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The Tournament

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It's quite strange seeing Kangsan Palace this busy.

Jimin likes the quietness of the cherry blossom paths, the serenity of the lotus ponds, and the blissful remoteness of his favorite pavilion; he's not used to seeing so many servants working on the palace grounds. There are many faces he hasn't seen before. His father must have hired villagers to get the palace ready for the tournament.

"Good morning, Your Grace," they all greet Jimin as he heads over to his father's executive office. Jimin gives them a smile and a short tilt of his head in response.

It's the middle of spring, Jimin's favorite time of the year when cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the weather is perfect for long walks in the palace gardens. Jimin shivers under his red hanbok as the cold morning breeze washes over him, long black hair flowing in the wind. His citrus scent is a contrast to the sweetness of the beautiful tiger lilies lining the entrance of the executive office's courtyard.

The building sits on the center of a stone platform, the walls decorated with numerous sculptures of wolves under the full moon, depicting the history of the Park clan. Jimin can make out his father through the open sliding doors.

Two servants bow ninety degrees to Jimin as they exit the courtyard to head to the kitchens. Jimin recognizes them by the wolf head silver pin on the front of their hanbok; the official symbol of the Park's clan. Jimin has one on the headpiece he wears every day. There are a few other groups of servants hanging up lotus lanterns on the beautiful red building of his father's office. This is where Omega King Park Jihwan holds most of his meetings and where he spends most of his days.

When Jimin enters the building, his father is sitting on his throne with four servants by his side. There's two guards standing on each side at the bottom of his throne and an unknown man standing to Jimin's right. Jimin's father beams at him while the rest of them bow respectfully.

"Jimin," his father greets him. He's wearing the usual warm smile he wears whenever he's in the presence of his children. His sweet peachy scent envelops Jimin like the tight hugs he used to give him when he was a child. Jimin can't help but smile too. "I'm sorry for summoning you on such short notice. I hope I'm not keeping you from important duties."

"It's no trouble. I'm always happy to come and visit you, Appa." Jimin was supposed to spend his morning with his teacher, studying history until lunchtime. He's glad for the distraction; he knows enough about history and most stories just sound like the tales his late alpha father used to read to him as a kid. "I'm just curious as to why you summoned me. Is it about the tournament?"

"In some way, it is," his father says with a mysterious smile on his face. "This is Jeon Jungkook." He points to the man to Jimin's right.

Jimin has never seen him before but he can tell from his pine scent that he's an alpha. It also shows in his stature, with his broad shoulders and the way he stands with his chest puffed out. He's definitely not from Sunhae, nor is he a nobleman. He's wearing a black hanbok that stops right under his knees over black pants tucked in leather boots. There's a silver half-moon pinned to the center of the black belt tied around his waist. He’s wearing a sword on his back. 

Warrior clothes.

Jimin's eyes fall to the half-moon tattoo on the alpha's neck. 

A Sinsan warrior. 

Jimin keeps his expression neutral but he's curious as to why a Sinsan warrior would be in Sunhae. In his father's office.

Nineteen years ago, Kim clan of Sinsan attempted to take Sunhae’s northern territories resulting in a five-year war between the two kingdoms. Sunhae managed to take back the north and both kingdoms signed a peace treaty. However, both kings died during war. Jimin lost his alpha father at the age of 11 and his omega father became king. Although it’s been fourteen years since the war, there’s still a lot of resentment between Sinsan and Sunhae. The relationship between both kingdoms might be civil but there’s still a lot of hostility between their people.

No matter how civil he acts, Omega King Park Jihwan still holds a lot of anger and bitterness towards Sinsan for they took away his mate; which is why Jimin is surprised to find his father in the presence of a Sinsan warrior.

"Your grace," Jungkook greets him. He doesn't lower his gaze when Jimin stares at him which is pretty unusual for someone from a lower rank. It must be a cultural thing; Sinsan warriors are known for being unruly compared to well-mannered Sunhae warriors.

"What is this about?" Jimin asks, turning back to his father.

"Jungkook will be your bodyguard for the duration of the tournament."

Jimin blinks at him. "I already have a bodyguard."

"You do." His father gives him an amused smile as if he knew Jimin would say that. "However, he’s not as well-trained for these types of events as Jungkook is."

Jimin frowns; it's not like his father to praise Sinsan warriors over his own. This Jeon Jungkook must be special.

"As you know," his father continues, "we will be welcoming 50 alphas from all over the country. Some suitors might be a little too eager to get to know you. Therefore, you will be accompanied by Jungkook everywhere you go."

The tournament is a Park clan tradition where fifty wolves compete for a chance to court a member of the royal family. This year the tournament is held for Jimin by his own request. His father was overjoyed when he told him he was ready to find a mate. He'd excitedly started preparations as soon as Jimin told him.

Jimin's parents met through a tournament and it had worked out amazing for them so he's hopeful that he'll find a suitable mate. Jimin is excited to meet all of the alphas; all of them are from royal and aristocratic families, carefully chosen by Jimin's father. He doesn't think he needs any protection from them; he knows they'll all be wrapped around his finger as soon as they lay their eyes on him. Jimin's beauty precedes him; they wouldn't be the first alphas to fall for his charms.

"It's for your safety, Jimin."

"I know, Appa," Jimin says. "When will he take his functions?"

"Right now," Jihwan says. "I want you to show him around the palace and take him to his quarters. He'll live with your other guards."

Jimin wants to complain; he doesn't really feel like being shadowed but there's no point in arguing with his father. 

"Appa, I'm curious," Jimin says, clearing his throat.

"What is it?"

Jimin glances at Jungkook who hasn't stopped looking at him since Jimin arrived. His face is stoic and his scent is neutral, not betraying any emotions. Warriors in Sunhae are trained to learn to control their scents not to disturb the people they work for and, during the battle, not to give anything away to the enemy. It seems like Sinsan warriors follow the same type of training. Even if Jimin said something offensive Jungkook wouldn't react.

"Why did you choose a Sinsan warrior?" Jimin asks. Jungkook is as still as a statue.

"He is very skilled," is all his father says.

"There's a lot of skilled warriors in Sunhae."

"Not as skilled as Jeon Jungkook." Jihwan smiles. "He has never worked for King Kim Junsik so there’s no conflict of interest. He's more of an independent warrior. Trust me, son."

Jimin's understanding is that Jungkook is some type of underground warrior who probably does odd jobs here and there which confuses him even more. How did his father find someone like Jungkook?

"Fine." Jimin bows respectfully. "I'll trust your judgment, Appa."

His father would never hire someone who could be a danger to his son's life.

"You will hardly notice him. He's quiet."

Jimin looks at Jungkook. He hasn't said much since Jimin arrived. Perhaps his father is right, having him around won't make much of a difference. Jimin will just have to learn to ignore him.

"We'll meet again soon, Jungkook-ssi," Jihwan says, a more firm tone in his voice. "For now, get to know my son and the palace."

"I will, Your Highness." Jungkook bows ninety degrees to the king, voice devoid of any emotion. He looks young before the king but he carries himself with undeniable strength and confidence. He's quite handsome too; he has a boyish charm but his body is very much that of a man.

"Thanks for coming, Jimin," Jihwan says, smiling warmly. "Let's eat dinner together soon."

"Yes, Appa. I'll tell Jihun," Jimin nods. He bows respectfully before leaving his father's office.

He hears Jungkook's footsteps behind him; his pine scent is so strong it feels like it's sticking to Jimin. He is used to being surrounded by alphas, most of his guards are, but he's lived with them since he was a kid so their scents don't stand out too much. Jungkook's scent is new and different. He smells like the wilderness. He even looks like he comes from the wilderness which is a far cry from what Jimin's used to.

Jimin stops outside of the courtyard; he can feel Jungkook stop a few feet behind him. Jimin turns to him, ignoring the three servants who greet him as they pass by. Jungkook is standing with his hands behind his back, looking as serene as ever. He stares at Jimin with a blank expression on his face.

Jimin doesn't know how to break the silence between them. He's very intrigued by the alpha, has a million questions for him but he'd rather die than show interest in a Sinsan warrior. Jimin's eyes trail down his body from head to toe. He’s always imagined Sinsan warriors to be more unkempt. Although Jungkook's clothes are of much lower quality than Sunhae warriors, they still look light and comfortable enough to fight. His body fills his clothes well; Jimin can tell he has muscular thighs even through the flimsy fabric.

When their eyes meet again there's a smirk on the alpha's face. Jimin scoffs, rolling his eyes as he turns on his heels, heading to his quarters.

He doesn't have to check to know Jungkook's following him; he probably still has a cocky grin on his face. Jimin wasn't checking him out, he was merely examining his attire. Jimin doesn't stop to give Jungkook a tour like his father asked, he'll ask one of his other guards to do it for him. Jimin doesn't appreciate being followed around by servants or guards so he's definitely not pleased by this new arrangement. Jimin likes peace, he likes his independence and it’s not like much can happen to him inside the palace walls.

He's lived in Kangsan Palace all of his life, has grown up with the people who work for the royal family. In many ways, they're his family too; none of them would cause him any harm. Jimin has never faced danger before but he understands why he would need further protection when fifty strange alphas are going to roam around the palace. They might come from aristocratic families but alphas are alphas and Jimin is a very attractive omega; lust can make an alpha do dangerous things.

Jimin isn't sure why Jeon Jungkook is any different from these alphas. He could pose a threat to Jimin, too, even more so because he's from an enemy’s kingdom. Old enemy. His father must have lost his mind.

Jungkook keeps a safe distance behind him, not uttering a single word which only makes Jimin tenser. It's hard to ignore a stranger following him around. Jimin catches a few servants doing a double-take and giving Jungkook weird looks as they pass by which makes Jimin smile. People from Sunhae don't take too kindly to strangers.

When they reach a quieter part of the palace, where the Amisan gardens and the main lotus pond meet, Jimin stops under the shade of a flowering pear tree. The only noises that can be heard are the croaks of frogs and the wind ruffling pine trees. Jimin turns to face Jungkook. He looks just as serene as he did a few minutes ago. Jimin can't keep his questions to himself anymore.

"How did my father find you?"

Jungkook's face breaks into a smile which he tries to hide by tilting his head down. "You're quite blunt," he says instead of answering Jimin's question.

As much as Jimin appreciates playing games, he's too wary of Jungkook to play along.

"You will address me as Your Grace or you will not speak at all." Jimin crosses his arms behind his back, tilting his head up and quirking an eyebrow. He won't let Sinsan scum disrespect him in his own home. "Answer my question."

Jungkook looks amused by Jimin's assertion of dominance. Prince Park Jimin is known for his kindness and beauty as much as he is known for his coldness towards ill-mannered people.

"Apologies, My Prince," Jungkook says, bowing just slightly. His defiance is starting to anger Jimin.

"I am not your prince."

Jungkook smirks, imitating Jimin's position by crossing his arms behind his back. He's way too relaxed for someone who's in the presence of a royal. 

"I am not under your orders, My Prince," he says despite Jimin's protests. "I am under your father's and I am not to divulge that kind of information to you or to anyone else."

