49 Your Kingdom Now Pt.3

    "Your Majesty!" Zeren hissed as the young emperor-to-be paced ahead of him. "You mustn't stray too far ahead!"

    The young man turned and frowned at his companion. "'Your Majesty'?" he said while arching his brow, "Zeren, I already told you, please just address me as you normally do."

    Zeren pulled a face. "You know that I can't."

    The young man searched around him and found that no one was paying any attention to them. "But you should," he insisted while gesturing to the pedestrians that were ambling by. "We will draw attention to ourselves if you keep calling me 'Your Majesty'."

    At this, Zeren was thoughtful.

    "And we do not want that, now, do we?"

    Zeren pursed his lips. He could see from the young man's playful expression that he was enjoying getting his way with him. Even as a child, his mischievous and witty nature were what made him stand out from the other boys in the temple. Sometimes, Zeren wondered how he had come to befriend such a carefree person like him.

    "Fine," Zeren conceded hesitantly. "But once we are in the palace, I can't call you that anymore."

    The young man eyed him sadly. "It really is the end of our time in the temple," he mumbled. "If even you, my closest friend, stop calling me by my name then it is almost like my life until now has been erased."

    Zeren was regretful. "I'm sorry, Chim."

    The young man perked up immediately. Hearing his name made his lips curl into a grin. "No worries. I know that you did not need to leave the temple, yet you chose to. And for that, I am grateful."

    "How can I ever let you go by yourself?" Zeren asked. "You won't survive a day without me."

    Chim grinned at his friend playfully. "That is true. Since childhood, we have been inseparable." He stared at the horizon, where he could just about see the striking, golden palace rooves in the distance. It was a daunting reminder of how close he was to completely abandoning his carefree life. "At least for now, we can still be ourselves."

    Zeren followed his gaze. "But we mustn't dawdle for long. The elders are waiting for you. Not to mention Her Highness too."

    Chim was quiet. "Yes, I will finally be able to meet my sister after so long..."

    The pair, disguised in old military attire, resumed their trudge to the palace on foot. It had been a long and tiring journey from the temple, where they had been living for the past decade. Dusty and weary from their voyage, a sense of relief overcame them when they finally reached the inner circle of the capital. What they saw waiting for them, left them intrigued. All around them were sights they had only ever heard from in tales told by travellers that had passed their old home. Large, imposing buildings greeted their eyes wherever they went, with each one more extravagant than the last.

    Chim and Zeren gawked in awe as they tried to absorb the breath-taking scenery. The sound of the market streets humming with life was like foreign music as they weren't accustomed to so much noise, so much variety and in general, so much life. It was like being amongst people for the first time. Gone were the fruit trees and rural grounds that encircled their old reality. There were no hilly paths and large landscapes of green but instead, dirt roads and exquisite buildings paved their path. It was a stark contrast to the tranquillity that Chim once was surrounded by.

    "I wonder if the palace maids really are charming beauties."

    Chim turned to his friend questioningly.

    "What? Don't tell me you aren't curious about them. After so long, we are finally going to be around women," he gave his friend a wily smile, "you especially."

    "You have such impure thoughts" Chim replied, blushing slightly. He arched his brow and added, "Do not tell me you chose to come along because of that reason?"

    Zeren snickered, "Well, I will admit that it played a part in convincing me to go."


    "Hey, desiring a woman is not perverse" Zeren informed him. "Just because we grew up amongst the celibate does not mean we too must be celibate." Zeren paused as he discreetly watched a pair of lavishly dressed women saunter past them. "And besides, you are expected to claim a bride soon, right?"

    Chim gave an unsure look. "Yes, that is correct."

    "Then, you should really acquaint yourself with women more. After all, the future of our kingdom is in your hands." Zeren gave a sideward glance and sneakily added, "Well, more like your peni-"

    "Oh! My stomach! It hurts!"

    Zeren stopped midway his sentence as a shrill voice caught his and Chim's attention. There, not too far away from them, was a young woman who was clutching her stomach in pain. A huddle had started to encircle around the meat bun stall she was in front of.

    "It looks like that woman is ill" Chim observed from afar.

    Chim heard Zeren cluck his tongue. "I bet it's just some circus performance."

