was a wonderful and practical gift. He would value this, more than any trinket.
The blossoms fell around them as Hangeng dined with ZhouMi in the garden. Spring had arrived in the city. He drank the tea that Mi poured and was thankful that their relationship had warmed slightly because of Kyuhyun. He found himself increasingly thankful to the younger and missed him greatly. He would maybe never have a full relationship with the beautiful man that sat with him but they at least had a more pleasant one than the frostiness that was between them before Kyuhyun came to stay. He was giving Mi one of the updates he had tended to bring his husband of his younger brother, “Kyuhyun is greatly honoured by directly serving the Emperor and he is going well.”
Mi smiled and nodded, grateful for Geng visiting him with news of Kyuhyun. He listened as his husband continued, “I will take him out of the palace if I can, but I will have to wait a few years. I won’t be able to remove him if he hasn’t stayed at least some time, especially now that he is directly serving the Emperor.”
“Thank you my lord, I greatly appreciate all the kindness you show both Kyuhyun and myself,” Mi’s voice was no longer cold when he spoke to the prince, his face not smiling or happy, but no longer drawn in sadness.
A maid approached them and asked to speak, “Your Highness, Ce’fujin,” she bowed at each of them in turn. “Your Highness, the Di’fujin wishes to see you, he requests for you to come over.”
Hangeng’s face turned cold as he thought of his primary wife and spoke to the servant with a somewhat harder tone than normal, though it sounded normal to most people, Mi looked at his husband in surprise as Geng told the maid, “I have been busy with work. I will visit the Di’fujin another day.”
The maid bowed and left, worried about how she would deliver such a message, also at the same time telling the temperamental mistress that the Eighth Prince still had time to dine with his second wife.
Hangeng refused to meet ZhouMi’s gaze as he sipped at the tea, instead looking out onto the gardens.
Changmin lounged in the chair, sipping at his tea, when he decided to start the conversation since his elder brother didn’t seem to want to get the ball rolling. “I was worried when your mother didn’t get Kyuhyun but it seems he’s the head tea maiden already. He even has underlings,” Changmin chuckled at the thought. “I underestimated his ability to always rise to the top.”
Siwon sighed and looked darkly at his more carefree brother. “You should be thinking of more important things than Kyuhyun. I’m sure he will be fine. From what I know of him he isn’t one we should worry over. What we should worry over is the Crown Prince. Yoochun is getting more difficult and harder to control. I am afraid that something big will happen soon. ”
Changmin rolled his eyes at Siwon’s concerns. The Crown Prince had always liked the finer things and his arrogance was well known. Being the golden child of the Emperor would do that to any of them. He didn’t see the Emperor ever reprimanding his favourite son harshly any time in the future so why did they have to worry so much over it. He did agree with his Gege though, “People call me ‘death-seeking’ yet I think I’d lose to him. It’s not like we can stop him anyway so we may as well just wait and see what happens.”
Besides he had a task to fulfil he remembered, Kyuhyun was scary sometimes and of course he would do anything the other asked without question. He knew Kyuhyun would do the same for him in return. “By the way, what’s your favourite tea?”
Siwon had picked up and was reading a missive when he casually answered, “Taiping HouKui.”
“Your favourite snack?”
“Your favourite colour?”
Siwon looked up finally, his eyebrows raised as he regarded the man in front of him. “Why are you asking me this?”
“Erm. I was curious. I noticed that despite us knowing each other so well I didn’t know the little things about you.” Changmin smiled his disarming smile, while still looking ever so slightly nervous. “It just popped into my mind so I thought I’d ask.”
Siwon eyed the younger in disbelief as Changmin picked up another petition and started to read it.