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Metanoia

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It’s the first Friday since the marriage of the King and the new Queen of Ros. All the townsfolk are surrounded the town square, waiting for their new rulers to come and join in with the annual spring festival.
The people of Ros are in a hurry as the carriage containing the King of and Queen Of Ros gets closer and closer towards the brightly decorated town centre. Several stores have popped up around the place, brightly coloured tents used for shade from the shining spring sun. Intricate textiles are on sale by one of the old ladies, fresh fruits sold by her son and husband, and the town's jeweller even has his most exquisite pieces on half price. Many women are standing close by the jewellery stand with their husbands who are looking rather pale at the price. Meanwhile, the children are plucking the blooming flowers that surround the busy town.
When the royal couple exits the white and blue carriage, the people cheer and yell praises for their new monarchs.

 

King Kiwoon smiles and waves. His thin lips curve into a smile and his hooded deep drown eyes crinkle at the sides. He’s a handsome man, with strong features fit for a king.Queen Jiyeon is a blooming flower with her soft features, and even though she stands a good inch above her husband, she’s dainty and graceful, with long soft inky hair and porcelain-like skin.

 

She smiles to the crowd, and the flowers around her look like they are wilting in comparison to her blooming grin. King Kiwoon threads their fingers together, placing a chaste kiss on his Queen’s knuckles. Jiyeon laughs and her smile widens.
After their quick speech, the festival is in full kick. Jolly music is played by the food stalls, dancers prancing around in bright colours, and cheers and lyrics spilling from the citizens' mouths.
 
 
His heart beats hard in his chest, little legs falling out from underneath his tiny body as he tumbles over a tree root sticking out from the earth. He whimpers, fat tears brimming in his eyes as he stays seated on the ground until a low rumble comes from the sky and then big, fat raindrops fall from the sky and he stumbles back to his feet, crying out.
 
 
The townspeople still laugh joyfully even when it begins to rain. The music grows louder to be heard over the patter of rain falling. However, the Queen‘s smile falls after a few minutes and her eyes narrow as if she’s searching for something. She lets go of her husband's hand who follows her without hesitation. “Jiyeon, my dear,” He starts but the woman doesn’t pay him any mind.
 

 
He emerges from the thick leaves, almost falling on his bottom in one of the many flower beds. He braces his hands out in front of him, his palms landing softly into the damp earth. He stumbles backwards before breaking out into a waddled run to seek dryness. He stops by the jeweller's tent, eyes wide with wonder as he takes in the scenery.
 

“Something is wrong,” she murmurs, gaining a frown from her husband. He gestures for the guards to stop following them and leads Jiyeon further away from prying ears. “What’s wrong?”


“Can you not feel it?” Jiyeon mumbles, fingers brushing by the petal of a white poppy. “No…?” Kiwoon answers unsurely. “Call off the festival.” She abruptly says as her eyes catch something in the distance.
 
 
He lets out a sniffle, waddling over to the lanky man running the store. He tugs on his trousers and reaches his arms up, wanting to be held and feel safe. “Up,” he fusses softly but the man just gazes down at him with narrowed eyes.
 
 
“What?” Kiwoon grunts, almost in disbelief that his Queen would call such a gorgeous event off. He’s about to protest but then the cold tickles mercilessly at the bare skin on his arms and he turns to face his wife, still sceptical. “Hurry,” She urges but she’s cut off just as she opens her mouth again by a small child’s distressed cry.
 


It ripples harshly through the air and he breathes in heavily, sucking air into his lungs before he lets out another cry, fat tears running down his cheeks and any fists reaching out to the man in front of him.


 
A woman, with a child on her hip, runs up to the man in form of her and promptly slaps him hard across the face. “How dare you!” She spits. “You cannot pull a child around like that! How could you!” She scolds harshly before then slipping away and approaches the tiny blubbering baby on the ground. As she wraps her hands around his small waist, she’s sent flying, pain striking through her arms as if her arms are being broken in two. The child cries harder, sitting upright with his fists now covering his eyes instead of reaching out for comfort.


 
King Kiwoon grips harshly onto Jiyeon’s wrist, pulling her closer to him as the guards swarm around them, a few nearing the screaming baby wearily. “Don’t!” Jiyeon yells out, eyes narrowing at the guards. “Do not move.” She demands, taking step herself, breaking the grip King Kiwoon had on her wrist. “My Q—“
“Do not question it.” Her voice is low, a warning sign.
Nevertheless, the guards ignore her command and continue to inch closer to the boy. The sky cackles threateningly. The child continues to wail and the sky to cries with him.

 

Lightning hits down with a booming crack, a nearby tree turning up into flames before the rain doses down harder and harder just as the child screams.

The townspeople shout, scurrying for cover wherever they can.


Jiyeon blinks and then the guards are flying through the air, a force rumbling deep through the ground. Her feet feel the deep vibrations underneath them and she gaps audibly.


 
The child lifts his head, fists dropping from his face.
 


She blinks softly at the child and her lips part.

 

She unwaveringly grips onto the King’s shoulder, pushing him back gently. “Stay,” She murmurs, eyeing the child.

 

Large reddened lilac orbs are flickering around the town hurriedly, fear glazed over the mesmerising orbs.
With careful steps, she edges closer to the boy, the townspeople gasping in surprise and fear as she continues. They clutch onto one another as they yell for their Queen to go back, to safety. The Queen flashes a smile. When he notices her, she stops briefly before smiling and bending down to her knees and opening her arms.
 


The white material pools over the ground as she bends down. The jewels embodied in the grown glimmer as lightning flashes in the sky and the golden crown rested on her head shines. She smiles, warm and safe.

 

“It is okay, Child,” she whispers, a hand slowly reaching out to cup the toddlers rosy, plump cheek.

 

He whimpers, his body leaning forward to fall into the open arms of the woman.
 


Her fingers brush at purple tulips in his wet hair as she stands with the tiny toddler bundled in her arms. He’s crying begins to cease and the sky follows along until it’s steadily raining, soft water droplets wetting the earth and everyone out of a shelter.

 

“My Queen, you shouldn’t be tangled with the lives of orphan children.” Someone nearing her remarks.

 

Ignoring the comment, the Queen gazes fondly down at the calming boy in her arms.
 


“He will be a force to reckon with,” She eyes the blooming purple tulips in his hair.
 
 

 


 
♔ 
 

 


 
 
“What do you think you’re doing?” The king screeches as he storms into the room, wooden doors slam behind him heavily.

 

Queen Jiyeon’s scowls at the rude entrance and the toddler bundled in her arms clings harder onto her body. “Jiyeon…” He mumbles with a heavy sigh. “You can’t just take a child. Moreover, not an orphan.” The child whines loudly as he gazes over at King Kiwoon with curiosity. “All more reason why he should be here.” She blasts back, an arm protectively shielding the boy in her arms.

 

“Jiyeon!” He cries, exasperated at his wife’s behaviour. “Why?” She asks with a demanding tone. “He’s a baby, Kiwoon. He needs protection.”

 

The child wiggles out of her hold and gazes up at the queen before he smiles a little toothy grin. “Baby!” He bubblers and then points to himself with a little chubby finger. “Chanhee,”

 

Jiyeon smiles down at him and gathers him back up in her arms, slowly rocking him. “You are called Chanhee?” The toddler giggles softly. He can’t be more than two years old.

 

Kiwoon slumps back, palm pressed to his forehead. “The orphanage can do that! You are a queen!”

 

“Which gives me more reason to help him!” She glares harshly at him.
“Haven’t you seen?” Jiyeon breathes lowly after breaking off the stare. She places the young boy on the velvet lounge and saunters over to her husband, holding his larger hands in hers. His eyes narrow as a frown overtakes his face, obviously confused by his wife’s sudden change.

 

Jiyeon lets out a small scoff of disbelief. “You didn’t,” she rasps as if she’s dissatisfied. The king swallows thickly, eyes drifting over to the child.
He’s on his knees, draped over the golden arm of the lounge as he reaches his arms out. Large inky eyes stare at him and his little button nose scrunches up and he lets out a whine, making grabbing hands to Jiyeon. His hair is the darkest shade of midnight, lips and cheeks rosy pink contrasting against his pale complexion.


“I don’t understand, my dear.” He admits, still looking over at the boy.
He can sense something. Something different about the young child, but he can’t for the sake of him figure it out. But as he struggles to tear his gaze away, something about him made him uncertain. And when he eventually tears his eyes away from the little one to his wife she has a seriousness look cast over his features.

 

“Not many do.” She breathes, dragging his body along with her as she nears the child. She leases her grip on his hands as she takes the boy back into her arms and now he can see he’s dressed in a tiny shirt, which is still too big of a fit for his little body.

 

The boy eases in her arms, his head burying in the junction of her neck as his eyes flutter shut, long eyelashes brushing over his cheeks.

 

“Purple tulips,” Jiyeon announces abruptly. “Do you know the meaning of the flower?” Where Kiwoon was schooled in academics, battle strategies and leadership, a king in the making, Jiyeon had spent her young days roaming the royal gardens back in her home Kingdom of Serid, leaning every single meaning from every flower her eyes had ever set on. “Rebirth, royalty and strength. That is what it represents.” Kiwoon breaks eye contact away from the woman with a scoff of disbelief. “You cannot judge him by a mere flower—“

 

“If I judged everyone by a mere flower, I would have never accepted your marriage proposal,” She spits out and Kiwoon doesn’t understand at all. He’s known the woman for years before they were of age to marry and he’d never seen this side of the softly spoken woman who carried herself with dignified grace. Kiwoon scoffs, looking away before breaking out into a laugh.The small one in Jiyeon’s arms lifts his head.

 

Kiwoon freezes, rigid on the spot as the little one turns his head towards him, hooded brown eyes meeting doe-like lilac ones. And even when a sudden searing pain enters his head, he cannot bear himself to turn away from the little one’s unusual eyes.

 

His chapped lips move, the strangled whisper of, “He’s charmed,” wafts from him before he crumbles down.
 
 

 


 

 

 


 
The little boy with bright purple orbs is seated on the floor of the King’s study, playing with a teddy doll Jiyeon had given him earlier in the day. The King watches the boy anxiously with watchful eyes.

 


He’s heard of charmed ones, but he’d only read about them in books when he was younger. Now, he is sitting at the large wooden desk, books containing everything about the charmed ones sitting open.


 
The two-year-old at merely looked him in the eyes and he had been unconscious for hours. He skims over the passage where a list of known charms are. He grows frustrated as he doesn’t find a charm to put to Chanhee. There are small things like music, poetry, art and then there's more complicated thing such as, healing, telekinesis and telepathy and he looks to the boy before shaking his head. If anything, Chanhee could do something terrifying rather than anything good or useful.
The little one blubbers as he stands to his feet, reaching up to touch a rouge purple tulip on the King’s desk, courtesy of the Queen without a doubt and the King leans back in his chair as the life is sucked out of the flower right before his eyes.

 

Kiwoon stands abruptly, scaring the little one in the process.

 


He looks down at the frightened child, a sly smile peeking at the corners of his lips. “You’ll be unstoppable.”
 
 

 

 

 
 


 
The walls turn into a blur of colours as he runs down the endless halls, bubbling laughter filling the castle walls as the five-year-old runs away from his mother who’s trailing behind him, yelling out for him to come back and bathe like a good boy.

 

He squeals loudly as he runs into one of the attendant's legs, the woman screams with him bracing herself on the nearby wall as the little prince zooms off after flashing one of his heart-shaped smiles. He continues to run through the castle until he halts suddenly, not recognising the area he’s in. There's a strange sound coming from the right, and being the curious child he is, he peeks his head around the corner.
He gasps at the scene in front of him.

 

Men and teenage boys have filled one of the courtyards he’s never seen before, swords raised high in the air and sword clashing against each others. He stands at the entrance for the next few minutes, eyes watching the fluid movements of their bodies. None of the men notice the young prince standing still until his name is shouted over the grunts of the knights in training and then numerous pairs of eyes focus on his small frame being bundled up in the queen’s arms.
 


“Mother,” he says later that night as he’s seated in the warm bath. “Yes?” He looks wide-eyed at his mother, excitement glowing in those large orbs. “I want to be like them when I’m big!” Jiyeon giggles gently as she pours water over her boy’s head. “Like the knights?” She asks with a broad smile. He nods his head hurriedly.

 

“Do you really?”

 

“Yes! I can be big and strong so I can protect you all the time!” Her heart flutters in her chest, heartstrings aching with love. “Oh Chanhee,” She sighs blissfully.
He smiles with an added laugh and Jiyeon thinks the purple tulips were right since the beginning.
 
 
 



 


 
 
It hits him when he turns nine.
After two years of attending the knights training every week and being placed in the corner to watch them instead of being taught, he has a sudden realisation.

 

No matter how hard he will try, they’ll never accept him. His heart throbs in his chest at the acknowledgement, the blur of trees in his vision feel as if they are caging him in and the stares from the knights around him piercing through him like a thousand shards of glass.
 
 
He crumbles to a shuddering heap on his bed, tears relentlessly spilling from his eyelids and his chest feels like its being crushed under the weight of disappointment.

 

He barely registers his Mother slipping into his bed beside him, tucking his body close to her, a hand cradling his head and brushing through his locks.

 

Jiyeon cuddles the crying child, allowing him to wet her nightdress with his tears. Her eyes are hard as she stares out in the distance. She had known since the day she brought the distressed baby to the castle. She had known, but she had hoped for the Kingdoms people to be open-minded and not cause her darling any type of pain because of his roots. He belonged here, right in her arms with the title as the Prince of Ros and if they couldn’t accept that, Jiyeon would try everything to make them realise that the boy in her arms was worthy of the title.

 

However, after years of watching the boy grow up, she had seen how the bubbling boy had changed when passing by anyone in the castle. He didn’t smile the same heart-shaped smile when he mere months ago, nor did he go out of his way to pick flowers for the maids. He didn’t bother the cooks in the kitchen, instead, he sat on the counter quietly passing ingredients to the head chef. Now he passes quietly by in the halls eyes gazing down at his feet. His smile had simmered down and his melodic laughter was rare to hear.

 

“My dear,” she murmurs in his hair, lips brushing over the crown of his head. “My little prince,” she continues and a sudden sob racks through her son's little frame. “A-am I not worth it?” He questions with a pained whimper as he lifts his head from his mother's chest with a such a pained look in his eyes that Jiyeon’s heart ripples in her chest and she struggles to force the sudden urge to cry back down her throat. “No, my dear,” her voice stays steady with all of her willpower. “You are worth everything.”

 

“Then why do t-they treat me like this? A-am I not your son?” His voice is unstable and cracks trough almost every syllable. “You are, you are,” Jiyeon assures, clutching his shoulders firm yet the touch is still gentle and tender. “They just are yet to understand, my love. They just don’t know how special you are.”

 

Chanhee looks up at her with overbrimming lilac eyes. “I’ll show them, then.”
 


Days later the training grounds knights are on their knees in the presence of the queen and her son.
 


 
 

 
 


 
Just past Chanhee’s fourteenth birthday, Jiyeon is awoken by a faraway scream that sounds distinctively like Chanhee.

 

Rushing through her chambers, she breaks into her child’s room placed directly in front of the entry to her quarters. As she arrives there is already a few of Jiyeon’s personal attendants surrounding her son. “Chanhee?” She walks through the path the girls make for her to see the young teen sitting upright, gripping tightly at the sheets that are pulled up to his chin, eyes watery and a look Jiyeon knows all too well.

 

Help me.

 

She turns around and smiles to the attendants. She knows he’d like to talk to her alone rather than around the court ladies.“Excuse us for a moment ladies. I’d like to speak to my son for a while.”

 

As the room clears out, Jiyeon sits on the edge of the bed and immediately reaches for one of his hands. “What is the matter? Today is training, aren’t you already meant to be in the training grounds?” Chanhee’s mouth opens, open eyes falling from her face to the white cotton sheets, fear and uncertainty clouding his usual dignified demeanour.

 

“Dear?” Jiyeon runs a thumb across his knuckles.
“I’m sorry,” He whispers so quietly Jiyeon almost doesn’t hear. “For what?” She frowns, taken back from the sudden apology. “I… I thought something was happening,”

 

She only furrows her brows further, perplexed. “But I didn’t want to believe it because then they’ll really hate me and you and Father will not allow me to train anymore because I’m too different now.” He speaks sorrowfully and Jiyeon’s mouth parts.

 

“Why do you feel that way?” She wonders aloud and the boy squirms uncomfortably. “I… everyone says that women and bearers are weak! I don’t want to be that way!”

 

“Oh, Chanhee…” She gently grips the sheets from his hands and pulls them gently from his hands. The boy chokes on his tears as his mother moves her eyes back to his face from the growing stain under him. “You could have told me. I’ll always listen, you know that. No matter how foolish it may sound to you,”

 

“I know,” He mumbles under his breath. “But I was scared that you and Father wouldn’t let me train anymore… I really still want to.” He says strongly, looking up with determination in his inky eyes. “If you say I can’t, I’ll still go!”

 

Jiyeon laughs at her son. “Of course you can still go, why does it make you any different, hm? You’ll still be the same,” she says. “You’re just a bit more special than the rest.”

 

A smile blossoms over his face before he throws his body at her. The Queen presses her lips to the crown of his head.

 

“Thank you, Mother,” he mumbles into her shoulder. “Of course, my dear. I’m always here.”
 

 


She’s always there.
 

 


 

 
 
 


 
“This is insane, Jiyeon!” The King groans, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Kiwoon!—“


“Not only is he not my blood son, but the people also have yet to accept that he is a prince—“


“He is our son!” She roars only to be disregarded. “He can inflict pain that could kill and you are so adamant to keep him safe and now he turns out to be a bearer!”
“What is so bad about that!” She yells back, chest heaving with anger. “I mean,” she says as she takes a deep breath. “What does it matter that he is a bearer. Is it not a gift?”


“You want him to be our successor!” Kiwoon shouts, eyes bulging with anger. “And? He is our child?”


“I cannot make some peasant woman's son the heir to my kingdom!” The room turns deadly quiet as Jiyeon slaps him hard across the face, her hand stinging and on fire after. “He is my son! He is not some peasant woman's son.” She spits, eyes narrowing in disgust. “I have raised the boy like any other prince! He is of royalty!”


“He is illegitimate!”


“Is this what it’s about? About blood? He isn’t worthy because I didn’t bear him to you?” Her body trembles with anger, her stinging hard curling at her side.
“I need a true heir to rule my kingdom when I can no longer!” He shoots back.


“He would be more than capable. He can fight and he is the smartest boy—“


“He is a bearer!” Kiwoon shrieks. “What?” Jiyeon mutters, amber eyes glaring up down at the King. “Is this how it is? Because he’s a bearer he’s expected to stand by a man and act like a whore? A breeding machine? Is that how you think it is?” He doesn’t answer and his wife grows furious by the second. “Is it?”


Kiwoon turns around arms folded across his broad chest, facing the window to see the teenaged prince swing a sword at a trained knight who narrowly misses the blade.

 


 
“He’ll never be king.”

 


 
 


 
 
 
 
“Chanhee,” the said male turns to see the king trailing towards him. “Father,” he greets him with a smile. “I wasn’t aware you were coming to my chambers tonight.”

 

“I wasn’t planning on it,” he answers as he looks around the room. The room is full of books and a few swords and a single bow perched on the wall beside the large bed. “Oh. Well, what can I do for you? Here, come sit. Do you want some tea? I can make some tea?” Chanhee trails off, suddenly aware of his rambling. It wasn’t every day he was visited by his father. Chanhee thinks this must be the first time since he was small. He’s a bit nervous actually.

 

The King of Ros sits on the blue velvet lounge in the far left corner. Chanhee stays standing in front of him, fiddling with his fingers. His father clears his throat and he swallows thickly. “I have heard.”Of course, he had, it was the talk all around the castle these days. “I—“
“I won't stop,” Chanhee speaks out speedily, looking down at him with frantic eyes. “I won't stop training…” He adds when Kiwoon’s eyebrows knit together.

 

“I wasn’t going to say you are to stop training. I am here to discuss your future.”

 

“Oh?” Chanhee breathes out. He’s slightly relieved.

 

“Sit down, boy.” The king indicates to the matching seat in front of him. Chanhee complies although hesitantly. “You are a bearer, do you know what that means.”

 

Chanhee’s heart is suddenly in his throat as he waits for his Fathers next words. Of course, he did. He was told from an early age that Princesses were sent far from their homes to marry high ranking officials. And although he wasn’t a woman, his kingdom doesn’t regard him as a man. They treat him more like a woman and he hates it. The thought had flashed through his mind for a while that he might be forced to marry and pop out a few kids for an older man.

 

“I… I don’t want to be married.” He mumbles, eyes downcast, not daring to look at his father. His father chuckles and he leans closer, fingers grabbing the prince’s chin harshly and holding his head up. “You do not have a say. As soon as Jiyeon took you in to be a prince, you had a future planned out for you. But now, you have no choice in the matter. You will be married on your nineteenth year and you will comply with the responsibility of cursing us with your so-called ‘ability’.” Chanhee’s jaw clenches as well as his fist. The heat of his anger is raging throughout his body and he can feel his charm rise to the surface.

 

The king stops abruptly when he notices the boy struggling to hide to overtaking lilac in his eyes. Instead of cowering away like he used to just mere days ago, he seizes the prince’s shoulders so tight he’s sure he will have his fingers indented in his skin after. He’s been treated so differently know that he’s presented as a bearer and he hates it.

 

“You to stay away from danger, hm? It would be such a shame to have the Prince of Ros injured now that your body is your selling point.”

 

Chanhee’s hands react faster than his mind.
His right-hand clutches around his father’s wrist and he squeezes it tightly as his eyes stare up into the king’s dark irises.


It’s just like the first encounter they had.The king can’t bring himself to look away from the purple orbs once again.


He feels like he’s drowning, falling under his spell from a single look. The room around him feels as if it is filling with water and he’s going down. Down and down until his eyes shut, but he can still see the majestic purple eyes behind his burning eyelids.
 

 

 

 
 
 ♔
 

 


 
 
He runs.

 

He keeps on running and running until his knees buckle and he falls to the ground in the middle of a clearing in the forest. His chest heaves as he tries to steady his rapid breathing.

 

Like wildfire, it starts in his chest and the silence around him grows louder, ringing out in his head. The pressure builds up to the point he can barely breathe and when it finds the weakest spot, it cracks and it spills out in dangerous waves. A cry breaks from his mouth, angry tears falling from his eyes.

 

The lush grass around him withers away into nothing, the flowers droop and the trees leaves start to fall in the middle of Summer.

 

It’s not fair. His people hate him, they don’t accept him and now his own father is belittling him. “I said I’d show them!” He cries out and unknowingly his emotions rage like kerosene on a flame of dread.


Just as he goes to let out another cry it turns into a choked whimper as sudden rustling fills his sensitive ears. His body goes rigid, eyes suddenly dry as he looks around. When a figure jumps out of the darkness, armed with a sword, Chanhee feels his gut clench at the realisation that he doesn’t have anything to protect himself with. He jumps to his feet, purple eyes narrowing at the taller figure advancing on him. “Who are you?” He mumbles, mostly to himself because he’s never seen anyone like this before.

 

The person is dressed all in black robes that hide them in the darkness of the night. They leap through the air, their sword raised to strike down on his body.

 

Thunder cracks down and the metal sword flies out of the hand of the assassin. The cloaked figure crashes into Chanhee.
The young boy grips harshly onto a muscled bicep, fingernails digging into clothed flesh. He then meets the man in the eyes and a surge fills his body and suddenly he’s imaging the sickening crack of his neck and the assassin crumbles at his feet just as the hooves of a horse sounds.
The flame finally dies and it feels like he’s just opening his eyes, it’s too late.


He’d killed a man.


He stares down at his hands before he falls to his knees as the knights swarm the clearing. He feels the hot water fill his aching eyes and through his blurry vision he can see the head knight jumping off of his horse and rushing forward.

 

When arms wrap around his middle and haul him off the ground, he stares unresponsive at his fingers.
 


 
 


 


 
 
“No one told me!” He screams, escaping Jiyeon’s grip. “No one told me I would be able to cause fatal harm!”

 

“We didn’t know!” Jiyeon grips at the distressed child. Her hand strokes through his hair, trying to calm him. “Chanhee, if you just stayed here.” Chanhee looks up at her, wide-eyed. “Are you blaming me?” He mumbles in disbelief. “You shouldn’t have left, Chanhee! You know the rules!” She counters just as baffled.

 

“There are too many rules around here!” He exclaims in a shout. “Chanhee can’t do this or this! Why can’t I go out? Huh! Even you go out! It is not fair!” His arms flail about as he yells, brows kitted deeply as he breathes.


“I can go out because I’m not constantly in danger!” Jiyeon retaliates, reaching out for her son after he had flung his body away from her. The room goes quiet as the two stare at each other for a good thirty seconds before Chanhee chides, “Danger?”

 

Jiyeon visibly hesitates and it only makes the boy with the lilac eyes distressed. “Mother, what danger?”

 

Jiyeon’s eyes suddenly go cold. “There are people out there,” she points a finger to the window next to Chanhee’s desk. “People that will use you.”
“You are frightened… that you’ll lose me?” His voice decreases and he wanders into his Mother's arms.

 

Chanhee doesn’t miss the tears that drop from the amber orbs.
 
 
Chanhee spends every day to control his charm from this day forward.
 
 

 


 

 
 

 


 
“My Prince,”

 

Chanhee looks up from his spot on the snowy ground to see a taller boy, probably his age or a little bit older — perhaps seventeen? Chanhee frowns as he holds out a gloved hand. “I am Baek Juho. The head has ordered me to train with you.”

 

A smile tugs at the sides of his mouth, yet he hides it.


My Prince.


Something inside him stirs and he accepts the cat-eyed boy's hand with a sly smirk. “You're on.”

 

When Juho is on the ground with the sixteen-year-old Prince’s foot pressed to his hardening chest he finally smiles down at him.

 


Baek Juho becomes his first friend.
 
 

 



 

 


 
“You called?” Chanhee pokes his head through the crack in the doors and smiles at his mother who’s seated on the lounge in front of a roaring fireplace. The snow is caked against the windows and Chanhee shivers at the sight of the white clouded over the whole Kingdom. Ros was known for its cooler weather throughout Summer and Spring but in tow came a dreadful and bitter Winter.

 

“I did,” She smiles back and pats at the spot next to her. “Happy birthday, my dear.” Chanhee sends her a shy smile and she laughs. “Ah, it feels just like it was yesterday when I had a naughty toddler running around.” Chanhee smiles at her. “Thank you, mother,” he brings her in for a hug and he melts into her arms. It feels like home.

 

“Look at you, all grown up, my beautiful boy.” Chanhee bashfully swats her hands away from his face with his nose scrunched up. Jiyeon shakes her head with her arms still wrapped around the now nineteen-year-old. Chanhee manages to escape and he flashes a toothy grin to his mother as she pouts.

 

“Here,” She fiddles with a black silk pouch by her side and shoves it into her son's hands. Chanhee raises his brows in surprise. “What have you done this time, mother?” He asks somewhat excited and scared at the same time. His mother gives the best presents and gave always has given him something special.

 

It feels somewhat heavy in his hands and he flashes an indecisive look before his nimble fingers pull at the string. He hesitantly reaches a hand in and when he pulls it out, a smile blossoms across his face, petal lips pulling up at the edges.

 

In his right hand is a dagger. Its hilt is glassy, containing a single purple tulip inside the breakable material. The blade is an impressive shining gold which glitters in the light. “It’s made from reinforced glass,” the Queen informs. “I asked for it to be extra strong.” Chanhee chuckles, smiling gratefully as he drops the weapon to his lap and pulls his mother into another hug. “Of course you did. I am quite surprised that the flower still looks this beautiful.”

 

Jiyeon pulls away, face adorned with a bright smile. “I thought it would be a nice gift. Not that I want you to have to use it, of course. But I thought it would help you remember who you are.”

 

Chanhee cocks his head to the side as he looks at her, confused. “The purple tulip.” She points to the flower encased in glass. “When I first saw you, the flowers were stuck in your hair. They mean rebirth, strength and royalty. I think it was a sign that you weren’t just special but a little miracle.” She smiles fondly. “Whenever I see a purple tulip I think of you.”


Chanhee's lips part and he smiles widely. “Is that why we have an abundance of them in the gardens?” Jiyeon nods. “I asked them a little bit after I took you in.”

 

Chanhee fiddles with the handle in his hands. His heart swirls with happiness. His mother was always there to make him feel worthy. “Flower language is strange…” is the only thing he can say. “Teach me,” He says, lifting his head and he smiles that bright smile when Jiyeon promises him.
 


Jiyeon thinks the flowers have no chance when it comes to the beauty of his smile.
 
 

 


 

 


Chanhee raises a brow at his Mother who’s holding up the lilac silk nightgown up to his face. “The tailor made this one a little too short for me,” she explains, shoving the clothing into Chanhee’s arms. Chanhee stood about half a head below his father and since his mother was even taller than he was, he sometimes feels like he’s still a child by her side.“Besides, I know how much you’d like to stay in a nightgown all day, so take it. We could match!”

 

“Mother!” Chanhee laughs. “That's such a childish thing to do.” Jiyeon huffs out in feigned annoyance, but the sly look on her face tells otherwise. And despite the childish manner, not even a few minutes later they’re laying on Chanhee’s large bed, in the matching lilac gowns and giggling like they did when Chanhee was younger.

 

“And so I told him I’d be up for another spare and he rejected. Rejected! How ridiculous! He’s so hurt that I beat him!” Jiyeon laughs as she listens to Chanhee’s stories about training.

 

When they fall into comfortable silence Jiyeon jumps in to ask a question with her fingers threading through his messy inky locks. “Have you answered back to King Youngbin,” Jiyeon sniggers at the sudden change of expression on the boys face. The relaxed look flickers to a deep scowl.
 


He sits up, her hand falling back to her own lap, shakes his head at the Queen. “I don’t wish to be married.”
 


“Never?” Jiyeon asks with a raise of brows. Her son shrugs, fingers playing with the robe around his body. “Not for an alliance.” He mumbles and the drop in his shoulders show it. “He genuinely likes you.” Jiyeon pushes his shoulder gently. The prince continues to fiddle with his fingers and he sighs loudly. “I know that… that's why it’s making me uncomfortable.”
 


Their first encounter was a mix of disaster and blooming feelings. Youngbin was fifteen and Chanhee just twelve.
He was practising with the head guard personally when the crown prince had entered the training grounds, eyes glazing over the larger figures until his eyes landed on Chanhee’s smaller body. Youngbin had stared openly at the boy practising his stances with the tall guard with a glitter in his eyes. Chanhee had turned, uncomfortable as if he felt like someone was watching him.

 

The air had knocked out of Youngbin’s lungs as the younger turned with crystal lavender eyes when they suddenly locked eyes. Chanhee sent the young prince a glare which sent him to his knees, wheezing from the sudden lack of air. 


  They next met a year later at the Idris annual ball. Youngbin had spotted Chanhee across the room, by Queen Jiyeon’s side. And after slipping away from his own father he had hastily paced over to the thirteen-year-old, sliding his hand into his smoothly. “It’s been a while.” He said. But unlike the last time, Chanhee didn’t react. Instead, he slipped his hand away from Youngbin’s grip and smiled sweetly, greeting him as the crown prince of Idris. And for the three days, Chanhee was in his kingdom, Youngbin had stayed by his side.

 

  It was when the eighteen-year-olds coronation when he met Kang Chanhee for the fourth time. The young charmed one now fifteen, his face slimmer than he remembered and an aura around him that oozed grace and strength. He hadn’t remembered the boy to be so beautiful. His robes as white as snow outside and the curly tufts of his inky hair gently tousled.Once the ball was in full kick, Youngbin saw him standing by his father, slim hands clasped at his front as he stared up at his Father with an expecting look in his eyes. “Chanhee!” The younger turned to face him and Youngbin had been breathless once again by the male. Not because his eyes were lavender and ready to defend him. That wasn’t it this time. Sparkling inky orbs flickered up to his face and Youngbin gulped as he took in the teens features. His lips were fuller, eyes just as wide and with his heart beating rapidly in his chest he confirmed that his smile was just as bright.
 


It was the morning after and Youngbin was roaming the halls to seek out the Prince of Ros when he heard it.
“How dare you go against me,” he hears the king’s voice and it sent chills down his spine due to iciness in his tone. “You are the one that is the problem,” He took a step forward when he heard the prince hiss. “You only take advantage of me, yet I am still the problem?” His brows knitted deeply, his hand fisted around the golden handle of the door.
“You’re a disappointment.”

 

Chanhee didn’t say anything, so the king continued. “I told you to not thrust yourself into danger, did I not?”
“I am not fragile! I can protect myself!” He heard the distressed tone in the younger’s voice, yet something made him stay behind the door. “What by? You are a bearer. You have no power.” He had paled and suddenly he was thrusting the door open at the sound of Chanhee’s choked whimper.
The Prince ripped his hands from his Father’s painful vice and stormed past the new King of Idris in a blur of baby blue.'


 That was the day Youngbin discovered he was a bearer. And almost three years later, many meeting later Youngbin had finally sent the message over to ask Chanhee to wed him.

 
“You don’t feel the same?” Jiyeon asks and she gains a curt nod. “It’s not like I don’t like him,” he rambles, lifting his head and looking at her with a jutted bottom lip. “I really do. He’s nice and handsome but I just don’t feel the same… It’s just the way he looks at me that I can’t do…” Every time Youngbin’s eyes find him, his mouth morphs into a beaming smile and the shining look in his honey eyes is filled with adoration. And Chanhee just can’t find it in him to look at him with such love. 
He’s brought out of his thoughts as his body jerks along with Jiyeon when the doors to his bedchambers are slammed open, the large wooden doors crashing into the walls with a loud bang. The doors shut behind Kiwoon who has a look of anger cast over his face.
 


“We need to talk,” Is all he says, eyes pointed at Jiyeon. The Queen sighs loudly, yet she still slips from the bed and nears her husband. Chanhee gingerly places his bare feet on the marble tiles, but Kiwoon shoots him a fierce glare.

 

“We need an heir,” Jiyeon furrows her brows, thin lips parting. “We have spoken about this before,” She snarls. “And yet we cannot come to an agreement,” Kiwoon retorts back, both as equally hostile.


He can feel his heart beat faster as it sinks lower in his chest, dread building in his stomach.
Jiyeon glances over at him and her gazes softens at the expression on his face.


“I’ve always known you weren’t fond of me,” he whispers. “But do you not think of me as your son?”


For the first time, the King doesn’t answer. His gazes at Chanhee, arms crossed over his chest as his lips press together tightly. At first, Chanhee thinks that he’s finding the right words to say.


But it never comes.


It feels like it’s raining, it feels like rain as it sets in him that the man he regarded to as his father doesn’t think of him as his son. He feels like he’s losing his balance and he breathes in heavily.


He knew Kiwoon wasn’t overly fond of him, but he had looked up to him. He had watched him lead the Kingdom and jotted notes in his brain when his time would come. He feels out of focus and as if there is a wall suddenly trapped between them. His next words are stuck in his throat and as he tries bravely to speak he’s sent back three steps backwards.

 

“Is that why? Is that why I’ve never been crowned as the crown prince?” His eyes flash over to Jiyeon to find her with wide-eyed. “We’re family…” He mutters shallowly.

 

“You are not my family,” he says with a stone hard face. “You have never been.”

 

It starts off slow, then all at once the single loose thread holding him together comes undone. He swallows the pained whimper down and he turns in a flurry of lilac silk, running away from the pain and the crack in his heart.

 

In the distance, he can hear the sound of his Mother’s anguish being unleashed on the King.

 

 To the man who’s not his father.


 
 
His tears bruise at his eyelids on their way out and his chest hurts more than it ever had. His lungs feel like their sucked from all the oxygen around him and he finds it hard to fill them with air which leads him to hyperventilate as he chokes on his tears. He didn’t know how he had gotten here, to the barracks. He’d brought himself here through his hazy mind and clogged vision. The stone walls are cold against his clothed back and the bare skin on his arms and legs are covered in goosebumps from the bitter cold autumn night.

 

When he hears shuffling, he whimpers aloud, not wanting to be disturbed at the moment. Perhaps it was a wrong move because Jiyeon turns the corner to see him shuddering in a corner. “Oh, my boy,” She hurries over, the bottom of her nightgown dragging across the dirtied stone floor. She drops to the floor, hands reaching out and cupping his soft cheeks now wet with hot tears. “My dear,” She calls out, wiping away the rapid flow of tears from his cheeks with her thumbs.

 

“I…I” He tries to make out a sentence but he runs out of air again and again. Jiyeon tucks him close to her chest, fingers brushing through his curls ever so gently, tenderly. “I was never good enough.” He sobs. “I should’ve tried harder.”

 

“No,” Jiyeon breathes. “No, you did everything. You tried so hard yet he was a heartless bastard that cared about your blood rather than your heart. You did nothing wrong. It's all him.” Chanhee bursts out into another round of tears, but this time Jiyeon’s here to catch him if he falls and to wipe away his liquid anguish.

 

When his cries turn into sniffles, Jiyeon pulls away, her hands clasping her son’s tightly. “You are more of king he could ever be, understand? You are my son, and I am just as valid as what he is and nothing will change that.” He nods, wiping away the wetness on the front of the nightgown.
“Come on, I have something to show you.” Jiyeon hauls him to his feet and he doesn’t let go of her hand as she drags him around the castle to a courtyard Chanhee used to go to when it was spring to catch butterflies when he was young. The butterflies were always here.

 

“I had something done for you, to remember you if you do end up marrying King Youngbin.” She jokes and nudges him playfully and Chanhee sniffs away some of his tears and looks up at the woman beside him. “I thought it would be nice here. You always played here as a boy,” Chanhee smiles at the fond memories of chasing butterflies and picking flowers for his mother. “I did.”

 

“Here,” Jiyeon nudges him gently ahead and Chanhee swallows hard as his eyes come into view of what it is.

 

The statue of his Mother is almost scarily identical, posed with bended knees and hugging the smaller figure closer to her body which is recognisably little Chanhee. “How did you get this here? I thought I would’ve noticed?” He gapes, sniffing away another set of tears threatening to batter against his cheeks.

 

“Baek Juho is a very loyal man.” Chanhee shakes his head with a fond chuckle. “Of course…”

 

“It’s beautiful…” Jiyeon sighs, wrapping an arm around her son’s shoulders. “One day we will look at this and we will remember the hard times. You’ll be king the next time we look at it together.” Jiyeon says confidently. “You think?” Chanhee smiles at this. “I know.” She replies and Chanhee can feel his heart grow with determination.

 

He had tried so hard to please Kiwoon, yet something in him knew no matter what would happen the man would refuse to acknowledge him.
 


He’s going to show him. And he will conquer.


A determined smile overtakes his lips. “I’ll show them. I’ll show him.”
“I know,” Jiyeon grins down at him.


It’s somewhere in the distance, but he hears a rustle and he turns, his back facing his Mother so he’s facing the courtyard's wall and as his eyes catch the distant figures, his stomach flips and he pales instantly.

 


A dagger flies by his head.

 


 

Chapter Text

The dagger just grazes his cheek as it flies by.

 

A rippled scream of surprise and fear escapes Jiyeon. He raises an arm, grabbing his mother by her nightgown and dragging her forcefully back.

 

“Chanhee!” She shouts with eyes wide with panic. Chanhee wants to scream out when the sudden thud of heavy boots fills his ears and to his right, he can see the men filling in.

 

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees more unfamiliar soldiers filling the small courtyard. The first solider comes at Jiyeon but Chanhee is quicker and twists his body in front of the queen who claps at the boy's silk robe as if she’d protect him just like she used to from the world when he was a child. Chanhee twists his arm, yanking it back and snatches the weapon from his hand. Without thinking, almost naturally, he slices the mans throat and he slumps at their feet just as three more run toward them. Jiyeon’s grip around Chanhee’s waist tightens. “Chanhee,” She mutters in terror, eyes large as the weapons glisten in the pale moonlight.

 

 

Chanhee races forward pivoted to the right, he grips at the dagger in his hand and slides through the man's parted legs, slicing a deep gash in his calf. He hisses and falls to his knees, a fatal move when Chanhee rises to his feet and stabs the golden blade through his shoulder-blades to his heart. He pulls it out and blood spurts onto the stone.

