Chapter IX: Clashing waves.
It had been quite sometime since Mina last set foot on the palace grounds where she used to spend a lot of time as a child.
She had somehow missed the tall golden gates that had protected for centuries the royal families of England and the lush gardens behind it.
Mazes of bushes and organized fields of flowers more colourful than any other she had ever seen.
The gates opened as their carriage rejoined the ones that had already arrived.
Mina smiled at Minhyun that was sitting in front of her, her cheeks warm because of her fever that hadn't gone away yet- or maybe because she was just happy that he was here with them once again.
Minhyun scoffed when he felt her shoe tip touch his on purpose.
Myungsoo on the other hand was not pleased and eyed his friend that had been quite silent but staring at her during the whole trip from their mansion to the palace.
"...Mina, will you go out first?" Myungsoo asked her once their ride stopped " I have to talk about something with Minhyun, we'll be with you right away."
" You can take your time." She smiled looking outside the window, noticing her friend " Kami is already there, I'll be waiting with her."
The two nodded as she went out and waited until they saw that she reached the blonde girl.
"...Were you ever going to tell me about you and her?" Asked Myungsoo.
"... I was going to, I just didn't have the time."
"You didn't have the time last time we met?"
"You were working and I didn't want you to bother you with something else. You have more pressing matters at hand."
Myungsoo rubbed his temples.
"Minhyun...I told you to look after her, not to fall in love with her."
"It's not something that one can control."
Myungsoo frowned, scared that he insinuated more.
"No!" Cut a hurt Minhyun "Do you really think that lowly of me?"
The man sighed and shook his head.
"No but...I am worried."
"Why? Do you think that I am not good enough to be with her?"
"You know that's not it….It's just…" he bit his lips "...Seongwu."
Minhyun froze at the name.
"...Why would you speak about him...Why now?"
There was heartbreak in Minhyun's voice, there always was when he was mentioned.
Thoughts about him always haunted him and he wished to have been haunted by his ghost instead- in that way he would get to at least see his face.
But it was something that he kept to himself, something that he told no one.
"...Because look at you. Look at how much pain you still are in when I mention him."
"How do you expect me to react then? He was my best friend-"
"...Best friend?" Repeated Myungsoo "...I know Minhyun."
Myungsoo knew that what the two boys had shared was more than a simple friendship.
There was a time when Minhyun couldn't live without carrying his name on his lips, a time when he would slip out of their dormitory to go see him in the gardens at night.
"...You left a letter open on your desk one day." Sighed Myungsoo " I did not read it, but I did see how you signed it off and to whom it was supposed to be sent."
<<From all of my being and soul, my Love, I wish you a wonderful night Seongwu.
Minhyun clenched his fists.
"...Why didn't you say something? Doesn't it bother you?"
"What is there to say? If you are happy that's all that matters to me, as does her happiness." He replied "That's why I am worried…If you still love him, if you like men-"
"...It isn't what you think it is. I love her. I truly do and I intend on making her happy if that's what she desires."
"...Can I trust you Minhyun?" He asked " I know that it is funny to say that after everything we went through together but...This is a different issue…"
Myungsoo hid his face behind his hands.
That was all he could do now, entrust her to someone else.
"Can I trust you with her?"
"...Then please take care of her...After everything." He sighed "You have my blessing."
Minhyun smiled and hugged his friend.
"Thank you...And good luck."
"...What happened to you my friend?" Asked Mina, shocked to see Kami in a dress that was way more glamorous than what she usually preferred.
It was large and flared to the gods with layers of rich blue fabric.
It was so large in fact that Mina wondered how she even managed to walk.
"Do I look weird…?"
"No, you look beautiful!" She honestly replied.
Kami smiled as Woohyun proudly crossed his arms across his chest.
"Do you see the beautiful ribbon in her hair that makes the whole look what it is? I chose it."
"....Ah." replied Mina, not impressed.
It was a pretty ribbon but nothing breathtaking.
"Ah??? That's it???-"
"You look pretty too Mina" complimented Kami, looking at the gold and white gown that Mina was wearing "Are you alone?"
Mina shook her head.
"Minhyun and Myungsoo are still in the carriage-"
Mina's eyes fell upon an uncomfortable looking Minhee that stood next to Gongyoo who proudly walked around with her at his arm as if she was some kind of prize to gloat about.
"The fucking jerk I should tackle him to the ground and make him eat dirt-" Growled Kami.
"And then what?" Asked Woohyun.
"Then we'll torture him and kill him." Replied Mina.
"...You're surrounded by quite some violent ladies." Stated a man's familiar voice above Woohyun's shoulder "Maybe I should borrow their hands to end you right here and now?"
"...Shit." mumbled the writer as a strong hand grabbed his collar to keep him from running away "....Hi Sungyeol…? How have you been?"
Sungyeol pinched his cheek, a sadistic smile on his lips.
The man was usually calm but not when it came to Woohyun, he deserved to be punished.
"I wonder? I would probably be better off in my life if someone hadn't broken my collection."
"It was an accident, please spare me-"
"...Maybe I will if you beg for mercy."
"Kami…?" Woohyun called out for help, like a puppy in danger.
"Serves you right…This is for sending me alone to apologize."
Minhee's head turned around to where the voice of a pleading man resonated.
There were her friends along with the man she had already been missing.
Sungyeol looked amazingly good in his tailored jacket fitted above a shirt not too different from the one he would usually wear in his atelier.
She noticed that his hair was tied in a different and more organized manner, probably because the event was so formal.
Why was he here?
Minhee knew that he was friends with Woohyun and Myungsoo, but it had never crossed her mind that he was part of their world too- how could he when he lived so carefreely by doing what he loved?
His laugh rang in the air of the world that was supposed to always be quiet and proper.
It was beautiful like he was and it almost brought her to tears.
Not being able to talk to him was this painful to her and yet, he seemed alright as if they had never met.
"Do you want to go to them?" Asked GongYoo in her ear.
More than anything it was what she desired but it felt like it was too late.
They wouldn't welcome her back.
"...Still. Let's go give our greetings." He insisted dragging her to them.
She was confused, what was the point?
Hadn't he been the one that told her that she should forget about them?
What did he have to gain from all of this?
She soon noticed the faint smile on his lips, he was enjoying all of it.
"Hello." He said to the group, standing before her "How have you been?"
"...Well until I saw your face." Growled Mina.
"Calm now...This is a party, let's leave the animosity behind us dear...We are here to have a good time."
"Say that after you let go of her wrist maybe?" Remarked Sungyeol who had noticed how red Minhee's wrist had turned "You're going to bruise her."
Gongyoo let go of Minhee and frowned at the man.
"...You are...? I don't think we've met yet."
"...We haven't and I would like to continue my life without having to get to know you."
"I tend to dislike people that are rough with others you see..."
Woohyun mumbled something before getting jabbed in the ribs by Kami's elbow.
"Rough? Why does it matter to you how I act with my fiancée."
"...Your what now?" Asked Kami.
"We are engaged."
The two friends eyed Minhee, waiting for her answer but she kept her mouth closed- scared that he would reprimand her for it later on.
"...You do know that all the engagements of marquis and counts or people equal to that rank have to be approved by the King and Queen for it to happen right?" Stated Minhyun, readjusting his sleeves as he walked to them accompanied by Myungsoo.
"Do you really think that they'll approve of you as a match for her? A man almost twice her age and of strange origins?"
"Are you saying that she can't marry out of her class?"
"No. What I am saying is that you are too suspicious to ever be approved."
"You better be careful."
The air turned cold as Myungsoo spoke.
"They have all been way too kind to you, I won't do so." He warned " Get out of the country while you still can, next time I see you it will be to throw you in jail."
Gongyoo wanted to punch the handsome and yet cold eyes that threw daggers at him.
If Minhyun had lacked action and motive behind his clever words,Myungsoo didn't.
Gongyoo could see that he meant his words.
Myungsoo wouldn't leave someone like him near Minhee and Mina or any of his friends.
"...Minhyun said something similar last time and yet...Here I am among you great people in the most important court in the world…"
Myungsoo leaned in, whispering in his ear.
"...Do you want to know what's different right now? The men Minhyun sent to look into your background are on their way back and they wouldn't if they hadn't found something that incriminates you."
Myungsoo stepped back, gently taking Minhee's arm to lead her away from him and she let him do so.
"Am I?" He smiled at her, hoping that she would feel that she wasn't alone and that she didn't need him "Now should we all get inside?"
"Won't you go down and greet them?" Hyewon asked Hyunjin who was leaning against the frame of an opened window, eyeing Mina holding onto Minhyun's arm- smiling at his every word.
"...Why would I? There is no place for me there."
His eyes lingered on the man that whispered words in her ear.
"...He seems like a nice person. Do you know who he is?" Asked the man to his sister.
"Hwang Minhyun…Count of Clarence."
"Hwang..? Like my mother?"
"A cousin of yours through her lineage...Didn't you know?"
A scoff escaped his lips.
"How would I? I haven't talked to her in years."
"..I wish my mother would leave me alone too for a second." Yawned another blonde man, joining them.
"You don't mean that 'lix." Said Hyewon.
"I do…This is my first time going somewhere without her for...Well the first time ever? Can you believe it?"
"She loves you..." tried to justify Hyewon.
The youngest of the three by a few months sadly smiled.
"..No she doesn't."
It was the cruel truth, too blunt to be denied.
The three of them had never known what it meant to be loved by a parent.
"...But we have each other and that's more than enough, right?" Smiled Hyewon,taking their hands.
"....Why are we here Hyewon?" Asked Hyunjin who knew too well that they weren't there for no reason.
The woman's smile faded.
"...That's what I came to talk about...So please listen and...Please believe in me."
He should have known that it wouldn't be a simple party.
Mina walked up to the King and Queen and curtsied as all the guests gathered in the hall.
"Your Highnesses…" she greeted.
