The gardens were glistening in the sunlight, bathing the roses and flowers with a warmth. Soft feet padded against the ground in a rhythm conducted by the strings of the boy’s heart. He was told it was dancing and was the only outlet that he could embrace, where his soul was elated. The golden glow of sun outlined the small prince in a shimmer, a small glimmering hope as his body moved like it was art itself. His feelings could leave his body when he danced. Those feelings that called him to the outside, to the nature that surrounded his every step.
He should never say that he felt something in his blood, something telling him that he was meant to be outside.
But he expressed his confusion, his restraint through the movement of his arms, the way he arched his back as he raised them towards the sky. The way he leapt around the rose bushes, spinning and catching himself before he fell down. It was as if he was a different person. He wanted to reach out and embrace the flowers that were watching him, but he danced around them instead, so close but out of reach. It was in those moments he wasn’t the small fourteen-year-old prince who wasn’t seen by the public, but merely Jimin. Jimin who liked to bathe in the sun as he jumped and ran. The boy who had never seen outside his castle walls.
The last thing he remembered before the shouting was the sweat that dripped from his forehead because of the heat, beaming down at him with ferocity. He looked up at the blue sky, it’s vast clear expanse, the way it had never fallen cold.
And then it was utter chaos.
There was shouting, screaming coming from all directions. The noises were different than what he usually heard and it made him realise that The South was in trouble. He hadn’t learnt much about battles or war tactics but the one thing he knew since he could talk was that The North and The South were at war. Which meant the shouts were one of panic. They were invading. The castle walls had somehow been breached, and the North was coming for them.
Jimin stopped dancing immediately, running towards the rose bushes that were granting him protection. He didn’t want to risk running inside the castle, not knowing what waited for him there. He had heard tales of what The North men and women were like. They weren’t pure souls like them. They kept their powers, which was dangerous. They had more power than any human should, it created a sense of advocacy and uncontrolled stature. Jimin wasn’t dangerous like them, so he hid.
His breathing was heavy as the shouting become worse. He was ducking, ignoring the light jabs of the thorns that were pricking his skin. He watched in between the flowers, hoping his honey-toned hair wouldn’t give him away against the blood-red of the roses. He just hoped he would remain unseen.
The gardens were sparse of knights and people, so Jimin had hoped that he would be safe without anyone around him. Who would want to invade the gardens? So he remained where he was, watching. His heart was beating out of his chest as he heard the colliding metal of swords, the sounds of abilities beyond his imagination. His small hands clenched at his skin, digging crescents into his palms. Sweat dripped from his forehead and small tears fell from his eyes. The silence was his only safety.
But his luck had been short-lived. He had heard footsteps softly padding over the grass and heavy breathing accompanied it. Jimin shot down, hiding even further as he peeked through the gaps, looking at the pair of feet that came into his view. They were clad in large leather boots, nothing like the light slippers that his own people wore. They dragged themselves over the grass violently. The person was lingering by his rose bush, breathing over his flowers as their accomplices ruined his home and people. Jimin wanted to cry as he tried to fight the urge to shout at the intruder, knowing it would lead to his death.
But then the bush started to shake, and that’s when he had enough. Something inside of him hated the way the man was touching the flowers, breathing near them. It made him flinch, take a sharp intake of breath. The man stopped in what he was doing, a deadly silence. This was it, he was going to die-
“If you’re hiding, come out. I won’t hurt you,” The man’s voice wasn’t as gruff as he thought it would be. It was rather gentle sounding and held a grace to it. Jimin didn’t want to abide by the invader in his own home. He wanted to remain in the bush unseen and untouched. But he thought of the men who were losing their lives protecting the castle and the people. Hiding would be cowardly in the face of their valiant efforts. So with shaky breaths, he stood up among the roses. The thorns grazed against his skin and caused his ruby-red blood to seep from small breaks in the tissues. He held his breath, remaining in the bush as he presented himself to the man.
He wasn’t the kind of Northmen that his father had described. There was no long wire beard or rough scarred skin. The man was muscular, yes, but he held an aura of delicacy. His hair was a dark brown and skin pale, paler than what Jimin would see in the South. His clothing was thick, shoulders clad in leather and fur that would cause anyone in the South to implode from heat. He was like him, yet so different. He wasn’t hurting the flowers either, just holding them.
“Are you the young prince?”
He didn’t answer. He watched as the Northman held the flower a little tighter. The commotion behind him only intensified but he was ignoring it. He was staring at Jimin with a gaze he wasn’t used to. Did he feel pity for the boy stood in the rose bush?
“You don’t have to stay here you know, we can get you out.”
He didn’t answer once more. How could he leave his home? Leave the sun, the garden and his father? Who was ‘we’? The Northmen? How could he leave with men he was told were dangerous? He would never leave, he would stay here, become eighteen, and be purged of the magical ability inside of him. That was the way he should live.
