• CHAPTER I: Men are disappointing.

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    Chapter I: Men are disappointing

    "That's it." Said Minhee throwing herself onto the nearest couch under the confused stares of her two closest friends that were having a sleepover at her then empty house. "I'm never getting married." She declared in a dramatical tone the pair was too used to.

     

    She loosened her corset and took a deep breath, blood rushing to her cheeks.

    It was late at night and the sun had long disappeared into the horizon leaving them with nothing but the darkness of winter sighing its cold air for the last time before spring came.

     

    " I have decided to stay celibate until the day I die."

    "...You're what? Why?" Asked Mina, running to her side, worried, almost tripping on her cream coloured nightgown "Did something happen...again?"

     

    Minhee chuckled while staring at the painted ceilings of her own room- cherubs and happy couples playing in a blooming garden almost as if to make fun of the pitiful reality that was her life.

    She sincerely despised them.

     

    "Let her be, she'll change her mind again in a few weeks." Laughed Kami as she read a novel, her knees to her chest.

    "I won't this time. I swear."

     

    Kami lowered her book, a book she had been obsessed with for the past few weeks.

    Kami had also been supposed to attend the ball but in her usual way, had decided not to- she had always found the parties to be boring and of no interest to her.

    The blonde girl with sapphire eyes preferred staying with her friends at home,in a calm environment,chatting the night away.

     

    "On what?" She smirked.

     

    Minhee sat up to think, the tall girl looked almost tiny under the layers and layers of apple green fabric that made her violet red locks shine the more.

     

    "...On...On…." She began to say " Well what would you want from me anyway?"

    "You have that one book in your library…With a golden cover…"

    "...No this is a present from-"

    "The man that broke your engagement , yes this one please." Finished Kami with another trademark smirk of hers "...Or maybe you think that you will lose our bet...And that's why you are hesitating."

    "You know that's not why she is hesitating, she truly liked him…"

     

    Minhee hugged the dark haired girl, her face disappearing into her green sleeves.

     

    "See? That's why she is my favorite."

    "Fine,fine….Then what about the hourglass in your room?" Said Kami, rolling her eyes.

    "...Deal."

     

    Mina tugged at Minhee's sleeve for her to let go so that she could take a breath.

     

    "...Wasn't it a present from the man that was recently courting you?" She said, putting a strand of hair behind her ear after having taken a deep gasp of air.

     

    Minhee laid down on the couch again with a sigh, all of her dramatics gone- sadness was written all over her face.

     

    "Well…I caught him kissing another girl…"

    "...Ouch." whispered Kami, now fully focused on the story."Do you want to talk about it?"

    "Not really...It's just what it is...A man being a man again."

    "...Well surely they can't be all bad right?" Whispered a maybe too innocent Mina.

     

    A silence and a meaningful exchange of stares between the two girls followed by chuckles that confused the young woman.

     

    "How was the ball apart from that?" Asked Kami to change the subject of conversation.

     

    Minhee tried to remember her evening spent mostly near the bar and in an empty room where she cried her heart out, something that she didn't want her friends to know.

    The last thing she desired was to make them worry about her.

     

    "Well...Boring." she explained, still struggling with the knots in the back of her dress. " It isn't the ball season yet so there was but few people and the music was...tasteless as was the food…But the cocktails..."

     

    Mina helped her friend take off her dress,something no one would expect the daughter of a duke to do but Mina was at ease with the two women, they were her second family.

     

    "Speaking of ball season...When does it start? Mina is of age now and she is to unfortunately join us this year." Asked Kami.

     

    Kami and Minhee were a year older than their friend and had adventured first in the wild jungle that was the marriage scene.

    Both of their parents were astounded as to why they still hadn't made a match, they had been the best "catches" of the previous year.

    The three of them were the richest, most noble, well educated and beautiful girls of their generation in their social class - and so it had been a shock to all to see the two eldest go unwed for as long as they had.

     

    Minhee was the sole heir to her rich parents, her father being a marquess with no nephews to inherit his rank upon his death.

    She had to marry in order to continue their line and carry his title, she was a brilliant prospect for any family and yet none seemed willing to love her as much as she expected her future husband to.

    The candidates had all been more than disappointing so far, a few of them cheating on her before they even were engaged, one being overly possessive and toxic while another ended up preferring the company of men.

     

    Kami ,on the other hand, had taken things slowly from the very beginning, her intellect and interest for what was considered "unnatural" for a woman to like making most of the interested men run away.

    One day she just stopped attending balls altogether and that was the last thing most people heard of her.

    She might have been the daughter of a duke but people had quickly forgotten about her and her quiet aura, something she was quite happy about.

     

     

    "In two weeks." Replied Minhee, finally free of her dress and quickly slipping into her light pink nightgown.

    "Then we should get her a dress." Said Kami

    "No way, I am not letting her go to these...these parties festering with sharks."

    "But you are going too right?" Asked Kami.

    "...I am."

    "Why?"

    "...The food...the music…" started saying Minhee "...The men…" she whispered in a smaller voice.

    "...You might as well give me the hourglass right now then."

    "Hey! I might be going but...but I am not changing my mind! I am just going to have fun with them."

     

    This time it was Mina's turn to laugh.

     

    "Sure~"

    "...Nevermind, I hate the both of you." Stated Minhee before dragging her two friends to her large bed,wrapping them in her covers.

     

    ***

     

    "I am never marrying." Said Kami,her cheeks flushed with rage as she sat in a free sit between her two friends at a busy cafe filled with flowers.

     

    Minhee almost choked on her afternoon tea cakes as she eyed her in confusion while Mina just froze.

    It wasn't new to them that marriage wasn't a thing Kami appreciated but still, she never was the one to first talk about it.

     

    "Is it a trend these days…?" Asked Mina wondering if she should also pledge her celibacy.

    "To what? Be disappointed in men? Oh no women have always been disappointed in them-" quickly managed to say Minhee between two coughs " But why…?"

     

    Kami was boiling as she took her navy blue gloves off, violently stirring a cube of sugar in her lukewarm violet tea.

     

    "Do you remember the man I met a few months ago and that I really appreciated as a FRIEND?"

    "Yes..."

    "He tried to kiss me! The man tried to kiss me!!!"

    "That's awful!"

    "...That's not the worst of it."

     

    Kami rubbed her temples as she saw the still unsatisfied gaze of her two best friends that wanted to know what could be worse than that.

     

    "...He turns 79 this year."

    "...Jesus Christ-" Swore Minhee too loudly, making heads turn their way.

     

    Dumbfounded and outrageous looks aimed at the young lady with violet hair.

     

    "...Our Lord and savior, may you bless this afternoon tea." She finished, hiding her blushing face of shame.

     

    All the customers went back to their respective conversations and so did Kami.

     

    "...When I told him that I wasn't interested in him he called me a wench and a sorceress that had bewitched him!" told the blonde woman before finishing her cup of tea "...I ran away to come here."

    "Ran away?" Asked Minhee

    "Yes, from the bookstore."

     

    The two friends turned their heads to the busy outside street that separated them from one bookstore, Kami's favourite.

     

    "....This one?" Inquired Minhee.

    "Precisely this one, yes."

     

    A laugh escaped Mina's lips.

     

    "I wouldn't call this running away…"

     

    Kami crossed her arms.

     

    "This is a large street and I am short therefore I have short legs." She began " It felt like it took years for me to get here!"

    "I am sure it did." Laughed Minhee

    "You wouldn't get it, you both are too tall for your own good."

     

    Mina handed biscuits to Kami, she didn't want to have a grumpy woman on her hands.

     

    "...Why didn't you tell us about...his age?" Asked Mina

    "You would've judged me."

    "No-" began Minhee

     

    Mina threw her a stare and so did Kami.

     

    "...Well yes maybe but still! You should have mentioned it."

    "It doesn't matter anyway, I am done with men, they disgust me."

     

    ***

     

    Mina came home and sat next to her living room's fireplace, eyeing her parents lovingly talking to one another while holding hands.

    The young girl had grown up surrounded by what could be considered a perfect family.

    She had caring, rich, clever and good looking parents that had always been there for her along with her elder brother, two years older than her and the perfect gentleman to everyone including herself.

    She therefore struggled to understand why her two friends so despised men, surely they were just unlucky...?

     

    " Can you believe it darling...Our daughter might get married this year." Whispered her mother as her brother pretended to read a newspaper on another couch as he spied on the conversation.

    "...Maybe we should keep her here and out of sight for another year-" Whispered the father.

    "...Is marriage that great?" Mina suddenly asked, causing even her brother to raise his head.

    "Well...Can't you tell?" Smiled her mother

    "You two are...special."

    "In what way?"

