Yoongi swipes a glance at him. What is he playing at? Should Yoongi start being wary?
“So you don’t believe in soulmates.”
“But you like mysteries.”
“And you love your job.”
“Can I call you hyung?”
“Yes. Oh, wait—“
“Ha!” Jimin teases. “Caught you.”
“Park Jimin,” Yoongi admonishes even though he’s on the verge of letting out an amused snort.
“No, /no/ ‘hyung’. Park Jimin, I’m driving. Don’t distract me.”
“Oh?” Jimin waggles his eyebrows. “So I’m a distraction.”
“Yes, you’re very pretty, so be kind to me.”
At that, Jimin lets out a pipsqueak noise, gaping at him. Yoongi casts him a sidelong glance and smirks.
“What? Cat got your tongue?”
Jimin’s cheeks flush as he inhales deeply and leans comfortably against the passenger seat. “I happen to be very kind.”
“Well, be kinder then.”
Yoongi doesn’t understand where the urge to tousle the guy’s hair comes from, so he suppresses it by gluing his eyes back to the road.
Too bad the much-coveted silence doesn’t last for too long.
“So, tell me,” Jimin says after a while. “Why is this so important to you anyway?”
“You mean apart from the fact that the Folk Museum’s funding pivots on these paintings and I have a job to keep?” Yoongi says. “I guess you could say—personal interest.”
“Personal interest,” Jimin echoes. “In what way?”
How is Yoongi supposed to explain being drawn to the art?
He opens his mouth, then closes it, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. “Y’know how we all used to do magnetic experiments in high school?”
“Well, when I saw the paintings, I felt like an iron shilling that got re-orientated after years of being scattered.”
Yoongi doesn’t know how else to better put it; he’s no poet & he’s not equipped with words to make the connection sound eloquent. “I don’t know, it sounds stupid, right?”
“No, I get it. Finding a purpose and all.” Jimin licks his lips. “I felt the same when I saw the headlines.”
Yoongi shoots him a quick glance, and the moment their gazes lock, something warm stirs in Yoongi, like waking.
“There’s something you should know,” he says, shifting through his bag to pull out his tablet device. “I’ve been reading Princess Min Songhwa’s memoir.”
Yoongi shares the theory that he and Namjoon have come up with so far, and Jimin listens with rapt attention, the brilliance in his eyes hinting at a deep wisdom often masked by his vivacious manner.
“So, in other words, Princess Songhwa was in love with my great-grand-uncle?!”
“That’s what we think, for now. I can’t say for sure until I’ve read through everything she wrote down.”
“I didn’t know my family bloodline was good-looking enough to catch the attention of a princess, but I’m not surprised,” Jimin titters, taking Yoongi’s tablet. “Can I read?”
“Wait- 500 pages?!” Jimin’s eyes bulge at the page count. “Damn. Imagine being a princess and writing 500 pages of your personal diary, only to have everything published for the world to see hundreds of years later. Poor Princess Songhwa.”
Jimin flips to the chapter where Yoongi left off and clears his throat.
“/Orabeoni has officially become a Sungkyunkwan scholar today, and so has the Crown Prince. However, Abamama is throwing a celebration feast only for the Crown Prince. My heart aches for our orabeoni./“
Jimin hums. “I didn’t know the princess had an older brother.” He flips to the next pages, skimming through paragraphs of text. “Judging by how fondly she writes about him, it looks like they had a close relationship.”
“The First Concubine had a few children with His Majesty.”
“/The Royal Banquet celebrating Abamama’s birthday will be held next week, and my heart trembles in fear. Envoys from the Qing Empire will be visiting Joseon—I may get taken away to serve as a concubine for their Emperor but I refuse fo be separated from Yeol./“
Jimin looks up, forehead creasing. “Who’s Yeol?”
“Oh.” Jimin scrunches his nose. “They sound like very close friends.”
Yoongi bites back a tart remark. “Maybe. Keep reading.”
“/How will I ever sleep, away from my family and the arms of my beloved? Yeol is the warm spring air that thaws the palace winter, and each day I wake I feel only gratitude to see her face once more/—“ Jimin pauses. “Huh. I don’t know about you, but that sounds sapphic as hell.”
Yoongi presses his lips to a thin line. It’s not like the thought hasn’t crossed his mind, but so far what they’ve learned about the Princess’... preferences... doesn’t support his theories. “She could have been bi, we never know. Or pan.”
“I dunno, she sounds pretty whipped.”
Jimin swipes vigorously on the tablet to flip through the book, skipping a few chapters until he’s neatly in the middle. “Maybe we’ll find out something about my great-grand-uncle in this section.”
“By all means,” Yoongi says, eyes on the road. “I like your voice, keep reading.”
Jimin clears his throat, but Yoongi doesn’t miss the small smile that pulls at his lips.
“/It is a bleak day, heavy with rain. Rain finally pours after the long drought.
Something sinister is happening in the palace, and I am afraid. The Crown Prince has died. We are broken./“
This time, Yoongi doesn’t have to keep egging Jimin to read on, because Jimin swipes to the next page as though in haste.
“/Today, they’ve brought him back for questioning, our favorite court dancer. It pains me so, to write this, but he admits to treason and must be punished/.”
Wait, did she just...?” Yoongi breathes, heart rate accelerating. He exchanges a stricken look with Jimin and nods.
Jimin reads the next entry tremulously:
“/The day after orabeoni’s coronation was the day our dancer was hung for crimes against the throne.
it was necessary./“
like I said, short update ㅠㅠ me sleepy! thank you for staying up!
what do you think is GOING ONNNN haha! gimme your best guesses!
linking the playlist here once more!!
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
To those subscribed to my Patreon, surprise! You can now access a snippet of Jimin’s POV below. This is a deleted scene that will not be included in the main thread
Once again, thank you for the overwhelming love & support!!
The silence that descends following Jimin’s reading feels so thick it seems to permeate inch of the car. Yoongi finds that his throat feels scratchy. When he clears his throat, tears sting at back of his eyes.
“Sheesh,” Jimin musters shakily, putting the tablet down in his lap.
“I know it was centuries ago, but”—Jimin looks out the window—“finding out how your ancestor died... feels kinda shitty man.”
Eyeing the still-open memoir on his tablet, Yoongi tamps down the urge to ask Jimin to read back a few pages. Not when the guy seems so visibly affected.
Yoongi’s fingers tremble on the steering wheel. He is not in the business of faking sympathy for others—he’s a museum curator, not a therapist—but he finds himself brimming with full sincerity as he mumbles, “Wh-what a jerk.”
“Huh?” Jimin cuts him a wary look.
He turns the car out of the expressway and into the road that leads out into Gangneung city. He ignored the way Jimin’s lower lip wobbles. “Princess Songhwa said this happened after the new Crown Prince stepped in, right?”
“He must’ve ordered it, then. What a bastard.”
“You don’t know that,” Jimin counters softly. “Anyway, earlier when you said the letters were threats—what did you mean?”
Yoongi swipes his tongue over his upper teeth, deep in thought. “They weren’t explicit. They were riddles, idioms.”
“Then how’d you know they were threats?”
“I’m not saying for sure that they are. But the imagery used...” Yoongi shakes his head. “It’s gut instinct. They seemed to be layered in some kinda double-meaning. I mean, ‘Shoot down the bird blocking the sun in the sky, casting a shadow over the town’ sounds pretty taunting.”
“In what way?”
“You know that a metaphor for the rulers of the Joseon dynasty was ‘Sun’ right?”
“And the queens are called moons, yes. I know my sageuk, dude. I binge-watched The Moon Embracing The Sun with my aunts when I was in high school— ooh, hyung, hyung, look outside!”
Their roadtrip has brought them to Gangwon-do. By now they’ve crossed the expressway toll, emerging into an open skyway, and Yoongi spares a glance outside at the same time that Jimin rolls down the window and cries happily, “It’s the sea!”
“Jimin, keep it down—“
Yoongi muffles a snort, reminding himself to keep his eyes peeled to the road. But every now & then, he catches his gaze slipping.
Stark against the hue of the approaching dusk, Jimin’s sunset-dappled cheeks appear emblazoned in gold. He looks angelic—
“TAEHYUNG-AAH! I’M HERE!”
A smile cracks over Yoongi’s face. He doesn’t even bother shushing the guy. “Isn’t Taehyung deep in the mountains or something? How’s he supposed to hear you?”
“The wind will carry my affections,” Jimin explains gravely, turning to face Yoongi for a brief moment. “HELLO, WORLD!”
“Yes, hello to you too,” Yoongi mutters playfully, rolling down his own window to enjoy the breeze. His palms are sweaty, but not from anxiety.
“World, is this the youth you told me about?” Jimin screams into the open seascape. “World, have we met before?”
“Maybe,” Yoongi says.
With a gasp, Jimin’s head swivels around and he stares at Yoongi, eyes softening. Against the window, silhouetted by sunset, his gaze sends heat like embers prickling up Yoongi’s nape. “I think so, too.”
Yoongi’s brows knit together as he studies the man thoughtfully. “Mmm.”
“I’ve known you 4 days, Min Yoongi, and we’ve never met before,” Jimin sighs, eyes closing as he leans back to rest his head. “And yet the world tells me we have, we have.”
Yoongi feels his chest constrict. For a foolish second he wants to reach out and—
“Can I hold your hand?”
“What—“ Yoongi splutters, heartbeat spiking. His hands tighten over the steering wheel, gripping for dear life.
“Relax,” Jimin coaxes, lifting his right hand by the wrist & laying their palms flat together. “I just wanted to see.”
“If it’s still bigger than mine.”
A car horn from behind snaps him back to focus. Yoongi realizes the car’s been slowing down. He snatches his hand back and places it firmly on the wheel. “Of course it is.”
How does he know that? He turns to Jimin, who wears a mirroring frown.
Then Jimin’s stomach growls.
The tension in the car breaks with their chorused laughter. Yoongi’s cheeks hurt with the fierceness of his grin, and as he steers closer into the city center, he says, “It’s getting dark. Dinner?”
Jimin’s answering smile is like clouds parting. “I was craving for samgyetang.”
They stop at a local restaurant and order two steaming bowls of samgyetang to fight off the steadily growing autumn wind that comes with the night.
While their food gets served in front of them, Yoongi can’t help but feel pinned by Jimin’s googly eyes on him. “What?”
“Is there something on my face?”
“Yes,” Jimin says. “Beauty.”
Yoongi narrows his eyes. “If you’re trying to buy my good graces, you’re doing a shitty job.”
“Eyy, I don’t have to,” Jimin laughs. He leans forward, cupping his chin. “So. Since when did you fall in love with me?”
Broth spurts out of Yoongi’s nose mid-sip. “I- what?!”
Jimin gestures to the space between them. “Look at you, now look at me. Look at you, now look at me. It’s a date.”
“Are you quoting an Old Spice commercial?”
“No, I was singing a BLACKPEACH single.” Jimin smiles primly.
None of that matters to Yoongi right now; there’s only one word that stands out from whatever gibberish Park Jimin has just spouted. “We are on a business trip.”
“You trusted a stranger’s tip, brought him out with you in your expensive, and now you’re eating together. Romance!”
“This isn’t a /date/ until I say it is.”
“And this isn’t a not-date until I say it isn’t!” Jimin holds up a peace sign. “It’s okay. No need to be nervous, you look like a cornered cat who’s never been in a romantic relationship.”
Yoongi squirms in his seat and sips quietly.
“Wait, unless...” Jimin trails off, and Yoongi focuses very hard on the piece of tissue tucked under his bowl. Such intricate patterns pressed into the paper. What fine art.
“Oh. Ohhh. Hyuuung,” Jimin singsongs. “Have you ever fallen in love before? Dated?”
Yoongi carefully takes his time dipping his spoon into the bowl, and carefully takes his time sipping the broth. Part of him fears getting made fun of. The other part wills him to stay honest. “No.”
To his surprise, Jimin doesn’t point and laugh.
What is there to be said about Min Yoongi’s approach to love and dating? He would perhaps compare it to finding good apples at the marketplace. Too bad he hasn’t even found a worthy marketplace at all. “Didn’t feel right.”
“Hmm. Then maybe find someone who doesn’t feel wrong.”
Yoongi lowers his spoon against the edge of his bowl, jaw clenching. In a heartbeat of a second, he seems to grasp something—words stitched in the fabric of his memory.
/If you are so lonely, & worry too greatly about making mistakes, find allies who don’t make you feel wrong./
The rest of what comes next gets drowned by a strong wave of tinnitus ringing painfully in his ears. Yoongi grimaces and clutches at his head.
“Hey,” Jimin’s voice fills with concern. “Everything alright?”
“You,” Yoongi rasps, swallowing thickly.
Jimin points at himself. “Me?”
“You talk too much,” Yoongi explains. The pain knocking at his temples subsides. “I thought you were hungry? Eat up.”
Jimin pouts but obliges.
They eat dinner wordlessly, and Yoongi’s attention drifts to a live telecast on the TV propped against the far wall of the restaurant:
“/An annular solar eclipse, also known as the 'ring of fire', is set to light up the skies of South Korea tomorrow. It will be visible between 11.24am to noon, and is the first eclipse of this kind to occur in over 99 years.../“
“Oooh,” Jimin comments, staring at the TV.
“I hope we can see it better from the mountain temple!”
Yoongi resists the urge to tap his knuckles against Jimin’s forehead. “You fool. One shouldn’t view a solar eclipse directly with the naked eye. You could go blind. And besides, we’re not here to go sightseeing.”
The newscast switches to current affairs, and to Yoongi’s utter dismay, he sees a shot of himself at the Seoul Folk Museum, with a photo of the paintings juxtaposed next to his face.
“No comment,” TV Yoongi says.
“How profound!” Jimin cries out in glee. “What a celebrity.”
Yoongi glowers at him. “Don’t pay attention to that, yah, are you done eating? We should go.”
Jimin’s lips curve. “Sure, but wait!” He fumbles around for his phone.
“What now?” Yoongi groans.
“Let’s take a selca to celebrate our first date!”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “It’s not—“
He barely gets to finish his sentence when Jimin crowd around him, grinning and resting a hand over his shoulder. “Say ‘kimchi’!”
Yoongi inches away reluctantly. “Come on, be serious.”
“What’s this for, then?”
Jimin’s face is solemn. “In case you forget me again.”
His eyes seem to twinkle with something other than mirth tonight, but Yoongi doesn’t let himself acknowledge that. He doesn’t even know what rubbish the guy spits half the time. Rubbing the back of ear, Yoongi sighs. “Fine, fine. Take a damn selca. Then we hit the road.”
[quick break, be back in 15min! uwu]
THANK YOU FOR THE ART!
@Ane they’re wonderful. I love your art style sm ;;
By “hit the road”, Yoongi meant to keep moving, not to literally hit a road—in the form of a dead end.
“Please don’t tell me we’re lost,” Jimin says, looking out over the window. “Do you perhaps have night blindness and can’t read directions?”
“My eyesight is perfectly fine,” Yoongi, reversing and sighing in relief when they reach the main road again.
He flicks his wrist. 9pm. With the sun completely down now—
“It’ll be impossible to reach Taehyung this late,” Jimin announces.
Yoongi clucks his tongue impatiently.
“I know, I know—pressed for time,” Jimin says, seeming to read his mind. “But we can’t hike at this hour. Even I wouldn’t trust myself with navigating the mountain path to reach the family temple. Too dangerous.”
Yoongi lets out a frustrated breath. “Let’s find a motel for now.”
“Ooooh,” Jimin cackles, beside himself with giddiness. “Is this the part where the receptionist tells us there’s only one room left, and there’s only one bed, and—“
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Yoongi says. “That kind of thing only happens in dramas.”
“You’d be surprised.”
At that moment, lightining scissors across the sky, followed by a clap of thunder. Next to Yoongi, Jimin tenses.
Then the sky parts and starts pouring.
Yoongi says nothing, but he may or may not have stepped a little harder on the pedal so they could secure a place quicker.
“Two rooms, please,” Yoongi says over the counter at the nearest place they could find—a traditional, Korean style inn, similar to the Hanok stays in the tourist districts of Seoul.
“Just a minute, please,” the receptionist says.
Another roll of thunder reverberates through the sky, and Yoongi bristles when cold fingers grab him by the crook of his elbow.
“Hmm?” He glances over his shoulder to find Jimin sporting an uncharacteristic frown, lips pressed thinly together.
“I don’t want to be alone.”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “Ah, so you’re brazen enough to say shameless things and strut around all day, but a little rain and thunder bothers you?”
Jimin looks away pointedly, not emitting a single noise. Yoongi frowns. He was expecting the guy to come up with a wily retort.
“I don’t vibe with storms,” Jimin says, gaze pinned to the wooden floor. “But, ah. I can understand if it it bothers you.”
“The idea of two men together sharing a room can be uncomfortable if you aren’t used to it. I take it as you haven’t served the military yet?”
“What the- I have,” Yoongi says, petulant.
“Then why?” Jimin pouts and peers out the nearest window, into the sheets of rain pattering against the ground. “It’s a brotherly experience, is it not? Brotherhood. If I make you so uncomfortable, then—“
“Fine, fine,” Yoongi grumbles.
He’ll show Jimin he’s not bothered by proximity. Real men sleep side by side! Brotherhood!
He stalks back to the counter and whispers to the receptionist, “Actually make it one room, please. But with 2 beds.”
With his back turned, he doesn’t see Jimin pumping a fist in the air.
Their room is small and quaint, but boasts a charming view of the garden that looks like it should belong in some period drama. As soon as Yoongi pushes aside the sliding door, a phantom rush courses through him, overwhelming him enough to make him sway.
“You okay?” asks Jimin.
Yoongi directs a polite smile at him. “Just. A case of vertigo.” He doesn’t mention how there’s a tingling in his ears or a niggling sense at the back of his mind that he’s been here before. That would be eerie, since he’s never personally had an overnight stay in Gangwon before.
Maybe he should get checked when he gets back to Seoul. For all he knows, he could be coming down with an illness or something.
He tells Jimin to shower first, and while waiting Yoongi sits at the edge of the door, looking out over the rain-soaked garden.
He stretches out a hand and catches fat raindrops from the roof.
There’s a loneliness to this place, Yoongi thinks. An aching emptiness, spreading and pulsing into the life force of each bonsai plot, each wooden beam supporting the ceiling.
Or maybe Yoongi is just overthinking.
Just then, the other door slides open and Jimin steps in, towelling off his wet hair while humming to himself.
It’s a melody that strikes something deep in Yoongi. He turns, frowing slightly. “What song is that?”
“Huh? Oh.” Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know. I just hum whatever.”
The conversation ends there, and Yoongi takes his turn to shower.
Later that night, while they tuck into their separate beds, Yoongi takes out his tablet, casting a bluish tint across the otherwise darkened room.
“Still reading the Princess’ memoirs?” Jimin asks from his bed.
Yoongi hums noncommitally. “It’s better than falling asleep.”
“Nightmares,” Yoongi says without thinking.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t read tragic things before bed, you’d dream better.”
Yoongi looks up from his tablet. “What do you prescribe then, oh genius doctor?”
Jimin grins. “Sing!”
Yoongi blanches. “No way. I’m more into hip hop and rap, if you catch my drift.”
“I don’t mean that,” Jimin elaborates, eyes crinkling. “Hasn’t your mother ever sung you lullabies to sleep?”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “I’m not a child to be consoled.”
“Eyyy, don’t be like that,” Jimin says into the darkness of the room. “Everyone is just a child in an adult’s body. Sometimes, at the end of a tiring day, you need somebody to pat you on the back & say, ‘good job, good job’. It’s a huge comfort.”
A long pause overtakes the room.
Yoongi pushes down the lump forming on his throat. “You sound oddly well-versed in this field. Are you secretly a therapist?”
“No. I’ve just seen enough pain to last lifetimes.” Jimin yawns. “When we get the chance, we should comfort ourselves, too.”
“If you’re that good, let me hear,” Yoongi forces himself to say, feeling teary-eyed all of a sudden. He doesn’t know why he wants to hear Jimin sing so badly. “You have a nice speaking voice. Don’t disappoint me with your singing.”
“Ha. You wish. I won a trot competition once.”
Yoongi lets out a long exhale as Jimin picks up the same gentle melody from earlier:
“I remember the melody of the song // that we sang together as we sat across each other // in my softly closed eyes // I’m placing images of you.”
A tear escapes down the side of Yoongi’s face.
“Like a small photo in my mind // you still remain // Even if this dream-like fate disappears // You’re engraved deep in my heart
Even if I’m alone on this road //
I can still see you.”
Yoongi closes his eyes and focuses on keeping his breathing steady and even. It hurts to.
Jimin’s voice cracks nearing the end of the song.
“Do you know?
Because of you, I live today.
Don’t be lonely;
don’t be hurt again //
Live in my heart like this.”
Yoongi could have sworn he heard soft sniffles coming from the other side of the room. His throat feels raw.
In the shadows of the room, Yoongi blinks away tears that feel like they don’t belong to him. He shifts his position and whispers, “Beautiful.”
Jimin makes a soft noise of acknowledgment. “I could sing you more. Sing you to sleep.”
“You’ll do that?”
“Everyday if I could.”
Yoongi scoffs lightly, eyes gradually falling shut. “We barely know each other.”
Jimin doesn’t answer, just starts another song again that sounds more like a lullaby this time. His voice is oddly soothing, like warm soup on a winter night.
Yoongi fades to sleep in minutes.
This time, the dream that visits him is neither harsh nor morbid. Yoongi is on a raised platform, watching a traditional performance in the ceremonial square before him. Dancing pairs rush past his vision, spinning so fast their faces become blurred. Among them, one stands out.
Dressed in colors so bright they’re almost gaudy to look at, the dancer rises and dips, arms swaying in circular motions, before leaping into the air. When he stands, he brandishes a fan, which he swipes in dizzying motions. Yoongi follows each movement like a hawk.
Then dancer crosses the distance between the stage and the steps leading up to where Yoongi sits, and looks up. Yoongi rises to his feet as well, running down to look closer—
A screams rips Yoongi from his sleep.
From the other end of the room comes Jimin’s cries. “No!”
His voice is shill but hoarse, legs kicking under the sheets as he appears to fight off an invisible enemy, and for a moment Yoongi thinks Jimin is awake.
“Jimin?” He rubs his eyes and sits up.
A series of muffled ‘no’s’ stream from Jimin’s lips as he continues to squirm.
Yoongi is on his feet in an instant. He never imagined Jimin’s nightmares would be as awful as this. He rushes to the man’s bedside & shakes him lightly by the shoulder. “Park Jimin. Wake up. Jimin?”
The whimpering doesn’t stop. Upon closer look, beads of sweat coat Jimin’s skin.
“Make it stop...” Jimin moans lowly, his eyes moving rapidly beneath closed eyelids. Yoongi can only imagine what monsters he’s seeing.
“Hey.” He slaps Jimin’s cheek gently, then shakes him again. “Wake up, wake—“
Jimin’s eyes fly open. “No!”
“Jimin! Get a grip!”
Hands claw at the front of Yoongi’s shirt as Jimin gasps, eyelids fluttering. “Hyung?”
“Yes, it’s hyung.” Yoongi lets himself be pulled, lets Jimin hide his face into the crook of his neck.
“Make them stop,” Jimin whimpers, body trembling. Yoongi rubs his back soothingly.
“Shhh, there’s nobody there,” Yoongi murmurs, scooting forward to cradle Jimin’s cheeks. “Only me. It’s just me.”
Jimin shakes his head, blinking back tears. “I was drowning again...so many faces... I was drowning...”
“No, you’re not.” Yoongi stands to fetch a water bottle.
Hands catch him by the wrist, accompanied by desperate whines. “No, no. Don’t go.”
“I’m not going any—“
“Don’t leave me, I’m sorry,” Jimin begs, face streaked with snot and tears, glimmering in the moonlight like broken glass.
Something in Yoongi cracks at the sight.
He scoots over and guides Jimin into his the warm fold of his arms, caging their chests together. “Breathe with me, okay? You’re going to be alright. You’re safe here with me. Understand?”
He makes sure to breathe slow and even, and eventually Jimin’s rapid breaths subside.
“It’s just a nightmare. Nothing real.” Yoongi asks, ignoring the way one side of his sleepshirt is turning into a warm patch of tears. “What are you even sorry for, silly?”
Jimin hides his face, but his tremulous answer is loud against the muted night. “Everything. Everything.”
/He’s in a delirious state/, Yoongi rationalizes, swaying their bodies back and forth gently. He sighs and pats Jimin’s shoulder until his terrified noises quieten down to calm breathing.
He yawns, eyelids drooping. “You’re safe, love.”
Once more, sleep claims them as a pair.
If Jimin has anything clever to nitpick about the way they wake up in each other’s embrace the next morning, he makes no mention of it. In fact, it’s his lilting voice that wakes Yoongi.
“Min Yoongi-ssi. Hyung.”
Yoongi’s eyes open groggily.
His left arm is slung over Jimin hip. “What time is it?” Yoongi asks, too lazy to move.
Jimin glances the wall clock mounted somewhere behind Yoongi, before a wicked smile crosses his face and he snuggles closer. “Time for morning cuddles!”
Yoongi groans and rolls off the bed.
“Nooo, it’s cold,” Jimin laments as Yoongi stands to stretch.
“That’s a sign for you to wake up and get your blood pumping,” Yoongi says, craning his head side to side to ease out a crick in his neck. He turns around. “How do you feel?”
Jimin looks up at him, gaze unreadable.
But mouth lifts in a small smile. “Never slept better. You should be my personal human pillow.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes again, shaking his head. Definitely back to normal.
Last night gave him a fright.
Just then his ringtone echoes in the room. Yoongi fishes it under a pillow.
“Yoongi,” Seokjin says as soon as Yoongi accepts the call. “Big trouble.”
Yoongi’s stomach drops. “What? What now?”
“The Chancellor is holding a press conference later this afternoon. Can you make it here?”
“I don’t think so. Why?”
“The paintings, Yoongi. They’ve been sold.”
uh-oh, what do we do noooowww?
haha anyway, we’re reaching the halfway mark of the story already which makes me happy! did you have any favorite scenes from today’s update?
also: drop me a coffee if you like my work? OwO
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
Yoongi goes very still. Becomes hyper-aware of his heightened pulse, his stuttered intake of breath and the hissing exhale that comes after. He feels off-kilter, but forces his voice to be calm. “What the fuck.”
“Yeah, but listen—“
“Who?” Yoongi growls, pacing the wooden floor.
“I don’t know,” Seokjin says, sounding equally discombobulated. “Some anonymous sponsor, the Chancellor’s secretary just called to tell us.”
Yoongi ruffles his own hair in frustration. “But I thought the private meeting will only be later in the afternoon.”
“Same. It’s fishy.”
“You don’t say.” As it usually goes with these capitalist bastards, there must be some foul play involved. Yoongi knows he shouldn’t step in, but he can’t stay out of it, either. “What time’s the meeting, again? Maybe I can reach Seoul and convince them otherwise.”
“It’s at 5.”
“That’s plenty of time. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Be careful. See you.”
After the call disconnects, Yoongi heaves a long sigh and sinks to a crouch at the edge of the floor overlooking the garden, holding his head in his hands. Everything rattles in his brain, loud and messy.
He’s so caught up in the clusterfuck of his thoughts that he belatedly notices the blanket being draped over his shoulder. Jimin sits next to him quietly.
“You’re still in your sleepwear.” Jimin adjusts the blanket so that it cocoons them both snugly. “You’ll catch a cold.”
Just like that, the bitterness bubbling in Yoongi fizzles to a dull throb. He doesn’t bother hiding his distress, hanging his head and hugging his knees. “The paintings got sold.”
Jimin’s eyes widen. “So suddenly?”
“Money-hungry men trying to he early birds,” Yoongi spits.
A heavy silence grows between them, taut and thick. Yoongi appreciates that Jimin doesn’t offer sugarcoated apologies, appreciates that Jimin seems to understand how much this whole thing meant to him.
“And then?” Jimin says.
“Do you still want to meet Tae?”
Yoongi closes his eyes. Part of him is tempted to just pack up and return to Seoul, but something in his gut tells him that’s would be tantamount to admitting defeat. “Since we’re already all the way here, we might as well see it through.”
“Are you sure?” Jimin sounds dubious.
Yoongi frowns, eyes snapping open. “What’s gotten into you? Weren’t you the one excited to see him again?”
Perhaps Yoongi had read the situation wrong. Maybe he’d gotten so swept away by his theories he forgot to consider if Jimin wants answers as desperately as he does.
Jimin shifts his gaze to an orchid plant in the garden, his mouth pursed into something plaintive.
Worry sparks in Yoongi. “You still want to know, don’t you?”
“I did. But what if”—Jimin swallows, eyebrows twitching—“what if we shouldn’t? You can still back out, you know.”
Yoongi scoffs in disbelief. “What do you mean?”
“What if there’s a reason why the truth hasn’t been revealed until now? The world might want things to stay as there are. I don’t wanna lose”—Jimin curls his hands in his lap. “—I’m scared of poking my nose into dangerous things.”
Yoongi stares, so dumbstruck he almost laughs. Of all people he knows, he never expected the bold, flashy Park Jimin to suddenly exercise conservative caution. “I don’t think you need to worry too much.”
“But what if the truth is something so unbearable you can’t handle it?”
“Honestly?” Yoongi shrugs off the blanket and stands. “Not knowing would be worse. It’ll gnaw at me ‘til I go crazy.”
He watches, growing apprehensive, as a tick works in Jimin’s jaw. Why is the guy suddenly being so stubborn, anyway? Such a 180 change in demeanor.
“Hey,” Yoongi says, not unkindly. He lowers himself to a squat before Jimin and pats his cheek lightly. “You don’t have to accompany me all the way, alright? You can just send me directions to the temple—“
Jimin snorts and nips at his index finger. Yoongi bites back a scream.
“If you think this is your chance to get rid of me, you have another think coming.” Jimin’s eyes flicker with amusement as Yoongi glowers at him, clutching his finger. “Forget it. I’m coming along. World, wait for me! Taehyung, I’ll be with you soonest!”
“We need to get off and go by foot from here on,” Jimin says as they reach a bend that leads to an uphill path. “There’s a parking lot for casual hikers not too far from the bus stop.”
They leave the car behind and as Yoongi clicks the lock, he checks his watch. 10.30am.
They need to make haste if he’s got any hopes of getting back to Seoul in time to intercept the meeting at the musem. “How long’s the hike?”
“Half an hour if you’re in good spirits, an hour if you want to stop & take pictures along the way.”
“Good thing we’re not sightseeing.”
“I would prefer it if we could slow things down and go at a more leisurely pace at our next date,” Jimin declares. Gravel crunches beneath their shoes as they begin to climb the steep terrain.
“What makes you think there’ll be a next—“ Yoongi stumbles over a protruding rock.
His cry is cut short when a strong hand catches him by the forearm.
“Easy,” Jimin croons, helping him to stand upright. “I got you.”
Just as he’s about to remove his grip, Yoongi’s hand shoots out to grab him by the fingers.
“For- for safety,” Yoongi stammers, cheeks flushed.
Jimin’s brows arch in surprise, mouth lifting. With a musical giggle, he intertwines their fingers and tugs Yoongi along. “If you say so. Try not to lose your footing.”
“Simple.” Yoongi steps over a rock and meets Jimin’s gaze proudly.
“Try not to get lost in my eyes, either.”
Yoongi pretends he doesn’t hear that.
For the first half of their hike they make little conversation, Yoongi being too fixated on keeping his balance to even realize how tightly he’s holding onto Jimin. He soon relaxes when he gets the hang of the terrain.
“So, about Taehyung.”
“How long has he been staying out here?” Yoongi is keenly aware of the autumn leaves crunching with
every step, the noises from insects and frogs nearby. He may be an introvert, but even he wonders if Jimin’s friend feels cold or lonely.
“After high school graduation.”
“So early? You’d think they would’ve let him finish his education first.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” Jimin says, “but his family didn’t force him into it. Taehyung chose to stay here.”
Jimin licks his lower lip. “He’s... different, our Taehyungie.”
Jimin hums, nodding. “Apparently he’s something of a clairvoyant? Or an empath? I don’t remember exactly. The way he described it to me... it’s like he sees things when he looks into people’s eyes for the first time.”
“Things,” Yoongi parrots. “Such as?”
“Dunno. Death? Auras?”
Interesting. Yoongi makes no comments, waiting for more elaboration.
“Anyway, I guess that’s one big reason why he didn’t want to be around too many people in the city. You know how crazy a college campus can get. That, and he’s not even fond of studying that much. Win-win.”
They reach a fork in the trail, and Jimin points to the well-tread one. “People often come here to pray and seek advice when it comes to spiritual matters, though, and I often visit, so our Taehyungie doesn’t feel all that lonely.”
Jimin parts some branches aside. “We’re here.”
Yoongi takes a minute to just stand and admire the backdrop, and only starts walking again when Jimin pulls his hand gently to cross the mini wooden bridge leading up to the bridge.
A man in plain brown, nondescript robes is sweeping by the temple entrance.
The robed man looks up. As soon as recognition crosses his eyes, his face morphs into a boyish, box-shaped grin. “Chim!”
Jimin takes off running, launching himself into his friend’s arms. Bright laughter fills the air.
Yoongi ignores the sudden absence of Jimin’s hand in his.
Contrary to what he envisioned, Kim Taehyung has a youthful face and brown, curly locks falling into his forehead in a way that reminds Yoongi of his family’s dog, Min Holly.
Right. Jimin said the guy’s a shaman, not a monk. Maybe they don’t follow the same hairstyle guide.
As Yoongi approaches, snippets of conversation float to his ears.
“You came alone?” Taehyung’s baritone voice rings with honeyed timbre.
Jimin’s eyes are bright as he shakes his head and points at Yoongi. “I brought him, the one I told you about.”
Taehyung looks up. “Who— oh.”
Yoongi feels his smile slip when the shaman’s warm eyes find his.
2 things happen at once—a wave of nausea sends Yoongi reeling back, & Tehyung gasps out loud, stricken, unable to break their gaze.
“Oh.” Taehyung gathers Jimin’s hands, eyes pinned to Yoongi. “You poor things.”
“Hmm?” Jimin asks, looking alarmed when a Taehyung’s eyes start to water.
“You’ve been through an arduous journey.”
Struggling to regain his footing and steady his breath, Yoongi grunts, “Well, yeah.”
Maybe that short uphill climb exhausted him more than he thought it would.
Taehyung blinks as though snapping out of a reverie. “Ah, yeah. It’s quite a hike, huh? Come in, I’ll get tea ready.”
“I brought what you wanted,” Jimin says cheekily, reaching into his backpack and pulling out—
“The latest volumes of Jujustu Kaisen?” Taehyung’s eyes glitter.
“AND the latest Troye Sivan album,” Jimin says, passing a plain wrapped parcel to him. “Coffee, too.”
The shaman gasps in glee and toddles from one foot to another, practically vibrating at a frequency that could shatter glass, and Yoongi thinks, /Spiritual matters, my ass./
(“The coffee’s not actually for him,” Jimin later whispers under his breath as they follow Taehyung into the temple. “It’s for his master, but he’s currently out on a business trip.”
“Yeah. The ghost is French, so.”)
Taehyung puts on the latest Troye Sivan album on an old CD player and Jimin bustles around the temple to help prepare tea. They move with fluid assurance and familiarity, as if they’ve done this a hundred times, and maybe they have. Yoongi looks out at the tranquil landscape.
Jimin joins him not long after, carrying a tray with tea, followed by Taehyung who lays out some traditional Korean delicacies.
Yakgwa—the sight of the dessert fills Yoongi with an odd mix of longing and nostalgia out of nowhere.
“Royalty used to snack on these,” Taehyung says.
His tone is measured and even, like he’s trying to be careful with his words, but Yoongi only hums noncommitally.
“Thank you,” Yoongi says before taking a sip of tea.
He completely missed the wavering, pained look Taehyung directs at him and Jimin.
“So I’m not going to waste any time,” Yoongi says, using his businesslike voice. “Park Jimin brought me here because I wanted to inquire about a certain painting that you have.”
“The family gift,” Jimin supplies helpfully.
“Oh.” Taehyung tilts his head. “What for?”
Yoongi gives a brief summary of what information he’s after. When he finishes talking, Taehyung stares at him, mouth parted as though horrified.
“You’re...looking into the story behind the paintings?”
“Yes. It’s important for my job.”
Taehyung looks troubled. “Are you sure?”
“More than sure.” Yoongi rubs the back of his neck, sheepish about what he’ll say next. “I know it sounds obssessive, but... I get the feeling that I won’t ever feel at ease until I know for sure, and come to terms with what happened.”
Taehyung studies him intently. “Very well.”
The shaman gestures to a connecting hallway behind them. “It’s at my master’s quarters. I’ll lead you there after we finish the tea.”
Yoongi nods, satisfied. Then, unable to quell his curiosity, asks, “Just to make sure, ‘cause you’ve got hair and all—you’re not a monk, right?”
Jimin giggles into his teacup. Taehyung grins.
“I’m a shaman. We’re vessels that promote the natural balance of the inner and outer worlds.”
“Balance, huh.” Yoongi recalls his headache & dizzy spells. He jokes, “If I commission your services, can you advise me on my health?”
Taehyung hums. “So you do feel it, then.”
The shaman leans forward, eyes burning. “I sense such an imbalance in your inner and outer worlds.” He glances at Jimin. “A gaping rip in your souls.”
Yoongi absolutely has no idea how to respond to that. “That’s... morbid.”
“You want to fix it,” Taehyung adds, and Yoongi can’t quite pinpoint if that’s a question or a declaration.
“Fix... my soul?” Yoongi shoots a strange look at Jimin, who looks just as confused.
“Yes. Have some more tea.”
Vaguely, Yoongi thinks he hears bells chiming in the air.
“Chim. Min Yoongi.” Taehyung leans his chin over his palm, a knowing glint playing in his eyes. “Do you believe in reincarnation?”
“I do, but he doesn’t,” Jimin answers, pointing at Yoongi.
“Uh. Does it matter?”
“And do you know what the cost of having a soul reborn is?”
“A life?” Jimin tries. “A soul?”
“The Infinity Stone?” Yoongi throws in. Safe to say he has no idea what Taehyung is trying to get at. Do all mystics beat about the bush like this? Damn.
Taehyung chuckles to himself, adjusts the folds of his robes. His gaze burns.
The ringing of bells escalate in Yoongi’s ears, lulling him into some kind of trance. He sways forward, barely able to grasp the way his consciousness seems to be slipping away, robbed from his own mind in broad daylight, almost like he’d been drugged. “What’s... in the tea?”
“The cost of a rebirth is memory,” Taehyung says, or seems to says. His mouth is moving, but the words don’t seem to match in Yoongi’s eyesight. “To mend a ripped soul, one must recollect. And to recollect memories, the cost—“
Yoongi and Jimin slump forward.
Yoongi is floating in deep space, nothing but an inky, all-encompassing blackness swallowing him. Time does not exist here; time muffles the senses.
There was a voice just now, a deep baritone, but it’s fading fast, replaced by a thinner, higher one. A girl’s voice.
He jerks awake.
Wooden beams support a low ceiling, and he finds his neck stiff despite having slept in a futon.
A girl sits by his bedding, dressed in a teal-and-yellow hanbok, hair plaited to reveal a sunny face. She’s grinning.
He groans and sits up. “What is it, Songhwa?”
“Orabeoni, congratulations on becoming a Sungkyunkwan scholar.” She reaches into a cloth bag made of crushed velvet and produces a paper craft that she hands him. “I have fashioned a bookmark in your name to aid your studies.”
He reads the name on the bookmark.
Hello, and welcome to the Joseon period of the story! *dolphin noises* YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW EXCITED I HAVE BEEN TO FINALLY REACH THIS POINT, literally the entire story pivots on this segment huehue i’m shaking!!
See you next update!! Lemme know your thoughtsss<3
This is one of the toughest genres to plot, but I’ll work hard to deliver a good story!!! *fingers crossed*
meanwhile, here’s my kofi if you wanna treat me to a latte ehehehe thankieee
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
The palace courtyard is empty when he comes down to visit that night, having decided to take a stroll to clear his mind. Songhwa kept him company for most of the day, gossiping and complaining about the bland food by the cook.
In the middle of the courtyard stands a lone figure.
Clad in inky black robes and wearing a band of cloth to keep his hair off his face, the figure shifts his stance & swings a thin, sword practice pole over his head.
When the prince clears his throat, he turns and grins.
“Grand Prince Min Yun—what an honor to be joined by you!”
He rolls his eyes and moves closer. No need to be reminded of his role as the First Consort’s son. “You know I hate that title, Seok. I would have you call me by my birth name.”
The chief of the palace guard’s eyes dance as he grabs another pole. “Yes, Min Yoongi. Care to spar?”
Yoongi catches the pole with both hands, and barely has a moment’s grace to react before—
—Hoseok comes barreling towards him with his pole.
With a grunt, Yoongi shields himself. Their wooden poles clack as they collide. Hoseok grins, twists and rallies forward again.
Yoongi’s reflexes work overtime. He meets Hoseok’s pole with matched skill. Each man uses his own technique with assured finesse, elegant & refined enough to make each move look like choreography.
By the time their practice duel ends with a draw, they’re both drenched in sweat.
Hoseok steps back first, breathing hard. “You’ve still got it.”
“You speak as though there was something to be lost.”
“How am I to discern so? When I’ve barely seen you ever since you’ve become a serious Sungkyunkwan scholar,” Hoseok teases, tossing a flask of water at Yoongi.
Yet Yoongi’s father still would not acknowledge him. He shrugs. “I throw myself into my books to keep myself occupied.” And sane, given the stuffy, extravagant nature of the palace.
The Chief Guard studies him, then smiles. “No need to explain yourself.”
“I’m stating a fact.”
“Well, if you should feel lonely again next time, you know where to find me,” says Hoseok, winking. “Right here, always.”
Yoongi looks up sharply. He has mentioned nothing of loneliness. Was he being that obvious?
“You miss him, don’t you?” Hoseok says. “Your older brother.”
Yoongi stiffens. Ever since Sohyeon has taken up regency, things have been different. No longer do they spend afternoons hunting or practicing archery, now when there are more pressing matters of court for his Sohyeon to attend to. “The Crown Prince is busy these days.”
“You may punish me for indiscretion, my friend, but I daresay you ought to go out more often. Breathe the clear air outside of the palace. Touch a flower or two,” Hoseok says.
Yoongi wrinkles his nose.
“Or find a gisaeng to bed?”
Yoongi glares. Hoseok laughs, head thrown back.
“Do you wish for a beheading at the crack of dawn?” Yoongi says, grabbing the wooden pole again to feign jabbing Hoseok’s sides. “Jung Hoseok, prepare your last words!”
“I jest, I jest!” Hoseok chortles, arms raised in surrender. “But do consider coming to town with me tonight.”
“I have a friend who’s been accepted into Sungkyunkwan as well, just like you. Kim Namjoon of the Gwangsan Kim clan. He’s invited me to celebrate the night away at Aseowon.”
“Aseowon? The gisaeng brothel?”
“You may choose to only drink, no?” Hoseok winks again.
Kim Namjoon, as it turns out, is the top scorer in the recent state civil examinations. He’s also the Minister of Finance’s eldest son. The feast that greets Yoongi’s arrival is almost comparable to the ones at the palace during his mother’s birthdays.
Hoseok, ever the moodmaker with his charismatic warmth, makes introductions as soon as he and Yoongi are showed inside the private wing of the brothel. Kim Namjoon welcomes him with equal cheer and gusto, and after an hour Yoongi’s surprised he’s beginning to enjoy their company.
His vision floats and he feels like he’s dangling, but compared to his red-faced friends he tells himself he’s faring better.
“I ask you, Prince Yun,” Namjoon starts.
“Just call me Yoongi.”
“Yoongi,” Namjoon slurs, eyes bloodshot, “would you rather upset Confucius or Buddha?”
Hoseok sniffles loudly, having just finishing a loud weeping meltdown about the state of his platoon’s irresponsible cleaning habits. “Are they even capable of getting mad?”
“I would be more wary of upsetting my mother,” Yoongi says, fanning himself. His face feels hot.
Hoseok bursts out cackling, & Yoongi prides himself for being a man of exquisite humor.
“That is true, that is wise,” Namjoon concurs, pouring himself another glass of liquor. “Oh? There s’no more.”
“I will get us another bottle.” Yoongi stands, swaying slightly. “Need to pee.”
He slides the door aside and and a thick, almost cloying mix of perfume and incense hits him. It does nothing to abate his tipsiness, but it sure does make him feel a lot more confident.
Along the way down the hall, brushes shoulders with another young man who smells like pine.
In the dimly-lit brothel, Yoongi barely sees the man’s face, shadowed by the gat on his head. He’s in wool commoner clothes, so he must not be from the aristocracy.
“Pardon,” the man says, and Yoongi waves him off. Any other day he might have taken offense at being shouldered.
The man walks on in the opposite direction, and a few moments later Yoongi hears a gisaeng’s gasp.
“Oh, Jimin-ah! Again?” a silken voice calls out.
“You know I’m just dropping by, Sunghee-ssi.”
“Deliveries again? Why not stay with us longer,” she trills, voice turning sultry.
Yoongi thinks he hears a nervous chuckle, but he doesn’t catch the rest of the conversation as he makes a turn into the men’s lavatory.
The walls in this place are thin, and as Yoongi relieves himself, drifts of moans & drunken conversation from other rooms float over his head.
One, in particular, tugs at his conscious attention.
“Fuck Kim Namjoon! It’s because of him that I couldn’t get into Sungkyunkwan this year!” A man’s rough, inebriated shout echoes. “But no matter. I, Min Chanwoo, will get in next term—I’ve hired a man to take the exam for me.”
What a familiar name. Yoongi groans and tilts his head back, trying to think clearly through the thoughts rattling around in his head. The man sounds almost obnoxiously like someone he knows, someone whose guts he hates—
His arrogant cousin.
With alcohol-induced adrenaline and courage pumping in his veins, Yoongi hurries out of the restroom and marches into the adjacent private wing unannounced.
Gisaengs squeal and scatter away like disturbed birds. Sitting at the head of the is Yoongi’s cousin, eyes wide in terror.
“Min Chanwoo,” Yoongi clucks his tongue and saunters in.
“H-hyung-nim?” he splutters, neck reddening. A vein bulges out from his temples. “What are you—“
“What a loud mouth you have,” Yoongi drawls, staggering in. He pulls the sleeves of his robes back and flexes his fingers.
“Y-you heard?” Chanwoo’s beady eyes blow wider, and he scrambles to his knees. “Hyung-nim!”
“Got quite a lot of nerve for you to go around spitting on the Minister of Finance’s son’s name AND threatening to taint the Yeoheung Min clan’s reputation by cheating,” Yoongi growls.
He sneers down at his cousin, trembling and cowering before him, and wonders how in the world he could be of the Min clan’s blood.
Chanwoo grasps his ankles. “Have mercy, hyung-nim, please do not reveal this to my father. I am most sorry.”
“Dishonorable, that’s what you are.”
“It is not my fault!” Chanwoo cries, tears streaking down his cheeks.
Yoongi tugs his ankle out of the man’s grip, eye twitching in irritation. “Not your fault?”
“I have fallen into temptation, hyung-nim. T-there is a man at the market, offering to take exams in our place.”
While Min Yoongi prides himself on being a man of peace, he is unable to turn a blind eye to corruption & injustices in the system. “Is that so?”
“I speak the truth, hyung-nim.” Chanwoo bows low, rubbing his palms together to beg for mercy.
“How shall we deal with this, then?”
Chanwoo glances up, puzzled. “Beg your pardon?”
Yoongi crouches down to his level and smirks. “How about we strike a deal, my dear cousin. If you tell me this man’s name and whereabouts, I might pretend I’ve witnessed nothing tonight.”
Chanwoo’s pupils dilate. “Gladly.”
At Hanyang’s common market, invisibility is an advantage. The smell of meat & produce hangs in the air.
In the midst of a bustling crowd full of merchants peddling their goods, a young man wearing a straw hat low over his face walks with a strip of paper in hand.
Today he is not Grand Prince Min Yun, or an aristocrat roaming the market for frivolous gifts.
Today he assumes the role of a common man Min Yoongi, and in order to find the name he seeks he must blend into the crowd.
“Do you know this place?” he stops to ask a butcher at work.
The butcher—a brawny man chewing on a stalk of wheat, glances at the paper and points down the market street. “Bookstore’s that way.”
Yoongi nods and follows the directions. He politely refuses an offer from a fruit peddler, and swerves to avoid a gaggle of running children.
He comes to a stop before a quaint bookshop with thatched roofs and wooden doors. Its windows are open, displaying an array of textbooks & children’s fables.
