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    Chapter XIV: Maze of Memories

    Chapter XIV: Maze of Memories

    Felix didn't really know what to think anymore, he had virtually been abandoned by both his brother and sister in a foreign country in which he had no friends (not that he had a lot back home either).

     

    The prince should have felt betrayed and yet quite enjoyed his freedom.

     

    The freckled man had spent his first few days in England exploring London with Hyunjin who probably knew the capital better than Berlin itself - only for him to leave to meet his first love once again after some time.

     

    Felix knew almost nothing about the woman except that she had broken his brother's heart and soul and that he was still struggling to live after what had happened to her - an incident he strictly refused to talk about to anyone.

     

    And so Felix had decided to read all the books in the royal library until the day they finally went back home.

     

    It was an anticlimactic development to this new found freedom of his and yet- it was in character with who he was.

     

    Felix wasn't like his brother and sister, he wasn't adventurous or even motivated by passion.

    Felix was a quiet young man that was satisfied with the smaller things in life.

     

    "P…Politics." murmured the blonde boy, looking for the right shelf among thousands of books.

     

    It was amazing to him how there were so many books and yet no one there to look at them.

     

    "Politics…." He hummed to himself.

    "Here." Said a voice behind him, hands resting on his shoulders.

     

    The boy, startled, turned around to see a tall man standing before him, his body towering over his.

    Felix had always been small and thin for his age, especially compared to Hyunjin or other boys their age, but never had he felt this tiny before.

    It wasn't a complex, it wasn't something that usually bothered him, it wasn't like he would be sent away to fight a war.

     

    Felix's role was to silently sit in a corner of the royal palace and to make sure to make himself as forgettable as he could,something that his small stature helped quite well.

     

    "Hmm?" Asked the stranger.

     

    The young man quickly recognized the face of the new crowned prince of Britain and his handsome looks - dark wavy locks that fell right on top of his piercing onyx orbs

     

    It was actually the first time they had ever exchanged words or had been this close to one another and yet Felix remembered how mesmerized he had been by his appearance at the banquet.

     

    The prince oozed natural charisma and looked like he had been born for the role, which he had in a way.

     

    "Y..Your Highness-" nervously stuttered Felix before bowing and hitting his head against the solid chest of the prince.

     

    The young man froze, embarrassed,not daring to raise his head.

    Hyunjin always joked that he was clumsy and maybe he had been right.

     

    Felix wanted to disappear as soon as possible.

     

    "...So...Are we supposed to stay like this?" laughed Myungsoo.

    "...Ah-"

     

    Felix quickly stepped back, shyly blushing and hitting the back of his head against the shelf only for it to be softer than what he had expected.

     

    The man finally realized that the shelf in question was Myungsoo's hand that had kept his skull from hitting the hard wooden furniture.

     

    Felix shivered as he felt his fingers graze the nape of his neck as he took his hand back.

     

    "Careful now." He smiled checking his reddening hand.

     

    Felix didn't know what to say.

     

    "..S...Sorry I panicked." He blushed before coughing.

    "It's alright."

     

    Felix finally looked up to Myungsoo with curiosity, thinking about what he knew about him from his brother.

     

    Felix had heard Hyunjin talk about him in good and good only, always telling him how clever and caring he was.

     

    Hyunjin would tell him about his accomplishments and how he had been the top student of the whole of Cambridge, acclaimed by many scholars for his writings that implied progressive and yet revolutionary thoughts for the time.

    Talks about equality that had only been quietly whispered until then.

     

    "Am I that scary for you to be this surprised?"

     

    Felix shook his head.

     

    "N..No I...I just didn't think you would be here."

    "Why?"

    "...Well...I don't know...Because the library has been empty ever since I first came here…?"

     

    Myungsoo smiled and picked books about politics that the boy would have otherwise struggled to reach.

     

    "I like books and learning so we will meet each other again, I just couldn't come before because I was too busy. " he said before handing him the books.

    "Thank you..."

    "You don't have to thank me-"

     

    The two heard the door open and turned around to see Kami and Hyewon as well as her ladies in waiting, entering the library.

    Myungsoo grabbed Felix's wrist and dragged him behind a shelf.

     

    "???"

    "Let's wait an instant." He whispered to the young man before spying on the girls.

     

    Hyewon held onto Kami's hand and showed her around the room.

     

    "Do you like it?" She smiled at her blonde girlfriend who looked amazed at the scrolls and old leather books.

    "...Are these the original copies?"

    "Some of them are."

     

    Felix could feel the prince's large hands holding him still unaware of how scarlet the boy had turned.

     

    "It's amazing…" smiled Kami.

     

    Myungsoo slightly frowned, wondering how the two knew each other- he trusted them both and yet, couldn't help but be wary of how unusual the pairing was.

     

    It all boiled down to Sunggyu and their relationship.

     

    Kami might have hated her brother but he still was family to her and Myungsoo knew how thick blood ran in the nobility.

    It wasn't something that he could overlook and neither was it something that she could ignore if it ever came to it.

     

    "Could I borrow one?" Asked Kami

    "Of course you can." Replied Hyewon,placing a kiss on her cheek.

     

    The prince raised an eyebrow before sighing, realizing what the nature of their relationship was and ran a hand through his hair as he felt the heavy, deer-like gaze of the young prince against him.

     

    "Let's go see them shall we?"

     

    Felix blinked in confusion before following him out of their hiding spot- he struggled to understand what had happened.

     

    "Hello." Said Myungsoo out of the blue to the new couple "Kami." He greeted her.

     

    Kami eyed him and his smile,the same one he offered her every time they met and yet, she wondered if he knew about her brother's plan.

     

    Myungsoo always knew everything one way or another.

     

    "...Your highness."

    "Please don't call me like that.." begged the man.

    "Why not? You're the Crown Prince now."

    "Still...I have known you forever."

    "...And yet you did not think that telling me or your own sister about it was necessary."

     

    Hyewon clenched her arm,pressing her to stop talking about the subject knowing fully well how it all affected the man.

     

    "Please don't fight..."

     

    Hyewon saw his eyes die a little more.

     

    "...We won't, I have to go back to work anyway." spoke the man before pinching Kami's serious face with a sad smile only Hyewon could read "Don't frown it doesn't suit you~"

     

    Kami pushed his hand away, ready to fight him just like when they were younger.

     

    "You-"

    "...Take care of her Hyewon." Spoke the prince, throwing a knowing look to the princess who straightened her back.

     

    Hyewon nodded and Myungsoo turned around to Felix who couldn't keep his eyes off him.

     

    "It was nice finally meeting you kiddo." Smiled Myungsoo, gently patting his head.

    " You knew who I was…?"

    "Well...Hyunjin told me a lot of things about you." Kindly said the crown prince before pointing at his cheeks " A cute and tiny young man with pretty freckles and golden hair." He repeated, remembering Hyunjin's letter.

     

    Felix blushed, remembering to scold Hyunjin for describing him in such a way- he didn't want to look cute anymore.

     

    " See you later." Smiled the crown prince before leaving.

     

    The group watched as Myungsoo left before they turned their attention to the blonde boy who was still flustered by the whole meeting.

     

    "...How have you been Felix?" Smiled Hyewon hugging him.

     

    Felix coughed,bringing himself together to finally spare her a glance.

     

    "Well…? My trip hasn't been what I have hoped for so far…But it is fine."

    "Sorry...I should be spending more time with you…"

     

    Felix lowered his head as he smiled, he knew that his siblings tended to be busy- Hyewon as the legitimate daughter of their father and Hyunjin because he might become King one day in her stead.

    Felix just hadn't been in the picture for these matters, people just naturally assumed that he wouldn't inherit the throne and in fact, the boy did not care.

    What the golden young man wanted was for them to be happy and live as freely as they could- something simple to hope for and yet the hardest thing for them to achieve.

     

    He wanted to give back to them all the care and protection they had provided for him, especially Hyunjin who had fought numerous bullies who would call Felix names, going as far as to bleach his hair so that they wouldn't be able to say a thing about his own.

     

    "I'm alright...Don't worry about me." He smiled "I know that you are busy…"

    "But still...Sorry."

     

    Felix felt the heavy stare of Yujin, whom he had briefly seen in the corridors before without ever getting to talk to her.

     

    "...I should get going too."

     

    The young man slightly acknowledged her before also leaving the room- Felix was uncomfortable around strangers and always wondered what they thought of him although he actually disliked hearing these thoughts.

    He knew what most of them thought anyways, he was a shameful existence to an otherwise majestic family.

     

    Therefore, running off to a calm place was what he did the best and so that's what he did.

     

    "...He is cute." Whispered Yujin after some time.

     

    Minju rolled her eyes knowing where this conversation would lead them.

     

    "Oh don't start again please-"

    "How could you leave him alone Hyewon..? He is like a lonely puppy…Did you see his eyes?"

    "I did not-"

    "You're cruel for that...Imagine being in a foreign country alone...Abandoned by your siblings…"

    "..Stop it."sighed Minju under the confused gaze of Kami.

     

    Yujin took a deep breath and crossed her arms.

     

    "...That's it."

    "What is…?" Asked Hyewon.

    "From tomorrow onwards, I am taking care of Felix if you won't."

     

    ***

     

    Minhee entered Sungyeol's bright atelier, a smile on her face as she saw him standing in front of a large block of uncarved ivory marble- the man visibly not noticing her as she came closer to him.

     

    Minhee carefully wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his back.

     

    "What are you thinking about?"

     

    Sungyeol turned around and hugged her.

     

    " You...Well...About what kind of statue I should make of you. "

    "And do you have an idea?"

    "Not really...I was hoping to find one by talking to you, is there something that you want?"

     

    Minhee ran her hand on the marble, covering her gloved fingers with white dust.

     

    "...I want to look free."

    "Free?"

     

    She nodded with a faint smile on her lips.

     

    "I have never been free, not once…" she explained " My parents used to control my every move and when I became an adult I...Well you know what I did...I tied myself to men that wanted to control and use me too."

     

    Sungyeol frowned before tightening his grip on her hips.

    He hated that she had been forced to live that way, he hated that people had been this cruel to her.

     

    "So…How should I do this ?"

    "This is something for you to find out ,mister ~" She laughed and so did he, lightly.

     

    Sungyeol rested his forehead against hers,losing his smile as he rubbed his thumbs on her waist- remembering how the other man had tightly wrapped his arm around it, like a boa constricting around its prey.

     

    It had bothered him, pushed him over the edge to save her when he had sworn himself to not interfere with things that weren't his to deal with.

     

    "...He lets you out?" Simply asked the man, worried.

    "He thinks that I am looking for a wedding dress."

    "And he believes you?"

    "He thinks that I won't be able to do a thing because I am too scared of losing my reputation."

    "Are you?"

     

    Minhee caressed his cheek, thinking.

     

    "...I would be lying if I told you that I didn't….But a lonely life with a ruined reputation is better than being wedded to a monster."

     

    Sungyeol smiled.

     

    "I won't let him ruin you and even if he manages to...We'll all make sure to protect you."

    "I know." She smiled.

     

    Sungyeol's hands travelled up her waist.

     

    "...I won't leave you alone, unless you want me to."

     

    Minhee's eyes sparkled as she gently kissed him, her fingers in his hair.

    She brought herself closer to him, her chest against his and she could feel his heart race.

     

    "...We should start with some sketches…" said Sungyeol, stopping her before they went too far.

    "...What kind of sketch?" She asked,running her hands on his body, amused by his flustered expression.

     

    Minhee noticed a faint blush on his cheeks, a barely noticeable heat peeking at the tip of his ears that were turning red.

     

    " I...Hm…I was thinking...Maybe sketches with less clothing and no corset could be a great idea?"

    "...You want to sculpt me naked?" Blushed Minhee

    "No-! Just...Just without the heavy dress...You can wear something more simple that's what I meant to say." He explained, red.

     

    Minhee stopped to think before carefully taking his hand.

     

    "No."