    "You married for love…Not many people do."

    "Are you worried Mina?" Asked the eldest child of the Han family

     

    She didn't reply and laid back into her chair.

     

    "It's just...My friends have only known heartbreak since they came of age...They have given up on marrying for love already."

     

    Her mother smiled.

     

    "Minhee, Kami and you are too young to give up on it."

    "But you can't deny that not many people do find love in marriage like you two did."

    "Well, not everyone is the daughter of a duke and dutchess." Said her father " You will live a prosperous life whether you marry or not."

    "You have all the time you want to make a choice, we won't pressure you darling...Just have fun alright? The parties are amazing, I am sure you will enjoy them and maybe...Just maybe you'll find the one there."

    "But what if I don't…?"

    "You'll be fine either way, don't worry."

     

    ***

     

    "This is one ugly dress." Said Kami, holding the same book in front of her face as Minhee helped Mina pick a gown.

     

    Minhee turned around with a vexed look on her pretty rosy face, she had picked the dress herself and wasn't going to let Kami destroy her plan of having Mina wear it at her first ball.

     

    "You aren't even looking!"

    "If it is already ugly in my peripheral vision, I can't imagine how ugly it really must be." She stated

    "What do you even know about fashion?"

    "Nothing, but I might have more taste than you." She said ,eyeing the puffy pink and sparkly dress on Mina " This is…just not it."

     

    Minhee rolled her eyes.

     

    "..Or maybe I could choose my own dress…?" Said Mina in an hesitant voice, she hadn't dared interrupt Minhee while she made her try all sorts of dresses present in the shop.

    "...We could do that." Compromised Minhee "What colour do you want?"

    "....White?"

     

    The two older friends eyed one another.

     

    "...White like...Wedding white? Like Matrimonial white..Like I am walking down the aisle kind of white???" Asked Minhee

    "Why not? I like white. It could be off-white too."

    "I am against it. White, the colour of chastity will only attract the monsters of the other gender." Added Kami

    "It would be like…"

    "Like she was a lamb thrown into a pack of wolves." Finished Kami

    "Or…"

    "Or a little bird hunted by hungry vultures..."

    "...Will you let me finish?" Asked Minhee

    "Go ahead."

    "..."

    "So?"

    "...I might have lost my train of thought."

     

    Kami smirked as Mina began taking the dress off.

     

    "It's just not the one." She said " I need something pretty but more...plain?"

    "Relax, you are not choosing a wedding dress…"

    "She might as well, that's what men imagine when they see us at parties, they try to visualize if we would make good wives." Joked Kami " That or our naked bodies-"

    "You're not helping Kami-"

    "...Is it so wrong to want a white dress…?" Mina asked as an assistant brought them a white ball gown with long sleeves.

    "Not at all, we are just worried..."

     

    Mina tried on the white dress, a smile soon appearing on her lips as she saw her reflection.

     

    "...Well, seems like this is the one." Smiled Minhee

    "Indeed."

    "Don't worry about me." Said the young woman "I can take care of myself."

     

    ***

     

    "The first rule of balls is that a young unmarried lady should never be alone somewhere with a man, it would ruin her reputation." Said the older brother in the crowded carriage "The second one is that you have to keep your guards up at all times , even when you are having fun."

    "This I might have to disagree with-" interfered Minhee

    "And how has it been working for you so far?"

    "Hey! That's mean!"

    "No need to get nervous Myungsoo, she'll be fine we'll make sure of it." Added Kami to calm the heir of the Han family "Will you stay?" She asked.

     

    Myungsoo nodded before taking a look out of the window, the paved streets were lit up by the dim streetlights and only the sound of the horses hooves on the stone could be heard in the dark night.

    The weather had gotten warmer, warm enough for the ladies to be able to go outside with only a light cape covering them and their gowns.

     

    "I will stay with Mina first and then I'll have to find my friends among the crowd. I'll count on you two then."

    "Your friends?You have friends?" Asked Mina, joking.

     

    The man rolled his eyes.

     

    "..You would like one of them, he is a writer." He said to Kami who still was reading the same book she had religiously been carrying.

    "I doubt that. I am done with men."

     

    Myungsoo eyed the young woman and blinked a few times.

     

    "...What?"

    "...It's a long story." Mina told him.

    "People won't like this…" smiled Myungsoo " And yet I know that you three don't care."

    "I might have to argue that it is our main charm." Said Minhee as the trio smiled.

    "I might have to agree." Answered Myungsoo.

     

    ***

     

    The estate in front of them was immense, larger than the Han's town mansion which was not to be compared to their ancestral home in Norfolk. It was the house of a new duke that had just inherited the title from his recently deceased father, the duke of Clarence.

    It was the first ball of the season and also the very first party he had ever hosted.

     

    "What if I am not able to recognize some people? Or remember their name?" Asked an anxious Mina who had been brought up away from the parties of the capital.

    "We will help you and they will mostly introduce themselves to you first so don't worry." Said Minhee with a smile on her lips painted with a slight touch of colour.

     

    Myungsoo gave her his arm that she grabbed a little too tightly even for him.

    He escorted her to the limestone stairs and then the main entrance that towered over the small group.

    The man keeping the door bowed to the small party before coughing to clear his old throat.

     

    Mina tightened her grip on her brother's arm, she had heard so many bad things about these parties and yet so few good things- she was nervous and didn't know what to expect but still the excitement was unbearable, she had waited for years for this moment.

    She was now an adult and ready to fly away.

     

    "Are you ready?" He whispered.

    "...I am." She said back.

    "Lord of Norfolk accompanied by his sister the Lady Mina as well as the Lady Kami and the Lady Minhee!" Announced the man before opening the door.

     

    The crowd went silent as soon as it saw the group and all of the guests bowed.

    Most of them were rich but without titles or were from what was considered lower nobility.

    Dukes ranked the highest after royalty, followed by Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and finally Barons.

     

    "..Right I remember why I hated parties, this is awkward." Whispered Kami to her friends as she felt the heavy stares on them.

    "Everything will be alright as long as you smile." murmured Minhee to the brunette who had slightly fallen back to them.

    "You should take your cloaks off ladies." Smiled Myungsoo, reaching a hand out to receive them.

     

    Mina hesitantly pulled back her white hood to admire the large and slightly dim hallway that led to a bright and glowing ballroom.

    Minhee and Kami had carefully prepared her, knowing how important of a day it was for her.

    The young woman shivered as she felt suddenly uncovered, nervously touching the choker made of white pearls that reflected the warm light of the chandeliers on her neck's soft skin.

    It had been a present from her mother to wish her luck, and luck was what she needed the most.

     

    The fireplaces were lit and tables covered with exquisitely presented dishes served in crystal plates assorted with a pyramid of champagne glasses.

    The walls were beautifully molded and covered in gold leaves just in the right places, the coat of arms of the duke of Clarence could be seen embedded in the ceilings above the newly polished wooden parquets that smelled like varnish.

    Whispers soon filled the room, it was the first time most of them were seeing the young woman that had been kept away by her parents as if she was part of the crown's jewels.

     

    "It's so beautiful!" She whispered to her brother who had been eyeing her reaction as she gave him her cloak.

     

    Mina might have been worried but so was Myungsoo who knew too well what kind of people filled that crowd.

    He had always taken it upon himself to protect and shelter her from the world outside and to make sure that she would always smile.

     

    Mina had been a weak child, always sick and he could remember it getting so bad that their parents had been scared for her life at one point. He still hadn't forgotten the fear he had felt back then and had sworn upon his life that he would die before letting something ever happen to her.

     

    "Is it?" He asked with a reassuring smile maybe for her or himself.

     

    Myungsoo knew that it was time.

    He knew that as soon as he would let go of her hand she would enter a new phase of her life, a phase where she would grow apart from him and their family and it felt all too soon for him- especially as he knew how little time they actually had left together.

     

    He knew that she wasn't the same little girl that used to ask him to read her stories at night or that would try to follow him when he left to ride with his friends.

    He had to let her go.

     

    Some women rushed to curtsy before him, almost drowning under the layers and layers of tulle fabric - if the three girls were the best catches there were then Myungsoo was the ultimate prize at that party and he wasn't about to forget it.

     

    "Your Grace~ We missed you!" They whined and Mina could swear that she saw her friends roll their eyes and her brother swallow his saliva out of discomfort.

     

    Myungsoo reluctantly let go of his sister's arm.

     

    "I'm sorry, go ahead will you?"

     

    She pouted and mouthed a word to him that caused him to smile.

     

    "Traitor!"

     

    Her free arms were soon grabbed by the two women by her side.

     

    "Did you think you could escape us young lady?" Joked Minhee.

