Yongsun swallowed thickly as she went cross-eyed looking at the point of the sword in front of her face. She shifted a little without getting cut by the blade.
“I said,” the woman growled out in frustration, “who are you and what business do you have in the palace?”
The woman in question frowned at the word, the tip of the sword she was holding wavering.
“What did you call me?”
“Byulyi. Moon Byulyi. Y-you’re...” My girlfriend in everything but name. We were just fighting about who was going to do the dishes this morning.
The sword lowered and suddenly Yongsun was thrown flat on her back, throat bobbing as a hard forearm pressed excruciatingly against her windpipe.
“How do you know my name?”
Yongsun stared up at this woman who had Byulyi’s face. Her hair was undyed and loose at her shoulders, held back by a silk headband wrapped around her forehead with some metallic insignia. Yongsun swallowed as she looked into her girlfriend’s eyes and saw not a shred of recognition. And then those brown eyes widened and the pressure on was removed.
“Wait... are you Yongsun?”
She startled at her name and didn’t even try to scramble to sit up, instead staying prone on her back as Byulyi half-straddled her on her knees.
“How do you know my name?”
Byulyi’s face scrunched in confusion and Yongsun ached to reach out and wipe away the wrinkles creasing the space between her eyebrows.
“You’ll ruin your pretty face,” Yongsun whispered into Byulyi’s neck as she absentmindedly the skin of her forehead smooth. Byulyi’s giggles coaxed a lazy smile from .
“Yongsun, why are you dressed in these strange clothes? And why is your hair like... that?”
Yongsun pouted a little as she sat up on her elbows, rubbing the ends of her light brown hair between her fingers. Her Byulyi had showered her with endless compliments when she’d shown up one afternoon from work with ash brown hair just above her collarbones. Was this Byulyi broken or just more honest?
“You don’t like it?”
Byulyi’s face scrunched again and she started to get to her feet, offering a hand for Yongsun to grab.
“It doesn’t matter if I like it or not. I’ve been looking for you for the past two days! I thought you were dead.”
“And that matters to you? You didn’t even recognize me earlier.”
Byulyi sighed in exasperation, seeming to ignore the fact that their hands were still tangled together.
“Of course it does you’re-”
“The Queen is here!” announced a voice behind them. Byulyi stiffened, dropping Yongsun’s hand in an instant and searching around the garden in a panic.
“You need to hide. You know you’re not supposed to be in the Queen’s gardens.”
Yongsun’s mouth curled in protest to yell at Byulyi, sword wielding bodyguard or no, but she was unceremoniously shoved behind a wooden pavilion. Byulyi tugged her to carefully squat down before giving her an odd look as she pat Yongsun’s bangs into place.
“You’re so strange, wearing these clothes and doing this to your hair. What will I do with you, Kim Yongsun?”
Yongsun her lips, thinking of a few choice things but then the other woman strode away toward the encroaching cacophony of courtiers and court ladies. Curiously she peeked from behind a large leafy shrub and saw a very familiar face. It was that pretty new starlet who had done work with Byulyi’s company. Yongsun vaguely recalled Byulyi pointing at a huge billboard hanging in Sinchon as they did some shopping at UPlex. Irene or some sort of English name?
That same woman was dressed in ornate silk and bejeweled with so much jade and crystal that Yongsun nearly mistook her for some sort of ancient Korean ornament. She squinted as she tried to remember what century this would put her in by the wide sleeves and ornate hair piled ontop of the Queen’s head.
“What were you doing here?” the woman asked quietly, quirking a little as Byulyi fell to a knee in front of her.
“J-just patrolling, Your Highness. I wanted to make sure everything was safe before the envoy came.”
The Queen nodded once before taking a step forward and carefully plucking a leaf that had gotten tangled in Byulyi’s hair during their initial scuffle. Yongsun rolled her eyes.
Byulyi swallowed and bowed her head guiltily. It was in that moment that the only person who could see the Queen’s face was Yongsun. And the sight made her flush with annoyance.
Because the Queen was looking at Byulyi with unmasked affection that was clearly love.