"Oh...Look at you…" replied the Queen whose black hair had turned grey since the last time she had seen her " You are a woman now…" she smiled, emotional as she had often looked after her when she was but a little girl.
"Well...I am of age now."
"...Come closer." Asked the King.
Mina turned around to her parents that stood in front of the crowd,looking for their permission.
Royal parties brought nobles of all ages together, something quite rare- rarer even was the fact that the couple was there.
Her mother smiled and nodded.
Mina walked to the man that was the same age as her father and yet- looked way older than he was.
Wrinkles stained his forehead and the corners of his kind eyes that would always turn into crescents every time she offered him flowers she made out of paper as a child, in a garden of roses.
Mina had been a blessing for the royal couple that had suddenly lost their baby daughter a few weeks before her birth.
She had helped them get better, she had given them strength and they were forever thankful to her parents for that.
"Let me take a closer look at you…" he said and he did with a smile "You remind me more and more of your mother...And yet you have your father's eyes, always full of strength and care for others."
Myungsoo slipped through the guests and joined his parents, pain written all over his face.
"...You didn't have to come." He whispered and they discreetly took his hand.
"...How could we not darling?" Replied his mother, struggling to keep herself from crying.
"It's an important day for all of us."
"Don't worry about us...We'll be fine."
"No...We are." Finished her mother.
The King took Mina's hand.
"...I have two nephews your age...You would like them I think." He smiled
"Dear...She has already met them, remember…?"
Embarrassment washed upon the man's face.
"Did she…? Sorry child...I'm forgetting things lately."
Mina almost told him that she too had some issues in that area but kept her mouth shut.
It wasn't the time to be joking about bad memories when she was herself struggling deeply because of it.
"It's alright…" She replied.
The old man smiled, like he once used to before speaking again.
"Oh..Here they come!" He said as a large door opened and three people walked in.
In the middle Hyewon accompanied by two blonde headed men- one of them being the man that had walked with her under the rain.
They exchanged a short stare before he turned his head away from her- frowning with sadness.
"...Hyunjin?" She called out under her breath.
Minhyun grabbed her hand and pulled her back into the crowd.
Kami almost let go of her cup when she saw her come into the golden room, stone cold faced.
She felt stupid for not noticing earlier who she was.
Hyewon and Hyunjin.
There weren't a lot of siblings that had the exact same name as the children of the King of Prussia- cousin to the British king.
Kami looked in astonishment as foreign delegations bowed to her and the two princes that somehow looked lost in their thoughts.
Kissing her hands first before acknowledging the two others.
Hyunjin's face had confusion written all over it as well as his brother leaving only Hyewon to harbor the perfect smile that was expected from royalty.
She looked perfect for the role in her imperial purple gown.
"Princess Hyewon and the Princes Hyunjin and Felix." Announced a man that stood by the King.
"Are you ok?" Asked Woohyun who had seen her face grow pale.
Kami ignored him, watching as Hyewon and her siblings took their seats on the other chairs reserved for royalty, only one of them then left empty by the King's side.
Could she feel betrayed? Because she definitely was.
How could Hyewon not tell her?
Did she have fun lying to her about her identity?
Or was she to blame for not noticing?
The King stood up, helped by servants and all grew quite as he spoke.
"Today...We are all reunited to celebrate the beginning of the ball season...Something worthless some would say…" He began " But something that is life changing for some."
The old man threw a glance at the Han family and especially his two friends that stood, hand in hand.
"Today we are here to celebrate the future of this nation...This empire…And when speaking about the future, I can't leave out the pressing issue of succession."
All heads turned to the three young people that tensely sat on their chairs, including Kami.
Who was it going to be?
Hyewon was the eldest one and only child of Prussia's queen but a girl.
Hyunjin was the first son but born of a mistress whereas Felix, although also an illegitimate child, was subjected to more doubts about his parentage.
"...It has been something that has weighed down upon my chest for the longest time and I know that this is something that will surprise all of you but…"
The King turned to a side of the crowd Kami couldn't see because of her short height.
"I have decided to appoint this man as my heir...My son." Spoked the King "Come here child, it is well past time that I acknowledge you as mine."
Confused chatters started to fill the air and gasps of surprise as the said person stepped out, or so she guessed, she still couldn't see a thing.
"A son??? Who is it? Can you see Woohyun-"
Woohyun stood frozen, his pupils shaking.
"What is it…?"
"What is it???"
Kami turned around as the chatters grew.
"She used to be very closed to the King after all...We should have seen it coming."
"The poor husband…"
"Do you think that the other is his too?"
"What a whore…"
The view finally cleared and she saw the king wrap a velvet cloth around the shoulders of a way too familiar figure.
"Myungsoo...I welcome you into the royal house of Kim as my son and heir."
Hell broke loose in the hall as nobles asked for more explanations, as women whispered among themselves and as Mina fell to her knees on the marble floor.
Chapter VII: Tightly tied.
Mina woke up with a cold on the morning of the royal ball- she knew it, she shouldn't have walked under the rain so carelessly and yet, she couldn't bring herself to regret her decision.
She knew that she wouldn't have had that talk with Hyunjin otherwise and she was glad that she had gotten to know him a little more.
She sneezed and brought a hand to her forehead, feeling a slight fever.
"Are you alright?" Asked Myungsoo, arms crossed , leaning against the door frame of her room, worried.
She smiled, happy to see her brother and sat up.
"I just arrived."
"It felt like you went away for an eternity."
Myungsoo walked to her bed and sat on the side of it, swiping away the hair from her face.
"A lot of things happened…"
"Really? What happened?"
Mina laid back into her large white pillows.
"...Me and Kami fought with Minhee."
The man raised an eyebrow.
Myungsoo sighed, he had known that this man would become trouble sooner or later.
"...I should have killed the man."
"I should have too, with my bare hands." Replied Mina.
Gongyoo was something Myungsoo would have to deal with,but it wasn't as urgent as other things.
He had rushed back to make sure that she hadn't received another note.
"...Is that all?" Asked her brother.
Mina smiled, taking his hand in hers.
She missed Minhyun and was happy that she would get to see him later that day.
"...I have found someone that I truly like."
"...It's a secret for now."
"A secret uh? Since when have you been keeping secrets from me Miss?" He laughed
"I can't tell you yet because I don't know if you'll approve of him or not."
"Is he a bad man?"
"No he isn't, he is the kindest man I have ever met."
Myungsoo began to have some suspicions,who could it be that had caught her interest this way?
It could not be a stranger, it had to be someone close to them that she had met recently.
Someone that must have spent quite some time with her.
Everything pointed to Minhyun.
Myungsoo furrowed his brows, not knowing the heart of his friend.
Minhyun wasn't one to easily fall in love, along their years as friends only once had he seen him love another.
Myungsoo knew that his friend was a good person,but he also was secretive and it was something that bothered him.
"And how did this cold come to be?" He gently asked, patting her head "Surely you haven't been running around under the rain?" He added and she gasped.
Her brother had always been some sort of wizard that knew everything that happened to her and what was going through her head.
Mina remembered how Hyunjin had kissed her hand before leaving her to run off to his meeting.
She had so much to ask him still and she hoped that they would end up meeting at the party.
"...I walked in the rain."
Myungsoo lost his smile.
Mina was always careful not to get drenched to avoid catching a cold, it was a rule she had always followed apart from when she was with one peculiar person.
"How did you know?"
"...Because you aren't wreckless on your own." He smiled sourly.
Myungsoo felt his heart tighten.
It was too soon, they hadn't been supposed to meet yet or rather not without him nearby - he hoped she remembered nothing.
"Do you remember a boy called Hyunjin? That used to come play with us back at our family house some years ago?" She asked.
"...I vaguely remember yes." Lied Myungsoo.
The man could still remember the day he had asked him to leave, knowing that he was the reason why she was harmed and yet- that his mere presence with her had been what had saved her life.
He had loved Hyunjin like an older brother and it had broken him to see him cry.
Hyunjin hadn't always been the happiest boy there was, but at least he had been free with them and sending him away felt like a sentence, a sentence for a crime he had not committed.
The two of them had exchanged letters along the years and he read between the lines how much he had grown and yet- witnessed how his heart never changed.
Myungsoo had wished that he would forget it all too, he had hoped that he would go on and live his life too but he never did.
Hyunjin never escaped that moment.
Mina was always the first thing he would ask him about, he would ask for her news and if she was happy and Myungsoo always told him that she was no matter how sick she got sometimes.
"...I don't." She sighed "My memory...It's still not back yet."
Myungsoo leaned and kissed her forehead, he could but pray for everything to go as planned.
"It's alright...In time...You'll remember I am sure of it." He assured her "Rest, I have things to tend to before this evening."
"...Myungsoo." she called him.
Her hand grabbed the sleeve of his blouse.
"Are you alright?"
"Why wouldn't I be…? We are going to a party tonight." He smiled.
"...You look worried."
Myungsoo wasn't sad, he was grieving the loss of this life that he had loved.
He pinched her cheek.
"Well someone did catch a cold...Of course I am worried!" He lied before standing up.
Mina pouted before pushing him away.
"That was mean!"
"...Take care of yourself,please." He asked one more time.
Mina was surprised by the seriousness in his eyes.
Myungsoo went out of her room and down the stairs, his chest tightening.
Soon this house wouldn't be his to stay in anymore, soon this would be but a memory of a past that he knew he was going to miss.
A cloaked woman stood near the entrance as if she had heard him cry for help deep in his heart.
"...What are you doing here?" He asked in a surprised breath.
"Are you this unhappy to see me?" She inquired as she threw back her hood, letting her long hair flow down "We used to be really close before or was I mistaken?" She sadly smiled.
"Hyewon." He whispered, rushing to her and hugging her.
She smiled, hugging him back.
Myungsoo buried his face in her neck as she wrapped her arms around him.
Glad to see that he hadn't changed.
"...It has been so long since I last saw you." He smiled.
"It has been but two years." She replied.
