Chapter 1. The beginning of everything
Left alone, El turned off the lights and walked out of the office. As she walked down the empty hallway to return to her room, but stopped in her tracks at the sudden pain.
The occasional pain took over El in this way, so much so that she was unable to move. When El could no longer support herself, she quickly leaned against the wall.
‘I see you when I almost forget.’
El took out the medicine box she usually carried with her and opened it, but it was empty.
She struggled with her steps, holding back the curse that was rising at the moment in her stomach. As the pain continued, even her vision became blurred, and she headed somewhere with her hands on the wall.
‘It’s a relief. At least I’m not in front of His Majesty.’
With that in mind, El’s feet headed to the leaking light seen through the cracked door even though it was late at night.
As El opened the door and hurried in, the familiar scent of candles surrounded her. But she had no time to feel it.
The palace doctor, who was inside, was wondering about the sudden open door, and immediately helped her and put her on a chair.
As if he was in a familiar situation, when he offered water along with the medicine from the drawer, El swallowed the medicine in one bite without hesitation.
After a while, the medicine took effect, the pain subsided, and El’s vision finally became clearer. She finally took a breath and wiped the cold sweat off her face, and at that moment she heard a voice scolding her.
“Even though you say that, you always give me medicine, Wontil.”
“Don’t look at me as a ‘court doctor’ who turns his back on his patients.”
El seemed to have forgotten the pain she had felt earlier, and before she knew it, she felt relaxed with Wontil. There was a sense of familiarity in their conversation.
Wontil, who had protected his position in the imperial palace as a palace physician for many years that he was turning gray, was the only one who knew El’s secret.
“Thanks to you, I’m saved. Thank you very much. Suddenly, I ran out of medicine.”
“I knew it would happen, so I prepared it in advance.”
“As expected, Wontil is the only one who can help me.”
Even though El said this with a grateful smile, the atmosphere of petulance she had just been in disappeared and Wontil’s eyes were somehow filled with seriousness.
It was so easy to see at a glance that he was seriously worried about El.
“The pain cycle is getting shorter and the dosage of medicine is increasing. If it’s going to continue like this…………”
“I know. My physical condition is….”
“Are you sure you know? What kind of go knight protects His Majesty in such a body?”
Wontil asked El again, knowing that it was unacceptable.
“You could be in big trouble. You can die anytime. So please take a break. Don’t work so late at night.”
“After all, the only person who cares about me is Wontil.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
Since Wontil’s worry didn’t seem to end, El smiled brightly to reassure him.
“I’m going to tell His Majesty after this. I want to leave this place for a while and rest.” (El)
“I don’t think I’m going to tell him my condition until the end. He can find out later, if he wants to.” (El)
Wontil was sad that El was trying so hard to keep this a secret. It hurt him even more because he knew why she went to such lengths.
“As long as Wontil doesn’t tell anyone, no one will know. Even if they do, someone else will have to fill my seat. Also, Lady Shenil is by His Majesty’s side, so he’ll be fine. I’m an orphan anyway, and I feel it’s too much to have this position. It’s all thanks to His Majesty.” (El)
As usual, the conversation ended with a thank you to Terban, and Wontil shook his head as if he had no choice.
Because he knew very well that he couldn’t easily bend her aspirations, considering what he had seen of El so far. So he had no choice but to speak with resignation.
“You’ve been taking good care of His Majesty for a long time, and he also trusts you and tells you confidential information that he has not informed his aides. So you have a lot of work to do.”
“Well, when I’m gone, His Majesty will soon forget. There are many more capable people than me.”
“Tsk, you’re so hard on yourself.”
He tried hard to swallow the words, and Wontil handed over the medicine with anxiety. Then he said,
“As I said before, this will only act as a painkiller, you understand?”
“Yes. Don’t worry about it. Don’t make yourself worry more.”
El walked out of his room, smiling all the way to the end so that Wontil would feel at ease. But even the sight of her did not reassure Wontil.
It was Wontil who had been watching her since El first entered the Imperial Palace, so he was already aware why would El stay with the emperor at the cost of her own life?
‘It is only when you let go of those feelings that you will live, El.’
But Wontil’s words went nowhere. As usual.
