"Kim Youngjun! What are you even doing here right now? It's not time for a shift change, is it?"
Youngjun smirked. "I came early, I was trying to get brownie points so I can stay out later on Friday. I have a hot date."
"A hot date? Oh, nice. With who? The pretty girl from the security check booth?"
"Shut up, Kyowon... I am not saying anything about it. I know how you can get."
"How do I get?" He snorted. " I don't "get" a certain way at all." He wiggled his eyebrows playfully.
"I don't care about your love life, that's gross. Now Hyojin, on the other hand, cares a great deal about your love life. And who am I to argue with your sister? If I do that, I will be sleeping on the couch again.
"Besides, she tattles to your mother, and we are only in our first year. I still need all the good points with her, and your mother that I can wrack up successfully right now.
"You do know that marriage is not a point system where they will reward you or tear you down based on how many points you have."Youngjun commented, shaking his head with good humour.
"Oh, you poor... Poor naive kid." Kyowon patted him gently on the back while shaking his head in a deeply, morose sort of way, wounded that there was no way they could get what he was saying. Young Jun watched his tepid performance. Not buying his sullen expression when paired with his twinkling eyes.
"Kid, I am twenty-four. I am not a kid." Youngjun stated, playfully.
Kyowon snorted with good humour. "Still, you will find out someday just how many points youuuu will have to earn to sleep in the same bed as your chosen sometimes."
"Ewww that's my sister you are talking about."
Kyowon raised an eyebrow. "That's also my wife."
"New wife, as you said, you are only in the first year, you are still refundable at this point." Youngjun quipped laughing as Kyowon scrunched up his face.
"Ugh, you are such a brat."
"A brat that's older than you, so be respectful."
"Just take my shift before I make you disappear into the night as our moms used to say."
"Those were ridiculous stories spun by a bunch of old grandma's. You don't still believe in those fairy tales do you?"
Kyowon scoffed, "Think what you want to Hyung, but strange things happen in Joseon. The tales become legends because there is a thread of truth weaved in there. Or else nobody would believe it. Strange things indeed."
He tapped Youngjun's shoulder then stepped away as he released him from his post officially, the same way he did every night but on Sunday’s.
The old lanterns with their thick wicks were being lit by one of the enochs in their emerald green robes. The black hat strapped to their foreheads so as not to reveal the uncut hair that all men in the formal regiment boasted.
The same pattern of a fox and a dragon was set into every paper, pole or human clothing. The pattern of their era. The mighty valour of the king.
Youngjun watched them out of the corner of his eye. Remembering how it seemed so recent that he had wished to be inside of the palace instead of outside guardian to it.
But things didn't always work out and his status was something that kept him from the inside.
'But that's fine… Things have turned out for the better.' He reminded himself.
'At least when I look up I am still greeted by a thousand stars. Just how many would I get to see inside of the palace? Not many... All of those lights they would for sure make it so bright in there that it would be positively blinding.
It was sad that he couldn’t match his dream. But maybe not.
‘There would be no star gazing. There would be no following his heart to the skies when his mind wondered off. No I wouldn't even get a chance to look up, they wouldn't dare let me. And it's not that I slack off or don't pay attention. It is boring to stand here all day, when I can sense the wings of a dragonfly. It is boring to be doing nothing, how can I not look up. Especially when the world above is so full of wonder. It's not like I can see that kind of beauty here.' He thought.
"Kim Youngjun!" A hurried call broke into his thoughts.
Youngjun looked up from his distraction and came to complete attention, waiting for the guard who had called his name so frantically to be closer so he could relay the message he had for him.
He didn't have to wait long as his friend Lee Gongmin came into view, then ran stopping only when he was a few feet in front of him. He returned his salute, then launched into the order.
"By decree of the king all able bodied men between twenty three and twenty five are to be conscripted to long term duty on the inside of the palace. There has been a threat against the great queen dowager, and the arbitrators have stated they will come in the night like ghosts, and like wind unable to be caught. The king with his great wisdom will need an elite team. Fast, agile, and like the ghosts themselves, unable to be seen. For if it is a ghost who is to come take his mother then it is a ghost who will see her safe."
“This is the king’s decree. Do you so accept his favor?”He said formally, asking the question that no guard really wanted to hear, because the silent words at the end weighed greater than the actual decree.
‘Do you accept the danger of death for your king. Or will you die where you stand?’
Youngjun gulped. Hard.
It was what he had been trained for, of course. But he had never had to see actual fighting not in any of his years and it was the most skilled that were called upon in these situations. How much of a threat did there have to be to take all agile men around his age. Even ones as green as he was.
"Report to the inner circle for further instructions." Gongmin saluted him, signaling the message had been relayed but made no movement to leave.
Youngjun looked at him oddly.
"I am to relieve you of this duty until they can find someone to substitute in for you."
Yonugjun nodded, then stepped out and clapped his friend once on the shoulder softly.
"May the light guide you." He said as his way of goodbye then turned and took a moment to look up at the bright red arch in the wall that had been his charge for only a year.
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