64 Odd One Out Pt.1

    Namjoon grinned from his desk as he watched Gyuri's face screw up in concentration. "Are you having trouble already?"

    Gyuri looked up from the desk and chuckled awkwardly. "Kind of."

    "Which one?"

    Gyuri watched as Namjoon sauntered over to her side, where she was hunched over a pile of papers. It had been almost a week since Gyuri had been shot by an arrow and so far, she had been recovering swiftly. Being indisposed, Gyuri was instructed not to do any work to allow for a quick recuperation. But with nothing to do, she had soon grown bored and restless. Noticing her agitation, Namjoon had given her a task. He had asked her to organise his medical records for the sanatorium.

    Gyuri pointed to a symbol on the scroll. "I can't remember what this one means" she admitted.

    "This one?" Namjoon glanced at the scroll and told her, "This one is for a patient with an eye disability."

    "Oh," she managed to say as she watched Namjoon put the paper to one side. "I'm sorry, Master Namjoon. It seems I really have forgotten how to read."

    Namjoon smiled at her kindly. "Do not fret, Gyuri." But then he cocked his head to one side as he thought. "Maybe... I can help refresh your mind?"

    Gyuri looked up at Namjoon, who was hovering behind her. When he saw her looking, he smiled, revealing his dimples. Gyuri's heart fluttered at the sight. Geez, Subin, you and your raging hormones! She scolded internally. She couldn't understand why but lately, she had become a lot more aware of Namjoon's presence. Every time he visited her for a check-up, she would subconsciously check if her breath stinks and if her hair was neat and tidy. It was only when she was around Namjoon did she start worrying about her appearance.

    "Well, only if it's not too much of a bother..." she replied shyly. In truth, she really was keen to learn how to read ancient characters for real. Not because she wanted to read books but because of the opportunities that would present themselves to her. And one of them was impressing Namjoon and spending more time with him.

    Namjoon sat beside her on the desk with their elbows almost touching. Currently, they were in the library section of his quarters. Gyuri stiffened at the sudden contact of their arms brushing against each other. She jolted.

    "Sorry" she quickly uttered.

    Namjoon just gave her a brief smile. He didn't seem to mind at all how close they were. Was it only Gyuri who felt self-conscious?

    "We can start from the basics" he began as he produced a plain sheet of paper, an ink brush and ink pad. With elegant strokes, Namjoon started writing cursive, Chinese characters but to Gyuri, all she saw were fancy scribbles.

    "What does it say?" she questioned after Namjoon had finished.

    Namjoon chuckled. "It says, 'Gyuri'."

    Gyuri's eyes rounded in surprise.

    "This character here means 'stride of man'," he explained, "while this one means 'merit'." He gave a satisfied nod. "Taehyung sure knows how to name others well."

    Gyuri flinched at the mention of Taehyung which Namjoon noticed. He gaped at her curiously. "Speaking of my cousin, how are things between you two?"

    "Everything's good" she replied as casually as she could manage. "We're getting along quite well." But inside, she thought, Too well. Every time she thought of Taehyung, she couldn't help but think about what he had told her, and she reddened.

    For me, you are irreplaceable. You are not one amongst a million, you are one in a million.

    Namjoon hmphed, interrupting her reverie.


    "From my perspective, it seems as though Taehyung has grown very attached to you. Why he hardly visits me anymore."

    Gyuri giggled nervously but then she impishly teased, "What's this, Master Namjoon? Are you jealous that the Young Master is spending more time with me?"

    Namjoon had a slight smile. "What would you say if the answer was 'yes'?"

    "Wha-?" Gyuri was flustered. His answer had taken her by surprise.

    Namjoon stared at her, his mesmerising dark eyes searching her face closely. Without warning, he leaned in, startling Gyuri by the closeness of his full lips. Gyuri had to remind herself to breathe.

    With a husky voice, he asked, "Gyuri... have you been blind to it all this time?" His words were laced thickly with an innate desire she was unfamiliar with.

    "B-blind to-blind to what?" she nervously stammered. She sneaked a glance at his lips and observed how pink they were. Inadvertently, she thought, I bet he's a good kisser... of which she had to quickly dismiss before her face gave away what she was thinking.

    "Blind to..." he whispered sensuously while drawing closer.