    "...Well you can keep the usual dress if you are more comfortable with it-"

    "I want you to sculpt me without anything on." She whispered "I want you to sculpt me naked."

     

    Sungyeol froze.

     

    "...Are you sure?"

    "I am."

    "Will you really be ok with it…?"

    "Aren't you?"

     

    The man sighed, blushing.

     

    "...I'm not."

    "Why?"

     

    The sculptor buried his face into her neck, almost drunk on her scent- a flowery perfume blending together perfectly with the way she naturally smelled.

     

    "Because how do you expect me to work on your statue if you are naked before me…? We've just kissed…"

     

    Minhee smirked a little before taking his face in her hands.

     

    "Well...I thought you were a professional? Surely you can separate lust and work ?"

    "Not when it comes to you…"

     

    He looked up to her, their eyes meeting.

     

    "...And it isn't just lust." He whispered " I want your heart too."

    " You have it…"

     

    He shook his head.

     

    "We have the beginning of something but...Your heart isn't mine yet."

    "Sungyeol…"Minhee whispered.

    "But I know that in time it will happen...And that I'll be yours and you fully mine." He smiled.

     

    Minhee nodded before he kissed her, pushing her a little more against the table- resting her hands on it to hold herself up.

     

    "...So…How will you make the statue..?" Asked a red Minhee.

     

    Sungyeol ran his hand down her body.

     

    " ...One step at a time…" He said, stopping each time on her face, neck, chest, stomach and thighs.

     

    A shiver travelled up her spine as his fingers traced her legs on top of the fabric of her dress.

     

    "...So...What will it be today..?" Asked Minhee.

     

    Sungyeol stopped to think, eyeing her pink cheeks and the way her chest rose every time she needily took a breath.

    The man took his sketchbook and opened it along with a sharpened pencil.

     

    "...Your hands and arms."

     

    She nodded and he got closer to her, his hands looking for hers.

    Minhee eyed him as he brought her right to his lips, carefully pulling the gloves off of her fingers with his teeth.

     

    Her heart raced as he then proceeded to kiss them and then go up her arm, pulling at the sleeve to go down her shoulder and then slipping her arm out of it- revealing her skin to him.

     

    "...There we go." He said before kissing her shoulder and sitting back on a stool, his sketchbook in hand. "Now try and sit still…"

     

    Minhee nodded, finally remembering to breathe and sitting tensely on the table's edge, looking for his gaze that finally left hers for the paper before his eyes.

     

    ***

     

    The doctor's visit had been short and reassuring, Mina had nothing but a small cold that would probably go away on its own.

    Hyunjin sighed with relief as they walked through the mansion a few hours later, exploring it as requested by the young woman who was back to being her usual energetic self.

     

    "...So you used to come see me here right?" Asked Mina.

     

    Hyunjin nodded as he held the entrance door open for her that led right into the blooming gardens of the castle.

    It looked exactly the same as the last time he had seen it- even the smell of the bright flowers , every little detail that made this place what it was had been left in place as if frozen in time.

    Hyunjin understood why Myungsoo and his parents had kept her away from that place, it managed to bring back memories that he too had seemed to have forgotten.

     

    "What did we usually do together?" She asked, smiling while carefully touching one of the white lilies.

     

    Hyunjin came closer to her, also touching the flower with his fingertips.

     

    "What children usually do at that age...We just played together."

     

    Mina pouted, looking at him.

     

    "You have to give me more details than that! You know that I can't remember a thing…It's not fair."

    "...Would you like to remember me?"

    "Why wouldn't I? I feel bad that I can't remember you...And I have this odd feeling that we used to be very happy when together...I want to find all of these memories back." She whispered with a gentle expression on her face.

     

    Hyunjin lightly smiled and walked ahead of her, leading her towards the maze of bushes that surrounded the castle.

    They used to run in them, hiding from their servants until they went away.

     

    "We were happy...I had the best time of my life back then."

     

    Mina eyed him curiously.

     

    "...Then you either had a sad life after that or...Or you really liked the time we spent together." She stated, walking around the maze.

     

    Hyunjin stopped and so did she, turning around to see him as she no longer heard his footsteps on the gravel.

     

    "...Which one do you think it is?" He asked "A life too hard to bear that made even the tiniest memories enough for me to go on or real bliss that overshined the rest of my life?"

     

    Mina felt her heart skip a beat- maybe because of the way he looked at her, his eyes filled with strong emotions she struggled to decipher, or because of the heartbreaking ring to his voice that let out words that carried so much meaning she was yet to fully understand.

     

    Mina could tell by the way his jaw tensed up, and by the way his pupils trembled that it all meant a lot to him and so her heart raced- out of happiness that someone cared that much for her but also out of sadness for she could no longer share these memories with him.

     

    They were his and his alone and no matter how much he would tell her about them, they would never come back to her, they were lost.

     

    "...I hope...I hope that it's the second option...But then again if it is I…" She lowered her head " I don't know how I should apologize...It all meant so much to you and yet I-"

     

    Mina felt his hand take hers, gently rubbing the back of it- the mere feeling of it almost bringing tears to her eyes.

     

    "Hey...I am not blaming you for anything ok?" He began with a sweet voice "It does make me sad...But it isn't your fault…"

     

    The young woman managed to swallow back her tears but was still unable to shake off the awful guilt that plagued her.

     

    "...I have something for you." Hyunjin said, taking a small box out of his pocket, hoping that it would make her feel better.

    "What is it?"

    "Open it."

     

    And so she did, a light and beautiful melody filling the air as a little figurine spinned.

    It was comforting, like freshly cleaned bed sheets.

    It was warm like an embrace.

    It was beautiful like the first blossoms of spring.

    It felt like youth and innocence altogether.

     

    "...Is this me?" She asked, looking at the long black hair and the familiar beauty mark on the figurine's cheek.

    "It is." He smiled.

     

    Mina unknowingly brought the small wooden box to her chest.

     

    "...Did we make this together..?" She asked in a tiny voice.

    "Do you remember…?"

     

    Mina shook her head.

     

    "I don't but…It feels like we did."

    "...You're right….Well it wasn't exactly just the two of us, a professional helped us but...It was our idea and we composed the song together."

    "Where?"

     

    Hyunjin grew silent for an instant, it wasn't a question he had expected her to ask but then again, he understood that it was important for her to know the hows, the whys, the whens and the wheres of everything.

     

    "...By the tall and old tree on top of the hill."

     

    The young woman nodded and looked at the box again.

    Mina could tell by the look of it that it had been used a lot, opened and closed several times along the years.

    The H of his family's name almost erased by time itself.

     

    "I forgot about it…" she said "And yet it's all eerily familiar…" she explained.

     

    Mina turned around and sadly smiled at him.

     

    "...That's how I feel most of the time. Stuck in limbo between a past that I have forgotten and a future that I know won't fill up the emptiness in my chest."

     

    She stopped and sighed.

     

    "...That's why I used to live in the present, every second of it...But even my present is broken and painful now and I don't know what to do anymore…"

     

    Mina felt his hand tighten around hers.

     

    "But this…This is amazing." She said, eyeing his present " Because it's a physical reminder that I used to be happy as a child and that I had a life before all of this..."

     

    She smiled and rubbed the back of his hand.

     

    "Thank you for the present...Can I really keep it?"

    "It was yours to begin with…It just found its way back to its owner." Hyunjin whispered.

    "What…?"

     

    Hyunjin got closer and ran his index on the carved letter "The H is for Han...Not Hwang…" He explained softly "We made two boxes...You gave me yours and I gave you mine."

    "...I don't know where yours is." She sincerely answered, apologetically.

    "I figured so...It's ok."

    "No it's not…"

     

    Mina slightly frowned, saddened.

     

    "...You say that you are fine but...But I know that I must be hurting you in a way." She said " You don't have to pretend that everything's alright…"

     

    Mina eyed him and his mesmerizing beauty.

    Silver chains on a skin that shined like light bronze under the sun, and golden hair that framed his diamond like features- always sharp but soft.

    There was a slight shift in her chest, a small tingling sensation that pushed her to swipe away his hair out of his face, her fingertips grazing his cheek.

    It felt like the right thing to do.

     

    "You can get mad at me...You can even shout at me if it helps you feel better…" she said " Because that's the only thing I can do to help you…."

     

    Hyunjin gently grabbed her hand and took it off his face, he didn't want to let himself hope for things that would never happen.

     

    "...What I need is just this." He whispered, bringing her hand to his lips " I just need you to me stay by your side."

    "...In which way..?"

     

    A sad smile appeared on Hyunjin's lips.

     

    "...As a friend."

     

    Mina's heart tightened as she clenched his hand.

    His voice suddenly sounded so weak, so defeated and she hated it.

     

    "...There you go again...Making that kind of face…"

    "...What kind of face?"

    "...You look heartbroken, in pain."

    "Maybe because I am."

     

    Mina parted her trembling lips, feeling stupid suddenly.

     

    She didn't need to get her memories back to understand why, why he had been this way with her from the start.

    It all made sense, why would a grown man look for her after all these years otherwise?

    Why would he care for her this much?

     

    "...The woman you talked about last night….Was it me?"

     

    Another smile appeared on his lips, one that almost made her cry because of how painful it looked.

     

    "...Took you long enough to guess." He whispered.

     

     


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  •  Chapter XIII: Trust.

    Chapter XIII:

     

     

    "...Aren't you hungry?" Asked Mina after some time spent in silence.

    "Are you?"

    "I haven't eaten anything since lunch."

    "Well yeah….We did run away before the banquet started."

     

    Mina played with the covers of her bed unsure as to how to keep the conversation going.

    Things had gotten awkward after Hyunjin had apologized.

    She had never meant to make him feel bad, she had just spoken as she remembered another one of their memories.

     

    The young woman pushed the sheets off of her and sat on the edge of her bed, facing Hyunjin who was sitting on a chair next to her, their knees touching ever so slightly.

     

     

    "...We could get something to eat in the kitchen."

    " I could ask your butler to bring us something, just lay down please-"

    "No." She replied, crossing her arms across her chest " I am in the mood for exploration tonight."

     

    A defeated smile appeared on the prince's lips.

    He knew that he wouldn't be able to convince her to rest.

     

    "...At this time of the night?"

     

    And she smiled too, although bitterly, remembering how much she had loved her secret excursion with Minhyun that one time, on top of the capital's roofs.

    Would they ever be able to go back to the way they were previous to that evening?

    The young woman quickly chased the thought out of her mind and smirked.

     

    "Why not? Are you scared? Are you scared that some ghosts will chase us?"

    "... I am not. I am just worried about you." He sighed running a hand in his blonde locks " You were quite sick until a while ago."

    "Well maybe I would feel better without a corset on." She stated, implying that he could help her out of it "How could you let me sleep like this?"

     

    Hyunjin swallowed his saliva, slowly realizing that maybe she had mistaken the nature of their previous relationship.

    How could she not when she had barely any memories of them?

    And yet he would have liked her to remember the important bits to avoid awkward situations like this one.

     

    "...I'll go get a maid."

    "Will you really wake a poor woman at this time of the night for a corset…?"

     

    There was a deep shade of blush on the man's cheeks that she couldn't see thanks to the dim lighting of the room, how could she not realize what she was asking of him?

     

    "B...But…"

    "You just have to pull these two ends of the lace." She indicated, turning around.

     

    The prince carefully and with shaking fingertips pushed away her long black hair that covered half of the corset and her back.

    He watched carefully as the curls rolled down her neckline only to cup the side of her chest.

     

    Shit.

     

    "...I..I'll close my eyes then."

     

    A laugh escaped the pretty lips of the young woman who grabbed his hesitating hands.

     

    "Why?"

    "Well...You are a young unmarried woman and it wouldn't be proper of me to do so?"

     

    Mina rolled her eyes, she had vague memories of them bathing together as small children and memories of them sleeping in the same bed.

     

    "We were childhood friends, you don't really count as a man for me since,in theory, we basically grew up together right?"

