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    Chapter 193: Fanaticism, Part 2. (1)

    As mentioned before, with the advent of the Gyeongsul year, Yong received the title of “Anpyeong” along with his fiefdom.

    Having established his independence from the palace, he indulged in his passions within his own residence.

    “Now, I can freely pursue the dreams I’ve had!”

    His dream was to gather the itinerant troupes from all over Joseon and enjoy their performances.

    As a child, having been utterly captivated by a performance by a local troupe, Anpyeong caused a stir with his fervent desire to join such a troupe.

    To prevent this, not only the Queen Soheon but also King Sejong himself had to intervene with a disciplinary rod. However, Anpyeong’s stubbornness was unyielding.

    “He says he can’t stoop to petty theft… What are we to do with him?”

    Ultimately, unable to bear the Queen Soheon and King Sejong’s dilemma, Hyang stepped forward to coax Anpyeong.

    “If you adhere well to the teachings of the royal tutors and achieve scholarly success, I will arrange for you to watch the troupes’ performances!”

    Hyang’s persuasion worked wonders, and Anpyeong devoted himself to his studies.

    Of course, Hyang’s coaxing wasn’t the end of it. Each time Anpyeong completed a classic text as part of his studies, Hyang would arrange a performance by a local troupe near Hanyang as a sort of reward.

    Whenever such performances were held, the Queen Dowager Soheon among others from the palace joined to admire the troupe’s talents.

    These performances served as a rare refreshment in the otherwise stifling palace life.

    In any case, having received his fiefdom and gained independence, Anpyeong soon set about realizing his long-held desire.

    “I shall see every itinerant troupe across Joseon!”

    However, it was not feasible for Anpyeong to summon all the itinerant troupes from across Joseon just because he wished it.

    The road conditions in Joseon were still poor at the time. As a result, the troupes were largely divided into major regions like Gyeonggi and Hoseo (Gyeonggi Province and Western Korea), Yeonghonam (Southern Korea), and Seodo (Hwanghae and Pyongan Provinces), with numerous large and small groups active within these regions.

    As a result, Anpyeong was still plagued by an unquenched thirst. He had seen all the famous troupes from the Gyeonggi region, but he had not been able to see those from other regions.

    “If they can’t come to me, why not go to them myself? Haven’t I already gained my independence?”

    With his mind made up, Anpyeong soon packed his bags and set out to find the troupes.

    As Anpyeong set off on his quest, the person who suffered the most was his wife, Lady Yeongil of the Jeong clan.

    Having only recently married, she found herself living an unexpected widow’s life as her husband roamed outside.

    *       *       *

    Anpyeong’s unusual behavior quickly reached the ears of King Sejong.

    “This rascal!”

    Upon hearing the report, Sejong immediately sent for Anpyeong. However, upon learning that Anpyeong had gone to the southern provinces to watch a troupe’s performance, Sejong immediately dispatched a messenger to the Jeolla military camp.

    – Send Anpyeong to Hanyang immediately upon finding him!

    – To prevent any possible danger, ensure he is strictly guarded during the journey.

    The true intent behind the second command was well understood by both King Sejong, who issued it, and the military governor of Jeolla, who received it.

    – That scoundrel! We can’t let him slip away, so bind him tightly and send him back!

    Upon receiving Sejong’s dispatch, the military governor of Jeolla sighed deeply.

    Sigh. They say the most challenging farming is raising children…”

    Nevertheless, a royal command was a royal command. The military governor called his subordinate commanders and relayed the orders.

    “Dispatch soldiers immediately to locate Prince Anpyeong!”

    “Yes!”

    Following the order, it took ten days before Anpyeong was finally apprehended. Upon receiving the report, the military governor chuckled and looked at his staff.

    “People say our Joseon land is small, but it seems that’s not quite the case.”

    “Indeed, sir.”

    “Once the prince arrives, ensure he is escorted and sent to the capital without delay.”

    *       *       *

    Thus, Anpyeong was compelled to head to Hanyang. Of course, under the guise of ‘escort,’ a considerable number of cavalrymen surrounded Anpyeong and his servant.