"...I missed you." He confessed.
Hyewon didn't know what to tell him.
How was she supposed to explain to him that she had changed so much that she no longer was the woman he used to embrace in secret?
"...Me too." She said in a whisper, really having missed him but not in the way he probably thought she did.
The two of them bore the burden of being the eldest child.
The two of them had siblings to take care of.
The two of them felt lonely.
The two of them had felt the need to feel something- and so it had happened naturally.
They hung onto one another desperately one night, clothes came off both in curiosity and despair and they gave into one another.
It was all it was, desperate attempts to feel alive and it did work for a while - soothing an emptiness in her and in him.
But it all disappeared when she went back to her country, soon realizing that it wasn't what she needed.
It had never been love, or at least that kind of love no matter how much they mattered to one another.
She did not regret it and yet, didn't want to go back to what they used to have but all of this would be a talk for later.
"...I saw Mina yesterday...She is all grown up now." She whispered "Last time I saw her she still looked like a child." She whispered and he hugged her tighter.
Hyewon was only one year older than Mina and yet, was more mature than most women ten years older than herself- she had been raised to be like this by her mother, raised to be an adult in the tiny body of a child for all she could remember.
"...Because she was one."
Hyewon could hear the bitterness in his voice.
It was a time that had been stolen to all of them that morning.
A time they could never have back and that had left an empty hole in their chest they so desperately longed to fill but it was also what had brought the two together.
It was a companionship in misery.
"Hyunjin was there…"
"I know...It can't be helped."
She stepped back looking at him sadly, she had never seen him this low, this sad.
"...Will you really do this?" Hyewon asked him.
"...It's too late to change what has already started."
"You just have to say the word, Hyunjin doesn't know yet, it wouldn't change a thing for him-"
His reply was unchanged and would remain unchanged.
He was stubborn and as much as it could be a quality- in that moment it felt more like a flaw to her.
"I won't ask him to sacrifice something again for us."
Hyewon sighed, lowering her head.
"...Have you changed your mind?" He inquired "I don't want to drag you into this if you are not willing."
Hyewon's heart tightened.
Her part in their plan was one of the most important and if she changed her mind, she knew that it would crumble to the ground - crushing both his and her family in the process no matter how he tried to assure her that she could do as she wanted.
She couldn't allow tragedy to happen and yet, the image of a blonde girl with a glowing smile wouldn't leave her mind.
It wasn't love yet, but Hyewon knew that she liked her and her wits.
She knew that if something was to harm her in all of this, it would be Kami- but she was ready, she had been for years.
Everything would be over by the evening.
There would be no date with her after that, there would be no picnic.
"Tighter." Said Gongyoo to the nanny who was lacing Minhee's corset, a gasp leaving her lips.
" We have to be the most dazing couple at that party." He added.
"Why?" Asked Minhee, struggling to breathe.
"Because how we appear there will change our future and what people will think of us from now on,they have to see how much we love one another."
"I have something for you." He said, walking to her.
The man she used to love more than life slipped an imposing ring on her ring finger.
It was too tight, painful and yet she said nothing.
It had become a habit of hers.
"Our engagement ring."
She both wanted to laugh and cry at how ridiculous it looked.
There was a large stone on it, way too large to be pretty, way too large to be something that she liked.
But how could he know when he didn't truly pay attention to her?
"...Thank you." She still whispered.
He came closer and kissed her shoulder, not caring for the fact that they weren't alone.
"Today we make our future. People will finally recognize us." He said before leaving the room.
Minhee almost fell to her knees as she heard the door close.
"...Are you alright Minhee?" Asked the old nanny.
"Yes...Yes I am."
Tears whelmed in her eyes, she wanted her friends to be near her more than ever, she wanted to hear their laugh and hug them.
Minhee wanted to be happy.
Minhee wanted to go back to the atelier that was now forbidden to her.
"You don't have to pretend…" assured the nanny as Minhee started crying.
The old woman's arms wrapped her badly bruised shoulders.
She had nowhere to rest, nowhere to breathe, nowhere to be free.
"...I don't know how to."
Kami had never shown interest in dresses, for her they were but bothering heavy layers of fabric and yet- there she was alone in the shop, trying to find one that actually pleased her.
Or rather one that would please Hyewon's eyes.
"It's unusual to see you here on your own Miss." said the tailor as she took her measurements "Is there a lover you want to make yourself pretty for?"
A shy smile appeared on the blonde woman's lips.
"...You could say so."
"What colour would you like for your gown?"
"Yes but not a pale blue…" she corrected " Royal Blue."
She took a pair of earrings and a necklace out of her small pouch that she had borrowed from her mother's collection.
Sapphires mounted on gold chains and decorations.
"I want to pair it with these."
"... I might have the perfect dress for you then Miss." Smiled the woman before running out of the dressing room to the storage part of the shop.
Kami sat, resting her head against the couch when she heard the small entrance chimes ring- she heard two women coming in and talking.
"Did you hear? They say that the king's nephews came this year."
"For the party organized for his majesty's birthday?"
"Some say that he intends on appointing one of them as his heir…"
"Would he…? No one will accept a foreign ruler."
Kami sighed, the succession had become a big talk recently in all social classes.
The Queen could no longer have children and the King was said to be sick and had never taken a mistress to father a child.
Royalty wasn't what it used to be before, some royal houses had fallen to dust among the past centuries and the ones left hang onto a thread.
Kami could see Britain lose its monarchy soon and yet- she knew that the people took pride in their rulers that ruled over an empire that never went to sleep.
They wouldn't cope well with the change.
"Here, look at it." Said the woman, coming back with a stunning gown.
"Thank you...It's perfect." Kami replied.
"We'll have to make some quick adjustments...I wish you would have come earlier!"
"I'll be back with the tools." Spoke the tailor, quickly leaving once again.
The main issue with the succession wasn't that there was absolutely no one to inherit the crown, it was that the only heirs were foreign princes.
The young woman knew that her countrymen despised european foreigners, especially the french who were said to be loose on morals.
German nobility was closely related to the one of England and yet- people disliked them too because of their cold demeanor and strong accents that were painful to the ears.
Kami didn't really care about who would become King next.
All that mattered to her in that instant was her dress.
"The Han have been staying close to the royal couple recently."
Kami slightly opened the curtains to eye the two who were, although indirectly, talking about her friend.
The pair looked like overdressed flamingos with layers upon layers of white powder covering their faces- accessories piled up on their necks as if they wanted to parade around town with all of their jewelry.
"Haven't they always done so?"
"They do...They are like the guard dogs of the royal family. True leeches."
"Do you dislike them? I heard that they are more than generous with the little people...They often do charity work around the capital."
"The son is a delight for the eyes, and richer than most Counts are...I would kill to have him but…" she stopped "It's the daughter that I dislike, have you seen how she took the Count of Clarence away from us during the last party?" She scoffed "And did you see her dress? It was so simple and ugly-"
Kami stood up and opened the curtain, forgetting (or not) that she was only in her corset undergarments.
She wasn't in a good enough mood to let them speak ill of her friend.
"And yet she looked better than you ever have and will, funny isn't it?"
"Who do you think you are?" Replied one of them, with a hat of bright feathers.
Kami hated those hats made out of rare feathers from island birds, they always were gathered in a cruel process and ugly to look at.
The friend leaned and whispered something to her.
"Kami? That Kami…?" She coughed to clear her voice " D..Do you think I care? No matter your class, you should know how disgraceful you are. A lady should never be outside in such a state." She added, looking at how she presented herself.
Kami looked down at her attire.
"Well I would rather walk around like this than the way you do, you look like turkeys that fell into a bath of fabric dyes."
"Oh and also? What's really disgraceful is talking about people behind their backs. Mind your own instead of trying to socially climb your way into the bed of men." Spoke Kami, remembering that the two were known for sleeping around with married, engaged men - always trying to get them to leave their partner in the process.
The pair blushed in embarrassment before hastily leaving the shop.
Kami sighed, stretching her back.
"..Hmm." she heard from the other side of the shop, surprisingly meeting a Woohyun, red beyond repair.
Heat rushed to her face as she hid behind the curtain.
"What are you doing here???"
"...What happened to walking around like this without a care?" Coughed Woohyun, nervously touching the fabric before him.
"Shut up! Just answer my question-"
"...I came to buy you a dress for tonight, it was supposed to be a surprise." He said, embarrassed.
"But why here..?"
"Because it's the best shop in town…?"
"...Why? Why would you give me a dress?" Asked a confused Kami.
Woohyun scratched his head.
"For sending you to Sungyeol's lair without coming with you..?"
Kami wrapped the fabric around her naked shoulders a little more.
"...I already have one."
"Oh...Which colour?" He inquired.
"In theme with the party I see…"
Woohyun looked at the wall of ribbons before him and grabbed one the same colour as her gown before walking to her.
"Will you take it? Since I can't buy you a dress...Let me buy you this." He smiled
"You don't have to…"
"...You keep on giving things to me and I am yet to offer you something."
Woohyun made a dramatic expression on purpose.
" Your time and interest is the best present you could offer me and therefore I am satisfied-"
"...I'll kick you."
Woohyun laughed and took her hand, wrapping the ribbon around her wrist for the moment.
"Well I was joking but...It isn't entirely false either. I really do enjoy your presence and I feel great knowing that you enjoy my works." He smiled "So please accept it?"
"Do you have someone to escort you to the party…?" He asked, blushing once again.
"No…Will you come with me?"
"I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want you to come…"
Kami watched as a needle cushion,thankfully free of the said needles, hit Woohyun's cheek.
"How dare you come into a lady's changing room???" Asked the old tailor, horrified.
"It isn't what it seems like- she came out on her own!"
"As if I would believe that you miscreant little-" she shouted, next grabbing a thread spool that laid on a pile of fabric- this one would hurt if it ever landed on him.
"Alright alright I am leaving!" He said running away to the counter where he left the money for the ribbon "See you later Kami, I'll come pick you up!!!" he shouted before running away.
