Vuosisadan rakkaustarinat ovat varsinainen klisee, mutta siten voisi hyvinkin kuvata Seo Jae Jin ja Hong Sang Min yhteistä taivalta. Jo pieninä lapsina kaksikko tapasi toisensa kummankin vanhempien ollessa vanhoja ystäviä keskenään. Tapaamiset ajoittuivat enemmän lomille Sang Min perheen asuessa maalla, kun taas Jae Jinin Seoulissa keskiluokkaisella alueella. Tuttavuuksia he toki olivat keskenään ja saattoivat hyvinkin viettää aikaa Jae Jin vierailujen yhteydessä, kunnes nekin harvenivat muiden kiireiden ja teini-iän viedessä mennessään. Molemmin puolin oli toki ihastusta teini-iässä havaittavissa, mutta vasta monien sattumien sekä Sang Min kaupunkiin muuton myötä pariskunta alkoi virallisesti tapailla toisiaan sekä viettää enemmän aikaa yhdessä. Yksi asia johti toiseen ja molemmat aloittivat unelmiensa tavoittelun. Koko ikänsä kaupungissa asunut Jae Jin halusi ehdottomasti poliisin virkaa tähtämään, kun taas maaseudulta kotoisin oleva Sang Mi löysi itsensä opiskelemasta opettajaksi alakouluun. Perheen perustaminen oli molemmilla haaveissa, mutta opinnot ja ennen pitkää myös työt veivät pariskuntaa mukanaan vahvasti - ja pakkaa sotki lisäksi Sang Min paha endometrioosi. Alle kahdenkymmenen vanhoina he olivat muuttaneet yhteen ja menneet naimisiinkin, mutta lapsihaaveet siirtyivät ja siirtyivät. Parisuhdetta rasittivat myös pääosin endometrioosin myötä tapahtuneet keskenmenot, mutta jokin piti kaksikon kuitenkin yhdessä vahvistaen entisestään parisuhdetta. Mistään helposta yhteiselosta ei kuitenkaan voida puhua Sang Min sairastuessa masennukseen kolmannen keskenmenon myötä, jolloin Jae Jinille jäi oikeastaan kokonaan työnteko, laskut sekä arjen pyörittäminen. Lääkärit maalailivat uhkakuvia lapsettomuudesta heikentäen entisestään suhteen pohjaa, kunnes kolmenkymmenen paremmalla puolella se pieni ihme viimein tapahtui ja jälleen uusi raskaus astui kuvioihin. Valo loisti pitkästä aikaa pimeyden keskellä ja pariskunta kulki sormet ristissä Sang Min yrittäessä parhaansa estääkseen keskenmenon. Hän keskeytti lääkkeet, paransi otettaan terapiassa ja kriittisimmän vaiheen jäädessä taakse uskalsivat molemmat viimein hieman hengähtää sekä suunnitella jo tulevaa. Yhdessä he muuttivat lapsiystävällisemmälle alueelle, alkoivat sisustaa lastenhuonetta ja viimein marraskuussa ponteva, terve tyttövauva saateltiin maailmaan ja sen suurempia pohtimatta sai nimekseen Jin A, heidän oma pieni ihmeensä ja aarrelapsensa.
Monella tapaa perheen ainokainen oli hemmoteltu jo ensi henkäyksistä lähtien. Isovanhemmat olivat haltioissaan ja lahjoja riitti ainokaiselle lapsenlapselle. Menetetty toivo syttyi nyt kirkkaana tähtenä kaikkien keskellä ja Jina sai kasvaa rakkauden keskellä vailla huolia ja murheita. Sang Min masennus oli ajoittain ottaa valtaa, mutta nyt hänellä oli tärkeä syy taistella sitä vastaan ja muutamassa vuodessa tasaantui elämä uomiinsa. Jae Jin hoiti edelleen talouspuolta ja oli usein väsynyt sen johdosta, mutta Jinan vartuttua kolmen vanhaksi päätyi Sang Mi ratkaisuun palata työelämään itsekin.
Then he called his butler, who acted very grand. ‘There is said to be a very wonderful bird called a nightingale here,’ said the emperor. ‘They say that it is better than anything else in all my great kingdom! Why have I never been told anything about it?’ ‘I have never heard it mentioned,’ said the butler. ‘It has never been introduced in the palace.’ ‘I wish it to appear here this evening to sing to me,’ said the emperor. ‘The whole world knows what I own and I know nothing about it!’ ‘I have never heard it mentioned before,’ said the butler. ‘I will look for it, and I will find it!’ But where was it to be found? The butler ran upstairs and downstairs and in and out of all the rooms and corridors. No one of all those he met had ever heard anything about the nightingale; so the butler ran back to the emperor, and said that it must not a true story, made up by the writers of the books. ‘Your majesty must not believe everything that is written. Books are often not true.!’ ‘But the book in which I read it is sent to me by the powerful Emperor of Japan, so it must be true. I will hear this nightingale; I insist it is brought here to-night. I will make sure it is well taken care of. If, however, it is not brought here, I will have punish everyone after supper!’
