Another portion of the history research I've been doing. This one takes places in the 1500s. During this time period, the Joeson Dynasty feared anything that went against Confucius teaching to the point that they destroyed any information they discovered. For those who were found to be studying Western thoughts, they punishment could be death.
Wind whipped down the narrow dirt streets, blowing Kim Jun Min back two steps for every step he took. Finally, he reached the first alleyway on the street and ducked into it, pausing long enough to make certain no one followed him.
In the alleyway, the wind died down enough to walk easier, but above him, it howled like a ravenous wolf intent on catching its prey. Hopefully, it seeks someone else, Jun Min thought, tucking his precious books closer to his body. While his father and other nobles, called the yanban prized all manner of study, some of it was forbidden. Western learning was considered barbaric at best, and evil at worst.
Still, the knowledge from the West where rumors of strange beings who created gold from iron, and people who gazed into the skies, filled his heart. Clenching his fist, Jun Min raised it to knock thrice on the wooden door.
It cracked open, and a pale female face appeared. She glanced down the alleyway then opened the door wider for Jun Min to slip into the dark hallway. At first, his eyes refused to adjust to the dim light, but eventually, glimmers of light through the cracks in the ceiling could be discerned. “Have others already arrived?”
“No; they are sailors from the ocean,” Song Eun Hye answered. Her father had lived in China for ten years and returned with the Western knowledge which he taught to those who wanted to learn.
Westerners! Here?! “Where are they from?”
“Holland,” Eun Hye said. “They came … wait, you can’t …”
Too late, much too late. He knew they were there, and he wanted to meet them. No, only to see them would be enough. To know there were people beyond the sea, beyond the Ming to the West and the samurai to the East. To know that there were others beyond his limited world.
The two men were fair-skinned like Jun Min, but one had eyes like an ocean, and the other had eyes like a fawn. Both had brown hair, while the fawn had golden brown, and the ocean had reddish brown. They were wider than any man in the city, but they weren’t unhealthy. They wore clothing of blue and tan - blue breeches and tan shirts with strings.
“I apologize, Father,” Eun Hye whispered behind Jun Min. “He came upstairs before I could stop him.”
“Ah, Kim Jun Min,” Song Bum Jun greeted. He was as kind as his daughter was mean. To the Westerners, Song Bum Jun spoke in the stranger guttural language they used. The men laughed at whatever he had said, but beckoned him forward. “They wish to meet my student,” Song Bum Jun explained.
“Now you did it,” Eun Hye muttered.
“Now, now,” her father answered, “let the boy speak with our esteemed guests. It is rare for any of my students to meet someone from so far away.”
“And now that he knows they are here, just how do you expect them to escape, Father?”
Women should not use that tone of voice to any male, let alone daughters to their fathers, but Song Bum Jun seemed unaffected by his daughter’s rebellious attitude. “We will find a way for them to escape. Perchance Kim Jun Min’s arrival was a good thing for all of us.”
With a sigh that echoed in the room, Eun Hye returned downstairs to bring up the tea and rice cakes. She was a strange girl. Though she and Jun Min were both fourteen, she seemed older than he did. She had lived most of her life in China, and spoke Korean with a slight accent. She was exotic in his mundane world, but her exoticness wasn’t attractive, more off-putting. She knew she was different, and she made little effort to be anything else.
Jun Min’s mother said Eun Hye would never find a man because she was too arrogant.
Song Bum Jun said his daughter was brilliant and her intelligence was wasted in Korea by petty minds.
Most likely Jun Min’s mother was one of those petty minds Song Bum Jun despised, not that his teacher ever said anything against his parents, or any of the other people in the city specifically. It was more intuition than anything else. Intuition – the ability to see the puzzle despite the many parts. Song Bum Jun said it was the mark of a brilliant mind.
“I can help,” Jun Min promised. “What do you need me to do?”
“Good man,” Song Bum Jun answered. “Nothing at the moment, only to keep the knowledge you have learned secret for the time being.”
I do that already, Jun Min grumbled in his mind. After all, he could die if anyone found out about his lessons with Song Bum Jun. If anyone learned about his teacher giving the lessons, not only could Song Bum Jun die, but his daughter as well. Even if Eun Hye was annoying, she shouldn’t have to die because she knew more than other people did.
“For now, Jun Min, it is time for your lesson.”
Two days later, the wind wasn’t as strong, but it still blew. It was colder too. Snow coated the ground, and danced in the air. According to the two Dutch sailors, it was almost Christmastime, a time of celebration and merriment.
“We should leave in the fortnight,” Piers, the ocean-eyed one, said.
“Agreed,” Matthew, the fawn, answered. “If we can make it to China than we should be good to go.”
Their Korean was understandable, though accented. Apparently, they had met Song Bum Jun in China, and a year with him and Eun Hye before returning home. They were on their way back to China, but had been swept into the shoreline where they stumbled into a fishing village. The locals had mistaken them for demons, and attempted to kill them, but the men managed to escape. At the next village, they inquired about Song Bum Jun, and were directed to him.
“I managed to secure a boat for you,” Song Bum Jun explained. “It sails in a fortnight, but the magistrate announced a building by building search for illegal books.”
“Then we should leave before you are discovered.”
Song Bum Jun shrugged. “I doubt if it will prevent anything. Most likely they knew about you, and are using the books as an excuse. More importantly, is to have you both escape. Your lives are worth more than my books.”
“What about your life, though?” Matthew pressed. “You need to continue teaching.”
“I can teach,” Eun Hye said.
Song Bum Jun patted his daughter’s head. “Of course you can.”
Eun Hye ducked her head away from her father’s reach. “You say that as if you don’t believe it.”
Her father only smiled.
"What do you need me to do, Sir?" Jun Min volunteered.
"Nothing. You will remain here for your lesson. Eun Hye knows the paths better than any of us. She will lead the men away." Song Bum Jun motioned for them to prepare.
A short time later, the house was now empty of three people, though one would most likely return.
The door shook.
Song Bum Jun rose to open for the soldiers.
"We're hunting illegal books," the first soldier said.
Song Bum Jun stepped out of the way, allowing the five soldiers to ransack his home.
The soldiers found nothing, but that did not dissuade them from destroying what they did find.
"How could you let them do that?"
Song Bum Jun shrugged and began to pick up the pieces. "What else can we do, Jun Min? The king refuses to acknowledge that others bring great knowledge as well. He has fallen into the pride of believing we are the only ones who know anything. It will ultimately be his downfall, but until that time, we simply keep living. Learning, my boy, is as much about gaining knowledge as it is how to use the knowledge you've gained."