Yoongi steps inside and immediately the riot of the market street falls to a hush. The scent old paper almost calms him.
“Welcome,” a young man in plain robes greets him by the door. “Is there any title we can help you with?”
Although Yoongi’s not certain how the fraud looks like, Chanwoo had described him in fair detail—a soft and youthful face and eyes that ‘bore into your soul’ or whatever.
As far as descriptions go, the young man standing in front of him fits exactly that. He’s fit and slender, about Yoongi’s height. When he smiles expectantly, his eyes turn into twin half-moons, and yes, Yoongi can somehow understand what Chanwoo had meant by the eyes thing.
He clears his throat and calmly schools his face into a blank expression. “Are you the man who goes by the name Master Kim?”
The young man’s smile falters as his eyes widen and dart about. “Oh. I- well, I suppose I am. Are you here for... ‘that’?”
Yoongi frowns. “‘That’?”
Chanwoo never mentioned any transaction, but since he’s already here... “Yes,” Yoongi says. “I would speak about ‘that’.”
The young man who goes by the name of Master Kim shushes him, pressing an index finger against his own lips. “You’re a bit early, but come.”
He beckons for Yoongi to follow him, and despite the growing bewilderment, Yoongi obliges. They leave by the back door and emerge at a secluded alley behind the bookshop. Yoongi despises the niggling alarm in his mind, telling him he’s being put on a tailspin by some conman.
No time to waste. Unable to keep up the ruse any longer, Yoongi decides to drop it. He must confront this man about aiding Chanwoo now. He reaches into his hidden scabbard.
“Well then—“ Master Kim says and turns, then gasps when he finds his neck at swordtip.
“Well then,” Yoongi growls low, holding the young man hostage. “Start talking. I know of your despicable business.”
“W-what—“ Master Kim sputters. “I mean, one might call it defilement, but I run an honest business!”
Just then, someone yells into the alley, “Yah, Park Jimin!”
‘Master Kim’ freezes at the name, face framed in horror.
Yoongi risks a glance at where the voice rang from.
At the other end of the alley stand three thugs, one carrying a wooden bat. “Park Jimin, get your ass here before we catch you!”
Yoongi lowers his sword. “Park—“
The young man before him curses under his breath and glowers at the thugs. To Yoongi, he says, “My apologies, but we must continue this some other time.”
Confused, Yoongi splutters, “Who’re those?”
Master Kim’s face darkens. “Debt collectors. I must leave. Farewell!”
It takes Yoongi a moment’s shock before he recollects his wits. Oh, oh no. This conman must be trying to run away from him now that he believes he’s been busted.
Yoongi will not allow that. He cannot let injustice roam the streets.
He takes off running after Master Kim. “Wait!”
Master Kim looks back at him in horror. “What- why are you chasing me!”
“I would speak with you!” Yoongi cries, gaining speed. He’s light-footed, and running has never been a problem for him.
They sprint down the market, narrowly avoiding bumping into merchants and stalls.
Yoongi hears footfalls behind him, and when he looks back over his shoulder, he finds the same three scruffy-looking thugs bulldozing after them, too.
It clicks in his brain, then—it’s a three-way chase. Master Kim must be running from /them/, not Yoongi himself.
If Yoongi wants to confront the young man alone, then they need to get those thugs off their trail first.
Blood pumping in his veins, Yoongi quickens his sprint and grabs Master Kim’s wrist, tugging him to run faster.
“This way,” Yoongi commands, never slowing. “Come!”
The zip through the market street, and Yoongi accidentally upends a silk merchant’s table of fabric. But they don’t stop sprinting. They meander down different alleys, avoiding puddles and stray cats until they end up at an abandoned warehouse at the outskirts of the marketplace.
Yoongi lets go of Master Kim’s wrist, and the young man stumbles back against a wooden pillar, panting like a dog.
“That was”—pant—“wild. Thank you for—“
He barely gets to finish speaking when Yoongi draws his sword again with a resounding /shing/.
“Tell me your name.”
Yoongi is expecting the young man to throw his arms up in surrender, perhaps beg for forgiveness, but he gets none of that.
“Eyyyy, don’t be a spoilsport,” Master Kim cajoles, pushing Yoongi blade away from his throat with one tip of his finger. “No need to shed my blood here.”
Utterly befuddled, Yoongi gulps, dropping his arm by his side. “What nonsense you speak.”
Master Kim smirks up at him, and has the gall to pat Yoongi’s shoulder as if they’re friends. “It’s alright, there is no need to feel shy. I understand how desperate men can get.”
“Which is why I will only charge you 5 nyang instead of 7 for this,” Master Kim continues, digging a hand into the folds of his robes.
“Speak clearly or—“
“Ah, here it is!” Master Kim exclaims as he pulls out a crisp, new book. “Here you go. The latest edition.”
There is a small voice at the back of his mind vaguely telling him that he has gotten something very, very mixed up.
Stunned speechless, Yoongi takes the book and reads the title gracing cover.
/‘The Salacious Adventures Of Love And Lust’ by Master Kim/
Yoongi flips to page 1.
It seems to be a typical novel. Yoongi scoffs, flipping through the rest of the pages until the illustrations appear.
He nearly drops the book, chest seizing wildly.
Master Kim smiles and opens his palm. “5 nyang.”
Yoongi cannot forget the illustrations burned into his mind.
“This novel and guide book will open your mind to new heights and pleasures, literally,” Master Kim says smugly. “5 nyang, please.”
“I—“ Yoongi feels dizzy. He gazes up at the ceiling, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re not Master Kim?”
“What? No! I run errands for him.”
This is far, far from what Yoongi had come here for. He reaches for the hilt of his sword. “Bring me to your master, then.”
The young man’s smile dims as he realizes he’s been cornered. “I will not. The Young Master is ill and bedridden.”
“I don’t care, I would speak with him.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then you leave me with no choice.” Yoongi lifts his sword in the air and dashes forward, eyes closed. It would be a shame to see this one die.
It’s a clean cut. It should have been.
Instead, he finds pressure resisting his wrist, and when he +
cracks an eye open, he finds not blood, but the base of an open fan pushing against the hilt of his sword.
His killing blow has been blocked.
Behind the paper fan, with only the upper half of his face and his twinking eyes visible, the fake ‘Master Kim’ winks beguilingly at him.
Yoongi grunts and staggers back, arm aching with the weight of his steel blade. Before he can swing again, his enemy jumps swiftly over the stacked barrels in the warehouse and leaps onto the second floor.
“I have 2 masters, stranger,” he says, balancing on the wooden railing.
Yoongi runs up the wooden stairs as his new enemy speaks.
“The younger one taught me to dream,” he says, swaying his fan in the air. “And the older one”—He snaps his fan shut and lowers his stance into a braced position—“taught me to fight.”
Yoongi lunges forward with a yell.
‘Master Kim’ avoids getting his ankles nicked by Yoongi’s sword by catapulting into the air, twirling and landing back on the wooden balustrate with perfect balance. “Nice one.”
Yoongi yanks his sword back, feeling clunky and uncoordinated, but swings again. “Not anymore.”
It’s odd, Yoongi thinks to himself as they parry back and forth. He should be riled up and frustrated with this stranger’s air of bravado and slick confidence, but instead he finds himself almost enjoying this. Apart from Hoseok he has never met anyone so evenly matched in skill.
‘Master Kim’ doesn’t even wield a sword of his own, simply using the workings of his traditional, flimsy-looking fan to defend every last one of Yoongi’s attacks.
Just when Yoongi thinks he has the man pinned to a wall, he gets thrown off balance by the quick pop of an elbow.
And just as Master Kim raises his fan to knock Yoongi unconscious by the nape of his neck, Yoongi spins and disarms him using the hilt of his sword. “You still haven’t told me your name.”
The other man has quick reflexes, though, catching his fan mid-air as soon as he drops it.
“Neither have you.”
“I asked you first.” Yoongi kicks a barrel loose & watches it roll towards his quarry. Master Kim deftly avoids it.
“Maybe if you drop the sword.”
“I will as soon as you drop the fan.”
At this, Master Kim grins almost maniacally. “I wasn’t taught to lose.”
Well, neither was Yoongi. Not even Hoseok goes easy on him during the practice duels. He bites back a smile. “Noted with care.”
Then he leans back on his heels & shoots forward, only to be blocked, but Yoongi understand the man’s style by now, so he feints left then turns right.
He unlatches his straw hat and uses it to finally slap the fan out of the man’s hand, catching Master Kim off-guard.
But only momentarily. The next thing he knows, Master Kim diverts his attention and uses the same straw hat to disarm his sword.
/Clang./ Both drop to the floor.
They face each other off, breathing raggedly, neither one moving first.
“Was that,” the young man wheezes, sweat dripping to his chin, “was that really necessary?”
Yoongi struggles to catch his breath and bends down to pick up his sword. “But I won.”
“What? No you didn’t.”
“You dropped the fan first,” Yoongi points out. “So you owe me your name, at least.” He straightens up and cocks his head to one side, studying the man before him. Master Kim scampers back to the wall, resignation in his eyes.
“Fine. I will whisper it to you. Come closer.”
Huh. Yoongi moves to the young man as asked, crossing his arms.
“Closer,” he beckons, holding out both arms as though asking for an embrace.
Growing wary, Yoongi leans towards him until his ear is next to the other man’s face. This close, he can feel their body heat mingling.
“My name is...”
Against his better will, Yoongi steps closer, feeling strange electricity sparking in his veins.
Then his vision blurs as Master Kim spins them around, pinning Yoongi to the wall—literally, by using a tiny, hidden dagger to dig into the hem of Yoongi’s tunic.
“...something you’ll never learn! Ha!” the young man shrieks cheekily, poking his tongue out.
“What the- let me go, unhand me this instant!” Yoongi fumbles with the dagger, but it’s wedged too deep into his clothes.
“Thank you for the fun duel.” Another wink. “You fight good.”
“Just you wait until I get my hands on you,” Yoongi threatens as Master Kim saunters back, picking up his fallen fan along the way. “I’ll have you beheaded!”
“Coming from a commoner, that’s a fantasy,” says the young man. “Nice to meet you, I hope we never cross paths again.”
It’s only then that Yoongi remembers, as the young man walks off, that he’s dressed not in aristocrat’s silks, but in peasant’s disguise. “Do you know who I am?”
“I need not,” singsongs the young man. “Oh, by the way, here.” He tosses the novel on the floor. “You can keep it.”
TBC TONIGHT <3
SOOOO that’s our first taste of Joseon yoonmin <3 any thoughts so far on their personalities? Dynamics? First meeting? hehehe
See you all tonight! Once again, here’s my kofi, pls support me if you can! it helps!
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
Painter Of Time poll <3
just for fun: who in Painter Of Time would you wanna go out for one day with, and why?
this poll will only be active for 2 days!
Painter of Time
PATREON SPECIAL—hello! As a thanks for continuing to support the AU up ‘til where we are, here’s a little something for everyone subscribed to my Patreon
Once again, Patreon content will not be available on the main thread!
“A commoner blocked your sword with a /fan/?” Songhwa giggles, clapping her hands together. “Orabeoni, either you are pulling my leg, or you have seriously grown weak in your technique!”
“It’s the truth,” Yoongi says plaintively, then grumbles, “as much as it pains me to admit.”
“Should you ever encounter him again, at least try to win,” Songhwa says, bending down to croon over a flowering lotus in the pond.
In the late afternoon daylight, Gungnamji Pond’s surface glitters a soft peach. Earlier, Songhwa begged to take a stroll in the gardens together.
“Enough about my day,” Yoongi mutters, watching droplets trickle into the curve of a lotus leaf. He’s not exactly fond of being reminded of yesterday’s humiliation. “How has my little sister been doing in her studies, hmm?”
“Poetry can take a dip in the pond and never return.”
“Charming,” Yoongi deadpans. “You shouldn’t speak in such a crass manner, Songhwa-yah. How will you find a suitable husband in the future—“
“Orabeoni, as much as I love you, how I behave is not something I am comfortable being lorded over. Especially not by you,” Songhwa says.
She turns to Yoongi with a smile that seems to hold more wisdom than Yoongi, in all his 21 years of age, possesses. “So do us both a favor, won’t you? I’ve had enough of men trying to manipulate me. I’d love it if you would just stay as my brother, always.”
Yoongi can only nod.
It’s easy to forget sometimes, because Yoongi has only ever seen Min Songhwa as his little sister who used to grab him by the hem of his durumagi and trousers, snot-faced and whiny. In Yoongi’s eyes she will forever be a child, no matter how much of a woman she is blooming into.
“But if you must know, my art lessons are proceeding rather smoothly,” Songhwa says as they continue walking leisurely.
Yoongi arches an eyebrow. “You’ve been taking art lessons? This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“I started only last week, from Tutor Jeon,” Songhwa explains.
“Would it be callous of me if I were to comment on how I think you ought to focus on your embroidery instead?” Yoongi asks.
Songhwa’s nostrils flare. “Embroidery...” she mutters. “The bane of all housework! I shall gladly never become wife to any man. Ever.”
“Needlework is fun,” Yoongi mumbles sullenly, and Songhwa nudges him playfully.
“Why don’t you learn with me? Tutor Jeon says we will begin painting next week.”
It’s such a mindless, aimless form waste of time. Yoongi almost says it out loud. “Why do you paint, anyway?”
“For passion, orabeoni! Passion!” Songhwa lets out a shrill noise of frustration, throwing her hands up in the air. “Haven’t you ever felt it? The burning pull towards something.”
“Heavens, sometimes when I speak to you I almost believe I’m talking to a rock.”
“In my defense, I have always wanted to be a rock in my next life,” Yoongi jests, grinning.
Songhwa rolls her eyes. “You should find something to be passionate about, dearest brother. It gives life an extra spark.”
“And painting gives you that spark?”
“It is an avenue, yes.”
Yoongi squints. “How exactly so?”
For a brief moment, he catches the way Songhwa’s eyes flicker behind them, to where her lady-in-waiting, Yeol, waits on standby a few yards away, keeping distance to give the siblings privacy. “It gives me an excuse to use Yeol as my model.”
“We should paint beautiful images, should we not?”
Yoongi nods slowly, getting the gist of it. “I believe I’m beginning to understand. You want to refine your artistic talent in order to impress a nobleman and hopefully, find a good suitor.”
“Orabeoni, do shut up.”
The conversation with Songhwa weighs heavy on Yoongi’s mind all day, her words lingering like the aftertaste of the royal physician’s bitter herbal medicine. As Yoongi returns to his chambers he sits by the desk, and only then does he spot Master Kim’s book.
That cursed book.
How did that ‘Master Kim’ describe it again?
/This novel and guide book will open your mind to new heights and pleasures./
It seems there are still plenty of things Yoongi has yet to discover, despite being a qualified scholar at Sungkwunkwan. Appalling, how little he knows.
But if there is one thing he IS confident of, it’s his linguistic repertoire. And he knows for a fact that ‘passion’ is closely related to ‘love’ and ‘lust’, which are featured in the cursed book’s title.
And what are books if not beacons of education?
Yoongi makes up his mind.
With a trembling hand, he reaches out and gingerly flips the cover of the book. He keeps only one eye open, fearful of what cursed images might jump out of the pages. Last night Yoongi hardly slept soundly, what with those ill-conceived illustrations imprinted in his mind’s eye.
So far, so good. The opening pages contain only text. He reads the story of an innkeeper and his childhood friend who he lost contact with... and is utterly shell-shocked to find that the said chimdbood friend is also /male/.
Yoongi’s heart pounds against his ribcage.
“Male,” Yoongi breathes in disbelief, scrambling away from the book as though his hand’s been stung. He stands and paces the length of his quarters, lower lip snagging on the roof of his upper teeth.
Yoongi rationalizes with him—this must be a story about a deep friendship.
A story of two men and their respective love lives, that’s all. Nodding to himself, Yoongi sits back down and flips the book to where he left off. His neck feels warmer than it was moments ago, and so he opens a window to let the air circulate.
The plot of the novel is actually intriguing—it involves murder, birth secrets, a loyal dog and clearly outlines the separation and reunion of the two best friends.
/“Jang Bong-man!” the innkeeper cries, kneeling on the sodden earth. “Is that really you, Bong-man?”/
Yoongi purses his lips, anticipation climbing up his gut. He feels a little feverish reading about such a strong, divine connection between such amazing characters. Both Bong-man and Jun-hyung deserve to reunite, as friends of course.
He turns to the next page and freezes.
There, in the center of the page, lie illustrations of Bong-man and Jun-hyung, labelled “Reunion Night”. The two men are drawn with one on top of the other, while the man below lies on his belly. Their faces are inked with rouge to indicate a flush.
Most of all, they’re naked.
Yoongi hurls the book to the other end of his quarters, a scream of terror ripping from his throat. The book collides hard against the wall and slides out of view, behind his bed.
“Highness, is anything the matter?” a servant asks form outside.
“Bong-man is...!” Yoongi cries.
It is indescribable, the way Yoongi’s heartbeat is accelerating beyond human speed. He bursts from his quarters and runs outside, willing the images away from his now-tainted mind. He keeps sprinting until he reaches the next palace hall, where the royal guards are trained.
“Hoseok-ah!” Yoongi all but hollers, not caring about propriety for once. He’s only barely aware of the guards at the courtyard pausing in their practice, too caught up by his need to locate his trusted friend.
“Yoon- I mean, Highness?” Hoseok’s voice pops out from the front.
Yoongi skids to a sudden halt before the Chief Royal Guard, panting heavily. Hoseok is staring at him with concern.
“What brings you here?”
“Bong-man and Jun-hyung...” Yoongi rambles unthinkingly. “They’re... I’ve invaded their privacy and I could not—“
“Slow down, what?”
Yoongi’s vision spins, his throat tightening as a wave of nausea overtakes him. He’s already been feeling under the weather ever since yesterday’s market trip, but the sudden spike in his blood pressure must be doing a number on him. For sure, death awaits next. “I feel unwell.”
“Hold on, Min Yoongi, your face is pale, let me get—“
Yoongi doesn’t hear the rest of Hoseok’s panicked answer, because then he slumps against his friend, a sheet of darkness knocking him unconscious.
His last thought is a curse—may ‘Master Kim’ never know peace tonight.
Shadows. They’re all that surround him as he walks a lonely trail in the middle of the woods. Yoongi does not know where he is, so he follows the moonlight from the crescent hanging in the sky like a tiger’s claw.
He doesn’t remember how he came to be here.
A rustle of leaves catch his ear. He turns & finds himself facing a different path, but this time at the end of the trail there stands a crane, delicate wings spread open as though caught mid-flight, or mid dance. The crane is alone. When Yoongi steps forward, it looks at him.
Bathed in the inky blue of moonlight, it looks like a mirage that could fly off any time. Walking slowly so as not to scare the creature away, Yoongi implores, “Take me with you.”
To his surprise, the crane answers with a familiar drawl, “I am always with youuuuu, my friend...”
Yoongi stops. He’s pretty sure he knows the owner of that voice. “What? I command you, speak.”
Horror slices through Yoongi.
“Who on earth is Bong-man?” asks the crane loudly, and Yoongi feels a sharp pulling sensation—
—he wakes with a gasp.
The ceiling that greets Yoongi’s eyes, which are still bleary as they grow accustomed to the light, is not the flat roof of his personal chambers, but the high wooden beams of the royal infirmary.
He looks at his bedside, where Hoseok stands, grinning at him. “Welcome back!”
Yoongi scrunches up his nose. “You are so loud, I could hear you in my dreams.”
Hoseok laughs and nods to the royal physician. “Yes, he’s definitely awake now, all right.”
The royal physician’s brows knit in concern. “Chief tells me you were muttering names before you fainted.”
Yoongi’s stomach clenches.
Meanwhile Hoseok nods vigorously. “Indeed, indeed. Bong-man and another man, I don’t quite remember. What is the matter, Yoongi? Have these men harmed you? I could bring them in for questioning.”
Yoongi’s jaw falls open. “N—no. Do not disturb them.”
Hoseok’s face pinch in confusion. “You know them?”
“I am fine.” Yoongi sits up with a groan. “No need to worry, nothing is wrong with my health.”
“You looked very unwell, though...”
“I swear, do not lay a finger on them. They’re my”—Yoongi swallows, fists clenched—“friends.”
Hoseok and the royal physician exchange dubious looks. Yoongi hates this, hates being put on the spot and cornered into answering questions he has no linguisitic reportoire for, so he scrambles out of bed. He shakes his limbs to wake them into functioning. “I am leaving. Hoseok?”
“Right behind ya.”
Thr servants part the sliding doors for them. They step out into the bright yard. To Yoongi’s surprise, the area surrounding every corner of the palace is decorated in vibrant colors, each checkpoint festooned in ribbons and flowers that weren’t there earlier.
“How long was I out?” Yoongi asks. Surely such a grand scale of preparation can’t be done in mere hours. “What is all this?”
Hoseok falls into step beside him. “It’s for Surit-nal.”
“Isn’t that next week?”
The palace guard chief gives him a funny look. “Actually, it’s today.”
Yoongi gapes at him. “I was out for a week?!”
“More or less. Very feverish, too. At one point in time we worried you might not make it. Songhwa stayed by your bed all night, every night.”
Yoongi thinks of the forest in his dream, and how long it felt like he’d been wandering.
“I’m glad you’re alive and kicking,” Hoseok says.
“It’s all thanks to that crane,” he muses out loud.
Hoseok shoots him another questioning look. “What?”
“A little crane led me home, in a manner of speaking,” Yoongi says. “It was dancing in the moonlight. Hard to ignore.”
“Er,” Hoseok scratches his head, “are you really sure you’re fully recovered? We could turn back and visit the physician again, get a final say—“
“Seok-ah, worry less for me, would you?” Yoongi says, patting his friend’s shoulder. “I am fine. Let us see the festivities through.”
Surit-nal—a traditional holiday that falls on the 5th day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. On this day one might turn left and right to find every nook and cranny of the streets teeming with merriment and play, people drifting about dressed in red & blue.
In the palace grounds, the festivities may be more extravagant in presentation, but they are no less different. Members of the Council, the Internal Court and the royal family spent the better half of the day partaking in archery showmanship contests, and wining and dining.
Now, as day looms closer into dusk, performing troupes and travelling stage plays begin to gather at the main courtyard in preparation for the dinner banquet. Yoongi sits uncomfortably in a chair on a platform, raised from the ground but not on the same level as the royal family.
He casts a glance at the trio gathered on the main dais—His Majesty, the Queen and Crown Prince Sohyeon, each one wearing mirroring smiles at the ongoing musical performance before them.
Yoongi looks down and fiddles with his thumbs on his lap.
He’ll never get to have that.
A milky-fair hand enters his field of vision, reaching for Yoongi to get them to stop fumbling nervously. Yoongi looks sideways at his own mother, the Noble First Consort Min, and flashes her a watery, grateful smile.
At least they have each other. Songhwa, too.
The next performance is a martial arts demonstration, accompanied by heavy drumbeats that make Yoongi’s heartbeat jump with each thunder-like thump. Then a group of gisaengs sweep into the stage, waving ribbons around their wrists that twirl prettily with their dancing.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Songhwa whispers, leaning over from where she sits next to Yoongi. “I’ve always adored banquets.”
“It’s getting rather draggy,” Yoongi remarks, fighting back a yawn.
The percussive music swells to a grand climax, then a loud, booming voice announces:
“Next is the special solo performance: Dance Of The Fallen Crane.”
Yoongi’s ears perk up as expectant applause rings out across the courtyard.
Rather than percussion, the music that fills the air is that of a mellow woodwind instrument. A gayageum—one of Yoongi’s favorites.
A barefoot dancer steps out into the wooden stage, slow and graceful as though gliding, and the audience watches in riveted silence. The dancer’s hair has been let loose, silky black strands fluttering in the wind along with iridescent silk fabric draped around their arms.
The lower of the dancer’s face is covered by a veil, concealing his full features from view, but Min Yoongi would recognize those glittering eyes anywhere, face veiled or not.
After all, he’s seen the same eyes behind a paper fan before, once upon a duel. Yoongi sits forward.
“Master Kim,” Yoongi huffs under his breath, a thrill of something electric and sadistic coursing through him. Alas, the prey has walked right into the trap.
A soft rhythm of percussion begins accompanying the gayageum, and the dancer sways, raising his arms. Yoongi scoffs.
As the dancer lifts his arms & molds his body into complicated positions, spinning and leaping into the air at certain points in the choreography, questions burn at the back of Yoongi’s mind.
Who IS this mysterious person, and what occupation does he hold? How is he a /dancer/?
He momentarily forgets all of it, because the next moment, as the dancer makes another leap with a flourish of his arms, he ends up facing the direction where Yoongi is sitting. Their gazes brush for a nanosecond, too quick to linger, but something in Yoongi jumps.
It’s like drowning, only you’re surrounded by pure air and you’ve got a choice to keep breathing but forget how to. This is what watching the dancer’s performance feels like: a tide locks you in its current, stubborn to part, and you’ll be too powerless to resist.
It’s a trance.
Yoongi sucks in a shaky breath, crashing back into the present, and his head swivels around to find the source of the voice.
But he quickly realizes he’s /not/ the intended recipient of the question when he spots two court ladies gossipping nearby.
“What’s her name again?” one asks; hand behind her hand, eyes darting around to make sure others don’t hear.
“Lady Aeshin, or so I’ve heard.”
“She is so lovely. I heard she trained with a travelling troupe in her youth.”
Yoongi almost chokes and wheezes out loud. Huh.
I AM SO SO SLEEPY GOOD NIGHT WILL CONTINUE THIS SPICY SPICY SCENE SOON LOV U <3
anyway, this is a yoongi-centric update HOHO any thoughts on his personality so far?
A man in a hanbok.
A man in women’s costume is dancing before them, and no one around bats an eye, fully believing in this intricate deception.
/Are performers apart from gisaeng even allowed to grace the stage in front of the King’d presence?/, Yoongi wonders to himself.
He digs his memories for any previous recollection of men performing in this fashion, but none surface. Of all of Min Yun’s 21 years, he has only ever seen men in men’s garb, and women in women’s skirts. Never the other way round. To do so would be—
“Shameless,” Yoongi mutters.
Who is this unnamed man, and how many names does he go by? How many alter egos? If Yoongi were to stomp down right now, interrupt this performance and disrobe the young man—
He catches himself. How could he think of /disrobing/ another man?
Only men like Jang Bong-man would.
Yoongi feels a little faint, his pulse skyrocketing as he schools his thoughts in a different direction. He averts his gaze and focuses on the platter of fruits on the table, and only looks up when the music fades into the night, signalling the end of the banquet’s festivities.
When the King starts applauding, the rest of the court officials and the internal court members follow suit. As performers stream out of the courtyard, Yoongi peers out discreetly, trying to spot the crane dancer in drapes.
But he has already vanished. Yoongi frowns. How quick.
“That final solo performance was breathtaking,” Songhwa gushes next to him, clutching her chest with a blissful expression. “I would like to dance like Lady Aeshin, too.”
“Lady Aeshin, my foot,” Yoongi mumbles.
“I said, ‘Ah, you frivolous youth’.” Yoongi stands to go.
“Hey, where are you going?” Songhwa calls out after him. “Orabeoni!”
Yoongi doesn’t reply, brisk-walking out of the palace courtyard to follow the direction the performers went.
Crossdressing is unfathomable. He must meet this conman and unveil the truth before it’s too late.
Just when he’s about to turn left, a flash of pearly white silks catches the corner of his eye. Yoongi turns to the opposite direction, away from the fading laughter of the court dancers and musicians, to a path half draped in shadows.
Trusting his gut, he creeps along that way.
He’s so engrossed in his own chase that he barely clocks another voice calling for his name—
“Prince Yun!” A hand clamps down his shoulder. Yoongi jumps with a startled gasp.
Hoseok grins at him, relieved of his guard shift now that the banquet is over. “Where’s your head at?”
Yoongi blinks, mind racing. “Seok-ah, lend me your sword.” If Master Kim turns out to be a threat, he should be dealt with accordingly. Lying alone is enough cause for treason.
“This?” Hoseok hesitates. “I’m not sure...”
“Just for half an hour. I’ll return it shortly.”
Hoseok regards him carefully, but relents without further questions. “Alright.” He passes his scabbard to Yoongi, who takes off running into the night.
He recalls his last encounter with Master-Kim-or-Lady-Aeshin-whatever-his-name is, and reminds himself this man can fight.
With only the moonlight as his guide, Yoongi rushes through different halls and pavilions, pillar after pillar whizzing past his vision. Good thing he has the palace layout memorized by heart or it would’ve been tough to navigate—
/There./ Yoongi’s heart leaps. He slows down.
Like a phantom decked in white, ‘Lady Aeshin’ glides around the perimeter of the Secretariat Hall, where the Royal Archive of Records is headquartered. He looks up at the hall’s closed doors, back to Yoongi.
Yoongi creeps up to him soundlessly, hand resting on his sword’s hilt.
Once he’s a meter away from the court dancer, Yoongi raises his arm to press the tip of his sword against the nape of the dancer’s neck—
The dancer spins, lightning-quick, & uses the featherlight drapes of his costume to lock Yoongi’s arms to his sides. Yoongi’s breath catches.
The sword drops from his grip unceremoniously, but he’s not about to admit defeat so easily. Yoongi drops to a squat and swipes one leg outwards, knocking the dancer off balance, but the drapes around his arms yank them both forward. He tumbles into the dancer’s chest.
They fall & roll to the ground with a grunt. The dancer thrashes to throw Yoongi’s weight off his body.
Yoongi predicts his next move early, and before the court dancer can pull out another dagger, Yoongi wrestles it out of his hand, then presses the blade to the dancer’s neck.
“I know your tricks by now,” Yoongi chuckles roughly under his breath, panting as he straddles his quarry. “Master Kim. Or should I say, Lady Aeshin?”
He watches as the court dancer’s kohl-limned eyes flash with sudden recognition. “You.”
“Mmm. Fancy meeting you again.”
The dancer throws him off by laughing, soft and startling.
In this position, Yoongi can feel every reverberation of the young man’s chest.
“I thought I said we should never cross paths again.”
“Agreed,” Yoongi says, still pressing the dagger to his throat. “Yet here you are.”
“Here I am.” The dancer grins as though Yoongi isn’t holding a weapon against his pulse. “Hello.”
“Start speaking, or face the consequences.”
“You should know I hardly care about that. I must say, why is it that every time we meet, you are threatening to cut my life short?”
“Do not ignore me,” growls Yoongi, patience thinning. “Who are you? Speak.”
“You must value life so loosely that it’s easy for you to to point your blade at a lowly court dancer’s neck,” the man drawls.
Yoongi’s grip falters. “That’s not- you are making wrong assumptions.”
“Am I?” the dancer says, eyes glittering in the moonlight. “Because with all due respect, I’m not the one making threats left and right here. Also, it’s rather difficult to make introductions like this, no?”
Yoongi looks down at their positions and blinks, shame engulfing him.
“Perhaps of you get off of me, we would speak.”
“Perhaps if you tell me your name, I’d be more inclined to,” Yoongi fires back, dropping the dagger to the ground but not getting up.
A teasing smile plays at the dancer’s mouth. “But you already know, do you not? Lady Aeshin.”
Yoongi presses his lips to a thin line. “Do not mock me. As it is, I already find it hard to trust anything you say.” He looks away, face hot for some reason.
The dancer doesn’t reply, but Yoongi can feel a burning gaze boring holes into him. Then:
The air around them rises with a chorus of leaves and cicadas. Yoongi looks at the man beneath him, and in the silver moonlight he almost looks... soft. Like a doll.
“Park Jimin.” Yoongi tests the name’s texture against his tongue. A first taste. The syllables roll off smoothly.
“Yes, now will you please”—Jimin squirms and kicks—“remove yourself from me? You’re crushing me.”
Right. Yoongi scrambles to his feet, and almost makes the foolish move of offering his hand to help the other man stand. “So what brings you here? I thought you were a bookseller.”
“And I thought you were a commoner.” Jimin dusts his muddied hanbok off, a scowl twisting his lips. “But it seems I’m not the only one with a double identity here.” He surveys Yoongi’s cobalt-and-scarlet nobleman’s robes, a formal attire for Surit-nal. “Ha. I’ve figured you out.”
“Have you, now?” Yoongi quizzes, eyeing him back warily.
“You’re a yangban, probably from a family closely tied to the royals. Judging from your attire...” Jimin tips his head to one side. “Aha! A palace official.”
Yoongi arches a brow. “In a manner of speaking, I suppose.”
“I’m certain.” Jimin nods as thought assuring himself. “You can’t possibly be a prince, because I’ve heard the royal family members are sheltered, milquetoast people of the palace, and you fight good, so.”
Yoongi coughs to hide his bemusement. “Is that so?”
Jimin nods again, exuding confidence. “So, which yangban clan is it? Andong Kim? Pyungyang Jo? Or the militia, Jinju Kang?”
“Yeoheung Min,” Yoongi answers quietly, never taking his eyes off the dancer.
“Ah. You must be one of the chief ministers’ sons,” Jimin muses out loud.
Yoongi considers correcting him, but a bigger part of him is compelled to let Jimin speculate theories out of thin air like a yarnspinner.
“You know,” Jimin continues, “in the third edition, Master Kim penned a short story about the Chief State Councillor’s son and his tutor.”
Yoongi chokes on his own spit and falls into a coughing fit. He keels over, neary losing his balance. “You- that cursed book—“
“Aha! So you’ve read it!” Jimin exclaims as though he’s made a victorious feat. “How do you find it?”
“I did /not/ read it.” Yoongi clears his throat.
Jimin’s hearty cackle fills the air as he leans against a nearby pillar, one leg hiked up & arms folded. “Did you not find it enjoyable, my lord?”
Yoongi shakes his head vehemently, feeling flames fanning out across his cheeks. He marches over to his fallen sword to pick it up.
“Alright, then I can always bring you a copy of the third and fourth edition,” Jimin says, smiling wide and oh, Yoongi’s pulse must be spiking at the sight of that smile only because Jimin currently looks like an attractive gisaeng, right?
“Fourth edition,” Yoongi echoes weakly.
“Yes. This one is about a shy palace historian and the Minister of Finance’s eldest son—“
“Stop, stop,” Yoongi stammers, raising his sword defensively. He need /not/ imagine Kim Namjoon’s face pressed close to a fictional historian’s right now. “Fine, do as you please!”
Laughter trills in the air once more, softening the shadows on the palace grounds. Although it is already summertime, Yoongi’s blood thrums as through spring’s just bloomed in his veins.
He watches happiness relax the dancer’s painted face and grips his sword very, very tightly.
This is absurd. That Min Yun should feel so dizzy in the presence of this menace is completely ridiculous.
He has never once felt this simmering sensation around other court ladies before, so why does a man dressed as a gisaeng rile him so?
“W-Why have you dressed as a woman?”
The laughter in Jimin’s eyes dims into something more somber.
“Is... is this a pastime for you? A gross habit?” Yoongi rambles, fighting the heat from creeping up his neck. “A man should not dress as a woman, a gisaeng no less—“
“The real Lady Aeshin has eloped with her lover.”
Yoongi’s words scuttle back into his throat, leaving him open-mouthed.
Jimin drops his arms to his sides. “She is a good friend of mine from Aseowon, and we would often practice her dances for fun.”
“Still, why would she run away...”
“The man is a Sungkyunkwan aristocrat.”
Yoongi falls quiet.
“Tell me—which yangban ever married a gisaeng without falling into disgrace?” Jimin’s eyes waver with defiance. “What gisaeng is allowed to be more than a mistress?”
“Then they cannot be.”
“Hence why they would elope. Love recognizes no class boundaries.”
Yoongi disagrees, but he does not voice this. To elope is to defect. To defect is to betray one’s clan. “You understand you are playing with fire here. If word gets out that she has disappeared—”
Jimin waves a hand in the air. “It is alright. I’m only impersonating her tonight.”
Yoongi’s eyes dart left and right, checking for eavesdroppers. He doesn’t understand why he feels protective of this dancer already, but he does not quite want to see him get persecuted for helping a friend.
“After tonight, ‘Lady Aeshin’ is gone for good,” Jimin says.
“Why would you do this?” Yoongi asks in a low voice. “Why put yourself at risk just to help another?”
A soft expression crosses Jimin’s eyes. “Why do anything at all, if not for compassion? I help whoever needs me.”
Jimin would get along with Songhwa.
“So you like to feel like a saint,” Yoongi concludes.
Jimin snorts. “Ah. Well. You’d say otherwise once you find out how much I was paid for this.”
Yoongi frowns. “Paid?”
“Park Jimin, best errand boy of Hanyang!” Jimin imitates an announcement. “Will do anything for a fee.”
Yoongi emits a breath he didn’t realize he’s been holding, rolling his eyes. On second thought—Songhwa would definitely not get along with someone whose morals is as skewed as this Park Jimin’s. “You get paid to run errands.”
“It’s called a hustle, my lord. Survival tactics.”
But of course. There’s nothing money cannot buy in this land. “Most interesting. And I suppose you would flock to whoever pays you a lofty enough price and do their bidding?”
Jimin smiles. “I do odd jobs. Menial tasks, really.”
“Like a dog.”
“What?” Jimin’s face shifts.
“You pledge loyalty to whoever feeds you the way a dog follows its master,” Yoongi analyzes, clasping his hands behind his back thoughtfully. “And you like to help the needy, who are like the dregs of tea at the bottom of a cup. Indeed, like does attract like—“
Yoongi reels back, clutching his face in surprise. The sound of being slapped takes him aback more than the sting of it.
Jimin pulls his right hand back slowly, massaging his wrists. “Ah. Silly of me. How could I think a privileged aristocrat lile you could ever understand?”
“How dare you raise a hand—“
“I admit, it’s an eloquent way of ridiculing the majority of Hanyang’s population. But when you’re a bottom-feeder, you swim to catch even a dollop of sunlight. Though of course a man like you, who stands so close to the Sun, shall never understand.”
The night is so deep that darkness seems to swallow this side of the palace, but even so, Jimin’s eyes glisten fiercely.
He glowers at Yoongi, who can hear his heart thundering against his chest for all the wrong reasons.
He has upset the man. But he said nothing untruthful.
“You may feel free to think what you want. Call us small. Call us desperate,” Jimin sniffs, swallowing visibly. “And we, in turn, will call you silver spoon bastards.”
“Now if you would excuse me, /my lord/, I will now remove myself from your great presence.”
Jimin feigns a bow, but maintains his curt, icy stare, leaving Yoongi stupefied beyond words.
Only when he disappears from Yoongi’s sight does Yoongi realize he never asked why Jimin had strayed from the banquet courtyard in the first place.
Not that it matters anymore.
“I’m not as close to His Majesty as he thinks,” Yoongi grumbles under his breath later, as he busies himself with some late-night calligraphy to soothe his mind. “What a scoundrel.”
“Who? Me?” Songhwa asks across the table, busy with a blank canvas and an array of paintbrushes.
Yoongi sighs & looks out the window. “Just an insufferable person who confuses me.”
“Nothing is confusing, Orabeoni,” Songhwa says nonchalantly. “People are just complicated creatures. Either you have a lack of understanding, or something does not want to be understood by you.”
“You just made it sound even more convoluted, Songhwa.”
“You know, brother, for a Sungkyunkwan scholar you can be impossibly foolish,” Songhwa says matter-of-factly. “Why don’t you try painting to develop your intelligence?”
“Why, you little minx—“
His sister giggles softly.
Yoongi glances at the canvas Songhwa is working on, where a small orchid flower is beginning to take form. “I thought you wanted to paint Yeol.”
“This is practice. I will clear my head before diving into the object of my desire.”
Yoongi cuts his sister a glance. “Desire?”
“Yes,” Songhwa answers primly, gazing at him with a deadpan face. “Desire.”
She makes no further explanation, leaving Yoongi more baffled than before.
He looks at the painting again. “You mean to say, your painting is a manifestation of your desires.”
Songhwa nods casually.
“And you desire...” Yoongi licks his lower lip, heart rate speeding for some reason. “Yeol?”
Songhwa’s eyes flicker up to him. “Is that wrong?”
Yoongi’s eyes widen. “Is that not a”—he gulps and leans forward to lower his voice to a hush—“a crime?”
“I ask again, is it wrong?”
“It’s a crime,” Yoongi repeats dumbly, feeling even more foolish in front of his much-younger sister. It astounds him so, how he has no further defense rather than the illegality of what Songhwa is alluding to. He gulps, forcing himself to he calm.
“Are all crime true wrongs?”
“Watch your mouth. I fear for the words you speak, sister,” Yoongi cuts curtly, a similar kind of fear swelling in him, but not for his sister—for himself. “You could be branded a criminal if you daresay this to anyone aside from me.”
Songhwa’s lower lip quivers. “You wound me.”
“I do not wish you see you hurt, is all.” Yoongi reaches out to pinch his sister’s cheek. “Not my baby sister, not our Songhwa.”
Songhwa squirms from him. “If you love me, truly, then you must accept all that it is of me. Including my heart.”
Again, Yoongi is left speechless.
Songhwa is glaring at him with a headstrong, defiant gaze that looks so similar to the way someone else had looked at him, hours earlier. It sends Yoongi’s thoughts spinning, the idea that he may not be as clever as he thinks he is.
Yoongi points at her canvas. “Teach me.”
The sudden request breaks Songhwa’s heated glower. She blinks owlishly up at Yoongi, brows rising. “How to paint?”
Not /only/ how to paint, but other
....beliefs... as well. Yoongi aches to understand.
He cracks the barest of smiles. “Let me join your classes with Tutor Jeon.”
And so the slow burn begins
thanks for reading up to here for now!! any thoughts on the characters so far?
will be dropping something spicy on Patreon again soon, so stay tuned! meanwhile, here is my kofi if you like my work:
Been wanted to create the mentioned painting since the moment i read it! I hope you imagined it somewhat similar @adubu ☁︎#btsfanart#jimin
Unlike what Yoongi anticipated, Tutor Jeon is a young man—a boy really—who can’t possibly be beyond his teenage years. Despite towering over Yoongi, his twinkling round eyes & even rounder cheeks belie his youth. Rumor has it that the boy’s an art genius, hence his qualification.
“Ah, I’ve made a mistake,” Songhwa laments sullenly, shaking her head at the accidental stroke of ink smeared across her canvas. “Yeol, my sweet, would you fetch me a new canvas?”
“You can still cover it up,” Tutor Jeon says, eyes trained on the princess’ canvas. “With paint.”
“Is that so? Show me.”
“Like this.” Tutor Jeon dips his paintbrush into a palette and starts swirling until the paint matches the canvas’ original hue. “Best not waste materials.”
Standing next to them, Yeol lets out an admiring noise of approval. Songhwa eyes the tutor warily.
“I am most curious about you,” she says, dipping her own paintbrush into a jar of clear water. “How old are you?”
Tutor Jeon casts his eyes to the wooden floor of the open-air pavilion they’re sitting in. “I turned seventeen last autumn, Your Highness.”
“And your full name is?”
“Jeon Jungkook, Your Highness.”
Yoongi glances at him. “Do you perhaps have an older brother at Sungkwunkwan?”
“Yes, his name is Jeon Kihyun. I hope to soon join him after I am eligible to take the next civil state examinations.”
Yoongi nods. “Will you not pursue art?”
Jungkook shakes his head. “It does not behoove a scholar to pursue mindless passions that will not produce greatness, Your Highness. I’m grateful enough to be able to indulge in this practice in the presence of such important members of the palace. In a next life, perhaps.”
Such a well-mannered boy. Yoongi decides he likes Jungkook. “Then, feel free to tutor us to your heart’s content, while you are here. It is a royal order.”
Jungkook looks up at him with big, wet eyes, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
“Hmmpf,” Songhwa snarks.
Yoongi glances at his sister. “What?”
“Nothing, really. It merely astounds me how you men like to deprive yourselves so much to preserve some semblance of dignity,” Songhwa comments airily, busy with her paintbrush.
Jungkook blinks owlishly. “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
Songhwa pauses, and her gaze flickers from one man to the other. “Art. Embroidery. Tailoring. Is it truly that shameful to like them, as men?”
Yoongi and Jungkook exchange looks of surprise.
“I’ve seen the embroidery our Orabeoni’s handkerchiefs, and they’re lovely. Why hide?”
Yoongi answers with stubborn silence. Jungkook studies Songhwa as though she were a preacher explaining the nuances of poetry.
Finally, Yoongi remarks quietly, “We cannot simply do everything—“
“If you like something, do it. If you want something, go after it,” Songhwa says.
How naive she is. How young. Yoongi wishes he could see the world from Min Songhwa’s eyes, understand her simplistic perspective.
Their session is cut short when Hoseok appears outside the pavilion’s steps. “Your presence is being summoned, Your Highness,” he says to them.
Yoongi’s hand pauses above his... well, non-existent artwork, seeing as he’s barely made 2 strokes of black ink over his canvas. “Where to? And by who?”
Hoseok’s eyes flicker with a foreign look—uneasiness. “The Royal Council Hall, Your Highness. By the King and his ministers.”
Yoongi’s head jerks up, his pulse quickening. His father seldom calls for him. Or ever, at all.
He drops the paintbrush and scrambles to his feet right away. “Very well. Let’s go.”
Hoseok hesitates. “The Princess is being called as well.”
Songhwa points at herself. “Me? Why?”
When Hoseok offers no explanation, Yoongi all but commands gently, “Let’s make haste, Songhwa.” This must be an important call. To Jungkook, he nods in acknowledgment. “We shall continue another day.”
He does not miss the furtive glance Hoseok sends to Jungkook as they leave.
Yoongi’s father is a stout, bearded man with trembling, rough hands that complement his unstable temper. Even now, as the King’s gaze lands upon Yoongi, it’s hard to ignore his bloodshot eyes—remnants of a weak ruler who dethroned the previous king via a government coup d’état.
Yoongi does not know what it is like to love the man who bore him, or to be loved in return. To the King, they are hardly father and son, but master and servant.
It’s Crown Prince Sohyeon, sitting at his right, who settles the dull unease in Yoongi with a weary, gentle smile.
“Brother,” Sohyeon’s voice rings out loud but warm in the Council Hall, more regal than his father has ever been. “It is so good to see you. Have you been well?”
Yoongi bows his head. Next to him, kneeling on the floor, Songhwa stays quiet as a mouse.
“Your Majesty,” a raspy drawl rises from the rows and rows of court of officials standing before the king— Yoongi’s uncle, the Minister of War. “The Qing has received the invitation and has sent a reply.”
“Is that so?” A rumbling laugh bubbles from the King’s belly. “Tell us.”
A royal messenger comes forward and unrolls a parchment to read:
“The Qing Empire is pleased to attend the Royal Banquet to celebrate the Joseon King’s fortieth birthday.”
Yoongi fights off a frown. Why are they being informed of this, and how is any of this relevant to him?
“/It is with great honor and hope that the Emperor of Qing sends his most trusted envoys to forge a stronger alliance with the nation of Joseon./“
“Do you hear that, Yoongi?” the King asks, a pleased smile gracing his face. “It is time; you are old enough to choose a wife.”
A gasp escapes Songhwa, and Yoongi stifles the urge to reach out and comfort her. Dread punctures its claws into his lungs, and he struggles to phrase his next words politely. “However, Your Majesty, I—“
He pauses, realizing he has no words to better articulate any refusal.
“You are what?” Crown Prince Sohyeon prods slowly, eyes kind. “Speak, brother, and you shall be heard.”
Does it matter what he says, though? Yoongi swallows to force down the heaviness in his chest. “I...”
“I have spoiled you too much, now look at you,” says the King. “Weak.”
Yoongi lets out a slow, quiet breath, schooling his features into a look of calm. “I have not yet graduated from my studies at Sungkyunkwan, Your Majesty. I am afraid to taint the nation’s name, should the Emperor of Qing be dissatisfied with my lack of scholarly knowledge.”
Inwardly, Yoongi fights back a shudder at the mere idea of having to pick a wife. A woman to regard as his other half, to love and to bed.
He tries to fathom it, but all thoughts of women lead to one image in his mind: a court dancer mid-leap, drapes billowing around his arms.
Stroking his beard, the King shifts his gaze to Songhwa instead. “Then shall I propose the Princess’ hand in matrimony, instead?”
Songhwa lets out a faint cry of dismay, unable to conceal herself. “Father, please, I—“
“It’s either you or your brother,” says the Minister of War.
It all clicks in Yoongi’s head, then, why he and Songhwa were summoned to court. With the Crown Prince already bethrothed to the Crown Princess, the throne is left with no other pawn pieces for political maneuvering... except for Yoongi and Songhwa, children of his First Consort.
It’s almost hilarious, how not even an hour earlier he’d been so inclined to believe Songhwa’s endless optimism. To believe that he’d be free to follow his heart’s wishes. Desire is a concept he will never understand.