    "...But you don't remember it."

    "And? What counts is the way you see me, you see me as family."

     

    Everyone but a clueless Mina would have heard the sound of his shattering self-confidence.

    Just a childhood friend? Not a man? Family?

    Hyunjin was pissed as he finally untied the lace of her corset- he hadn't expected her to love him but this was a lot to take in.

     

    Maybe she was just dumb or painfully oblivious to the way men acted towards women they loved.

     

    "See? It wasn't that hard, thank you."

     

    Hyunjin wouldn't tell her that he had still closed his eyes and quickly turned around as she started taking off her clothes to get into the night dress that the butler had left for her on the side of her bed.

     

    "What are you doing..??"

    "Changing…? You can't expect me to stay in my ball gown for all eternity right? Do you know how uncomfortable these are???"

    "Still-"

     

    Nothing would have prepared him for what she said next.

     

    "Well it's not like it matters to you right…? You are not into women." She said, putting on the dress.

    "...What do you mean?"

    "You like men right?"

     

    Hyunjin blinked.

    He could understand everything but this, how could she think that when he had been staring at her with love flowing from his eyes every time they met?

     

    It was true that he didn't care about other women, but it was because he had eyes only for her.

     

    "No!!!"

    "You can be honest with me-"

    "I am! Well no- I am not gay! Why would you think that???"

     

    The woman stared at him with confused eyes.

     

    "...Well you are a handsome prince and potential heir to a throne and still single, not only that but also the fact that I have never seen you talk to another woman apart from me and your sister so I just assumed-"

    "I am just not interested in other people."

     

    Mina paused before carefully speaking.

     

    "...Women people?"

    "..Do you want me to send you back to London?" He said.

    "..No sir."

     

    Mina sat on the bed once again, fully clothed and slightly embarrassed now that she realized she had been mistaken.

     

    "...I like women, one especially...That's why you might have been getting….the wrong idea."

    "...Is it someone I know?"

    "...No."

     

    Hyunjin wasn't really lying, Mina didn't know the person she used to be, the one he loved.

    She was oblivious to how much they used to love one another.

     

    "...We should get to the kitchen, let's talk while walking." She said slightly embarrassed, taking his hand and standing up.

     

    The pair escaped the bedroom, guided only by the light of a candle.

    The hallways weren't as dark as one would have expected, moonlight lit the walls where paintings after paintings were hung.

     

    Hyunjin remembered thinking as a child how Mina wouldn't have existed if one of these people hadn't had children and would always spare a small prayer for her ancestors for making it so that she existed in his world.

     

    "...So that woman that you love…" began Mina, letting go of his hands " Is she pretty?"

    "She is." He laughed "She is beautiful."

    "Is she kind?"

    "The kindest person I have ever met."

     

    The pair turned around a corner that led to the main staircase.

     

    "Is she clever?"

    "...She is but can be dumb and clumsy sometimes...But that's one thing that makes her even more lovely.."

    " ...She would probably be mad if she heard you say that…"

    "Well she wouldn't know would she?" He smiled "And then again I would get to see her pout and slightly be mad at me...She is adorable when she does so I don't mind it."

     

    Mina held onto the railing as they went down the stairs, a massive piece of art made of finely carved stone way older than Buckingham palace or any other palace used by the current royal family.

     

    "You truly love her a lot..." She said before looking at him " She is lucky to have you."

    "...No she isn't."

    "Why not?"

    "Because she has been in danger several times because I am a royal...I shouldn't be near her and yet..."

    "And yet you struggle to stay away am I right?" She sadly smiled. "Love is like a drug, one can hardly keep himself from it."

    "...The worst and yet best type of drug there is."

     

    Mina first stepped down on the marble floors and reached her hand out to him as if to cheer him.

    Hyunjin gladly took her hand back and joined her.

     

    "...I am sure she disagrees. I am sure she is happy to have her lover nearby." She comforted him with a smile.

     

    If only it was true.

     

    "...She doesn't love me...She loves another."

     

    Mina stopped in front of the kitchen's door and looked at him, concerned.

     

    "...Are you ok?" She asked, worried.

     

    He wanted to embrace her and tell her that no, he wasn't and that he needed her- and yet he just smiled again before caressing the top of her head.

     

    "...I am fine, don't worry about it." He sighed "As long as she is happy I don't mind it."

    "...But it hurts doesn't it…?"

    "...It does."

     

    Mina unexpectedly hugged him to cheer him up.

    Hyunjin hesitedly brought his hands up to her back and gently caressed it- what an odd situation this was.

    Hyunjin would have never expected to be cheered up by the person that caused him to be in pain to begin with.

     

    "...Let's stop talking about sad things shall we?" He smiled as she looked up at him with teary eyes " Wait- What's wrong?"

    "I don't know...It's just so sad and I'm sorry- I don't know what's wrong with me too."

     

    Hyunjin wiped her tears, his heart tightening up at the sight of her in this state.

     

    "...Hey...Don't cry. I should be the one crying, not you."

    "Why don't you…?" She asked, sniffling.

     

    Hyunjin gently cupped her face with his right hand and rubbed her cheeks with his thumb, hoping that she would soon smile again.

     

    "I have shed enough tears...I have just accepted that we will never be."

    "....Is she engaged? Married to the man?"

    "No she isn't."

    "...Then don't."

    "Hmm?"

    "Don't give up." She said, fire in her eyes "You're a handsome, kind and caring prince full of charms...You lack in nothing so be confident in yourself, I am sure she'll realize how good of a person you are and go back to you one day."

     

    Hyunjin blinked, surprised at the turn of the situation- would she really cheer him on if she knew that she was the one he loved?

     

    "...Thank you."

     

    The one thing that surprised him the most was her choice of words.

    Back.

    He had never mentioned that they had been together before to begin with and so he guessed that it had been her subconscious speaking on her behalf.

     

    "Let's go?" She told him.

     

    It was as if she was telling him that she remembered and to hang on to whatever hope he had left for them.

     

    Mina entered the kitchen, soon followed by the prince who didn't know how to react to her words.

     

    "...Hyunjin, we might have not thought this through." She suddenly said, bringing him out of his thoughts.

    "Hmm?"

     

    The young woman pointed at the multiple stoves that weren't lit.

     

    "...Have you ever cooked in your life?"

    "...I haven't."

     

    Mina walked to a counter and took a baguette and handed it to him.

     

    "...Then bread it is for us tonight."

     

    ***

     

    Minhee was walking to Minhyun's mansion, hoping that he would let her in although she came to visit him out of nowhere.

     

    The young woman took a deep breath before ringing his doorbell that opened a few seconds later.

     

    "You are…?" Asked a maid.

    "A friend of the daughter of the count of Norfolk." She said " I need to speak to the count."

    "His Grace is not feeling well today...Please come back another day."

    "I can't. This is a pressing issue."

    "I'm sorry-"

    "Let her in." Whispered a grumpy voice behind the servant.

     

    The maid stepped aside and Minhee came in.

    Minhyun looked awful, dark circles highlighted his exhausted eyes and his pale skin, he looked like a living dead.

     

    "...You look awful." She commented out loud.

    "...So do you." He replied.

     

    Minhee brought a hand to her cheek, she wasn't in a state to judge his appearance, she hadn't had a good night of sleep in weeks and knew that her dark circles were even worse than his.

     

    "...If you are here looking for Mina, she isn't here."

    "I'm not looking for her…"

     

    Minhyun eyed her.

     

    "...You're here because of your fiance then right?"

     

    The young woman nodded.

     

    "...Could you tell me what you found out about him?"

    "Nothing, yet. The messenger should reach us in a few days at most, I'll let you know then."

    "...I see...Thank you for your hard work then...." she told him, ready to quickly leave.

     

    It wasn't that Minhee disliked the man, she had no particular feelings towards him but did feel uncomfortable under his gaze.

    Minhyun was the exact opposite of herself, a person that lived a life planned and organized to the smallest details when she preferred to live her life day to day full of surprises.

     

    Minhyun crossed his arms.

     

    "So...Will you apologize?"

    "To whom?"

    "Your two friends. They did warn you that he was bad news and you ignored them."

    "...I'll have to eventually."

    "Eventually?"

    "...I don't have the courage yet."

     

    Minhyun sighed.

     

    " You still have some time anyway, Mina's not in the capital, she's in her family's castle." He told her " Make up your mind before she comes back-"

    "What? But her brother just became a prince-"

    "And that's why she left. She felt betrayed."

    "No one told her?"

     

    The count sat down on a couch, inviting her to do so too, it was more than what she had ever expected of him.

     

    "...I did not tell her."

    "....So you knew." Stated Minhee, taking a seat in front of him " And she resents you for it."

     

    He nodded, putting a hand on his face.

     

    "...I should have told her the truth even if Myungsoo ordered me not to...She trusted me and I broke her trust."

    "Then go to her and apologize...You know how she is...She may seem mad but I am sure she understands why you kept everything secret."

     

    Minhee offered him a gentle smile, he wasn't that cold after all.

    The young woman had always thought him to be devoid of any emotions and found herself nicely surprised to see that he in fact cared.

     

    "...And you can't leave her alone in that castle...Not when her whole world just fell apart."

     

    The frown on Minhyun's forehead deepened.

     

    "...She isn't alone."

    "Kami is with her?"

    "...His royal high-.. Hyunjin left along with her."

     

    Minhee blinked, she did not remember them being close.

    This news explained the worried look on the count's face and the dark circles.

     

    "...So you'll stay here without doing a thing?"

    "She chose him...What do you want me to do?"

     

    Minhee knew that her friend hadn't chosen the prince because she preferred him over Minhyun.

    She had eyes for him only and she could predict that she took him along with her because he was in fact, a stranger- a welcome quality during a time when everyone close to her seemed to betray her in a way or another.

     

    "Go after her! Tell her what you feel about her! Show her that you care!"

    "I care! That's why I am not going after her, I respect her choice-"

    "Bullshit." Swore Minhee,making the man freeze.

    "What-"

    "You're just scared. Scared that she'll still be mad at you when you see her again."

     

    Her words seemed to sting him.

     

    "...What if she hates me?"

    "If you really think that she does, then maybe you shouldn't be with her because you don't know her at all." Stated Minhee " She wouldn't stop liking you for something like this."

     

    Minhyun stayed silent for a moment before standing up again.

     

    "...I'll go then."

    "Good."

    "...Will you come with me?" He asked

    "Not now...I have things to deal with before I see her again."

    "Hmm?"

    "I have an engagement to break...After all my apologies wouldn't look sincere if I apologized while still being tied to him." She slightly smiled.

     

    Minhyun nodded.

     

    "...Minhee."

    "...Yes?"

    "Thank you."

    "Don't, I should be the one thanking you for helping me."

     

    Minhyun looked up to her, eyes filled with remorse.

     

    "...I didn't do it for you."

    "I know but it's alright,you did it for her at least." Minhee smiled "...You're not the bad guy you might think you are Minhyun and she knows it too so don't be too hard on yourself ok?"

     

    Minhyun stared at the ground.

     

    "...Even when I am this jealous of him? For being able to be with her? Even if I am angry deep inside that she did not choose to be with me regardless of what happened…?

    "Why would you be jealous of him?"

     

    Minhee raised an eyebrow.

     

    "...He is a prince."

    "You're a duke and Mina doesn't care for titles."

    "He is handsome."

    "You are too."

    "...He...He seems more outgoing and in touch with his feelings than I am."

    "And it's something you can learn to do too…You are as great as he is and you have an advantage."

    "...Which one?"

    "You have known her for longer than he has, even before meeting her thanks to Myungsoo."

     

    Minhyun sadly smiled.

     

    "...I have."

     

    Mina had been a distant dream of his before they had even met, before he could even put a face on her name.

    Myungsoo would tell him of how kind she was, how she cared for others and how she was clumsy.

    The new prince would tell him all about her and he had begun to appreciate her in his mind, sometimes wondering about what she was doing at different times of the day…

    And then he finally met her and shockingly enough, she was just like what he had imagined her to be.

