It was raining that night.
Namjoon had been in his quarters, ready to retire for the evening after a long tiresome day of preparing for the big event merely hours away. It was only a moon left until his brother, Yoongi, was to ascend to the throne their father once sat on.
The throne of the Kingdom of The Sun.
Yoongi, crown prince and Namjoon's beloved older brother, was finally about to take his place as ruler of the realm after more than two decades of waiting. To say that Namjoon was excited was an understatement. The young prince had actively participated in the preparations for the event, even going as far as visiting the townsfolk to ensure that no detail was left unchecked. His brother's coronation day was to be perfect. Namjoon had to make sure of it.
He prepared for bed that night knowing he had no stone left unturned, satisfied and full at the thought of finally being able to stand by his brother's side as advisor to the emperor.
That has always been their dream.
For as long as Namjoon could remember, him and Yoongi would talk about sharing that very same future together. Yoongi, as firstborn, was to be crowned emperor of Soleil and guardian of the realm of Aia. He was to rule all, be the just and fair leader their father had been. And Namjoon? Namjoon was gonna be right at his side, supporting him fully by being the emperor's advisor and head of the royal council. It was a grand dream for both of them, but they never once doubted it'd one day come true.
And it was about to. In just a few hours time, Yoongi was going to be as high as the sun that rose over their kingdom, and Namjoon would get to fulfill his role as the moon that always had his back. Everything they ever imagined they'll be doing as kids was finally coming true.
Which is why Namjoon was nothing less than confused when all of a sudden, the peaceful night was no longer peaceful. Outside his door, he could hear guards running in the hallway, barking orders and updates and reports.
He could hear their metal armor skidding against the marble floors with every step. Somewhere in the chaos, Namjoon could hear their mother's choked sobs, their father's desperate shouts of "Find my son!"
By the time he managed to reach his parents, everyone in the castle was awake, every torch lit and every guard dog set loose to follow whatever scent trail Yoongi must have left behind. Namjoon held his mother in his arms while his father tried not to show fear.
Namjoon had tried to stay calm through it all, for the sake of his parents, but his head was clouded and he had never felt panic that prominent before.
His brother was missing, and it all happened without any of them noticing until it was too late.
What was supposed to be a time of grand celebration turned into some of the darkest days in Namjoon's life. As time passed and no sign of Yoongi showed up, the kingdom grew cold, almost lonely.
Namjoon spent many sleepless nights trying to think of where his brother might have went. He would stay in his room, desperately attempting to visualize himself as his brother, but none of it seemed to work.
It was only until the day of the summer solstice did they finally get word from Yoongi.
In the form of a single letter.
A panting guard burst through the doors of the dining room where Namjoon and his parents were having breakfast, a single letter pinched between his fingers. Namjoon recognized the seal the moment he saw it. His reaction had been instantaneous. Popping the seal off one end, he hurriedly unfolded the slightly damaged parchment and read aloud the words written in what could only be Yoongi's careful penmanship.
I'm in good hands. Please, do not look for me.
Short, clipped, and extremely Yoongi-like. Namjoon almost let himself laugh at how in character the letter had been no matter how brief. He let the feeling of sweet relief sweep through him.
Yoongi was okay. He was okay.
Namjoon handed the letter to his parents, letting himself bask in those few moments of happiness. Beside him, his parents were silent. A flat minute later, their father heaved the heaviest sigh Namjoon has ever heard from him. He looked his youngest son dead in the eyes.
"We must talk.”
Namjoon felt it before he could hear it. He nodded, already knowing in the back of his mind what was about to happen. The moment they realized Yoongi might never come back, Namjoon already knew what responsibilities would fall on his shoulders.
He supposed now was the time to confirm it.
"My son, I hope you understand. You know I would never willingly have you carry these burdens but our kingdom—our realm needs a ruler."
Namjoon stood quietly observing as his father twisted his fingers behind his back. He had his back to Namjoon, looking out through the large windows in his study, so he had no idea what expression his father was wearing. He could only guess.
Another sigh, "and I am old, Namjoon. Yoongi was to take my place on the 60th year of my time as Emperor, as tradition calls. I cannot afford to stall that any longer. The rest of the realm has eyes on us, my son, they know there is something happening. The council has been at my throat about it, too, trying to present their own children as candidates for the throne. Those greedy little mongrels."
Namjoon nodded in understanding. Without the head, the snake will die. Soleil cannot be without a ruler. Yoongi had been trained his entire life to be just that, and finding a replacement for him is not a simple task. His brother carries great years of knowledge and experience, taught to him by the kingdom's best instructors. Those years cannot be compressed into a few days of learning, but they don't have years. They must act fast, or there will be dire complications.
Namjoon knew that. Namjoon understood that.
As the youngest son, second only in line to the throne, the younger prince who has been at Yoongi's side for every lesson and every venture, Namjoon knew what he had to do.
"Father," he started, waiting for the old king to face him. He showed him a smile. "I know my responsibilities. Please, do not worry yourself. You're much too old to still be doing that."
Although the atmosphere was tight with tension, Namjoon and his father managed to share a laugh. The old king rounded his table and reached out to embrace his son.
Namjoon never hugged his parents anymore, so the warmth of his father felt almost alien. Still, he let himself be comforted by it, a comfort he might not have the luxury of feeling once all this is over. They pulled away, and Namjoon saw what worry there was in his fathers eyes.
