Furthermore, another warning that I'd also like to add: this blog is probably going to turn out into a semi-rant (or perhaps full blown, I don't know). So if you're not prepared to read a mini essay, don't say I didn't warn you.
Basically, amongst the three people who end up liking Shin Bia (Yoo Baek, Mu Yeong and Yoo Hui), I would've liked Shin Bia to have ended up with Mu Yeong.
Firstly, whilst Yoo Hui's love was clearly sweet and unfortunately, unrequited, you could say that his love was only for Celestial Bia, and not actually directed at Shin Bia. I admire him for the fact that he choose to give up on Celestial Bia for the sake of his brother and her happiness.
I've read about how people criticise his unassertiveness, but I think that it's because of that element that makes him refreshingly different from the other two. You can see how that manifests in the notion that he also doesn't want to ascend the throne. However, though this does make him appear as a commendable character, it just doesn't seem right for him to therefore end up with Shin Bia. Because, let's face it: whilst an unassertive behaviour can lead to positive impressions, there will ultimately be decisions and opportunities that will be lost without assertive input. And, seeing as there are two other suitors going for Shin Bia, I'd say that it would've been too coincidentally convenient for him to miraculously end up with her.
Another major point is something that I have already alluded to before, but I don't think that Yoo Hui ever really loved Shin Bia: his love was always for Celestial Bia. So really, it just doesn't seem right for Shin Bia to end up with him.
In relation to Yoo Baek, I also don't think he should end up with Shin Bia. In fact, between the three males, I like him the least. The manga continually referred to how he and Celestial Bia "were so in love with each other". However, if that was really the case, why didn't he ever notice that Celestial Bia had died, and that the person who looked exactly like her was actually Shin Bia instead?
What also blew the whole thing over for me was his reaction after he found out that Celestial Bia had died, and that he's been spending all this time with Shin Bia instead. It was disappointing/exasperating. I can understand that he would obviously be shocked at the revelation. Hey, I'd be pretty shocked myself if I've given so much of my love to someone for the past few months, only to realise that they're not the intended person I was directing my affections towards all this time.
But then to completely reject Shin Bia? After all that they've gone through, like I mean, really? There was this one scene where he even said to Shin Bia:
"Now that I know that you're not [Celestial] Bia, don't think that I'm going to let you off as easily as before. I can and will kill you." (or, something along those lines)
Hey now, I know that you're upset and all sir, but don't you think that's going too far? And what about considering Shin Bia's feelings? All this time, your attitude towards her in believing that she was Celestial Bia caused her to like you, but at the same time, it burdened and hurt her so much that the love you showed to her wasn't for her, but for Celestial Bia. And as soon as you find out the truth, BAM! Congratulations sir, you just made Shin Bia's fears come perfectly and completely true.
Also! Yes, it is true that afterwards, he ended up liking Shin Bia for Shin Bia, but that was after he made up some random excuse. Personally, I don't like having the male character "recycle" his affections for the main female protagonist. If Yoo Baek loved Celestial Bia so deeply, it doesn't seem fair to just quickly move on to another who looks just like her. You may say that his affections were justified to the point that he actually acknowledges the time he spent with Shin Bia is different. However, if he realised at the beginning that Shin Bia was not Celestial Bia, he would:
a) Definitely not be as affectionate and understanding towards Shin Bia. In fact, Shin Bia herself (explicitly on numerous occasions) and even Yoo Baek alluded to the notion that she would have been sentenced for treason and promptly disposed of appropriately.
b) Be (still) mourning the loss of his true love, Celestial Bia.
Now, in relation to Yoo Baek's relationship with Celestial Bia (prior to her death obviously), I do think that they were really in love with each other.
From the outset, you could initially argue that their love wasn't actually that deep. For example, Yoo Baek continuously reminisces on Celestial Bia's grace and elegance. The strongest argument that I could put forward for this point would lie with Celestial Bia's actions. Yes, Celestial Bia knew she was going to die, which is why she consequently brought in her 'alternate' self, Shin Bia (living in the alternate world) to take her place. The primary reason for her action? So that it doesn't cause any trouble for the country, since Yoo Baek must marry her in order for his rule to be prosperous. She doesn't seem to realise how hurt Yoo Baek will inevitably feel once he has found out about her death.
However, given the scenario that was drawn, her death was inevitable, regardless of how many guards she had around her. And so, considering the suddenness of her death, wouldn't it seem okay to have wanted to prolong Yoo Baek's grief by substituting an alternate version of herself from another world? Furthermore, she knows that she will die right before he ascends the throne, so technically, it doesn't benefit her in any way. The fact that she plans a scheme to ensure that Yoo Baek successfully ascends the throne is another example of her supposedly selfless acts. After all, her death will place Yoo Baek in an extremely dangerous and unlucky position regarding his ascension.
Another thing that I'd like to point out here is that you would have had to either be a person with a huge heart or be so deeply in love with your partner to let another person come in and take your place. She could've just let Yoo Baek know that her death will be inevitable, and in order to protect his ascension, she will swap in another 'look-alike' girl. The fact that she doesn't tell him beforehand suggests not only consideration (well, short-term consideration) for Yoo Baek's feelings, but in a very roundabout way, also alludes to the depth of her love for him. To protect him, she would rather leave silently and have Yoo Baek love another girl (under the guise that it's her) than ask him to mourn over her death.