Kami broke into laughter as the old woman pushed her back inside, closing the curtains behind her.
"Men have no decency, they are the worst!" She mumbled.
"...I may have to argue that some are quite alright." She smiled, eyeing the ribbon on her wrist- it was pretty.
"Was he the person you love?"
"....No, but he is someone I truly appreciate."
For the first time in a long time, Kami was excited to be going to a party.
Chapter VII: Dawn brings sadness.
Kami and Hyewon went ahead first to the carriage both sharing an umbrella, joyfully and yet shyly speaking to one another- leaving Mina and Hyunjin together, standing on the porch.
"...It's raining." Stated Mina who wanted to break the silence between them.
"It is...It always does rain a lot in Britain." He replied, holding his hand out to the grey outside world.
Mina watched as water pooled in the palm of his hand that was rather pretty for a man.
His fingers were long, slim, delicate although strong looking.
She remembered how she used to run around the gardens of her family mansion when it rained - knowing fully well that she wasn't supposed to because of her health but that she ignored the warning of her doctors to spend time with a friend.
She liked rain and how it cleansed the world, how it made the vegetation glow afterwards and how it smelled like in the countryside.
She liked watching dawn come up on the horizon after a night of rain by the tall willow tree that stood lonely on a hill.
"...I like rain." She whispered almost as a realization.
A friend? Dawn?
How could it when she had first seen it with Minhyun?
"...Or rather I used to like it I would say." She added as she stared at the grey skies above them.
Mina forgot why she had stopped loving the rain. She had forgotten why it had become a sad thing for her, something that made her melancholic and nostalgic.
"...Why did you stop liking it?" He asked and she stared at the skies, not noticing how he longingly looked at her, wanting to embrace her after all this time.
Mina's memory was always like this.
It was a nonsensical mess that lacked pieces, it annoyed her and yet she could do nothing about it.
Her parents wouldn't tell her what she was forgetting either, they only told her that her memory loss was due to one time she had been really sick, her fever putting her in an unconscious state for days- that was all she knew.
"...I just forgot I guess."
Black hair tips that weren't hers against her forehead, a gentle hand holding hers and the feeling of water running down her skin along with laughters that filled the air.
"...I forgot that it used to be something that brought joy to me...For the past years I have been thinking that it was a sad thing to witness…"
She eyed the man, he stood still watching her.
Mina wondered what he must have been thinking about at that moment, probably that she was weird for bearing this much affection for something as simple as water drops.
"...And you? Do you like rain?"
He smiled, breaking out of his trance like stare, before looking away again.
"...I love it." He replied with a confidence she had yet to see in him.
He slightly laughed as if remembering a good memory.
"I love the way the sky looks after it has rained, when everything is as clear as the water of a mountain river…I love how it has a peculiar scent…I love how it makes me remember a period of my life that is lost to time now..." He told her and she swore that he bit the inside of his cheek "...But sometimes it does make me sad, because as much as it is beautiful… It reminds me that things will never be the way they used to be."
The man stepped into the rain and she watched as water ran down the bridge of his nose and jaw.
"What are you doing? You are going to get all wet, come back-"
"What about it? It's just rain." He smiled reaching his hand out to her "Come, I'll bring you back home."
"In this weather?"
"In this weather."
Mina hesitated, he was the man she had beaten with a shovel afterall, why was he this nice to her?
"Aren't you going back with your sister?"
He shook his head.
"I'm going somewhere else before going back, it's important."
She somehow wanted to grab his hand and walk in the rain, it was something she had thought about before but had refrained from doing, knowing how much it would worry her parents- but they weren't at home that day, no one was.
"Well...If it is important...Shouldn't you get going first?"
He shook his head.
"It can wait for at least another hour."
What did she have to lose anyway?
"Well...Now I know your name." Smiled Kami, holding onto the woman's hand.
Her skin was soft and delicate- a clear sign that she had grown up in the same environment she had, sheltered.
Kami usually disliked nobility but she would make an exception for her, she was happy that she had grown up without knowing hunger.
"...Are you disappointed?"
"That you did not get to hear it from me."
"Not really...These are just details...I am just glad that I now know how to call you."
Hyewon brought Kami's hand to her lips and kissed it.
"I am so glad that we met.." she smiled, beautifully.
"Me too…" Kami replied"...However we could have spared the fall."
"Well...I am rather glad that we met the way we did...It was impactful and I'll never forget it." She sweetly replied before running her fingers through her blonde locks "...You looked especially dazing then...With your golden hair and the scattered flowers..."
Kami blushed, she wasn't used to such proximity and yet - she did not dislike it at all but made sure not to trick herself into thinking that her heart held the same feelings she did.
No one should learn of how her eyes saw Hyewon, how she wanted to stay by her side to catch all the little details that made her so lovely.
"..You were radiant too,more than I was."
"Nonsense." Smiled Hyewon.
She lowered her hand.
"...Will you come visit me again?" Asked Kami, already missing her touch.
"Not before the royal ball I fear...I'll be busy until then."
"But after that...I'll come to see you...If you still want me as a friend by then."
"Why wouldn't I?"
Hyewon looked at her brother talking to Mina on the porch.
If only things were more simple.
"Hearts change...Time changes everything."
"The party is but a few days away...What would it say about me if I stopped enjoying your company so soon?"
"...It would make you reasonable in your choices."
Kami was surprised by the coldness of her words, by the way she avoided her eyes.
"You don't know a thing about me and yet….See how much you trust me…" she sadly smiled " Don't open yourself so easily to strangers…"
"Then tell me. Tell me about yourself."
She shook her head.
Hyewon took her hands and brought them to herself.
"....I do not open myself easily to strangers." Whispered Kami " Just you."
Hyewon slightly blushed, just enough for Kami to notice the pink hues on her cheeks- and she smirked, it was the first time that she had managed to make her blush.
"...When we meet after the party...Let's meet alone, the two of us…Let's go picnic in Hyde park."
"...So...Are you going to tell me where we met?" Mina asked as the pair walked in the rain.
Hyunjin looked at her, surprised.
"...Minhyun told me about you-"
"Hyunjin." She called him."I am not stupid, I know that it isn't just that...You know me."
The man sighed.
"...I knew you." He finally admitted " And yes you used to know me."
"Then why not say it sooner?"
"Because you did not even recognize me back in your garden...You have forgotten about me and ...I guess it's alright."
"How is it? It's...rude and I am sorry." said Mina, running a hand on her face.
She was sick of herself and of being unable to piece together her past.
"...I don't mind it, don't apologize." He lied.
"....Will you tell me then?"
"Sometimes...Some things are just better left forgotten...I don't want to confuse or bother you."
"This is my choice to make, not yours...Please tell me."
The pair finally reached her mansion.
"...We used to be close friends,playmates." He lied, omitting the part where they had made a promise that would have changed their whole life if she had remembered it.
" What age were we?"
It was still so clear to Hyunjin, the memory of that day.
Dew on her skin as he had grabbed her hand, placing a pure kiss on its back, swearing a whole life of loyalty to her and her only- telling her that one day he would come back for her.
He still remembered how she had blushed, her pink cheeks shining brighter than that dawn that overlooked them.
" We met several times...Once when we were five and we stayed in contact over the years. We met every time I came to England." He said.
He could remember her running to him through the light green grass to hug him, crying of joy every time he came back to her.
"Then...When was the last time we met?"
"...When we were fourteen."
Hyunjin remembered kissing her shyly, lightly and with trembling lips.
His black hair grazing her forehead, he could remember how anxious he had been.
Mina frowned in confusion.
"But that was just four years ago….surely I…I can't have forgotten about that?"
"You can ask Myungsoo if you struggle to believe me-"
"No no no I believe you! I don't know why but...You indeed do feel familiar…" she confessed "I believe you."
Hyunjin remembered holding her tightly in his arms and just when he had thought that he would never feel sad ever again, their world broke apart.
A blunt hit to her head with the handle of a dagger, him trying to fight off a man twice his size and the sound of the Han's hounds running towards them.
He remembered falling to the ground, exhausted as the assailant ran away, hearing Myungsoo's voice in the distance along with the screams of guards.
He remembered holding her close to him as blood poured from her head, drowning the already wet earth beneath them- his tears clouding his eyes thinking that she would die there, in his arms.
"...But I'm sorry…" she sighed " I didn't know that my memory was this bad."
Hyunjin remembered staying at the Han's family mansion for days after the incident, hoping and praying with her family and yet when she woke up, it was as if he had been erased from her memories- him and most of her past.
He remembered Myungsoo falling to his knees along with his parents, begging him to leave and never come back- hoping that she would never have to remember the attack, saying that it was for the best.
And so he did, leaving one night before even being able to see that she was indeed alright.
"Like I said…You don't have to apologize. I am alright now." He smiled, clenching his hands "And so are you."
He had hoped that along the years she would have remembered bits about him or even his sister.
But that was what it stayed as, a meaningless hope and now she loved another and he couldn't even blame her for it.
He was probably to blame for what had happened and had never forgiven himself for not being strong enough back then.
"...What can I do to make it up to you?" She asked "For forgetting you and well...hitting you with a shovel when we met again."
A light laugh escaped his lips.
Just being able to talk with her like this was a blessing, he didn't need anything else.
"...A meal, just with the two of us if it is alright with you."
"A meal? Would that be enough?"
He smiled and nodded.
"It would be more than enough."
Minhee slipped out of her bed, naked and eyeing her fiance asleep next to her.
Fiance…She still struggled to see a difference with how he was with her before and after his proposal.
He had only gotten rougher with the way he embraced her, he had only grown distant although physically next to her.
She did not feel loved anymore and yet, she wasn't alone and that was fine with her.
Her body ached as she walked to her pale blue day dress, quickly dressing herself before walking out of her room.
All was empty, the halls, the rooms and even the servants were seemingly still asleep but for one old lady that walked up to her- her nanny.
