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flight of the stars

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For a Crown Prince, Renjun really hated festivities.

 

Like all of the sweet-hearted Seelie Court, he adored light and laughter. He was made for warm days spent under summer suns in spring meadows, beautiful artwork and lilting melodies. Renjun thrived in peace, in moments where his cheeks ached from smiling, when he was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him back, when he could feel nothing but the steady thrum of his heart enveloped by affection.

 

But he really, really hated festivities.

 

He didn’t hate the celebrating, he hated the hushed whispers behind hands that he received. He knew that stares were all he was destined for, that his stars spelled out every hardship and rumour that he would face simply because his fae-blood had that one droplet of royal gold. It had made him hate it more. 

 

He shifted uncomfortably in the epaulets of his carefully tailored uniform, daring to brush a few strands of blond hair falling onto his forehead with gloved fingers.

 

Each watchful gaze of the advisors, commoners, servants and soldiers was upon Renjun and his father beside him, seated on the Summer Throne. He resented it.

 

Every few centuries, the two Fae kingdoms celebrated the coming of the Blood Moon, a rare eclipse that was often a sign of prosperous years. This coming Blood Moon, the Seelie Court was to hold the celebration. There would be a month’s worth of music, food and dance. It would be hell, but at least it would be home.

 

It was the night of the New Moon Ball, which would serve as the opening ceremony. The Unseelies had announced their arrival, and now the entire kingdom held their breath as they paraded through the streets.

 

Renjun hadn't been allowed to see the other Court from his window. He had been ushered into the Throne Room straight away, the royal stylists ensuring that his hair stayed gelled up with herbal potions and that he smelled less like a sweating soldier and more like a prince.

 

He had only ever seen ink sketches and woven tapestries of the Unseelie Fae, only heard demonic stories from superstitious Lords and Ladies. He knew them as devilish warriors, as faeries who could never be trusted. But he knew better than to give into fairytales (especially when he was one of them; the most powerful water-wielder seen in eons).

 

As the celestial bronze horns sounded, gilded throne room doors swinging open, Renjun felt anticipation burn every nerve of his being. He resisted the urge to crane his neck, to let his lips part in awe as the Unseelie Court exploded into their Throne Room.

 

They were beyond breath-taking. They erupted in swaths of coloured flame, in banners and sparks, dancers and acrobats seemingly flying as musicians marched in with soldiers. The women wore little clothing, the men in coloured make-up and paint - things that would scandalise the Seelies.

 

They were pure, unbridled chaos.

 

Renjun had never felt such fear and astonishment.

 

The music halted almost as abruptly as the Unseelies had arrived, each bit of the moving artwork coming to a deafening silence.

 

It allowed for a soldier clad in bronze armour to lead the Fae King of the Unseelie Court to the foot of the dais. Even from a good distance away, Renjun felt every story he had been told about the king disintegrate into nothingness; they didn’t do him justice.

 

For King Taeyong had a strong, clenched jaw and eyes so intense that they held oblivion within their obsidian gaze. He appeared thin from a once-over, almost frail. But that slender frame did nothing to hide the broad shoulders, the veins drawn upon the muscles of his forearms which rippled with barely-contained power.

 

Renjun felt his stomch drop as he swallowed nervously. But as a Crown Prince he kept his chin trained high, his expression blank save for the corners of his mouth tilting downward imperceptibly.

 

As the Kings began to converse, the Throne Room still deathly silent, Renjun tuned out. (He really was going to make a terrible king one day). His eyes fell upon the soldier that had guided King Taeyong to his father.

 

His legs were long, despite hidden under his bronze armour. The man - boy, Renjun realised - had a face still soft with adolescence, honey skin that seemed to melt into the intricate artwork of his suit.

 

And his eyes. Even from afar, they twinkled with mischief, with promises of adrenaline and thrills unbeknownst to anyone but himself.

 

As if sensing Renjun’s gaze on him, the honey-like boy’s eyes flickered to the Crown Prince for less than a fraction of a second.

 

And perhaps, just perhaps, his rose-petal lips flickered with the ghost of a smile.

 

.:*:.

 

"Hiding in the shadows isn't very princely."

 

He wasn’t hiding. Truly — the water-wielder had been watching the ball unfold before him, the Seelie and Unseelie Court absurdly divided in the room despite the joint festivities. The lights had been dimmed to a warm, golden glow, exotic incense wafted through the air, and slow, sensual music had his foot tapping absent-mindedly to a beat long-forgotten.

 

Renjun scowled, stepping out of the dark alcove he had tucked himself under to meet the bastard who had so rudely interrupted his spying.

 

With a brilliant grin that had won the hearts of fae men and women alike, Renjun’s childhood friend Na Jaemin greeted him with a tray full of drinks hovering beside his head.

 

“That hair isn’t very courtly,” the Crown Prince shot back childishly, curling his finger at one of the tall champagne flutes which proceeded to gently float into his hand.

 

Though Jaemin was a court servant, he was respected and treated as a noble, meaning his antics (like dying his hair the absurd shock of pink that it was now) were generally taken as a trend rather than something to be scrutinised.  

 

“Jeno likes it,” he frowned, brows creased as he tried to look upward at the locks that were artfully parted down the middle.

 

“Speaking of Jeno, shouldn’t you be busy getting caught on your knees in the broom closet again?”

 

Jaemin spluttered, knocking into his tray dangerously.

 

With an evil grin Renjun flicked his fingers and doused his friend in the bubbly, golden champagne.

 

Like Jaemin, Jeno was one of Renjun’s childhood friends, and one of the most skilled soldiers at the Seelie Court. Being age-mates, they had passed their childhood, adolescence and now adulthood by each others’ sides. Making their name as a troublesome bunch, earning harsh scoldings from nannies and scraped knees from hours of training in the grounds.

 

Never once had Renjun used his status against them, and never once had his friends made him feel secondary to their relationship. They had build bridges together before burning them, praying that the fire would light the way.

 

The trio had already come to a silent, unspoken agreement that when Renjun would become King, Jaemin would become King’s Hand and Jeno the new Captain of the Guard. It had been the three of them against the world from the start, and it would continue to be so even if the very heavens had been torn apart.

 

.:*:.

 

“Didn’t think terrorising servants was part of Seelie culture.”

 

Jaemin had since left Renjun alone, bemoaning that the Head Chef, Kim Doyoung, would slaughter him for staining his uniform.

 

Renjun had resumed his moping for a grand total of twenty three seconds before he was approached again. Ready to politely find a way out of a conversation, he turned to the speaker -

 

The gorgeous soldier.

 

Gods help Renjun, he was even more stunning up close. His legs were longer than he had thought, shoulders broader than the sky would ever dare to be. His eyes — gods those eyes — held the dancing embers of every star’s fire, and in the dim faerie lights, the soldier’s skin glowed with the light of the sunset kissing the horizon -

 

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

 

”I didn’t say anything,” the Prince forced out in broken stammers, a pink dust settling over his cheekbones.