 

 

He doesn’t need to look to know the other two are advancing on him. The solider on his right has his sword held out and the other has his hand on the hilt of his sword, still hidden in the scabbard.  Chanhee takes a few steps back and then he points the dagger in his hand that is dripping with blood at the solider on his right and with a small huff it's flying through the air and buries itself deep in the man's chest. With quick movements, he picks up the dead soldiers sword, and just in time he catches the mans sword with his own. “Who are you?” He hisses through clenched teeth. The man just smiles wickedly. “If you’re going to be that way, then.” Chanhee shoves himself back and dives under the stocky man's elbows, slashing the soldier's dead companions sword. The man drops to his knees and clutches his bleeding side as he gazes up at Chanhee, a devilish glint in his muddy eyes. Chanhee brings the sword down again and he goes limp.

 

 

He heaves in deep breaths of air and then he hears the crackling of metal on metal. He turns to see Jiyeon standing steady, a sword in her hands and blocking the soldier's sword from hitting her body.

 

 

“Mother!” Chanhee mutters. He breaks out into a run towards the Queen, the sword in his hand, held low. As he nears them, he shoves the sword into the man's stomach and yells out, but Chanhee yanks it out harshly and he crumbles to his feet. “Mother,” The woman smiles the same smile she had when she had taken him into her arms all those years ago. The same smile that comforted him and the smile had chased the darkness away. “It’ll be okay. Surely the guards have been alerted and will come soon. For now, just stand behind me.” He rambles while he gets in a protective stance in front of the woman.

 

 

“Chanhee—“ His name is shouted on his mother's lips and suddenly he’s shoved to the ground by the Queen. His robe rips at his waist as he falls, landing on a rouge sword which digs into his side and slices his flesh slightly. He looks up and finds Jiyeon with all the colour drained from her face.

 

 

Then the whizzing sound fills his ears.

 

 

He’s heart surges in his chest, threatening to fall out as he identifies the noise as a fired arrow. He goes to get to his feet, but then the whizzing stops and an ugly squelch fills his ears followed by a choked scream. He witnesses the exact moment the arrow buries itself in his mother who pivots as the golden-bodied arrow buries deep in her chest. Chanhee lets out a scream as her body falls backwards, crumbling to the ground. Fear fills his body first. The woman that had done everything in her power to keep him safe, the same woman that took in a peasant child as her own despite her status as royalty, that very same woman has an arrow lodged deep in her chest, her death; inevitable.

 

 

Then it’s anger that fills him.

 

 

He’s so blinded by his rage, he can barely register the power firing through his body. He’d kill them.

 

 

He’d kill them all.

 

 

He’s almost to his feet when the strangled sound of what sounds to be his name falls from his mother's lips. Something in him snaps at that moment. She’s weakly laying there, face sickly pale and her silk gown spilling with crimson. Despite the unbearable pain of having an arrow buried next to her heart, she smiles. She smiles so tenderly and with the mere look into her beloved boy's eyes. Her eyes glitter in the moonlight, the pale light illuminating her face. He breaks into sobs and crawls desperately to her, knees dragging across the cobblestone of the courtyard.

 

 

“Mother,” he whimpers, hands shakily taking her into his arms, resting her head against his thighs. He clutches desperately onto Jiyeon who looks up at him with glassy eyes.

 

 

She affectionally reaches to cup his cheek tenderly. “My dear boy,” She chokes out weakly as her fingers slowly grip at the golden body of the arrow pierced through her chest. “Go,” Too caught up in the moment, Chanhee hadn’t realised the soldiers advancing them in large numbers. Chanhee shakes his head his lips trembling as sobs rack his slight frame. With his tears dripping down onto the Queen’s cheek, she lets out a pained noise. “Don’t cry, my dear…”

 

 

“You’ll be okay… don’t do this…” He frantically whispers over and over, hoping that maybe if he kept saying it she’d be okay.

 

 

However, it’s futile. The amount of blood staining their skin is only growing and the mirth in Jiyeon’s amber eyes is fading away.

 

 

Finally, Chanhee meets his mother’s gaze. Both of their eyes are filled with tears, raging down their cheeks in a hurry. “Y-you have always sacrificed yourself… to try and show them… that you are worth it…” She stammers, the hand on his cheek threatening to fall back down, but she forces herself to keep it there, to calm the young man. “D-do not blame yourself… my dear..” Chanhee cups the bloodied hand and tries to speak throughout his constant racking of sobs. “My son…” she mutters, breathing shallow. “I…will always… follow you… through your journey…” Her hand lifts from the arrow and weakly presses to the skin above his heart.


“Don’t go.” He weeps helplessly, squeezing her hand.

 

 

Jiyeon coughs, blood spurting from her mouth to the stone ground.

 

 

“No,” He whimpers his heart feels like it's being ripped apart and the pain of losing his mother pounds hard throughout him. “No!”

 

 

“Remember…” Her words are weak, voice straining against the brutal need of oxygen. “That… you are my son…” Chanhee nods as best as he can through his sobs. “My beautiful boy… you are so strong.” It feels like his heart is made from parchment and it’s caught in someone's hands, ripping it to shreds and all he’s left with the searing pain and the remains of his torn up self. Her eyes flutter, struggling to keep them open, but she forces herself to, to look up at her son clinging onto her for dear life.

 

 

With one last wheezy breath, she says, “Y-you were worth e-everything… you… are worth… everything, Kang Chanhee.”

 

 

Her eyelids fall shut and her body goes limp in his hold and Chanhee lets out a guttural scream as he cries even harder, pulling her body closer to his, rocking back and forth.

 

 

He doesn’t notice the guards flooding the courtyard, their swords unsheathed, bodies armoured. He doesn’t pay any attention to the knights protectively caging in their Queen and Prince with their bodies. Not once does he acknowledge the fights between his soldiers and knights and the enemy that took his mother's life.

 

 

He doesn’t know how long it’s been when he sees the familiar boots from the barracks. He’s still crying, tears running down, but his voice is now gone, silent sobs coming out from his body. His grip on Jiyeon has yet the falter, but his hands are growing impossibly weaker, his head heavy and pounding.

 

 

“Chanhee,” he recognises the voice. Anyone could remember the deep baritone of his voice. And he caves in, whimpering as he clutches desperately at his mother. “My prince, please look at me.” Out of the corner of his eye, he can see the knights dropping to their knees, heads hung low in respect as they cage the two protectively. A gentle hand drops to his shoulder. He hesitantly looks up at Juho who’s also on his knees, head hung low as his own tears for their beloved Queen drop down his rough face. “I’m so sorry,” He mutters, swallowing thickly. He lifts his head and gestures for one of his comrades to come forth. “We will take care of her, okay?” Chanhee shakes his head, pulling the woman impossibly closer. “It’s okay…” Juho says, his ungloved hands hold comfortingly on his wrists. “Do you trust Minho and me?” He almost thinks the words had gone in one ear and out the other, but he gingerly nods after awhile. “We can give you some time to say goodbye.” He suggests. “Would you like that?”

 

 

After a timid nod, he spends the next five minutes flashing through all the memories with the Queen. His tears still fall at a steady pace and his hands poll in the stained lilac silk and it slips out of his fingers, just like she did.

 

 

When they come back, he grips onto her body, terrified when he realises he’ll never see her again. It takes some coaxing and gentle words from Juho before Minho can carry the late Queen in his arms, carefully resting her head in the crook of his arm and an arm under her knees.

 

 

Chanhee struggles to his feet, his knees buckle under his weight, but Juho grips onto his bicep just as he falls, catching him with thick arms under his armpits. When he moves, he suddenly remembers about the slice in his side and he hisses loudly, grasping the open wound with his own bloodied hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanhee does get to see her for once last time.

 

 

Juho walks him to the Queen’s final resting place, right next to the lake and the tulip garden. The white marble structure is full of attendants, knights and a doctor who are all crying for their late Queen. Chanhee stumbles in, edging closer and closer to the once empty white coffin. 

 

 

He lets out a sob as he recognises the dress she is wearing. The same dress she had worn when she had found him back when he was a helpless two-year-old. The white satin still looked brand-new and the jewels that adorn the gown still sparkle, now in the candlelight. No matter how blurry the memory had become, he would remember the smile on her face and the sparkling jewels in the rain. Her inky locks have been brushed neatly over her shoulders and his heart sinks when he spots the golden arrow clutched in her hand. A sob escapes his throat and the people around him suddenly bow their heads for the first time.

 

 

He turns away from his mother, rubbing tears away from his eyes as he spots the rows of budding flowers next to the large monument and he wanders over with a stumble, Juho follows behind carefully, arms out ready to catch the breaking pieces of the prince. He doesn’t waver, instead, he carefully plucks several flowers from different sections in the garden and he wanders back, eyes cast on the different types of flowers in his hands. Juho rests his hand across the span on Chanhee’s lower back and gently nudges him closer.

 

 

The prince leans against the white coffin and a strangled sob escapes him as he places purple tulips near her heart. “I won’t… I won’t forget who I am.” He says in a murmur. He then places the bunch springs of aromatic sage and pink carnations by her side. Virtue and mother’s love.

 

 

“Thank you for everything… Mother…”

 

 

And with the mutters of his love for her from his lips, he allows the flurry of tears run down his cheeks as his fingertips graze gently across her hand. He chokes on a sob that he forces back and he turns away from his eternally sleeping mother to face Juho.

 

 

“Let’s go,” The whites of his eyes are red from the bitter tears that had pooled out of them too many times to count tonight. Juho swallows thickly and nods, offering a hand to the Prince who takes it shakily.

 

 

“I—“ Juho starts to talk but Chanhee cuts him off with a whimper. “Not… not yet.” He whispers.

 

 

Juho doesn’t try to talk again, but he still holds him up with his hands as his knees buckle underneath him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When he reaches his chambers, he rests his aching and tired body against the door and he slowly slides to the floor into an unmoving heap. It crashes over him like a tidal wave once again and he chokes on the force of the wave, his eyes burning with tears. He doesn’t know how his body continues to make the salty liquid in his eyes, but it does and he falls deeper into the pit and he’s drowning himself in slowly.


The doors are being pushed open and his body is pushed away from his spot before warm arms are wrapping around his shoulders, pulling him out of the pit. The prince’s delicate hands grasp onto Juho’s shoulders as he tries to steady himself on his knees.

 

When he gets a steady look at Juho’s concerned face his tears start to slow down. Juho couldn’t bear it to look at him like this. With his reddened eyes, red cheeks and spitting lips from his teeth that dug into the plump flesh and the gash through his side that is still leaking blood from all his squirming. “My prince, Chanhee… Can I—” He swallows thickly. “Will you let me look after you?”

 

 

Juho waits for Chanhee to give him the signal and when he gains a small nod along with the smaller’s arms wrapping around his neck. He stands up slowly and he can feel the prince’s arms wrap tighter around him and when he stands to his full height he wraps an arm around his waist, holding him up when his feet only graze the floor beneath them.

 

 

“Please,” He mutters and Juho feels himself swallow a cry in the back of his throat.

 

 

 

Chanhee’s body is limp in the water and Juho is afraid to take his hands away from under his arm in fear he will slide under. So, he sits and holds him upright with one hand while the other tries to clean the wound on his side as gently as possible. Every time he splashes warm water onto the open wound the prince hisses yet he doesn’t move an inch.

 

 

When he helps him out of the large tub, he wordlessly wraps him in a fine cotton robe and leads him back to his bedchambers. If this were a normal day, Chanhee would’ve hissed and probably tried to beat him up several times. Juho was aware of how much Chanhee despised his body, being a bearer. Of course, he did. Almost everyone knew that. But Juho knows how he’d look over at the shirtless knights in training during summer and sigh as his fingers sprawled across his own clothed stomach which didn’t hold the same muscle mass as the other men and he knows how he reacted if someone else lay a finger on his body when it wasn’t during sparring. He himself had been given the harsh glare serval times when he was younger. And Juho just knew when he would regain his normal personality back, he might not have arms when Chanhee realises his friend had seen him in the nude.

 

 

Juho gulps at the mere thought of the prince’s rage.

 

 

Juho has grown good at applying bandages, courtesy of Chanhee and his lethal fighting style. He deems the work well enough and he peeks up at Chanhee and smiles sadly at the prince. The robe is discarded around his shoulders, pooled around his hips on the mattress and his upper half is on display, sharp collarbones glistening with droplets of water and Juho pulls his eyes away after he gazes over his small waist and toned stomach.

 

 

“Juho,” He mutters lowly and Juho perks up, reaching out to grip one of the nightgowns he found after stumbling his way through the bearers drawers with a heavy blush on his face. “Yes?”

 

 

The Prince of Ros looks around the room and his eyes fill and little gems fall from his inky eyes. “I… I don’t think I can stay here… not tonight…” He looks down to the knight who’s on his knees in front of him. His eyes are pleading so Juho nods briskly. “Okay,” The knight grips the soft fabric in his hands and pulls it towards him before standing and gently tugging it down the prince's head and helping his limp arms through the sky blue sleeves. “I’m sure Sir Kim wouldn’t mind if you stayed with me? That is if you want to?”

 

 

Chanhee nods, once then twice. “Please,” he choked out with his hoarse voice. “Don’t leave me.”

 

 

“I won’t.” Juho consoles as he guides him to his feet. And once he does, he suddenly has the smaller’s arms wrapped tightly around his middle and his face buried in his neck. Juho gently hugs him back, a hand cupping the back of his skull. “Come on,” The knight says gently nudging him out of his chambers.

 

 

 

 

He leads the prince with a hand secured around his hip, holding him close to his body as the younger grips onto his arm tightly.

They’re just passing through the corridors and Juho is glad they haven’t bumped into anyone yet, for Chanhee’s sake. But as they edge closer to the foyer of the castle he can hear screams. His hand wraps around the hilt of his sword that is still in his scabbard. He looks to Chanhee and he seems unbothered by the raging screams, yet Juho knows better to trust the closed prince. 

 

 

The screams suddenly are coming closer and then the king snatches Chanhee from his grip and throws him harshly to the ground as he turns the corner. Juho’s eyes widen and he storms forward, only to be held back by other knights.

 

 

“You!” Kiwoon screeches, kicking the prince's leg. “You fucking bastard! She’s dead! You killed her!” Juho can see the sudden look of pain over Chanhee’s features. “I always knew it would be you that would bring us misfortune, yet she never listened and look where that got her! The little whore that she cherished would be her downfall, who would’ve known!” His chest is heaving with anger and he’s shaking at the pure hatred he has for the Prince of Ros. In a split-second, a knight display is on the ground and the sword snatched into the king’s hands as he points it at Chanhee.

Juho thrashes in the grip of the older knights holding him back. He thrusts his elbows into their stomachs and he makes a run for it, jumping between the two royals.

 

The king has a fire in his eyes that he's never seen on anyone before and in his fury, he thrusts the sword to Juho and it falls out of his hands, falling to the tiled floor with a clang as he races towards his son and suddenly clasps a hand tightly around his neck.

 

 

Juho stares wide-eyed as the others knights seize him once again. “Don’t,” One of them whispers. “We shouldn’t get involved between them.”

 

 

Chanhee whimpers at the force around his airways and his own small hands grab at the king's hands that have a vice grip around him. He looks onto his father’s eyes and he would sob if he had the ability to. His eyes are murderous and fiery, his jaw his clenched and teeth bared as he squeezes harder around his neck until Chanhee chokes.

 

 

“You’re going to kill him!” Juho screams in terror.

 

 

“All for the better!” He roars. “I never wanted to have this whore labelled as my son!”

 

 

Chanhee rises his knee and knocks him straight in the groin. His hands loosen and he falls to the ground, gasping greedily for air to his deprived lungs. His eyes burn with the familiarness of his charm awakening and he looks up to find his father on his knees in front of him. “After all of this…” He mutters, his eyes flickering around the foyer before they settle on the King. “You’re still going to refuse me…? She’s dead. She’s dead! Yet you still go against her! She tried so hard-“

 

 

“She didn’t try hard enough, then!”

 

 

And the king flies across the room, crashing into one of the tables set across the walls. The vase cracks under his weight and he cries out in pain.

 

 

“Say it again,” Chanhee mutters darkly. “I dare you.”

 

 

The King rises to his feet, fury indented on his face and in a blur Chanhee finds himself holding a sword in his hand from the wall and blocking the King’s attack with a roaring clang. He continues to block the oncoming attacks from the fuming King.

 

 

It all gets too overwhelming and he begins to slow down just as he’s cornered at the doors of the palace. The king’s sword raises and he moves quickly, his blue robes flying by and catching on the blade in the king’s hand. The coldness bites at his skin as he stumbles out of the palace, but he barely registers it due to the sudden spike of adrenaline pumping throughout his body. He barely can catch a break before the man is storming towards him, sword high in his grasp.

 

 

The sun peeks through the dismal clouds and the light only then reminds Chanhee of how tired he is. His muscles are straining, his body shaking with exhaustion and his head is pounding to where every single movement hurts. Yet, he pushes himself further, colliding his sword to his father’s and the King’s blade is knocked from his deadly grip. He follows the king’s gaze to the sword and in a split-second decision, he’s kicking his leg up to his groin, sending The King of Ros to his knees before him.

 

 

 

The blade of his sword is pressed to his neck as he sucks in gasps of air to his starving lungs.

 

 

Kiwoon’s face turns bone-white with fear, his eyes gazing with the murderous glint still swimming in his dark orbs.

 

 

He can kill him.

 

 

This man — he’d broken him repetitively—he’d taken everything from him in a single night, his worth—

 

A cold bitter satisfaction fills him to the core of the thought of finally taking something back.

 

Because he’s your father.

 

Chanhee shakes his head and he drops his sword from the man's throat who shouts, “I knew you never had it in you.”

 

He swallows thickly. “Get out.” He says suddenly, eyeing the younger down. “Don’t come back or I’ll have your head and everyone you come with,”

 

 

  

And suddenly Juho is by his side once again as he walks away from his home.

 

 

His everything.

 

 

But it’s lacking all the warmth he used to feel when Jiyeon was living and breathing with him. He tucks himself closer to Juho’s chest as the horse gallops through the town and the connecting villages.

 

 

They all stare at him with confused, disappointing eyes. And that’s all he’ll be to them.

 

 

A disappointment. Not a king.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chanhee doesn't speak.

 

He doesn't dare to let a single word slip past his lips and as the sun disappears once more, Juho grows even more worried for the prince leaning against him. He gently holds a palm to his stomach to hold him as the horse trots over a bumpy road. He's tried to speak to him, but he'd just been speaking to himself. His words going in one ear and out the other. The prince sighs as his own hand curls around his friends larger hand.

 

"We're almost there, Chanhee," Juho says to try to ease the shaken prince

 

Chanhee squeezes his eyes shut. He swallows thickly as the village in the horizon creeps closer and closer. He shouldn't be coming here. It's stupid. They have exiled him from his own Kingdom and he's entering a new Kingdom as if nothing happened. He feels like a heartless bastard to be entering Idris. He knows he'll be welcome, more than welcome, but his throat closes up, his pain and anxiety throttling him off the edge of a cliff.

 

He nods curtly. He has no say in this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He's awoken when Juho shakes his shoulder gently. The sky is pitch black, dotted with shining stars when he opens his eyes. Juho drops from his mare and holds his arms out, asking the prince to fall. With a weak heave of his body, his hands still clutching his aching side, he falls from his mare to Juho's awaiting arms. He then realises, when he looks up, that he's outside of the palace in Idris. "Juho," he finally speaks as his feet hit the ground.

 

"This won't be the end, right?" Juho gulps, his eyes wavering for a mere second. "No." He says honestly. "It's not over." The clunking of the palace's gates open, the guards at the front bowing deeply as Chanhee turns to them. "Your Highness," His arm is gripped by one of the royal attendant's that was assigned for him a while back when he last visited with his family.

 

He eyes the woman with tired eyes as she beings to walk him through the front courtyard to the castle's entrance. "I was not aware you were visiting us," She bows her head as they enter the grand building. With each step he takes, his side feels like it's on fire, ripping apart at the centre of the wound. He barely can pay attention to the interior of the castle, the foyer painted in light peach, like the rest of the palace, unlike the cream his home was painted in. There's golden timing around the corners and skirting boards and the windows and columns holding up the intricately decorated palace. "My apologies," He mutters hoarsely. "We did not have time to send a letter before us."

 

She smiles. "His Majesty will be delighted," His head is spinning, the room suddenly blurring in his vision and his stomach is in knots from the searing pain in his side. His mouth opens to emit a low, pained whimper and just as he feels his legs weakening underneath him, Juho is by his side, a hand just catching his wrist before he hits the tiled floor. The maid gasps beside them startled by the sudden pour of blood leaking from the young prince's robes. She scurries off with an older attendant to fetch the royal physician.

 

"Oh, dear!" The attendant next to him cries, a look of worry etched on her aging face. Chanhee's hands clutch onto Juho's arms to steady himself. His head pounds and the fiery pain is still stuck in his side as Youngbin suddenly storms into the room, a look of pure concern and anger across his handsome features. "Chanhee," He says breathlessly. He rushes over, taking the smaller from Juho's grip into his arms. "What is going on?"

 

He looks to Juho for an answer when Chanhee coughs in pain, his face screwed up and fists clenched around the King of Idris's expensive robes. Juho looks around before shaking his head, being too many prying ears around them for him to leak the information to the new king.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What is this?" The young king whispers as he watches closely while the doctor is hovering around Chanhee. "Why are you here without notice? You're not one for surprises." He's confused. He knows Chanhee hates impromptu decisions more than anything. Yet, without a single word to him here he is, a large wound in his side, reddened eyes and a heavy aura.

 

 

"I've been exiled," He gulps, squeezing his eyes shut as the doctor bandages his waist. He waits for the explosion.

 

 

"What?" Youngbin screeches. "Exiled? As in — exiled!"

 

Chanhee opens his eyes to stare at the young king. "He threw me out."

 

"He can't—"

 

"He can and he did. He is still a king." Chanhee cuts him off. "He's a king before he is a father. It was years ago when I realised that he didn't like me, but it was last night when I found out he never once thought of me as a son."

 

Youngbin looks as if he's shaking in his skin from anger. His eyebrows risen high and his jaw clenched.

 

"Queen Jiyeon, she would've done anything, everything! How did she let this go past?"

 

His heart shakes in his chest, the pain soaring throughout his damaged heart and he tells himself not to cry. He begs himself not to. The doctor bows quickly before scurrying out after instructing Chanhee to not make any large movements.

 

He turns away and gulps. "Last night..." He murmurs. "She passed on,"

 

He doesn't dare to look at the king as the room falls into silence.

 

"Oh gods, Chanhee, I'm sorry," He can hear the distressed tone in his voice. "Those fuckers," Chanhee clenches a fist in his lap. "They swarmed when I was weak, my defences were down, Youngbin... If I hadn't been so upset and taken it like I should've and not so emotionally, she'd probably still be here! And know I have nothing. My father kicked me out, my mother's dead and he's taken everything from me!" He heaves in a gasp of air as Youngbin kneels in front of him, gripping onto his hands.

 

His voice cracks and his eyes leaks with more tears. “He was going to kill me… I escaped and then I was going to be the one to kill him..." He whispers, eyes looking down at his thighs, too humiliated to look at Youngbin. "But I couldn't. I was going to and I could've, but I didn't because even though he hates me and though he hurts me so bad. Somewhere deep in me cares for him... he's still my father."

 

Youngbin grazes his fingertips over the rough skin of his hands. "Chanhee," He mutters, a hand slipping from the younger's lap to raise his chin, his fingers resting against the smaller's cheek. "It's not your fault," Chanhee's gaze turns hard, and he moves away from the young king's touch. "You weren't even there," He chides cooly. "You do not understand what went down there, yet you say it's not my fault? They killed my mother because I didn't see the arrow coming!"

 

"So you would've died instead?" Youngbin questions with a slight growl. "It's not your fault."

 

"You're wrong," Chanhee hisses, slapping the king's hand away when he grips on to his thigh to bring him back. "I'm charmed," he drawls, his own fingers grasping on his clothed thighs. "I'm able to protect others and myself! I can kill, Youngbin! I can just stare and I'll kill, so why is it so hard!"

 

"Just because you're charmed doesn't mean you'll never fail!" Youngbin fires, standing back to his feet, his hands dropping the younger's calloused hands. "Just because you can do what you do doesn't mean that you are invincible, Chanhee."

 

"How would you know," Chanhee's eyes flicker up to the king, his dark eyes holding a purple hue. "Because I'm not stupid!" He shouts, his arms flying from his sides as he exclaims. "No one's invincible... everyone dies." He breathes in heavy, bringing his tensed fists to his side. "And you can't escape that, Chanhee. Don't be stupid... please, I need you to think."

 

"Why?" The younger suddenly questions, his eyes still shining with the purple undertones. "Why should I?"

 

"Because you'll be in danger from this point forward. And I can't have the exiled prince out of his mind when this is such a dangerous time for you!"

 

Chanhee's brows knit together. "Why? Why am I in danger?"

 

Youngbin's face drops from a hard look to a soft look of concern until he frowns himself, his hands clenched by his sides. "He didn't teach you anything, didn't he?" He mumbles with a scoff. "What a bastard."

 

Chanhee watches the young king saunters around the room with his hands on his head, fingers pulling at dark strands of hair. "You're charmed, Chanhee."

 

"Yes?" He frowns deeper. "But you're also a bearer and you know what he thinks about that."

 

"What?" Chanhee whispers, his eyes shooting to Youngbin's own orbs. "Where is this going?"

 

Youngbin shoots him a look. “I need you to understand."

 

“I get that, but you have no right to bring that up,” the charmed one growls. “It is nothing to be upset over, Chanhee. I’m just taking extra precaution because I know how other people see.” He shots a pointed glare in the prince's direction. "When a member of the royal family is exiled, there's a hole not only in the kingdom's monarchy but the exiled member is at risk of many things." He sighs, “And people think bearers are weak. You’re a target even though you’re basically untouchable. But you know what selfish people are like, so don’t go out of line unless you want to end up… in an unfortunate situation.”

 

Chanhee swallows thickly, a hand clasping onto his robes tightly. “Oh," He says in a cracked voice. “Weren’t you taught law?” Youngbin questions with a raise of a brow as he takes a seat in front of the charmed prince.

 

The young prince sighs and shakes his head, gaining a low grumble from the king. ”Chanhee, did he seriously not teach you?"

 

"Not really..." Chanhee sighs, his hand dropping to fist at the blue robes covering his thighs. "Mother had taught me a lot and sometimes I'd have tutors but father refused to teach me law."

 

"Then what did Her Majesty teach you?" Chanhee sighs and shrugs his shoulders. "I was taught subjects like mathematics and literature... fighting? I trained a lot. Although, I also began to learn the language of flowers..." Youngbin sighs. "The language of flowers?"

 

"Mother is from Serid!" He retaliates quickly with a huff. Serid was known for being a kingdom connected to nature. "Besides, it might come in handy..." He mutters under his breath and Youngbin scoffs. "What when you're on a mission to deliver special undercover messages?"

 

"Youngbin," Chanhee hisses, glaring at the king. "Chanhee, this is serious," Youngbin says chastely.

 

"I understand that..." He mumbles as he folds his arms across his chest. The king gently sits by his side. "It's just a little overwhelming at the moment,"

 

"I understand that. I will give you time to heal, okay?" The king stands, offering one last smile towards the little prince. When he's at the door, he turns. "I know that this is hard, okay. Stop putting up fortresses for once and let me in to help you."

 

Chanhee looks away, refusing to meet eyes with the king.

 

One day he'll understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Just what do you think you're doing!" Youngbin roars, storming into the room, his crown placed on top of his head and his robes dragging across the gleaming floors behind him as he bounds closer. Juho steps forward and bows, creating a blockage between Chanhee and the young king.

 

The younger throws the sword astray in his hands, a knight barely catches it as the prince turns around. "You should train harder." He says as he looks back to the three men behind him. "A knight should always be alert,"

 

 

"Chanhee..." Youngbin sighs, shoeing away the maids at his sides. "We've been over this before..." Juho smiles awkwardly. "Your Majesty, we have thought it through and prince Chanhee will leave at noon."

"Excuse me!" His eyes almost pop from his head. "You," he gestures for the youngest. "Come with me. And you!" He points to Juho accusingly. "You stay and teach these fools how difficult it is to be an assigned knight! Especially if they're assigned to someone named Kang Chanhee!"

 

 

The king continues to storm ahead and Chanhee huffs, opening the doors to his chambers, leaving the king skidding to a halt when he realises Chanhee isn’t behind him.
Chanhee walks ahead into the room as Youngbin struts into the room and throws the crown off his head, slamming it on the bed. The charmed one doesn't look back at the king, instead, he picks up items from around his room and a linen bag. “Are you really leaving?” Chanhee throws the things onto the bed and starts packing them into the bag. “Yes,” Youngbin watches with a saddened look, his eyes following Chanhee as he packs his bag in front of his eyes. “Did I do something wrong?” He asks, almost gingerly and small as he plays with his hands nervously.

 

 

Chanhee swallows hard and turns away from the king. “No,” he mutters. “Oh,” the king murmurs. “That’s good, then.” Chanhee gulps, his hands clasping at his pants as he breathes in steadily. Every time he saw Youngbin, he had the glint in his eyes that spoke thousands. He didn’t need to say anything. Anyone who saw him would know he adored Chanhee with all his heart. And every time Chanhee saw it, his heart would sink a little lower in his chest. He can’t return the feelings and he feels so guilty like his heart is dropping to his stomach.

 

 

He wishes it didn’t have to be like this.

 

 

Youngbin took him in without a word. Let him make himself at home with his own chambers as he was resting to heal his wounds. He made sure he was always comfortable, yet he didn’t know he was a reason Chanhee couldn’t fall asleep at night. He’d stay up with anxiety bottling up in the deeps of his stomach, rising to his chest until he shook with the dreaded anxiety.

 

 

“What about me then?” Youngbin murmurs.

 

 

Why. Chanhee thinks. Why does he have to make it harder than it already is?

 

 

“I-“ Chanhee breathes heavily at the oncoming sting in his heart, his anxiety blowing through his body and mind. “I thought you’d answer my proposal while you were here…” his voice is dripping with disappointment.

 

 

Chanhee chews on his bottom lip to keep the tears at bay. He will not cry. Not now.

 

 

“I’m sorry,” Chanhee whispers underneath his breath. “I need time, Youngbin.” Youngbin’s brows furrow. “It’s been a month, Chanhee.” He reminds. “Isn’t that enough, then?” Chanhee bites down on his tongue. He hadn’t meant to sound so hostile, especially to Youngbin. “I’m sorry,” He apologises swiftly, finally turning to face the young king who gazes up at him with an expecting look. “I just need time and space… that's all. I will come back.”

 

 

“You’re not worried? About the exile?” His body stiffens at the mention. “No,” he swallows. “I’m not. I can protect myself even if I can’t protect others. besides, I stopped worrying about the... consequences when I found out no reports have been made about it.”

 

 

Youngbin softens and reaches a hand out to seize Chanhee's smoother hand. “You’re hands are softer.” He comments. Chanhee gazes at their interlocked hands before he rips his hand back, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. “It happens when you are forbidden to hold a weapon for a while.” He’s referring to his lockdown Youngbin had put on him for the time he’s been here. The young King of Idris had been concerned with his injuries and commanded that he was not to pick up a weapon until he was leaving his kingdom. Chanhee knows he never intended to let him go.

 

 

 

“It was for your own good—“

 

 

“Please,” Chanhee buts in, putting a hand up between them. “I don’t want to talk about that now.” He looks him in the eye, his face a mixture of pleading and sadness. “It’s pointless.”

 

 

Youngbin sighs, but he nods and gives into the princes wishes.

 

 

 

“I know what you want,” Chanhee says. “I know you want to marry me, but you’re also scared.” The king perks up, a frown growing on his face as Chanhee goes on. “You’re scared that your people won’t accept me. But it’s like you don’t know that I’ve lived my whole life being unaccepted. Even my own father didn’t accept me. So, don’t be scared. I’ll be fine, you focus on being a good king.”

 

 

Chanhee picks up his bag and wanders around the room picking up another bag before he stops in front of the door. “Take care. And focus on what you have around you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanhee steps into the inn, slightly shocked by the amount of noise coming from inside the building. Several tables are filled with burly men yelling over beers and plates of food piled high. He averts his gaze from them and continues up to the counter in the far right corner where a middle-aged woman is sitting, looking bored as she taps her fingers along the wooden table. “Hello,” He pulls gently on his cloak, revealing his face to the woman. “I was wondering if you had a room left?” He continues when she looks up at him. She nods, a yawn leaving her lips. “On the second floor, your fifth left. Breakfast is at seven sharp.” She drops keys into his open palm, her own hand opening. “Five coins.”

 

 

After he pays her, he climbs the stairs, jumping out of the way when a large man comes running down the stairs, almost knocking into Chanhee's smaller frame. Chanhee frowns at the man, his hands gripping at the hood of his cloak and pulling it promptly back over his head.

 

Once he deems himself safe in his room, he falls onto the bed a groan leaving his lips as he buries his head into the feather pillow. His body aches from riding the horse all day with a break, his stomach empty, yet he can't find it within him to go back downstairs to grab a meal. His stomach is curling with anxiety, still, even though he has escaped one of his problems. All he wants is to sleep, relax his body into the mattress and rest his aching body.

 

 

His hand glides over his side where his flesh had been cut, now it remained with a pinked scar. His mind flashes back to when he gained the wound and he swallows down his sorrow, feeling his heart aching with the familiar pain of loss and fear. With a small whimper, he shuffles under the bed's covers and closes his eyes, willing himself to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Morning comes quickly.

 

 

Chanhee rises from his sleep from the smell of food drifting into his nose. He bundles his stuff into his arms and wanders down the stairs, smiling at the inn lady when she hands him a plate full of omelette and fried greens. She pats his shoulder, nodding her head. “Enjoy,” She says as Chanhee hands her the key for his room. “I will, thank you.”

 

 

He looks around the room. The men from last night are crowding the place still and the women are now separated and sitting together. An older couple occupies a smaller table so he sits at an empty table, and eats slowly. He has been spoiled his life, that is for sure. Constantly given his favourite meals and treats from the Queen and a small smile lifts at the corner of his lips through the pain of the thought of his late mother. Youngbin had dined with him every single night in the dining hall, a fabulous meal fit for a king he had rarely had the opportunity of having back at Ros. But, he found himself liking the simplicity of the meal he had in front of him now.

 

 

Somehow, he finds his mind wondering about Ros. What its future would be without an heir set in stone. Without a Queen and ruled by the bastard that was his father. Would his true ruthless side come out now that his stabiliser had disappeared from his side?

 

 

 

He sighs. Ros could go in two directions.
And he was not going to stop it from going downhill or if it sore up. His father would deal with it by himself, paying for his own consequences. He shakes his head and stands with his now empty plate at the same woman from before comes to collect it after bidding goodbye and safe travels with a smile.

 

 

 

And when he makes it outside to grab his horse from the nearby stables, he’s nearly trampled by a burly man running towards him. He leaps out of the way in time to see a crowd of foreign soldiers causing a scene nearby. He frowns and carefully maneuvers closer to the stables not wanting to be involved in the mess. However, he’s startled by the rash grip on his ankle and then he’s being dragged to the ground, into the mess the foreign men had made. He gets back to his feet quicker than the man had expected and shoved his foot into his stomach.

 

 

“What the hell?” Chanhee hisses. “What was that for?”

 

 

“Charmed!” A man shouts out in a hurried shriek. “He’s charmed!” Chanhee gasps at the hands gripping on his waist. He flings backwards, his elbow colliding with a man’s nose and blood spurts out from the impact. “Don’t touch me,” he growls in a warning tone, his eyes narrowing at the large men. He can tell that his eyes had changed, not only because a man had recognised it, but his body suddenly felt stronger, power surging through him that he hadn’t felt in a month.

 


He's suddenly lifted up and roughly turned, a blade pressed to his throat forcing his head to tilt upwards. He's met with a muscled man with a thick beard and armour covering his body, his complexion deathly pale. He gulps carefully yet thickly as he feels the blade press harder to his windpipe. With a grunt from the man, he's pushed backwards, his upper back and skull crashing into the wheel of a nearby wagon. He gasps out, folding his legs to his chest when the man's heavy footsteps grow closer to him. "I haven’t found a little thing like you in a while," He smirks slyly, showing off crooked yellow teeth. Chanhee lets out a small grunt, cringing at the pain spreading over his skull.

 


Without a warning, he pushes out one of his legs, hitting the man in the knee, causing him to fall to the ground. He hurriedly scrambles to his feet, gripping at the nearby wagon for support. "Grab him!" Two armoured men grab him by his shoulders, pulling him to their heavy bodies. The armour digs into his spine uncomfortably as he fights against them. “For fucks sake,” He mutters kicking the wagon in front of him. The men grip onto him tighter, their hands holding onto his forearms.

 

 

“I said do not touch me!” He screeches, ripping himself out of their grasp and he meets one of soldiers eyes with his own. The foreign man fights for consciousness, but he ends up falling back, almost squishing the soldiers behind him.

 

 

He’s about to turn to the other man advancing on him, but a tall man suddenly barges through, knocking the burly man to the ground with a single punch in the face. Chanhee grimaces a little, it sounded like it hurt a lot. “Who are you?” Chanhee demands, facing the man with the beard once more. He takes steps backwards, uncomfortable with the way his eyes raked over his form with a wicked smile on his face. “That should not be your concern now, charmed one.” He purrs back, sending violent shivers down the young prince's spine in a dreadful way. “Did your mentor never teach you to pick your fights? And leave the fights you won’t win alone?” The man scoffs, a gross greasy smile turning up on his chapped lips. “You have your head on high. That’s too bad.”

 

 

 

Chanhee frowns. He doesn’t have time to ponder since an arm is slung around his waist, throwing him off of his feet. He shrieks in shock, his legs kicking in retaliation. He doesn’t get to beat up the man who had manhandled him because as soon as he’s on the ground once more, the man has knocked out the bearded man with a punch to the temple. Chanhee winces. He was not going to remember much, that was for sure.

 

 

The tall man turns, a rather serious look cast over his face. Chanhee thinks he’s handsome, almost impossibly so, but only if it was in a different situation he’d acknowledge it. He’s gripped by his wrist this time, and then he’s being dragged by the mysterious man. He’s suddenly identifying him as the same man that knocked out the other man in front of him. The taller starts to run and Chanhee squawks, smacking at his wist to let him go. “Wait, what the hell? Who are you?” He screams, trying to stop, but the man in front pulls him along and Chanhee knows if he stops he’d go face first into the dirt. “There’s no time for introductions at the moment.” He counters with a strong tone.

 

 

“Would you let go, dear god!”

 

 

He squeals at the sudden halt and without his consent, the taller is gripping his waist and hoisting him up onto a horse that is definitely not his own mare. “What-!” The man jumps behind him and pulls at the reigns, and the horse gallops away at a fast pace as the screaming of commands to ‘capture them’ fades into the distance.

 

 

 

“What is this?” Chanhee turns to be face-to-face with the other male. He’s about to use his charm on him, but he’s stopped by his own shock.

 

 

 

 

The man meets his eyes, lavender orbs gazing into star coloured ones.

 

 

 

 

♔ 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Chanhee stares wide-eyed into the man's eyes. They're the colour of the stars, shining silver with flecks of gold throughout his irises. He can feel is charm calming throughout him as he stares in shock. They stare at each other for a good thirty seconds before Chanhee scowls, remembering where he was and what he’d just done.

 


“Who the hell do you think you are!” He exclaims and the man winces a little. His charm builds up again and he glares at the other, imagining a sharp pain in his head.

 

 

He pauses and after a good twenty seconds, Chanhee leans back in shock before he tries again, this time imaging the feeling of a stricken gut.

 

 

No reaction.

 


What?

 


Chanhee blinks at the man who stares back, just as equally as confused. “Um,” An arrow thrusts itself into a nearby tree. Their heads snap to where it came from. “Oh, for gods sakes!” The taller hisses. Chanhee seizes the reigns from the other's hands and the man behind him lets out a startled grunt as the horse begins to travel faster. Chanhee feels a hand grip at his hip tightly and he hisses, jabbing his elbow backwards which he gains a grunt of pain from. “Mind explaining this mess to me?”