"Miss Minhee…" she called out to the young woman, seeing how lost she looked in her own mansion "Is everything alright?"
Minhee forced a smile.
"Yes...I am, why wouldn't I?"
The nanny sighed.
The main clock of the hall ticked in the silence.
"...You always were a bad liar and it worried me because you live in a world that requires you to put on an act everyday…"
Minhee lowered her head.
"You always look like you are about to cry when you lie about important things….Will you tell me what's wrong?"
A scoff escaped her lips.
What was wrong? Everything, everything felt off and out of place.
"...It's truly nothing."
The old woman eyed her before taking her hand, knowing that pushing the issue further wouldn't help her.
"...When you feel like even breathing is hard….Remember at least one happy memory, the more recent the better and hang onto it…" she said " It will help you go through dark nights until the sun shines upon you again."
A recent and happy memory.
She couldn't pinpoint a happy one but she could remember where she felt safe and at peace.
"...Is the driver awake?" She asked the woman.
"He is, he is having a cup of tea in the kitchen."
"Good...Please tell him to get ready to leave in ten minutes."
" I will…" she bowed as Minhee walked away.
"Miss." Called out the nanny.
"...What should I do about your guest in your room?"
Minhee froze, she had been thinking that they had been careful enough.
The servants knew that they were to be married and that he stayed in the mansion but not that they already shared a bed- or so she had thought.
"...How do you?"
"I've taken care of you and looked after you since you were but a baby...I know when something happens in your life, I can see it." She declared "...And he isn't particularly trying to hide the truth either." She said, eyeing her neck.
Minhee brought a hand to it to cover it.
Did he leave marks?
"What...What do you mean?"
"He has been walking around ordering us as if he is already master of the house."
"...Will you tell my parents?"
"I am your servant, not theirs." She stated " And they are yet to come back from their trip."
Worry washed upon the old woman's face who cared for her as her own daughter.
"...Miss...Can I tell you a bit of advice?"
"....If a man isn't good to you before marriage, he won't be after the ceremony is over."
Minhee already knew it and yet she didn't want to let go.
Not when she had waited for him forever.
"...I'll come back in a few hours...If he wakes up before that, please tell him that I went out for a walk."
"Yes Miss." Bowed the old lady as Minhee went down the stairs.
The young woman grabbed a coat that hung near the entrance and wrapped it around her shoulders.
"Where should we go Miss?" Ask the driver, opening the door of the coach for her.
"Near the river bank, I'll give you the address."
Minhee nervously stood before the wooden door although the man had clearly invited her to come back whenever she wanted to.
"It's alright...If he is busy you'll just have to go home." She whispered to herself, opening the door.
The first thing that hit her was the nice scent of freshly cut cedar wood, it was the kind of scent you would come upon in lush forests bathed in sunlight.
She quietly walked into the room that was still dark for the sun was but small in the horizon and saw Sungyeol asleep on one of his work tables.
She swallowed her breath as her eyes laid on him.
Her fingers ran over the table and stopped when they came an inch away from his handsome face.
She felt his soft breath on her fingertips and she wondered how one could sleep in such an angelic way- so carefreely.
Minhee wondered if he dreamt and if he did, she wondered if his dreams were as beautiful as his creations.
The young woman walked to the opposite side of the table and sat on a stool, also resting on the table as she eyed the skies turning purple and then pink.
She watched as the waters started shimmering and stared as the first boats pulled their anchors out of the murky water, slowly drifting away.
The outside world was louder than in her neighborhood and yet, everything felt calmer.
She looked as the sun rays finally entered the atelier, slowly coming closer to her hand that was resting on the table, reaching towards the window.
Minhee could see herself stay forever there.
"When did you come here?" Asked Sungyeol,waking up.
Minhee sat up and slightly smiled.
"Some time ago..The door was open and...Uh..I didn't want to wake you up...You seemed exhausted." She said.
Sungyeol ran a hand through his hair with a defeated smile, and she watched as his hair fell back onto his tired eyes.
"You should have…"
Minhee sat uncomfortably as he yawned.
"...You did not go home…?"
The man stood up and stretched.
"I was working on something, trying some new material...It was harder than what I expected and ended up spending the night here." He explained, looking at a stack of half carved pieces of wood sitting in a corner of the room.
Minhee quickly noticed the wounded tips of his fingers, dry blood on his skin.
"Oh this? It's nothing, don't worry." He said, checking his hands.
"Do you have a box with some linen wraps and alcohol?"
He nodded, pointing at a shelf with his chin.
Minhee walked there and grabbed the small box before going back to him.
"Sit down." She asked him.
The man nodded and obeyed.
Minhee took the splinters out of his skin and cleaned his cuts diligently.
"...You can't let your hands be like this." She told him.
"You're an artist...Your hands are precious."
"It is but a splinter."
"It could get infected..."
Sungyeol rested his head on his hand, eyeing the woman.
He had found her beautiful from the very first time he had laid eyes on her.
Her flowy fiery violet red hair that was more vivid than some lacker he would use on his pottery and her amber like irises, similar to the stones he used to add into some of his marble statues - her skin pale and perfect like them.
He had also been surprised by her knowledge of his art and by her helping him carefully put back the broken pieces of his cups together.
He had been touched by how pretty her tears had been.
The man wasn't the best at expressing emotions and so he had regretted not showing her more gratefulness, not showing her that he had appreciated her presence.
Sungyeol had truly expected her never to come back and yet- there she had been in front of him when he opened his eyes.
He eyed her for some time as she tried to grab a rising sun with her delicate fingertips, rays escaping her grip before gently hitting her long eyelashes that draped her almond eyes.
She was a lovely sight that he would not mind having by his side if it pleased her.
"Tell me if it hurts…"
Sungyeol's eyes traveled from her face down to her neck where he saw marks, love marks- and so he knew better than to let himself get ahead and ask her out for a meal.
She was taken.
"...Why are you here?" He asked, not wanting to bring the wrath of a husband or lover upon himself " A young woman shouldn't be here at such an hour."
Minhee finished bandaging him.
"...I needed to breathe."
"Were you having some trouble doing so before?" He asked, recognizing the signs of depression.
"...It felt like I was slowly dying." She confessed.
Sungyeol watched as she turned her head to the river, trying to swallow her sadness.
"...Come here for a moment." He said, taking her hand and leading her to the window which he opened right away.
"I wasn't saying that I can't literally breathe you know-"
"I know but still. Take a breath."
Minhee took a small, barely noticeable breath.
She was too aware of his hand on her shoulder that held her facing the awakening port to be breathing calmly.
"...A real one." He asked again and she did.
She breathed a few more times before feeling the tension leave her back as if a magic spell had been casted onto her.
She turned around to see a small grin on his lips.
"...It worked...I..I feel better." She said.
"See? Although the suffocation you feel is mostly psychological...The stress tends to keep you from physically breathing the way you should." He explained "Sometimes it is important to stop and just relax."
"...It sounds awfully obvious."
"And yet most people forget."
Minhee leaned over to watch the streets get busy, a smile appearing on her lips- she was almost willing to believe that he was a magician.
"...You can't be coming here." He sighed.
Minhee suddenly turned around.
"Why? Why not?"
"...I saw the marks." Sungyeol told her as she immediately hid her neck with hands " You don't have to cover yourself...I am not here to judge you."
Minhee lowered her hands and clenched them behind her back.
"...I can't have engaged or married women here, I don't want to die at the hand of an angry spouse."
"Even when we haven't done anything wrong?"
Sungyeol was attracted to her and he knew that she was too by the way she looked at him, things were bound to happen if they stayed together and the last thing he wanted was to ruin a relationship.
But then again would she have been there if everything was alright?
"I can't have you here….I am sorry." He apologized.
Minhee wasn't ready to say goodbye, to leave this place and bid farewell to him.
Not when all of her moments by his side had brought life back to her.
"...I came to make an order." She lied.
Sungyeol sadly smiled, seeing through it right away.
"...I want you to make a statue for me."
Minhee bit her lip.
"....Then that's it?"
Sungyeol slowly closed the window,his hand leaving her shoulder.
Myungsoo sat in front of his desk, in his room of marble and gold ,frowning.
All he wanted to do was to get back to his house and yet, issues kept on piling up - his time left all but diminishing.
"What are these?" He asked, eyeing the small note written in red ink, spread before him.
"You won't get your way." Read Minhyun to his friend, leaning against a well.
"Where did you find it?" He asked the younger man.
"On your doorstep when I was going to your house to see Mina."
"...How is she?"
"...She is alright."
"Was there someone nearby that looked suspicious?"
" No one."
Minhyun wanted to go back as soon as he could, he didn't like the idea of leaving Mina alone back there, who knew what could happen?
Time was ticking and who knew what their enemies would try in order to stop them.
"...Shouldn't we tell her…?"
"Why should we?"
"Well because...It does also concern her. You know how things will change."
"...I want her to appreciate what's left of our normal life."
"...She might resent you."
Myungsoo sadly smiled.
"And you're fine with that?"
"I don't have a choice and...It's my fault that we are in this situation to begin with."
"No it isn't."
Myungsoo stood up and rested a hand on his shoulder.
"...Thank you Minhyun."
"Everything...And especially for taking care of my sister."
Myungsoo didn't know that Minhyun protecting her was no longer just a mission for him.
"I am glad that the two of you are getting along…" he smiled.
"I am too."
"....Does she know that you are here?" He asked.
Chapter VI: Marble and Memories
"I should pay you back for helping me." Said Sungyeol, putting back pieces together.
Minhee didn't exactly remember why she was helping him and how she had ended up doing so - glueing pieces of porcelain back together was more fun than what she had expected, especially in such good, eye-pleasing company.
"You don't have to...In fact I should be the one thanking you for letting me do this…"
The man discreetly eyed her, blowing on the glue for it to dry quickly.
"...Why?" He asked.
