69 As Your Friend Pt.1

    Under the golden rays of sunshine, Jimin inhaled contentedly, taking in the pleasant summery fumes that surrounded him. It had been a while since he last allowed the sun to kiss his pale skin, made even pastier by the countless days he had spent indoors ever since ascending the throne. Jimin closed his mono-lid eyes as he basked in the sun's warmth. It reminded him of his time back at the temple which felt like a lifetime ago. How he used to enjoy nature's company as he hiked up and down the rocky mountain paths to collect water; how he used to climb tall, gnarly trees to reach the juiciest of apples and how he used to wade in the water to catch river fish with his spear.

    Jimin truly yearned to return to his carefree life. But alas, this was his reality now. His time at the temple will remain nothing more than vignettes of memories or a nostalgic dream.

    "This isn't right, Chim. It's not fair, it's not right, it's not proper."

    Jimin opened his eyes and wearily gazed at Zeren, who was ambling alongside him. "Oh, quit your whining already. It is only a uniform."

    "It may just be a uniform to you but it's my uniform!" Zeren huffed as he folded his arms across his chest sulkily. "And I only have two sets. You could've ordered a set to be brought to you."

    Jimin rolled his eyes. He had forgotten that Zeren abhorred sharing clothes. Even as a child, Zeren was very particular with sharing his belongings and getting changed in front of others.

    "Now, it's gonna be all sweaty and smelly and I'll have nothing to wear tomorrow!" Zeren continued to whinge. "You know what, you better get me another made, and you better not be stingy about it."

    Jimin raised his brow. "I will get you one made, do not worry" he placated.

    "You better" Zeren retorted sassily as he kissed his teeth and simultaneously rolled his eyes.

    With slight annoyance, Jimin picked up his pace. The pair were currently strolling along the capital, both disguised in vibrant, turquoise imperial uniforms. Jimin glanced ahead as they walked along the busy dust path, merchants and peasants stopping to peer at the pair as they ambled by. Wary of their stares, Jimin pursed his lips uneasily. Learning about the flower tattooed assassins made him jumpy but most of all, paranoid that he may be in imminent danger. Only then did he begin to regret not taking the safer option by staying at the palace.

    "And you're so much chubbier than me!" Jimin suddenly heard Zeren exclaim.


    Jimin turned to see Zeren theatrically shake his head with an exaggerated forlorn expression. "My poor uniform" he uttered with mock distress, "stretched beyond recovery..."

    Jimin was about to quarrel with his friend when he suddenly met eyes with him. Zeren stared back knowingly. Ah... I see. He thought and began to relax.

    "Oh, Chim. You really should lose that baby fat. People will think you're still a child" Zeren playfully lectured but, despite his untroubled countenance, his eyes showed a glint of intelligence. "Maybe we should spar when we get back."

    Immediately, the people around them began to avert their gaze as they lost interest in the pair. Jimin breathed a sigh of relief and tossed Zeren a thankful glance of which he acknowledged with a smirk.

    He really is a good friend, Jimin thought as he matched his gait with his so that they were side by side again. What would I ever do without him?

    Jimin proudly stood by Zeren's side, who continued with his mindless chatter. He knew that Zeren was misbehaving on purpose to not only distract him from worrying about his hidden enemies but to also diffuse the unwanted attention being garnered by their presence.

    Jimin peered up at his friend, who was a few inches taller than him.

    When he first met Zeren at the temple, he was a quiet boy with an angry outlook on life. Jimin knew little about Zeren's origins apart from the fact that he was a refugee, like many of the orphans he lived with. He had a secretive side to him that made it hard for others to approach and to this day, Jimin still remained ignorant of his past. Despite Zeren being a carefree person, Jimin never ventured to learn how Zeren had ended up in the temple. He feared that prying would only result in opening old wounds and undoing the monks' efforts in curbing Zeren's resentment towards his unknown fiend. Jimin was just glad that Zeren was able to overcome his hatred to reveal his cheerful side.

    "I'm starving" Zeren grumbled as he patted his stomach. "We've been walking for ages. Let's go and eat something."

    "But it is too soon to return."

    Zeren arched his brow. "We don't have to go back to... you know," he said with emphasis towards the end of his utterance. "We can eat at a tavern here."

    Jimin was sceptical.

    "Oh, c'mon! Not too long ago, we were eating rice balls out of coconut leaves!"

    "That is not why I am uncertain" Jimin replied. He scratched his head as he asked, "Zeren, do you have any money?"

    Zeren was about to respond with confidence until he remembered. "Oh..."

    "I guess eating in luxury has made us forget the hardships of the outdoors" Jimin mentioned with a chuckle.

    Zeren wasn't amused. "What should we do? Should we head back?"

    Jimin was about to reply when someone suddenly barged past him, stunning him for a moment.

    "Oh!" the peasant exclaimed when he saw that he had bumped into an imperial guard. "I beg your pardon. I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he profusely apologised while bowing.

    "Watch where you're going next time!" Zeren half-shouted. "Don't you know that he's-"

    "Zeren" Jimin interrupted.

    Zeren locked eyes with Jimin, who looked at him warningly.

    "That is enough" he finished. Jimin turned to address the peasant with an amiable smile, "It is okay. It was an accident."

    The peasant gaped at Jimin thankfully but still retained a semblance of fear. "Thank you, kind sir. I shall be more careful next time. It's just that I was rushing to-oh!" The peasant swerved to face where he was going, and his eyes widened when he spotted the growing crowd of peasants that had congregated around a shanty-looking building. "Oh! I hope there is still some soup left!"

    "What's going on over there?" Zeren queried, following his stare. "Why are they all crowding around?"

    "It's this new soup kitchen" the peasant answered quickly, "the people running it are giving away free food."

    "Free food?!" Zeren shouted, his eyes bulging in disbelief.

    Startled, the peasant nodded meekly. "Yes. If you would excuse me," he muttered while edging away, "I need to get there before they run out." And with that, the peasant sprinted to the distance before Jimin or Zeren could ask anything more.

    "Did you hear that, Chim? Free food! We should go there and get some!"

    Jimin curled his lip.

    "Uh-oh, I know that face," Zeren remarked. "What's wrong?"

    "It is a soup kitchen" Jimin pointed out.


    "It is a soup kitchen that is giving away food to the poor."

    Failing to see what Jimin was hinting at, Jimin explained, "We cannot eat there. Zeren, I am anything but poor. I would feel bad if I take food that could go to someone else that needs it more."

    "But I need it" Zeren countered. "I need food to tame my stomach before it tames me."

    Jimin could only confusedly stare at Zeren's reasoning.

    "Relax, Chim. If you're gonna feel bad about taking free food, then don't take any." Like the peasant, Zeren started creeping towards the crowd. "And I'm starving so..." Zeren skipped ahead, forcing Jimin to follow.

    He really is a good friend, Jimin thought as he reluctantly trailed behind him, but as a person, I can only wonder...
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