112 Crux of Everything Pt.1

    Those odd-coloured eyes.

    Etched in Jimin's mind were the contrasting colours of obsidian brown and ocean blue. Throughout the meeting, Jimin couldn't help but be fascinated by the exotic hue of Vernon's irises. They were unfamiliar, strange, foreign.

    Everything about him was a blatant reminder that Jimin was at the presence of the Waekugin: the very beings who had slaughtered his ancestors a century ago. From the pair's fair hair to their distinct westernised attire, Jimin regarded their presence warily. For Jimin, having the Waekugin before him was like plucking a mythical creature from a fairy tale and inserting them into reality: it was surreal. And despite studying as much as he could about them, nothing could prepare him for the abrupt meeting of their eyes and the cold vibes that emanated from their steely glare.

    They mean business.

    After much debating and negotiation, the meeting with the Waekugin concluded in a stalemate. Having allowed his ministers to be the forefront of the negotiations, Jimin had passed the time in court as a passive onlooker, merely speaking when required to but mostly observing as the drama in court unfolded. But despite their presence unnerving him, what astonished him the most was how the consul of New Britannia was so fluent in their tongue.

    Quietly, Jimin observed Vernon from afar.

    His speech, though quite informal at times, was articulate nonetheless. Like a native, Vernon spoke confidently, his high command in their language giving him an edge to his rhetoric that, at times, almost persuaded Jimin to agree with his outlandish proposals. By the end of his lengthy oration, Jimin concluded that Vernon Montgomery of New Britannia was a dangerously persuasive man-a master in the art of manipulation.

    But little did the consul realise that Jimin was immune to such talents.

    "It is therefore declared that the negotiations betwixt the kingdom of Saim and New Britannia will be adjourned to a later date" the royal eunuch announced.

    An eruption of murmurs swept across the court as everyone clustered into smaller groups to discuss the verdict. But while everyone voiced out their dissatisfaction, Jimin continued to maintain a watchful eye. He frowned when he spotted an arrogant smirk lace Vernon's lips as he nodded to his companion.

    What could he be smirking about?

    "Chim? Hello? You there?"

    Jimin opened his eyes at the sound of Zeren calling him. "Hm? Did you say something?"

    "I was asking if you were excited."

    A puzzled expression riddled Jimin's face as the pair continued to amble through town. "Excited? Excited about what?"

    Zeren curled his lip. "You haven't been listening to anything I've been saying, have you?" He rolled his eyes. "Typical."

    "I apologise" Jimin murmured distractedly. "There has been a lot on my mind..."

    Zeren watched as Jimin exhibited a pensive expression. With a more serious tone, he queried, "Are you thinking about the Waekugin again?"

    Jimin looked up.

    "I'm right aren't I?" Zeren let out a sigh as he gaped at his hopeless friend. "You need to relax, Chim. That's the reason why we're out and about, right? No thinking about work while you're out here."

    "How can I not think about them?" Jimin responded agitatedly. "The fate of our nation rests on whether or not I accept their proposal and forge an alliance." He waved his arms in exasperation. "Even our relationship with the neighbouring kingdoms are dependent on the Waekugin- they are the crux of everything!"

    "But worrying about it won't solve the problem" Zeren reasoned. "It's already been three days since your first meeting and since then, you haven't been able to think clearly." He shook his head. "Which is why you need to take a step back, relax and then, try and make a decision with fresh eyes."

    Stubbornly, Jimin muttered, "You are right..." As much as he hated to admit it, Zeren was a lot more level-headed when it came to matters of importance. "But before I do that, did you notice something unusual about the consul?"

    Zeren tilted his head questioningly. "What do you mean?"

    "The way he spoke..."

    "Oh, you mean how he can speak our language? Yeah, I thought it was quite impressive too-"

    "No, not that" Jimin interrupted. His brows knitted together as he pointed out, "His accent. It sounded... familiar."


    Jimin nodded.

    "How so?"

    "I do not know. There is just something about how he pronounced certain words that reminded me of something."