 

“I’m pretty sure all that poetry stuff about my broad shoulders and star-filled eyes wasn’t said by the fuckin’ drink you’re holding. Which you’re spilling on yourself, by the way.”

 

Renjun decided that he would totally be okay with his immortal life coming to an end right about now.

 

He jerked upright, straightening his grip on the champagne flute and glaring at the wet patch on his uniform, forcing it to evaporate instantaneously.

 

The Unseelie soldier had dissolved into laughter, a hearty sound that seemed to come wholly from a place of unabridged joy.

 

Renjun had never heard something so beautiful.

 

The soldier had abandoned his ornate helmet, revealing ash-orange hair which made his eyes sparkle even more brightly. The delicate shape of his eyes were juxtaposed with the emboldening eye-makeup, practiced black liner rimmed his eyes and a shimmer of gold was tucked onto his lids.

 

Dressed in and composed of oranges, golds and bronzes, the boy seemed to be made of flames.

 

“Your Highness, I hate to interrupt your monologue - believe me, I want to hear about how attractive I am, but do you realise that you say all of this stuff out loud?”

 

Perhaps Renjun was waiting for some almighty god to take pity on him and smite him at this stage. “W-Wait, you know I’m the prince?”

 

“It was kinda hard to miss you when you’re - y’know - standing next to the King of the Seelie Court and all.”

 

“I-I . . ”

 

What was Renjun to say now that he had made such a fool of himself?

 

“Now you invite me to dance because you think I’m incredibly captivating and the most charming Fae you’ve ever met, by the way,” the soldier grinned, whispering as if Renjun had forgotten his lines at a theatre production.

 

“Did I say that out loud too?” he gasped, brows knitting in confusion.

 

That beautiful laugh sounded again.

 

“No, Your Highness. You’re just incredibly easy to read. However, I am glad you agree that I’m captivating.”

 

Renjun couldn’t understand where his mind had scattered to. Under any circumstances, he could match wit with everyone — but something about the boy of fire rendered him speechless and utterly stupid.

 

”What’s your name?” The Crown Prince breathed, irises now clouding over as the champagne and excitement began to bubble in his veins. 

 

With his heart-shaped lips quirked up in a devious grin, a wildfire dancing in his eyes, the bronze soldier leaned closer. Renjun just barely caught the scent of him ; burning embers and lemongrass.

 

“You can call me Haechan.”

 

The one filled with sunlight, made of burning gold. Full sun.

 

“Dance with me.”

 

A dangerous, impulsive invitation. It had been a breathless request of a starving man who had been offered a king’s buffet — Renjun wanted to devour all the promises of life the soldier offered.

 

Though he had murmured the request almost driven out of desperation at their proximity, it was the other - Haechan - who held out his hand for the royal to take.

 

Renjun was already hypnotised by him. How had a fae barely out of adolescence made himself such a high-ranking guard? From where did he summon the nerve to court a prince of a foreign land? How could he seem so at ease, so wild and free, even when held down by the weight of a kingdom?

 

It was the last question that drove him to take the hand and allow the golden soldier to pull him out of the shadows.

 

.:*:.

 

Now that they were on the ballroom floor, tucked in a rather quiet corner, Renjun had found his voice again.

 

“Is Haechan a nickname?” he questioned, keeping his voice low, having to tilt his head up a fraction of a degree to meet the taller soldier’s eyes.

 

Though there was nothing wrong with him dancing with a soldier, or mingling with the Unseelie Court (it was what they were here for, though very few of the faeries seemed to do it), Renjun didn’t want anyone to notice the Crown Prince in the arms of someone - just for one night, he didn’t want eyes on him.

 

As if to respond, the soldier summoned a ribbon of red-gold flame, not burning bright enough to draw attention them, which settled in a crown atop his head without burning a strand.

 

Haechan then summoned a twin ribbon of flame, this time a beautiful blue, and Renjun watched as the ribbon curled itself around his own crown.

 

Never having seen a fire-wielder before, Renjun’s lips parted in awe. Typically, the Seelie Court were gifted with water and earth wielding powers, making their land flourish, whilst the Unseelie dealt with flame and wind, rendering them a terrifying foe.

 

But Haechan didn’t seem any degree of evil that legends and myths had long declared.

 

He had the same joyous mischief as Renjun, and a tongue equally as intelligent. There was a wildness to him, an un-contained fire. Renjun found himself drunk on it. His fingers, although calloused with years of swordsmanship, held him with such reverence as they slow-danced in the dim lights. His voice was just as sweet as his touch, no matter what cheeky insults it dished out or stories it told, Renjun listened with fascination.

 

“I want to see you fight,” the Prince admitted, eyes travelling down his armour-clad arm and onto the pommel of his sword which still lay strapped to his hip. He was enamoured by Haechan, by the way he moved to the beat of the music with barely-contained power. He wondered what would happen when that power was unleashed.

 

“Here I was, trying to be romantic,” Haechan sighed exasperatedly. “And you guys are the ones to call us brutes.”

 

“Sorry that I interrupted your efforts to seduce me with my own efforts to be even more seduced by you,” Renjun shot back, stepping away from Haechan as the final song for the night drew to a close and every couple bowed to their dance partner.

 

“So you admit that I’ve seduced you?” he teased, taking Renjun’s hand and brushing his lips against his knuckles. It was a mock of a kiss, barely a feather of a touch.

 

It electrified Renjun.

 

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, soldier,” Renjun warned, though the blush gracing his face and quiet starlight in his eyes betrayed his emotions.

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it, princeling.”

 

The breath against his skin as Haechan spoke, the impossibly soft lips that felt like a phantom, had Renjun repressing a shiver. It seemed that he had forgotten what it was like to breathe.

 

He finally kissed Renjun’s hand, his lips lingering against his knuckles. His ambrosia eyes never left his own, and for one second, the Crown Prince let himself believe that perhaps the mysterious soldier was just as taken with him.

 

”Rest well, Haechan.”

 

.:*:.

 

“Huang Renjun, you pathetic heir to the Seelie Dynasty - if you don’t get your lazy, gay ass out of your fancy silk sheets, you’re going to miss seeing the hot soldier you were canoodling with two nights ago fighting Jeno - shirtless.”

 

Renjun had never been so grateful to have Jaemin burst into his quarters so early in the morning.

 

(Perhaps it was mid-afternoon, but that was besides the point).

 

While Renjun practically broke his washing basin as he bathed the fastest he could, Jaemin had opened his curtains to let sunlight into the realm of the dead and had graciously picked out an outfit for him.