    "I wouldn't dare-" laughed Mina

    "Now, let's make a good evening out of this miserae party." Kami smiled.

     

    Myungsoo sadly watched as his little sister disappeared into the crowd, knowing too well that he would have to get used to the view of her back facing him.

     

    ***

     

    There were so many new faces for the young woman to remember and among them piercing stares that made her feel uncomfortable.

     

    "...They are staring." She said in a discreet and low voice to her friends.

    "Who?" Asked Kami

    "...Everyone?"

    "The men stare because well...You are stunning and of the highest rank there is...And also because they are men and therefore disgusting by nature."

    "And the girls...?"

    "Jealousy. Your family has always been the favourite of the royal family and you are their godchild, you are richer than they are and more beautiful than they could ever be so they know that if you marry, you will marry the best man there is here therefore taking away their chance at social climbing." Explained Kami.

    "I just have to avoid the best catches then and I will be fine right?"

     

    Minhee laughed.

     

    "It will be hard, one of them is the host of tonight's party." She said "You'll see him eventually."

    "...Oh."

    "Don't worry, he is a gentleman,you should be safe."

    "Who?" Said a masculine voice.

     

    A man walked to the trio and bowed.

     

    "Your Graces, My Lady." He said, respectively addressing Mina and Kami before smiling as he laid his eyes on Minhee.

     

    Minhee's face grew dark and her fist white as she clenched them.

    She wanted to punch his teeth back into his skull.

     

    "You left so quickly last time Lady Minhee,I was looking everywhere for you."

     

    A scoff escaped her lips, a scoff that made her friends raise an eyebrow.

     

    "Oh were you? You were rather busy with some other woman that night so I decided to leave early."

     

    The man's face grew pale.

     

    "...You...saw?"

    "Every second of it."

    "Oh so he is the jerk-" began Mina, frowning as Kami was about to strangle the man.

    "No one, don't bother wasting your time on him." Coldly said Minhee.

     

    The man left in a rush once he realized that he had lost Minhee's affection, embarrassed beyond repair.

     

    "...He looked like a donkey Minhee." Whispered Mina with a disgusted expression on her face.

    "Don't mention it, alcohol must have clouded my judgement at the previous parties." She sighed before lightly laughing.

    "...A donkey kicked in the face by another donkey." Corrected Kami.

    "I must have been mad!"

    "See? This is why you should not drink Mina." Said Kami. "Alcohol makes you think strange things."

    "On this I strongly disagree, and now that you mentioned it I might go grab a drink."

     

    Mina blinked.

     

    "...Already?"

    "It's never too early for a drink my dear." She said before leaving for the bar.

     

    The two friends watched as their friend dressed in a lovely dusty pink dress disappeared in the crowd.

     

    ***

     

    "-And I inherited two pretty horses from my grandparents that I intend to breed, do you have any interest in breeding horses my ladies?" Asked a gentleman that had been talking about horses for the past fifteen minutes to the bored pair that had instead been focused on how asymmetric his eyes were and how his nose occupied most of his face.

     

    It might have been shallow and rude to judge people on their appearance but then again, it wasn't as if they had a lot to go on.

    Most praised them for their noble lineage and others talked about their issues as if in hope that the two of them would grant them favors.

    Conversations were boring and led to nothing.

     

    Kami hid her laugh behind her open book as Mina looked at her for help.

     

    "Uh...No but I am sure that it is an interesting...activity…?" She coughed.

    "You should watch them go at it...They are magnificent beasts."

     

    It became harder for the pair not to laugh.

     

    "You and I could be…" he leaned and whispered in the brunette ears not quietly enough so that Kami wouldn't hear"...Like a stallion and a mare together, beautiful."

     

    Kami lost it and broke into a laugh while Mina cringed the most she had ever done in her whole life time.

     

    "What's wrong?" Asked the man both worried and obfuscated " What's so funny?"

    "I think that you did enough for tonight sir." Said a stranger behind him.

    "Who are you-"

     

    He turned around only to come face to face with a man taller than he was and gasped.

     

    "...My Lord, I am sorry." He apologized before running away.

     

    Kami lowered her book to eye the newcomer with her ocean blue eyes.

    He wasn't that tall, the previous man had just been extremely short but then again, she wasn't the one to judge someone on their height.

    He had blue black hair that was half swept back to allow people to take a closer look at his face that was, in her eyes, quite handsome.

    He was quite the specimen.

     

    " I couldn't listen to him any longer, I apologize. It was pure torture." He smirked

    "What? You didn't appreciate the talk about horses?" Joked Kami

    "Did you?"

     

    Mina was still cringing.

     

    " Not at all- It was the most awful conversation I ever had."

    "You will hear worse at these parties I promise you." He laughed.

     

    Kami hadn't stopped staring at him and the wittiness in his brown eyes.

    She liked them.

     

    "It sounds like you do not enjoy them?"

    "The parties? I don't, but so do you right?"

     

    Kami was intrigued.

     

    "How would you know?"

    "No one brings a book to such a party, especially this book." He said

     

    Kami blinked, it wasn't a well known book, a book written mostly for women and in which the main character was a woman, something quite rare at the time.

    She identified as the character, a blonde girl like her that went on adventures and traveled the world in her stead.

     

    "You have read it?"

     

    He only smiled and bowed.

     

    "My ladies…" he formally murmured before going away.

     

    Kami closed her book and raised her eyebrow.

     

    "He just left like that…?" Asked Mina confused.

    "....What a jerk."

    "....Men are weird."

    "You haven't seen the worst of it yet."

     

    ***

     

    Mina was left alone as Kami had gone somewhere else without her, probably to the bathroom.

    She was soon surrounded by curious faces that wanted to exchange words with her.

    She was trying to smile but felt overwhelmed quite quickly and found herself unable to reply to their never ending questions.

     

    "I-"

    "Maybe you could let my guest have some space so that she can breath?" Asked a kind voice behind the crowd that soon split into two "Maybe then she would be able to answer your questions."

     

    Mina raised her eyes to see a tall man in the familiar tailored outfit that only dukes could wear. She eyed the medals hanging on top of the black and red fabric and soon recognized the symbol of the house of Clarence.

     

    He was younger than what she had expected and more handsome - handsome with his black locks and dark eyes shaped like those of a feline or maybe a fox.

    It was the kind of face one would find in a museum, a face sculpted by masterful hands.

    She finally took a breath, grateful for his sudden apparition and acknowledged him.

     

    "...Your Grace."

     

    He leaned and whispered in her ear, shivers traveling her skin.

     

    "Are you alright? Do you need my help?"

     

    A shiver went down her spine again and she quickly stepped aside, suddenly self aware of the heat in her cheeks.

     

    "...Yes."

     

    He stepped closer again and whispered, gently offering her his arm.

     

    "Don't be so tense, they are analyzing every single movement that you make, you have to appear strong or else they will think you are weak and will take advantage of you."

     

    She nodded before whispering back into his ear.

     

    "...Thank you." She said, taking his arm.

    "Should I bring you to your brother-"

    "Mina!" She heard Myungsoo call as he went through the crowd.

     

    She shyly smiled, her face maybe too close to his.

     

    "You won't have to, he is here." She said before stepping back.

     

    The crowd dispersed, they could deal with two high ranking nobles but not with another one, they felt like they were intruding on a conversation they weren't meant to hear.

     

    "Are you alright?" Asked Myungsoo, checking on his sister. " I am sorry they rushed towards me and I couldn't really dismiss them-"

    "I am fine thanks to his Grace-"

    "Oh please, just call me Minhyun." He smiled "I am a friend of you brother Mina."

     

    The young woman blinked.

     

    "You know my name?"

    "How could I not? He told me a lot about you."

    "Oh did he?" She asked, eyeing the mentioned man who just coughed.

    "...Well I do need someone to take care of you if something ever happens to me-"

     

    Mina rolled her eyes.

     

    "Oh stop saying that ,nothing is going to happen to you !"

     

    Minhyun chuckled, staring at the two siblings.

     

    "..But still...How did you recognize me?" She asked, confused

     

    He smiled and leaned in.

     

    "Hmm...Let me see…" he took a strand of her hair" The long and beautiful black hair that runs in your family, the lovely beauty mark under your pretty dark eyes and your lovely smile…?"

     

    Blood rushed to the young woman's cheeks once more.

     

    "Stop flirting with my sister when I am here or I'll have to kick you."

     

    A melodic laugh escaped the duke's lips who stepped back.

     

    "It was nice finally meeting you Mina, I hope you'll have a nice time at my party."

     

    ***

     

    Minhee was disappointed, what kind of party only had Champagne?

    Champagne was good but not good enough for the mood she was in.

    She wanted to drink until her brain erased the annoying face of the man that had, more or so, cheated on her.

