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The Concubine

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Jibeom's heart is thumping like crazy at the sight of his concubine. He wants this useless long ceremony to end, make the ministers leave so he can have his lovely concubine for himself. His hands have been itching to caress that pretty face, but as a King, he has image to maintain.

After some torturing moments, endless congratulation words and boring speeches, finally he's alone in his chamber with Jaehyun. One of the minister, the old one, the one he has known since his adolescence days, sends a disapproving look to him. Jibeom cringes inside, feeling apologetic that his desire has won over him that he ignored what the ministers were saying. None of their words are registered in his mind except for their congratulations.

The room is filled silence once the door is closed behind them. It's absolutely one of the most nerve wrecking moment in his life. He feels the same thrill as he felt when he took over the throne, when his son was born, and when he had to led the army to a war. Jaehyun looks so pretty it hurts.

Jaehyun is still extremely young, 18 years old, but not too young to get married. Girls are wed when they're 13 these days. However, Jaehyun is a pure child. His parents dotted on him since he's the only child after a long waiting period. He's only courted Jaehyun for a few months, but each day, he's getting sure that he wants him. Jaehyun is pretty, innocent, kind, and the most important thing, he can soothe Jibeom's mind with only by his presence.

He's nervous, but Jaehyun must be more nervous, judging from his stiff posture. He smiles and walks towards his concubine. His smile grows wider when he sees Jaehyun flinching when he starts to move. The young boy bows his head.

"Let me see your face."

Jaehyun doesn't move, so he reaches out and put his fingers on Jaehyun's chin and lifts his head. A mixture of excitement, nervousness and shyness are all mixed into one in Jaehyun's dark orbs.

"My king.."

Jaehyun's soft voice is hoarse due to nervousness, making Jibeom chuckles.

"Why are you so quiet today?"

Jaehyun's tone wavers. "I-I'm sorry.. My king.."

Jibeom's eyes soften. He's torn about thinking Jaehyun is adorable with his shyness, and pity because the boy is so nervous that he's shaking.

"You're not usually like this," He sends a warm smile, trying calm the boy down. "Where's the boy who hit me because I ate his tangerine?"

Jaehyun's face gets even redder. He lets out a whine. "My king.."

Jibeom laughs, recalling the time he met Jaehyun for the first time. It was his 5th year ruling, and he missed being adventurous. Before being crowned as a king, there were times he liked to disguise himself as commoner and roamed around the city. He decided to try it again, disguising himself, and went to Scholar Bong's house. After a long walk, he's tired and hungry. He saw tangerines in front of the house and ate one. As he devoured the sweet fruit, a teen Jaehyun suddenly appeared and hit him, calling him thief. It was not a pleasant first encounter, he remembered Scholar Bong and his wife bowed repeatedly for forgiveness on behalf of their son, and Jaehyun was so shocked that he looked like wanted to cry.

He was in love at the first sight.

Jaehyun was so cute and despite the unfortunate incident during their first meeting, he immediately felt drawn to the boy. He was happy because apparently Jaehyun returned his feeling.

"You're exceptionally pretty today," His fingers move from Jaehyun's chin to his cheek, cradling that part with gentleness.

Jaehyun bit his lips to hide his smile. "So you are, my king"

Jibeom's eyes rake through Jaehyun's body. The silk light blue robe hugs his slender body well. His silky black hair is combed neat, perfectly frames his face. He can smell rose fragrant, probably from flowers they maids used to bathe Jaehyun before the ceremony. He wants to kiss Jaehyun's plump lips.

And that's what he does.

Jaehyun's lips are soft. Jibeom nibbles that plump lips and draws that body closer until their stomachs touch, his arms circles around Jaehyun's waist. Jaehyun's body is so soft, so pliant. A small moan escapes from Jaehyun's mouth, immediately swallowed by Jibeom, when the latter pushes his tongue inside Jaehyun's mouth. Their tongues meet in a sweet reunion. It feels so good especially with Jaehyun gripping his shoulders like a lifeline.

Finally Jaehyun is his.

*****

Jaehyun's body is beautiful. Slim and soft, with some faint muscles. Jaehyun looks even more beautiful now that he's lying naked on his bed, with hair sprawled on the pillow and legs open wide. The boy was panting like he's been running, and his cute mouth keep on releasing sinful moans. The sight of Jaehyun writhing with his neck and chest are full of his love bites is very arousing.

It is an extremely hard task for Jibeom to hold himself back. He's rock hard already when he's just thrusting one finger into Jaehyun's tight entrance. It's Jaehyun’s first time, he wants to make it as enjoyable and as painless as possible.

"Ahh.."

His moans are making him crazier. Jibeom has to grip the bedsheet to stop himself from shoving his entire fingers to Jaehyun.

"My king," Jaehyun pants, reaching out to hold the king's robe. Contrary to Jaehyun, Jibeom is still wearing his inner robe.

Jibeom meets his concubine's eyes, his hand doesn't stop moving.

"Does it hurt?" He gently asks, for a brief moment, his fingers stops moving.

Jaehyun lets out a shuddered breath and then he shakes his head. "But it feels weird."

"In a negative way?"

"No," Jaehyun shakes his head again. "Because it's you, my king."

The answer makes Jibeom throws his body forward and claimed the younger man's lips. "You'll be the death of me, I swear."

Jaehyun's lips twitches. In this close proximity, Jibeom can feel Jaehyun's breath fanning his face. "You can add another finger, my king."

"I don't want to hurt you."

Jaehyun's smile is breathtaking. "You'll never hurt me."

Jibeom's resistance breaks loose. He slowly adds another finger. Jaehyun frowns, his lips parted as he moans breathlessly.

"Is it okay?" The king murmured on his concubine's neck, peppering soft kisses along the exposed skin, hoping the gesture could make Jaehyun more relax. The younger man is clenching his fingers so hard down there.

Jaehyun sneaks his hands on the king's shoulders, trying to vent his emotion by keeping their bodies close.

"I'm fine," Jaehyun whispers. "It… It's starting to feel good."

Feeling encouraged, Jibeom picks up the speed. When Jaehyun arches his back, he adds more fingers. Soon, four of his fingers are buried inside Jaehyun's heat. Jaehyun is already a mess. His concubine is gasping for air while clutching his shoulders, his body jerks from time to time, and whines never stops leaving his mouth.

Jibeom feels sweat trickling on his back, his neck, sliding to his chest. He wants to take off his robe as soon as possible. As if reading his mind, Jaehyun panted in his ears. "I'm ready."

Jibeom looks at him deeply, trying to find out whether Jaehyun means it. He's replied with a short nod and a small smile.

"Take me, my king."

Jaehyun moans when the king pulls out his fingers. His entrance suddenly feels empty and cold. However, his heart is pounding at the thought of what the king will do to him. He locks his eyes with Jibeom as the king takes off his robe with clean and fast movement.

Jibeom chuckles at his concubine's red face after seeing his bare body. He climbs on the bed, straddling Jaehyun and gives him a short kiss.

"I'm going in," He said.

Jaehyun's face was full of nervousness but he nods. Jibeom spread Jaehyun's legs wider to accommodate him, and bends his right legs. Their heart beats in sync, anticipating the time when they will be one.

Jibeom closes his eyes when his hardness nudges the opening of Jaehyun's heat, and carefully he pushes forward. Jaehyun gasps, his body suddenly turns rigid.

 

"It's okay, it's okay," The king murmured to his concubine's ears. It is hard for him to talk in the midst of a great pleasure, but he needs to make sure that Jaehyun is alright. "You're doing good, love."

Jaehyun moans out loud when Jibeom pushes until his cock is halfway inside. His face is contorted in pain mixed with pleasure.

"My-My king," Jaehyun gasps, clawing the king's back. "I… I don't think.. it'll fit."

The innocent comment makes Jibeom laughs breathlessly. "I'll do it slowly."

For a while Jibeom moves his hips in a small movement, waiting until Jaehyun's used to his size. Jaehyun is so tight, clenching at his hardness, making him panted in pleasure.

After a while, he decides to step up the game. He kisses Jaehyun's neck, trailing kisses to his chest and finally catches Jaehyun's pink bud with his mouth.

"Ahh.." Jaehyun moans again with a violent jerk on his body. Jibeom cages the younger man's body, restraining him on the bed. "Ahhh-"

Jibeom rolls his tongue on the perked bud, nudging and bites lightly with his teeth. Jaehyun was crying and moaning mess, Jibeom takes the opportunity to push himself deep into the hilt. The hard clench and Jaehyun's loud cry almost makes Jibeom comes. He gritted his teeth, and hold their position. No one is moving, their erratic breath is heard clearly in the quiet room. It feels good, so good to have their skin touch without barrier.

It is Jibeom who recovers and moves first. He lifts up his body without moving his hips. Jaehyun's face is debauched. His half lidded eyes gazes right back at him. Jibeom caresses his cheek gently with the back of his hand and wipes the beads of swear rolling of Jaehyun's temple.

"Are you okay, love?"

"Yes," Jaehyun's voice is harsh. The younger man pulls the king's body closer and rests his head on Jibeom's chest. "Can… Can we stay like this for a while?"

Jibeom pats his concubine's head fondly. "Of course."

Jaehyun's body feels warm, Jibeom inhales his sweet scent mixing with sweat. It feels overwhelming. Jaehyun's erection is press's against their stomach, and it sends tingles to his whole body.

As seconds pass, it becomes more and more difficult to stay still. His own erection twitches inside Jaehyun, and the younger man is aware of that.

"You can move, my king."

Jibeom brings Jaehyun's face closer and mold their lips together as he starts to move his hips, giving a slow and shallow thrust. It's difficult to move since Jaehyun's clenching on him tightly as if refusing to let him slip out.

"You're suffocating me, love," He groaned, trying to move but at the same time afraid that he's hurt the other man.

"I.. I.." Jaehyun stuttered, the veins on his neck started to pop out from the strain. "My king is so big."

Jibeom distracts him with kiss. He runs his tongue along Jaehyun's teeth, caressing his cavern and makes their tongues dancing together.

Jaehyun pushes him and cries out loud when Jibeom pulled back and then slams in.

"Too.. Too much," Jaehyun gasps, his fist is placed on Jibeom's chest.

Jibeom's chest is heaving. The euphoria sends shivers to his whole body. And once he feels it, he wants to feel it again and again.

"I'll make you feel good," He whispered. "I promise."

He pulls out and slams in again and again. Jaehyun keened, his face scrunched in painful ecstasy. His erection leeks in precome, wetting his stomach. In each thrust, the pain subdued and the pleasure reeks through his body, making him unable to control his body and his voice.

Jibeom lifts Jaehyun's legs, trying to find a better angle. The new angle sends Jaehyun into a new height of pleasure.

"M-My king.."

Jibeom takes Jaehyun's outstretched hand, intertwining their fingers together. He gives a firm grip and fastens his hips movement.

Jaehyun cries out, and immediately put his fist on his lips to muffle his cry. Jibeom leans forward, taking Jaehyun's fist and pins his hands on the bed. He's going to explode soon, Jibeom can feel it. He snaps his hips faster, sending Jaehyun reeling, trashing his head to the left and right.

A hard snap of his hips, and Jaehyun's eyes roll in his sockets, his body freezes. His come spurts out from his erection, painting their stomach white. Jaehyun's moan and debauched look sends Jibeom to the edge. With a groan, he releases himself inside Jaehyun's hole, then his body drops to the bed.