 

“Trust me, these leather pants do wonders for your flat ass - do not look at me like it’s not true - and nothing says ‘homosexual’ like a billowed white shirt that’s tucked into pants with matching boots with one dangly silver earring.”

 

While he dressed himself, Jaemin scolded him for almost tearing the fabric apart, but he could scarcely hear him over the pounding of his heart. Renjun hadn’t seen Haechan since the opening ball, and had almost convinced himself that the night had been a dream. That their hushed conversation, interrupted only by laughter, and easy exchange of insults were simply an illusion.

 

“I-I can’t believe it . . . my little brother, off to win over the heart of a smoking hot warrior and finally get a dick up his ass,” Jaemin dramatised, handing Renjun the scabbard that held his custom-made sword as a finishing touch.

 

“I’m five months older than you,” he seethed, attaching the weapon to his hip before shaking out the droplets of water in his hair. “I swear to all the gods above Na Jaemin, if you’re lying and Haechan isn’t there when I arrive, I’m going to gut you and serve your insides to King Taeyong for dinner.”

 

Jaemin scrunched his nose at Renjun, as if he were two years old instead of twenty two. “You’re so grumpy, how’d you get that guy to dance with you?”

 

“Perhaps he’s a sadomasochist,” he replied as he ran his fingers through his hair to dry them, the raw sarcasm in his voice filling the place his words couldn’t reach.

 

“Kinky. Are you into that?”

 

Renjun hadn’t let out such a disgusted, unprincely sound in his life. (Neither had he sprayed Jaemin with such a large amount of cold water).

 

“You have really got to stop flexing your water powers,” Jaemin coughed out, a single daisy blooming out of his left ear.

 

.:*:. 

 

Renjun had sprinted to the palace training grounds to try and catch Haechan.

 

The Unseelie Court had been given accommodation within the city, the palace itself and a private villa for King Taeyong. He had seen most of them make themselves at home, with the soldiers drinking together at dinner time and the cooks exchanging recipes.

 

That sort of unity warmed something in his heart, lighting the chasm that Haechan had breathed warmth into and awoken two nights prior.

 

And gods above, what a sight Haechan was today. (He had to remember to build Jaemin his own castle brick by brick for this moment).

 

He was a living flame.

 

Stripped to the waist to expose a tanned body, he moved with an effortless grace that even Renjun could never have dared to master. Every muscle and cord tensed and released rhythmically as he swung the blade again, and again.

 

It seemed like a fair fight until Renjun caught sight of the grin dancing on Haechan’s face coupled with his signature mischievous gaze.

 

Jeno was being toyed with.

 

Under the soft spring sun, kicking up dust amongst pink flower petals, they sparred. Covered in a light sheen of sweat, panting and enjoying every moment of it.

 

“Gross. Masculinity,” Jaemin muttered, showing up behind Renjun quietly enough to send the Would-Be King’s heart skittering.

 

“Don’t tell me you’re complaining about two shirtless soldiers.”

 

Jaemin shot Renjun a devious look. “I’ll pull Jeno over to get you alone with that godsend of an Unseelie Fae. I get boned, you try to get boned. It’s essentially a win-win.”

 

It would be his first interaction with Haechan since the ball.

 

Renjun’s stomach dropped as he humoured the thought that the soldier avoiding him now  they were devoid of alcohol, music and dimmed lights. Was that why they hadn’t run into each other?

 

“Don’t do it in a broom closet again,” was all the prince managed weakly as his friend sauntered away.

 

Renjun pretended to clean his blade with a cloth, watching the three fae from the corner of his eyes, sweat pricking the back of his neck. He could hear Haechan’s laughter as Jaemin cracked some joke whilst whisking Jeno away.

 

His ash-orange hair was messier now, and the strands were as lively as their owner, dancing with ever gesture he made. Renjun could hardly wonder how silken Haechan’s locks would feel against his fingers -

 

How had only a few dances with a stranger made his heart ache with fondness upon simply seeing his face?

 

Renjun stiffened as his heightened hearing picked up delicate steps. For a trained soldier, Haechan sucked at staying quiet in any sense of the word (or was he just making himself known instead of sneaking up on him again?)

 

The sound of leather and rubber boots crushing soil came nearer.

 

One.

 

Two.

 

Three.

 

“Afternoon, Prince.”

 

Renjun snapped his head towards Haechan. And pathetically quickly, as if he had been waiting for him. (He had been).

 

The water-wielder’s eyes widened as he lost his tongue once more before the golden soldier.

 

“Do formalities only come to you half-naked?” he forced out, using every ounce of his strength to make the jab sound smooth and not let his eyes travel down south.

 

A slow smile spread across Haechan’s mouth.

 

“Not only formalities. I could show you quite a few things I could do half-naked.”

 

Renjun inhaled sharply. The pair played such a dangerous game of push and pull that he could feel the flames their tension ignited licking at his skin.

 

“Take a Prince to dinner before you make such vulgar offers,” he shot back, voice equally as calm, taunting, as Haechan’s.

 

But he had to set his sword back into his scabbard to hide his trembling fingers.

 

Haechan angled his head in a graceful, feline movement, his tongue tucked in the corner of his mouth.

 

“Where is the foreigner going to take a native in his own town?”

 

“Are you trying to ask me to ask you out?” Renjun demanded incredulously, blond brows perfectly arched.

 

He couldn’t comprehend it. He felt a thousand emotions run through him every second ; he was in a permanent state of confusion, but it seemed that the Unseelie Fae before him was always animated with mirth and mischief, never losing his golden glow to doubt.

 

“Consider it, princeling.” The corners of his cherry lips turned upward in a smirk as Haechan turned his back to Renjun, slinging the flat-side of his sword over his shoulder.

 

(How did he not nick himself with the wicked-sharp blade?)

 

It took an eon for Renjun’s brain to kickstart again, having utterly short-circuited. The Prince grabbed Haechan’s wrist to face him, the sudden contact of their skin sending searing heat into every nerve-fibre of his body, leaving him panting.

 

“Are you on duty tonight?”

 

Haechan shook his head, satisfaction written into every crevice of his features.

 

“Meet me outside the palace walls tonight after the moon rises,” Renjun instructed, tightening his grip on his wrist.

 

Another nod of affirmation.

 

He wasn’t sure about which romance novel he had just walked into. Renjun didn’t understand how it felt like every star had aligned only to produce this one moment, how the sparkles in Haechan’s eyes were made of heaven’s light, how he was so utterly invested in someone he didn’t know.

 

“I’ll see you this evening, then, Haechan,” he murmured, his coffee-stained eyes dancing over his finely hewn features. His words came out near breathless, a crack sounding as he said the soldier’s name.

 

“It’s - It’s Lee Donghyuck.”

 

Renjun found himself smiling. Suddenly, whatever was between them was less than harmless flirting. Their teasing had blossomed into an invitation to discover who the golden soldier was beneath his armour.

