122 A Pompous Fool Pt.3

    The heavy doors burst open as Chayoung charged inside the emperor's private quarters. "Your Majesty!"

    Jimin glanced up from his bed, where the royal physicians were tending to his wounds. "Sister-"

    "What happened?" she asked as she marched up to him, ignoring the bewildered stares of the male physicians. Her eyes roamed down her brother's bruised and beaten body and she gasped.

    "Your Highness," Minseok spoke up as he obstructed her path. "You should not be here-"


    Chayoung and Minseok turned to the sound of Jimin's croaky voice. He winced as he sat up. "No, it is alright, Advisor Kim. Let my sister pass."

    Reluctantly, Minseok retreated, allowing Chayoung to kneel by her brother's bedside. "Your Majesty..." Her voice was barely a whisper as she inspected his injuries from up close. "Who did this to you?" She reached out her hand to touch his cheek but changed her mind. "What- what happened? Where is Zeren?"

    Jimin signalled for the physicians to leave and with a brief nod, they did his bidding. Once they were alone, Jimin replied, "You need not worry, sister. I am fine."

    "You did not answer my question, Your Majesty."

    Jimin was taken aback by the sharpness of his sister's tone.

    "You have been beaten to a pulp and you expect me to believe you when you say you are fine?" Chayoung's brows knitted together as her voice rose in pitch. "Forgive me, but that is something I cannot do."

    "Sister, I really do not want to make a fuss-"

    "But you are hurt!"

    Minseok swiftly intervened, "Your Highness, I believe His Majesty needs to rest." He approached his wife cautiously. "He will tell us when he is ready-"

    Chayoung abruptly stood up and turned to her husband. "No. You cannot keep dismissing his injuries as if they mean nothing!"

    "I am not dismissing them-"

    "Yes, you are!" she retorted. Chayoung turned to her brother. "Do not think that I did not know about your bruise from before, Your Majesty." Her tone was taut. "I did not say anything because I thought it will only happen once but this," she said while gesturing to her brother's appearance, "this is too big for me to ignore."

    "Sister, I-"

    "Your Majesty, you are the emperor of this kingdom" Chayoung reminded him. "I understand that you need time to escape the palace, but I cannot allow you to keep doing so if you are going to return injured." She searched his eyes anxiously. "I fear that one day, you might not return at all."

    Jimin guiltily averted his gaze. "I am sorry, sister..."

    "So, will you tell me what happened?" she pried. "How did you get hurt?"

    Jimin averted his gaze.

    Chayoung remained silent as she waited for her brother to speak. But after a few moments, she soon realised that Jimin wasn't going to divulge anything. She huffed, "Your Majesty-"

    "Please, sister" he interrupted. Jimin wrapped his arm around his bandaged torso as if to alleviate the throbbing pain. "Just... do not ask about it- it is better if you do not know."

    Chayoung frowned. Wordlessly, she stood up and briskly turned away from him. "Fine." She barged past Minseok as she headed towards the door.

    "Sister, where are you going?"

    "If you will not tell me," she responded hotly, "then I shall go and find out myself!" Chayoung stomped out of the room, leaving a conflicted Minseok and a weary Jimin.

    Minseok darted his eyes from the door to Jimin as if contemplating whether to go after his wife.

    "You should go after her" Jimin decided for him. "She is probably going to search for Zeren."

    Minseok watched as Jimin leaned back on his propped-up cushion, his features contorted in pain. "Your Majesty... will you really not tell us what transpired out there?"

    Jimin let out an audible sigh.

    "I know you have your reasons," Minseok quickly added, "but Her Highness is right. You cannot just leave us in the dark." Minseok took a small step toward him. "When Zeren brought you here, almost half-dead, you scared us to death! If we had lost you..."

    "But you have not."

    Minseok watched as Jimin ran a hand through his long hair.

    "I may have returned a beaten man," Jimin cryptically continued, "but I have also returned much the wiser."

    At this, Minseok grew curious. "What do you mean?"

    "Advisor Kim..." Jimin's tone was hesitant. "When did you find out you were... in love with my sister?"

    Minseok blinked. "I... I-er, well," he laughed nervously, "this is... this question is quite unexpected-"

    "How did you know you were in love?"

    Minseok met eyes with the young emperor. Before him, sat the most powerful man in the kingdom; the mandate of heaven; the heavenly sovereign of Saim. But in Minseok's eyes, all he saw was a man- a young man whose eyes reflected a semblance of childhood innocence when asking about the riddle of love.

    He couldn't help but chuckle at the paradox.

    "You know you are in love when you cannot stop thinking about them." Minseok's smile grew as he continued, "They are constantly on your mind and you cannot help but find joy at even the slightest mention of their name..."

    A small smile graced Jimin's lips as a certain name floated into his head.

    "...They are the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night..."

    A vision of her smile flashed before his eyes.

    "...I guess you can say that it is like constantly being in euphoria especially when you know they return your feelings."

    Jimin observed how his brother-in-law beamed. There is no doubt that he is thinking about my sister as he speaks. But as he contemplated his brother-in-law's words, visions of his own special person converged into a clear picture, triggering his peculiar symptoms. Jimin hastily covered his mouth as his goofy smile made an appearance.

    Earlier, when he had pulled Gyuri into his arms, the only thought in his mind was how he didn't want to let her go. His arms trembled from fatigue but still, he refused to release her.

    "Chim Chim?"

    Jimin felt Gyuri shift in his embrace. He squeezed her slightly to reassure her he was listening.

    "Chim Chim, you can let me go now." Her voice was muffled. "I'm okay-"

    But still, Jimin refused to loosen his hold. With their bodies close together, Jimin surprisingly drew comfort from their shared warmth. It was the first time he had held a woman so close to him; the first time he was overwhelmed by the urge to protect; the first time he had let someone into his heart.

    From this small action alone, Jimin finally understood what he felt towards Gyuri.

    "Your Majesty? Is something wrong?"

    Jimin snapped out of his reverie as he registered his brother-in-law's voice. "Hm? Oh..." He lowered his hand away from his mouth. "Nothing..."

    Minseok eyed him suspiciously. "If I may be so forward in asking, why do you ask about love, Your Majesty?" He watched as Jimin averted his gaze in a flurry. "Have you... taken a liking to someone?"

    Jimin couldn't ignore how Minseok's tone was somewhat hopeful. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Perhaps."

    Minseok's feline eyes bulged. But as his brother-in-law opened his mouth to interrogate him, Jimin leaned back on his bed. With his hand against his chest, Jimin was made deaf by the steady beating of his heart and the voice which screamed in his mind. A voice that bore a likeness to the monk that taught him to be wary of women.

    "Women are like sirens. They are attractive at first but, in time, they will lure you to your demise."

    Jimin took a deep breath as he finally understood why he was wary of Gyuri in the beginning. He had been trying so hard to avoid her but like light, Gyuri managed to find a chink in his impenetrable armour. Unknowingly, she had infiltrated his heart, bewitching him in a spell that he didn't know how to be rid of. At last, it dawned on Jimin that Gyuri was never Zeren's siren...

    She was his.
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