Trying not to show shock, Chizuko’s eyes widened at the grandeur of the throne room the guards had led her to. A silent beauty waited on a smaller seat, to the King’s right. No court attendant, Chizuko surmised.
Courtiers flanked, in rows along each side of the long, deep room, a wide lane of approach from the door. Lord Pak left Chizuko with the royal guards, not saying a word. He alone approached the throne. Bo-young remained at Chizuko’s elbow.
Chizuko’s eyes fixed on Lord Pak, hovering close to the throne, whispering in the king’s ear. After a moment of these whispers, Pak waved for the guards; indicating Chizuko should come forward. As she took the first of small, respectful steps, she felt her Korean dress shielded her intentions well, studying Bo-young’s movements and reactions on the island and the ferry, in the carriage to the gate, had been a boon.
Even as Chizuko’s mind raced, It’s a time for risk, losing my life may well be in the cards, approach with all hesitancy.
“Bow before his Royal Highness Myeongbo,” Lord Pak intoned. “King of Unified Korea and Defender of all people of Korea.” Giving a deep bow, Chizuko held the pose for beats before rising to her full height. Yet casting her eyes down at the base of the throne.
“Why have you entered the kingdom of Korea, as a spy?”
Such a dangerous designation. Feeling no fear should be the daily practice for any samurai, but here was a different situation. Out of her element, she forced her hands not to stray to check on her weapon. Chizuko vowed to think again when asked to mix working undercover and plying her tradecraft in foreign locales.
Answering in Korean, as Pak had, Chizuko offered a bow and began, “I traveled openly, from my Library, at the request for some historical research and consultation. Our kingdom was informed, by your envoys—”
“—You lie!” Pak cut her off.
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