113 Crux of Everything Pt.2

    The sound of the door opening caused Gyuri to turn around, a bowl of stew already in her hands. "Hi, welcome-" Gyuri stopped midway her utterance when she spotted who was at the door. "Oh, hey..."

    Jimin briefly looked up before giving a curt nod and wordlessly slinking away. Surprised by his cold greeting, Gyuri frowned. I guess he must still be angry at me for what happened last time...

    "Hi, pretty lady!"

    Gyuri turned her attention to Zeren, who had entered the storage house with a bright smile. He surveyed the vicinity and voiced out his observation, "There aren't many people here today, huh?"

    "No..." Gyuri shook her head. "I guess people are too scared with the plague going around."

    Zeren silently agreed. Save from a small group of filthy labourers, the soup kitchen was practically deserted. He stole a glance at Jimin, who was loitering nearby. In a quieter voice, he asked, "Is Mayu here today?"

    As if on cue, Pho appeared from the corner.

    "Oh..." Zeren muttered once he spotted the lass.

    Pho frowned when she saw Zeren. "Sorry to disappoint you," she remarked pointedly, before trudging off to the other side of the room to collect the already empty bowls left on the tables.

    Zeren's laugh was apologetic.

    "Mayu won't be coming for a while" Gyuri informed him. "She's been busy lately."

    A hum escaped Zeren's lips as he mused, "Not that it matters now, anyway..."

    "Sorry?" Gyuri said as she leaned in. "Did you say something?"

    Zeren glanced over his shoulder and beckoned for Gyuri to inch closer. "I was just talking to Chim" he whispered while warily darting looks at his friend. "He claims that he isn't interested in Mayu at all."

    "What?" Gyuri half-shouted in astonishment.

    Zeren pressed his finger to his lips as if warning her to be quiet. "I know" Zeren whispered harshly. He looked over his shoulder again and sighed in relief when he discovered that Jimin hadn't heard. "I can't believe it either."

    Following Zeren's gaze, Gyuri took a quick glance. "So, what do we do now? If Chim Chim doesn't like Mayu then, there's no point in setting them up."

    "Well, we're not really sure if he's telling the truth" Zeren pointed out. "He could just be bluffing."

    "But what if he is telling the truth?" Gyuri questioned. "Our efforts will amount to nothing if we keep trying to pair them up." She cast her gaze down as she admitted, "I've tried learning what Mayu thinks about Chim Chim but she's so hard to read. She's just as difficult to understand as Chim Chim."

    Zeren snickered, "They really are a match made in heaven-both are just as mysterious as the other."

    Gyuri could only sigh in agreement. The pair quickly separated as a peasant suddenly approached Gyuri to ask for a second helping of stew. Once they were alone again, Zeren resumed, "But there is something else we can do instead."

    "Oh?" Gyuri said as she readied another bowl of stew. "And what would that be?"

    Zeren grinned coyly. "We can find out who Chim really likes."

    Immediately, Gyuri's head shot up. "What makes you think he likes someone else?"

    "It's simple" Zeren answered as he folded his arms. "Because Chim didn't fall for Mayu, then someone else must already be occupying his heart."

    Gyuri was quiet as she mulled over the possibility.

    "So, all we have to do now is find out who." With her brows knitted together, Zeren watched as Gyuri hummed while in deep thought. "What is it?"

    Gyuri looked up. "Hm? Oh..." She shook her head. "Nothing."

    But Zeren didn't believe her. "Tell me."

    "Well..." Gyuri tentatively spoke. "Chim Chim has a fear of women, right?"

    Zeren nodded. "Yeah, so?"

    "So..." She fiddled with her hands. "So, have you ever considered the possibility of him... preferring men instead?"

    Gyuri watched Zeren blink in surprise. Like a statue, his body froze as he processed her utterance, his eyes a window that exhibited the cogs in his brain that were steaming at the notion. Chim prefer the company of men? Zeren couldn't get his head around the thought. If it were true then, the person he likes must be the closest man to him right now, and that would be...

    "No," Zeren firmly spoke as he shook his head. "He's not interested in men. He-he can't be."

    "But what if-?"

    "No," Zeren stressed.

    Gyuri jolted.

    "Do not question his masculinity" he snapped. "The person he likes is definitely a woman" and he muttered to himself, "it has to be."

    Not wanting to antagonise Zeren further, Gyuri meekly nodded. "It was just a suggestion..."

    "Well, it wasn't a very good one."

    "Zeren? Is everything alright?"

    Like a skilled actor, Zeren turned to face Jimin with an amiable smile. Jimin raised an eyebrow from across the room. "Everything's fine." His tone was smooth. "We just had a mild disagreement over what to serve next, that's all."

    Not bothering to pursue it further, Jimin nodded in acknowledgement before carrying on with his task.