    "What?" Chim was astounded by Zeren's lack of sympathy. "How can you tell? What if she really is ill?"

    "Chim," Zeren said his name sternly, "we can't keep going around helping every sick person that we meet."

    "But if we can do something to help, then we should-"

    "No," Zeren replied sharply.

    Zeren's tone startled Chim. "No?"

    "No," he replied a lot more firmly than before. "Have you already forgotten what happened last time?"

    Chim was quiet. After a while, he responded, "No... I have not."

    Zeren crossed his arms over his chest as he reminded him, "Remember what happened with the traveller? Well, he wasn't as ill as we thought..."

    During their travels, Chim and Zeren had encountered a traveller collapsed on the road. He appeared to have collapsed because of the sun. Without hesitation, Chim did his best to help the poor man by giving him his portion of their rations so that he can regain his strength. He gave him his remaining loaf of bread and his half-empty flask of water. While he and Zeren left in search of help, the beggar, not being ill at all, stole their supplies and horses, leaving Chim and Zeren stranded on the road. They had been swindled! It was a miracle that they had made it to the capital at all.

    "But we are safe now" Chim argued. "And what can that woman steal from us? We have nothing of value."

    Zeren frowned. "You are of value."


    "Chim, if anything happens to you, our kingdom is doomed."

    Chim's eyes softened. "Relax, Zeren. I will be careful."

    Zeren watched as Chim ran towards the growing huddle of pedestrians, who were being drawn to the cries of the ill woman like flies to a beacon. He shook his head as he muttered, "He's too kind for his own good."

    As Chim approached, he overheard the shouts of the spectators, who were arguing with the meat bun vendor.

    "What could be wrong with her?"

    "Might she have eaten something bad?"

    "It must be the meat buns! They must be expired!"

    Chim slipped through the crowd so that he was at the front of the circle. While the proactive pedestrians engaged in verbal fencing with the vendor, Chim paid attention to the woman, who had curled up into a ball on the floor. He was surprised to find that the woman was a lot younger than he initially thought.

    "Are you okay, young miss?"

    The woman's eyes opened and Chim watched as her features morphed to show an expression of surprise. Chim hoped that his cheeks had not turned pink. Like he had practised many times before, he tried to remain composed as he helped her up. "That salesman will bring you to a physician" he informed her, in a voice he hoped was reassuring. "Do not fret. We will ensure that you get the proper treatment for food poisoning."

    Chim watched as the young woman continued to gape at him, making him slightly uncomfortable. He had never been in close contact with a young woman before so he couldn't help feeling shy. But that wasn't going to stop him from offering his help. After all, the monks had taught him to be hospitable to all sorts of people: be it a beggar, a noble, a child, a woman.

    He gazed at the woman expectantly, but before he could get a reply from her, they were both suddenly side-tracked by the vendor's gruff voice. Chim was startled when the woman suddenly got up, her earlier pain gone. A puzzled expression riddled her face which rapidly changed to one of alarm when she saw that the vendor was arguing with a young boy.

    "That stupid brat" he heard her mutter.

    She was about to run ahead when Chim suddenly stopped her, "Wait!"

    The young woman turned to face him.

    "Are you okay now? Do you not feel pain anymore?"

    She tilted her head at him in confusion but then realisation dawned in her eyes. "Erm, yeah. Don't worry," she laughed awkwardly, "I'm fine now-"

    "But your stomach-"

    "It's good!" she replied hastily, still distracted by the boy and the vendor who were now playing tug-o'-war with a pouch. "I gotta go."

    The young woman raced ahead but Chim managed to catch her by the sleeve of her arm. She turned to him again, bewildered that he was still following her.

    "You should not run, it will be bad for your stomach" he explained.

    The woman tugged herself free, "Let go, I need to help him-"

    "Help him?" Chim repeated. He peered at the boy and soon realised what was going on. "Are you in league with that thief?"

    The woman froze which confirmed Chim's suspicions.

    "Sorry!" she shouted before bolting away.

    Chim shouted after her, "Wait! Stop!"

    But by then, he was already too late. The young woman had managed to escape with her accomplice along with a bag of meat buns.
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