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Archive for June, 2012

20 ~ Stubborn as a Mule

Not that many people can tell for sure what Keun Suk is thinking or feeling at any one given time. He is that good in covering up his feelings or thoughts on things. Very wise really! It is true people can use your feelings against you like a weapon but the king knew Keun Suk too much and he can tell that Keun Suk was angry as the young man stood ramrod straight in the now full main hall of the castle escorting his wife. It is not very often that the king sees Keun Suk angry. Yes he knows Keun Suk has a fiery temperament which he has seen unleashed in not a few battles, but outside of it, he was the perfect example of discipline and decorum. ‘Was he mistaken in taking counsel on choosing Shin Hye for Keun Suk?’ the King wonders. Shin Hye looks docile enough. It should be easy for Keun Suk to charm and seduce his bride. She looks tired, well it was their wedding night, so it couldn’t be that, and if Keun Suk were angry with Shin Hye then why is he hovering around his bride like a hen to her newly-hatched chick? What could he be angry about? And, what’s all this nonsense about witches?

Hongki was in a worse position than the King was about an hour previously when Keun Suk’s dagger looks, angry pacing and roaring could do nothing to stop Shin Hye from getting up and saying matter-of-factly that she was coming down with him. Feeling responsible being the carrier of the news, Hongki could not make up his mind if it would be a good idea to stand between the newly married couple if a fight ensues or if it will only further incense Keun Suk. He was thankful when Shin Hye, obviously still drained from that evening’s crisis, just sat on the edge of the bed and let her husband rant.

Shin Hye understands his outburst quite well. She knows had she been in his shoes she’d be angry too. She can and she has tried going into rants. She would most probably leave the room after her outburst and locked him in. Instinctively, she knows this one she has to let blow over. She could not help but gaze at him as he was going through his tirade. She thought, ‘Poor fellow it seems I’ve been taxing his heart nonstop. Will there ever be a time when he’ll stop being angry with me?’ Then as an after thought, ‘How can he still be so handsome even with his face all tensed up like that? Shush! Where did that come from? He looks just like any other man. Well, save for his eyes. They’re like tricksters- stormy, mysterious one moment, sparkling, teasing the next. Oh he’s done ranting!’

“I would not suffer ill-being if it were of no consequence Lord Keun Suk. I have given you my word that I would tell you everything when the appropriate time comes. Right now, please trust me! This is of utmost importance!” Shin Hye softly but firmly said.

Keun Suk signaled Hongki to leave as he, standing beside the bright window, turned to face his wife. He knows none of what he’s just said registered in his wife’s head from the glimpses he’s made. It was plain to see her mind is set. She is as stubborn as a mule. What is she looking at me now for?

“Did someone just try to poison you last night? Is there something you would like to tell me?” Keun Suk asked, now studying the sitting girl.

Shin Hye had been openly admiring Keun Suk before his question registered in her mind. She had been languidly gazing at him and thinking ‘he is a handsome man, my husband. It probably wasn’t an exaggeration what Hongki said, of women falling all over themselves to get his attention. How surreal being married overnight, waking up after nearly dying and facing your angry, stunning ‘husband’ whose eyebrow is now cocked at me! Oh heavens! How long have I been staring?’ Shin Hye lowered her head and eyes just a tiny bit too fast before doing it slowly, acting as if nothing had happened.

Keun Suk caught this, just as he can see Shin Hye as she turn slightly to her side, look up and bite the insides of her lower lip obviously trying to stop herself from grinning openly. ‘Is she laughing at me?’ And then like in a bat of an eye she was all regal, stoical with her chin raised like so, her neck long and smooth. She almost died and she’s weak but here she is hiding a smile and acting like an obstinate kid with her lips pursed like that, at least its color seems more normal now. Through the night her lips had swung from deathly pale after vomiting to blood red when her fever spiked, now they’re rosy red, plump and pouting a little. Keun Suk’s brows furrowed.

‘What did he say again? Oh the poison. Well… in the eyes of God and in the eyes of man he is now my husband isn’t he? He has the right to know. What will he do if I confirm his suspicions? There is so much she needs to verify herself. Can he wait for my explanation till I can make sense of everything that has been happening?