    As soon as his back was turned, Zeren grunted, "Let's talk later" to which Gyuri had no choice but abide.

    Following their discussion, Gyuri worked separately from Zeren. After much introspection, it became apparent to Gyuri that what she had suggested was considered a taboo. How could I have forgotten? She internally groaned. This era is a lot more conservative than back home. Of course, Zeren would be mad. She sighed as she continued with her tasks, silently worrying that she had made an irreversible blunder. First Taehyung punches Chim Chim and now, I upset Zeren. Way to go, Subin.

    Gyuri collected an empty bowl from a nearby table and watched as the remainder of the visiting peasants exited the building. It had only been a couple of hours since they arrived but the soup kitchen was already quiet. A wry smile played on her lips as she noticed herself fidgeting: she was restless.

    How hilarious, she thought. I used to complain about work, but now that I have none, I'm actually craving for something to do...


    Gyuri looked up to find Pho approaching her.

    "Shall I go and throw the scraps away?" The doe-eyed lass gestured to the pot of meat bones on top of a table. "It looks like no one else will be coming, so we can start packing up early."

    Sweeping her gaze across the storage house, Gyuri mumbled, "We should, shouldn't we?" She was slightly disappointed that she had to return so soon.

    "Everyone's left" Pho pointed out as she jutted her chin towards the empty tables. "I don't really want to hang about and wait for the plague to get us."

    "Yeah, you're right. Madam Zhou did tell us to return early." Gyuri sauntered towards the table to pick up the meat bones. "You can finish up in here. I'll throw these out." A brief image of the stray cat flashed in her mind's eye and she smiled. "You don't have to wait for me either. I'll go and help Master Namjoon once I'm done."

    "Are you sure?"

    "Yep. Just don't forget to lock the door before you leave."

    As Gyuri started leaving the storage house, she suddenly felt a sharp poke on the shoulder. She tilted her head back.

    "Where're you going, pretty lady?"

    Gyuri's eyes rounded when she saw who it was. Oh, right. I forgot they were still here.

    "Leaving without saying goodbye?" Zeren clutched his heart as he imitated being wounded. "I'm hurt."

    "I'm just throwing these out" she replied, gesturing at the pot in her hands. "I was going to say goodbye before I go."

    The imperial hmphed in doubt. "You need help?"

    "I think I can manage." She turned to leave but Zeren obstructed her path. "What are you doing?"

    "You know," he said with a smirk, "Chim still needs a conversation buddy."

    Gyuri's face scrunched up in confusion. "Huh?"

    "Since Mayu won't be around for a while and Ms. Noodle is hardly welcoming" he elaborated with a flick of a wrist, "I guess that leaves you as the best candidate."

    A weary sigh escaped Gyuri's lips as she glanced up from Zeren's pointed finger. "Zeren, Chim Chim doesn't need my help anymore since he already has someone he likes."

    A puzzled look fleeted across his features. "What do you mean?"

    "If Chim Chim already has a woman in mind," Gyuri explained, "then doesn't that mean he's already over his irrational fear?"

    "I-I hadn't thought of that..."

    "Yeah, I thought so." Gyuri hummed triumphantly. "Well, if you'll excuse me-"


    Gyuri flinched as Zeren jumped in front of her again, this time blocking her path by firmly planting his outstretched arm against the doorframe. "Why don't we test your hypothesis?"


    But before Gyuri could finish her utterance, Zeren was already executing his devious plan. "Chim!" he shouted while beckoning for his aloof friend to come over.

    Quizzically, Jimin looked up to the sound of Zeren's voice. From across the room, he regarded Zeren with slight suspicion as if trying to calculate what his friend could be plotting this time. But all that eased away when he suddenly met eyes with Gyuri. Curiously, Jimin's half-moon eyes flickered as he took in her appearance. As his eyes trailed up and down her profile, Gyuri shifted uncomfortably under his scrutinising stare. There was something about the way he was looking at her that made her nervous.

    Not knowing what to do, Gyuri awkwardly smiled at him. It had been a while since they had last spoken as their last meeting had left a foul taste in both their mouths. Even though their day was less busy than usual, Gyuri hadn't had the chance to talk to him. She had been too preoccupied with figuring out why Zeren was offended to even remember Jimin's presence. Hoping that Jimin would smile back, Gyuri was startled to find he had abruptly looked away, the tips of his ears bright pink.

    Was he still angry?

    But while Gyuri pondered over whether or not Jimin bore a grudge against her, Zeren blinked. It was like something in his mind just clicked after witnessing Jimin's peculiar behaviour again. As Jimin approached the pair, Zeren took note of his rose-tinted cheeks and only then realised that it was a sign of embarrassment: Jimin was flustered. But why?

    He inclined his head towards Gyuri and like a jigsaw puzzle, Zeren aligned the pieces together to finally form the final picture.

    Could Chim like...?
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