 

“Lee Donghyuck,” Renjun corrected. Even his name felt like a droplet of champagne on his tongue - golden, electrifying and utterly lovely.

 

He offered him a sweet smile, even going as far as to caress the fire boy’s cheek with the back of his hands, a tentative brush of the knuckles.

 

Renjun’s smile only grew when he noticed that this time, he wasn’t the only one with hitched breaths and laboured breathing.

 

.:*:.

 

Armed enough to be mistaken for an assassin, Renjun wrapped himself in a cloak that felt like sandpaper when taking the underground tunnels.

 

Nighttime at the Seelie Court was just as warm as the day, but the tunnels were suffocating and reeked of mildew. Slime, water and Gods knew what else slid down the grey stone walls with the odd mice racing along the length of the space.

 

The sound of coins slapping against his thigh was enough to make him utterly paranoid as he faced the empty night sky outside the safety of the palace.

 

I should have brought Jeno.

 

As much as he hated the thought of it, Renjun was a recognisable person — being in town alone was dangerous ; being alone in town with a stranger was a death sentence. Though he was perfectly capable of handling himself, the prince was no match for someone like Jeno or Donghyuck - even his wizened grandfather could have his blade a millisecond away from spilling his throat onto the ground. 

 

The prince had never prayed to the multitude of Fae gods before, but tonight seemed like a good time to start.

 

Hail Fortuna, goddess of luck -

 

“You smell so bad that my ancestors’ eyes are watering.”

 

Despite knowing the voice even if he were dead, two decades worth of training had Renjun drawing his fighting knives ( "Swords are useless in close-range combat,” echoed General Nakamoto’s voice in his ear ).

 

Of course, the soldier was ready. A wicked blade the size of Renjun’s forearm met the knife with a clean shink!

 

The shine of the blade matched the playful glint of Donghyuck’s eyes, the metal almost as bright as its owner’s grin.

 

In the instant that Renjun had been distracted by Donghyuck, the seasoned warrior had loosened the pressure that kept their weapons connected and kneed Renjun’s elbow hard enough to send the knife flying up and into his free hand.

 

“So . . . you stink at fighting too.” The amusement that danced in Donghyuck’s eyes was enough to let Renjun’s heart ache and accept the insults so long as the soldier kept smiling that way.

 

“So . . . you stink at puns and manners,” the Prince retorted childishly, plucking his fighting knife from Donghyuck and tucking it into his belt once more.

 

The soldier simply stuck his tongue out, nose scrunched and strands of ash-orange hair falling into his eyes.

 

Like Renjun, he was dressed as a commoner. All jewellery, silk clothes and makeup had been abandoned in favour of a loose cotton tunic and a cloak that undoubtedly carried an armoury like the Crown Prince’s.

 

Something about the moonlight made Donghyuck real. Less like the golden, impervious warrior and more like a fae male just out of his teenage years. His face was still boyish, with soft lines, impossibly long lashes and parted lips that seemed to remain a tempting shade of pink at all times.

 

“If you’re going to be persistent about the whole staring thing, please tell me so that I can get a portrait done for you instead.”

 

Renjun let out a groan of frustration. “Actually, I was looking at that bit of lettuce stuck in your hair. But I guess being a leaf-boy is a good look on you.”

 

“Nice save, princeling,” he grinned, not buying the story as he looped his arm with Renjun’s.

 

“I gotta save my ass sometimes,” he muttered, trying to ignore the hammering of his heart at their proximity.

 

Slowly, they peeled away from the palace walls and ventured into the local village, talking softly amongst themselves.

 

Apparently, Donghyuck could play the pianoforte, sing and had a twin sister who worked as a skilled healer.

 

(“Isn’t healing more of a Seelie thing?” Renjun had questioned.

 

“So should we just rot from sickness because you lot are a whole ocean away?”

 

It shut Renjun up).

 

Renjun told Donghyuck about Jeno and Jaemin, opening up about their childhood.  As he described a number of their stories that had ended up in severe punishments constituted of beatings and chores, he discovered that all four of them were age-mates.

 

There was an ease to them, to being around Donghyuck. He felt like less of a stranger and more like someone he had spoken to about these things his whole life. It sounded ... pretentious, but the pair clicked.

 

Renjun’s soul had known Donghyuck’s in another life. It had loved Donghyuck’s soul, cried and laughed alongside it. Renjun’s very essence of being had been shattered and remade because of Donghyuck’s smile alone.

 

The weight of the truth settled in his bones.

 

 Renjun had never considered himself romantic. Though he was about as much of a people person as Donghyuck (perhaps more shy and less obnoxious), he had drawn the short end of the straw when it came to relationships and trust issues. He could talk and laugh with most fae, but rarely could he give his heart to them like he had given it to Donghyuck.

 

Truthfully, Renjun despised the situation he was in.

 

His faith rested in a stranger’s calloused hands, a stranger who would leave at the month’s end.

 

A bitter taste in his mouth lead him to change the conversation, trying to get the persistent thoughts out of his head. He wanted to make the most of his time with the soldier made of fire.

 

So Renjun lead Donghyuck into the streets where people crowded to celebrate the coming of the Blood Moon.

 

Under the velvet sky littered with diamonds thrived the Seelie Fae in all their festive glory. Scarlet lanterns adorned with ancient runes hung low along make-shift stalls where merchants advertised their wares. The music here was lively, deafening in his joyousness and freedom, unlike the low, almost-erotic notes played at the opening ball. Commoners danced in the streets, some bare-foot, as children played and squealed.

 

“Try this,” Renjun urged, pressing a copper coin into an old woman’s palm before taking the dessert she displayed on her stall. He held the toothpick at Donghyuck’s mouth, seeing the soldier’s eyes crinkle even under the shadow of his hood.

 

To his credit, he opened his mouth and wordlessly chewed on the sticky rice dessert, doe-like eyes widening in delight.

 

Nian gao,” he told him, tongue eloquent as he spoke in the Ancient Tongue, before ordering two more from the vendor. “Good, isn’t it?”

 

Donghyuck nodded enthusiastically, taking his second serve from the prince and devouring it. His sun-kissed cheeks filled with the sticky rice cake, orange hair curling at his lashes, a kind of smile tugging at his lips that suggested he couldn’t be more content than he was in this moment.

 

Renjun wanted so badly to kiss him, no matter how gross it was.

 

Instead, the water-wielder wrapped his fingers around the Unseelie Fae’s golden wrist and began guiding him through the continually crowding bazaar. “There’s a parade I want you to see!” he shouted over the chaos.

 

 The town square was almost as crowded as the bazaar, with children in masks and traditional clothing, adult fae with their faces painted. But nothing compared to the huge dragons that danced, to the instruments that floated in the air filling the night sky with music that could be heard from every corner of the village.