Jimin frowns. Why would his father order him not to talk? As the next king in line, Jimin is aware of everything that is going on in the Palace; it is rare for his father to keep secrets about who they employ. Jeon Jungkook is an enigma and Jimin's lack of knowledge on his background makes him uneasy. Jungkook's overconfidence translates how secure he feels in his position which is never a good thing for someone who didn't earn their place by Jimin's side.

Jimin wonders if his father made a deal with the devil; does he owe something to Sinsan, a secret debt that Jimin's never heard of? Or is this underground warrior holding something over his father's head?

"Don't worry," Jungkook says after a while of silence. "My presence here isn't due to any sketchy activities. I'm just good at what I do and I needed money. It's impossible for a warrior like me to reject such a good opportunity." Jungkook tilts his head to the side, this unnerving smirk never leaving his lips.

"I don't trust you," Jimin says, eyes narrowed in warning.

"You're gonna have to learn to, My Prince. I am here to protect you. I take my job very seriously."

"Yeah," Jimin snorts. "Looks like it. You can't even address me by my right title." He turns around and starts walking in the direction of his private quarters.

"Protecting your feelings isn't part of my job, My Prince. I'm just here to protect your body."

Jimin stops in his tracks to glare at Jungkook. "My body." He shakes his head in disbelief. This alpha is way too careless with his words. "Do not speak of my body. Do not speak at all. I don't want to hear another word from you."

Jungkook chuckles which only infuriates Jimin even more. There's no point in getting agitated because of a stupid Sinsan guard, Jimin should just ignore him, but there's something about Jeon Jungkook that gets under his skin. It's the cocky smile he's always wearing, the way he's way too comfortable with talking down to Jimin as if he wasn't in the presence of a Prince. 

It's also the way he smells of pine trees. The types of pine tree his alpha father used to tell him about when he came back from Sinsan; pine forests where alphas shift into their wolf forms to run and hunt. The smell always clung to his father for a week after he came back. His father always praised Sinsan's forests' beauty, said that Sinsan air tasted like freedom, told Jimin he'll take him and his brother there one day. He never had the chance to.

Jungkook's scent reminds him of his father's tales, of the freedom he'll never get to taste because he's stuck inside the palace walls. Jimin's wolf doesn't often take over or makes itself known but here, in Jungkook's presence, with his scent clogging all of his senses, all Jimin wants is to shift and run. Run for hours until his body aches. To feel Sinsan's air on his fur, fill his lungs with the scent of pine trees, to finally experience what his father told him about when he was a child. To run after his father's memory.

Jungkook reminds him of something he'll never have; of something he once had. His presence is messing with Jimin's wolf and with his head, makes him feel like he's already losing control over his heart.

Jimin doesn't speak to Jungkook again for the remaining of the way to his quarters. They enter the squared courtyard ten minutes later. It's surrounded by buildings made in a similar architectural style, from Jimin's private quarters to his study room, his private kitchen, and his little brother's quarters. There's a hundred-year-old cherry blossom tree in the middle of the courtyard, a small lotus pond on the right, and tiger lilies lining the platforms of each building. On the left, there's a residence especially made for his and his brother's guards, which is where Jungkook will stay.

Jungkook whistles behind him. "Impressive," he says. "Is this where you live?"

"Follow me," Jimin says, ignoring his question. They climb up the stairs leading up the platform where the security office stands before entering the hall. There's a corridor on the right that leads to the guards’ bedrooms and an identical corridor on the left that leads to training rooms and offices. "This is where you'll live for as long as you're here."

"Looks comfortable." Jungkook's eyes trail over the entire hall. He looks like a child with his wide eyes and parted lips. "Where's your room?"

"I don't sleep in here."Jimin glares at him; he's way too bold with his questions. "Where I sleep is none of your concern."

"I know you don't sleep in here," Jungkook says, chuckling. "This doesn't look like a place fit for a Prince. There are way too many alphas in here. I can smell them." 

He sticks his nose up in the air, nostrils flaring and face twisting into a grimace. Jimin is used to the smell, he knows every single scent by heart and who they belong to because they're people he grew up with. The strong pheromone smell doesn't phase him anymore.

"Some of our guards are betas and omegas," Jimin says, clasping his hands together in front of him.

"I can smell them, too."

"You have quite the nose, Jungkook-ssi." Jimin couldn’t look any more disinterested if he tried. All he wants is to get rid of Jungkook and go on with his day.

"I do." Jungkook nods. "My great sense of smell is one of my many talents."

"Mh."

"You didn't answer my question, My Prince."

"What question?

"Where do you sleep?" Jungkook gives him an amused smile when Jimin glares at him. "I'm not asking because I have ill intentions. It's merely a matter of keeping you safe."

"You do not need to know where I sleep to keep me safe," Jimin says, tilting his head to the side. "I can tell you where I live, however." He points at the building opposite the security office across the courtyard. It's slightly smaller as it only has four rooms, for himself and his future mate and children, contrary to the seventeen rooms in the security building. The inside is a lot more lavish, though.

Jungkook turns to look at the building. For the first time, Jimin notices that Jungkook doesn't just look at things, he analyzes them. He spends a good minute just staring at every entrance and every window to assess the level of danger Jimin could potentially be in if someone were to sneak inside the courtyard. The courtyard is guarded by two guards, though and there's only one entrance so potential threats would have to go through them first.

Jimin opens his mouth to say something but is interrupted by his brother's entrance. His brother, younger than him by five years and a beta, Park Jihun, beams when he sees Jimin. He's followed by his own bodyguard, Jung Hoseok, alpha. It doesn't take long for Jungkook to realize that it's the second Park Prince and so he bows ninety degrees to him before stepping behind Jimin.

"Jimin hyung," Jihun breathes out, enveloping Jimin into a tight hug, sweet honey scent mixing with his own citrus scent. "I feel like I haven't seen you in forever."

"We saw each other 3 days ago," Jimin chuckles, hugging him tighter before letting him go. They smile at each other, matching pair of eyes turning into crescents. 

Jimin and Jihun were already close when they were kids but they became even closer when their alpha father died. Jimin helped his omega father raise Jihun, making sure he ate every day when his father was too busy with Council meetings, playing with him in the afternoon sun by their favorite pavilion, and holding him in his arms as they both cried, grieving the loss of their alpha father. Now that they're adults with responsibilities, it is harder for them to find time to see each other but they cherish the moments they do get to spend together, as short as they may be.

"3 days without seeing my favorite brother is a long time," Jihun jokes, stroking Jimin's cheek. Jihun is a head taller than him which is quite embarrassing considering he's younger but Jimin's learned to accept it; his little brother acts his age though, he's still innocent at heart.

"I am your one and only brother." Jimin rolls his eyes and ruffles his hair. Hoseok is looking at them with a fond smile on his face. He's been Jihun's bodyguard for seven years now and is somewhat of a friend to Jimin because of how much time he's spent looking after the both of them. "How are you, Hoseok-ssi?"

"I am good, Your Highness," he replies, giving him a polite bow.

"Who is this?" Jihun asks, looking behind Jimin's shoulder with curious eyes. "I've never seen you before."

"My name is Jeon Jungkook, Your Highness. I'm Prince Jimin's new bodyguard." 

Jimin scoffs at the way Jungkook addresses his brother with the right title; apparently he has more respect for his brother than he does for him which is mildly offensive.

"A new bodyguard?" Jihun quirks an eyebrow. Hoseok tries not to show his surprise but Jimin can tell that he wasn't aware of a new arrival. "Did you request a new one? I thought you and Kiwoo got along."

Choi Kiwoo, a beta, is Jimin's usual bodyguard, has been for five years now. He's in his late thirties and has learned to make himself sparse when Jimin needs it. He never told Jimin that he was going to be replaced by someone else and Jimin isn't even sure he was aware of it either. His father seems to have made this decision a secret to everyone.

"We do," Jimin says, not hiding his irritation in his voice. "But Appa has decided to hire a new bodyguard for the duration of the tournament. Apparently, he's better trained than our Sunhae warriors."

"No offense, Hoseok-ssi," Jungkook says in a teasing manner.

Hoseok snorts. "None taken."

"You're from Sinsan, right?" Jihun asks, pointing at Jungkook's neck tattoo.

"I am."

"You look like how I imagine Sinsan men to look like," Jihun chuckles. "I heard their skin are more tanned than ours because their summers are hot and they like to run around in the meadows."

"I prefer to run in pine forests but it is true that many wolves like to run in the meadows."

Jimin's body tenses at the mention of Sinsan's pine forests, heart squeezing in his chest. There's a hint of sourness in Jihun's scent that betrays his sadness but it quickly turns sweeter when sadness morphs into nostalgia.

"Were you born anywhere near a pine forest?" Jihun asks. His face doesn't betray any weakness at the mention of something that used to be very dear to their alpha father. "You smell like our father used to describe it."

"I was," Jungkook replies, scent turning bitter for only a second. "Was your father from Sinsan?"

Everyone knows that King Park Jiwoon was born and raised in Sunhae. He was part of one of the most powerful clans and king to the most powerful kingdom in South Korea. It's in every history books yet Jungkook doesn't seem to have much knowledge on Royal Families.

"No," Jihun responds way more politely than Jimin would have. "Our father just loved taking part in your kingdom's hunts. He was very fond of your forests."

"Ah, I see."

"Hoseok-ssi," Jimin says to change the subject. Talking about his alpha father with a stranger makes him uncomfortable especially a stranger from Sinsan.

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"Could you show Jungkook to his room? Anyone will do. I'd like you to show him around the palace grounds to get him accustomed to them, as well. I don't have time to do it myself."

It's a lie. Jimin is free of duties today but he doesn't feel like spending more time with Jungkook than necessary.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness, but I have to accompany Prince Jihun to the Royal Library," Hoseok bows in apology. "I can find another guard to show him, though."

"That'll do, thank you," Jimin gives him a smile. "Jihun. Appa would like to have dinner with us soon so let's clear our schedules."

"I would love to," Jihun says. "I'll see what I can do."

Jimin brings him into a tight hug and kisses the side of his head before he makes to leave. He stops just outside of the security building when he hears Jungkook muttering a polite goodbye to his brother followed by the sound of his boots on the wooden floor as he follows him. He turns to Jungkook with a frown on his face.

"What are you doing?"

"With all due respect, My Prince, your father has ordered me to stay by your side at all times so I'm afraid my tour of the palace will have to wait."

Jungkook's behavior unnerves Jimin to no end and the way his words make his brother chuckle only infuriates him more. He's not used to being disobeyed nor does he like it.

"Would you like to be by my side while I bathe, too?" Jimin says, rolling his eyes in exasperation. It makes Jungkook snort.

"Sure, if that's what you want," he says with a shit-eating grin on his face.

Jimin can't help but blush at Jungkook's boldness. The thought of him being there while he bathes makes his omega way too interested to Jimin's liking.

"You're impossible," Jimin mutters under his breath, turning on his heels to head to his private quarters. At least, Jungkook won't be able to follow him inside and he can have time to himself.

Jungkook laughs when Jimin slams the door shut in his face and Jimin hates how much he likes the sound of it.