Yoongi clenches and unclenches his hands. “I accept.”
“Orabeoni!” Songhwa cries, but her voice falls to deaf ears in a courtroom full of powerful men only looking to serve themselves.
Yoongi’s eyes close.
/Do you see, now?/ He mentally asks. /Do you see how children of the throne will never be truly free?/
“Good,” says the King.
“That leaves our little Princess free to entertain our most treasured guests.”
Yoongi looks up, stricken.
“The Qing are avid lovers of culture and celebration,” says one of the court officials. “They’ve requested for a round of song and dance with the women of the palace.”
Songhwa inhales sharply. Yoongi’s jaw tightens.
“This banquet will be a festival,” declares the Minister of Culture.
“We open our doors to our valued neighbors,” adds the Minister of Foreign Affairs. “An exchange of cultures and practices!”
“But I cannot dance,” says Songhwa.
At this, Crown Prince Sohyeon raises a hand. A hush dampens the courtroom’s excited chatter.
“Which is why we have invited the best dancer of Joseon to personally come and teach you,” says Sohyeon.
Songhwa’s brow furrows. “Who?”
“The dancer from Surit-nal, Lady Aeshin.”
/Aeshin?/ Yoongi hears the rush of blood in his ears, and he rubs clammy hands against his robes. Didn’t Jimin say she has eloped with her lover?
Songhwa’s face brightens. “The talented Lady Aeshin?”
“She has accepted, and will be staying in the palace until the banquet.”
Yoongi’s eyes nearly bulge out of his head. He ducks his face low to hide his expression.
How? How can a vanished woman accept the palace’s summon? Unless it’s /not/ Lady Aeshin herself...
His eyes narrow. He looks up and clears his throat. “How long until then?”
So Yoongi has a month left until he marries, but until then he will devote himself to weeding out little liars who intend to deceive the throne, and more importantly, his own sister. Liars like ‘Lady Aeshin’.
Yoongi arranges his expression into a neutral one. “Understood.”
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Yoongi looks up from his scrolls of texts, most of which he’d glossed over with unreading eyes anyway.
Kim Namjoon is peering at him like he’s a formula to solve, a riddle without an answer. He’d come by the palace to visit and study with Yoongi.
They’ve only started growing closer due to them both being scholars of the academy, but already Yoongi feels at ease with the man. Unlike his arrogant father, Kim Namjoon exudes a quiet confidence in his abilities, layered with an easygoing charm.
“I am to marry in a month.”
Namjoon hums noncommittaly. “To a woman you love? My my, should I feel slighted that you’ve never shared this with me before?”
Yoongi chortles. “You speak of love like it’s easy to find. No, I will serve as a vessel to strengthen alliances with the Qing. End of the story.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
Yoongi grinds his teeth. /Outraged. Hopeless. Lower than a pig./ “I’m somewhat relieved to be useful to my king.”
Namjoom muffles a snort, shooting him a look as if to say, /That’s just pretentious./
“I am also hurt.”
Namjoon nods. “Go on.”
The thing is, Yoongi has never been a dreamer like Songhwa, nor an ambitious man like his older brother. He’s always leaned towards pragmatism. And to be fair, the court’s decision was born out of logic and necessity. So why does Yoongi feel like his wings have just been clipped?
He shrugs and opens another textbook. “I just do. But what I feel does not matter, anyway.”
Namjoon sighs, giving him a plaintive stare. “I hope the person you will love would someday teach you otherwise.”
Yoongi snorts. “I can teach myself everything I need to know.”
And so, the investigation begins.
A few days following the dramatic court announcement, Songhwa drags Yoongi out of his quarters and into the Lotus Pavilion so that he would ‘stop moping around like a widow’ or whatnot. Yoongi seizes the opportunity to ask—
“Have your lessons with Lady Aeshin begun yet?”
“Just about.” Songhwa’s eyes crinkle with merriment as she sets down her teacup. “She is to enter the palace today, after a few days’ delay to make arrangement for an extended stay. I am no dancer, so I fear she will struggle.”
Oh, he is going to struggle all right. Yoongi would make sure of that. “Would you mind if I sat in for your first lesson today?”
Songhwa gives him an odd look. “Why in the heavens’ name should you want to?”
Yoongi racks his brain for a reason. “I am interested in, uh, dancing.”
“Oh, my.” Songhwa clutches her chest, gawking at Yoongi. “Orabeoni, you haven’t even married yet but here you are, already a changed man. Color me impressed. Would you like to learn to dance, too?”
“No!” Yoongi denies. Songhwa frowns. “I mean, I would prefer to simply observe.”
She giggles and shakes her head. “No need to be so shy around me. But very well. You may join us this afternoon.”
Yoongi cracks a smile. “Marvelous.”
Afternoon could not come fast enough. By noon Yoongi’s nerves have turned into jitters, like a bucket of butterflies set free.
He’s already set a plan of action. When he sees Park Jimin—if the commissioned dancer happens to be him, that is—Yoongi will calmly walk to him and return the one thing he never should have deigned to touch in the first place: Master Kim’s unholy scriptures. Such an abomination.
And then... and then what? Yoongi tells himself he’ll improvise on the spot what to do next afterwards. The priority is to return the cursed book, and confront Jimin for crossdressing so shamelessly.
The dance lessons are to be held at the Lotus Pavilion, bridged across a pond.
Yoongi follows a few steps behind Songhwa, unable to get a word between her animated conversation with her lady-in-waiting, Yeol. The two have always been like sisters—Yoongi never would’ve imagined Songhwa would regard her as anything more.
The Lotus Pavilion comes into view.
A woman clad in a plain cream-and-brown hanbok rises as Songhwa climbs the wooden steps leading into the pavilion. With the dancer’s back to Yoongi, he can’t check for facial features.
But then Songhwa mouths something and points to Yoongi, and the dancer turns to look.
And—sure enough, Yoongi gets a glimpse of Park Jimin’s unmistakably soft face, clear and unobscured with his hair up in a bun. Yoongi would recognize those eyes anywhere, no matter how far.
To his surprise, his heart starts hammering wildly without his consent.
It beats so violently that Yoongi’s chest starts to burn, so he doubles over and spins, unwilling to attract attention or let anyone see him in such a state.
Unacceptable. He has never felt this way before. Clutching his heart, Yoongi starts running in the opposite direction.
“Oh?” He hears Songhwa’s surprised voice. “Orabeoni! Where are you going?”
Yoongi doesn’t have it in him to respond. His face is on flames, and so is his neck, his ears. He should be able to control such a sensation, but it feels so visceral, like a wildfire spread too wide.
He staggers back to his quarters, feeling dazed as though a haze has just enveloped his vision. From somewhere seemingly far away, he feels strong arms gripping him, followed by a familiar voice—Hoseok perhaps—asking if he is all right.
Yoongi nods, citing a need for some water.
Hoseok’s eyebrows are furrowed in deep concern. “I’ll ask the servants to bring you a fresh pitcher from the wells. Is there anything else you need?”
Still shaken, Yoongi drops to the floor and crawls to his low-lying wooden table. “That dancer.”
“Eh? You’re into dancers now?”
Yoongi rests his forehead on the table. He needs some time to gather his wits, be more alert. Maybe a cup of tea to calm himself, too.
Under his breath, he mutters, “After Songhwa’s lesson ends, bring that dancer to my quarters. I would speak to... her...in private.”
After Hoseok leaves, Yoongi takes out the cursed book from the inner pockets of his robes and places it on his table. Then he hugs his knees and rocks back and forth, gnawing on his nails.
He can’t keep losing his cool like this. Whereas he thought he’d be unfazed at the sight+
of Park Jimin again, he’d actually experience every other emotion under the sun but calmness. The deep pools of Jimin’s sharp gaze never fails to mesmerize.
Yoongi attributes his reaction to the fact that Jimin looks too beautiful, breaching the boundaries between man and woman.
On top of that came the wave relentless remorse and shame crashing out of nowhere, flooding Yoongi and reminding him of all the uncouth words he’d spoken to Jimin the night of Surit-nal.
Looking back, Yoongi understands how spewing such nonsense made him come across as stuck-up.
This cannot be happening. He needs some fresh air to cleanse the negativity from his troubled mind.
So Yoongi opens the windows in his quarters, closing his eyes as he lets a summer songbird soothe his inexplicable jitters.
He takes out a parchment and dips a brush in ink.
He doesn’t know why he’s doing this, but for once Yoongi doesn’t follow his logical mind. Instead he lets his gut instinct take control as he gingerly, with slow brushstrokes, spells out the hanja characters comprising “Park Jimin”.
It’s a lovely name befitting a lovely face.
“Your Highness,” Hoseok’s voice rings from outside Yoongi’s door. “Lady Aeshin is here, as requested.”
Yoongi nearly jumps out of his skin. The calligraphy brush clatters to the table as he scrambles to hide away every remnant of his writings, tidying his table.
“Let her in.”
The doors slide open, and Jimin is waved inside. His footfalls hardly make noise as he glides in, head bowed deeply to avoid eye contact with Yoongi.
“Your Highness,” Jimin greets, eyes trained on the floor.
Yoongi purses his lips, steadying his heartbeat. “Raise your head.”
Jimin’s shoulders rise, taut with tension. “Grand Prince Min Yun, I am humbled to be summoned by you. How may I be of use?”
/He is trembling/, Yoongi notices. His eyes widen. Jimin doesn’t /know who he is./
But why? Does he perhaps not recognize the timbre of Yoongi’s voice?
“I said, raise your head and look at me, Park Jimin.”
Jimin’s spine goes rigid. Yoongi almost smiles to himself. There—that should do the trick.
Slowly, as though afraid the disturb the currents moving through the very air they breathe, Jimin lifts his head.
Their eyes meet.
As soon as recognition crosses Jimin’s eyes, his face morphs into a rhapsody of shock, confusion and apprehension.
“You’re familiar,” Yoongi drawls, smirking. “Have we met before?”
“Aren’t you... a palace official?” Jimin manages.
“I am.” Yoongi smiles. “As the Grand Prince.”
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
Jimin’s dumbfounded stare is like an arrowhead piercing Yoongi’s forehead. Yoongi tells himself not to fidget under that gaze. He’s not really sure how he’s expecting Jimin to react—all he knows is he /wants/ to spur a reaction, to siphon some attention from the dancer.
“Yes, you must be thinking, ‘Oh no! I ought to beg for mercy!’ since I am of royal blood. But you need not feel too ashamed about your behavior towards me thus far,” Yoongi states. “You do not offend.”
Jimin lowers his gaze to the floor and exhales deeply. “I cannot believe it.”
“I know,” Yoongi says, sipping on his tea. “I might take half of the responsibility for the misunderstanding, since I had not clarified—“
Yoongi’s nose wrinkles. “What?”
“I cannot believe I charged you only 5 nyang,” Jimin whispers, “when it should have been 10!”
Oh. Oh no. This isn’t what Yoongi hoped the conversation would lead to. He clucks his tongue. “Insolence. This is not about your shoddy business.”
Jimin bites his lower lip in worry. “Then, if I may, why have I been summoned, Your... Highness?”
“Is it not obvious?” Yoongi asks.
Realization crosses Jimin’s eyes. “Ah. I see.”
Yoongi nods and takes another sip of tea. At least the man is quick on the uptake. “I’m glad you understand.”
“You would like to perform a dance as well,” Jimin states solemnly. “And require my guidance.”
Yoongi spits out his tea.
“I do not-“ Yoongi reaches for a handkerchief and pats down his mouth, fuming. The sheer absurdity of what this brat is suggesting! “I will not. I shall never dance, not even so much as lift a pinky to a tune. I am here to question your very presence in the palace, you fraud.”
Jimin’s face flits from open and lighthearted to wariness. He doesn’t react.
“So much for letting that gisaeng vanish.” Yoongi prides himself on being a straightforward man. “I can’t help but wonder what’s so important that you would return to reprise your role as Lady Aeshin.”
Jimin presses his lips to a thin line and looks away, a crease marring the space between his eyebrows.
Yoongi leans forward and rests his chin over his hands. “You are aware I am the only one in this palace who knows you’re a man. I could have you tried in court as we speak.”
Speaking with Park Jimin gets easier the more Yoongi reminds himself of his true purpose, and to remember not to get swept up in the man’s charisma. It’s all so simple—
“Then,” Jimin looks up at him then, eyelashes aflutter in a slow blink. “Why don’t you?”
/No, Min Yoongi. Stay strong in the face of evil distractions,/ he thinks to himself.
“I,” Yoongi says, crossing his arms. “Am exercising mercy, weighing my options. Which is why I would have you explain yourself before I make a decision.”
Jimin’s pupils waver, gaze downcast.
Finally he sighs as though in defeat and says in a modulated tone, “It’s all for the children.”
Yoongi blinks. “Have you a family to feed?”
“No, but I help out sometimes at the orphanage, where there is never enough food to go around. Repairs are always ongoing. They need me.”
“You?” Yoongi struggles to take it all in. What can a common man do to save gaggles of hungry children? “You should send a petition to the magistrate, rally for subsidies—“
“I wrote 6 letters in 2 months and have not heard back even once,” Jimin rebuts, voice growing heavy.
“When I asked for an audience with the local magistrate, I was turned away at the gates because I had not secured an appointment.” Jimin’s hands fist at the chiffon of his hanbok. “And everyone in Hanyang knows the magistrate only entertains noblemen’s concerns. Or bribes.”
Yoongi feels knots twisting in his stomach. He didn’t know. Truth be told, he doesn’t even think the King does, since appeals are so heavily regulated by the ministers. “And you genuinely believe dressing up as a woman to teach the princess how to dance will solve your crisis?”
Jimin purses his lips. “I do.”
“And what of your dignity?”
“My dignity does not depend on my manhood or appearance. Pride will not put food on the table. Only the noble folk like you can afford to believe so.” Jimin closes his eyes, voice rough as though holding back tears.
Yoongi frowns, deeply perturbed. It’s one thing to learn about corruption in the textbooks and teachings; to witness it being so deeply-rooted in Joseon’s government system is quite another story. “Allow me to help.”
Jimin looks up at him, disbelieving. “You... you would?”
“I would be inclined to.”
At the sight of Yoongi’s determined expression, the tension in Jimin’s shoulders seem to melt away, his face relaxing. “I am at your mercy. I appreciate this. Please convince the magistrate to listen—“
“So, how much do you need?”
Jimin stops. “What?”
“I can give you the money right now.” Yoongi opens a drawer that keeps his personal safe box. “How much would be enough? A hundred nyang? Two hundred? Or is it silver you need? I have more than enough to go around, take as much as you need.”
Jimin’s face turns cold. “How cruel.”
Yoongi’s hand pauses on the lid of his safe box. “Why the long face? Is it not money that you need? I would be pleased if you smile—“
“I cannot accept this.” Jimin’s chest rises & falls as though he is struggling to cast off a huge load weighing him down. “This is not the way.”
Yoongi’s frowns deepens, and he lets go of his safe box completely. An indignant wave of heat crashes through him at being rejected. “If you are so smart, then why don’t you enlighten me.”
“If I accept this money, it will feed them for a month. Maybe two.”
“And that’s good!”
“And then after that?” asks Jimin, fists trembling. “And when winter hits, where do we find our resources? Do you expect me to come crawling back at your feet, begging for scraps?”
Yoongi bristles. “That’s—“
“For now, your riches can help. But in the long-term, it would hurt.”
Yoongi stutters an exhale, feeling as though he’s just been guttered. “I do not intend to hurt.”
“Perhaps. But by giving these children a month or two of safety and happiness, only for everything to fall apart once it runs out, you’d be crushing their souls. They deserve more.”
“Aren’t you being a hypocrite to say such demeaning things to me, when you are doing the exact same?” Yoongi points out. “You’ve come to work at the palace, so no doubt my family will compensate you generously. Wouldn’t that money do the same as the money I would give you now?”
Jimin lets out a disbelieving breath, one hand coming up to wipe at his cheeks, and it strikes Yoongi that the dancer is /crying/.
The idea that Yoongi drove him to tears is enough to drive him mad. This whole situation is madness.
“You don’t understand,” Jimin mumbles.
He gazes at Yoongi with the same glittering eyes, but rather than cheekiness there is only a deep hurt. “I came here hoping to not only earn my keep, but also earn a powerful official’s trust enough to convince them to change things.” He sighs. “And here I hoped it would be you.”
Yoongi pulls back as though he’s been smacked in the face with a book, and he realizes he’s breathing hard. His chest feels so heavy, but he doesn’t know how to articulate a proper response that would save him and Jimin any further rift other than—
“All right. You may leave.”
In the dwindling dusk, as outdoor insects creep out to play and the midsummer breeze conducts a harmony of rustling leaves, Yoongi hurries out of his personal quarters and heads towards the Crown Prince’s residence hall.
“I request an audience with the Crown Prince,” he brusquely tells the eunuch standing alert outside his elder brother’s quarters.
“My lord, it is getting late—“
“I request an audience,” Yoongi’s voice lowers in pitch, “with my brother. Urgently.”
The eunuch shrinks back.
Yoongi’s presence is announced outside the Crown Prince’s quarters, and as soon as the affirmative reply is given, he doesn’t wait for the servants to open the wooden doors to welcome his entrance. Yoongi bounds right in.
His brother looks up wearily from his work table.
When his gaze falls on Yoongi, however, the creases lining his eyes seem to fall away, replaced by crinkles of a warm smile. “Yoongi-yah. How rare it is to be visited by you these days.”
Yoongi sinks to his knees on the floor. “Brother. Please allow me a favour.”
“What is it?”
“I would like to send a team headed by Chief Commander Jung Hoseok to investigate the Magistrate of Hanyang’s past archives. And I would personally monitor the record of transactions at the town hall.”
Prince Sohyeon eyes him, intrigued. “This is so sudden. Whatever for?”
Yoongi bites his lower lip. “I... received word of foul play going on among the local magistrates. Please grant us a permit to launch an investigation.”
“You have never been interested in politics, dear brother,” Crown Prince Sohyeon states. “Why now?”
“Because it is wrong.”
Prince Sohyeon’s eyes flash with something thoughtful. “You surprise me, brother, but I must say I do feel proud. However, we should take care to remember that the local Magistrate is brother to the Minister of Agriculture. To launch a sudden interrogation is rather dangerous.”
Yoongi came here fully aware of this, but he’s not one to budge easily. “Please allow us a permit for a general investigation of all local town halls then, to be fair.”
Crown Prince Sohyeon’s mouth curves up. He stands and walks over to where Yoongi is kneeling. “Rise, brother.”
Yoongi obliges, and Prince Sohyeon pats his shoulder. For a moment they’re teenagers again, racing to get the better bow-and-arrow to practice archery on a summer’s day, not a cloud of worry in sight.
“How about this—beat me in a round of duel, and I’ll consider your request.”
It’s a layered message—between the two, Yoongi has always been the better fighter, being more grounded and light-footed. Crown Prince Sohyeon’s eyes twinkle knowingly, and Yoongi grins.
“Ah, finally a glimpse of that gummy smile.”
Yoongi snorts. “You better not go easy on me.”
They stand face-to-face at one of the palace’s small, private courtyards, swords unsheathed. The only person invited to oversee their match is Hoseok and a royal nurse in case any of the brother accidentally get nicked. Not that any of their duels have ever been life-threatening.
At Hoseok’s signal, Prince Sohyeon parries, dashing forward with a small grunt. Yoongi swerves left to avoid it, then spins around while raising his sword.
Just as he’s about to yank the steel downwards, his brother turns to block the attack. Their blades clash with a /zing/.
“You’ve improved leaps and bounds,” Yoongi comments with a huft, and his older brother winks at him. The audacity.
“I’ve been practicing.”
Prince Sohyeon pulls back and swipes at Yoongi’s ankles. He avoids the blow with a timely hop.
“Seriously, hyung-nim? Old trick.”
Prince Sohyeon chuckles. “Have mercy on your old-fashioned elders.” He staggers back to regain balance, but Yoongi is faster and manages to catch the sleeve of his older brother’s robes.
“Please,” he teases. “You are barely three years older than me.”
“Ah, to be young again!”
Yoongi rolls his eyes, but keeps pace with his brother, whose cheeks are flushed with effort. Every time their swords meet, a clang of collision fills the night air.
“Honestly, I feared you’d come to ask me to call off your betrothal,” Prince Sohyeon quips, ducking quickly.
The mention of the Qing envoys’ looming visit dampens Yoongi’s adrenaline, and he makes a face while parrying. “It is my duty.”
“I will make sure to help you choose a suitable wife,” says the Crown Prince.
/Wife./ The word sends Yoongi’s stomach churning for some reason.
It’s odd, really, that he should feel averse to finding a wife, as though there are other options for a partner to a prince such as he. A wife would be good and obedient, unlike a stubborn, loudmouthed brat—
Yoongi gets so lost in his thoughts he loses grips of his surroundings.
So it’s with a belated cry that he crumples to the ground, after the Crown Prince’s sword swings too near his right eye, creating a gash that sends blood spurting down half of his face.
“Yoongi-yah!” Prince Sohyeon screams.
“Highness!” comes Hoseok’s panicked cry.
Pain explodes from his forehead to just beneath his eyeline, and Yoongi moans on the ground as he clutches his eyes. He can’t feel his eyelids. Only the courtyard gravel against his face. Footsteps rush to him.
“Hurry, take him to the infirmary,” the Crown Prince barks. “Now!”
Yoongi moans as the excruciating pain magnifies twofold as he is deposited onto a makeshift stretcher. The standby royal nurse presses some kind of fabric against his face and he bites back a yell.
From a seemingly far distance, he hears his older brother’s frantic apologies.
Yoongi cracks an eye open and is gratified to find the Crown Prince’s blurred face hovering above his. He grasps around to grip his brother’s hand. “Quit apologizing. You’re noisy.”
“Just make sure to act upon your words. I won, by the way. Nicked your robes first.”
The Crown Prince lets out a muffled sob. “You’re still as stubborn as ever.”
Yoongi waves him off without another word, too overwhelmed by the wave after wave of pain rolling through one side of his face. As he is carried to the infirmary, he thinks—
Jimin better be proud him.
—tbc! Thank you for staying with me for another night of fun!! The next update is gonna be ehehehe anyway, good night!
Here’s my ko-fi: it’s my birthday this week so I’m saving up to buy party + food stuff. Help me out?
The painful ordeal of being wounded is amplified in the waking hours, so as soon as Yoongi is placed on the infirmary bed, the royal physician feeds him a dark, bitter liquid that makes him drowsy within minutes. Soon numbness overtakes his body, and then deep sleep.
Over the next 2 days he slips in and out of consciousness, waking for hardly an hour’s worth of a meal before he is fed the same medicine to ensure that he would not have to endure the worst of the pain.
The next time Yoongi crashes into wakefulness, his eye has been bandaged.
He reaches up to skim light fingers over the bandages protecting his slightly sore wound.
Yoongi groans and pushes himself up to a sitting position, disoriented. “Who’s there?”
The voice outside his quarters answers, “It’s me, Chief Commander Jung Hoseok.”
Yoongi throws back the blanket from his body and groggily staggers to his sitting table, where he usually stays when receiving guests. “You may enter.”
The chief guard enters soundlessly, face a mask of concern. “Yoongi hyung.” Hoseok lowers himself on the floor. “How are you?”
Yoongi scrunches his right cheek & winces at the dull throb that that one move sends through his healing gash. “I’ve been better. Have you come to only inquire after my health?”
A small, reassuring smile paints the chief guard’s face. “I’ve come to bring you the archives, too.”
Hoseok gestures to one corner of Yoongi’s quarters, at a low-lying table stacked with books and scrolls. “The Crown Prince pushed for an official investigation of the local magistrate’s office yesterday. We confiscated most of the tampered records for your perusal.”
A jolt rolls through Yoongi, and he motions for Hoseok to bring the records closer to him. Though he has no lack of faith in his brother’s judgment, it’s still a wonder that the Crown Prince managed to issue an order against the magistrate, who is closely linked to the court.
“I trust this is everything your squad has sequestered in the past two days?” he says, surveying the thick ledgers coolly. Some of these are thicker than his own scholarly texts. How much corruption runs amok below the court’s nose?
Hoseok nods. “We managed the best we could.”
Yoongi hums in approval. “Well done. I will see to these records now. You may leave.”
Hoseok makes a move to leave, but hesitates by the door. “Your Highness, pardon if I ask but...”
“But?” Yoong glances up from the texts.
“Is there any reason behind this move?” Hoseok turns.
Yoongi purses his lips. “Why do you ask?”
“I worry. You’ve been safe all these years because you’ve never expressed interest in affairs of the state, but now I fear you might make yourself some enemies in—“
“And that’s the problem, isn’t it?” Yoongi’s nostrils flare. “Apathy.”
Hoseok makes no comment, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
“My entire life I’ve done nothing but cruise by, ignorant of the people’s pain.” A memory of Jimin’s tear-streaked, indignant face reconstructs itself in Yoongi’s mind. “But perhaps now I’m done being passive.”
Hoseok bites his lower lip, contemplating, until he finally nods. “I will always support you. But please, be careful. The palace is writhing with venomous snakes.”
Yoongi smiles, warmed. “You have nothing to be afraid of, or for. To most, I’m nothing but a spoiled grand prince.”
After Hosoek takes his leave, Yoongi wastes no time in going through every last one of thr confiscated archives. What he finds is atrocious: the local Magistrate Choi has been accepting bribes that favor only the yangban class, often at the expense of poor farmers and merchants.
Promises of spared land are not kept; to the detriment of these poor farmers, their lands get stolen to build bigger inns and taverns owned by members of the Joseon aristocracy. Local requests for funding are also consistently ignored or declined.
It makes Yoongi’s blood boil.
Late last year, a differnet orphanage south of Hanyang was shut down due to insufficient resources. The children who had been sheltered there were consequently sold into slavery.
Yoongi’s breath catches. Jimin must have known about this and was trying to avoid the same fate.
This is the cry of the common folk. Each page of the confiscated records illustrate the depth of a nation’s grief, marked by gaping wounds, every last one covered by the vibrant colors and flourishing lifestyles of the upper class.
It sickens Yoongi.
For the next 3 days, armed with parchment and brush, he busies himself writing appeals to the King for a re-inspection of the Royal Treasury.
Since the title of Grand Prince grants him little to no power, he writes another request to the Crown Prince to remove the magistrate.
On the third day, when Yoongi is deemed recovered enough to take short outdoor strolls, Namjoon visits him at the Lotus Pavilion.
“Quite the uproar you’re causing these says,” he comments, smiling at the decorative flower floating on his tea.
Yoongi shrugs. “It’s long overdue.”
“Did you perhaps experience some grand epiphany to do as such?”
Yoongi bites off a bit of yakgwa and munches thoughtfully. “Rather than some wondrous epiphany, one might say I’ve been brutally slapped into acknowledging reality.”
The midsummer breeze is warm and pleasant.
Yoongi thinks about how only aristocrats and royalty like himself are able to enjoy taking leisurely walks during pleasant weather like this without a worry in tow. “Truth be told, it was a court dancer who talked some sense into me.”
Namjoon’s eyebrows jump. “A court dancer?”
Yoongi nods. “Songhwa’s new teacher for the upcoming banquet is quite a fiesty one.” And can hold himself in a swift swordfight, too. “He— she made me realize how unfair it is that I should get to sleep in warm covers at night, while others who suffer have no homes to return to.”
Namjoon nods, and takes a sip of tea. “My father has grown wary of you.”
Yoongi cuts him a glance. “The Minister of Finance?”
“You do know that a re-inspection of the Royal Treasury means several weeks’ worth of work for him? Your actions put his reputation on the line.”
Yoongi traces the ring of his teacup. “And you? Will you someday grow to abhor me?”
“I have nothing against you, my friend.” Namjoon smiles, cheeks dimpling. “In fact—and dare I say it—I believe we’re headed the right way. You ought to thank that court dancer, on my behalf.”
Yoongi grunts. He already has a thank-you gift in order, even with or without Namjoon’s behalf. He’s not so callous as to be ungrateful.
“Does it hurt?” Namjoon points at his own right eye, and Yoongi feels himself grow self-conscious.
“Not anymore. It’s healed fairy well.”
Only a scar remains. Yoongi lifts a hand and traces its ridges. He’s not blind—reflections in mirrors tell him he’s unsightly, and the evasive reactions of court servants he crosses paths with reaffirm so. Yoongi has never been drop-dead handsome, but now he feels... beastly.
/It was worth it,/ he tries to convince himself now, looking into a mirror in the comforts of his own quarters. No point crying over spilled milk or wallowing in self-pity, not when there is still so much work to do. He turns to his worktable just as a voice outside announces:
“My lord, Her Highness, Princess Songhwa, is here to visit you.”
Yoongi feels himself smiling. He has not seen his sister since getting injured. “Let her in.”
The wooden doors part, and Songhwa bumbles in, skirts lifted to make running easier. Sprightly as usual.
A low chuckle ripples from Yoongi’s throat as his sister crashes to the floor before him, grinning like a loon.
“Awake for so many days and nobody bothered to inform me!” she laments out loud, pouting. “Though I’m relieved you look healthy.” She makes no comment on the scar.
Yoongi smiles. “Some of us have things to do apart from paint and pine away for a lover.”
Songhwa shushes him. “If you keep teasing me so, I would not tell you what I came here for.”
Yoongi arches one eyebrow. “Oh?”
Beaming, Songhwa motions to the court ladies. “Send her in.”
For the second time, the wooden doors open once more, and in a sweep of soft satins and chiffon, Jimin walks into Yoongi’s quarters, head bowed.
“Lady Aeshin has expressed her request to meet you,” Songhwa says. “And since I adore her dearly, I’ve decided to bring her along.”
Yoongi’s heartbeat accelerates as he studies the figure in pure white, folding into a graceful bow before him.
Jimin keeps his eyes steadfastly pinned to the floor as though Yoongi might bite should their eyes meet.
“It’s your first time meeting, is it not?” Songhwa asks, giddy.
Yoongi clears his throat and has to physically rip his gaze away from the court dancer. Through the rapid hammering in his chest he faintly hears himself reply, “Perhaps?”
Songhwa rests a hand on Jimin’s shoulder. “Go ahead. Tell him. Our orabeoni is kind and patient.”
“My deepest gratitude,” Jimin whispers, drastically different compared to the last time they met. “For the Grand Prince’s... consideration.”
Yoongi chews on his lower lip. He turns his attention to his sister. “Songhwa, would you paint with me today?”
“I have no materials now.”
“Then go fetch them. It is a royal order.”
Songhwa sends him an odd look, but complies anyway. “Orabeoni, you’re weird. If you wanted to be alone with Lady Aeshin, you could’ve just said so.”
Yoongi fights back a wheeze as he watches her go. That went well.
As soon as the doors close, a thick veil of silence falls between him and the court dancer kneeling before him. Yoongi licks his lips and says, “If you have something to say, raise your head and speak it with dignity. I would be loathe to have a conversation with you like this.”
Gingerly, Jimin unfolds himself into a proper sitting position, both legs tucked beneath him. Yoongi frowns at the way he still keeps his head ducked low.
“Lift your head and look me in the eye.”
“I am ashamed, Your Highness,” Jimin speaks lowly. “I have been harsh in my words.”
Yoongi sighs softly. “Look at me, Jimin. Do not be ashamed.”
At the mention of his name, Jimin looks up on reflex. When his eyes fall on the scar marring Yoongi’s face, a grave look passes his expression.
Yoongi smiles bitterly. “Ugly, I know. You must find me abhorrent.”
“What- h-how..?” Jimin splutters, eyes wide. His fingers twitch, as though he’s repressing himself from trying to reach for something.
“My brother said he’d agree to launch an investigation only if I could win against him in a sword duel.”
Jimin falls silent, dark gaze heavy.
Yoongi can’t bear it, the thick tension weighing down on this wretched conversation. He looks away. “Yes, I am abhorrent indeed—“
Yoongi’s gaze slides back to Jimin, now looking back at him with renewed ferocity. “I do not find it ugly at all, Your Highness. Far from it.”
Hope. It blooms in Yoongi like a sprout, hoping to grasp for whatever sliver of light it might find. He looks at Jimin and almost prays he’d be one.
“It is this scar that gave hope to small people like me.” Jimin looks down, eyes red. “The orphanage has been granted funding.”
Jimin wrings the hem of his skirt. “I know I have treated you with disrespect, but I could never find anyone who helps others ugly.”
His eyes flicker up to Yoongi’s, full of an earnest sincerity that sends a shudder down Yoongi’s spine. “That scar is honorable. Wear it proudly.”
Yoongi blinks and only then realizes there’s a teardrop falling on his robes. “You are the first to say so.”
Everyone else in the palace had either looked at him in disgust or refused to mention the existence of the scar at all. For it to be called /honorable/ is something else.
He looks at Jimin, whose eyes are alight with a soft twinkle. “I should thank you, really.”
Jimin shakes his head vehemently, handings flying in the air in denial. “I’ve done nothing but complain to you. If anything, I am grateful. And sorry. Please accept my deepest apologies.”
“And I’ve done nothing but continuously belittle you,” Yoongi says, then halts. Hesitation creeps up to him, and he scratches the back of his head. “I, uh... I’m also...”
Another pregnant pause follows, with his hands floundering in the air. “You should know that I also feel...”
Oh, no. This is terrible. Yoongi has never before had to apologize for anything before, nor has he wished to. The words are stuck in his throat like fish bones, scratchy and brittle. “I want you to know that I—“
“Are you.. trying to apologize?” Jimin says, breaking into a laugh.
Yoongi dips his head, face hot as Jimin’s quiet chuckles fill his room.
“How about I guide you, my lord? Dancing is not the only thing I teach,” Jimin offers. “Say it with me: I.”
“I,” Yoongi mumbles.
“Sorry. It’s simple.”
“I am...” Yoongi gulps. “I am...”
Jimin nods expectantly. “Yes?”
“I am going to focusonworknow, so youarefreetogo,” Yoongi grits out in a slurred rush, wishing to jump into a well and never crawl out again.
Jimin bursts into another round of tinkling laughter, and Yoongi wants to fling himself off a mountain.
Despite the deep embarrassment, however, Yoongi cannot help but desperately watch Jimin’s small face, relaxed and carefree. Something about his laugh makes Yoongi feel as though he’s been made new—a slow, gentle rebirth.
“A fair first try,” Jimin remarks, wiping tears of joy.
And Yoongi— well, Yoongi can only force himself to smile through the mortification. “What a lot of nerve you have, goading me.”
“You are fun to tease, my lord.”
Still laughing, Jimin barely hears it. “I’m sorry— what?”
“Min Yoongi. That is my birth name.”
At once, all traces of laughter melt away from Jimin’s face, and he stares at Yoongi with a look of soft surprise.
Yoongi balls his hands into small, trembling fists. “You may call me by my birth name, when we are alone.”
He feels like a feather, held aloft by fickle winds.
Jimin breathes, “Oh.”
Yoongi nods once, and opens his mouth to elaborate more when the muted thumping of approaching footsteps echo through the outer halls. The doors slam open.
“Orabeoni, here I am!” Songhwa bursts in, carrying a vast array of art materials.
“I’ve brought an extra canvas for you and— oh?” Songhwa looks from Yoongi to Jimin, who has returned to bowing low on the floor. “Why is your face so red, brother?”
Yoongi clears his throat and rubs a palm over his face. “The heat has been unbearable.”
Songhwa laughs. “Right.”
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
The arrow fizzes through the air and lands an inch away from the red ring, center of the target.
Yoongi nods proudly and applauds. “Good shot. You have improved.”
Crown Prince Sohyeon surveys his handiwork with a strict eye, unsmiling. “Your turn.”
“Brother, I came to watch—“
“No. Your turn.” Without a word, the Crown Prince gestures for Yoongi to pick up a spare bow and arrow. “I want you to prove your vision is in full health, as you have been stubbornly telling me.”
Yoongi softens—his brother must be worried that the scar affected his eyesight.
“You worry for nothing,” Yoongi mutters, grabbing a bow and taking his place beside his brother on the archery range.
Sinking into a stable stance, he nocks the arrow snug against the bowstring, pulls tight, and releases.
The arrow wedges itself into the center of the target.
When Yoongi turns, he’s met with a smiling older brother, hands clasped at his back.
“Very well. Though you didn’t have to show off,” Crown Prince Sohyeon says, eyes brighter than a moment before. “You wound my pride as an archer.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “You asked.”
“I would have you join me,” the Crown Prince states, “seeing as you are already carrying the bow.”
“Is that a royal command?”
“No.” Prince Sohyeon’s eyes flicker to Yoongi, carrying a quiet plea. “It is a request from one brother to another.”
And how to refuse? Yoongi nods.
He remains by his brother’s side as they train together, like they often used to during their adolescent years. Earlier that morning a palace messenger relayed an invitation for Yoongi to join the Crown Prince at the archery range—their first meeting since the incident.
Like everyone in the court, Crown Prince Sohyeon did not acknowledge the scar marking down Yoongi’s face, though the evident dismay in his eyes betrayed his thoughts. Yoongi had to force himself not to look away in shame.
/Wear it proudly/, Jimin had said.
And so Yoongi tries.
Jimin. The dancer’s name sparks off a myriad of restless thoughts in Yoongi, making him feel like little worms are wriggling inside his skull. Jimin the conman. Jimin the dancer. Jimin the kind-hearted helper of orphanages. Jimin whom Yoongi has revealed his birth name to.
The last fact makes Yoongi’s neck burn with a mixture of shame and... and something else, an almost excitable sensation Yoongi is unable to name, and in his lack of focus he accidentally sends an arrow off-course.
An range servant screams in fright as it lands next to his feet.
Crown Prince Sohyeon turns to him, eyebrows raised. “Should I start worrying about you trying to off one of my men?”
Yoongi shakes his head vehemently. “It was a mistake. I apologize.”
His brother snorts. “A distracted one, it seems. What troubles your sharp mind?”
Yoongi takes a deep breath, nocking another arrow in an attempt to compensate. This time, it lands true. “Hyung-nim. Have you ever”—he clears his throat, choking back on the words—“considered giving your birth name to palace outsiders?”
The Crown Prince’s gaze darts to him, accidentally setting his arrow loose, too. Another range servant cries out in fear as the arrow whizzes inches away from his thigh.
“What a dangerous thought to entertain, Yun. Of course not. Not even palace officials know. Only royals do.”
Yoongi makes a face.
“Why?” prods the Crown Prince, suspicion sharpening his eyes. “Is there any gisaengs who have found out? Tell me now, and I assure you she will be dealt with swiftly.”
Yoongi’s heart jolts. “Nobody at all. I might have whispered it to a lonely flower.”
“A lonely flower.”
“I was taking a stroll in the gardens with Songhwa when we came upon a single lotus bloom,” said Yoongi. “It looked so lovely that she and I had taken a liking to it right away. I whispered my name in secret.”
The Crown Prince stares at him for a long moment.
Yoongi licks his bottom lip and nocks one more arrow, taking aim at the target with clammy hands. But then his elder brother bursts into a laugh, startling Yoongi.
The servants scatter as the arrow sails through the air and disturbs a flock of birds flying near the palace roofs.
“How funny your imagination is, Yun.” Shaking his head, Prince Sohyeon readies his stance as he prepares to shoot another arrow. “I hope that lotus cups your name tight in its soft petals.”
Yoongi’s shoulders slump in relief. Crisis avoided. Perhaps he should never speak again.
“The ministers are fuming, you know,” the Crown Prince says in a quieter voice after an extended moment of silence. “They are upset with how the court proceedings are currently being handled.”
Yoongi’s eyes dart to his brother. “Will they exile me?” he asks half-jokingly.
His elder brother scrunches his nose. “They do not know the appeals came from you. After all, the signs and stamps are sourced from the Crown Prince’s hall, not yours.”
But of course. In reality, Min Yoongi’s title holds as much weight as a water droplet in a rushing river.
But that means... “They believe it was all your doing,” Yoongi deduces.
The Crown Prince’s lips form a grim line. “The Minister of War is not taking too kindly to it.”
“My uncle?” Yoongi says.
“He believes your suggestions ‘make things difficult’,” elaborates Prince Sohyeon.
“Well, I would suppose a fair and transparent system certainly makes accepting bribes harder to conceal,” Yoongi grumbles.
Prince Sohyeon cuts him a pained look. “I agree. However, your uncle is an influential figure. I would be wary of incurring the Yeoheung Min clan’s wrath.”
“My uncle may be the Minister of War, but he serves the King, and by extension he serves you,” Yoongi articulates. “It would do him no favor to go against the wishes of the throne.”
Crown Prince Sohyeon forces a smile and pats Yoongi’s shoulder. “I do hope you are right.”
By the time they retire from training, it is late afternoon, when the worst of the sun’s heat has dwindled into a pleasant glow. Songhwa’s lessons at the Lotus Pavilion should have concluded at this time.
Yoongi wonders if Jimin stays in the palace.
There have been instances of previous teachers being granted a period of stay in the palace, if they come from distant provinces. Yoongi realizes he doesn’t even know where Jimin lives, or what he does apart from lending a helping hand to the orphanage, or anything about him.
Only when the familiar stone steps leading towards the royal gardens loom up to Yoongi’s line of vision does he realize how his feet have been carrying him in this direction without his conscious decision.
“Get a hold of yourself,” he mutters, then pauses at the sound of voices.
“Come on,” a croaky male voice says in a taunting tone, “you’re a gisaeng, aren’t you?”
“Come play with us tonight,” another gruff one says. “Are you not already finished with your duties today?”
“Leave me be, I ask,” a familiar, determined voice drawls. Yoongi tenses.
He turns a corner, barely hidden from view by a tall bush. The sweet thrill the courses through Yoongi upon recognizing the court dancer’s voice is quickly replaced by a tightness in his belly when he realizes Jimin is surrounded by three palace guards with leering, feral grins.
One of the palace guards turns to his comrade. “This bitch is a stubborn one.”
“Indeed.” The once with a gruff voice spits at the ground by his feet. “We ought to teach this low-born a lesson to put her back in her place.”
Yoongi grits his teeth, watching Jimin’s eyes narrow.
As the guards bicker, he spots the exactly moment Jimin reaches for a thin, paper fan in his hanbok sleeve.
Yoongi’s mind arrives to one conclusion—if Jimin fights back, a ruckus would undoubtedly ensue, leading to an investigation that could possibly reveal his true identity.
Confucius once cited, “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”
The odds are not in Jimin’s favor. To meet the goal of preserving his lie, violence should be avoided.
And so Yoongi marches right into the conversation.
Just as Jimin is about to wave his deadly-as-a-dagger fan out in the open, Yoongi steps into the space between him and the palace guards. He grabs Jimin’s right wrist and shakes his head almost imperceptibly.
At once, the 3 men resume stiff stances and bow low. “Your Highness.”
“A little bird was singing about three cats toying with a mouse in the gardens,” Yoongi drawls lightly, “so I have come to break their little game.”
The guards’ eyes widen, kept pinned steadfastly to the earth. “My lord, this gisaeng is—“
“Mine,” Yoongi cuts, voice roughening.
A terse silence, punctured only by the occasional rustle of bushes, ensues. Yoongi allows himself a short moment of satisfaction to bask in the three young men’s shock and shame.
Behind him, Jimin lets out a huff of disbelief and tugs his wrist away, but Yoongi holds on.
“This court dancer is now property of the Grand Prince Min Yun, and anybody who dares lay a finger on her head will have to answer to me or risk punishment,” Yoongi declares, dropping his voice an octave as he stares the guards down. “Understood?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
Yoongi nods once. “Very well. You may leave. Now you,” he glances back at Jimin, “follow.”
Without another word, he gently pulls the dancer along in the direction of his quarters, feeling shaken himself. He has never done this—out in the open, with several bearing witness.
Min Yoongi doesn’t think he’s cut out for heroic acts at all, but he can’t just ignore a man in trouble, either.
As soon as the doors close behind them, Jimin yanks his hand out of Yoongi’s grasp, rubbing his wrist with a hiss.
“Does it hurt?” asks Yoongi.
“Then why do you look so upset?” Yoongi asks. “Is it the guards? Have they been harrassing you all day? I should have a word with Hoseok—“
“No. It is not them who tried to claim me as property,” Jimin says, cradling his elbows close to his body. “I am not yours to own.”
Yoongi stands still. “Is that what bothers you so? Such a simple turn of phrase—“
“Perhaps you believe gisaengs are playthings to be owned,” Jimin explains calmly, “but I hope you would remember I am not one, and that even so, women are not objects to be treated like property.”
When he speaks like that, he almost sounds like a certain someone very dear to Yoongi. He thinks back to the little things Songhwa says and sighs slowly. “That is fair. However, had I not stepped in, they could have found out your identity. I’m only trying to help.”
“And I suppose you expect a thank-you in return for saving me?” Jimin challenges, one eyebrow arched.
“I was not saving you.”
“I was saving /them/,” Yoongi says nonchalantly, “from your wrath. Do you think people would believe a gisaeng could disarm 3 guards?”
Following his mild surprise, Jimin’s mouth lifts in an almost-smile. “That is a very backhanded way of wording a compliment on my fighting skills, but I shall take it.”
“And I, uh,” Yoongi crosses his arms and tries not to stomp his feet, “I will try to keep your words in mind.”
All of a sudden, the air in Yoongi’s personal quarters seems too thin, making it hard to breathe. He looks down at his socked feet, pointedly ignoring Jimin’s weighted gaze.
“Why do you help me?” Jimin asks, voice barely louder than a mewl. “There is nothing I’ve done for you.”
“That is what you think,” Yoongi says. “But Confucius teaches that when one sees a good person, one should aspire to become like them. And I... despite us getting off on the wrong foot, I would believe you are a good person, Park Jimin. I see you.”
Jimin inhales audibly.
Yoongi purses his lips and steps forward to close the meter’s gap between them.
Then Jimin says, “You are not just saying empty flattery in order to get a discount on Master Kim’s next novel, are you?”
A slow smile spreads across the court dancer’s face.
“Good, because I am still planning to keep the price at 10 nyang.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes, parting his lips to make another pointed remark, then freezes when he feels the soft, warm pads of Jimin’s fingertips brushing lightly against his claw-shaped scar.
Breath flees him.
Any other person, Yoongi would have shoved off and reprimanded harshly for daring to touch the body of a royal family member.
But as Jimin’s index fingertip slowly traces down his eyebrow to his eyelid, Yoongi feels his stomach pull at his strength, and his eyes fall closed.
Jimin’s soft tenor washes into his ears, a soft lyric rather than a question. “Does it hurt?”
Something reverberates in the depths of Yoongi’s chest, a burning ache that sends his blood roaring.
This is wrong. Jimin is a man.
And mistakes always hurt.
“Yes,” Yoongi murmurs.
“Ah.” Immediately the warm fingers resting against Yoongi’s cheek withdraws, leaving only cool air where Jimin’s hand had been. “My apologies. I should watch my behavior.”
Yoongi’s eyes snap open. He stalks back to his table and sits, partly for stability. “Yes. You should.”
“And I should turn in for the day,” Jimin says faintly, as though waking from a shaman’s incantation.
The idea of resting reminds Yoongi—
“Yes, my lord?”
“Do you stay in the palace?”
Jimin pauses by the door. “Yes. I am not to leave until I’ve done all lessons.”
“Where do you stay? With the court maids?” Worry fills Yoongi—how is Jimin supposed to keep a secret surrounded by so many others who could discover him at any time?
“I’ve been provided a spare room at the end of the servants’ wing, my lord.”
Yoongi nods, a new proposition forming in his mind. Sure, Jimin might be safe at night, but what about daytime? To avoid further situations like the one with the guards today, it seems like there will be absolutely no other choice but to keep Jimin near him. Unfortunately.
“And what do you do after Songhwa’s classes?”
“I...” Jimin hesitates. “I try to make myself as invisible as possible.
“Then come be invisible with me.”
Jimin pauses, blinking as though struggling to believe what he just heard.
“After your lessons, come here,” drawls Yoongi.
“You may spend your afternoons here in my quarters, where I can guarantee you will not be disturbed without my permission. Including myself. I will not bother you, so do as you please.”
Jimin stares at him, dumbstruck.
Yoongi smiles. “Let me be your safe space, little crane.”
“But... but why?” gapes the dancer, eyes rounder than coins.
“Think about it. I am the only person in this palace who knows who you truly are.” Yoongi sits back and regards Jimin like a merchant he’s bargaining with. “When you are with me, you need not pretend to be a gisaeng.”
He can see it—the temptation in Jimin’s eyes. “How about it? Do we have a deal?”
Jimin seems to think about it, lips pursed. “A deal. What would you expect from me then?”
“Why, of course you, uh”—Yoongi racks his brain for the next best reason—“you would be my painting model.”