    “This is really something…”

    Anpyeong clicked his tongue in disappointment, but there was nothing he could do. Meanwhile, the servant moving alongside him started trembling uncontrollably as they neared Hanyang, his face turning pale.

    “Have you caught malaria? Why are you shaking so?”

    “Your Highness! Aren’t you afraid at all?”

    “Why would I be afraid… Wait a moment…”

    Anpyeong’s face, which had been nonchalant at his servant’s words, turned serious.

    ‘Wait… Did he say it was a royal command?’

    Realizing the gravity of the situation upon remembering the military governor’s mention of a royal command, Anpyeong understood he was in a predicament.

    ‘I suppose I did roam around quite a bit.’

    Intuiting that he was in for a severe reprimand from Sejong upon his return to Hanyang, Anpyeong looked back at his servant.

    “Seeing you shiver so, it seems you might indeed have caught malaria.”

    “Me? But I feel perfectly fine, Your Highness.”

    “Shh!”

    Anpyeong urgently signaled his servant to be quiet and whispered softly.

    “You’ve contracted malaria. Understand? You must insist that you have malaria.”

    “Yes? Yes…”

    With Anpyeong’s directive, the servant had no choice but to nod in agreement.

    Upon entering Hanyang, Anpyeong selected one of the escorting cavalrymen to send to Gyeongbokgung Palace.

    -The servant accompanying me has contracted malaria. There’s a risk of contagion, so I’ll wait a few days to assess the situation before entering the palace.

    After sending the message through the cavalryman, Anpyeong directed his horse towards his residence.

    “We’ve had a long journey here, so let me treat you to a meal. Come to my house with me.”

    “If you insist…”

    The commander of the cavalrymen nodded with a brightened face.

    They had been camping out and eating dry rations on the journey due to the royal command to ascend to the capital as quickly as possible.

    But being treated by a prince meant they could expect a decent meal, if not a feast of the finest delicacies.

    As Anpyeong and the cavalry were heading towards Prince Anpyeong’s residence, the messenger horse sent to Gyeongbokgung returned.

    “Here is a decree directly from His Majesty!”

    Anpyeong took the sealed letter handed over by the cavalryman with courtesy, broke the seal, and pulled out the letter inside.

    After reading the content, Anpyeong sighed deeply.

    “Alas, it seems I must go to Gyeongbokgung after all.”

    The letter’s message was straightforward.

    -Stop the nonsense and come immediately!

    “Tsk. It didn’t work…”

    Clicking his tongue and grumbling, Anpyeong instructed his servant.

    “Take them back and treat them to a meal.”

    “What about you, sir?”

    “I have to enter the palace.”

    “Yes.”

    After giving his instructions to the servant, Anpyeong courteously bowed to the cavalry commander, bidding him farewell.

    “Follow the servant and have your meal first before you go. I appreciate your efforts during this time.”

    “Not at all. Thank you.”

    *       *       *

    “You rascal!”

    As soon as he saw Anpyeong, Sejong roared in anger.

    “What are you doing wandering around after having established your own household!”

    “I am deeply sorry.”

    “At a time when you should be contemplating how to contribute to the country as a prince of Joseon, you waste time and resources chasing after troupes! Such recklessness!”

    “I am deeply sorry!”

    Anpyeong had to bow his head and seek forgiveness under Sejong’s scolding.

    After a long reprimand, Sejong came to a conclusion.

    “Had it been before you received your fiefdom, I would have taken the rod to you, but it’s regrettable that I cannot do so now that you have been granted one and are independent! I command the royal secretariat! Issue an order immediately to the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Palace Affairs Bureau to cut the provisions allocated to Anpyeong’s palace by half!”

    “Your Majesty!”

    Anpyeong, realizing the funds for his indulgences were being cut, called out to Sejong in a pitiful voice. However, Sejong was resolute.

    “All the wealth you’ve squandered comes from the hard-earned taxes of the people! It’s unforgivable to waste such precious resources in this manner! Go back and reflect on your actions!”

    “Yes…”

    Anpyeong had to withdraw with a gloomy expression, following Sejong’s command.

    Months later, a new report about Anpyeong was brought to Sejong. Upon receiving the report, Sejong clasped the back of his neck in frustration.

    “Ah, this wretched boy!”

