91 That Dreaded Thing Pt.1

    The sound of the sheets rustling stirred Chayoung awake. "My love?" She pushed herself up from the silk sheets to peer at Minseok, who had his head buried in his hands. "What is wrong?"

    "Hm?" Minseok peered over his shoulder as Chayoung drew close to him. "Forgive me, my princess, did I wake you?"

    Chayoung tilted her head at him as she wrapped her arms around his back to embrace him. "What is the matter?" she asked, still peering at him.

    Minseok let out a sigh before forcibly smiling. "Nothing, my love."

    "You are lying" she huffed. "You always sigh like that when something is troubling you."

    Minseok weakly smiled as he reached out his hand to caress her cheek. "I apologise" he mumbled. "I guess I can never lie to my wife." He leaned in close to gently peck her soft lips.

    Chayoung's cheeks heated up at the sensation of Minseok's lips against hers. Once he had pulled away, Chayoung spoke, "Is it about work? Is that what you are worried about?"

    The smile on Miseok's face slowly faded as he hummed in response. "I guess I am a little stressed about all the responsibilities."

    "Do not fret" Chayoung whispered soothingly. "Things will get better and you are doing well so far."

    Minseok allowed Chayoung to envelop him in her arms as she brought him closer to her chest. Something about being wrapped in his wife's embrace was comforting-it was like she had the power to melt away his insecurities and sadness.

    "Yes, I guess you are right..." he muttered softly, but the anxiousness he was harbouring still stayed rooted in his chest...

    A while ago, Minseok had visited the Kim household after receiving word from Physician Koh of his father's current health status. Minseok knew from experience that whenever Physician Koh called for him, something was amiss. And sure enough, Minseok was right to anticipate the worst.

    "Father?" he called from Hyesung's doorway after peeping inside the dark room.

    Hyesung's heavy-lidded eyes fluttered open at the sound of his firstborn's voice. "Minseok" he uttered feebly as he attempted to push himself up from his bed. "I was not expecting you until later."

    Minseok rushed to his side to help his father up. "Gently, Father" he spoke while taking hold of his gnarly hand. "Where is Physician Koh? Why is he not here-?"

    "I sent him away" Hyesung replied as he sat up. Suddenly, Hyesung started coughing, his frail body overcome with a tremulous fit that rattled his bones.

    From his shaky composure, Minseok tried to disguise the concern which caused his forehead to crease. He had never seen his father so weak; so frail; so vulnerable. All his life, Hyesung was a man of power, legality, and strength. He was a man that stood tall and proud like a defiant mountain that yielded to no authority. And yet, right before him was the same man, so debilitated and in need of assistance.

    Minseok's heart broke at the sight of his father: the very man he admired was now just a pitiful shadow of his former glory.

    "I received a telegram from Physician Koh" Minseok divulged as he supported his father's weight from the side. "It said that your condition has grown worse."

    "Ignore that bumbling buffoon" Hyesung retorted dismissively. "My health has neither improved nor deteriorated since you had seen me last-" Hyesung started spluttering again, causing Minseok to purse his lips into a thin line.

    "Father, please take heed of Physician Koh's medicinal advice. He is only trying to help."

    "No one knows my body better than I" Hyesung stubbornly answered. "And I know that my health is already beyond recovery." He eyed his son with a grave expression. "Minseok, before I depart this lifetime, I need you to swear that you will do what is best for our clan."

    Immediately, Minseok was troubled. "Father-"

    "Swear it" Hyesung urged, his voice hoarse. "You are my heir apparent, Minseok. As soon as I depart, my legacy will be passed down to you."

    Minseok searched his father's obsidian dark eyes that showed such strong determination. He may be a shadow of his former self but Minseok could see the wilfulness etched so deeply in his features. Whenever it came to the clan, Hyseung's undying loyalty and commitment were unrivalled across all the Kims. There was no doubt in Minseok's mind on how important the clan was to Hyesung.

    "I solemnly swear it."

    At the sound of those words, Hyesung's rigidity relaxed. He gazed at his son, relief evident across his frail body. "Very good" he muttered with satisfaction. "Very good..." Hyesung leaned back against his pillow accompanied by a sigh of reassurance. "I know I can trust you, Minseok. With the clan in your hands, I have nothing to worry about."

    Mineok was about to utter something in reply when Hyesung abruptly started hissing in pain, his gnarly features wrinkled and contorted into an unpleasant sight. "Father?" Minseok uttered in worry. "Father? What is wrong?"

    Hyesung continued to writhe in agony until he fell to his side while clutching the silk blankets that were draped in front of him. With a laboured breath, he gasped, "H-hand me- hand me that-that... over there." Minseok followed where Hyesung was pointing to and saw that it was a peculiar clear mechanism that had a pointed needle at the end.

    "Hurry!" he huffed.

    Without further delay, Minseok did his father's bidding and passed the contraption to him. Once it was in his possession, Hyesung did the unimaginable and stabbed himself with it. A horrified gasp escaped Minseok's lips as he watched his father push the flat end of the primitive syringe deeper into his thigh. Hyesung grunted in relief as he continued to push the colourless liquid in the syringe into his bloodstream. Once he was done, he pulled the needle out, his body seemingly weaker than before.

    "...Father?" Minseok's voice was barely a whisper.

    Hyesung grunted to show that he was still conscious. Disdainfully, he looked down at the needle in his hand. "I...I did not want you to see that, my son."

    Minseok noticed the shame in his father's voice. With both horror and wonder, he asked, "What is that? Why did you stab yourself with it?"

    "It is what is keeping me alive." Hyesung smiled wryly. "It is both my curse and my saviour." A puzzled expression formed on Minseok's face to which Hyesung's eyes flickered with sardonic amusement. "My son, this is my fate. I am doomed to inject myself with this serum in the days I have left-"

    "Father, do not-"

    "No," Hyesung interrupted. He eyed Minseok steadily. "You must listen." With a solemn voice, he spoke, "I do not have long to live. But before I leave this world, I want to ensure that the future of our clan is in good hands."

    "I already swore an oath to you that I will take care of the clan" Minseok reassured. "You have my word."

    Hyesung was relieved to hear it again.

    "But, Father," Minseok tentatively remarked, "my brothers... should they not also play a part in running the clan?"

    The elder's eyes flashed, and he furrowed his thick, silver brows. "What do you mean?"

    "Well, there is Junmyeon..."

    Hyesung narrowed his eyes.

    "...he has shown great enthusiasm and loyalty. He is a very capable person and I am sure he will-"

    "Enough, Minseok." Hyesung's voice was edgy. "Do not bring him up again."

    "But, Father-"

    "You are my heir apparent, Minseok" Hyesung repeated. "Amongst your brothers, it is only you who know how important our legacy is." He glanced towards his bedside where a candle was flickering in its lantern. "And only you know of the prophecy which threatens our existence..."
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