    Zeren raised his brow. "Perhaps he picked up a few dialectal words during his travels?" he suggested with a shrug. "It did take the Waekugin a while to journey from New Britannia to Saim."

    "Perhaps" Jimin hesitantly agreed. "Although, he seems too well versed to have learned them in such a short amount of time."

    Zeren could only shrug again in response.

    "It is probably of no import" Jimin eventually said. "It just astonished me that is all."

    Zeren and Jimin resumed their stroll across town in silence. With a minutely aware gaze, Jimin's shoulders began to relax as a soft breeze whistled by, cooling the back of his neck and providing brief relief from the stinging sensation of the sun's merciless heat. He sighed contently. Surrounded by the quiet rumbling of the busy streets and the overlapping chatter of the civilians, Jimin, at last, reached a state of tranquillity and comfort, knowing that he was no longer in the confines of the palace's stuffy and echoey walls. He grinned wryly.

    How ironic, he mused. To think that the absence of noise could be more deafening than the presence of screeching fishwives.

    Jimin stifled a chuckle as they ambled past a line of women who were competing in a screaming match to sell their catch of the day. As he focused on the road ahead, Zeren asked, "So, are you excited? You never answered my question."

    Again, Jimin repeated, "Excited? Excited about what?"

    "About seeing Mayu today" Zeren finally replied with emphasis. "It's been a while since you've spoken to her."

    Jimin raised a brow. "But why would I be excited about that?" He faced forward again and noticed that they were nearing the storage house.

    "Well... why wouldn't you be?" Zeren coyly responded. "You're interested in her, aren't you?"

    At this, Jimin abruptly halted. "What?"

    Zeren looked over his shoulder. "What? You thought I didn't notice?"

    "I-I am not interested in her!"

    "Oh, Chim" Zeren teased, "there's no need to be shy about it."

    "Zeren, you are mistaken," Jimin said firmly. "I do not see Mayu in that way."

    "Sure, you do!" Zeren insisted as he retraced his steps so that he was next to Jimin again. He slinked his arm over his shoulder as he murmured, "I've seen how you look at her. You two are like Yin and Yang: harmonious!"

    With a firm grip, Jimin unhooked Zeren's arm from around his neck. "You are mistaken. Mayu is a good person but I do not see her in that light."

    "You're lying" Zeren spoke uncertainly. "You're just saying that because you don't want to admit I'm right-"


    The bronze-faced guard stopped midway his sentence as he locked eyes with his friend.

    Jimin spoke chillingly, "I do not jest."

    Seeing the seriousness in his eyes, Zeren had no choice but to surrender. "For real?" he remarked, still in disbelief. "But what about those times when I saw you two getting along so well? All this time I thought you liked her!"

    "Yes, well, you thought wrong." Jimin began walking again, leaving Zeren trailing behind.

    "So, if not Mayu then, who do you like?" Zeren pried.

    Jimin chose to ignore him.

    "Tell meeeee" Zeren whined. "Is it one of the royal maids? A noble lady? Who is it?"

    A long sigh escaped Jimin's lips as he pushed Zeren's face away from his. "No one" he replied through gritted teeth. "Why do you assume I am interested in someone just because I said I did not like Mayu?"

    "Because you have to have someone in mind already for you not to have developed an interest in her."

    A fleeting image of Gyuri immediately popped into Jimin's head, automatically triggering the peculiar symptoms that he had been experiencing as of late. Jimin turned his face away from Zeren to hide the stupid grin that was spreading across his lips.

    Damn it, he cursed, not now!


    "I am fine" he replied hurriedly, his hand plastered over his mouth.

    Zeren curiously peered at him, taking note of how the tips of his ears had turned pink. Jimin's ears only turned pink when he was either angry or flustered, and Zeren knew that. "Why are your-?"

    "Let us hurry" he interrupted as he barged past.

    Zeren cocked his head to the side as he watched his friend briskly saunter past him. "What was that all about?"
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