It was time for preparations to be made.
It was time for Namjoon to take his brother's place and become the next Emperor, ruler and guardian of the realm.
Namjoon was anxious, to say the least.
The moment he and his father finished talking, a kingdom-wide announcement had been sent out, letting the people of Soleil know that the problem will be fixed, and no one has to worry about anything any longer.
Namjoon met with his mother moments after, a sad yet proud smile adorning her features. Namjoon vowed to make her proud of him just as they were for Yoongi, followed by a tight embrace. His mother cried then. Namjoon had to spend a little more time comforting her.
In what felt like the blink of an eye the kingdom was suddenly just as busy and bustling as it was merely days ago. The news of Namjoon's coronation may have already extended past their borders as well. The pressure rose with every minute that passed.
Namjoon had to fight not to get too overwhelmed.
He sat in the palace's library, reviewing the things he needed to remember with Yoongi's old instructors. History, politics, laws, monetary policies and a whole load of other things. Namjoon could handle that. Learning fast and efficient was his greatest strength. Plus, he already pretty much knew everything he was being taught. A refresher was still well appreciated, though.
Not too long afterwards, Namjoon was being passed on to other teachers.
While Namjoon had been with Yoongi in majority of his lessons, there were still a couple of things he wasn't that familiar with, and all those things he had to learn within the span of one, two months. By the end of it all, Namjoon had barely any energy left to smile. He's exhausted, but he never let himself falter, never once. He was doing this for the good of the kingdom, and he was not about to give up that easily.
So he carries on, attends all his lessons and listens closely to his teachers' words, preparing himself for the future ahead.
Three months in, Namjoon finds himself holed up in his study. He knew they were at the final stretches of preparing for his coronation. His, not his brother's, but his. This wasn't exactly the future he imagined for himself, but desperate times do call for desperate measures.
He heaves a sigh, picking his quill back up and flipping to the next page, all in the hopes of distracting himself from the slowly building anxiety threatening to swallow him whole.
Just then, a knock on the door. Namjoon jumps in his seat, startled.
Clearing his throat, the alpha quickly gathered himself. "Come in."
The doors to the study opened to reveal his mother and two handmaidens. Namjoon immediately relaxed at the sight of her familiar smile and met her halfway, pulling out a chair for her to sit.
"Mother," he greeted. Only then did Namjoon notice that instead of the usual gold and red of his father's house, his mother was wearing her own house's colors; green and white. She looked beautiful in it.
"My son," his mother spoke, voice as gentle as ever.
Namjoon sat on a chair across from her, already knowing that this isn't going to be a light chat. "Yes, mother?"
"You look tired. Have you been getting enough sleep?" There is worry evident in her voice. Namjoon nods, quick to dispel any concerns she might be carrying.
"A lot more sleep than I ought to, to be honest," he laughs, "you should be resting too, mother. I know you still think about brother."
The queen could only smile sadly at her son. She nods affirmative, not bothering to hide anything from the ever perspective Namjoon. "I wouldn't be a mother if I didn't." Namjoon could hear the sadness in her voice. He frowns, hating that this was far beyond his control.
"But anyway, that's not what I came here for, dear." His mother smiles this time, leaning forward in her chair.
"I came here to talk about your wedding."
Namjoon nearly chokes on nothing, an immediate coughing fit fighting to spill from his chest.
"But of course, my son. Every king must have a queen, every emperor an empress. I took this up with your brother several times before but he'd always avoid it. I'm not letting you do the same." His mother's smile grows wider.
One of the handmaidens steps forward, a glass case with velvet linings in her hands. She presents the box to Namjoon, who gratefully accepts it. The glass was intricately carved, garden motifs running across the edges of the lid. On the center, there was a green rose and the words "beloved" carved right below it. Namjoon ran his fingers over the details in wonder.
"That was your father's wedding gift for me. He had it made especially for our betrothal. I still remember how much his hands shook when he gave it to me." The queen laughed. Namjoon couldn't help but smile at her.
"It's beautiful, mother."
"It is, isn't it? Try opening it, dear."
Namjoon nodded, clicking the lock open and slowly lifting the lid. Inside, a crystallized green rose similar to the one on the lid sat, embedded slightly into the velvet. Namjoon gaped at it.
"Wow, father really went all out."
"He did. He told me he couldn't find a gift that could match my beauty, so he settled for the closest thing. Needless to say, I was flattered."
Both of them laughed then.
That sounded exactly like something the old king would say.
"I'm showing this to you," his mother reached over to place a hand on top of Namjoon's, "because one day you too will have to do the same for your beloved."
Namjoon's expression nearly faltered, but his mother saw right through it. Her hold on Namjoon's hand tightened. "If you will let me, it would be my honor to choose a bride for you, love. I know you would want more time to choose for your own, but we simply—"
"It's fine, mother. I'm not—I don't trust myself to make that decision either," Namjoon pursed his lips, handing the box back to the handmaiden who gave it to him. "So please, do choose for me. I trust you, more than anyone in the world."
The sad smile that once laced his mother's features were back, but this time it was more grateful than resigned.
"Thank you, my dear. I promise you will be happy. I promise."
That night, as Namjoon prepared for bed, he let himself think about what it would be like to have another person like his mother in his life. He figured it wouldn't be that bad.
Or at least that's what he tried to convince himself to believe.