So overall, with a love so seemingly pure and deep between Celestial Bia and Yoo Baek, it makes me less and less inclined to want Yoo Baek to end up with Shin Bia. Obviously, from the way the story was written, Shin Bia had to end up with Yoo Baek. But thoughts are thoughts, and so I'll finally end with my views on Mu Yeong.
One of the major criticisms that everyone talks about regarding Mu Yeong is that he practically whipped and almost raped Shin Bia when he kidnapped her. Subsequently and unsurprisingly, that immediately suggests that he's possessive, aggressive, and overall, a psychopathic freak. Nevertheless, have you stopped to consider the motives behind his actions, or look at things from his point of view? I for one, would have felt quite annoyed if the person I loved, and who very clearly knew of my affections, would only ever talk to me about how "the person they love the most is not me". I understand, very clearly, about this concept of rejection. Though if I was Shin Bia, I would at least have the decency to not always try to scream at him in defiance and say: "I hate you Mu Yeong- I have always loved Yoo Baek, and he will forever remain in my heart- NOT YOU". Rejecting people once is enough. You don't have to keep harping on about it- because then you start turning inconsiderate.
And it is not as though Mu Yeong has done nothing worthy of earning Shin Bia's attention. For one, he was the first, and what I consider, the only person who loved Shin Bia for who she was. This is evident through two major points:
a) Prior to meeting Shin Bia, the only relationship between him and Celestial Bia was that of assassin and intended victim. So obviously, his romantic inclinations towards Shin Bia is not as a result of liking Celestial Bia at all.
b) Although he knew that Celestial Bia had actually died, he never once revealed that information to the public, who still very much believed that Shin Bia was Celestial Bia. As the prince of an enemy country wanting to gain revenge, this would have been the best move, as it would then cause internal turmoil within Yoo Baek's country. The next best move would be to simply kill Shin Bia, or let her return to her old world. But in all cases, he never actually carried out any of these plans, and whilst Yoo Baek was doing nothing (not even chasing Shin Bia) when she was about to jump through the portal and back to her own world, he actually prevented her from doing so. Don't forget: ever since Yoo Baek's country killed his entire family and destroyed his country, he has spent his entire life on revenge. Therefore, the notion that Mu Yeong actually prevents Shin Bia from leaving symbolises how deeply he has fallen in love with her.
Also, how could you not like the fact that he gave Shin Bia his mother's dagger (which he was instructed to give to the person he loved), and taught her a sword technique exclusive for his bride (the future Queen), without letting her know?
In going back to Mu Yeong's aggressive behaviour, there was this one line where he alluded that his violent and mean behaviour was all just an act. Perhaps he already knew that Shin Bia loved Yoo Baek too much, and whilst he wasn't going to had Shin Bia back, he also knew that eventually, Yoo Baek would kill him. After all, apart from Shin Bia, he still holds a lot of responsibility as a Prince of his country to be the beacon of light for his people. How could he, as their Prince, betray all of his people, and the hopes and faith that they have pinned to him all these years? Besides, he also genuinely loves his country, so it must have been heartbreaking for him to see how all his people are now being sold as slaves to Yoo Baek's country, while he remains as a captive and seemingly powerless. Realistically, he just couldn't give it all up just for Shin Bia, but he couldn't bear to kill her, one of the major supporting pillars of Yoo Baek's country. Therefore, all things considered, it wouldn't seem unrealistic for Mu Yeong, already established as intelligent, to reach the conclusion that he would eventually die by Yoo Baek's hands.
So, if that was the case, this should completely change how we view his 'aggressive' actions. For one, his 'bad boy' act could very well be how he tries to get Shin Bia to hate him, so that she will not mourn for him when he dies. He has to be that extreme because if he isn't, Shin Bia will find it much harder to hate him, especially since she has already acknowledged how much he has already helped her. Let's also not forget that whilst he did whip Shin Bia, he was the one who took the most care of her when she wasn't aware of it.
In addition, the way the mangaka portrays his death... it's just so sad- everything about it screams how much he loves her. Honestly, I cried so much after reading this scene.
I guess the most important thing about Mu Yeong's relationship with Shin Bia was the fact that he truly, completely, utterly, loved Shin Bia for who she was. And you know, the sacrifices he made for Shin Bia extend beyond what I would argue Yoo Baek ever made. I will admit that it's also upsetting to see how much Shin Bia has changed Mu Yeong, and yet, despite everything, he is the one who started with nothing (from the story's timeline), and died with nothing: not even managing to get the slightest sliver of his affections returned by the only person he has ever truly loved.
Love, I think, is very complicated. I don't think that it's ever going to be easy for any of us in our lifetime to truly determine how we love our partner, and conversely, how they love us. After all, acts of love are not just counting the number of kisses and cuddles, or chocolates and teddies we receive on Valentines Day. True acts of love go much further beyond that, so much further that perhaps we may spend out lifetime never truly knowing that they were acts of love, because they just never seemed like them in the first place.