Jimin blanches, face wrinkling. “That is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“I happen to be a dedicated painter,” Yoongi fibs through his teeth, thankful for his ability to make lies sound like facts. “And I have been searching far and wide for an appropriate anatomy model.”
(Min Yoongi has never painted a leaf in his life.)
At this point, desperation starts to grow inside of Yoongi like a slow-spreading plague. “It’s a mutually beneficial deal, I tell you. I might throw in that if you come every afternoon, you can taste royal cooking.”
Jimin’s eyes glint. “With dessert?”
“That sounds a lot like bribery.” Jimin turns his nose up in the air, crossing his arms. “Do I strike you as a pushover? Do I seem that easy to you?”
“I believe the royal chef has been preparing meat for meals everyday...”
“Never mind. Perhaps I /do/ have time,” Jimin barks.
“Although you could have just said ‘I am lonely and in need of a good friend so I don’t talk to walls’ and it would be fine, but I respect your choices.”
This uncouth, insolent man.
Yoongi bites back a fool’s grin. “Then I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. You may leave.”
to be continued!
also hehe it’s my birthday now! *noot nooot noises* the fact that support for PoT is at an all-time high is such a lovey gift, so thanks for reading!!
if you’d like to buy me a kofi and support my work, link below~
Weeping fondly at this incredibly lovely art of court dancer Jimin Thank you so much, @cat⁷ 🍋
Yoongi can’t stop pacing.
It’s already an hour past the usual time Songhwa’s dance lessons should have ended, and still there is no sight of the enigmatic Lady Aeshin anywhere around his personal grounds.
To think that he’d delayed eating his lunch in order to share with Jimin.
Perhaps food hadn’t been enough of a collateral to win over the court dancer’s companionship. Truth be told, Yoongi himself doesn’t understand why he craves Jimin’s presence the way dry earth craves rain, yet here he is.
He pauses. What if Jimin was just giving false promises?
Yoongi shakes his head. Impossible. A mere court dancer would never blatantly deceive a prince like him...
...except, Jimin already has before, on more than one occasion. How could Yoongi have given his trust so freely, so willingly?
He looks out his window and sighs, wistful.
Another horrific throught strikes him. What if Jimin is in trouble right now? What if, by accident, his secret has been revealed, causing him to be apprehended?
Yoongi worries his lower lip. The thought of more palace guards leering at Jimin sends him scrambling for the door.
Yoongi yanks back the wooden doors, hastily slipping socked feet into his shoes without even adjusting the ribbon securing the gat over his head. He hurries out to the small yard outside his quarters, but just as he turns, a flash of white and scarlet chiffon enters his vision.
Jimin’s unmistakable clothes.
Yoongi halts in his tracks, heart hammering with two and five and nine different emotions at once. Then he scampers back to his personal quarters, leaving his shoes out haphazardly by the door.
He ignores the bewildered looks his servants exchange.
Hoping Jimin hadn’t caught him bumbling about outside, Yoongi rushes to sit at his designated cushion, behind his meal tables. He takes deep breaths to gather his wits about him, adjusting the folds of his robes, already expecting—
“Your Highness, Lady Aeshin has come to visit.”
“Let him—“ Yoongi muffles the wicked thin squeak that leaves his throat. What in the ten hells’ name?
Licking over his suddenly too-dry mouth, Yoongi tries again, this time in a more modulated manner. “Allow him inside.”
The doors part, and Jimin sweeps inside, hanbok rustling.
Yoongi raises his chin, gaze averted. “You are late.”
“And you must remember to word yourself more carefully.” Jimin’s quiet voice is laced thick with concern.
Yoongi’s eyes dart to the dancer. “Is that a threat I hear, young fellow—“
“/Lady/,” Jimin hisses under his breath.
Yoongi’s mouth parts slowly as realization sinks in. Lowering his voice, he asks, “Did I speak too loud?”
Jimin chews on his lower lip. “Do you want the truth?”
“You have a habit of mumbling.”
Yoongi lets out a long breath. Perhaps he might rely on ambiguity.
But just in case. Walls have ears and eyes, and in the palace, no senses are sharper than those of servants’. Yoongi hurries across the room & opens the doors, head popping out.
“Leave us,” he orders the servants. “The... lady, would have privacy. Station yourselves elsewhere.”
“But Your Highness,” counters one of the two standing outside his chambers. “It is our duty to attend to you.”
“And you shall, once I call for you.” Scanning the yard ahead, Yoongi points to a shade under an elm tree. “You may sit over there.”
“It is a royal order.”
The servants glance at each other and then bow to Yoongi.
Right before they scurry away, though, Yoongi says, “One more thing. I am feeling rather famished today, so I would have an extra helping of all my meals from now on. Now go.”
His servants nod and scurry off obediently.
When Yoongi turns back into his chambers, he finds Jimin already sitting on one of the guests’ cushions, lips fashioned in a lopsided smirk.
“You,” Yoongi says coolly as he sits back down. “Is Songhwa so terrible a dancer that she cannot learn within the pre-determined hours?”
“Quite the contrary. Her Highness is a wonderful student and dance partner,” Jimin replies, eyes bright.
“Then, what took you so long?” Yoongi blurts, immediately regretting the words as they leave his mouth.
Jimin pauses with a cautious look. “Have I kept you waiting?”
Yoongi’s breath hitches, words catching in his throat.
Yes, he yearns to answer. I have been waiting all day.
Oh, great Jade Emperor. Yoongi must be lonelier than he thought.
“Not at all. I do not wait for anybody. My textbooks keep me occupied all day. Studies, you know.”
Nodding, Jimin looks down at his lap, playing with his own fingers there, and an uncomfortable silence settles over them both until the servants arrive to bring in heaps of food. Then Yoongi is relieved to listen to the clink of utensials and platters instead of the stiff quiet.
Nothing is placed in front of Jimin until Yoongi instructs the servants to do so. He basks in watching the way Jimin’s eyes widen when not one, not two, but three bowls of different rice dishes, meat and broth are laid out. A steaming cup of floral tea is poured in front of him.
A plate of dried apricots and another assorted bowl of honeyed plums and ripe tangerines marks the last of the meal. After the servants leave, Yoongi picks up his chopsticks and gestures to Jimin. “Eat.”
The dancer stays still, eyes on the meal. “This is...this is rice.”
Jimin’s lower lip snag over his upper teeth, eyes glistening.
Stopping mid-chew, Yoongi asks, “What is it? Is rice not to your liking?”
“No,” Jimin snaps, then seems to recollect himself. “I mean, it’s so rare. I’ve only ever had it at festivals. Our Hyunji only it ate once.”
“Hyunji?” Yoongi repeats, shoulders relaxing when Jimin picks up his chopsticks.
He eats slow and delicately, as though savoring every mouthful. “My younger brother.”
It occurs once again to Yoongi, how little he knows about the dancer. “I was not aware of a brother.”
“You are not aware of many things,” Jimin states.
“Is that a jest?”
“No, it’s the truth.” A small upward twitch of Jimin’s mouth morphs his expression into something less morose.
“How brazen,” Yoongi mocks, feigning nonchalance. Jimin isn’t entirely wrong about his ignorance.
One thing he’s certain about, however, is the harvest of this nation. Though his father may not be perfect, he would never let his people starve. The King has set aside grants to benefit farmers, to grow the agricultural sector. “What do you mean, rice is rare? It should not be.”
Jimin sends him an odd look. “For you, perhaps, but not for the rest of us. It’s too expensive.”
“No, I’m certain there was an agreement guaranteeing farmers’ rights to aid with irrigation and price inflation. The Minister of Agriculture would have...” Yoongi trails off.
Jimin glances askance at him through the rim of the bowl he’s currently sipping from.
Yoongi shakes the thought away before it forms. No need to taint a good meal with morbid thoughts. “It’s nothing. Help yourself to more of the meat—“
Jimin sets his bowl down. “Your Highness. Do you not find it absurd that only you should feed me & listen to me unload my troubles, whilst I should endure watching such a troubled expression mask your face? Please know that I would listen, too.”
Yoongi blinks, pulse skipping.
Jimin sniffs petulantly and looks down. “You are being too kind. Although I am nobody important, please allow me to repay some of that, even if only by listening. If I am to come to your quarters every day, then you might as well make use of my company, no?”
“Most of what my worries are called worries for a reason,” Yoongi says faintly. “I would be loath to burden you.”
“You said you see me,” Jimin counters, and it’s amazing how he makes being reprimanded sound sweet. “Look at me now, and see how I would listen. How I hear you.”
All his life, Yoongi has always believed his heart is a boulder, something jagged and heavy to carry. Today, for the first time, he thinks he might finally have an idea what it’s like for the rock to chip away to ash, to something light as air.
He huffs. “You are insufferable.”
“So I’ve been told.” Jimin’s answering smile is nothing short of teasing, but it mesmerizes Yoongi every time he catches a glipmse of it. A rare eclipse since he’s stepped into the palace as Lady Aeshin.
“Do you ever get tired pretending to be someone you’re not?” Yoongi asks.
Jimin snorts. “Nonsense. I’m always pretending.”
“Ah, yes. You and your multiple identities. First Master Kim, then Lady Aeshin, what’s next?”
His words are met with wheezing.
“Wait a moment.” Jimin nearly chokes on his food & chugs down his tea. “You think /I’m/ Master Kim?”
Yoongi arches an eyebrow. “Then who else would be shameless enough to write about...” He hesitates, “...a-and illustrate such lewd things—“
Peals of laughter erupt from Jimin. “So you HAVE read it!” He rolls over, clutching his stomach. “I can’t believe you thought I was him!”
“Silence yourself. T-that’s a royal order!”
The laughter does not stop, instead escalating until they become full-blown guffaws. Yoongi groans and tips his head back.
“While I must say I’m flattered you think I could, I am no expert storyteller like the master himself.”
Yoongi doesn’t know why he feels relieved by this fact. Perhaps there is some solace in knowing Park Jimin is not the one to blame for illustrating several cursed images that have stuck themselves into Yoongi’s mind like poison.
“To answer your question simply, no,” says Jimin.
Yoongi cocks his head thoughtfully, chewing quietly, and Jimin elaborates, “No, I do not tire. I rather enjoy becoming different people. However... there is one thing.”
“These skirts can be a little restricting.” Jimin smiles ruefully. “I miss the comfortable clothes.”
Yoongi appraises Jimin’s hanbok and almost calls him beautiful. Thankfully he catches himself at the final second. “I suppose you miss fighting, too.”
Jimin nods slowly. “A duel... you never know what you take for granted until it’s gone.”
“Then, how about a quick one with me?”
Jimin squints at him, eyes swimming in amusement. “Are you not the one who said my cover would be blown once anybody catches me in a fight?”
“‘Anyone can find the switch after the lights are on’,” Yoongi cites Confucius, smiling. “Good thing you and I can fight in the dark.”
At the east wing of the palace is an old courtyard that used to be training grounds for the military before they became the Royal Guard Division. After they were dispersed into several smaller factions, the yard became a deadlands where old weapons and kitchenware are discarded.
Night has long since fallen, and in the stillness of the moonlit ground, a prince steals into the yard like a shadow, footfalls muted. Earlier that afternoon he’d told Jimin to meet him here at half past midnight.
“Jimin?” he calls out. Hopefully the dancer didn’t fall asleep.
A figure steps out from the shadows, decked in the trademark crimson and ink-black robes of the palace guard. His head is bowed, and Yoongi’s heart almost seizes, until the figure speaks in a lilting voice:
“Is this truly allowed, Your Highness?”
Yoongi relaxes. “Little crane.”
The ‘guard’ tips his head to one side, revealing Jimin’s toothy grin. “Do I want to know how a lowly palace guard’s uniform came into the possession of the grand prince?”
Yoongi scrunches his nose. “It’s a spare, I told you.”
“So you disguise yourself each time you sneak out.”
Yoongi neither confirms nor denies that, choosing instead to step out across the moonlit yard. Rolling his shoulders back, he rests one hand on the hilt of his sword. “So far you and I have only ever fought unevenly.”
“I hardly remember your blade winning over my fan.”
“My words exactly; it’s an uneven match.” Yoongi turns to face Jimin, who looks like he’s suppressing a smile. “Perhaps the fan is your forte. It is unfair for me. Therefore I would have you hold a sword tonight.”
Jimin’s eyes stray south as he laughs.
Yoongi does not understand what the outburst is for, and he finds it a little rude, truly, since he was not even speaking in jest. “You laugh? My sword is not one to be underestimated.”
Jimin’s shoulders shake as he clutches his stomach. “Oh, princeling. You have much to learn.”
Irritation prickles under Yoongi’s skin. Clucking his tongue, he grabs up the other hidden, sheathed sword at his belt and tosses it in Jimin’s direction.
The dancer catches it with ease, still snickering. “Oh, what a heavy sword indeed—“
Yoongi spins on his heel and swings.
Without missing a beat, Jimin ducks to veer out of the weapon’s range, still laughing. Yoongi clenches his teeth.
“Be serious for once.”
“Not if I can help it.” Jimin, as usual, is a master at deflecting, never attacking. Yoongi marvels at the thousand maneuvers up his sleeve.
“Why do you never strike?” Yoongi huffs in between parries. Jimin’s petite head swerves left and jerks his elbow up faster than the prince can recover his hand, throwing the angle of Yoongi’s arm off.
Jimin actually manages to shrug. “Don’t have to. I just observe.”
“Observe what?” Yoongi brings his sword down, only to be met with resistance as Jimin kicks up a discarded piece of a broken jar and uses it as a shield. The clay shatters, but it buys Jimin enough time to scuttle away.
“What else would I look at?” says the dancer. “You.”
Yoongi’s chest stutters, causing his hand to falter. As a result, his next swing is unstable and off-kilter, and Jimin lets out a soft “Ha!” before taking the chance to sweep Yoongi’s legs out from beneath him.
Yoongi crashes to the ground rear-first, cursing under his breath.
A rush of wind gushes past his ear, followed by the sound of a blade driving into the soil beside his head. Jimin stands over him, hands resting on his waist triumphantly.
“If there’s 1 thing I learned when it comes to fighting,” says the dancer, “it’s to look for blind spots.”
Yoongi forces himself not to tremble. “And you think you’ve figured mine out?”
Jimin shrugs. “You’re constantly thinking when you fight, I can see it in your eyes. Sometimes I like to dance with my enemy. It shows me their true reflexes, their blind spots. We all have one.”
Yoongi holds himself back from asking, /And yours is?/
Still smiling, Jimin offers him a hand, a silent gesture to help him stand up. “If you want to beat me, then think less. Feel more. Swordfighting is a dance.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Ridiculous.”
He grabs Jimin’s hand, warm and dry in his, and the court dancer yanks him up to stand. But as soon as Yoongi regains some balance on his feet, he uses the remaining momentum to pull up the sword wedged into the ground, slashing it at the air towards Jimin.
The dancer cries out.
But once again, Yoongi’s attack is deflected with a loud /thwack/ that echoes into the night. In front of him, Jimin has both arms held out—one holding his paper fan open, the other offering support for his dominant hand.
“Fighting dirty, my lord?” Jimin chortles, eyes gleaming.
“You really never miss, do you?” Yoongi mutters, drawing his sword back to prepare another parry.
“Because my guard is never down,” Jimin huffs, darting left and right to avoid Yoongi’s blows. But Yoongi is light-footed, and leaps into the air easily, bringing the blade down.
He’s expecting Jimin to twirl out of the way, but the dancer lifts his fan up, directly within the blade’s line of target. Yoongi nearly hesitates—if his blade goes through, it would rip Jimin’s fan....
...as it does. The steel tears the paper lining of the fan to shreds.
“Aha!” Yoongi cries. Finally a landing strike!
Jimin smiles sweetly, then proceeds to shut his fan while Yoongi’s sword is still lodged through it, twisting the steel and disarming the hilt out of Yoongi’s grip.
The prince gasps when Jimin grabs and points the swordtip at him.
“Never understimate a commoner’s rage,” Jimin says, cocking his head at his now-destroyed fan, lying limp and useless on the ground. “Or in this case, a common household item.”
Yoongi’s breath stutters at the cold sensation of steel against his throat—
“Halt where you are!”
Yoongi and Jimin blink at the sound of a new, raspy yell coming from yards away. Turning, Yoongi spots another figure dressed in red and black—a real palace guard uniform this time.
“Seok-ah,” he stammers, brain scrabbling for logic and action.
Jimin lowers the sword, confused.
No, Yoongi thinks, panic swelling. The Chief Commander must have been carrying out his night patrol rounds when he came across Yoongi being ‘threatened’ by another guard’s sword.
The sound of furious running grows closer as Hoseok screams, “How dare you attack His Highness!”
“Seok, stop, he meant no—“
With another yell, Hoseok launches himself onto Jimin, tackling the court dancer to the ground. The sword in Jimin’s hand drops as they roll together, grunting.
“How dare a lowly guard like you threaten the prince’s life?”
“Let me go!” Jimin shrieks.
With only adrenaline crashing through him, Yoongi snatches the broken paper fan from the ground and hurls it at the chief of the palace guard. It hits Hoseok square in the temple.
He hisses, one knee buckling forward out of reflex, accidentally colliding against Jimin’s crotch.
Jimin yowls in agony, folding into himself and writhing on the ground. Hoseok rolls off of him, glaring at the paper fan, the points his own sword at Jimin.
“Unhand him, Jung Hoseok. It is a royal command.”
“But Your Highness, he—“
“He,” Yoongi growls, “is my Lady Aeshin.”
Silence crashes on the three of them, punctuated only by Hoseok’s heavy breathing and Jimin’s muffled groans.
“You mean...” Hoseok blinks, looking from him to the boy on the ground. “The gisaeng— what?”
Grimacing, Yoongi looks up to the sky and sighs out loud.
What a headache.
to be continued tonight, hopefully!! yeehaw thanks for tuning in!
In all of Grand Prince Min Yun’s 21 years, he has never felt silence as thick & strained as this one, almost cloying to the senses.
Across the tea table, Hoseok sits with his arms crossed, glowering at Jimin, who regards him with an equally cautious stare.
Yoongi bites his lip.
“So let me get this straight,” Hoseok musters in a deliberate tone that must belie his utter shock, “Lady Aeshin is not Lady Aeshin at all, but happens to be Park Jimin who’s a man in disguise, and Your Highness has known all along?”
“An abridged version, but yes,” Yoongi says.
Hoseok’s eyes narrow. He picks up the jar of liquor from Yoongi’s personal cabinet (the prince had to resort to alcohol to transmit the truth without inciting havoc) and pours it into a ceramic cup. “I am guessing only the royalty are aware of this fact.”
“Actually— only I do.”
“And the princeling here never would have figured out had he not recognized me as a man from before,” Jimin chimes, lips pursed.
Hoseok’s hand hovers over his sword on the floor as he sends the dancer a curt look. “You will address him with due respect.”
Yoongi holds him back.
“He can— he may call me however he pleases,” Yoongi mutters, hating the way he feels heat rushing to his ears. “I have granted my full permission. He is a friend.”
Hoseok gapes at him, mouth opening and closing like one of the fish out on the Lotus Pond. “This is dangerous.”
“I am aware. Which is why I request you to forget what you’ve discovered tonight,” Yoongi elaborates. “Either that, or you may keep treating Jimin as though he is who he claims to be.”
“Does your mother not know, either?” Hoseok asks.
Yoongi feels Jimin’s eyes on him. “No.”
“If anybody else finds out, there is no way to control the information from spreading,” Hoseok says. “Even if I am to keep quiet about the matter, I cannot guarantee others would.”
“The rest of the palace thinks I am entertaining myself with a courtesan,” Yoongi says, frowning.
“You of all people know how little regard they have for the silly grand prince, Seok. They hardly glance at me when I walk these halls. Me spending time with a supposed gisaeng makes me easy to dismiss, and therefore overlook.”
Jimin says, “Actually, it makes you noticeable.”
Yoongi casts him a wary glance. “And what makes you say so?”
Jimin beams at him and shrugs. “Because then you are with somebody as striking as I?”
The prince rolls his eyes, but doesn’t deny his statement. Truth be told, Jimin’s face captures attention from both men and women.
“You flatter yourself,” Yoongi manages at best.
“And you lie to yourself,” Jimin teases. “Accept the truth.”
“Not when there is no truth to be heard.”
Between them, Hoseok gives a soft noise from the back his throat, similar to a cough, before he pours himself another drink.
Yoongi’s attention is still drawn to tbe smiling dancer, though, admiring the way his spare palace guard uniform seems to fit Jimin’s stature perfectly, despite being slightly loose around the dancer’s petite shoulders.
Hoseok asks, “So where from have you learned how to fight?”
Jimin tears his eyes from Yoongi and smiles—a glinting, secretive thing. “I grew up in the streets of Hanyang. You learn a thing or two, there. And I had a mentor of sorts, if that answers your question.”
“And how am I to believe that you would not put the prince in harm’s way?”
Reaching into his robes, Jimin pulls out a splintered item and answers, “Because I let him break my fan.”
It hits Yoongi then that not only has Jimin allowed him to rip his beloved weapon to pieces, he has also never once attempted to inflict injury on Yoongi. Always deflecting.
“He’s right,” Yoongi affirms as Jimin takes the liquor bottle from Hoseok and pours into his own cup. “This court dancer has never hurt me, Hoseok. Our duels are like...” He scrabbles for something worthwhile for comparison, “...like Songhwa’s dance lessons. I learn from him.”
Given Jimin’s skill on the field, if he wanted to end Yoongi’s life, he very well could. What does it mean that Yoongi is still healthy and walking to this day?
His gaze lands on Jimin for the nth time that night, gut twisting with an unexpected ache when Jimin meets his eye.
Hoseok grunts, seemingly mollified. “While this is wrong, and I cannot agree that the ends justifies the means, I will keep my nose out of this matter, if only because of my friendship with you, Your Highness.”
His voice is stern, but the gleam in his eyes is soft. Yoongi grins.
Seated across Hoseok, Jimin gives a thrilled keen and raises his cup. “Here’s to Jung Hoseok, Keeper Of Secrets and Chief Upholder Of Friendship. May your loyalty span lifetimes.”
The palace guard chief looks at Yoongi, then at him. “Let’s pray this will not cost anyone’s neck.”
They raise their glasses for a clinking toast—a promise to guard each other’s trust and confidence. Yoongi nods at Hoseok in gratitude, sinking into a more comfortable position and hoping the night continues smoothly.
That is, until—
“Your Highness, Princess Songhwa has come.”
Yoongi stiffens. At the same time, his friends’ smiles fall.
“Songhwa?” Yoongi mouths under his breath at Hoseok, who shakes his head in mirrored perplexion and confusion.
That can’t be right. Min Songhwa hates sleeping late at night, and as things are, it is way past midnight.
“Orabeoni,” Songhwa’s usually bubbly voice sounds roughened with sleep. “I see that the lanterns in your quarters are still lit.”
Yoongi’s pulse jumps. Jimin scrambles to his feet, and Hoseok pales.
“I am coming in!”
Yoongi yanks Jimin’s wrist. “Behind the folding screen.”
Songhwa bursts through the doors just as the last of Jimin’s robes vanish behind the screen. The princess splays herself out over Yoongi’s guest cushion, warm where Jimin had been. But she doesn’t seem to notice; face gaunt, Songhwa looks exhausted.
“Brother, I had a nightmare.”
“Is... is that so?” Yoongi gulps, forcing himself not to let his gaze stray to his bamboo folding screen, decorated with white cranes. On the other hand, Hoseok is now standing at guard, unmoving beside the door. “What troubling visions have, uh, haunted you?”
“I do not remember too much, but I saw a raven. And it was”—Songhwa makes a sour face—“it was eating away at our older brother’s face.” She shudders & swallows. “I woke up crying in Yeol’s arms. If she hadn’t woken me I don’t know what might have happened to the Crown Prince.”
Songhwa folds inward, hugging ber chest to her knees as rims of her eyes begin to redden. “And I was there, watching it happen, but was too powerless to chase the bird away. Orabeoni, could this be a prophetic dream? What if there is some bad energy tainting the air around us?”
Yoongi exchanges a wary look with Hoseok, ignoring the goosebumps prickling his skin. “Songhwa, lift your head and look at me.”
The princess stares at her toes.
Her eyes flicker to Yoongi’s. “If you tell me to ignore it, I shall put a lizard in your shoes.”
A snort bubbles through Yoongi’s nose. “It is a disturbing dream indeed,” he says. “And I am relieved you trust me enough to share it. How about I look into hiring a shaman from the Hall Of Stars to write a bedtime talisman for you?”
Songhwa’s face relaxes by a fraction.
“I suppose that should lighten my spirits,” she muses, lower lip jutting out. “However, do remember that the shamans from the Hall Of Stars are heavily influenced by the Dowager Queen.”
Yoongi presses his mouth into a thin line; neither of them are fond of their grandmother.
“Very well. I would do my best to find you a different one outside of the palace,” Yoongi says as calmly as he can, hyperaware of the presence behind his folding screen. “For now, try to set your mind at ease—“
“Can’t I sleep here, orabeoni?” Songhwa whines, eyes growing bigger.
Standing by the door, Hoseok bristles—an almost imperceptible movement, spotted only by Yoongi’s keen eye.
“No,” Yoongi says firmly.
“But why? I used to sneak in to play with you until we fell asleep when we were younger!”
“I cannot allow that, tonight.” Yoongi asserts.
“Look around you, Songhwa. Realize that you have barged in the middle of a serious conversation between the Chief of the palace guard and myself.”
Pouting, Songhwa’s gaze shifts to the tea table, before lingering on the third tea cup. Her eyes narrow and she tips her head aside.
And then—it could be a figment of Yoongi’s imagination or the anxiety talking—a ghost of a smile twitches her mouth.
“And should I guess that you’ve predicted I would have visited your quarters tonight, dear brother? How kind of you to prepare a steaming cup of tea in advance.”
Yoongi nearly chokes on his own saliva. He shares a brief glance with Hoseok and clears his throat. “We were... awaiting another friend’s presence. Kim Namjoon. Yes, I invited him to visit—“
“In the wee hours of the morning?” Songhwa presses sweetly, eyes brimming with mirth.
“Yes. Us men are built to host serious talks while the rest of the world slumbers. You’re invading on a sacred brotherly ritual.”
Songhwa rolls her eyes and gathers her skirts. “I’ve changed my mind. I would visit Yeol’s quarters now that I’ve had enough of your brotherly face.”
As she sashays past the doors, she singsongs over her shoulder, “Next time, if you want to sneak outsiders into your chambers at ungodly hours of the night, you ought to be a hospitable host and prepare hangover soup, too. Good night.”
The doors close.
“Brat,” Yoongi grumbles.
Hoseok bites down on his lower lip, face twisting in an effort to keep a neutral expression.
“I’ve spoiled her too much,” Yoongi tuts, shaking his head. “Now look at her! Thinks she is smarter than me.”
Hoseok makes no comment.
“Has she left?” Jimin’s voice floats from behind.
“Yes, come out now,” Yoongi replies, and Jimin emerges from behind the folding screen, hair rumpled. He and Hoseok join him by around the table again.
“I suppose I should change back into my costume,” Jimin sighs.
Yoongi reaches under a drawer where Jimin’s hanbok is stashed.
As he passes the folded clothes to Jimin, he says, “Today’s duel was good. I had a pleasant time. Allow me to say... I—“
“Expressing gratitude is not that difficult,” Jimin says as he grabs the clothes and disappears behind the folding sceeen again. “Say it with me: thank you.”
But a bag of soil seems to have lodged itself deep in Yoongi’s throat, blocking the words. It’s not that he has never learned to thank others—it’s that he’s never considered explicitly thanking a person of lower status than him before. His face warms, and he glares at Hoseok.
“Wh-what are you staring at!” he splutters.
Hoseok fights to keep a blank face. Without missing a beat, he deadpans at the space next to Yoongi, “Fly on the wall.”
From behind the folding screen, Jimin’s bell-like laughter erupts, and all is right and good in the world tonight.
Later, once both Hoseok and Jimin have left his quarters to retire for the night, Yoongi settles under his blanket and closes his eyes, whispering into the shadowy air—
“Your Highness,” a servant’s nervous call wakes him early the next messenger.
With a groan, Yoongi rolls over and rubs at his bleary eyes. His voice comes out as a croak. “What is it?”
“The Noble First Concubine has requested to have breakfast with you today.”
Yoongi perks up.
His mother? Yoongi racks his head if there’s any particular holiday or tradition he might have missed, but this early in the morning, he draws up a blank.
No. She can’t have known.
“Very well.” Yoongi calls in his personal attendants to dress him for the day.
Min Eunseo is already sitting at her dining quarters when Yoongi arrives to give his greetings. Songhwa is nowhere to be seen, so this is definitely not a casual meal between parent and childen.
He bows low. “Mother.”
The First Concubine smiles warmly. “Have a seat, Yoongi.”
Yoongi obliges, sitting calm and quiet as the servants arrive to pour in a warm ginger drink that his mother has taken a liking to of late, as well as a bowl of thick soup.
“I’ve been awfully lonely lately,” says the Consort, stirring her drink. “And you have not been visiting.”
Yoongi ducks his head in shame. “Forgive me, mother. I have been preoccupied lately and failed to fulfill my duties as a son.”
“Preoccupied... with that courtesan?” the First Consort says, and Yoongi’s shoulders tense. “So I’ve heard. You know how fast rumors fly in the palace.”
Yoongi keeps his lips pressed together.
“I was surprised to hear you fancying that court dancer. After years of being introduced to the most beautiful noblewomen of Joseon, this is the first time you’ve shown interest in one.”
Except—she’s not even a real lady. Yoongi winces.
“But better late than never, no? Truly, I would rather have you frolick around the palace grounds with gisaengs than embroil yourself in the turmoil of current affairs.” A troubled look passes over the First Consort’s face. “We both know you possess no real skill for politics.”
Again, Yoongi blanches, gaze fixed firmly on his soup bowl. “Yes... about that.”
“What is it? Speak freely, my son.”
“It’s come to my attention, recently, that maybe the way some things are... run by the council are, well. Not effective. Or not logical at all,” Yoongi mumbles.
His mother’s eyes turn hard. “Are you implying that the King is mistaken in the manner by which he leads his ministry? Such disloyal words.”
“I only mean to say that perhaps it would be wise to exercise more caution especially when it comes to decisions that affect the people—“
“You are no king, Min Yoongi. Not even the Crown Prince,” his mother rebukes. “It would do you good to remember that in the long run.”
“Please, my son,” she says softly. “For your safety—do not rule. Do not be ambitious. Simply do nothing if you want an easy life.”
But Yoongi doesn’t want an easy life. Maybe the him from as recent as a few weeks ago would have succumbed to his mother’s pleas wholeheartedly. But that was before Jimin brought in a glaring light that revealed the harsh truths of his comfortable aristocrat life.
“Will I really be safe if we turn a blind eye to the suffering of people?” Yoongi asks. “Perhaps one drop of water seems weak, but a tide is a force to be reckoned with. Would you or I be safe to sleep at night knowing commoners could be planning a public revolt as we speak?”
“And you think /you/ can rally enough power and support to eradicate a bleeding system?” challenges the First Consort.
“It’s not impossible. I could help end corruption and squash dissent. There is a way to make sure Joseon never starves. If we conquer the surrounding lands—“
“Are you suggesting war?” the First Consort gasps, hands flying to her face. “Min Yoongi, do you even hear yourself? Stop right now before anyone else hears you!”
Yoongi clamps his mouth shut, veins molten hot with indignance and humiliation. Nobody ever /listens./
“Your words are truly horrifying to listen to. You have upset my appetite,” states the First Concubine, turning her head away. “I would rather have you burying your head in your books again, or even tumbling about with gisaengs, than have you babble treacherous things before me.”
Fisting his robes, Yoongi heaves a shuddering exhale before excusing himself. So much for a simple breakfast.
He stomps out of his mother’s hall, mind reeling like a wheel. It’s disgusting to think that nobody cares about the common people. There is so much he could contribute!
Just as he’s about to exit the outermost door to the First Concubine’s residence, his mother’s voice halts him.
He turns to find the First Concubine standing outside the dining hall, facing him.
“Ensure you stay healthy. You are to be engaged in a few weeks’ time.”
5min break! I’m making sum hot choco)
“What are you writing, my lord?” Jimin asks later that day after he comes into Yoongi’s quarters for his daily visit. For the first time since their arrangement began, Yoongi does’t quite feel jolly enough to greet the court dancer warmly.
He sits at his desk, scrolls laid out.
Try as he might, Yoongi finds it inexorably difficult to concentrate on the simple motion of swirling ink with his brush and scribbling characters into parchment. “These are formal appeals to investigate farmers’ grants and address the price inflation problem in the provinces.”
Without warning, Jimin walks over to stand at a spot behind Yoongi and leans over his shoulder to read. Close. Too close. Yoongi’s breathing catches. Jimin’s cheek is right next to his, and if he would just turn his face—
“With all due respect, you’ve misspelled ‘rice’ thrice.”
Yoongi scowls and scraps the current parchment aside. Nothing seems to be working in his favor today, not even his own writing ability. “I am quite aware of my own mistakes, so get lost.”
Jimin lets out a low whistle. “My, don’t you sound especially friendly today.”
Yoongi cuts him a withering glance, but makes no further comment. He dips his brush into the ink again. “I need to get this right first, be quiet. And besides, since when were you able to read, anyway?”
Jimin shrugs. “Since my masters wanted to protect me from street scammers.”
“What thoughtful and gentle people you serve.”
“Yes, unlike the man I’m talking to right now,” Jimin snaps.
Yoongi looks up in offense, then softens at the lines of worry crinkling Jimin’s forehead.
“I thought we agreed we could talk to each other, share burdens,” Jimin says.
Yoongi shifts uncomfortably. Jimin’s so-called concept of ‘sharing burdens’ sounds all too foreign. He’s not in the habit of exposing his innermost thoughts, let alone his troubles. Not even Songhwa knows. Opinions, yes, but never his personal qualms.
“I am to marry soon.”
Saying this aloud to Jimin feels like a wrongdoing for some reason. He keeps his eyes peeled to his parchment, tracing each curve of the fine characters, and almost misses Jimin’s sharp intake of breath.
“And is that not very exciting, my lord?” Jimin titters. “Marriage!”
Yoongi blanches. “Not when you do not know who you will be tied down to for the rest of your life, no. The prospect becomes bleak, the less I know.”
Jimin rounds the table and settles into the cushion before Yoongi again. “I think not knowing is part of the fun.”
“And what convinces you to say such thoughtless words?”
“Well, then you get to fall in love from scratch.”
Yoongi regards him with disdain. The idea of love never even came into the picture. “You are mistaken. Perhaps commoners may hope to find love in matrimony. Not for us.”
Jimin waves him away with a scoff. “Wealthy or not, we are all humans who are capable of feeling. And the heart will want what it wants. If you despise the thought of a political wedding so much, why not comfort yourself with the possibility of finding love in your future bride?”
Yoongi squirms in his seat, fiddling with his brush, lips pursed.
“Unless...” Jimin’s gasp is an airy, delightful thing. “You’ve never fallen in love before?”
The ceiling looks particularly neat today, Yoongi marvels, stroking his chin in contemplation.
“Am I right, my lord?”
Jimin is smiling his usual brilliant smile, but when Yoongi looks up he’s surprised to find no trace of mocking laughter in them, only an enthralling warmth that makes him avert his gaze just as quickly. “How does... how does one do it?”
“This whole falling in love.”
Jimin’s brows knit together. “Well, let’s say it is not something one would actively /do/ like a chore. It comes unprecendented, though not without signs. Like the seasons!”
“Seasons,” Yoongi parrots.
“Indeed. Like how leaves fall in autumn, or rain falls to signal spring.”
If the heartbeat follows a seasonal shift, then perhaps, Yoongi would like to consider Park Jimin as someone who belongs in the light of a late summer afternoon, or perhaps a sparkling spring. Little showers of rain in the morning blue.
/And you are all the seasons/, he thinks.
Yoongi snaps out of his reverie to find Jimin staring at him oddly.
“Is everything all right?”
Clearing his throat, Yoongi casts his ink and brush aside. “These ‘signs’ of falling in love that you speak of. What would be some of them to beware of? Speak clearly.”
“Fair enough. I suppose you would be keen to find these signs with your betrothed.” The court dancer hums and stands to pace the room, not unlike the way a tutor does. “Well, to begin with, you should understand that you would not realize you are in love until it’s too late.”
Yoongi whips out another blank sheet of parchment, intent on taking down notes. Perhaps matters of love can be studied and perfected, the way he so easily does with his exams at Sungkyunkwan.
“They occupy your thoughts all the time,” Jimin rambles. “They make you laugh and cry.”
“Cry?” Yoongi repeats with a wrinkle of his nose. “I’ll never shed a tear over another person.”
Jimin ignores him. “The very thought of them is enough to lift your spirits. You feel sad when”—he turns to Yoongi, pausing without warning, then seems shake himself—“when they are.”
Yoongi nods, busy writing.
“You want to make them happy, because their happiness equates to yours. You want them to be safe, always. You fear for them when they are apart from you. And,” Jimin pauses again, “they make you want to be a better person.”
“I see,” Yoongi hums.
“Are there no physical symptoms to speak of?”
“You make it sound like an ailment,” Jimin points out.
“An ailment of the mind and of the heart, truly. One would be unwell to change for another person. What a loss of dignity.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “What a sourpuss.”
He crosses the distance between his floor cushion and Yoongi’s table.
“What are you doing...?”
Jimin kneels in front of Yoongi and braces his arms on the low writing table, hunkering close over the prince, smiling sweetly.
Yoongi inches his neck back, feeling his gut clench.
Smirking, Jimin tilts his head to one side in a birdlike manner. “Your heart races. Sweat breaks out over your forehead. Your hands turn clammy and you might feel feverish, even when you are perfectly healthy.”
Yoongi blinks, craning his face away from Jimin’s burnished gaze.
“Th-that’s sounds like the common flu.”
“It’s worse than a flu,” Jimin warns in a lilting tone, his voice like an inescapable witch’s incantation. “Once you fall in love with someone, you may even go... blind.”
Yoongi gawks at him, gulping. “Blind?”
Jimin nods solemnly.
Yoongi slams his brush down, splattering ink on both his robes and Jimin’s skirt. “You are lying.”
The dancer backs away with a round of wheezing, squeaky laughs. “Your face! You look as red as a cherry!”
Fuming, Yoongi rises and marches around his table none-too-gently.
He keeps bounding forward, jaw set tight, until he crowds close to Jimin.
“Wh-what—“ Jimin scoots backwards until his back hits the wall.
This time, Yoongi braces both of his arms on either side of Jimin’s head, chest heaving wildly.
Jimin’s laughter dies, his pupils dilating.
Wordlessly, Yoongi leans close until their noses are inches apart, eyes roving over the dancer’s eyelashes, his plush lips. He watches Jimin’s Adam’s apple bob up & down.
“Tell me, little crane,” drawls Yoongi. “Why are your little hands curled so tightly? Is your heart racing?”
Jimin stares back, working a tongue in his cheek, and murmurs, “Keep staring at me like that, and you might as well kiss me.”
Yoongi feels his heart swoop. /Kiss?/ He hasn’t done that since he was a child! He reels back. “You—“
“My lord,” a servant calls from outside.
Yoongi steps back, heat fanning over his cheeks. “What?”
“The Minister of War has summoned your presence for the evening meal.”
Sighing, Yoongi drops his arms. First his mother for breakfast, now his uncle for dinner. For someone not meant for politics, he sure is in demand.
Jimin clears his throat and breaks away from the wall, crossing his arms. “Well? Your company is wanted. Go.”
Yoongi studies him, wondering if it’s just the waning afternoon light or if he spots a hint of pink in the swell of the dancer’s cheeks.
He calls out, “I’ll be there.”
no thoughts head just yoonmin thanks for tuning in today!!!
HERE’s a question: do you have any favorite side character(s), and why?
buy me a ko-fi if you’d like to support my writing?
The combined aroma of stew and herbal tea mixed with the fragrance of incense in the sitting room is not enough to appease Yoongi’s discomfort.
Across the table, his uncle and Minister of War, Min Donghwan, swirls his teacup before taking a long sip.
Yoongi tries not to fidget.
Min Donghwan sets down his teacup, eyes lingering a heartbeat too long on Yoongi’s scar. “I’ve heard word of your rash behavior of late.”
Yoongi arches a quizzical eyebrow. “Truly? Would you not be so kind as to even pretend to ask how I’m doing these days? How about a hello?”
“Pleasantries are unnecessary when rumors fill in the gaps. Really, Yoongi? First you sully your own face out of childish play with the Crown Prince, and now you get caught fooling around with a no-name gisaeng?” The War Minister sighs. “You are lucky I secured a bride for you.”
Yoongi tenses. “Already?”
“What do you mean, ‘already’?” Donghwan rebukes, eyes narrowing into slits. “The Royal Banquet is only two weeks away. I’m taking it as you are preparing to learn how to woo a woman by playing around with that gisaeng, but do not forget your duty.”
Yoongi casts his gaze downwards, at a loss for how to respond. What’s he to say? That he is in no mind to be wedded, or that the ‘gisaeng’ he’s being accused of fooling around with is not even close to a woman? He and Jimin are merely friends, end of the story.
“Beg your pardon?”
“The girl is Fan Xinyi, daughter to the Emperor’s distant cousin,” Donghwan explains. “She was widowed by her husband who died from an illness, and the family is willing to let us have her to relieve their burdens. Only twenty and five years, still ripe.”
Yoongi’s grip on his spoon tightens every so slightly. /Ripe/. As though women were fruit that come and go at seasons, bound to be cast out once no longer deemed fresh and therefore past the time of worthiness. He thinks of Songhwa, who would spit in their dearest uncle’s feet.
“And I suppose you personally oversaw the selection of potential brides,” Yoongi says in an even tone that gives no emotion away.
“There was no choice,” Min Donghwan says brusquely, as though Yoongi had accused him of illegal activity. “The King has been too busy these days.”
“Is he, now?” That his father would not bat an eye regardless of who Yoongi ended up marrying does not surprise him one bit, but the sting burns all the same.
The Minister of War sighs, taking a sip of water. “He has his hands full with the Crown Prince’s abrupt actions.”
Yoongi’s silence prods the man to go on.
“The Crown Prince has been asking for decrees to install a new legislation to oversee commoners’ taxes,” the Minister of War explains, a tick working in his jaw. “Which—and I say this to you in confidence—is utterly pointless.”
“But would that not relieve the burdens of palace officials presiding over their respective sectors?” Yoongi says, forming patterns and conclusions in his mind.
With the existence of a central legislation system, it would be tougher for ministers to dip in their corrupt hands.
“Nobody possesses the same acuity for taxes as the current ministers already do,” Min Donghwan argues, shooting Yoongi a hard look. “The artillery & weapons, the crop supplies—how would some rookies understand the funding that happens behind them?”
Yoongi suppresses an eyeroll.
He recalls yet another secret trip he’d made a few nights ago, after his elder brother had summoned him for help. After putting their heads together and burning the midnight oil, Yoongi and Sohyeon had decided to try risking a proposal for a central tax system. “How maddening.”
“Very much so. The ministers have taken offense with the Crown Prince. Which is why I called you in here today,” the Minister of War flicks off a piece of lint from his blood-red robes. “From tomorrow onwards, you will join the morning royal conferences with the King.”
“The Crown Prince is being too reckless. This is an open window for the Yeoheung Min clan to prove our aptitude for... leadership,” Min Donghwan says, and Yoongi does not like the inflection of his words at all.
“What are you implying, uncle?” he tests, heartbeat erratic.
“Why, nothing at all, of course. All I suggest is to have you come in and listen in on our daily meetings, acquaint yourself with some of the nation’s affairs,” Min Donghwan says skittishly, a glint catching in his eye. “You would do good to impress the Qing envoys with wisdom.”
But is that truly all where his intentions lie? Yoongi doesn’t understand. Rather—he does not want to admit he understands. To do so would be to acknowledge potential heresy against his own blood and flesh. Unimaginable.
Here is a chance to pitch in, to make a change.
All this time he’s been acting in the dark, like a rat making do with underground scraps. To achieve access to the royal conferences is to gain capacity for political maneuvering.
Jimin wouldn’t discourage him from such a move, would he?
No, it’s not that Yoongi is ambitious.
Min Yoongi has always craved the simple life: his brush, his books, his little crane—
He shakes his head.
Min Yoongi has never been one to seek glory nor ambition. He has no need for such grandeur. The only reason he would agree is to be of some help and use to Joseon’s people.
But he must make sure he does not cross boundaries before making any decision.
“My betrothal with the lady Fan Xinyi is set in stone, am I correct?” Yoongi asks.
His uncle nods. “As certain as the sun rises at dawn.”
Good. That means the Yeoheung Min cannot use him as a pawn.
If a prince like him marries ‘down’ to a politically weak candidate, then there is no way Yoongi can eventually become a King. As much as he may dislike the idea, his marriage would actually be a saving grace ensuring he cannot rise to power.
He nods, jaw set. “Then I will go.”
He carries the weight of his conversation with the War Minister all through the night until the next day, festering like a vicious blood clot.
When he asks servants to delay his lunch, it’s not just because he would wait to share it with Jimin, but also due to loss of appetite.
“You’ve not touched your food at all,” Jimin mumbles over their meal. “Did you learn no proverbs about wastefulness?”
Yoongi blinks down at his lotus root soup and forces a spoonful down his throat. “I don’t know.”
“Of course a noble wouldn’t. Your pallow is unseemly, too.”
“What are you, my mother?” Yoongi snaps.
“In that case, I would be most disappointed if you were my son,” Jimin fires back, mouth twisted into a frown.
“Again with your disrespect!”
“And again with your inexplicably sour attitude,” Jimin says. “Do not take it out on me!”
Yoongi pushes his tray away, shutting his eyes and rubbing his temples. “I am in a foul state of mind. I would not entertain you with mindless bickering today.”
An awful quiet stills the air between them, before he hears Jimin putting down his utensils with a clatter.
Yoongi’s eyes snap open.
Impossible. Surely his ears are mistaken. Jimin has never called him by name, and he must be in such a funk that he is hallucinating voices.
“My lord,” Jimin says, and Yoongi deflates—with relief or dismay, he can’t discern. “Shall we go for a stroll?”
His gaze locks with Jimin, earnest and a little exasperated, but the dancer’s smile is nothing but inviting, and Yoongi cannot bring himself to say no.
“I guess I might as well follow Hoseok’s advice,” he says, rising from his strenuous sitting position. “Touch a flower or two.”
Every prince has his favorite spot, and one of Yoongi’s most well-guarded secrets is Jondeokjong Pond, where he often goes for walks to clear his mind. The pavilion offers a view that does wonders in chasing away his qualms.
“It is more enchanting during autumn,” he points out.
Jimin doesn’t reply, too preoccupied with gawking at their surroundings as they step into the quaint pavilion. They stand together and look out over the pond, where a mother duck is leading her ducklings to curve around a cluster of waterlilies.
Yoongi inhales the soft breeze.
“Is it the princess you worry about?” Jimin pipes up, voice carrying a sweetness that Yoongi wishes he could soak up. “My apologies, but I could not help overhearing her complaints the other night. If you’d like, I... I might know someone who can help.”
Yoongi blanches. He’d nearly forgotten about that. Perhaps he needs a talisman to clear away his misgivings, too. “That would be optimal, yes, if I could meet her.”
Yoongi tilts his head.
“It’s a he, my lord.”
“Then I suppose he is a monk?”
Jimin shakes his head.
“He is more powerful than shamans or monks, but that makes his body weak. Though the mind is strong, the vessel is vulnerable to spirits waiting for a chance to possess him.” Jimin chews on his lower lip. “He does not step outside too often.”
Yoongi gives a hum. “How relatable.”
Jimin’s head turns, fixing him with a long stare. “You know, I have only set foot in the palace for a few weeks, but I can already feel a deep loneliness encroach me. Makes me feel stuffy and restless. How much more for a resident such as you?”
Yoongi glances at him pensively.
“Is this you trying to befriend me?”
“We are already friends, are we not?” Jimin winks at him. “This is me attempting to provide some comfort. Is it working?”
“Try a little harder.”
“Well, I could describe Master Kim’s next novel—“
“Come closer so I can push you in the pond.”
“Now now, that’s not any way to treat a friend!” Jimin gasps theatrically, and Yoongi feels himself cracking at the seams, willingly absorbing every bit of warmth from his smile.
With a sigh, he sinks cross-legged and leans against one of the pavilion’s pillars facing the water.
Without being told, Jimin settles down next to him, mirroring his position. “I do not know what worries you so, but I’ve found that talking about it helps.”
“I do not wish to talk.”