~

The next morning, Jimin is surprised to find Jungkook outside of his private quarters exactly where he left him yesterday. He's leaning against the wall looking as bored as ever. He straightens up when Jimin comes out, face breaking into the same teasing smile he wears every time he's in Jimin's presence.

"Did you even sleep?" Jimin asks, more out of curiosity than concern.

"I did for a few hours." Jungkook nods, long strands of hair falling into his eyes. He looks good with the early morning sun casting an orange glow on the side of his face; he's wearing similar clothes than yesterday but this time they're dark blue. "I must say your guards are lucky to live in such comfortable conditions. I don't think I've ever slept that well in my life."

Jimin wants to ask where Jungkook usually lives but he stops himself. He does not care to learn about the life of Jungkook when he's only going to spend a few weeks in Kangsan. If Jungkook really is an underground warrior, Jimin guesses he probably moves a lot and sleeps in a different inn every night.

"I'm glad you're appreciating your stay in Kangsan," Jimin says, flipping his long hair back, as he walks down the stairs to head out of the courtyard.

"Where are we going today?" Jungkook asks, following behind him by only a few steps. "We can't possibly go for breakfast, I've seen a thousand servants coming in and out of your chambers this morning. Why do you need so many servants?"

Jimin rolls his eyes. He wants to ignore Jungkook but it's hard when he gets unnerved by everything Jungkook says. Jimin doesn't really know why he's always annoyed when Jungkook is around but there's something about him that gets under his skin. Jungkook is way too talkative for a bodyguard.

"I need them to get ready. They bring me breakfast, help me bathe and get dressed."

"Why do you need people to help you get dressed? It's something we learn to do when we're children," Jungkook scoffs.

Jimin stops and turns to face him, glaring at him for the first time today. Jimin likes his mornings quiet, he doesn't feel like dealing with Jungkook's patronizing comments.

"I'm sure it's hard for a lowborn like you to understand such things," Jimin says, a fake smile on his face. "But even a lowborn like you has eyes. It takes work to look the way I do and while I do know how to get dressed by myself, why should I do it when someone can do it for me?"

Jungkook smirks, crossing his arms over his chest. "I can't deny that you look ravishing, My Prince. However, you seem to be quite lazy."

Jimin's cheeks turn a slight shade of pink; he feels hot under the collar of his baby blue hanbok. Jimin gets complimented on his beauty every day but for some reason, his omega is preening at Jungkook's compliment. Jimin is both flattered and offended by Jungkook's words which seems to be a recurring theme with him.

"I do not care about what you think of me," Jimin says, "but you should be more careful with your words. I've executed men for less." He takes a step closer to Jungkook, staring straight into his eyes. He can smell a slight hint of fear in Jungkook's scent and his face visibly tenses at Jimin's words. "You might be under my father's orders but you underestimate my power inside of this palace. I wouldn't be too colloquial in the presence of a Prince if I were you."

Despite Jimin's threats, Jungkook still holds his gaze. While Jimin doesn't like being disrespected, he admires Jungkook's bravery. Unless his bravery is actually a death wish.

"I apologize for my careless words, Your Grace," Jungkook breathes out. It's obvious he doesn't mean it but Jimin doesn't care. He put Jungkook in his place and Jungkook was smart enough to know when not to push his limits. 

"I like my bodyguards quiet," Jimin says. "You would do well to remember that."

Jungkook stays silent which satisfies Jimin immensely. Jungkook's usually pretty good at hiding his feelings but Jimin swears he can smell a hint of arousal in his pine scent which he finds both intriguing and disconcerting. Jimin knows he has that effect on alphas so it's not entirely surprising but the fact Jungkook's not hiding it is. It annoys Jimin even more; this guard really has no shame.

"We're going to the Royal Library," Jimin says, turning around to go up a path of gravel stairs. 

Jungkook manages not to talk for a total of two minutes; two minutes of silence that Jimin embraces, listening to birds singing and frogs croaking in a nearby pond, closing his eyes just a second to enjoy the soft morning breeze washing over his face. Jimin inhales the sweet smell of hibiscus mixed in with Jungkook's pine scent and his own citrus scent.

"I know you want me to be quiet but I have questions," Jungkook says. Jimin hates to admit that his soft voice sounds nice in the quiet of the palace grounds. "It's about the tournament."

"What about it?"

"Your father didn't tell me much about it," Jungkook says. "He just said that 50 alphas are coming to your palace in a week and that I have to keep you safe."

"It’s a courting tournament," Jimin says simply, stopping in front of a red rosebush to brush the tips of his fingers against the soft petals.

"Oh," Jungkook breathes out. "It's that kind of tournament."

"What does that mean?" Jimin says, looking at Jungkook over his shoulder.

"Nothing," Jungkook shrugs. "I just thought it was some type of entertainment for the royal family."

"In some way, it is." Jimin quirks an eyebrow up.

"I'm guessing your alphas will have to prove their worth then? What do they have to do exactly?"

"They have to complete challenges," Jimin says as he starts walking again.

"What kind of challenges?"

"Hunting, physical strength, and appearance. Things like that."

“Right,” Jungkook nods. “And what do they win in the end?”

“A chance to court me.”

"That's a lot of work just to get a chance to court you," Jungkook mumbles. 

Jimin stops in front of the Royal Library. It's a two-story building; its sidewalls are entirely constructed in brick with some light blue accents around each window. It's flanked with an octagonal two-story pavilion where books are stored and is internally connected to the Royal Library. It's one of Jimin's favorite places in the palace because it's isolated and quiet. His alpha father used to take him here to read him stories every day when he was a kid.

"People would kill to get a chance to even be in my presence," Jimin says, turning around to face Jungkook. Jungkook looks amazed by the building, eyes going wide the same way they did when he discovered the security building. "I'm the next king in line. My future mate will become my consort."

"Okay," Jungkook nods, eyes falling back to Jimin's. "How do you select 50 alphas to compete in your tournament then?"

"They're from noble families and my father selected them himself."

"What if they're not to your tastes?"

"You don't have to worry about that, Jungkook-ssi. My tastes in men are pretty broad." Jimin smirks at him before heading to the library's entrance. "I'm gonna be reading for a few hours. Wait outside."

He doesn't wait for Jungkook's reply before entering the building but he can hear him mumbling something under his breath.

~

"Good morning, My Prince."

It's the first thing Jimin hears when he gets out of his chambers. Jungkook is waiting for him in the same position as yesterday, looking as unbothered as ever.

"Good morning," Jimin replies. Jungkook kept quiet for the remainder of the day yesterday which must have been difficult for him so Jimin is willing to indulge him for a little bit.

"What are your plans for today?"

"I'm meeting with Jihun this morning."

"Will Hoseok-ssi be there?"

"Yes," Jimin nods. "Why?"

Jimin walks out of the courtyard with an excited looking Jungkook. His scent is sweet compared to how neutral it usually is. Jimin can tell Jungkook is bored on most days because his life isn't all that interesting.

"I like him, he's funny," Jungkook says. "We talk a lot when we're off work."

"That's nice." There's no emotion in Jimin's voice but he means it. Hoseok is the son of one of the members of his father's council but he's like a chameleon, he gets along with everyone no matter their rank. He's very popular among servants because of how polite and charming he is.

It only takes them five minutes to reach the wooden bridge that leads to Jimin's favorite pavilion. The pavilion is built on a small island in the middle of a lake. Jimin can already see his brother standing on the second story's balcony.

"Jimin," Jihun greets him when Jimin joins him, giving him a warm hug. Jungkook joins Hoseok's side a few feet away from them. "Did you sleep well?"

"I did. What about you, brother?"

"Yes, I did," Jihun smiles.

Jihun and he often meet at the top of the northern pavilion to chat about life as they look over the lake. They haven't been able to meet for two weeks because Jimin's been busy with organizing the tournament. They have a lot to talk about.

Jimin wishes he could talk about Jungkook to Jihun, to tell him about how strange his presence is and how secretive his father has been about him but Jungkook is standing a few meters away and can hear everything they’re saying.

"Talk to me. How have you been?" Jihun asks, leaning against the wooden railing.

"I've been okay," Jimin says, mimicking his position.

"Are you excited about the tournament? In two weeks’ time you might have a mate," Jihun bumps their shoulders together with a cheeky smile on his face.

Reality hasn't sunk in yet. Jimin is ready to settle down with someone but he's also very picky. He enjoys the company of alphas but none of the ones he's been with has ever been mate material. He must make the right choice not only for him but for the kingdom. Jimin has always dreamed of falling in love and having pups. He hopes that his future mate is part of the fifty alphas participating in the tournament. If it fails, Jimin doesn't know what more he can do. He's 25, he should already be mated and have a pup on the way but he's nowhere near it.

"I'm excited to meet the participants," Jimin says, a soft smile on his face.

"Of course you are," Jihun winks at him. "Are you going to have some fun with them? Nothing in the rules forbids you to."

"Maybe," Jimin bites on his bottom lip. Jimin's no stranger to bringing men to his chambers. "It's been a while so I might as well," he chuckles.

"How long?"

"Four months."

"Four months," Jihun scratches his chin, thinking about who it could have been before his eyes widen. "You slept with Jung Kihan?"

Jimin shushes him, looking over his shoulder at Hoseok and Jungkook. Hoseok is used to hearing about the royal princes’ sex lives so he's not even looking at them but Jungkook is staring right at him. Jimin doesn't really care about his opinion but his cheeks blush nonetheless. 

"You know what? I had a feeling you did because of the way he was looking at you when he left. Poor bastard probably hoped you'd ask him to stay." Jihun laughs.

Jung Kihan is another nobleman’s son in the long list of men Jimin's slept with. He was nothing special, just another well-mannered alpha who looked attractive enough to spend some time with Jimin.

"What if father asked him to come to the tournament?"

"I wouldn't choose him," Jimin says. "He's boring."

"You say that about all the men you've been with yet you always go for the same type."

It's not like Jimin has many options. All the men he's been around are all sons of royal families or noblemen. Jimin likes his men suave, well-spoken and polished. It's not his fault that none of them has caught his eye enough to stay.

"I just wish they were more adventurous."

He hears Jungkook scoff behind him. Jimin turns to glare at him but Jungkook just rolls his eyes. Jihun chuckles next to him and Hoseok is trying to hide a smile by tilting his head down.

"What's so funny?" Jimin asks.

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," Jungkook answers, crossing his arms over his chest. "Noblemen aren't known for being adventurous. Most of them are cowards."

"What do you know about noblemen?"

"I’ve been around them enough to know how they are,” Jungkook shrugs. “I’ve never been around royals but noblemen, no matter their rank, are all the same.”

“I know some boring noblemen who are adventurous in the bedroom,” Jihun chimes in, smirking at Jungkook. He turns to Jimin. “Isn’t that what you meant?”

Jimin’s cheeks turn red when all of them look at him. It’s not what Jimin meant but he doesn't know how to explain what he means. He just knows that there’s always been something missing with the alphas he’s been with. There was nothing special about them. When Jimin pictures being in love in his mind, he thinks about butterflies in his stomach, goosebumps every time his lover touches him, heart racing every time he’s in his lover’s presence. He’s never felt like this before but it’s something he desperately wants for himself.