For a moment, they're caught in euphoria, their breath mingle with each other. Jibeom feels tingles all around his body. Waves of pleasure surges through his body. Jaehyun's still clenching and unclenching around him, making him spurts more come.

When their breath even out, Jibeom lifts his head, and finds his concubine buries his head on the pillow. His body is still rigid. With gentle hands, he turns Jaehyun's head and rubs his cheek with his thumb. Jaehyun's eyes are wet from unshed tears.

"You're amazing," He whispers to Jaehyun's ears, grinning when the younger man's body shudders.

Jaehyun finally opens his eyes. His gaze is still bleary.

"My king," He says hoarsely. Jibeom likes it when Jaehyun calls him that. He feels special.

"Do you feel okay?"

Jaehyun shakily smiles and nods. "I'm okay."

Jibeom shifts and Jaehyun groans as they're still connected.

"You're not yet done," Jaehyun says softly, his cheeks tinted in pink color. The king's erection is still hard and pulsing inside him.

Jibeom put his hands below Jaehyun's neck, and the younger man snuggles to him.

"How can I'm not hard when your hole is gripping me hard like this?"

Jaehyun buries his head on his chest. "Please don't say things like that, my King."

Jibeom chuckles, finding his concubine adorable. If only he met Jaehyun before he got married. But he still needs a wife who can give him a child.

"Thank you."

Jaehyun looks up and their eyes met. "Thank you for what, my king?"

Jaehyun won't have a word against a king. But Jibeom knows, Jaehyun loves him back. Jaehyun chose him, agreed to be his concubine since it was all he could offer. He rejected proposal from rich merchant and chose him instead.

"For choosing me.. For loving me."

*****

"Hyungggg!!!!"

Jaehyun turns his body to the source of the voice. A young boy, with his dark blue robe running towards him. Behind the boy, two servants run in panic.

"Crown prince!" One of them shrieked, but is ignored by the little prince.

Jaehyun shakes his head although his smile blooms. He's fond of the prince. Aside that the boy is Jibeom's son, he's smart and adorable.

"Crown pri-oohff!" Jaehyun doesn't expect the 7 years old kid to jump and cling into his arms, forcing him to carry his weight. The prince is a healthy boy with big bones, it's quite a pain for his back.

"Hyung! I've told you to call me by name!" The prince complains.

Jaehyun eyes the prince's servants who are bowing at them. He whispers to the prince's ears. "I've told you I can't call you by name when there are people around."

"Why?" The prince whines, definitely unhappy with it. "Why you can't?"

"Because.." Jaehyun stutters. He didn't really know how to explain to a 7 years old kid. "Hm.. Because we're in the palace.. Um.."

"See? You have no reason not to call my name," The young prince scrunches his nose. "Call me by name. Say Boooo Miiiiiinnn. Say it hyung!"

Bomin wiggles on his arms, nagging. Jaehyun groans at the moving weight, he eyes Bomin's servants for help, but they are only bowing his head. Bomin can be a stubborn kid. He can imagine his servants are having a hard time.

"Crown prince, please calm down. Ahh, so heavy!" Jaehyun bends his body to put Bomin down, but the prince circled his legs around his waist.

"Call me Bomin!"

Give up, Jaehyun straightens up and shifts Bomin on his arm. "Bominnie," He whispers to the boy's ears.

Bomin laughs in glee. "It's not that hard right? Hyung! Let's play!"

Jaehyun presses his lips. "What time is it Bomin? Isn't it time for you to learn history now?"

"My prince," Finally one of the servants says. "Teacher Lee is already waiting for you in the study room. Let not make him wait too long."

Bomin frowns. He hugs Jaehyun tightly. "I don't want to study! I want to play with hyung."

"My prince-"

"Bominnie," Jaehyun calls softly. He can understand Bomin. When he's at Bomin's age, he spent most of his time to play, but as the next king, Bomin is obligated to have vast knowledge, hence he has to study all the time. He pities Bomin, but he can't leave his responsibility. "Bominnie, be a good boy and study well. I will play with you after you finish study okay."

"But by the time I'm finished, it's time to have dinner, and then father will tell me to go to sleep!"

"I'll talk to your father how about it?" He softly coaxes the young prince, but Bomin was still frowning unhappily.

"But father says you belong to him at night. He won't let me play with you!"

Jaehyun chuckles. "Your father is just joking, you know that."

"No, he's not joking! Hyung, do you remember whe-"

"Crown prince!"

Jaehyun feels his body freeze, as well as Bomin. That voice has never failed to send chill to his spine. He bit his lips, praying that the queen won't find any mistake in him this time. He pats Bomin's but as a signal for the prince to stand on his own, but Bomin is still hanging on him, and even tighten his hold on him. The queen is looking at them with distaste.

Jaehyun bows his head politely when the queen and her servants stop right in front of them. "My queen."

The queen ignores him and focuses on her son instead. "Crown prince, why are you here instead of studying?"

Bomin pouts and resting his head on the concubine's chest, refusing to answer. Jaehyun gnaws his lips, feeling responsible to answer.

"Crown prince is going to study room now, My Queen."

"Hyung!" Bomin looks at him in betrayal. Jaehyun sends him apologetic look. Bomin may not understand, but it's not wise to make the queen angry. The woman can be scary.

"Crown prince!" The queen looks at his son, scandalized. "Why do you call Concubine Bong like that! Didn't Teacher Lee teach you how to address people properly?"

Bomin frowns. "I prefer to call him hyung."

"My prince, don't" Jaehyun whispers in panic.

"I don't want to study today," Bomin bravely talks back to his mother. "I want to play with hyung!"

The queen's lips are pressed into a thin line. She's very beautiful, probably the most beautiful woman in the country. She's also the daughter of the ex prime minister. Despite her beauty, she's calculative and full of intrigue. Jaehyun always find her scary.

"My Prince, I promise we'll play together after you study," He said urgently.

"He has become like this because you spoils him too much."

Jaehyun feels his heart beating incredibly fast in fear. The queen is now glaring at him.

"My queen.."

"Crown prince was an obedient child before you come and spoils him. Look at what you've done!" She says loudly but calmly. But those eyes can't lie. She's angry. Jaehyun swallows his saliva. It's not a secret that the queen dislikes his presence. She was against the idea of the King took him as a concubine, everybody knows that. Ever since his arrival in the palace a year ago, she has never treated him nicely. Jaehyun as developed some anxiousness when he's around her. "Crown prince will be the future of Joseon. What will this country be if the king is spoiled and lazy!"

"Don't scold hyung!" Bomin suddenly screams. The prince's eyes are red.

Jaehyun cringes. He really hopes Bomin won't do that because whatever mistake Bomin does, in the end, the queen will put the blame on him.

The queen lifts his head calmly although Jaehyun can see a slight tremble on her lips. "Now you dare to shout at me."

"My queen, please forgive crown prince-"

"Silence!"

"What is this?"

The king has come.

Jaehyun unconsciously releases a relief breath. The queen throws her last glare before she greets the king.

"My king" She says politely. "Crown prince is running away from his lesson and Concubine Bong let him."

Jaehyun gasps. He wants to say that the queen is wrong, but he's not sure whether he should interrupt.

"Concubine Bong has been spoiling crown prince too much. Now crown prince has dared to talk back to me. I suggest my king would talk to Concubine Bong to behave well and think about crown prince's future."

Jibeom meets his eyes, and Jaehyun silently tell the king that it's not true. He hopes Jibeom understands.

"Don't blame hyung!" Bomin screams again. "It's not his fault!"

Bomin starts to tear up. Jaehyun immediately shushes the prince. "My prince, don't cry." No matter how stubborn and brave Bomin is, he's still a child. It breaks his heart to see Bomin cry.

Jibeom's face is still expressionless. "I'll deal with it."

His short answer doesn't satisfy the queen.

"My King-"

"Servant Kang,' Jibeom calls, and the man immediately comes forward. "Go to study room and tell Teacher Lee that crown prince is unable to attend the lesson today."

"My king!"

"However," The king ignores the queen's cry. "He will have lessons as scheduled tomorrow."

"I'll talk to crown prince today," Jibeom informs his wife firmly, closing any room for debate.

The queen looks dissatisfied, but since nothing she can do, she forces a smile. "I believe my king will make the best decision."

Jibeom curtly nods. "Take crown prince and Concubine Bong to my chamber."

*****

"I don't like mother. She's mean.," Bomin is still weeping. "I like hyung better."

"Shh, you can't say that," Jaehyun softly tells the young prince. "Your mother only wants the best for you."

"B-but.. She scolds you a lot, I don't like it!" Bomin wipes his tears with his short chubby hands. Jaehyun feels touched. He can't help but feel flattered for having the prince worried for him

"Don't mind me, okay? I'm perfectly fine."

"Hyung!" Bomin immediately shrieks. "You're not okay, I saw you crying last time afer mother scolded you! She's too mean to you!"

What Bomin says is true, but he can't admit it. "Bominnie, just for the sake of yourself, obey you mother's words, don't mind me."

"But I-"

"King has arrived!"

The guards voice startles them. The door slides open and Jibeom walks in in his red robe. The king only spares them a glance before sitting on his seat, before his study table. When the door closes behind them, he immediately looks at Bomin.

"Bomin," He frowns at his son. "Is it true you are skipping you class?"

Bomin bows his head. When they are free from servants' watch, they are not king and crown prince anymore, just a father and son. Jibeom adores Bomin so much, and in return, Bomin respects Jibeom a lot.

"I don't want to study, I want to play with hyung," Bomin answers in a small voice.

"And why is that?" Jibeom presses on.

"Because I've been studying everyday. I'm bored, I want to have fun."

"I can understand that. But," Jibeom's voice is still calm, but dangerous. "That doesn't explain you running away from your lesson and make Teacher Lee waiting for you. And raising your voice to your mother is something extremely wrong."

Like finding new courage, Bomin straightens his body. "But mother always scolds hyung! Today too, she scolded hyung. Hyung made no mistake! It's me who looked for hyung asking hyung to play with me. It's not hyung's fault!"

Bomin's voice shakes in the end, and Jaehyun can't help but to gather the boy in his arms. He loves Bomin so much. He's a little sunshine shining the cold palace.

Jibeom's face relaxed. "I know," He says calmly, this time he looks at his concubine. "I know."

"I like hyung more that mother."

"Bomin!" Jaehyun gasps. His heart is pounding at Bomin's daring words. He hopes Jibeom wont think that he's brainwashing Bomin to hate his mother.

"Hyung is nicer than mother, and you likes to play with me," Bomin defends himself.

"I don't raise you to be disrespectful to your mother," Jibeom's voice booms in the chamber. Bomin immediately shrinks.

"I don't want to hear you say that again, do you understand?"

Bomin meekly nods.

"I can't hear you," Jibeom demands an answer.

"I understand, father," Bomin croaks out.

"I'll let you play with Concubine Bong for today," Jibeom said, and Bomin's face immediately brightens. "However, I have to talk to him for a moment."

The smile on Bomin's face wavers. "Father, you won't scold hyung right?"

"I won't," Jibeom reassures his son, and Bomin's happy face returns.

"Hyung, I'll wait for you in the garden okay?"

Jaehyun smiles and nods. His smile doesn't leave his face until Bomin disappears behind the door.

"Come here."

Jibeom pats the space beside him, and Jaehyun silently obeys. He scoots closer to the king. Now that Bomin has left, he starts to get worried. What will Jibeom say to him?

