151 His Purpose Unfulfilled Pt.3

    Seokjin's eyes fluttered open as a cool breeze whistled by causing the grass around him to sway with the wind. He sneezed. "It's getting colder," he observed as he blinked away the tears that formed in his eyes. After surveying the peaceful garden, he judged that he had a few days more before he must retire indoors.

    Seokjin stood up and took a deep breath.

    A decade had passed since he began wandering the kingdom. Sleeping under the stars with only the cloak on his back like a blanket and the earth as his pillow, he grew accustomed to nature's hospitality. Compared to sleeping under silk sheets in man-made abodes, Seokjin found resting his head on cold earth more comfortable.

    Recalling his first night at the Kim household, Seokjin's mood darkened.

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    Despite the luxurious, silk sheets and the warm glow of the fire, Seokjin was wide awake. Not even fatigue could persuade his mind to rest. Tossing and turning, Seokjin eventually surrendered and stared at the ceiling.

    For so long he had dreamed about returning to the household that he couldn't believe his exile was over. As he watched the shadows dance across the walls, he surprisingly felt empty. "Didn't I finally have everything I ever wanted?" he asked himself aloud. Seokjin waited as if expecting someone to reply, but deep down, he already knew the answer.

    He turned on his side.

    When Seokjin learned that Hyesung had perished only half a day before his arrival, something inside him changed.

    He couldn't believe his father was gone.

    For so long his presence had played a significant part in Seokjin's life. Hyesung was the object of his hatred. A hatred so profound that it consumed and motivated Seokjin to train diligently so that he could challenge Hyesung upon his return. Seokjin had struggled, endured, survived- all for his efforts to end in vain. His father had died peacefully, depriving him of the confrontation he rightfully deserved. While his brothers inherited Hyesung's possessions, Seokjin was bequeathed nothing but years of unresolved resentment.

    With Father gone, what am I supposed to do now?

    Tortured by this question, Seokjin went outside. Under the stars and the sickle moon, Seokjin lay on the ground. It was cold and damp from the heavy rain, but it didn't bother him. If he could escape his thoughts, nothing else mattered. Drowned by nature's symphonies, Seokjin's worries soon faded. With the beating of shivering grass and serenades of cicadas; the hoots of owls and howling of tamed beasts, Seokjin was eventually lulled to sleep. It was only when he was encircled by nature that he was no longer plagued by regret. The ruckus was a welcome distraction.

    And ever since that night, Seokjin relied on it to aid his sleep.

    "Did you find him?"

    Alerted by someone approaching, Seokjin glanced over his shoulder.

    "No, Master Seokjin wasn't at the grounds near the west garden," he heard another voice reply.

    "Where could he be this time?"

    Just as the footsteps approached, Seokjin ducked. While the unwanted visitors continued to chatter, Seokjin peered through the fronds. A groan escaped his lips when he recognised who the intruders were. They were the maids sent by Madam Zhou.

    Not them again.

    Ever since his foot had healed, Madam Zhou had begun searching for a maid to attend to him permanently. When Seokjin expressed that he didn't require assistance anymore, Madam Zhou became apprehensive.

    "Master Seokjin, do none of the maids I sent you meet your standards?" she asked.

    "No, they were all satisfactory," he reassured, "but I don't understand why you can't continue serving me. Why must someone else be my personal maid?"

    Madam Zhou's expression was remorseful. "As the head maid, my duty is to serve the lord of the household. Under Lord Minseok's special request, I served you until you recovered but now, I must return to my regular duties."

    "But I don't know anyone else..." Seokjin murmured, revealing his vulnerability. "All the servants from before are no longer here."

    "Yes, many have departed since," Madam Zhou spoke wistfully. "But I am afraid I cannot serve you, Master Seokjin. You should choose a maid that can attend to you fully. Rest assured that whoever you choose from my list of recommendations has been trained well."

    Despite Madam Zhou's efforts, Seokjin had yet to officially appoint one.

    Seokjin peered through the foliage as the maids continued their search. From afar he could tell they were both weary and annoyed- a contrast to the impassive expressions they normally wore in his presence.

    "It's nothing personal," he murmured in apology. "It's just that if I can't have the only maid I trust to serve me, then I won't have a maid at all."

    Merging with the shadows, Seokjin left the gardens undetected. It had become a daily mission to avoid the maids that he deemed his skill in stealth was being used more in the household than it was in exile.

    Swiftly weaving in between buildings, Seokjin headed toward the back wall where he could sneak out to the village. He knew it was only a matter of time before the maids found him so he planned to leave while he still could. As the wall came into view, Seokjin increased his pace only to abruptly halt when he heard a loud slam. He looked over his shoulder. The noise had come from the most ornate house in the household.

    His father's.

    Seokjin stared at the carved entrance of the house, his curiosity piqued by the crashing sound. The exterior had long since lost its vibrancy, but it was every bit as intimidating as when he last set foot beyond its doors. Goosebumps prickled Seokjin's skin as he recalled the night of his banishment. He shivered. Before his thoughts could spiral, he heard someone shouting, interrupting his reverie.

    "You are considering introducing him to court? That is preposterous!"

    That voice...

    Swallowing his discomfort, Seokjin peeked through a small crack in the door and spotted Minseok engaged in a heated debate. It didn't take Seokjin long to recognise who with.

    "Is it not enough that I am allowing you to take Jongin to recuperate outside the capital?" Minseok asked while pinching his nose bridge. "If Second Brother is to stay, he will need an occupation. A position in court will help him assimilate faster-"

    "No, you cannot do this!"

    Seokjin flinched as Junmyeon slammed his hands on Minseok's desk again.

    "With due respect, it is not your place to say what I can and cannot do."

    "It is my place if it means helping you avoid making a big mistake." Junmyeon breathed heavily. "How can you use your authority to grant Second Brother a position? Why do you risk your reputation for him when he has done nothing to deserve it?"

    Minseok's voice was low. "You know as well as I that he does deserve this."

    There was a long pause.

    "No, you are wrong," Junmyeon protested but his tone wavered slightly. "The people who deserve to be in court are those who have worked for it. Second Brother knows nothing of court. He knows nothing of politics!"

    "I have confidence that he will cope," Minseok calmly answered. "After all, Second Brother has travelled far and has seen things none of us has. He will be a valuable addition to the kingdom..."

    Seokjin briskly left before he could hear the rest.
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