"Well...I fought with my friends and needed something to take my mind off of it."
Minhee threw him a stare that he did not reciprocate,he was busy with one of his cups.
She couldn't help but admire him, there was something oddly attractive about the way he frowned when focused, ignoring the strand of hair that poked at his eyelid.
"...Aren't you asking me why we fought?"
"Do you want me to..?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well...Uh...I don't know…?"
"This has nothing to do with me, it would be rude of me to ask."
Minhee nodded, he was right and she felt stupid for expecting him to care about her and her worries.
He didn't know her and she didn't know him after all - the fact that they were together was a pure coincidence that hanged on the pieces of porcelain they both were holding.
"...But if it makes you feel better...I can listen to you. You helped me out a lot today after all…" he unexpectedly told her.
Minhee slightly smiled, somehow touched by his words.
She knew that he was saying this out of courtesy and not because he genuinely cared and yet- It was the most listened to she had felt in days.
"...It's a long story but….Basically me and my friends argued and I…" she bit her lips " I might have told them in a fit of anger that I don't need them anymore."
"...I see…" Sungyeol said before putting his brush down on the table "Then can I tell you something?"
"Of course…" replied Minhee.
The man eyed his creations that were now glued back together perfectly, only missing some golden powder on the cracks.
"I always tell my friends to get lost and to never come back when we fight…It's always painful and bad at first but no one truly believes the words that are spoken during these fights. It will probably be the same for you guys"
"...But I was particularly mean."
"Still...You will be alright."
"How can you know…?"
"Because you aren't angry anymore...You feel guilt right? You wouldn't if you didn't care...You would resent them...It's proof that you didn't mean your words and they probably felt it too. "
Minhee lowered her head, trying to keep her tears from falling out of her eyes.
She hoped things would go as easily as he had told her and yet,she had no hope.
"...I'm scared that I broke what we used to have…I am scared that I might have hurt them…I am scared that they'll never forgive me..."
"They are probably thinking the same thing you know...." He said.
Sungyeol silently eyed her as she swallowed her tears.
"...Are you ok?"
"Yes it's nothing, I am just getting emotional-"
"I am not talking about the fact that you are...well...Trying your best not to cry."
Minhee eyed him curiously.
"You must have been hurt in a way to get angry at them like that...What was the reason and are you better now?"
Minhee slowly put down her cup.
"I…I wanted to be heard...Understood no matter how dumb some of my decisions are...I just wanted them to listen to me."
The man quietly listened, sprinkling golden powder onto the cracks.
She liked that he wasn't staring back at her as she spoke, it made things easier for her.
"...I wanted them to tell me that I would somehow be alright because...Well I am scared to death of the path that is unfolding before me and of the person supposed to walk with me through it…"
She let out a tear and hid her face behind her hands.
"...I know that they are right but...I just wanted them to listen to how painful this has all been…"
Sungyeol closed the jar of golden pigment before resting his face against his hand.
"Then you should tell them that."
"Honesty is usually the best thing when it comes to making amends. It is necessary if you want things to go back to the way they were."
Minhee eyed the man that was more caring than what she had expected at first.
"...Thank you for the advice." She said, slightly flustered by the kind smile that appeared on his lips.
"You're welcome Miss." He replied.
A weight had been lifted off Minhee's chest, she felt better and felt courage somewhere deep in her heart.
"...And also thank you for letting me stay here….And sorry for crying this much when we just met…" she whispered, embarrassed.
He shook his head, one of his hair strands falling off his loose ponytail.
"Don't worry about it."
Minhee stood up, clenching her bag against her chest, reality calling her back, she had to go back to Gongyoo before lunch.
He wouldn't like it if she was too late.
"Hmm...I...I shoud get going…" she said.
"You should...It's almost lunch time."
"Yes it is."
Minhee stood still for a while, almost expecting him to say something else that might keep her there for a few more minutes in this safe haven of white marble that would never judge her.
"...Goodbye." she finally said, turning around and walking to the door.
She heard the sound of a moving chair.
"...If you ever feel like you need to cry or...well...Be listened to…" he called, his back straightened "You are free to come back here whenever you want."
Minhee froze before throwing him a glance.
There was a window on the ceiling that illuminated his work table on which he happened to be sitting.
The light was like honey rolling on the outline of his slim body, it embraced him and made the tip of his hair almost glow like deep ambers.
"But...You barely know me…"
"You can't be worse than Woohyun." He joked with a simple smile.
"I am not…" she smiled back.
"Then you are welcomed as long as you promise to keep my works intact."
Mina was over at Kami's estate,the two of them quietly drinking their tea.
"...Can you understand wanting to get married so bad that you rush into the arms of a jerk..?" Asked Kami to Mina.
The brunette sighed.
"...Well I guess that it has to do with how many times she had her heart broken in the past year….Maybe she thinks that nobody will have her if she doesn't marry him…"
"But still...I don't understand preferring a miserable life because of a husband rather than living freely alone…What's so good about men?"
Mina ran her finger on the rim of her cup.
"We are family….Why would she need someone else?"
Mina sadly smiled.
"Because one day I'll get married, she will and you probably will too no matter how we have complained about marriage….We'll move away from our current homes and we'll get to see each other less and less...Who do you think will remain by her side then?"
"I have my parents, brother and now Minhyun...You have your family and Woohyun too...But Minhee only has her parents that do not care for her happiness…" she told her "Remember how she has always told us that she would like to have a child later?"
"She just doesn't want to be alone."
Kami sighed in defeat.
"What's so great about babies and husbands anyway? Look at the Queen and King! They are doing fine without having any children!"
"That's a different story…"
"It's not that they don't want children it's that they can't have them…"
"Still they are happy."
"They have to appear happy...They aren't."
Kami sighed once more as the bell rang downstairs.
"...Were you expecting someone else today?" Asked Mina.
"No...Do you think it is..?"
"It must be Minhee, let's go!"
Mina and Kami rushed down the stairs before freezing before the door.
"...What should we tell her?" Said Mina.
"I don't know but I am not apologizing first." Firmly stated Kami.
Mina rolled her eyes as the bell rang again, her friend could be stubborn and childish at times.
Kami inhaled deeply before opening the door.
"Hmm…?" Smiled a pretty woman that Mina had never seen before.
Mina did not miss the surprise in her friends eyes as well as the red on her cheeks.
"Wait...How are you...here?" Asked Kami, flustered.
"Well...You told me that I could come back didn't you?"
Mina soon noticed another figure coming behind her, a figure she quickly recognized.
"The driver will come back in around two hours so make sure to be ready to go by then-" said the blonde man, his gaze falling onto Mina's.
Kami's new friend hopped closer to Mina, pushing the man aside as she slightly frowned.
"Wait...Do I know you from somewhere…?" She asked
"Your face is quite familiar…"
The man that Mina had met in her garden pulled the woman back, by the back strap of her dress.
"She's Mina." He mumbled to her between his teeth, discreetly.
Kami gently jabbed Mina with her elbow.
"You know them…?"
"How could you not? You-" interrupted the pretty lady.
The stranger covered her mouth with his hand, fluster written all over his face.
"Just let it go ok?"
The young woman pushed him away.
"Do this again Hyunjin and I'll bite your fingers off." Threatened the girl that looked like an angry kitten more than anything else.
"No you won't, dummy."
It was Mina's voice that brought their fight to a halt. The name sounded familiar and she was sure that she had heard it somewhere else before.
The man froze and looked at her, shaken by her voice calling him after such a long time.
It had changed and yet he could still recognize it- it was smoother and somehow thicker, like velvet on naked skin or fur on a cold day.
However he couldn't shake off the distance he felt in the way she pronounced the syllables of his name, she truly didn't remember him and he could see that in her eyes.
Hyunjin had wondered for years how them meeting again would be like and what he would say to her, all of his hopes destroyed in her garden when he had learned the cruel truth.
Hyunjin hadn't expected her to still like him after all that time, he might have hoped that she would but he had never taken it for granted and so he was fine even if she loved another- he had no right to tell her not to.
"Yes?" He said, forcing a smile.
Mina turned her head away, embarrassed that she had spoken his name out loud.
"Oh hmm...I wasn't calling you...Sorry." she apologized.
He was fine by just being able to see her again, to finally be able to clearly remember her face in his memories.
"I know...Don't worry."
What Kami felt was but a painful and throbbing jealousy as she watched her stranger hold Mina's hands, asking her question after question.
It was ridiculous really and she knew it.
"Are you married ? Engaged?"
Kami caught the man raising an eyebrow, she still wasn't sure as to who he was to her new friend, but she sure didn't like how he talked to her, he was no gentleman.
"No she is not." Replied Kami before she even noticed it.
There had been annoyance in her voice and all of them seemed to have picked on it.
"Hmm…" Embarrassedly let out Kami " So you two are….engaged?"
The pair exchanged a glance, both more disgusted than the other.
"What? No! He is my brother!" Shouted her horrified guest "He is here because he helped me escape."
"Oh I'm sorry I didn't know- You two just looked close so…"
"Me? Close with that...thing?" whispered the young woman, pointing at her brother.
"Thing…?" Repeated Hyunjin, crossing his arms " Fine I won't help you next time you need to get out-"
The woman gasped and grabbed his hand.
"...You know that I love you right?" She acted, really badly.
"...I can feel the dishonesty dripping from your words Hyewon."
It wasn't how Kami had expected to learn her name and yet she wouldn't complain.
She finally knew how to call her.
"How dare you doubt me??? Your dear sister???"
"You lost this title back when we were five! You tried to make me eat bugs!"
Kami and Mina weren't used to people being this loud, especially when they were guests.
"There are people in the world that eat bugs...I wanted to make you experience their culture…"
"At five year old???"
"The younger the better-"
"Admit it you're just evil-"
"Don't mind him, he is a little dramatic sometimes…" smiled Hyewon to Kami, finally acknowledging her.
The young woman blinked a few times.
"...Well he just called you by your name so…."