 


“Because this is such a great time to explain? Isn’t it?” The man backfires over the sound of galloping horses. “How about I get us somewhere safe and then I’ll explain everything to you!”

 

 

“Not a chance,” Chanhee hisses. “I am going nowhere with you.”

 

 

“I’m not going to hurt you!” The man chides loudly. “I was trying to help you out!’

 


Chanhee rolls his eyes, breathing in heavily as frustration builds up inside of him, hot and heavy. Maybe it's his confidence talking, but Chanhee feels like he could take this guy on, with his charm or not so he grumbles and hands the reigns over, allowing the other to lead them somewhere safe before he beats his ass.

 

 

It takes them over twenty minutes to reach somewhere safe. The man pulls the reigns, as they enter the next town, and he slips from the horse, clutching tightly at Chanhee's cloak to pull him off in a hurry. “Don’t,” Chanhee spits, his lips pursing at the male's roughness. His hand is gripped and he begins to pull his hand back and his mouth opens to yell at him but his hand doesn’t budge in the man's grip. “Just go with it or we’ll be separated,” He hisses in a mumble. He breaks out into a fast paced step and Chanhee tries to keep up with his ridiculously long legs.

 

They step through the swarm of people, barely missing the citizens out shopping at the stalls. The sudden noise of a cart falling fills Chanhee's ears and he bites his bottom lip, pushing his shorter legs to go faster. “Stop them!” The man with silver eyes begins to pull harder on him as he runs faster. He can hear the men behind them, screeching out and the citizens cry out at the sudden invasion of their peaceful morning.

 


The men bound off their horses as they near them. Chanhee's heart is hurling in his chest as he hears the grunts of the men closing in.

 

Without thinking much and his adrenaline high, Chanhee finds himself clutching harder onto the taller’s hand as he turns around, his other hand reaching up to his shoulder and he pushes his body up. He throws himself back with the momentum he had gained, his hand slipping out of his as his feet fly into two soldiers faces, sending them to the ground.

 


“What the fuck?” The other charmed man screams, hurriedly gripping onto Chanhee's hand again. Chanhee yanks him away, forcing his hand out of his hand before his grip tightens. “No,” Chanhee retorts. “If we keep going they’ll just follow us through and destroy this place.”

 


“Then what do you say we do?” The man spits out in a rush. “Don’t think I didn’t see you back there,” Chanhee grunts as he dodges an oncoming punch. “Fight with me!”

 


Chanhee launches himself into the battle, ducking several attacks and landing his own on the unfortunate foreigners. He can see his new ‘partner’ fighting beside him, sending several men unconscious. Chanhee gapes as he suddenly lifted off the ground and before he can register it, he’s on the ground, his lungs desperate for air. He can’t seem to suck in any air to his lungs and he can barely move, even when the bearded man fills his vision. “Nice to see you again, little one,” Chanhee bears his teeth, and he kicks his legs up, kicking him harshly in the groin. The man groans out, his legs trembling.

 


“You bastard,” Chanhee, gulping for air still rises to his feet and fists at the bearded man sweaty hair and pulls his face up. “Don’t you dare,” He mumbles menacingly with a deep gasp for air. His nimble fingers pull at his thigh, lifting out the blade his mother had given him on his birthday and then it is pressed to the leader's throat, creating a gash in his flesh. He hisses and Chanhee presses it a little harder against this throat. “Call me that.” He pulls back, his foot thudding against his chest harshly and he falls backwards, heaving for air and crying out in pain.

 


Chanhee rolls his eyes and blocks an incoming man with his elbow with a sigh. He knew they were swarming in larger numbers, and his charm is on the edge of exploding and creating a blast. His body is shaking and he grits his teeth to try to keep himself together, yet it rises and rises until a terrifying crack surrounds them and lighting strikes to his right in the middle of a sunny day. Every single man that reaches a certain distance to him either runs in sudden fear or crumbles to the ground in pain, clutching desperately at their heads and crying out in short strangled screams, almost like they’re running out of air.

 

 

“Damn,” The taller whistles, leaning on Chanhee's shoulder. “You’re scary,” Chanhee looks up at him with a snarl after he notices all the other men that he had fought are also on the ground, either knocked out or on the brink of unconsciousness.

 

 

“Let’s go before they get back up,” The other says, pulling on Chanhee's cloak. “You should put it back on,” He realises the other has his own cloak over his head, shielding his mysterious eyes from view. “Right,” Chanhee clears his throat as he throws the hood over his head.

 


“You know,” Chanhee chides slyly. “For someone who’s desperate to fill me in on the situation, you’ve yet to tell me your name.” He knows he hasn’t either, but he can bring that up himself if he wants. Chanhee wasn’t about to just blurt out his own name without trying to figure out the taller first. And, well, as annoying he was with his sudden touches and impromptu decisions, Chanhee felt that he wasn’t out to hurt him, unlike those foreign soldiers.

 


“Oh,” He mumbles as they edge closer to the man's horse.

 


He stands up straighter, a stupid smile curling on his lips. “My name is Seokwoo.” Chanhee hums, looking up to Seokwoo he gives him a sharp look. “Well, Seokwoo, you’ve got some fucking explaining to do.”

 

 

 

Once out of the village, Chanhee is wide-eyed Seokwoo.

 


“They’re capturing charmed ones? How do you know this?” Seokwoo gives him a strange look, one of his brows raised. “They legitimately just tried to kidnap you because your charm surfaced at the wrong time, and you’re asking for proof?” Seokwoo squawks with wide eyes.

 

“It responds to survival instincts, it’s not my fault that my body sensed danger.” Chanhee grits out with a frown. “Come to think of it, your charm was surfaced, too.” He retorts, folding his arms over his chest in defence. “It is most of the time,” Seokwoo grouses, frowning. “I can’t really control it and it doesn’t necessarily have a trigger like yours,” Chanhee breaths in, his arms unfolding as he turns his body to the front once more. “So. Do you have proof?”

 


Seokwoo scoffs. “Because almost getting captured by those fuckers wasn’t enough proof for you? What do you want, to be taken and tested, drained of your blood because of their twisted ways and to be forcibly made to reproduce with other charmed women? Because that sounds great, it’d just love that.” Seokwoo drawls sarcastically.

 


“Fine,” Chanhee huffs. “You don’t have to do rude about it, I was just trying to make a point. What are you going to do about it, storm in and kill them all?”

 

 

“I never said anything about killing anyone,” Seokwoo retorts, sounding accused. “Besides, I have no bloody idea where their hideout is or their Kingdom.”

 

 

Chanhee turns back to Seokwoo, pulling his hood down and frowns. “But, say if you had the information, you’d be up to save them?” Seokwoo nods, removing his own hood, as well. “Of course.” He smirks, the corners of his lips curling up. “And would you be in for the ride?”

 


Chanhee sticks his hand out, allowing it to be engulfed by Seokwoo’s much larger hand in a shake. “It's not like I have anything better to do.” He doesn’t know why he accepts so easily, why he trusts Seokwoo, but something grows in his gut like he has to do this.

 


“May I have the pleasure to know your name, then.”

 

 

“Chanhee.” He reaches his hand out. “Kang Chanhee.” Seokwoo takes his smaller hand in his larger one and gives it a firm shake. “Pleasure to meet you, Kang Chanhee.”

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


“First things,” Chanhee mumbles as he jumps from Seokwoo's horse. “We need to figure out where they’d be hiding, and obviously where they’re from. That’ll help with tracking them down and tearing them to bits.” He says the last part of his sentence with enthusiasm and Seokwoo grimaces as his feet collide with the earth. “Geez,” He winces. “You really are scary.”

 


Chanhee ignores him and wanders into the forest, leaving Seokwoo trailing behind him while he leads the horse behind him. “I believe they’re from the South,” Chanhee declares as the bundles sticks in his arms. “The South?” Seokwoo mumbles, chewing on his lip. “The far South,” Chanhee confirms. “They look like they’ve never seen direct sunlight in their lives. The South is known for its horrible weather. ”

 


“But that would leave us with a few Kingdoms… Denho and Vitri?”

 

“Its rather far from here,” He sighs as he throws his bundle of wood to the ground. “But, I do know I’ve seen their amour somewhere…” Chanhee ponders on the thought while Seokwoo ties the horse to a tree. He sits by his pile of sticks and starts to try to light a fire, but he’s a prince for god's sake. He’s lived in a palace seen he was a toddler and he’s being courted by a king for crying out loud. He has almost zero skills in survival.

 


Of course, he’d known this as he left. But, you know, it wasn’t his original intention to almost get kidnapped and suddenly have a companion in this sudden quest. He was going to have a quiet holiday in throughout different kingdoms. Sunny kingdoms where the winters aren’t bitter and the surroundings aren’t covered in white snow. He wanted to see the sea for once in his life.

 


“Are you confident going South?” Seokwoo questions while peering at the prince. “Dear Lord, what are you trying to do?” Seokwoo snickers at Chanhee who’s trying his best to light a fire, rubbing two sticks together awkwardly.

 

“Lighting a fire,” Chanhee mumbles without looking up. “Come on,” Chanhee whispers under his breath. “I’m sure this is what it said to do in the book…”

 


“Sure. Move. I’ll do it.” Chanhee is nudged away and he decides to set up the bedding for tonight.

 

He, a prince, is about to sleep on the forest floor with a man he just met this morning. Chanhee tenses at the thought. “I wouldn’t recommend going South at this time of the year. The winters are almost unbearable even with the right clothing.”
“You seem accustomed to it. Are you from the Southern area?” Ros is in the far Southern West area, a little off where it was the coldest where it is mostly unoccupied by people. Nomans land. “From the South-West,” He mutters. Looking over, he notices Seokwoo has a fire burning. He presses his lips together and sighs, as Seokwoo smiles at the glowing embers. “I take it you’re not?”

 


Seokwoo laughs, hearty and melodic. “Right. Maybe my handsomeness gave it away—“ Chanhee rolls his eyes “—that I’m a foreigner to cold lands. I am from the east, Roen.”

 


Chanhee hums, eyes twinkling under the golden light from the falling sun. “That is on the sea.”

 


“I’ve seen the sea enough times to last me a lifetime.” Seokwoo chuckles. Brushing his hands across his trousers, he stands back to his full height. “That would be nice. Judging from pictures, of course.”

 


“It’s even more gorgeous in person.” Seokwoo chuckles, helping out with making makeshift bedding. “Maybe if this all goes well, I can take you to Roen before we must part.” Chanhee looks up at the taller. “That is if we're on talking terms by the end of this."

 


Seokwoo breathes out heavily. "I think so."

 


They fall into silence as they work on separate bedding and setting up their area for the oncoming night. “You know,” Seokwoo breaks the silence. “This could be really dangerous.”

 


Chanhee looks up at him with a stoic look. He knows that, of course. Everything has its possibilities of danger, and even though something in his gut is twinging with caution, he believes it’s just his anxiety attacking him once again. But he’d get something out of this, right. Worth? He’s never had that before. Maybe even acceptance or it might just be a chance to prove himself. That he’s not a weakling just because he’s a bearer.

 


His stomach suddenly drops.

 


If Seokwoo were to find out that he is a bearer, maybe this opportunity to show everyone that he isn’t what they think he his will be thrown out the window. Chanhee can’t say how he’d react.

 


He could discriminate him like he’s been before. Call him a whore like his father and be a disappointment like he was to his people. He might suddenly think he’s weak and get in the way to try and protect him. Chanhee gulps.

 


He can’t have that.

 


He was going to do this no matter what. He is capable and he needs to show them that he is.
“I get that,” Chanhee mutters, averting his gaze to the setting sun through the trees. “You’re okay with it?” Seokwoo nudges and Chanhee sighs. “I’ve been training since I was seven winters, I’m confident.”


“Since you were seven!” Seokwoo exclaims in shock. He almost drops the pile of twigs in his large arms. “Yeah,” Chanhee himself is startled by Seokwoo's reaction. “Is that not normal?”

 

Seokwoo splutters. “Well, I mean most seven-year-olds still follow their mothers around like ducklings, and you picked up weapons and trained?”

 


Chanhee blinks. “I wanted to.” He defends himself with a glare. “Mother took a little longer to convince but father agreed almost immediately.” When he was seven, he had still followed Jiyeon closely, always tugging on her gowns and playing with her skirts in the halls as she walked. But, he had a strong desire since he was small to protect. Something urging him, pulling him towards it. Perhaps his unconscious already knew he didn’t belong.

 


“How many winters are you now? I am twenty-one summers, myself.” Seokwoo questions as he settles down on one of the makeshift beds. He drapes his cloak over his body tightly and fiddles through a satchel by his side.

 


“Nineteen,” He answers quickly. “You’ve been training for twelve years?” Seokwoo’s jaw drops and Chanhee nods curtly. He honestly hadn’t counted the years and he was surprised to how long he had been training. “Wow,” Seokwoo laughs out. “No wonder why you’re so terrifying. You know, it kind of makes me feel better now. Before I was worried I’d have to watch out for you, but maybe you’re going to have to watch out for me.”

 


He breathes heavy. “Maybe.”

 

 

Just maybe he can prove them all wrong.

 

 

 


♔ 

 

 

 

 


He’s really annoyed. Really annoyed.

 


It’s been two days since he started travelling with Seokwoo and he swears he’s never been this irritated in his nineteen years of life.

 

Seokwoo is humming under his breath while he places his hands unnecessarily close to Chanhee's hips, the tips of his rough fingers brushing past gently as Seokwoo's mare, namely Cedar trods along. He has the sudden urge to turn around and elbow him in the nose. “Would you shut up! And stop touching me!” He finally snaps, gripping Seokwoo’s hands, digging in his nails harshly until Seokwoo swipes them away with a huff. “God, please just stop,” Chanhee mutters, pulling his hands back to Cedar’s reigns.

 

“I..Sorry,” Seokwoo murmurs, his hands dropping to his sides as he pouts.

 


Chanhee sighs, dropping the reigns in his hands to give Cedar a pat on her head. “I’m sorry,” He apologises softly. “I didn’t mean to snap…” Seokwoo's small pout ceases and a smile forms on his lips. “It’s okay, I guess I was annoying.”

 


“No, it’s not you... I'm just... nevermind. It's nothing anyway.” Except it is. He’s been through a lot this past month and a bit. He’s lost his mother, his own father who had exiled him from his kingdom is also gone and the king that is so caught up on courting him, wanting to marry him has now come to a barricade yet he still tries so hard. He has no home, and his heart is shattered.

 


He had known for the longest time that he didn’t belong as the Prince of Ros. And now that that title has been removed from him, he had thought perhaps he’d belong with Youngbin. But he doesn’t. He’s a king and he’s no one.

 


Maybe he just doesn’t belong anywhere.

 

 

“Oh,” Seokwoo mutters. “I mean if there’s anything I can do…”

 


He turns and Seokwoo flashes him a grin. Stupid Seokwoo and his stupid nice smile. Seokwoo's smile falls after he sees Chanhee's scowl. “Hey, seriously what’s wrong? I could help—“

 


“You can’t!” Chanhee cries, his fists balling and they slam down on his thighs. “You can’t,” He mutters, a deep set frown appearing on his face. “I’m sorry,” Chanhee whispers and Seokwoo watches with wide eyes as Chanhee jumps off Cedar and storms off to the right to a nearby inn.

 

 

Seokwoo frowns deeply, his lips pressing together in a fine line as Chanhee disappears into the building. He grips the reigns in his hands and nudges his mare, edging her to walk forwards, towards the inn.

 

 

 

 

 


Chanhee gasps. His whole body is trembling out of control.

 


Goddammit.


His hands grasp onto his fingers. The ground sways at his feet and he falls to the floor with a thud and a heave for air.

 

He knew it. He knew he’d get worked up to the point of an attack, yet he allowed himself to and now he’s facing the consequences. And oh god, what does he do?

 


Juho had always been there by his side, encouraging him to breathe in and out, his hands steadying him up, allowing the prince to lean on his chest as he calmed him down before he reached this point.

 


He doesn’t know what to do.

 


His eyes snap shut, a strangled whimper escaping his lips as he drags his body across the ground, desperately trying to get to the bed to steady himself against.

 


He hates it. He feels weak and vulnerable, everything he’s afraid to be. He can’t be like this, he has to be strong. He has to be.

 


It takes him serval minutes until he stops shaking and he finally feels like he can breathe. It felt like it took hours, yet now Seokwoo was knocking on the door, asking for entry.
He swallows hard, his hands clasped tightly together as he fiddles with his fingers.

 


“Okay,” He croaks out.

 


The taller pokes his head in, looking at him with curious eyes. “Are you okay? The woman told me you were a little out of it…”

 


“I’m fine,” he spits out quickly without a thought.

 

He wasn’t. God no, he’d just had an anxiety attack on the ground in an inn somewhere on near the borders of Idris and Yren. But he wasn't about to tell Seokwoo that. “Okay…” Seokwoo looks away from him with wavering eyes and Chanhee instantly feels guilty. “I’ll go and get us some food, then,”

 


Chanhee gives him a curt nod, refusing to meet his eyes.

 


He feels terrible. He ignores and is blankly rude to Seokwoo who tries so hard to make him comfortable, yet he won’t accept any of his actions, stirred up from the previous events of his life that he shouldn’t be taking out on the elder charmed one. “This is ridiculous,” he hisses under his breath. He holds his head with his hands and he wants so badly to cry out in frustration.

 


He sniffs as he hears a thud and then another and suddenly there’s screaming.

 


He perks up, rising to his feet spontaneously, his eyes flashing lavender as he slams the door open. Chanhee flies down the stairs, his face twisted in an expression of concern and when he's on the last step, his arm is gripped. Seokwoo hisses, kicking at a soldier nearing them. “For fucks sake,” Chanhee mutters moving away quickly as he notices one of the men throwing a wooden chair in their direction.

 


He shoots a look to Seokwoo who face is stoic, something he’s not completely used to. He usually has that dumb, stupid handsome smile on his face. His eyes are now shining silver, anger evident on his face from the scowl. “Who are you?” Chanhee cries out, dodging a punch. He lands a hit on the man.

 


His wrist is gripped and he’s thrown into a wall. Hard. His eyes burn suddenly at the light and he blinks slowly for a few seconds before he sees the mans face up close, his body suddenly pressing against his. Chanhee, wide-eyed gasps, alerting Seokwoo across the room. “Chanhee?” The elder roars, tearing down several soldiers in his path.

 


He's panicking. Dear god if he touches him he might cry out.

 


The soldier's hands start to wander and Chanhee lets out a choked cry as his hip is firmly grasped. “We don’t see many of you around,” Chanhee closes his eyes and holds his breath. He can smell his foul breath and feel it against his neck, dear god he hates it. His own hands drop down, grasping something cool and hard. “Charmed and a bearer,” The man whistles. “Boss will b—“

 


Chanhee pulls the blade strapped to his thigh and shoves it deep into his stomach. The man falls back as Chanhee yanks the blade out.

 

 

“I thought it would be a nice gift.

Not that I want you to have to use it, of course.

But I thought it would help you remember who you are.”

 

He trembles, his hands shaking yet he still clutches desperately onto the dagger. The man falls back howling out in pain. He’ll live, he hadn’t stabbed him anywhere important, yet he’ll be sore and useless for a while. His right hand is covered in a thin layer of blood and he suddenly feels like he’s going back to that night where he was covered in blood, his mother slipping through his fingers like running water.

 

 

Seokwoo grabs him by his waist and hauls him out of the inn before he’s toppled over retching. Seokwoo stands back, shocked. He shakes himself out of it and rushes over to the smaller heaving. He pulls back the cloak and runs one of his hands across Chanhee's back.

 

 

Chanhee meet his gaze, a disoriented look on his face.

 


The ground is swirling behind Seokwoo and he thinks he’ll be swallowed up by the sudden chasm.
He loses his strength in his body as he falls into the looming darkness, his grip loosening around the glass hilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seokwoo perks up as he nears shifting sheets. Chanhee groans out, clutching at his head. “How do you feel?” Seokwoo questions gently, helping the smaller to sit up. “I… um I passed out?” Seokwoo nods as he offers water to him. “It’s been a while, I was about to call the towns local doctor if you didn’t wake up in ten minutes.”

 


“Oh,” Says Chanhee, sipping at the water he accepted. Seokwoo flashes a smile, hoping to ease the tension. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you,”

 


“It’s fine,” Chanhee grumbles, looking around. “Um, besides where are we?”
Seokwoo breathes deeply. “Still in Idris. I couldn’t just take you back to the other inn so I went on and stopped at the first inn I saw. You know, you’re terribly light, I think you should be eating more.”

 


“Seokwoo,” He frowns, shaking his head. “We are limited to what we can get in the middle of nowhere and I am not a twig, I won’t snap in half if that’s what you’re afraid of,”

 


“No, but I thought you’d be heavier for reasons. You can fight and knock men to the ground with a single kick. It makes me wonder what you’re charm is.”

 


“You’re not the only one.” Chanhee snaps back. “Besides, my charm doesn’t work on you.”

 

 

“Woah, really?” Seokwoo says excitedly. “What is it? Are you sure it doesn’t work?”

 


“If it worked, you’d be dead by now,” Chanhee assures and Seokwoo gulps, leaning away from the scowling younger. “Right,” Seokwoo presses on, “What is it?’

 


“Pain? I’m genuinely not too sure, but I know what I can do.”

 


“Like what?” Seokwoo presses on, intrigued. Chanhee grumbles under his breath and looks at him in the eyes. The elder's eyes are still silver. “It’s complicated.” Chanhee shrugs him off. “Well if you’re going to be so secretive, I’ll tell you about mine.”

 


Chanhee pulls his body out of the bed, wobbling slightly on his feet. Seokwoo grips onto his arm to steady him, but he rips his arm from his hold and holds onto the bed frame. “I’m like a rock.”

 


Chanhee stifles a snort.

 


“No seriously!” Seokwoo exclaims, scrambling around to meet the younger’s gaze. “Fighting is natural for me.”

 


“Good for you,” Chanhee says as he spots his bag across the room. Seokwoo notices and passes it to him, showing his glowing smile. “So you’re charmed with fighting?”

 


“No,” Seokwoo shakes his head. “I’m charmed with strength. It was a shock to my mother when my charm surfaced for the first time when I was a baby.”

 

“A baby?” Chanhee frowns, hands deep into his bag. “I didn’t know charms could surface so young.” Seokwoo hums just as Chanhee takes out a few coins in his palm from his bag. “Really? Did your charm not surface until later?”

 


Chanhee's eyes narrow. He was two, almost three when he was adopted and he knew his charm was surfaced then. It was one of the reasons Jiyeon had taken him as her own. But he only has a small memory before that, and he couldn’t tell if his charm was surfaced then. All he remembers is him stumbling through a forest, someone or something chasing him.

 


“I don’t know my birth parents,” He says calmly. He wasn’t sensitive about admitting that. Everyone had known in Ros and he loved Jiyeon to bits like she was his own birth mother. “Oh,” Seokwoo clicks his tongue. “So you don’t know when it surfaced?”

 


“Nope,” Chanhee gestures for Seokwoo to stand. The tall man stands and Chanhee admits he’s still a little stunned about how tall he actually is. “Are you sure you’re okay, though? You gave me a little bit of a scare when you blacked out…”

 


“I’m fine,” Chanhee says quickly. “It was just a little bit…” He breathes in deeply. “I just panicked.”

 


“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise they had followed us…” Seokwoo’s tone is lingering on sadness and Chanhee grins awkwardly. “You’re feeling up to travel again?” Seokwoo verifies as they exit the room. “I’ll be fine,” Chanhee says. “You should worry about yourself.”

 


“I have nothing to worry about,” Seokwoo shoots out. “Except you. You worry me.” Chanhee exhales. He can’t win with Seokwoo, no matter how hard he tries. He stands his ground firmly like a natural king. Something Chanhee isn’t.

 


“Whatever,” Chanhee grunts, making a beeline to the exit. Seokwoo bows to the innkeeper and gives his thanks to him before he scurries after Chanhee.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“It’s getting dark,” Seokwoo comments with a frown. “I can see that.”


“Should we stop. then?”


“It’s the middle of nowhere, Seokwoo.” Chanhee huffs with annoyance. “But it’s going to be even colder soon, I’m not used to these freezing temperatures!” Chanhee sighs, throwing his head back in exasperation. Seokwoo leans forward and Chanhee whips his head around to face the elder with a frown on his face. Seokwoo whines, “It’s cold and you’re warm!”

 

“Don’t touch me!” Chanhee hisses, placing a hand on the elder's hard chest to push him away. “Chanhee,” He whines. “Fine!” Chanhee yells out in annoyance. “We’ll stop at the next inn.”


“But I’m cold now,”“Seriously?” Chanhee spits out. “You’re like a child. Suck it up or walk, I don’t care.”


“This is my horse?” Seokwoo reminds with a huff.


“You’re the one who said our stuff is each other's now,” Chanhee fires back and Seokwoo groans out. “You’re ruthless,” Seokwoo folds his arms over his chest, rubbing his hands across his covered arms. “Fine,” Chanhee mumbles. Seokwoo lets out a pleased noise. “But! You must let go when I tell you.”

 

“I will,” Seokwoo mutters as he drops his head to Chanhee's shoulder. The younger tenses slightly when the elder’s arms wrap around his middle, his hands burrowing in his cloak.

 

It’s distracting to have a grown man plastered to his body as he guides Cedar throughout Yren’s outskirts. They had reached Yren in the early morning after two days of travel. Seokwoo had been overjoyed at the time, and Chanhee just wished he could be having a warm bath instead of out in the cold with a whiny man beside him.


Seokwoo doesn’t speak much now and Chanhee's rather glad. He was doing his head in before. But his fingers are trailing over his lower abdomen, and little tingles fly up in his stomach every time he moves his rough fingertips over his clothed skin. He doesn’t say anything and soon enough his back is killing him from his tenseness. Seokwoo can tell and his palm presses harder onto Chanhee's stomach. “Don’t be so tense. We’re just keeping ourselves warm.” Chanhee scoffs under his breath, but he eventually complies, his back hitting Seokwoo's hard chest. “See? Better, huh?”

 

“Just shut up.”

 

 

Seokwoo groans out and Chanhee flinches at the sudden sound. “An inn,” He points a finger in his sleepy daze. Chanhee blinks and follows his finger and he lets out a sigh at the several wooden cabins closely huddled together in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing else here but trees and “It looks full,” Chanhee mutters as he eyes the serval cabins with lamps lit. “We can just try, I’m sure there’ll be something.”


“Okay,”


Seokwoo jumps down from Cedar first, handing out a hand to Chanhee which he ignores blankly. “Hey,” Seokwoo grumbles. “I'm trying to help you,”


“I'm fine,” Chanhee hisses as he carefully slides down Cedar.


Cedar is a large mare. She had to be if she was Seokwoo's own horse. He was massive so it only made sense that he’d have such a large horse, but it was a slight problem for Chanhee considering he was quite a bit shorter than Seokwoo. However, Chanhee was not about to let the elder help him, he is able to get off a horse, even if he’s slightly scared of the height.


As they enter the inn, Seokwoo moans out at the folding warmth surrounding them. “Thank the gods,” He whispers with a blissful smile across his lips. Chanhee follows the elder to the front desk. “There’s only a room left.”


His stomach drops and he presses his lips together. “That’s fine,” Seokwoo hands over the right amount of coins over to the woman who hands him a key in exchange. “If you walk out that door, your room is on the first left. We can send you some food if you’d like? Free of charge, you both look like you’ve been travelling for a while.”


“You don’t have to,” Seokwoo flashes her a nervous smile but she waves him off. “Nonsense!” She exclaims with a beaming smile. “Go in and rest, I’ll be there soon with your meals.”


Seokwoo turns to meet Chanhee's gaze. The younger is starting up at him with a judging look. “We could’ve gone to another inn.”


“You’re acting as if we haven’t slept in close proximity for a whole week. Don’t worry, I’m not going to murder you in your sleep.”


Chanhee huffs and turns on his heels. He opens the back door and hesitates when the bitter cold hits his cheeks. Seokwoo shakes his head and steps out, pushing the young prince outside. “Give me the key,” Seokwoo does and then Chanhee's running across the slippery ground covered in a sheet of thin ice. Seokwoo takes a step forward and slips a little bit. “How the hell?” He mutters, wide-eyed when Chanhee slams the chain door shut behind him.

 

 

Chanhee drops his bag to the ground. Seokwoo comes bounding into the cabin, bashing into Chanhee as he lets out a yelp. They both fall to the ground. “What the fuck, Seokwoo?” Chanhee hisses. He had landed on his bottom while Seokwoo fell to his knees in front of him. “Sorry,” He gingerly offers a hand to the younger and pulls him up with himself.

 

“There’s only one bed,” Seokwoo observes as he looks around the room.


“I’d rather sleep in the stables with Cedar.” Seokwoo turns to the younger and frowns. “I’m offended.” He complains in a slight whine.


“Look,” Seokwoo hops onto the bed and Chanhee rolls his eyes. His feet hang off the end of the bed. “I’ll stay on this side and you stay on this side. Problem solved.”


“You don’t even fit.” Chanhee points out with a sigh with a shake of his head. “I’m going to wash up, you should try to figure out a route for us to take tomorrow.”

 

Seokwoo frowns as his finger drags across the map. They’d have to cross trough, Lux. Lux is known for its strange King. Seokwoo had heard stories of him, but he’d never been to Lux nor personally meet the king, of course.


Seokwoo shrugs, he’s sure he and Chanhee will be safe going through the strange king's kingdom. Chanhee was capable and he is confident in his charm to keep him safe even if they bumped into anything suspicious or remotely dangerous. He draws a line with the pencil in from Chanhee's satchel from the border of Yren, through the main towns and to the outskirts to where Lux’s borders would be. “Should we go to Denho or Vitri?”


“Denho,” Chanhee says as he appears in the doorway covered in a warm looking doublet and trousers. “Denho is closer. We’ll get information on our way where to go. We could end up anywhere, it's not set in stone that we’ll have to go to Denho or Virtri for the matter.”


“Right,” Seokwoo agrees, packing away the pencil and the map of the land back into the Youngers satchel. He leans back after he tosses the bag across the room. “Go wash up. You are not getting into bed unless you are clean.” Chanhee orders with narrow eyes. He points to the entryway behind him. “Hurry while the water is still warm,” Seokwoo grumbles, but hauls himself up anyway and drags himself to where Chanhee is pointing. Chanhee frowns, a hand grabbing his abdomen when a small pain pangs through.

 

Chanhee jumps, his dagger falling from his hands from where he was examining it. He wasn’t ready for the sudden bang of the doors hinges as it opened and a plump lady with a cart with two plates wandered in with a large smile on her face. Seokwoo, too, who had just finished washing up, standing in the doorway that jumped, his old shirt falling from his hands. “Good evening young men!” She cries cheerily and Chanhee grimaces and sends a nervous look to Seokwoo.

 

“Good evening,” Seokwoo replies with one of those stupid smiles. She laughs with an added scream while fanning her cheeks before she pushes the cart towards Seokwoo. “Have a good night! Don’t have too much fun!” She sings as she nears the door. “Sheets are hard to clean in this weather.”


Seokwoo's jaw drops just as she closes the door behind her and Chanhee shivers at the meaning behind her words.


“What,” Seokwoo mutters under his breath. He glances over at Chanhee who’s seated on the bed, then eyes the bed.

 

 

 

“You’re too close,” Chanhee grumbles, punching Seokwoo's chest lightly. “I am not,” Seokwoo scoffs back. Through the dark, he can see Chanhee's brows furrow together. “I’ll fall off if I move any further!”


“Good!” Chanhee hisses. “Then I won’t have to deal with yo— get your hands off me.”


“No,” Seokwoo huffs, shuffling closer towards Chanhee's warmth.


Chanhee slaps Seokwoo's hands away from his waist and grumbles. “Here,” he says, sitting up and throwing the pillow from the small armchair in the corner of the tiny room on the bed. “That’s your side, this is my side,” Chanhee points to where he’s laid. “Go over the pillow and I will throw you out in the stables instead.”

 

He can see Seokwoo starting to complain, but Chanhee shakes his head. “Just sleep. It’s been a long journey and it’s only going to get bigger.” Seokwoo sighs and he doesn’t speak or complain anymore and only when Chanhee can hear his breathing even out, he allows himself to slip into the calming lull of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chanhee would like to lie and say this was the worse sleep he’s ever had in his life, but, really, he hasn’t slept this well since Jiyeon was still around to coax him into a gentle sleep with her motherly touches.


He cracks an eye open and Seokwoo’s face is right there.


He then realises that there’s a large, warm hand spread over his right hip and another tucked beneath his head, cradling his skull gently. Chanhee tenses and tries to wriggle away, but Seokwoo whines in his sleep and pulls Chanhee closer who yelps in shock. Chanhee reaches a hand up and slaps Seokwoo who growls and awakes with an annoyed glint in his eyes.


“Let go of me,” Chanhee warns lowly with narrow eyes.


Seokwoo then smiles, cheeky and boyish. Chanhee struggles in his grip, but as Seokwoo had said before, he’s like a rock, he can't get out of his hold.


“Sorry,” Seokwoo apologises, pulling his body away from Chanhee’s and only then does Chanhee realise that it’s not as warm away from the elder.


Chanhee shrugs him off with a small glare.


“Let’s just get moving. I want to get to the main town soon so we can find someone to help us.” Chanhee mutters as he hauls himself out of the warm covers.


Seokwoo hums in agreement, still half asleep

 

 

 


After a few hours on the roads to the town, they finally enter and Chanhee looks around with curiosity. Children are scrambling by his feet and squealing over Cedar who is being led by Seokwoo and asking excitedly if they could give her a pat.


A genuine smile blossoms on Chanhee's face for the first time in the week that they’ve been travelling together and Seokwoo briefly stops to admire the younger, the child he’s holding up to Cedar’s face dangling in his strong arms while she squeals happily at the mare. Throughout all this time, he’d never really gotten a smile from the younger, it was usually a scowl which seemed to permanently take over his soft features.


Chanhee looks back to him, and to his surprise, his blooming smile doesn’t droop from his petal lips. His large eyes are inky and dark and maybe if he looked hard enough he’d find stars in them, cheeks dusted in pink and Seokwoo momentarily gapes.


“You can find out where to get us help, right?” He says. It’s lighter, happier and Seokwoo finds himself nodding, placing the little girl back to the ground at his feet. “I’ll come find you once I find something…” Seokwoo drawls calmly and Chanhee nods, still smiling.


“Okay,”

 

Chanhee is left with Cedar and serval excited children swarming around him. “Mister!” A little girl yells, hugging at his legs until he bends down and she grabs onto his hand with a bright smile. She giggles, “You’re pretty.” Chanhee smiles wider and she claps her hands happily. “Thank you! You’re pretty, too!” She nods her head confidently and Chanhee then stands and waves bye to the kids before he heads off to the markets he can see ahead.

 

 

Seokwoo isn’t having much luck.


He’s tried two buildings so far and all he’s gotten is women hanging off of him, and as much as he secretly enjoys it, he’s got other things, more important things to do. He looks ahead and he sees what he thinks is a library. He strides over and walks in almost gingerly, curious to whether he could find help in here. Books are piled up high in bookshelves sorted in isles in the building, and from what he can see, a staircase leads up to an overcrowded study with a single old man sitting at the cramped desk.


“Hello?” Seokwoo calls gently and the old man peers up from his mountain of books. “Oh, young man, I do not believe I have met you before.” He gestures for Seokwoo to come up and the charmed one does, not as hesitant as he was before. “No,” Seokwoo says. “You probably have not. But I have a few questions if that’s okay with you?”

 

 

Chanhee ends up picking a few fresh apples from a man who had given him them half price because he’s ‘pretty’. Chanhee smiles awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot. “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to make you feel uncomfortable. Bearers are more common in this Kingdom than anywhere else, I shouldn’t have made assumptions.”


“Common?” Chanhee replies, curiosity taking over him. “Of course! Most of the bearers from Lux come here with their families or just themselves. Lux actually has the most birth rates of bearers, but here in Yren they are accepted and safe.”


“Lux?” Chanhee screws his nose up, eyebrows furrowed. “What’s wrong with Lux? My partner and I are travelling through Lux soon.”


“You don’t know?” The man says wide-eyed and Chanhee hesitantly shakes his head. “I don’t,”


“The King of Lux is insane,” he leans in a little closer, and whispers. “He was to wed a bearer a decade ago, but he gave birth to another mans baby and he’s held a grudge and now Lux either slaughters bearers or are forced into prostitution.” Chanhee leans back with raised brows. “You cannot go through Lux,” The man says hurriedly, looking awfully worried for Chanhee. “I never said I was a bearer.” Chanhee reminds firmly. “You are. It’s awfully noticeable.”


Chanhee freezes for a good few seconds. “Really?” He mutters but then he snaps himself out of it. There are more important matters to tend to at the moment.

 

 

 


“Denho?” The old man muses. “I wouldn’t doubt it. Their king is heartless and as cold as the weather they have.”

Seokwoo bites his lip in thought. “Vitri… they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The Queen rules rather peacefully over there…”


The old man perks up and smiles slyly. “You sure know a lot about the Kingdoms, young man.”

Seokwoo looks into his eyes and smirks. “I’ve got to.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“We can’t go through Lux,” Chanhee states strongly, almost like a demand.


“What?” Seokwoo frowns. “There’s legitimately no other way to Denho except for this way.” Chanhee stops in his tracks and shakes his head and then turns swiftly to face the taller. “The King,” he begins to say and Seokwoo frowns. “I’ve heard stories of what he does and—“ He stops himself briefly, his arms involuntarily circling around his lower abdomen. “It’s dangerous.”


“You’re such a pessimist. I told you that before we left.” Seokwoo counters, his own glare appearing for the first time. His voice is sterner and Chanhee panics a little bit. “You agreed, Chanhee. I warned you this could be dangerous, so suck it up and get moving.”


Chanhee's jaw drops. “Excuse me?” Seokwoo had never been rude to him before, or stern for the matter. But Chanhee finds himself frowning deeply, slightly dumbfounded.


What the fuck does he do then? If it’s so obvious that he’s a bearer — but he’s sure that Seokwoo has no idea — he’s still rather frightened that he’ll be outed and then it’d be over, done.

“Get moving. We do have a goal and we can’t sit around and complain when there are people that need help out there.”

“I get that.” Chanhee mumbles, returning his glare. He’s not afraid of being captured, there’s no way. He’s charmed and he can take care of himself.


“Then go,” Seokwoo growls, climbing up onto Cedar.


Chanhee's eyes waver and he swallows thickly. “Fine,” Chanhee grits out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He had known, of course, for a while now.

 

But he had least expected to wake up in the middle of the night to a rippling pain throughout his abdomen. “Fuck,” he mutters, picking himself up from the forest floor. They had made it out of the town and found a forest to set up camp for the night. The fire is still crackling, warming them in the freezing night, but Chanhee feels like he’s on fire. He’s sweating and, hesitantly he reaches a hand up his shirt to and feels his swelling chest. he lets out a quiet groan of distaste.


He wanders a little from the fire, the heat makes him feel nauseous and gross. He had felt the beginnings of the cramps for days now, but he had tried to ignore it for as long as possible.

 


He squeezes his eyes shut and winces. He had packed for this, of course, but like an idiot, he had forgotten the medication the royal physician had him on since he was fourteen. He breathes deeply as he digs through his bag looking for his cotton rags.

 

He hadn’t gone through an unmedicated cleanse after his first three when he was fourteen now as he’s nineteen and his body hadn’t forgotten what pain to put him through.


He returns to the place where he was sleeping after fixing himself and he lays awake, nervously chewing on his lip. Seokwoo is passed out beside him, dead asleep. He decides to try to sleep and once he shuts his eyes, he falls.

 

 


It doesn’t last long. He woke up at least an hour later as a practically hard cramp enlightens in his abdomen he whimpers and curls into himself more, involuntarily huddling to Seokwoo's broad back. The elder blinks himself awake and Chanhee hides his face in his hands while he moans out in pain quietly.