    She sat on a couch, a little farther away from the heart of the party, she needed some calm.

    She needed some time away from the judging stares and all the gossiping.

     

    Minhee knew that she had to go back to Mina, she had promised her after all that she would be there for her first ball, but she had underestimated how bad she would feel seeing her surrounded by all the curious and amazed faces.

    She had once been in her place, she used to gather all the gazes and compliments, all until one night, a single night that changed her reputation forever.

    A mistake in the night that she was soon reminded of by the man that stood in front of her.

     

    "...It's been a long time Minhee." Whispered the man that was a decade or more older than she was.

     

    She wasn't drunk enough to deal with this, not drunk enough to ignore his soft eyes and his little forehead wrinkle that she had always found so attractive.

    She wanted to ask him what he was doing there and why but wasn't able to.

     

    "...Go away." She simply told him, her throat tightening.

    "Are you mad at me?"

     

    She stood up, grabbed his arm and dragged him into an empty and dark room before anyone saw them together.

    She knew how bad things would get if they did.

     

    The room they were in was rather small and was only lit by the moonlight, a moonlight that was bright enough for her to see that he hadn't changed at all.

     

    "...What are you doing here? When did you come back? Why?"

    "...I came back for you." He whispered, caressing her cheek with his hand.

     

    She bit her lips, unable to push him back.

    He had a strange spell on her, maybe it was in the way his hands were so caring and made her feel special when she felt like she had only disappointed people for most of her life.

    The man was good looking but not as much as Myungsoo or some of her other lovers were- he had a palpable charisma, an aura around him that was surpassed by no one in her young eyes.

     

    "...Stop it." She begged "...Do you know how hard things have been for me because of you?"

     

    There were tears in her eyes.

    She remembered the rumors, the constant chattering that followed her everywhere she went, she remembered the disappointment in her parents gaze as they looked at her.

    She had wanted to tell them that she hadn't given herself to him out of a whim and that she had loved him and thought that their love would lead to marriage eventually.

    Only Mina and Kami had been there for her then, never judging her and embracing her until her tears all dried.

     

    But Minhee had never told them the truth, the fact that she had hoped she would meet him again at the parties and that it was truly why she went to them so often ,even when she hated the people there.

    She had hoped to meet him again.

     

    "...I heard and I am sorry, it never was my intention I-"

     

    She had thought about what she would tell him once she met him again.

    She had thought about hitting him, maybe killing him….

    But now that he was in front of her all of her strength was gone and all she could do was admire him like she used to.

     

    "... I worked so hard for people to think that our...mistake...What we did together was just a rumor and not the truth." She whispered.

     

    He stayed silent, his eyes unable to meet hers.

     

    "...You ruined me, my chances of marriage and my life on that day and you left me."

    " I had business to deal with in France I-"

    "Months! I waited for months for you to come back and not a single letter…"

     

    She sat on a couch and took her face in her hands, she heard him come closer.

    She should have pushed him away and she knew it but she let him come closer.

     

    " I am sorry about that...I wasn't playing with you back then, I was serious, I wanted to marry you." He said, taking her hands "...I still want to."

     

    She looked up to his face, surprised as he kissed her fingers.

    She had fallen for him during her first ball, just a year prior to that one, on a quite warm spring night.

    She had fallen for his maturity, how clever and composed he was compared to boys her age- and that's what they were to her, young boys that were rough and unrefined.

    He was sophisticated, kind and polite and one thing led to another.

    She gave in to his sweet words and soft touch.

    He had been her first love.

     

    "...Do you mean it?"

     

    Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe she had just missed him or maybe she still loved him.

    She was tired of men chasing her and her chasing them, she wanted to rest, she wanted to give in to him.

     

    "I do."

     

    She missed his caring touch, the kisses he would give her.

    He made her feel cared for and that's what she needed, affection.

     

    "Will you give me another chance?" He asked, his fingers tracing her waist.

     

    She felt herself waver.

     

    ***

     

    Kami had been quietly spying on the mysterious stranger that had saved her and Mina from the horse-loving man.

    He was alone by the fireplace, reading a book from one of the shelves near him, almost like a model posing for a painting.

    The young woman got closer, step by step and rested her back against the wall- still watching him.

     

     

    "Are you done staring at me?" He inquired with a smile.

    "....Someone once told me that reading a book at a party meant that that person isn't enjoying the said party." She said, taking a glance at the book he was reading, a classic.

    "I wonder who it was that told you such a thing, I am having the time of my life, can't you tell?" He smirked.

     

    Kami laughed.

     

    "Why are you following me?" He asked crossing his arms across his chest

    "Am I?"

    "Your eyes have been for quite some time…."

    "And so were yours every time I pretended to look away."

     

    Kami showed him her book again.

     

    "So have you read it? You didn't answer my question earlier."

    "I have, why?"

    "Well...It's not the type of book men usually read?"

    "And what type of book is it that men usually read?"

     

    Kami paused.

     

    "...Books about…Men?"

     

    The stranger carefully took Kami's book and went through its pages.

     

    "Women are half of this world, if I only read books about men then I am not seeing the other half of the world I live in."

     

    The man also rested against the wall, slightly closer to her.

     

    "What did you think about it?"

    "...Do I have to be honest?"

    "Yes, please."

    "Badly written, it lacks a lot of elements and the story is quite basic in itself."

     

    Kami took her book back ,pouting.

     

    "Well then you know nothing about literature sir…?"

    "Nam Woohyun."

    "Ah...The name of a man that lacks tastes."

    "...May I say something in my defense?"

    "Go ahead."

     

    He smiled.

     

    "It might be lacking but I like the main character, she's interesting and brilliant."

    "...I may forgive you then."

    "Thank you my Lady."

    "Kami, my name is Kami."

     

    He smirked and politely kissed her hand.

     

    "I know."

    "How?"

    "Who doesn't?"

    "What-"

     

    Kami watched as the man left again, another smirk on his face, she wanted to kick him.

     

    ***

     

    Myungsoo was talking again with other people as Minhyun also entertained his guests.

    Mina was trying to make conversation ,or rather had to listen to the constant babbling of two men that hadn't left her side for the past thirty minutes, she missed her friends that seemed to have forgotten all about her and their promise to spend a good time together.

    Her monotone evening came to a halt when a perhaps drunk woman spilled her champagne glass on her dress.

     

    "Oh- I'm so sorry-" she said, malice in her eyes, showing Mina that it wasn't an accident and that she was far from drunk.

    "...It's ok."

    "You shouldn't be standing here your Grace, you were in the way." She provocatively smiled.

     

    Mina clenched her fist, remembering how Kami (after reading a book about martial arts) had taught her how to punch someone in the right spot to make them drop to the ground.

    However, just as she was about to commit murder,Minhyun walked to them smiling in his radiant beauty.

    He didn't have to say a word, his presence and stare were enough to denounce her action.

     

    "...Where is the nearest bathroom?" Asked Mina, sighing as he joined them.

    "You have to go upstairs, should I show you the way?"

    "No I'm fine." Said the young woman before hurriedly leaving, she just wanted to get out of there.

     

    Minhyun watched her leave and leaned in closer to the drunk woman's ear.

    She blushed and brought a hand to her mouth, expecting him to ask her if she was alright with his sweet voice.

     

    "Your Grace I-"

    "How ungraceful, should I tell your husband that you have been spilling drinks on young women while lurking around young men all evening long?"

     

    Minhyun coldly smiled before stepping back.

     

    "Now if you'll excuse me…"

     

    ***

    The corridors were seemingly endless but quite narrow in some part of the second floor.

    Mina had passed by rooms and rooms without finding a bathroom and finally sat down on the floor, she was alone anyway no one was there to judge her, she could drop the ladylike act.

    The guests were all on the lower grounds and were too drunk to notice that she was gone, it was her time to stop and breath.

     

    She considered staying there for the rest of the evening, parties were not what she had imagined.

    Formalities and greed filled people, fake laughs and smiles- cold people everywhere in a beautiful, almost fairy tale like mansion.

    She just wanted to make new friends, to see the world and yet still felt like she was trapped in a bird cage.

    She just wasn't enjoying herself and regretted coming at all to begin with.

     

    "See? I told you that I should have shown you the way." Smiled Minhyun, sitting against the wall across from hers.

     

    His legs were long and the tip of his shoes touched the tip of hers.

     

    "It's a true labyrinth." She lightly laughed, running a hand in her hair.

     

    He eyed her, a sad sigh escaping his lips.

     

    "...You are not having a good time are you?"

    "...Can I be truthful?"

    "Why wouldn't you be?'