“Yeah, it’s what I meant,” Jimin mumbles, looking away from them. He doesn’t have the heart to explain to them that he’s looking for iridescent love.

“You’ll just have to teach your future mate how to please you,” Jihun says, giggling under his breath. Jimin answers with a noncommittal hum.

They keep talking for another hour until Jihun has to leave to meet with his teacher. They promise to meet for dinner with his father tomorrow. Jimin doesn’t move from his spot against the railing after he’s gone, looking absentmindedly at the calm water. He feels dejected for some reason. He’s realizing how sad his life will be if he doesn’t find a mate at the tournament. Jimin likes his peace but he doesn’t want to be alone forever; he wants to find a friend in a lover and a lover in a friend, wants to spend hours laughing with his future mate, holding each other until the late hours of the night. He wants romance and excitement, someone who can keep him on his toes and can make him feel secure at the same time.

He just doesn’t see that with any of the noblemen he knows and he wonders if perhaps he should look elsewhere.

The tournament will help him decide. If he doesn’t find his soulmate, he’ll try something else, whatever that something else is.

“Have I offended you again, My Prince?” Jungkook asks after a while. Jimin almost forgot he was here. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, filling his lungs with fresh air. He exhales softly before looking at Jungkook. There’s a soft look on his face that Jimin’s never seen before.

“No, you haven’t,” Jimin breathes out. “I’m just thinking about the tournament.”

Jungkook stands next to him and leans against the railing. Jimin doesn’t feel like scolding him for his bad manners so he keeps quiet. 

“What’s bothering you?” Jungkook asks, tilting his head to look at him. His pine scent is so strong up this close Jimin can barely smell anything else.

“How do you know something’s bothering me?”

“It’s in your scent.” Jungkook smiles, touching the tip of his own nose with his finger. “I have a great nose, remember?”

“Right.” Jimin drops his head down and chuckles. Perhaps, Jimin should learn to control his scent too. He’s never had to because his guards and servants know not to ask about his emotions, but Jungkook is different; he doesn’t seem to care about boundaries. “I just hope my expectations aren’t too high.”

“They are,” Jungkook says, “but you’re a prince. They have to be. There has to be a way for you to find someone who will be good for your kingdom and for you. Such a man must exist.”

Jimin looks at Jungkook and for the first time, he finally sees him. For all the talking and disrespecting Jungkook does, he’s a lot more emotionally intelligent than Jimin thought. He must know he’s always pushing Jimin’s boundaries but he never does enough to truly cross them. He’s not necessarily being disrespectful, he’s just brutally honest. It’s a quality Jimin can’t help but admire.

“Are you a mind reader, too?”

“I’m just really smart.”

They smile at each other for the first time since they met. There’s a quiet understanding between them. Jungkook is aware of more things than he lets on and Jimin is allowing him to speak his mind without repercussions.

Perhaps, Jungkook caught him in a moment of weakness, or perhaps Jimin is willing to let his walls down if only for a short moment.

“I have to meet with my teacher, too,” Jimin says. “We should go.”

“Okay,” Jungkook breathes out, still staring in Jimin’s eyes like he’s looking into his soul.

For some reason, it doesn’t bother Jimin.

~

“We’re eating with the king tonight so behave,” Jimin tells Jungkook as they head over to the Royal Kitchens.

The sun is starting to set on the palace and the lamps lining the paths are being lit up by servants. Jimin hasn't seen Jungkook much today; he was busy with meetings the whole day and only saw him this morning and now. Jungkook looked bored out of his mind when Jimin came out of his office.

"There will also be members of the Kingsguard, Hoseok-ssi and the King's advisor," Jimin continues. He's certain Jungkook knows nothing about rules when eating with a king so he needs to make sure he's not going to embarrass himself and most importantly, Jimin. "You will eat with them. You are not to address the king or I unless we address you first. Do you understand?"

"Am I still allowed to speak?" Jungkook asks, quirking an eyebrow, an amused smile on his face.

"You can speak with the other guards and with the servants but be as discreet as possible."

"Got it." Jungkook nods. He's walking next to Jimin, a habit he's picked up after their chat at the pavilion. As a guard, he shouldn't be doing that but Jimin doesn't mind it too much.

"You don't look nervous," Jimin says, sparing a glance at the alpha. His face is relaxed; he looks like he's just strolling around the palace and not like he's heading to a dinner with the King of Sunhae.

"Should I be?"

"You're going to eat with the king. It's an honor. Many people would love to be in your shoes."

"But I'm not even gonna talk to the king," Jungkook frowns. "I'm not really eating with him so I'm not really nervous. I'm just excited about the food."

Jimin can't help but snort at Jungkook's remark. As an alpha, Jungkook needs a lot of food to keep in shape, and Jimin's learned that he's very fond of food over the last few days. He's always grumpy when it's past lunchtime and they haven't eaten yet.

"Only you would be this calm about going to a royal dinner," Jimin comments, shaking his head.

"I've learned that royals aren't that different from us lowborn except for the fact they have the power to kill us with a flick of their hand but then again it's not that different from warriors," Jungkook says, kicking at a pebble. "I, too, can kill people with a flick of my hand." He points at the sword on his back.

Jimin, of course, sees things differently. He's been taught from a young age that he is above everyone else in terms of power, wealth, and faith, that kings, queens, princes, and princesses are to be treated with the utmost of respect and that whoever is opposed to that is an enemy of the crown. Jungkook doesn't sound like an enemy per se; what he's saying makes sense. Jungkook has probably killed before just like Jimin did except he made people kill for him. Jungkook is just as dangerous as Jimin is, he just has no power over the masses.

The difference between Jungkook and Jimin is that Jimin has to care for thousands of people whereas Jungkook only has to care for himself.

"You still should be careful with your words. Most people don't see things that way," Jimin advises. 

"I know you don't," Jungkook says, smiling at Jimin. "You are quite scary when you’re angry."

“Thank you,” Jimin says, smirking at him.

When they arrive at the Royal Kitchens there are tables installed in the courtyard in the shape of a U. The king is already sat at his table in the center, his guards, and his advisor, Kim Namjoon, on his right. At Jimin’s appearance, they stand up and bow to him. Jimin’s father is clad in a white hanbok, long hair falling on each side of his face and held in a bun at the top of his head by his crown. 

“Jimin, come sit with me,” Jihwan says, pointing at the table on his left and giving him a warm smile.

“Appa, it’s nice to see you,” Jimin says, smiling at him. Jungkook bows to greet the King. “Sit here,” Jimin whispers, pointing at the row of tables on the left. Jungkook does as he’s told, sitting crossed legged at the table closest to Jimin. “How have you been, Appa?” Jimin asks once he’s sat down.

“I’ve been busy with organizing the tournament.”

“Ah, yes,” Jimin nods. “Has everyone replied to our invitation?”

“Yes, everyone will be arriving next week.”

“That’s good.” Jimin smiles, pushing his long hair behind his back.

There are two empty tables for Jihun and Hoseok who are always fashionably late. Servants are filling everyone’s glasses with wine and the delicious smell from the kitchen makes Jimin’s stomach growl. Jungkook sits with his hands on his knees, looking at the lit lanterns above their heads with wide eyes.

“I’m sure you’ll love the alphas that I selected for you,” Jihwan says, resting a delicate hand on Jimin’s knee. His peach scent makes Jimin feel at home. “Namjoon helped me pick them.”

Kim Namjoon, alpha, has been the king’s advisor for five years now. He’s a few years older than Jimin and extremely intelligent. He’s been a person his father can rely on ever since he became king. Jimin finds him very charming.

“I trust your judgment.” Jimin nods before taking a sip of his wine. “I’m going into this tournament with an open mind. It worked for you and father.”

“It did.”

There’s a hint of sadness in Jimin’s father’s scent like every time his dead mate is mentioned. He’s gotten better at hiding it over the years but Jimin knows him by heart. It’s like being stabbed in the heart every time he’s mentioned, even for Jimin who misses him dearly. Jimin feels bad every time he makes his father feel that way so he clears his throat, turning to Namjoon.

“Will you be overseeing the tournament, Namjoon-ssi?”

"I will, Your Highness," Namjoon replies, leaning forward to smile at Jimin, dimples on full display. "My job is to make sure everything goes smoothly."

"I’m sure everything will go well. You always do a good job." Jimin gives him his most charming smile. He's always loved flirting with Namjoon; he gets flustered easily and there's nothing more satisfying than making an alpha blush.

"Ah," Namjoon chuckles, dropping his head down. "Thank you, Your Highness."

Jimin's father gives him an amused look as if to say "don't make the poor man lose his composure" but Jimin can't help it. Jimin doesn't have to see it to know Jungkook's staring at him; he can always feel his eyes on him wherever he goes. He could persuade himself that Jungkook's just keeping an eye on him for his safety but he knows it's not entirely true. The way Jungkook looks at him goes beyond professional ethics; his gaze is way too intense to be innocent. Jimin doesn't pay it any mind only because he's used to alphas looking at him this way and it's not like he's going to entertain whatever it means.

When Jimin turns his gaze to Jungkook his thoughts are confirmed. Jungkook's face is blank except for his furrowed eyebrows that betray how he truly feels. Jimin can't smell his pine scent from where he's sitting and with so many people around, Jungkook's probably controlling it. Jimin quirks an eyebrow at him in a challenge; he dares him to make a comment in front of the king, but Jungkook keeps his mouth shut, rolling his eyes instead.

Everyone's quiet chatter is interrupted by Jihun's entrance who looks like a beauty in an emerald green hanbok, silver half-moons sewn into the delicate silk fabric. His radiant smile leaves everyone breathless. Everyone stands up to bow at him except for Jimin and their father who simply stare at him with fond expressions on their faces. He's the baby of the family and the sunshine of everyone's lives.

"Jihun," Jihwan says his name with reverence. "You’re late."

"My apologies, Appa." Jihun bows slightly, walking to his seat next to Jimin. Hoseok sits next to Jungkook and if Jungkook was in his wolf form his tail would be wagging with how happy he is to see his friend. "I’ve missed you," Jihun breathes out, squeezing his father's hand.

"I’ve missed you, too."

"What are we talking about?" Jihun asks, taking a sip of his wine. 

Servants filter into the courtyard to bring everyone's food. Hoseok has to pin Jungkook's wrist down to his knee when he eagerly reaches for his chopsticks and Jimin has to cough to hide his chuckle when Jungkook pouts. He's not supposed to eat before the king starts.

"The tournament," Jimin replies.

"It’s all we talk about, nowadays. You worry too much, Jimin hyung."

"I am not worried," Jimin denies but it's not entirely true. He is worried in some way, just because he wants to find the right person for him and he has high expectations. The problem with having high expectations is that he could end up being disappointed. What if he chooses the wrong alpha? What if no one appeals to him? Choosing a mate for life is hard and Jimin is worried he'll make the wrong choice.

"Everything will be fine," Jihwan says, taking his first bite. Everyone else follows after him. "Tournaments are a great way to assess your future mate’s abilities. You need someone competent to rule with you."

"Love is also important, Appa," Jihun chimes in, mouth full. Jihwan gives him a look to tell him not to speak with his mouth full. Jihun chuckles, lifting a hand to his mouth as he finishes chewing. "A successful marriage is based on trust and love. Look at you and father."