    According to the report submitted by the audit office, Anpyeong was still wandering in search of troupes. It was only natural that his household became impoverished with the reduction of his stipend. Ultimately, Anpyeong’s wife, Lady Yeongil of the Jeong clan, had to speak to her family to borrow food and funds to sustain their household.

    “Bring this rascal to me at once!”

    Hyang, who heard the rumor while working in Area 51, shook his head in dismay.

    “This is serious…”

    As he continued to shake his head, Hyang stood up.

    “It seems I must intervene after a long time. After all, according to the history before my regression, this younger brother of mine will be a strong shield for me; I must nurture him…”

    “I will attempt to resolve Anpyeong’s issue.”

    At Hyang’s words, Sejong was delighted.

    “That’s right! We have the Crown Prince! Since you resolved it last time, I’ll trust you to handle it this time as well!”

    “I will do my utmost.”

    *       *       *

    Having received Sejong’s permission, Hyang intercepted Anpyeong as soon as he was brought in, taking him straight to the Eastern Palace.

    “What a sight you are~.”

    At Hyang’s short but potent remark, Anpyeong immediately bowed his head.

    “Your Highness…”

    “Do you realize your wrongdoing?”

    “I am deeply sorry.”

    “What have you to be sorry for to me? You should apologize to your wife. Due to your reckless handling of household affairs, her family had to intervene. How disgraceful is it for a prince of Joseon?”

    With Hyang’s reprimand, Anpyeong’s head drooped even lower towards the ground.

    “Tsk!”

    At Anpyeong’s demeanor, Hyang clicked his tongue lightly and continued.

    “I’m well aware that since your childhood, you’ve had a fondness for the plays of itinerant troupes. But tell me, what remains after you watch those plays?”

    “What remains? What do you mean by that?”

    “What else stays with you besides the memories?”

    “Well…”

    Anpyeong hesitated, unable to find a response. While the troupe’s performance unfolded, bringing laughter and joy, all worries seemed to vanish. But once the show ended, a sense of emptiness prevailed. Of course, his mind was filled with the various feats and sounds exhibited by the troupes, but that was all there was to it.

    “You’re aware that various rumors are circulating about your behavior, aren’t you?”

    “Yes, there are talks of me shaving my head and retreating to the mountains…”

    “You know of them then.”

    Faced with Hyang’s reproach, Anpyeong could only bow his head.

    *       *       *

    Until the early Joseon period, itinerant troupes had a strong Buddhist influence.

    The term ‘society hall’ used for these troupes originated from the Goryeo period, denoting the ritual performances conducted by shamans for the nation’s well-being. Over time, these society halls adopted Buddhist influences.

    Thus, watching the performances of these troupes would often involve a head monk or a master leading the recitation of Buddhist prayers and conducting water and land rites. However, as time passed, these rituals evolved into traveling theater performances, incorporating various skills and musical elements, altering their original character.

    Therefore, amidst the still prevalent Buddhist influences in the itinerant troupes’ performances, there were rumors among both the common people and the ministers that Anpyeong, who was deeply immersed in these plays, might take refuge in Buddhism.

    The ministers’ worries were not unfounded, given the precedent set by King Sejong’s brother, Prince Hyoryeong. Although Prince Hyoryeong had not fully entered monkhood, the emergence of a royal family member deeply engrossed in Buddhism was a serious concern for the Confucian ministers.

    *       *       *

    “I have absolutely no intention of becoming a monk!”

    To Anpyeong’s protest, Hyang nodded lightly and continued.

    “I would think not. I know your character well enough not to worry about that. That’s why I’m suggesting…”

    Hyang paused for a moment and looked directly at Anpyeong. As Hyang stopped speaking, Anpyeong turned his gaze towards his older brother.

    ‘His Highness will have some solution!’

    Recalling his own experiences and the actions Hyang had taken in the past, Anpyeong looked at Hyang with hopeful eyes.

    Observing Anpyeong, Hyang broached the main subject.

    “How about you take on the task of documenting and organizing the plays and music of the itinerant troupes?”

    “Excuse me?”

    *       *       *

    Note 1) Korean Folklore Encyclopedia, entry on Itinerant Troupes.

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