"You know," Jibeom says quietly, a serene smile decorating his face. "It feels great to see you and Bomin together."

Jaehyun widens his eyes, totally doesn't expect that. "Y-yes?"

"I wish I can have a child with you. I know it's impossible, but looking at how Bomin adores you so much, it feels like we're a real family."

"My king.." Jaehyun is totally speechless. He stares back at Jibeon's warm eyes.

"What the queen said, it's not true right?"

His heart bloats at the trust Jibeom has given him. He feels undeserved. He hung his head. "I believe my queen is not totally wrong. Maybe I'm too slack off in disciplining Bomin. But Bomin is such a sweet kid, I don't have a heart to reject his requests. But I swear, my king, I tried to convince crown prince to go back to study when queen came."

Jibeom shifts closer. He holds Jaehyun's shoulders, gently.

"Thank you for loving Bomin as if he's your own son," He kisses his concubine, trying to make the other male feel what he's feeling at the moment. "Thank you for being patient with the queen. You must have had a hard time."

Jaehyun's body trembles. The intensity of love the king gives him sometimes overwhelms him. "My king.."

Jibeom gives him a sincere smile before kisses him again.

"Tell me if it gets too hard, I promise I'll make it better. Don't keep things for yourself. Share it with me, no need to be afraid."

"My king," He doesn't know how respond. One thing he knows: He loves the king so much. "Thank you."

*****

Jibeom wakes up with a sudden jerk. He immediately sits down, and checks the space on his left. Jaehyun is still sleeping peacefully. He sighs in relief.

He swings his legs to the side so his feet touch the ground, and cradles his head with his hands. Cold sweat is running on his temple and neck. The cold night wind brushes his damp naked upper body, making him shivers.

He's just had a nightmare. In his dream, Jaehyun is lying in his own pool of blood. He's calling Jaehyun, shaking his body, but there's no response. And what's worse is, it's not the first time he dreams of that dream. He starts to think whether what he's been dreaming will come true. He shakes his head. No, he won't let anything happens to his dearest concubine. He won't let Jaehyun gets hurt no matter what.

As he's preoccupied with his own mind, the bed shifts and he hears rustles of the blanket. A second later a pair of hands drapes around him, one from his shoulder, one from his stomach. Jaehyun's bare front is pressed to his own back. Jaehyun rests his head on his shoulder, the man's hair tickles his neck, but the body heat is comforting, especially after the damned dream.

He holds Jaehyun hands that are locked in front of his chest, squeezing it gently. Suddenly there's a sudden realization at how lucky he is. Among a million of men in the country, the one Jaehyun loves is him. It's amazing how they live in the same era, how they accidentally met, and how their hearts call for each other.

"Do you have a bad dream, my king?" Jaehyun's voice is sweet, husky from the sleepiness.

Jibeom hums, reluctant to talk more since he doesn't want Jaehyun to ask about his dream. There's a brief silence before Jaehyun asks again.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I can't really remember," He lies.

"Is it that bad?

"I think so," He lies again.

"Is there something I can do?" Jaehyun begins to trail kisses on his shoulder, neck and ears. Jibeom sighs in content.

He catches Jaehyun's lips who is reaching his cheek. Slowly, with keeping their lips together, he turns his body around, and gently pushes the concubine to the bed.

"I love you," He mutters repeatedly between their kisses. Jaehyun is so pliant, so open for him, only for him.

"I love you too, my king," Jaehyun fondly cups his cheeks, trying to read the motion written on the king's dark eyes. At the sight of the king's troubled expression, his soft smile slowly disappears. His brows furrowed in worry. Whatever the dream the king has, it shows how great the effect on Jibeom. Jaehyun wishes he can take those worries away. "What can I do to make you better?"

Jibeom's face softens. He drops a quick peck on the lips before shifting his body to the side and embraces his concubine. "Just stay like this beside me," He says earnestly from the bottom of his heart. "Don't ever leave me."

Those words makes Jaehyun smile. "Where can I go without you, my king?"

"Nowhere," Jibeom answers. "You'll go nowhere without me."

"I understand," Jaehyun giggles. He likes it when they're alone like this. The cold and stoic face Jibeom shows to the ministers disappears once they're alone. There's no such thing as king and concubine. Jibeom is Jibeom, a man he loves.

"It feels nice, holding you like this," Jibeom murmurs on top of Jaehyun's head. "I want to be like this everyday."

Jaehyun hums. "But the day after tomorrow is queen's birthday, I suppose you have to spend the night with her."

The words feels bitter in Jaehyun's mouth. He has never told anyone, he has accepted it, but inside his heart, he can't erase the feeling of jealousy and insecurity. Jibeom is not only his. Jibeom belongs to the queen as well as the country. He can't be trully happy to know he's sharing Jibeom with the queen. She is the legal wife of Jibeom. As a mere concubine, he can be kicked out anytime. He should know his place.

There's no grudge against Jibeom. He's fully aware that Jibeom needs a queen to give birth to a heir. It's just sometimes he wishes Jibeom is not a king. That way, they can live freely, without restrictions from the palace. Living as a royal, although he can eat good food, wear high quality robes, and have servants to attend his needs, is suffocating. Every step he takes is bound to scrutiny eyes and rules.

"I'm sure the queen won't mind if I stay with you," Jibeom stubbornly says. Bomin has probably took the stuborness from his father.

Jaehyun feels happy, but despite of that, there's an unsettling feeling. One of it is fear towards the queen. He doesn't want the queen to think he's trying to monopolize the king. "I believe she would be happier if my King can spend a night with her."

"You're pushing me away?" Jibeom says. There's no malice intent, he only wants to tease the younger man, but Jaehyun is being serious. Although Jibeom doesn't love the queen and only married her for a heir, Jaehyun wishes Jibeom will treat her fairly. That way, the queen probably will hate him less.

"My King, not only me, please visit my queen often too. If you’re being like this, she will think I want to have you all by myself."

Jibeom was quiet for a second. "So that's what bothering you?"

The concubine bites his lips. "Yes, my king," He said truthfully.

"I don't like that you're pushing me away," Jibeom teases again, enjoying how flustered Jaehyun looks.

"My king, it's not like that!" Jaehyun sits down urgently. "I didn't mean to push you away. I don't like it when you're not with me too. But.. But I.."

Jibeom laughs. It's a cute confession. "You're lovely," He says while guiding his concubine to straddle him. Jaehyun's naked bottom touches his stomach, sending him weird feeling. He still can feel the dampness around Jaehyun's core. "I'll do as you say. You're right, I probably have treated my queen unfair. I'll spend more time with her. But I want to let you know, that only you can touch me like this. I will never touch her anymore. I am yours."

Jaehyun runs his palm on the king's chest, his heart is drumming because of happiness. "You can touch her, my king. I have to admit that I won't like it, but that's what you're supposed to do. It'll be good if you give siblings to Crown Prince Bomin."

"I can't look at her the same way after I met you," Jibeom says, running his hands along Jaehyun's hips, enjoying the softness of the skin. "And I don't like how she treat you either. I bear with her because she's my legal wife, the queen of the country."

"You sounds like crown prince," Jaehyun muses.

"It's because I'm his father."

They both exchange smile.

"To be honest I feel bad for crown prince," Jaehyun suddenly says. "He has huge responsibility on his shoulders even at such a young age. I wish he can have fun too, play like children around his age. He's a smart child. I believe he'll do well in the future."

"And he'll be even greater since you shower him with love," Jibeom shifts his body so he sits with Jaehyun on his lap. Their new position makes Jaehyun slides until his bottom touches the king's erection. They both moan softly.

Jibeom kisses his concubine. He will never get tired of that lips. Jaehyun circles his arms around the king's neck, savoring the bliss feeling of their intimacy. A night with the King is something he looks forward each day. It's his favorite time when they can talk and kiss freely, letting go all of the disturbing thoughts. No more duties, no more rules. It's only about the two of them.

*****

"Crown prince, please be careful!"

Jaehyun is not old. He's only 22 that year! But he has to admit he's not someone with the best stamina. He spends most of his days reading or drawing. Being raised in family full of scholars, physical training is not a really familiar thing to him. Coping with an energetic 7 years old Bomin is a hard task. The boy is running around the garden, skipping and leaping.

"Crown Prince! Please walk slowly!"

"Hyung! Why are you so slow? Come here! Hurry up!"

"Crown Prince, you've been running for the whole day! Let's take a rest."

"I don't want to take a rest!" Bomin shouts. "I want to play!"

Jaehyun catches his breath. He begins to regret his decision to volunteer to take Bomin playing. It's not actually crown prince's free day, but Teacher Yoo is sick, and Jaehyun thought it's a good opportunity to let Bomin play. The queen insisted that he'll assign Bomin to learn literature from Scholar Choi, but Jaehyun had managed to convince her to let Bomin come with him. Added with Bomin's endless nagging, the queen finally gave them permission. He was to be able to spend time with the young prince, but he didn't think it'll be this tiring. He actually would rather sit down and read books than running around under the warm sun.

"Crown prince, please wait for me!"

Bomin is skipping around the rocks lining near the pond, laughing. Jaehyun's worried. If Bomin slips, he'll fall to the pond.

"Crown prince-" He called, but suddenly his body freezes. Just like he's been dreading for, he sees Bomin slips on the rock, and what's worse is that the young prince's head hit the rock before the body falls to the pond.

"Bomin!!"

*****

Tears keep on streaming on Jaehyun's face. He clutches his wet robe tightly, praying that Bomin will be okay. He is drenched as he immediately jumped into the pond to save Bomin. He has made the palace floor wet, but it is no the main concern right now.

Palace physician has tended Bomin. The young prince has open wound on his forehead, but the bleeding has successfully been stopped. Despite that the physician has announced that Bomin will be fine, Jaehyun can't stop being worried. His cheek is still stinging after queen slapped him. She blames him for the accident, accusing him for not being able to take care of the crown prince. It hurts, but he truly deserves it this time.

The door slams open and Jibeom strides in in a fast pace.

"How's Bomin's condition?"

Jaehyun feels even more small and helpless. Despite failing Bomin who treats him like his own brother, he's failing Jibeom too. The king must have been disappointed at him.

The old physician bows. "Crown prince is fine, my king. He has huge open wound on his forehead, but I don't think there's more damage. Crown prince will have headache for a while from the impact. I'll keep monitor his condition."

"Please make sure he's alright," He instructs the physician.

Jaehyun sees Jibeom caressing Bomin who is still unconscious. His face shows deep sorrow. It's too painful to watch.

"What happened? Why does crown prince become like this?"

Jaehyun flinches. The anger in Jibeom's tone makes him cower. Before he can answer, the queen has spoken.

"It's Concubine Bong's fault!" She seethed. "I have told crown prince to learn literature from Teacher Choi, but Concubine Bong insisted to take him to play."

Jibeom's eyes met his eyes for the first time, making Jaehyun trembles under that gaze.

"And now he's failed to take care of crown prince. Crown prince is still young and active, but Concubine Bong had let him play in a dangerous place. My king, he has to be punished severely for his negligance!"

Jaehyun bows his head, unable to look at the king. Every words pierces his heart. He blinks back his tears, he indeed deserves punishment.

"I demand you to punish Concubine Bong, my king!"

"Silence!"

The chamber suddenly turns silent. Jaehyun shivers. Jibeom sounds angry. His wet robe makes him cold, but the sadness and fear contributes more to his trembled body.

"Take Concubine Bong back to his chamber."