"While that is true," Jihwan says, "love also comes with time."

"Unless it’s love at first sight. You will feel it when you find the one, hyung." 

Jihun smiles, sincere eyes trained on Jimin. Jihun has always been a romantic at heart, a firm believer of love at first sight and soul bonds. Jimin is less of an idealist but when he imagines his future life with his mate he imagines his marriage to be based on love.

"What do you know about love, little brother?" Jimin teases. Jihun is five years younger than him but he's always been wiser.

"That’s what books say and what I witnessed from our parents."

"Your father and I got lucky. Marriages aren’t always based on love."

"Isn’t that what you want for us, Appa?" Jihun asks, a daring look on his face. Jimin knows that between them, Jihun is less likely to accept a transactional marriage than Jimin is just because he has a different sense of responsibility. As the next king in line, he can't simply think about himself, he has to think of their kingdom too.

"Of course, I do," Jihwan says, giving them a reassuring smile. "I’m just saying that things don’t always go that way. You can also find happiness in a marriage of convenience. With time."

"If you say so," Jihun says, quirking an eyebrow. He doesn't look convinced.

Jimin truly hopes that his brother will never have to experience a marriage of convenience. He's too passionate about love to ever find happiness in one. Being the eldest, Jimin would sacrifice his own happiness if it meant his brother got what he wanted. The tournament is Jimin's last chance to find love. After that, if all fails, he'll start thinking with his head and less with his heart.

In the next hour, they catch up as they finish eating. Jimin casts glances at Jungkook from time to time only to find him talking animatedly with Hoseok. He doesn't pay attention to Jimin for the rest of dinner and somehow that leaves a bad taste in Jimin's mouth, omega feeling frustrated at being ignored in such a manner. Jimin pushes the uncomfortable feeling down, rolling his eyes at his own omega for being bothered about such a thing. He doesn't need Jungkook's attention nor does he crave it. It's stupid.

It's been so long since Jimin's been with an alpha that his omega is confused, latching onto every sliver of attention he gets from an alpha. Jungkook is attractive and he's always around, that's the only reason why Jimin's omega feels that way. He wouldn't actually go there. Ever.

When it's getting late and his father starts getting tired, they all say their goodbyes before going their separate ways. Jungkook stands by Jimin's side waiting for him to lead the way when they're stopped by Namjoon.

"Your highness," he calls, stopping in front of Jimin with a shy smile on his face. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Of course, Namjoon-ssi," Jimin says, tangling his fingers in front of him, looking at Namjoon with a flirty glint in his eyes. Jungkook's scent becomes a lot more noticeable, the smell of pine clogging Jimin's senses and making his omega preen. Jungkook isn't really posturing because even he knows it would be stupid and unprofessional of him to lay such a claim on Jimin but he's not holding his scent back like he usually does and it irritates Jimin that he thinks he has any right to try and intimidate Namjoon.

Namjoon might be shy in the presence of Jimin but if there's something he'll never do is back down in front of another alpha, especially not a stranger. He looks at Jungkook with a blank expression on his face, looking unaffected by his presence.

“I just wanted to tell you that the alphas will be residing in the southern wing of the palace so there shouldn’t be any trouble with them invading your privacy during the tournament," Namjoon says, turning his gaze back to Jimin, eyes softening.

"That’s good," Jimin replies, smiling politely.

"They’re not allowed to be in the northern wing but make sure to always be accompanied just in case."

"Jungkook doesn’t leave my side." Jimin points at Jungkook and he can see Jungkook puffing his chest out in the corner of his eyes.

"Right," Namjoon says between gritted teeth. Jimin can tell he's forcing himself not to releases pheromones to respond to Jungkook's challenge. Jimin finds it amusing that either of them thinks he has any interest in them. He doesn't. He might flirt with Namjoon but he simply does it because it's entertaining, he wouldn't actually do anything with him and the same goes for Jungkook.

"I won’t let anything happen to My Prince," Jungkook says, head held high. Namjoon is taller and older than him. Jungkook looks like he's just presented compared to him.

"Good," Namjoon replies, quirking an eyebrow at the way Jungkook addresses Jimin. Jimin is so used to it that he barely notices it anymore. Namjoon turns his gaze to Jimin. "The first families will arrive at the beginning of next week and your father wants you to be there to welcome them. I’ll make sure to send a servant to get you."

"Thank you, Namjoon-ssi," Jimin says, brushing the tip of his fingers against his forearm. Namjoon's cheeks turn red and Jungkook scoffs beside him.

“You’re welcome, Your Highness," Namjoon says after clearing his throat. "That’s all." He bows to Jimin and doesn't wait for a reply before walking away. He stops in his tracks before turning around. "Oh, no wait," he says, stepping in front of Jimin again, cheeks even redder. Jimin has to fight a giggle. "I think you should visit your father’s shrine before the tournament. I think he would have loved to be there for you."

Jimin's heart squeezes in his chest at the mention of his father. Namjoon's right; his father would have been overjoyed about the tournament. He used to always boast about how well he did at Jihwan's tournament, how he only had eyes for him from the start. He's always wanted Jimin and Jihun to carry on with the tradition, always had high hopes that they'd find the love of their lives too. Jimin wishes he was here but he knows he will be in spirit. He's always with Jimin, in his heart.

"I was planning on visiting him but thank you for reminding me, Namjoon-ssi," Jimin says, tucking a strand of his hair behind his ear.

Namjoon smiles at him, bowing one last time as he says, "Have a good night".

"You too."

Namjoon gives a polite tilt of his head to Jungkook before leaving. Jimin feels exhausted all of a sudden, the long day of meetings getting to him. He can feel the beginning of a headache coming on. He starts walking towards his private quarters, gravel paths illuminated by lanterns and the moon high above their heads. Jungkook manages to stay silent for a whole minute which is a real feat for him.

"Are you heading to your chambers?" he asks, matching his rhythm to Jimin.

"Yes."

"Shouldn’t I accompany you to a nobleman’s chambers?"

Jimin was wondering when the teasing would be back. It doesn't matter how much he scolds Jungkook for the way he speaks to him, Jungkook doesn't listen for more than a day. He doesn't realize that what he's doing is way out of line or he doesn't care, Jimin's not sure. He's learned to find some kind of pleasure in replying to Jungkook's teasing remarks; it makes his days less boring.

"Very funny," Jimin replies, sarcasm evident in his voice.

"Namjoon-ssi looks like your type," Jungkook says, raising his eyebrows at Jimin. His usual smirk is gone when he says it which makes Jimin laugh.

"He is."

Jungkook scoffs, looking offended by Jimin's honesty. Jimin isn't sure why he's entertaining Jungkook's jealousy or why Jungkook is being so transparent with his feelings all of a sudden. If there's one thing Jimin knows about Sinsan's alphas is that they're prideful, competitive and have a hard time keeping their opinions to themselves. Jimin doubts Jungkook is getting jealous for a reason other than Jimin's an omega and his job is to protect him. It has nothing to do with romance and more to do with an alpha's instinct to care for and protect omegas; that usually means keeping other alphas away as they're considered as a threat.

Jungkook doesn't want Jimin all to himself he just doesn't trust other alphas not to hurt the omega he's in charge of.

"Have you ever spent time with him?" Jungkook asks. “Isn't there some kind of conflict of interest with him being your father’s advisor?"

"You seem awfully interested in my sex life, Jungkook-ssi," Jimin snorts. 

"I’m just trying to get to know you, My Prince." Jungkook gives him his most innocent smile, tilting his head coyly.

"It’s none of your business who I sleep with," Jimin says, an amused smile on his face.

"I guess not," Jungkook mutters, looking away.

They walk the rest of the way in silence until they reach Jimin's chambers. Jimin faces Jungkook; he looks grumpy, face blank. It's clear to see Jungkook doesn't like not getting answers to his questions and if it was anyone else Jimin wouldn't even think of indulging them but on some days, he has a soft spot for Jungkook and can't resist playing into his games.

"I’ve never slept with him," Jimin says, winking at Jungkook. "Goodnight, Jungkook-ssi."

"Goodnight, My Prince."

Jimin doesn't miss the way Jungkook's face breaks into a satisfied smile or the way his pine scent sticks to his skin when he settles under the covers of his bed.

~

Two days later, Jimin is standing by his father's side at the Main Gate of the Throne Hall to welcome royal families from all over the country. He's clad in his most lavish red hanbok, hair tied in an elegant bun held in place by the usual headpiece he wears. He's wearing a thin layer of makeup and smells like the flower oils his servants put in his bath this morning. He looks beautiful and all the people he greets don't refrain from telling him. Jungkook even commented on it this morning, saying he's a real Sunhae beauty. Jimin's omega hasn't stopped preening ever since.

Jungkook is standing a few feet behind him; standing tall, chest puffed out and an intimidating look on his face as he keeps an eye on the people greeting Jimin. So far, Jimin has met eight alphas of the fifty participating in the tournament and all of them have been charming, offering their prettiest smile as they compliment Jimin's beauty. Jimin thinks they're all attractive but no one has really caught his eye just yet.

"Clan Kim of Sinsan!" a guard announces.

Jihwan and Jimin tense up, schooling their expressions as best as they can. Jimin knew there would be alphas from Sinsan but he didn't think the King and his family would come. It is rare from the King of Sinsan and the King of Sunhae to visit each other but they always manage to stay civil in the few instances that they do.

King Kim Junsik, a beta, is accompanied by his wife Queen Min Heewon, also a beta and their son Prince Kim Taehyung, an omega. They're recognizable by their tanned skin and the half-moon tattoo on their necks, similar to Jungkook's. Kim Junsik is the eldest son of the previous King of Sinsan. While his father was greedy for power, Kim Junsik is more of a pacifist and has never shown any desire to follow in his father's footsteps. He's been busy building Sinsan back up after the war against Sunhae, turning it into a prosperous kingdom that trains fine warriors. He does not use his warriors for personal conquests but sends them to kingdoms who need them the most.

The only reason Jimin's father is wary of King Junsik is because of his father but he's never been anything but cordial to him so there's no reason not to be cordial back. There might be bad blood between their kingdoms but Jimin's father is a smart man, he knows when someone is undeserving of his hostility.

Kim Junsik is not to blame for his father's greed and wrong choices.

"King Jihwan," Junsik greets, a small smile on his lips. The members of his clan bow to Jihwan and Jimin and they do the same.

"Welcome to our home, King Junsik."

"It's an honor for you to accept one of our alphas into Prince Jimin's tournament."

"Where is he?" Jihwan asks, looking at the group of men behind him. "Let's introduce him to Jimin."

An alpha dressed in warrior clothes similar to Jungkook, although they're of better quality, steps forward. He's really handsome with jet black hair cut short and matching dark brown eyes, sharp jawline, and full lips. He has a moon tattoo on his neck and another one peeking out from the collar of his hanbok but Jimin can't decipher what it is. He's two heads taller than Jimin and has a very broad chest. Jimin's omega likes what he sees but his scent doesn't really do much for him. He's definitely a strong candidate, though.