     

    But Minhyun also knew the power that new meetings held, he had been a victim of one of them.

    One day walking into their classroom only to see a new stunning face that he would later spend hours describing in his diary.

    He remembered the rush, the passion, how much his soul burned at the time and the soft moments that filled a heart starved of affection.

     

    Minhyun knew that one second was sometimes enough for someone to see another in a new light, only a second was necessary for fire to be sparked in a heart.

     

    "Then go proudly and get her back." Smiled the young woman.

    "..I will."

     

    Minhyun wouldn't let Hyunjin have her, not when he had finally found someone that could make him happy again.

     

    "...Are you going now?"

    "I have to finish some work but I'll go right away after that.."

    "Then I won't make you lose your time any longer." Said Minhee standing up "I'll get going."

     

    Minhyun gently grabbed her wrist, feeling bad for receiving more help than what he could provide back for her at the moment.

     

    "...A little advice for you, stay away from Gongyoo if possible. You never know what a cornered man might do."

     

    Minhee nodded.

     

    "Don't worry...I'm not alone anymore."

     

    ***

     

    Time was ticking slowly for Hyewon now that Kami was gone from her life.

    It was as if all hope for happiness was lost and that her life was over.

     

    She was now only a tool, a chess piece to be used for politics.

     

    "Princess...Are you alright?" Asked one of her ladies in waiting, Yujin, who was sitting next to her on her bed.

    "I am fine."

    "No you're not fine Hyewon...We can tell." Sighed another girl, Minju.

     

    Hyewon could never lie to the pair, it was as if they could read her heart.

    Minju and Yujin had been her first friends in life, two wonderful and cheerful girls that shared the most special bond she had ever seen.

     

    She remembered the day where she caught sight of them in her garden, holding hands with cheeks flushed.

    She remembered how they would sometimes go out for romantic walks on their own.

    It wasn't a wild kind of love, but it was soft and comforting, beautiful and delicate.

    It was something she admired and longed for too.

     

    "...How does it feel to be loved back by the one person that you desire?"

     

    The pair exchanged a worried glance.

     

    "...It's pure bliss, it's like a cup of tea during a harsh winter, a warm blanket during a cold night, the first rays of light after it has rained…" explained Minju, taking Yujin's hand " It comforts the soul."

    "....I see."

     

    That was all she wanted, for her soul to be comforted and to have someone that is hers and hers only.

    Hyewon wanted to be someone's priority too, she wanted someone to think about her first when danger occurred, she wanted to not be alone when storms came.

     

    It wasn't like nobody cared about her, she was surrounded by loved ones - Myungsoo,Hyunjin, Felix , her two friends and even Mina in a way since she knew that she would remember her one day.

    But each one of them had someone in their mind that they wanted to protect above all others, and she was no one's first choice.

     

    "Do you love someone?" Asked Yujin out of the blue, making the princess freeze.

    "...How could I?"

    "Why couldn't you?" Replied Minju.

    "...I am too busy."

    "Were you busy too the few times you disappeared recently?" Reminded the girl again, crossing her arms across her chest.

     

    Hyewon had been scolded by the two when she finally came back to the palace, they had almost sent the royal guards looking for her.

     

    "...I met someone. Someone that I like." She finally confessed.

    "How is he?"

    "...She."

     

    The pair exchanged another gaze.

     

    "...Oh, we didn't know that you…"

    "...Well I didn't know either until recently."

     

    Yujin came closer to Hyewon, eyes shining with curiosity.

     

    "How is she? Is she pretty? Do we know her-"

     

    Minju pulled Yujin back.

     

    "Calm down-" she laughed, making the princess smile.

    "She is my age, gorgeous with blue eyes and golden hair...She is so well spoken and yet wild…"

     

    Minju's face turned white.

     

    "...Blonde with blue eyes you said?"

    "...Yes why?"

    "...There was a similar woman that looked for you a hour ago in the corridors...I told her to go back because you weren't feeling well and that she would have to contact your secretaries to be able to see you…"

    "...Did she tell you her name?"

    "Amy…?... Kami? I am not sure."

     

    Hyewon jumped out of bed and onto her feet.

     

    "Where are you going???" Asked Yujin ,almost falling trying to follow her.

    "I have to see her-"

    "Wait she must have left- we'll call her back to the palace tomorrow."

    "No."

     

    Hyewon's heart was racing, she had thought that Kami would never see her again.

    She had thought that she would resent her forever- and yet.

     

    Hyewon ran out of her room and into the hallways only to find her sitting against a wall a few meters away from her chambers.

    Hyewon hid herself behind a column out of reflex, she wasn't sure what to tell her.

     

    "...Miss you can't stay here." Sighed two guards standing before her.

    "Why not? Am I bothering you? I am as silent as a vase, what could possibly bother you?"

     

    One of the men coughed.

     

    "This is the palace and...For a noble lady like you to be sitting here is...inappropriate."

    "I am the one that gets to care if it is appropriate or not , not you two."

    "But...It's almost night time you have to go back-"

    "Not before I speak to the princess."

    "We'll give your message to her so please-"

    "It's about private matters, lady things sir…" she slightly smirked " Or maybe you would like to know such things…?"

     

    The young guard blushed and shook his head.

     

    "Princess!" Shouted Yujin, finally reaching up to Hyewon and blowing up her cover.

     

    The two men and Kami looked at the column, finally seeing the peeking head of the princess behind it.

     

    "P..Princess!"bowed the men.

    "...Yujin I'll kill you later." Whispered the young woman under her breath before stepping out of her hiding place.

     

    Her eyes met Kami's that looked rather cold, or maybe hurt? She couldn't tell.

    The blonde woman stood up and curtsied.

     

    "Leave us." Hyewon ordered the guards and they did.

     

    Minju took Yujin's hand and dragged her away, knowing that she would like to speak to her alone.

     

    Hyewon slowly walked up to Kami, heart beating.

     

    "...I'm sorry...My ladies in waiting forgot to tell me that you were here...I would have come right away otherwise."

     

    Kami stayed silent, only eyeing her.

    Hyewon had been surrounded by scary people all of her life, strong women that had terrified her- especially her mother and Hyunjin's.

    She remembered the cold stares that could kill a person and yet none had scared her as much as the sapphires that pierced her soul at that moment.

     

    Hyewon knew that it wasn't hatred that resided in her eyes, it was something worse,maybe disappointment.

     

    "You shouldn't be here...You should have gone home." She whispered.

    "...Really? Is that what you want? For me to just go and never see you again?" Kami clenched her hands "...Because if that's what you want then I'll leave."

    "That's not what I meant-" panicked the princess "What I meant to say is...You're supposed to be mad at me…? And I should be the one looking for you…?"

    "And yet you didn't."

    "...Because I thought you hated me-"

    "Then you are an idiot princess."

     

    Hyewon blinked, no one had called her that before.

     

    "I was hurt and still am because you lied to me but...I wouldn't hate you for it." She sighed " You had your reasons."

     

    And so had Kami , her reasons for coming back so quickly to her motivated by her brother's scheming.

    Kami wouldn't be able to protect everyone,but she would at least protect her with all her might.

     

    "...I'm sorry...I should have told you the truth." Apologized Hyewon "...I wanted to at first but...I got scared."

     

    Tears pooled in her eyes.

     

    "...I was scared that you would leave me...I was scared that you would think I faked it all…"

    " I know you did not."

    "...How?"

     

    Kami hesitated before taking her hands.

     

    "I just do…Because I like you and I want to be with you."

     

    A small smile finally appeared on Kami's lips.

     

    "...I am usually a rational person and look at me now…I am a mess, but I don't regret it."

     

    Hyewon melted into tears.

     

    "I like you too…" she sobbed " And probably nothing I say will convince you of it but...I truly do…Even if it will lead us nowhere...I do."

     

    Kami hugged her.

     

    "Let's not fight again ok?"

     

    Hyewon buried her face in Kami's neck, hoping that by staying like this Fate would take pity on them and spare them the inevitable future coming for her.

     

    "...I promise you." Replied Hyewon.

     

    A sob resonated in the empty corridor.

    The pair turned around to see Yujin and Minju behind a column, tears filling the youngest one's eyes.

     

    "...I tried to stop her but she was too curious-"

    "Congratulations-!!!"

    "...Congratulations…?" Repeated the princess.

    "You are not alone and old anymore!"

     

    Minju covered Yujin's mouth with her hand but it was too late.

     

    "...You are lucky that Kami is here Yujin, or I would have tied you to a chair."

     

     

    ***

     

    "How's everyone's reaction to the news?" Asked Myungsoo to Minhyun who had come to see him.

    "It depends." Replied Minhyun, eyeing his papers "The common people are taking the news well and people don't mind you inheriting the throne since they know all the good your family has done for them."

     

    The younger man sighed.

     

    "...But the nobility and rich merchants disagree strongly and have begun to show resistance. Some of them are saying that it is all but a scheme and that the throne belongs to Hyunjin."

    "...As expected."

     

    Myungsoo sat back on his chair and leaned his head backward.

     

    "....Apart from the prussian loyalists, there are also those that are saying that they have a better claim to the throne through their bloodline than you…They don't believe that you are the king's son."

    "...It was also something we had expected...Do we know who is leading them?"

    "We don't, but I have my suspicions."

     

    Myungsoo's mind wandered onto the face of Kami's older brother.

     

    "...The Kim from the secondary branch." Spoke Minhyun.

    "Kim Sunggyu? Do we have any proof that he is the one?"

    "No we don't, but he is the one with the greatest claim… And you know how he is."

     

    Minhyun nodded, he had too many memories of the man acting like a tyrant on the grounds of Cambridge- driving some students to suicide or pushing the director to expel them.

     

    Myungsoo and Minhyun along with their other friends were however untouchable,protected by the name and notoriety of the eldest boy of the Han family who was known by all to be the future of Britain's nobility, the man who might turn the public back into their favours in an era when blue blooded individuals were more and more disliked.

     

    Nobility losing its power was a thing that scared every noble in Europe for all of them knew what had happened in France only a few decades ago, it was a fate that loomed over their head that would not remain on their shoulders if people took to their weapons.

     

    "We'll be alright…" sighed Minhyun.

     

    Sunggyu was clever and yet often let his intelligence be overwhelmed by his arrogance, making him do stupid things for the sake of satisfying his ever growing sadistic ego- only surpassed for his hatred and jealousy for Myungsoo.

     

    "...We still have to prepare."

    "For what?"

    "For potential rebellions." Replied Myungsoo.

    "We should be fine, we made sure of that before the announcement."

    "Still...We could have missed something, it's never a bad thing to be careful."

    "What would you have me do then?"

    "Plant spies in most noble houses."

    "...That's a lot of people...I don't have that many people that I can truly trust."

     

    Myungsoo stood up and walked to the window of his office.

     

    "Then let this be an opportunity. I'll also send people to these houses too, let's compare their reports and determine who is loyal to us and not."

    "...And like this we'll see which families might be plotting against us." Said Minhyun.

    "Exactly." Smiled Myungsoo.

     

    Minhyun walked and leaned himself against the window's frame.

     

    "...How's Mina?" Asked her older brother, crossing his arms.

    "Why don't you go ask her yourself?"

    "...So you don't know."

     

    Myungsoo onyx eyes were focused on those of the younger man that was too exhausted both physically and mentally to keep up his poker face.

     

    "Why? Why aren't you with her? You know that she left."

    "I have work to finish first."

    "...I know you, you value work but not to the extent that you would neglect people you care for."

     

    Minhyun looked at the empty gardens under the moonlight, remembering the night they had fought.

    He had followed her, hoping to explain himself to her and make things right until he had seen Hyunjin holding her hand.

     

    The young man hadn't felt pain like this in a long time, not sure as to if he was angered by the nerve of the prince who should have known that she was taken already or by her for giving in so easily to his touch.

    And yet he stayed still as he always did when he needed to act on his feelings the most.