‘As you please!’ said the gentleman-in-waiting, and away he ran again, up and down all the stairs, in and out of all the rooms and corridors; half the court ran with him, for they none of them wished to be punished. There were many questions about this nightingale, which was known to all the outside world, but to no one at court. At last they found a poor little maid in the kitchen. She said, ‘Oh heavens, the nightingale? I know it very well. Yes, indeed it can sing. Every evening I am allowed to take left-over meat to my poor sick mother who lives down by the shore. On my way back, when I am tired, I rest awhile in the wood, and then I hear the nightingale. Its song brings the tears into my eyes, I feel as if my mother were kissing me!’ ‘Little kitchen-maid,’ said the gentleman-in-waiting, ‘I will make sure you get a good job in the kitchen, if you will take us to the nightingale. It is commanded to appear at court to-night.’ Then they all went out into the wood where the nightingale usually sang. Half the court was there. As they were going along at their best pace a cow began to moo. ‘Oh!’ said a young assistant, ‘there we have it. What wonderful power for such a little creature. I have certainly heard it before.’ ‘No, those are the cows mooing, we are a long way yet from the place.’ Then the frogs began to croak in the marsh. ‘Beautiful!’ said the Chinese priest, ‘it is just like the tinkling of church bells.’ ‘No, those are the frogs!’ said the little kitchen-maid. ‘But I think we shall soon hear it now!’
Then the nightingale began to sing. ‘There it is!’ said the little girl. ‘Listen, listen, there it sits!’ and she pointed to a little grey bird up among the branches. ‘Is it possible?’ said the gentleman-in-waiting. ‘I should never have thought it was like that. How ordinary it looks! Seeing so many important people must have frightened all its colours away.’ ‘Little nightingale!’ called the kitchen-maid quite loud, ‘our emperor wishes you to sing to him!’ ‘With the greatest of pleasure!’ said the nightingale, singing away in the most delightful fashion. ‘It is just like crystal bells,’ said the gentleman-in-waiting. ‘Look at its little throat, how active it is. It is extraordinary that we have never heard it before! I am sure it will be a great success at court!’ ‘Shall I sing again to the emperor?’ said the nightingale, who thought he was present. ‘My precious little nightingale,’ said the gentleman-in-waiting, ‘I have the honour to request your attendance at a court performance to-night, where you will charm his majesty the emperor with your wonderful singing.’ ‘It sounds best among the trees,’ said the nightingale, but it went with them willingly when it heard that the emperor wished it. The palace had been decorated for the occasion. The walls and the floors, which were all of china, shone by the light of many thousand golden lamps. The most beautiful flowers were arranged in the corridors. In the middle of the large reception-room where the emperor sat a golden rod had been fixed, on which the nightingale was to perch. The whole court was assembled, and the little kitchen-maid had been permitted to stand behind the door, as she now had been made a cook. They were all dressed in their best clothes, everybody’s eyes were turned towards the little grey bird at which the emperor was nodding. The nightingale sang delightfully, and the tears came into the emperor’s eyes and rolled down his cheeks and then the nightingale sang more beautifully than ever, its notes touched all hearts. The emperor was charmed, and said the nightingale should have his gold slipper to wear round its neck. But the nightingale declined with thanks, saying it was already happy enough. ‘I have seen tears in the eyes of the emperor; that is my richest reward. The tears of an emperor have a wonderful power!’ and then it again burst into its sweet heavenly song.
‘That is the most delightful thing I have ever seen!’ said the ladies, and they took some water into their mouths to try and make the same gurgling noise as the bird when any one spoke to them. Even the handymen and the maids announced that they liked it and they are hard to please. Yes, indeed, the nightingale had made a sensation. It was to stay at court now, and to have its own cage and was free to walk out twice a day and once at night. It always had twelve footmen, with each one holding a ribbon which was tied round its leg. It wasn’t much fun for the nightingale. The whole town talked about the marvellous bird, and if two people met, one said to the other ‘Night,’ and the other answered ‘Gale,’ and then they sighed, perfectly understanding each other. Eleven cheese-makers’ children were called after it, but none of them could sing. One day a large parcel came for the emperor. Outside was written the word ‘Nightingale.’ ‘Here we have another new book about this celebrated bird,’ said the emperor. But it was not a book, it was a little work of art in a box, a toy clockwork nightingale, exactly like the living one, but it was studded all over with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. When the bird was wound up it could sing one of the songs the real one sang, and it wagged its tail, which glittered with silver and gold. A ribbon was tied round its neck on which was written, ‘The Emperor of Japan’s nightingale is very poor compared to the Emperor of China’s.’ Everybody said, ‘Oh, how beautiful! Now, they must sing together; what a duet that will be.’ Then they had to sing together, but they did not get on very well, for the real nightingale sang in its own way, and the clockwork one could only sing waltzes. ‘There is no fault in that,’ said the music-master; ‘it is perfectly in time and correct in every way!’