70 As Your Friend Pt.2

    "Hey, what do you know, it's the pretty lady! What a coincidence!"

    Gyuri darted her eyes from Zeren to Jimin like a pendulum. She couldn't believe that the two people she prayed to never meet again were standing before her. "W-what are you doing here?"

    Not knowing which of the pair she was addressing, Zeren spoke up regardless, "We're here because we heard we can get free food. So..." his voice trailed off as he glanced around the storage room while still restraining the burly man under his hold. "Where's the soup?"

    Gyuri peered down at the ground where a smashed clay pot was at the centre of a lamentable spillage.

    Following her gaze, Zeren's eyes widened. In a blink of an eye, he released the burly man from his grasp and karate chopped his neck, forcing him to lose consciousness and land face flat on the ground.

    As the burly man collapsed, Zeren dragged his feet to the spillage and fell to his knees in despair. "This is cruel" he whispered dramatically, "it's not fair, it's not right, it's not proper..." He eyed the soup stain on the floor. "Poor soup..."

    While Zeren mourned over the spillage, Jimin turned his attention to Gyuri. With unyielding determination, he took hold of her wrist and clamped down on it tightly.

    Startled, Gyuri jolted. "What are you doing?" she asked while tugging her hand free. "Let go of me!"

    "No" he answered firmly. "You should pay for those meat buns that you stole last time." With slight pressure, he squeezed a little tighter and she winced. "I have not forgotten, you thief."

    Gyuri attempted to pry his fingers off her wrist but to no avail: he had a vice-like grip.

    Suddenly, Jimin started heading for the exit, dragging Gyuri along with him.

    "Wait!" Gyuri shouted alarmingly, "Let go! Where are you taking me?"

    "To the meat bun vendor," he replied without bothering to look at her. "I have a funny feeling that he will be pleased to see you."

    Gyuri fought against his forceful grasp while at the same time, screaming for help. She looked back at the peasants, who had cowered to the far corners of the storage room, for assistance, but none dared to move.

    "You are wasting your breath" Jimin informed her. "The people know better than to interfere in the work of justice."

    "You don't understand!" Gyuri claimed. "This is all a misunderstanding-"

    "Tell that to the meat bun vendor" Jimin cut in. "It is up to him to decide what punishment you should receive." With a forceful tug, Jimin yanked on Gyuri's arm, dragging Gyuri out onto the busy street.

    "Let go of me!" Gyuri continued to scream. "Help! Someone, help!"

    Noticing how much attention Gyuri was drawing, Jimin hissed at her, "Be quiet!" but that only seemed to make Gyuri scream more.

    Jimin was about to clamp his hand over her mouth when he suddenly noticed something bright heading for his direction. Abruptly, he released Gyuri's wrist as he swerved to avoid a sharp blade that was aimed directly at his arm. With quick reflexes, Jimin drew his own hwando long sword from his belt as the attacker's sword clashed with his, the sound of clanging metal offending both party's ears.

    Jimin winced as he struggled to maintain his footing. He glared at his strong opponent, who had come at him unprovoked. "Who... who are you?" he managed to ask as he attempted to free the hilt of his sword from his opponent's.

    The stranger prevented his attempt. "I should be asking you that."

    Jimin furrowed his brow as he searched the stranger's dark eyes. There was nothing familiar about the man, but he couldn't help feeling that he may have seen him somewhere before.

    "Are you okay, Gyuri?" the stranger suddenly enquired, confusing Jimin as he was still staring directly at him.

    "I-I'm fine" Jimin heard the thief reply.

    "You two know each other?" Jimin questioned the stranger.

    The stranger merely stared. "That is none of your concern."

    He must be a thief too... Jimin thought and his frown deepened. He eyed him up and down and noticed how he was well-dressed. A thief in disguise.

    "For someone who serves His Majesty, you sure are bold to engage in dark desires in broad daylight. Especially while wearing the imperial crest."

    Jimin's face flushed at what the stranger was hinting at. "How-how dare you! I was doing no such thing!"

    "I can forgive you for succumbing to your needs" the stranger continued. "But" he uttered darkly, "I will not forgive you for touching one of my people."

    The stranger jerked his sword free, momentarily catching Jimin off guard as he sought to recover his bearings. In one swift movement, the stranger lifted his blade higher with the intention to cut Jimin, only to freeze when he felt the cold tip of a sword prod him at the back of the neck.

    "Not so fast."