    "Well...You are the host of the party, I wouldn't want to offend you." She said

    "You won't...It's my first time hosting one and I am quite sure that it isn't great, I am in dire need of feedback."

     

    Mina hesitated for an instant ,but then again, he was her brother's friend, he wouldn't take it to heart and even if he did, she would probably never see him again- she was done with parties.

     

    "...It is awfully boring so far." She confessed, biting her lip to conceal her smile.

     

    He laughed and ruffled his hair, looking younger and less burdened suddenly.

    She could imagine that it wasn't easy for him to carry such a heavy title at such a young age.

     

    "I guess it is, I am not having a good time so far either."

    "Why?"

    "For the same reasons as yours I guess?"

    "I doubt that people look at you as if they are about to eat you…."

    "Well...you kind of did."

    "I didn't-"

    "But then again so did I as I looked at you." He smiled.

     

    Mina blushed as he leaned in and delicately grabbed the end of her dress that was wet, she became redder as he brought the fabric closer to his face to find out which liquid it was.

    She could see the soft silk threads graze the tip of his pretty nose and then graze his lips.

     

    "...Champagne...It should wash off pretty easily without leaving a stain later on." He innocently smiled against the white chiffon layered with ivory organza.

     

    Mina wasn't breathing as she stared at his pretty and hypnotic smile, feeling bad for imagining that he might have other intentions behind his movements.

    Feeling even more bad for hoping that he truly had followed her for something more than just an extended form of loyalty towards her brother.

    It was the first meaningful meeting she had made during that all night.

     

    "...I...I am lucky that it wasn't red wine." She whispered before slowly pulling the fabric back towards her.

    "Do I make you feel uncomfortable…? If I do then I can leave-"

     

    Mina leaned in and grabbed his hand as he was about to stand up.

     

    "No- no you don't…" she coughed, feeling her cheeks get redder by the second before letting go of him "...It's just that I am already breaking the first rule by staying with you like this…"

     

    He raised an eyebrow.

     

    "A rule…?"

    "...An unmarried lady should never be seen alone with a man..?"

    "...Did your brother tell you that?" He laughed

    "Yes, how did you know?"

    "Well because that is typical of him…?" Minhyun said "He is just being protective, don't worry. There's no such things as party rules."

    "...Oh."

    "But still you never know what some men might do so be careful ok?"

    "I will…"

     

    He nodded in approval.

     

    "Well...Since we broke the first rule imposed by your brother anyway...What about a walk by ourselves in the gardens?" He asked, reaching his hand out to her.

    "This sounds like something I shouldn't accept…"

     

    Mina smiled.

     

    "...But I'll let you lead the way this time."

     

    ***

     

    The gardens were blooming under the moonlight, roses and baby-breaths intertwined along the white walls of the mansion.

     

    "It's lovely." Mina whispered, walking a feet away from him.

    "Is it?"

     

    She nodded.

     

    "Our garden here is...small. I miss the one we have back in our castle." She said.

    "Do you miss living there?"

    "Sometimes…? I miss how calm it is...Do you miss yours?"

     

    He shook his head.

     

    "I am an only child, my family castle always felt too empty and big for me, it was always cold."

    "I see…"

    "That's why I am grateful for your brother, he often came to visit me there even when he was busy."

    "How come we have never met then?"

    "You were kept away and sick most of the time, I never got the chance to."

     

    Minhyun stopped to watch a scarlet rose and so did Mina.

     

    "...Well...Not really, I did see you once." He said.

     

    The young woman blinked and raised an eyebrow.

     

    "...I am sure that I would've remembered you if I had."

    "Why?" He asked

     

    Mina turned around to look at the moon, but really to hide her red cheeks, she never had the opportunity to stay this close to a man apart from her brother before.

    It was as if she was walking along a magical being, a rare creature she was seeing for the first time.

    She was tall but so was he, his hands were larger than hers, making her fingers look almost fragile.

    He was her opposite and the difference between the two of them made her heart race.

     

    "W..Well you have a face that isn't easy to forget I guess…?"

     

    He took her hand and made her turn around so that she would face him again.

     

    "Hmmm….Because it isn't to your taste or the opposite?" He asked with the most teasing smile there was.

     

    Mina found the fact that he played with her shyness annoying, annoyingly attractive that is.

    She was tired of being swaddled in a blanket of security by her family and friends, all that she wanted was to feel the rush of life and its ups and downs.

    He was giving her glimpses of it.

     

    "Well...Objectively speaking…You aren't unpleasant to look at..." she replied, scarlet.

     

    He smiled.

     

    "...You were playing the piano in your music room when I first saw you, but you were too busy to notice me or your brother I guess." He told her "We left without interrupting you."

    "So that's how you recognized me…"

    "...That and because of the constant mumbling from the men telling one another how beautiful you are tonight?"

    "Oh stop it!" She laughed to hide her embarrassment

    "I am not joking…" he seriously said before bringing her hand to his lips "You shined like a diamond tonight and as one might be entranced by such jewels, all men were."

     

    Including him?

    Mina wanted to ask him what he had thought of her when she first came through that door, glowing and smiling at this new world that was opening to her, she wanted to know if she had taken his breath away too, if she had caught his sight even for a second before they exchanged their first words.

     

    "...You lie."

     

    What the lady ignored is that he had been the first one to notice her as he stood at the top of the stairs, coming down to greet guests he had no interest in.

    She had been there, carelessly giving away smiles that he considered to be too precious to be witnessed by the greedy vultures that wouldn't hesitate to seize the golden prize that she was.

    She was beautiful, rich and of noble blood, but most of all she was young- too young in fact for most of the men that were there to look for a bride.

    Minhyun had seen himself in her in a way, he had been ignorant too at one point and wanted to spare her the brutal downfall that was reality.

    And so he had waited for an opportunity to whisk her away to a calm place, hoping that he would be able to keep her a little more the way she was until the night ended.

    He had promised her brother that he would take care of her after all.

     

    Minhyun kissed the back of her hand, his gaze not leaving hers, he could feel her heart flutter under his touch.

     

    "I wouldn't dare lie to you."

     

    Mina knew that it was all but a formal kiss and yet she couldn't forget the feeling of his lips on her skin.

    She couldn't help but wonder if this is why Minhee loved being in men's company no matter how much she loathed them the next morning.

     

    "I…I should go back inside, my brother and my friends must be looking for me." She whispered, holding her hand to her heart.

    "Let me take you back."

    "People will see us-"

    "And I will tell them that you felt unwell and needed some fresh air." He smiled "You'll be fine ,I promise."

     

    He offered her his arm this time and she took it as they both walked back into the party.

    Eyes were locked on their arms, some already up to gossip about the pair.

    Some even going as far as to suspect that the duke might have found his duchess.

     

    ***

     

    "I see that you've met Woohyun." Said Myungsoo, joining Kami as they both watched the man leave through the main entrance. "He was the writer friend I told you about."

    "Is he? Then I am afraid to tell you that his tastes when it comes to literature are great but that his opinion when it comes to the actual content of the books is rather disappointing."

    "Oh really? How come?"

     

    Kami showed him her book.

     

    "He wasn't able to recognize what a masterpiece this is!"

     

    Myungsoo took a look at the author's name and smirked.

     

    "What? What's this smile?" She asked.

    "Well…" he laughed " He has good reasons to be critical of it, he is the one who wrote it."

     

    Kami froze and eyed her friend's brother with large eyes.

     

    "...But the pen name…"

    " A fake one, he wouldn't be able to publish such stories under his true name, his family would forbid it."

    "...No way...I...I have to talk to him..I have so many questions to ask about the book!"

     

    Myungsoo grabbed her arm.

     

    "Another day, there will be plenty of parties for you to come to and see him."

     

    Kami cringed, Myungsoo was a sneaky man and she knew that it was his way of making sure that even if he wasn't there, Kami would be keeping an eye on his little sister instead.

     

    "Do you really see me going to another party…? You do know how much I hate dresses and wearing this much jewelry right?" She said pointing at her pale blue dress and heavy jewelry.

     

    He raised his shoulders and let them down again.

     

    "You won't really have a choice, the next party is a royal one."

     

    A loud sigh escaped her lips.

    Royal parties were painfully boring, more than the regular parties that sometimes could turn out to be entertaining (especially when mysterious writers were involved)- but these were all about formality and displays of wealth, Kami disapproved of them and yet could not escape them, her parents would throw her in a carriage before she had the time to say no.

     

    "Would you help me find your friends? It's getting late, we should get back."

    "You won't have to search for them Cinderella,look, Minhee is already here-"

     

    Kami wasn't really sure as to what angered her the most as she froze, the fact that this man was back and dared walk by Minhee's side or that her friend was lightly, but still smiling,holding onto his arm.

