The King's Shadow
I thought it'd be just any other usual mornings, but I was wrong. I clenched my fist in both fear and anger as I watched the food taster writhe to death. The guards came rushing into my chambers when a maidservant reported the poisoning incident.
Among the people who came was a man wearing a red robe embroidered with the golden sigil of the kingdom. As I looked into his eyes, I saw the mixture of anger, shock and worry.
"Emery, are you okay?" he asked with a soft tone of voice. I could tell that he was suppressing his emotions and it agitated me.
I pushed him away and stood on my feet.
"Court Lady Jin, bring me my bow and arrows," I stated.
I ignored the presence of the king and though it pained me, I left the room without saying a word to him. I was simply a concubine, a woman who will become irrelevant to the king once he get married to a rightful queen.
And as a woman who was not of noble birth, I will never be able to sit on that throne beside him. I will only be labeled as his concubine.
When I reached the training ground, Court Lady Jin handed me the bow gifted by the king when he welcomed me here in his palace. With the bows placed beside me, I nocked an arrow and aimed at the target. Releasing the bowstring, the arrow struck the eye of the lion drawn at the target. Arrow after arrow, I shot them until my fear came to a settle.
This was not the only time that my life was threatened and the longer I stayed here, the more it felt like this palace was a cage where murderers were freely walking around.
Calming myself, I heard footsteps coming towards my direction. And even without looking behind me, I knew that it was King Lawson. He stood beside me with a bow on his hand.
"I'll make sure to catch the culprit who dared to poison you," he said as he nocked an arrow.
He was a better archer than I was so it wasn't surprising when he hit the target right on the middle. He turned to me and held my hand.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. He took a step closer and leaned his forehead on mine. "I'm sorry."
Lifting my gaze at him, I tiptoed and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. I knew he loved me and he showed it by having no other wives aside from me. However, as this was a palace and he was the king, that won't always be the case. The day will come that a queen will take my place. A woman of noble birth and welcomed by his ministers, a queen who shall bear his heir.
"Your Majesty, if you truly are sorry, I ask of you to grant this wish of mine," I said.
He caressed my cheek and replied, "Whatever it is that you wish, I'll grant it."
I held his warm hands and stared into his dark eyes.
"Your Majesty, dismiss me as your concubine and let me leave the palace."
His response was firm. I already expected this from him, however, I had already made my final decision. This was not because I was afraid of losing my life but I was more afraid of not being able to help His Majesty. I promised him that no matter what, I'd be here to support him and that is why I must live.
I cupped both of his cheeks and smiled.
"I do love you, you know that more than anyone else. I won't be able to protect you if I remain in this place," I stated.
He held my hands and pulled me into a hug. His embrace was tight yet it was warm and caring.
"I need no protection because it is my responsibility to protect you. I beg of you, Emery, don't leave my side."
Despite his pleas, I made him decide to let me leave the palace even if it was against his will.
Later that night, I felt his sorrow as he hugged me as if he had no intention of letting me go. I, too, wanted to hold his hand in front of his people but our circumstances would not allow it. Rather than be recognized as his favored concubine, I'd choose to be behind the shadows and aid him with his rule. Besides, sitting pretty and acting like a noble lady was not my cup of tea.
Hidden from the sight of the corrupt and evil ministers, I'd still be the woman who'll sabotage their plans to ruin the king.
"What shall I do to change your mind, Emery?" the king asked. I could tell that he was drowsy but he still tried to stay awake.
"You will do nothing but serve the people with just and honesty like what you have been doing from the start. That is enough, my king. If someone ever threatens your life and the peace of the kingdom, as your shadow, I will gladly take action," I replied.
Those were my last words to him before I was deposed the very next morning. The ministers thought that I left the kingdom for good but I stayed, not as a concubine, but an assassin who works under the king.
Though I witnessed his marriage to a noblewoman, I felt no regret. Though sooner or later, his queen will bear the heir to the throne, I will feel no hate or grieve for the fact that I was not the one he was committed to. Being his shadow was the path I had chosen. This was my way of showing how much I love him.
This was my true love.