“Yes! Someone poisoned the wine I drank last night!” Shin Hye knows this much he has deduced. “My uncle gave me my cup and your father gave you yours. I do not know who gave the goblet to my uncle! If the wine was meant for him or for me, I…!”

Shin Hye was about to continue with her vocal reflection when she noticed Keun Suk walking closer and closer to her. ‘What is he doing?’ she wondered. Keun Suk was steadily approaching her. So she paused, looked up to try and make sense of what he’s doing, instead his eyes caught hers and held it. Fascinated was she by his eyes that she just trailed off, leaving her mouth slightly opened, and her eyes flickered to his lips as he drew closer still, suddenly she could not breathe deep enough. She was filled with anticipation, wanting, needing his lips to take hers. His lips lingered barely an inch away as he stooped, reached out and lifted her, helping her to stand fluidly and effortlessly on her feet. Unknowingly, she reached out to hold on to his arms, her eyes never wavering, her head craning upward waiting. With Shin Hye standing steady, her eyes reflecting the desire he’s long been trying to fight Keun Suk bowed and claimed her lips. Claimed it like he always has from the first moment he kissed her in the forest at Sea Crest to that night in his room just before she left, passionate, aroused. Then he claimed it like a man drowning, hungry for air. His hands automatically moving to grasp and press on her back, molding her to him, tight, one hand between her shoulder blades and the other on her lower back urgent his desire barely under control. It was quite hard to imagine this was the very same man who was raving just a moment ago.

They both forgot Shin Hye’s delicate condition as Shin Hye kissed him with as much fervor as she can, matching each kiss, each bite… each caress… each tug, each probing. She tiptoed and fought for possession of his lips, his tongue, his breath. Her arms naturally wrapped themselves around Keun Suk’s neck as she strained to press herself to him, not caring nor listening to the slowly creeping darkness she was feeling, of faint approaching until the last moment when her knees gave way and she just rested her head on his neck and tried to catch her breath fighting off losing consciousness. Both of them breathing raggedly, clutching the other tight waiting for some semblance of control, of sanity.

“Please?” Shin Hye whispered hoarsely. All Keun Suk could do was nod and whisper back, “But I say when we go!” Shin Hye nodded and rested more comfortably in Keun Suk’s arms as the poor man settled with giving her neck a nuzzle and a single kiss.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

The newly wed pair was walking slowly round the main hall, where the cacophony of people talking at the same time emanated, almost like a swarm of bees buzzing. They had timed if just right. They had barely reached their place beside one of the big pillars near the front of the hall, a very good place to observe people and still be partly hidden from view, when the noise abruptly died down signaling the arrival of the royal couple. They still could not see the source of the commotion but Shin Hye’s stomach was churning in anguish. All they have to go on was the news that Hongki woke them up with- of a group of men and women rounded out by some religious fanatics were to be presented to the king that morning. They are accused of witchcraft, a transgression punishable by death, by burning at a stake.

That, however, was not the only reason why Shin Hye wanted to witness the proceedings. Yes there is something odd with the accusations being timed on the eve of St. John’s feast when it has been common practice ever since she can remember of people picking herbs and medicinal plants especially on that one particular night during the whole year and Shin Hye wants to know what is going on, but more than that she wants to see the reaction of those few people in the ceremonial party when they see her up and walking, not dying or dead. If that poison was meant for her, then whoever slipped in that poison would not expect to see her or them and she wants to see their reaction first hand. Call it intuition or gut feel, she may not be able to say for sure what it is but something certainly smells fishy

Right across them was Yong Hwa, leaning on the opposing pillar, a few steps to his left but separated by the pillar so they could not have seen him unless they moved around the obstacle are her uncle and aunt, who were standing almost to the side of the accused throng, and a little behind them are Lord Eric and Lord Maxwell. Father John is nowhere in sight. Where could he be? Shin Hye turned to look behind her and saw Lord George who had a very mischievous smile plastered on his face. It was hard not to smile back. If he only knew. Shin Hye was just turning her attention back to the front of the hall when the crowd receded and they all got a full view of those being accused. Right at the front standing tall now fully cloaked, face veil back on was Hye-ya.

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