Seokwoo turns to the younger half awake and raises his eyebrows. “Are you crying?” His voice is husky and deep, thick with sleep and Chanhee whines in response. Seokwoo slowly sits up, a confused look on his face until he scoffs, running a hand through his brown locks. “Chanhee?”


He pulls the younger’s hands from his face and Seokwoo grows slightly more concerned. “I’m sorry,” He instantly says. “If I upset you, I didn’t mean to, but I did mean what I said!” Only Chanhee doesn’t answer again and Seokwoo lays back down beside the younger. Chanhee whines and a hand grasps at his abdomen.


“Woah, Chanhee shit are you okay?” Chanhee opens his tightly shut eyes to look at the elder with his glassy orbs. His lower lip juts out and he shakily grips onto Seokwoo's cotton shirt. Seokwoo freezes, shocked as the younger curls towards his warmth, burying his head to his chest and clinging tightly to his clothing. As far as Seokwoo had known, Chanhee was cold and hard to crack. Hell, he had only smiled today for the first time in a week. But now he’s whimpering softly, almost inaudible and clutching onto his shirt while cuddling close to his body. Seokwoo is speechless. They’d been travelling together for a good week and a bit and Chanhee had barely touched him, he usually avoided contact at all costs.


Chanhee’s body jerks forward as he lets out another groan, pressing his chest flat against Seokwoo’s. The elder’s eyes widen as he discovers what was going on.


“Chanhee?” He hesitantly says and Chanhee flinches back, realising what he had done.

 
No.

 

“Are you a bearer?”

 


Chanhee’s sniffs and Seokwoo lays there, waiting for Chanhee to get himself together. Chanhee is quiet, but he nods short and curtly and Seokwoo hums. “You didn’t want to tell me yet?”

 


“I never was going to tell you,” Chanhee ends up whispering hoarsely. “Why?” Seokwoo's brows are furrowed and his silver eyes have a pained look in them. “Do you really hate me that much?”

 


“No,” Chanhee defends, folding his arms over his chest when Seokwoo's eyes fall from his eyes. “I don’t… it’s just…”

 


Seokwoo shrugs, rolling over onto his back. “I really don’t have a problem with it. I mean, I have an older sister back home. Not that you are a woman,” he hurriedly adds. “But I get it.”

 


Chanhee mopes as another pain comes along and this time, Seokwoo reaches his hand out and looks him in the eyes, asking for permission silently. Chanhee nods and then his large hand is sprawled over his abdomen, rubbing slowly.

 


“I… everyone looks down on me,” He mutters quietly, hesitant to tell Seokwoo why. He doesn’t know why he feels like he has to, but something tells him that Seokwoo deserves to know. Maybe because he hasn’t called him out as a whore like his father, or a monstrosity like what his people thought he was. “My mother was the only one who loved me for everything I am.”

 


“Was?”

 


That hurts more than what Chanhee would like to admit. He hated thinking about Jiyeon it hurt him so much that his heart physically ached and he’s reminded how much of a failure that he is. He failed to see the arrow headed towards her and goddamn he knows he could’ve stopped her from getting hit. He knows he could’ve.

 


Then his father had hurt him past his breaking point and he thinks he’ll never get over it. Where did he go wrong? Just where? He never loved him whereas Chanhee had done everything in his power to try to gain his approval, but he always came back empty-handed and on that late Autumn day where he had lost his only true supporter, that was the day when he realised his heart, too was empty.

 


If his mother were here she’d hold him before pulling away and whisper things to him about how strong he is and how beautiful his soul is. But she’s not and it hurts so bad.

 


“In the Autumn,” Chanhee says quietly. “I lost her.”

 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Chanhee… I’m sure she was wonderful.”

 


Chanhee's throat constricts as he forces a sob back down. “The most,” Chanhee confirms with a shake in his usually strong voice.

 


“My father disowned me not long after her death.” He continues and he doesn’t know why he does. But Seokwoo listens as he rubs his tummy and he finds it comforting, in a way. “He tried times before but my mother had more power than anyone else over him.”


Kiwoon was smitten. It was so obvious, just like how Youngbin cannot hide his adoration towards Chanhee. He couldn’t ever say no to her and did everything in her favour except that one night where he stormed in and then everything had disappeared as a consequence. Jiyeon was the Queen and she ruled over Kiwoon. He’d never admit it but his wife was the only thing to keep him steady. And now that she’s gone. Chanhee had seen first hand to what he’s like without her, and it’s terrifying.

 

 

“It must’ve hurt a lot,” Seokwoo murmurs and Chanhee smiles faintly through his teary eyes and nods. “It does.”

 

 

“I think you’re really strong, Chanhee,” Seokwoo utters in a small voice and Chanhee sniffs away his tears. “You’re really brave to tell me that.”

 


“Really?”

 


“Really. Thank you, Chanhee.”

 


“Thank you, too. For listening.”

 


And for the first time in a while Chanhee genuinely means it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Seokwoo holds onto Chanhee as the mare trots ahead. The younger is knocked out cold, his back pressed against Seokwoo’s broad chest and his head tucked underneath his chin securely. Seokwoo is sure if he woke up he’d frantically move from the rather intimate position, but he’s exhausted at the moment, so Seokwoo deems it safe and holds onto the young bearer.

 

It hurts Seokwoo a bit that Chanhee had instantly judged him and not told him about being a bearer, but he thinks it doesn’t really matter if he is or not. It just means he can bear children, that’s it. It doesn’t make him any weaker in his opinion, but maybe Chanhee thought he’d have a different opinion on it.

 

Back in his own kingdom, Ros, bearers were basically nonexistent nowadays. The last couple of generations, bearers hadn’t been born like they were a few generations ago. His own great-grandfather was a bearer and gave birth to Seokwoo’s grandfather.

 

But Seokwoo doesn’t know half of Chanhee’s story. His mother’s death had obviously affected him a lot and the way he spoke of people not being accepting and how he said that his mother was his only true supporter.


And why his father disowned him.


Chanhee has clearly gone through things that make him what he is. Closed off and struggling with keeping his emotions at bay. Seokwoo understands that. He does, but he wants Chanhee to trust him, to talk to him, because, for some reason, Seokwoo feels like he can help him. He wants to help him and maybe, if he keeps trying with the younger, he will grow to trust him and lean on him, confide in him instead of storming off and remaining a hidden mystery from the elder charmed one. Seokwoo means what he said before, he doesn’t have too many worries, but Chanhee is certainly one of them.


Seokwoo sighs, his fingertips grazing over the soft fabric covering Chanhee's side.


He’ll come around one day, Seokwoo knows it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing Chanhee notices when he wakes up is the hands gripping at his body tenderly, softly. “Seokwoo?” The mentioned male hums and Chanhee then feels the pain through his hips, spreading up his back and he muffles a cry by shoving his sleeve into his mouth. Seokwoo gently places his feet on the ground and Chanhee grips out to the elder, grasping his cloak in his hands as his legs almost give out underneath him. “Woah,” Seokwoo hastily grabs onto the younger’s cloak and holds him close. Chanhee grits out in pain and gingerly tries to place his weight back on his own two feet, but it hurts, probably from the position he was sitting on Cedar for a long period of time and he falls forward, crashing against Seokwoo's sturdy chest. His hips feel like they’re seized up and awfully tight.

 

“My hips,” he grits out through his teeth. “It hurts.”
Seokwoo’s face visibly softens and Chanhee turns his face away from the elder's view in embarrassment. “Where are we?” He murmurs lowly just as Seokwoo bends slightly and without a warning, presses him up against his side, holding him with his arms. Chanhee squawks out in surprise, but he doesn’t fight and Seokwoo smiles widely at the younger’s antics. “Yren castle town. The castle is just over there,” Seokwoo informs as he gestures with his head and Chanhee follows, his eyes landing on the familiar palace in the distance. “Oh,” He mutters. “It looks the same…” he whispers and Seokwoo frowns. “You’ve been to Yren?”


Chanhee nods, hanging onto the elder's shoulders as he walks. “A couple of years back. My parents always took me on their travels.” The King and Late Queen of Ros had visited several Kingdoms around them serval times. Even though they were a smaller Kingdom they still had duties to keep their allies strong and every time, Jiyeon would make sure Chanhee was included much to Kiwoon’s distaste.


He can picture the three princesses faces in his mind and he sighs. Soorin is courageous, bold with her own childish charms. He remembers the princess to be welcoming as she was the one to drag Chanhee over to their group from the rude princes he was stuck with prior to meeting them. Chaerin was just as great, and as the eldest young royal of Yren she is sweet hearted towards her sisters and Chanhee, but her brothers were a different story. She's harsh with her little brothers, not letting them get away with petty acts. She's one of the smartest people Chanhee knows and he's sure if she hadn't refused the offer of Crown Princess of Yren, she'd be an astonishing queen. And Yirin, she's clever, bright even though she seems rather hard to befriend and like all her sisters, beautiful. And even though Yirin had tried to style Chanhee in pretty robes and even a dress at one point, he wishes he could go back to the times where he felt free.


Chanhee pulls on Seokwoo's arms as he opens the door to the inn with one hand that's holding Chanhee's waist snuggly, and asks silently to be put down by tugging on his large hand. He’s mortified that he’s bundled in his arms, that he’s relying on the taller charmed one to help him through this time. Seokwoo sighs and sets him down gently, careful to not hurt the smaller. Seokwoo doesn’t take his hands off of him and Chanhee quietly hisses, feeling pain shoot up around his hips and his lower back. Seokwoo holds him with on hand and helps him take steps. Eventually, when they enter Chanhee is holding onto Seokwoo with one hand while the other studies himself against a stone bench as Seokwoo gets a room for them to share. In the morning before Chanhee had passed out on Cedar they had agreed that they would need to save on coins due to the fact that they now had more things they would need to buy, like cotton for Chanhee. The younger had whispered it in embarrassment, but Seokwoo didn’t laugh and next thing, Chanhee fell asleep while Seokwoo told stories of his family.


When in the room, Chanhee flops on one of the beds and lets out a groan while he looks around. The single beds are pushed a foot apart and a wall separates the sleeping area from a sitting area. “What can I do to help?” Seokwoo asks, sitting on the bed beside Chanhee’s. “A warm bath would be nice… and cotton.”


Seokwoo stands and nods with a slight smile. Chanhee closes his eyes and moves his hands to rest on his cramping abdomen. “Okay. I’ll go and ask the owners of the inn for some warm water. Would a clothing store have cotton rags? I’m not sure where I’d get them.”


“Usually,” Chanhee responds simply, fighting himself to not fall asleep.

 

 

Seokwoo enters the room with a light chuckle. The smaller is asleep on the bed, little tiny noises of content escaping his parted lips every now and then.

He’s careful to wake him up, knowing very well what he’s like when he’s interrupted during anything. Seokwoo would like to live through the rest of the night, thanks.


He taps him gently on the shoulder, gently whispering his name until his eyes crack open to reveal warm brown orbs. “Hey,” Seokwoo greets softly. “There’s a warm bath for you in the washroom and I felt some cotton for you in there.” Chanhee hums appreciatively and props himself up on his elbows.


“Can you walk yet?” Seokwoo questions when Chanhee stands and the younger answers with a hiss of pain. “I can.” He murmurs lowly, almost hostile. “It just hurts.”


“I’m sorry,” Seokwoo mutters, helping the younger to walk towards the washroom. He knows that Chanhee would rather do it all himself because he wants to show that he’s not weak, but Seokwoo knows better. He’s hurting and he needs help. His pride comes second when he's in pain.


When Seokwoo was sixteen he had gone through something similar. Someone had edged him on, calling him a mother’s boy, that he relied too much on her, that he was nothing without her and in a result of him feeling judged and challenged he started to distance himself from the person who loves him most and he had only realised how much he needed her when he didn’t have someone to share his worries with and to vent to because of his training. He needed her in many ways and, in the end, he ended up in tears and tried his best to cuddle into her he used to do as a child.


“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have let you fall asleep in that position for so long.”


“It’s not your fault. You didn’t know.” Seokwoo feels a smile upturn on his lips. That was one of the first times Chanhee has actually ever been remotely nice to him. It felt nice. Different than the boy's usual brooding tone of voice, he sounded genuine and lighter rather than like he’s carrying the whole world on his shoulders.

 

 

“Seokwoo,” the younger charmed one says as the said male starts walking back to their shared room. “Yeah?” He smiles softly, turning back to look at the younger. The younger is looking down, averting eye contact, and in a small voice he mutters out, “Thank you.”


Seokwoo smiles like a fool.

 

 


 

 

 


When Chanhee is walking back to the room, he hears a deep baritone voice and he stops in his tracks, frowning at the familiarity of it, he glimpses down the stairs to see someone he hasn’t seen in a while.


“Juho!” He shouts, a smile pulling on the edges of his mouth. He’s glad that Seokwoo had run a warm bath for him so his hips aren’t as sore as they were before and that he can run downstairs again to meet his friend at the bottom.


“My gosh, I’ve found you,” Juho groans out and gently tugs Chanhee into a hug. “I’ve been looking for you for a while now,” He murmurs into his hair and Chanhee releases the hug to shoot a questionable look to his knight. “King Youngbin—“


“I’m not going back just yet,” Chanhee interjects as soon as he hears the king’s name. “No, it’s not that,” Juho assures. “But he has been expecting you for a while… King Youngbin has received reports from other kings that they are having bandits running around and snatching their charmed ones.” Chanhee’s mouth parts. That’s why he’s out here with Seokwoo, to save them. But Youngbin knows now? Maybe it was worse than he had originally thought.


“I’ve searched for them on my own when we had some of Idris’s charmed ones disappear, but I’ve never found them. No one has, that’s why it’s turned into something bigger than kidnaping them.” Chanhee shakes his head, scowling at the knight and he grabs his wrist, pulling him back up the stairs and throwing him into his shared room where Seokwoo rises and draws out a dagger from his cloak and bares it at Juho.


Juho growls back, unsheathing his own sword and pointing it towards the tallest.


“For gods sakes,” Chanhee clicks his tongue, standing between both men. “Sit down, both of you! And put your weapons away, we’re not going to hurt each other.” Seokwoo is still weary when Juho moves swiftly at his prince’s command and he slowly retreats, keeping his eyes on the armoured man. With a long step, he grabs on to Chanhee’s arm and tugs him to his side as if he didn’t trust the other man to be near him. Chanhee glowers and rips his arm away, but he allows Seokwoo he keep him by his side. They have been through a lot at the moment and he doesn’t blame him for being wary of the knight although change knows he’s safe.


“This is Juho,” he says to Seokwoo. “Stop glaring at him, he’s not out to hurt us.” Seokwoo huffs and looks away for a brief second. “And Juho, this is Seokwoo. We’re on a...”

“A mission.” Seokwoo helps. “The charmed ones,” Chanhee starts. “We got tangled into this mess a while ago.” Seokwoo raises his brows and looks down wearily at Chanhee who nods. “He’s a knight. We used to train together, you can trust him.”


“Please,” Juho adds after the prince. “I was here to inform Chanhee, but it seems he is already aware of the danger that is occurring at the moment. You can trust me.” Seokwoo softens a little bit, but he still seems uneasy.


“We’ve seen them,” Seokwoo states cooly, making eye contact with Juho and the knight gulps at the sight of his starry orbs. “Back in Idris a few times, they wanted to take us, but we got away. The second time Chanhee stabbed one of them,”

Juho looks over to Chanhee with wide eyes.


“He deserved it,” Seokwoo scoffs, folding his arms over his chest. “Pressed him against a wall and touched him,”


“Seokwoo knows more than I do about them. He’s been trying to follow them for a while now.” Chanhee interjects while Seokwoo has his grumble.


Juho looks over to the taller for confirmation. The man nods. “I was wandering around before, looking for any clues but I hadn’t found anything for a while until I bumped into Chanhee. We think they are from Denho. I asked around in the town before this one and I was told that their king isn’t the nicest. It’s highly possible.”


Juho frowns, lips parting as he thinks.


Chanhee winces lightly as pain curls in his abdomen and he gently grabs Seokwoo's sleeve who in response drags him to sit on the bed. Juho peeks over and notices the youngest clenching his teeth. “Do you have medicine, My P—“


“I do not.” Chanhee hisses, cutting off his knight. “I left it in Idris.” He had only meant to be away from Idris for a few days at the most. He was originally just going to visit Serid and see where his mother grew up, he wasn’t expecting to be away for this long. Juho shakes his head at the charmed one. “Is it possible that I can get a room here and we’ll talk more tomorrow? Chanhee needs a good rest.” Seokwoo shrugs, looking at Chanhee for his opinion. “I’m fine with that…” he breathes.


“Okay…” Juho’s gaze lingers on Seokwoo for a few seconds before he looks back to the youngest with pursed lips. “Chanhee, is it okay if I talk to you outside for a minute?” He points to the door with a bothered look.


Chanhee agrees and gets up after the pain subsides, allowing Juho to lead him out to the wide hallway.


“What is it?” He says when Juho folds his arms and gives him a rather questioning look. It looks like he’s almost concerned for him. “Who is he?”


“Seokwoo?” Chanhee asks, pointing to the door where the taller charmed one is. Juho nods, brows knitted together. “He’s my partner… why?”


“You haven’t told him about your heritage, My Prince.” He says softly and Chanhee understands now. Juho has always been like this. Always making sure his prince was comfortable in different situations. “I don’t see why I should.” Chanhee counters. “I’ll never see him after this, so it isn’t important.”


Juho softens, shaking his head and he reaches out to grab gently at his shoulder. “Chanhee, you’re partners now. Wouldn’t it be ideal to tell him? What if something goes wrong? What if the news of your exile finally spreads? Don’t you think you should trust him more if you’re going on a dangerous mission together?” Chanhee frowns and shakes Juho’s hands off him. “Juho,” He starts in a soft voice. “I can’t. He already knows that I am a bearer, that’s enough for me.” Juho sighs knowingly. Chanhee has expressed to him many times how much he wished that the news didn’t spread when he was fourteen, he was already looked down enough because he was adopted, he never wanted to be looked down even more because he’s a bearer.

Juho understands, Chanhee had only wanted to prove his worth to his father. Show him that he could be a good king even though it was unheard of a bearer to be king. They were only the second king, a queen next to the kings. Chanhee wanted to change that.
“I can’t,” He utters softly. “An exiled prince? How would he take that? I’d be nothing, a stupid bearer following him. That’s it.”
“Hey,” Juho croons, his gloved hands reach to grab the prince’s delicate ones tenderly. “Don’t put yourself down like that. You’re so much more than that, you know that, Chanhee…”


“Not really.” Chanhee shakes his head. “No one knows who I am. I don’t even know who I am. The only thing I remembered when mother took me in was my name and that my birthday was in the winter. I don’t remember where I’m from, who I am. I’m not a prince, Juho. Maybe father was right,” His voice cracks a little bit and he looks down, not wanting to show the building up of tears in his eyes. “I’m not wort—“

“Stop it,” Juho commands for the first time since he’s known the prince. “You are so much more than your father's son. You can do anything, and you know that.” Juho breathes in deeply, his chest rising rapidly with his anger. He’s mad at the prince. How can he put himself down when he is worth the world? “You,” his voice wavers with his overwhelming emotions. “Can do anything you put your heart to. Don’t let it get to you, Chanhee. I don’t care what anyone says to you, whatever they have said, you are so much more than what you think.”


Chanhee keeps his eyes down, trying to hide the flow of tears hidden from his knight's view. “I don’t feel like I am,”

“But I know.” Juho declares strongly. “King or not, Chanhee, the crown belongs to you.” With a shaky breath, he looks up and tries his tears with his sleeve and weakly offers a small smile to Juho. “Come here,” His knight opens his arms and he falls into his embrace, holding him tightly as tears flow from his eyes. They hold each other for what seems like ages, but it's only a few minutes before Juho pulls away once Chanhee's soft cries subside and with a soft smile and running a hand through his messy black locks, he bids him goodnight. “I’ll see you in the morning. Sleep well, My Prince.”


Chanhee smiles, eyes glassy and red, but Juho thinks he's still beautiful. “Goodnight, Juho.”


When Chanhee enters the room, Seokwoo offers him a smile after he notices his tears. “Can I do anything?” Chanhee folds over the covers and slides into the bed, not daring to look over at the elder charmed one. He only falls asleep when he hears the rustling of sheets and then the steady breathing coming from the brunette.

 



 

Chapter Text

After meeting Juho at breakfast, the trio wanders out of the inn with a newly made plan for today.


Seokwoo hesitantly lets Chanhee go off with Juho alone while he wanders around the village to look for any clues and ask a few more questions about Denho.


After the tallest trots off into a nearby library, Juho looks over to Chanhee and smiles. “ Are you ready, My Prince,” he asks and Chanhee playfully punches his side, but he can’t help the blooming smile stretch over his lips. “I guess so,”

Seokwoo thinks they are also going to try to find out about Denho by asking around, but Juho had pulled Chanhee aside before and asked him to come with him to Yren’s palace. Chanhee had accepted right away, he hasn’t seen his friends since two years ago when Chaerin was married to her husband and he truly missed them.


Walking up to the gates was easy enough, so was getting through the front gates. Chanhee had merely stated his name and the gates opened to him. It does look exactly the same, to the flower gardens out the front and the guards standing out the front of the entrance to the palace.


“Prince King Chanhee of Ros,” He says and the guards look over to him and with a slight scowl, the guards' nod and the doors open to the foyer painted in royal blue and silver. “It’s been a while,” Chanhee says when they walk through the foyer. “But it does look exactly the same.”


“Do you remember where to go, My Prince?” Chanhee laughs, of course, he does.


When they end up in front of the King and Queen of Yren, he hadn’t expected such a warm welcome. Chanhee had always liked coming to Yren. Here, he wasn’t judged constantly (only sometimes the prices would cause trouble, but Chaerin would always sweep in and give it to her younger brothers) he felt more like a prince here than he did in Ros.


The king exits his throne and makes his way down to meet the young charmed prince at the bottom of the small staircase. “Prince Chanhee!” He reaches down and pats the boys back with a toothy smile. “I haven’t seen you in a while! You have aged well, my boy.” Chanhee can’t help but smile at the cheery king. “King Joomin,” he greets and looking past the king's shoulder to the queen who is gaining almost as large as her husband. “Queen Joohyun.” He greets with a smile that she returns.


“I haven’t heard from your parents in some time. How are things doing?”


Chanhee's smile falls and Juho subtlety slips his hand into the prince’s and squeezes his hand comfortingly, to tell him he’s here with him.


Chanhee's eyes dart before they settle on the striking azure cape around the king's shoulders. “That’s…” He doesn’t know what to say. To tell him that his mother is dead and he’s been exiled doesn’t sound too great. “Things are complicated at the moment… I came here to see the princess, are they available?”


“Of course!” King Joomin cheers enthusiastically. “They should be in their shared quarters, you know where it is, right?” Chanhee smiles and bows before he hurries off with Juho.

 

“What did you just do?” Juho hisses quietly as they pass through many halls. “You didn’t tell him?”


“It didn’t seem to be the right time to spring it on them. It is better left unsaid until father makes his mind up and shares the news. It’s not my right to speak of Ros’s matters to other monarchs now.” Juho’s lips purse. He can’t fight with that no matter how much he wants to. Chanhee's right. He usually always is. He’s a good thinker and he’s not impulsive like other people Juho has known, it’s a good trait. At least it is most of the time.

 


He storms into the princesses chambers with a loud entrance and Juho jumps back at the aggression. The doors swing open and smack into the walls. Yirin jumps, screaming while Soorin falls from whatever dance pose she was showing Yirin. Both princesses look over, both equally as shocked when they see the young prince breathing heavily in the doorway.


“Chanhee?” Chaerin raises her brows as she comes out from the hallway to the bedrooms, arms cradling her rounded middle.


And before he knows it, he’s tumbling to the ground, the youngest princesses hugging him tightly. “I didn’t know you were coming for a visit!” Yirin cheers with a squeal and Chanhee groans. The princesses rise from the floor, but Chanhee stays put and only then he realises how tired he really is. “Neither did I,” Chanhee replies, looking up at the painted ceiling with fat little cherubs.


“You look terrible,” Chaerin remarks, poking the bearers cheek after Juho scampers over to help him up. “You’re pregnant?” Chanhee almost screeches as he eyes the eldest princess. “You didn’t even send me an announcement!” She smiles cheekily and Yirin grabs onto him, eyeing him suspiciously. “Sorry, I didn’t send any out.”


“Why are you dressed in that?” Yirin interrogates with a frown, fingers rubbing the material of Chanhee's doublet. “It’s cold out,” Chanhee answers simply with his own frown. “You’re a prince,” She drawls with a side eye. “Where did you even get this?”


“I’m here for a reason, you know. Not just because I missed you,” Chanhee mumbles, pulling away from Yirin


“Okay,” Yirin drowses knowingly. “But you’re changing first. That looks uncomfortable,” She drags him away and Chanhee doesn’t even put up a fight but rather willing goes with the youngest princess. Juho gives an awkward smile at the other two princesses.

 

 

After a couple of minutes, Chanhee is pushed out to the lounges, dressed in a midnight blue satin robe with a rather flustered look. Soorin grabs his hands and pulls him to sit next to her and Chaerin. Juho awkwardly stands off to the side, keeping his eyes strained to the wall.


“I need your help,” He starts and Soorin snorts. Chanhee eyes her with a small frown and she shakes her head. “You want us to help you?”


“Yes.” He confirms slowly, frowning. “My father,” he begins to say and he looks over to Juho who meets his eyes and nods softly.


Chaerin speaks up with a harsh tone when Chanhee looks at her. “What has he done?” She knows more than the others what he was like. Chaerin's the only one that knows firsthand how poorly Chanhee was treated by the King of Ros. She had walked in one night when they had been fighting like they had done back at Youngbin’s coronation night, the king throwing insults and crude comments while Chanhee sat there and accepted the wounds.


Chanhee fleetingly mentions his exile and his desperate need of answers to this new problem. The princesses have hard faces after they hear of his exile. He had only told them because he knows they’re smart enough to not spread the news and he trusts them enough to. Their father is known for his big mouth, he couldn’t risk it. And having a member of another royal family that’s been exiled inside another castle? It means war.

Youngbin had only taken in because of his infatuation and he was reliable, and he knows how to shut his mouth.

“You’re always welcome,” Yirin whispers in a small voice, gently squeezing the princes hands.


“Prince Jookyun won’t say the same thing,” Chanhee retorts, referring to the Crown Prince of Yren. He’s hard-headed and gives Chanhee a hassle every time. And the second prince only breaks out into nervous sweats and blushes madly around him. “Stuff him,” Chaerin says boldly. “He can’t say shit, I'm his older sister.” Chanhee grins at the expecting princess.


“Why come to us, though, Chanhee?” Yirin inquiries, fiddling with her fingers nervously. “We don’t have the information Prince Jookyun has? Why not go to him instead?”


“Because I need someone to back me up when Jookyun is obviously going to belittle me! As much as I wanted to go straight to him, I couldn’t because he won’t listen.”


“Go to father, then!” Soorin shouts and Chanhee shakes his head. “No, he will kick me out once he hears of my exile. You three and your brother are the only ones that can get through to him.” He turns to Chaerin and grabs her hands, “Please,” He pleads. “Help me.”

 

 

 

 


A flurry of midnight blue storms in, pale hands grasping at the material, holding it off of the ground as his feet move hurriedly across the white tiles of the palace.


The Crown Prince of Yren, Lee Jookyun jumps in his seat when he realises that it’s Chanhee. He then stands tall, puffing his chest out. Chaerin who’s sitting next to the Crown Prince snickers and covers her mouth with her hand. “Chanhee—“


“We need to talk.” Chanhee harshly grits out. In front of the desk is an elegant looking chair and Chanhee pulls it harshly before plonking himself down on it. “I do not think—“ Jookyun goes to sit down, but Chanhee grips on his collar and pulls him back down. “For once,” He breathes out and Jookyun gulps, probably because Chanhee's eyes are starting to change colour. “Listen to me as you’d listen to any other prince.”


Jookyun slumps back in his chair and folds his arms across his chest with his head held high in the air. “Why should I?”


Chaerin clears her throat and stands up, hands cupping her large middle. “Jookyun,” she gives her best sickeningly sweet smile and lands a heavy hand on his shoulder before leaning in and whispering something that turns her brother pale. He then turns to her and nods hurriedly before Chaerin smiles one more and begins to leave. “Come get me, Sir Baek if his Highness causes trouble for Prince Chanhee.” She says teasingly before shutting the study doors behind her with a cheeky smile and wave.


“What do you know about Denho?” He says as soon as Jookyun turns his attention to the younger prince. “Excuse me?” Jookyun raises his brows, dropping a pen from his fingers. “Denho,” Chanhee says. “I need information on them.”

“I cannot without a valid reason—“

“Juho,” Chanhee calls and his knight emerges from behind a pillar with a stoic face. Jookyun jumps slightly in his seat. “Go get Princess Chaerin, please.” Juho nods and before he can take a step, Jookyun shoots up in his seat. “No!” He screams and Chanhee wonders what Chaerin said to terrify the crown prince this badly.

“Please don’t! I’ll tell you anything you want to know, please don’t tell her!” He practically begs and Chanhee leans back in his chair and smirks when Jookyun gulps.


“Tell me about Denho.”


Jookyun breathes in deeply. “The king is rather… ruthless.” Says the crown prince. “I don’t know, what do you want me to tell you?” He says rather exasperated and Chanhee leans forward in his chair, hands landing onto the dark, lacquered, wooden desk. “Haven’t you heard about the case of the missing charmed ones? I’m sure you’ve seen the reports.”


Jookyun’s face hardens. “What do you know?” He spits back.


Chanhee bites back a groan when pain appears in his abdomen. He squirms rather uncomfortably in his chair. When he gets out of the meeting he has to make sure to ask one of the princesses if they have any medication for his cleanse.


“It seems like you haven’t forgotten,” Chanhee says with a cunning smile. “What my charm is.” Jookyun gulps. He had also been someone who had been caught in the mesmerising lilac orbs. He was twelve and Chanhee was just nine at the time. Jookyun had made the mistake to try and be a pest and Chanhee hadn’t appreciated it at all and the next second, the Crown Prince Of Yren screamed out loud as his toes broke.


Jookyun wriggles his toes in his shoes and leans away from the younger, turning his head away from the lilac eyes. “I do,” he answers softly and Chanhee pulls away, smug.


“The missing charmed ones, I do not know the leads… if that’s what you want to know I can’t help, sorry.” Jookyun picks up a fountain pen and twirls it in his fingers. “I asked about Denho,” Chanhee counters back quickly. “Tell me anything you know.”

Jookyun looks back up and raises a brow, slightly confused. “You know something I do not.” He realises and Chanhee's gaze turns hard. He does not have time for this. Seokwoo could get suspicious and that’s something Chanhee doesn’t think he can deal with.

Jookyun shuts up, obviously noticing that Chanhee isn’t playing around. “The Crown Prince of Denho was crowned king two months ago,” Chanhee frowns. Perhaps he was bad news?

“After the late king’s passing, he was crowned. He seems to be doing a good job as I haven’t heard much about him. He doesn’t have a partner… well, he didn’t when I saw him four months ago. Uhh, their crest is crimson with a bear… I don’t really know much of them. We’re not allies.”


Chanhee sinks back in the chair, his hands resting his abdomen as he takes it in. “A bear…” He doesn’t know if the men running after him had worn any emblems in their amour, he was too caught up with not getting captured, he didn’t think to check. He nods and stands from his seat. “Okay,” he breathes. “Good. Thank you, Your Highness.”


“Wait!” A hand grips at his wrist, pulling him back to the desk. Juho comes closer on habit and grasps on the hilt of his sheathed sword by his hip. Chanhee raises a hand and Juho hesitantly let's go, but his eyes strain on the older prince. “You’re not going to Denho, are you?” He speaks as if he’s almost worried. Chanhee frowns, his hand falling back to his side when Jookyun realises what he had done and drops his wrist from his grip in a jerky manner. “I am…” Chanhee fingers play with the soft fabric of his robe. “Why?”

Jookyun swallows hard, a look of worry cast over his face. “The only way to Denho from here is to go through Lux.” Jookyun eyes flicker back to Chanhee's face and he starts shaking his head. “Are you worried about me, Prince Jookyun.” Chanhee mocks with a sly smile and Jookyun frantically looks around and then he saunters out from his desk, stopping at Chanhee’s side before he grips at the dark blue satin pulling him close so his mouth brushes past the shell of his ear. “The king is insane!” He hisses in his ear, his hand is full of balled up fabric and Chanhee's robe lifts from where he’s scrunching the material, his smooth thigh peeking out. Jookyun’s eyes fall and he spots the younger’s milky thigh and he drops the fabric hurriedly, a small painting of pink appearing on his cheeks.

“I’m sure you know what the king does to bearers in his kingdom,” Jookyun hisses and Chanhee places a hand on the crown prince’s sturdy chest and pushes him away from his body. “I know what he does.” He replies through gritted teeth.

“Chanhee!” He growls. “You are a bearer!”

“I know that,” Chanhee snarls back. “But I am also charmed, Jookyun. My partner is also, I have Juho. I will be fine—“


“I knew you were insane, but to do this! You can die, Chanhee!” Jookyun cries out, slamming a fist down on the stained wood of his desk.


“I won’t.” Chanhee counters back harshly. “I can hold my ground very well. Thank you for your concern—“


“You don’t understand what they do, Chanhee.” Jookyun’s tone turns deadly serious and he stares into his eyes as he talks. Chanhee shivers. “They take bearers, kill them or use them as objects, I’m sure you understand that part.” He did. The old man at the apple stand had told him the same thing before. “But do you know how they capture them?” Chanhee gulps, suddenly concerned. Jookyun lets out a shaky breath, obviously furious.


“They won’t just grab you from the streets, they’ll drug you until you have no control over your body and then it’s theirs from that point. You can’t talk and you can’t move. They’ll then decide your fate, death or torture.”


Chanhee's mouth is dry and his face is soft until he scowls. “I’ll be fine.” He counters harshly. “I am not some weak maiden.”

Jookyun shakes his head, his lips pursed. “I warned you,” He says lowly. “Don’t say I didn’t.”

 

 

 

Chaerin is leaning against the wall next to the entrance and she smiles fondly when Chanhee holds onto her arm and allows her to lean against him. “What did you say to him that made him that terrified?” Chanhee questions and Chaerin chuckles.

 

“I told him I’d make him birth the baby.”

 

Chanhee snickers.

 

 

 


 

 


“Are you sure? I can always get you a bit more? I have loads!” Yirin rambles on, holding out serval pieces of clothing. “Yirin,” He says fondly, grabbing her free hand and squeezing it gently. “I’m going to Lux. As much as I’d love to take them, wearing pretty things in Lux sounds like a death sentence to me.” Yirin pouts and pokes the bearer’s cheek. “You’re brave.” She says, her eyes falling down to take in Chanhee's frame. He’s slender, fuller in certain areas unlike her brothers and she thinks she can see the soft swell of his chest through the robe. “Going through Lux when you look like what you do.”


Chanhee frowns a little and flops himself down on the youngest princess’s bed. He knows she didn't mean it to be rude, but he still feels a little offended. “It’s that obvious?”

“Well,” Yirin joins him on the deep blue bed. “If you go on your cleanse you’ll be more at risk. You know,” Yirin props herself up with her elbows. “It’s quite obvious at the moment.” Chanhee sighs.


“Right,” He should probably take her advice. Besides, if something does happen, but Chanhee's confident nothing will happen, he’ll be better off when he can move easier and has energy. “Do you have medicine, then? Something that can help?” Yirin scoffs. “Do I.” She says, digging through the drawers beside her bed and tossing a small bottle to the prince.

“Thanks,” he says while running his fingers through the warm fur-lined cloak in his lap. His mind flickers to Seokwoo, who’s from a warmer climate and already struggling in the cold and it’s barely starting to snow. “Yirin,” He says, sitting up with an embarrassed smile. “Do you have any warmer cloaks for someone really tall?”

 

 

 


Juho knocks on the open door with a smile. Chanhee turns, bundled up in the warm looking cloak. The outer layer is made with dark blue material and thick, warm fur lines the inside of the cloak. In the prince’s hands are two more, one coloured blood red and a large charcoal grey one hanging off his left arm.


“I’ve sent a note to King Youngbin. I’m sure he’ll be fine with me tagging along.” Chanhee passes him the deep red cloak and tilts his head. “Will you get a reply in time?”


“I sent it with one of the king’s messenger birds. Joohyuck said it should come back with a reply at noon tomorrow.”

“That’s quick,” Chanhee nods at his knight who runs his bare fingers down the red material. “You should put it on. Keep warm.” Juho eyes the other cloak that’s falling to the ground in Chanhee's arms. “You got one for Seokwoo.” He observes and a small scowl upturns on Chanhee's face. “He whines when he’s cold. I’m doing something to keep us sane.”
Juho laughs heartily as he shakes his head at the young prince.


He’s a fool.

 

 

 

 

 

 


After the three princesses hug Chanhee goodbye, Chaerin promises to notify the younger when she gives birth and Soorin traps him in a large hug with force Chanhee didn’t know she had. Yirin says he can keep the cloaks for good and Joohyuck, the second prince and Yirin's twin brother, is by her side, blushing madly after he had met eyes with Chanhee. He gingerly offers a bag of coins and Chanhee takes it gratefully and thanks him. The second prince squeaks and scurries away.


“Take care!” Yirin shouts as they near the gates. “Don’t do anything stupid!” Chanhee laughs at that. He can't make any promises for that.

 

 

 

 

 

Chanhee spots Seokwoo at a jewellery stall, talking intently to the woman behind it and he tugs on Juho’s arm, tugging him along to where he settles by Seokwoo's side and softly elbows him in the ribs.


“Woah, wha— Chanhee? Where’d you get those?” Seokwoo turns back to the young jeweller and gives her an apologetic smile and bids her goodbye before he tugs on Chanhee and drags him away from the stalls.


“I have connections here,” Chanhee reminds him. “When my parents came here I didn’t just hang around them, you know.” Seokwoo’s mouth opens and he nods, buying it completely.

And before Chanhee can say anything else he can see Seokwoo smiling like a fool. “It’s weird. You’re so mean to me, but I missed you.”


“Gross.” Chanhee fakes a gag. “It’s not even been a whole day.”


Seokwoo turns his face up at the rejecting behaviour and folds his arms over his wide chest. “It almost has.” He comments, pointing to the pink-hued sky. Chanhee’s mouth parts, he hadn’t realised how long he had spent at the castle, but he’d obviously been in there for a while.
He then looks over to Juho and then back to Chanhee, raises his eyebrows at the cloak bundled up in his arms.

Chanhee notices quickly and pushes his arms out to the tallest, urging him to take the largest cloak. “I’m not sure if it’ll fit, but I tried to find the longest one...”

Seokwoo beams, like literally beams, his lips stretching into that stupid perfect smile and he takes the grey cloak gratefully and swings it around his shoulders, chuckling while pulling the lined hood over his head. It hangs a little bit above his ankles and Chanhee sighs at the tall male in slight disbelief.

“It’s all right,” Seokwoo grins broadly when he notices Chanhee starring at his feet. “It’s nice and warm.”

“I think you underestimated Seokwoo’s height, Chanhee.” Juho chortles and Seokwoo shoots him a look. At least his ankles are covered. Chanhee whacks him lightly with a grimace. “But I do think we should head back to the inn, then. You should rest up.”

 

Once in the shared room, Chanhee takes his cloak off and makes a beeline for the bed. Seokwoo drops his bag and cloak on the bed as well and plonks himself down on his own bed. Juho gently takes Chanhee's satchel and pulls out the tiny jar containing the medicine Yirin gave him and hands it to him, giving him a glass of water he’d gotten from the inn lady. Chanhee gulps it down, curling himself into a little ball and watches Seokwoo who’s digging through his bag. “Aha!” He shouts, his right arm flying up with a piece of parchment crumbled in his large hand. “I found it!” Chanhee flinches a little when the elder shouts and scowls when he turns with a sheepish smile.


“So, I found out something rather interesting.” Seokwoo starts, sitting on Chanhee's bed. Chanhee grumbles lightly, but he doesn’t make any move to push him away or move. “I was talking around the town and a few people spoke of the men that we had run-ins with.”


