68 What a Coincidence! Pt.3


    Gyuri turned to her left and found Namjoon peering at her.

    "Thank you."

    She gaped at him quizzically. "For what?"

    "For doing this" he replied with a dimpled smile. He glanced upwards as he noticed people entering. "You could have asked my uncle for anything, yet you used your reward to establish something that could help the poor." He waved his arm about as he showcased the dusty interior of the storage room that was steadily filling up with sweaty bodies. "It will be slow at first, but I am certain that your soup kitchen will definitely help reduce the number of cases of malnourishment." He tilted his head to the side as he pondered aloud, "Why did I not think of establishing one in town sooner?"

    Gyuri grinned as she welcomed more people into her soup kitchen. "That's because your head is only filled with thoughts about medicine and your work at the sanatorium."

    Namjoon chuckled and Gyuri's heart fluttered at the sound of it. "I guess you are right" he agreed. He directed his attention to her, his mesmerising dark eyes unreadable. "But it is not only thoughts of medicine that fill my mind."

    Gyuri searched his eyes and found a hint of sadness hidden in the resigned glimmer of his irises. "Master Namjoon-?"

    "Physician Kim!"

    Gyuri and Namjoon swerved around at the sound of a panicked voice and discovered a grubby, young lad panting from the doorway. He approached Namjoon hurriedly. "Please come quickly!" he urged. "You're needed desperately back at the sanatorium!"

    Namjoon wasted no time in gathering his belongings but suddenly halted when he remembered that Gyuri would be all alone. "I will join you shortly, Yujin" he reassured him when he noticed the boy's quizzical expression. "Gyuri, will you be alright by yourself?" he worriedly asked. "Madam Zhou should be coming soon so you should not be alone for long."

    "I'll be okay" she responded while trying to disguise her doubt. She surveyed her surroundings and saw numerous pairs of hungry eyes staring back at her. "You should go."

    "Are you certain?" Namjoon questioned, ignoring the lad's whinging from the exit. "I can wait until Madam Zhou gets here before I go."

    Horrified, the lad glared at Gyuri as if urging her to discourage him from staying. "Yes, I'll be fine" she quickly responded, getting the hint. "You should hurry, it seems pretty urgent."

    "Alright" Namjoon eventually conceded. "I will return as soon as I can."

    "You don't have to worry, Master Namjoon. I can take care of things here" Gyuri called to him as he left the storage room.

    With a kind smile, Namjoon looked back at her one more time before swiftly departing.

    Once he was out of sight, Gyuri focused her attention on the haggard faces of the peasants who had entered the storage room.

    "Now then" she began as she clapped her hands and rubbed them together. "Who's first?"

    The filth-covered peasants exchanged cautious looks with each other.

    "Is the food really for free?" one of the peasants asked. "This isn't some scam?"

    "Of course, this isn't a scam!" Gyuri exclaimed. She was confused as to why anyone would scam a peasant in the first place. She scuttled over to the wooden table that had a steaming clay pot filled with hot barley soup. With a ladle, Gyuri filled a small bowl and offered it to the peasant who had spoken up. "Here, please have some."

    Sceptically, the peasant accepted it while the others around him drew closer to inspect the steaming contents.

    "It looks like real food to me."

    "Smells good too."

    "I want to try some!"

    The peasant opened his mouth and took a wary sip while the others watched him in anticipation.

    "Well?" a middle-aged woman asked. "How is it?"

    The young peasant smacked his lips appreciatively. "It's darn delicious!"

    In less than ten minutes, the storage room was filled with overlapping voices as the small gathering of peasants rushed to get a bowl of their own. Overwhelmed by the positive response, Gyuri set to work and rushed to serve as many bowls as fast as she could. Within half an hour, she had already run out of bowls and still had so many waiting in line for their first serving.

    I'm knackered, Gyuri internally said as she wiped the sweat away from her brow. This is what it must be like working at McDonald's during peak hours.

    "I'm sorry, sir" Gyuri spoke with sincerity as a burly man that reeked of alcohol stepped forward. "But I don't have any bowls left."

    "What?!" the man exclaimed with a slur. "So, you mean I waited in this queue for nothing?" He turned to his right and frowned when he spotted the guy in front of him slurp on his soup loudly. He addressed her angrily, "This ain't fair, little madam. You can't just go around saying you're giving away free food and not serve everyone." He pointed to the guy he was looking at earlier. "How come he got some and I didn't?"

    "Sir, it's because I don't have any bowls left. I would gladly give you soup but-"

    "It's because I'm homeless, isn't it?" he spouted while swaying slightly. "I know what hussies like you are like. You discriminate against us homeless folk because you think we're lazy."

    Gyuri was taken aback. "Sir, I'm doing no such thing-"

    "Why are you serving free food anyway?" he suddenly asked. He peered at the barley soup and then spoke contemptuously, "What's the catch? This food's probably your scraps, aren't they?"

    "What? No-!"

    But the man interrupted, "You look like you're well-off." He eyed her up and down. "You're probably a servant from some big-shot house who's come here to look down on us simple folk."

    "That's not true!" Gyuri retorted. "I came here to help-"

    "Well, we don't need your help!"

    Suddenly, the burly man threw his hands in front of him and knocked the clay pot off the wooden table, spilling what remained of the barley soup onto the ground. The surrounding peasants gasped at the sound of the clay pot smashing, their eyes rounded in both fear and surprise as the burly man went on a rampage.

    "Don't look down at us! We don't need your charity!"

    Gyuri squealed in fear as the burly man kicked away the table, almost harming her in the process. As she staggered backwards, the burly man towered over her, his pungent stench overpowering her nostrils.

    "Arrogant bitches like you should be the ones suffering!" he shouted while raising his leg as if to kick her.

    Fearfully, Gyuri squeezed her eyes shut as she protected her head in anticipation for the first of his heavy blows. But as she waited for it, she abruptly heard a loud grunt and her eyes flew open from both terror and curiosity.

    "That's not how you treat a lady" she heard a familiar voice say.

    From the floor, Gyuri blinked in surprise as she took in the recognisable turquoise robes and the distinct imperial crest of flowers embroidered in green.

    The burly man struggled against the bronze-faced guard who had him in a tight headlock. "Le-let me go!" he gasped while tapping the guard's arm in submission.

    "Nah-uh-uh" the guard tutted playfully. "Bad guys like you need to be taught a lesson." He tightened his grip around his fat neck a little more, causing a vein in the burly man's temple to pop. "How about I choke you a little? Just for fun?" he whispered with a sinister smile.

    The burly man wheezed in reply, unable to form coherent words.

    "That is enough, Zeren."

    Gyuri shifted her attention to the other imperial guard who was approaching her. He kneeled as he asked in a soothing voice, "Are you alright, young miss?"

    Gyuri blinked as she took in the man's ethereal appearance, her brain sparking to life as it worked hard to figure out why the man looked familiar to her. "Ah!" she exclaimed, startling the man. She had finally remembered where she had seen the pair before. "You're the elf prince!"

    "Elf prince?" Jimin repeated. But then, he too was experiencing the same wave of recognition at the sound of Gyuri's voice. "Wait a minute-" He inspected Gyuri again and then shouted back while pointing at her, "You are that scammer!"

    "Scammer?" Zeren echoed while still choking the burly man in his hold. "What are you two on about?"

    Gyuri pointed to Zeren and suddenly shouted, "The flirty turd!"

    "Turd?" Jimin was confused.

    Zeren tilted his head at Gyuri and he too finally remembered her. "Hey, what do you know, it's the pretty lady!" he exclaimed excitedly. "What a coincidence!"
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