     

    "...This has to be a joke." Whispered Myungsoo to her who had helped the trio deal with the aftermath of the scandal "Did she lose her mind…???"

    "This can't be happening."

     

    The man stopped in his tracks as he met the eyes of the pair, most definitely willing to end his life on the spot and whispered some words before leaving Minhee's side.

     

    The young woman hurried to her friend.

     

    "...How was your evening..?" Asked Minhee,uncomfortable under their heavy stares.

    "Are you out of your mind..???" Whispered Myungsoo

    "Not here Myungsoo, people are listening...But you better explain this later Minhee." Said Kami " We are leaving as soon as we find Mina."

     

    Minhee sighed, lowering her head as the crowd grew louder.

    Kami eyed them to see what agitated them and froze once more as she saw a glowing Mina hanging onto Minhyun's arm.

     

    Kami could recognize the familiar red flush on Mina's cheek, the way her body leaned towards him and the way her sparkling eyes looked for his.

    Her evening was taking a turn for the worst, how was she going to deal with her friends?

     

    "Mina!" Myungsoo called rushing to her and his old friend "I've been looking for you!"

     

    Mina's and Minhyun's complice smiles did not escape the glance of Kami.

     

    "Sorry, I needed some fresh air." She lied.

     

    Myungsoo whispered a few words to his sister, sending her to the duo.

     

    "Go outside first, I'll join you in an instant." He said.

     

    Kami grabbed her friends' arms and dragged them outside without letting them a moment to breathe.

     

    "What's wrong?" Asked Mina, confused and suddenly out of her daze-like state "Are we already leaving?"

    "Oh yes we are!"

     

    Kami stopped before the carriage.

     

    "...You both have some explaining to do." She said "...Especially you Minhee but we are dealing with everything tomorrow, I don't have enough energy to hear whatever excuse you have for this." Finished Kami, looking at Minhee.

     

    The blonde woman then focused on their cadet.

     

    "...What's happening with you and Minhyun?"

     

    Mina blushed and that time, Minhee saw it too.

     

    "...Oh no."

    "I think...I think I might like him."

    "....Jesus Christ." Swore Minhee.

    "...Just kill me already." Sighed Kami.


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  • Family


    "Junho…." called out Yujin to a still annoyed Junho 

     

    Nothing but the growlings and distant screams.

    Her friend stayed quiet.

     

    "We are in a freaking apocalypse...Are you really going to be mad at me?"asked the girl, crossing her arms across her chest."What if I die? You'll regret it."

    "Yes. And I thought that you were ready to die?"

     

    Junho was stubborn, he always was.

    Yujin pouted.

     

    "Why are you angry?"

    "Because you are so dumb that my brain is hurting."

    "Oh? You have one?-" started Yujin before seeing that he wasn't in a mood to joke.

     

    Junho sighed again, running a hand in his hair.

    Yujin was feeling especially strange and uncomfortable in a way in that moment.

    Junho looked cool and she wasn't used to it.

    Junho was supposed to be the one relying on her and not the contrary.

    Junho was supposed to be shy with others and playful with her but he wasn't.

    He was serious and this new look looked good on him.

     

    "I do but not you. Have you even thought about what your parents would feel if you died?" 

    "...No."

    "Well...Who's the one without a brain then?"

     

    Her parents...She liked them, they had always been good to her,had always cared for her and she was thankful for everything they had ever provided for her.

    But she was alone apart from them, she had no siblings or cousins, no uncles or aunts and grandparents left alive. She was the sole recipient of her parent's overbearing and suffocating love.

    Yujin thought of herself as a low-maintenance  daughter, she liked simple things, she liked to be free.

    Her parents struggled to get her and her way of life, always seeking to change her into the ideal daughter they had hoped to have, a girl just like Minju.

    A rose without a thorn, a perfect doll they could leave in their "perfect" home.

    But Yujin wasn't like that at all, and only Junho understood her.

    Maybe it was why she had fallen for Minju ,because she was a perfect girl that finally illustrated the dream that her parents had always imposed onto her.

    She was the long-sought  image that had previously been a simple shadow in her mind.

    Maybe it had been the Yujin, always respectful and filial to her parents that had loved the pink-haired high schooler. 

    Not the real her.

    It made sense, she knew nothing about her after all and her heart didn't hurt her anymore.

    She was alright.

     

    "Are you ok?" asked Junho who had gotten closer without her even noticing.

     

    Yujin shook her head.

    Junho had been right, it had been nothing but a unrequited fling, a crush that had lasted less than a cherry blossom's petal's life.

    She had been a kid in love for a short time.

    Could she even call it love?

     

    "...You are right Junho, maybe I am an idiot indeed." admitted Yujin, wiping away a tear from her cheek.

    "Uh…? S..Sorry I was just joking…You aren't an idiot.." panicked Junho

     

    She had nothing, no one  to hang on, her parents were probably dead and Minju was away with someone that she loved.

    It was funny to think that for all this time she had gotten mad at Junho for not making new friends when he was surrounded by more people than her.

    She was lost and full of regrets.

    She should have told her parents that she loved them, she should have confessed to Minju, she should have opened herself to more people.

     

    "...I'm scared Junho."confessed Yujin, lightly tugging at his shirt. "I don't want to die…" cried the girl in a broken voice.

    "...I won't let you die." swore the once so little Junho, taking her hand in his.

    "Aren't you scared?"

    "I am. I am scared to death." confessed Junho " But it's normal.We need to be scared to survive."

    "I want to be stronger." whispered Yujin

     

    Junho lightly laughed and wiped her tears away.

     

    "You already are, do you remember all the bruises you gave me?"

    "I was not speaking of that kind of strength…"

     

    Junho intertwined their fingers.

     

    "...You don't have to."

    "Why?"

     

    Junho smiled, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb.

     

    "Because no matter how tall we get and how we act…." started the boy "...We still are kids."

     

    Kids.

    They were two kids locked in a storage room waiting to be saved, hand in hand, shivering.

    Yujin finally noticed how much Junho's fingers were shaking.

    He was trying his best not to scare her.

     

    "But-"

     

    A roar, a visceral scream.

     

    "Hush…" smiled Junho slightly tensing up as someone, something started banging against the locked door. "Look at me and don't listen to them." asked Junho before covering her ears with his hands.

     

    The room was dark, only lighted by the rare moonlight rays coming from the small window at the top of the wall behind them.

    Junho gently leaned towards her, resting her forehead against hers.

    His hands were warm and so were his eyes filled with fear and worries.

    Yujin noticed how he was now towering over her with his height and large shoulders, how he was slowly losing his baby-like features.

    She wondered if he appeared different to her that night because they were maybe contaminated and slowly turning into one of them, because they were maybe going to die in there without ever being found, because it felt like there was only the two of them left alone in the world.

    Yujin slowly caressed the hands covering her ears and felt Junho shiver at the cold touch of her skin.

    Everything was silent and calm, she could have almost fallen asleep if not for the climbing and visible tension in his neck.

    She could tell from his reaction, even though not able to hear it, that the banging was growing louder with each hit.

    She could feel the powerful hits through the wall she was resting against.

     

    "Junho…"called out Yujin, as her friend nervously looked over his shoulder at the shaking door that would soon break open.

     

    If they were going to die, she wanted it to be while looking at his eyes.

     

    <<Yes..?>> managed to read the girl on his lips

     

    This was a sad end, not the one she had expected for the both of them.

    But she wasn't mad or annoyed by it.

    Because thanks to it she had realized that she hadn't been alone for a long time, that her friend had always been by her side when she had needed a shoulder to cry on, from the beginning until the end.

    He was her one and only  friend, he was her family.

    Yujin's eyes got teary once again, she was happy even though the fear was slowly eating at her stomach.

     

    "Thank you for being my friend." thanked Yujin.

     

    <<Can you hear me…?>> read the girl on his lips.

     

    Yujin didn't reply.

    Junho deeply breathed in.

     

    <<I love you.>>

     

    The door broke open.


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  •  

    Disappointment


    Minju had thought that it would be pleasant, that it would go smoothly and that she would love it.

    But she hadn't had fun and hadn't been able to go all the way either.

    They had stopped after a few kisses and foreplay.

    It was already too painful.

    She had been crying and didn't know what was wrong with her. She had cried even when Yohan had embraced her, even when he had whispered in her ear that they didn't need to continue if she wasn't at ease.

    He had been perfect and even then, she had pushed him away.

     

    "I'm sorry…" whispered Minju again, eyeing Yohan who was standing by the window, staring at the monsters.

     

    They had received the messages from Mina and Myungsoo, they had heard the awful cries outside of their room and had seen the news.

    Things had now died down and so had her tears.

