“Do you ever follow directions?”
Byulyi watched the light halo around Lady Kim, flickering a little as the candle danced in the breeze of the cool summer evening.
She was sitting under a big tree, shoes haphazardly shucked off and bare feet exposed. Beads of sweat stuck to her temples as she simply sat, sword balanced on her knees.
“And what directions were I supposed to follow, my Lady?”
“To stay by my side. Always.”
Byulyi’s mouth twitched as she avoided eye contact and simply reached out, clutching at the silk of Yongsun’s gown. The gossamer fabric was thin like spun spider webs, letting the other woman breathe in the warmth of summer.
She tilted her head back and looked at Yongsun who was smiling a little. This was their game that they will always play. One will leave and the other will always follow.
“I wonder if I will be always able to listen to those instructions, my Lady.”
Yongsun shifted until she was kneeling next to Byulyi who was still gripping her skirt with the gentleness of a butterfly on a flower petal. She glanced behind her once to make sure they were both alone before blowing out the wax candle.
It is only then that Byulyi removed her hand and touched Yongsun with , warm and wanting for something that cannot last forever.
Yongsun swallowed as she saw Byulyi kneel down to spread out the blanket on the forest floor. She shivered a little and clutched the other woman’s cloak tighter around her shoulders. Escaping the assassins en route to her family’s summer home had been a close call that had resulted in Byulyi plunging them into the nearest river and swimming to a safer part of the forest. Unfortunately that meant they’d been drenched and lost for the majority of the day.
“My lady, your bed is ready,” Byulyi said, rising from her work.
“And what about you? Where will you sleep?”
“I will sit here and keep watch throughout the night. Tend to the fire so that we can both stay warm.”
“If you’re sleep-deprived, how useful will you be if the assassins return?”
Byulyi frowned at the logical question, hands clenching and unclenching with a lack of an answer.
“You can sleep next to me.”
Byulyi clenched her jaw as she glanced off to the side. Yongsun wondered if it was the firelight that colored the other woman’s face a deeper shade of red.
“I couldn’t dare sleep at your side, my Lady,” whispered Byulyi. Yongsun gazed up at Byulyi and couldn’t help the sad smile that curled . She remembered a time when Byulyi hadn’t been as careful and restrained. When the other woman had woven flower crowns for her with clumsy fingers, whistling a broken melody under her breath.
“And if I order you to?”
Byulyi took a step closer so that their knees were almost brushing. She reached down and tentatively touched the drying ends of Yongsun’s hair that were loose around her shoulders. A noblewoman wasn’t supposed to ever have her hair down unless in front of her maids or her husband. But a near-death experience with assassins and a freezing swim would have to be an exception to the rule.
“Are you cold my lady? Would me sleeping next to you warm your bed?”
“Is that how you will justify it?” Yongsun asked, swallowing at how bold she was being. She usually would have to say her thoughts in careful circles, her true intentions not quite clear. Byulyi always had that effect of making Yongsun’s carefully practiced manners slip.
Byulyi dropped the strands of hair and knelt in front of Yongsun, faces level.
“If it is what would please you, my Lady.”
Yongsun couldn’t bear it any longer and reached forward tracing the curve of Byulyi’s jaw with tentative fingertips. The other woman’s eyes fluttered closed at the contact and she tilted her face so that she was leaning even more into Yongsun’s touch. It made her smile a little sadly to think that this fierce bodyguard who had leveled a field of assassins with only a shallow knife wound was weak to the whims of some silly girl.
“Oh Byulyi,” she whispered as she leaned forward, lulled into a false sense of comfort with the cocoon of privacy from the dark forest and the crackling fire. “Having you by my side would please me more than you would ever know.”