 

It appeared as if nobody slept that night.

 

Renjun felt Donghyuck squeeze into the crowd beside him, the pair just barely getting a view of the huge, colourful costumes, ribbons and confetti.

 

For a second, the Crown Prince forgot that he was with someone else. The sheer beauty of his own kingdom took his breath away. Laughter carried along the dancing wind, old couples swayed gently along to the music in corners while watching the parade. The melodies filled his veins, his lungs, until he felt like he could finally breathe again. Like he was awake after centuries of slumbering in wasteful royal politics.

 

As the music swelled, the story-line of the parade reached its climax. The fae beneath the dragon costume ran at each other with the fury of a thousand forest fires.

 

Renjun felt the taller soldier next to him wrap an arm around his waist, fingers digging into his hip. Despite all protocol and common sense, Renjun reciprocated the gesture and sank into Donghyuck’s side. He felt him hold his breath as he watched the ending dance playing out before them.

 

Then the music halted. Confetti and sparks exploded, the magnificent dragon costumes taking a bow.

 

Renjun heard Donghyuck swear under his breath.

 

Lips tugging up in a smile, he dared a glance upward.

 

Donghyuck, the one to make Renjun speechless, had lost his own tongue in the process of beholding the parade. His cinnamon eyes were as wide as the moon that smiled down upon them, an awed glimmer in his eyes made of starfire.

 

The lively music erupted again, the floating instruments being conducted by some unseen Seelie Fae. This time, the townsfolk pooled into the square with their respective friends and partners to dance.

 

“This is the best part,” Renjun urged, once more dragging the golden soldier.

 

This time there was no slow, teasing dance. There was no still grace to their movements, no slow waltz that had Renjun feeling like prey before a predator.

 

This time, Renjun clapped his hands in time to certain beats along with the rest of the population. This time, he twirled and danced like a butterfly did under the warm spring sun.

 

To his surprise, Donghyuck didn’t hesistate.

 

Perhaps that was what had drawn Renjun to him in the first place, that unflinching willpower and drive that didn’t shy away.

 

He felt like he had offered his soul to the night. Like he was a willing sacrifice for music and life and the beautiful, beautiful soldier dancing with him.

 

Their were times their bodies collided, times when they clung onto each other to match their footsteps.

 

And when the music slowed out of existence, Renjun kissed him.

 

His head knew it was a mistake, that a Crown Prince shouldn’t be entangled in the arms of a stranger, but Donghyuck wasn’t a stranger. Not to him.

 

It had been so easy. His arms had been around the soldier’s golden neck, and the Unseelie Fae had held onto his waist. Both of their hoods were gone, their hair a mess, chests heaving with exertion and sweat lining their hairline.

 

It had been so easy for the Crown Prince to rise onto his toes, to slip his fingers into ash-orange hair and press his mouth to Donghyuck’s.

 

Tasting the lingering sweetness of the sticky rice dessert on his lips, feeling desperation with which he was kissed back with, had Renjun melting into his touch.

 

Kingdom, Blood Moon and ancient feuds be damned, Donghyuck was all Renjun wanted.

 

And gods did Donghyuck feel like every thrilling, cataclysmic disaster that the Unseelie Fae were. His lips were as hot as the fire that coursed in his veins, but Renjun’s own droplets didn’t put it out, didn’t soothe the burn. Instead, the flames and waves danced together and created its own masterpiece.

 

That single kiss undid Renjun and brought him back to life again. He pulled away after either a second or an eternity, breaths coming out in short pants. Donghyuck gave him one of those insufferable, mischievous grins.

 

“So you think I’m cute?”

 

Renjun hit his shoulder.

 

.:*:.

 

They had left the town after the parade had ended, spent some more time in the bazaar and bought matching bracelets. One gold, one silver. One for the fire-wielder, one for the water-wielder.

 

Now they sat atop Renjun's cloak on a grassy hill near the palace, watching over the village beneath them, Donghyuck's cloak spread over their shoulders. Still the town glowed and thrummed with life, with celebration.

 

"This is a bad idea, isn't it?" Renjun asked, voice trembling, as he rest his head on Donghyuck's shoulder. Their hands lay in his lap, intwined, bracelets touching each other as if symbolic of their inexplicable connection. He couldn't explain the confusion that bubbled inside of him, searing his insides to the point of nausea.

 

The soldier didn't try to hide his own doubts, humming in affirmation despite seemingly vacant eyes, his thumb absentmindedly brushing over Renjun's skin. "But I'd rather have some time with you than none at all."

 

"It's ridiculous, don't you think? We've only known each other three days."

 

Though he smiled, Donghyuck didn't look at him. Instead, he stared at the sky, as if searching for answers written in the cosmos. "No, I don't think so. I think I was made for loving you, Huang Renjun."

 

The Crown Prince couldn't stop the flow of tears that came next. 

 

.:*:.

 

"You're telling me you haven't seen him since you kissed him and bought matching bracelets and showed him all around the Seelie Court and told him all our history and then cried in his lap after he said some sappy shit?" demanded Jaemin. "Jeno, tell him he's a fucking idiot."

 

"Renjun, you're a - Jaemin, do I have to curse? Renjun, you're an idiot, man."

 

The blond-haired fae groaned face-first into his pillow, uncaring that he was acting like a child throwing a tantrum and a lovesick puppy.

 

How can it be love after only a few days?

 

"It's impossible," he complained, "he's going to leave at the end of the month!"

 

"You're the Crown Prince, right? Maybe you can command him to stay for an extra week or something," Jeno supplied unhelpfully, eyes ernest as he finally stopped gazing lovingly at Jaemin to focus on him.

 

"I can't," groaned Renjun. "He has a whole family waiting for him, like a twin sister and a bunch of siblings."

 

He rolled onto his back, stuffing the pillow on his face and letting out another silent scream.

 

"You're really, really overdoing this-" Jeno began.

 

"Overdoing it? He's acting like a toddler." Jaemin marched over to Renjun, snatching the pillow away from the tear-stained faerie beneath it. His face was harsher than he had seen it in years, albeit with understanding lining his carefully chiselled features.

 

"You, Huang Renjun, are the Crown Prince of the Seelie Court and the most powerful water-wielder in centuries, and you're letting a boy - a boy! - confuse the fuck out of you. You're supposed to run a kingdom in a couple of years. Get up, - I'm serious, Renjun, get up - and spend some time with him. Learn what love is before it leaves you for good. You don't just click with someone and let them go that easily!"

 

Renjun let Jaemin pull him out of bed, hastily wiping his remaining tears from what he knew was his puffy, red face. He stared blankly at Jaemin, shoulders weighed down with shame.

 

"How about a shower and some chamomile tea before you go see him, hmm?" Jeno offered, his soothing voice soft, paired with his crinkled eye-smile. He was truly too pure to be such a tough soldier, the fair side to the cruelty of the world.