    She was just hurting now, and so was he.

     

    "You don't have to apologize ok?" smiled Yohan, turning around before walking to her and kneeling before her.

     

    Minju couldn't meet his eyes and jumped back when their fingers touched.

    She was scared.

     

    "...Minju..?" asked a worried Yohan, biting down on his lip.

     

    She was scared of her body and the way it had reacted, she was scared that Yohan was and would be disappointed.

    What if it always was like this? What if she always ended up crying when he touched her?

    Was if it always this way? 

    She was scared.

    She was scared that she wouldn't be able to enjoy his caresses that she loved so much but that her body refused.

     

    "...I'm sorry." repeated once more Minju, in a quieter voice.

    "Don't-" started Yohan, reaching out to her but stopping before his hand cupped her cheek. "..Don't be."

     

    She hated herself, she hated seeing the guilt and sorrow in his eyes when he had done nothing wrong.

     

    "I'm sorry. We should have waited." sadly stated Yohan before standing again and leaving her side.

     

    She wanted him to stay and wanted to hug him but the words couldn't come out of her mouth.

    She was frozen.

     

    "Yohan…"

    "..It's ok...We have more important things to think about." sighed the boy she loved so much, rubbing his temples.

     

    Minju wrapped the sheets around her naked shoulders and wiped away a tear.

     

    "....Are you disappointed?" asked Minju

     

    She saw his face tense up.

    He was.

    She knew he was.

     

    "...I...I am."

     

    She didn't know what to say, her head was hurting.

     

    "I am disappointed by myself." admitted her boyfriend.

    "What? Why..?" 

    "...Nothing." 

     

    She hated this.

    She hated herself for being like this, hated him being sad and hated that already they weren't able to be open to one another.

     

    "Yohan…"

    "...You need to rest alright?" said Yohan before walking to the bathroom just as he had done a few hours ago. "We'll need to be strong for what is coming."

     

    She had seen him go in there when she had pushed him away and had seen how red his eyes had been when he had finally left it.

     

    "I don't! Please...Don't go, don't leave me." pleaded Minju,clenching the bed sheets.

     

    Yohan sat against the wall, far away from her.

    Too far for her liking.

     

    "Please...Please tell me?" begged the pink haired girl.

     

    She saw him hesitate, she saw him cover his face with his hands, she saw a tear roll down his cheek.

    He looked so vulnerable, just like when they were  just kids.

     

    "....I am disappointed by myself because I wanted to make you happy, I wanted your first time to be the best one possible...And I couldn't even do that."

    "It wasn't your fault…" silently cried Minju.

    "But it was. I was the one who brought you here."

    "And I agreed! I wanted to do it!" 

     

    A sad smile appeared on his lips.

     

    "...Even so...I am just worthless. I swore to you that I would make you happy forever and already...Already I am ruining things." 

    "Yohan…"

    "You don't know how much you mean to me...I've...I have always seen you and only you. I have always wanted nothing but for you to always be happy." confessed Yohan bringing his legs to his chest. " Even when we were younger and you would be interested in other boys. Even when I was angry that you didn't see me even though I always was by your side, even then." 

    "But I am happy enough already…" sighed Minju

    "You don't get it.." 

     

    Minju didn't know this side of him.

    The Yohan that lacked self-confidence.

     

    "If I can't make you happy...Why would you ever stay with me?" asked Yohan with a shaking voice. " I know that I am not good enough for you,that I don't deserve you... I have always known it but...But you love me and god...I am blessed." 

     

    The Yohan that didn't love himself.

    She had never seen that part of him before.

     

    "So….I have you now, I have you and this is a miracle to be loved back by you so...How? How could I ever dare offer you something that is not equal or greater than perfection?" asked a teary eyed Yohan with a sad smile on his lovely face.

    "Why would you think that I don't deserve you…?" asked a confused Minju

    "Because...Because you are the closest thing to an angel there is. You are so kind and generous, humble and caring for the others even when you are struggling yourself...So talented and so...so...Beautiful. You make this world stunning and bearable." said Yohan. " Even this...Even this Hell is a true paradise because you are with me."

     

    His breath was weak.

    She could tell that he hadn't lied, that every word had come from the deepest part of his heart.

    Minju didn't care if her body would shake or if she would cry again.

    The young woman ran to him and hugged him against her chest.

     

    "I love you." whispered Minju in his ear.

    "I'm sorry love….So sorry…"apologised Yohan before pulling her closer to him. " I'm a mess."

    "You are...But so am I." 

     

    Minju felt him bury his head in her neck.

     

    "Yohan…"

    "Yes?"

    "I don't need perfection and I don't want it." whispered Minju " I want it all, the good, the bad...I want to experience everything with you."

     

    Yohan slowly pulled away and looked at her.

     

    "Because we need to struggle through life to grow even closer to one another...And I know that we'll be alright at the end of it all." smiled the young girl

    "How?Why?"

    "Because we have always been together. Do you remember a time when we weren't?"

    "I don't…"

    "We are more used to being together than alone…I don't think we'll ever grow apart."

     

    Yohan finally smiled and caressed her cheek, she was not startled anymore.

     

    "See? You truly are my angel, you take all of my fears away." confessed Yohan before leaning in and kissing her.

     

    Minju held him tight against herself, scared that he would leave her again.

     

    "Then...I'm not leaving you….Ever. Even if you are tired of me." laughed Yohan

    "I'll never grow tired of you." promised Minju

    "I hope so."

     

    Yohan kissed her forehead 

     

    "Do you feel better?"

    "Yes…"

    "...We rushed things as always right?"

    "We did…" laughed Minju.

     

    Yohan pulled her closer to him.

     

    "Myungsoo told me that we should slow down because we still are kids...He was right again."

    "...Are you frustrated?"asked an embarrassed Minju

     

    Yohan coughed to clear his throat.

     

    "Yes but it doesn't matter, I'll wait for you to be ready." stated the young man, blushing

     

    He was lovely and she would never get over him.

     

    "Ah~My Yohan is red~" 

    "No I am not!" replied Yohan before hiding his face

     

    Minju smiled.

     

    "Look at me…"

    "Hmm?" asked the young man

    " You are more than good enough for me, I adore you." 


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  • Butterfly

    "Are you not afraid?" asked Wooseok to Yunseong who was staring at the monsters from the roof they had climbed up to.

    "I am. I am terrified." simply replied his friend eyeing the moving bodies.

     

    Wooseok crossed his arms, the night wind was colder than what he had expected. His fingertips were going numb and he was beginning to feel hungry.

     

    "Hmm..So...Where are Yohan and Minju..?"

    "There." said Yunseong pointing at a hotel in the horizon.

    "...An hotel?"

    "Yes."

    "Why?"

     

    Yunseong froze, looking at him before staring away.

     

    "...Oh." answered a now blushing Wooseok

    "Yeah."

    "..W...Well at least they are safe there…"

     

    Yunseong nodded, scratching his head.

     

    "Do you see these buildings?" asked Yunseong

    "Which ones…?

    "These."repeated the boy, vaguely pointing in a direction as he looked for weapons on the roof

    "Uh?"

     

    A small, barely noticeable smile appeared on his lips as he walked over to him.

    Almost back-hugging him as he took his hand in his to show him the buildings he had mentioned.

     

    "There." almost whispered Yunseong in his ear.

     

    There he was, troubling him with his voice and touch again.His heart was beating fast as he felt him rest his chin on his head.

     

    "Hmm?" asked the taller boy, confused, feeling his friend tense up.

     

    Wooseok eyed the towers and felt more than ridicule to be enjoying the moment in the middle of an apocalypse.

    An apocalypse they probably weren't going to survive.

     

    "I..I see…"

     

    Yunseong let go of him and stepped back, leaving Wooseok who was suddenly disappointed.

     

    "We'll jump to the next roof, the building should be connected to each one after that either by hallways or an underground."explained Yunseong.

     

    Wooseok froze again.

     

    "...We'll what?"

    "Jump."

    "Do you want us to die???"

     

    Yunseong climbed above the security bars and eyed the distance between them and the next building's roof.

     

    "It's alright, we'll make the jump." 

    "No we won't-"

    "We don't have any other choice.We can't just walk to go there,there are too many monsters. This is the only solution."

    'We could wait for the army to come." stated Wooseok, scared once again.

     

    Yunseong's grip on the railing grew tighter.

     

    "...I don't think they will anymore."

    "Why not?"

    "...Look down."

     

    Wooseok walked up to him and stared at the moving shapes. At first that's all they were shapes, moving and growling shadows at best.

    Then he saw their torned faces, their empty eyes and their outfits.

    Uniforms, quite a lot of them.

    Army uniforms.

