The palace was in uproar. People were running from left to right and vice versa. Nighthall has always been quite bustling, but this was something else
“Your Highness, good morning, have you eaten yet?”, A courtier asked Beomgyu immediately after he left his room. He answered with a shake of the head and before he could even say anything, he was being pulled along in the direction of the kitchen.
“I must apologize Your Highness, the dining hall is currently off limits. I know it must be strange to eat with the peasantry, so I hereby humbly invite you to accompany me to my room so we can share breakfast.”
Beomgyu was flattered by the request, but also felt a slight sting to his heart as he heard the word “peasantry”. The courtier didn’t mean anything by it, after all, it was quite a normal assumption to make of someone of Beomgyu’s status, but he didn’t want to be seen like someone who thinks of himself as better than others.
“I’m sorry but I must decline. It is not everyday that I get the chance to converse with the workers, so I’d like to use this opportunity. Perhaps, you would like to accompany me?’, Beomgyu asked with a genuine smile. He could tell the courtier wasn’t pleased with this answer, but he didn’t let it get to him.
“No thank you, Your Highness, I’ve already eaten. Enjoy your meal”, and with a bow, he was gone.
“Your Highness, with all due respect, but would it not have been wiser to eat with Duke Lee’s son?”, one of the cooks who happened to hear the conversation asked. Beomgyu smiled before answering with “perhaps”. “But I feel like the nobility can get so drab sometimes. I’ll have plenty more opportunities to dine with him. Something I cannot say is the same for this.” He gestured toward the whole of the kitchen.
Beomgyu sat himself on one of the counters and freed up some space, pushing away bowls and pans so a plate could be set down. Food was promptly placed in front of him. He had not even finished an egg before the kitchen door aggressively opened.
“Beomgyu, we have no time, there is still much to do”, Yeonjun proclaimed as he cleaned the counter off. Beomgyu sighed, but didn’t struggle. “Don’t let he food go to waste”, he told the kitchen staff instead.
“I woke you up almost three quarters ago, how have you not finished eating?”, Yeonjun asked. He didn’t sound particularly annoyed, nor dumbfounded. In fact, the tone of his voice hinted at him not truly caring for the answer, for he already knew.
“No matter, your father is expecting you. We are to discuss amicable terms for termination of the war.” Yeonjun told a bored Beomgyu. They were walking back toward his room as the prince was still in his night attire. The halls seems to be less crowded now. Beomgyu noticed that the usual brown carpeting on the marble floors had been replaced by purple carpets with gold and blue accents. He hated these carpets. To him, it felt cold and distant. It reminded him of how out of place he really was.
“I don’t understand what that has to do with me”, Beomgyu noted. “For the past six years I have always been left out of political discussions for obvious reasons. It doesn’t make sense to suddenly rope me into it. Especially not for something this important.”
“Your father has his reasons, no matter, it is imperative that you look your best.” They had just arrived in front of the door that lead to Beomgyu’s oversized room. The door was decorated in a similar purple accenting as the carpets and was made of a very dark wood. The handles were pure gold and too expensive to think about. When Beomgyu opened the door, he could smell that his sheets had been changed. His outfit was on his bed, ready for him to change into.
“I asked for a bath to be prepared. Today I opted for a mix of rose essence and lavender to calm the nerves and supple the skin. Please don’t take too long, there is still much to discuss”, Yeonjun said with a smile.
Beomgyu unfastened the laces of his night shirt and moved toward the bathroom. There two maids awaited him, to assist in cleaning him up. He dismissed them as he wanted to take this time to be alone, after all this could probably be the only time he could be alone for the rest of the day.
The bathwater was uncomfortably warm against Beomgyu’s skin. It felt just shy of a burning sensation. It was for better skin according to Yeonjun, but Beomgyu believes the retainer might just have sadistic tendencies. No matter, he started by washing his hair and lathering soap onto his body, before lowering his body into the large basin. The pleasant floral scents did help to calm Beomgyu down, but only for a short while before his mind started to wander again.
The Empire to the East has been aggressively expanding for as long as Beomgyu could remember. They had taken over almost every single one of the 35 kingdoms of the East and were now fast approaching the Kingdom. His siblings have been actively working in aiding the nearby countries to defend themselves from the Empire, but Beomgyu is too frail to fight. His body would probably give out under the weight of armor before he could even strike somebody.
Beomgyu sunk his head down further into the bath and stayed like this for 10 minutes before Yeonjun called out for him.
The clothes laid out for him felt gaudy and far too over the top for his taste. There were frills all over his shirt and intricate lace designs left and right. The overshirt was the same color purple that decorated the halls and his door and had similar golden and blue accents. His boots felt too long and too tight on his legs and the corset he was wearing under his shirt felt too constricting. His waist was already tiny enough, he didn’t understand the need to make his frame even more petite.
“You look wonderful, Your Highness”, Yeonjun exclaimed proudly. He had moved on to clean up the prince’s slightly curly hair. After applying a little oil and styling the slight unnatural grey glisten to his hair was ever so evident. Even more proof of how out of place he truly was.
“I look wrong.” He felt wrong. He felt a distinct feeling of overwhelming discomfort aching through his chest and wanted nothing less than to free himself of the constraints of his gaudy clothing and flashy lifestyle.
“You’d think after six years you’d stop saying that”, Yeonjun said. His face settled into a frown as his hands lingered on Beomgyu’s hair. “You look just right, you look beautiful.”
Beomgyu blushed slightly at this, but shakes the comments off. “You only say that because you’re my retainer. Even you must know how the nobles look at me.”
“Of course I do, however the nobles are a bunch of pricks. Their opinions are irrelevant. What is relevant however, is how you act.”
Beomgyu smiled at his retainer’s reassuring words. It worked to ease his nerves, if only slightly.
A knife could cut through the tension in the war room. The advisors were all on edge as they waited for the king to say what he had to. It looked like everyone was worn out from worrying about this.
Beomgyu looked around the room to find none of his siblings had attended this meeting. Beomin was still at the Azure Islands, helping out the sea defenses, but Hangyu and Seonggyu were at court. They were far more involved with politics than Beomgyu was, so it was strange to not see them here.
“Advisors, as you all well know, a delegation of the emperor will be arriving to the Kingdom soon. We have invited them as honored guests and will be discussing amicable terms to protect the people of the Kingdom from the war.”
Beomgyu grew more nervous with every word. This was all old news to him. What was really going on? Why was this emergency meeting called? And why was Beomgyu involved?
“Truthfully, the Empire had already set a few terms before talks cold even be an option.” Some whispers went through the room immediately. Beomgyu wasn’t able to make out anything said.
“Without consulting you, my most trusted advisors, I accepted the preliminary terms.” Exclamations of protest were heard throughout the room, but the retainers to each side of the king slammed their spears to the ground to silence the men in the room.
“What were these terms, Your Highness”, one of the advisors asked after a short moment of silence.
The King took his time to look at his son’s face for a few moments. His face shifted slightly to show an almost unreadable emotion. To Beomgyu it registered as something close to regret, or even sadness.
“The emperor’s only son, his heir apparent, will be wed to my heir apparent.”
For a moment the words didn’t register as truth. He didn’t realize what his father had just said. That was until he noticed all eyes turned to look to him. Realization hit him then as two things were revealed.
Beomgyu, the bastard son of the king, youngest of his siblings, would be next in line for he throne, over the obvious choice of Beomin.
He would be marrying a total stranger.