 

He nodded, giving his friends a watery smile, glancing at the small tattoo that had been etched onto his left wrist. Jeno and Jaemin had identical ones to his. Three circles looped together, forever indestructible.

 

This was only one of the few times that they had been by each other's side, spending hours supporting, counselling and crying. From the passing of Jaemin's baby brother to patching up the brutal wounds on Jeno's body, the trio had seen the others through every hardship, tear and scar. There was no room for doubt in his heart, as he knew that they would be his side even if he lead them into ruin. Jeno and Jaemin would walk with Renjun into hell, if only to hold his hand.

 

Renjun was so fucking grateful. "I love you guys."

 

Jaemin rolled his eyes, pulling him into a hug. "We love you too, weakling."

 

He burst into tears again.

 

.:*:.

 

A week passed, then a second, and a third.

 

Renjun and Donghyuck spent almost every day together. They frequented the nearest town more often, played jokes on Jeno and Jaemin, had sparring matches in the palace grounds, passed hours in the library teaching each other about their own kingdoms' histories, laying in the grass and letting ribbons of fire and water dance in the sky overhead as they told more stories about their childhoods.

 

He didn't know what was between them, but Renjun was almost certain it was love.

 

Almost certain that their stolen kisses in empty corridors, their sneaking glances in the middle of serious political debates, the pianoforte that Donghyuck played for him in empty ballrooms, their unconditional time investment had some semblance of love.

 

The only thing Renjun was certain of when it came to him and Donghyuck was that they didn't have time.

 

But when it was their last week together, dread pooled into his stomach. It poisoned his bloodstream, left him crying most nights. His heart ached when he looked at the silver bracelet draped over his pale wrist.

 

What made it worse was the Donghyuck had started spending less time with him. He would turn the other way if he found Renjun walking towards him, would frown whenever he talked to him, and kept conversation brief; momentary.

 

"Is there something wrong?" Renjun hissed, two nights before the Unseelie Fae were scheduled to leave. He had cornered Donghyuck in an empty hallway, pinning his shoulders against the marble wall. Perhaps it was stupid to try and attack a fully grown Fae male trained in martial arts he couldn't even dream of, but the Donghyuck-shaped hole in his heart ached too much for him to care.

 

There was so much raw, unfiltered pain in those honey eyes reflecting torchlight. So much burden laden on those broad shoulders, folding his once-permanent mischievous grin into serious, pursed lips.

 

"Junnie-" he began, using the affectionate nickname he had given him.

 

"Don't," he snarled, voice forceful, though it began to crack with despair. "Tell me why you've been avoiding me these past few days. Is it so difficult for you to spend another two days with me before - before leaving forever?"

 

"Renjun-" he tried again, hands wrapping around the wrists that held his shoulders down. "Renjun, there's something serious going on-"

 

"Lee Donghyuck, alias: Haechan. You are under arrest."

 

The pair froze, turning their heads to find Seelie and Unseelie guards alike, assembled together like a hellish unit ready to deliver death to all those before them. (How had they both failed to hear them approaching?)

 

It was Jeno speaking. His voice was carved of stone, immovable and clear. Not a single waver though his eyes were lined with silver tears. Betrayal sliced down Renjun's spine.

 

"You are under arrest," he repeated, staring at the wall behind Renjun's head, determinedly avoiding his eyes, as he recited his sentence. "For the attempted assassination of the Seelie King Taeil. You forfeit your right to a trial, and have been sentenced for an execution at dawn."

 

.:*:.

 

"Your Highness, if you try to break the Unseelie soldier out, you'll be executed with him."

 

There was a desperation to General Nakamoto's voice that Renjun had never heard before, even in times of war and invasion. A hopelessness and defeat that weighed down on his otherwise cheerful demeanour. His healing smile was nowhere to be seen, deep-set frowns lining his face. 

 

"Yuta hyung," he begged, using honourifics. "You and I both know that he had no part in this."

 

It had taken him a few seconds after Donghyuck had been dragged away for Renjun to put the pieces together in his head, and a few minutes still to disguise himself and rush to the dirtiest, most low-life pubs in the town in an attempt to eavesdrop on gangs' conversations. 

 

Renjun watched the grip on his spear slacken as the general let his eyes flutter shut, taking a shuddering breath. Like all the other soldiers and servants at the Seelie Palace, he had grown a soft spot for the sunshine fae. For Donghyuck's unwavering smile, infectious laughter and prank-playing had earned him many friends.

 

"I can give you five minutes."

 

Moving faster than he had ever done in his life, Renjun pushed past the general and into the palace dungeons, the heavily fortified prisons unlike any other place in the kingdom. 

 

The place was wrought with iron and decaying flesh ; one to sap the fae of their life force, and the other allowing illness and disease to spread.

 

Already, the iron was beginning to make his eyes water, a headache drilling into the base of his skull. How had Donghyuck fared in these past few hours? Cold and alone in the darkness without a single flame to keep him company?

 

He got his answer soon enough, finding the soldier slumped against a wall in the farthest, most heavily guarded cell. The place was dimly illuminated by eerie some faerie lights, the acrid stench making his nose ache.

 

It felt like he had crawled into the guts of hell.

 

"You lot. Out," Renjun commanded the three fae on guard, face contorted with fury.

 

When they didn't budge, he summoned a great wall of water behind him, towering it over his head and crown. "As the heir to the Summer Throne, I ordered you to get out. Take it up with Nakamoto if you have an issue, you useless, rotting worms."

 

He didn't care that he sounded like a tyrant, that he risked a coup d'état with a single sentence. The guards glanced at each other before slowly stepping out of the dungeon.

 

When he could no longer hear footsteps, he counted to ten for good measure before sinking into his knees and reaching past the iron bars to grip one of Donghyuck's hands.

 

"My darling full sun," he murmured, voice saturated with grief. Even in the dim lighting, Renjun could see the bruises littered along his golden skin, the cut on his right cheekbone and left brow bone. "What happened to you?"

 

From the utter stillness that Donghyuck held himself with, Renjun could have sworn that he was dead. Even the eyes that once held whole galaxies in them lay dark, extinguished.

 

Then, his lips curved upward ever so slightly in a strained smile. "I had a vacation, can't you tell?"

 

"You bastard," Renjun swore, his voice and chin beginning to wobble dangerously. "Why didn't you tell me you were hunting rebels?"

 

Donghyuck winced, no longer meeting Renjun's eyes. "I ... I  needed to get in the Seelie King's good graces ..."

 

"Why, Hyuckie? You know everyone likes you enough -"

 

"I needed King Taeil's approval to stay, Renjun."

 

The forcefulness of the words punched into his chest, the brutal truth fracturing his heart and sending his soul wailing.