     

    "...You two fought right?"

    "...Yes we did." He confessed "Because of the secret you made me keep."

    "...I'm sorry." Apologized the new prince.

    "For what? It was necessary, I thought so too."

    "But you regret it don't you?"

     

    It was her gaze that was haunting him, pretty eyes filled with tears of betrayal.

    It was the way her irises trembled.

    It was the way her eyebrows turned into a pained frown.

    It was the way her soft hands had pushed him away with all of her strength.

    It was the sight of her back, leaving him.

     

    "...Every second since I saw her realize that I had been keeping everything from her." He whispered "And so I'll go to her as soon as I finish my work, to win her back."

     

    Myungsoo eyed him.

     

    "...I won't stop you but...Make sure not to hurt her in the process, that's all I am asking of you."

    "...Won't you see her?"

    "By what right would I?" He sadly smiled " I would deserve it even if she decided not to see me ever again."

    "You know that it won't happen...She adores you too much."

    "Will she still when everything we planned ends? Will anyone that matters to me still like me then?"

     

    Minhyun rested a hand on his shoulder.

     

    "I will."

     

    A sad smile appeared on Myungsoo's lips.

     

    "Will you really?"


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  • Chapter XII: Blood and its Weight.

     

    Chapter XII: Blood and its Weight

    Kami came back to what she thought would have been an empty mansion only to see the lit candles of the fourth floor study room that had been left empty for the past year or so.

     

    The young woman walked to it and opened it without knocking - she wasn't in a mood to act properly and just wanted the world to burn to ashes.

     

    "Where are your manners?" Asked a man,sitting his legs crossed on an old red velvet couch, reading a newspaper.

     

    Her day was only getting worse.

     

    "...What the hell are you doing here Sunggyu?" She asked, even more annoyed at the sight of him.

     

    Crap.

    The man folded the newspaper, throwing it on the nearest table.

     

    "Is that a way to talk to your brother? He said, walking to her.

     

    He hadn't changed.

    He had the same cold eyes that she used to hate as a child, the haughtiness in them having only grown along the years.

    He had the same venetian blonde hair that leaned more towards red than blonde.

    He had the same chilling voice.

     

    Nothing had changed about him and she still despised him the same.

     

    " Since when have you cared about me and how I talk to you?" She said

    "Since you are now of age and ought to be married as soon as possible."

     

    Kami wanted to punch his face, or maybe even shoot him, it wouldn't be a great loss for herself and the world after all.

     

    "We can't have you speak this way to your future husband."

    "I'll speak the way I want." Asserted Kami.

    "For how long are you going to put shame onto this family? Haven't you done enough?"

     

    Kami clenched her fists as he walked to the bar, pouring himself a glass of strong liquor.

     

    " As long as I want-"

    "Kim Myungsoo." Said Sunggyu, clenching his glass tighter.

     

    Kami knew what kind of person her brother was, he was a scary and jealous man- the name of her friend's brother on his lips was a bad sign.

     

    "...Han Myungsoo became Kim Myungsoo tonight."

     

    Kami rolled her eyes, there he was stating the obvious once again.

     

    "And?"

    "Does it mean nothing to you? No matter how disgraceful you are, you still carry the Kim name. Doesn't it bother you that a bastard is taking what should be ours?"

     

    Kami frowned.

    The young woman had always liked Myungsoo way more than she would ever have her brother.

    He had always protected her from Sunggyu's fits of rage.

    He had always offered her to stay over every time he knew her parents would hit her for misbehaving.

    If someone deserved the throne it was him and not her brother, Sunggyu would be a tyrant and she knew it.

     

    "Why? Because we have one drop of royal blood in our veins? Do you know how far we have to go back in our family's history to find a royal?"

     

    She sighed and rubbed her temples.

    She was sick of everything and wanted to sleep.

     

    "It's a miracle that we still managed to keep that name."

    "Still. We are more royal than he ever will be."

    "How? You heard them, he is the King's son."

     

    A scoff escaped his lips.

     

    "Then little sister you are even more stupid than what I used to think." He said finishing his glass " You should know that it is a lie just by taking a glance at the Count and Countess."

    "And so what? Even if he isn't the true heir, the King still has two nephews and a niece that come before us in the line of succession. Bury your meaningless dreams, you'll never be king- "

     

    Sunggyu clenched his hand until the glass broke, cutting the skin of his hand in the process.

    Kami watched horrified as blood ran along the curvature of his fingers- he was crazy and had always been, she wondered why she had forgotten about it.

     

    "...Don't worry about them." He just said with a smile.

    "...What are you going to do?" She asked, scared.

     

    Kami remembered how cruel he used to be as a child, she remembered how he shot birds as soon as he first got his hands on a gun.

    His rash and cold actions had always been forgiven by her parents no matter how terrifying he got- they hadn't even cared when he had tried to strangle her, only saved by Myungsoo that happened to be nearby at the time.

     

    She didn't want to imagine what he would do to those in his path, no matter how high the rank.

    He would hurt Hyewon if needed.

     

    "It's none of your business." He replied,licking his finger.

    "...Don't hurt them." She whispered.

    "Are you giving me orders?"

    "...I am warning you."

     

    A smirk appeared on his lips.

     

    "What are you going to do then?"

    "...I'll tell the King and Queen."

    "Ah! And you think they'll believe you? Without a single proof?"

     

    Sunggyu violently grabbed her chin, blood now staining her cheeks.

     

    "The King and Queen are but pawns without any strength...We nobles are the true power,they can't punish us without having significant proof of treason. Where will you find it uh?"

     

    Kami bit her cheek feeling the liquid flow against her skin.

    She wanted to throw up.

     

    " And even if they believed you...You wouldn't be safe, you would never get to taste freedom again." He added with a cruel smile.

     

    Kami pushed him away.

     

    "...Karma will come for you one day." She conjured upon him.

    "Karma? Is this another thing you read in your meaningless books?" He laughed " I make my own destiny and you should be happy, you might become a princess thanks to me one day."

     

    Kami wiped the blood off of her cheeks strangely surprised by how warm it was compared to the cold demon that stood before her.

     

    "...Then I hope that the destiny you'll make will lead you to an early grave and that you'll rot in Hell."

     

    ***

     

    Mina had fallen asleep on Hyunjin's shoulder after only a few minutes in the carriage and was now sleeping like a baby on his lap, unbothered by the constant sound of clapping hooves on the outside gravel.

    Hyunjin couldn't keep a smile off of his lips, who would have guessed that running away (sort of) could be so entertaining?

     

    Soon, or rather hours later that went by as quick as a few minutes for the young man, the pair reached Arundel castle,the giant of stones that had protected the Han's for centuries without any failure until his arrival a few years ago.

     

    Hyunjin hadn't set a foot back there after the incident and felt both nostalgic and bitter to see the castle again.

    He had spent the best time of his life in these walls and gardens only for them to be stained with the memory of her blood and yet- he had missed it all,more than he would have ever missed his home back in Prussia.

     

    "Hey…" He gently said shaking her slightly.

    "Hmm…" She replied, still asleep.

    "Mina we are here…"

     

    Mina had always been a deep sleeper, so much so that he had to carry her back to the castle more than once when they used to take naps in the gardens as children.

     

    "Hmmmmmm…"

     

    A small laugh escaped Hyunjin's lips as the butler, a man that had grown way older in the few years he hadn't seen him, opened the door of their carriage.

    Hyunjin eyed him with a tender smile as he widened his eyes.

     

    "Y..Your Highness? ...And her Grace..? What-"

     

    Hyunjin signed him to lower his voice,pointing at the young woman sleeping on his lap.

     

    "I...I wasn't warned of your arrival- Nothing has been readied- dear Lord I am so sorry-" he whispered.

    "It's fine, we came without notice you couldn't have known."

     

    Hyunjin watched as a rough looking man, probably a gardener, approached them to carry Mina.

     

    "Let me help you with her-" said the man before being stopped by the prince.

    "...No, I'll carry her."

     

    Hyunjin stood carefully to make sure that her head did not drop on the seat (although surely she would have remained asleep) and took her in his arms.

     

    "...Do you need some help your Highness…?" Asked the butler, seeing the prince struggle with the layers of her dress.

    "No! No I am fine- Just guide me to her room."

     

    The butler nodded and bowed before quickly leading them inside.

     

    Hyunjin watched her face, comfortably lodged against his chest as he went up the familiar steps.

     

    "Her room is on the last floor but I'll spare you the effort your Highness." Said the old man leading him to a smaller guest room on the third floor he knew too well.

     

    Hyunjin entered the bedroom that had been kept spotless although the castle's owners hadn't lived in it for years.

    The prince carefully laid her down on the bed and touched her forehead, her fever was still there.

     

    "Could you bring me a bowl of water and a towel please?"

    "But I have to show you to another room-"

    "Later, I am fine."

     

    The man looked at the young woman that frowned, seemingly in pain.

     

    "...Is she sick again?" Asked the servant that had looked after the little girl she used to be once upon a time.

     

    The Han's were loved by their servants who they always cared for to an extent that had rarely been seen before, they were family too.

    More than once had Mina's father's paid for their debts and her mother paid for them to get the best medecine there was when they laid ill.

    And from this great kindness had been born a loyalty that transcended the money they were paid to work, the old man cared as much for the Han's children as his own- and therefore it had shocked them all when they almost lost her.

     

    "Yes, but she should be alright. Would you fetch us a doctor tomorrow if possible?" Asked Hyunjin, wiping her sweat away with his sleeve before rolling it up his arms.

    "Of course."

    "Thank you." Smiled the blonde man before sitting on a chair next to her bed.

     

    The old butler eyed the prince who he had also cared for.

    The man had been there with Myungsoo when they found Hyunjin holding her in his arms, dying.

    He had been the one that had washed him clean of her blood, the one that had embraced him when the thirteen years old boy broke down into tears.

     

    He was tall now, strong both physically and in his gaze.

    He was a man that he wouldn't have to cheer up again.

     

    "...It's nice seeing you again, your Highness." Smiled the old man.

     

    Hyunjin replied to him with an ever so thankful smile, never forgetting how he had cared for him.

     

    "It is nice to see you too."

     

    The man bowed and exited the room, hopeful that maybe one day, this castle would be lively again.

     

    Hyunjin laid back on his chair and sighed,staring at the ornated ceiling.

     

    Everything was the same.

    The scent of the varnished wood, the paintings, the bed covers...Everything.

    This room had once been his after he had refused to stay in the lonely royal suite that had been readied for him at the time.

    Hyunjin was sick of the gold and cold rooms that followed royalty and so he had begged Myungsoo to convince his parents to give him a smaller room- and they did.

     

    Coincidentally enough, this room was just under Mina's and after some time they discovered that they could talk to one another if they stuck their ears to their sinks' canalisations.

    The two used to talk through the night using them, sometimes falling asleep against the cold metal at dawn only to be scolded by their governesses.

     

    Sometimes he would get brave and would escape his room to go to hers, carefully stepping on the pieces of parquet that did not make sounds under his feet.

    They would play silent games and read stories by a lamp's light, sometimes falling asleep in the same bed- all up until they met again at thirteen after spending two years apart.

     

    Mina had grown more beautiful and his voice had already changed by then.

    He was also taller when they had previously been the same height and he looked stunning to her.

    He had changed , she had changed and so did their relationship naturally during one spring.

     

    Holding hands made their heart race, being together became pleasingly awkward in the way teenagers struggle to come to terms with their feelings and yet, they were closer than ever.

     

    Slowly the hugs turned into embraces that felt like promises and the innocent kisses on the cheeks into shy kisses on the lips.

     

    "...Hyunjin?" Asked Mina when she finally woke up, an hour later , noticing the wet cloth on her forehead.

     

    Hyunjin had tried to distance himself then, for a short time, just for a day before she came to find him- as if reading his mind.

    She knew that he had doubts and that the pure knowledge that he would have to leave her again one day tormented him so as it did her.