"My king!" The Queen protests.

"And take queen to his her chamber also," Jibeom ignores the queen. "I want to be alone with my son."

When Jibeom turns his back without taking a glance at him, Jaehyun knows, he has made the king terribly upset.

*****

He thought the king would scold him or even give him punishment, but apparently he didn't. It's even worse. The king left him, didn't visit him even once for a week after Bomin's accident. Jaehyun feels left behind. He wonders if the king is truly angry this time. His only consolation is the news that Bomin has woken up, and physicians says there's nothing to be worried about except for the wound and swelling on his forehead. That's what the servant told him.

Jaehyun has locked himself inside the chamber after Bomin's incident. He has no courage to go out. When he heard that Bomin had woken up, he wanted to meet the prince, to make sure Bomin is alright and to apologize to the prince. But going to Bomin's chamber means there will be a chance to bump into the king or queen. He's not ready for that.

He has lost his appetite. His stomach is hungry, but he has no desire to eat. He can't concentrate on drawing or reading either. What he did for the whole week was just lying down, or looking blankly outside through his window.

On the 8th day, suddenly the servant announces the arrival of the king. Jaehyun stands up in haste, his heart is pounding like crazy at the sight of his king. For a while, they just stared at each other, before Jaehyun throws himself to the ground, kneeling and bowing in front of the king, his forehead touching the ground.

"My king, please punish me for my negligence. It's my fault that crown prince is injured, I will take any punishment you give."

The worries and weariness he's been holding for a week has surged out. He feels his eyes starting to get wet. The thought of being punished makes him scared, but it is what he deserves. Besides, being on physical pain probably is better than being tortured emotionally like this.

He doesn't expect the king to crouch down in front of him and pulls him into a hug.

"I'm sorry," Jibeom says softly. "I didn't mean to ignore you. I'm just too worried about Bomin."

There's no hint of anger in the king's tone, but it makes Jaehyun even sadder. "You should punish me, my king. I have failed to protect crown prince."

"Some accidents are unavoidable. Bomin is fine, that's what matters."

Jaehyun clutches the king's robe. "Is crown prince really alright, my king?"

For the first time since he came, the king smiles. "Yes, he is fine. And he actually cries and looking for you."

"He- He did?" Jaehyun feels touched. He misses Bomin too.

"I think you should meet him."

"I.. I want to meet him too," Jaehyun admits. "But I'm scared.."

"Don't listen to queen," The king says. "Bomin had told me everything. He said he insisted to play in the pond although you've forbidden him to do so."

"I should be able to stop him."

Jibeom cups his cheeks with his warm hands. "Stop blaming yourself. Look at you, why do you become thin like this. Servant Kim told me you barely eat."

"How can I eat when I cause crown prince to hurt himself-"

The king silences him with a kiss. Jibeom kisses him deeply as if to compensate for the week of his absence. Jaehyun's knees get weak. He kisses Jibeom back with much fervor.

When they parts, Jibeom smiles and wipes his damp cheeks with his thumbs. "Now stop crying and come with me to Bomin's chamber."

*****

"Hyung!!"

Bomin is very healthy judging from his loud voice. The boy can even run and gloats on his robe. If there's no bandage on his head, he will think the prince's healthy as new. Bomin's eyes sparkles and Jaehyun finds himself tearing again.

"My prince, forgive me," Jaehyun kneels in front of Bomin and gathers the boy into a tight embrace. He kisses the top of Bomin's head, careful not to touch the wound. "Is it still painful?"

"Hyung! Why are you sorry?" Bomin pouts. "It's me who should say sorry. I didn't listen to you. Did mother get angry to you? I thought you're mad at me hyung, that's why you've never visited me."

"I'm not in the position to get angry, my prince. I missed you so much, I'm sorry for not visiting you. But from now on I'll accompany you, okay?"

"Really?" Bomin jumps excitedly.

"Crown prince, you should go back to bed."

Jaehyun's breath hitches. He didn't realize that the queen is inside the room, sitting at the corner. He quickly releases Bomin and bows to greet the queen.

"My queen, I apologize one more time for my negligence. I promise I will take care of crown prince better."

The queen turned her head away. "There's no use saying sorry. Crown prince is injured and you can't erase the scar on his forehead with a sorry. The mark will be there forever."

"My queen," The King intervenes. "We've agreed to let this go."

"It doesn't change the fact that Concubine Bong causes crown prince's injury. I still think he should get punish-"

"It's enough."

Jibeom's voice is low and scary, his face was hard as he's glaring at the queen. The queen is looking at the king disbelievingly before she storms out in anger, followed by her servants. The door closes behind them, leaving the three of them inside crown prince's chamber. Jaehyun closes his eyes sadly. He has made queen upset again.

"Father, why does mother always blame hyung? I don't like it."

Jibeom sighs. He picks Bomin up and brings him to the bed. Jibeom sits down and let Bomin sit on his lap. "Your mother is just too worried for you."

Bomins pouts. "Mother is not worried about me. She doesn't even love me. She has never put me to bed, she has never carried and kissed me, all she wants from me is to study."

The simple answers makes the adults in the room stunned. Jaehyun feels sad for the young prince. He has no doubt that the queen loves Bomin. He is her own son after all. She's just too preoccupied with his queen duty and fails to shower her son with love.

"Bominnie.." Jibeom is speechless. Everybody knows the queen is not an affectionate mother, but hearing it himself from Bomin makes his heart aches. "You know that's not true. Your mother loves you."

"But she never shows it." The young prince was oblivious to the stares from his father and Jaehyun. "I like hyung better. Father, I want to sleep with hyung tonight. Let me sleep with hyung. You sleep with him many times already."

Jibeom is startled, then when the surprise subdues, he laughs. Jaehyun can't stop himself from chuckling too.

"Then who'll sleep with me?"

"You can sleep on your own, father, you're a big boy. I'm 7 and I usually sleep by myself!"

"I can't even scold you since you're still recovering," Jibeom says with a smile. Bomin grins.

"So can I sleep with hyung tonight?"

*****

Of course crown prince gets what he wants.

Jaehyun is lying sideways, as Bomin clings to his chest. His hands are stiff for being in a not so comfortable position, but he endures it. He runs his free fingers through Bomin's hair. Bomin has fallen asleep since a few minutes ago. His soft snore is heard faintly in the dimmed light room.

"Look at him, clinging on you like a squirrel hanging on a tree."

Jaehyun looks at his king, who was sitting beside the bed. The man's eyes are focusing on his son, watching the rise and fall of Bomin's chest with adoration on his face.

"You can let him go if you feel sore," Jibeom offers, but Jaehyun shakes his head.

"Let him be, my king. I'm alright."

"Your face is like an open book, love. I saw you cringing in pain just now."

Caught in the act, Jaehyun bit his lips. "Just a bit sore," He admits. "Let him stay like this for a while. I'll move when crown prince is in deep sleep."

"Bomin is a heavy sleeper. He won't wake up even if you stand up."

"I want to stay like this, my king."

The king stares at him. "Do you still feel sorry? Don't be."

Jaehyun's lips purses. "I still want to hold him like this."

Jibeom sighs. "You're so different from her."

"Nobody can beat my queen's beautiful look in the whole country," He quietly says. Despite everything, he feels obligated to say nice things about the queen.

"Do you think physical appearance is that important?" Jibeom asks.

"I mean-"

"You're much prettier in my eyes."

Deep blush appears on Jaehyun's face. He shifts his gaze from Jibeom's. "Don't you have to sleep, my king? It's late."

Jibeom chuckles at his concubine's obvious attempt to change the topic.

"I have nothing to do tomorrow, I can wake up whenever I want."

He laughs again when he sees Jaehyun's flustered face, and decides to stop teasing. "Alright, I'll go to my chamber now. I wish Bomin won't ask you to sleep with him again tomorrow. I won't give him permission."

Jaehyun smiles. "Have a nice sleep, my king."

Jibeom stands up, and bend his body, careful enough not to squeeze Bomin and put a chaste kiss to his concubine's lips.

"Good night, my love."

*****

"That's not how you should write it. Look at me, watch the order of the stroke "

"Hyung, why do I have to write like that? Isn't the most important thing is other people can read it? The result is the same anyway."

Jaehyun sighs. Bomin is always curious and ask things that's hard to explain. However, it proves that he has smart brain. Jaehyun believes he'll be a great king in the future.

"Everything have rules."

"Why?"

"Bomin.."

Bomin pouts after hearing the warning in his tone.

"Hyung, can we just go out? Writing is boring. I want to meet General Lee."

"General Lee?" Jaehyun frowns "Why do you want to meet General Lee?"

"Because he's cool!" Bomin giggles. "The last time we met he said he'll teach me how to shoot arrows!"

"Bominnie wants to shoot arrows?"

"Yes!" Bomin says enthusiastically. "And I want to learn to use swords too!"

Jaehyun chuckles. He pats Bomin's head fondly. "Bominnie is a big boy hm? You want to fight?"

"Hm," Bomin nods his head in exaggeration movement. "I want to fight so I can protect you and father."

The concubine is taken aback. Bomin says he wants to protect him and Jibeom. Not Jibeom and queen. He is torn. One part of him feels touched at how Bomin considers him important, but one part of him, he thinks Bomin shouldn't forget about his mother.

"Bominnie.."

"I saw General Lee did sparring with Commander Son. He's so cool. When there's bad guys, I will protect you and father. I'll stab the enemy like this and kick him like this.."

Bomin uses his brush as a sword and begins to flail his legs and arms, attacking invincible enemy.

Watching the prince's cute action, Jaehyun shakes his head while laughing. However, his laughter dies as he spots the queen just outside his chamber. The door is left ajar, and he is not sure how long since the queen has been standing there. Did she hear what Bomin just say?

He immediately scrambles up, and approaches the queen with bowing head. "My queen. Are you looking for crown prince?"

"Why isn't he with Teacher Lee?" The queen's face is unreadable but her voice is so cold.

Jaehyun quickly explains. "I accompanied crown prince to study, but Teacher Lee suddenly had headache, so I let the servant to bring him home. And I teach crown prince writing instead."

"And you've never asked for my permission?" This time the queen glares at him. Jaehyun gulps.

"I.."

"Now you dare to make decision for crown prince? You're not even his mother!"

"My queen, that's not what I mean-"

Panic bubbles in his chest. He’s really dumb. It didn't cross in his mind to report it to queen. He really thought it doesn't matter, as long as Bomin's learning something.

"And what did you teach crown prince? I didn't see him studying at all."

"My queen, we're studying but crown prince was bored and we-"

"Don't make excuse!"

He flinches. His hands trembles.

"Don't scold hyung!" Suddenly Bomin steps in. He stands between the Queen and him, stretching his arms, acting like a shield. "Mother, you're so bad!"

Both him and the queen gasps.

"Bom- crown prince," Jaehyun urgently whispers. His heart is thumping like crazy. "You can't talk like that. Quick apologize."

"I don't want!" Bomin stubbornly says. From the corner of his eyes, he can see the queen's servants send him a look.

"Crown prince, it's wrong-"

"Stop pretending to be kind," The queen says dangerously. "You spend a lot of time with crown prince. You have brainwashed him to turn against me right? Not enough you're monopolizing the king, and now you want crown prince too?"

"My queen, it's not true!" Jaehyun cries out. "I swear, I have never, ever have thoughts like that!"

"Liar!"

"Go away!" Bomin suddenly pushes the queen with his small hands.