Hyewon threw a warning glance to Hyunjin who immediately sighed.
"...Sorry." he whispered.
"...And? How is it?" She asked, leaning closer to her, resting her head on her hand.
"It's a pretty name...that suits you."
Hyewon smiled, more gently this time around.
"Is that all?"
"It sounds familiar."
The siblings exchanged a stare before Hyunjin spoke up.
"...It's quite a common name from the country we are from."
"You're not from here…?" Asked Mina who had been quietly eyeing him all this time.
She couldn't help but be uneasy because of the pair that seemed to know her when she had no idea as to who they were.
It was the way Hyewon talked to her as if she had found an old friend back , it was the way Hyunjin longingly looked at her with pain in his eyes from that first time they met in the gardens.
Mina lowered her head.
She knew she had memory issues but they couldn't be that bad couldn't they?
How could she totally forget about people that were so friendly to her?
"Would you stay for dinner?" Asked Kami
"....Don't say that, you'll regret it...She eats more than elephants-"
Hyunjin crouched down, hit in the ribs by his sister's elbow.
"I can't let him say nonsense, I always have a small appetite…" lied the woman "However I'll have to decline, we are expected somewhere else."
"I see…" sighed Kami, disappointed "...Another time then?"
Hyewon gently grabbed her hand under the table and slightly squeezed it.
The woman leaned in, pushing aside Kami's hair and whispered in her ear, grazing it with her lips.
"I'm sorry for today...I got carried away but it was you that I came to see...I promise I'll make it up to you next time."
Minhee stood before Kami's house, silently watching both of her friends laugh with the two strangers, feeling like she was the only one bothered by their fight.
Maybe it was the case and maybe she had overestimated how much she mattered to them.
She let go of the small box of cookies she had bought for them as the rain began to pour- she didn't have an umbrella and it seemed like the whole world was against her at that moment.
Minhee silently walked home and entered her barely lit house.
It was still the beginning of the afternoon and yet, the rooms were so dark she could have believed that it was already time for her to go to bed.
Gongyoo came down the stairs, eyeing her as tears silently rolled down her already drenched cheeks- she was and felt miserable.
"See Darling..? I told you that we are better off by ourselves."
Minhee embraced him, only then did she realize that he wasn't much warmer than the outside rain - she found herself thinking about the atelier and its calming lights.
She already longed for it.
"We can only rely on one another...Do you understand?"
She longed for the peace and safety of that small room.
Chapter V: Broken isn't a synonym of weak.
Minhee was still crying when Gongyoo entered the room, he eyed the young woman for an instant.
She truly looked pitiful like this, in tears on the cold floor, keeping her hands to her chest as if scared that her pained heart would fall out of her body.
A sigh escaped his lips as he knelt before her, pulling her into a hug.
"...I told you that it was a bad idea…" he whispered, wiping her tears away.
This was what confused her, his soft touch.
She couldn't be wrong when he felt so caring.
She couldn't be wrong when he was this warm and her so cold.
"Why…? Why were you like this back there?" She asked, her voice buried by the sobs.
He frowned, stopping his caresses.
"...Are you blaming me for what happened…?"
"N..No I am not...But you did say things that also provoked them."
"...So you do blame me."
He stepped away from her, running a hand in his hair.
The distance he was putting between the both of them was making Minhee nervous, what if he also left her?
What if she truly was left alone this time without even having her friends to comfort her?
"...Did you see how they looked at me? Kami..? Was that her name?" He sighed "She looked at me as if I was a monster and so did Mina...Just because I am not noble."
Minhee shook her head.
"They don't care about things like this…They were angry but it wasn't because of that…"
"See? You are defending them again…What am I to think when you blame me for everything wrong that happens to you.. "
"Then what am I supposed to do?" She cried again " I love you and I love them...Are you also asking me to choose?"
Gongyoo looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
It wasn't something he had expected them to do.
"...They made you choose?"
He carefully knelt before her, slowly kissing her to calm her down.
"..That was cruel of them." He said against her lips that tasted of salt because of her tears " I would never ask you to choose...Your happiness is my priority."
Minhee buried her face in his neck, glad that he still was willing to hold her.
"Don't leave me…" she begged, hanging onto his clothes.
"I won't...Even if everyone disappears all around you. I will always be there."
"...Let's get married Minhee."
"Fuck him." Cursed Kami, kicking a poor and innocent wooden box that was lying on the sideway under the judging stare of a passersby.
Tears were silently rolling down her cheeks as she released her wrath on the piece of wood under the gaze of a concerned Woohyun that didn't know how to calm her.
"If I ever see him again I'll rip the intestines out of the bastard-" She promised.
"Hey-" called Woohyun, grabbing her wrist.
Anger left her face as soon as she saw Woohyun's worried face and then she fully broke, sobbing uncontrollably.
She regretted her cold words but she hadn't lied...
She didn't understand how her friend could be this blind and how she could so easily give up on them after everything they had been through together.
And Kami was mad that he had to witness her like this, weak and crying when she always tried to appear strong to everyone around her.
"Come here…" he said hugging her.
Kami liked that his shoulders and chest were broad, she liked how it felt like the world disappeared when she hid herself against him.
Woohyun carefully caressed her head in a soothing manner, slowly and repetitively until she finally calmed down.
"...I'll allow you to hit me if it means saving the poor box." he joked, hoping to make her smile.
"...I'll break your ribs."
"I doubt that. I am in good shape you know?"
Woohyun felt a light punch on his shoulder.
"...Ouch." He let out before looking at her face.
Kami faintly smiled at him.
"...You're an idiot."
Woohyun sighed in relief, glad to see her somehow back to herself.
"Can the idiot make a proposition?"
"What kind of proposition?"
"Well...Would you be up to actually break some things?"
Minhyun was pained as Mina silently walked beside him, tears staining her lovely cheeks.
The man wasn't good at cheering people up.
It was one of his flaws and yet he wanted to help her feel better.
"Are you hungry…?"
"I'm not.." sobbed the girl in a weak voice, walking slowly besides him.
"But still...You didn't sleep last night and you didn't eat dinner too...I would hate it if you became sick." He whispered, taking her hand.
She stopped, hopelessly staring at the ground.
"...What should I do Minhyun?" She asked before crouching down , hiding her face behind her trembling hands.
Minhyun joined her and rubbed her back.
"You'll be alright, I am sure of it."
"How? We never argued this bad before and the man...The man is still here."
"I'll take care of him ok? I'll investigate him and make sure that everything turns out fine so...Please...Take care of yourself." He begged.
Mina eyed him, confused.
"But why…? You don't care about Minhee...You barely know her."
"It's true...But she seems like a nice girl that deserves better and she is dear to you...And I want you to be happy with all of your friends by your side ,so I'll help."
"..Thank you…" she whispered.
"Don't…I told you that I would care for you last night didn't I?" He smiled and so did she after some time.
Minhyun rubbed the back of her hand, still sad to see her pretty eyes swollen.
"..You're the best." She said with a faint smile.
"...I agree but don't let your brother hear that, he would kill me." He giggled.
"He would...In a painful manner."
"Right?" Laughed Minhyun.
Mina rested her head on his shoulder for some time, until she felt her tears dry on her cheeks.
"...Hey Minhyun...Have you ever fallen apart with a friend?"
His lips parted a little, surprised by the question.
"...I guess I have...But in a different way."
Minhyun had never told anyone about that story, because it was too painful and also because he had never felt close enough to someone before to do so.
"...There was a boy that I knew when I was a teenager...Bright and kind...He knew me better than I knew myself…" he told her and she could see his throat tighten " ...He died and I never got to say goodbye to him before he did."
"Minhyun...I'm...I'm so sorry…"
He sadly smiled, shaking his head.
"Don't be. It was a long time ago...It's not relevant to this situation anyway...Minhee is alive and well, and soon enough you'll be back to being a trio."
Mina could tell that sharing his story had taken a toll on him.
His head was lower and his smile dimmer- yet she knew that she should not ask more of him.
She knew that opening up this way was probably harder than what it may have seemed like.
Noble children grew up repressing their feelings, be them good or bad.
There was a constant expectation for them to be perfect: perfectly educated, perfectly polite, perfectly spoken and perfectly beautiful.
Sacrifices were made along the way to reach these inhuman goals and rare were those that lived a happy life as grown ups.
She had seen from a young age how her older brother had ceased to complain like a child would at a time he shouldn't have cared for appearances.
Minhyun was just the same if not worse, he had no sibling to rely on.
"...Are you hungry?" She finally said, wanting to cheer him up"...Someone told me that not sleeping and not eating dinner was bad for one's health...I would hate for you to be sick" she repeated his words to him, clenching his hand.
Minhyun sighed and smiled.
"...I must admit that I am starving."
"Then let's go. I don't want to go home yet." She finished.
"...Where are we?" Asked Kami, confused as Woohyun looked for something as they stood in front of an old wooden door in an even older building.
"Ah- Wait a second you'll see-" he said "I swear to god he is even worse than myself at putting things into their place- Ah! Found it! " exclaimed Woohyun, finally finding the brass key that was hidden behind a loose part of the parquet that cracked beneath their feet.
Kami curiously eyed him as he opened the door, revealing an atelier with unfinished marble statues,plates and cups.
There was a single large window that gave away a view of the busy Thames filled with commercial boats that shined like fireflies on top of the calm waters.
"Make yourself at home."
"Is this your place...?" She asked
"...Do I look like a sculptor to you? Do I look like I am good at using my hands?"
"...This sounds vaguely inappropriate sir." She laughed before watching his cheeks turn red.
Woohyun sat on a table, almost falling in the process and cleared his throat.
" It...It wasn't my intention! And how do you even know about these things anyway??"
"Books." Smirked Kami.
Woohyun blinked, turning even more red.
" I told you that I read every type of book there is."
Woohyun rubbed his neck, embarrassed.
There was fun in bothering him.
"...So what is this place?" Kami asked.