     

    "...You're still here." She stated, as if surprised.

     

    Mina told him then that she would wait for him even if it took him decades, words that were bold for a thirteen years old girl when he thought about it later on.

    She told him that they were like Romeo and Juliet in a way, separated by the sea instead of family conflicts and that they would be together one day- although not thanks to death.

     

    He may have innocently proposed to her later on but she had been the one to mention being together forever- and yet.

     

    "Did you think I would leave you?"

    "...Yes."

     

    Hyunjin sadly frowned.

     

    "Why?"

    "...Because you left me once already didn't you?"

     

    Cruel was the way a brain works.

    Cruel she was for remembering that moment amongst all others.

     

    "...I saw you that day, leaving the castle in your carriage without even turning around and saying goodbye to me."

     

    It was all too cruel.

     

    "...I'm sorry."

     

    ***

     

    Minhee slipped out at night, Gongyoo wasn't going to come back to her bed after all of this, thankfully.

     

    She had to get some help, any kind of help and the knly help she could think about was him.

     

    Minhee decided to run to Sungyeol's atelier, knowing that calling for a carriage would arise Gongyoo's suspicions and so she raced to the sculptor herself, wearing a hunting dress that she had never worn before.

     

    She ran for quite some time and yet reached the building quicker than what she had expected.

    She stopped in her tracks when she saw the faint light escaping from his window, like a beacon lit on purpose for her lost soul and she ran to his door- panting.

     

    When she finally finished climbing up the stairs, he was there sitting on them- changed into his usual clothes but not relaxed.

    Eyes flickering with a faint hint of surprise as they met hers.

     

    "What-What are you doing outside?"

    "...I thought you might come visit me."

    "...Did you?"

    "...I hoped you would."

     

    Her heart was racing and she couldn't tell if it was because of the sudden physical activity or his words.

    Sungyeol took her hand and kissed it, sending shivers through her body.

     

    "I wanted you to come."

    "...I'm here."

    "...Will you stay?"

    "...As long as I can." She replied, intertwining her fingers with his.

    "...Because you want to go back to him or because you have to, to not enrage him?"

     

    There was an artistic subtility to the way Sungyeol spoke, he wouldn't ask her feelings flat out, it wasn't his way and she had quickly come to understand it.

     

    " I do not love him." She said and it was enough for him to understand.

     

    Sungyeol stood up and pulled her into his atelier, closing the door behind them before pushing her against it, taking her lips with passion and yet- with a softness she had never known until then.

    Minhee wrapped her arms around his back as he held onto her waist.

     

    She loved every second of it, every sensation that passed through her body and so did he.

     

    " I'll steal you away from him-" He whispered against her lips before kissing her again.

    "W...What hapened to you not messing with married women?"

    "You are not any woman and…I can't let you stay with him, not when he is hurting you…" he said.

     

    Tears whelmed up in her eyes.

    It was all so great and yet- reality was chasing her.

    She would have to go back soon, she would have to go back to her Hell.

     

    "...He won't let me go." She explained "He said that he wouldn't."

    "Why? What does he have against you that holds you back?"

     

    Minhee froze.

    She could not tell him and Sungyeol saw the faint glistening in her eyes wither before him.

     

    " ...You can tell me everything, I won't judge you, never."

    "...You will."

    "I swear that I won't." He promised "I swear it on my life...I need to know what it is so that I can help you Minhee."

     

    Could she believe him? Could she untrust him with such a secret?

    She knew that she could deep down and yet, it was hard to muster up the words that felt blasphemous.

    A tear rolled down her cheek as she finally spoke up.

     

    "...I am not a virgin, I am not innocent, I am impure… I gave it all to him last year." She murmured "He had me."

     

     

    Sungyeol held her tightly against him, surprisingly sighing of relief.

     

    "I don't care that you are not a virgin,I am not either." He explained " This doesn't define who you are...You are the same person with or without it and I never cared for it in the first place."

    "Liar…" she cried.

     

    Sungyeol took her face in his hands and buried his gaze into hers.

    There was no doubt, no discomfort, no disgust in his eyes- they were the same.

     

    "I am not lying Minhee...What I like is your smile, the way you genuinely like the things I like and are not prentending to, the way that you are not afraid to run around wildly even when ladies are supposed to be delicate and proper…Your body isn't what interested me, what interested me is the person you are...And I want to get to know more of you..."

     

    Tears began to roll even more down her eyes.

     

    "...Thank you."

    "For what?"

    "...For not pushing me away."

    " I will never."

     

    Sungyeol rubbed her back and she slowly calmed down.

     

    "...You won't be facing this alone...I'll help you and I'll make sure that everyone does too so...Please...Please wait for a little longer so that we can make him pay for all the pain he caused you. Can you?"

     

    Minhee nodded and kissed him before finally smiling.

    She saw light through him, not an anchor, not a floating isle in an endless ocean of darkness- she could see him become the light that would help her find her way back to happiness

     

    "...Sungyeol."

    "Yes?" He replied, chasing her lips for more after her kiss.

    "...Will I still have my statue even if I don't need an excuse to come see you now?"

     

    A small laugh escaped his lips.

    She would be fine, she would be fine if he was there by her side.

     

    "You'll have your statue."

     

     

     

     

     


    1 commentaire
  •  Chapter XI: Lunar Escape.

    Chapter XI:

     

    Hyunjin walked out of the palace and into the gardens that had turned dark because of the night's veils, the moon only showing itself shyly between passing clouds that dared not linger that evening.

    The man walked thoughtlessly, almost out of habit to the small kiosk where Mina used to run away every time she was upset.

     

    And indeed he found her there, legs close to her chest as she watched the fountain run its clear water that reminded him of the rivers that graced the lands of her family.

     

    Her family...What would happen to it now that her brother wasn't the heir anymore?

    The title of the Count of Norfolk would disappear since a woman couldn't inherit it and pass it to her children.

    Her name would disappear and her line with her.

     

    Mina looked up to him as she heard the sound of his steps on the ivory white gravel.

     

    "...Have you come to bring me back to the party, your Royal Highness?" she asked, tears caught in her throat.

     

    Hyunjin felt pain hearing his title that had been a dead weight on his shoulders from the very day he had been born.

    The young man sat down next to her, a little away still to give her some space.

     

    "...No...I also needed to escape."

    "Escape?"

    "From the madness that is this situation."

     

    Mina leaned her head against one of the stone columns.

     

    "...Did you know this would happen?" She asked weakly, scared that he too had lied to her.

     

    Hyunjin wanted to take her hand and embrace her. He wanted to cheer her up and make her smile again and yet- he could not.

    And so he stayed still, hoping that his words would be enough, enough to make her happy again.

     

    "I didn't...They told me just before the party started."

    "Then maybe they distrust you too…" she sighed " Who told you?"

    "...My sister."

    "...So we were both betrayed by our siblings uh?"

     

    She faintly smiled, bitterly as a tear escaped her eyes and ran down her cheek.

     

    "...It's not that they distrust us I think...It's that they still see us as children that need to be protected."

    "I don't need protection...What I need is for people to tell me the truth."

     

    Hyunjin's heart tightened, knowing that it was the one thing he could never do, he could never let her know and therefore he knew that one day, he would hurt her too by keeping his secret.

     

    "...But in the end they love us and care for our wellbeing, no matter how wrong the decision they make is." He gently smiled and she looked at him, cheeks flushed by her fever.

    "...Don't you resent them?" She wondered out loud.

     

    Hyunjin threw his head back and stared at the arched ceiling, it wasn't as high as he remembered it to be.

     

    "Why would I…? My sister sacrificed most of her life for me and Felix, all because of a cruel turn of fate."

     

    The prince looked at her and met her shining brown eyes, full of unshed tears and he gently smiled.

    Some things never changed.

    He remembered when she used to hide there to cry every time he had to go back to Prussia, how she would ask him to take her with him and that she would hide in one of his luggage if it made her stay by his side - all with the same look in her eyes.

     

    "...Me and Hyewon, we were born not even a year apart and Felix too, a few months after me." A bitter laugh escaped his mouth "It had been a kind of contest between our mothers to see who would bear the King a son first, none of us was born out of love." He began explaining.

     

    Mina slid closer to him to listen to his story.

     

    "...If I had been born first...Or if Hyewon had been a man...Everything would have been easier for us." He told her " But things are the way they are and Hyewon took it upon her to keep the two of us safe even when she had no reason to - Me and Felix are just bastards afterall."

     

    Hyunjin surprisingly felt her hand take his to comfort him and yet he almost broke out in tears.

    It was a small gesture that meant the world to him.

     

    "Don't call yourself that…" she said.

    "It's alright, it's the truth and I don't really mind it...I am used to it."

    "Being used to it doesn't mean that it hurts less."

     

    Hyunjin still remembered the time he first fell in love with her, they were but little children.

    She had said something similar about how he could cry, how he could all let it out when everyone expected him to become an emotionless statue that was to be paraded around countries- even Hyewon used to tell him that showing emotions was what would put him in danger.

     

    Hyunjin had cried for a full hour after hearing her words while she held him tightly in his arms.

    The prince still didn't know what had prompted her to say that and yet it had been the one thing he had wanted to hear.

    The one sentence that freed him from the imaginary links that were strangling him.

     

    "...You're right." He smiled and dared interlace their fingers, she didn't push him away.

     

    The two of them sat silently there for some time, watching the light escaping from the palace's windows as well as the soft music.

     

    "...We used to meet here like this before didn't we?" She asked after some time.

    "...Yes."

     

    A small smile appeared on her lips.

     

    "Guessed so...You found me quite quickly."

     

    Mina eyed their hands together, his pretty hand bigger than hers by a knuckle length.

     

    "...And this feels familiar."

     

    The young woman remembered faintly spending time with a boy here, running around the fountain, splashing water at each other in the summer while their governesses screamed out of shock some feet away from them.

    She remembered a smile framed by black locks, she remembered a beautiful laugh.

     

    "We used to play here together." he said " We used to get scolded a lot for getting into the fountain and rolling around in the grass." He laughed.

     

    It was funny how a laugh and smile sometimes remained engraved in one's memory longer than faces.

     

    Faces always faded after some time but not a voice, not a scent- the scent of freshly washed linen and soap in his case.

     

    Hyunjin's smile was the same smile, the same one that radiated kindness, a kindness warm like an afternoon sun.

     

    Mina's heart skipped a beat when she finally realized what was happening, it was the first time she had so clearly found one of her memories back.

     

    "...Your hair...It used to be black back then." She whispered.

     

    Hyunjin froze and looked at her with surprise.

     

    "..You...Remember?" He asked.

    "...Vaguely…" She said " It's like remembering a dream after you wake up… All is blurry but still...I remember." She met his eyes "... I think I remember you."

     

    Her slender fingers went to his blonde locks.

     

    "What happened…?"

    " I bleach it."

     

    The young woman blinked a few times.

     

    "It's...uncommon...Why?"

    "...I began doing it for Felix." He stated " All of the children from our family are born with black or dark hair….So do the ones from the royal family of Britain…"

     

    Hyunjin sadly smiled.

     

    "...But not Felix you see... People always used to tell him that he wasn't the son of the King because of his blonde hair."

    "...So you bleached your hair."

    "Yes...To support him, they curse at the two of us together now."

     

    Hyunjin looked at their hands, how he had missed seeing them joined together.

     

    "...It's stupid really...People from our family tend to marry people with dark hair on purpose too, to keep that feature in the royal family...But Felix's mother is blonde."

    "...Idiots."

    "Right? Felix's is fine with it now but...I hated people for bullying him and our father even more for never standing up to them."

     

    Mina smiled, rubbing the back of his hand.

     

    "...You're nice." she genuinely said.

    "Not really…"

    "You are."

     

    He smiled back at her.

     

    "...So are you going to keep them like this?" She asked.

    "I have grown used to it...Why?"

     

    Mina gently swiped his hair back behind his ear and Hyunjin felt himself turn red.