"Crown prince!" Both him and the queen gasps, shocked at the little prince's outburst.

"I don't want you, I want hyung!"

"I'm your mother!" The queen shouts angrily, but it makes Bomin even madder.

"I hate you! I don't want a mother like you!"

"Bominnie!" Jaehyun grabs Bomin in panic. Despite anything, Bomin has never lost temper and say rude words like that. The queen will be in rage. He doesn't want that. "Apologize to your mother!"

"I don't want!"

"Bomin!" Jaehyun also shouts because of the panic. He needs to make Bomin apologize right now.

"I will apologize if mother apologize to hyung!"

"Bomin, what are you saying?"

"Fine."

Jaehyun freezes. In fear, he looks at the queen's face. The beaitiful face was stoic, but he can see she's gritting her teeth.

"Fine," The queen repeats. She glares at the concubine. "You've succeeded making my own son stands against me, happy now?"

"My queen! I swear I won't do that!" Jaehyun pleads as he walks towards the queen.

"Stop," She says, making Jaehyun halts. "I don't want to see you."

Jaehyun helplessly watching the queen walks away, followed by her servants. He closes his eyes and breaths heavily. He's really screwed.

"I hate her."

He hears Bomin mutter. He looks back, and sees the boy glaring at the queen's back, his eyes glistening. Jaehyun sighs. Bomin may have said he hate his mom, but whatever happens, he knows Bomin loves his mother. The boys is just probably channeling his anger and dissatisfaction for the lack of love she gives.

Bomin has put him in difficult position, but he can't blame the prince. The prince is young and doesn't understand the rift between him, the king and queen. Lifelessly, he crouches in front of Bomin.

"Bominnie, that's not a nice thing to say that."

He talks softly, but once he closes his mouth, Bomins starts to tear up. "I don't want a mother like her. I don't want."

Jaehyun's heart clenches. He gathers the boy in his arms.

"I'm alright, you don't have to defend me," He pulls back and hold Bomin's shoulders firmly. "Look at me."

With red and wet eyes, Bomin looks at him.

"Hyung is a big boy, I will receive scolding if I make mistakes. Your mother is angry because I made mistake. Whatever happens, she is your mother. You can't say you hate her. She doesn't show it, but she must be sad. Your mother.. She wants the best for you, but I'm lacking, that's why she scolded me."

"But hyung doesn't lack anything," Bomin whines. "And you didn't make mistake. When I make mistake, father will scold me but he'll give me a hug after that. Mother has never hugged you, she has never been nice to you."

Jaehyun chuckles. "We adults don't really give each other hug, Bominnie. We handle things differently. Can you promise me something?"

"What is it?"

"If you don't want hyung to get scolded anymore, promise me you won't talk back to your mother, obey her words."

"I can't hold myself not to be angry," Bomin pouts. Jaehyun sighs again.

"And please, apologize you your mother. Say you're sorry, you won't do it again, and say you love her."

"Why should I?" The boy is definitely upset.

"Because whatever happen, you can't talk back to your mother."

"She deserves it!"

"Bomin.."

"I don't want to apologize!" Bomin shouts at him and starts to run away.

"Bomin!"

He stands up, but the prince has dashed away, followed by his servants. For a second, he wants to run after Bomin, but he needs a time on his own too. The stress he got from the queen is too much, he wonders until when he can endure it.

*****

"King has arrived!"

The servants open the door and Jibeom walks through it. The queen is sitting behind her desk, reading something. She looks quite surprised when she saw him. It's been a long time since he enters the queen's chamber.

The queen bows. "May I know why I have to honor to receive visitation from you, my king," She asks deapite knowing the answer already.

"Bomin came to me this afternoon," He straightforwardly says.

"He did?" She asks rhetorically.

"He told me about what happened between you and Concubine Bong in study room."

"Crown prince must have talked bad about me."

Jiebom quirks his brows. "What do you say about that?"

The queen lifts up her head in dignity. "Crown prince was supposed to study with Teacher Lee today, but I learnt that Teacher Park was sent home by Concubine Bong. Concubine Bong claimed he taught crown prince writing, but when I came to see them, crown prince was playing with brush. I gave Concubine Bong scolding because he didn't report to me that he sent Teacher Lee home and didn't teach crown prince properly. But crown prince was quick defending Concubine Bong. Crown prince even said rude things to me."

Jibeom sighs quietly. The story matches with Bomin's story so he assume they both tell him the truth.

"Ever since Concubine Bong's arrival, and ever since crown prince started to get close to him, he's getting impolite to me. I don't want to jump into conclusion, but I think Concubine Bong has brainwashed crown prince to disobey me-"

"That's nonsense," Jibeom cut her sentence firmly. "Concubine Bong won't do such thing."

The queen doesn't give up this time. "I'm suspecting Concubine Bong is trying to push me away from my position by making crown prince go against me. Concubine Bong has always pretended to act nice but he's wicked! He probably has planned this behind our back. My king, it's possible he's using you to gain power!"

"Be quiet!" Jibeom roars. His blood is boiling. He is sure Jaehyun won't do that. Jaehyun is not a greedy person who wants the throne. He knows for sure the reason Bomin is against the Queen is because her own doing.

"You trust your concubine more than me," The queen's body shakes in anger. "You have been neglecting me ever since Concubine Bong arrived in the palace. No, you've been ignoring me ever since you met him."

"I know who I should trust!" He says loudly. "I know why Bomin went against you! It's because you have failed him as a mother! All you care is preparing him to be the next king. You have never given him attention and love. Concubine Bong gives what you have failed to give!"

Her mouth hung open. "I care for him! I'm his mother! I always keep an eye on him."

Jibeom shakes his head in disbelieve. "How can you call yourself a mother? Bomin is still a child! He needs affection, physically. He needs you to hug him, kiss him, tell him you love him. But all you've done is scolding Concubine Bong whom he likes so much. I won't find it weird if he dislike you."

"I scold Concubine Bong because he needs to be scolded!" She hisses. "I'm just doing what I have to do as queen-"

"How can you be a queen and a mother of the country if you fail as a mother of your own son?" Jibeom says in a loud voice, annoyed by her stubbornness.

It was silence for a while.

"So you said I'm not qualified to be a queen?" She asked quietly.

"That's not I mean," Jibeom rubs his temple tiredly.

"That's exactly what you have just said, my King."

She's starting to get teary. "You want me to disappear too am I right, my King? You've gotten a heir from me. You doesn't need me anymore-"

"My queen," Jibeom firmly stops the queen from saying nonsense. "We both know we're married not because of love. We're married because out parents made the arrangement. I thank you for giving birth to a smart and healthy boy, I respect you, but please, please respect my decision too. Concubine Bong is someone I love dearly. I know him so well, I can guarantee you that he's not eyeing your position. He knows his place, and I have no doubt when I say this. Please respect him as well."

"How can you so sure, my king? You think you trust him, but he can do something behind your back."

Jibeom is beyond irritated. He doesn't wish to fight with the Queen, but she forces him to. "Can't you please stop. I don't want this thing to get bigger. I don't want you to fight with Concubine Bong. And I surely don't want Bomin to get affected by this. I will talk to Bomin and get him apologize, but I need your word, don't try to pick up fight with Concubine Bong anymore. I'm trying to be patient, but you know I can't be patient forever."

The Queen's body trembles. "Is that a threat, my king?"

"You can consider it as it," Jibeom clenches his jaw. "We've talked about this so many times, I don't want to keep on saying the same things over and over again."

"I see," She wipes her tears away. "I understand, my king."

Jibeom stands there, looking at his queen. He knows his queen is very stubborn, but he hopes that his warning will go through the queen's thick skull.

*****

Jibeom hugs his concubine from the back. Once in a while, dropping kisses on the exposed neck, above his pajama's neck line. He has apologized to Jaehyun, on behalf of the queen, but he still feels bad.

"I'm sorry."

Jaehyun take his hand and gives it a squeeze. "You've been saying this more than 10 times, my king."

Jaehyun's voice is light, it makes Jibeom wonder how many times his concubine pretend that he's okay when he's not.

"I feel like 10 times won't be enough."

"I'm okay, my king. I'm just worried."

"I've talked to queen. I hope she'll quit being stubborn and understand."

Jaehyun bites his lips. Carefully, he shifts so he's facing the King. "My king, I think if we continue to be like this, it won't help my queen to feel better."

This catches the king's attention. "What are you trying to say?"

"I.. I think, I should spend less time together with you and crown prince."

Jibeom's face turns serious. "It's not a way out."

Deep down, the king knows Jaehyun is right, but if he can be selfish, he doesn't want that to happen. Besides, until when will they have to make some distance? He'll miss Jaehyun, and Bomin will miss him too.

"We can't just wait for someone to change. Sometimes.. it's us who have to change."

Jibeom is stunned. He has been always mesmerized by his concubine. How he wishes his queen have the same wisdom as Jaehyun. But he still doesn't like the idea. It's not fair at all.

"Have you gotten bored of me, love? Are you tired of all of this and want to leave everything behind?"

"My king! There's no way I'm getting bored of you!" Jaehyun gasps. "I just think it'll be the best for all of us."

The king sits down, troubled. Jaehyun also hates to say this, but he really thinks it's the best solution. He sits and embraces the king from the side.

"My king, although you say that your marriage is not based on love, but I believe there will be no woman out there like to have his husband have someone to love. And it must be hurt to see her own son getting closer to someone else. After so many things happened lately, I don't think it's wise to provoke her by having me lingers around you and crown prince. I think I should be away for some time, at least until she's calmer."

"So you're saying you're leaving?" Jibeom sits unmoved and let his concubine hugs him. Their close body contact gives him a bit of comfort. Jaehyun has always been is place of comfort. He doesn't like to be apart from him.

"I'm thinking to go back to my parents' house for some time," Jaehyun says cautiously. "But it's if only my king agree."

"I don't like it."

Jaehyun smiles bitterly. "You don't deny that it's a good idea."

"It is," Jibeom admits. "But still I don't like it and Bomin will be devastated.

Jaehyun feels his heart ache at the thought of the crown prince. "Crown prince will be sad, but he's going to be okay."

"A month," Suddenly the king says. "I'll let you go back to your parents' house for a month, and I will still visit you, you can't stop me from that."

Relieved but sad, Jaehyun nods. "Thank you, my king."

"I'm sorry for being a heavy weight on your shoulders. I am a useless king. I can't even protect my loved one, but make you sad instead. I'm a curse for you."

Jaehyun kisses Jibeom's neck gently to convey his feeling. "I have never regretted meeting you, my king. To be loved by you, it's the best thing has ever happened to me."

Slowly, Jibeom turns around and hugs his concubine, burying his head on Jaehyun's shoulders, inhaling his sweet scent and enjoying the slim frame in his arms.

"When will you leave?"

"As soon as possible."

"I'll miss you."

"Me too, my king."

Jibeom wish time will stop so tomorrow never comes. He wants to stay like this, with Jaehyun in his side.

*****

Jibeom tries to keep his face stoic when Jaehyun officially says goodbye 2 days after he brought up the idea. The queen was cold and expressionless, contrasts with the crown prince who is pouting, and in the verge of crying.

"Why is hyung leaving?" The boy whines, asking the same question again and again since yesterday. "I don't want hyung to leave."

"Concubine Bong's father is sick so he has to take care of him," Jibeom says swiftly. He had made agreement with Jaehyun that it would be the reason of his departure that they'll tell Bomin.

"But hyung will come back right?"