“Then I will,” Jimin cuts in without a moment’s hesitation. “I am painfully good at gossip.”
Gossip. Rumors. Hearsay. Misinformation and wrong speculations already plague Yoongi in the palace; he has no urgent need to hear any from Jimin.
With a huff, he shifts sideways and slowly lets his head fall into the court dancer’s lap.
“Only tell me good things, little crane.”
He feels the sharp rise of Jimin’s stomach as he inhales, then sighs.
“You mean, like stories?” the court dancer emits a nervous titter. “I am not— unlike Master Kim, I possess no gift for yarnspinning.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “I’m leaving.”
As he makes a move to get up, Jimin smacks a palm square against Yoongi’s forehead to push him back down on his lap.
Yoongj muffles a laugh. “Insufferable little—“
“There is a clementine tree,” Jimin says in a rush. “That grows outside our house on the street.”
“I suppose there’s nothing particularly incredible about this tree, but you know the good thing about clementines?” Jimin says.
“They’re the sweet sisters of tangerines?”
“They’re winter flowers. They begin to grow flower buds when everything else is dying. True fighters.”
Yoongi prides himself in carrying a vast library of knowledge in his brain, but he is loath to admit that he’s never held interest in crops, or horticulture for that matter. “Is this a metaphor or some deep idiom?”
Jimin hums, lifting a hand to undo the ribbons of Yoongi’s gat.
“Nothing too clever, but perhaps life-changing,” he says as he casts Yoongi’s gat aside, and Yoongi is grateful to be able to nestle his head more comfortably in Jimin’s lap. “During a time when my family was starving and Hyunji was all but bones, the tree bloomed mid-spring.”
Yoongi stills, mouth agape as he watches the shadow of leaves from surrounding trees ripple against Jimin’s face. “This is the first you’ve mentioned your family to me.”
“I’ve spoken of Hyunji, no?”
Yoongi reaches up to cradle Jimin’s cheeks in both hands. “Not all of them.”
Jimin smiles bitterly. “I try not to think of my drunkard father or the mother who sold her children off to a richer household too much.”
“Tell me,” Yoongi whispers, stroking one thumb back and forth.
“I thought you asked me to say only good things.” Jimin leans into his touch.
Yoongi withdraws his hands and folds them over his chest, if only to mollify the unreasonable ache spreading in him. “I suppose you could say I am... I am studying the ways of the commoner. I wish to see your world from your eyes.”
“I fear there’s not much to like,” says Jimin.
“But that’s your world,” counters Yoongi, for the first time wishing he could have been a different person leading a different life. “A world with you in it makes it worth seeing.”
Jimin emits a choked noise, barely repressed, and Yoongi wants to slap himself for the crassness.
/Wrong/, a voice chastises at the back of his head. Jimin is a man, and so is he—Yoongi should not be here at all, saying such vile things. Not only is it improper, it is a crime.
But then Jimin slips his hand into his, and Yoongi wonders how something so soft could be criminal.
Who knew what miracles a hand could bring? While Jimin rakes his right hand over the dark hair falling loose over his lap, Yoongi takes his left, studying each knuckle in the warm afternoon light.
“You have a birthmark here,” he points out, tracing across Jimin’s wrist.
It looks a little out of ordinary, a crossbow shaped like a crescent moon. Under Yoongi’s fingertips, he feels Jimin’s pulse quicken as he yanks his left hand away, but Yoongi snatches it right back.
“Have no shame. I bear a scar, too. You said we ought to wear it proudly, no?”
Jimin’s hand trembles under his grasp, so Yoongi guides it to the left side of his chest, right over his stuttering heartbeat.
“I could take a nap like this.”
Jimin is quiet for a few more moments, before he says, “I suppose I... I would not mind trying a folk song. Maybe two.”
“Heol. I always knew you would come around.”
Jimin flicks his forehead, and Yoongi lets out a hiss. “Consider this a special performance.”
“Color me honored.”
“When I was a child, my mother would sing me to sleep. Her lullaby.” Jimin begins to hum.
Yoongi’s eyes flutter shut.
“Even if this dream-like fate disappears,
You’re engraved deep in my heart
Even if I’m alone on this road
I can still see you.”
As the late summer heat softens against Yoongi’s eyelids, he musters a comment: “That sounds awfully somber.”
“I would believe it is a hopeful song.”
Jimin’s silky voice is like a good jar of rice wine—rich and intoxicating, lilting in a way that calms Yoongi. it seems as though nothing too terrible can happen, not whilst they sit under the roof of this pavilion. Even the trees sing for them—a gentle crooning of leaves.
/Today, you are summer,/ he thinks to himself, grip on Jimin’s hand loosening as his mind succumbs to his subconscious.
All the while, Jimin holds him close, his sweet voice keeping him company.
By the time he crashes back to waking, Yoongi already knows he feels more refreshed even before he opens his eyes—
—to find that Jimin gazing at him still, a look of bright wonder and apprehension in his eyes. As if Yoongi is an apparition he does not know how to handle.
If there is anything to be displeased about, it’s that he’s no longer resting in Jimin’s lap, just the floor. Yawning, Yoongi stretches and asks, “Was I out too long?”
Jimin shakes his head and glances up beyond the roof. “The sun has barely moved. I’d say it has been an hour.”
Sitting upright, Yoongi cranes his neck and rolls back his shoulders. “Did you not sleep as well?”
“I tried, but I preferred to watch the view,” Jimin answers casually, and Yoongi feels his cheeks warm.
Could Jimin be referring to... him?
“The ducks were adorable,” says Jimin.
Right. Yoongi masks a scowl & stands. “We should leave. I have neglected my studies enough for today.”
“There is one more thing you are neglecting,” Jimin states as he catches up to Yoongi’s quick strides.
“Your art. I do wonder why you have not painted me even once.”
Yoongi stops in his tracks, every vein in bis body seeming to freeze over.
In the midst of all the chaos, it occurs to him only now that hasn’t been putting in any effort to keep up his grand lie. Which is why, early the next morning, he summons—
“Tutor Jeon is here to see you.”
“Let him in.”
As soon as the doors to his quarters slide open and Jeon Jungkook appears with his head bowed, Yoongi ushers him inside and leans forward. “Let us begin. Is there no quick course to learn all the techniques in painting? I must be an expert by the end of the week.”
Jungkook tips his head sideways, brows burrowed. “My lord, pardon the discretion, but I would say every form of art requires practice.”
“Then practice I shall. You will come here every morning before Songhwa’s lessons. If you are unable to teach me, you will be beheaded.”
Jungkook throws him a shattered look.
“I jest,” Yoongi deadpans drily. He wishes he were as good at Jimin when it comes to pulling one’s leg.
The art tutor gulps. “I give you my life oath to be a master artist by the end the w-week.”
“Do not tremble, I jest.”
“A week it is!”
Jungkook kneels & bows so low that his forehead bumps against the floor, and Yoongi has to muffle his laugh.
“I will not disappoint you! We can start any time!”
“Fine, then we begin now,” Yoongi asserts. “Teach me how to draw lips.”
“Lips are easy to capture.”
“...I hope so.”
thanks for tuning in today!!
I promise the next update is one of the parts I’ve been waiting to write since I first started this story HUEHUEHUE... see you again!
Link to the playlist:
watching a k-drama right now and look who we have — Crown Prince Sohyeon!!
The wooden paintbrush clacks against the table as Yoongi smacks it down with a frustrated noise.
“It makes no sense,” he grits out, eyes darting from Jungkook’s canvas to his. “I do not understand why yours possesses such outstanding quality, while mine looks flat and lifeless.”
Jungkook stifles a yawn, scratching his head. “It has been a day, Your Highness. No art was ever perfected over night.”
Sighing, Yoongi looks out the window, where the sun has only halfway risen over the mountain peaks surrounding the palace. “How can fruit be so hard to paint?”
He glares at the platter of assorted plums, berries, apples and bananas on the table. “I remember specifically asking how to paint human features.”
“If you can’t even do fruits, how will you depict a human,” Jungkook mutters under his breath, and Yoongi scrunches his nose.
“How is my sister faring with her art?” Yoongi changes the subject, picking up his paintbrush once more.
Jungkook’s doe eyes take on a new sparkle. “Very well. Her Highness has a flair for very detailed and realistic drawings. And...”
“And women,” Jungkook mumbles.
Both men fall silent at that, equally aware of the meaning behind those words. Try as he might, Yoongi still feels like a caged bird whenever the... topic... comes up in a conversation. That Songhwa is...
“And what do you think of that?” he asks Jungkook.
The art tutor hums.
Jungkook keeps his gaze fixated on his canvas, his hand moving in precise and delicate strokes. “I am in no position to make a comment.”
“But if you were?” Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “Suppose you and I are friends of equal status sharing makgeolli at a tavern right now?”
“Souls,” Jungkook says, dipping his brush into a deep navy hue on his palette, “are not very diff... different from ink, if I may express so.” He ducks his head, peering up to watch Yoongi’s expression cautiously.
“Formless. Until we give them shape, like human bodies.”
Yoongi shoots him a puzzled look. “What an extraordinary comparison. I cannot begin to imagine such a description.”
Jungkook sniffles bashfully and looks down at his creation. “Humans are little masterpieces made of the same ink. Regardless of... of whether we are man or woman.”
Yoongi stares at him, small images forming in his mind. If human souls were made of ink... “Then, you are implying that the canvas does not matter, only what’s illustrated?”
Jungkook blinks and bows, biting on his lip. “Perhaps, Your Highness.”
“Do you feel the same as my sister?” Yoongi asks point-blank, leaning forward.
A deep crimson splotches the apples of Jungkook’s cheeks. “I... I believe that if one ink color finds another compatible color, then the resulting artwork will be beautiful, regardless of the canvas.”
Yoongi feels something inside him dislodge, like an outcropping of rock that’s finally giving way to the will of a rushing river. He cracks a gentle smile and looks down at the sorry attempt at a fruit platter on his canvas. “Then teach me how to understand the rainbow.”
“I would be most honored.” The art tutor smiles with another bow, and surveys their handiwork so far. “To add subtle realism, try applying different forms of pressure on your paintbrush. Doing so influences the shades absorbed by the canvas, and therefore adds dimension...”
When Jimin arrives later just in time for lunch, Yoongi stays still and silent, mind churning with potential reasons to justify his inactivity in keeping the other end of their ‘bargain’.
“If you must know,” he blurts over their meal, “my wrist is hurt.”
Not the best excuse, but Yoongi must make do somehow. “Therefore I will be unable to paint for the time being.”
Jimin’s eyes shift to him, mid-sip of his broth. He sets the bowl down, face wrinkling in concern. “What injured you?”
“My... sword practice. I held it too loosely.”
Jimin purses his lips, eyes glimmering. “Your wrist is hurt due to your handling of your... sword.”
“Yes. I was a tad bit too enthusiastic and gripped too hard and too lose at some points,” Yoongi fibs, “and as a result I twisted my right one. A shame, but I must wait to heal.”
A loud snort escapes Jimin, and he quickly snatches his teacup to drink. Yoongi will never understand the man’s bizzare sense of humor.
“May your wrist get well soon,” the dancer says after a moment of recollecting himself.
Yoongi nods. “Gradually.”
“My lord,” a servant calls.
Yoongi bites back a sigh. That interruptions always seem to abound when he is with Jimin will never not be irksome. “What is it?”
“His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince has come to visit you.”
Yoongi looks up sharply, setting his chopsticks down, and exchanges a look with Jimin.
“Shall I hide again?” Jimin is already skittering towards the folding screen.
Yoongi’s eyes dart to the table between, laid out with a meal hearty enough for two people. There is no excuse he can give for having so much food brought to him.
Besides, Jimin is Lady Aeshin today.
To be caught with a gisaeng in his private quarters is still more honorable than to be found fraternizing with a young man alone, and a stranger to the palace, too. Yoongi hates that he cannot deny this fact.
“No.” He stops Jimin by the arm. “Stay.”
“But my lord—“
Yoongi rests both hands on Jimin’s shoulders and gently guides him to sit back down on his cushion. “You are my guest today. My brother could at least try to understand.”
“But he is the Crown Prince—“
“Jimin.” Yoongi nicks the underside of the dancer’s chin. “It’s fine.”
“Yoongi-yah, I’m coming in,” Sohyeon’s voice rings out, loud and firm, and the doors part open just as Yoongi pulls Jimin towards him and slings an arm around his shoulders in a show of an intimate embrace.
“Brother,” Yoongi drawls lazily. “What an honor to have you join us.”
Crown Prince Sohyeon’s eyes flicker to the gisaeng in Yoongi’s arms for a brief moment before they harden. “I did not think you would have... guests, in the middle of the afternoon.”
“Beautiful, is she not?” Yoongi strokes Jimin’s hair, earning him a small jab in the rib.
/Do not overdo it/, Yoongi can practically hear Jimin’s hissy warning. “This is the venerable Lady Aeshin of Hanyang, the one & only court dancer teaching our Songhwa the ways of a woman’s grace.”
The Crown Prince’s eyebrows rise. “So I’ve heard. Yoongi, I would speak with you.”
“Would you join us, brother? While the food is still warm—“
“Alone,” the Crown Prince says pointedly, eyeing Jimin. “In private.”
Yoongi slides his arm down to Jimin’s waist and tightens his hold. “She is a mere gisaeng who holds no interest in the affairs of men. She stays.”
Yoongi’s heart gallops a mile a minute. Though he and the Crown Prince have had their fair share of perry squabble, he has never stood up like this to his brother before, with his desire so plainly laid out bare before him.
Sohyeon’s eyes narrow.
“I will go,” Jimin mumbles.
Carefully, he extricates himself from Yoongi’s embrace despite Yoongi’s pointed glare. Jimin bows low on his knees before the Crown Prince, before stepping momentarily out of the room.
“A gisaeng,” Sohyeon says as he replaces Yoongi’s perch at the head of the table. “Really?”
Yoongi offers a half-shouldered shrug, keeping his expression passive.
“I do hope it is a past time,” Crown Prince Sohyeon says, eyes softening with concern. “You know it cannot be.”
“I will keep her close as long as she remains,” Yoongi says. “Anyway, is something the matter?”
The Crown Prince signals at his trusted eunuch, who comes forward to present a scroll.
Yoongi looks at his brother. “And this is?”
Sohyeon gestures for the eunuch to pass the scroll to Yoongi. “Read it.”
Yoongi obliges, stomach dropping as his eyes scan the words. “Denied?”
“Too many ministers have written appeals expressing disapproval. Our father cannot pass the decree to set up a central legislation despite my personal request,” says the Crown Prince, looking pained. “Yoongi, I’m afraid we have to stop here.”
Yoongi frowns. “What do you mean?”
Sohyeon pauses, then sighs. “They are onto us. Or at least me, for that matter. I can feel it. Whatever it is that you wanted to achieve through me, I’m afraid I can no longer help without repercussions.”
Yoongi stews in silence. The risks are far too great, that much he knows.
The Crown Prince lowers his voice. “I am no more than a horse in reins at the moment. Your uncle and the State Councillors hold too much influence. But fret not, for I will never speak your name. I will not endanger you.”
“It is not that that I worry about,” Yoongi interjects.
Part of him is disappointed with their backfired plans, but a larger part is alarmed at the realization that he has not considered this thoroughly, bulldozing his way through the state’s affairs like a child. And he hasn’t even attended a conference yet. “I’ve endangered /you/.”
“No.” The Crown Prince shakes his head. “I am still safe, now that the decree did not go through. Moreover, they are waiting for me to produce an heir with the Crown Princess. Do not worry, Yoongi-yah.” He grins. “Your brother will not go down so easily.”
“You better not.”
Sohyeon smiles ruefully. “Still, I regret being unable to help.”
“Do not worry.” Yoongi’s works his tongue against his inner cheek, contemplating his next words. “My uncle met me earlier this week. He said I am to attend the royal conferences from now on.”
Crown Prince Sohyeon’s mouth parts in surprise. “I believe I was not informed.”
“I thought so,” says Yoongi. “Which is why I am telling you. Now that I am attending court, do you not think we can make stronger allies?”
Sohyeon’s expression dims. “They will try to silence you.”
“They can try all they want. Even if they silence me,” Yoongi drawls, mind racing, “they will never be able to silence the true mouthpiece of Joseon.”
The Crown Prince’s eyebrows furrow. “Who?”
Yoongi rolls up the scroll again and replaces it in its tube. “The people.”
“What is playing in that brilliant mind of yours, brother?” The Crown Prince’s eyes take on a curious glint.
“A trap,” Yoongi answers without offering an explanation, then calls out to the servants outside, “Listen here! Summon the royal messenger. I have a letter to send.”
Jimin re-enters Yoongi’s quarters only after the Crown Prince and his entourage has completely departed the halls, head bowed.
Yoongi’s heart lifts.
“You know, princeling, you did not have to insist I stay. What was that all about?”
Yoongi’s smile dims.
“I—“ he pauses, tongue retreating into the cave of his mouth. Why /did/ he want Jimin to stay inside while he and his brother spoke? Could it be that he trusts the dancer enough to consider him family?
No way. What a ridiculous idea.
“I just wanted you to meet my brother.”
Jimin blinks at him owlishly, then nods. “It /is/ an honor, I admit. I should have shown my respects better.”
“And I...” Yoongi scratches the back of his head. A small part of him wanted Jimin to hear his dicussion with the Crown Prince, for Jimin to feel proud of his efforts.
But even the thought sounds childish enough in Yoongi’s head, and he can’t bring himself to speak it.
“Hmm?” asks Jimin. “What is it?”
What does he expect, anyway? It is unlikely Jimin will pat him in congratulations whatsoever, so why does he yearn for approval from the man?
It strikes Yoongi then, how lonely & desperate he must be to seek comfort like this. How vulnerable.
/Get a grip/, he tells himself, turning away to wipe at his eyes for a split-second.
When he returns to face Jimin, he puffs his chest out. “I am stepping out to hunt tomorrow.”
Jimin’s forehead wrinkles. “Oh?”
“Yes, which means you need not come to my quarters tomorrow afternoon.”
Is it Yoongi’s imagination, or did Jimin’s expression fall?
No, he thinks. The dancer is probably glad to be free—
“Can’t I come with you?” Jimin murmurs, eyes downcast.
He scoots forward and clutches at the sleeves of Yoongi’s silk robes, lips set in a pout.
And Yoongi...well, Yoongi dies a little inside, before getting resurrected, only to die again, living little lifetimes within the span of mere moments. “I suppose I could use some company.”
Jimin’s triumphant smile is worth every pain Yoongi has ever had to bear. “Wonderful! Wait. Will we shoot arrows? Because if there is one thing I have not trained with, it’s a bow.”
Yoongi smirks and ruffles his hair. “Unnecessary, little crane. It’s not /that/ kind of hunt.”
Jimin’s face morphs to that of keen interest. “Then what kind is it?”
Eyeing the tube of parchment scrolls the Crown Prince left behind on his desk, Yoongi just gives a small shrug. “You’ll see. It is alright if you cannot shoot, but how well acquainted are you with horses?”
yay thanks for tuning in!!!
here’s a question: Do you think Jimin is aware of Yoongi’s crush in him? XD
updates resume tomorrow. fun times ahead yeehaw seeya!
As usual, at the end of Songhwa’s dance lessons, Jimin appears at Yoongi’s quarters. However there is no time to dilly-dally today; after their meal, Yoongi has Jimin changing into his spare palace guard uniform once more.
“You will pose as a guard as we leave the palace today.”
“Where /are/ we going, if I may ask?” Jimin asks as he finishes tying the ribbon holding the black-and-crimson uniform together.
Hoseok meets them outside the stables, and together the three of them head out of the palace gates under the guise of a leisure hunt.
Hoseok leads at the front, his stallion’s mane gleaming under the afternoon sun. He and Jimin flank Yoongi, with Jimin taking up the rear.
It is intriguing, Yoongi thinks. He never expected to trust Jimin, let alone predict their odd trio to be travelling together like this.
To the unsuspecting eye, it would be easy to miss Jimin’s lack of expertise in riding a horse. But because Yoongi has never been too skilled at keeping his eyes off the man, he barely stifles a chortle at the way Jimin’s shoulders and back look too tense, his legs too stiff.
“If you need to ride with either me or Hoseok, just say the word, little crane,” Yoongi calls over his shoulder, smirking. “You look ready to pass out alone on that saddle.”
“I am perfectly fine,” Jimin snarks.
“Do you regret asking to tag along now?”
“Like I said—I’m fine!”
Yoongi tugs lightly on his reins, making his own stallion rear back and turn around so that he can go at the same pace, riding side by side with Jimin.
“You are looking a little pale today,” Yoongi muses. “Is this perhaps your first time riding?”
“I ride good, just not horses.”
Yoongi’s brows knit together. Sometimes Jimin truly says the most unusual things. “Then what do you ride?”
At this, the tight expression on Jimin’s face seems to lift by a fraction, and he glances at Yoongi briefly. Yet he doesn’t answer.
Yoongi takes the silence as anxiety.
“Do not be frightened. Potato is a good girl, but she catches onto her rider’s sentiments easily. Your fear could make her skittish.” Yoongi clears his throat and stretches his left arm towards Jimin. “Here—I will grant you permission to hold on if you need to abate your terror.”
He bites back a satisfied smile. He feels rather proud of himself, being so chivalrous like this. But when his arm remains hanging in the empty air between him & Jimin, he frowns.
“Will you not take it?”
Jimin stares back, then raises his own hand... to swat Yoongi’s arm aside.
“‘I will grant you permission...yada yada yada’,” Jimin imitates in a high-pitched, mocking voice. “Princeling, perhaps you ought to get off your high horse.”
“How else shall I travel, then?” Yoong rebuts, affronted.
A snort emanates from Hoseok out front.
Jimin grins. “At least your Commandant knows where I am coming from.”
Yoongi makes a face. “You must think I am a sheltered aristocrat who knows nothing of the ways of the world.”
At this, Jimin and Hoseok exchange brief looks, then burst into laughter.
“Well, I would have you change your mind by the end of today,” Yoongi announces, pulling on the reins to trot ahead of Jimin once more. “Forget it, you may no longer take my arm. I have changed my mind. The day I let you hold my hand is the day I strip naked and run around town.”
“Do not tempt me, princeling, for I might now want to hold your hand just to see that happen now,” Jimin singsongs. “What do you think, Commander?”
Hoseok glances back at the two of them, smiling softly. “I think I am in the presence of a comedy troupe. Fools, but funny.”
They fall into companionate silence after that, breaking away from the main path leading into the town market and meandering into the forest instead.
Dry leaves and stray twigs crackle beneath their horses’ hooves, and every now and then they have to duck to avoid low branches.
“It’s a shortcut,” Hoseok says. “And we’re less prominent to prying eyes when we go this way.”
Eventually they end up at a run-down hut right at the edge of the woods, just outside of Hanyang’s fortress walls. It looks abandoned, if not for the smoke coming out of the hut.
A man emerges from the hut to welcome them, probably alerted by the clopping of their horses. Decked in a commoner’s garb, nobody would have guessed he is Sungkyunkwan’s new rising scholar—
“Namjoon,” Yoongi calls, grinning as he hops off his saddle.
His friend nods, smiling.
“Prince Yun, finally.”
“I am glad you read my letter well,” Yoongi says, striding up to the Minister of Finance’s son. Hoseok and Jimin drop from their saddles too, standing closeby.
“I have, and—“ Namjoon pauses as he peers into Jimin’s face.
Next to Yoongi, Jimin stiffens.
“He is one of my new guards,” Yoongi fibs, feeling his jaw tighten. For some reason he doesn’t have it in him to reveal Jimin’s identity to anyone he does not have to, even his trusted friends.
Namjoon’s eyes narrow, lingering on Jimin. “Right.”
Yoongi looks between them.
There’s something about the way the two look at each other, as though their gazes carry something heavy with meaning. “Do you two... know each other?”
Yoongi runs the facts in his head. Kim Namjoon, Sungkyunkwan scholar. Kim.
He looks at Jimin, then Namjoon.
But then Namjoon grins and shakes his head. “I was simply surprised to see a new face. Come inside, the others are waiting.”
Yoongi feels the tension seep away from his shoulders. Of course, it’s impossible. Kim Namjoon is probably too busy to indulge in such a... lewd business.
Namjoon leads them into the hut, which is leagues cleaner and more well-kept than its dilapidated exterior suggests. In the cramped space there is a long wooden table flanked by two benches on either side. Three men sit, talking quietly among each other, until Namjoon speaks.
“Everyone, the grand prince Min Yun has arrived.”
Eyes widening, the men clamor to bow, but Yoongi gives a dismissive wave and urges them to stay seated. “Let us not waste time on greetings. I am here not as a prince, but as a powerless subject of the King hoping for change.”
A chorus of hesitant nods meet his words, and they settle around the table, with Yoongi at the head, bracketed by the protection of Hoseok and Jimin closeby.
Namjoon speaks to make introductions. “Prince Yun, this is Han Sunjae, President of the Sungkyunkwan council.”
“Thank you for responding to my call,” says Yoongi.
Han Sunjae, a handsome young man with deep-set eyes and a cleft chin, smiles and dips his head respectfully. “It was Scholar Kim Namjoon who asked me to come, and I would not refuse someone as wise and highly respectable.”
“Especially since Scholar Kim is expected to take over as the next President in due time,” says another man in silk green robes, who Yoongi finds out is named Shin Su.
Namjoon introduces the last one, Gu Yanghyuk, also an important member of the Sungkyunkwan academy’s council.
“Many worries have come to my attention in great detail, of late,” Yoongi states, bringing out the scroll of rejection that the Crown Prince had passed to him earlier on. “Food scarcity. Bribery. Unmonitored taxes. All point to the poison at Joseon’s roots: greed and corruption.”
With a carefully abridged version of his story to protect Jimin’s identity, Yoongi outlines his recent failure with his own father and reveals his plans of establishing a central tax system.
“But you said the proposal has been rejected,” Gu Yanghyuk says, mouth set in a frown.
“And nothing moves without the King’s order,” Shin Su adds, shaking his head. “If the ministers are adamant, it will be hard to move the sun’s hand.”
“Knowing my father, he will not,” Yoongi agrees. “But ministers are not the only powerful people in the social strata.”
He makes sure to lock gazes with each man in the room as he says, “Which is where we, scholars of the Royal Academy, come in.”
“What is it that you want?” Han Sunjae says, eyes flashing with keen but cautious curiosity.
“Rise against the weak tax system.”
“We use our voice, we march in the streets, we make a stand outside the palace gates. We must make sure everyone and their grandmothers know how upset we are. Surely, if enough names from powerful aristocrat clans voice out their dissent, then not even the throne can ignore us.”
Han Sunjae leans forward, mouth set in a tight line. “All this, and for what? And why should Sungkyunkwan step into matters of the state?”
Yoongi’s breathing hitches as he catches Jimin’s eye and uses his exact same words—
“Why do anything at all, if not for compassion?”
He takes a shuddering breath and gathers his thoughts into something worthy of a prince. “If we, as scholars of the Confucian way of life, fail to realize the grim errors of the nation /now/, then we might as well admit failure when we graduate and serve as future officials.”
Yoongi tries his very best to sound stern, to not let his voice waver. When he looks up and finds Jimin’s soft gaze on him, a buttery warmth spreads through his chest.
Namjoon hums, smiling. “I like the grand prince’s beliefs, and I agree. What say you, sunbae-nim?”
The rest of the Sungkyunkwan Council members share knowing looks, before turning to Yoongi with smiling faces.
“You have a knack for convincing speeches, my lord,” Shin Su says.
Han Sunjae takes out a parchment. “Let us record our names as part of an agreement on paper.”
Something in Yoongi leaps for joy, and he release an exhale that relaxes his shoulders. “Thank you.”
They each take turns passing a calligraphy brush around. When Namjoon picks it up and starts writing, a part of his sleeve falls back to reveal the skin of his wrist.
In the light streaming in through the open windows, Yoongi thinks he spots a darkened pattern branded on the underside of Namjoon’s wrist. Something resembling a crossbow in the shape of a crescent moon.
Yoongi could have sworn he’s seen that familiar mark before.
Namjoon waves the calligraphy brush in Yoongi’s field of vision.
Yoongi blinks. “Right.”
Gingerly, he signs his name over the parchment containing the terms of their planned protest, than hands it back to the council members with a final word of gratitude before parting ways.
“Will it work?” Yoongi wonders as they wait for Hoseok to fetch the horses. “Would any scholar deign to stand against such deep-rooted traditions?”
“It’s only tradition because nobody has tried to change it,” Namjoon says. “But you needn’t worry; Sungkyunkwan is on your side.”
Yoongi wishes he possessed the same confidence. “Be safe on your way back. Remember not to tell a single soul.”
“I will take this to the grave,” says Namjoon, bowing to him. He gives one last lingering look in Jimin’s direction, before also returning to his horse’s station.
As Hoseok approaches with the horses, Yoongi eyes Jimin suspiciously. “Tell me the truth, little crane.”
Jimin licks over his lower lip but meets his stare head-on.
“Is Namjoon... you know...”
Jimin raises an eyebrow.
“Is he...” Yoongi wets his lip. “...your Master Kim?”
Yoongi wants to smack himself upside in the head as soon as Jimin erupts into a fit of giggles, bending over until the colored beads of his uniform’s gat start swinging in front of his face.
“Oh, princeling, you truly are adorable.”
Yoongi scowls at him. “Will you be serious?”
Jimin keeps laughing as though he has cracked the most significant joke of the year. “Please don’t tell me you will suspect every man surnamed Kim as my Master Kim.”
He wipes tears of joy from his eyes and the three of them hop on and begin the long journey back to the palace.
The fall into the same riding formation as before—Hoseok in front, Yoongi in the middle, and Jimin as the back. It’s not until several minutes of silent galloping later that Yoongi realizes—
“How did you know Namjoon’s surname is Kim?” he asks, slowing down his horse to a trod.
Come to think of it, he does not remember informing Jimin of his friend’s name...
“Did you not say that he is the Minister of Finance’s son?” Jimin says, nose scruning up. “And since Minister Kim is Minister Kim, should one expect his son be a Lee or a Kang or a Jeon?”
Shame floods Yoongi, and he rubs a palm over his face. “Right.”
Jimin looks at him, eyes shining with amusement. “The identity of Master Kim must remain anonymous for various reasons. Anyway, if you still want the next edition, the offer remains open.”
“N-no,” Yoongi wheezes.
Jimin chuckles quietly, and for a while only the clip-clop of the horses’ footfalls fill the air in the forest. Far out in the horizon, the sun is steadily lowering itself for bedtime. Yoongi hopes Jimin might stay for dinner.
“You did good.”
Yoongi’s gaze darts to Jimin.
The court dancer’s gaze is fixed on his reins, chin dipped bashfully. “Today, I mean. Watching you negotiate with the scholars like that... I suppose you’re not half the spoiled prince I’d pegged you as.”
Yoongi’s ears burn. “Is that a compliment?”
Jimin’s lips quirk up.
“That was me coming up with your one good quality, in a sea of flaws.”
“Come closer so I can push you off that stallion.”
“Aaaand I take it back,” Jimin laughs, purposefully jerking his reins to the right to trot away from Yoongi. “You are still insufferable, after all.”
Yoongi pulls at his reins to follow. “The only insufferable one here is—“
An arrow whistles past his left ear, sailing straight down and piercing a tree behind Yoongi, where his head should have been a moment ago.
Distressed, his horse rears back and he lets out a jerky yell.
“Your Highness!” Hoseok yells, turning his stallion right back around and drawing his sword.
Yoongi’s horse rights itself and he looks around, heart pounding. “Where did that come from—“
Another thin arrow shoots past them, grazing and toppling Yoongi’s gat’s off his head.
“Stay behind me, Yoongi!” Hoseok cries. Only then does Yoongi realize that their little group had entered a darker part of the forest, the trees tall and sturdy, the foliage and branches thick enough to hide for cover.
He spots another arrow coming for his face, but it’s +
blocked when Jimin’s arm shoots out in front of Yoongi’s face, shielding with the scabbard of a sword.
“Get back.” With his other arm, Jimin swings his own sword, deflecting against the sudden shower of arrows coming from the trees around them.
“We’re surrounded,” Yoongi says.
“I can see that.” Jimin scoots close to Yoongi, protecting him from the right side just as Hoseok is protecting him from the left. He swears under his breath. “Rotten luck.”
Yoongi squints up at the trees, where masked faces emerge from behind the foliage. “Who are they?”
Jimin raises his sword in the air, poised to fight, and his answer rocks Yoongi to the core. “Forest thieves.”
“Not just any bandits.” Jimin shares a stricken look with him and Hoseok. “Those masks... these are the one who boil their enemies.”
TBC tomorrow, sleepy now nightsie. pls tell me your thoughts and theories so far :>.
Yoongi cusses under his breath, every last nerve ending on alert. He’d heard of barbarians living outside of the palace walls, but he never imagined he would once day cross paths with one, let alone at entire group.
“I’ll distract them,” Hoseok hisses. “Both of you, go.”
"No," Yoongi snaps with a glare. "We either leave altogether, or we don't."
"There are at least three archers among the trees," Yoongi says, making a quick head count.
"Three more incoming," Jimin growls as more men spill from the bushes, blocking the dirt trail.
Yoongi bites back the bile rising up his throat, dread twisting his stomach as the masked men on the ground assume straight-backed gaits, sickles and axes in hand. A classic war tactic—they’re surrounded both above and below.
“Don’t attack yet,” says Yoongi. “Aim for cover.”
He jerks his chin to the left, to an off-beaten terrain that leads even deeper in the woods, away from the main path. “Over there—“
Another arrow shoots inches away from his right shoulder.
“—go, go!” Yanking at the reins, the three of them surge forward, horses crying.
The rushing wind lashes at his cheeks, keeping tempo with his furious pulse. Another fizzle in the air tells him yet a new arrow was shot at them.
An agonized neigh rattles the air, and Yoongi looks behind to see Jimin’s horse, Potato, tripping and veering sideways.
An arrow protrudes from the mare’s right hind leg. She keens and buckles under her own weight, jostling Jimin off her saddle. With a sharp cry, he plummets to a grassy patch.
“Jimin!” Hoseok yells, dropping from his own horse. Yoongi grinds to a halt and herds his stallion back.
Yoongi swings his right leg as he jumps down and takes off into a sprint to the spot where Jimin has rolled to. The numbing dread in his belly turn into pincers.
“Jimin,” he and Hoseok pant, kneeling by the dancer. “Are you alright?”
Groaning, Jimin sits up. “Wrist...landed...”
Yoongi looks at the dancer’s left wrist. “Can you move your arm at all? Your hands?”
With a hiss, Jimin flexes his fingers and manages a small nod. Hoseok sighs in relief, eyes glassy.
Yoongi swallows. “Good, then it shouldn’t be broken.” He and Hoseok tug up Jimin’s free arm.
They turn around only to find all six of the masked bandits closing on them—three perched atop thick branches, three circling them on the ground like prowling wolves, thirsty with bloodlust. None speaks a word, all seeming to operate in ruthless silence.
It’s still for a moment.
Then everything erupts all at once, blurring into chaos. Hoseok yells and swings his sword at 2 of the grounded bandits. The other lunges for Jimin. But despite the injured wrist, Jimin is as sharp as ever, ducking away before darting into the trees.
Yoongi reaches for his bow.
He jumps for cover behind a giant sequoia tree, fingers grappling for purchase around one of his own arrows. Nocking it on the bowstring, he closes his eyes, willing his heartbeat to quiet down.
He stands still, the air whispering in his ears.
A branch crackles to the right.
In a blink of an eye, Yoongi sets the arrow loose, then follows it with another, and then another, aiming for the canopy of trees.
When another rustle catches his attention, he nocks two arrows and sends them flying at the same time. The projectiles sing through the wind.
A muffled scream from behind the canopy of branches sends birds scattering outwards, and a cloaked figure drops to the ground. One down.
Yoongi has no time to think about what he’s just done as he shoots again, blindly this time.
Another scream pierces the air. Lucky hit.
One more archer. Yoongi strains his ears, but this time round he hears nothing except for Hoseok’s cries of rage, and the whimpers of the men who have to face the commandant’s wrath.
Yoongi emerges from his cover, strapping his bow to his back and unsheathing his sword to help.
One of the bandits is already lying face-first on the soil, blood dribbling from his chest.
Hoseok spins with his weapon, fending off 2 assailants at once. Yoongi surges forward to defend Hoseok from where he can’t see an axe aimed at his neck.
/A blind spot/, Jimin had said.
He was right, as he always is.
“Where’s Jimin?” Yoongi says as he and Hoseok stand back to back, breathing raggedly.
Hoseok shakes his head. “You really think I have enough attention to spare”—he grunts and narrowly misses getting his thigh sliced—“when I’m trying not to die?”
Yoongi can’t dwell on it. The masked bandit swings his axe again—a heavy thing that requires time to aim. Yoongi reels back and feigns attacking left, then darts to the right and knocks his sword’s hilt against the barbarian’s nape.
The man falls limp to the ground.
At the same time, Hoseok drives his sword through his assailant, who lets out a choked cry before blood starts spurting through his teeth. Hoseok yanks his sword back from the bandit’s abdomen. The body twitches on the ground, then completely stills.
A sharp cry fills the air.
Yoongi and Hoseok share stricken looks.
/Jimin/. He fell off his horse injured and entirely unarmed. Not to mention his fan is broken, too.
Heart in his throat, Yoongi takes off into another run into the direction he last saw the dancer go, legs burning from exhaustion.
He’s not sure what robs his breath first—the sight of a lifeless bandit draped over a fallen, rotting log, a sickle lodged into his back; or Jimin mere meters away, lying on his back pale and bloodied. His robes are ripped, and there’s a deep bite mark on his upper left arm.
Yoongi crashes to his knees next to him, heart pounding with dread. “Park Jimin.” He lifts Jimin’s robe to inspect the extent of his injury, but the dancer swats him away.
“I am a tragedy, do not look. The fucking bastard tried to get a piece of me,” Jimin breathes, voice rough.
Yoongi shushes him with a furious sob, eyes shooting back and forth in search of water, or cloth, or anything to rinse the punctures in Jimin’s skin.
“Calm down,” Jimin says, hissing as he struggles to sit upright. “You look like I’m about to—“
The next moment happens too fast.
Without even registering it, Yoongi finds himself being shoved aside as Jimin folds his body over him, as though using himself as a shield.
A sickening squelch breaks through Yoongi’s panic. Barely daring to breathe, he looks down and finds an arrow lodged into Jimin’s side.
Crimson blood leaks from the entry point, and for a terrible, deluded moment Yoongi tells himself this is just a nightmare, but then Jimin lets out a strangled noise.
“Oh,” he says airily, staring at the arrow with a grimace. “I knew I s-should have practiced long-range... too.”
Yoongi’s panic swells into something molten hot, simmers into a fury he’s never faced.
“Do not move,” he says to Jimin, scared by the steadiness of his voice. “And stay awake.”
He rises without a word and pulls out his bow, covering Jimin’s heaving body from any line of target.
Guerilla combat is beyond anything Yoongi had ever trained for. But if there’s one thing studying the classics taught him, it’s the value of using the senses to tease out patterns... and irregularities from the natural harmony of the world.
Yoongi picks up a rock and hurls it.
From an oak tree to the right, another flock of birds scatter from their perch. But that’s not where Yoongi has his eyes on.
By logic, any cornered enemy would escape while there’s a disturbance going on.
He keeps his gaze fixed on the rest of the woods, and sure enough—there.
A blur of brown fabric zips through the foliage to the left, and it takes no longer than a split second for him to release two arrows in the masked archer’s way.
One misses. The other pierces right through his shoulder.
Shaking, Yoongi fires another, then one more.
They hit the archer’s thigh and skull respectively, but Yoongi can’t stop. The world seems to sharpen to a single point.
He must make sure nobody can lay a single finger on the little crane again. With a gruff yell, he lets loose one more arrow, straight into the archer’s heart.
At the sound of Hoseok’s shout, he crashes back into himself with a sharp gasp, chest heaving as adrenaline leaves his body. Yoongi lowers his bow and turns.
The Commandant looks up at him in panic, crouched next to a groaning Jimin. “We must make haste. Now.”
“What’s wrong?” Yoongi barks as he races back to Jimin’s side, the bloodstain at the area below his rib spreading bigger.
“He”—Hoseok runs a hand through his hair, face gaunt—“he fucking pulled the arrow out! Why would you do that, you idiot!”
“Wasn’t... deep,” Jimin croaks.
Yoongi’s nostrils flare as he hurries hoist Jimin up his back. “Are you trying to bleed to death?”
Jimin mumbles incoherently next to his ear. Something about not liking long, pointed things inside of him if they are non-human.
“Yoongi,” Hoseok says weakly. “Potato is injured.”
“Jimin rides with me,” Yoongi declares, and together they somehow manage to haul Jimin’s limp form up on the saddle. Luckily the dancer is slim and slender enough to fit both him and Yoongi.
Before they embark, Yoongi rips a strip of his inner robes to wrap around Jimin’s waist.
“It’s the cleanest thing on me right now,” Yoongi explains by way of apology. “Do not refuse if.”
Jimin winces at his touch, but doesn’t smack his hand away this time. Yoongi secures the tourniquet with a knot.
“So much for your injured wrist,” Jimin points out sarcastically.
Yoongi clenches his jaw as he loops the reins around his hands. “This is not the time, Park Jimin.” The horse kicks up into a gallop.
With a soft whine, Jimin leans backwards and nestles against Yoongi’s chest, keeping quiet.
“Stay awake, little crane. Talk to me,” Yoongi says.
Jimin’s chest is rising and falling rapidly, and Yoongi cannot begin to imagine how much pain he’s enduring. “And here I thought you... liked it best when I... when I don’t say anything.”
“Never,” Yoongi counters. “You can say anything you want to me.”
“Is that so..?”
“Ask me anything,” Yoongi days hoarsely, hating the way he sounds so weak when Jimin is the one who took the hit today. “Tell me anything.”
“Then, will you let me try that s-sweet delicacy for tea... tomorrow?” Jimin flinches, his hand shooting forward to squeeze over Yoongi’s.
“The ones you always steal from my plate?” A memory of Jimin laughing while munching on honey cookies flashes in Yoongi’s mind, and he squeezes the dancer’s hand back tight.
“Tomorrow, then.” Yoongi scoots closer and tightens his hold as Jimin starts trembling.
/Please/, he begs in his head, not even exactly sure what it is he’s pleading for. The dread in his gut has morphed into a violent fear coursing throughhis veins, and once or twice Yoongi catches the back of his eyes burning.
“How can such a good fighter like you get injured?”
Jimin snorts, then winces in pain. Turning his head, he murmurs weakly, “Even people like me lose sometimes. I’m not immortal, Min Yoongi.”
Yoongi does not like the sound of that.
Which is why a shuddering exhale punches out of him when the palace gates loom in the horizon.
“Go through the east gate,” Hoseok calls out several paces behind, slowed down by the injured horse limping next to his own. Hoseok holds onto both his and Potato’s reins with a vicelike grip. “The guards on duty there are from my division. I gave orders for them to let us in.”
“Excellent. I should have the royal physician treat—“ Yoongi catches himself mid-sentence, stomach churning.
There’s nobody else in the palace who knows about Jimin’s identity as a man. A physical treatment would doom them all.
“That runs the risk of exposing him,” says Hoseok.
Once more, panic mixed with hopeless fear swells in Yoongi. If Jimin goes untreated tonight, his wounds could fester, leading to an infection...
Which reminds him on an incident years ago, when his sister was injured, but the royal physician had been busy with the Dowager Queen.
Yoongi knows nothing about medicinal treatment, and he’d worried himself sick for his sister at that time, but to his and his mother’s relief, Yeol had stepped in to nurse Songhwa back to the pink of health.
Yeol, who used to be an apothecary servant. Who knows first aid.
“After we get through,” Yoongi calls out to Hoseok, “do not take the path to my quarters. We head elsewhere.”
Hoseok grunts. “I tell you, bringing Jimin to Physician Jo is not a good idea—“
“Not the royal physician,” sighs Yoongi. “We will show our dearest Songhwa a surprise.”
Das a wrap for now! Thoughts?
This update was supposed to be longer but I need to turn in early today since I have work at the bookstore tomorrow
anyway, if you’d like to support PoT & my other works, feel free to buy me a latte!
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
“Lady Songhwa,” the servant to the princess’ study intones slowly, unaware of Yoongi’s festering anxiety. “The Grand Prince Min Yun has come to—“
Without waiting for a reply or the servant to finish, Yoongi pushes apart the sliding doors.
Songhwa sits, nose buried in a book.
Her face is impassive by candlelight. Without looking up, she says nonchalantly, “And to what do I owe the impertinent presence of a brother without manners—“
“Songhwa.” Yoongi strides to her table and all but slams both hands on the wooden surface. His sister jumps with a gasp.
“What in heavens—“
“Listen,” Yoongi pants, chest heaving up and down. “I— we need your help. Quickly.”
Songhwa’s brows dip together. “Would you explain why you are barging into my—“
“Bring Yeol. And a first aid supplies. Hurry.”
A look of concern crosses her eyes.
Yoongi motions for him to follow her, ushering her and Yeol, who stands at the corner of her room, always waiting. Unlike other court ladies who don the palace’s nondescript court maid uniform, Yeol is clad in a less restraining attire—pale blue robes & a loose, unlayered skirt.
They hurry down the wooden corridors in terse silence. The princess’ hall of residence includes her main quarters, a study, a sitting room and an empty one, adjacent to her main bedchamber.
“Please do not confirm my fears,” Songhwa says when Yoongi halts outside the empty room.
“What’s on your mind?” Yoongi asks.
Songhwa chews on her lower lip. “I will not speak it.” She casts a sidelong glance at Yeol, who holds her gaze with something beyond words. Songhwa sighs. “Now let us see.”
Yoongi bites on the insides of his cheeks and slides the doors aside.
Hoseok’s silhouette is framed by the moonlight as he leans over a figure slumped on the floor. At the sound of the doors opening, the Commandant looks up, hand twitching in the direction of his sword next to him.
“It is us,” Yoongi says. “Be at ease.”
Songhwa walks in silently.
Yoongi follows closely behind, keeping his attention on his sister’s expression.
As she moves close enough to get a better look of the face of the injured person, she staggers one step back. A tremulous exhale drops from her lips.
Yoongi can barely hear over his wild heartbeat.
“She- /he’s/ injured” is all he manages to stammer, squatting next to Jimin’s curled up form. His breathing is labored, and in the pale moonlight he looks more corpselike than an actual ghost. “I cannot bring him anywhere else. I will explain everything, but please, help him.”
He bites back the sting threatening to overflow from his eyes, staring at his speechless sister. For the first time in his life, Yoongi is at the mercy of a woman—not even a grown one, at that.
Something in his expression must move Songhwa, though, because she commands, “Yeol.”
Only a word, a name, but the order is clear as Yeol springs into action. The lady-in-waiting drops beside Jimin and sends Hoseok an icy look until the Commandant slowly backs away, giving her space to work.
Carefully, she unwraps the stained cloth stemming Jimin’s bleeding wound.
“The wound is not deep,” says Yeol, and Yoongi notes how deep and sultry her voice is. In fact, perhaps it’s the first and only time he’s heard the girl speak.
Jimin lets out a quiet yelp as Yeol starts to treat him, but eventually he falls to a hush, eyes fluttering shut.
Yoongi leans against a wall, twiddling his thumbs. As an esteemed scholar and nobleman, he has never faced nor even entertained the prospect of being helpless against the laws of nature. When you are rich and powerful, you can bend even nature to your bidding.
Or so he believed.
“Where did you procure such precious ingredients?” Yoongi asks as they watch Yeol press a mound of dark-colored herbs against Jimin’s gash after cleaning out the surrounding flesh.
“I am prone to injuries myself—you know how clumsy I am,” Songhwa intones coolly. “Yeol heals me.”
“What is she to you?” Yoongi whispers under his breath, anxiety making him loose-lipped. “She is only a lady-in-waiting.”
Songhwa turns to him, face stony.
“I could ask the same of you.” She aims a pointed glance in Jimin’s direction. “She is only a gisaeng. Or rather, he is.”
Yoongi fumbles for something berating to say, but comes up with nothing. Worry is blanking his mind. “A group of bandits ambused—“
“Quiet,” Yeol snaps from her perch on the floor, then adds, “please.”
Songhwa purses her lips and grabs Yoongi’s sleeve. “To my quarters. Follow.”
Hoseok joins them as they file out of the room, then moves to stand guard right outside, assuming a protective duty without being told.
Meanwhile, Yoongi trails after his sister into her bedchamber, apprehension growing as Songhwa waves all her maids off to grant them privacy.