     

    "...Fuck." whispered Wooseok, sick to his stomach.

     

    What were they to do if even the army had been so easily beaten?

     

    " You'll have to trust me for this one Wooseok." 

     

    The small man sighed and nodded.

    He could only rely on him after all.

     

    "I do."

    "I won't let you fall." said Yunseong before smoothly jumping over to the facing roof. "...No matter what."

    "..O...Ok…" replied a scared Wooseok, climbing above the security bars.

     

    Wooseok stared at the void (well not really a void but rather a long back alley filled with hungry cannibals) and felt dizzy.

    He would absolutely fall to his death, his legs were not as long as Yunseong's.

    This was a terrible idea.

     

    "Come on,I'll catch you." said Yunseong, opening his arms.

     

    Wooseok felt relieved.

    Especially because Yunseong was the kind of person who never let down people dear to him.

    But was he? Was he someone he valued?

    He hoped he was. 

     

    "A..Alright." replied Wooseok, deeply breathing in the cold air before finally jumping.

     

    The jump had been brief and his eyes had been closed when he felt warm protective arms around himself before the brutal landing on some concrete that was suspiciously softer than what he remembered.

     

    "Urg…" heard Wooseok who didn't dare open his eyes. 

     

    The floor was breathing.

    The floor was moving and moaning in pain.

     

    "...Am I dead?"

    "You are alive and heavy." laughed the familiar voice of Yunseong, who hugged him closer to him.

     

    Wooseok opened his eyes and fell face to face with Yunseong who was laying on the ground beneath him.

    Face close to his.

     

    "You did it Wooseok. I'm proud of you." 

    "...I did it."

    "Yes...And you didn't need to worry at all." 

    "Why?" asked a confused  Wooseok at the sight of Yunseong, slowly caressing his cheek.

     

    Yunseong blushed and covered his face with his other free hand before sweetly smiling.

    Wooseok liked seeing his shy side, it was so lovely.

     

    "Because you were flying, just like a butterfly." commented Yunseong, in a whisper.

    "A butterfly…?" 

    "The most beautiful one." confessed Yunseong.


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  • Weapons

    "Where are you going?" asked Minhyun to a Myungsoo that was looking through his now ex-girlfriend's cupboard.

    "I'm bringing back Junho, Minju and Yohan." answered the third year.

    "And Mina..?"

     

    Minhyun saw the school president stop for a moment. Face darkening, clenching his fists.

     

    "...She made me promise to bring them back first."

    "Are you stupid? What if something happened to her-"

    "...I respect her and her choice." replied Myungsoo with a bitter tinge in his voice. "...Unlike others." 

     

    Their eyes met and Minhyun could see how full of rage his were.

     

    "...What?"

    "You know what I mean."

     

    Here it was, the judgement, the disgust and aversion. Here it was again.

     

    "..I may have hurt her but..I tried my best." only managed to say the teenager.

    "And you still did the worst thing possible to her."

    "That was not my intention…!"

    "Don't fight! It doesn't matter now does it? We have to go save them." interfered Seongwu. "That's what's important right now."

     

    Minhyun sighed.

     

    "Yes...Yes, you are right." 

    "Don't come you'll just slow me down." spat Myungsoo.

    "We won't, and you need someone to watch your back."

    "I can manage on my own." 

    "No you can't." coldly replied Minhyun, taking a metal bar out of the closet.

    "What?"

    "Take this." said Minhyun, handing him the bar before walking over to a drawer.

     

    Minhyun opened it and stared at the knives.

     

    "We can make a spear with that." stated Seongwu, looking over his shoulder. "If we put it at the end of the bar."

    "We'll need some thick tape…" mumbled Myungsoo.

    "I know where we can find some."

    "Ah?"

     

    Minhyun headed to a cupboard and opened it. 

     

    "Here. There are other tools and helpful things in there too."

    "How did you know where to find it…?"

    "I used to come here until not long ago." stated Minhyun, thinking about how Mina would bring him over to have late afternoon snacks with her. 

    "Hmm…" 

     

    Minhyun noticed the jealousy and regret in his eyes. He could see how much she meant to him and felt relieved that she had him to rely on.

    He knew that he wouldn't hurt her, unlike him.

     

    "There must be a dull bladed kendo sword in Junho's room." said Myungsoo as he taped a knife to the bar.

    "Why would he have that?" asked a confused Seongwu.

    "Because he used to learn kendo with Yohan before he stopped and started learning taekwondo."

    "I'll go get it then!" said Seongwu before running to Little Junho's room.

     

    Myungsoo looked up and eyed him as soon as he left.

     

    "So we are clear...I don't like you."

    "Yeah...I kind of knew that." replied Minhyun as he scratched his head. "It would be weird if you did like me."

    "… I'll have your back outside."

    "Uh?"

    "I will save you if you ever are in danger."

     

    Minhyun opened a drawer, taking pieces of clothes out of it.

     

    "I thought that you would simply throw me to the monsters as soon as you could." joked the fox-like boy, now looking for empty bottles and some alcohol. "Is there any alcohol here?"

    "Yes, on your right."

     

    Minhyun grabbed the bottle and eyed it.

    Mina's mother didn't really drink and neither did Mina. 

     

    "Wait...Why is there alcohol…?"

     

    Myungsoo slightly coughed to clear his throat.

     

    "...It's a long story." 

    "A party?"

    "....Yeah." 

     

    Minhyun smirked, so even the school president had flaws. Who would have thought that Kim Myungsoo, the always so serious student would illegally drink outside of school hours?

     

    "Ah and...I'm not a psychopath, I don't dislike you so much that I would kill you…" said the president. "Moreover, Mina would probably annihilate me if I ever did that." 

    "I doubt it. She must hate me." replied Minhyun, pouring a few ounces of alcohol in each bottle.

     

    Myungsoo finished taping the knife and raised an eyebrow.

     

    "She doesn't. Not even a little bit." 

    "Liar."

    "I am not lying. I even told her that she could be mad at you but refused to do so."

    "...I see." replied Minhyun, biting down on his lip.

     

    He really was the worst, he had never deserved her.

     

    "What are you doing?" asked Myungsoo

    "Ah..Hm...Molotov cocktails?" said Minhyun, eyeing the bottles. "It might be useful."

    "Oh. Nice idea." 

    "Found it!" shouted a running Seongwu. "But it really is dull, we won't be able to use it."

    "You can use it to push them away." said Myungsoo

    "Or I could use a knife!"

     

    Myungsoo and Minhyun both looked at one another. Seongwu was famous for his lack of balance and poor physical abilities.

    Minhyun knew that he would probably fall and stab himself if left with one.

     

    "...No." said Minhyun,shaking his head. "You'll take the explosives."

    "Why??"

    "Because you are a disaster." answered Myungsoo.

    "...You are mean. Both of you."

     

    Seongwu pouted and left for the living room where he started packing backpacks found in Junho's room.

     

    "When will we leave?"

    "At nightfall, when things calm down a little." 

    "Won't it be too late by then?"

    "No...The kids are safe for now."

    "Alright then…"

    "I'll go first and the two of you will be behind me. Don't walk in line but in pair ok?"

     

    Minhyun nodded and finished making his explosives.

     

    "Take some food and water too." said Myungsoo to Seongwu. "We never know what will happen."

    "How much?"

    "Not too much, we don't want to be weighed down by the bags if we have to run."

     

    Seongwu nodded.

    After packing, Minhyun sat next to his boyfriend on the sofa,cuddling him, enjoying the last peaceful moments they would maybe have together as Myungsoo eyed the monsters outside.

    The three of them listened to the screams that slowly died down over the next few hours.

    Hours that both felt like an eternity and a simple second.

     

    <<I just saw your message, we are safe. We are hiding in an empty building until nightfall.>> sent Wooseok to his cousin.

     

    <<Stay safe too hyung, stick with Seongwu.>>

    <<Don't worry about us, we are with Myungsoo. We are going to look for Junho and his friend.>> replied Minhyun

    <<Ok...Then we'll go to where Minju and Yohan are and you can join us there.>>

    <<Alright.>>

     

    "The sun is setting down." stated Seongwu, hanging on Minhyun's arm for dear life.

    "...I'll take the spear, Minhyun you take a knife and you will throw the cocktails Seongwu and push them away with Junho's sword." instructed Myungsoo , standing up and walking over to the main entrance with a backpack on his back. "We stick together not matter what ok?"

    "Alright." replied Seongwu,inhaling to calm himself down.

    "Try not to engage with them ok? If possible we avoid fighting." finally said the president, hand on the doorknob 

     

    Minhyun nodded and took his boyfriend's hand in his.

     

    "Ready?"

    "Ready." replied the couple.

    "Then let's go."

     


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