"Of course. He'll be back very soon," Jibeom locks his eyes with Jaehyun and his concubine nods.

"Send my regards to your father," The queen says calmly.

"Thank you, my queen."

"General Lee and his men will send you home."

Jaehyun's surprised, as well as the Queen.

"My king," The queen protest. "Concubine Bong is only going back home, I don't think it's necessary to send General Lee with him."

"My queen is right, my king."

However, Jibeom is stubborn. At least sending General Lee with Jaehyun will make him feel more secure. "I insist."

"My king, you can't let General Lee to go out from the palace just to escort Concubine Bong!"

Jibeom looks towards his queen, slightly annoyed. He's disturbed that the Queen seems to be against his decision. "The trip will only take less than a day and the situation is safe enough. Commander Son is in charge of the palace while General Lee is gone. I think there's no problem with that."

"But my king-"

"Concubine Bong, you may leave now," He cut the queen's words. "Better leave before noon."

Jaehyun knows the king has made up his mind and there's no point to argue. A part of him also wants to run away from queen as soon as possible. He can sense that she's not happy with the king sending General Lee with him. He questions Jibeom's decision too although he didn't voice it out. He doesn't expect Jibeom will send General Lee with him. "Thank you for your kindness, my king. I'll take my leave now."

With one last bow towards the king, Jaehyun turns around, walking to the carriage that will bring him home. His lips curves into thin smile. It's sad that he has to leave Jibeom and Bomin. But it's only for a while. It's the best for them.

*****

Jaehyun is sitting in the carriage, reading a letter Bomin wrote for him. He giggles at the Prince's messy handwriting. Bomin definitely wrote with wrong order of stroke, but he can see that the prince had written it as best as he could.

Their trip won't be too long. His house is not that far from palace, but they have to go through the woods. As they're in the middle of the woods, the crunchy sound from the dried leaves being stepped on the guards fills his ears. Despite being sad, he's quite excited too to meet his parents after a while.

He keeps Bomin's letter inside his robe and leans back. Peeking out from the window, he knows they'll arrive soon.

Suddenly, the peaceful feeling is disturbed by horse screeching sound, and trotting of horses. His carriage is put down on the ground rather harshly and soon after, it is riot. Swords clashes and the sound of yelling is heard.

With shaking hands, Jaehyun opened the curtain and peek from the window. He gasps. A troop of men with black robes and masks is attacking them. There are a lot of them. Not far from him, he sees General Lee is fighting two men at once. He's panicking. Should he go out and run? Or should he stay inside the carriage? The second option doesn't sound like a good idea, but the first one is risky too. Getting out from the carriage is like exposing himself to fight without any shield. He curses himself for being weak. If only he's skillful in fighting.

But he doesn't have to think anymore. Someone grabs his hand from outside and pulls him out. He screams when he realizes that it's one of the attackers who pulls him out.

"Let me go!" Jaehyun tries to shake the man off, but the grip is too strong. He struggles in vain. He is taken farther away from General Lee and other soldiers.

Suddenly he spots a block of wood on the ground. He immediately takes the chance to take it and swing it as hard as he can to the man's head.

"Argh!"

The grip loosens and Jaehyun immediately run away. The man chases him, and it takes no time until the man catches him again.

"You'll be dead," The man growls behind the mask.

Jaehyun has lost his sense. All he can think is just to scream and hit the man as hard as he can and run away. The man holds his hands in bruising grip and punches him to shut him off.

The man is about to swing his fist for the second time when suddenly he turns stiff and limply falls on top oh his body. Jaehyun shrieks and scrambles to push the man away. General Lee pulls out his word from the man's back in swift motion and helps him up.

"Are you okay, my lord?" The general asks and he nods.

"W-what happened?"

"We're attacked," The general says shortly. "Keep close beside me."

Just as General Lee finishes talking, four men attack him. General Lee dodges their attack skillfully and attacks back. More and more people come. Jaehyun's scared. General Lee is the best fighter in the country, but the enemies are too many. He wants to help, but he's not sure how.

Thankfully, one of the palace guards comes and help them.

"Byun!" General Lee calls the guard. "Go and report to the palace. I can handle this."

The guard nods and immediately flies off after killing another 2 enemies.

A few moments later, General Lee is already drenched in sweat and blood. He has slash wound in his arms and leg, even on his torso. They are outnumbered. If he counts, there are only 3 guards left and more than 10 enemies.

Jaehyun blinks back his tears as he steals a sword from the fallen guard, trying to protect himself from the men who's charging towards him. He flails his sword blindly. The little knowledge he has about fighting is not useful as he's too panic to think.

It's the first time in his 20 more years of living that he's involved in the middle of fight. The enemies are getting more aggressive. Jaehyun cries out when one of the masked man slashes his shoulder with a sword. General Lee immediately stabs the man and cut his throat. He falls to the ground. The pain is so strong, the stinging pain makes him loses concentration for a second. Blood seeps through his green robe. He pants, clutching his arm in agony.

He has no energy to fight and uses his remaining energy to avoid the attack. The men don't stop charging at him but General Lee is constantly by his side, killing the people who try to come near.

It feels like forever until finally the last enemy is taken down. It is when Jaehyun realizes that he and General Lee are the only one survive from the attack. He watches General Lee runs closer and inspects his wound.

"My Lord," The muscular man tears his robe and presses the cloth on his wound. Jaehyun hisses in pain. "Please press your wound, it's going to stop the bleeding."

He looks at the general's body. No words can describe how thankful he is to the man.

"You're hurting too."

The man slightly smiles. "It's nothing, my Lord. Keep on pressing your wound," He instructs, and Jaehyun obeys. His wound sends burning sensation to his bone. It stings and painful, but he can feel that it's not very deep. His wound is incomparable to the general's. Despite his wounds, the general stands up, although wobbled a little, and starting to search around the attackers' body. The man kneels before the fallen palace guards and closes their eyes.

Jaehyun releases a deep shaky breath. He can't imagine being a family of the soldiers who go to war and watch his loved ones die. He watched the general's face silently with guilt. General Lee's face is stoic, but Jaehyun can see the sorrow in those eyes. He bit his lips, eyes wandered to the dead bodies. These soldiers die because of him.

He's mulling with guilt that he doesn't realize the general has come back and sat beside him.

"Are you okay, my Lord?" The general sees his troubled face. "Do you hurt anywhere else?"

Jaehyun shakes his head. "It's just… It's-"

"Traumatic?" The general smiles bitterly.

Jaehyun swallows. "Who are they? Are they thief?"

"I'm not sure, my Lord," The general replies shortly. "But I will find out."

"W-What should we do now?"

The general looks faraway and think. "Byun should be back with some help soon if he made it to the palace," He mutters. "Let's wait for a while here, if no one come within a few hours, we have to find the nearest village to tend your wound."

General Lee helps him to rest his back on a tree and gave him his water sack. Jaehyun thankfully receives it, he's just realized he's so thirsty. He is going to take a large gulp when he sees the general's face. He takes a small sip instead and gives it back to general. The man stares at him.

"That's all? You should drink more, my lord, you're pale."

Jaehyun shakes his head. "You need it more than me."

The general laughs. He takes the sack and takes 1 gulp of water then hands it back to the concubine. "It's enough for me, my Lord can drink the rest."

"But.."

"It's nothing compares to the war. I'm fine," General Lee assures him. "Please drink, my lord, I insist."

Hesitantly, Jaehyun takes the sack and quench his thirst. He feels better after enough amount of water.

"Thank you so much for saving me," He thanks the general sincerely.

"It's my duty, my lord," The general smiles serenely. "These guys too," He glances over the guards' bodies, "I believe they are honored to die while protecting you."

Jaehyun blinks back his tears. "But I… I'm merely.. a concubine."

"We live for the king," General Lee speaks firmly. "And you, my lord, is king's precious one. It's our duty to protect you."

Tears rolls from Jaehyun's cheeks, and he wipes it quickly. He and General Lee have never talked much, but he feels touched at the man's dedication. He feels loved and welcomed.

The sun has started to go down when they finally hear a sound, and the next moment, the king appears, riding on his horse, followed by a troop of soldiers. Jaehyun's feels so relieved that tears start to pool in is eyes. General Lee helps him to stand up, and once he stands up properly, the king has descended from his horse, runs and pulls him into a tight embrace.

"Are you fine?" The king the king grips his arms, which makes Jaehyun wince.

Jibeom widens his eyes at the sight of his concubine's blood soaked shoulder. "T-this.."

"I'm fine," He smiles in relief. His wound doesn't feel bad anymore since he saw the king. "It's not deep. I'm.. I'm glad you come, My king."

He hugs the king, his body relaxes. He feels save in his King's embrace.

"We'll go back to the palace now and get you treated," Jibeom clenches his jaw. "General Lee!" He calls out, and the general immediately came in front of him.

"Yes, my king."

"Tell me what happened."

"Everything went smoothly until we arrived here. A group of masked men came and attack us out of the blue. Everyone aside from me and Byun who I sent back to the palace died."

Jibeom glances at the fallen body with hard gaze. "Is it theft?"

There's a slight hesitation on the general's face. "My king," General Lee bows. "I think it's better we go back to the palace first and let physician cure Concubine Bong's wound."

Jibeom eyes the general, sensing there's something the general is hiding from him. "You're right. Let's go back. You've wounded quite bad too."

"Yes, my king."

"General Lee," Jibeom calls the man again.

"Yes, my king."

"Thank you for saving Concubine Bong."

*****

"What did you say??"

General Lee bows in front of him. He has changed into a new clean set of clothes and treated his wound. Despite his order to let him rest, the general is persistent to talk to him.

"There's no real evident, but I suspect the men were after Concubine Bong."

Jibeom grips his knees, jaw clenches tight. "And what makes you think so?"

"For sure, I don't think it's theft, my king. The box of gold and silk you prepared for Concubine Bong's parents was left untouched. We were outnumbered. They can easily fight us while some take the chest away, but they didn't. The men were into fight, and one man tried to take Concubine Bong away. If they're into fighting, they should have killed Concubine Bong in place since he's defenseless."

Anger bubbles in his chest. He has almost lost Jaehyun. It still feels surreal. "Why would they targeting Concubine Bong," He whispers, but the general hears it.

"My king, I'm ready to receive punishment, but let me tell you my suspicion."

"Go ahead," Jibeom says firmly. He has known General Lee for years. They're only 5 years apart, and they used to train together when they're young. Despite his goofiness, the man is sincere and honest. Not only that, he's observant. Every little detail catches his attention, probably that's why he's become the best sword master in the country.

General Lee bows his head very deep it almost touches the ground.

"I think queen is the one behind all of this."

The sentence surprisingly doesn't sound weird. It's actually make sense. His queen has always hated Jaehyun. But to the point of attacking like this, he is not sure queen will go this far.

"You know you can be beheaded if you wrongly accuse the queen."

"I beg your forgiveness, my king. I just think it's reasonable."

"Tell me what's your reason."

Jibeom is shaking. If ever the queen is really the one behind this… He's warned her..

"I received a report from Commander Son that 2 days ago, his man saw queen's servant sneaks out from the palace and met someone. The man said the servant gave the man a letter. I also searched the bodies of the attackers today, one of them have Klan Min ornament in his pocket. We all know Klan Min is queen's relative. And the last fact, it's not a secret that queen is not fond of Concubine Bong. She has the motive to plan this attack."

"You said the attackers are from Klan Min?"

"Yes, my king."