“Have you known all along?” Yoongi asks quietly as soon as the doors shut tight. He moves to kneel on a floor cushion, unwilling to let himself settle comfortably, knowing Jimin is suffering just a few rooms down the hallway.
Songhwa shakes her head. “I had my doubts, but...”
She trails off, eyes taking on a faraway glaze, and Yoongi lets her gather her thoughts for several heartbeats. “...I did not imagine it to be true, or that you would know, as well. But now, I see it all.” She rubs at her temples. “Orabeoni, do you not know the dangers of this?”
“I am fully aware, Min Songhwa, do not use that tone with me. Anger will cloud your judgment—“
“I am not mad. I am disappointed and confused, and I feel betrayed at being left in the dark,” says Songhwa, her delicate features distorting. “Why the disguise? How come /you/ knew?”
And so Yoongi painstakingly lays down each meticulous event detailing the nature of his acquaintance with Jimin so far, too perplexed to consider leaving out anything that is not the truth.
Between them, no white lies stand. This is how their sibling relationship remains strong.
Songhwa takes it all in without interrupting, demeanor surprisingly calm.
By the time Yoongi finishes, his mouth has cracked dry. “Jimin’s done nothing but teach me. We cannot allow him to die.”
She levels Yoongi with a heavy look. “I wonder if you are even aware.”
“That you and I are more similar than you think.” Songhwa reaches over and folds her hand over Yoongi’s, squeezing lightly. “That person—you care for him.”
Yoongi blanches. “That much is obvious, he’s my friend—“
“No, you care for him,” Songhwa cuts in, “the way I do for Yeol.”
Yoongi freezes, the air seeming to get stuck in his throat, unable to fill his lungs.
Of course he cares for Jimin’s well-being. The little crane’s happiness is important in lifting Yoongi’s mood, and when he is hurt, Yoongi aches just as deeply.
/You feel sad when they are./
Jimin’s lessons on love resound in Yoongi’s memory, his lilting voice ricocheting like a morning bell. It sends wave after wave of something heavy and suffocating blanketing him, crushing his chest, stealing his breath.
He pulls away from Songhwa. “I do not understand.”
His sister gazes at him with something akin to pity. “You do not understand or you would not understand?”
Yoongi says nothing, frown a permanent fixture on his face.
“Orabeoni. If I am to be honest, I would be inclined to say that you do.”
“I feel unwell,” says Yoongi shakily.
“Understandable, I spent an entire day bed-ridden when I came to realize that part of myself,” Songhwa sniffs, chin jutting out proudly as she flips her long braid back.
“Jimin is a man,” Yoongi reasons.
Songhwa’s eyes sparkle. “So that’s his true name. I see. How pretty.”
Yoongi would be more compelled to agree if he were not on the verge of losing his sanity at the moment. “No, you must hear me out. Jimin is a man, Songhwa. Low-born and rank-less.”
The princess’s eyes soften. “And?”
“And, and I am to marry a different woman soon,” Yoongi says.
“And?” his sister prods, leaving Yoongi floundering for more reasons on reasons on reasons.
His life is brimming with rules and logic. It has been this way for so long that to break the status quo feels like breaking away from the identity he carved and believed for himself.
Yoongi presses the pads of his palms against his burning eyelids, trying to quell the tears. This time, though, the traitorous liquid drops & wets his cheeks. His lungs are squeezing, chest emptying itself of his wrong, wrong heart. “It’s a crime. It cannot be,” he ekes brokenly.
“If the heart is a sinner, then all of Joseon who hold another dear should be imprisoned,” Songhwa states, keeping her tone gentle. “Nobody should get to be free. Orabeoni, do you not see?”
Yoongi hangs his head low. He does, but wishes he could have stayed blind. “I am unwell.”
He has kept it at bay for so long, cast his own self aside to protect not only his dignity, but also to fulfill his responsibility as a prince—or political pawn. To admit it now would be to welcome the pain of being unmade and the unbearable burden of learning himself over again.
“You are not unwell,” Songhwa says, moving close to clasp Yoongi’s trembling hands. “Tell me, does this change the fact that you are my brave and kind brother? A respectable scholar? A formidable archer? The heart is truer than the mind’s fear. Clarity is not a sickness.”
How can a girl so young understand and reach a level of enlightenment that men his age could only hope to achieve?
Yoongi blinks back tears. “It will be lonely to walk this path.”
Songhwa rolls her eyes and pinches the soft skin on the underside of his arm. “You are not alone.”
Yoongi hisses and swats her fingers away to mask the deep gratitude coating his heart, like a thick layer of honey.
“Lady Songhwa,” Yeol’s low mutter rises from outside. “The treatment of Lady Aeshin is finished.”
The princess’ eyes grow bright. She nudges Yoongi. “Go now—“
He’s bolting out of the room even before she can finish her sentence. At the last minute, Yoongi pokes his head back in and mouths, “Thank you.”
His sister beams back at him.
Yoongi enters the guest quarters silently, and approaches Jimin’s unmoving form on a makeshift futon.
“He is sleeping to recuperate faster,” Hoseok informs from the doorway. “Yeol said he is not to be disturbed.”
Yoongi nods, already planning to stay by his side. Despite the harrowing day they’ve just had, he cannot find it in himself to simply lie down and rest tonight.
Until he personally witnesses Jimin waking up, or at least confirm that the dancer soon would, Yoongi cannot allow himself to sleep. He sits and reaches for Jimin’s wrist, feeling for the dancer’s pulse. His heartline, Yoongi’s lifeline. Hope rises with every breath from Jimin.
“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi calls out, and the chief of the palace guard melts away from the shadows to appear before him. “Have one of the servants fetch supplies from my study.” If he is not going to sleep, he might as well take time to hone his craft.
Hoseok nods and takes his leave.
Yoongi pulls a soft cushion and settles by Jimin’s bedside, never taking his eyes off the dancer.
Though his pallor is still ashen and sickly, the pained expression from earlier has smoothened out. Jimin looks ten times younger when he is asleep. Looks a lot less cheeky too.
A short while later, Hoseok shows up with a tube of rolled up canvases and several jars of ink in tow.
“I figured you wouldn’t want the servants to figure out what’s going on in the Princess’ hall, to keep it all under wraps,” he says. “So I brought your supplies myself. Here.”
“Seok-ah,” Yoongi mumbles as the Commandant lays out his art supplies before him.
“Yes?” His friend turns to him, eyebrows raised.
“If I told you I wanted to paint- to paint this person”—Yoongi jerks his chin towards Jimin—“and... keep him with me always, what would you say?”
Hoseok’s eyes flicks back and forth between him and Jimin, and Yoongi braces himself for the mocking laugh, or a word of ridicule. How could one man want to keep another closeby?
“Honestly? I would advice you not to spill your ink,” says Hoseok with a shrug. “It is expensive.”
The heavy weight bludgeoning Yoongi’s chest lifts, lightening to something manageable. He releases a wheezing snort and claps his friend in the back.
“I will make sure not to waste ink.”
Hoseok scratches his head and eventually leaves, muttering things about whimsical artists.
Smiling ever-so-slightly, Yoongi turns back around to face Jimin’s sleeping face again.
He looks tranquil, lips parted slightly, eyelashes fluttering as his dreams take flight.
Eyelashes—what marvels of the human face. They look so soft, like curled, fine bristles of a brush.
Yoongi longs to reach out and trace one finger against them, just to gauge how soft they are, but thinks the better of it. To touch a sleeping person is rude.
An idea strikes him.
He should just depict Jimin’s likeness on this canvas so that he may stare to his heart’s content.
Hours pass with Yoongi bent low over the canvas. He is nowhere near skilled enough, but recalling his daily lessons with Tutor Jeon helps Yoongi apply some basic techniques to imitate the angular planes of Jimin’s jawline, his soft cheeks, the sweet bow-like curve of his lips.
Midnight comes and goes; the moon wobbles over a near-dusk sky. In the silver light shining through the a window, Yoongi commits Jimin’s porcelain face to memory. His little crane with dandelion eyelashes. His skin looks like tofu. Is it just as soft to touch?
By the time Yoongi finishes embellishing Jimin’s closed eyelids with gentle, singular strokes of ink to represent eyelashes, he smiles to himself in contentment. Eyelashes—a success!
Yoongi pauses, then deflates. Something is missing about the painting, something crucial.
It occurs to him then, that although Jimin is ethereal while asleep, he looks best awake, when there’s a flashing ferocity setting fire to his eyes. If eyes are the window to one’s soul, then Jimin’s burns.
“Wake up, little crane,” Yoongi mumbles wistfully. “Show me those eyes.”
If this were daytime, and there were servants hearing him from every corner of the room, Yoongi might’ve been mortified to be caught talking to nobody in particular like this.
But he needs to let off steam, and Jimin is here anyway, though asleep. So Yoongi rambles while he can.
“Hypothetically speaking, just in case you do not live to see tomorrow, I would have you know that I am...” Yoongi chews on the insides of his cheeks, “...I am now perhaps apologetic, even regretful, for being so arrogant towards you when we first met.”
Jimin does not stir.
“But of course the hypothesis I speak of is untrue, since you WILL wake up tomorrow,” Yoongi continues idly while painting. “You are not allowed to die, Park Jimin; I forbid it. Not now, not tomorrow. Tell you what, when you wake up, I would teach you how to shoot with my bow.”
At this, Yoongi feels a tug at the hem of his robes.
Breath hitching, his head swivels sharply. Could it be...?
The dancer’s right hand is clutched around Yoongi’s hanbok, and under the glimmering moonlight, Yoongi spots a playful quirk to one side Jimin’s lips.
Slowly, like a newborn learning to wake, Jimin cracks one eye open and murmurs, as gently as a late summer wind’s kiss—
“That better be a promise.”
His voice is rough. He looks worse for the wear, but Yoongi sees nothing else. Hears nothing but the music buoying Jimin’s giggle.
“Little crane,” he whispers, rushing to grasp Jimin’s little hands, to cup Jimin’s apple cheeks. Warm. Alive. “How do you feel?”
Jimin groans, wincing when he twists a certain angle that exacerbates his injury. “I am a tragedy still. And you?”
He leans into Yoongi’s touch.
The mixture of relief and ache that explodes through Yoongi’s veins is like a lit firecracker, spreading little bursts of warmth in every part of his body.
“Me?” Yoongi emits a tremulous titter, heart leaping. “I am unwell.”
Then he leans down and presses his mouth to Jimin’s.
won’t be updating tomorrow since I’m going for my vaxx & will probably have a fever, ahhh ;—; wish me luck!
also, please consider supporting my through kofi, since my part time job shifts were scaled back
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
In all of Min Yoongi’s young 21 years, he has never learned the do’s and don’t of kissing. Proper kissing, that is, save for the simple act of putting one’s lips against another’s.
Why kiss? Why now? Human instinct, perhaps? He does not know.
He feels nothing but this need.
/I’ve surrendered to the seasons,/ he muses to himself as his eyes flutter shut, a teardrop falling from the corner of his eye to Jimin’s cheek.
Min Yoongi is a man of logic, that much he knows. Yet there is little to no logic to claiming Park Jimin’s mouth. None at all.
Jimin’s mouth is cold and dry and pliant against his, unmoving for a minute, until Yoongi feels cold hands sliding around the back of his neck. He gasps in surprise and pulls back an inch, but the dancer’s firm hold keeps their faces locked close. Jimin surges up follow his lips.
The court dancer plants a soft peck against the corner of Yoongi’s mouth and rises, bracing his weight against one forearm, but then his face twists in pain and he lets out a hiss through gritted teeth.
“Hush,” whispers Yoongi, hustling him back to lie down. “Do not move.”
Complying, Jimin nods and rests his head against the pillow, his expression smoothening out into relief once the weight is taken off his injury.
He turns his face away from Yoongi, sniffling. “I cannot believe I am even dreaming this up. How rude of you to appear in my sleep.”
Yoongi’s heart swells, and he rests a lazy hand to stroke the dancer’s hair. “And if I told you this is no dream of yours?”
“I wish you would not,” Jimin mumbles, reaching up to guide Yoongi’s hand from his hair to the small of his chest. Yoongi feels the drumbeat of his heart.
Jimin looks at him, eyes misting over, mouth pitching into a look of hurt, and he need not utter a single word for understanding to hit Yoongi. This cannot be real, and they cannot be. Dreams would be the only place where he could hold Jimin’s hand securely, like this.
Jimin’s lower mouth trembles when he speaks, his soft face made of peerless jade, his voice a verse of moon song: “You said you want to be my safe space.”
Yoongi swallows. “I did.”
“Then I wish you would tell me this is a dream, even just for tonight. Allow me to rest here.”
He asks for sanctuary and speaks of dreams, but Yoongi hears the meaning behind his words—
/It is impossible./
If they want to pursue a friendship, they cannot keep breaching forbidden boundaries.
The only thing as painful as realizing you are in love is knowing you should not.
Yoongi blinks back the heavy burn behind his eyes and forces himself to nod. “You are allowed to dream tonight, little crane.”
“I wish you would no longer call me that, either,” Jimin says quietly, voice shaking. “At least, starting from tomorrow onwards. I ask of you.”
Yoongi ducks his head, pursing his lips. His shoulders shake. His lungs feel like they might burst. “Mmm.”
Jimin lifts his other hand and closes it over Yoongi’s, encasing it above his heartbeat. “Thank you.”
A smile. Yoongi should at least show him a smile. He peers at Jimin.
The court dancer’s eyes are screwed shut, but his grip over Yoongi’s hand is ever-firm, almost desperate. Yoongi decides he could never deny this man anything, not in this lifetime, or however many lives come after.
“So this is a dream, right?” Jimin murmurs.
Yoongi nods. “Mm.”
When Yoongi leans over and ghosts his lips over Jimin’s forehead, the dancer gulps heavily and says, “This is also a dream?”
Again, Yoongi nods and whispers to Jimin’s temple. “Yes.”
Jimin brushes his lips over Yoongi’s knuckles. “And this?”
“Nothing but a dream,” Yoongi says.
A trembling laugh shakes Jimin’s chest as he locks their fingers together, one thumb stroking over the back of Yoongi’s hand. “If the sun never rises tomorrow, we could dream longer.”
Yoongi hums. “Wouldn’t that be nice.”
“I could tell you stories about Master Kim—“
“Come closer so I can flick your forehead.”
Jimin cracks an eye open and shoots him a dirty glare. “How callous you words are, to an injured man.”
Chuckling, Yoongi reaches forward and flicks Jimin’s forehead lightly anyway. “Punishment.”
“Ah! What for?”
There is an image in his mind that he can’t erase: Jimin lying motionless in the woods, a bloody arrow protruding from his body. “Earlier, after the bandits attacked, I have never been more afraid.”
“For your life?”
“No. Not mine.” Yoongi shakes his head without elaborating.
Jimin’s mouth sets into a determined pout as he plays with Yoongi’s fingers. “Have no fear, my lord. You forget who you are talking to. I am not allowed to die without my own permission.”
“And mine,” Yoongi adds, to which Jimin rolls his eyes.
“No death without consent, sure.”
Jimin yawns and looks up at him. “Still, thank you for keeping me alive when you had no reason to.”
“Do not thank me solely. It was my sister’s help that kept you here.”
“What an incredible lady she is.” Jimin yawns again, wrinkling his nose.
“Are you not tired?” asks Yoongi.
“I...” Jimin trails off, mouth twisting as he clutches his stmach.
A new bout of panic storms through Yoongi. “What?”
“I am...” Jimin sighs.
“I will send for more medicine,” Yoongi says, already thinking of calling Hoseok.
“I am... hungry,” Jimin says. “Have you any cookies?”
The rising dread in Yoongi goes blunt, and he scowls. “You truly are insufferable.”
Jimin grins weakly at him. Yoongi wishes the moon could always reign, prolonging this night, extending this dream. He sighs, and requests for Hoseok to have a servant bring over a tray of food.
He helps Jimin sit up slowly when the midnight snack arrives, and the court dancer has the gall to jest over his own apparent ‘deliciousness’ since the bandit tried to bite him. Yoongi chastises him, and Jimin shrugs as he dips a honey cookie into his warm tea.
“What is that?”
He points at Yoongi’s forgotten sheet of canvas, his paintbrushes scattered all over the floor. Yoongi rushes over and hurries to keep them one by one.
“Do not look. It is yet to be completed.”
Jimin nods, munching. “I see you have been practicing art... with an injured wrist.”
“Like I said, I am a dedicated painter,” Yoongi mutters through clenched teeth, rolling up the canvas & chucking it aside.
“Right. Are you practicing to impress your bride-to-be?” Jimin sips his tea, eyes fixated on him.
Yoongi goes still. “You know I am not.”
/It is for you./
Jimin coughs, seeming to choke on his tea, then brings it down to dab at his lips.
“Here.” Using the sleeve of his own robes, Yoongi wipes at the dancer’s mouth.
Jimin stops fidgeting, gaze falling on him. They share a long, quiet look, and a new chasm of ache opens in Yoongi.
“Tell me again, how I am dreaming,” Jimin says, face awash in the gentle moonlight.
Yoongi withdraws his hand, hanging his head. There it is again, that terrible burn in his throat, the uneasy weight squeezing his chest. “I am dreaming, too.”
Jimin nods. “I will sleep now.”
And Yoongi wants to yank him back, to ask for more time, but he sees the tired circles lining Jimin’s eyes, the shallow exhales as he tries not to move his wounded side too much.
“Then, rest. Heal.”
“Will you be here tomorrow?”
Yoongi lets out a shaky breath. “...No.”
Jimin lies on his uninjured side. “Let us not walk the path of ruin, princeling. You are too bright to be a shadow.”
He does not bid Yoongi good night, & Yoongi does not kiss him again as he backs out of the room. In the end, only the silence of a night strung by fools remains.
The next couple of days fly in a haze as Yoongi finally begins attending the morning royal conferences with the court. The ministers’ arguments pass him by in a blur, and for some reason he cannot bring himself to pay attention to what all of the old men are yapping on about.
Because Jimin has stopped frequenting his quarters, Yoongi suddenly finds himself overcome with too much idle time in his hands. He spends his afternoons painting, or taking walks with Songhwa or Hoseok around the gardens.
“He is healing well,” Hoseok chimes.
“Did I ask?”
“I figured you might want to know,” Hoseok says sheepishly as they pause in front of a short bridge.
Yoongi says nothing, clasping his hands behind his back. “It is no longer any of my business, what that gisaeng does. I have my hands full with court affairs these days.”
Hoseok is quiet for a moment. “And how do you find it so far?”
“I do not fancy it,” Yoongi says, one eye twitching. “You ought to try sitting in a room with a bunch of old fogeys squabbling like chickens. All of them spew horse crap. I am in awe of Father and my older brother.”
The Commandant nods, letting out a quiet sigh. “That is a relief to hear. For a moment I thought you’ve been blinded by politics, too.”
Yoongi frowns. “What do you mean?”
“Your actions these past few weeks have been... worrying,” Hoseok says, brows pitched together. “Perilous.”
Yoongi cuts him a questioning glance.
Hoseok sighs and adjusts his own headpiece, grappling for words. “You of all people know how dangerous the life of a politician is. The incident with the bandits is only one example of many firsts. If you continue, more could get hurt.”
Yoongi massages the bridge of his nose, the memory of Jimin’s injuries flashing in his mind once more. “I know—“
“Captain Jung!” A eunuch calls breathlessly, running to them. “There is a gathering of Sungkyunkwan scholars outside the east gate. A formal protest.”
Yoongi’s frown curves up into a smirk as he claps the chief on the shoulder.
“I know,” he repeats, “but you know as well as I do that it’s too late for you to tell me that. You should have warned me earlier, for now I cannot stop what I’ve started.”
He sets off at a fast pace.
Heart thrumming in his veins, Yoongi picks up his brisk-walk to a jog. Before he can even reach the palace’s east gate, his ears pick up the baritone timbre of a loud, commanding voice.
“...immodesty is not the way of Confucius! Please give us your royal answer to our appeal.”
Still breathless, Yoongi peeks past the palace guards and stifles a triumphant grin.
Beyond the gates, row after row of Sungkyunkwan scholars kneel in neat formations, clad in the shining cobalt silk robes of the prestigious academy’s uniform.
Leading them is Han Sunjae.
“To maintain law and order, the Department of Justice dispatches guards on patrols, policing the behavior of the common folk,” the President of Sungkyunkwan’s Council recites from a scroll. “Would it not be fair for a legislation monitoring the activities of officials to exist?”
“Is it not the right of the Royal Academy to be concerned about the mishandlings of government affairs, seeing as we scholars will eventually take up such positions in the future? Your Majesty, please give us your royal answer!”
“Your Majesty!” the rest of the scholars chorus.
Yoongi bites back the sudden surge of tears threatening to spill from his eyes. Now that Sungkyunkwan’s been mobilized, popular opinion among the aristocrat families will easily be swayed.
This is a huge success, but to others it is—
“Preposterous,” says the Minister of Defense.
“Absolute nonsense,” the Minister of Taxation decries, mouth curling into a sneer. “These sheltered noblemen know nothing about politics, and yet are so hasty as to tread on our jobs!”
Yoongi stands at one corner of the conference hall, seething.
/Hypocrites, the lot of you./
“Quiet,” the King orders, mouth set in a perpetually tight line. His cheeks are sunken, and the wrinkles around his eyes look deeper than ever.
“Your Majesty, the protest has been going on since yesterday,” the Left State Councillor says. “The matter needs addressing.”
“Father, if I may,” Crown Prince Sohyeon says, seated at the right hand side of the King.”
“We should accede to Sungkyunkwan’s appeal.”
A series of disapproving noises ripples through the court.
“Your Majesty, this is a conspiracy!” asserts the Minister of Taxation.
“I have not finished speaking,” the Crown Prince says icily, and immediately the court falls into disgruntled silence. Turning to his father, Sohyeon says, “Abamama, this protest has gone on for too long. Any increased public dissent could lead to disfavour, and eventual riots.”
The King’s eyes narrow in consideration.
“If we leave this matter unaddressed, our ties with Sungkyunkwan could deteriorate, and that builds distrust,” the Crown Prince implores. He pauses.
“Therefore, I will personally oversee the establishment of the new legislation.”
From where he stands at the back of the court, Yoongi holds back a gasp. Eyes wide, he looks up at his older brother, a warm kind of pride spreading through his chest. He fails to notice the foul expressions tainting the faces of those around him.
The King nods. “Very well.”
Yoongi hums to himself while taking out his palette later that morning, after the royal conference closed. He’s in better spirits for the first time after what seemed like the bleakest days of his life, and it translates in the way he inks Jimin’s face on the canvas. “All done.”
The sleeping illustration is so close to Jimin’s likeness that Yoongi congratulates himself on being such a man of perfect calibre.
“Are you not also feeling glad things worked out?” he asks Painting Jimin, but of course no answer comes. Yoongi swallows the lump in his throat.
He sets the canvas against a sturdy wooden frame, then rests it against one corner of his room, facing the window so that the sunlight would hit Jimin’s sleeping face just the way he liked it. “I have you to thank for, to be honest. Little crane. I can call you that here, right?”
Again, no answer. Yoongi sighs and moves to his study, where he rifles through his texts, scrolls and parchments that were freshly delivered by the royal messenger that morning. Since he has so much free time now, he might as well get through the letters delivered to him on time.
As he pulls out one particular scroll from its tube, a slip of brown paper slides out and lands on the floor. Yoongi squints at it and realizes it’s an envelope, calling attention to—
“/Lady Aeshin/,” he reads aloud, surprise taking over him. How did a letter for Jimin get here?
Scratch that. Why is a pretend-gisaeng exchanging letters outside of the palace?
As far as Yoongi is aware, government officials and royal family members are usually the ones who communicate through the royal messenger.
How would someone know to reach Jimin... through Yoongi?
Before he can probe further, a servant calls from outside his quarters, “My lord, Lady Songhwa has come to visit.”
Yoongi haphazardly stashes the envelope under a pile of textbooks and clears his throat. “Allow her in.”
The sliding doors part, and in bounds Songhwa, all smiles.
“What is it today, Songhwa-yah?” Yoongi gestures to his overflowing table. “As you can see, your brother is busy—“
“Orabeoni.” There is a gleam in the princess’ eye as she plops herself on the guest cushion before him. “It has come to my attention that you are most foolish.”
Yoongi looks up to the ceiling and prays to his ancestors for extra patience. “I am in no mood for your teasing remarks.”
“Ohhh, look at you, being a sourpuss, not even happy to see me,” Songhwa says, playing with the ribbons of her hanbok. “Just like a court dancer I know.”
Yoongi’s breath catches, though he holds back from showing any sign of reaction. “Hoseok tells me he is healing well.”
“Oh, yes. Our lessons resume later today,” Songhwa supplies, smiling. “Do not look so stricken! I have not told a single soul of his true name or identity.”
“I do not recall asking.”
“And I am merely sharing what I know. You see, as much as his physical health has returned, our Jiminie has...” Songhwa’s smile dims and she turns her face away.
Yoongi arches an eyebrow. “Has what?”
“Oh, I cannot speak it, for it hurts to say.”
“It worries me, you know, so much so that I was left with no choice but to personally come here and ask /you/ for advice, my foolish orabeoni—“
“What. Happened.” Yoongi’s heart drops. “Tell me.”
Songhwa sighs. “I think you ought to come see for yourself. Later.”
A slew of unthinkable scenarios rush through Yoongi’s mind. Could it be that Jimin’s wound did not fully heal internally, causing him greater pain? Is the palace life taking its toll on him?
“My lessons starts after the midday meal,” Songhwa croons sadly. “I do hope you come.”
Yoongi’s eyes shift to the books on his desk, under which the envelope addressed to Jimin lies. Though he is tempted to read it for himself, he cannot imagine doing so, out of respect for the dancer. This is as good a chance as any. “I might as well.”
Songhwa grins. “Perfect.”
It comes as no surprise to Yoongi’s that the princess’ dance lessons take place at the Lotus Pavilion, her favorite spot mainly for its location in the gardens, nestled among brightly-colored flora. Unlike Yoongi’s favorite gazebo, this one stands right in the middle of a pond.
As he crosses the long bridge joining the pavilion’s island to the mainland, Yoongi spots Songhwa’s court maids mingling outside the hall. Yeol takes up the head of the group, always on standby.
A flash of white, long cascading hair. Yoongi’s pulse jackrabbits.
Songhwa sits inside the pavilion, chatting and laughing with Jimin, whose back is turned to Yoongi. As soon as she spots the prince her expressions lifts and she waves her arms up high.
“Orabeoni! Over here, come quick!”
But Yoongi hardly hears her, hardly sees her.
At the sound of Songhwa’s call, Jimin also turns around, his eyes blowing wide when be spots Yoongi.
And, oh. His radiant face alone could cast all the surrounding lotuses in the pond to deep shame.
Yoongi feels his cheeks burn, and he quells the urge to leap into the pond.
He reaches the pavilion (intact and without jumping into the water!) and hesitates at the stairs, scratching the back of his ear. Jimin looks equally dumbfounded.
“My lady,” he can hear Jimin murmuring. “I am afraid I do not recall having an audience with us today...”
Songhwa giggles, waving him off as she stands up. “Oh, do not fret. Our orabeoni here is hardly an audience, just think of him as a common housefly!”
Yoongi scowls in her direction. That brat.
Bristling, Jimin sends him a furtive glance, but looks away all too quickly. “A fly.”
Yoongi looks him up and down, inspecting his gait, his eyes, his cheeks. “I come only on behalf of the, uh, royal physician. How are you faring? How is your sleep? Have you any appetite? Do not forget to drink plenty of water. And is it truly safe to be dancing already?”
Jimin regards him with squinted eyes, one half of his mouth quirked as though he’s not sure whether to be confused or amused. “I am perfectly healthy.”
“Lady Aeshin has been sighing her days away,” Songhwa quips. “Like this.” She looks out the pond & presses a hand to her cheek.
“Untrue,” Jimin splutters incoherently, gathering his skirts and making a big show of stretching. “Anyway, we should begin the next routine, my lady.”
Jimin and Songhwa pause.
Flushing crimson, Yoongi reaches into the pockets of his robes and takes out a brand new fan.
He brandishes it in the air, opening and closing it in a grandiose fashion, before handing it in Jimin’s direction. “This fan includes falcon feathers, for some added elegance and speed. I... I owe you, for destroying yours.”
Jimin stares, face blank.
“Take it,” Songhwa urges.
Jimin licks his lower lip and blinks, and Yoongi could have sworn he saw the man’s eyes glistening. “Please tell His Highness that I cannot accept such an extravagant bribe.”
Songhwa looks at Yoongj, who grimaces.
“Please pass on the message that it is not a bribe, but a gift.”
Songhwa raises an eyebrow at Jimin, who hides his face in his hands while shaking his bead.
With an exasperated sigh, the princess snatches the new fan out of Yoongi’s grasp and places it in one of Jimin’s hands. “There. Any last words before I crack your skulls together?”
For the first time since they met, Jimin peers up at Yoongi almost shyly, and Yoongi nearly loses his mind. The dancer has never been one to be bashful—why start now? In the name of the Jade Emperor, Yoongi might actually disappear into thin air from an overheated face.
“Archery,” Yoongi blurts, eyes stuck to the wooden panels of the pavilion. “Later, after your lessons end. Come to the range with me.”
Jimin’s eyes swim with uncertainty. “But—“
“I promised,” Yoongi hurries to add. “And there is something else I must give you. It is important.”
Jimin hesitates, fingers tightening around the body of his new feathered fan. Yoongi wishes he could read the dancer’s mind, soothe whatever it is that keeps them at arm’s length fron each other.
“All right,” Jimin acquiesces.
Between them, Songhwa squeaks and claps in glee.
(Needless to say, watching Jimin dance is nothing short of breathtaking. He embodies the swaying grace of willow trees, the lightness of summer clouds. Yoongi wishes he had brought his canvases and paintbrushes with him.)
If the servants are shocked to find a lowly gisaeng entering the royal archery range, they mask it well.
Yoongi does not bother clocking in anybody’s reaction as he leads Jimin to the outdoor shooting range and picks up a bow. “I usually warm up with smaller and shorter ones.”
“How long have you been training?” Jimin asks, sounding fascinated as he traces a hand over the curve of another bow.
Standing casually like this, in the middle of an archery range, it’s almost easy to forget all that comes between them.
Yoongi hums. “Half my life?”
“Then I could never hope to pick up the bow and arrow, at this rate,” Jimin says.
“Do not be intimidated. It is not as difficult as you may believe.” Yoongi grabs a spare bow and holds it out to him. “Here. Try practicing your grip.”
Jimin eyes him warily, but takes it. “Fine.”
Jimin holds the wooden bow upright, his left arm trembling. “Like this?”
“Fair enough,” Yoongi muses. “Now take an arrow and try to nock it.”
“I am telling you, I am hopeless—“ Jimin’s words stutter out into a gasp when Yoongi presses in close from behind.
“Hold it higher.”
Yoongi is so focused on helping Jimin’s left arm balance the bow that he misses the way Jimin hiccups at his touch.
On the range, Yoongi always feels like a different person—more focused, more driven. Now isn’t any different.
“Ground your legs,” he says, holding Jimin’s waist.
“Uh,” Jimin says.
“Squeeze your back,” Yoongi advises, patting the small of Jimin’s back, and the dancer immediately adjusts his position.
“Mm. Pull with your shoulders, not your arms,” Yoongi massages Jimin’s injured arm. “Relax—are you all right?”
Without warning, Jimin sets the arrow free; it springs forward harmlessly, not even straying close to the target board. The range servant jogs up to pick up the fallen arrow.
Yoongi says, “You can do better than that.” He leans in and murmurs more instructions into Jimin’s ears.
“You should adjust your grip if it strains your arm,” Yoongi says lowly, guiding Jimin’s hand over the bow and arrow. “And make sure that when you—hey. What is the matter?”
Jimin sways back on his heels, sweat beading at his forehead. “Oh. I feel unwell.”
“Are you dizzy?”
“I—“ Jimin steps back, “need to breathe.”
Yoongi blinks. “So breathe. Here, let us take a break. I forget you are a novice. We can practice another time.”
“Why do you even do this,” Jimin mutters under the breath, kicking a pebble. Yoongi thinks he hears the man mutter, “Fool.”
Yoongi studies him for several heartbeats, feeling something wither inside of him every time Jimin meets his eyes and looks away.
“Look at me,” he commands, but the dancer refuses.
With a sigh, Yoongi reaches for the envelope in his robes. “Here. I found this in my study.”
Jimin’s expression completely transforms as he practically tears the envelope out of Yoongi’s hands.
“This is the reason why I called you out here,” Yoongi elaborates. “You would not have come to me otherwise. Say, how did the writer of this letter know to contact you?”
Jimin’s eyes flicker to him for a split-second. “I... wrote to my folks once, and told them I have become friends with you. And that they could take up correspondence with you should anything of great importance crop up.”
Yoongi tries not to preen at that. Jimin spoke of him?
“Is that so,” he ekes out, clasping his hands behind his back. “I sure hope you have smeared my name—“ He pauses, brows furrowing at the stricken expression taking over Jimin’s face. “What happened?”
Jimin looks up from the letter. “I... must leave. Our Taehyungie is in danger.”
dun dun dunnnn..... thanks for tuning in today!! The plot of Painter of Time never seems to end, does it?
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
To the unsuspecting outsider, there are only 4 entry points to the palace — the cardinal gates respectively. But Yoongi is no outsider, and even he as a prince of lower rank has been made no stranger to the multitude of hidden chambers and secret exits in times of emergency.
He has already given up questioning himself on why he should be helping the very same man who has trampled his heart on more than one occasion. Why help Jimin?
Well, why not?
“Who is Taehyung?” he asks as they scurry to & fro, wrapped in the cover of the shadows that night.
“He is my oldest friend,” says Jimin, trailing close behind. “He is also the one I was telling you about, stronger than shamans—“
“Hush.” Yoongi warns as they make a turn from one grand hall to another. He spots a platoon of palace guards on patrol marching across the courtyard.
Once the guards disappear out of earshot, Yoongi motions for Jimin to follow again. Together, they creep away from the residence wing where his personal quarters are, to the main palace. The stick close to the walls.
“I do not understand all the need for secrecy,” Jimin mutters.
“Since you are a prince AND a Sungkyunkwan scholar, should you not be free to roam about everywhere—“
“Not even government ministers are allowed into the King’s library,” Yoongi says, eyes darting back and forth before stealing into the cover of the trees.
He hears Jimin gasp.
“The King’s personal library?” Jimin hisses. “Are we— Min Yun, I mean, Yoongi— you could— I could get beheaded for this!”
“Only if you get caught,” Yoongi says, turning and grabbing Jimin’s hands. They’re trembling. “But good thing I am here. You are safe with me.”
Yoongi peers into Jimin’s eyes, glimmering with something unreadable in the weak glow of a nearby lantern. “What?”
“How confident you are,” Jimin says. “You mean to say that the only thing standing between horrific punishment and all of my transgressions is you?”
Yoongi hates the look of defeat in Jimin’s eyes. Where is the brazen young man he met at the market, full of spirit? “Listen, whatever happened a few days ago—I will forget it all. I know no Park Jimin tonight, only Lady Aeshin in need of a way to see a friend. Do you trust me?”
Jimin chews on the insides of his cheeks, contemplating.
“We are friends, are we not?” Yoongi says. “You said so yourself. I trust you wholeheartedly, so I can only hope you’ll impart the same confidence in me.”
A quick flash of something pained crosses Jimin’s gaze. “Alright.”
Yoongi grazes a knuckle against Jimin’s cheek and nods firmly. “We must hurry. The changing of the guards happen only once after sundown, at seven bells. While their attention is elsewhere, you and I must dash for the library’s back door as inconspicuously as possible.”
They lie in wait, crouched behind a thick cluster of bushes next to the library’s back door, neither one uttering a word.
As someone who has snuck their way out in the same fashion countless times before, Yoongi’s nailed it all down to a tee.
30 seconds. That’s all they have.
At seven bells, the stiff-backed guard posted outside the library rotates his neck in a circle and yawns, then proceeds to walk down the stone steps leading out to the front of the library, where a new guard would officially replace him.
As soon as he’s gone, Yoongi says, “Now.”
They burst into a run, heads bowed, footsteps light. Yoongi reaches the back door first, but a soft grunt makes him pause. He glances back over his shoulder just as Jimin trips all over his gisaeng skirts and crashes on one knee.
Swearing quietly, Yoongi runs back.
“Of all times to be clumsy,” he laments, yanking Jimin up by the elbow. His eyes dart nervously to the right, where the shadow of a new guard looms dangerously close. “Up.”
“You should have given me one of those phony guard uniforms to change into,” Jimin bites back, huffing.
“I’ll have you know these skirts are not exactly exercise-friendly.”
“Not the time,” Yoongi hisses as they spring for the back door, hand in hand. “Go, go.”
He hustles Jimin through the library’s door first before stepping in himself, but just before it shuts fully—
Yoongi’s breath hitches in his throat. His heart forgets to beat, eyes darting to where his hand remains frozen on the door handle. Next to him, Jimin puts his head in his hands, shoulders slumping.
“Yang Hyeonmu, is anything the matter?” a new, familiar voice barks.
Yoongi’s ears perk up, recognition sparking in him.
“Captain,” another, thinner voice says. “I thought I saw movement by the back door.”
A momentary silence follows, then the unmistakable timbre of Hoseok’s voice commands:
“I will see to it myself. Off to your stations, now.”
The younger guards’ footsteps fade as they hurry to oblige. Meanwhile, the Commander’s own footfalls steadily grow louder next to the back door.
“Prince Yun. Is that you?”
Grinning sheepishly, Yoongi nudges the door open a crack and peers through. “You’ve sniffed me out again.”
A string of quiet curses slip past Hoseok’s lips. “Seriously? Is this not the second time?”
“Third, if you would count the night I tried to run away.”
“Yoongi. If this goes on we may lose—“ as Hoseok steps in through the door, his eyes land on Jimin. He grows pale. “Oh. Oh no.”
Jimin shrugs, smiling. “Surprise?”
“Neither of you should be here,” Hoseok scolds through clenched teeth, clutching his face in his hands, and Yoongi fears for the man’s blood pressure. “And Yoongi—I know how far gone you are, but showing His Majesty’s library is stepping over—“
“It’s not what it looks like,” Yoongi rushes to clarify, shaking both hands in the air. “Jimin and I are not involved the way you may think.”
“He is simply showing me a secret exit from the palace,” Jimin supplies.
Hoseok throws his hands in the air. “As if that’s any better!”
“It’s an emergency,” Yoongi says at the same time as Jimin. They exchange looks of awe and grin at each other, much to the deterioration of Hoseok’s sanity.
“And besides, what’s so important here that even a prince can’t come in?” Jimin asks, eyes scanning the rustic interior.
Yoongi shrugs, then hooks a thumb at at the Commandant. “Our captain here is worried because this is where my Father safekeeps all of the original scripts of Joseon’s archives.”
Jimin’s eyes widen. “Is it not at the Secretariat’s Hall?”
“Of course not. Those are mere copies.”
“Ah.” Jimin eyes Hoseok with amusement. “No wonder. Well, do not lose yourself, for we will be on our merry way without touching a single document.”
“Yoongi,” says Hoseok darkly. “How long do you intend to be away this time?”
“It depends. A few hours?”
“I am coming with you.”
Yoongi’s jaw drops indignantly. “How— why— oh. Heol, a Commandant leaving his post in the middle of his duty? Irresponsible!”
“More like, ‘A friend accompanying a reckless tiger and making sure he hauls its ass back in its cage safely,’” Hoseok says.
“So you admit I am caged.”
“I admit that you have put me in a difficult position!” Hoseok grips Yoongi’s shoulders, eyes pleading. “It’s been mere days since we barely made it out of the woods, and not unscathed. I WILL be accompaying you and Jimin, no questions asked.”
Yoongi steps back, shaken. “Fine.”
He turns to Jimin and grabs his hand. “Follow me.”
The King’s library is a wooden two-storey structure, with the lower level meant to host private conferences and the upper level stacked with endless shelves of books. It’s one of the only palace buildings with a carpeted floor.
And for a good reason, too.
“You see, little cr— Jimin, while some things are best concealed in broad daylight,” Yoongi says, moving towards the 2nd shelf to the right, at the corner of the room. He raps the heel of his boot against the floor. “Others are best preserved hidden.”
When at last a hollow sound echoes from beneath Yoongi’s heel, he smirks. He bends down & pulls up the carpet to reveal a four by four square hatch on the floor, the shade of wood one tone darker than the rest of the floorboards.
“Like this,” Yoongi finishes, pulling the lid.
Jimin crowds around the hatch with noise of awe. Meanwhile Hoseok huffs, “Do not let this impress you. You are going to make him think he is some cool hero.”
Yoongi side-eyes him as he reaches down and yanks a lever. “As if your eyes did not bulge when we first found this.”
The floorboards begin to tremble. Jimin gasps as the wall of books at the far right side of the library starts twisting to reveal a smaller antechamber beyond.
“A... secret door,” Jimin breathes, his mouth forming an ‘o’. Yoongi wishes he could kiss the surprise off his pout.
But he does not. There is no place in this world for kissing another man, not even in secret rooms. Yoongi strides into the inner antechamber and pulls up a trapdoor marked by a rope handle. “There are stairs leading down into a tunnel that runs under the city. But first, here.”
In the antechamber are more shelves, emptier than the ones in tbe main library. His hand darts into an empty space between the wooden panels and pulls out a musty set of spare guard robes. “Change into these before we enter the city.”
“How many of those do you have?” asks Jimin.
“As many as I need to disappear in a crowd. Hurry.”
While he and Hoseok keep a lookout, Jimin changes into the military guard’s uniform.
Yoongi has no time to fold his gisaeng costume and stashes it haphazardly in the same alcove he’d taken the spare clothes from. “Ready?”
Jimin nods, smoothening out the ribbons of his gat. He slips his hand into Yoongi’s without a word. “Ready.”
“We should be back before five bells,” Hoseok says, flattening the carpet to erase their tracks. He joins them by the trapdoor. “The guards shift patrol duty then, too.”
“I know,” says Yoongi, squeezing Jimin’s hand as the descend the wooden stairs. Then, after a moment’s consideration, he murmurs, “Thanks.”
“Eyyy, look at you,” Jimin teases, nudging him. “Capable of expressing gratitude after all.”
“I never said I was inept.”
pausing here for now to eat lunch, tbc!
reference photos for the King’s library (without the fancy chandeliers and all, that is):
The deeper into the secret staircase they descend, the darker it gets. Soon the warm wooden floorboards and walls of the palace roughen into stone, and Yoongi knows they’ve hit the tunnels already.
“Keep to the left wall,” he instructs, tightening his grip around Jimin’s hand.
“There should be a fork in the path soon. The one on the right leads to the West Palace.”
“And the left?” asks Jimin.
“The canal between Hanyang’s south gate & the forge.”
“You really do know your way around,” Jimin muses. “I wonder what shenanigans you got up to as a child.”
“Do not trouble yourself with such nonsense.”
“I had initially imagined you were a straight-laced, upright child who preached endlessly about law and order,” Jimin says, and in the darkness Yoongi envisions the teasing curve to the dancer’s mouth. “But now I see I am mistaken.”
“In my defense, I had only tried to run away once,” says Yoongi.
“Officially speaking, that is,” Hoseok pipes up from behind them, his footsteps heavy. “Remember that time you tried to convince the Noble First Concubine to send you to Qing after your brother was crowned?”
“If you think about it, Qing really IS more advanced than our country in many ways,” Yoongi argues in the dark. “Have you not heard of their empire’s medicinal wonders? If only we could learn!”
“Well, fret not. You need not ask any longer since the Qing envoys arrive in 3 days.”
Yoongi feels something flatline in him at that. Right—the Royal Banquet is scheduled to happen soon. In the frenzy of recent events he had completely forgotten.
With the visit of the envoys on their land, he will soon be wed to Fan Xinyi. Yoongi’s stomach twists and turns.
The idea of soon being able to travel to and from Joseon and Qing and learning all what the greater world has to offer should entice him, but what rises in Yoongi is far from exhilaration.
Next to him, Jimin hisses in pain. “My lord. You are squeezing my hand too tight.”
“Oh.” Yoongi relaxes his grip and tries to match the rhythm of his heartbeat to the steady tempo of his boots.
“Are you scared of the dark?” Jimin asks softly.
Yoongi pictures a married life without Jimin, but all he sees is a gaping, hollow void. How dark indeed. “I am.”
Jimin snickers. “Now I understand why you are so insistent on holding onto something!”
Yoongi clears his throat, making no reply. Instead he tries to pull his hand out of the dancer’s grasp.
But to his surprise, Jimin clings onto him tighter. “It is all right to be afraid.”
“Pah. Are you sure it’s not /you/ who is shivering and in need of something warm to hold?” Yoongi jests.
“Me? Well,” Jimin swings their hands together, “if this is what being afraid of the dark gives me, then color me terrified indeed, my lord.”
Behind them, Hoseok sighs aloud.
Yoongi pretends not to hear him.
“This way,” he says when the stone wall abruptly folds to the side under his touch. They turn left and continue walking. The ground beneath them starts becoming damp, and their boots squelch with each step—they’re nearing the canal exit.
“Speaking of being in the dark, do you know what adults do when the night falls?” Jimin pipes up, voice lilting in the way it always does when he has juicy gossip to share.
Yoongi hums. “What?”
“Well, when two people are in love—“
“Park Jimin,” Hoseok says in a warning tone.
“…they share ghost stories under the same blanket!” Jimin finishes, cackling. Yoongi doesn’t understand what humor lies behind such words. Hoseok sighs.
“Now you see why he and Songhwa get along so well?” Yoongi asks. “Odd.”
“One might mistake them as siblings instead of you.”
Jimin starts rambling about some frightening ghosts reportedly roaming around the main throne hall, which Yoongi might actually believe to be true since the palace has seen countless bloodbath before his father became King.
Whatever. He pays more attention to Jimin’s warm hand.
Hands. What fascinating parts of the human body. A miracle, really, how Yoongi’s envelope Jimin’s completely, despite them being of equal height.
“…that the canal leads to the forge, right?” Jimin asks.
“Yes,” answers Yoongi. “Why?”
“Perfect. It’s near enough.”
Colored lanterns are strung outside of the tavern gates before which the three of them stand. Yoongi looks up at the signage written on the arch.
“Ihwaru,” he reads with a tiny but not unpleasant jolt of surprise. “The characters are in hangul.”
“Why so surprised?” Jimin asks.
Yoongi tips his head to one side, thinking hard. True, King Sejong had invented the new Korean alphabet to promote literacy among the lower classes, but as far as he knows, several aristocrat factions banned it in the last century. To use it so openly is almost heresy.
“A gisaeng parlor using hangul,” Hoseok notes. “How apt.”
Jimin snorts, shaking his head. He marches right through the gates as though he’s done it hundreds of times. “Ihwaru is not just /any/ gisaeng parlor. A tip for you two: when you come in, leave your biases out the door.”
Laughter is the first thing Yoongi hears beyond the gates.
Ihwaru is a complex of pavilions artfully built to blend in harmoniously with its surroundings, its polished halls bathed in colorful lanterns. The smell of perfume, roasted nuts and fresh pine hits his nose.
To his surprise, Yoongi spots not only men, but women of all ages and sizes lounging in the open-air gazebos, giggling and clapping for dancing courtesans. In one pavilion he sees two men locked in a tight embrace; another shows a lady batting her eyelashes at a fellow woman.
Men holding men. Women kissing women. Unmarried men and women dancing circles around one another.
Yoongi feels faint.
This is no mere gisaeng parlor. It is a place that condones the breaking of all virtuous laws!
So why then, are all the faces around him flushed with happiness?
He stumbles back and holds onto Hoseok’s arm for dear life. “It seems we have entered the heart of all sin in Hanyang.”
“Jimin!” a silken voice cries as a woman with various gems & ornaments pinned to her braided hair comes forward to greet them.
Jimin squeals. “Lady Chungha!”
“I have not seen you in ages!” she croons, pulling Jimin for a quick hug. Her gaze falls on Yoongi and Hoseok. “Customers?”
Yoongi’s pulse skips as he looks at himself and the Commandant. “No, no.” He shakes his head vehemently. “I am not— my guard and I are not—“
“These two are my friends. They are with me for tonight,” he says, linking arms with both men, and the woman smiles and bows.
“Welcome, gentlemen. I am Lady Chungha, Head Gisaeng of Ihwaru. We hope you accommodate your heart’s deepest desires.”
“I told you, Seok is not my—“
“Lady Chungha,” Jimin says, grabbing her forearm. “Is he alright?”
The Head Gisaeng’s diplomatic smile softens into tender concern. “He is safe here. His older brother bailed him out.”