"Nice to meet you, Your Highness," the alpha says, a charming smile on his face. He exudes confidence and cockiness. "My name is Choi Hajoon. I'm looking forward to competing for you."

"Nice to meet you," Jimin says, smiling back.

"He's one of our most seasoned warriors," King Junsik says, pride written all over his face. Hajoon puffs his chest out at the compliment and Jimin has to fight the urge to roll his eyes. He doesn't like cocky alphas.

"I'm sure he'll do great in the tournament," Jimin says, only to be polite.

King Junsik's eyes move to Jungkook behind Jimin's shoulder. He raises his eyebrows when he notices the tattoo on his neck, scent spiking with curiosity.

"I had no idea one of our warriors worked for you, King Jihwan." He points at Jungkook with a tilt of his head. "He looks like a fine warrior. Come," he tells Jungkook who does as he's told.

"He's not one of your warriors," Jihwan replies. Jungkook stands next to Jimin and bows to his king.

"Oh," Junsik mutters, looking intrigued. "You're from Sinsan, though. Who trained you?"

"Min Jinho."

"Mh," Junsik nods pensively. "I've never heard of him. Where does he live in Sinsan?"

"Chunyong. It's a small village southeast of Napo. He never finished his Hwarang training but he's very skilled. He taught me everything I know."

"Why didn't you train with us?"

"I'm simply a farmer's son. I never would have been accepted." Jungkook shrugs.

Jimin had no idea about this. He's never really thought about Jungkook's past or where he came from. He has a lot of questions. How did a farmer's son become a warrior? Where are his parents now? How did his father find him?

"Well," Junsik smiles, "you're doing pretty well for yourself working for a King. Good for you."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Jungkook bows, smirking when Hajoon glares at him. 

It's unusual for a warrior who's not trained by the Crown to have such a high position in a kingdom. Men train all their life to get the chance to work for royal families but most of them end up working in city centers and villages, away from the comfort of the Palace. Jungkook comes from nothing and he's young; he should still be training or should be working in a small village in the middle of nowhere.

"One of our servants will escort you to your quarters, King Junsik. You and your family must be tired from your travel," Jihwan says, gesturing for a servant to come.

"We are. Thank you."

"I'll see you soon, Prince Jimin," Hajoon says, holding his gaze as he bows down to him. Jungkook scoffs next to him but Hajoon ignores him. Jimin just tilts his head in acknowledgment and then they're being escorted out of the Main Hall.

"Clan Min of Pyoncheon!" the guard announces next.

Clan Park has a way better relationship with Clan Min. Clan Min is known for their kindness and peacefulness and are really good politicians. King Min Yonsun came with his husband Choi Kyunghee and their children Min Yoongi and Min Yoona. Yoongi is a few years older than Jimin but they get along well. When Yoongi and Yoona were younger they used to spend some of their summers in Sunhae and Jimin used to play with them in the beautiful palace gardens. They don't see each other as much as they'd like but they share fond memories together.

"How are you doing, King Jihwan?" Min Yonsun says, a beaming smile on his face. He's small for a beta, smaller than Jimin's father. He always adorns a soft expression on his face and is known for his radiant smile and kind heart.

"I'm doing really good, King Yonsun," Jihwan says, smiling back. "And yourself?"

"Ah, life is going well for us. Prince Jimin," he says, tilting his head at Jimin. "You become more beautiful each year."

"Thank you very much," Jimin chuckles, cheeks turning pink. King Yonsun is a man in his 70s, he's like a grandfather to Jimin, has always given him advice when he visited Kangsan and was there for him after his father passed away. The man has a special place in his heart. "You look as healthy as ever, King Yonsun."

"It's the sea breeze. It keeps me young," he jokes. "I hope that you find a suitable mate during your tournament, my dear."

"I hope so, too."

Jimin and Yoongi's eyes meet and they both smile at each other. It's been five years since they've seen each other but Yoongi hasn't changed. He looks as beautiful as ever and so does Yoona although she looks a lot older now.

"Let's catch up soon, Yoongi-ssi," Jimin says.

"I'd love to."

Jimin spends another hour greeting guests, having to politely smile at every alpha that compliments him even though none of them really catch his attention. By the end of it, Jimin is exhausted and a lot less hopeful than he was before.

~

“I'm taking you to a special place today, Jungkook-ssi,” Jimin says the next morning. He doesn’t stop to greet Jungkook properly, heading straight out of the courtyard with a spring in his step.

“Where is that?”

“My father's shrine.”

It’s always a special day when Jimin goes there; he doesn’t get to visit his father very often. He usually visits his shrine when he needs advice or when something important happens in his life.

“Do you know about my father?” Jimin asks. Jungkook has to jog to catch up to him.

“He used to be your king,” Jungkook replies, adjusting the collar of his black hanbok. “And died on the battlefield a few years ago.”

“Yes.” Jimin nods, licking at his bottom lip. “At the hand of a Sinsan warrior, actually.”

Jimin doesn’t mean for it to sound like a quip but he can tell Jungkook tenses beside him. There are days when Jimin resents Sinsan and days where he realizes the only one to blame is their late king; the one who started a war with Sunhae in the first place. All of his warriors, the people who got called to fight didn’t have a choice but to serve their king.

“Many people died in that war,” Jungkook mutters tentatively, head hanging low.

“I know.”

“But you're still hostile towards Sinsan people.”

Jungkook’s comment would get him killed if he served a more sensitive prince but Jimin’s learned to appreciate his honesty and straightforwardness. Jungkook is rough around the edges and his words might be hard to hear sometimes but he’s never too harsh. He may lack a brain-to-mouth filter but he’s smart enough to still choose his words wisely.

“I am because it's your king who started it,” Jimin says, just as honestly. There’s no point in hiding his obvious hatred for him because he’s not ashamed of it.

“Mh,” Jungkook hums his approval, crossing his arms behind his back. “Our king went mad with power and greed.”

“My dad was a peaceful man but a great warrior nonetheless. He loved his family more than anything. He loved being alive.”

Jimin’s heart squeezes in his chest, throat clogging with emotions. He hates talking about his father in the past tense, hates thinking about how happy he was before he was taken from him. Jimin thinks it’s unfair that he had to die at the end of a nameless warrior during a war he didn’t want in the first place.

He remembers the last time he saw his father, at the palace main gate. He hugged his children and his mate so tight it almost hurt, smiled at them and told them not to worry, that he’d be back soon. Jimin can still remember his earthy and rainy scent, can smell it every time it rains and the ground gets damp. He can’t remember the sound of his laugh though, can’t remember the color of his eyes or the sound of his voice. But he remembers the last words he ever told him. I love you .

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook says, looking at Jimin. There’s concern written all over his face and scent.

“Thank you,” Jimin gives him a small smile to reassure him. Jungkook has nothing to apologize for, he was only a child when the war happened.

“Were you close?”

“Very,” Jimin breathes out. “We used to do everything together. He'd read me stories at the library, would take me hunting in the mountains. He'd tell me tales of his travels because I wasn't allowed to travel with him back then. He was a kind man, took care of his family well.”

“He sounds like a good man.”

“He is,” Jimin says before clearing his throat. “He was.”

“How did you handle it after he died?”

Jimin hesitates for a second. He usually never talks about this with people, not even his dad and his brother. Jimin’s always kept his suffering and feelings to himself, doesn’t like to burden people with his emotions. For some reason, he’s inclined to tell Jungkook; perhaps because, to some extent, he’s a stranger or perhaps because, to some extent, he’s a friend.

“Um,” Jimin starts, licking his lips nervously. He’s never had to articulate his feelings about his father’s death so words don’t come easily. “I don’t know. I tried my best.” He shrugs. “I had to stay strong for my dad because he'd just lost his mate and was crowned king right away. He didn't have any time to grieve. I was only 11, though, so there's not much I could do. I mostly took care of Jihun.”.

“That's why you two are so close,” Jungkook nods pensively. “You're like another parent to him.”

“I guess I am.” Jimin smiles shyly. He never thought of it that way but it’s true that Jihun always comes to him when he’s in trouble or needs advice. It’s obvious he looks up to him like any little brother would but when he’s struggling with his own grief, he always latches onto Jimin, always comes to him for comfort like he did when they were kids, and Jimin holds him and talks to him until things are okay again.

“You did a good job. He looks happy.”

“Yeah.” Jimin nods, smiling at the thought of his sweet Jihun. “And he makes everyone around him happy, too.”

They enter a courtyard surrounded by four red buildings and in the middle stands the ancestral shrine where the royal family performs rites to the deceased royals. The place is quiet to respect the peace and the courtyard is surrounded by cherry blossom trees, petals flying in the wind to paint the ground pink. Jimin stops in front of the entrance, breath hitching in his throat when he inhales.

“We're here,” he whispers, too scared his voice would break if he spoke louder. “Wait outside, please.”

“Of course.”

Jimin takes a deep breath before going up the concrete stairs and entering the shrine. The place is dimly lit by candles and smells like incense. A statue of the Moon Goddess carved into a circular pillar stands in a small fountain in the middle of the room and at the top, the names of deceased kings and queens from the Park clan are engraved in gold plaques.

Jimin kneels on a mat in front of it, the bottom of his white hanbok fanning around him. He lights a candle and then bows two times to greet the Moon Goddess and his ancestors. He closes his eyes and stays quiet for a few minutes, emptying his mind of toxic thoughts to give space to his wolf, slowly breathing in and out until he’s one with his omega, feeling his presence like he’s wrapped around his heart. 

When Jimin opens his eyes, his body is relaxed and his lips are curled in a soft smile.

“Good morning, father,” he speaks softly not to disturb the peace. “I'm sorry I haven't visited you in a while.” He rests his hands on his knees, eyes trained on his father’s name. “I hope you're doing well and didn't miss me too much.” He chuckles. His father always told him he missed him even when they saw each other an hour ago and when Jimin joked about it, his father said that’s because he loved Jimin so much.

“I miss you,” Jimin’s voice trembles and he has to clear his throat to push his emotions down. Although he feels peaceful every time he visits his father, he can’t help but get emotional. He doesn’t like calling it sadness because he doesn’t feel sad when he speaks to his dad but he feels nostalgic; he wishes he could see the way his father’s eyes turn into half-moons when he smiles. “I miss you every single day. I don't know if Appa told you but we're holding a tournament. For me,” Jimin smiles, looking down at his hands. “I'm finally ready to find a mate.” He looks up, tilting his chin up with assurance. He wonders how his father would have reacted when Jimin told him this. Would he tell him to wait? Would he support his decision?

Jimin’s father always talked about these types of tournaments with love; it’s something he approved of because that’s how he met his soulmate. Jimin knows he wouldn’t have been against it; he would have guided him through it.

“I wish you were here to guide me,” Jimin admits out loud. “I'm nervous I’ll make the wrong choice. You used to say you knew Appa was the one as soon as you laid your eyes on him. I hope I can experience that too.”

His parents’ love was vibrant and passionate, they supported each other through everything and never got bored of spending time together even when they were working. Jimin wants to experience that kind of love; he wants his heart to threaten to beat out of his chest every time he’s with his mate, wants the kind of relationship where they don’t have to talk to understand each other, where a simple look suffices. Jimin wants to feel like he’s floating, safe and secure in the arms of the one he loves. He wants the kind of soaring love he reads about in books.

