135 Of Stolen Time Pt.1

    "Our exiled brother is coming home."

    Junmyeon slammed his palms onto the table as he rose from his chair. "You cannot be serious!"

    "Is that true?" Jongin queried. "Second brother... he is truly returning?"

    Minseok maintained his unflinching gaze. Currently, all the Kims were staring back at him, their eyes wide with disbelief and their mouths slightly agape. "It has already been done."

    "Father would not have approved of this," Junmyeon scolded. "If he were still alive, he would not have allowed this to happen. You are going against his wishes-"

    "That may be," Minseok interrupted. "But our second brother deserves to know of Father's fate." He looked down at his clenched fist. "I had hoped for him to reconcile with Father before he..." Minseok swallowed as if trying to contain his grief. "It is lamentable that he did not make it in time."

    Everyone in the room was quiet for a moment as they thought of Hyesung. But while the rest of the Kims mulled over their late relative, Taehyung, on the other hand, was pondering over a relative he had never met.

    Second brother... he mumbled to himself, are we finally going to meet?

    "We have not heard word of our exiled cousin for almost a decade," Namjoon murmured, bringing Taehyung back to reality. "I wonder what he must be like now as a man."

    Taehyung stole a glance at the others who were contemplating Namjoon's remark. Apart from him, everyone else seemed to have some recollection of what their second brother was like before he was banished.

    Jongin turned to Minseok, suddenly alarmed. "What if he is dangerous?"

    The rest of the Kims peered at Minseok expectantly.

    "He will not be," Minseok replied in the steadiest voice he could manage. Taehyung observed how Minseok's lips curled slightly as if he was uncertain. "It is true that he has been away for a long time, but he is our kin. If anything, uniting what family we have left is what this household needs," he turned to meet everyone's eye, "now more than ever."

    Apart from Junmyeon, everyone hummed in agreement.

    "You do not know what second brother will be like," Junmyeon interjected, exasperated that no one seemed to be heeding his warnings. "He is effectively a stranger. What if he turns out to be worse than what you expect?"

    "Surely he cannot be..." Namjoon reasoned but even he sounded unsure. "I remember him having an amiable character-"

    "Father exiled second brother for a reason," Junmyeon immediately cut in, "and we should honour it." He swept his gaze across the rest of the Kims before directing his attention solely on Minseok. "Brother, you have no right to repeal his banishment."

    "Well," Taeyeon spoke, causing everyone to turn to her, "Cousin Minseok is the next head of the family." Junmyeon scowled at her as she continued, "So, as the head of the family, he does have the right to do as he pleases. And if that is to undo our cousin's exile-"

    "Silence," Junmyeon snapped, making her blink in surprise. "Your opinion is not wanted. By allowing second brother to return, all of you are defying Father's wishes. Must I remind you that he is exiled and therefore no longer a Kim?" Junmyeon reiterated, "He is not one of us."

    "Second brother's exile does not equate to his disownment," Minseok clarified. "He is still our brother."

    "No," Junmyeon argued, "he is not. Second brother was stripped of all his privileges as a Kim when he left this household."

    Minseok's cat-like eyes narrowed. Having had enough of Junmyeon's protests, he taunted in a low voice, "And to whose benefit was it for?"

    A shade of crimson slowly bloomed on Junmyeon's cheeks.

    Taehyung, unaccustomed to seeing his third brother flustered, observed him carefully before turning his attention to Minseok. It was rare to witness his older brothers quarrelling. While Taehyung knew that Minseok's demeanour changed when he was in court, he had seldom ever witnessed this side of him when at home. With his steely gaze and piercing eyes, Minseok was almost unrecognisable.

    "Second Brother has suffered enough," Minseok spoke, his voice returning to its normal cadence. "I had sent a letter requesting his return. Whether you like it or not," he addressed Junmyeon, "he is coming home."

    Junmyeon clenched his jaw.

    "And now that we have dealt with that," Minseok resumed, "we should get back to the matter of Father's funeral..."

    Taehyung fiddled with his hands as he tuned out of the conversation. While the rest of the Kims fussed over the ceremonial customs, the youngest Kim remained preoccupied with the prospect of finally meeting their exiled brother.

    "And to whose benefit was it for?"

    His brows furrowed in concentration as he contemplated Minseok's words. What had he meant by that? Taehyung mused. Was Brother Junmyeon somehow involved in second brother's exile?

    Taehyung darted a look at his third brother who had finally sat down, a scowl etched deeply on his features. It had never crossed his mind that Junmyeon might have knowledge of why his brother was exiled; Taehyung had always believed that only Minseok and their father knew. Even Namjoon, who was arguably the most intelligent person in their family, was unaware of the true circumstances behind their brother's banishment.


    Everyone turned to Taehyung as if suddenly remembering his presence. He had been so quiet throughout their discussion that they had forgotten he was even in the room.

    "Second brother..." Taehyung began, his mouth suddenly feeling very dry. "...was exiled ten summers ago..."

    Minseok gave a tight-lipped smile, clearly unenthused by the regress in conversation.

    "... but you never mentioned why."

    "Taehyung," Namjoon called to him, aware of how his other cousins had exchanged solemn looks, "we have already moved on from this subject- we must really discuss the arrangements for Uncle's funeral-"

    "But it is unfair!" the youngest Kim objected. "Everyone knows something of second brother but I." He turned to face the rest of the Kims. "No one speaks of him and because of that he is truly a stranger to me." He clenched his fist as he uttered resolutely, "But he is my brother too. I deserve to know why he had been cast away."

    The Kims were quiet as they considered Taehyung's words, all reluctant to explore the past any further than what was previously mentioned. Namjoon and Jongin exchanged nervous looks while Minseok and Junmyeon remained impassive.

    After a while, Minseok feigned laughter, one so dry that it did not befit him. "Trust me, Taehyung, you are the fortunate one."

    Taehyung raised his brows questioningly.

    "You are better off not knowing what transpired." Minseok briefly glanced at Junmyeon, who was sitting quietly with a dark expression looming over his countenance. "What happened with second brother in the past is something we should strive to forget rather than uncover."

    "But what did he do?" Taehyung asked, exacerbated by all the secrecy. "Can you not tell me, brother?"

    "It is more of what he did not do," Junmyeon answered, surprising everyone.

    Taehyung eyed Junmyeon whose features were morphed into a slight sneer.

    "Know this, Taehyung," he spoke coldly. "Second brother is a fool. He is a fool for not finishing what he started and that is what he has been paying for ever since."

    Taehyung was about to ask what he meant by that when suddenly, shouts and screams were heard, interrupting his train of thought.
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