“Jin-hyung is here?” Jimin’s eyes light up.
As if on cue, another voice booms, “You called?”
A tall, lean man clothed in aristocrat’s silks clambers down from one of the pavilions and approaches them, grinning. He has a confidence about him that Yoongi attributes to his long legs & broad shoulders.
“Jin-hyung!” Jimin breaks away and launches himself into the man’s arms.
Yoongi narrows his eyes, tamping down the stab of jealousy that gutters him deep in the stomach. For some reason, this person named Jin looks familiar, though he can’t quite pin it down.
“You little rascal, you had us worried about you!” Jin says, twirling Jimin around.
“Me? I was worried about you! Taehyungie especially,” Jimin sulks, and Yoongi gawks.
Jimin /never/ sulks in front of him.
“Don’t worry about that brat.”
“But you said he’s in danger!”
“Well, the patrols apprehended him after he ran around screaming the sky would rain fire.”
A giggle bubbles out of Jimin. “That sounds like our Taehyungie all right.”
“Jimin,” Yoongi says, roughening his voice and puffing his chest out. “Should you not be checking up on this friend of yours instead of making small talk?”
Jin squints at them. “I see we have company.”
Jimin jogs over to Yoongi and pats his shoulder with a wink. “What can I say, I made myself some friends in the palace!”
Yoongi struggles to absorb this. If Jimin is freely speaking about his experiences within the palace, then these people must know of his stint as Lady Aeshin.
“Friends,” Jin repeats slowly, as if testing each syllable on his tongue and deciding whether he liked the taste or not.
“Yes, and I have brought them here because this one”—Jimin slings an arm over Yoongi’s neck—“has a sister who could use our Taehyungie’s help.”
It sinks into Yoongi then, what Jimin must have been trying to explain to him since earlier—that this Taehyung who is his friend also happens to be the same shaman who supposedly outdoes any of the royal shamans from the Hall of Stars.
Yoongi nods, abashed. “I need a talisman.”
Jin gives him the once over from the bottom up, eyes pausing on Yoongi’s face. Yoongi turns aside to conceal his scar.
But instead of commenting on his deformity, Jin says, “You look familiar. Have we met?”
Yoongi gives a curt nod. “I could say the same of you. Your clan is?”
“Gwangsan Kim. And you?”
Yoongi’s brows smoothen. He must have attended the same banquets or functions as this man before, if he’s from the such a powerful clan. “Yeoheung Min.”
Jimin tugs at his hand. “Taehyung is closeby. Follow me.”
“Go ahead first, Jimin-ah,” Jin says, waving them off. “I will join you shortly. I still have a Beauty Bet to win.”
Yoongi frowns. “What?”
“Every week, the handsomest men of Hanyang gather to see who’s the most beautiful. Many have come to witness my face-off with Cha Eunwoo.”
“Pay him no mind,” Jimin whispers in a conspiratory manner to Yoongi and Hoseok. He ushers them down Ihwaru’s wooden halls, past rooms with weeping drunks looking for welcoming arms and squealing ladies bantering with one another. A gayageum plays a lively tune in the summer air.
“Your Highness,” Hoseok mumbles urgently while Jimin prances on ahead. “Pardon my indiscretion, but something feels—“
“Off, I know,” Yoongi says, concealing the frown threatening to spread across his face. “I sense it, too.”
“Did you see the tattoo on that nobleman’s wrist?”
Yoongi forces himself to keep walking calmly. “What tattoo…?”
“The crossbow forming a crescent.”
Gulping, Yoongi shakes his head imperceptibly and presses a forefinger to his lips, and Hoseok promptly shuts his mouth.
Humming to himself, Jimin stops in front of a room.
“Here we are,” he chirps, setting two hands on the sliding doors with a tiger painted on it. He pulls them apart and leads them inside. “Taehyung-ah, hello!”
Yoongi peers inside.
“Chim!” A seated man decked in green robes exclaims. In one hand, he holds a brush dipped in ink.
“Taehyungie!” Jimin dashes forward, then deliberately slows down as though reenacting some theatrical scenario.
“Chim!” Taehyung bolts from his perch on the floor cushion and imitates the same slow motion run, arms spread out.
They meet and embrace in the middle of the room.
Feeling more like a fish out of water than ever, Yoongi scratches his head and shoots Hoseok a curious glance. The Commandant shrugs.
“I have been waiting, my love!” Taehyung cries.
“And I have returned!” Jimin all but weeps.
It has been a long night, Yoongi tells himself.
While the two continue their impassioned dialogue in the middle, cradling each other’s faces, Yoongi lets his eyes roam about the wooden room. That’s when he realizes that Taehyung was not alone.
Bent over the floor next to the table, busy scrawling on a book, is—
The young man in question looks up at his name being called, eyes round as coins, and gapes at the sight of Yoongi and Hoseok standing at the doorway. He scrambles to his feet. “M-my lord—“
“Oh, you know our Jungkookie?” Taehyung says with a grin, breaking away from Jimin’s hug.
“He teaches my sister and I art,” Yoongi intones, feeling eerily calm despite the blood rushing in his ears.
“Ah, of course, he is the best artist in Hanyang, wanted almost everywhere!” Taehyung bounds over to Jungkook and ruffles his hair. “Even the palace commissioned him!”
“So I’ve heard,” Yoongi says testily, shifting his gaze from one man to another in the room. His mind is racing faster than he can catch a single coherent thought.
“Anyway, you are just in time, Chim,” Taehyung says giddily, scuttling to his table to pick up a stack of books.
“Our Jungkookie has just finished illustrating my latest one. I hope Court Lady Hong and Eunuch Seo’s steamy romance receives as much attention as the previous one did! Here. Take them all to the bookstore for me, won’t you?”
Yoongi’s blood freezes, heart slamming violently.
“You,” Yoongi says, voice shaking. He forces his lungs to expand and contract, gulping lungfuls of air to prevent nausea.
“Oh?” Taehung looks at him with big eyes. “Yes?”
Yoongi sees nothing but one word befitting this scoundrel: culprit!
He unsheathes the sword at his waist.
“You dare make crass fiction of the virtuous connections between adults!” he snarls, marching forward. Taehyung backs away, knocking back the folding screen behind him.
“My lord,” Jimin says, stricken. “Calm yourself, let us talk it out—“
But Yoongi has had enough of mockery.
So it’s without a second’s hesitation that he draws his sword back and then—
“YAH!” a broken scream pierces the air, and a bamboo pole comes barreling into Yoongi’s line of vision, knocking him in the gut.
Yoongi almost throws up as he staggers back, bile rising up his throat.
“You scumbag! I did not just haul that nuisance out just for some stranger to slice his neck!” Jin’s flashy robes whirl through the air as he lunges for Yoongi.
“J-Jin-hyung—“ Jimin’s pleading voice falls on deaf ears as Yoongi rears back, then ducks to avoid getting smacked.
“This culprit”—Yoongi grits out, parrying his sword—“is responsible for rhe deterioration of a man’s psyche!”
“I don’t know what in the heavens’ name you are prattling about!” Jin grabs a fan off a table to block Yoongi’s blow, and it’s such a familiar move that makes him pause.
Yoongi has no time to think because unlike Jimin, the man before him actually seems capable of attacking his opponent as Jin brandishes the fan to poke Yoongi’s eye.
Then another swordtip swipes into view, and Yoongi grins at Hoseok who keeps Jin at a distance.
“Seok-ah, help me hold him back!” Yoongi barks, and the Commandant nods and rolls on the floor, swinging at Jin’s ankles. The nobleman jumps, narrowly avoinding it, and glares at Hoseok.
While the tussle, Yoongi stomps over to Taehyung and yanks back his sleeve.
There it is.
Yoongi slams a hand against the wall behind Taehyung, nostrils flaring, but before he can get a word out, a quiet /zing/ whistles past his right ear.
The next thing he knows, his own sleeve gets pinned to the wall by the pointed handle of a paintbrush.
“Oops?” says Jungkook.
Yoongi growls under his breath and presses his sword against Taehyung’s neck.
Shoving Hoseok aside, Jin rolls off and grabs his bamboo pole, aiming it at Yoongi’s head, and in response, the Commandant points his own sword to Jin’s back.
In turn, Jungkook aims a brush at Hoseok.
“If any of you moves,” Yoongi warns, “I’m going to—“
“Not if I do it first!” Jin hisses.
“I have yet to even complete my speech!”
“You did not need to! I guessed!”
“Quiet. Halt,” a new voice commands, and everyone in the room pauses as though balanced on bated breath.
Jimin appears at the destroyed doorway, panting. “Over here!”
And Yoongi’s eyes nearly bulge out of its sockets.
A man in trademark Sungkyunkwan blue robes waltzes into the room, his jaw tight, gaze determined.
Jin sighs. “Finally.”
Yoongi’s sword clatters down. “Namjoon?”
“What a dismal sight,” the Minister of Finance’s son quips, shaking his head as though commenting on a poorly drawn potrait.
All at once, the taut tension stringing everyone in the room tight seems to bleed out as a collective sigh of relief escapes them. Yoongi glares at Jimin.
Stomping over to the dancer, Yoongi tugs Jimin’s sleeve and narrows his eyes at all the other men in the room. “What is the meaning of this mark! Why do you all bear this?”
Jimin wrestles his wrist free, eyes averted. Yoongi wishes he could stem the tears springing to his eyes.
The room has gone ghostly silent, and the hairs at back of Yoongi’s neck rise. Desperation claws at him as he grabs Jimin by the shoulders. “Tell me. Are you part of some secret guild?”
Jimin’s lower lip wobbles.
Yoongi reels back.
“Who,” he whispers, “are all of you?”
and so we officially reach the 3rd quarter of Painter of Time!
when I tell you I’ve been itching to write this scene since the story began…
anyway! how was this update? is the pacing ok?
Pls support me if you can, it helps with uni!
AU where Yoongi is a museum curator at a gallery in Seoul. One day a huge delivery comes in—a recently found set of paintings circa 1500s, tracing back to the Joseon period. Artist unknown. The paintings all seem to portray one subject: a slender, long-haired male dancer
In hindsight, perhaps Yoongi was not as sharp as he held himself to be. It took seeing Jin’s own crossbow marking to confirm his fears: that these people around him are suspiciously in cahoots with each other. A gang of thieves, perhaps? Illegal workers? He’s heard of such cases.
He keeps his gaze fixed firmly on Jimin, heartbeat thrumming. Jimin, who, since they first met, has always kept his cards so close it’s like the deck does not exist. How could someone so ineffably loud be so mysterious at the same time?
What does Yoongi know, if he does at all?
“Namjoon,” he rasps breathlessly, spinning on his heel, “you—“
He stops short when Jimin springs forward and pulls him into his arms.
Yoongi’s brain ceases all function as he stills in the dancer’s hold. Jimin has never embraced him before.
“Yoongi,” he sniffles, “breathe.”
“Park Jimin,” Yoongi croaks, feeling his mouth go dry. The ache in his lungs swell into something heaving, gasping for clarity. “Stand back. I do not know you, any of you!”
“But you do,” Jimin insists, breath warm and close. He pulls back and cups Yoongi’s cheeks. “Do not cry.”’
Only then does Yoongi clock the wetness on his face, and he ekes out a broken sob, all but slumping into the dancer’s arms. “I… I am lost. You confuse me.”
Jimin hushes him the way one would soothe a crying child, rubbing his back.
“Should I call for tea?” chimes Jungkook.
“Tea would be good,” says Namjoon, adjusting he robes as he steps into the room. “Seokjin-hyung, please put that bamboo pole aside. Hoseok-ah, your sword, too. Do not play dirty, now.”
Hoseok withdraws his sword wordlessly, and Jin—who is apparently named Seokjin—obliges, too.
It’s almost as though the room was not strung with suffocating hostility mere moments ago. Jungkook scampers out of the room to call for a gisaeng’s assistance. Yoongi is led to a floor cushion, Jimin settling next to him.
“Explain,” he says monotonously. “Be truthful.”
“First and foremost, I believe an apology is due,” Seokjin asserts as he sits around the main table. “To my brother, whom you attacked without warning.”
“Um,” Taehyung quips, still pressed nervously against the wall. “I just feel like swords should not have played a role here.”
“I am sorry,” Yoongi mumbles, ducking his head. True—he should not have acted so brashly towards Master Kim.
Jimin stares at him in amazement.
“Accepted.” Taehyung picks up the bamboo pole that Seokjin cast aside and uses it to pat Yoongi’s back comfortingly. “There, there.”
“You will not mock the grand prince in such a condescending manner,” Hoseok barks, and Taehyung drops the bamboo pole, eyes blowing wide.
“‘Grand Prince’?” he repeats, staring at Yoongi. “Then that would mean… you are the one that Jungkook goes to teach everyday…”
Jungkook appears by the door with a gisaeng carrying a tray. He walks in and sits where he’d been before, and Taehyung joins him in the cushion next to him, ooh-ing and saying something about how he sure hopes Yoongi does not put him in trial for being the infamous Master Kim.
But Yoongi could hardly care about that at the moment. It seems as though he is viewing the events before him from a distance, or submerged in water, and he feels unable to pay full attention to whatever banter the others make.
“Are you simply ignoring my query?” Yoongi snaps.
He glowers at Namjoon, his supposed friend. “What is all of this? How is it that are you involved?” To Hoseok, who’s standing by the doors, he asks, “Are you with them too?”
Jimin squeezes his shoulder. “I suppose I should have come clean to you about it from the beginning.”
“There is a name for us,” Namjoon speaks before Jimin can elaborate further, his expression pensive. “But it is not something we circulate widely: Hwalbindang.”
Jimin clears his throat. “Yes, and we… well, remember what I told you long ago about myself being an errand boy?”
Yoongi nods wordlessly and sniffles. Jimin pouts and grazes his chin, then carefully ties the ribbons of his gat.
“There is a community of, um, errand people across Hanyang. We do… things.”
“Like publishing third-rate romance novels?” Yoongi asks.
“Exactly!” says Taehyung.
“What kind of things?” Hoseok prods from his corner, one eyebrow raised.
Jimin licks over his power lip and steals a glance at Namjoon. “Well—“
“It’s a liiittle embarrassing to say, honestly,” Seokjin jumps in, massaging his temples. “But for example: I take exams for others.”
“And I help arrange marriages through a matchmaking system with a guaranteed 99.7% success rate,” Namjoon adds, stroking his chin. “Which is how I met Hoseok, earlier this season. I was honored to help with his sister’s wedding.”
Hoseok mutters under his breath, “Oh. Right.”
“Sometimes we distribute food to the local shelters,” Jimin says, fiddling with the beads of his gat.
“All for a price,” Jungkook adds as he waves a paintbrush in the air, waggling his eyebrows. “Commission fees apply. And the mark is how we identify and commit to the cause.”
The words ring in Yoongi’s ears and the relief that washes over him is so immense he nearly melts to the floor. Sure, perhaps some of this guild’s ‘activities’ border on illegal, but it is better than what he suspected. “I am glad. And here I thought you were rebel fighters.”
A split-second silence weaves into the air.
And then the men around him burst into rambunctious guffaws, and Taehyung slams a fist so hard against the wooden table it nearly breaks.
“Us? Plot treason?” he asks, tearing with laughter.
Jimin chuckles tremulously. “Never!”
Their relaxed reaction is more than enough for Yoongi to crack his first smile of the night. His shoulders sag from keeping them taut until now.
He can feel the warmth from their bodies, their joy so palpable, and he’s so swept in their collective laughter than he chortles, too.
“There is no cause for overthinking,” Jimin says in his placating manner, resting a palm against Yoongi’s face, and his eyes are too hypnotic to look away from. “We are all good people, my lord.”
Yoongi feels his lips quirking as he leans into the dancer’s touch. “Yes. You are.”
“Oh, look at them,” Seokjin’s voice cuts through the warmth. “A sight for sore eyes.”
“Cousin, speak more gently,” Namjoon rebukes calmly, pouring the tea served on the table. “Yoongi-yah. I must apologize for not revealing this to you earlier.”
A nobleman, and a Gwangsan Kim aristocrat at that, doing the job of a matchmaker would not exactly be the pinnacle of what is considered honorable in their society. He can see why Namjoon prefers to keep quiet, and why Taehyung uses an alias for his works. “It is a fair call.”
At that moment his stomach grumbles, and Seokjin makes a wry remark about how tea truly does cleanse the gut. Jimin laughs and stands, pulling Yoongi’s hand. “Come.”
“Where to?” asks Yoongi, brows knitting.
“Tonight,” Jimin grins, “I will show you the glory of commoner food!”
(brb i wanna make ramen too hahahaha)
The bowl of food in front him looks like a disgustingly poor imitation of porridge. However, it doesn’t look right, and Yoongi swears he has never seen such bare ingredients before. “What is this dish called?”
Across him, Jimin beams and hands him a spoon. “Gukbap.”
They’ve since moved from the private room to a bigger dining mess hall at the gisaeng house. The chatter of other patrons is a welcome change from the tense silence earlier.
Yoongi wrinkles his nose, though he can’t help but note how rich and savory the broth smells. “I see.”
“Well?” Jimin says mid-chew, his cheeks bulging with food. “Tuck in.”
“You know I do not eat before a taster takes a bite of my food.”
The dancer gives an eyeroll. “If you do not want to eat, just say so. Give me.” He reaches over and grabs Yoongi’s bowl.
“No,” Yoongi says.
He grabs the other side of his bowl and gives a light tug, stomach growling. “Mine.”
Jimin’s eyes light up with amusement. He releases his grip, and uses his own utensils to scoop a spoonful out of Yoongi’s bowl.
“Contrary to what you may think, commoner food is not poisonous.”
“I am not stating that it is deadly, or foul,” Yoongi counters. “My stance is that there could be hazardous ingredients we do not know of unless fully approved by the royal kitchennmmf—mmng.”
“Yes, yes,” Jimin says, shoving a spoonful of gukbap into Yoongi’s mouth. “How’s that?”
Yoongi chews, then swallows, taken aback by the burst of tangy aftertaste with a touch of spice in his tongue. He stares down at the bowl, eyes widening. “This is…” He dips his spoon and takes in another mouthful, chewing more carefully this time. “Heol. What a unique flavor.”
He eats one more spoonful, then another, and fails to notice Jimin watching him with his chin resting over his palms.
“Is it to your liking?” Jimin asks, chuckling.
“It is…” Yoongi swallows and downs a cup of tea. “Mildly serviceable at best, though memorable to the palate.”
“Mildly serviceable,” Jimin parrots, pointedly eyeing Yoongi’s empty bowl, scraped to the bottom.
“It is an added bonus to say that I was famished,” says Yoongi. “Hunger is the best seasoning, as we both know.”
Jimin rolls his eyes again. “If you liked it, just say so.”
“I like it,” Yoongi says unwaveringly, and Jimin looks up to meet his gaze, “very much. Is gukbap your favorite?”
“Not really. Yet, I am happy.”
Yoongi leans forward. “Why so?”
“There is nothing in this world I’d rather do,” Jimin’s voice softens, “than share a meal with you.”
Yoongi decides he adores gukbap very much.
With a small smile, he reaches across the table and folds his hand over Jimin’s. It feels so easy to do, here in the warm lantern glow of this wretched tavern where people may freely act out wretched, forbidden things.
“Fire!” A voice shrieks as a gisaeng bursts through the mess hall’s doors. “Fire! In the sky!”
A chorus of gasps and panicked muttering erupts across the tavern as patrons scramble to rush outside. Fear seizes Yoongi by the throat.
Jimin grabs his hand. “This way. Follow me.”
Together, they dart past the mad frenzy, going against the flow of the crowd instead of letting the masses sweep them away like a river.
/Fire/. Yoongi pushes back his panic, wondering why he did not smell the smoke earlier.
Jimin leads him out a hidden door behind a curtain.
Yoongi flinches and screws his eyes shut, bracing himself for an onslaught of smoke as they step outdoors.
But only the warm, unmoving air of a summer night greets them. Cicadas sing from nearby bushes.
He opens one eye slowly, but the night is as calm as the sea on a low tide.
A series of giggles sound from above and Jimin calls rounds the side of the hall, pulling him along.
There, sitting on the tavern’s roof, are the 3 men he’d encountered earlier.
“I can’t believe you were right,” Seokjin says.
Taehyung and Jungkook snicker, heads bent together.
“When has my intuition ever been wrong?” Taehyung’s voice is brimming with a teasing lilt.
Yoongi cranes his neck back and gasps at the sky, mapped with blazing infernos streaking across his vision. Little fires everywhere, burning way too bright. He staggers back, overwhelmed.
“W-what are those things…?” Jimin asks as he inches forward, entranced.
Hearing his voice, the trio’s heads turn and look down at them from the roof.
“Chim!” Taehyung calls, waving giddily. “Come join us!”
“It is dangerous,” warns Yoongi. “Those things will burn the land!”
“If they were aimed at Joseon, we would be roasted by now,” Jimin points out, grunting as he climbs to the roof. Once he reaches the top, he beckons to Yoongi, his moonlit smile inviting. “Come up, princeling.”
/Princeling./ Jimin hasn’t called him that since the bandit attack.
Yoongi weighs the pros & cons in his mind. No doubt climbing an elevated area that propels him closer to this burning sky is dangerous. On the other hand, Jimin’s point stands true—these infernos shooting across the sky do not seem to be targeted at them. Another nation, perhaps.
Well, throw it all to the wind, then. If this is Yoongi’s final day alive, he would rather spend it here, outside with these strange wild humans, than caged within the palace walls.
He scales the walls with ease and sits next to Jimin.
“What do you think they are?” Seokjin asks.
“Stray torches?” Jungkook muses with round eyes, hugging his knees.
“How could anybody throw torches that high?” Jimin says, giggling. “To me, they look like balls of fire. Maybe the neighbouring country is being attacked. A war!”
“Maybe they’re tiny moons,” Taehyung supplies.
“I am betting on some kind of star,” says Yoongi. “A special kind that moves instead of staying in the same constellation.”
“Moving stars, huh,” Jimin ponders aloud.
Suddenly, the crunching of leaves and footsteps below catch their attention.
Yoongi peers out below and finds Namjoon trailing behind Hoseok. He feels torn between acting nonchalant and letting himself be engulfed in shame at being caught on a rendezvous as childlike as climbing roofs.
He clears his throat. “Oh, Joon. Seok-ah. Come on up here.”
“What are you doing?” asks the Commandant, and to Yoongi’s surprise, a laugh bubbles from his lips. Jimin must be rubbbing off on him.
“Being free, Seok. I’m having a taste of it before…” Yoongi trails off. Before the Qing envoys arrive. Before he marries. “Before the banquet.”
Hoseok sends him a sad smile, then hikes up, followed by a clumsy Namjoon. They sit next to Seokjin, who scoots over to make space.
Once again, the 7 of them sit together on the roof, watching the sky burn.
Yoongi wonders why he feels like he’s known these men all his life.
“Stars,” Taehyung blurts in the silence. “Maybe these stars are like arrows some heavenly deity is shooting from above. I call them… shooting stars!”
“Or maybe the sun is crying, and its golden teardrops are painting the night,” Namjoon whispers, face rapt with awe.
“Is the sun ever sad?” Seokjin wonders, tipping his head back.
Yoongi hums. Thinks of his father. The King; Joseon’s sun. Thinks about how he hardly knows the man at all, hardly recalls fond memories since he was always absent due to obligations. “The sun is tired and weary.”
Jimin stretches one hand out to the sky as though to catch one of the falling stars. “I bet you could fit the sun’s tears into the palm of your hand.”
Yoongi raises an arm too, moving gingerly towards Jimin’s until his fingers eclipse the dancer’s. He intertwines their hands.
Jimin’s eyes shift to his; molten and glimmering with a softness Yoongi has never seen before. The smile he gives Yoongi is slight but earnest, and it is so incredibly difficult to quell the urge to just. Press close and claim those lips.
Yoongi breaks their gaze and looks up.
“I know. Perhaps these shooting stars are lifetimes being distributed to other universes,” Namjoon says.
“Lifetimes?” Seokjin sounds dubious.
“Indeed. It is a theory of mine that we humans live over and over.”
“Reincarnation,” Taehyung says. “A common enough belief.”
“Let us say that this is our first life,” Namjoon says. “What would you wish to be, in your next?”
“I would teach art,” says Jungkook.
“A farmer,” volunteers Taehyung. “With my own hut and land!”
“Myself, with my face,” states Seokjin.
Hoseok says, “A good person. A friend.”
Jimin hums in thought. “I suppose I would like to earn my keep by dancing.”
“You want to be a gisaeng?” Seokjin splutters.
“Who knows?” Jimin shrugs. “Maybe in my next life, gisaengs and traveling troupes are not the only ones allowed to make money from entertaining people.”
“What about you, my friend?” Namjoon asks, looking expectantly at Yoongi.
He averts his gaze from the watchful eyes around him, choosing to focus on the feel of Jimin’s hand on his. Glancing at their interlocked fingers, the answer comes faster than he can think twice—
At his answer, Taehyung’s head whips around. He regards Yoongi quietly and nods once. “Ah. You would face better luck in that life, by then.”
Yoongi frowns. “What is the meaning of that?”
“Taehyung says cryptic things all the time,” Jimin explains. “Do not trouble yourself.”
“Speaking of the mystical, I do believe I have a talisman to ask of you,” Yoongi says to the man who he still can’t believe is Master Kim. “And, uh. Some new books, if you will. I am willing to pay upfront.”
Another prolonged silence, until Seokjin snorts. “Tae, you have a fan.”
At that moment, a loud chiming of bells reverberate in the air as patrols signal the start of the nighttime curfew. Yoongi and Jimin share stricken looks.
“Ah, time to get down, gentlemen,” says Seokjin, ushering them off the roof. “Hey, will you three be staying the night?”
Yoongi catches Hoseok eye, who mouths, “Five bells, before dawn.”
He turns to the rest and nods. “Since curfew is now in place, we have no other choice.”
“Then I will go ask Lady Chungha to prepare some empty rooms for us,” Jimin says, already clambering down from the roof.
“I’m afraid Ihwaru is quite full for tonight,” the Head Gisaeng says with a sheepish frown. “With the Kim Seokjin and Cha Eunwoo participating in this month’s Beauty Bet, many patrons from different towns have come to visit. I have only one room left.”
Yoongi casts a sideling glance at Jimin, only to look away just as fast when their gazes connect.
“Ah,” Jimin folds his arms, “I- I could sleep elsewhere—“
“We will take it,” Yoongi says, taking out a string of brass coins from his robes and dumping it into Lady Chungha’s hand.
The last vacant room they are led into is cramped and musty, with dust-coated furniture and a single futon rolled up against the wall. Yoongi figures it’s probably used by patrons of lower status looking for cheap pleasures, and the kind that most noblemen would no doubt shun.
He does a slow turn about the room, suppressing the urge to crinkle his nose. “I suppose this will do.”
Hoseok bows out of the room at once. “There is only 1 bedding, and the lack of a wash basin is unsuitable for someone like you. Allow me to fetch them for you.”
With Hoseok gone, the silence that accompanies him and Jimin seems to weigh twofold than it was a moment before. It occurs to Yoongi that he has never spent a night with Jimin like this—all this time they’ve been spending afternoons in the palace playing prince and courtesan.
Jimin moves to lay out the bedding on the floor. “You should sleep here, my lord.”
“And what about you?” Yoongi arches one eyebrow.
“I will be fine outside. The people of Ihwaru are familiar with me, and it makes crashing other rooms easier—“
“I paid handsomely for this room.”
Yoongi grabs the pillows stacked on top of one another at a corner and sets them out neatly on the futon. “It would make sense to make full use of the space. We are both of slight stature, so we can fit.”
“Are you calling me short?” Jimin pouts.
“I am calling us travel-sized.”
“It would be a tight fit, with the Commandant here,” Jimin says, eyeing the square bit of floor around them.
“Seok is a man of the military. He has lived through more cramped conditions. You would not be a bother.”
Jimin smirks. “If you wanted to sleep beside me, just say so.”
“Shameless.” Yoongi clears his throat and clasps his hands behind him. “I am merely extending my careful consideration since it has been an awfully tiring day, & it would not benefit you to roam around late at night searching for a place to sleep when I am— uh, the room is here.”
From where he squats on the floor, Jimin grins up at him, eyes crinkling. “You are right in that regard, at least. It truly has been a long day.”
Yoongi doesn’t remember the last time he’d been this bone-deep exhausted. Perhaps the closest would be the day of the bandit attack.
The bandit attack. Come to think of it, that was the same day he’d met with Namjoon to discuss the Sungkyunkwan protest, with Jimin and Hoseok posing as his guards.
He pauses. Something feels off.
If Namjoon and Jimin know each other, why had they pretended not to, that day?
“Jimin,” he says slowly, cocking his head to one side in thought, “the day of the bandit attack, how come—“
“Jimin-aaaah,” a now-familiar drawl calls from outside the room. Footsteps thud close and the doors slide open to reveal Seokjin’s pink-cheeked face. “Let me borrow you!”
“Oh?” Jimin’s eyes turn round when the nobleman hustles him out, steering him by the shoulders. “What is the matter, hyung—“
“Eunwoo and I are having a dance-off and we need your sharp eye as judge.”
Yoongi’s left eye twitches. “Is your event yet unfinished?”
“The night is so young! Why end a good-natured competition? Come, come.”
Yoongi bites back a curt response as he watches the nobleman drag his little crane away. He has half a mind to follow, but he does not want to leave without word and end up worrying Hoseok. The doors shut.
Yoongi collapses backwards on the bedding, arms clasped over his chest. Thinks of how much has changed ever since Jimin appeared in his life. Thinks of his impending dismal future as a married pawn.
He shakes them off—too dreary.
“Jimin-hyung?” a new, sweeter voice asks outside.
Frowning, Yoongi gets up and crawls to part the doors an inch.
Jungkook is standing, face earnest and expectant. “Oh—hello, my lord.” He bows low at the sight of Yoongi. “Forgive me for interrupting. However, may I ask for Jimin-hyung’s whereabouts, if you would be so inclined?”
Yoongi makes a face and shakes his head. Looks like Jimin is quite the popular figure around here. “He’s been whisked off to who-knows-where.”
“Oh.” Jungkook’s eyes dim.
“By the way,” Yoongi says, “are you truly a member of Hwalbindang?”
“I am?” Jungkook hums. “That is news.”
Yoongi’s mouth parts in wonder and bewilderment. “You do not know?
“I frequent Ihwaru to share art,” Jungkook answers, stroking his chin as though he’s solving some great earthly mystery. “One day, Taehyung-hyung pulled me aside and asked me to illustrate his stories.”
Yoongi’s cheeks warm. Right. Master Kim apparently has an assistant.
“Hwalbindang…” Jungkook looks up the the sky, and Yoongi would be lying if he said the boy doesn’t have little specks of a constellation glowing in his eyes. “I suppose it would not be too bad to be a member.”
Jungkook smiles and nods, utterly satisfied with his reasoning. “Yes, indeed I would be very glad to contribute my insignificant sketches and help out with errands across Hanyang!”
Yoongi reaches out and pats his head. “How odd you are. Off you go. Jimin is at the Beauty Bet.”
Tutor Jeon skips off happily, singing under his breath about paint and charcoal, and something about the way he hops away reminds Yoongi of a wild rabbit.
Just as he is about to close the door, another gisaeng in a lavender skirt appears. “Is Jimin around?”
Yoongi shuts the door and crosses his arms with a harrumph. How dare Jimin leave him alone to fend off the unforgiving night! And what’s taking Hoseok so long, anyway? He shakes his head.
As soon as he hears a new set of footsteps approach the hall, Yoongi sighs, disgruntled.
He clambers to his feet and yanks the doors aside. “Like I said, Jimin is not here—“
The words catch on his tongue when a hand shoots out across the door’s threshold, nearly punching Yoongi in the face, and long fingers flex to show a paper talisman fluttering as it unfolds.
Taehyung pokes his head into the room. “Hello!”
Yoongi steps aside and lets the shaman, the myth, the revered Master Kim saunter into the guest room. “I-If it is Jimin you seek—“
“It is YOU I seek,” Taehyung drawls, coming close as if inspecting every last of Yoongi’s lashes.
“The spirits have led me here.” He steps back and starts massaging his temples. “They are particularly rowdy tonight.”
Yoongi sputters, unable to do anything but stare. “The… the spirits?”
“Yes. Oh, and also, I must drop you this.” Taehyung reaches into the folds of his robes.
He brings out a thin stack of books and holds them out to Yoongi. “Here. My classics and bestsellers: ‘The World Of The Married’, ‘Our Blood, Sweat & Tears’, and of course, ‘Fifteen Shades Of Miss Gray’. I picked them out for you according to what the spirits have advised.”
Yoongi forces himself to gulp and takes the novels with shaking hands, feeling like a lecherous sinner now more than ever. “Jimin says they cost 10 yang. Allow me to pay—“
Taehyung tuts his tongue and holds up a hand. “I cannot accept your money.”
A sad smile.
“Consider this a small token of apology,” Taehyung says. Despite his smile, Yoongi swears his eyes waver for a fleeting moment.
He looks at the talisman tucked in between the books. “And this is for my sister’s nightmares?”
“Yes. Although it is not her you should worry about.”
“Why?” Yoongi frowns, recalling what Jimin has mentioned about Taehyung’s abilities to /know/ certain truths. “Tell me. Why do you give me such items and call it an apology?”
Taehyung mimics his frown, eyes downcast.
Yoongi presses, “What do you see when you look at me?”
Taehyung starts pacing the room, humming while stroking his chin. “Let me see. The spirits tell me you are somebody who will need to rely on the dongsimgyeol knot, eventually.”
Yoongi bristles. “Dongsimgyeol? Is that not a sort of decorative knot?”
“It is,” Taehyung agrees. “In particular, it’s one that lovers use to tighten any string together to promise that their souls may never stray apart even after death.” He chuckles to himself and pats Yoongi’s shoulder. “A lover’s knot.”
“But I have no lover,” says Yoongi.
“Ah, but the spirits say otherwise,” Taehyung’s eyes flutter shut, and he moves in such a floatlike fashion it almost seems as though he is gliding along without his feet touching the floor. “You are so cherished, Min Yoongi. Misplaced and untimely love, but love all the same.”
Yoongi feels torn between ripping his hair out in confusion and releasing a full belly laugh like a madman. “You really are a puzzle.”
Taehyung says nothing, only gives him a thoughtful nod as he floats towards the door.
“Who will my lover be?”
“The spirits, the spiriiiits…”
The shaman’s voice fades as he sashays down the hall, arms flailing as though in a ritualistic trance. Yoongi fights back a shiver, wondering if it’s a mere coincidence that the room now feels leagues lighter (and brighter) without Taehyung’s presence.
Hoseok returns soon after.
Yoongi rinses his face clean and washes lightly in the basin. Afterwards, they work in silence while carefully laying out the new extra beddings until not an inch of the floorboard beneath is visible, the entire room covered by their futons.
“Have you seen Jimin?” Yoongi asks.
The Commandant shakes his head.
Yoongi glares at the door. “Well, if he wants to find his own quarters, so be it. Once I fall asleep, you will no longer open the door to anyone, Seok.”
Begrudgingly, Yoongi settles under the duvet and falls into a dreamless sleep.
He wakes with a sharp intake of breath in the middle of the night, Hoseok dozing off in a sitting position on his left side. The emptiness to his right tells Yoongi all he needs to know, and a numb disappointment, coupled with mild worry, flares in him.
Slipping out of his futon, Yoongi picks up the low-burning lantern by a table and makes sure the doors do not squeak when he opens and closes them.
Outside, the summer air hugs him like an old friend. Though Ihwaru may be a gisaeng brothel, this late most people have turned in.
Yoongi ambles around the annex, eventually finding himself at the garden veranda surrounded by several ponds. He raises his lantern, keeping an alert eye out for a certain little crane—
“Fancy seeing you up at this hour,” a smooth, light voice calls from above—Yoongi’s favorite.
He glances up at the roof where, sure enough, Jimin sits decked in pearly white robes, his face tucked into one hand, a bottle of liquor in the other. In spite of the warm season, when silhouetted by moonshine, Yoongi thinks Jimin looks like a winter morning.
“Mmmhmm,” Jimin says, a pinkish tinge flushing his cheeks, his neck. “Why not come up here and join a friend, my lord? The moon is so close tonight we could simply jump from this roof and frolick on it if we so wished.”
Yoongi narrows his eyes. “That is not how distance works.”
“That so?” Jimin giggles and beckons with his arms. “Come closer so I may see your face. You are not meant for the shadows, friend.”
“Are you drunk?” Yoongi asks, bemused, as a complies anyway and gingerly makes his way up to sit next to Jimin.
“No, I am Jimin.”
He snatches the bottle out of Jimin’s hand and holds it out of reach. “You are absolutely gone!”
“Hey! That’s mine!” Jimin slumps forward, all but draping his upper body over Yoongi’s lap, but the prince stays firm in his resolve.
“No more,” he says sternly, all nerves on end.
“Eyyy, princeling, you are the slayer of fun, enemy of happiness,” Jimin complains, not bothering to move his body off of Yoongi’s lap. Instead, he starts drumming his palms over Yoongi’s kneecaps. “Listen, I am making music!”
Yoongi scratches behind his ear. “You are a fool.”
“No, no. I am a gumiho,” Jimin says, peering up owlishly at him, eyelids fluttering heavily. “Deceiving men to gouge their hearts out and devour their liver. Grrr.”
“Oh yes, be very afraid.”
“I am sooo scared,” Yoongi plays along with a rush of affection.
Jimin hiccups, which gives way for a bout of giggling that has his shoulders shaking. He plants his face right into Yoongi’s lap, shoulders still quaking, and it takes a full minute before Yoongi realizes the dancer isn’t quite laughing out of humor anymore.
“Jimin?” he checks.
He places a gentle hand on Jimin’s back and moves it in slow, circular motions. “Are you crying?”
“No. It’s just a fox rain.”
Yoongi freezes, recounting the legend of a tiger marrying a fox, causing a heartbroken cloud, who loved the fox unconditionally, to weep behind the sun.
He grapples for something to say. Words burn in his lungs but disintegrate to ash the moment they hit his tongue. The facts don’t quite add up in Yoongi’s mind; though not that it matters in this moment, not when he has a sobbing Jimin on his lap. Could it be his arrow injury?
“Uh. Does- does it hurt very much?” asks Yoongi, and the man in his lap hiccups before sitting upright.
Eyes red and bloodshot, Jimin rubs a closed fist over his chest. He nods, then quips, “Please do not look at me, my lord. I deserve this ache.”
“Nobody deserves injuries.”
It is not a pleasant feeling at all, to be so helpless while having to watch somebody fall apart in front of your eyes. Yoongi wishes he could gather Jimin in his arms and fly to the moon, to calmer universes, just as the dancer suggested. “Why did you even shield me that day..?”
Jimin blinks, his eyes seeming to sober up ever so slightly. “Huh?”
“That day when the bandits came,” Yoongi elaborates, forcing his voice to keep steady, his heart to keep still. “Why did you take that arrow for me?”
Wiping his eyes, Jimin huffs. “And if I say ‘just because’?”
“I would not believe you.” Yoongi reaches out to brush away a teardrop from the side of Jimin’s face. He doesn’t know why he asked. What answer does he even want?
The dancer studies him intently, leaning into Yoongi’s touch. “Because you should not die so meaninglessly.”
Yoongi flinches, hand dropping. “What?”
“You are too important to be lost in such a barbaric manner,” Jimin says. “I could not let that happen. Even if you are to die, you deserve something greater, grander. Memorable and just as remarkable as you are.”
Yoongi’s heart squeezes.
“You make it sound like we have a say in how we die,” he says. “But death doesn’t discriminate.”
“Then I will help death with making choices.”
“Maybe death wanted me, then.”
Jimin shakes his head and glares. “I twisted death’s hands from taking you, and I’d do it over again.”
There is a word for it, this sensation blooming inside Yoongi. He thinks he’s unwell, yet again.
“You don’t get to die, Min Yoongi. Good-hearted people in powerful positions like you are already so rare. So, live. Do me that favour. You don’t get to die, not if I can help it.”
Jimin’s eyes are damp but indignant, his posture stiff with conviction, and Yoongi can’t blame himself for grabbing the dancer’s hand and brushing his lips to his knuckles. “The words you say, little crane. You make me feel as if I have no choice. I’ll live if you do.”
He’s fully expecting Jimin to withdraw his hand, to gasp and chastise him for violating boundaries, but the dancer gives a shuddering exhale and lifts his free hand to trace Yoongi’s scar instead. “Then I have no choice but to keep living. Tell me, is this yet another dream?”
And perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn’t. In this moment Yoongi doesn’t think about how he is set to meet his future bride in a few days’ time, doesn’t think about how he’d condemned the idea of being so close to another man. Jimin is so near they’re breathing against each other.
Yoongi has no answer to Jimin’s question, so he doesn’t. Heart thundering, he takes Jimin’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, eyes falling shut—
“Your Highness!” Hoseok’s hiss comes from the shadow as footfalls approach. “We— oh.”
Startled, Yoongi jerks back from Jimin.
He bolts upright with a sudden force of adrenaline moving his legs, completely forgetting that he is, in fact, not on flat ground but on a slanted roof. No, no. Balance flees Yoongi, and he teeters forward, arms thrown out. “Wo-woah—“
Two arms wrap around him from behind.
“Calm down,” Jimin’s laughing voice berates as the dancer yanks him back to balance.
Heart palpitating, Yoongi turns to him. “So much for me not dying. I nearly fell and broke my neck.”
“I told you,” Jimin winks cheekily, “not if I can help it.” Gone is the distressed face.
Yoongi is all the more glad for it. If his foolish antics are what it takes to lift the man’s spirits, then he’d more than happy to be an idiot for life. He pinches Jimin’s cheek gently. “That. Keep that.”
Then, to Hoseok waiting below, he barks roughly, “What.”
“We have an hour until five bells,” Hoseok blurts urgently. He purses his lips. “If we leave any later, we might get caught.”
Yoongi feels the blood drain off his face. He feels Jimin squeeze his hand, and they share equally sticken looks.
“Then we leave now.”
The brisk-walk back through the tunnels is a quiet affair, none of them uttering more than what is necessary. Yoongi can practically feel time burning away like a dog trailing hot at his heels.
He marches forward, Jimin’s hand locked tight in his.
At some point, rather than go straight down to the direction of the King’s library, Hoseok breaks off from their group and swerves into the passageway leading to the West Palace.
“I will take the nearest exit and meet you later, since I was slated to the outer palace patrol.”
Hoseok gives him and Jimin a final nod of acknowledgment. “Go on ahead without me. If you run, you can still make it in time for the switching of the palace guards.”
“Thanks. Be careful.” Hand in hand, Yoongi and Jimin hustle through the passageway, breathing hard.
He can hear his blood thrumming in his ears as they clamber up the staircase, Jimin first, followed by Yoongi.
They make it safely to the first landing inside the antechamber, and Jimin hastily changes back into his gisaeng costume while Yoongi makes sure the trapdoor is locked.
“Go, go,” Yoongi all but pushes Jimin out of the antechamber, pulling the secret door to a close behind him.
Just as it wedges shut against the rest of the library shelves, a eunuch’s shrill voice suddenly announces from outside—
“His Majesty is now entering the library!”
Yoongi stops dead in his tracks.
The King? How? Ten hells, it’s barely five bells—his father has never been known for being an early morning bird. Impossible.
Unless, of course, there is an emergency matter he must attend to.
Next to Yoongi, the blood drains from Jimin’s face.
“What do we do?” he hisses, eyes darting side to side in terror.
“I—“ Yoongi shakes down to his boots as he searches desperately for any nook or cranny to hide behind, or under. “T-There, between the last shelves!”
They dive behind the furniture just as the sliding doors open.
“Is it still in here?” There’s no doubt about it—the unmistakable voice of Yoongi’s father booms through the huge library.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Good. Do not let it out of this library.”
Yoongi presses a hand to his and Jimin’s mouths to silence their ragged panting.
/Please/, Yoongi thinks. /Don’t let him come this way./
He barely dares to breathe. The rest of the King’s chatter fades to white noise as Yoongi forgets to listen, hypnotized by the way Jimin’s eyes burn into his. A heavy quiet settles between them.
Then the bells ringing.
The sound is so abrupt and loud that Yoongi jolts in surprise, his elbow jerking back and sending a stack of books skidding noisily from its shelf. Jimin gasps. Yoongi winces.
A pause. “Did you hear that?” says the King.
Over; it’s all over. Yoongi bites down on his lower lip.
“Hear… what…” a eunuch sputters nervously.
“I thought I heard an item fall,” a tone of suspicion latches onto the King’s voice, which grows louder accompanied by nearing footsteps. “It came from this way.”
Panic surges in Yoongi. “They’re coming,” he mouths to Jimin.
The punishment would be worse for a woman caught in the King’s library, he thinks, eyeing the way Jimin is dressed in skirts now. That costume would serve him no good in this situation.
Jimin stares at him like a wild animal caught in a trap. He grabs Yoongi by the shoulders.
“My lord,” Jimin breathes, “do you trust me?”
Yoongi gawks at him. Can’t he see they are in a perilous circumstance?
Still, he nods.
“Then,” Jimin says, grabbing the sides of Yoongi’s face, “forgive my indiscretion.”
He rises on his toes and kisses Yoongi.
sleepy, i am so sleepy
thank you for tuning in!!! the plot is going to cartwheel from here onwards ^o*
tip jar below buy me a coffee pls and thankie
Weight—everything in the world has weight. When Yoongi was a child, he once saw a baby bird teeter off its mother’s nest, but the court ladies turned him away before he could think to run and find out whether whether the fledgling survived.
He, however… he might die from this.
The weight of Jimin’s lips crushes against his, moving with a fierce determination that has Yoongi gasping against the dancer’s mouth. His arms come up on their own accord, wrapping around Jimin’s waist to pull him closer.
The footsteps from earlier fade; least of his worries.
Yoongi’s mind scrambles into unfinished thoughts, one eclipsing the next, and all after. The focus of his reality narrows to a single mouth—how does one person’s lips feel so velveteen?
Everything in the world has a weight that pulls them to the ground; Yoongi’s ground is Jimin.
There is steam stuffed in his skull, clouding his rational judgment. When Jimin slides both arms around his neck, the temperature in Yoongi’s head rises, prompting him to squeeze Jimin’s waist with a quiet sigh.
“So?” a brusque voice barks, breaking though his haze.
Then and only then does the inevitable crash follow. Yoongi’s heart plummets.
It is with a belated sense of shame that he remembers—this should not be. Not only is Yoongi (illegally) latched to another man’s mouth, they are inside a place they have no business having access to.
“Speak, Eunuch Hong. What lies out there?” the King barks, his voice ricocheting within the enclosed space. It doesn’t sound closer, though, which means—
Yoongi tears his mouth away from Jimin’s long enough to look down the dark hallway and lock eyes with a slack-jawed eunuch.
The attendant lets out a high-pitched, strangled noise, eyes never leaving Yoongi’s as he stammers, “Your- Your Majesty, there is…”
Yoongi gives a sharp shake of his head, putting on his most withering look, which requires effort when Jimin is still mouthing at his earlobe.
“What is it?” The King’s voice grows louder, and Yoongi can hear the uptick of annoyance in his father’s voice. To his horror, heavier footsteps follow, approaching the darkened rows of shelves where they’re currently tucked into.
Jimin freezes in his arms with a fearful gasp.
Yoongi holds him close, unmoving. He can feel his own erratic pulse thudding against the sides of his throat, and he very nearly forgets to breathe when—
“Your Majesty!” a different eunuch’s panicked voice yells from outside the library. “The Queen Dowager has collapsed!”
The footsteps immediately cease, and Yoongi watches his father’s shadow stop from looming closer. The King lets out a soft gasp, and his shadow spins and shrinks as he moves away from Yoongi and Jimin’s hiding spot. “And the royal physician?”
Jimin melts against Yoongi’s chest.
Before Eunuch Hong can scamper away, Yoongi is already marching down the hallway and drawing out his sword. It gleams in the bitter morning blue as he aims the blade at the eunuch’s Adam’s apple.
Eunuch Hong releases a muffled cry and plasters himself to the nearest wall.
“Breathe a word about this,” Yoongi seethes lowly, “and your head is the first I’ll come for.”
“My lord,” Jimin’s soft warning floats through the air, and his voice is what Yoongi chooses to listen to rather than the eunuch’s quiet pleas for mercy.
“Swear upon it,” says Yoongi.
Eunuch Hong sinks to his knees, his cheeks flushing as fat tears gather at his eyes. “B-but my lord— His Majesty— I cannot possibly lie…”
“No need to lie. After all, my wom— my lover and I were /never/ here,” Yoongi asserts, lowering his sword, “and you saw nothing but rats.”