“Please don’t tell me they’re here—“ Chanhee whines as he props himself up on his elbows before sitting.


“So, naturally, I was curious, you know. So I went looking—“ Chanhee groans and facepalms. He’s an idiot. An actual idiot. “—and I found them. Oh, don’t worry,” Seokwoo adds on when he sees Chanhee and Juho’s equally concerned look.

“They’re at the inn all the way down the other end of this town. It’s pretty far. But, you know that dude that you stabbed last time, yeah, well, he can barely walk.” Seokwoo sounds almost proud and Chanhee grins a little. “So, because I was super curious, I pretended to have business in the inn, let me tell you, the women in Yren are great actresses, gotta owe them one. Anyway,” Chanhee screws his nose up at the taller charmed one who chuckles at him. “I tried to listen in as much as I could and I heard them talk about a king, they didn’t say names."

“Then?” Chanhee questions. “What did you do?”

 

“Well,” Seokwoo has a cheeky smile.

 

 


The women attached to his side giggle and Seokwoo laughs back at them, winking at one of them who then shies away. “Hey,” he says to the woman he had originally talked to, the one who knows what he’s up to. She leans over his lap so her ear is by his lips. “Say, go over there and look for any symbols? It’ll help a lot.” She pulls away and winks at him and pulling her skirts up, she slyly joins the soldiers who take an interest in her right away.


Seokwoo watches from afar and continues to play his character with the other two women who are getting a little touchy.


The woman sits at the edge of the table, laughing along with the men’s atrocious jokes.

He sees her point to a sword laying on the table and one of the men pick it up and show her, the blade. Seokwoo tenses in his seat, but relaxes when it’s put down and she hops off the table with a few last words and giggles. “So?” Seokwoo leans in and she gestures for him to move away. The girls try to follow but she shoes them away so she can talk to Seokwoo in peace.

 

 


Chanhee’s nose scrunches up at Seokwoo's story. “Did you find anything,” Juho inquires, ignoring the tall charmed one's story and Seokwoo nods swiftly, looking terribly proud of himself. He looks at Chanhee and smiles brightly. “A bear,” He says and Chanhee’s mouth parts. “Denho,” They both then say in unison and they turn to look at each other. “Right,” Juho says, pushing Seokwoo’s shoulder so there’s a larger gap between the two.

“You were right,” Seokwoo states with a proud smile. Chanhee shrugs and then goes to lay down again. “Wait,” Seokwoo murmurs, a hand grasping on his arm. “When do we part?”


Juho clears his throat and the tallest looks up from where he’s sitting to meet eyes with the sharp-eyed knight. “We will be crossing Lux soon,” Seokwoo nods slowly with a knowing look. He already knows this, so why is he saying it? Juho then looks down to the youngest who’s already sneaked himself under the covers and curled into the fetal position and Seokwoo understands. “We should wait until his cleanse is over. It’ll minimise the chance of him getting caught.” Seokwoo still doesn’t know if its a good idea. Sure, he knows Chanhee is perfectly capable of defending himself, but it just doesn’t sit well in him that Chanhee will be constantly at risk for the few days while they cross through. He doesn’t even think he’ll want to risk going to an inn during their time in Lux.

 

Chanhee grumbles, reaching out with one hand to take the parchment in Seokwoo's hand. “What’s this?” He smooths out the crinkled paper and his brows knit together, then he looks up at Seokwoo. “It’s a detailed map of Denho. I found it in a book in the library just around here. I have one for Lux, too.” “Seokwoo,” Chanhee sighs loudly, handing the paper back to the elder. “Did you rip this from a book?”

 

“I paid for it!” Seokwoo defends with a pout. “That’s why we barely have any coins left.”

 

Chanhee’s even more glad that Joohyuck had given him more, in that case. “Don’t worry,” Juho interjects, shaking the bag of coins in his hand. “I have plenty that I brought. There’s more than enough to share.”

 

Chanhee looks up at Juho and smiles, small and soft. Juho’s always been good at catching onto situations and in this case, he's protecting Chanhee’s wishes to keep his heritage a secret, as his knight, it is his duty.

 

“Really?” Seokwoo muses, rising from Chanhee's bed to settle on his own. “Here,” Juho tosses them over and Seokwoo catches the heavy coin pouch in his hand easily.


“Please stop,” Chanhee moans from his bed. “I’m tired.”


“Sorry,” Seokwoo whispers just as Juho leaves to his own room. “I’ll go wash up and I’ll be back. Go to sleep, it’s been a long day.”

 

 


Chanhee dreams of oak leaves and lavender that night, golden stars flying through the midnight sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They leave early in the night, hoping to reach Lux’s first city in the early morning at least. Seokwoo had thought it wouldn’t be as crowded and it would reduce the risk for Chanhee.


It had taken three days until Chanhee had deemed his cleanse done and his energy was back to normal and his joints don’t hurt anymore.

Chanhee thrusts himself up on Cedar and snarls at Seokwoo who tries to join him.

Seokwoo and Juho hadn’t made much progress together. Seokwoo still doesn’t entirely trust Juho and Juho doesn’t enjoy it when Seokwoo gets too close to Chanhee. Chanhee is fed up with the two men, so he’s decided to sit on Cedar himself, making a grumbling Seokwoo and a silent Juho walking beside each other as a punishment for acting like children.


Seokwoo is wide awake, as is Juho, but Chanhee rubs his eyes, dusting off his dreams of amaranths and stars from the inner corners of his eyes. Chanhee knows how the others are worried, more Seokwoo than Juho, for his safety in the kingdom, but feels like he’ll be okay in Lux. Bearers are treated terribly over there, more so in any other kingdom he knows of and he feels a simmer of anger because of it, but he’s charmed. He can cause pain with a single gaze at anyone. He’s killed a man. Nothing will happen and he knows it, and maybe if something did go wrong, he’d escape with a graze at the worst.


But something behind that tells him he’s wrong. He didn’t escape with just a mere scratch when Jiyeon was killed. He’d ripped open his side, a bloody and painful mess. His palms were cut and his cheek was sliced by a blade. He hadn’t escaped without injury then. He forces the memory out of his head. He doesn't have time to think about that now.

 


By dusk they reach the entrance to Lux and Chanhee slips off Cedar, holding her reigns in his hand. “You stay right next to me,” Seokwoo mumbles when they enter the first city. He slips Chanhee's hood over his head and does the same to himself and he doesn’t spare a look to Juho.


Only very few people are out and about, starting their day out in the cold morning wind. Juho comes and walks behind him, his hands cautiously close to his sword on his hip.

They’re on guard the whole time they walk quietly through the kingdom and when a group of Lux’s officers loudly march out from a street, Cedar spooks and Chanhee's body jerks as she runs away, the reigns falling from his hands. “Wait!” Chanhee shouts and begins to rush after her, but a hand grabs his arm and pulls him back. Seokwoo pulls him closer to his body, and this time Juho doesn’t interject. He shakes his head, silver eyes glazed with worry. “Don’t,” He murmurs lowly. “No risks here, Chanhee.”

Chanhee catches Seokwoo looking off to the distance in the direction that had gone for his horse and he feels something crash in his stomach at Seokwoo's saddened look.


No one pays them any mind as they walk through the city. They just look like foreigners passing through. Chanhee’s slight muscle just passes him as a non-bearer and his face is covered by the darkness of the hood. Seokwoo worries still, he’s small and if his face is shown, Seokwoo thinks it could be game over for them.

Juho is now on the other side if Chanhee, the taller men caging him almost protectively and as much as Chanhee wishes they wouldn’t, he knows it’s for the better.


It’s going smoothly, just like how Chanhee had expected it too, even when the streets get a little bit more crowded. Maybe it’s because Seokwoo had clasped his hand tightly, not daring to let it go from under his cloak. They take little stops on the way to rest their aching legs and Chanhee starts to want to kick their heads in when they both grab onto him discreetly, shooting glares to each other.
When it gets darker, they’ve just exited the first town and now on the outskirts, they decide to stop and have a bite to eat which is just bread and apples, but Chanhee doesn’t complain. He’s adapted to the light meals over the past week and a half.


They grow tired just before dusk and Chanhee backs against a tree before sliding down. Seokwoo follows him and Juho stands over them, watching for any possible signs of danger.

Seokwoo lights a fire after Chanhee throws the sticks to the ground in an exasperated manner. It’s been a while since he’s tried, but he still can’t light the damned fire.


“Juho,” Chanhee calls softly and the knight turns to see him looking cozy in his large cloak behind the fire. “It’s all right. Come rest, too.” He pats the ground next to him.


“I’ll stay awake.” Seokwoo offers and Chanhee's about to tell him to sit his ass back down and sleep too, but Juho nods and he decides he's too tired to fight with them tonight. Besides, he doesn’t care if Seokwoo's tired in the morning.


Chanhee doesn’t dream of anything that night and he wakes feeling strangely empty.


Seokwoo is back by his side, an arm slung over his shoulders comfortably, pulling him to his firm chest. Chanhee grumbles and escapes his hold to get food from Juho. “Did you swap at all last night?” His knight nods and Chanhee can’t explain why he feels relief flush through him. “You didn’t move us,” he comments and Juho shrugs. “You looked comfortable. Who am I to disturb my pr—“


“Don’t,” Chanhee whispers harshly, clapping a hand over Juho’s moving lips. “We’ve been over this before.” Juho pulls back and his face hardens. “I do believe you are making a mistake, Chanhee.” The mentioned male just sneers and stands from his squatting position.


“Seokwoo,” Chanhee calls and he watches as the elder twitches awake and Chanhee snorts at the look on his face when he realises he’d just woken up. “Ah,” He moans, stretching out his long limbs, his joints pop and Juho screws his nose up at it. “Is it early morning?”Chanhee looks over to Juho for confirmation. He nods, his lips still pursed and Chanhee fights away the desire to kick his friend in the ribs. One day the two of them will sort out their problems, and if Chanhee has to do it himself, so be it.


“I woke at dawn, that was a few minutes ago now.”


Seokwoo stands, pulling the map from his satchel beneath his robe and a crease appears between his brows as he reads it. “We should enter the next city just before midday…” He sighs and shoves the piece of paper back to his satchel. “It’ll be a long walk without Cedar…” He mumbles and the heavyweight in Chanhee's stomach appears once more.


“I’m sorry,” he whispers quietly and Seokwoo and Juho’s heads whip around at the same time to stare with their jaws dropped at the youngest. “Oh,” Seokwoo snaps himself out of it and murmurs softly, tripping over his words before he shakes his head and smiles awkwardly. “It’s all right. I’ll find her again, later.”

“I should’ve held her tighter.”“Hey,” He drops a hand to the smallest’s shoulder. “Don’t beat yourself up about it. At least you’re safe. Okay?” Chanhee nods weakly, not meeting the pair of silver eyes with his own.


They leave their makeshift camp after eating more bread and apples. Chanhee starts to feel a little bit claustrophobic when the other two close in on him proactively as they inch closer to the entrance of the second town in Lux.


“This is where the king lives,” Seokwoo informs when they enter. “It’s the largest city in Lux.”


Chanhee swallows hard and nods tensely. “Okay,”


He doesn’t know why, but the feeling of fear is beginning to tingle in the pit of his stomach and his hands are starting to go clammy. He tries to hide it and clench down on his doublet, but Juho doesn’t miss it and he sends a sympathetic look to the young prince. Chanhee looks away quickly. “Don’t worry,” Juho leans down to whisper in his ear. “I’ve got you.”Seokwoo must’ve heard because he scoffs loudly and looks away with a huff and if Chanhee wasn’t so terrified, he would’ve hit him over the head.


He’s now hyper-aware of everything going around them. The buildings are all the same, boring and grey toned. Kids are running between the food stalls with a rundown ball, there’s a group of bandits around the corner they just passed and Chanhee involuntarily leans closer to Seokwoo when one looks at him. There are heaps of people here now and Chanhee swallows his urge to call out when a cart full of many different varieties of stone fruit tumbles to the ground and the bandits they saw before launch at their chance. The farmer starts shouting and an even bigger crowd forms around the commotion.


Perhaps his trepidation had been right all along, but being stupid and arrogant he ignored it. He’s the real danger to himself.


Chanhee panics when his hood falls from his head and his hand slips from Juho’s. “Seokwoo!” He cries out, trying his best to hang onto the taller charmed one hand, but he gets lost in the crowd and then he sees it, a man in a black hood, a dagger by his hip and a piece of cloth in one of his gloved hands.


“Seokwoo!” He screams out just as he begins to run away. “Juho! Where are you! Please!” He looks behind in the crowd and cries out when the man grabs the back of his cloak and traps him in his arms. “Seokwoo!”


He feels his charm surface, but it’s no use now when the man's behind him and taking him away. “Seokwoo pleas—“ His cries of help are cut off when the cloth is placed harshly over his mouth and Chanhee chokes on the thick fumes entering his system. Jookyun’s word flash through his mind.

“They’ll drug you until you have no control over your body and then it’s theirs from that point. You can’t talk and you can’t move. They’ll then decide your fate, death or torture.”

“I warned you,” he had said and Chanhee screams. He did and his pride had gotten in the way of the obvious danger and blank stupidity of the situation.

He thrashes in his hold and he coughs when the in the fumes get stuck in his oesophagus and then he goes limp and still in the man's hold. He struggles to speak and a rouge tear strolls down his cheek once he’s pulled away from the crowd.


Seokwoo, he wants to call out for the elder charmed one. But his voice has disappeared and his vision slowly slips until all he can see is darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 ♔

 

 

 

“Seokwoo pleas—“

Seokwoo battles against the crowd, pushing anyone who gets in his way. “Chanhee!” He screams back, and his heart rate speeds up when he doesn’t get a reply. His fear is scaling higher and higher and when the crowd disappears, he frantically looks around for the small charmed one. “Chanhee…” He whispers brokenly when there’s no sight of him.


He sees a flash of red and before Seokwoo can process what to do, he strikes at Juho, pulling him to the ground.


“You!” He screams as his fist collides with his face. His blood is boiling furiously in his veins with anger and fear. “Where is he?!” He’s almost gone completely hysterical. The crowd before starts to gather to witness the fight between the two men.


Juho retaliates, swinging his own fist to the charmed one and he scampers to his feet after Seokwoo registers the pain and knocks himself out of the beginnings of his hysteria. “Juho,” He hisses. He’s shaking with anger, a deadly look across his face and the mentioned male clenches his jaw. “You let go of him,” Seokwoo accuses pointedly and Juho is fuming with anger himself. “You did, too.” He reminds harsh and suddenly Seokwoo's flinging himself to the knight once more.


Juho is quick to unleash his sword and onlookers gasp, stepping backwards when the sword is pointed towards Seokwoo's body. “Where is he?” Seokwoo mutters desperately, eyes hard and shining bright. Juho doesn’t answer. He can’t answer because he has no clue himself.


“Where is he!” The tallest hollers and Juho grits his teeth.


Juho never expected the man in front of him to dodge his sword and then tackle him to the ground, throwing punches. “Stop it,” Juho yells and Seokwoo monetarily stops. “Think about Chanhee!” Seokwoo's grits his teeth and Juho narrowly misses most of the punches thrown at him, but Seokwoo lands one on him in the jaw and he spits out blood on to the dirt. Juho staggers back up and Seokwoo bounces up, adrenaline flying throughout his body. Seokwoo still rages even after Juho cuts his bicep and before he can even react, Seokwoo smashes his fist to the other man's nose and Juho stumbles back, almost falling backwards from the strength behind the punch.


Juho shakes his head, ignores the blood pouring out of his nose and swings his sword at Seokwoo who dodges and the second time he swings, the tallest catches the blade in his hand, his palm splits open and hot, crimson blood pours from the fresh wound down the blade of Juho’s sword.


The charmed ones breathing is uneven and he drops the sword and Juho follows the action, his own hand dropping the hilt of the blade. Seokwoo falls to his knees, cradling his cut out palm to his chest as hot, angry and terrified tears roll down his cheeks.


Juho pushes the sword towards Seokwoo.


“Get your head back on and go save him for god's sake.”

 

Juho staggers backwards and crashes to the ground in front of Seokwoo.


Seokwoo chokes on his tears and with shaky hands, he grips onto the sword and stands up with its assistance. He holds out a hand to Juho who takes it and sits him down in front of an onlooker and asks her to take him to a healer. “I will,” Seokwoo says after wiping his tears away. “And I’m sorry,” he murmurs and Juho shakes his head weakly.

 

“You better use that strength you used just then on those fuckers, do you understand me?”


Seokwoo's jaw clenches. He’ll use all his force if it means for Chanhee to be safe again.


“Just don’t pull any stupid stunts,” Juho adds. “His heart is fragile enough.”


Seokwoo doesn’t know what he means by that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Chanhee finally wakes up, his hands are tied behind his back and he’s laying on his back on something soft. He’s blindfolded and Chanhee wonders what’s going on and where’s Seokwoo until he remembers and he sobs.

“He’s awake.” A gruff voice comes and it chills him down to the bone. “He’s pretty, this one.” Chanhee can’t move. He even tries to move his toes but he can’t make the slightest movement and panic surges through him. He can’t feel his cloak and that terrifies him even more.


What does he do? What can he do if he can’t move and see?

“He was with another man. A foreigner.”

“His husband?” Chanhee wants to cry out, but the sounds get trapped in his throat and it turns into a hopeless whimper. “I don’t know but he’s not here is he?”


Chanhee feels his heart crash in his chest. Had Seokwoo not gone after him? Not even Juho? His heart rate is picking up and breathing is harder. He wants to cry, he wants to yell and if he didn’t have this stupid blindfold on he’d be able to get out of this mess.


“He’ll be worth a lot if we sell him to the brothels.” Chanhee suddenly realises he’s on a bed and he tries to move, but all it does is alert the men of his twitching. “He’s scared.” One of them coos and Chanhee swallows a whine in his throat.
He doesn’t know what to do when he feels a hand on his hip. He tries to scream again, someone has to come and help him. It sounds like a strangled cry and the ball of fear in his stomach gets bigger and bigger until he feels like he’s going to vomit. The hand rises and slowly his buttons on the doublet are being undone. This is so wrong, so so wrong.


Don’t.


The cold air bites at him and he whimpers, hands gliding over his bare chest.


“Take the blindfold off,” One man says. “Let him see what’s happening.” Chanhee would rather not see what they’re going to do, but he could at least use his charm to knock them out for a while.


His head is lifted before the blindfold is taken off. He’s in a type of cellar, judging by the damp walls and rusted metal bars. There’s blurry warm orange light coming from the top and a staircase and Chanhee guesses the sun is about to set.
He was taken during midday, so why the hell is Seokwoo not here?


The man who’s hovering over him is wide and tall, but not taller than Seokwoo.


Oh, gods, where is Seokwoo?


He looks at the man in the eyes and he smirks. “We found ourselves a charmed one,” he chuckles and Chanhee wonders why he isn’t terrified. Charmed ones are dangerous, no one knows their charm unless told or if it’s personally used against them.


“Oh dear,” Another man replies almost mockingly. “It’s just such a shame that his charm won’t work now, hmm?”


No.


He looks into his eyes and nothing happens. His neck doesn’t snap like he had hoped it to.
Another wave of terror fills him.

He blinks and then he lets out a cry, a sob. He can feel his fingers and toes now and if he tries he might be able to talk, but his fear has overwhelmed him to the point of no return.

 

He lays there, hopeless as hands tug at his pants.

 


Where is Seokwoo? Is he coming?

Please, help me.


Chanhee doesn’t want Seokwoo to see him like this, ruined at frozen but he’s so desperate for help.


Seokwoo's safe.

Chanhee comes to the realisation that he feels safe beneath the taller’s gaze. He wants his safety again. His arms trapping him from the outside dangers and he wants to see the stupidly amazing smile that can get him away with murder.


He wants to ignore everything that’s going on.


That there aren't hands forcing him onto his stomach and prying his legs apart.


Where is Seokwoo?


Hurry.

 

Just before the man has him completely bare, there’s a loud crash followed by banging. “What is that?” He grunts, turning away from the limp body in front of him. The other men shrug stupidly and before the man croaks out for them to check it out, the cellar door tumbles down the stairs, and two strong figures follow it down with heavy footsteps.


Chanhee cries out for their attention and they both turn towards him and Chanhee's heart stops in his chest.


Silver eyes meet his lilac orbs and Chanhee starts to shake uncontrollably. “Seokwoo,” Chanhee whispers in disbelief. His hand is glistening with blood, the side of his clothing stained with red and the sword in his hand dripping in crimson.


Seokwoo is fuming with anger when he locks eyes with the younger. He turns to the men who are bearing their teeth, their own weapons unleashed. “You bastards,” Seokwoo growls lowly.


Chanhee's never seen Seokwoo fight with weapons before now and he’d be impressed if he wasn’t in such a terrible situation.


Then there’s shouting and blurring of movement of Seokwoo and the unknown man behind him fight off the men outside the cellars rusty bars.


The man inside the cell with him growls and pulls out a dagger, more precisely Chanhee's dagger and holds it to the bearers throat.

 

Chanhee feels anger well inside him. How dare he touch that.

 

Chanhee's anger is thrown away by his fear when he presses it harder to his body and a choked whimper fills their ears and the clashing of metal holds off for a while as Seokwoo turns to check on the youngest. His lavender eyes are pleading, desperate and Seokwoo's rage bursts. He’s never seen Chanhee with that look and he’s made the decision that he never wants to again. He swings the sword and the tip grazes one of the men's chest.


Chanhee gulps and the blade presses closer to his neck. “Did you know about this all along?” He presses it harder and if he applies the tines bit more of pressure, he'll slit his throat. “You bitch,” A scream echoes throughout the cellar. Raw and pain filled.


Chanhee is now crying, hot tears streaming down his face and he sobs loudly when the man holding him down crumbles at the foot of the bed, lifeless.


They could never hold off his charm. It’s too powerful.

 

His heart squeezes in his chest and he chokes on the air, his cries knocking all the oxygen out of his lungs. What had he done? Chanhee wants to hide away from Seokwoo. He needs to go. He shouldn’t be around him, not after this. Not after letting Seokwoo see what he’s capable of. Not Seokwoo. Anyone but Seokwoo, please. He hates it. How quickly he can end life and cause instant harm. Why him? Why did he do it?


Seokwoo comes running after the men are all knocked out, not dead like the one Chanhee had killed without moving a finger. Chanhee doesn’t want Seokwoo to come closer, he wants him to stay where he is because he’s terrified he’d do something to him, too.

But Seokwoo doesn’t look at him like he’s a monster.


Instead, a look of pure worry and relief washes onto Seokwoo's face and causes Chanhee to cry harder. Seokwoo had never seen him cry, never seen him express himself and he feels like a failure. He feels weak but he willing lets Seokwoo take him into his arms and his turmoil crashes once he’s in the warmth and safety he never thought he’d need. “I’m so sorry,”

He’s done it again.

He’s killed another man, he’s a disgrace to himself. To Seokwoo.

He’s waiting for the rejection, the harsh bitter words to fall from the elder's tongue, but they never come and Chanhee only then realises then that Seokwoo is crying into his shoulder and he’s gripping hard onto his body like he’d slip away any moment. “Seokwoo,” Chanhee whispers into his shoulder and then the taller pulls away, averting his vision from the younger’s bareness. “I can’t move.” He whimpers embarrassingly.

He’s almost completely bare and he fills sick to his stomach, not only because he almost had his chastity stripped by a man he didn’t know, but because it’s Seokwoo holding his frame. He’s the man he refused to tell that he’s a bearer, the same man whom he needs to prove his strength to and that he doesn’t need protection.


He’s the same man that will be the first one to see his real struggles.


“Please,” He swallows and wets his drying lips with his tongue. “Help me.” He swallows every inch of his pride to ask for Seokwoo's aid and he feels exposed like he’s open to read and it terrifies him that Seokwoo might see the shattered mess that is his heart, that he’ll find his desperate want of belonging and acceptance. He doesn’t want that.

But Seokwoo merely nods, holding back his tears and smiles painfully. “Okay. I’ll shut my eyes.” And he does. With his eyelashes brushing gently against his cheekbones, he blindly helps Chanhee back to being decent and only opens his eyes again when Chanhee mutters out a weak thank you.


Chanhee's eyes are bloodshot with visible tear tracks down his cheeks and Seokwoo's stomach twists at the sight. “I’m so sorry.” He pulls Chanhee back into his arms and forces his tears back down. “I should’ve held your hand tighter.”


“It slipped.” Chanhee whispers, his eyes drooping and then he only acknowledges the nauseous feeling swirling in his stomach. He allows the elder to pick him up, his arms under his knees and behind his shoulders and he doesn’t know why, but he finds himself leaning into his hold.

  

“Let’s get out of here.”


The other man is waiting patiently where all the other men are knocked unconscious, a soft look on his face. His dark hair is messy and he smiles pitifully, his eyes softening at the corners when he does.


“Thank you again, Jaeyoon.”Jaeyoon nods. “It’s my pleasure to help. Don’t worry about bringing the horse back anytime. I can go get him back myself if it's a hassle.” Seokwoo nods, tugging Chanhee closer. “Do be careful on your way out. They’re always lurking.”

Seokwoo's silver eyes gleam in the warm light and Jaeyoon gulps, stepping back. And even though he knows it’s not directed towards him, it’s terrifying.


“They wouldn’t dare.”


Seokwoo’s safe.

 

 

♔ 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Seokwoo doesn’t care for anyone else in the town street after he pulls Chanhee out of the dimly lit house. He holds him close as he hoists himself up to the horse and suddenly, the horse is galloping fast through the town and Seokwoo makes no move to slow him down. Chanhee is limp in his hold, his body flinching along with the horse's strong trots.

Seokwoo has read about different drugs and their uses and he knows they’ve used a drug to paralyse him. He knows about the side effects and that’s what terrifies him.

He needs to find a healer of some kind soon or Chanhee’s life will be in danger if the antidote of the drug isn’t given to him in time. The closet safe place away from lux is Aire, a smaller slightly warmer kingdom, directly in the opposite direction they’re headed to.

Chanhee needs help quickly before he gets worse. He’s already clammy and pale and Seokwoo doesn’t want to think what could potentially happen to him if he doesn’t get to Aire in a few hours. He can’t risk it, not with him in this condition. Denho will have to wait. The other charmed ones will just have to hold on a little longer. Even though he knows Chanhee will be furious with him if he does make it, he doesn’t care that he could tear apart the small bond he’s worked hard on.

The drug is a slow-release, different to the one Chanhee was originally captured with. That one was fast-acting and didn’t stay in his system which was why those bastards had used another one on him as soon as they got him to the cellar.

Seokwoo knows what they were going to do to him. Have their way with his body, make him watch his last moments being tortured and then they’d leave him to die with no one around to help him through the pain of his last moments. He’s furious, his blood boils dangerously close to tipping over and if Chanhee wasn’t in such a state he’d personally rip their head off one by one.


“Stay with me, Chanhee!” He’s drifting in and out of consciousness, his fluttering eyes show the dazed look in his lilac eyes. He losses him again and Seokwoo forces the black stallion to go faster. “Hurry!” He shouts, one hand cupping the small charmed one's cheek. “I’m so sorry,” he mumbles, a choked whimper catches in the back of his throat. “Just hold on for a little bit longer, Chanhee.”

 

When nightfall comes, panic only begins to set deeper inside Seokwoo when they don’t come across anything for a good half an hour. He knew they’d left Lux, he’d rode through the castle town, ignoring everyone's surprised cries and rode straight through the last and smallest city Lux owned. Chanhee hasn’t woken up since be lost consciousness back in Lux and Seokwoo's stomach is in knots with fear for the younger’s wellbeing.


Another twenty minutes pass and the stallion has slowed down to a fast-paced trot instead and Seokwoo cries out in relief when he sees light ahead. “Almost there, Chanhee, just hold on.” Chanhee doesn’t answer, he can’t. Seokwoo pushes the horse one last time and when it halts at the clay brick house Seokwoo wastes no time in safely tucking Chanhee to his chest and leaping off the horse to frantically knock at the door with his foot.


Seokwoo swings on his heels nervously and about a minute later a man opens the cottages wooden door with a frown etched on his tired-looking face, a baby held to his chest. His dark open eyes widen and he calls out for someone. A man a little shorter than him with longer hair appears next to him and hurriedly takes the baby from his arms and steps back.

“My gosh, come in, hurry!” He slams the door shut behind Seokwoo. The tall charmed one keeps Chanhee close to his chest and his heart thumps wildly in his chest. He hopes that there’s someone here that can help him out. “What’s going on here?” Comes another voice and Seokwoo turns to see a man walking down the wooden staircase, fox-like eyes closing in on the small charmed one in Seokwoo's arms. “He’s been drugged,” Seokwoo rushes out, not stopping to think that they could potentially be dangerous.


His eyes widen. “Quickly!” He shouts and drags the tallest away, past the staircase to a room where a bed is laid in the middle of the room, dressers around the room are piled with many different herbs, tools and bottles of medication. Definitely a healers room. Seokwoo wants to cry on in relief and he lays Chanhee on the bed, removes the cloak thrown over his shoulders and steps back as soon as the unnamed man moves towards him. “Paralysed him, right?” Seokwoo swallows and nods.


“I’m Inseong, I can take care of him, okay? Can I ask you to sit out with Taeyang and Youngkyun? We have a spare bedroom here. Youngkyun can take you there and bandage up your hand.” He looks down and remembers about his slashed palm. Blood is crusted up to his elbow and he looks over at Chanhee and gulps when he sees drying blood on his cheek and down his side. The sword on his hip is also covered in dried blood.


“I don’t think I can do that,” Seokwoo refuses and Inseong sighs, not looking up from what he’ s doing on one of the dressers. “Look, I do not know what you’ve been through, but this won’t be nice to watch. But if you’re alright of seeing him like this, be my guest there’s a chair in the corner. But you need to get your hand fixed up, too.” There is an old-looking wooden chair with a single forest green cushion placed on top in the corner where Inseong had pointed and Seokwoo frowns as he looks at the healer.

Seokwoo hesitates to leave the younger but Inseong gives him a pointed look and his stomach churns when a choked noise comes from Chanhee. Inseong lifts his head and bile pours from his mouth and he turns, leaving the younger in the healer's hands.

 

 

He’s shaking and he doesn’t realise it until one of the other men grabs his uninjured hand softly. His dark eyes are full of uneasiness but he tries to smile comfortingly, a hand holding the sleeping baby flush to his clothed chest. “What is your name?” He asks while softly bouncing on the heels of his feet, rocking the baby in his arms back to sleep. “Seokwoo…” he whispers, turning back to the room he just exited after hearing glass shatter.

“Don’t worry, Seokwoo. Inseong is charmed with healing, there isn’t anything he hasn’t fixed. Your husband will be safe—“

“He’s not my husband,” Seokwoo corrects swiftly. “We’re not even much of friends.” He admits sorrowfully. “Oh,” The man says, his hand letting go of Seokwoo's to adjust the baby in his hold. “You seem awfully worried about him, Seokwoo. I just thought you must be close.”'

Seokwoo wishes that they were, maybe it would be easier if they could talk to each other without clashing and misunderstanding each other.
“Taeyang,” the other man with long chocolate hair pops out from a corner. “Go back to bed, I’ll be there soon after I show our guest to his room.” “Seokwoo,” Taeyang smiles to the shorter man. “That’s his name.”

The one who Seokwoo guesses is Youngkyun brushes his hand across the baby’s back as he passes, a look of pure love reflecting in his eyes.

 

 

“I hope the bed is long enough.” Youngkyun chuckles and rubs the back of his nape. It probably won’t be. Most beds aren’t long enough for his height, but he doesn’t think it matters since he knows he won’t be able to sleep knowing Chanhee is downstairs with someone Seokwoo barely knows trying his best to heal him.

“He will be alright, right?” Youngkyun blinks once then twice before he nods. “Of course. I’ve never see Inseong fail to heal someone. Even Taeyang was back on his feet two days after our daughter was born.”


Seokwoo doesn’t look over to Youngkyun again. Instead, he drops his cloak from his body and walks over to the window in the small room. “It’s nice here, thank you.” He says, staring up at the full moon In the midnight sky. There’s a bed wide enough for two, but too short for Seokwoo’s long body. An armchair sits in the far left corner next to the window and there’s a small trunk at the end of the bed. Youngkyun smiles gently. “Here, I’ll fix your hand for you.”

They sit on the edge of the bed and Seokwoo hisses when Youngkyun cleans his wound out. “What did you even do?” He asks with a frown. Seokwoo averts his eyes and sighs. “I got into a fight…” He murmurs. “I grabbed his sword.” Youngkyun gives him a slight judging look and Seokwoo looks away. Youngkyun pats his hand gently after it’s all bandaged.

“You should try to sleep,” Youngkyun says. “And don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine, I promise you.”

Seokwoo tries to think positively but all he can see is tears rolling down his face and he gulps. He breathes in heavily, yet shakily and he clenches his fists.

 

 


 

 


Seokwoo groans as he tosses again. He hadn’t slept yet and he’s growing even more nervous as time goes on. If Chanhee hadn’t had the antidote yet, he’d be almost gone and Seokwoo springs up at the thought.


He’s quiet as he treads down the stairs, careful to not wake the couple and their daughter and when he reaches the door to where Chanhee is, he shuts his eyes tightly and hopes for the best. He gently opens the door and he’s met with the sight of Inseong dabbing a wet cloth on the younger charmed one's forehead.

The healer turns and offers Seokwoo a small smile. Seokwoo’s eyes don’t stray from Chanhee as he walks towards the bed and sits on the opposite side and reaches out a hand, softly grabbing onto his clammy and bloodied hand. His face is illuminated by the oil lamp hanging on the wall and even in the dim warm light Seokwoo can tell how pale he is.


“I have given the antidote to him,” Inseong informs quietly, brushing wet black hair out away from his closed eyelids. “He should be okay now, but it’ll take a while until he’ll have his strength back. He should wake up in the morning.”


Seokwoo nods and smiles weakly. “Thank you,” he whispers, bringing Chanhee's hand close to his chest. “I’ll leave you now,” Inseong says, dropping the cloth into a bowl of water on the table beside the bed. “There’s spare robes on the drawer. You should probably get him out of the bloody ones.”


Inseong turns back once he’s at the door and smiles. “Come find me next to the spare room if he gets worse.” Seokwoo nods and once Inseong leaves he doesn’t bother to sniff back his tears and reaches over for the cloth to remove the dried blood from his hands and his neck.


“I’m sorry,” he whispers through his tears.

 

 


 

 

 

Chanhee blinks his eyes open. The pale green curtains are drawn and light beams through the window, hitting his eyes uncomfortably. He groans out and lifts a strangely heavy hand to cover his eyes and he hears a gentle gasp.

“Hello?” The voice is soft. It’s definitely not Seokwoo’s, or Juho’s and he flinches back. His body feels heavy and a sick feeling swirls in his stomach.

There’s a soft coo and Chanhee tenses at the sound.

“I’m sorry if I’ve startled you,” the same voice speaks, a little more distant and suddenly the light isn’t smacking him in the face. “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay. I was very concerned when your friend arrived here yesterday with you.” The voice becomes clearer.

Chanhee slowly removes his hand from his face and is meet with a man with dark hair, a tanned complexion and a small baby carried in his arms.

He blinks softly and the man smiles softly.

“I’m Taeyang.” He says quietly. “And this is Minhwa,” the baby smiles and Chanhee relaxes a little bit. She laughs, a small tinkle and Taeyang beams at the sound.


Chanhee removes his gaze from the cooing baby and looks around the room. There’s plenty of herbs around, bowls and cloth and there’s a wooden pot full of dried flower petals beside him. He recognises it as a healers room. He’d been to the royal healer's office many times when he was a child. He was intrigued by all of his trinkets and dehydrated plants used for medicine.


What exactly had happened? Where’s Seokwoo? Juho? He breathes out shakily. Too many thoughts flash through his mind and he clenches his teeth when he starts shaking, but he’s unable to stop the small spasms controlling his body.


Had he gotten away in time? Is he safe? Where’s Seokwoo?

 

“Oh,” Taeyang adjusts the squirming baby in his arms who cries out, hands reaching for Chanhee. The charmed one stills and Taeyang’s turns her around in his arms, her head resting against his shoulder. “I can help you change your clothes if you like? I think it would be rather uncomfortable in the ones you’re wearing now…” Chanhee blinks and looks down to find dried blood down his side and he panics a little bit. He knew for sure that he wasn’t the one bleeding and he shakes harder. Was it Seokwoo? One of the men?


He places the baby beside Chanhee and his eyes flicker to the baby. She has a fist in her mouth and her wide eyes are looking around and she smiles widely when her eyes land on his face. “I think she likes you,” Taeyang muses as he softly reaches out for Chanhee's hands.


“Your friend,” Taeyang starts and he gains Chanhee's attention. He looks up at him and gingerly takes his hands. Taeyang helps him sit up. “Inseong asked him to change you last night, but he refused. He asked me this morning if I could help you.” Chanhee eyes flicker down.

He knows he has to thank him for what he’s done lately, but he doesn’t know if he’s ready to see him just yet. He’d rather not see the other charmed one at the moment. He feels weak, almost helpless and he doesn’t want Seokwoo to see right through him. He doesn’t want the cracks on his heart to be seen.

“He’s terribly worried about you,” Taeyang informs him as he gently helps him out of his clothes. Chanhee wants to fight him, tell him to take his hands off of him, but his body is heavy. It feels like he’s weighted down by hundreds of bricks and his head is pounding. “He stayed up all night watching over you.”

Chanhee doesn’t say anything. He lets Taeyang help him into fresh clothes and his eyes move to Minhwa when she squeals and he reaches a heavy arm out when she tries to roll over. “Oh,” Taeyang quickly scoops her up into his arms and smiles. “She can’t quite roll yet.” It’s quiet, awkwardly quiet and Chanhee just continues to look at the small human curiously. Taeyang notices and beams. “You can hold her if you’d like? I think she likes you a lot.”


Chanhee shakes his head. He doesn’t trust himself at the moment. His charm isn’t harmless at all and he’d rather not risk anything. Especially since he feels so on edge. His charm could surface at any time. “That’s okay. Maybe later,” The baby coos and Chanhee looks away, eyeing the door.

“I should probably tell your friend you’ve awoken. He’s been terribly afraid all morning.”

Taeyang disappears with his baby and it’s quiet in the room for a minute or so until Seokwoo rushes inside, hands holding a bowl and a shorter man, everyone's shorter than Seokwoo, with blonde locks follows him in.

“Chanhee,” The tallest breathes out and he looks relieved and his tense muscles relax.


“Where’s Juho?” Is the first thing Chanhee asks. He discovers that his throat is a little scratchy after he talks. Seokwoo rushes over to his side, setting the bowl full of a broth of some sort on the bedside table. Seokwoo doesn’t answer but he as a conflicting look on his face.

“Seokwoo,” Chanhee's face contorts into a scowl and the elder sighs. “Look,” He says and he gulps worriedly. “When we couldn’t find you in the crowd,” He takes a deep breath. He knows Chanhee is going to be furious.

“We got into a fight.”

His face hardens.


Juho is his appointed knight. He’s trained with him for three years, he knows his technique, he knows his strengths his weaknesses and he knows he’s a formidable fighter. It makes him uneasy that he’s not here. It makes him uneasy that it means that Seokwoo had obviously won.


What type of power does he hold, then?


Seokwoo moves his hand away from Chanhee's view but he’s already seen the bandage around it.

“I’m supposing you won, then?” He sneers and Seokwoo frowns. “I mean, sure. I did, that’s why I'm the one here with you instead.”

“So,” Chanhee presses on, lips pursing. “Where’s Juho? Back in Lux?” Seokwoo frowns. “That’s where we parted. He might catch up—“
“Where are we Seokwoo?” The eldest blinks and Chanhee tries to move his body a little bit but he feels too heavy. Seokwoo leans further away, mad Chanhee means a rash Chanhee and he doesn’t think he’s up for that at the moment.

“Aire,” He answers softly and Chanhee scoffs. “Excuse me?” He shakes his head and grimaces at the pain in his head as he does so. “Seokwoo,” he meets his eyes and Seokwoo's bottom lip catches between his teeth when he sees his lavender tinged orbs. “That’s the opposite direction of where we're supposed to be going,”


“You think I don’t know that?” Seokwoo stands from the bed, frowning. He’s mad, Chanhee can tell, but he is too so he doesn’t dwell on how Seokwoo is feeling.