    She was so close.

     

    "...You would look good with dark long hair too."

     

    Hyunjin slightly coughed.

     

    "R..Really?"

    "Yes." She smiled.

     

    Hyunjin secretly made plans in his head to dye his hair back to black as soon as possible and courageously brought a hand to her face to rearrange her hair too.

     

    "Well hmm...Your hair looks good too-"

     

    She laughed.

     

    "My hair has always been this way silly…"

    "...Well it looks good as always-"

     

    Hyunjin froze as his fingers grazed her burning skin and finally noticed how flushed her face was.

    The prince carefully put a hand against her forehead, eyeing her with worry.

     

    "...You're running a fever."

    "It's nothing-"

    "It's not nothing!"

     

    Hyunjin remembered how often she used to be sick as a child and how bad it sometimes got.

     

    "...Is it because of our walk in the rain?"

     

    He was frowning, realizing how reckless he had been just to spend some time with her, harming her again in the process.

     

    "I don't regret it." She smiled to comfort him.

     

    Hyunjin wondered if he would one day be able to be by her side without being a nuisance.

     

    "...You're sick because of me."

    "You couldn't know that I would get sick…Please don't blame yourself hmm?"

     

    Hyunjin pulled his hand away, his confidence crumbling.

     

    "...You should get back home."

    "Are you abandoning me too ,your Highness?

     

    He shook his head as she sadly smiled

     

    "...Do I even have a home to go back to after all that happened? I can't even be sure that my parents are truly my parents..."

    "...Your friends then?"

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    "...They'll want to talk about it and I don't want to."

    "You talked about it with me."

     

    Mina rested her head against the column, her head hurting.

     

    "...It's different."

    "How?"

    "Because it concerns you too...Because your sister was part of it...And because it felt like you can understand me."

    "...Then where should I bring you?"

     

    Mina stopped to think , or not really, just feeling the radiating pain in her temples.

     

    "...Nowhere. I'll stay here."

     

    Hyunjin raised an eyebrow.

     

    "...In the palace?"

     

    Mina didn't want to see Myungsoo,or anyone really.

    She wanted to get away from everything.

     

    "...In the garden."

    "...You'll die."

    "I won't-"

     

    Hyunjin sighed and stood up , reaching his hand out.

     

    " I know where you can stay." He said.

    "Where…?"

    "Your family castle back in the country."

    "But...Can I go there alone?"

    "You won't be. I'll come along if you want me to." He said "Shall we run away?"

     

    Mina stopped to think about Minhyun for an instant.

    What were they to become?

    She didn't know but what was sure is that she didn't want to see him for the time being.

     

    Mina grabbed Hyunjin's hand and he helped her up.

     

    "Let's run away." She faintly smiled.

     

    ***

     

    Myungsoo stood by one of the windows of his room with Hyewon as they watched Mina and Hyunjin's carriage leave the palace after the party.

     

    "...Do we know where they are going?"

    "Hyunjin told the master of stables that they'll be staying at your family's house for some time."

    "...Good, could you send some guards nearby to guard them from a distance?" He asked.

    "It's already done." She replied.

    "...Thank you, I don't know what I would do without you…" he whispered in a sigh.

     

    Myungsoo turned around and leaned against the wall, watching the young woman who gently took his hand.

     

    "...Are you ok?" She asked.

    "Are you?"

     

    Hyewon smiled.

     

    "...It has never been about what we feel."

    "...Right." he sighed.

     

    Hyewon hesitated before speaking.

    She wondered how Myungsoo managed to stay this calm and unbothered after everything when she even struggled to breathe.

     

    "...Have you ever thought about how our life would have unfolded if we weren't who we are?" She inquired.

    "...I would be lying if I told you that I haven't, Princess."

    "...It's been quite some time since you last called me that."

    "Does it bother you?

    "Not really..."

     

    Myungsoo stared at her.

     

    "...Thinking about things like this doesn't help us, it only makes us feel worse than we already are...So I try not to." He explained.

     

    He slightly clenched her hand.

     

    "...We can't forget why we are doing this." He said "No matter how hard it gets."

    "I know…"

     

    Hyewon lowered her head.

    She would have to swallow it all again, the pain and the tears.

    She would have to try to forget how to feel again.

    She would have to forget her.

     

    "...But tonight is fine so...If you want to cry...There is no one here to judge you." He told her, seeing how she was shaking.

    "...You're here."

    "And we have already seen everything about one another...Do you think that I'll judge you for crying on a day like this one? You don't have to put up a front with me...You can be yourself."

     

    Hyewon bit her lips.

     

    "...Have you ever loved Myungsoo?"

    "...It depends on the kind of love.." He first replied " I have loved my parents, my sister, you and your brothers...But if you talk about the romantic type of love...No I haven't...I never had the time or freedom to."

     

    Hyewon let out a tear.

     

    "...I have...Recently...It was a small love that had only begun…"

     

    Rivers flowed down her rosy cheeks.

     

    "It wasn't something that would have led to anything and yet-" she cried " I already miss it...I miss it so much."

     

    Myungsoo's hands rubbed her back as she rested her head against his chest.

     

    "...I can't help you find it back but...I'll always be here when you need me...I'll always be here if you need a shoulder to cry onto."

     

    Hyewon cried for a while, slowly calming down as he gently caressed her back in a slow rhythm.

    It was one of his habits and something he did well - as if it was something he had been born to do.

     

     

    "...I'll lend you mine too." She said after some time.

    "No you won't." He caringly smiled.

    "What?"

     

    Myungsoo gently pinched her cheek.

     

    "...You have tiny shoulders, I can't have you carry the weight of my problems too, you'll break in two."

    "...But then who'll listen to you? Where will you go if you need to cry?"

     

    Myungsoo gently smiled again, wiping away the last of her tears.

     

    "...It's alright, I am fine on my own." He reassured her "...My tears have long dried up."

     

    ***

     

    "Where did you go?" Asked Gongyoo in the carriage back to Minhee's house.

    "Hmm?"

    "You left for some time during the party."

     

    Minhee eyed him as he nervously tapped his feet on the floor.

    He looked so weak like this, so different from the man that scared her at home, she barely recognized him.

     

    She had never seen him scared,not once before that moment.

    Minhee had seen him be worried, she had seen him be sad but fear had never been associated with who he was to her.

     

    And it was as if something broke in her, like a spell, he wasn't the man she used to think he was and only then was she seeing it.

     

    He wasn't the strongest person in the world.

    He wasn't the most clever one either.

    He was a little bitter man that walked among giants, trying to replicate the way they lived, never able to catch up to them.

     

     

    "...I left to get some air." She said.

    "Really?"

    "Yes."

     

    Minhee stared at his restless leg, feeling her heart already distancing itself from his grasp.

    It was over.

    She had loved him to death only for her feelings to die down in a second.

    He had been the one suffocating her and it hadn't been until Sungyeol came to her help that she was finally able to breathe.

     

    He wasn't her savior, he was an anchor dragging her down to the bottom of an endless ocean.

    He would ruin her.

     

    "...Are you bothered by what Myungsoo said?"

    "What?" He asked in a menacing tone.

     

    Minhee flinched back.

    Had he always been this aggressive in the way he spoke?

     

    "...It's nothing."

     

    No hate and no love, disinterest and even loathing now that she realized how he had teared her apart from her loved ones was all that she felt.

    She wanted him out, out of her life.

     

    "...Tell me the truth."

    "What truth?"

    "What did you do that makes you so scared of what they might discover?"

     

    He frowned, clenching his fists that turned white under the pressure.

     

    "..Do you distrust me? Are you doubting me?"

    "I am."

    "...So what?"

     

    Minhee took the hideous ring off and put it in his hand.

     

    "I am not getting married to you."

     

    The man parted his lips in confusion.

     

    "...No one will want you."

    "...That's not true."

    "Do you think a man would want to have you? A whore? A dirty woman that threw away her virginity as if it was nothing?" He spat at her, vile words coming out of his mouth.

     

    Nothing.

    It hadn't been nothing to her back then, she had truly loved him.

    She had loved him in a foolish way, the type of love that young women often seeked at first - a burning and passionate love that often lacked deepness.

    A love that made you feel full, a love that consumed you away.

     

    "...No one will know."

     

    Minhee watched as his dumbfounded expression turned into a smirk.

     

    "...Then I'll make it so that they do." He leaned closer "I'll make it so that you'll have no choice but to stay with me."

     

    Minhee's stomach tightened.

     

    "...What do you mean?"

    "If you break off our engagement...I'll tell everyone what we did together" he whispered in her ear

    "...No one will believe you."

    "Will they? There used to be rumors about us, surely people will believe my words if I remind them of it all...Are you willing to take the risk?"

     

    Minhee's heart was racing, she couldn't live through this again, especially not without her friends.

    She couldn't deal with this on her own.

     

    Strangely enough, Sungyeol's face came to her mind- What would he think if he knew what she did with him?

    The young woman wasn't sure that she could take seeing his disappointed and disgusted expression.

     

    "...Don't."

    "You aren't leaving me a choice." He said before crossing his arms " This time you won't be able to manage the damages,you'll be ruined forever."

    "...What is it that you want?"

     

    The man leaned closer, kissing her cheek- sending skin crawling shivers all over her body.

     

    "...What I want is to be the husband of a Marquis's daughter...To become a Lord."

     

    Minhee bit the inside of her cheek until she started bleeding.

     

    It had never been love.

    It was nothing to him.

     

     


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  •  Chapter X: Disrupted Fates.

    Chapter X: Disrupted Fates.

    Mina didn't really remember how it happened,maybe because of her rising fever or simply because of the shock.

    She just remembered falling to her knees after the King finished speaking.

     

    "Myungsoo...I welcome you into the royal house of Kim as my son and heir."

     

    Being stabbed or shot would have been less shocking than this sentence.

    Mina looked for her parents among the crowd as Minhyun tried to get her to listen to him- his words lost in an ocean of loud chatters.

     

    "Ah! No wonder they were so favoured! The woman had a bastard by the King." Was the first thing she heard a noble man say.

     

    It wasn't true.

     

    "She must be too...Look at her, she and her brother look so alike…"

     

    It wasn't true and yet it made sense in an awful way.

    It must have been why she had spent so much time in the palace's gardens.

    Why they had cared so much for her and her brother.

    It must have been why she had gotten to know Hyunjin, a prince, in the first place.

    It made sense and yet she refused to believe it.

     

    "Mina…!" Called Minhyun again as she stared at Myungsoo who had taken his seat next to the King, his eyes empty.

     

    But if it was true, it meant that all she had witnessed as she grew up had been but a lie.

    Her parents' happy marriage, her mother always so faithful and loving with her father…

     

    Her father?

     

    What would happen to him now that everyone knew of this?

     

    She couldn't even begin to imagine what he felt, what it felt like to have the boy he had looked after be ripped away from him like this.

    He would never get the chance to call him his son ever again, he was to become no one to him.

     

    "Are you alright…?" She heard Minhyun ask, holding onto her shoulders.

     

    How could it have gone on for so long without anyone knowing?

    Myungsoo had to have known about it and some more people too.

     

    Someone close to her brother.

    Someone who he could trust.

     

    Mina remembered how Minhyun had pulled her away to bring her to a more discreet spot of the room right before the announcement.

     

    "...You knew."

    "Mina…?" He whispered, trying to cup her cheek.

     

    The young woman pushed his arm away.

     

    "...That's why you went away with Myungsoo recently...Why you took me aside...You knew that this would happen today…"

     

    His irises trembled as she eyed him with pain in her eyes - immediately regretting not telling her sooner about the plan.

     

    "Please let me explain...He told me not to-"

    "You should have told me! You should have told me regardless of what he made you promise!"

     

    Minhyun bit his lip.

     

    "...I wanted to...But we thought that maybe it would be better to let you enjoy the life you had for a little more time-"

    "...Then the two of you are fools."

     

    She finally stood up and tried to leave.

     

    "Mina-" he called one more time, reaching for her hand.