The King’s Head Eunuch glances briefly at Jimin, lingering several paces behind Yoongi. “B-but a gisaeng… in the King’s library, of all places…”
Yoongi huffs out a slow breath and traces an index finger along the back of his sword. “I am in no mood to bargain. Any last words?”
Yoongi falters when he feels Jimin’s soft touch at his elbow, guiding his arm and sword back.
“No bloodshed,” the dancer says sternly, and Yoongi’s heart flips and swells with so much adoration he nearly passes out himself.
Yoongi purses his lips thoughtfully.
Eunuch Hong peers up at them with short, shuddering breaths, cheeks wet. “I have seen— n-nobody,” he repeats hastily, stumbling over his words. “Only rats.”
Yoongi huffs in satisfaction. “Good.”
The eunuch’s chest heaves.
“Also,” Yoongi adds, “do not ever lecture my choices.”
He sheathes his sword back in his scabbard & strolls out with Jimin’s arm linked to his. “I will spare your life today, Head Eunuch, but best believe my eyes and ears are on you from today onwards. It would do you good to remember your place.”
Yoongi doesn’t bother turning back.
Once outside, in the gradually brightening daylight, he and Jimin wordlessly hurtle down the hilly terrain away from the King’s library and cross one of the many ponds between the main palace and Yoongi’s personal quarters.
Once out of earshot, Yoongi’s knees buckle under him.
Jimin catches his weight with a yelp and holds him up, but neither of them are doing a swell job of standing upright. Together they stagger to a nearby bridge and lean against one side of its ornamental parapet, breathless with disbelief at their luck.
“Close call,” Yoongi says.
He thinks his head might be spinning at the rapid pace of events that just whirred by—so fast, in fact, that he nearly forgets what had transpired in the darkness between those shelves.
Warmth pools at his cheeks. Yoongi looks at Jimin with a combination of awe and bemusement.
If Jimin feels his pointed gaze at all, he makes no show of it. Smoothing his hands over his head, Jimin clears his throat, eyes pinned to the float the the time. “We should- I should return to my quarters and change.”
He stands, but not before Yoongi pinches his skirt and tugs.
The dancer pauses and glances down at Yoongi’s gat, his collar, his robes—anywhere but his eyes. “Yes?”
“Earlier,” Yoongi starts, despising the way his own voice comes out as a desperate rasp. “Why did you- when we… just—“
“Why? Do you fear being apprehended as a criminal?”
“What?” Yoongi’s eyes flutter several times as he struggles to absorb the detachment in Jimin’s voice. “No, not at all. I was wondering why you did it, is all.”
Reading Jimin is like believing in fortunetelling—clarity never presents itself clearly unless faith stands strong.
Jimin turns to him, face impassive, and Yoongi wonders if there is a possibility he might find a smidgen of truth behind that cool expression. “We needed a believable distraction for being at His Majesty’s library.” He gulps. “It worked, did it not?”
“Only with my threats, yes.”
“I had a few glasses of liquor earlier and was not thinking with a clear head. It was necessary.”
It is only now that Yoongi realizes how much faith he’s already poured into Jimin, so much so that even when the dancer says one thing, Yoongi doesn’t feel challenged. Just— amused.
“Remember when you told me you see me?” Yoongi pushes off from the bridge’s parapet and starts pacing back and forth across the width of the bridge, rather pleased with how much strength has returned to his legs.
He turns & cages Jimin with his arms. “Well. I see you right now.”
Only with Jimin, he tells himself. Only with Jimin does he forget about being man to man—instead he brings to mind Jungkook’s words about colors blending together without regard for its canvas. Perhaps with Jimin, Yoongi is less a man and more a brilliant gold, like daylight.
He lifts a knuckle and brushes it lightly against Jimin’s cheek. To hell he goes if this is a heinous, criminal act. Yoongi wants nothing more than to taste Jimin’s lips again, certain that he’d cherish the taste of his mouth once he gets to have them a second, third, nth time.
Jimin shivers under his touch, but his eyes remain firmly on his lap as he seems to shake himself out of a reverie. He leans back out of Yoongi’s proximity. “My lord.”
“What?” Yoongi breathes, watching the glimmer in Jimin’s black pearl eyes. He reads fear. Apprehension.
“What do you feel?” Jimin asks, fingers absentmindedly fiddling with the beads dangling from Yoongi’s gat. “Right now?”
“Do you want me to answer you as if you are in another one of your whimsical dreams,” murmurs Yoongi, “or do you want my honest reality?”
Jimin is quiet.
For someone always brimming with confidence, Yoongi can’t help but think Jimin looks so small and uncertain, with his gaze constantly flitting from Yoongi to his own hands, then back to Yoongi.
A second wave of understanding hits the prince, then — Jimin could be terrified.
And if Yoongi wants to walk a path with no space for fear or pain with the court dancer, then he would not mind going at a snail’s pace, if only to keep pace with Jimin’s inner turmoil.
So instead of his lips, Yoongi aims for his forehead. “Dreams are fine, but let us wake now.”
A quiet noise rips from the back of Jimin’s throat as his eyes snap to Yoongi’s, sharpening with shock before going hazy.
“Oh,” Jimin says, swaying back and forth like a leaf. He leans back so much that his weight tips over and sends him plummeting from the bridge’s parapet.
Yoongi has only a second to shout & dive after Jimin before he, too, is falling into the shallow pond below. They splash noisily into the water, sending rivulets everywhere and disturbing the dragonflies at rest on the lotus blooms. They take flight, like Yoongi’s criminal heart.
When he comes up from the surface, there is already a hysterical giggle bubbling from his mouth, and the sight of Jimin rising from the water with hair matted to his skull does nothing to abate the pleasant warm prickling under Yoongi’s skin.
“You look like a ghost!” he teases.
Jimin shoots him a dark look. “If I am a ghost, I will haunt you for life, old man.”
“Me? Old?” Yoongi grins, adrenaline surging in his blood. “Well, then you ought to give respects to your elderly.”
“Come closer so I can splash your wicked face.”
“You are stealing MY line.”
Jimin wades through the water, one leg sloshing heavily after another until he comes to a stop just before Yoongi.
The laughter between them quiets then, unfettering into the air until the morning amber claims it. Jimin’s hair gleams under the newborn sunlight, softening Yoongi.
“Well?” Jimin asks in a haughty tone after the silence goes on for too long.
Yoongi’s eyebrows jump. “Well what?”
Jimin glances down and swirls an index finger in the water, creating ripples. “Hurry up and hold me. I am cold, princeling.”
Yoongi’s heart swells. “Little crane.”
He wastes no time in leaping forward and folding Jimin—wet hanbok and all—into the eager circle of his arms, a broken laugh escaping him.
With Yoongi’s shaky foothold and their combined compromised balance, they fall back into the water once more, creating another huge splash.
Yoongi tucks his favorite person close as they shuffle and stand together, and feels a warm flush at the realization that Jimin is clinging to his torso just as tightly. Like the new day, a newfound lightness is spreading from his chest to the rest of his body. “My little crane.”
Jimin shudders at the word and peels himself off of Yoongi’s body just to swipe his wet hair from his face. There is a tiny smile at the corners of his lips as he reaches for Yoongi’s floating gat on the water and replaces it on his head. “There you go. Handsome once more.”
A series of tongue clicking from above snatches their attention.
“Really, Yoongi?” Hoseok’s face appears on the same bridge from which they had fallen. “Color me unsurprised, but you two truly are far beyond reason more than I thought.”
His words are crude but his grin is wide.
Smiling so hard his face could split, Yoongi squeezes an arm over Jimin’s shoulders and waves up at the Commandant.
Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Yes, whatever. Now please do not lose your wits and get out of the pond before you two catch a cold.”
Yoongi pulls Jimin’s hand. “Come.”
It takes all of Yoongi’s restraint and willpower not to reach for Jimin’s hand on the walk back to his quarters.
He is no little boy, he admonishes himself quietly. There is no need to rush a newfound… whatever this new bond forming between them is called. Friends? Friendlier?
Whatever it is, Yoongi is more than honored to be a part of an ampersand with Park Jimin now. If that is what this is. What they are. He can’t wait to find out.
The sun has fully taken over the sky by the time they reach Yoongi’s residence hall. To his surprise, Songhwa is there.
She paces the yard outside of Yoongi’s quarters, wringing her hands together. Yeol stands idly by, watching the princess with a soft expression that Yoongi is beginning to identify with.
“Min Songhwa,” sings Yoongi as they approach. “My beautiful sister visiting me. What gives?”
The princess pauses and raises an eyebrow at him. “You are being odd.” Tossing a glance back at Yeol, she says, “Is my brother not acting odd, darling?”
Yeol purses her lips and hangs her head, face flaming. She neither answers nor looks at anyone in the face, including Songhwa.
Yoongi doesn’t have it in him to make ugly faces at his sister today. Not when the sun’s liquid is actually in his veins right now, not with Jimin’s warm body standing a foot away. The world is encased in only wonderful things, and he cannot begin to imagine how blind he’s been.
“I am criminally unwell, if you must know,” he quips, exchanging a shy smile with Jimin. He prods Jimin in the ribs. “What are you laughing to yourself about?”
Jimin nudges him back. “What are YOU smiling about?”
“Ten hells,” Hoseok mutters behind them. Songhwa gasps and claps.
“I see,” she croons sweetly, all but vibrating in her shoes. She circles the two of them like a hawk, a knowing smirk playing at her rouged lips. “About time!”
(Yoongi desperately wants to hold Jimin’s hand now. What a terrible ordeal, craving for the very person beside you.)
He his throat. No matter what, he is still a prince. Propriety is part of the royal code. “So, what is it that brings you to my doorstep this fine day?”
Songhwa’s smile falters. She turns to Jimin. “Our mother has expressed her wish to watch our performance before the banquet.”
Yoongi glances at Jimin with uncertainty. Their clorhes are still dripping wet from their splash in the pond. “Now?”
“Not really,” says Songhwa. “But before the midday meal, the Internal Court will be visiting the us to vet us.”
“The /entire/ Internal Court?” checks Yoongi.
Songhwa nods. “All the royal concubines including the Queen herself. Not the Dowager, though, I heard about our grandmother earlier.”
“So did I.” Literally, on the spot. And to think that their grandmother’s ill health would end up being something Yoongi would be thankful for.
Songhwa gnaws on her lower lip. “The thing is, one of our dancers, Miyoung, has fallen horribly ill with smallpox. Jimin-ah, the Royal Banquet is in two days. I doubt she can make it.”
Jimin tenses. “I could adjust the formations. But if the Internal Court is coming later…”
He seems to arrive at the conclusion at the same time as Songhwa nods. “We must practice now, while there is time.”
“We do, but”—Songhwa hums and gives Yoongi and Jimin a once-over—“I suppose I should let you wash up first, our Lady Aeshin. Come to the Pavilion in an hour.”
Then she is skipping away, tugging Yeol’s hand along, and Yoongi would be lying if he said he isn’t slightly envious of how freely his sister expresses herself.
He has half a mind to suggest bathing together, but good old propriety rears its head and slaps him hard. “Go first.”
They end up washing separately, much to Yoongi’s sinking heart. He orders for a bath to be prepared for Jimin within his residence, while Yoongi himself cleans up in his usual washroom.
When he returns to his quarters, Jimin is already sitting fully dressed.
“My lord.” He rises.
Yoongi waves a dismissive hand & urges Jimin to continue sitting. “I already told you—there is no need to call me so formally when we are alone. You know?”
Jimin looks down, cheeks flushed, and Yoongi hopes it’s not from the bath. “I know.”
Crouching low, Yoongi pats his head.
Jimin’s eyes flutter shut at his touch, a soft sigh escaping him. Yoongi likes this novelty between them; of actively learning how to border the polite distance & crossing the threshold to greater intimacies. He lets his hand fall from Jimin’s head to his cheek, pulse quickening.
“I bid you good luck in your rehearsals,” he says quietly, as if it’s a secret meant just for Jimin instead of a casual well wish.
Jimin’s eyes open slowly, a warmth nestling in Yoongi when their gazes meet. Tentatively, he leans forward on all fours and kisses Yoongi’s cheek.
Yoongi’s heart skips. It is now that he figures out just how weak of a man he is; that despite his scholarly wisdom, he is nothing but mindless putty as soon as Jimin’s lips rest anywhere near him. He can’t control the smile spreading across his face as he rubs Jimin’s hand.
“Come back to me tonight,” Yoongi requests, swallowing all that’s left of his pride. Pride has never won him much of anything in life, anyway. “After your lessons with Songhwa, return to my quarters.”
“And what if I refuse?” Jimin sends him a playful, challenging look. “Hmm?”
Yoongi juts out his lower lips and clicks his tongue, rocking back until he is sitting away from Jimin. “Ah, but could you ever say no to this?” He enlargens his eyes and exaggerates his frown.
Chuckling, Jimin pokes him in the nose. “I will think about it.”
Jimin rolls his eyes good-naturedly, then lapses into a silence that has Yoongi growing antsy. “Not that I wish to complain, but… why me, princeling?”
Yoongi’s eyebrows shoot up. He doesn’t remember if he has ever asked himself the question before. “You really want to know?”
Jimin nods, face growing serious.
“Maaaybe if you come here tonight, I might consider telling you,” Yoongi says, chortling and patting Jimin’s shoulder when the dancer glares at him.
“And what will you do while I am out?” Jimin asks, nose twitching.
Yoongi opens his mouth.
“My lord,” one of his servants call from outside, “the Minister of War has summoned your company for the first meal.”
A sigh escapes Yoongi. First dinner. now breakfast. He hooks a thumb over his shoulder nonchalantly. “I would be wanted elsewhere, too.”
Jimin nods understandingly as they both stand and head for the door. Before Yoongi can slide them apart, though, he feels a tug at his sleeve.
“Yoongi,” whispers Jimin next to him.
“Hmm?” Yoongi turns his bead. “What, little—“
Soft lips smack against his, too quick to relish.
Yoongi does not even get to close his eyes before Jimin is pulling away, a wicked gleam in his eye as he offers a lopsided grin.
“See you later,” Jimin says, holding their gaze two seconds before scurrying out.
Yoongi stares at nothing, his pulse hopping like a rabbit. “Later.”
whoever expected PoT to be only pure angst, come fite me!! We’ll have a boxing match >:) anyway, good night aaa sleeeepy~
ohoohohohoho enjoy the fluff!!! (for now). thoughts on this update?
>> dubu’s kofi: support is welcome!
Painter of Time
July Exclusive: Hwalbindang’s Files pt. I
— answers a big question… and brings up more (???)
— for everyone subscribed to my Patreon, please keep comments to the post itself instead of tweeting here
The trickling of the tea from pot to cup is all that fills the air. Yoongi almost wishes his own relationship with his uncle could be as tranquil and steady.
The servant positions their respective teacups in front of either man, then moves away, her head ducked, eyes averted.
“Eat.” Min Donghwan says, gesturing to the bowls on the low table, snapping Yoongi out of wondering how many eyebrows’ worth of hair his uncle’s thick beard could probably account for.
He scoops up the rice, half-tempted to dunk it in the soup to make his own spin on gukbap.
“How are your studies?”
Yoongi slurps on his soup. “Coming along well.”
“Sungkyungkwan has been quiet recently.”
Yoongi risks a glance at the Minister of War. He can’t sound too involved. “Now that their appeal has been answered, it seems the scholars have been mollified.”
“As a scholar yourself, I suppose you’ve known all along,” Min Donghwan muses. Light enough. Casual enough.
Yoongi doesn’t let himself falter. “I know more texts than I do names; with my attention focused on my studies, I would not have had time to mingle with others to join.”
“I figured,” says his uncle, picking up a handkeechief to dab at his mouth. “The protest must be the Crown Prince’s doing. And now he is dismantling the court, one office after another. Soon there will be no one willing to be loyal to him.”
/I doubt that/, Yoongi almost says.
“And do not lie to my face, Min Yun. I know every movement in this palace. Word has it that you’ve found yourself more involved with that wretch than you claim to be.”
Yoongi’s jaw tightens.
“Remember your place, boy. You are to meet your future bride the day after tomorrow.”
Yoongi forces out a steady breath. “And what happens after? Will I be expected to cross the region and follow her home?”
“Do not be daft—she will be the one to stay. You, on the other hand,” Donghwan pauses & Yoongi can’t read the look in his eyes, “are to stay near the sun.”
He sounds so assured of himself that Yoongi can’t help but wonder… “The King would have no need for me by then. I see no point in staying.”
There’s a scenario in his head: what if.
What if he took Jimin to Qing and fled? What if he could disappear after reaching its shores?
“Oh, do not worry.” The Minister of War sets down his chopsticks and spoon, signaling for the servant to take away his tray. Yoongi inwardly cringes at the amount leftover—Jimin would have a field day scorning such waste. “The throne will have a desperate need for you very soon.”
Yoongi pauses. “What do you mean by that..?”
“Have you memorized the Great Qing Code?” the minister asks, ignoring his question.
“That is necessary for any scholar.”
“Good. Knowing your neighbors’ laws helps you maneuver your dealings with its empire—“
“Uncle,” Yoongi snaps.
“Once I graduate, I will work for a life of honorable peace. I do not wish for a government position that will require one to do anything related to /ruling/.”
Min Donghwan pauses, eyes burning with mix of pity and indignance.
Yoongi fists his hands in his lap. “That is all.”
His uncle sighs through his nose, and lifts the teaport to refill his and Yoongi’s cup. “I know a great deal about your skill with the sword. How would you like to have your own army?”
“I do not wish to become a warrior or a general, either.”
“It is funny how you think I care.”
Yoongi sucks in a quick breath, nostrils flaring.
“Here is what I believe.” The Minister of War’s face softens. It’s sickening. “You are born to be great, Yun. Destined for it, even. And Fan Xinyi will make a graceful queen next to you, a strong tie between Joseon and Qing.”
“Watch your mouth.” Yoongi’s head is dizzy with bubbling fury. “Your ambition blinds you so deeply you fail to realize how you speak of high treason.” He stands, disgusted by the prospect of spending another minute longer in the same room. “Look around—is this not enough power?”
“It is not my ambition. It is your destiny,” Min Donghwan insists. Yoongi bristles.
He can’t believe his ears. Shaking his head, Yoongi backs away slowly from the breakfast table. “Out of respect for our clan, I will let this slip. But any more, and I will not stand idly by.”
He thunders out of the dining room, making sure to shut the doors behind him so hard they shake and threaten to collapse.
Yoongi is a prince of low rank—any higher than that and he would not enjoy what little freedom he still has now.
If he becomes King, he can’t have Jimin.
Because sitting still and diving into his books isn’t quite relieving his temper, Yoongi spends the afternoon practicing archery with the Crown Prince, who shares his plans for the Three Offices he wants to establish to quell government corruption. It’s a fine and grand plan.
Yoongi is more than willing to be a part of it. If there is any government position he wants at all, this is the one office he’d like to play a role in.
If he truly is to stay in Joseon after his wedding, then perhaps not all hope is lost. Maybe he could be a husband, on paper.
Yoongi has it all playing out in his head—he would not mind keeping to the shadows, as long as Jimin will have him. They could meet up at Ihwaru periodically, even as friends. There is no law in Joseon that prohibits married men from pursuing a lifelong friendship.
It could work.
“You are nervous,” remarks Crown Prince Sohyeon, brow wrinkling.
“Your aim is far off-target today. What is the matter?” His older brother stares at him for a quiet moment. “Are you anxious to meet your bride?”
Yoongi suppresses a grimace. “Not really.”
The Crown Prince studies him for a long moment. “I see.”
“See?” Yoongi sets aside his bow and schools his expression into a neutral one. “See what?”
“If you care so much for that gisaeng,” says Sohyeon, wiping off sweat from his brow, “why not make her your concubine?”
If the idea of being apart from Jimin makes Yoongi’s chest churn, then the mere thought of forcing Jimin to live a dishonest life just to be with him gutters him in the stomach. “I… do not think she would accept.”
“Does she not return your affections?”
“It is complicated.”
In the same way that Jimin insists that Yoongi doesn’t belong in the shadows, he is convinced little cranes ought to fly free.
“If you think it is complicated, then perhaps the situation is beyond your understanding, or you are missing information.”
“You sound like Songhwa.”
The Crown Prince snickers. “Our sister has always been the smartest of us three.”
“What is it with women and brains?” asks Yoongi.
His brother hums in thought. “I ask myself the same each time I visit the Crown Princess. She will make a fine queen one day, my dear wife.”
Yoongi smiles to himself. “If the world had more women in ruling positions, then perhaps we would witness less bloodshed across kingdoms.”
At his words, the Crown Prince’s eyes dart left and right in panic, before he leans towards Yoongi with a wink. “I hope to make it happen.”
Something bright and warm spreads across Yoongi’s body as he claps his brother’s shoulders. The Crown Prince’s eyes are sparkling with a kind of hope that makes people want to keep living.
“I hope I live to see it happen.”
The Crown Prince smiles, a dazzling thing. “You must.”
After archery, Yoongi walks around the royal gardens, taking time to admire a bloom or two, making sure he looks busy even though all he wants is to catch a glimpse of whatever must be going on at the Lotus Pavilion. He wonders how Jimin and Songhwa’s rehearsals are coming along.
But each time he so much as meanders remotely close to the area, he sees only an army of uniformed court ladies, no doubt the Internal Court’s entourage.
Yoongi has to give it to them—indeed, women of the palace are formidable and uptight when it comes to their own dealings.
“Seok-ahhh.” Yoongi drapes himself over a seat next to the Royal Guard Division’s training hall. Inside he can hear the grunts of effort from men hard at work.
“Not now, Your Highness,” Hoseok says, “I am busy with the rookies.”
“Then how come you are sitting with me?”
“You dragged me to spend my break time with you!”
“I requested nicely!”
Hoseok shoots him a look as if to say, /And was I expected to decline?/. Yoongi aims a playful kick at his shin, which the Commandant avoids. “Go be bored elsewhere. Where is Jimin?”
Yoongi scowls. “Busy.”
Hoseok purses his lips, but Yoongi can already hear the unspent laughter begging to burst free. “Do not give me that look. I simply have too much time on my hands and am ill at ease not knowing what to do with it.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you are anxious, Yoongi.”
Yoongi blanches, but says nothing.
“Come on, out with it. What is on your mind?” says Hoseok, lowering the flask he’s drinking from. “Since you stole me from my men, I might as well listen.”
Min Donghwan’s words echo in Yoongi’s head. Much as he wants to, he can’t ignore them.
“My uncle is pushing his greed on me,” Yoongi mutters in a hushed voice, wrinkling his nose. He looks around to make sure nobody else is within earshot. “Simply put, he wants me to seize the… the throne.”
Hoseok’s forehead wrinkles as his eyebrows shoot up. “That’s treason.”
“I know he must be planning something,” Yoongi says, eyes squinting. “He is behaving suspiciously. I can feel it in my left, well, my left buttock.”
Hoseok spurts out water from his nose. “You are spending too much time with Jimin these days. Did you pick that up from Ihwaru?”
Yoongi ignores him. “I need to investigate what he is up to. Won’t you help me, Seok? If he is planning treason, we must stop it before he can hurt anybody in the palace.”
The Commandant sighs. “And this is why I truly am glad to be born a commoner.”
Yoongi wishes he was, too.
The sun is coasting the horizon in deep orange beams by the time Yoongi drags his feet back to his quarters, lost in thought, but mostly appalled by how little of Jimin’s face he’s seen all say.
So it’s with a leap of gladness that he goes rigid when he spots Jimin outside.
“Ji— Aeshin,” he cries out, belatedly clocking the servants milling about.
Not too far away, there’s a court maid carrrying a basket of fresh linen, and to his left are kitchen boys running to and fro in haste.
The dancer looks up at him, face pale and gaunt.
He marches nearer, enough so that he can reach out for the dancer’s elbow but not so close that prying eyes would grow suspicious. “What is the matter?”
Jimin’s eyes are watery, his pupils shaking as he studies Yoongi’s face. His hands twitch, and he tucks them under his pits.
Yoongi feels the initial spark of excitement in his putter out into smoke. “Did… did the rehearsal not go well?”
“It went swimmingly.” Jimin breaks their gaze and looks away, and that’s when Yoongi catches the handprint emblazoned on the dancer’s right cheek, red and angry.
Yoongi’s shock pulses through him in a wave. He curls his hands into fists and barely manages to keep from reaching out. He has never had to console another person with words of affirmation, because the only people who get hit in the palace are servants, not family members.
“What happened to you?”
Jimin swallows, Adam’s apple quivering. “I…” He cradles his elbows and hugs himself.
Yoongi waits, unwilling to move away but unable to step closer, either. There is nothing like the hollow helplessness of having no absolute method to console a person.
“I have a sword,” he offers weakly, then mentally kicks himself in the gut the moment the words leave his mouth. It seems to do the trick, though, because Jimin finally looks at him again.
Lower lip wobbling, Jimin gives him a sad smile. “I… am hungry, my lord. Have you eaten?”
Only then does Yoongi break out of his mounting distress and surveys the dancer from head to toe—Jimin’s hair is frazzled, and there is a giant mudstain splattered on his hanbok. How long has he been enduring? What in the Jade Emperor’s name happened out there?
“Then let us eat.”
He spins fast on his heel and orders the servants standing outside his quarters to /hurry up and fetch dinner or I will have your heads by sundown/. As soon as they scamper away, Yoongi feels a tiny tug on his silk sleeve.
He glances over his shoulder.
Jimin is hanging onto him.
So Yoongi does what any man in his situation would do: he turns, gently takes Jimin by the elbows, and backtracks all the way to his quarters so that he would not need to take his eyes off the dancer even for a brief split-second.
Once the doors close, Jimin leaps into his arms.
They stumble into one of Yoongi’s sitting cushions a graceless heap. Yoongi isn’t quite sure where to position his hands, but Jimin doesn’t seem ruffled by it—the dancer just presses his face into the crook of his neck and breathes in.
“I missed you,” whispers Jimin. “I’m cold.”
And perhaps Yoongi is reading too much into things, or paying particular attention to Jimin’s language, but he thinks: when Jimin feels sad, he claims to be hungry. And when Jimin says he is cold, really what he wants is—
Yoongi tightens his arms around the dancer. “Who was it?”
He can feel Jimin’s shuddering breaths putter against his neck. “Nobody you should lay a finger on.”
“I am serious, little crane. Anybody who hurts you, hurts me, too,” Yoongi insists, squeezing Jimin’s arms lightly. “So in hindsight, I am angry for me. Who dares harm a prince?”
“I am all right. I told you, hunger makes me weak.”
“I would not hesitate to cut a throat or two—“
“No bloodshed,” Jimin chastises, mouth curling into a miffed pout. “No beheading. No sword-wielding.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “You are too soft.”
“You are too rash.”
“I am not mad with bloodlust, it that’s what you are thinking,” Yoongi says. “My attacks are mere retaliations.” He’s always preferred to rise only when provoked.
Jimin reaches up and cups Yoongi’s jaw with both hands, eyes glimmering in the bitter blue of dusk. “Don’t hurt.”
Yoongi wonders if he means it as a request or as a wish. “Fine. I will not hurt anyone.”
“No,” Jimin says, trailing one finger down until he rests it over Yoongi’s heart. “Don’t /hurt/.”
And there’s no time to question that, because the servants come knocking with dinner ready.
Dinner is a gloomy affair, absent of Jimin’s usual cheerful giggling and their war of wits. Yoongi almost wishes there were no servants around so that he could take his own spoon and feed it to Jimin, or pour the dancer’s tea himself. Jimin keeps his head down, for the most part.
Yoongi doesn’t press, if only because each time he tries to bring up the matter, Jimin’s winces before changing the subject the way the summer breeze switches directions. There is no forcing people who won’t talk.
(Unless you torture them.)
Of course, he can’t do that to Jimin.
There /is/ one ace trick Yoongi may or may not have under his sleeve, although he has always imagined he would mention it in a better… circumstance, than the current one. No, he can’t use that yet.
So he talks. Whereas Jimin typically chatters, tonight Yoongi takes up the role.
“I have very few good memories with my father, actually,” he says over his bowl. “When I was 9 years old, my hyung and I used to play around together all the time. Songhwa was only 4 then, and cried often about us leaving her out. We would play in Abamama’s library.”
To his relief, Jimin actually looks up with wide eyes. “His Majesty would let you?!”
“On his good days,” Yoongi answers wistfully, ignoring the yearning tug in his stomach. There is no getting back those memories now. “Believe me or not, I think he tried to be parent, too.”
Jimin looks across the table at him with a soft smile. “You turned out to be a good apple.”
“Nonsense. I am merely”—Yoongi gestures to all of himself—“a fool, in the court’s eyes. To be honest, I am all the more glad for it.”
The dancer tilts his head. “Why do you say so?”
“Then they wouldn’t ever consider me for the government,” Yoongi replies with a grin. He picks up a piece of steamed fish and pops it into his mouth. “Now THAT is a good goal.”
“You do not want to be King?” Jimin asks, his voice pitchy for some reason. “But you have good ideas.”
Yoongi settles his gaze on him, wishing Jimin was in his lap instead of tables away. An image blooms in his mind—him in humble clothes, working at a smithy.
A quaint house with a thatched roof next to an orange tree. Jimin’s hand to hold every day. They might raise Hyunji. “No.”
“But what IF you were on the throne?” asks Jimin, warming his hands around his teacup. “What decisions do you see yourself making?”
Yoongi scratches the back of his neck. “Honestly? Ideas are all I have, but I’ve not the gift of gab like my hyung. If I were King we’d be at war.”
Jimin makes a scandalized noise. “And do I believe you? No.”
“Good, because I will never want the throne, anyway,” Yoongi declares. “Not when I have a perfectly capable brother who can lead this country to a bright future.”
“What if I said I could make you King, though?”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow, a smug smile threatening to split his face. “King of your heart, maybe.”
Jimin nearly chokes on his food. “Where did you learn to pick up such a line?”
“Earth-shattering, no? Does it make your heart race? Are you shivering yet?”
“Yes, from cringing.”
A frown curves Yoongi’s mouth south. “That should not be. Kkeut-nyeo and Jangsu used the same phrase towards towards each other in Master Kim’s third novel.”
“Heol.” Jimin’s chopsticks slam against the table. “You’ve read ‘Our Blood, Sweat and Tears’?”
“I had some time.”
Jimin snorts, then snickers into his hand, eyes crinkling at rhe corners.
Yoongi nods to himself in satisfaction. “Finally. That’s the laugh.”
“What laugh?” Jimin stops abruptly and starts drinking from his bowl to avoid looking at Yoongi.
But Yoongi just smiles. “Nothing.”
Once their plates and bowls are emptied and cleared away by the servants, Jimin also stands, fixing his hanbok. “I should— I suppose it is time for me to return to my room.”
Yoongi’s heart seizes. It dawns on him that when he asked Jimin to ‘come back’ he really meant—
Jimin stiffens by the door. “There is nothing I could possibly do for you at night, my lord—“
“I need your body,” Yoongi blurts, then wishes he could hack himself into tiny pieces and scatter his ashes into the sea.
The dancer pauses, eyes squinting. “Um—“
“For my— paintings.”
Jimin tips his head sideways and hugs himself. “Riiight.”
Worm. Yoongi is currently a worm who landed himself in horse dung, unable to wriggle his way out of the stink. “Yes. Like I said, I am a dedicated artist. Bodies are, in fact, my strong suit.”
“Like those over there?”
Jimin juts his chin out at the 2 framed canvas pieces stacked together at the far side of Yoongi’s wall, behind the folding screen. It must have slipped his mind to conceal them fully this afternoon.
“What artworks have you created?” Jimin shuffles forward, pouting curiously.
Panic claws at Yoongi. “Those are none— none of your concern, just some practice—“
“I am curious to see what kind of /bodies/ capture your attention,” Jimin singsongs as he evades Yoongi and scuttles towards the folding screen. He reaches for the canvas and raises them to look.
Yoongi’s blood thrums in his ears and he looks away, wincing. There is only one subject in both paintings—
“Oh.” Jimin breathes, lowering the first canvas, the finished portrait of him fast asleep while recovering from the arrow injury. He peeks at the other canvas, eyes misty.
“Those days when you stopped coming,” Yoongi forces himself to splutter, fiddling sheepishly with the hem of his sleeves. “I- I had plenty of time for… for nonsense.” He can’t bring himself to look at the second painting depicting the first time he saw Jimin dancing with a veil.
He’s rambling, but to stop would be to face the worse consequence, which is disapproving silence or worse, disgust. “I promise there was no malicious intention, Park Jimin. It was- it was a fleeting choice, I could have painted a bird—“
“Shut up,” Jimin snaps, voice quivering.
Yoongi physically feels his tongue roll back to the roof of his mouth. He swallows thickly, heart galloping at a speed he can’t vouch for.
Jimin rakes a hand through his hair, the other placing the canvas back down. “I cannot believe this. You will drive me mad, princeling.”
He draws a shaky breath, and Yoongi’s shoulder droop forward. So much for cheering up the little crane with a hearty meal. “I am… I am sorry.” His heart beats louder than a King’s daechwita procession. “I am—“
He’s cut off short when Jimin grabs his face for a searing kiss.
Yoongi blinks, then readily molds against Jimin’s embrace, feeling his lips go pliant against Jimin’s hot mouth. His arms grip the dancer by the waist as if there is some gravity pulling them there. And then—
Jimin’s tongue, a rough and slick thing, skims his lips. Yoongi gasps.
As soon as his lips part, Jimin’s tongue prods his mouth, licking and insistent and /heavy/, and Yoongi would be more than willing to continue if he weren’t terrified of passing out from how much his heartbeat is accelerating.
“Ji- Jimin,” he pants as he pulls back. “My heart.”
“My princeling,” Jimin’s voice has fallen an octave, soothing and hypnotizing as his mouth latches onto Yoongi’s jaw, trailing the faint stubble there. Yoongi makes a cracked noise & cups Jimin’s face, pressing their foreheads together.
Jimin kisses his nose. “Do not apologize.”
Panting, Yoongi screws his eyes shut and a places trembling hand to his own chest. “I am about to /die/, little crane.”
Jimin huffs out a chortle. A second later Yoongi feels his lips pressing against one eyelid, then another. “You will not. Trust me.”
“How do you… do that?”
“Do what?” Jimin’s eyelashes flutter as he wraps both arms around Yoongi’s neck and presses their chests together. There is so much emotion in his eyes that Yoongi can’t begin to try to point out which is which.
“That thing with your, uh, your tongue.”
Jimin’s expression lifts.
His smile is so radiant that Yoongi immediately feels the tension in his shoulder melt away, melting into his bones, into the dancer’s tight embrace. He prods Yoongi in the side. “Tell me, it is a royal order. How did you accomplish that?”
“Hmm?” Jimin leans in. “Like this?”
He connects their lips together, more leisurely this time. Yoongi closes his eyes, too, relishing how soft Jimin’s eyelashes feels against his cheeks. When he feels the tip of Jimin’s tongue darting towards the seam of his lips, Yoongi parts them tentatively, then licks back.
Their tongues loll together, two dancers learning a new waltz. After a few seconds, Yoongi leans back, smile growing. “Good?”
Humming, Jimin nods and squeezes Yoongi’s nape.
“So is that all?”
Jimin beams. “For someone who claims to be an expert in bodies, you know so little.”
“I never claimed to be an expert.”
“You said it is your strong suit. Same difference.” Jimin boops his nose once more with a knuckle, & as retaliation Yoongi pecks his forehead.
“I admit there is a different art between painting and…. kissing.” He thumbs at Jimin’s bottom lip.
To his (dismay) surprise, Jimin lets out a low chuckle and steps back. “That is enough your first lesson, then. So. Will you paint me now or what?”
Yoongi bites back a catty retort and releases Jimin. “All right. Let me begin a new one. You are sure you want to pose for me?”
When the dancer nods, Yoongi fetches a fresh canvas and sets out his paints and brushes. “That settles it, then. You may sit on the cushion.”
Jimin obliges. “How shall I pose?”
“Not so fast yet,” Yoongi says, fighting back a smile.
“Because first, I need you to strip.”
SLEEPY GIRL GOODNIGHT TBC
>> kofi below pls ur support friendly neighborhood college linguistics major ;; tbc!!
>> In case you missed it:
Here’s something might explain a few things
Painter of Time
July Exclusive: Hwalbindang’s Files pt. I
— answers a big question… and brings up more (???)
— for everyone subscribed to my Patreon, please keep comments to the post itself instead of tweeting here
“Strip?” Jimin repeats, his voice rising in pitch.
Yoongi nods and turns around to fetch a fresh set of sleep robes from his personal wardrobe. “I do not think it would be comfortable for you to hold one position for a long time in those dirty garments, so change into these—“
His words sputters out when he faces Jimin again.
Jimin, whose upper torso is very much no longer covered, is standing with his hanbok pooling at his feet. Only the skirt remains. His bare skin is smooth and tofu-like by candlelight, and when Yoongi’s gaze falls on his abdomen—
“What- /what/ are you doing?” Yoongi drops the fresh clothes to the floor, feeling his own pulse begin to skyrocket yet again. “Why are you /naked/—“
“You told me to strip,” Jimin says simple, arms moving to unhook the buttons clasping the waistband of his skirt.
Jimin pauses and looks at him, one eyebrow arching. “Hmm?”
“I meant for you to change into my sleep robes!” says Yoongi, bending down to gather the silks in his arms. “Not remove all underclothes and strip down completely- what, are you expecting to /bathe/ in here?”
“NO!” Yoongi cries, hurrying forward to dump the silks over Jimin’s head unceremoniously. One stray sleeve flaps over his face, covering his eyes. “My art is a wholesome body of work—“
“And what about /this/ body of work?” Jimin shimmies his hips as he peers through the fabric.
Yoongi hiccups and steps back, jaw clenched so tight his teeth start to hurt. “You- you—“
“Hey.” Jimin steps forward to cup his face and squish his cheeks, still smiling. “Calm yourself, princeling. I do not mean to”—he trails his eyes downwards at Yoongi’s body—“rile you up.”
Yoongi presses his lips together, brows drawn close. Jimin rests their foreheads against each other, never breaking eye contact. He can feel quiet laughter shaking the dancer’s shoulders.
“You tease too much,” he skulks.
“And you need to learn to relax when I do,” Jimin giggles.
He takes one of Yoongi’s hands and guides it carefully to press against Jimin’s warm chest. “I give you permission to make colors bloom on /this/ body of work.”
Yoongi blinks. Jimin can truly be poetic at times, though who knows what he means. “Well. All right.” He steps back.
He sits cross legged behind his low table, where his various paints and inks are already carefully laid out, and glances back up at Jimin. “Thank you for the permission. Now, shall we start?”
Jimin sends him a flat look. “Songhwa is right. You can be be incredibly dense.”
“And you ought to get dressed before I send you out for being a nuisance,” Yoongi retorts cattily, clucking his tongue. “I am serious, if anybody finds you here looking like that, all havoc would break loose.”
“Good. I have always had a taste for chaos.” Jimin removes the skirt.
Yoongi’s heart palpitates as he sits, hiccuping as the soft skirt falls to the floor. For some reason, much as he knows he ought to look away for propriety’s sake, he cannot.
Left to his underpants, Jimin drapes only the thin outer robe over his lower body and lies on his side.
“Your clothes are not my kind of fashion,” Jimin props his head atop his right hand, “so I will not wear them. However, because you are truly quite foolish, I rescind my permission. Do not touch ANYTHING below my face tonight, you dog fart.” He harrumphs & looks away from Yoongi.
Yoongi tilts his head to one side, face scrunched in utmost confusion. Perhaps he really is an imbecile for not understanding what Jimin is suddenly so irked about, but surely it can’t be so bad if the dancer is still willing to pose for him. “Aren’t you feisty, little crane.”
“Yes, and this feisty crane wishes to sleep soon,” Jimin answers. “So. Paint me like one of your Joseon ladies, go ahead.”
Yoongi’s eyebrows rise, and he lets out a bemused chortle. “I have never painted another woman before you. Or man, for that matter.”
Jimin’s eye twitches.
But to Yoongi’s immense relief, the dancer’s gaze finally swings back to him, albeit with a wary squint. “Is this you telling me I’m your first?”
“No.” Yoongi stands, inked brush in hand, and walks to Jimin. He sinks to a squat before him. “This is me saying you are my only.”
He feels rather than hears Jimin’s soft inhale, and there is a sensation of something slipping and melting inside Yoongi when the dancer looks at him like that. Like maybe this moment is sighing along with him.
And then he boops Jimin’s nose with his paintbrush.
Jimin blinks and rears his head back with a startle. “Hey!”
“I mean. You said I only have permission to engage your face tonight.” Yoongi has two seconds to snicker at the tiny blob of charcoal ink on his face before Jimin is ripping his paintbrush out of his grasp to retaliate.
“Ha!” Jimin cries out in triumph, eyebrows dancing up and down as he grins in satisfaction. “Now look who has the last laugh!”
“Shocking,” Yoongi deadpans. “Such betrayal.” He reaches into his robes to pull out a silk handkerchief, a pearly white one his own mother embroidered.
Gingerly, he wipes his own face clean, then swipes the soft fabric over the inkstain on Jimin’s nose.
The dancer looks at him, eyes full of adoration.
“Here.” Yoongi presses the handkerchief into Jimin’s hand. “For when you need to clean up any mess you make in the future.”
Jimin stares at the folded silk. “You are giving this to me? It’s mine?”
“Yours.” Yoongi closes his eyes and leans in to press a butterfly kiss to Jimin’s forehead, then murmurs again, “yours.”
“Amazing. I have never owned silk before.”
Yoongi’s heart twists. “Really?”
Jimin nods, leaning into his touch while he folds and unfolds the handkerchief in his hands. “Only noblemen can afford to squander on such finery. Why wear silk when cotton is tougher and easier to wear in cold weather?”
/I would give you a lifetime of silk/, Yoongi thinks.
But he is a man of his word, and he cannot bring himself to make promises he knows he can’t keep. Instead, he rolls his shoulders back and stands. “Well, then. Stay still while I paint you and maybe I will allow you to take a nap together on my mattress. Silk-upholstered.”
“Napping together?” Jimin throws his head back with a silent laugh. “Your idea of seduction is adorable, my princeling.”
Yoongi huffs ouf a breath as he settles back behind his table. “If you are so good at the art of seduction, why don’t you teach me.” He dips his brush in ink.
Jimin swipes an unpeeled tangerine from the platter next to Yoongi’s table and seems to inspect its bright sunburst color. “Oh, I don’t know, how fast can you learn?”
“I am a quick-learner,” Yoongi quips distractedly, making large strokes on the canvas.
“Proof or you’re lying.”
Yoongi bites his lower lip, hands busy as he says, “You must first promise not to laugh.”
Jimin raises presses the hand holding a tangerine to his chest. (Yoongi almost wishes he were a tangerine. How come a fruit gets to touch Jimin’s body?!) “Fine, then. I swear upon it.”
Hesitation catches up to Yoongi, making him pause. “Honestly, I never learned to paint before I met you.”
“Oh?” Jimin glances up at him.
“Yes.” Then Yoongi is launching on a mumbling tirade about how Songhwa’s been keen on art of late, which brings Jungkook into the picture.
“You should have seen Songhwa’s demeanor when Jungkook first appeared in the palace. At first so thrilled, and then suddenly sullen when she realized Yeol was showing interest in a man’s art for the first time,” says Yoongi.
“Is that so?” Jimin stifles a yawn. “Fascinating.”
Yoongi nods. “I have never really been too interested in art, little crane. All of this is due to my sister’s persistence and Jungkook’s beliefs about colors or whatnot—and you, of course. I have never seen colors so vibrant until you barged into my life that day, at the market.”
Jimin hums something too low for Yoongi to register, not when he is so immersed in the business between his paintbrush and canvas, not when he’s already on a roll. “Which is to say, you’ve been lighting fires in me all along. The reason behind all things art. My… my muse.”
There, all out—words that Yoongi’s been suppressing like a tight coil in his gut. Adrenaline thrums through his veins, and he looks up, grinning, hoping to hear an equally heartfelt response—
Jimin’s head is lolling to and fro on his propped arm, eyes shut in deep slumber.
Yoongi can’t help but smile through the sigh that escapes him.
He tilts his head sideways, watching the low-burning candlelight dance across Jimin’s sleeping face.
“My muse,” he repeats into the quiet night, and purses his lips when his own heart thuds at the words. “My only.”
He lets out another shaky breath, bashfully aware of how hopeless his case is, and continues to paint the outline of Jimin’s body. “There’s so much I want to ask you, little crane. How did you meet your friends? What did you do before we met?” Yoongi swallows. “Was it difficult?”
But only the silence of sleep answers his queries. Yoongi sets his paintbrush down and walks over to tuck a spare pillow under Jimin’s head and lays a blanket over him.
Then, unable to help himself, Yoongi reaches for Jimin’s hand, small and calloused. “It was hard, wasn’t it?”
He presses his lips to the dancer’s knuckles, chocking back a rush of affection so strong it makes heat burn behind his eyes. If only Yoongi could promise this man a life of comfort together. If only he could take this hand and escape to other borders, or other lifetimes.
With a final sigh, Yoongi places Jimin’s hand back down. “Good night, little crane.”
He crawls across the room to clear away his painting materials and gradually blows out the candles one by one.
In the darkness, Jimin rolls on his side and muffles his cries into the pillow.
“Your Majesty,” the Minister of Foreign Affairs begins during the following day’s royal conference. “My men have spotted the Qing’s ship entering our waters off the coastal islands a few hours ago.”
“Are they not supposed to arrive tomorrow for the banquet?” asks the King.
The minister dips his head. “It appears that with this news, the envoys would likely arrive in Hanyang by today.”
“That’s one day too early,” the Crown Prince says, and by the look on his face Yoongi can practically envision the gears turning in his head. “Are we prepared?”
Min Donghwan mutters lowly, “We are not meeting them at a battlefield, Your Highness, there is little to be prepared about.”
The Crown Prince side-eyes him. “I am referring to the food supplies and performances, Minister Min.”
Keeping his head low, Yoongi cheers inwardly.
Crown Prince Sohyeon straightens his back, regal and commanding. “Not only is it the King’s most important day, it is my father’s birthday, as well. We must make sure every last guest feels welcome.”
“Then, shall we dispatch a diplomat to meet them when they dock at our port?”
The King nods slowly at the Minister of Defence’s suggestion. “Your idea is to my liking, Minister Hong. Send the local magistrate, two men from your jurisdiction, and a handful of guards to receive the envoys’s arrival.” Eyes sweeping lazily over the court, he adds, “Yun, too.”
Yoongi looks up sharply, wondering if his ears caught that right. The King is staring at him as though trying to burn holes into his forehead. “Prince Yun, you will stand in as a diplomat later to help foster a warm reception of our guests on Joseon.”
Unable to argue, he nods.
Which is how Yoongi finds himself standing anxiously on the sun-beaten wooden docks later that noon. Before him, the Qing’s travelling ship, a gargantuan & well-polished vehicle, has already dropped anchor.
Yoongi and the other palace representatives watch travelers stream out.
A man walks down the ramp, sporting mainly bald hair except for a single braided ponytail right in the crown of his head. Next to him is a woman in bright yellow skirts with numerous pins and gems in her hair, peering her face into the sun.
The translator beside Yoongi steps up.
They exchange words in Mandarin, and as Yoongi lingers back he spots an entourage catch up to the woman beside the male envoy. She must be a lady of important status to be made to travel with such a large posse.
The translator turns to Yoongi. “This is Foo Chihen and Fan Xinyi.”
Eyes blowing wide, Yoongi tucks his hands into his sleeves and bows.
Here she is, the woman he will have to marry. Yoongi wonders if she is here against her will, too.
“Hello,” she greets in stunted Korean.
“Hello,” Yoongi answers. “Welcome to the capital of Joseon, Hanyang.”
to be continued.
goooood niiiight pls gimme feedback and validation any thoughts on ym’s relationship?
Fan Xinyi is a quiet, subdued woman who seems to possess an innate dislike for everything on the earth.
Prior to entering the wooden palanquin that would carry her to the palace, she’d crinkled her nose and asked why it looked so cramped, adding that Qing had more spacious ones.
Since Yoongi himself has never seen any other palanquins for comparison, he just nodded and smiled, and followed the entourage closely on horseback.
The other Qing envoy, Foo Chihen, who represents the Manchurian court’s Office of Foreign Affairs, is no better.
—is what the translator says, though Yoongi would bet his sword that the diplomat’s actual words must’ve been harsher for the translator to mumble like that.
As they enter the palace gates, he doesn’t miss Fan Xinyi’s casual comment about how Joseon architecture imitates Qing’s.