158 Mortality of Man Pt.3

    The wooden door slid open a fraction, allowing the sun to grace the dusty interior of the unused room. Seokjin warily stepped inside. All around him elegantly carved furniture lay abandoned under a blanket of undisturbed dust. As his eyes roamed the array of trinkets on top of a vanity table, he noticed a crude, wooden hair stick. His chest tightened. Memories of long summer days spent whittling driftwood flooded his mind.

    Even though you had tasteful alternatives, you still insisted this one was your favourite.

    \"Master Seokjin?\"

    Seokjin glanced over his shoulder at the sound of footsteps approaching.

    \"What are you doing here?\"

    \"Tien,\" Seokjin breathed out, relieved to see that it was just the head maid.

    Madam Zhou inspected Seokjin's dishevelled appearance as she drew closer. \"Why are you dressed like that? Did you go somewhere?\"

    \"Yes, I went to explore the village,\" Seokjin lied.

    \"I see,\" Madam Zhou answered but her tone was doubtful. She joined Seokjin's side and peered over the array of hair ornaments. \"Your mother loved these.\" She traced her fingers across the bejewelled trinkets. \"In our youth, Lady Junghye used to beg your grandfather for new hair accessories whenever he went to the market.\"

    \"Yes,\" Seokjin murmured fondly, \"I recall her telling me once.\"

    \"Your mother wanted to have a variety so that she could have something to wear for each season. And when the time came, she would pass them on to the young mi-\" Madam Zhou abruptly stopped causing Seokjin to stare.

    \"There's no need to restrain yourself,\" he pointed out, though he couldn't help but feel triggered by the close mention. \"While Father sought to bury the past, I seek to uncover it. She existed, Tien. Let's not dishonour my mother by treating my sister like she was a shameful secret.\"

    Madam Zhou nodded regretfully. \"You are right. Forgive me, Master Seokjin.\"

    Seokjin picked up the wooden hair stick and examined it. \"After all, it's because of her that I'm still here...\" Madam Zhou watched as Seokjin's eyes formed half-moons. \"As her brother, I failed to protect her, but I won't break the same promise twice.\"

    A frown tugged at Seokjin's lips when he recalled the two figures he saw nearby the riverbank. One of them shared his mother's smile and the other had a torn sleeve. His frown deepened. There was something about the latter that he did not like. He turned to Madam Zhou, his determination renewed.

    \"About my personal maid.\"

    Madam Zhou noticed the edge in Seokjin's voice. There was only one way to keep his promise and Seokjin knew it.

    \"I know who I want to serve me.\"
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