127 She is Beautiful Pt.3

    Namjoon smiled as he looked down at the sketchbook in front of him. "Beautiful," he murmured, quite pleased with his artwork.

    "What's so beautiful?"

    In a quick instance, Namjoon's head shot up in alarm as his eyes met with the woman standing before him. "Er-nothing." With hurried movements, he rushed to hide his sketchbook.

    Hanae raised her brow.

    "W-what are you doing here?" Namjoon asked, still startled by her 's sudden appearance.

    "Shouldn't I be asking you that?" she replied teasingly. Hanae took a step towards Namjoon, where he was sitting on the grassy slope. Spotting the paintbrush and palette, Hanae's brow arched even higher. "Were you painting?"

    Namjoon quickly shuffled to obstruct her view. "No, I- er, I was- erm..." He looked wildly around the tranquil scenery for an excuse, but found none. "I was, erm..."

    "What's that?" Hanae peered behind Namjoon and noticed a few sheets of paper on the ground. She headed straight for them.

    "Ah-!" Quickly, Namjoon scrambled to block her path. "Please do not look at them," he rushed to say. "It is- it is a little embarrassing."

    "It can't be that bad," Hanae dismissed. "Besides, I didn't even know you painted." She sauntered past before Namjoon had the chance to stop her.

    Helplessly, Namjoon watched as Hanae crouched down to inspect his art. With water trickling from the nearby stream filling the silence, he waited nervously for her verdict. "It is- it is just a rough draft," he rambled. "I- I wanted to try my hand at painting and thought that nature would be my best subject. I know it is not that good-"

    "It is excellent."

    He blinked.

    Hanae turned to face him. "You painted this?"

    Namjoon meekly nodded.

    Glancing up from the painting, Hanae directed her attention towards the magnolia tree in the distance before looking down again. "You captured its likeliness," she said in awe. "It's so lifelike!"

    "You think so?"

    "Of course!"

    A shy smile slowly appeared on Namjoon's lips.

    "You have talent for this, Sir Namjoon. It is indeed  beautiful." She peered down at the other paintings that were sprawled on the grass. "These are remarkable too."

    Namjoon gaped at Hanae as she studied the other paintings on the ground. But while she admired his art, Namjoon was admiring her.

    From afar, Namjoon's eyes inevitably traced the outline of Hanae's side profile, committing to memory every single detail. From the way the sunlight revealed the small flaws in her skin to the way her long hair cascaded down her back, Namjoon absorbed each characteristic in a blink of an eye. And with every second that passed, Namjoon couldn't help but arrive at the same conclusion each time.

    She is beautiful.

    "Do you only draw pictures of nature?"

    Namjoon snapped out of his daydream. "Er, yes. M-mostly nature..." He tightened his grip on his sketchbook, bringing it closer to his back.

    "You should try your hand at doing portraits too," she suggested. "Maybe you might even get commissions."

    "Painting can only be a hobby for me," Namjoon responded as he stared down at his paintings. "Like my father, I am expected to excel at the military and maybe even succeed the Guan Yu." Suddenly downcast by the realisation, he murmured, "Even studying medicine is considered unbecoming."

    Hanae's expression was solemn. "Does your uncle still not approve of you learning medicine?"

    Namjoon's lips stretched into a small smile that was at odds with the woe in his eyes.

    "But why? You are part of the military. Does he not see the benefits of you learning this skill?"

    "It is not just my uncle, though" Namjoon revealed. "Even my sister has qualms with me learning medicine." He sighed. "I guess it is because they are afraid I will neglect my duties as a company leader."

    Hanae eyed him pitifully.

    "But it is alright," Namjoon half-heartedly said. "It is more important that I fulfil my duties as Father's only son. That is what he would have wanted if he were still alive."

    "Still..." Hanae's voice was small. She peered down at the array of paintings at her feet. "It is such a shame."

    Namjoon stared at the paintings alongside her. "It is strange, is it not? You would think that being born wealthy would allow more liberty, but it is no different from being born destitute. In the end, we are no more masters of our own destiny than everyone else. We are all the same: we are victims of circumstance."

    Hanae glanced at Namjoon, whose eyes were dim with resignation. Having spent so much time with him, she had come to realise that he was unlike every other noble she had come across. And because of that, she could not bear seeing him so forlorn.

    "Oh!" she exclaimed, startling Namjoon. "I almost forgot. I have news to tell you."