What General Lee has said makes sense, especially if the attackers are really from Klan Min. He suddenly remembered the panic look on her face when he announced that General Lee would send Jaehyun back home. He clenches his teeth. Even if it's the queen, he needs more proof.

"I need to find out, but first thing first, I need you to assign your guards to Concubine Bong. Next, place your most trusted man to guard the Queen. Tell him to report to me if he hear anything suspicious. Listen General Lee, it's only between me, you and the guard. No one else should hear about this. Do you understand."

"I understand, my king."

"Now you may go."

Jibeom has just realized that he's holding his breath. His heart is drumming in his chest. He still has no proof to accuse the queen, but his heart tells him that General Lee is right. He will need a lot of effort to act normally around his queen until he finds out who's the culprit behind the attack.

*****

"What are you doing?"

Jaehyun looks up, startled. "My king."

Jibeom strides forward to his concubine who's standing beside the bed, his servant is helping him to wear outer robe.

"Where are you going?"

Jaehyun signals his servant to leave. "I'm planning to meet General Lee to say my gratitude."

"You're still wounded," Jibeom frowns in disagreement. "Wait until your wound is healed."

"My wound is not that severe, my king," His face turns gloomy. "General Lee has suffered more wounds and he had lost a lot of his friends too."

"I've rewarded him," Jibeom assures the other man. "and also the guards who had died. And General Lee is fine. In fact, he had started to train the guards today."

"He does?" Jaehyun asks in surprise. "But he had a lot of wounds.."

"He's a strong willed man," Jibeom smiles. "Now don't worry about that. Rest for today, you can meet him tomorrow."

"But-"

"There's something I want to give to you."

"What is it, my king?"

Jibeom reaches inside his robe and takes out a small blade, offering it to the concubine. Jaehyun tilts his head in confusion as he stares at the blade. The handle is craved with perfection and Jaehyun can tell from the first glance that the blade is a valuable item and belongs to the King.

"This.."

"I want you to keep it."

Jaehyun is bewildered. "But… But why? Isn't this yours, my King?"

"After the attack, I prefer you to have something to defend yourself in case similar things happen again. Always keep this with you."

"I can't receive this," Jaehyun says in serious tone. "This is a valuable thing I can't-"

"You are valuable to me too."

Jaehyun gazes at the king, who gazes at him back intensely. "You've very dear to me," The king says softly. "I don't want anything happen to you. I'm seriously worried, after what had happened."

The concubine's face softens. "My king, I think I'll be perfectly safe inside the palace. But-" He says quickly before Jibeom can say anything more. "I will keep this with me if that will make my king at ease."

Jibeom smiles as Jaehyun carefully takes the blade and examines it closely. "Make sure you always take it with you wherever you go."

"Even when I take a bath?" Jaehyun tries to make a joke, but Jibeom's face was still serious.

"Yes."

Jaehyun's smile fades. "Why are you so worried, my King? The palace is guarded by hundreds of guards, you also have assigned a guard for me. I don't think there's nothing to worry."

How Jibeom want to tell Jaehyun about the possibility of the queen is the one behind the attack. But after some thoughts, he decided not to. He doesn't want his concubine to feel threatened and followed with fear. Besides, it's still not confirmed that queen is behind all of this.

"Just do it okay," He says. "Stay alert wherever you are."

Although still confused with it, Jaehyun nods. "If that's what my king wants," He trails off, then he smiles at the king. "But you have to always be careful too, my king. Please always stay safe."

Jibeom feels his body relaxed. He takes Jaehyun's hand and kisses it gently. "I will."

*****

"Why can't you come with us hyung?" Bomin whined lowly.

Jaehyun smiled, at least now Bomin was not too thick headed anymore. The kid had behaved properly and not showing bias in front of queen.

"The prayer ceremony is only for royal family, My Prince."

"Aren't you a family?"

The topic always hit Jaehyun to the core. It never failed to make him sad. He's merely Jibeom's concubine. He doubted a concubine could be considered as family. A family extension, maybe. The fact was, he wasn't even supposed to go along with others to Jongmyo. It was Jibeom who was persistent that he should come along. Jaehyun really didn't understand why the king was so adamant of thinking his life was in danger.

"I mean the core family, My Prince."

Bomin sighed. "It'll be soo boring. I don't want to be there."

Jaehyun patted Bomin's back. "It's a tradition for the royal family to pray for the late kings and queens, my prince. You pray for their soul-"

"But they're dead, why should we still pray for them? We should pray for them while they're alive so they are healthy."

Jaehyun couldn't help but to pinch Bomin's cheek. "You're so adorable, My Prince. But you see, there are some things that you're obliged to do. If you don't want to pray for the late kings and queens, people will criticize you and also king and queen for not teach you well. You don't want it right?"

He smiled when Bomin shook his head. "That's why.. Do your duty well, and I'll be here waiting for you, okay?

"Fine," Bomin sulks. Jaehyun pats his head affectionately.

*****

Jaehyun stares at the mountains absentmindedly. It's only been 3 days since their arrival in Jongmyo, and he's already bored to death. The royal family is busy with the tradition ceremonies, he hadn't even seen Jibeom and Bomin today.

"Do you want to take a walk, my lord?"

Jaehyun glances at Commander Son, whom the King assigned to guard him. The man is nice but they don't really know each other so it's a bit awkward.

"Am I allowed to?"

The commander nodded. "Of course. As long as we're inside the border."

Jaehyun's shoulders slump down. "I think I've walked around inside the border already."

"But I'm sure my lord haven't stepped in the east garden."

"East garden?" Jaehyun tilts his head to the side. "Is it the one with a small bridge?"

Commander Son gives him a mysterious smile. "Not that one, my Lord. It's quite hidden but the view is amazing, the best garden, not even the garden in palace can rival it. It's also said it was the late king's favorite place."

"Ahh.. I see," Jaehyun nods.

"Do you want to go there, my lord?"

"It's late king's favorite place," He shrugs. "I don't think I have the right to go there."

Commander Son laughs. "Of course you can go there, my lord. I believe king will allow you."

Jaehyun wants to go, especially Commander Son said it's a beautiful garden, but he's still not sure he's allowed to. He looks at the taller man hesitantly. "Maybe I'll have to ask first."

"Trust me, my lord, the king will allow you."

Jaehyun frowns at the other man, feeling weird that the man is so persistent. Commander Son chuckles. "I just feel bad for you, my lord. The ceremony today is the last one but also the longest one. The sun will set by the time it's finished. And this is the last day, I don't want you to miss the beauty of the garden."

"But.."

"Even I was allowed to go there, my lord," The man assures him. "It'll be okay, trust me."

In the end, Jaehyun quietly follows Commander Son. He knows Jibeom trusts both General Lee and Commander Son the most. The commander leads him to a little pathway near the pond. He thought it's just a pathway to the other side of the shrine, so he ignored it.

The walk was quite long, and when they reach a clearing, Jaehyun's mouth drops.

It's indeed the most beautiful garden he had ever seen. Cherry blossom trees are lining up in certain spots, beautiful colorful flowers are everywhere, forming like a blanket on the ground. The grass is flawless to. There are pebble stones to walk across the garden, and one of the path is leading to a pretty gazebo. But what makes it more beautiful is

"Beautiful isn't it?" Commander Son breathes deeply at the fresh air.

"Y-yes, it's so pretty," He answered while looking around, lips stretched in a wide smile.

"You can rest in gazebo, my lord. And if you want to, I can ask servant to bring your books here."

Jaehyun takes a step forward, basking himself in sunlight. He turns to the commander with a wide smile. "Can you please ask servant to bring some paper and brush? The scenery is too beautiful to be wasted by reading."

*****

The sun had started to set when Jaehyun finished his 5th drawing. He's not a painter, but he has been learning to paint since young and he loves it. He stares happily at his paintings. At least he can capture some beautiful scenery in the garden. He's not sure whether he'll be able to go there again.

"My lord, I think it's time for us to go back. It's getting dark," The commander says.

"Ah, wait a moment," He starts to gather his things. "Do you think the ceremony has ended?"

This is the last night, maybe Jibeom will finally be free to see him. He wants to show his drawing to the king.

"I'm not sure, but I heard fancy dinner is arranged to conclude the ceremony."

Jaehyun halts, his mood turns sour. There's a hint of irritation in his heart. If Jibeom is so busy that he doesn't have time for him even a bit, why did Jibeom insist him to come along to Jongmyo? Or at least he can go home to his parents' house.

He's been feeling angry ever since he heard Jibeom is sleeping in queen's room during their stay in Jongmyo. He's jealous.

"Oh," He says, putting down his things. He sits down again. "I think I want to spend more time here."

"My lord, it's almost time for dinner."

"I'm not hungry. You may leave and have dinner. I still want to be here."

"My lord," Commander Son protests. "You have to eat."

"I'm not hungry."

He is annoyed at himself for being so childish, but can't help it.

"But my lord.."

He's sorry for his servants, but he really doesn't want to eat. "I'll just take a short walk around alone. You can just stay here or go back. I know the way back."

"It's an order from the king that I shouldn't leave you alone, my lord."

Somehow the statement makes him even more irritated. The more he wants to disobey Jibeom.

"Fine," A rather hostile answer comes out from his mouth and he suddenly regrets it. Commander Son is not guilty, yet he fires at him. He huffs and gathers his things again. "Let's go back."

*****

The night is lonelier. He hasn't seen Jibeom for the whole day, even Bomin is nowhere to be found. He feels left out.

The loneliness leads to rebellion. He sneaks out from his chamber, avoiding the guards, and walks back to the east garden. Being confined in his room is suffocating, and once he steps on the garden, he takes a deep relieved breath.

Although it's late, unfortunately he can see clearly. He smiles. The late king must have loved this place so much and visited often at night that they put lanterns here and there. The garden is huge and there are areas he hadn't explored earlier in the, so he decided to go there and take a walk while refreshing his mind.

A slight frown marring his face while thinking of the king. No matter how he thinks about it, he has no right to be jealous, but it's not like he can help it. He's just merely a concubine. How can he feel jealous towards the queen?

Maybe it's karma, he thinks sadly, for snatching the king away from the queen. He absentmindedly kicks some pebbles, feeling dejected. Some insecurities growing inside his chest. He won't know what to do if ever Jibeom gets bored of him. Maybe one day Jibeom would find someone he adores more than him.

Then he will be left behind.

He stops and sighs.

"Stop thinking about that," He tells himself. "Jibeom won't change… right?"

"Aish," He shakes his head, failing to convince himself. He wishes the morning will quickly come. He wants to go back to palace already. Maybe in the palace Jibeom won't ignore him anymore.

A sudden rustling sound startles him.

Had anyone found him?

His heart is starting to race. It's not like he'll be scolded if they found him walking in the garden, but still, he doesn't want to go back to his room yet.

Trying not to make a sound, tiptoes to the side and hides behind a big tree. Not long after, a figure wearing black clothes appears. Under the lantern, he sees the man covers his face with mask, looking around as if searching for something.

Jaehyun's blood runs cold. The man must be an intruder, judging from the mask and the sword in his hand. He's starting to regret his decision to sneak out. If only he's still inside his room. He has landed himself in a messy situation.

But what is the intruder looking for in the garden?

He shakes his head. The most important thing is that he can't let himself seen. Jibeom's blade is securely hidden beneath his robe, but Jaehyun prays he won't need it. He's waiting breathlessly as he's eyeing the intruder. They're so close. He wishes the intruder won't find him.