"It's my friend's atelier." He explained "He lets me come whenever I want and sometimes I'll sit in a corner and write."
"And why did you bring me here?"
He smiled and took an orange box full of cups and plates.
"We came for this...It's the discarded projects he won't sell or keep, we are free to break them."
He nodded, pointing at a part of a wall that had white dust on it.
"We throw them at the wall to get rid of our stress."
"Stress? You stress too?"
Woohyun raised an eyebrow, warming his body up as he took a cup in his hand.
"Why shouldn't I? I am human too you know…"
"Well yes but you seem so carefree…?"
"Oh I am...But my carefreeness is what stresses me out...Sometimes I wonder if I should just live like everybody else."
"That sounds boring."
"Yes and that's why I still am living the way I am." He smiled before throwing the cup at the wall that immediately shattered upon impact "...It's better if you imagine the face of someone you hate while throwing things." Woohyun said.
Kami walked to the box and took a plate, barely needing any effort to get her anger up again.
She remembered how the man smiled when Minhee looked so unwell, she remembered his arrogant words and before she knew it the plate came crashing against the wall.
"...The fucking jerk." She swore before grabbing another one as Woohyun stepped back to let her go of her pent up anger freely.
A cup exploded against the wooden planks.
"The worthless bastard!!!"
Woohyun nodded in agreement as he watched her.
"The piece of decomposed trash!!!"
Woohyun's stare fell onto the label of the box, his eyes widening.
"I'll make him regret the day he was born-" she shouted, about to throw another plate when Woohyun grabbed her wrist "What..?!"
"...I might have taken the wrong box." He confessed.
Kami looked at the broken pieces of porcelain and blinked, looking at his face.
"...You are kidding right?" Asked the blonde woman, horrified.
"...He is going to kill me."
"...What's written on the label?"
"Autumn collection." Whispered Woohyun "...I just remembered that the box with the objects we can break is brown."
Kai put down the plate she had been about to break back into the box.
"...What should we do?" She asked
"W..We should write a note and leave."
"Trust me you don't want us to be here when he comes back." He explained " You see the broken plates there? This will be us and our bones."
Kami watched as Woohyun hastily wrote a note, sighing and yet- with a smile on her face.
He might have been clumsy but she knew that he was trying his best - almost managing to make her forget how awful her evening had been.
"Two soups!" Said the vendor, handing the two bowls to Minhyun who brought them to their outside table.
Mina was fascinated by the place they were in that glowed too brightly for her swollen eyes.
Red lanterns dangled from every curved roof and smells of spices filled the air around them.
She had walked with awe as they passed by restaurants that served dishes she had never seen before, it was like she was in another dimension.
"Fascinating isn't it?"
"What is it?" Asked Mina, eyeing with curiosity the dishes.
"Well I am not sure...It's my first time ordering on my own.." he said "It was always your brother that ordered food when we came here."
"I didn't know that he knew this kind of place…"
Minhyun smiled, resting his face on his hand.
"You probably don't know a lot of things about him. He is quite special." He told her "He always tries to see every aspect of this world, be it good or bad...When it would be easier to just ignore the unpleasant things."
Minhyun gently patted her head.
"And even when he seems so busy that he is losing himself, he is worrying about you. Always."
Mina sighed as she tasted the soup.
"It's good…"she smiled and so did he.
They ate silently and after sometime Minhyun finally spoke.
"...Do you know why he brought me here?"
She shook her head.
"To show me the people here...They are all migrants that left their home country for a better life...Sometimes leaving some members of their family behind…." He began "...Myungsoo always says that we are born privileged and that therefore we are indebted from the very first breath we take as nobles."
Minhyun stared at their empty bowls.
"We'll never know hunger, what it feels like to sleep without a roof or to be unable to buy medicine when we are sick…Myungsoo always told me that although we should acknowledge our pains...That we should never forget how small they are compared to the one of others." Minhyun recited.
Mina remembered having a similar talk with her brother who had always cared for the common people more than anyone expected him to in their entourage.
"...I am not saying this to tell you to feel bad about well...Being upset...It's just something he told me that helped me when I struggled with life and…" Minhyun scoffed "..I am really bad at giving advice so...I just wanted to share what works for me." He finished, embarrassed.
Mina took his hand, kissing it.
"Thank you...Thank you for tonight…" whispered Mina "If it was not for you I…"
She bit her lips.
"...I might have cried all night long and for the next week or so." She said and he caringly smiled "...So thank you."
"What will you do then?"
Mina leaned back, staring at the starry sky.
"The three of us we….We have a bad temper but we all know that we didn't mean what we said ...So with some time apart we should be fine." She explained "I'll wait for Minhee to come see me."
"Kami? She isn't here." Said Woohyun to Minhee who had come knocking on his door the next morning.
Minhee clenched her pouch harder, she had already been to her house only to find it empty.
She wanted to apologize first to her blonde friend since it had mostly been between the two of them that hurtful words had been exchanged and yet she was terrified that she would refuse her apology.
The young woman had slipped out of Gongyoo's bed before he woke up, knowing fully well that they would fight if he knew that she left to visit her friends.
Their evening had been unexpectedly quiet considering the fact that they had just gotten engaged.
There were no rings yet, just words and she didn't really feel the excitement that she was supposed to feel- only guilt.
"Hmm..Do you happen to know where she is?"
"...I do but first you must promise me one thing"
"Please consider your friends words and your situation objectively at least once."
"I already did-"
"No you did not, or last night's fight wouldn't have happened."
"...How am I supposed to do that?"
Woohyun crossed his arms.
"Look at him as if he was a stranger in which you are not interested...Then you'll see why they are as worried as they are."
"....I will try."
"Good." He said, turning around and writing on a piece of paper that he handed to her " You'll find her there with someone else, don't mind him, he is crazy."
Minhee raised an eyebrow, expecting more explanations but he did not provide any.
"You should leave before you miss her."
Minhee nodded and hurried back to her carriage, giving the address to the driver.
She sighed as she watched the blue sky and clouds that tried to race her.
She knew that Gongyoo as a stranger was more than lacking in most aspects.
He never talked about his family nor his friends.
He never talked about his past or past relationships.
It was as if he lived in the present just next to her and it was part of why she was so attached to him- it felt like he depended on her to exist and it was something that made it sure to her that he would never leave.
She understood why her friends were worried, but then again, they didn't see the full picture.
They didn't seem to understand that she would crumble if she were to let go of him.
Minhee sighed as she came out of the carriage, walking to the old building before her.
Minhee went up the stairs, taking a deep breath before knocking on the door before her.
She heard someone cursing and heavy footsteps coming towards the door as it violently opened before her.
"Woohyun you piece of shit-" shouted a man with long chestnut hair, grabbing at her collar before realizing that he had the wrong person.
"Ah-" she whimpered.
The man was tall, well built and with a face she could tell was rather delicate and handsome under his frown that soon disappeared.
Long eyelashes framed his eyes that were soft and shiny.
He was beautiful.
The stranger let go of her.
"Oh... I'm so sorry-" He apologized "Are you alright?" He asked, visibly worried.
Minhee coughed and slightly stepped back.
"I doubt that I look like Woohyun-"
"...You know him..?"
"He sent me here." She told him
"Another one? What's wrong with him???"
"The...A blonde girl...Kami? She came on his behalf too." He explained " The colourblind fool doesn't have the courage to come himself-"
Mina swallowed her saliva.
"Is she still here?"
"No...She left some time ago." He replied "Did you come to apologize too?"
The man sighed, tying his hair in a small ponytail to keep the hair out of his face, tightening his apron next.
"Will you come inside if we are going to talk…? Because of a certain someone, I am late for my orders."
The man let her in and her lips parted as she saw his atelier, marble statues sparkling under the sunlight that peeked through the window, bathing every wonder he had ever made in a golden light.
"Were you there when this happened?" He asked, showing broken pieces of porcelain.
She vividly shook her head.
"No I wasn't…What happened?"
"Well...You know how Woohyun is I guess? He thought it was a great idea to break my works...He left me a note saying that it was an accident but still…"
Minhee eyed him as he tried to piece together the fragments in small piles.
"I am doomed." He said to himself.
Minhee wasn't sure as to what had happened but she couldn't help but feel bad for him.
What did the pair do to the poor man?
"...Hmm..Have you ever heard of Kintsugi..?" She asked, timidly.
The man raised his head, surprised to hear her mention the word.
"It's a hm….Japanese technique that consists of glueing back broken pieces together, covering the cracks with gold to embrace the flaws of a piece." She finished " You wouldn't have to throw them away…"
His stare was heavy on her and she blushed, thinking that maybe she had spoken when she shouldn't have- she didn't know a lot about pottery afterall.
"...Forget it...It's probably a bad idea-"
"..No...Not at all actually." He said " The collection was actually about asian autumn and the vivid colours of their vegetation as winter approaches…"
He looked at the broken pieces.
"...Adding another asian technique to it wouldn't be a bad idea and the gold would probably go well with the red and orange colours of the clay…Thank you for the idea." He told her " I was too panicked to even think about that option…"
"Oh no you don't have to thank me...It would be a waste to get rid of these." She smiled. "They are beautiful."
The man put down the piece he had been holding onto and walked to her.
He wasn't as strong looking as Gongyoo was, but his frame still towered over her body, her eyes wandered the marble white blouse tucked into the brown pants that he was wearing- he himself looked like one of his statues.
"...What's your name?"
"...Is it too early for me to ask you?" He asked,leaning his head slightly on the side. "Sorry if I am rude I...I haven't socialized in quite some time."
Minhee blushed and shook her head.
"Oh no...It's alright...I'm Minhee…"
The man seemed to think for a while, the names of his two visitors rang a bell.
"Kami and Minhee...As in Myungsoo's little sister's friends?"
"I see...Well Minhee...Nice to meet you." He finally smiled at her " My name is Sungyeol, Lee Sungyeol."