“You were poisoned, Chanhee. What was I supposed to do? Ride into Denho and let you die or come here where it’s safe?”


“This,” Chanhee gestures to the room. “Could've been anywhere, Seokwoo! Did it ever cross your mind you could be putting us in dang—“


“You could’ve died!” Seokwoo screams at him, hands balling into fists at his sides. “I could’ve lost you,” he says quieter and Chanhee is at a loss for words. “I was scared.”


He cares. Chanhee feels his heart clench.


He turns his head away and blinks, suddenly more anxious than what he was before. “Whatever,” He mutters quietly. He can’t show Seokwoo that it hurt him. Seokwoo swallows and sighs loudly. “I’m really sorry, Chanhee,” The youngest doesn’t look at him. “I’m sorry I came then… I could’ve gotten to you earlier if I didn’t get so caught up in my emotions…”

Chanhee gazes at his hands.


“It’s okay,” He whispers softly. Seokwoo almost doesn’t hear. “You got there in time.”

Seokwoo takes a step closer and the blonde-haired male smiles at them before he sneaks away, sensing that they need time alone.

“I should be the one apologising.” Says Chanhee with a small sniff.


Goddamnit, don’t cry. Don’t cry.


Seokwoo frowns as he sits on the edge of the bed. He shakes his head and Chanhee laughs in a melancholically way. Seokwoo wants to reach out and grab his hands in his. He doesn’t.


“Maybe if I stopped to think that maybe I'm not as strong as I try to put out we wouldn’t be in this situation?” He breathes in heavily. He’s still shaking and it’s starting to get harder to breathe.

“Don’t say that,” Seokwoo pleads softly. His face shows a saddened look and Chanhee averts his eyes from him again.

“You know you don’t have to prove anything to me, right?” Seokwoo's tone is soft, careful and Chanhee lifts his head and shakes his head. “You have no idea,” he starts and he gulps, trying to keep his tears at bay.


He’s lived his whole life trying to prove himself. To show his father that he’s capable and strong, to show his people he would be a good king, but here he is, exiled. He failed to show them and know that the only person who ever truly believed in him is gone. He’s so lost and he doesn’t know where to go.

He wanted so badly to become the King of Ros. He had dreamed since he was young about taking over the kingdom and know he's here. He had realised long ago that he didn’t belong, but he had hoped and he clung onto the hope until it was cut off from him, buried six feet under.

He doesn’t know who to trust. He doesn’t know who he is and his heart skinks at the feeling. Maybe his father had been right all this time. He could just be a peasants child who became a prince all because a queen had a big heart and pitied him.


Jiyeon believed in him.


She didn’t just take him in because he was pitiful. She saw what the others didn’t see. She saw the purple tulips in his hair, lilac orbs and she saw his ability. She never once doubted him and now Chanhee's crying.

Hot tears run down his cheeks and he turns away from Seokwoo.

He can’t see him crying. He doesn’t want him to see his weak side.


“How I’ve lived my life.” Chanhee murmurs in an angry tone. Seokwoo sees right through it and Chanhee feels weaker, stripped of his defences in front of him. “You’re right,” The elder replies and Chanhee doesn’t flinch when his hand brushes past his. “I have no idea who you are and you have no idea who I am,” Chanhee wipes away his tears and he breathes deeply, hoping to stop the shaking of his body.

“But I know that you want to prove yourself to me and I want you to know that you don’t have to—“


Chanhee cuts him off with a choked cry and he looks away in embarrassment. “Stop,” he pleads. His voice is soft, fragile and Seokwoo's mind flashes back to what Juho had said.

 

Just don’t pull any stupid stunts. His heart is fragile enough.”

 

He looks into his eyes and Chanhee's eyes dart around but Seokwoo smiles tenderly, comfortingly and Chanhee's gaze then focuses on his eyes. “I know it hurts you.” Seokwoo continues despite the youngers request. He wants to get himself across, and even though he knows he’s going to hurt him he has to make sure that he knows he’s here for him.

Chanhee’s bottom lip quivers. He bites down on it and Seokwoo reaches out his other hand, his thumb gently pulling his lip from his teeth.

“But I need you to know that you can trust me.”


Chanhee shakes his head, salty tears run down his cheeks and Seokwoo wants to swipe them away.


“You can. I’m not expecting you to tell me your life story, I don’t need that. I just need you to know that I’m going to stand by you. You can talk to me instead of trying to hold it together. I imagine I’d be hard to deal with everything that’s going on, even more so if you’re keeping your emotions bottled u—“


“I said to stop!” Chanhee cries out, his body lurches forward and he swallows thickly. He feels like he’s going to throw up. “I can't fucking trust you yet, so stop it! Please, I can’t… I don’t know how to.” Seokwoo doesn’t even flinch at the outburst.


“That’s okay.” He assures. “It takes time. I’m willing to wait for you,” Seokwoo replies. His voice is still soft, and his face is set into a neutral look.


Chanhee doesn’t know what to think.


In a way, he knows he trusts Seokwoo. Because Seokwoo is safe. But even thinking about opening up to him makes him feel panic and his shaking gets worse. Seokwoo notices. He always notices the little things.


He stands from where he was sitting on the edge of the bed and smiles. He knows he should leave him alone now. He’s done enough damage to him already. Seokwoo knows Chanhee needs time from him, to throw away his facade that he wears around everyone.

 

“Just know,” He says as he opens the door to the room. “That I meant what I said.”


Chanhee’s alone for a few more minutes and he breathes in heavily before he lets out a shaky breath and he dries away his tears when the same blonde-haired man from before walks into the room.


“Hello,” he greets softly. “I’m Inseong,” Chanhee just nods and sniffs away the rest of his tears.


He briefly listens to Inseong and what he’s telling him. Things about the drug that was used on him, the side effects and his healing process. He’s a little annoyed that he’s been told he has to wait another whole week before his body has fully recovered.


Inseong quickly notices his shaking and places a hand on his forehead.

“Gosh,” The healer pulls away quickly. Chanhee doesn’t miss how his eyes flash red and his mouth parts. He’s beginning to feel dizzy and the swirl of nausea swirls in his stomach.

“You’re charmed, too?” He makes out, almost slurring his words and Inseong turns back, red eyes gleaming in the candlelight and he nods. “I am. With healing. I need you to lay back down for me, can you do that?”


“Sick,” Chanhee replies and Inseong curses underneath his breath.


Within a few seconds, his body goes from feeling heavy to him not feeling anything. Inseong dives to catch his body from falling off the side of the bed.


Before he goes under the wave of darkness, his mind flickers to fiery amaranths, elderflowers and pink geraniums.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chanhee’s floating.

He opens his eyes and he’s met with midnight skies, shining stars and soft tufts of clouds. He blinks, once then twice before he rubs his eyes. He’s hovering in the air, feet off the lush, flower-covered earth below.

“Hello?” His voice reverberates around him and his brows knit together when the wind howls.

“Is anyone here?”

He shivers as cold air blows past his bare skin and he looks down to see himself dressed differently to what he remembers.

He’s never seen clothing like this before.

His shoulders and collarbones are exposed to the cool air and his arms are covered in a thin layer of sheer white chiffon, the golden cuffs over the thin fabric are cold against his skin. There’s a golden chain hanging around his waist that falls to his hips with little flowers wrapping themselves around the gold. Chanhee squints at the flowers trying to decipher what type of flowers they are, but he’s never seen them before. When he looks down and he frowns a bit when he sees his legs covered in layers of flowing sheer material. His feet are dirtied with earth and the bottom of the skirt's fabric is muddy.

“Child,” Chanhee perks up, his gaze tearing from the bottom of his dirtied clothes to search for the voice. It’s distinctively female, but he can’t see anyone else around. He tenses up and he flinches when he feels himself float up higher.

“Who are you?” His tone is sharp but he doesn’t get an answer and he clenches his jaw. “What is this place?”

Chanhee frowns. He has no clue where he is and he’s sure he’s never heard this woman voice in his life.


The last thing he remembers was Inseong speaking to him and the sickening feeling inside him before he lost his grip on the world.

Oh.

Chanhee blinks. Is he dead?

 

But he can feel the beat of his heart beneath his fingertips when his hand rests against the soft material over his chest. He feels warm and he’s breathing.

“Listen, Child,” Chanhee's hand slowly falls from his chest to fist at the material flowing down his legs.

“Shall the heart open,” Chanhee searches for the voice. An ominous glow is appearing in the sky and his heart pounds in his chest.

“The light will dim,” The light shines brighter and Chanhee squints, a hand reaching up to protect his eyes from the powerful glow.

“The flower will bloom,” Hesitantly, he peeks and his bottom lip catches between his teeth when he sees a silhouette of a woman appearing in front of him.

“And become the light,” Through the overwhelming light, he can see that she’s dressed similarly to what he is at the moment and he reaches a hand out, trying to get closer to her. He feels like he’s stuck, suffocating and he gaps out. He can’t move.

“Take the hand and darkness shall prevail.”

It’s like the lock on his body suddenly is removed and his eyes widen, lips part for a shriek to pass through and then he’s falling.

 

 

 

 


Chanhee wakes with a yell.

Inseong rushes to his side, holds him upright and rubs a hand down his back while he sputters for air. “Breathe, Chanhee,” He continues to rub his back after he begins to calm down and when he’s finally breathing in heavy, slow breathes Inseong slowly leans away and looks into the younger’s eyes.

His eyes are still red and Chanhee guesses his own are lilac due to the look on Inseong’s face. “Here,” He offers him a wooden bowl full of water and Chanhee takes it in his shaky hands and sip at it. Inseong holds it steady for him when water starts to spill over the sides.

“I’ve never met another charmed person before,” Inseong comments after Chanhee takes the bowl of water away from his lips. Chanhee just nods, still trying to catch his breath. He has no idea what’s just happened.

“You have pretty eyes.” He adds and Chanhee's eyebrows raise. “I mean,” Inseong flushes and Chanhee turns to look at him. He doesn’t feel so heavy anymore. “I’ve never thought I’d ever see purple eyes in my time,” Chanhee doesn’t really listen to the healer, he’s stuck in his head wondering about what just happened. He looks down and pulls away the bed's covers to see himself in the same warm brown pants and the white cotton shirt Taeyang had helped him into.

Then, what was the clothing that he was wearing before from?


“Inseong?” He murmurs. He doesn’t tear his gaze away from his pants for a while. “Yes? Do you feel ill still?” He shakes his head and moves his gaze to the healer’s face. “Is it possible to hallucinate as side effects?”

The healer’s eyebrows knit together and he presses his lips in thought. “It’s possible…” Chanhee leans back against the headboard. “Why?” The healer presses on, slightly concerned. “Did you see something?” His face turns melancholy as if he’s thought of something bad. “You didn’t dream about what happened, did you?”

Chanhee’s blood boils in his veins at the mention of what had happened. He shakes his head. “No, thankfully.” He stops and his eyes narrow. He’s not sure how to explain what he saw, what he felt. “It was nothing,” He ends up muttering. Inseong might make him stay longer than a week if he tells him he’s been seeing things, hearing things.

“I just had a dream, that’s all.”

“Oh, okay. Would you like to try and stand? Everyone else is having lunch at the moment. I’m sure everyone will be delighted to see you. I’ve heard Minhwa is fond of you?” Chanhee sighs at the mention of the cooing baby.

He doesn’t hate babies, how can he without their chubby cheeks and adorable laughs? He’s just weary around them. They’re so tiny, helpless and he can kill a man twice his size with a mere look. He’s terrified that he’ll hurt them and the mere thought of him being the reason behind their pained cries feels like a hot knife twisting in his heart.


“Okay,” He says. Inseong helps him up, slowly and steadily and when Chanhee feels a little bit dizzy, he sits him back down and gives him a few minutes before he succeeds in standing without feeling like he’ll empty his already empty stomach.

They take small, slow steps and Inseong is pretty impressed when he doesn’t need a break. On the way out of the room, Chanhee learns he’d been unconscious for a total of almost two days after he fainted the other morning.

Inseong leads him into the kitchen and dining room. The walls are made from bricks and serval flower pots are sitting on the counters and in the windowsills. Everyone else is sitting at the wooden dining table, bowls of some type of vegetable soup and bread in front of them.

Seokwoo is the first to notice the other two charmed ones and he abruptly stands, causing the baby in his arms to cry out. Seokwoo looks rather flustered and Taeyang laughs at him when he begins to rock back and forth, calming the baby in his arms. Chanhee avoids his eyes after the elder flashes a smile at him as he sits down, adjusting the squirming baby in his arms.

 


“How are you feeling, Chanhee?” It’s Taeyang who asks him. Chanhee looks up from his bowl of soup and bread and nods his head. “Better,” he answers truthfully. He doesn’t feel nauseous anymore and the heaviness he felt before is almost gone. “That’s great! Maybe you’ll be able to return your travels soon! Seokwoo was telling me that you’re going to Denho?”

Chanhee drops his spoon and shoots a look over to Seokwoo. The elder pretends he didn’t hear and plays with Minhwa who laughs loudly. “Yes,” He forces out and Seokwoo takes a peek of his facial expression and when he sees that his jaw is clenched he quickly returns his attention the baby.

“Interesting,” Youngkyun muses, looking up from his soup. “I heard that the crown prince became king two months back.” Chanhee purses his lips together. “I heard nobles talk about it in the town centre a few weeks ago.”

“Have you heard anything else about him?” Chanhee questions. Any more information on what he’s like would help them. Youngkyun shrugs his shoulders and Taeyang perks up when Minhwa starts to wail loudly. Seokwoo passes her off to him and he disappears into the sitting room with her.

“No, not really. I’ve only heard that he’s handsome,” Chanhee sighs and takes his spoon back into his grip. “Inseong,” he murmurs. Seokwoo looks at him with the healer, his own eyebrows raised.

“Yes?”

“Chanhee—“ Seokwoo tries to cut him off with a hiss but he shakes his head at the tallest. “They deserve to know, Seokwoo.” He glares at Chanhee across the table and he opens his mouth to speak but Chanhee beats him to it.

“They’re capturing charmed ones,” Seokwoo tenses across the table and Youngkyun raises a brow and Inseong takes his spoon away from his mouth, a concerned look on his face. “What?” Youngkyun mutters, his brows then knit together.

“But,” Inseong speak up, gently dropping his spoon into his bowl. “You are both charmed also?” Chanhee looks over at Seokwoo who is staring intently at him.

“Our charms,” Seokwoo says and Chanhee turns away from them. “Aren’t listed in the records and history.” Inseong cocks his head to the side, interested. “Then?” He says. “What are they?”

Seokwoo leans back into his chair, arms folding over his chest. “Strength,” he answers and Inseong raises his eyebrows. “Well,” Seokwoo smiles sheepishly. “I’m not entirely sure if it is strength… It seems like it is though.”

“Oh,” Inseong nods his head and Youngkyun continues to eat, nonchalant about the exchange. “Chanhee what’s our charm?”

Chanhee stirs his soup, not daring to look at any of them. What is he supposed to say? That he can inflict pain with a single look? That he can kill a man by just his eyes meeting with theirs? He takes a deep breath and looks up.


“Pain,” He says. “Death.”


Youngkyun drops his spoon and soup splashes over the table in front of them. Inseong splutters a little bit and Chanhee smiles wearily, his eyes darting over to Seokwoo who nods and smiles back at him.


It's okay, he mouths to him. Chanhee inhales heavily and nods softly.


“Pain?” Inseong repeats slowly and Chanhee nods. “How does it work, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chanhee just shrugs. “When my charm is surfaced,” He exhales loudly and he looks back over to Seokwoo. He doesn’t know why he does, but Seokwoo's reassuring. “I just look and,” he stops himself and smiles awkwardly at the healer. “Yeah, that’s about it.”

Inseong seems impressed, or rather terrified, Chanhee can’t quite tell. Youngkyun, however, looks at him with narrowed eyes. “Death?” He frowns and Chanhee casts his eyes away after he speaks, feeling uncomfortable.

Seokwoo sees and he stands from the table taking his and Chanhee's bowl to the kitchen to clean up.

“Who are they?” He presses on and Chanhee's jaw clenches. He’s not used to people talking to him like that. Except for his father.

“I cannot say,” Chanhee replies back monotonously. Youngkyun folds his arms over his chest and shakes his head. “Then, you’re saying Inseong is at risk?”

“That's what I was implying, yes.”

“Then I think we deserve to know who the threat is?” Chanhee frowns at the young father. “That isn’t information I can give out so easily.” Chanhee's tone is growing sharp and Seokwoo watches from the kitchen with a frown.

“What are you two spies or something? How come you’re allowed to know? Because you’re charmed too? That’s ironic, having charmed ones going after people who capture charmed ones.”

“You know nothing,” Chanhee snarls through gritted teeth.
Seokwoo steps out of the kitchen and places a hand on Chanhee's forearm as he shakes his head softly.

“I think that’s enough for today,” Seokwoo interrupts before Youngkyun can say anything else.
Chanhee takes a deep breath and averts his eyes from the young father.


“Sorry,” Youngkyun mutters after Inseong glares at him. “I’m just a little it weary.”


“Understandable,” Chanhee murmurs. He’s still mad, but he knows Youngkyun didn’t mean to agitate him on purpose.

 


Taeyang enters back into the room after Inseong finished cleaning all the dishes. Seokwoo had tried and Youngkyun had laughed at him while Chanhee watched him fumble around from the table. Inseong eventually got sick of him dropping the wet bowls to the ground and he took over after the dropped a bowl for the third time.


“Youngkyun,” Taeyang's with Minhwa asleep in his arms. Her cheek his resting against his chest and her lips are pouty. Youngkyun turns to him and smiles before he starts cooing over their sleeping daughter. “Come on, let’s go.”

Seokwoo perks up from beside Inseong. “Where are you guys headed?”


“Just to the markets in town. We need to get a few more things for Minhwa and since winter is here our food supply is running low.” Seokwoo smiles sheepishly. It was also probably since they’ve been feeding two other mouths.


“If you want we can watch Minhwa?” He offers and Taeyang smiles gratefully. “Really?” Youngkyun asks and the tallest nods with a smile. Taeyang looks over to Chanhee who just nods softly.


“I trust you,” Youngkyun says.


“You know what my charm is.” Chanhee frowns and Youngkyun smiles. “I trust Seokwoo,” He says. “Seokwoo trusts you so I trust you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What if we take this route?” Chanhee asks, pointing to the map laid out on Seokwoo's bed.

Seokwoo had held him with one arm, Minhwa in the other while they climbed the stairs to the spare bedroom. Chanhee had found it a little difficult to find his balance a few times. Minhwa is still sleeping soundly in front of them. “It’s not the main path,” Seokwoo observes and Chanhee nods. “If we try to go around and look for the other charmed ones, wouldn’t that be the right thing to do?” He says and Seokwoo hums. “I mean,” He adds on. “You have trouble keeping your charm away. It would be pretty risky if we just walked through Denho. What if we run into trouble? Our charms don’t hold back, Seokwoo.”

The baby between them stirs and Chanhee retracts his hand from the map quickly. Seokwoo readjusts the baby’s blanket and she stills.

“Well,” he mutters quietly. “If we go on a different route, we still don’t know where they are exactly so we could be out for a while just trying to navigate through their terrain for them.” Chanhee purses his lips. “Honestly,” he sighs with a shake of his head. “When you asked me to help I really didn’t expect it to be all of this.”

Seokwoo purses his lips and nods. “I did say it would be dangerous.”

“And I said we shouldn’t go through Lux.” Chanhee counters back harshly and Seokwoo scoffs, shaking his head. “Maybe if we had better communication—“


“Are you saying it’s my fault?”“No,” Seokwoo whispers, his face is contorted into a pained look. “It wasn’t your fault and I hope you know that. I just wished that we had come to a better agreement than you tagging along with mine even after you voiced your worries.”

“You did say you warned me,” Chanhee reminds with a soft sigh. “I knew it would be dangerous, this whole ordeal but I didn’t understand the extent of the danger until recently.”


Seokwoo pulls away from the map and folds it away, shoving it back into his satchel. He looks over to the younger who’s eyes are trained to the sleeping baby between them, a soft smile edging on the corners of his lips. Seokwoo thinks he looks nice when he smiles, pretty even.


“We can get through it.” Chanhee breaks his eyes away from Minhwa and offers Seokwoo an actual genuine smile. Seokwoo is a taken back for a while, but he smiles hastily after Chanhee's gaze doesn’t fall from his face. It’s a little awkward when their smiles fall and they continue to stare at each other and their gazes only fall from each other when a small cry breaks through and Chanhee gasps when the baby rolls over. “Goodness!” He reaches out a hand and holds her. Her little bottom lip is wobbling and Chanhee's own bottom lip juts out at her little sad face.


“You should pick her up,” Seokwoo says quietly, urging him with a small nod. Chanhee raises his eyebrows. “No thanks,” he shakes his head and retracts his hand from her small body. Seokwoo shrugs and takes her into his own arms instead. She continues to cry, even when Seokwoo rocks her gently.

Chanhee watches and smiles when her cries start to quieten. It hits him then that he doesn’t know an awful lot about Seokwoo. Like why is he so good with babies? How did he learn how to fight? Did he have a job before he decided to go on this mission? Chanhee frowns.


How did he find out about this mission in the first place?

 

“Why are you so good with babies?” He settles on and Seokwoo laughs gently. “My sister has her own children, my niece and nephew. They’re four and two now. I guess I just picked up some things after living with them. What about you?”


“Siblings?” Chanhee inquires and Seokwoo shrugs. “Any little ones, I guess.”

“Oh, no. I’m the only child.” How his father hated that. Everyone had known the king was itching for another child, one of his blood, Jiyeon’s blood, but that never came. The royal court had pushed for an ‘illegitimate’ heir many times in the court and at one stage they had even suggested a royal consort to carry an heir. Kiwoon had thought about it at first as a good idea but he then talked about it with Jiyeon who outright refused.

“What about where you learnt to fight? You beat Juho, I trained with him for years, I know how good he is. It concerns me I had no clue how strong my partner is.” Seokwoo laughs and Minhwa whines but she calms down just as quickly as she fuses when he continues to rock her gently. “I started showing interest in combat at age eleven. My parents allowed me to train with a knight they’re close with. I wouldn’t say I have amazing techniques, I just kind of bulldoze.”

Chanhee laughs this time. He begins to feel a little light-headed and he sucks in deep breathes of air to help the nauseating feeling disappear. “As for your technique…” Seokwoo shakes his head, gives him a thumbs up and whistles. “Very sharp. You just glide through the air. Terrifying.”

“I’ve trained for almost my whole life. I would hope I’m impressive.” Chanhee's still smiling and Seokwoo's glad he is. He was concerned about his emotional damage after past events.

“Very.”


They fall into a comfortable silence. Lost in their thoughts and watching Minhwa wake up fully in Seokwoo's hold.


“Do you want kids?” Seokwoo asks and Chanhee looks up at him from Minhwa. “No.” He answers quickly. “Never.” If he hadn’t been exiled, he’d probably be married to an official by now, possibly carrying a child even, but he had never wanted it personally. After he found out the extent of his charm he had been terrified ever since of having kids. He doesn’t want to hurt them in any way and he doesn’t know if he trusts his charm—himself—enough to not hurt the ones he loves.

“Oh, I just thought…”

“Because I'm a bearer?” Chanhee responds dejectedly. “I’m inclined to pop out a few children?”


“That's not what I meant, Chanhee… I was just curious if you ever would want a family.” He stiffens at the word. All his family had done to him was tear him apart at the seams and instructed him to sew his broken pieces back together with his eyes closed shut.


“I don’t think that’s possible for me,” Chanhee whispers. He keeps his eyes away from Seokwoo and decides to look at the baby happily smiling and reaching for him.


The King of Idris, Youngbin, had wanted nothing else but to marry him, but after his exile, it is virtually impossible to marry him without his father knowing, without him interrupting and taking Chanhee away once more. The rules on royal exile are clear. To have no affiliation to other royal families— something he’s already broken. Twice. To stay out of royal affairs, one that he’s currently breaking.

Chanhee exhales loudly and he shrugs his shoulders before he looks up to Seokwoo. He smiles, trying to distract himself from the realisation and Seokwoo just stares at him with a penetrating gaze.


“Chanhee…”

“It’s fine!” He waves him off and stands from his place on the bed. “I don’t need pity. That’s the last thing I want.” He begins to walk off. His stomach swirls with unsureness and he feels a little shaky. If any other kingdoms find out of his exile, he’ll be in massive trouble.


“I’m not pitying you,” A hand grips at his wrist and he turns back to see Seokwoo's face pleading. Minhwa coos at him from Seokwoo's hold. Chanhee looks down, away from Seokwoo when his wrist falls from his grip.


“Stay,” He murmurs. “Don’t go back to the silence.” Chanhee looks up to him and stares into Seokwoo's starry orbs for a good thirty seconds before he nods cautiously. “Okay,” He whispers.


“You should trust yourself more, Chanhee.” The exiled prince shakes his head. “You’re more capable than you think,”

He doesn’t think he’s not capable enough. Chanhee had thought he was too able. But when the world has done nothing but prove him wrong in numerous ways. His mother's death, his exile, getting captured, drugged, he’s starting to think he isn’t all that he thought he was. Strong and capable.


“It’s stupid,” He mumbles, tracing patterns on the bed's covers with his fingertips. “To think that I’m strong,” Seokwoo doesn’t say anything but his face tells it all. His brows are set into a deep frown, his face stricken. He’s mad, bothered even.

“Maybe my father was right? All I’m meant to stand next to a man for the duration of my life? Pop a few kids out for him?” He clenches his fists into tight balls and he swallows his anger. He knows he’s running his mouth, but he’s so caught up in his feelings and he’s never vocally admitted how he feels.

But Seokwoo is safe.


“He took everything away from me,” He sees something flicker across Seokwoo's face for a brief second, but he can’t decode it.

“All my rights, everyone’s respect for me. He took my dreams away. He ripped me of my worth and threw me out in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on my body and wounds to show my battles,” Seokwoo breathes out angrily.


“You are so much more, Chanhee.” He shakes his head, fuming with red hot anger. With a scowl, he places the baby down to the bed and stands. “Fuck this all,” He stands and then grabs Chanhee's hands to pull him up. Chanhee startles and looks behind them to the wriggling infant and he quickly catches her in his arms when she begins to try to roll. She squeals loudly in happiness and Chanhee gulps.

He’s holding a baby.

It's not as terrifying what he thought it would be, but the thought skips his mind. He's more focused on the fact that Seokwoo is stalking towards him.

“I don’t care what anyone has said to you in the past, I don’t care what they will say to you,” He’s getting closer and Chanhee holds onto Minhwa tighter.


“You didn’t deserve any of that,” He runs a hand through his hair and he steps back, exhaling loudly. He stalks closer and Chanhee shifts backwards, hands closing around the baby girl’s back. His knees hit the bed and he freezes.


Seokwoo is so close, he can feel his warm breath fan over his face and goosebumps appear on his skin.


“You’ll do great things, Chanhee. God, you deserve people to bow down to you like you’re the king.”

 

His heart cracks and cracks again in his chest.

 


Oh, the irony.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chanhee escapes from Inseong’s grip and offers him a small smile. “Stay safe,” He says and the healer nods. “I will. Thank you for the heads up,” Chanhee nods, his hands slipping out of the eldest charmed one's.

"Of course,” Taeyang’s smiles from next to him. Minhwa is cooing loudly in Youngkyun’s arms and Seokwoo is packing up their horse from Jaeyoon, a travelling merchant he met on the way in his frantic search to find Chanhee back in Lux. 

“It was nice meeting you,” Taeyang says. “Likewise.” Minhwa coos and Chanhee smiles, reaching out to poke her cheek gently. He had held her serval times over the week after the incident with Seokwoo in the bedroom. He had realised it wasn’t all that bad and it was rather nice to see her smile so effortlessly in his hold. 

She giggles loudly and Chanhee laughs back with her. “Don’t let anyone in,” he tells them and Youngkyun smiles while shaking his head. “Okay, Your Highness,” Chanhee freezes briefly and his smile falls from his face. Youngkyun’s smile falls after a few seconds and his eyes flash with some type of confusion and concern. 

Chanhee shakes it off and forces another smile onto his face. 


“Chanhee,” Seokwoo calls from behind him. He’s dressed in the cloak Chanhee had gotten from the Prince of Yren, without Chanhee’s own midnight blue cloak draped over his outstretched arm. 

He turns and takes his cloak from Seokwoo’s arm. He turns back to the others and smiles once more. “I won’t forget your deeds,” he says and they laugh a bit, smiling bashfully. “Thank you for everything.” 


He then turns and hoists himself up onto the horse, fitting himself in front of Seokwoo’s large frame. “Off we go,” Seokwoo cheers with one last wave to the four as the stallion begins the gallop. Youngkyun grabs Minhwa’s tiny fist and waves it around as they trot away. 


“To Denho,” Seokwoo then murmurs. Chanhee’s hands first around the reigns. “To Denho,” he repeats, a sly smile turning up on his face.

 

 


 

 


The change to Aire to Denho is rather harsh. The plains of green grass and tall deciduous trees turn into harsh mountain land, covered in a sheet of white snow and only a few evergreen trees. 

The air turns cold and Seokwoo’s already wrapped his arms around Chanhee’s middle for extra warmth about half an hour into crossing the border. 
 
When they enter the first town outside of the capital, Chanhee decides to wake Seokwoo. His head is buried in the crook of his neck and he whines when Chanhee gently wakes him. Chanhee shakes his head and pulls his hood further over his face. 

“Why are we here?” Seokwoo mumbles as Chanhee jumps down from the black stallion. “The snow is getting heavier. We’ll have to wait for the morning until we can go further.”  

“Where can we go, Chanhee?” Seokwoo drops down from the horse clumsily and Chanhee grips onto his arm to stop him going head-first into the snow. He gestures to his eyes and Chanhee purses his lips in thought. 

His eyes are still a stormy silver and he knows there’s nothing he can do to fix that. 


His charm only surfaces when he senses danger, or when he’s not emotionally stable. He gulps and with a shake of his head he looks up to Seokwoo and sighs. “Keep your hood down,” He instructs firmly and Seokwoo does so. He grimaces a bit pulls out his hand from underneath his cloak, holding it out to Seokwoo.

“My charm surfaces when I sense danger.” He explains and he can see Seokwoo's lips turn up from under his hood. He swallows and shoves his hand into Seokwoo's larger one. It’s warm. “Protect me.” 

He thinks he’ll be alright like this with Seokwoo's large hand dwarfing his own. He knows he feels safe around Seokwoo and knowing he’s right there beside him makes him feel at ease. “Protect you?” Seokwoo chuckles a little bit and Chanhee looks away, his cheeks hot from under the hood of his cloak. “Don’t,” Chanhee hisses underneath his breath. 

As much as he hates to admit it to himself, he knows he feels less like the world is crushing him when Seokwoo is around. Maybe it’s just his charm? Since he knows how much strength he possesses? 

He doesn’t think he needs protecting, but to know there’s someone by his side who can help him is rather comforting. 

“Just give me the coin pouch,” he mumbles.

 

 


Chanhee breathes out heavily once they get to their room while Seokwoo heads straight towards the bed. “Just come sleep,” Seokwoo says, voice muffled through his pillow. “We washed up this morning in Aire,” Chanhee wants to protest since there is only one bed again but he’s tired so he grudgingly walks over and plonks himself on the bed beside the elder. 

“I’ll blow the lamps out,” Seokwoo mutters as he gets off of the bed. Chanhee shrugs off his cloak and boots and slips underneath the thick blankets. The inn is warm from the main fireplace in the entrance and Chanhee is glad they’re on the ground floor, closest to the warm fire. 

Seokwoo sluggishly drags his feet back over, drops his cloak and flops into bed, kicking himself into the covers. “It’s so cold,” he whines and Chanhee tuts at him. They’re facing each other and even though they can’t make out each other's faces in the pitch-black darkness, Chanhee knows Seokwoo is smiling that stupid fond smile that he always does. 


“Are you nervous?” Chanhee ends up asking after a few minutes. He almost thinks Seokwoo has fallen asleep but he then hears him heave a deep sigh. “I guess so.” He admits. Chanhee feels one of his hands land on his hip, but he doesn’t deter him from doing so. His fingers gently strum against his clothed hip and Chanhee finds himself nonchalantly finding his other hand underneath the covers and fiddling with his larger fingers. His hand is rough, a sword wielders hand for sure.

“I’ve been out here for almost two months trying to find them,” he answers and Chanhee smiles empathetically. “Then I found you,” he laughs at the memory. “I thought you were going to kill me at first.”

“It had crossed my mind a few times.” Chanhee laughs and Seokwoo snorts. 


“I honestly think I’d still be running in circles if you hadn’t agreed to help me.”

“It was a rash decision on my part,” Chanhee replies. He stops playing with Seokwoo's hand. “I shouldn’t have done it, really.” He’s broken so many rules just because of this one mission. “But I thought I could prove myself if we found them. I thought it would give me a chance…”


“Hey,” Seokwoo mutters softly. His thumb rubs comforting circles onto his clothed skin. “You’ve done great so far. Yes, you’ve had a few experiences that we both wish never happened, but you’ve done great. We’re almost there, Chanhee. We’re so close to finding them and saving them.”

“Imagine how they feel,” Chanhee whispers. He doesn’t even want to think about that. The weather conditions are terrible and he hopes they’re all warm enough. 

“It’s okay, Chanhee. We’ll get them to safety soon.” 

He takes a deep breath and nods, even though Seokwoo can’t see it. 


His mind begins to wander and he frowns at the memory of his strange dream he had a few nights ago. He hadn’t dreamt of anything like it since, but for some reason, he can’t stop thinking about it. 

“Hey, Seokwoo…” He hums to show he’s listening. His fingers are beginning to slow on his hip. “I had a weird dream a few nights ago.” He doesn’t entirely know why he’s sharing the information with Seokwoo, but it just doesn’t seem like it was something that was caused by the side effects of the drug.

“Did you?”

“It was weird,” He adds with a frown. “There was a woman voice that I’ve never heard before and I was dressed strangely… she spoke in riddles or something. It was really strange…” 


Seokwoo sighs and rolls closer to him. Chanhee doesn’t move away. “That is pretty strange… What did she say?”

“Something along the lines of if you take the hand darkness shall prevail. It was strange.”
 
“I don’t know,” Seokwoo mutters tiredly. “Maybe it means something. We should try to sleep. We have a big day ahead of us.” 

 

Chanhee sees red dahlias and dried white roses that night. 

 

 

 


Seokwoo's hand is back in Chanhee's when they exit the inn in the morning. Seokwoo's hood is pulled over his face, his eyes brushing in front of his eyelids while Chanhee's hood is down, his face exposed to the cold air. 


Chanhee didn’t say much when Seokwoo slipped his hand into his own. He just looked up at him and met eyes and nodded softly when he saw the known look in his eyes. 


They wander around the gloomy-looking village while tugging the reins to pull the horse along with them. The houses and small shops are made out of muddy looking bricks and aged wood, much different to the other kingdoms they’ve passed through. Chanhee's home kingdom’s villages were filled with sturdy buildings, bright yellow drapes hanging from windows and posts around the towns. 


“What’s Roen like?” 


Seokwoo beams at the question. He perks up and smiles widely and he grips a little harder onto Chanhee's hand. Chanhee finds himself smiling. 

“It’s great! You can practically live in the ocean! The sun is always shining and the water is a bright blue—so is the sky! And the people are lovely! The fish markets are on almost every day and sometimes at night little festivals are held on the beaches…” He sighs endearingly and Chanhee smiles wider. “It’s rarely cold,” He adds sheepishly and Chanhee laughs. 

“Sounds like you miss it a lot.”

Seokwoo nods. “I do. I’m rather excited to go back home after this all. What about you? Ros? What is it like over there?” 

Chanhee’s smile falls and he purses his lips. 

“Well,” He swallows and sighs. “It’s usually cold… um, lots of yellow drapes around the towns and the castle. The season festivals are nice, I guess. I’m not entirely sure, I don’t miss it that much. I haven’t been there too recently… I came from Idris when we found each other.”

“Oh! Idris is nice! The king is ve—“ Seokwoo cuts himself off and then laughs awkwardly. Chanhee frowns at him wearily. “Look,” Seokwoo’s points with his hand holding the reigns to a grey-toned building. There’s untidy stacks of books out the front, several pots with nothing but soil and snow in them and Chanhee’s heart thuds loudly in his chest when his eyes lock onto the familiar statures of the armoured men they’d bumped into before. 

“Come on,” Seokwoo pulls him closer to the shop that they’ve just entered. Chanhee lets out a small shriek and tries to pry his hand out of Seokwoo's grasp. “Are you insane?” He hisses lowly as Seokwoo drags him along. It’s no use to try to get his hand out of his grasp Seokwoo only holds his hand tighter. 

“Shush,” Seokwoo retaliates and then he’s pushing Chanhee into the book store. “Just listen. They might have more information that we can listen into,” He whispers closely in Chanhee's ear and the youngest swallows as his eyes rake over their armoured bodies. 

Seokwoo's hand slips out of his and then his hood is tugged over his head. He looks up at Seokwoo and nods. More information the better. They don’t have a set location where they’re being held captive and they’re not even one hundred percent sure that they’re even in Denho. They could be anywhere. 

The shop is covered in tall, dark wooden bookshelves that are filled hazardously with different sized books. There are pictures of bears engraved into the wood and red flags with a snarling bear are hanging around the place.

They wander through the tall bookshelves and Seokwoo finds Chanhee’s hand again when they turn. The men are surrounding the seller's desk, arms folded over their chests in a serious manner and Seokwoo twirls them back around the shelf before they are seen. 


“His Majesty will be glad,” 

Their voices are slightly muffled but Chanhee can hear what they’re saying clearly. Chanhee's been wracking his brain to see if he’s known of any of the Denhoian Royals, but he doesn’t remember anyone introducing themselves to him as a member of the Denhoian Royal Family.

“His Majesty has sent the command to not let any more charmed ones in the shelter. The council fears it will be shown from the castle's forest… No one else is supposed to know.”

“Of course,” Comes a squeakier voice. 

The two charmed ones look at each other, eyes blown in realisation and the door squeaks as they run out of the book store. Their horse is waiting out the front of the shop and they quickly climbed up onto him, dashing away in the direction of the main town square. 


“Makes sense,” Seokwoo’s says from behind him. “If the king is behind it, why not have it right beside him?” 


Chanhee grits his teeth and holds onto the reigns tighter.


“Do have a weapon?” He seethes out and Seokwoo pats the sword on his hip. “You?” 

“Of course!” The blade Jiyeon had gifted him is hanging by his hip. “As much as I don’t want to use weapons I have a feeling that we’re going to need them.”


They slow down when the castle gets clearer and a pathway to the forest is shown through a wide alleyway. Seokwoo points it out and they travel down it in a steady trot, not too loudly in case they’re close. 


“We should walk,” Chanhee mumbles when they hear the first clang of metal. Seokwoo nods and they teether the horse to a tree before running off further into the thick pine forest. 

The snow crunches under their feet as they run further into the forest, following the distant sounds of mixed voices. Chanhee skids to a halt when he sees the flicker of a campfire in the near distance. He grips onto Seokwoo's arm and pulls him backwards before they crouch beside a tree.

From where they are, Chanhee can make out several figures sitting huddled around the fire and armoured men wandering around with long spears in their hands. “Where’s the entrance?” It’s like a prison. Cold, metal bars keeping people in and out. “Probably where the two guards are standing,” Chanhee answers back, nudging his head to the left where two other armoured men are standing in front of a heavy-looking wooden door.

“This is so strange…” Seokwoo murmurs. “Why is it so heavily guarded? And it’s so close to the town…” 

Chanhee cocks his head to the side. “It is kind of strange…” 

“Hey,” Seokwoo pokes his shoulder and they met each other's eyes. Seokwoo's lips turn up at the corners when he sees the younger’s lilac eyes. “Are you ready for this?”

Chanhee lets the weight of his words sink in. 