    "...Don't. Leave me alone." She cried at him,tears in her eyes as she left the ballroom.

     

    ***

    The party somehow continued regardless of the mess that it had become, people still talked but the music covered their voices.

    Hyunjin stood up, seeing Mina leave in a hurry.

     

    "Where are you going?" Asked Hyewon who had turned to him as soon as she had seen her too, grabbing his sleeve.

    "...I can't leave her alone."

    "We have to stay here."

    "For what? To show everyone that we support this?"

    "Don't you? Did you want the throne?'

     

    Hyunjin rolled his eyes.

     

    "I don't care for the throne, I don't care about us being royalty!" He quietly told her " What I care about is the fact that this could have been handled in a better way, not like this, not in front of so many people." He finished, pulling his arm away from her before leaving.

     

    The young man ran out, ignoring his sister that called out for him.

     

    Hyunjin stopped breathless in the empty corridors after running for a while, he knew where his Mina would have gone, but he didn't know the new her as well as he would have liked.

     

    The man had also quite forgotten where each hallway led- he hadn't been here for a few years and the palace was just like a maze.

     

    "Hyunjin." Called out Myungsoo who had followed him.

    "...What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be back there?"

    "I told them that I needed to go to the bathroom." He explained "...Are you going to Mina?"

    "Who else?"

     

    Myungsoo sighed, running a hand through his hair.

     

    "...Don't. She doesn't need to be more shaken up than she already is."

    "You're the last person that has the right to say that right now. Do you know what you did?"

    "...Are you mad because you feel like it was supposed to be yours? Or is it something else?"

     

    Hyunjin grabbed Myungsoo's collar pushing him back against the nearest wall.

     

    "Why do you all think that I care about these damn thrones??? What good have they ever brought me???" Shouted Hyunjin " Me being a prince is what almost killed her in the first place…Do you really think that I want it? After all that happened???"

     

    Hyunjin let go of him.

     

    "...All I want...All I want is for her to be happy."

    "That's what I want too."

    "Then why? Explain it to me in a way that makes sense!"

     

    Myungsoo sat against the wall.

    He had known that things would be difficult, that he would have to see his parents crumble before his eyes, he had known that the velvet cloak of royalty would weigh heavy on his shoulders and yet- He still had underestimated the scale of all of it.

     

    "...It was the only way to protect everyone."

    "And my sister knew..?"

     

    He nodded.

     

    "...You two are always like this. Scheming in people's back for the good of others...But has it ever come to your mind that maybe the people that you are trying to help don't want it? That maybe we are better off the way we are?"

     

    Myungsoo stood up once again, realizing that Hyunjin was now the same height he was- he no longer was a young and helpless boy that had come to him, crying for help.

     

    "...I know my uncle. I know my aunt and I know your family." Hyunjin whispered " None of it makes sense no matter how you try to make people believe it does."

     

    Myungsoo covered his mouth with his hand.

     

    "...Even if that's what you think, keep it to yourself. Don't let anyone hear you."

     

    Hyunjin pushed his hand away.

     

    "I'm going to her. Don't stop me."

    "...You promised." Said Myungsoo,stopping him in his tracks " You promised that you would leave all of this in the past for her happiness."

     

    Hyunjin turned around, frowning.

     

    "...And you promised me that you would keep her safe and happy in exchange." He answered " Who broke the promise first I wonder?"

     

    Myungsoo knelt just like that day and Hyunjin's heart skipped a beat.

     

    "...I beg you once again."

    "...Stop it."

    "You know what happened the first time you stayed with her, she almost lost her life and I never want to see her like this ever again."

    "I am no longer a child,I can protect her-"

    "Stay away from her. I beg you."

     

    What had the years of suffering brought to Hyunjin?

    What had the years of longing and grief for her meant if she wasn't happy and safe in the end?

    Her being related to royalty would bring waves of dangers to her and her friends and never would she rest peacefully, he knew it better than anyone else.

    Hyunjin had to sleep with a dagger at night since he had been but ten years old, almost killed while he was asleep once.

    He knew what it meant to live in constant fear of death everyday and it was the very last thing he wanted for her.

     

    Being of royal blood was a curse and he hated Myungsoo for bringing it upon her.

    It would change her, it would destroy her.

     

    Myungsoo wasn't one to beg and he knew it, that's why he gave in the first time and why he was so shaken up this time too.

    But he wouldn't bend again.

     

    "...No."

    "Hyunjin-"

    "That promise...It ate at me for years. I won't do this again."

    "...And I am sorry for it. But think again, do you think that she'll be alright if she learns everything?"

     

    Of course she wouldn't.

    She would maybe even hate the prince for what happened.

     

    "...Can I be honest with you?" Asked Hyunjin.

    "...Of course."

     

    Tears whelmed up in his eyes.

     

    "...I have lived for others and for goals that weren't mine all of my life. The only time I have ever lived by my own will was back then when I met her." He confessed "..And even that I was robbed of."

     

    A sad smile appeared on his lips.

     

    "...I lived for that promise I made to you, but since that day I have never been happy,not once."

    "Hyunjin…"

    "...All I want is to be happy now. All I want is to look after her now that you can't."

     

    Hyunjin smiled,pain on his face.

     

    "Don't worry I won't tell her what we used to be. These are my memories and mine alone and I'll cherish them until the day I die…" He said " But I can't swear to stay away from her,not again."

     

    Myungsoo sighed.

     

    "Please...Let me be selfish. Just a little so that I can finally live again."

     

    ***

     

    Minhee vaguely heard Gongyoo talk to guests next to her as she stood against the wall, struggling to breathe.

     

    The news had been a shock to everyone there but more so for her.

    She wanted to run to her friend and hug her but couldn't and had to watch as she left in a hurry.

    When did she become like this? So scared to leave his side that she didn't even dare go help her dearest ones.

    Minhee was suffering, screaming inside of her head to wake up.

     

    "I'll go grab a drink...Can I?" She asked Gongyoo, feeling dizzier by the second and in dire need of an escape.

    "...Of course dear." He replied and she could see in his eyes that he was scared about what would become of him now that Myungsoo was a prince- no amount of poker face could hide it from her.

     

    She was suffocating as she walked through the large crowd to grab a wine of glass.

     

    "Don't." Said Sungyeol grabbing her wrist "It won't help you."

    "Sungyeol…?"

     

    The man sighed.

     

    "...Follow me." He said, gently taking her hand and bringing her out of the ballroom.

    "Where are we going…?" She asked, feeling more faint by the minute.

     

    Sungyeol opened an empty room and led her inside,grabbing her as she almost fell.

     

    "...Careful."

     

    Minhee eyed the man in confusion as Sungyeol brought her to the window and opened it.

    She could see the warm lights of the city on the horizon that were the only thing that shined that night- not even the moon and stars had dared show up.

     

    "What…?" She asked.

    "You've been suffocating all evening...You looked like you were about to pass out." He said, putting his hand on her forehead.

     

    She tensed up at the contact, his hand was cool and soft.

    Minhee took it and gently moved it away from her face.

     

    "I am not sick…"

    "Then what is it?"

    "...The corset." She sighed.

     

    Sungyeol eyed her waist that was definitely thinner than when they had met previously.

     

    "...Why would you tie it this tightly?"

    "..."

     

    Sungyeol opened his mouth.

     

    "...He asked you to, right?"

     

    The artist frowned in anger.

    How could she let him control her like that? He struggled to understand.

     

    "Turn around."

    "What?"

     

    Sungyeol swiftly made her turn around and swiped her hair to the front of her bust.

     

    "W..What are you doing?"

    "Helping you." He whispered as his agile hands worked their way from the nape of her neck to the back lacing of her dress.

     

    A shiver went down her spine as she grabbed the frame of the window.

    Minhee felt him untie the back ribbon of her dress and felt his hand tightly hold her waist as he loosened it to reach her corset that laid underneath.

    The young woman could feel his hot breath faintly grazing her neck and felt blood rush to her head.

     

    Minhee felt him loosen her corset and she gasped for air, finally enjoying the fresh air of night.

     

    "...Thank you-" she said before she felt him run a hand on the bruises on her back.

     

    There was nothing inappropriate to it, only concern oozing from his touch - he was always trying his best to make sure she felt safe.

     

    "...Did he do this to you?"

    "...Who else…?" She sadly smiled as she turned around.

     

    He was close, so close and she could smell the light and recognizable smell of rosé wine from his breath.

     

    Sungyeol wanted to punch the man.

    He wanted to bash his head in and throw him in the streets for this.

     

    His hands left her waist and went to grab the window frame behind her, clenching it so hard that they turned white.

    Sungyeol lowered his head, almost resting it against her neck.

     

    "...You are not making it easy."

    "What?"

    "Staying away from you."

    "...You are the one who said that we should do so."

    "...That was before I saw how bad he was."

    "...You don't know him."

    "I saw enough."

     

    He raised up his face again, looking into her eyes.

     

    "...You look different with him." He said

    "How different?"

    "Dead. You look like you are about to die."

    "...So what?"

     

    He frowned.

     

    " I care about you."

    "...You pity me."

     

    Minhee wanted to touch his face, she wanted to replace the hair strands that had fallen out of behind his ear.

    So she did, running her finger tips along his cheeks in the process.

     

    "I don't…I just don't understand why it's him." He answered, frowning " You could do better- You could have anyone at this party, even a prince-

     

    It should have been you.

    The thought surprised Minhee and yet- she felt no guilt over it as his hand went back to her waist.

     

    "Why?" She whispered as his face grew closer to hers.

    "..Why what?"

    "Why do you care…?"

    "Isn't it obvious…?" He asked her.

     

    They stayed like this for a moment, a breath away, hearts racing.

     

    "...Come back. Come back to my atelier." He murmured, biting the inside of his mouth "...I'll make your statue."

     

     

    ***

     

    Kami had been staring at Hyewon for the past hour when she finally seemed to break free of the guests and made her way to her in a small and quiet corner of the room.

     

    "...Princess." curtsied Kami.

    "Please...Don't." She begged, reaching out for her hand.

     

    Kami backed away, she was glad that Woohyun had left to talk to some people, she didn't want him to see her like this - heartbroken.

     

    "...Was it funny? Was it funny to you that I didn't recognize who you are?"

    "No-"

     

    Kami scoffed, she wanted to cry.

    All of the jewelry, this dress...She had taken her time to be pretty for her and yet all she wanted at this moment was for her to go away.

    Kami wanted to rip the blue fabric, she wanted to throw all of it in a fire and forget about that party.

     

    "...I couldn't tell you."

    "Why…?"

    "...Because I came to see you on purpose that day...To see what kind of person you are." Hyewon confessed.

     

    Kami froze.

     

    "What…?"

    "Mina is now a Prince's sister...I had to know who her friends were… So I decided to approach you."

     

    It hadn't been fate.

    It never was and Kami felt stupid to have believed that it might have been.

     

    Kami had hoped that their story would be a fairy tale in which she would have fallen in love with Hyewon and lived happily forever with her no matter how improbable it seemed in reality.

     

    "...So it was all fake?"

    "No...The time we spent together wasn't a lie..." She tried to explain " I genuinely like you-" pleaded Hyewon.

    "...Stop this." Whispered Kami "It's over."

     

    Hyewon had expected her reply and yet, it hurt her heart way more than what she had expected.

    It was her first heartbreak.

     

    "...There's no point talking anymore." Sighed Kami, tears rolling down her face.

     

    And yet her feet did not seem to carry her away from the scene.

     

    "...Kami." Called Hyewon , her hand grazing hers "...Would I have gone back to your house last time if I didn't want to see you? If I didn't care?" She simply inquired.

     

    Kami eyed her fingers and reluctantly pushed her hand away.

     

    She knew that she wasn't lying about caring about her and yet she could not forgive her.

    Or rather not at the moment, her pride wouldn't allow it.

    Her heart that had fallen for her wouldn't.

     

     

     

     


    1 commentaire


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