 

"Donghyuck." Renjun laced his fingers with Donghyuck's bloodied ones, not caring that the iron bar was now pressing into his neck and searing his skin, most likely scarring. "Donghyuck, we could have done it together."

 

Finally, finally, the full sun raised his eyes to meet Renjun's. He had never seen such heartbreak, such guilt and pain in a fae before. Donghyuck's eyes were haunted by ghosts Renjun had never seen before, too sad to be so young.

 

"I couldn't have you hoping, Junnie."

 

The frailty with which Donghyuck spoke permanently broke something inside Renjun.

 

"Who were the fae you were tailing?"

 

.:*:.

 

Renjun, Jeno and General Yuta Nakamoto got the job done swiftly enough to prevent anyone from framing them like Donghyuck had been.

 

The General and the future Captain of thr Guard had noticed Renjun's silence, had noticed the cruelty with which he captured rebels and searched their homes for documented evidence. Since Donghyuck's arrest only a few hours prior, his eyes had become hooded with a newfound hatred for the world, a bitterness filling him that wouldn't ever be put to ease until the fae he cared for was free.

 

How strange was it, that a boy he had known for weeks had turned him into some harbinger of death. He was the Seelie prince that composed music and painted in his spare time, not a hunter. And yet, here he was, dressed in black and breaking into houses in the dead of night.

 

But Renjun wouldn't send his lover home in a coffin, wouldn't greet his family for the first time telling them to mourn. Renjun would tear the very fabric of the universe apart to let Donghyuck walk free. He would settle for eternity without Donghyuck if it meant that he survived.

 

The Crown Prince had begged whatever wicked gods were watching over him for hours, had muttered prayers under his breath like a madman.

 

The night sky was beginning to lighten. Dawn was approaching.

 

And Renjun was ready.

 

.:*:.

 

A crowd had begun to form around the town square where the public execution was to be held. The very same town square where Renjun had danced with Donghyuck, watched a costume parade and kissed him for the first time.

 

Perhaps the heavens were playing some twisted, sick joke.

 

Fully armed with the incriminating documents safe in a pocket, Renjun waited in the crowd with a hood over his head, glancing at the alleyway where Jeno and Yuta held the small group of rebels in chains.

 

He waited until the palanquin carrying his father and the Unseelie King arrived. It was a spendidly decorated thing and absolutely massive to accomodate both kings.

 

The sight would have been awe-inspiring had Donghyuck not limped before them in chains heavier than the weight of the earth itself. His orange-ash hair was matted with blood, stripped to the waist and covered with lashes from whips and grotesque purple bruises.

 

The ache in his chest, the hammering of his heart, forced Renjun to keep still, to keep his gaze trained on the man he adored no matter how much pain it caused him.

 

Their eyes found each other for a fraction of a second. Though Renjun was startled, Donghyuck, ever the trained warrior, didn't miss a single beat as he stepped barefoot onto the chopping block and was forced to his knees.

 

The rising sun painted the sky, spilling powedered hues of pink, orange and blue across the night. Donghyuck looked at the horizon only once, a pained look crossing his molten gold eyes.

 

It was too beautiful a day to die. 

 

(Didn’t he believe Renjun was coming?) 

 

"Lee Donghyuck," began King Taeil.

 

Watching Donghyuck straighten up, eyes burning with a resolved spark that Renjun thought he had lost, sent nausea roiling in his stomach.

 

Beside Renjun's father, King Taeyong's lip curled in disgust. Even a Fae as powerful as he couldn't prevent the execution.

 

"You are are sentenced to death for the attempted assassination of Seelie Monarch. Do you deny these charges?"

 

"I do, but I don't suppose it really matters to you, does it?"

 

Renjun gasped along with the crowd, tears burning his throat. Even in the face of death, the golden soldier had mustered whatever bravado he had left, had straightened his sliced back to face a fabricated truth, and smiled while doing it.

 

His courage sent the royal fae's adrenaline spiking, palms beginning to sweat. Renjun turned his attention back to Jeno and Yuta, angling his head in a barely-perceptible nod.

 

Then, he pulled down the hood that concealed his blond hair and Seelie crown. 

 

It was time.

 

"I deny the charges too."

 

The crowd turned to the source of the voice, but Renjun’s eyes were only on Donghyuck’s bewildered expression and the Seelie King. 

 

Renjun summoned a pillar of water that supported his weight, letting him glide to the podium where Donghyuck was to take his last breath.

 

If there was something that courtroom politics had taught him, it was that a little theatre made a hell's worth of difference.

 

But King Taeil raised an unimpressed brow at Renjun, bored. “What are you doing, child?”

 

Never breaking eye contact with his father, Renjun gestured for General Nakamoto and Jeno to step into the golden light that was slowly waking up. 

 

The rebels walked out in silence, the only sound being their shackles dragging along the stone paths. A muffled, confused murmur broke from the crowd, and Renjun couldn’t help but want to shy away from the public eye like he used to. 

 

He fished out whatever evidence he had scavenged from his amateur raid, sending the papers flying into his father’s lap with a gust of water vapour. 

 

“You sentence an innocent fae male to death,” he said, holding his chin high. His voice was strong, despite the eyes he so desperately hated burning into his flesh. That one droplet of royal gold that supposedly set him apart from them did not stop his knees from trembling.

 

When a vein pulsed in King Taeil’s temple from fury as his eyes travelled along the documents, Renjun took what he knew was a cowardly step back to Donghyuck, his free hand straining behind him to meet his blood-soaked hair. Instantly, relief flooded through him. 

 

“You dare humiliate the sovereign of your own kingdom? To shame the crown you will wear in only a few decades?”

 

Every soul in the crowd turned to ice. His voice was quiet. A deadly calm glittered in the undertones, it’s promise of brutality not going unnoticed. Renjun had never seen his father behave this way, even admist war - was he not supposed to be the benevolent one?

 

"The Seelie Court does not belong to a tyrant that slaughters the innocent.” 

 

Renjun was suprised at how strong his voice sounded, at the authority laced with each word.

 

As he spoke, the dawn burst behind him, bringing light to the world in all of her glory. It was almost symbolic in the way that the square was slowly filled with light, bathing hundreds of fae in the colour of the boy he had come to love. 

 

Though King Taeyong’s smile had spread into one of satisfaction, the Seelie Monarch was not so easy to subdue. 

 

“If you are turning your back on your king, then you are to receive a dozen lashes with iron whips. The wounds will be sealed with acid as permanent scars. You will forever be known as a traitor to the crown.”

 

A stone dropped in his stomach, the weight of it fracturing whatever resolve he had build within him. Renjun’s fingers tightened in Donghyuck’s hair, and he heard a sob break out from behind.

 

Renjun had never seen Donghyuck cry.

 

It had always been Renjun as the emotional one, the one who could never leash his emotions, who let his anger and pain drive his actions. And it had always been Donghyuck who had wiped away his tears, kissed his salty cheeks and promised him that he would be okay.