The effort of being unnoticed crumbles when he accidentally steps on a branch. A loud creaking sound breaking the silence. Jaehyun feels his heart drops to the ground. In instinct, he runs away.

Footsteps are heard behind him. The intruder has found him. He runs with all his might, while frantically pulling out his blade.

"Help!!" He screamed on top of his lungs, but a second later he's tackled to the ground. A firm hand covered his mouth, muffling his cry for help. His eyes met the intruder's eyes, and survival instinct kicks in. He swings his blade to the intruder's arm.

It successfully makes the intruder distracted and releases him.

"Intruder!" He screams and scrambles away. He has never been so scared in his life. He is not usually a great runner, but he runs as fast as he can, running for his life.

However, he is physically not a match to the intruder. It happens so fast. He's running, then suddenly he is grabbed harshly and thrown to the nearest tree. His eyes bulges out when he feels a sudden searing pain on his stomach.

There's no scream comes out from his mouth. He's too shocked, his heart stops bearing for a second when he sees a blade piercing his stomach. Under the dim light of lantern, he sees red color staining his green robe.

Then everything turns black.

*****

Jibeom sits lifelessly.

The scene he witnessed earlier still shakes him.

Jaehyun lying in the pool of blood. It's just like his dream.

His hand trembles as he hold Jaehyun's still one. He's still in critical condition. Physician said he should prepare for the worst. He had thrown a fit before, but now he's drained.

It's probably midnight. They are supposed to be back to the palace in the morning. Why this has to happen?

His heart terribly aches thinking how scared Jaehyun must be during the attack. And it's worse that he's left Jaehyun on his own in the last few days. It's not that he likes it, but he thought it's a chance to spend his time with his queen to make her happy and also keeping eye on her. He has no heart to leave Jaehyun in the palace, so he brought him along. His concubine must be upset.

"My king, please punish me. I have failed to protect Concubine Bong."

Jibeom doesn't look at the man. He is angry, but what's done is done. There's no turning back. Besides, at least Commander Son was the one who found Jaehyun and caught the intruder before he did more harm to Jaehyun.

"Have you found information about the intruder?" His voice strains because of his emotion.

"We're still looking for it, my king. The intruder still refuses to talk."

His knuckle turns white. "Keep on looking, and tomorrow.. I'll interrogate the intruder myself."

*****

"Who sent you?"

"…."

"Who sent you??" He whips the tied man in anger. The man shrieks as a huge gash formed on his naked chest.

"…"

"Why did you sneak inside the shrine?"

"…"

Jibeom's anger is fueled. He grips his lash tight, jaw clenched tight. "I swear if you refuse to talk, I'll make you regret you've ever born."

"Your highness, he's just a concubine-"

Another whip, this time it grazes the man's face. Somehow from the man's tone, he knows Jaehyun wasn't just in the wrong place in a wrong time. From the beginning, he was the target.

"You don't get to decide that!" He hisses angrily. "Harming royal family is betrayal upon king and deserves painful death!"

The man doesn't budge, but then Commander Son comes, dragging a woman and a young boy.

"Father!" The boys calls out with tears on his face. The crack on the intruder's face makes Jibeom grin. He nods to Commander Son and pulls the boy away from his mother's arms. The mother cries and continuously begging for forgiveness while the father starts trashing around.

"Let him go! Please don't hurt him!"

Jibeom doesn't have plan to hurt the boy, but he takes out his sword to threaten the man.

"Please, my king, he's not guilty! He's just a child! Please let him go. I'll receive punishment! Please let him go!"

With his left hand holding the boy, and right hand holding his sword, he takes his time, trying to build anxiousness. "You know it's been a long time since I use my sword."

"My king! Please I beg you!"

He put his sword to the boy's shoulders. "I give you one more chance," He stares at the intruder. "Who sent you?"

The man's body shakes. Jibeom can see his resolution starting to crumble down. He just needs a little push. He swings his sword.

"NO!!!!!!"

******

"How is he?"

"He's still in the interrogation chamber, my queen."

"Has he talked?"

"They guard the chamber heavily, my queen, the spy can't even come close."

"We can't let him talk."

"What should we do, my queen?"

"Just kill him."

"Yes, my queen."

"How about Concubine Bong?"

"I heard he's still in dire condition. He hasn’t woken up."

"Good, keep and eye on him-"

The door suddenly slides open, and the queen gasps. The king stands there, with Prime Minister Lee and Commander Son on his back. The feral look of the king tells him that the king has heard everything.

"M-my king.."

"So it's really you," Jibeom clenches his fists.

"My king! It's just misunderstanding!" The queen cries out, she falls on her knees.

"You still dare to make excuse!" Jibeom's voice roars inside the chamber. "I've had enough proof! The intruder gave away the information. Not only you're behind this attack, you also behind the attack a few weeks ago. You know it's considered treachery and you can receive death punishment!"

"My king! Please forgive me!" The queen sobs. "Please!"

The usually cold queen has turned into a mess in front of him. Jibeom had always thought she's pretty but unlikeable. Even from their first meeting, he found her too fake. But back then, he thought that trait of her would be a good trait for a queen. He curses himself. He should have seen this coming.

"You're lucky you're the mother of my son," He growls. "I've decided. You, your servants, your family will be sent to isolated island near South province. You'll never step you feet in the palace forever."

She gasps. "My king! Please forgive me, please spare me!" She leaps forward and clutches on the king's robe. "Please spare me and my family. Please my king!"

Jibeom stares at her with hate. "You disgusts me. You've abused your power and put your family members in the government. Minister Yoo has suspected there's corruption among your family members. I don't want to see you ever again. Commander Son!"

The commander steps forward. "Yes, my king."

"Take them to prison, and gather her family. Send them to the island early tomorrow in the morning."

"Yes, my king."

"Noo!!! My king!! Please give mercy!!" She cries but Jibeom is doesn't waver.

"If ever Concubine Bong-" He swallows, can't continue his words. The queen trembles under his piercing gaze. "You'll regret it for the rest of your life."

He turns on his heels, ignoring the pleading cries of the woman who had accompanied him for 8 years. It's over. She's not his queen anymore.

*****

"And the clear crisp sound of dry leaves, trampled beneath my feet- Why? Anywhere hurts?"

There's a discomfort frown on his concubine's face, but when their eyes met Jaehyun smiles. "I'm just sore.”

"Come, let me help you," He puts down the poem book and stands up to help his concubine adjusting his position to a more comfortable one.

Everything went great. Just a day after he sent the queen to a remote island, Jaehyun woke up and physician said his health had been improving. Now, two weeks after, Jaehyun is healthy, although the wound hasn't completely healed.

Jibeom had never tried to hide his favor to Jaehyun. As a celebration of Jaehyun surviving, he freed the people from tax and even gave food supplies to poor people.

"Aren't you tired, my king? You've been sitting there for the whole day."

"Is that invitation to join you on the bed?" Jibeom smiles teasingly, but gets surprised when Jaehyun doesn't deny it.

"Yes."

Jaehyun laughs in disbelieve. "You're bold today," He says, as he climbs up and settles himself on the bed. He lies down on his side, hia gaze turns mellow as his eyes catch Jaehyun's struggle to shift his body sideways.

"Thank you," He runs his finger gently on his concubine's cheek. "For surviving. I have no idea what should I do if you…"

Jibeom sighs. He can't say it out loud. "You must be so scared. I have failed to protect you."

Jaehyun smiles, deeply touched to see the king showing concern about him. That night is still haunting him, his wound is still painful, but he's save now. There's nothing he's afraid of if the king is beside him "It's my fault. I sneaked out that night."

"You must be upset."

"You should have told me, my king" Jaehyun says quietly. "I thought you've gotten bored of me."

"Such a little faith you have in me."

Despite his words, Jibeom's lips curls into a smile. He has explained his situation, and he can't blame Jaehyun for his insecurity.

"It's not that I doubt you, my king.. I'm just… just.."

"Jealous?"

Jibeom laughs when his concubine's face turns red. "I'm sorry," He scoots closer and pulls his concubine into his arms. "But don't ever doubt me anymore. I love you. No one else but you."

They exchange smile. Jaehyun feels assured. He buries his head on the king's chest, savoring the moment, quietly listening to king's heartbeat.

"Isn't it the perfect time to say that you love me too?"

Jaehyun giggles at the king's childish remark. But who is he to reject such a request? He pulls back and looks straight at the king's waiting eyes.

"I lo-"

"Hyung!!"

Like being electrocuted, Jibeom and Jaehyun distance themselves away. Although a curtain is blocking the bed from the door, they don't want Bomin to see them in such state.

"Hyung!! Can I- Oh!" Bomin's figure barges through the curtain, but immediately halts when the boy sees his father. "Father.. You're here."

"My king, Concubine Bong, I'm sorry. Prince Bomin runs very fast, we can't stop him," The servant's voice is heard from the other side of the room.

Jaehyun tries to hide his laugh at the scene folded in front of him. Jibeom is sitting on the bed, sending stern gaze to his son, while Bomin is trying to avoid the gaze and twirling his fingers instead.

"Why are you always running away and give Servant Kang trouble?"

Bomin pouts. "I just want to sleep with hyung tonight."

"And why is that?"

"I feel lonely and-" Suddenly Bomin frowns to his father. "Why can't I sleep with hyung but father can?"

"Bomin!"

"My king," Jaehyun decides that he should intervene. "Please let prince sleep with me tonight. It's been a while."

Jibeom gives him a betrayed look, making Jaehyun smile. "I think the bed is big enough for the three of us."

The ends up sleeping together. Bomin was so happy that he chatters all night long. It's until Bomin falls asleep that the room become quiet.

"He's such a headache," Contrary to what he's saying, Jibeom is combing Bomin's hair affectionately. "You're spoiling him."

"I feel bad for him," Jaehyun reasons out. "It must be hard for him."

Jibeom sighs. "Bomin has never liked her, or that's what he said. But I saw him cried alone in his room."

"I know," Jaehyun says sympathetically. "He had never told me anything, but I know, he must be sad."

Jibeom's hand which was on Bomin's head moves to cradle Jaehyun's face. "Thank you for loving Bomin like he's your own son."

Jaehyun giggles. "Why my king have to thank me. Bomin is a lovely boy.. And he's yours.."

Jibeom keeps quiet for a while. "Then.." He trails off. "Do you mind making him yours too?"

"My king.." Jaehyun blinks. "What do you mean?"

"I can't make you my queen because of the rules.. But in my heart, you're always be my queen."

The concubine releases a staggered breath. Jibeom has never failed to makes him flattered. Something heavy felt on his chest as he's reminded one more time how he's loved and how he loves his king. It ridiculous that the amount of love he has for the king is so massive, it leaves him powerless.

"Please stay by my side, guide Bomin, give him love and wisdom, raise him to be a great future king."

Jaehyun smiles shakily. "That's a great responsibility."

"Just do like you usually did, love. You're doing great," Jibeom reaches out and envelopes the concubine’s hand with his own hand.

Jaehyun watches how their hands fit perfectly. A smile adorning his face when he locks eyes with the king.

"I love you, my king."

There's nothing he can do except exclaiming his love, letting the king knows how much he means to him.

Behind closed door, with Bomin sleeping between them, and Jibeom holding him, looking at him like he's Jibeom's world, they're free from prying eyes. Jaehyun feels like his life is finally complete. He gets what he longs to have this whole time.

A family with his loved one.

*****