66 What a Coincidence! Pt.1

    "That will be all" Jimin uttered dismissively as he shooed the royal maids away. From his desk, Jimin let out a long sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose. A throbbing pain pounded at his forehead as he moved his fingers to massage his temples: he had a migraine.

    "Are you okay, Your Majesty?"

    Jimin looked up to find Zeren peeping through his door.

    "I knocked earlier but you didn't answer."

    Jimin groaned slightly while Zeren approached him with concern etched on his face.

    "It has been a long day" Jimin replied wearily when he saw Zeren's expression. "I am fine, so you need not worry."

    But Zeren wasn't at all convinced. "If you were fine, you wouldn't look like a ghoul right now."

    "Thanks," Jimin replied sarcastically, "I shall take that as a compliment."

    "I'm not joking, Your Majesty" Zeren retorted. "I'm worried about you. You're overworking yourself." He frowned as he flapped his arms in dismay. "You've been locked up in your office for five days straight!"

    "I am fine" Jimin repeated insistently but then a confused look crossed his features. "Has it really been five days?"

    Zeren arched his brow.

    "Did I not see you yesterday?" Jimin continued to ask. "Or the day before?"

    "See!" Zeren shouted exasperatingly. "You can't even remember what day it is."

    Jimin covered his face with his hands as if to try and wake himself up. "I have just been very busy with everything that is going on in the kingdom" he reasoned. "Frankly, all this," he said while gesturing at the documents, "has been very overwhelming."

    "Of course, it's overwhelming!" Zeren exclaimed. "You've done nothing but work from dusk till dawn since the day of your coronation!"

    Jimin winced as he signalled for Zeren to lower his voice. "What else am I supposed to do?"

    "Rest!" Zeren half-exclaimed. He lowered his voice when he saw Jimin glaring at him for being too loud. "Your Majesty, I understand your position as emperor, but you mustn't forget that you are human too."

    Jimin pulled a face as he brushed him off. "I am an emperor before anything else."

    "Well, if you are so hellbent on fulfilling your imperial duties," Zeren said as he folded his arms across his chest "then you should try not to neglect your filial duties too."

    At this, Jimin was puzzled. "What do you mean?"

    Zeren sighed. "Your Majesty, the royal staff have begun to notice how you shrink away from female interaction."


    "You are making it too obvious" Zeren hissed after searching around his office. "And don't think I haven't noticed how you spend all your time in here just to avoid them. I know you, Your Majesty. You tend to avoid your fears instead of confronting them."

    Jimin snickered at Zeren's words. "Nothing escapes you, does it?"

    "It's the curse of being your friend" Zeren replied while shrugging. "But anyway, you must solve this. After all, you will be choosing your empress soon. You have to acquaint yourself with women so that you can produce heirs-"

    "Do not pester me about that too, Zeren" Jimin groaned. "You are like my sister."

    "But Her Highness is right."

    "As my friend, you should be siding with me" he murmured curtly. "And besides, you should understand my position better than anyone else. It is difficult to suddenly undo what the monks had instilled in us back at the temple."

    "The monks?" Zeren echoed. "Oh, Chim, don't tell me-?"

    "Yes," Jimin affirmed. "Now do you understand why I am wary of women?"

    Zeren shook his head in disappointment. "Chim, the monks only told us that because they are celibate. They gave up all their worldly desires, but those rules do not apply to you!"

    "I am an emperor" Jimin reminded him. "In some ways, those rules do apply to me."

    Zeren was thoughtful. "You have a point. But relinquishing your desire for women isn't one of them." He eyed him carefully as he spoke, "Women are not temptresses that you should resist. In fact, you should be indulging in their presence!"

    Jimin looked like he was about to argue with him when a sudden knock on the door caused the pair to fall silent.

    "Your Majesty?" a meek voice spoke tentatively. It sounded like Minseok.

    "Come in" Jimin responded after exchanging looks with Zeren. They will have to resume their conversation another time.

    Cautiously, Minseok entered Jimin's office. He subtly glanced around, trying not to show the slight judgement in his eyes as he took in the state of the emperor's office. To Minseok, it was like he had stepped into the slums: a stark contrast to the grandeur that encapsulated the whole palace.

    "I came to give you a status report on matters of state" Minseok informed him after bowing down respectfully. He peeked at Zeren, finally noticing his presence, and gave him an acknowledging nod.

    "Please, continue" Jimin responded as he straightened his back. He wasn't in the mood to hear more bad news but knew that his brother-in-law wouldn't disturb him unless it was important.