 

In the span of a month, Donghyuck had taught Renjun what life was - what living meant. Donghyuck had taught Renjun that the world was more than ordered string orchestras and constellations; that there were wild, fantastical adventures at every corner and all he needed was to take a step in the opposite direction.

 

Donghyuck had shown Renjun the world, painting a universe with colours he had never seen before.

 

He had missed his family, suffered injuries from training, been alienated and abused. And had done it all without breaking. 

 

Until now. 

 

“For the man I love to walk free, I will count a hundred lashes.” 

 

The world turned to chaos all at once. King Taeil’s mouth twisted into a cruel smile, half a dozen guards charged at Renjun, and Donghyuck began screaming.

 

But he didn’t fight it. He let himself be stripped to the waist, clenching his jaw to prevent himself from fucking crying like the blubbering baby he knew he was. 

 

He took deep, steadying breaths. His heart was racing with such a ferocity that it brought stars to his eyes, crude coloured blotches tainting his view.

 

One. 

 

Renjun’s wrists were tied to an iron pole. 

 

Two. 

 

The executioner unravelled a whip tattooed with jagged shards of iron, designed to cause enough pain for a grown fae male to lose consciousness.

 

Three. 

 

Donghyuck did not stop screaming, even as the first lash tore his the tendons in his back open.

 

His face contorted with pain, a choked sob ripping apart his chest as the pieces of metal lodged themselves into muscle, poisoning the blood inside him. Still, he did not lower his chin. Still, he let himself be humiliated. Still, Renjun watched his father with hateful eyes.

 

And Renjun counted.

 

He counted until Donghyuck’s voice had run raw from screaming, until the guards had gagged his mouth and shoved him to the floor. He counted until the lashes mounted atop each other, rivers of blood gushing out in hot, sticky waterfalls.

 

He counted until he could no longer.  

 

.:*:. 

 

It was the pounding headache and the light spilling onto his eyelids that pulled him from his dreamless sleep.

 

Renjun woke lying on his stomach in his own suite, his right hand buried in a familiar calloused one, and compression bandages all over his torso.

 

Tentatively, he hoisted himself up. He murmured in discomfort as an agonising bolt of pain shot through his back, only amplifying the drilling in his temple. 

 

“Fuck,” he groaned, bracing himself on his left hand. His throat ached as much as his head did with dehydration.

 

Beside him, three figures stirred. Jaemin had his head in Jeno’s lap, curled up, whilst Jeno rested his head on Donghyuck’s shoulder. 

 

If Renjun didn’t feel like he had just walked out of Satan’s asshole, he would have probably gushed at the purity of the moment. 

 

It was only when he saw Donghyuck’s long lashes curving into crescent moons on his bruised cheekbones did the memories flood back, improper pieces of a puzzle crashing into one another, warring for Renjun’s attention.

 

When well-atuned soldier felt himself being watched, his lashes blinked before lifting, a familiar cinnamon shade greeting him. 

 

Renjun cracked him a smile. “Rough day, huh?” 

 

At first, Donghyuck didn’t return it. Though there was relief plainly filtered onto his face, there was no trace of the full sun in him. 

 

Then slowly, a grin broke out on his tanned face. He squeezed Renjun’s hand, molten silver lining his eyes.

 

 

For a moment, he almost believed that Donghyuck would say something mildly serious. Just for a moment.

 

“You’ve been out for two weeks, Renjun. Your cousin Yukhei’s been running the joint, and I don’t think he actually knows any other words besides food, sports and women.” 

 

“I- What? Two weeks? Yukhei?” 

 

By now, Jaemin and Jeno had woken up, the twin earth-wielders stretching in almost feline gestures. 

 

“Your dad was forced to abdicate by the governers,” Jaemin informed him, scratching his collarbones, his voice still heavy with sleep. 

 

“His Highness Prince Yukhei has been standing in as regent king ever since he moved to a faraway palace on another continent,” Jeno said, his voice ever-gentle and polite. 

 

Renjun gaped at them in bewilderment, not understanding the situation before them. “Wait, if Yukhei’s regent king then -?” 

 

Jaemin gave Renjun a shit-eating grin that could have rivalled Donghyuck’s. “Congratulations, Your Majesty. The Summer Throne now belongs to you.” 

 

His slumped back onto his elbow, eyes round as a lost deer’s. “I’m the King?” he asked, voice breathless.

 

Jaemin frowned. “More forceful than that, weakling.” 

 

“I’m the King,” he repeated, stronger this time. It was a truth now, as much of a part of him as his new scars were.

 

“Then you’re King’s Hand,” he continued slowly, watching Jaemin’s smile go from that of mischief to pride.

 

“You’re Captain of the Guard.” Though his cheeks coloured at the promotion, Jeno smiled at him in affirmation. 

 

“And- And you...” he trailed off, looking at Donghyuck with an ache in his chest. Him having to leave hit Renjun with it’s usual tidal wave, slowly draining him of life, colour and reason.

 

And you will be on the first fleet back to the Unseelie Court. I’m sure your sister misses you.

 

And I’m thinking that Foreign Diplomat sounds pretty fancy, don’t you? Perhaps King’s Consort? Or an ambassador-” 

 

That mischievous spark had never been lost. That playful lilt to his voice and cocked head that had won his heart a month and a half ago resurfaced.

 

Another invitation, another dangerous game. 

 

“How do all three sound?”

 

.:*:. 

 

For a Crown Prince, Renjun really hated festivities. 

 

He hated being stared at, hated hushed whispers behind hands. He hated feeling like a specimen, ripe for the scrutiny of strangers.

 

As a King, however, standing at his coronation, Renjun decided that things could have been a lot worse. 

 

For starters, Jeno and Jaemin would not be standing on either side of him, holding out their new swords made of imperial silver, etched with markings from the Ancient Tongue.

 

Their trio that had survived maelstroms together would not have seen this day, where they stood over their subjects, watching the Seelie Fae celebrate, without festivites.

 

They would not be waiting in the Seelie throne room, watching Donghyuck be given a number of titles, (Knight, Ambassador and Duke, just to name a few of the ones that he wanted), with his entire family having sailed from the Unseelie Court.

 

And they would not have seen Donghyuck carry the coveted Seelie Crown down the red velvet aisle, would not have heard the swelling music that the full sun had composed himself as he settled the heavy crown on Renjun’s fading blond head. 

 

Perhaps, festivities weren’t so bad for him after all. He had blindly followed every mundane rule handed to him, worked his way into a world of politics, simplistic art and insurmountable pain.

 

And all it had taken to change the course of Seelie history was one spark from an Unseelie Fae ; that one spark from the soldier made of burning gold, the full sun, for Renjun to follow the flight of the stars.