“We will let you be who you want to be, look-,” The Northman then opened up his palm, showing Jimin the now crumpled up flower. The rose’s petals were dishevelled and ripped and its very core was destroyed. Something in his heart broke. He blinked when a soft warm yellow glow emitted from the man’s fingertips, weaving around the rose and slowly nourishing it back into its blooming state.
Jimin’s mouth flew open.
“You see, it isn’t a
There was shouting from inside the castle, and the man looked behind him a subtle panic. He seemed to be having an internal battle in his mind as he turned back to Jimin, who was looking at him in a weird sense of awe, still in the rose bush. He must have had a petal in his hair and scratches all over his body but he had no care. He had seen something amazing. Or awful. He had no clue. He was fourteen, he wasn’t the most intellectual prince that had graced The South but he knew that anyone who saw what he had seen would be conflicted.
“Little Prince, do you want to come with me?” He asked quickly, holding his shining out towards him.
Jimin’s eyes fluttered towards the outreached hand. He was too young to realise the choice he had, to young to understand the change and the possibility. All he knew was what he was taught, he had no room for adjustment. The yellow glow was tempting, but he couldn’t leave the south.
“Little Prince-,” The man tried once more before Jimin shook his head. He shook his head because he couldn’t bring himself to take the hand he had been taught to hate.
That was the only time Jimin had an escape.
He let it go.
The South, Three Years Later.
An orange glow settled over the market stools, glistening around the venders and creating a warmth so unlike the heat they experienced during the peak of the day. When the sun started to hide behind the hills it’s heat was mellowed, and the streets of The South became bearable.
Jimin wandered around slowly, following the dull footsteps of his tutor who was rushing in front of him, determined to get to the market stool they needed before the sun had officially gone into its sleep. They had to leave the endeavour until as late as possible so the sight of the cloaked boy wasn’t odd. The prince found himself watching the way his cloak glistened a soft silver around him, the dips and crevices of the material glowing in the setting sun. He was trying to ignore the impending doom of tomorrow, the way the strings were all slowly tying together. He would be revealed to his kingdom, as The Purged Prince, finally ridiculed of all his existing powers that dwelled in his organs and heart. But in the remaining hours that he was still unknown, he cherished the darkness under his cloak, the way his features and face was just another face in the crowd. If he lived in the moment that he was allowed, then he didn’t feel guilty about wanting to run away from the moments that loomed before him. His excuse was that he didn’t know what the future held, only what the presence was.
His tutor, Beomseok, came to a sudden stop. His whole body went rigid and his cloak swept up around him in a flourish that made Jimin scrunch up his nose. Beomseok had always been rather pretentious when it came to Jimin, he felt an air of superiority towards his lack of motivation. The prince wasn’t a pure soul, he still remained powerful, therefore Beomseok had something the royal prince did not have. It had annoyed the younger ever since he was young. The man was obnoxious.
“Can you smell that Prince? The subtle aroma of spices that will underline your ceremony, it is the foundation of your journey to be purged. Can you smell it?” Beomseok turned to him, sharp on his heal, one dark eyebrow raised as he observed Jimin. The prince saw that the man was waiting for a response, for him to humour his comment.
He made an unnecessary sniffing noise, closing his eyes to mimic the man, before opening them once more and looking at him square in the face.
“No,” He said bluntly.
Beomseok’s perfectly smug face turned sour, his thin lips curving into a scoff that resembled his distaste. Jimin’s constant snide commentary and teasing towards Beomseok was his only solace in his boredom and worry. It amused the prince thoroughly and he was rather chirpy as his tutor sighed loudly spinning back around and beginning his movements once more towards the market stool a couple of steps away. If Jimin wasn’t a man of royalty he would most likely avoid someone like Beomseok, the way he found himself better than everyone else. He wore clothes that were silk, rings and necklaces that gave him a higher status than he had. Jimin would never associate himself with someone like that. But he was the Prince and had no choice.
“Ah, Beomseok, back again?” An older voice called, different, which snapped Jimin out of his stupor. The man stood behind his stool, elderly and smiling. In front of him were six wooden bowls of spices, all finely grounded and sprinkled. Up close he could smell the seasonings, an overwhelming amount simultaneously. Jimin shrivelled up closer into his cloak, hiding his soft features behind the hood that covered his hair.
“Another student to purge Donghae, another day,” The man laughed, looking at Jimin before looking back at the spices.
The Spices. Important, apparently. To officially become rid or ‘ purged’ of the magical abilities that dwelled inside of a person, they must pick one out of six spices to be the base of the drink they have during the ceremony. It had to be picked by the subject, or it remained useless. Jimin knew he couldn’t be indifferent about the process but abiding by Beomseok was always difficult.
“Ah well, you know what to do.”