    "Blind to...?" Gyuri murmured, still fixated on his lips. She was frozen to the spot, the hairs on her arms standing erect.

    "Blind to..." Namjoon's voice trailed off again. "Blind to... this." Suddenly, Namjoon swiped his hand that was holding the ink brush upwards, marking Gyuri's face with a thick, black stroke.

    Gyuri was stunned. What the-?

    Seeing her gobsmacked, Namjoon's composed expression crumbled and he started laughing raucously. He pulled away, wiping the tears that had formed in his eyes, leaving Gyuri blinking in surprise. Registering that Namjoon was just teasing her, she shot daggers at him before dipping her fingers into the ink pad and threatening him with it.

    Namjoon halted immediately, his eyes wide with fear. "Let us not do anything reckless now-" But before he could escape, she brushed her soiled fingers across his jawline, marking him with inky fingerprints.

    Now, it was Namjoon's turn to blink in surprise.

    Gyuri chortled at Namjoon's flabbergasted expression, an unattractive snort escaping her lips before she could stop herself. At the sound of her peculiar laugh, Namjoon soon followed suit and joined in. He had never heard a woman laugh so candidly before, all trace of reservation absent even in the presence of the opposite sex such as himself. It was then that Namjoon felt something in his heart stir like a newly planted sapling unfurling its small leaves for the first time.

    Gyuri never failed to intrigue him.

    "Look at us!" he managed to say once he had calmed down. "We are like children acting unbecomingly."

    "It was you who started it, Master Namjoon" Gyuri replied with a smile. "I didn't expect this childish side from you. I thought the Young Master was the only one who acted this way."

    Namjoon had a lopsided grin. "Well, now you know that it is not only Taehyung who can be fun around here."

    Gyuri maintained her amiable smile as she watched Namjoon wipe away the inky handprint. It may have been her imagination but Gyuri thought his words implied a deeper meaning to what they seemed on the surface. While she contemplated this, her eyes suddenly wandered back towards the ink pad where she noticed a baroque pattern of a flower engraved onto the rosewood lid.

    "This flower..." she murmured, "it's so pretty."

    "Oh?" He peered at the ink pad and replied, "That is our clan's crest-the Jade Lotus."

    Gyuri looked up. "The Jade Lotus?" she echoed.

    As if sensing her curiosity, Namjoon elaborated, "Yes, it is the clan that our family belongs to." Namjoon took hold of his ink brush again and started writing swiftly. "The Jade Lotus," he began, "composes of three families: Park, Lee, and Kim." He pointed at the three characters written on the page. "It is also the clan which currently presides over the rest of Saim."

    "But aren't the Lees your relatives too?" Gyuri asked, remembering what Taehyung had told her before.

    Namjoon nodded sourly. "Yes, that is correct. We are related to them through my sister's marriage." He pursed his lips before continuing, "And we are now related to the Parks through Cousin Minseok's marriage to the Princess." He drew a circle around the three characters as he concluded, "I guess you can say that the Jade Lotus unified not only Saim but our three families also."

    Gyuri inspected Namjoon's expression closely. "Do you not approve of this unification?" she innocently questioned.

    Namjoon glanced around his room to ensure that he and Gyuri were truly alone. "Careful, Gyuri" he warned. "It is unwise to say such words." He checked his surroundings again before murmuring, "But you speculate correctly." He leaned closer towards her ear as he spoke, his warm breath tickling her cheek. "I have not told anyone this, but I do not fully support the marriage between my sister and Minister Lee."

    Gyuri nodded, blushing slightly as Namjoon pulled away.

    "But what can I do?" he asked hopelessly. "The Jade Lotus is stronger when the three families are united. If the Jade Lotus did not exist, Saim would still be at war with each other."

    At this, Gyuri was interested. "What do you mean?"

    "Before the Jade Lotus was established, Saim was divided into many factions that were run by different warlords." Namjoon drew a brief diagram of their kingdom. "The clans that lived in these factions were constantly at war with each other. Some clans were more threatening than others so as they grew in power, they absorbed weaker clans as well as the land they owned. This was the case with the Park Clan, the Lee Clan, and the Kim Clan. All three families were once separate, thriving clans before they decided to unify."

    "Why did they decide to join forces?" Gyuri asked. "If they were doing so well before, why unify?"

    "Because a bigger threat arrived" Namjoon responded wryly. "The Waekugin."
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