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of the beholder.

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Through meadows wide and valleys low
Secrets as common as the effervescent snow
Little do the people know
That those so high, fine and fed
Would be caught confined, adread;
Answers not what answers betrothed,
A question from confident lips posed:
“Mirror mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all?”
And when this mirror regarded its stray
It had but naught to say,
That is, “Prince of fire and greed,
This answer is not yours my liege.
For there is fairer and prettier just,
Among the paths of traders, rushed
Only inks can mark his path,
And only droves of parchment pass.”
The Prince considered
And thought, and thought
But then an image appeared, distraught
A scene of saddles and dust clear,
The brief passing of a pointed ear
A flash of brown and a ring of silver
The boy disappeared; the Prince, aquiver
“Who dares claim my title?” He pittered
Roar and rave as he might, the mirror poised no fight
It only sank back to darkness, “Goodnight.”
The night was good? What crock shit.
The Prince was having none of it.
The prettiest the king’s walls defended
Was him and him alone, uncontended
Who this commoner thought he was, he didn’t know
Soon it wouldn’t matter, though.

A fortnight later--
Really, the wise and crumbled would waver--
The Prince discovered the nature of his maid-- er…
Not a maid, he supposed, but a courier instead,
One who delivered letters and orders, sped
A hefty task on its own?
No, just a pauper, alone.
How the mirror could believe such a creature
To be of finer ilk than his own sharp features…
He would prove the thing wrong.
Bring the boy in front and confront the piece of junk, oblong;
Perhaps then it would realizes it faults.
And if not, well.
There was much room to be had in the cavernous vaults.
Brows came together,
Gilded fingers steepled in thought;
No matter what it took, yes
He would find this courier aloft.
Well-worn paths, etched from scarred dirt
Were all but many in this monarchy of hearths
Armed and ready? Perhaps.
Other lands, more desperate and irate,
Preferred sparing each other no mercy, just wrath
No. Their exchanges dealt with those of silk,
Silks and spices and wines frequently spilt.
The task of one runner, one boy, one man
Could be dealt with in earnest
No assassins, no clans
He was not one for bloodlust, nor trust
He could confront this messenger himself.
He could handle that much.

A fortnight more, a wagon robust
And the Prince was close to throwing a fuss
There was no smooth brown, no ring, a must--
Only the people, other people, wrong people
Greeted his men, feeble ground steep.
Two weeks of no luck.
The Prince thought more.
Two weeks more-- then not even the mirror he could implore.
His quest was set, his mind made up
Hope was diminishing as his confidence fell, but then, a bump--
An occurrence he would later retell.

The coincidence, he found, was all it took
To find his lost boy, cradling his rear on a backroad, a nook
A glimpse of reflection at his ear: a rook?
At first it was nothing, a happening, a chance
But the Prince left his carriage: took in his vest; a pause, and a glance--
He couldn’t believe this was the source, the pest.
Hair low and eyes gleaming, sunset tossing hues across his skin--
Confused, the Prince paused, and the courier caught on
Bowed, sincerely apologized, made to move on
He halted.
“Come back over near.”
The boy turned, chin hunched…
Eyes clear.
“Do you know whose carriage you’ve hit?”
“Yessir, sir Prince, it sure came quick.” Annoying twit.
“Running away will only get you in trouble.”
A courier, the courier, despite being low from the ground sprung,
Just smiled and bowed further, ready,
a sharp tongue--
“My deepest apologies, sir. I had not wanted any inconvenience, none;
I can make it up to you if it isn’t by being hung.”
The Prince scoffed at his gall; be hung? Of course
Even at a steep 45 and apology done,
He could still have gotten himself strung.
That wasn’t his style, or preference, or quirk
But the opportunity was there, so up rose a smirk.
“There is something,” the Prince replied,
“But I’m afraid it would mean joining with mine.
I’m on a quest, you see,
And it would appear that only you can aid me.”
Silence enveloped, constricted, pursued
The boy considered while inspecting their shoes.
It couldn’t be that bad, he mused,
All of his parcels were done…
He supposed he could accept, hesitantly, confused.
For all his bravado, this was still the Prince, the king’s knights his thralls;
He enjoyed keeping his limbs together too much to refuse.
“I would be honoured, sir Prince, my Lord.”
“Good. Get in the carriage. We’ve a ways to explore.”

Pinks turned to reds, and reds into dusks.
Byeongkwan, the Prince learned, was his own share of robust.
Despite the worn boots, marred cloak, pants tight
There were no scratches, or marks, or maims within sight
The legs of a runner and stature of a sneak
Hands bold, face stern… not bleak.
Nary a glance was cast his way;
The window instead kept his gaze.
More time for the Prince, then,
To observe and detail this man again
He simply didn’t believe
That Byeongkwan, small and stout,
Could, not him, the title of ‘prettiest’ achieve.
A pout.
All of the staring and looks, unfond
Caught the other’s attention, caution begone
He held the eyes back, even, controlled
Lips poised in a statement untold.
Alright. The attitude was grating.
Sir Junhee would not be abating.
He had been content to pick him apart in silence,
Not intending to challenge him in contest
But the look in those eyes, hawkened, aware,
Had the Prince setting his jaw; rules fair.
No champion or loser was there to be had
In a staring contest between Prince and lad
In the dull entourage of horse and men,
Only they two sat within
No onlookers to keep score
No fair lords to reasoning implore
Just them both, the battle issued,
And the Prince, for a second, wondered, a bold thought ensued,
He wondered, eyes quick
If his opponent’s mouth, lip thick
Could feel as soft as it looked.
As if.

It quirked, then,
A touch of mirth within
The Prince, for all his worth
Turned the other way, stricken.

It wasn’t until the next day, sun half-traveled
That their party arrived back home;
His nerves, of course, rattled.
Few words between the men exchanged
And, frankly, the Prince was thinking better of his crusade
Little to distract meant little to appraise
Besides the one for whom he held disdain.
The familiar air of stone and smoke
Was well enough to clear his head;
Though the dread remained, up rose a smirk and he spoke:
“It’s time to prove it, once and for all.
Your duty is simple, you see; we head to the castle,
Enter the Throne room, follow the hall--
Then we will see the truth. No hassle.”
Doubt flickered, ready to combat,
But curiosity, the Prince knew, would extinguish that.

And so they went, the Prince ahead,
Ready to bury the hatchet on this preposterous thread.
The Mirror would see, admit its mistake
And all would be settled, back in its place.
Through grand halls and leaden doors alike,
They ventured on through; then, a strike.

The Mirror woke from its haze,
Unable to keep the glee from its gaze
As it spotted the link between the two: wrist in hand, eyes ablaze
The Prince, unruffled, tugged Byeongkwan in closer,
Closer, so the damned face could analyze over.
“Alright, Mirror, you have another chance. Pray tell,
Which of us two is fairer? From your eyes, I implore you, lift the veil.”
Each word only seemed
To increase the grin it held, a glean;
“My dear Prince,” it began,
“You seem to misunderstand.
My reflections show
What only you can know.
This boy, fair as he is,
Isn’t the fairest to ever exist.
The question you posed in all your fervor
Applies only to you and your own self, Sir.
This courier, this commoner, isn’t the fairest in this land,
But rather in your own tastes, at first place he stands.”

Junhee’s collar, stiff and majestic,
Now only served to choke him, relentless.
For a spring’s fair day, cool walls surrounding,
He felt the heat spread from cheek to ear too quickly, heart pounding.
“Nonsense,” he mutters, “That can’t be true.”
The Mirror’s face turns, happiness glaring,
“It isn’t for naught, Sir Prince. Ask who the boy sees from his view.”