Beomseok nodded before he placed a large unwelcomed hand on Jimin’s back and pushed him forward towards the vendor. He wanted to bite at him, telling him not to touch him but he didn’t want to become entitled. So instead Jimin looked up, looked at the old man who gave him a small nod, one of acceptance. Then he looked back down at the six spices.
One was an icy blue, when Jimin got closer he could smell something fresh. It was like the cracking of ice. Jimin wasn’t attracted to its cold nature and turned his attention to the one next to it. That one was blood-red and it emitted a burning scent. Jimin didn’t really like any of them until he turned his attention to the last one. The last spice was green, emerald green, and it smelt like the garden he had grown up in. His hands outstretched towards the powder, uncovering itself from under his cloak. There was an urge in his veins, one he couldn’t embrace and he knew that would be the spice.
“The green one.” Was all he said.
Beomseok nodded, and the old man was still looking at him eyes sparkling with curiosity.
“You know the trade,” Donghae told his tutor, nodding at him as he collected a handful of the green spice and sprinkled it in a small wooden box. Beomseok placed a gold coin on the surface, ushering Jimin away from the spotlight and back in the shadows where his identity wasn’t a question.
Jimin didn’t watch the rest of the deal and instead turned around to look at the village. The way the sun hit the villas, the sound of small merchants packing away their small stools. It was foreign to him the domestic bliss of his kingdom, but he was soon to adopt. This was his destiny after all.
“Prince we must get back before the sun sets,” Beomseok whispered his status as the hand on his back pushed him towards the route of the castle. He hated the way the man touched him like he was manhandling him. Beomseok had been harsh with him ever since he was young. In public, he seemed to be mellow, tamer. Jimin still didn’t like him, not one bit.
Beomseok liked being the King’s advisor, his tutor, the one he relied on to Purge his son. Perhaps that’s why Jimin has always hated him because he knew the man would eventually be the reason for his pain. Because it was no secret that the purge was painful. But the pain was worth it for the feeling of being free of his powers.
His unknown abilities.
It was his last night on the restraints and he felt empty inside.
The restraints were the temporary solution for pushing away the powers, building a wall around them and trapping them in. It was in the form of a small white pill created by the apothecary’s themselves. Jimin had been on them since he could remember, and the thought of never having to swallow one again was a feeling he didn’t understand. He had consumed the pill, letting its influences wash over his body and fill him to the brim with a blank sense of self. The night was now black, littered with a few stars in the canvas. The moon was a distant figure in their sky, barely visible. It made the night lonelier, scarier and more isolated.
Jimin sighed, looking out onto the balcony. He was alone in his chamber, no servants of lords, no tutor. It was his. He felt so weak without protection, so dependent on others with no faith in himself. He barely knew himself if he was honest. There was an invisible barrier that divided himself in two. He was so pathetic, so fragile. He prided himself on the way he verbally defended, sarcastic commentary that provided comfort. But he was always wary, always scared that if he was attacked he couldn’t defend himself.
It was awful if he was honest.
And it was as if the God’s had heard his fear, and decided to immerse him in a tank full of it.
As he was about to lie on his back to try and forget, there was a rustling coming from his balcony. It was a small subtle noise that shouldn’t have meant anything, but Jimin felt his heart tug, and his instinct telling him to investigate the noise. He got up and softly padded towards glass panels of the doors, placing his small hands on the handles and opening the night sky to him.
The silence he was greeted with was almost deafening. He felt slightly absurd, standing on his balcony thinking that the silence was too silent. He felt exposed, stood before his kingdom in nothing more than his nightwear, the long gown stopping at his ankles. He blinked, letting out a small shaky breath before shaking his head in denial. He was being stupid, there was nothing on his balcony-
Then there was a shout.
There was shouting, someone was shouting orders before he was panicking. He wanted to run back inside but there was a gust of wind, and the doors slammed shut. Jimin shouted, turning around and yanking at the door handles. There was movement behind him but he pulled on the handles for dear life. Then suddenly there was a tugging on his nightgown causing him to stumble back. What was happening?
He started to shout, scream for any knights or any lords or servants who could hear him. He wasn’t ready to fight by himself, for himself. His captor was grunting against his struggle, latching at any material he could. Jimin could feel the tears prickle against his eyes as he realised that he was getting kidnapped.
With the panic that settled in, he elbowed wherever he could and managed to wriggle himself free. With his sudden release, he tumbled forward into the doors which swung open. The floor was beneath him in seconds, causing his to wince in pain. Jimin turned onto his back watching in horror as two men made their way towards him. Their boots dragged against the floor and the sound brought back the memory from his past. These were Northmen. They were here for him.
His eyes found one of them, the one who was clad in a large coat that hid most of his face. But his eyes were dark and they made him quiver.
“Is this him? The so-called Little Prince?” He asked the other.
There was silence and he found himself frozen.
“If what Chinhae said is correct, it must be. It’s the only description we have, and he fits the bill. It’s been three years, not too much has changed.”
Jimin was about to scream before everything went black.