    "It is about the famine" Minseok proceeded to talk. "The situation is growing worse with shortages of food causing panic amongst the worst affected areas."

    Jimin internally groaned as he sunk deeper into his chair. "Is this about the Xanshu region?"

    Minseok nodded. "But I am afraid that is not all." He pursed his lips as he spoke solemnly, "There have been reports of protests as well. The people are refusing to pay tithe to the lords because of the famine. Some serfs have even started hoarding their yield."

    Jimin let out an audible sigh as he pondered on how to solve yet another pending issue. He was swarmed by so many responsibilities that he didn't know where to begin. Which trouble should he prioritise first? He didn't know anymore. It was like he had been thrust into a whirlpool of ceaseless obstacles that was slowing suffocating him. As soon as he solved a case, two more would fall to his lap, scarcely giving him time to breathe. And he was exhausted. He knew that he couldn't continue for much longer.

    Noticing Jimin massaging his temples, Minseok ventured to enquire, "Your Majesty? Are you alright?"

    "No," Zeren answered for him, "he's not." He turned to address Jimin, "Your Majesty, I must insist that you continue after resting or at least after taking a break-"

    "Enough, Zeren" Jimin spoke sharply.

    Zeren was taken aback.

    "I am fine" he addressed Minseok. He made rolling motions with his hand to signal for him to continue.

    Minseok peeked at Zeren's concerned expression and cleared his throat. "Well, apart from the famine, there has been little progress on the investigation of the assassination attempt made at the Kim household."

    Jimin's lips thinned.

    "Although," Minseok continued, "one of the survivors from the attack did mention witnessing a flower tattoo on one of the perpetrators."

    "A flower tattoo?" Jimin thought aloud. He shifted his gaze towards Zeren and then back to Minseok. "Does the flower tattoo mean anything?"

    Minseok was grim. "It is not for definite but there have been reports of a rebel group that have been spotted with flower tattoos raiding Waekugin land." His voice was low as he added, "But what is most frightening is that there are rumours circulating that they were also responsible for the series of assassinations in the Seoncheul region last year."

    Jimin sat up attentively. "Who did they assassinate?"

    "Mostly landlords and politicians" Minseok gravely replied. "No one knows why they assassinated them nor what they aimed to get out of it. Our bureau of investigations could only speculate that they were anarchists who wanted to disrupt the peace." He paused before adding, "If I may say so, Your Majesty, it is not the first time that the Kim household has faced threats like these. The rebel group must have targeted us for the very same reason they targeted those based in Seoncheul."

    "And what would that reason be?"

    Minseok glumly answered, "To terrorize and weaken the Jade Lotus."

    Jimin perched his chin on top of his interlocked fingers as he brooded over this shocking piece of information. It seems I have received the short end of the stick... he thought sardonically. "Well, for now, we shall have to look into the flower tattoo. Perhaps even get a sketch of it so that we can..." Jimin's voice trailed off as he pinched his nose bridge again. His migraine was growing worse.

    "Your Majesty, you must really rest" Zeren insisted. But knowing that Jimin wouldn't listen to him, he immediately turned to Minseok. "Tell him, Advisor Kim. His Majesty won't listen to me, but he most definitely will listen to you."

    A crease formed on Minseok's forehead as he scrutinised Jimin's grimacing. "Zeren is right, Your Majesty. You should rest."

    Jimin, not being able to stand the pounding in his head any longer, finally surrendered. "Alright," he responded feebly. "But instead of sleeping, I would like to get some fresh air instead."

    Zeren asked almost immediately, "Where to, Your Majesty? Would you like to walk along the gardens?"

    "Excellent suggestion," Minseok agreed. "Your Majesty, strolling along the picturesque scenery during the summer will help you relax."

    Jimin's eyes darted from Zeren to Minseok slowly. "No" he replied. "I would like to go somewhere else." He shifted his gaze towards his high window which connected to the veranda that overlooked the capital from afar. That was when an idea came to him like a bolt of lightning.

    "Zeren?" he said as he continued to stare out the window.

    "Yes, Your Majesty?"

    "How many imperial uniforms do you have?"

    Befuddled by his question, Zeren responded, "Two, Your Majesty." He exchanged looks with Minseok who was equally as confused as he was. "Why do you ask?"

    Jimin directed his gaze at the pair with an impish smile dancing on his lips. "Good, because I am going to need you to lend me your second set."
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