He wants to find his soulmate too.

“I haven't been hunting in a while but I still read a lot,” Jimin says, a small smile spreading over his lips. “I was never good at hunting anyway. I just liked going up the mountains with you. I don't go out of the palace much these days.” Jimin can’t remember the last time he left his palace. It was a long time ago and only two hours south of Kangsan. Jimin’s never left Sunhae before but his father’s tales make other kingdoms sound beautiful. From the white sand beaches of Pyoncheon to the vast pine forests of Sinsan, Jimin craves to see it all. 

“I still plan on going to Sinsan one day.” He says with confidence, voice echoing in the room. “I want to run in those pine forests that you loved so much. Maybe, you can join me. We can run together,” he chuckles. It might sound crazy but Jimin sometimes feels his father’s presence, in the form of a gust of wind washing over his face when he cries at his favorite lotus pond or a warm feeling on his shoulder when he’s arguing with noblemen. There’s no doubt his wolf would feel his father’s if he ran in Sinsan’s forests. It was his father’s dream to do so; he wanted it so strongly that a piece of his soul probably still lives there.

“I have a new bodyguard,” Jimin says, clearing his throat. He’s not sure why he’s mentioning it; it’s not like he introduces his father to all the people he works with but it would feel wrong not to mention him. “His name is Jeon Jungkook. Appa hired him. He…,” he breathes out, smacking his lips nervously. “He's from Sinsan. He's a good man. He talks too much but he's a good man,” he chuckles, scratching his chin. 

"I hope you're not angry that I get along with him. You were always good at forgiving people. I'm sure that if you were here you wouldn't feel any anger towards him," he says, looking at the green water in the fountain. 

His father, although born and raised in Sunhae, had always been a free spirit just like Jungkook. He didn't like to stay in Kangsan for too long and liked to take his mate with him on short vacations. He cared about rules and discipline in a different way; he taught Jimin how to love and appreciate people, how to be respectful and kind. As a king, he also had to teach Jimin manners, morality, and courtesy which is what people from Sunhae are known for. However, deep down, he loved Sinsan so much because of how free people are there; they care more about inner strength than they do social etiquette.

"It's hard for us to forgive because we lost you at their hands," Jimin admits, voice shaky with emotion every time he mentions his father's death. "But we're trying. It's the only way for us to be at peace." Forgiveness is a thing his father didn't have time to teach Jimin so it's hard for him to let go of the resentment that he feels for Sinsan. It becomes easier with time and with seeing how well his dad healed. He didn't let anger control him and instead learned to live with it for a while before letting it go. 

After his father died, it was impossible for anyone to mention Sinsan without making his dad cry from anger and sadness. His scent was so strong and bitter at that time that it was hard for anyone to be in the same room as him. His scent only turned sweet when he was with his children; when he forced his feelings down to protect them. Jimin will forever be thankful for his dad's strength and for allowing them to grieve and heal in their own time.

"I'm doing well, father, so don't worry about me," Jimin says, brushing the tips of his fingers over the marble fountain. It's cold under his fingers, the complete opposite of how warm he feels when he thinks about his father. Jimin will forever be thankful for his dad not to let him become cold; he kept teaching him life is only worth living with a kind heart and that people who let resentment eat away at them aren't really living.

"I'll keep you in my heart during the tournament. I hope you will guide me." Jimin smiles, looking up at his father's plaque. "I love you, dad," he whispers the words the same way he did when he saw his father for the last time.

He blows the candle out and closes his eyes, filling his lungs with the smell of incense. For a second, he swears he smells rain and pine trees but it's gone as quick as it came. It fills his heart with warmth nonetheless. Jimin bows two times to say goodbye and stands up, leaving the peaceful darkness of the shrine for the brightness of the sunlit courtyard.

Jungkook is waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs and he's looking at Jimin like he's seeing him for the first time. He's looking at him intensely which makes Jimin feel a little too vulnerable. There's a chance Jungkook heard what he said but he doesn't have the usual decency his other guards possess; at least they try to act like they didn't hear anything. They don't look at him like Jimin's soul is laid out in front of their eyes.

"What?" Jimin asks to see if Jungkook will dare to say something. Jungkook hesitates, eyes following Jimin as he walks down the stairs to stop in front of him. Jimin can tell he's conflicted; he's not sure how he would react if he started asking questions. Jimin feels vulnerable enough after speaking to his father, he doesn't have the strength to talk about the past anymore.

"Nothing," Jungkook replies, shaking his head. "It's a nice place."

Jimin can't help but release a relieved breath. Jungkook is proving to be emotionally intelligent enough to know when not to talk about some things. Jimin appreciates that about him.

"Have you never been to a shrine before?" he asks, a teasing smile on his face. He starts walking out of the courtyard in the direction of the Amisan garden; notoriously known within the palace to be King Jihwan's favorite leisure garden where he loves listening to the sound of the waterfalls and wildlife.

"I have but not like this one. It's my first time being in a palace at all."

"Really?" Jimin quirks an eyebrow, feeling intrigued. Jungkook's background is still a mystery to him. "Where did you live before my father hired you?"

"I was staying at an inn east of Kangsan."

"And what were you doing there?"

"I was just doing odd jobs here and there." Jungkook shrugs. "I don't like staying in one place for too long."

Jimin was right. He would have gotten along with his father.

"What kind of odd jobs are we talking about?" Jimin asks, bumping their shoulders together. The playful gesture surprises Jungkook who looks at him with a curious expression on his face. Jimin just smiles at him, giving a tilt of his head to encourage him to speak.

"I was chasing a guy down who was stealing from villagers' homes. I turned him in to the authorities and got paid for it."

He says it nonchalantly like it's no big deal but Jimin thinks it is. It is a big deal for him to protect people from a kingdom that's not even theirs. Jungkook doesn't work for the crown, he has no reason to be running around chasing after bad guys in Sunhae when he could easily do that in Sinsan. Jimin can't help but feel grateful that people like Jungkook exists.

"So, you protect people."

"I just catch bad guys for money. Pays well enough." Jungkook shrugs. He looks away to hide a blush that Jimin sees anyway. Jungkook should be proud of what he does.

"What's your story, then, Jungkook-ssi?" Jimin is tired of not asking questions. He is interested in Jungkook's story, there's no point in pretending like he's not. There's just something about him that makes Jimin want to connect with him. He's unlike anyone he's ever met. The more he spends time with him the harder it is to ignore the pull he feels towards him, whether it's platonic or something else, it doesn't matter, Jimin wants to get to know him. "I'm intrigued. You said your father was a farmer? Didn't he want you to take over his farm?"

"He did", Jungkook says, nodding. His pine scent turns more earthy than usual, almost uncomfortably so. He's biting the inside of his cheek and his face tenses up. He looks exactly like Jimin does when he speaks about his father. "But he died when I was 9. He got called to fight in the war and died on the battlefield, too. He wasn't much of a fighter." He chuckles bitterly.

"Oh," Jimin breathes out, heart squeezing in his chest. "I didn't know. I'm sorry."

"It's fine. It was a long time ago."

"What about your other parent?"

"My mom died 2 years later," Jungkook says, cupping his hands in front of his chest as they walk through a cherry blossom path to catch a few stray petals. The few that get stuck into his jet black hair look like snowflakes. He looks exceptionally handsome in the morning sun. The sight makes Jimin's omega perk up but he ignores it. "She didn't handle her mate's death well. She tried to stay strong for me but her health deteriorated fast. I was only 11 and I don't have any siblings so I was on my own after that."

Jimin has to stop a whine from escaping his throat at the thought of Jungkook being alone at only eleven. Jimin was lucky that he had his brother and his other father to take care of him but Jungkook was alone and defenseless; he had to figure out how to live in the world on his own. Jimin's omega hates the hint of sadness in Jungkook's scent and it's hard for him not to reach out to touch him; it's not his place nor is it appropriate.

"I got evicted from my parent's farm. I didn't have any money. I went to the city in hopes of finding a job but no one wanted to hire a homeless kid," he says, a bitter smile on his lips as he shakes his head, strands of hair falling into his eyes. Jimin can't seem to look away. "I lived in the streets for 2 years and then I met Min Jinho."

Jimin remembers that name from yesterday. He's the warrior that trained Jungkook. Jimin just had no idea he also raised him.

"He used to train in Hwarang but he left. Said it wasn't his thing, too many rules. He was on his own and so was I. I guess he took pity and took me in. When I turned 13, he started training me. He was like a second father to me."

Jungkook's scent turns sweeter as he talks about Min Jinho which placates Jimin's omega. He seems to care about him a lot.

"Where is he now?"

"He stayed in Sinsan. He has a mate now and works as a blacksmith. We still send each other letters every few months." A soft smile spreads over Jungkook's lips.

When Jimin's father introduced him to Jungkook, Jimin had no idea he came from nothing. He thought that he was another cocky warrior from Sinsan, trained to believe they're untouchable and above everyone else but he's nothing like that. Jimin realizes now that his cockiness isn't really cockiness, it's simply playfulness. He had to grow up so fast as a kid that he didn't really have time to be a kid. He doesn't have a filter because he's never been around royals, couldn't care less about social etiquette.

Jimin admires him. Jungkook went through hell, could have easily turned to crime but instead, he chose to make a difference in the world. He might act like what he does is insignificant but he's probably touched a lot of people's lives and Jimin isn't sure he's ever done the same. As a prince, he is taught that the crown is here to protect people and that their goal is to offer them a good way of living but Jimin's never seen it with his own two eyes. He goes through meetings upon meetings to talk about politics but it feels like his impact on the world is a lot more insignificant than he thought.

He will be remembered simply because he's a Prince but not for anything that he did.

"You've been through a lot," Jimin says.

“That's how it usually is outside of your palace walls. Many people experienced what I did. We try to get by as best as we can.”

“You did really well for yourself.”

“I guess.”

After hearing Jungkook’s story there’s still something Jimin is curious about. How did his dad come into the picture? Why would he be interested in a random warrior doing odd jobs in small villages? Jungkook clearly doesn’t do any shady jobs, unless he’s lying to him but Jimin can tell he’s not. 

“I'm still confused about how my father found you,” Jimin mumbles, playing with the silky belt tied around his waist. Jungkook chuckles.

“Min Jinho is originally from Sunhae. He grew up south of here in Chunhae.”

“Chunhae?” Jimin frowns. “My dad’s from Chunhae.”

“Mhm, I know. They know each other. Grew up together and haven’t lost touch ever since. I guess Jinho mentioned me to your father and so he sent some of his men to look for me.”

“Wow,” Jimin whispers. He didn’t expect that. 

“You thought something shady was going on, didn't you?” Jungkook asks, an amused smile on his face. He bumps their shoulders together like Jimin did, looking at him to watch his reaction. Jimin just chuckles, head hanging low.

“Yeah,” he says. Jimin imagined the worst horror stories like Jungkook blackmailing his father or his father owing something to shady people. 

“I accepted the king’s offer because I get paid ten times what I got paid in my last job. Believe it or not, I'm actually a great swordsman, I could take on any of your other guards.”