Is he ready to risk his life for this? Is he ready to risk his father hearing about this, about him breaking the rules of his exile?

 Is he ready to prove himself worthy? 

He’s waited long enough for this chance to and there is no way he’s going to let it slip through his fingers this time. 

He nods to Seokwoo and the elder reaches his hand out, pulls down both of their hoods and breathes heavily. 

“Your charm,” He says and Chanhee already knows where this is going. “Don’t let it overtake.”

“Weapons?” Seokwoo gestures to the sword on his hip. Chanhee tugs at the dagger on his hip and he swings it through his fingers and Seokwoo eyes the golden blade. “It was a present from my mother,” Chanhee mutters when he notices him staring at the unusual blade. 

“I can take on the first two guards at the entrance. You knock down that fucking door and fight as many as you can take on. I’ll be right behind you.” Chanhee begins to stand and Seokwoo tugs at his wrist, pulling him back down. “That isn’t a rather detailed plan, Chanhee.” 


“But it works. Once we get rid of enough guards we should start helping them out.” Seokwoo fiddles through the bag by his hip and hands Chanhee the map of Denho. “If you take them through the route we thought we could take to Denho and back to Aire within at least four days that would be great. Only if you really need to you should stop. Maybe meet up with Jaeyoon? He could help to transport them to Yren faster.”

“To Yren?” Seokwoo's brows knit together. “Why do you sound like you’re not coming?” 


Chanhee breathes out deeply. “Yren will be safe.” He answers and the corners of his lips then lift in a displeasing manner. “And, I have a feeling I’d be a danger to you then.” Seokwoo's frown deepens but Chanhee then stands to his feet and he follows him. If he’s seen here, the king will be told and then the word will spread. He doubts that he’d even get out with them.

“Chanhee,” he murmurs just before the younger can take a step closer to the camp. There’s a look in Seokwoo's eyes that confuses Chanhee. His gaze is soft, tender almost but there’s a hint of hesitation in his eyes. His thumb runs over his knuckles gently.

“I don’t want to say goodbye.” Chanhee gazes up at Seokwoo with parted lips and eyes wide with uncertainty and Seokwoo dares to think his gaze is rather fond. 

Chanhee swallows and nods. “Will I see you again, then?” Seokwoo asks softly. He sounds down and Chanhee feels terrible. “Perhaps.” Chanhee answers and Seokwoo casts his eyes away. “I want to,” he mutters softly and Chanhee smiles wistfully. 

The thought of not being able to see Seokwoo feels like a punch to the gut. He won’t wake up with him anymore and there won’t be a constant safety net around him anymore. He won’t see that stupidly handsome smile and his pretty eyes—

Chanhee squeezes his eyes shut.

“We will have to see what fate allows us.” Seokwoo gulps. “Then,” Chanhee gestures to the camp and smiles comfortingly to Seokwoo.

The elder holds his breath for a few seconds. He’s just so effortlessly stunning, even more so when his lips curve into his soft heart-shaped smile. Seokwoo wishes he’d seen him smile more. The way his eyes curve up into little crescent moons and his cheeks flush lightly. 

“Thank you,” Chanhee says quietly. Seokwoo nods, his hand slipping out of Chanhee’s. 

“Just remember I meant everything I’ve said to you.” 

“I don’t give you enough credit,” Chanhee laughs emptily. “You’re a great person Seokwoo,” he pauses and tilts his head downwards. “The person that will spend the rest of your life with you is really lucky.” Seokwoo purses his lips and nods stiffly. 

“Come on.” 

 


Seokwoo grabs one of the guards from behind, his arm locking around his throat and Chanhee delivers a harsh blow to his nose, probably breaking it in half. The other guards come at them, his spear narrowly missing Chanhee’s back as he twirls around. He meets his eyes and within a split second, he’s sinking to the snowy ground with a shriek of pain. 

Seokwoo barges into the large doors and the slam open. 

Screams sound out and the charmed ones clamber together in fear. Chanhee storms in and helps up a young woman from the ground before he slams his elbows into the face of another guard behind them. “Gather everyone!” He tells her and then he promptly turns around, slams his foot to a guards chest. 


Seokwoo is fighting off three guards at once, Chanhee briefly thinks he should go and help but he’s standing his ground well and five more guards are coming towards him. 

He whips out his dagger and smiles sinisterly. 


The first man comes to his right and he slashes through the weak point in his amour to his bicep. They make eye contact and he’s instantly knocked out cold on the ground. Another one comes and another and they eventually all end up sprawled on the ground, gasping for air or knocked out cold. 

Chanhee looks around quickly and when he sees all of the guards down, he runs to the group of charmed people huddled closely together. His charm settles back down, his warm brown orbs returning.

“Hello,” He says briskly. “We’re here to help you,” he spots someone cradling their arm and he frowns. “Are you hurt?” She seems to be in her late childhood, maybe fourteen. She nods wearily and Chanhee moves closer to her, inspecting the wound on her arm. 

He looks up to Seokwoo who’s looking rather rugged from the fight. His hair is messy on top of his head and he’s breathing heavily. “Keep the injured ones close. Talk to someone who’s willing to get information and if you can pull any tricks to get to Arie faster, do it.” 


Chanhee perks up when he hears a faint roar in the distance. Seokwoo meets his eyes, full of worry and something else he can’t decode. He presses his lips together and shakes his head up at Seokwoo. The elder catches his wrist in his grip and he looks at hi pleadingly. Chanhee blinks and his lips part to let a small squeal out when he’s then flying towards Seokwoo’s chest. 

“Stay safe,” Seokwoo murmurs into his hair. He pulls away hastily and forces the prickling sensation in his eyes to disappear. “I was going to say the same thing. Now, go!” 


Chanhee watches Seokwoo leave with the group of about twenty charmed ones. He’s hesitant, definitely and he keeps turning back to see Chanhee. 


When their figures disappear through the thick trees Chanhee briefly has the urge to run after them and to go back with them but then the horse's hooves sound and he turns towards the fallen wooden barricade and meets eyes with someone familiar. 


His features are more defined, more mature than what he remembers. His face that always held the same baby cheeks is now defined and handsome more than cute. His hair is as dark as he remembers and his eyes are the same ebony coloured orbs. His full lips stretch into a smile and Chanhee’s heart pounds widely in his chest.

“Kang Chanhee.” His name rolls off his tongue like honey and he stiffens. “It’s been a long time since we’ve met, Your Highness.”

Chanhee stands up straighter, pulls himself together and rids the shock from his face. 

He stares into the king’s eyes and he then scoffs.

“I could say the same thing,” Chanhee scowls at him. He begins to saunter over to the king on horseback. 


“Lee Sanghyuck,”

 

 

Chapter Text

He’s thrown onto his knees in front of Sanghyuck.

 

The king’s fingers land on his face, forcing him to meet his eyes. “The Prince of Ros,” he whispers. His eyes are shining with glory and Chanhee wants nothing more than to slap the look from his face. 

 

“You,” The prince snarls. “Sick twisted," he pauses for a split second, searching for a name to call him. "Scoundrel!” 

 

The king tuts and narrows his eyes. “Now that is no way to treat your king.” Chanhee flashes a knife-edged smile at Sanghyuck, “With all due respect,” He chuckles sharply. “You’re not my fucking king.” Sanghyuck’s smile falls and with a frown, he pushes the prince backwards before he plonks himself down on the crimson lounge behind him. 

 

His chambers are alit with oil lamps and the colour crimson is everywhere. His bedding is the same scarlet tone, as are the curtains. 

 

The exterior of the castle almost mimicked the inside perfectly. The tall towers made from dark stone and wooden pillars and framework surrounding the large middle of the caste also made appearances throughout the interior of the castle.

 

“Perhaps not now, yes.” He answers cooly and Chanhee's grows knit together tighter. He looks over to the prince on his knees with smouldering eyes. Chanhee brushes off his crude comment. “Why did you do it?” He’s indicating about the charmed ones and the king just shakes his head before he breaks out into an empty laugh.

 

It sends shivers down the prince’s spine. “Some people have more bridges than what you do… and they have the power to burn your bridge.” 

 

Chanhee grows even more frustrated with his vague answer. Sanghyuck notices and he smiles slyly. “Your bridge,” Chanhee rises to his feet slowly. Sanghyuck watches him closely, eyeing his every movement. “Is it more important than making the lives of many miserable?”

 

Sanghyuck narrows his eyes. He sits up and reaches a hand out and seizes Chanhee's wrist and pulls him to his body. The king’s hand presses to the small of his back and his thighs slot by the king's hips. 

 

Chanhee hisses at the king and begins to pull away, but he only holds him tighter. “You’ve never known how to keep your mouth shut,” The king whispers closely. One of his fingers traces over his top lip lightly. “Even when you know it’s going to get you into trouble.” Chanhee snarls and tries to pull away again. 

 

“I think I’ve had my fair share of punishments to pick my battles.” 

 

“Yet,” His warm breath fans across his bare neck. His cloak had been discarded with his weapons upon entry to the castle. “Here you are, in my chambers because of your recklessness.”

 

Chanhee inhales deeply. 

 

“I heard you are still unwed.” His tone is condescending and Chanhee feels his stomach flip. “I am a king,” He adds and Chanhee squirms in his hold, trying to escape. “A king needs a partner, a queen.” 

 

A smirk upturns on his face. “Imagine this… Denho’s King’s partner, the Prince of Ros. You would do great things by my side.” 

 

 

Chanhee's eyes widen.

 

 

“I’m sure somewhere inside of you there can be made space for me?” Chanhee clenches his jaw and looks away from him. “I wouldn’t be unkind to you,” His hands cup his face, fingers brushing over his jaw lightly.

 

“Forcing people against their will to come with you is unkind.” He backfires and the king tuts slowly. 

 

“Making people fall in love with you and never returning their feelings is unkind,” It’s a blow that hurts him. Sanghyuck knows about Youngbin’s unrequited love for him. He’d seen it first hand at royal events— where the young princes had met years ago, the same events where Sanghyuck never specified where he was from. 

 

Chanhee knocks his hands away from him and tears himself from his grip. His face is ablaze with rage. 

 

How dare he? 

 

His heart stammers inside his chest and his lips part in a snarl. “You have no right to say that. If you think I could ever love you, you’re dreaming. I will never fucking love you.”

 

 

Sanghyuck laughs, bitter and cold. “Love? My dear this isn’t about your love, this is about power.” 

 

Chanhee's face turns blank. “And what good do you think it would be to marry a prince like me? What power can I possibly be worth?”

 

The king huffs, arms folding over his chest in dismay. “Your father,” Sanghyuck starts and he stiffens. His face goes pale and his palms turn clammy at the mention of his estranged father. “He has many bridges, I’m sure you know that.”

 

Chanhee tries to swallow the pressure building up in his chest. “I want to burn some of them. I cannot have my only bridge burnt by him and his army. You are a flame douser—“

 

 

“My father couldn’t care less about me!” He interjects loudly. His chest is heaving with nervousness, anger and the ugly feeling of betrayal. 

 

 

“It does not matter to me if you’ve been exiled,” His words make him freeze in his spot. His fiery temper turns to ice and he wants to fade away into nothingness. “Rather, that makes things easier for us.” 

 

 

“You know…”

 

 

“If you take my hand that’s an extra bridge for me. One that can protect my bridge from harm. When your father finds out that you’ve broken a rule of exile h—“

 

 

“You’re so wrong.” Chanhee whispers. “I was exiled instead of him murdering me. That was the only way he could get rid of me for good without tainting himself and his reputation as king. I am not something he will risk war over. I was nothing to him, I am nothing to him. And if you think this bridges shit is going to work, you’re wrong. I’ll be the first one he’ll get rid of.” 

 

Sanghyuck seems perplexed, but Chanhee cannot miss the flash of worry over the king’s face, his brilliant plan has failed him, of course, he’d be worried.

 

 

The Prince shakes his head, bottom lip caught between his teeth. “What’s he done this time? Tell me everything.” 

 

Sanghyuck gulps and then proceeds to pat the space next to him. “You should sit down,” he murmurs. “You’ll want to. Trust me.”

 

 

 

Chanhee feels his heart shatter in his chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 He slots the mask over his face and looks back to Sanghyuck.

 

The king blinks before nodding. His own face is covered in a simple yet elegant crimson mask that matches his doublet. Golden beads fall from the upmost parts of the mask, tying together with his golden buttons on his chest. His hair is swept up, away from his forehead and he looks regal, like a king. 

 

The king's fingers brush gently over his own mask. It’s made from delicate lace as dark as night, Sanghyuck’s choice. 

 

 

It’s been two months since he’d freed the captured charmed ones since Sanghyuck forced him into Denho’s castle. 

 

And It’s been two months since he’d last seen Seokwoo. 

 

 

Oh, Seokwoo. 

 

He knows he’d made it to safety with the charmed ones since Sanghyuck hadn’t let his army leave from their barracks since they stormed in to inform him of intruders in the forest. But an unknown feeling twinges inside of him at the mere thought of him. Over the two months, he’s woken in a cold bed. He had always slept by himself, even when he was a small child but now he’s found himself missing the warmth and safety he used to feel with the elder.

 

 

 

Over the months he’s been in Denho, Chanhee had discovered Sanghyuck isn’t all that terrible. Yes, he’s disturbed from what he did to innocent lives, but he doesn’t blame him for why he did it, but it doesn’t mean that he is not disappointed in him, because he certainly is. 

 

 

Two weeks into his stay at Denho Sanghyuck had received an invite to a royal ball held in Isethia. 

Chanhee was there to see his face light up at a new opportunity. He has been by his side, listening in to every political worry and advice to the king since he talked with him on the first day. 

 

In a way, he has become his partner, without even knowing it until a few weeks later when Sanghyuck had told him of his kingdom’s peoples gossip about him. 

 

In exchange for Chanhee's insights of Ros, the King of Denho taught him law and politics with the kingdom’s best scholar. 

 

Their plan began one day after Sanghyuck received the invitation. A royal ball, a celebration for the Crown Princess’s birthday and her coronation means one thing, all the kingdoms colliding in one space at one time. 

 

The masquerade elements definitely will help in keeping Chanhee hidden for as long as possible. 

 

 

On the first day of making the plan, Sanghyuck had brought up marriage once more. Chanhee had been against it but once Sanghyuck explained that the marriage itself would be mere concealment, a fake marriage and that he wouldn’t marry the King of Denho, he decided to go ahead with the king's original plan. But it was still risky for the king to even think about taking his hand, even with his identity concealed would be dangerous. 

 

Sneaking him in with him as his fiancee meant many things. A needed talked with the Crown Prince of Yren, and as much as he doesn’t want to, he knows he owes Youngbin an apology. And to Sanghyuck it meant power, intimation, a warning. 

 

Another bridge. 

 

A bridge that no one can burn down without burning one of their own. 

 

After four days of thinking up a plan, they had deemed themselves ready and left to Isethia after Chanhee’s cleanse. 

 

 

 

The king’s hand lands on his waist and squeezes gently. The black satin dress shirt is flowy, adorned with crimson and a single long golden chain down his front, and a double-banded golden ring is around his ring finger, proof for their fake engagement. His shirt hangs low, brushing by his thighs to keep his dagger from view. 

 

“You must put up with it,” Sanghyuck reminds him as his thumbs rub over his clothed hips. His touches, he means. They had to be realistic and that meant Chanhee has to risk his comfort and throw his pride away. He had desperately wanted a different plan, one which wasn’t so deceiving and a lie, but they always seemed to have holes in them and they don’t have the time or power to fill in the gaping holes in them. This, the plan they have now is the least flawed they could come up with. 

 

 

“And god forbid if your charm surfaces we will be done for,” Chanhee heaves a sigh and nods curtly. He looks at himself once more in the large mirror attached to the sandstone wall, deems himself ready and places his palm into Sanghyuck’s hand. It’s different from Seokwoo’s hand, he notices. He gulps at the memory of how his large hand dwarfs his own and closes his eyes, trying to forget. 

 

Seokwoo’s been in his mind an awful lot and the swirling fluttering feeling that appears inside of him when he thinks about him is making him a little bit uneasy.

 

The king nods at him. 

 

From their shared room—they’re taking this engagement facade every seriously—located in one of the six towers away from the castles centre it is only a few minutes walk to the great ballroom. Isethia is a kingdom of sands and warmth. The sun turns the kingdom ablaze with its golden rays and the people are just as glorious as the sun with their warm and darker complexions. 

 

 

They are let in at the front doors no problem. Chanhee is holding onto the king's arm, keeping his character while Sanghyuck touches him in a subtle yet obvious manner. 

 

The ball is already in full wing when they enter and a few minutes into the ball Sanghyuck gets caught up in a conversation with a nearby king who then congratulates them on their engagement and the King of Denho sends Chanhee a look. 

 

Go.

 

He feigns a sweet smile and excuses himself and walks slowly across the sandstone floor. The princesses of Isethia greets him and complements his outfit and he tells her she looks lovely in her off-white gown. Chanhee excuses himself quickly and this time, he makes a beeline to his target, not stopping for any more conversation.

 

 

“Jookyun,” The crown prince’s mask does nothing to cover his face. Chanhee's rather glad that his ego had gotten in the way this time, it only made finding him easier. Jookyun’s eyes narrow at him trying to figure out who he is and his face lights up in realisation when Chanhee's brows furrow. 

 

His face quickly falls and he grabs onto the prince's wrist before scurrying off to a deserted passageway with him. “Chanhee—“

 

“Shush!” He hisses, slapping a hand over his mouth, eyes wide. “You mustn’t blow my cover,” The prince pulls away, face coated over with shock. “How are you here? Did you go through Lux?” Chanhee nods and briskly looks behind them to make sure no other ears are listening in and turns to him, anxiety bubbling in his throat. 

 

“When Juho came back without you, I thought the worst…”

 

Chanhee's face falls at the memory and Jookyun shakes his head, understanding that something had happened. “Sorry,” he apologises weakly. He then frowns again and he points his pointer finger towards the younger prince, cocking an eyebrow. He rakes his eyes up and down his body, taking in his glamorous outfit and then shoots him a questioning look.

 

“You could have at least mentioned the king’s name,” Chanhee chides and Jookyun’s eyebrows raise in shock. “The King of Denho?” He confirms and the prince nods. His eyes widen. “H… how? How did you… get?” He stammers over his words. 

 

“It’s a long story,” he shakes his head and the crown prince’s frown deepens. Chanhee points to the ring on his finger and Jookyun’s eyes look like they’re going to pop out of his sockets.

 

“What is that!?” He whisper-yells at Chanhee and the prince's lips pull up at the corners slightly. 

 

 

“I need to know about your military and your relation to other kingdom’s military.” Jookyun’s face morphs into a questioning look. “It’s strong,” he replies. “It always has been.”

 

“Good.” Chanhee breathes out heavily, in relief mostly. “Keep on strengthening it.”

 

He frowns deeply and his lips part. “You know things,” He states confidently and Chanhee purses his lips, his fingers knotting into the fabric of his shirt. “Things that I don’t.”

 

“Things that most people don’t know,” Chanhee confirms briskly. “Things only I know and it’s going to have to stay that way for a while.” 

 

Jookyun scoffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “You want help,” He drawls back and Chanhee clenches his jaw. “Yet you never tell me the details of why you need me.”

 

Chanhee breathes out heavily and shakes his head. “Golden arrows,” He says, casting his eyes downwards. 

 

 

“The golden bodied arrows with white feathers.” He squeezes his eyes shut briefly. “Where are they from?” Jookyun gapes at him with a deep frown. “Why in the gods' name am I supposed to know?”

 

“Then find out,” Chanhee grits out. His heart jumps in his chest, suddenly full of adrenaline. “Send me a letter when you find out. I’ll be at Denho, the castle.”

 

“You cannot be serious!” He blubbers, hands flying up by his sides in exasperation. “The King of Denho, of all people?” He then leans in closer, an inquisitive look in his eyes. “Your father once said you’d be married to someone in Ros and he wouldn’t settle for nothing less… I suppose you forget about that?” 

 

Chanhee snarls and leans away. “I haven’t forgotten anything he’s ever said to me. I’ll choose my own path, my bridges.” 

 

Jookyun’s eyes narrow. 

 

“I never said anything about the ring on my finger.” He adds with a small laugh. “It may be wrapped around my finger… but it can be used it to wrap…other things around me.” 

 

Jookyun’s eyes gleam and his lips curl up into a large smile. “Ah, I knew you’d never be swayed so easily.”

 

The edges of the prince’s mouth curl upwards. “Your observation skills haven’t damped, I see.” Jookyun laughs quietly and nods. “I will look into the arrows. But may I ask why?”

 

Chanhee's face turns hard. 

 

“The same kind of arrow that buried itself into my mother's heart,” He says, malice coating his words and Jookyun stands straighter, face void of emotion. “Okay,” he says, his jaw clenched. 

 

“I must say to you to be careful,” He advises and Chanhee nods curtly. “The danger is inevitable,” He responds cooly before he bows his head at the crown prince. “Now, if you excuse me I have to speak with someone else.”

 

Jookyun nods and trails out from the passageway by Chanhee's side. 

 

“If you need anything else, send me a letter. I will gladly help you."

 

Chanhee huffs lightly and gives him a small look of disdain. “It’s hard to believe you’re still the same person that used to belittle me constantly.” Jookyun bows his head in shame. “I apologise for that. I was a nuisance.”

 

“Thank you,” Chanhee pats him on the shoulder softly. The crown princes head lifts again and he smiles softly. “I’ll remember your offer.” 

 

 

He spots a familiar figure across the ballroom, talking to another prince. He turns back to Jookyun and bows slightly once more before he takes his leave. 

 

 

“Wait a minute,” Sanghyuck stops him by gripping his arm. He hadn’t even seen the king when he was looking for Youngbin. “Did it go well?” 

 

“Smoothly,” he replies. “I’ll be back soon… Are you ready?” Sanghyuck sighs heavily but he nods then smiles. “I guess I have to be. Be careful.”

 

 

Youngbin turns swiftly when he calls his name. His eyes widen, visible from the holes in his silver mask. “Oh,” He dismisses the prince he was talking to and grabs onto Chanhee's hand and leads him outside. It’s dark outside and the stars are shining brightly, the moonlight beaming down onto them makes them seem like they’re glowing.

 

“How are you here? You’ve been exiled.”

 

“I don’t need reminding,” he pulls his hand from Youngbin’s grip. “I’ve come to tell you something.” The king's eyes light up, excepting good words to fall from his mouth and Chanhee feels his stomach drop. 

 

“I cannot,” he gulps and Youngbin blinks at him expectingly. “Ever marry you.” 

 

The young king’s face falls and Chanhee feels like he’s crushed his heart. His own heart trembles beneath the king's weary touch. His eyes fall to Chanhee’s hand and he takes a large step backwards when he sees the golden band around his finger. 

 

He looks at him with shock and betrayal on his face. Chanhee wills himself not to cry. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs. 

 

“I wasn’t enough?” He mutters weakly and Chanhee can see the tears brimming in his eyes. “No!” Chanhee cries, shaking his head. He takes a step forward and Youngbin takes one backwards. “Everything I did was just a pile of sugar in the rain to you.” 

 

“Don’t say that,” Chanhee pleads. The king shakes his head. “I could’ve been something more if you let me.”

 

 

“Stop,” Chanhee hisses. He crosses his arms over his chest. He sighs out in relief when someone clears their throat and he turns to meet Sanghyuck. 

 

“King Youngbin,” He greets. “I do not wish for you to be disheartened.” Youngbin frowns clearly from under his mask. “King Sanghyuck,” he murmurs, his eyes flicker to the similar golden band around his thicker finger and his lips part and he forces his tears away. 

 

“I trust you,” Chanhee says, reaching out a hand. Youngbin doesn’t take it, so Chanhee retracts his hand and pulls his ring off his finger swiftly. 

 

“You claim to know me,” he adds and then he looks up to Sanghyuck. He doesn’t seem mad that he’s taken his ring off in front of Youngbin so he continues. “Why would I hand over myself when I’m in the state that I am in right now? Surely I cannot be that stupid.”

 

Youngbin frowns and he looks over to Sanghyuck for some type of confirmation. The other king nods his head and Youngbin’s jaw drops. 

 

“It is true that I cannot marry you, so there aren’t any loopholes for any other kings.” 

 

“Then what are you doing?” He questions, his tone is spiteful almost. 

 

 

“I wasn’t travelling all that time I’ve been away,” Chanhee confesses. “I was going to just travel but something came up and I took the opportunity without a second thought—“

 

“Do you regret it?”

 

He blinks. Does he regret it? 

 

Sure, it’s been a long ride. A hard ride at that, but asking him if he regrets it all? That means he would regret Seokwoo. 

 

He definitely doesn’t regret Seokwoo. Not one bit. 

 

The light tingling sensation reappears and he swallows. He can’t help but think Seokwoo would be good to be around right now. He’d keep him steady, reach out when his grip loses and would hold on tighter for him.

 

He trembles. 

 

He’s come to the sudden realisation that Seokwoo makes him feel more than safe and he doesn’t know what to do with it. 

 

“Never.” He answers back. “I never will.” Because that means he would regret even meeting Seokwoo. 

 

He decides to not talk about Seokwoo. Even Sanghyuck is unaware of his existence. He feels comforted in a way that they don’t know him. Youngbin blinks at him and then frowns at Sanghyuck. 

 

“How could you?”

 

 

“Don’t,” Chanhee cuts in, shaking his head. “It wasn’t entirely all his fault. Yes, he did what he did but he had a reason.”

 

“You’re standing behind this? Of all people?” 

 

“Gosh, no! I’m just saying he didn’t have a choice in the matter!” Youngbin folds his arms over his chest, unimpressed. “That’s all, then,” Chanhee says.

 

“Stop,” He draws out, almost lazily. “You can’t leave without telling me your motives of this, this plan, whatever it is.”

 

 

Chanhee copies his stance, his arms folded over his chest and his feet shoulder-width apart. “Tearing down a bridge.” He answers briskly, coldly and then he grabs Sanghyuck’s arm and drags him back inside, feeling the other king lonesome outside. 

 

 

The king looks over at him attentively and frowns. “Don’t be too upset over it.” He tries to console. Chanhee would’ve thrown his hand off of him if they were somewhere else and alone.

“I’m fine.” He mutters back. Sanghyuck doesn’t buy it entirely, but he leaves it alone. 

 

 

“Come on, let’s sit and have a break before the speeches start,” He leads him to a table and they sit down. Jookyun and Soorin join them and Chanhee engages in a conversation with the princess while the other two men talk to each other. 

 

Soorin tells him the news of the new royal baby, safely delivered last month and Chanhee tells her to give his congratulations to Chaerin when she returns home. 

 

He’s sipping on champagne when the speeches start to try to rid of his jittery nerves. Sanghyuck is watching him closely and his hand is holding onto his loosely. He can tell even his touch is setting him off. 

 

He watches intently when two rather tall people rise and begin speaking. They introduce themselves as the King and Queen of Roen and Chanhee's mind instantly flickers to Seokwoo. Sanghyuck breathes heavy from beside him. “Roen…” he tuts. 

 

“Breathe,” Sanghyuck reminds him when they stand for their turn to speak. Sanghyuck clears his throat and raises his glass full of red wine in the air. Chanhee sticks to his side and gazes over the crowd. “I wanted to say a few things tonight. Firstly, my fiancee and I would like to give our congratulations to the princess, we hope you live a wonderful life.”

 

 

It feels like all the air in his lungs has been knocked out of him. 

 

In the second row of tables is his father, sat with some of his officials. 

 

Sanghyuck starts his planned speech and Chanhee misses most of it, but he doesn’t miss him mentioning his bridges, a warning for no one but his own father.

 

His hands start to shake and he feels like he’s slipping under, down and down. His hand reaches out and grasps onto Sanghyuck’s doublet. The king notices and reaches behind him and presses his hand to the small of his back. 

 

His father meets his eyes. 

 

His stomach twists hazardously, he feels like he’s going to vomit and the floor is spinning around him. He tries to ground himself by breathing steadily but when he sees the edges of his father's lips turn up, he squeezes his eyes shut. 

 

He can hear his heartbeat thumping in his ears and he fights himself to settle down. He adverts his head, too scared to open his eyes. It’s even riskier now, his charm is swarming him and he’s so sure if he opens his eyes they’d be lavender, a dead giveaway to his father. 

 

Sanghyuck’s hand moves upwards and he startles, his eyes cracking open. 

 

 

He’s stuck. He’s stupidly stuck in his spot, frozen with anxiety. He can’t breathe anymore and Sanghyuck quickly wraps up his speech before dragging him away. His eyes dart to his father again and their eyes meet. 

 

His vision blurs and he shakes his head. “No,” he whispers. Sanghyuck holds tightly onto his hand. 

 

“I’ve been caught. He’s seen me,” 

 

 

His father stands abruptly, his mouth curling into a wicked grin.

 

Sanghyuck seems just as shocked as he is and he snarls, pushing him away into a corner. 

 

The King of Ros jolts his head and chaos breaks out. From every entry men storm in, dressed in midnight black and swords held in their hands.

 

Sanghyuck gasps loudly and Chanhee's nails dig into his thighs. He can’t get enough air into his lungs and he’s getting lightheaded. Sanghyuck pushes him away and he stumbles behind the Monarchs of Medra.

 

A large hand lands on his shoulder and pulls him towards their chest. 

 

 

It feels safe.

 

 

Chapter Text

He grasps back on reality when he recognises the warmth and feel of rough hands across his palms. 

 

He looks up, lavender eyes glassy. 

 

He could recognise those eyes anywhere.

 

Starry orbs gaze intently down at him brimmed with a surge of urgency. His heart thumps in his chest and he breathes, feeling his heart slowly strumming down to a steady rhythm. 

 

Seokwoo grips harder onto his wrist and pulls him away from his comforting hold, dodging a sword slung towards them. Chanhee sucks in his breath and cries out when his wrist is seized in Sanghyuck’s hold. 

 

“Run,” He murmurs to him, eyes dark and smouldering. 

 

Their plan had failed. 

 

“Run and don’t look back until you know you’re safe.” He demands, throwing his wrist down harshly.

 

“That could be forever!” Chanhee cries, urgency painted all over his face. He looks at him in the eyes and nods once, there’s no signs of hesitation anywhere on his face. “Run,” He repeats, more frantic this time. 

 

The sudden clang of metal scarping again each other startles the prince and he looks to his right, a sword to his throat and another sword blocking the man's attack. 

 

 

“I’ll figure something out, so, please! Just run!” Sanghyuck shouts, pulling a sword from one of his attendant's grip. He unsheathes it and knocks the attacker's swords right out of his hand. 

 

“What about you?” Chanhee cries as he frantically pulls out his dagger in defence. “How will I know you’re going to be safe?” Sanghyuck’s jaw clenches. “I'll build a fortress, so, don’t worry about me and save yourself!”  

 

 

“I can fight!” He blubbers. Although he knows he’s in no condition to engage with the battle, his hands are shaky and his still lightheaded. “Listen to me Chanhee, you have to run. You are the target here, not another solider to fight for someone else’s protection. This is about you. Save yourself!” 

 

 

An arm curls around his waist, strong and steady and he cries out, digging his fingernails into the arm.

 

“I’ll take him,” Seokwoo's voice is close to his ear and he shivers, his grip loosening on his arm. Sanghyuck’s face morphs into a look of detest and he doesn’t do much to hide it, but when he sees Chanhee relax in his hold, his shaking hands dropping the dagger in his hand to grasp onto the taller’s arms, he purses his lips. He doesn’t have time to question it, so he nods after seeing him grasp onto reality once more in the taller’s grip. He bends and picks up the prince’s dagger, shoving it into Chanhee's waistband. 

 

“Go,” he orders coldly. “Keep him grounded. Keep him safe.” He looks up at Seokwoo, a burning gaze in his eyes. Seokwoo nods, his arm tightening around his waist.

 

“No! Your Majesty!” 

 

Seokwoo pulls him back, sliding his hand into his. “I’m sorry,” he apologises quickly before he breaks out into a run, sword held out protectively in front of them. 

 

Seokwoo slashes his sword at a masked man that tries to point his sword to Chanhee's throat and he collapses to the ground, blood painting the ground under him from the wound on his forearm. 

 

Sanghyuck roars out loud and Chanhee turns back to see Jookyun standing behind him, swords held high. The men seem distracted and Seokwoo takes the chance to storm up the stairs near the ballrooms entrance gate. They run through the sandstone halls, narrowly missing the serval large vases placed in the narrow walkways, past an open room and straight to a balcony. 

 

“Trust me,” The elder breathes out heavily. “Do you trust me yet?” His eyes gleam underneath the moonlight and Chanhee feels a sob building up in the back of his throat. Seokwoo raises a leg up onto the sandstone balustrade and reaches one of his hands out. “We don’t have much time Chanhee.”

 

He swallows thickly and he can’t help the sudden well of tears in his eyes. He remembers the feeling of his comforting hands, his reassuring gazes, his words that because his heart to pick up. He blinks his tears back and nods. “I do,” He holds out his hand and grabs onto Seokwoo's outstretched one. His thumb slides over his knuckles and he pulls him close to his body. He flashes him a quick smile and then he stands up on the balustrade and pulls Chanhee up with him. 

 

The younger gulps and when he peeks down at the drop his stomach stirs nervously. A small grassed courtyard is below them, not much cushioning available if they mess up their landing. “You trust me,” Seokwoo says, looking him in the eyes. Chanhee's mouth parts and he nods briskly.

 

Then, after the confirmation of his trust, Seokwoo jumps off, pulling Chanhee off with him. They tumble through the Spring’s nightly chill air and Seokwoo holds onto his hand tighter just as they fall to the ground, knees trembling and buckling into the sandy grass. Sand flicks up around them and Seokwoo pulls on his wrist, heaving him up from the ground.

 

“Seokwoo!” Chanhee shouts when the elder leaps over the courtyard. He follows him and when he’s at the top of the wall he freezes. 

 

 

A sudden shout sounds from out the front of the ballroom, “I will find you!” It’s distinctively his father’s voice and he feels bile rise in his throat. He squeezes his eyes shut and this time, he can’t help the rouge tears that fall from his eyes. He sniffs and gulps and with one last look behind him, he jumps down to Seokwoo. 

 

 

He doesn’t question anything, he yet wordlessly holds him close and begins running again, out of the palace and nearing the nearby jungle that circles the castle. Seokwoo grabs at the chain around Chanhee's neck and yanks it off, throwing it in the opposite direction they’re going. The wind hollers in their ears and their heartbeats beat up in their throats, adrenaline tippling over the edge inside them. 

 

At last, the adrenaline wears off when they reach the outskirts of the jungle, the trees thinning out and a path visible just in front of them, Chanhee slumps by a tree and heaves deep, unsteady breaths. “Breathe, Chanhee,”

 

The younger shakes his head and he digs his hands into the dirt when a stronger burst of nausea passes through him. He dry heaves and Seokwoo's own stomach churns. He bends down next to him and places a hand on his back. “Follow me,” he mutters. “In,” he breathes in heavily, loud enough to so Chanhee can hear him clearly. Chanhee follows and inhales deeply. 

 

For the next few minutes, they just sit there, focusing on breathing evenly and controlled. “I’m sorry,” Seokwoo apologises quietly. Chanhee just shrugs, his knees buckling when he stands up. He braces himself against the tree. 

 

“We have to keep going.”

 

Chanhee frowns, deep and his eyes flicker up to Seokwoo, uncertainty glazed over his face. Seokwoo reaches a hand behind his head and pulls his own mask off and then he reaches behind the younger charmed one's head and pulls at the delicate strings, untying the mask from his face. 

 

Seokwoo’s lips pull up into a smile, soft and comforting. Chanhee's stomach swirls and his fingertips tingle. 

 

“How,” he pauses and takes a deep breath. He stares up into Seokwoo's eyes.”How were you there? That was a royals only event…” 

 

 

Seokwoo doesn’t say anything for a while. Chanhee feels his nausea return and he takes a step back, hesitant and fear suddenly filling up inside of him. “You,” he mutters loosely. Seokwoo smiles, weakly, almost painfully, guiltily and Chanhee gulps. 

 

It makes sense now. 

 

It explains how he always seemed to know his way through the kingdoms, why his hands are rugged from delicate sword-wielding techniques. How he got information quickly because he was taught to know exactly what to say at the right time. How he knew about the charmed ones being captured when only some royal families were told. He knows about all the kingdom’s, something Chanhee doesn’t. And how no one seemed to question him, a natural leader. A king. 

 

“God,” Chanhee chokes on his words and tears well in his eyes. 

 

 

Don’t cry, he chants in his head. Don’t let him see.

 

 

But all his emotions have been bottled up for so long and he finds himself closing his grip on the cork top and it pops off with a mighty bang, exploding right in front of him.

 

Seokwoo is in front of him, frozen in unsureness and something Chanhee can’t quite recognise. “I-“

 

“You’re royalty?” He whispers out brokenly and the pain in his heart makes him want to scream out. “All this time!” His hands search out to grip onto something to steady him for caving in to his emotions. Seokwoo comes closer and he grabs onto his shoulders. Chanhee fists at the elder's sky blue shirt. 

 

A faint roar in the distance is heard and Seokwoo shakes his head. His fingers start to unbutton the three buttons on Chanhee's shirt and the prince sheiks in surprise when he hurriedly starts ripping off his own shirt. 

 

“What are you doin—“ he begins to shout and his eyes widen when the taller throws off his own shirt completely. He gets a glimpse of his body, more proof of his combat training and Chanhee gulps, looking away. 

 

Seokwoo shoves the light blue material into his hands. “Put it on.” He demands and Chanhee’s mouth runs dry. “Put it on.” He repeats, more hurriedly this time and Chanhee blinks out of his daze and nods, pulling shyly at the seem of his own shirt. Seokwoo turns and he only looks back to him again when the prince throws the black material at him. “What are you going to wear?” The neckline plunges on him, leaving his clavicles exposed, long sleeves fall over his hands and the shirt ends at his mid-thigh. Overall, it’s too big of a fit but it’s just to drag attention away from him. The men saw him in black, they wouldn’t think to search for blue.

 

“Don’t worry about that,” Seokwoo murmurs, grabbing his wrist once more. His cheeks are a little bit flushed. “You still owe me an explanation,” Chanhee reminds just as they take off down the path. 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanhee realises Seokwoo's lead him in a circle around Isethia. They’ve ended up in the towns square somehow, a canopy of trees over them shading them from the moonlight.

 

They had walked for about an hour or so until Seokwoo sighed out in relief. Chanhee's steps are sluggish, his eyes struggling to keep open and Seokwoo's a little drowsy himself. “Just a little further, I can see the carriage.” 

 

“You better explain yourself when we get there,” Chanhee mutters, dragging himself across the clay road. “Okay,” 

 

 

Seokwoo leads him over to the carriage with starfish engraved on the exterior. Most of the royal carriages are still there and Chanhee briefly wonders if it’d be obvious if they left now, but it's dark still and Seokwoo points to the back of the large carriage. “I’ll sit with you. My parents will get the one in front when the sun rises.” Chanhee nods, almost too tired to function. He clambers into the elegant yet simple carriage and slumps down onto the soft seats. Seokwoo follows him and sits opposite him. “What about your stuff?” Chanhee questions dryly. 

 

“My parents will grab it.” He says, smoothing out Chanhee's black shirt across his bare torso. “I informed them that we’d have to leave early as soon as I saw your eyes. I told them I most likely wouldn’t be able to come back.”

 

“How?” Chanhee murmurs. His fingers hang around the hem of Seokwoo's shirt. “How did you know that trouble was on its way? You don’t know who I am… or have you known this entire time of my heritage?”

 

“I didn’t know you were a prince!” Seokwoo clarifies quickly. “I’d never heard of your name before I met you, which is strange because I thought I knew almost every royals’ names… I saw you freeze, Chanhee. And your eyes turn,” He breathes out heavily. “We’ve travelled together for quite some time, I’m bound to pick up on some of your traits, and I knew something was happening. When I saw who you were looking at, it made sense. You’re the Prince of Ros. You said your father took everything away from you…” 

 

 

“I was exiled,” Chanhee mutters out darkly. “My mother was killed in a sudden attack and he blamed me for it. She died in my arms because I couldn’t move quick enough to save her. My emotions—“ He breaks himself off with a small sob and before he can try to ground himself, tears begin to pour out from his eyes for the second time.

