“No matter how much you glare at them, my lord, he’s not just going to drop dead. No matter how much you want it to be,” Seobi said calmly to Chang. When he gave her a stink eye of her own, the physicist did not even flinch and even had the audacity to not look at him, content with perusing her own notebook, while Do-Jin was trying desperately not to be dragged into this.
“I am not glaring—I am not!” Chang stressed it out when Seobi scoffed and Do-Jin was visibly holding back his own laugh. “What reason do I have to glare at Yeongshin and that, um, fellow of his—”
“Oong-Suk, my lord,” Do-Jin supplied. “He was Yeongshin’s old friend from the Chakho.”
“I know that. I was there when he introduced himself,” Chang said, looking back at the two men conversing closely on the table next to them at the tavern, their heads bowed closely over a map, almost no space between them. Chang might not know much about tracking and hunting but he certainly knew that one did not need to be that close when discussing it.
“Oh, really? Because I feel like you are just one step away from running him through your sword, my lord,” Seobi flipped a page and calmly took a sip from her glass.
“Again,” Chang gritted his teeth, “What reason do I have to kill him? He has not done anything bad to me or any of you.”
Seobi finally looked at Chang, one of her eyebrows raising high. “No? Not even now?” Seobi cocked her head toward the next table and Chang felt annoyance roiling when he saw Oong-suk grabbing Yeongshin’s shoulder and pulling him closer as the two of them grinned at each other.
“Seobi-sshi, please stop antagonizing our lord,” Do-Jin intervened. “We still need more intel about these new areas and we can’t have Lord Chang murder our only informant now.”
“I am not that foolish,” Chang said indignantly. “And why would I kill him?”
“Are we sure we can trust this man, really?” Seobi said, ignoring Chang entirely. “Even if he was also a Chakho but him being this secretive and only wanting to show the map to Yeongshin is a bit shady, don’t you think?”
“Hey, don’t ignore—!”
“Well, we are strangers for this small village,” Do-Jin reasoned. “With the winter coming close, between the corpses and the bandits roaming around more and more, it’s understandable if he’s wary of us. Except for Yeongshin. He seems very close to him.”
“Can you two please—”
“Oh my, are Chakho soldiers all have such a tight bond like that, Do-Jin?”
“I am right here!”
“I think they need to be so, Seobi-sshi. They are up against tigers after all, if you can’t trust your back to your companions, they’ll practically be dead,” Do-Jin nodded with a mock-serious expression.
“Are you and your other soldier companions also very touchy like them?” Seobi asked as once again Oong-suk touched Yeongshin’s shoulder. Only this time he was only listening to something Oong-Suk whispered directly to his ear. Even from this distance, all three of them could see that Yeongshin was blushing .
Do-Jin cleared his throat, “No—we, ah—we cuddled together for warmth at night, sometimes, but we don’t do much outside of that. But I do hear Chakho soldiers are always working under a lot of pressure so they must need… some relief.”
There was a second of heavy silence on their table as Do-Jin’s words settled in.
“You’re glaring again, my lord.”
“Do the Chakho take lovers when they’re out hunting?” Chang asked sharply, ignoring Seobi this time, his blazing eyes looking at nothing but Yeongshin. Before Do-Jin even finished shaking his head, Chang had already stood and walked towards the table where Yeongshin was.
Do-Jin exhaled a harsh breath, “For someone whose job is to save people’s lives, you sure love to risk your own, Seobi-sshi.”
“We face down hordes of undead monsters on a daily basis, why are you afraid for this simple task?” Seobi poured him a drink, an apology of some sort for putting him into this situation.
“Exactly! We have enough scary things to last us for at least four generations, I do not need to add making Lord Chang angry into the list,” Do-Jin cried out. “Seriously, I felt like if he can’t sliced Oong-suk’s throat, he’s gonna do it to mine!”
Seobi let out a soft laugh, “He’s not angry. Just jealous. Trust me, this is much better than us having to go through his yearning and moping towards Yeongshin.” Seobi raised her own glass, “To lovesick idiots!”
Do-Jin clinked his glass with an exasperated sigh. He really couldn’t believe Joseon’s safety rested on these people’s shoulders.
Chang approached the two calmly. When Yeongshin caught the sight of him, he immediately stood up and Chang felt something vindictive and petty blossomed inside his chest when he saw Oong-suk withdrawing his hand from Yeongshin.
“My lord,” Yeongshin greeted.
“I am sorry for interrupting,” Chang lied easily because he really, really wasn’t. “But have you finished planning already? Can we know about it now?”
“Yes, Oong-suk is going to show us nearby villages and areas where there are rumours of foreign merchants coming and going,” Yeongshin explained and Chang nodded his approval. “We’re going to need to use the horses to travel there before the sundown. Oong-suk doesn’t have a horse of his own so he’ll ride with me and—”
“Give him your horse.”
“I beg your pardon, my lord?”
“He can use your horse, you’ll just have to ride with me,” Chang ordered firmly, looking straight at Yeongshin. “When are we leaving? Right now?”
Yeongshin blinked in surprise at how blunt Chang was being. “Um, yes, my lord, if you’d like to we can—ah, wait!”
Chang was already grabbing Yeongshin’s hand and pulled him out of the tavern.
Former Chakho soldier Oong-suk could only watch with mirth in his eyes as his companion, face flushing and expression shy, was dragged away. “Oh, Yeongshin,” he said, voice full of amusement. “That noble of yours is just as gone as you are, my friend.”