    Jimin's eyes widened when he spotted Zeren with his hwando aimed at the stranger's neck, his normally laidback expression, hardened into a cold and sinister glare. With the slight movement of his irises, Zeren peered at Jimin and seeing that he remained unharmed, Zeren spoke chillingly to the stranger, "You're lucky that my friend isn't hurt. If he had so much as a mark on his skin, this sword" he pressed the tip lightly on the stranger's neck, "would already be stained with your blood."

    The stranger remained motionless on the spot. Both Jimin and Zeren stayed still too, anticipating any sudden movement that could lead to an unwanted outcome that all were keen to avoid.

    "M-master Namjoon!"

    The sound of a shrill woman's voice made the trio turn their attention towards a middle-aged woman, who came rushing up to them.

    "Lower your swords immediately!" she screeched at the pair. "How dare you point your swords at Master Namjoon!"

    Zeren's hardened eyes softened slightly as he inspected the woman before him. "Hang on a sec, I know you... You're from the Kim household. You're Madam Gout, right?"

    "Zhou" she corrected, bemused by his offensive mistake. She narrowed her eyes at him and then exclaimed, "I remember you! You are the imperial guard that shielded Master Minseok that night!"

    With the sudden appearance of Madam Zhou, Zeren began lowering his hwando and Jimin reluctantly did the same.

    Namjoon, who was still wary of the pair, enquired, "Madam Zhou, do you know these guards?"

    "I do not know them personally" she replied, "but I recall seeing him," she said pointing to Zeren, "during the wedding banquet. He introduced himself as Zeren, Her Highness' personal guard."

    Zeren sheathed his hwando and gave a slight bow. "I apologise for my earlier behaviour. I did not know you were from the House of Kim. I was only trying to protect His Maj-"

    "Zeren" Jimin interrupted.

    Everyone turned to Jimin and he cleared his throat nervously. "He was only trying to protect me, his- his, erm, friend. I am -I am a new imperial guard and I have just started learning the ropes."

    Namjoon inspected him warily. "But why were you man-handling Gyuri?"

    "Gyuri?" Jimin repeated and then glanced back to the female thief. He locked eyes with her and witnessed the pleading look on her face. It was almost as if she was begging him not to say anything. "My apologies" Jimin finally replied, "I seem to have made a mistake." He turned to Gyuri and stared at her intensely, "I was after a scammer who had swindled a poor meat bun vendor not too long ago. Gyuri, here, is the spitting image of her. But I see now that I am wrong."

    "Gyuri is not a thief" Namjoon stated matter-of-factly. "But I see now that I misunderstood the situation too. Forgive me for assuming you were attempting to bring Gyuri to the red-light district."

    Jimin reddened as he replied through gritted teeth, "Apology accepted."

    The two men stared at each other with mutual dislike. Zeren, on the other hand, had turned his attention back to Gyuri.

    "Pretty lady!" he exclaimed, breaking the impromptu stare-down between Jimin and Namjoon. "I'm so glad you're okay." He approached her and without warning, suddenly wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.

    Madam Zhou gasped in horror while Jimin and Namjoon watched on in bewilderment.

    "Let-let go of me you-you creep!" she screamed as she violently pushed him away.

    Zeren staggered backwards but still maintained his flirtatious smile. "Ow, that hurts!" He dramatically clutched his shirt where his heart would have been. "Didn't you miss me? Because I definitely missed you~"

    But before he could attempt to embrace her again, Namjoon obstructed his path. "I think that is enough, sir."

    Zeren squirmed under Namjoon's icy stare and conceded almost immediately. He raised his arms in defeat, "Alright, alright. No more touchy-feely."

    Jimin shook his head in embarrassment. Noticing the heaviness of the atmosphere, Jimin stated, "It seems we have overstayed our welcome." He glanced at Zeren and told him, "We shall leave now."

    Zeren looked like he was about to protest but instead nodded in acknowledgement.

    As the pair prepared to depart, Gyuri suddenly called after them. "Wait!"

    Jimin and Zeren turned.

    "What's your name?"

    Jimin exchanged looks with Zeren, who gave him a brief nod. This time, the pair knew who Gyuri was addressing.

    "Chim" he responded simply. "My name is Chim."

    "Chim..." she echoed and then smiled as she said his name again, "Chim Chim."

    Jimin eyed Gyuri curiously as she directed her smile at him, catching him by surprise. "Thank you, for saving me."
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