 

This time, he doesn’t think about what Seokwoo would think of him. He’s cried in front of him too many times now and Seokwoo has never once said anything negative about him shedding tears. Rather, he’s there with comforting touches and a soothing voice that lures him back down to ground himself with deep breathing. “They got in the way of my charm and it wouldn’t work!” 

 

“Chanhee…” 

 

“You have no idea how much I wanted to prove to my father while I lived in Ros. I wanted to prove to him that I wasn’t just going to stand next to some man and give him kids. I,” He inhales heavily, his anger is building up in his veins, ugly and hot. “I wanted to show to him that I could lead a kingdom. I wanted to prove that I worthy of his spot as king. I wanted to show the people that I wasn’t just a peasant woman’s child turned prince overnight, I wanted to be accepted. It never came. My mother was the only person that had faith in me and look where she is now. Six feet under.” 

 

“And you don’t think you can now? You don’t think you can prove your worth?” Seokwoo murmurs. “I’ve been exiled!” He cries, hands bashing at the velvet seats. “Do you think I can just walk back into Ros without being killed on the spot? He only exiled me so he wouldn’t taint his reputation for murder. He was going to kill me, Seokwoo.” 

 

 

Chanhee pauses. Then he breathes out shakily and cups a hand over his mouth, muting the sob that escapes him. “I was going to kill him…” 

 

 

Seokwoo gulps and reaches out his hands. He cradles the younger princes hands gently, his thumbs rubbing gentle, mindless patterns over the roughening skin of his palms. “But you didn’t,” Seokwoo whispers and Chanhee looks up at him, the whites of his eyes reddened and the skin around his eyes swollen from his anguish. 

 

The carriage door opens and a man who shares features with Seokwoo leans in and passes the crown prince a bundle. His warm honey eyes cast over to Chanhee and he bows his head to the King of Roen. “Head up,” His voice is gentle and Chanhee raises his head and slips his hands from Seokwoo's grasp to dry his eyes. “You’ve done well.” His lower lip begins to tremble and his heart swells from the praise. His teeth catch it and he bows his head once more, thanking him. He sends one last smile to Seokwoo before he disappears, the carriage door shutting behind him. 

 

 

“Sleep,” Seokwoo says. “I’ll be here when you wake up.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanhee squints and raises a hand to cover his eyes. The light is overwhelming and he groans out in displeasure when it doesn’t cease. 

 

 

“Child,”

 

Chanhee gasps when the familiar voice fills his ears. He pulls his hands away from his face and opens his eyes. The light fades behind the woman figure and Chanhee squints but he can’t make out her face. He looks down to see himself in the same gown from the dream he had a few months ago. She’s dress similarly to him, several layers of translucent rose fabric with golden bands around her arms. 

 

“You have opened the heart,” Chanhee blinks and unconsciously his hands hover over his heart in confusion. “Darkness shall enter.”

 

“Who are you?” He pleads out. The first time he’d had this dream—he’s not sure if it is a dream anymore—he’d shrugged it off as a hallucination from the drug in his system, but now he’s unsure of what it is. “What is this place?” 

 

 

“When the day comes that the lost heir returns,” Chanhee frowns and throws his head back in disbelief. “A betrayal shall commence the downfall of kingdoms.” If he had any idea what she was talking about, maybe things would be easier, but she speaks in riddles, a prophecy almost.

 

 “A link between kingdoms shall deliver terror and faith.” 

 

“What? I don’t understand!” He cries out in frustration. His fingers pull at his transparent sleeves in distress.

 

“Child,” Her voice is soft, melodic and Chanhee swears he’s heard it before somewhere else before, but nothing clicks and he groans out once more in frustration. 

 

“You must take the hand now.” 

 

“Tell me what it means!” He cries out but he’s too late. His body goes rigid and he falls again.

 

 

 

 

He wakes with a fight and a small scream. Seokwoo jumps up, waking up as well and when he notices the younger prince heaving in air, he moves over to his seat and pulls him close. “What happened? Nightmare?” He notices his put on another shirt, a darker tone of blue this time.

 

 

“No,” He breathes in shakily. “Something… I had another one of those weird dreams… I— she talks in riddles, almost like prophecies! something about a heart opening and taking a hand.” He pauses and tries to remember what she had said. “A link between kingdoms that will deliver terror and faith… It’s weird and I don’t know what’s going on!”

 

 

“Hey, calm down. It’s okay.” Seokwoo runs a hand down his side, stopping at his hip and gives it a small squeeze. He thinks about how if he had done anything like this before they had parted Chanhee probably would’ve done something bad to him. “Seokwoo, she said something about a lost heir, I’m so confused. Please just tell me I’m hallucinating…” 

 

 

Seokwoo bites down onto his lower lip. “When we get back to Roen,” he says. “I’ll take you to talk to my mother. She might know something.”

 

“How much longer?” Chanhee mutters. He involuntarily leans back on Seokwoo's chest, his head lolls onto his shoulder. “About another two days.” He answers back. He leans closer to Chanhee's body as well, his hands gripping his soft sides and his nose burying into his hair, breathing in the fresh smell of peaches. 

 

 

Eventually, Seokwoo falls asleep, lying awkwardly on the seat with a certain other prince lulling away to sleep in his arms. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip goes smoothly. Seokwoo had stayed with him, waking up with him when he woke from another frightening dream, this time, one about his father. They walked together to stretch their legs and ate away from the king and queen, knowing the younger was feeling nervous around their presence after what he’d been through. 

 

They both grew rather restless at the end of the trip and Seokwoo was overly excited when the carriage stopped and he peeked out the door, smiling widely at the sight of white sand, sparkling blue waters and a glorious castle in front of them. 

 

 

“Come on!” Seokwoo pulls him out of the carriage and Chanhee squeaks, tumbling onto his feet. 

 

 

His breath is knocked away from him. Serval palm trees are sparkled over the landscape, soft, glittering white sand spreads across the coastline, waves whispering over the sand in soft, gentle movements. The water is crystal clear, a magnificent blue and Chanhee's smile grows impossibly large. 

 

“It’s beautiful,” he whispers in awe. His eyes take in the scenery around him and he laughs joyfully, grabbing onto Seokwoo's hands. “You must take me to the ocean one day!”

 

Seokwoo laughs at his childish glee and he nods, promising him to take him to his own beach, the one given to him by his father when he was born. Chanhee glows in awe and astonishment. “I love it.” He says breathlessly. 

 

“I’m glad.” Seokwoo sighs happily. “This will be mine one day.” 

 

Chanhee turns to him and gleams. Seokwoo feels his heart stutter. “You must be so proud.” 

 

“Of course I am. It’s glorious.” 

 

Chanhee then turns to the castle and his eyes widen. A white sandstone path leads up to the seemingly iridescent castle. The roofing on the three towers are a deed viridian, the tallest towers roof peaking up higher than the rest. The windows are large, outlined with white trims with aspects of gold glittering in the sun. The gatehouses are wide, and the gates mimic the outside gates that look like rolling waves.

 

 

“Woah,” Chanhee mutters underneath his breath. Seokwoo beams from beside him. “This is home.” 

 

As they walk closer Chanhee can see the details of starfish and other aquatic life carved into the bottom of the castles exterior walls. The stairs up to the entrance are from the same white stone, sparkling in the sun and the door even has starfish-shaped handles. 

 

The palace walls are painted in a soft seafoam. It’s not overly decorated with riches like other castles Chanhee's been in and he enjoys the simplicity of the palace’s decorations. Two staircases welcome them on either side and a pair of open doors. Chanhee can see thrones ahead through the open doors, arches and pillars painted with ocean blue, models of sea life and shells against the blue background. 

 

Chanhee's most taken away by all the water features around the palace. In the foyer, a wall of water falls around the thrones entryway and serval other features can be spotted around the place.  

 

 

“I’ll take you to the visitor's chambers,” And for some reason, Chanhee finds his stomach drop at the prince's words.

 

 He opens his mouth to protest, to say something but his embarrassment overrides him and he flushes, dropping his head. God, who knew he’d turn into such a needy person after knowing what the feeling of safety and comfort is. 

 

Seokwoo notices and he bends down, meeting his gaze with that stupidly handsome smile on his face. “Or maybe if you don’t want that?”

 

 

“Wouldn’t it be improper…?” Chanhee whispers meekly, shyly meeting Seokwoo's eyes. The crown prince smiles harder. “I don’t care,” he shrugs his shoulders and stands back up to his full height. “If you want to.” 

 

Seokwoo chuckles a bit, suddenly sheepish and Chanhee raises his head. “Do you mean it?”

 

The crown prince nods, eyes soft and brimmed full with adoration. “I told you once I meant everything I said, that applies here, too.”

 

 

Chanhee laughs softly and the tingling feeling returns all though him again. “Okay,” He agrees. “But I think we should have a different room…”

 

“If you want,” Seokwoo replies quickly, the tips of his ears tinged red.

 

 

As they pass through the halls, not only to the attendants greet Seokwoo with wide smiles, eyes shining with adoration for the crown prince, they smile wide at Chanhee. Seokwoo turns bright red and shakes his head, grips onto Chanhee's wrist and speedily walks away, only stopping when he shuts a pair of doors behind him with a heavy sigh. 

 

 

“The Crown Prince chambers!” He gestures with his hand and a cheeky look on his face. Chanhee scoffs a bit at his childish antics but he follows his hand and gapes at his quarters. 

 

Chanhee had only been given a bedroom and a tiny sitting area, nothing like this.

 

There’s a large water feature in the middle of the room, a fountain almost and Chanhee is more than surprised when Seokwoo walks over to it and drops both his hands in, then runs his hands through his hair. Lounges lie behind the fountain, bookshelves in front and a smallish table with two armchairs by the entrance. 

 

Seokwoo walks to the lounge and slumps down ungracefully onto the plush ocean coloured pillows, his damp hair flopping over his forehead, dark brown strands poking into his eyes. Chanhee follows him and sits opposite him. He grabs a turquoise pillow and fiddles with it while he looks over at Seokwoo who’s gazing over at him. 

 

“I know you’ve probably heard this before, but you’re really pretty.” Chanhee blinks. Once, twice and thrice before he adverts his gaze, his cheeks and the tips of his ears heating up. 

 

“No,” He replies quietly. “Not really.” Back in his home kingdom he rarely got compliments from anyone. His father had only mocked him, and his people never really paid any attention to their fraudulent prince. His mother had always told him he was beautiful, but she was his mother, he could roll around in mud and he’d still be the apple of her eye.

 

Something in him stirs at Seokwoo's words and he wets his lips with his tongue. 

 

“Well,” Seokwoo props himself up on his elbow. “You are. You have really round eyes, they’re pretty. And your lips,” he pauses briefly and moves his gaze away from the younger’s pink mouth. “They look like a soft heart.” 

 

Chanhee looks away from him, flushing and Seokwoo goes quiet. 

 

“What’s going to happen now?” He asks in a soft whisper. He lifts his head, his cheeks still lightly flushed and Seokwoo’s bottom lip catches with his teeth. The Crown Prince clears his throat. “I mean,” Chanhee's hands ball on top of his thighs. “My father won’t stop for nothing.” 

 

Seokwoo stands and comes to sit next to him. 

 

“I realised something during the trip,” Chanhee murmurs weakly, almost as if it hurts him to think about it. “My father knew from the beginning what I was capable of,” Seokwoo frowns and he moves a little bit closer, reaching out hesitantly to run a hand down his arm, stopping at his hand to cradle it gently. “He knew I was dangerous.”

 

 

“Don’t say that, Chanhee…” The crown prince pleads his eyes show hurt and Chanhee runs his fingers over Seokwoo's knuckles, briefly distracting himself. “Don’t put yourself down like that.” 

 

The younger prince lifts his head and meets Seokwoo's eyes. Lavender hued orbs stare into his, pain-filled and he can see the faint brewing of tears in his pretty eyes.

 

 

“I don’t think you understand, Seokwoo…” The elder prince gulps and lets him continue on. “I’ve killed people. With a single look! And I can do it again! That terrifies me,” He admits, bottom lip trembling slightly. Seokwoo's mouth runs dry and he shakes his head, gripping at his hands tighter.

 

“My father figured that out quickly. I don’t know when, but it had to be before even I knew the extent of my own charm, otherwise, there is no way he put up with me for so long. I was fourteen when I first killed someone…” He stops and drops his gaze from Seokwoo's eyes to his thighs in shame, guilt and terror. He lets out a few small cries, and he tries to quieten himself by forcing his lips shut. “After that day I tried so hard to contain my charm, keep it at bay, but my father had something else in mind.” He squeezes hard on Seokwoo's hand. He hadn’t even realised it at the time. His father would make up petty excuses for not being able to get a master to help him out, small trip up that seemed so perfectly planned now that he thinks back on it.

 

“I was being tamed into being his puppet, his own personal weapon.” He breaks himself off with a small choked cry and his frame beings to shake with his painful cries. Seokwoo's heart falls inside his chest, sinking rapidly and he grabs at the younger prince’s waist and pulls him flush to his chest. Chanhee rests his head on his shoulder, his legs between Seokwoo's parted legs and his hands grasp tightly at the back of the crown prince’s shirt, holding him tight as if he is the only thing he has left.

 

He is the only thing he has. 

 

Seokwoo lets his tears wet his shirt. He rubs his back with one hand, his arm wrapped around his middle and his other hand softly detangles the loose knots in Chanhee’s inky locks. “He was making me his killing machine. He had a plan from the start. He manipulated me!” Seokwoo sniffs and he can’t help his own tears from falling. Chanhee, the man he thought so strong, someone who could walk through hell and back and not be bothered, breaking down in front of him, showing the tears and shatters on his heart to him. It shows his trust for him and Seokwoo just wishes he could’ve shown it in other ways instead. Something about seeing Chanhee cry makes him feel like shit. 

 

It’s so wrong. Chanhee doesn’t cry like this, he’s strong, stronger than what he can ever be. But he’s human too, and beneath his fortress that keeps his emotions away, that blocks any prying eyes to see his crushed hope and shattering heart, he’s fragile, too.

 

He’s kept in his emotions for so long and Seokwoo can’t imagine the pain he’s felt all this time. The realisation would’ve hurt the most, knowing he was used and nothing more than just a weapon.

 

“He told me things he’d never go through with. He was never going to let me marry anyone, but he never rejected Youngbin’s proposal because that was bait! So why!?” He roars and he slumps onto Seokwoo's frame, even more, nails digging into the span of the crown prince’s back. Seokwoo doesn’t care, he’s too unsettled to care about that. “Why did he exile me…? He knew full well that he needed me for his own selfish intentions, so why?” He whispers brokenly and Seokwoo squeezes his eyes shut, tears spilling down his face. 

 

“He’s going to do terrible things, Seokwoo,” He pulls away from his shoulder and looks him in the eyes. Their hearts both squeeze at the sight of each other's tears. Chanhee's bottom lip wobbles and he gently retracts his shaky hands from Seokwoo's back to wipe away the salty tears from his face. Seokwoo smiles small, painfully and Chanhee chokes on his tears. 

 

“I don’t know what to do anymore… How did he know I was in Denho and that I’d be at the ball? How did we get away so easily?” 

 

 

Seokwoo's face drops and he shakes his head. “I don’t know yet, Chanhee… But I can tell you that I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere. So, please,” He sits up further, his hands landing at the soft curve of Chanhee's waist. “Let me in.” 

 

Chanhee's sobs have reduced to sniffs and little hiccups, his tears slowing down. 

 

He wants to say so many things to Chanhee, but his throat closes tight and he’s so fragile at the moment. He doesn’t want to risk hurting the younger prince anymore. So, he hides the words in his heart and only speaks them in his mind.

 

Chanhee can smile and his knees would be weak, his heart beating erratically in his chest. One look at the prince and his heart is his, all his. It’d been like that since Seokwoo can remember.

 

Chanhee has his heart in his delicate fingertips, on a silver platter and he doesn’t even know.

 

Chapter Text

They fall asleep on the lounge together after Chanhee says he’ll try to let him in. He already knows that he has accepted him into the concealed fortress around his heart and the thought originally scared him, but it’s Seokwoo and it didn’t seem so scary anymore after that. 

 

 Seokwoo actually fits laying horizontally on the long lounge and Chanhee is pressed against the back of the lounge, his head resting on the elder's shoulder. Both are quite gross and smelly from their escape back in Isethia and the head maid calls Seokwoo’s title to wake him from his slumber gently. 

 

Seokwoo’s wakes up groggily and squints at the attendants. “Huh?”

 

“We’ve run a bath for Your Highnesses.” Seokwoo gently sits up, careful to not wake Chanhee. He lays his head on a plush pillow and stands, shaking his head at a maid when she goes to wake him up. “Let him sleep longer.” He says. “I will go first and then you can get new water for him before I wake him.” He has a feeling that Chanhee will feel threatened if he woke up to a strangers face, especially after what he’s been through. 

 

He soaks long in the porcelain tub, enjoying the scent of calming citrus and the subtle undertones of lavender. The maids are long gone, probably sorting out his clothing and preparing the room beside his for Chanhee, by Seokwoo’s command. The ladies had looked at him with wide eyes and Seokwoo knew exactly why. The room was reserved for his royal crown consort, his future partner and the person that will sit with him on the throne. 

 

He knows it’s not proper, but Seokwoo cannot see himself accepting another person that belongs there. His heart belongs in Chanhee’s grip and as stupid as he sounds, he doesn’t want him to ever lose grip onto it. He doesn’t want it to ever end up in someone else’s hands. 

 

He knows it’s stupid, to wish for something he can’t have. Chanhee's an exiled prince, he can’t reach out his hand and ask him to join him on the throne. He knows he shouldn’t feel this way, he has his duties as a Crown Prince that he must do and loving Chanhee is getting in the way of them. He doesn’t wish to marry another person and have children with them, he doesn’t want anyone close to him except for Chanhee. 

 

He stays in until the water goes cold, his muscles feeling more relaxed and he enjoys the feeling of his freshly washed skin brushing against his loose shirts. 

 

He wanders back to his sitting area and finds Chanhee already awake and sitting with serval pillows hugged to his chest. 

 

“Come have a bath,” He says to him and the prince looks up at him, eyes still red and swollen from his tears. “Okay,” He croaks and he stands on his shaky legs. “I’m going to talk with my parents,” he informs him just as the maids gently hold onto the younger prince’s arms to lead him to the bathroom. 

 

“If you wish to join me after, ask the maids. They will gladly take you.” 

 

Chanhee nods and Seokwoo sends him a smile. “Ask for the citrus,” Seokwoo advises. “It helps with stress.” 

 

“Sounds useful,” Chanhee states dryly and Seokwoo's lips press into a fine line. “Relax,” he says with a sigh. “Enjoy yourself.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Father, mother,” He greets them with a large smile and they turn their heads to beam at their son. 

 

“How was your trip? Do sit down, my boy, you seem tired.” Seokwoo takes the seat in front of his parents and leans forward, cupping his hands together at his knees. 

 

“It wasn’t terrible,” he says honestly. It could’ve been better, but he was with Chanhee, talking about useless things with him, but those useless things distracted from all his worries for a while. 

 

“I’ve come to talk to you both about something important.” This pikes their interest and his mother's eyes narrow and his father leans forward in his armchair, his eyebrows knitting together. 

 

“Prince Chanhee,” He begins and his mother heaves out a deep breath. “You must hear me out before you interject,” she nods knowingly and blinks slowly. “He needs to stay with me. He was exiled months ago—“ his mother gasps loudly, hands cupping over her mouth and his father’s eyebrows raise, his frown ceasing to give way to a look of shock. “And I know the rules,” he adds quickly. “No affiliation with the royal families, but he needs to stay here until we figure something out.”

 

 

“Why should we?” His mother questions after she recovers from her shock. Her hands smooth the creases in her ultramarine coloured gown, her eyes cast downwards. 

 

“Because,” Seokwoo’s swallows hard, eyes darting away from his mothers when her eyes lift to meet his. “He means a lot to me.” 

 

 

“My boy, Seokwoo,” He father calls tenderly and the crown prince raises his head to look at his father. He’s smiling softly, a fond look in his eyes that’s always there whenever he looks at him. “I know you must be aware of the dangers of falling in love with an exiled prince.” Seokwoo gulps and exhales heavily. “Father h—“ 

 

“—How did I know?” He laughs, the corners of his eyes creasing and Seokwoo’s sinks into the pale blue armchair. “I am your father, I have raised you with your mother, I am sure I can tell the look in my son's eyes is a different kind of love for that boy,”

 

Seokwoo gulps and averts his gaze briefly before he nods at his father. The King of Roen laughs, the corners of his eyes creasing and Seokwoo’s sinks into the pale blue armchair his father notices him playing with his hands nervously and he squints, looking into his son’s eyes. Seokwoo squirms in his seat. 

 

“You haven’t told him.” He discovers and Seokwoo's eyes flutter to his mother who looks quite disappointed at the news.

 

 

“Why haven’t you told him, son?” He presses on and Seokwoo shakes his head in return. “He’s gone through a lot… and I don’t want to break the newfound trust between us. Father,” He rubs at his temples, breathing deeply. “If it means risking myself, I’ll do it.” His mother opens her mouth and lets out a small gasp. “Seokwoo… an exiled prince—“

 

“He is not just an exiled prince! He is so much more than that! He deserves protection now after what he’s been through!”

 

“Seokwoo!” His father yells sternly, his fist balling up in his lap. Seokwoo dismisses him entirely. 

 

“He told me what he’s been through! Not even half of it, I’m sure, and gods’ forbid, if anyone else had gone through what he has, they wouldn’t have hope left! But he does and I want to keep that in him so he can keep going!” 

 

“Then,” His mother is still speaking calmly, she always has. Even when Seokwoo's hot temper gets the best of him. “Do tell us why we are going to look after this boy. It could start something we don’t want, Seokwoo.” 

 

A war.

 

“I am his hope!” Seokwoo exclaims, bashing his fists down angrily. 

 

He’s seen the way Chanhee reaches for him when things get hard, his eyes look out for him, and god, Seokwoo just wants to be someone he knows he can rely on through anything. He knows Chanhee knows that. One of the reasons why he didn’t fight him when he took him from the ball was because he knew that Seokwoo would try his absolute hardest to make things better. He’s put his trust in him, all of it.

 

 

“Seokwoo!” His mother scolds sternly, frowning at him. “Get yourself together and act like a prince!” 

 

“How can I? Knowing what he’s been though… Mother, father, you must understand this, I cannot leave him alone. His father wants him back. The King of Ros won’t stop, Chanhee knows this.”

 

His mother’s eyebrows knit closely together and her lips press into a thin line. 

 

“The Bearer Prince of Ros,” She mutters, fingers tapping against her knee. “I have heard things about him.”

 

 

“Bad things, I’m presuming.” Seokwoo whips his head around and his eyes soften at the sight of Chanhee standing there, his head bowed to his parents and his hands clasped in front of him. He suits the ocean colours he’s wearing, a soft blue silk shirt with a thin white belt at his small waist and fitted black pants. 

 

Seokwoo stands and grabs onto his hand, pulling him closer to his parents. “Father,” His father eyes him and purses his lips. Chanhee bows his head. “Mother,” The queen looks at him blankly. 

 

“You are very beautiful, indeed.” She says and Chanhee squeezes onto Seokwoo's hand. He begins to lead him over to the lounge instead of the armchair opposite his father and pulls him down, close to his side. “Thank you,"

 

“I haven’t heard all terrible things… a few interesting things, yes…” 

 

 

Chanhee raises his head and his father narrows his eyes. “You are the son of Kang Kiwoon?” He murmurs lowly. “Barely,” chanhee softly answers. Seokwoo looks at him with sorrow in his eyes. “I do not know my origins. Nobody does.” 

 

“And you are charmed,” the queen says and Chanhee slowly turns his head to meet her eyes. “Yes,” he nods softly and she leans forward, a little bit intimidatingly and Seokwoo shoots a warning look to her. She settles back in her chair. 

 

“May I ask with what?” 

 

Chanhee wavers briefly and Seokwoo’s growls. “Mother,” he whispers through gritted teeth. “It’s okay,” Chanhee assures him. His fingertips brush over his softly before he begins to swirl patterns in his rough palm, a habit he’s picked up on doing when he’s nervous. 

 

“Pain,” he swallows and nods. “Death.”

 

She blinks before she frowns, a look of uncertainty and distrust glazes over her features. 

 

“Such charms exist?” The king asks. He seems interested, instead. Chanhee nods weakly. 

 

 

“I do not want to overstep my boundaries,” Chanhee begins. He looks the queen in the eyes. His eyes morph from inky black to lavender and the queen raises her brows. Seokwoo’s holds his hand tighter. “But I need your help.” He tries to rid of his anxiety, the reason why his charm has surfaced and Seokwoo’s notices when his eyes waver. 

 

“Breathe,” he reminds softly. 

 

 

“Perhaps I am just a peasants child that was given the opportunity to become a prince, but does that mean I must suffer? My father is an evil man,” he takes a deep breath. “He’s deceived new kings and blackmailed them to be framed. He is power greedy.”

 

Sanghyuck had owed his father a favour and his father had twisted it and manipulated it to frame the King of Denho, but he had failed once Chanhee arrived. He knew what he was doing the moment Sanghyuck had told him. To turn another king against the other Kingdoms meant an opportunity of more power. Something Chanhee knows he wants more than anything.

 

“Although I do not know all the reasons behind my exile, it doesn’t make sense to me. I was his secret weapon...” The king purses his lips and leans closer. The queen softens in her tense state. “How did he know I would be at the ball? Why did he let me get away?” He pauses and shakes his head. Anger and fear is folding his veins. “Why does he want me back?”

 

The king's lips twitch into a smile. “It seems like it was a warning, boy. He wants you to know who has power over you.” 

 

“How would’ve he known?”

 

The king leans back in his chair and sighs. He looks into lavender orbs and shakes his head softly. “I would rethink my trust with certain people if I were you.” The prince blinks and Seokwoo can tell he’s thinking deeply. The soft crease between his eyebrows show it and his hand loosens from Seokwoo’s grasp, coming to grip at his shirt. 

 

Jookyun would never do something like that. He’s been a dick in the past, but Chanhee knows deep down he cares about him. He just has a massive ego and will never admit that he genuinely cares about him. 

 

He’s racking his brain to think of someone who has the power to tell the King of Ros his whereabouts. His friends back at Aire definitely don’t. They don’t even know Seokwoo and himself are royalty for god sakes. 

 

Sanghyuck wouldn’t. He wanted it as much as Chanhee did for their plan to go smoothly. It meant power for him, a wall that his father wouldn’t be able to break through. 

 

The only other person that knew about their travels—

 

Oh

 

He pales at the sudden realisation. His hands feel clammy and the pit of nausea that comes and goes is back, swirling violently. He swallows harshly and bites on his bottom lip, hands trembling. 

 

“Juho sent a message to the King of Idris,” Chanhee murmurs lowly. His vision starts to blur. He stands from the seat and bows to the Monarchs of Ros and excuses himself from their company quickly. Seokwoo follows him, concern written over his face. 

 

His mother catches his wrist in her grip. Her eyes speak the words she can’t say and Seokwoo gulps, nodding knowingly.

 

 

“It can’t be,” Chanhee murmurs weakly. Although he knows it makes sense, that it’s most definitely him who had betrayed him. It feels like a hot knife jabbing into his stomach, twisting around inside of him. The betrayal feels heavy and ugly, painful and crushing. He leans against a pillar and heaves in a deep breath of air.

 

“King Youngbin...” he whispers hoarsely. Seokwoo reaches out his hand and grips onto his shoulder, steadying him when he sways hazardously. 

 

“Seokwoo... I trusted him! He knows!” His eyes meet his in a frenzy and panic overrules his features. The tears welling in his eyes drop and Seokwoo trembles, holding onto his sides tightly. “He knows that Sanghyuck and I had a plan to deceive him! I told him that we were tearing down him down! Oh god, what have I done?” 

 

 

“Chanhee, breathe,” The prince shakes his head and his breathing turns frantic and if he doesn’t stop to breathe evenly Seokwoo knows he’s going to pass out. “We’ll figure something out, just breathe.” 

 

Chanhee leans his forehead against the pillar and breaths in a shaky heavy breath. “Okay,” He mutters softly, weakly and Seokwoo feels anger rise inside of him. Seokwoo takes him into his hold and leads him away from his parents quarters, back to his own.

 

He knows the King of Idris personally. He knew he was head over heels for a younger prince, he just didn’t know it was Chanhee. He knew that he wanted to marry him and he’d been gently rejected each time. Youngbin was a good person. He is.

 

Seokwoo is so confused and hurt by the realisation and his heart feels heavy in his chest. Chanhee has lost yet another thing, someone that offered him some type of shelter during heavy raining and, god, he doesn’t know how Chanhee is standing on his two feet now. 

 

 

 

 “He loved me…” Chanhee whispers in disbelief. “How could he?” 

 

Seokwoo sits him down onto the plush aqua lounge and he kneels in front of him, hands grasped tightly onto his. “When love turns lonely people do things they wouldn’t do before.” He gently whispers and Chanhee's face falls.

 

“I broke his heart?” 

 

Seokwoo's heart sinks in his chest at the look in the younger princes eyes. Some type of desperation is swirling in his lavender eyes, a deep look of hurt and he feels something break inside of him. 

 

Seokwoo can’t say anything and Chanhee swallows hard, shaking his head. “I didn’t mean to,” He says hoarsely. “I just couldn’t love him back,”

 

“It’s okay,” 

 

Seokwoo knows how it feels to be so in love and not have them it return in it. It feels like his heart doesn’t belong inside him but in Chanhee’s grip. But he doesn’t know that he has his heart. Seokwoo doesn’t know if he wasn’t it to stay that way or not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a knock at his door and he looks up from his letter that he was writing at his desk beside his bed to see who’s entering. 

 

Chanhee looks a little overwhelmed if anything and Seokwoo fights the urge to laugh when his nose scrunches up in distaste when a maid follows him in. 

 

“It’s okay,” Seokwoo tells her and she bows her head. “I trust him.” She leaves, although a bit hesitant. 

 

Chanhee stands in the middle of his room for a few seconds, taking in the slightly lit room in. The walls are a deep ultramarine, white cornices decorated with intricate little silver starfish and serval silver oil lamps around the walls, illuminating the room with warm light. His bed is large, larger than any bed he’s ever seen in his life. It’s wide and long, steps leading up to the soft mattress covered in sea-coloured silk pillows and covers. 

 

Seokwoo's dressed a long viridian robe, the top open and exposing the span of his tanned chest. Chanhee's eyes linger on him for a little bit. 

 

The younger prince is dressed similarly, his robe a soft seafoam, contrasting against his paler complexion. It’s quite a good fit and Seokwoo wonders where the maids found it. His collarbones are exposed, soft silk flows over his chest and covers him nicely up to his hips where it’s a little bit more snug around him, falling like water down to his ankles, brushing by the white floor as he takes small steps towards Seokwoo.

 

“It’s late,” Seokwoo murmurs with a soft smile. “What are you doing here?” Chanhee's eyes lift to his face and Seokwoo swears his cheeks are reddening.

 

“I,” His mouth parts for words to fall out, but his words get caught in his throat and he ends up just smiling at Seokwoo.

 

“I couldn’t sleep…so I,” he flushes harder and looks away. Seokwoo smiles and laughs softly. 

 

 

“I have to finish a letter,” Seokwoo says as his hand slides into the younger’s. Chanhee looks up and he looks so tired. Eyebags are evident under his pretty eyes and he looks a little bit hazy. His lips are red, full and Seokwoo has to look away from his face when he wonders what it’d be like to kiss him.

 

 “But you can stay.” He finishes and Chanhee only nods softly. 

 

 

“Seokwoo,” He says as he slides into the large bed. His robes have risen from the action and his bare legs feel soft against the smooth satin sheets. The elder prince hums from his spot at his desk. Chanhee's eyes stay on him when his head sinks into the pillow. His features are softly illuminated by the warm light coming from the oil lamps and he looks heavenly, otherworldly and his heart strums in his chest. 

 

“Will you show me around the Kingdom tomorrow?” He asks softly and Seokwoo lets out a small chuckle. “Of course!” He nods, looking over to him. His smile begins to fall when he sees the look on Chanhee's face. He looks distant as if his mind is somewhere else, somewhere dark and his eyes are lavender. 

 

He quickly jolts the rest of his letter down and then drops his pen, standing from his desk and sliding in beside him.

 

“Chanhee,” He calls gently. The prince’s eyes flicker over to him and he looks into his eyes. “I’m scared,” He admits softly. 

 

“And that’s okay,” Seokwoo assures him. “It’s okay to feel scared.” 

 

“I don’t want him to take me back…” His eyes swirl with panic and he shifts closer to Seokwoo, his bare legs brush against his clothed legs and he presses his chest to Seokwoo’s own. 

 

Seokwoo reaches his hand out and holds his board shoulder, keeping him close. 

 

“He let me go because he was going to kill me. He couldn’t have that because he needs me. I’m his weapon. So, now, he’s going to everything he can to get me back. He wants power and whatever he wants, he gets it.”

 

 

“Not on my watch,” Seokwoo growls. “I won’t let you go. Ever.”

 

Chanhee stares into his eyes, his panic sinks away and something that Seokwoo can’t exactly pinpoint fills his eyes instead. He swallows and his teeth catch his bottom lip.

 

“Hold onto that,” Chanhee says, his eyes briefly flicker to the Crown Princes lips. “He’ll do anything to have me back.” 

 

“He can’t,” Seokwoo murmurs lowly. He’s so close that their breath is mingling and Chanhee think if he presses his chest any closer to him, he’d be able to feel the rapid beating of his heart. 

 

 

Seokwoo makes him feel things he’s never felt before. It feels like electricity is running through his veins every time his skin makes contact with his and his presence is like a soothing yet powerful wave crashing at the fortress around his heart, slowly breaking down the walls until there’s a small gap in his formidable structure that he’s made and he’s moving in, making his own space in the messy structure. Slowly and steadily he’s approaching the incomprehensible pieces of him that he’s tried so hard to fix himself and he’s carefully, with gentle hands and a soft muttering of words, placing them one by one where they should be, helping him build himself back up. 

 

Chanhee's let him in and he’s holding his heart so gently, almost like it’ll shatter at any second.

 

When the realisation hits him, it feels like the room has filled with water and he’s sinking slowly, but Seokwoo is there and he helps him swim back up to the surface to heave in heavy breathes of oxygen. 

 

His heart is trembling and his hands are clammy and fuck, he just wants to hold him and not let go. 

 

 

He’s been through so much and his heart has been tested to its absolute limit. His heart has been caught in stampedes when he felt like glass, and even with the massive crack the stampede made in his glass heart, he kept it together with thin threads and one by one they’ve broken off until the point where he’s just hanging by a single thread. 

 

He’s strong in his own ways. He can take men almost twice his size down in a matter of minutes— seconds even— and he’s held himself together and he’s clung onto his hope even when he thought he lost it all. He didn’t have anything a few months ago and somehow, during a stupid, unthought, impromptu decision he gained something. Someone. 

 

Seokwoo. 

 

Kang Chanhee isn’t easily swayed by any means, but he might be for the future King of Roen. 

 

 

Chanhee is drowning, falling into the bottomless lake that he knows after each day he’ll fall deeper into and eventually he’ll fall so deep it’ll be impossible to get out. The water is Seokwoo and his actions, his words, his love. But he doesn’t even care that he’s drowning. He wants fall deeper until the light of what he was before Seokwoo can’t be seen. 

 

 

He’d never been so sure about something in his life. 

 

 

Every second he floating lower and lower into the chasm and for the first time in his life, he wants the chasm to envelop his body and he wants to fall to the bottom.

 

 

Seokwoo is full of surprises and impromptu decisions, something that he used to hate. Before Seokwoo he’d think about the pros and cons before going ahead with something but know he’s developed his ways of thinking and he finds himself acting more like Seokwoo as time goes by. His fear of surprises disappearing and his own unpredictable side loud and bold. 

 

 

He sits up and pulls at the elder's shoulder until he’s sitting up, too. 

 

 

His mouth parts and the words are on the tip of his tongue but his sudden fear of rejection fills him and he’s then unable to talk. He gets up swiftly, his robe riding high up his body and tumbling to the ground as he stands. Seokwoo's eyes follow him as he walks to the window on his right, viewing out to the ocean lapping at the castle walls. Chanhee hadn’t noticed before that half the castle was built into the ocean. 

 

Seokwoo stands next to his side and the feeling builds up once more between them. It feels like an electric current has been growing between them for days, and the even during the weeks and months they were away from each other. 

 

 Chanhee cranes his neck upwards to look at him in the eyes and his stomach coils with unknown feelings, something so foreign and he gulps. Seokwoo gazes down at him, an unknown look in his eyes and Chanhee just can’t take it anymore. 

 

He doesn’t know how long it has been since his feeling turned into this for Seokwoo instead of just a friendly relationship. He wants his arms around him and he wants to hold him close and listen to his worries and help him through his difficult times. He likes the way he holds him with his hands and how his skin feels against his. 

 

The unknown feeling is rising higher and quickly and he feels likes he’s going to explode. “Seokwoo,” The prince smiles softly and, god Chanhee feels lightheaded one second and then unbearably hot the next. His smile does things to his heart and he shivers even though he’s going through a heat flush. His lips curl up so perfectly and they look so soft. He tries to take a step back but he’s frozen. 

 

“Chanhee,”

 

And then the fuse blows. 

 

He moves quickly and fists his hands at the fabric below his shoulders and he yanks him down and he meets his eyes quickly and Seokwoo's eyes widen a bit at the look in his eyes. He looks serious, but he’s ridden of all his walls around his heart and he’s like an open book all of a sudden. 

 

He gulps and places his trembling hands on his full hips. 

 

When Chanhee's eyes close his heart speeds up so fast Seokwoo's afraid that his heart is going to break out of his chest. He leans closer and closer. 

 

 

His heart skips a whole beat when their lips touch. 

 

He stands there like an idiot for a few seconds from shock and when Chanhee presses their lips harder against each other he feels like he’s been blessed by all the gods in the kingdom. 

 

His body is moulded against his and he’s getting dizzy. His lips are soft and he tastes like peach nectar and he’s going crazy. His hands grip at his hips harder and Chanhee's hands move from being balled up at his chest to hook around his neck. 

 

Their lips move together harshly, all their hidden desire and tension coming out in the kiss.

 

They kiss illuminated by the moonlight and even though Chanhee has lost so much he feels so complete kissing Seokwoo. His heart feels full for the first time in years and he’s falling lower and lower into the pit. 

 

The elder prince’s hands tug at his thighs and then he’s pressed against the wall next to the window. 

 

Chanhee pulls away, their lips disconnecting and he heaves in a deep breath of air before he returns to ravishing him. His heart feels fluttery and his stomach is in knots of desire and they kiss until they lose their senses and their going crazy. 

 

 

It’s when they’ve moved to the bed, Seokwoo's body hovering over his with his exposed legs hooked around his hips that he gets a grip on reality once more. 

 

“I think I love you,” he whispers small and Seokwoo's face blossoms into the most beautiful smile Chanhee has ever seen. His heart is going wild in his chest. 

 

He presses a soft kiss to his lips and falls next to him, bringing him close to his chest. “God I thought I was going to go insane.” Seokwoo beams widely and he hugs him tightly. Chanhee laughs when he rolls over and kicks his feet in excitement.

 

"I love you, too." He says, rather breathlessly and Chanhees heart flips in his chest. It feels like Seokwoo's done kintsugi to the cracks in his heart, fixing them back up with pure gold.

 

“What can we do?” Chanhee murmurs, accepting another chaste kiss from Seokwoo. They can’t stop their lips from touching, it’s intoxicating. “I cannot possibly stay with you forever,”

 

“I need you,” Seokwoo mutters across his lips. “We’ll figure something out. Don’t worry about that now. Just kiss me.”

 

So, he does. 

 

They fall asleep in each other's arms, lips full and reddened from endless rough kisses. And Chanhee feels complete for once, right there in his arms, legs entwined and their hearts beating in sync. 

 

It’s asters, primroses and snowdrops that he dreams of that night.

 

 

 ♔