    Namjoon gaped at her curiously. "News?"

    With a big smile, Hanae divulged, "I have received notice to serve as a physician in His Majesty's fifth company."

    "His Majesty's fifth company?" Namjoon echoed, his face riddled with confusion. "But that is my company."

    Hanae's jaw dropped.

    "You will be a military physician?" Namjoon could feel his voice rising. "Why? How?"

    "I- I was told there was a shortage of physicians. I- I didn't know it was your company." She searched his eyes with glee. "This is amazing, isn't it? I will be able to help you..."

    Suddenly, the vibrant scenery that surrounded the pair faded into grey as Namjoon watched his younger self share Hanae's excitement. He helplessly observed them from afar, the once clear image blurring into a mosaic.

    No... Not again...

    With all his strength, Namjoon desperately fought to change the course of events, all too aware of the impending doom that was to come next.

    It was the same sequence over and over.

    "No!" Tears welled in his eyes as he attempted to warn his naïve self. "Stop her, you fool! Do not let her go- it is a trap!"

    Undeterred by his shouting, the events continued to replay before him, forcing Namjoon to relive the nightmare that haunted his mind. Whether they were memories or dreams, Namjoon didn't know anymore. All he knew was that it was the same sequence each time. The same sequence that caused him to fall to his knees in defeat without fail.

    Why was this happening?


    Namjoon rapidly turned at the sound of a familiar voice.


    "Namjoon, is that you?"

    Namjoon blinked away the tears that blurred his vision, allowing his eyes to focus on the figure before him. They widened in disbelief. "Ha... nae?"

    There, clothed in white, was the woman he had been yearning to see in so long. She smiled. "It really is you-"

    Namjoon surged forward, his arms capturing her in his embrace, before she had time to finish her utterance. The woman nearly fell from the impact.

    "I missed you." Namjoon choked back the tears that threatened to fall. "I have missed you so much." He squeezed Hanae tightly, drawing her close.

    Hanae caressed his back in reassurance. "And I've missed you too," she replied, her voice muffled against his embrace. Namjoon let out a sob as he held her closely, the heaviness in his chest finally lifting for the first time in so long. Like a vulnerable child he clung onto her, not wanting for this moment to end.

    Eventually, Hanae pushed for them to separate and hesitantly, Namjoon complied. "Namjoon, I need you to do something for me."

    "Anything," he said without hesitation. "I will do anything for you, Hanae. Just please," he spoke earnestly, "do not leave me again."

    "But that's the thing." Her voice was mournful as she tried to pull her hand away from his grasp. "I need you to let me go."

    "What?" Namjoon was mortified. "No- no. I cannot- I will not!"


    "I cannot, Hanae! You know I cannot-!"

    "It wasn't your fault."

    Namjoon abruptly stopped.

    "It wasn't your fault, so don't blame yourself for what happened-"

    "But how can I not?" he shouted. "If I had not left you alone... If I had let someone else lead the siege... Then you would still be alive today." Namjoon's voice cracked. "You did not deserve to die that way... It should have been me."

    Hanae reached out her hand to caress his cheek. "I know you would've saved me if you could," she reassured him. "And it pains me to see you suffer and deprive yourself of happiness in my stead."

    "I can no longer be happy," he muttered miserably. "Not when you are no longer by my side."

    Hanae's smile was kind. "Namjoon, you may not realise it yet, but there's someone else out there that can make you much happier than me." She pressed her hand against his chest. "And from the way your heart beats, I already know that she's a very special person to you."

    Namjoon looked at her, confused. "I do not understand. There is no one-"

    A familiar smile flashed before his eyes.

    Seeing his tongue-tied expression, Hanae giggled. "Do you understand now? She is the one that can heal your inner wounds." Her eyes were woeful as she uttered, "The same wounds that I left behind..."

    Hanae stepped away from him, bright orbs starting to float at her feet. "Wait!" Namjoon leapt forward, suddenly frightened by their appearance. "What is going on- what is happening?"

    "Take care of yourself, Namjoon," she said, eyes glossy with tears. "Thank you for taking care of my family all this time..."

    "Hanae, wait!" Namjoon tried to grab onto her hands but it was too late; they were already fading. "Hanae, I-!"

    And just before the woman disappeared, Namjoon closed the distance between them, locking their lips together for the first and final time.
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