No matter how much El hid the state of her health condition, situations would obviously arise where she would be forced to reveal it. It was absolutely unavoidable because El was a knight.
With a clank and the sound of swords colliding, the sword El was holding fell to the ground. At the same time, a sharp sword was pointed at her neck, as if it was about to cut her.
Staring alternately at the sword and the opponent standing in front of her, El raised her hands. “I lost, Your Majesty.”
With El’s surrender, the sword was quickly withdrawn, she picked up the sword and thanked her opponent, but Terban’s voice was sharper than the sword.
“I see you have been neglecting your training lately, Sir El.”
At Terban’s words, El just kept her head down and didn’t make any excuses. She hadn’t been as good as she used to be since her condition worsened.
She tried her best to be as inconspicuous as possible, but she couldn’t fool Terban’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty.”
El bowed her head and apologized, and Terban’s reaction subsided even more than before.
‘What’s the basis of a knight?”
When El replied without the slightest hesitation, Terban decided to leave it at that, but he didn’t intend to ask any further.
“Sir El should train more and go back. We’re done training here.”
With that, Terban turned around and left the performance hall, and it was only then that the group of knights rushed to El’s side.
They were the Knights of the Emperor’s direct Order, the ones that El led as their leader. And they were also an important family for El, who had no family.
“El? Are you okay?”
“Of course I am. But it was my fault.”
“But it’s too much to say that, how busy you have been these days. And the person who made you do it is His Majesty….”
El knew how much her friends cared for her, and she felt grateful, but she also felt very sorry for them.
“I’ll say you’ve trained so just go. His Majesty won’t know.”
El was not perturbed by her friends’ coaxing, but rather laughed and pushed them.
“Please just go. And I want to exercise too. I haven’t done it in a long time.”
“Sure, who’s going to stop El? He’s stubborn.”
(*It wasn’t 100% sure but I think everyone thinks El is a man because everyone treats her so since she’s a knight. Only the doctor and Shanil know El is a woman I think.)
“Then just roughly do it. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
As El watched them exchange greetings and move away, she saw one remained in the performance hall.
The man with the short dark blue hair and gray eyes looked at El nonchalantly.
“You should go, too, Bandel.”
“I’ll wait for you, or we can do it together.”
“This is my order as Commander.”
“Don’t you know that it doesn’t work at all?”
It became apparent how close the two were to each other even as they were having a friendly conversation. Bandel was the Vice Commander of the Imperial Knights, and as her friend, they were close enough to spend a lot of time together.
Since El had no family, she felt like Bandel was a brother to her, perhaps because she had seen him since she was a young.
“Hurry up and go. You must be tired from your training today.”
With that, El ran her hands through Bandel’s hair, who was now much bigger than her.
“Do you think I’m still a kid? I told you not to do this anymore.”
“I know. I can’t believe the kid who was trying not to lose to me is this big.”
“Let’s not talk about the old days.”
Bandel, who had been with El for a long time, noticed that she was moving differently than normal and asked a question.
“Did you know you were really weird today? Your movements have changed. Are you sick?”
“No. It’s because my workload has suddenly increased. I think I’m going to take some time off after this job is over.”
“Please, do that. You’re even doing what an aide should be doing right now.”
He knew very well that El had no choice, since Terban had ordered it, but he was worried when he saw El getting more and more tired as time went on. Looking at Bandel’s face filled with worry, he didn’t seem to want to go, so El forced him to push him.
“I understand now, so go.”
“Just do it roughly like others said and come. It’s too late.”
Bandel, who had asked her to finish quickly, walked out of the performance hall, and El, who was left alone, exhaled heavily and looked around the area.
She then began to move slowly, lifting the sword that lay to one side. El still couldn’t reject Terban’s words.
‘Because this is the only way I will be able to stay close to you, Your Majesty.’
‘Well, that will soon be over.’
While El was moving without rest, the evening sky had completely darkened and before long, El’s face was covered in sweat, along with her ragged breathing.
“You can’t be this tired already.”
As the weak El knelt down to catch her breath for a while, a hand reached out to her. It was a big hand, much stronger than hers.
As El raised her head, following the hand, her eyes met with blue eyes that glowed even in the darkness.