Jungkook looks like he’s a great warrior, even if he’s never had to fight in a war. His body looks strong under his hanbok and Jimin has noticed that his sword is made in high-quality steel, light enough to move fast. His dad would have never hired him if he didn’t know how to fight, even if he hired Jungkook as a favor to an old friend.

“I have no doubt that you can.” Jimin laughs, shaking his head fondly.

Jungkook is a lot different than he expected, in the best way possible. He may have a loose tongue but he’s a good man, hard-working and humble. He’ll make someone really happy in the future with how good of an alpha he is. If Jimin wasn’t a prince, and if he listened to his omega, he would probably show interest in Jungkook. Things are a bit more complicated, they may get along but they live two completely different lives. Jimin is stuck in his palace and Jungkook doesn’t like staying in one place for too long, they would never work.

Jungkook is everything that Jimin never goes for, nothing like the men he’s usually drawn to; he’s rough around the edges and too honest. He’s handsome, though, and funny; he’s playful and he challenges Jimin like no one ever has before. Jimin knows they would never work but if he thinks about it for too long he starts feeling butterflies in his stomach. His omega is infatuated with Jungkook’s alpha, he knows that much.

None of that matters when Jungkook doesn’t seem to have any interest in him other than to see how far he can push his limits.

“Prince Jimin.”

Jimin’s thoughts are interrupted by the call of his name. He looks up to meet Prince Taehyung’s gentle smile. He’s accompanied by his personal bodyguard, Kim Seokjin. It’s rare to see one without the other, they never leave each other’s sides.

Taehyung and Jimin, however, have never spent time with each other without the presence of their fathers. Taehyung looks like a typical Sinsan man; tanned skin, moon tattoo on his neck, and short hair. He has the beauty and grace of his mother the Queen though, a beta who was born and raised in Pyoncheon. Taehyung is wearing a yellow hanbok made of the finest Sinsan silk with sun patterns all over the fabric. He looks as radiant as his smile.

“Prince Taehyung.” Jimin tilts his head down to greet him. His smile is a lot more subdued. “How are you doing? Are you enjoying your stay in Kangsan so far?”

Jungkook takes a step back to stand behind Jimin as is custom for guards. Seokjin bows at Jimin and tilts his head to acknowledge Jungkook. Jimin’s always thought Seokjin looked too pretty to be a guard but he’s known for being a seasoned warrior, some kind of prodigy for becoming the Prince’s guard at the age of twenty when men are usually still in training.

“I am.” Taehyung nods, looking up at the tall pine trees surrounded them, offering some shade in the morning warmth. “Your palace is magnificent. I love strolling around your gardens. I was heading to one of your pavilions, actually, would you like to join me?”

“Sure,” Jimin accepts. It’d be rude not to. “Jungkook-ssi, this is Kim Seokjin-ssi,” he says, pointing at Seokjin.

“Nice to meet you,” Jungkook says, bowing just slightly.

“You too,” Seokjin replies with a friendly smile.

“You are befriending Sinsan men now, Jimin-ssi?” Taehyung asks as they start walking towards Jimin’s favorite pavilion.

“I didn't have a choice. My father hired him.”

“Ah, I see.” Taehyung nods, an amused smile on his face. “Do you get along?”

“I'd say we do.”

“It took a while for him to warm up to me,” Jungkook chimes in, not caring that he’s in the presence of not one but two princes.

Jimin glares at him over his shoulder and Jungkook lifts his hands up in defense, shrugging as Taehyung and Seokjin laugh.

“What? It's true.”

“What did I say about not being too colloquial in the presence of a prince?” Jimin quirks an eyebrow at him but Jungkook just shrugs. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s challenging Jimin’s authority in front of another royal. Jimin should find it embarrassing but instead, he finds it exciting.

“There's no point in scolding Sinsan men, Jimin-ssi. We never listen,” Taehyung says, chuckling once more. He looks deeply amused by Jimin and Jungkook’s dynamic.

“I learned that the hard way,” Jimin mutters under his breath, rolling his eyes and ignoring Jungkook’s snort.

They arrive at the pavilion and climb up to lean against the railing, Jungkook and Seokjin standing a few feet to the side to give Jimin and Taehyung a semblance of privacy.

“What a view,” Taehyung breathes out in awe. They have to squint their eyes with the way the sunlight reflects on the water. 

“I'm sure your palace is just as beautiful.”

“It is. You should come to visit sometime. I get bored on my own”

“I'd love to.”

Jimin isn’t lying. Taehyung is an only child so days must be long on his own; he’s the same age as Jimin and apparently, Jimin seems to get along with Sinsan men well. 

“We've never really spoken before what with our families' history,” Taehyung says. There’s no hint of bitter resentment or anger in his vanilla scent. “I love making friends and would love for us to talk more.” He gives Jimin a sincere smile and at this moment, Jimin swears he would give him the world if he asked. He’s the kind of face you trust, the kind of person that wears his heart on his sleeve without fear of getting hurt because from what Jimin hears, as innocent as he looks, Kim Taehyung is a very cunning man not to be messed with.

“I'd like that too, Taehyung-ssi. Despite everything, I've only heard good things about you.”

“And I about you. I hear you are quite feisty,” Taehyung says, a playful smile on his lips.

“Feisty?”

“You've broken many hearts.” Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows. Jimin blushes, coughing around a surprised gasp.

 “Ah, well,” he says, clearing his throat. “Alphas get attached too quickly.”

“Mh, that is true.” Taehyung nods, casting a glance at Seokjin. “It only took three days for my alpha to fall for me.”

Seokjin fidgets in his spot, cheeks turning a light pink when Jungkook furrows his brows at him, looking between Taehyung and him with a confused look on his face. Taehyung and Seokjin’s relationship is notorious even in Sunhae because it’s been going on for four years, now. The rumors say that Taehyung was the one who courted his bodyguard first and that Seokjin didn’t put up much of a fight.

“I heard about your relationship with Seokjin-ssi. It's been a while now, are you planning on mating any time soon?”

Taehyung scoffs, tilting his chin up. “I'm waiting for his proposal.”

“And you Seokjin-ssi?” Jimin asks, turning an amused smile to the embarrassed alpha. Jungkook is like a fish out of water, gaping at Seokjin like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. Apparently, the rumors about Taehyung and Seokjin’s relationship has never reached the places he’s been in. “What are you waiting for?” Jimin asks.

“Um….” Seokjin straightens his back, clearing his throat. “I still have to ask for his father's approval.”

“He's scared of my father,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes. “He thinks he's going to say no but he already knows about our relationship. My father doesn't care much about protocols.”

“I see.” Jimin chuckles, feeling fond of the two. Despite Seokjin’s awkwardness about the topic, it’s obvious he’s head over heels for Taehyung in the way he looks at him like he hung the moon and stars. Jimin feels envious of Taehyung.

“You are soon to find a mate as well. That's exciting,” Taehyung says. Jimin wishes he could feel as enthusiastic as Taehyung looks.

“It is. It's also nerve-wracking. I don't want to make the wrong choice.”

“It doesn't matter if you don't find a mate after this tournament. You have plenty of time.”

“I’m 25.”

“So am I but age is just number in that case. You don't need a mate to become king,” Taehyung shrugs like it says it all. Jimin doesn’t need to be mated but he wishes to be.

“You're right,” he mutters.

“Take your time. You'll know when you find the one,” Taehyung says, giving him an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

“That's what my brother always says. Are you a romantic too, Taehyung-ssi?”

“I am,” Taehyung admits proudly.

They talk for what feels like hours, exchanging childhood stories and giving each other advice on princely matters. Jimin falls for Taehyung’s charms, laughing so hard his stomach hurts. Taehyung and Jungkook share the same bluntness that Jimin’s not used to in Sunhae. Taehyung and Jimin have a lot in common and Jimin makes a promise to himself to keep in contact with him; he thinks that he’d like to be friends with him.

“I should go,” Taehyung says when the sun hits its highest position in the sky. “My father is waiting for me to have lunch.” He looks disappointed to have to leave Jimin.

“Of course,” Jimin says, going in for a quick hug that Taehyung happily returns. “It was nice talking to you, Taehyung-ssi.”

“You too. Remember to keep an open mind, okay?” He gives him a cryptic smile, casting a glance behind Jimin’s shoulder. “Sometimes the person we're looking for is not who we expect it to be.”

Jimin doesn’t know what to reply so he simply smiles. Taehyung motions for Seokjin to follow him down the stairs of the pavilion and Jungkook and him are left alone. They stand in silence for a little while, lost in their own thoughts. As usual, it’s Jungkook who breaks the silence first.

“I didn’t know guards and Princes could be in relationships,” Jungkook says, leaning on the railing next to Jimin. His comment makes Jimin laugh. He’s still thinking about Taehyung and Seokjin’s relationship.

“It depends on the Kingdom,” Jimin explains. “Many Sinsan kings are the sons of great Sinsan warriors since your kingdom values strength above all.”

“I didn’t know,” Jungkook hums. “We don’t really hear about what’s going on in the palace in the villages.” He brushes his hair back, eyes unfocused as he loses himself in his own thoughts again. Jimin smiles at him, admiring his sharp jawline, the slope of his big nose, eyes falling to the mole under his bottom lip. Jimin unconsciously licks his own bottom lip, looking away when Jungkook snaps his head to look at him with a blank expression on his face. “Is it possible in Sunhae?”

Jimin gasps at Jungkook’s boldness. Is he implying what Jimin thinks he’s implying? Jimin can’t help but blush, turning his head to the side to avoid Jungkook’s eyes.

“Aren’t you a little too hopeful, Jungkook-ssi?”

“I’m…I’m not asking for myself,” Jungkook stutters. It’s his turn to blush and turn away. 

They look like teenagers, looking away from each other, cheeks as pink as cherry blossoms. Jimin can’t help but laugh at how fast Jungkook lost his confidence. He’s never seen him this shy before.

“It’s possible,” Jimin says, looking down at the water, “but the Park dynasty has different tastes in men. We usually like them well-spoken and polished.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes at that and Jimin feels slightly offended. “That basically means you only go for your own kind.”

“Our own kind?”

“Noblemen. Royalty. Whatever it’s called.” Jungkook shrugs, turning to face Jimin. His confidence is back but this time he also looks heated. His reaction piques Jimin’s interest. “I think Sinsan’s way makes the most sense. Love doesn’t give a shit about titles.”

Jimin raises his eyebrow when Jungkook curses, a smirk on his face. He turns to face Jungkook, leaning one elbow on the railing.

“What if you fall in love with a commoner? Are you going to ignore it just because he’s a commoner? That’s stupid. It shouldn’t even be a factor in choosing your future mate. I think you should listen to your wolf. He knows your heart best.” Jungkook says, head held high.

Jimin is stunned by Jungkook’s fierceness. He didn’t take him for a romantic or for someone who’s as passionate about love. Jungkook surprises him every day; in the best way possible.

“I appreciate your concern for my love life, Jungkook-ssi,” Jimin says in soft voice. ”I wish it was that easy.”

“It should be.”

“It should,” Jimin nods, an amused smile on his lips. Jungkook is quite naive but it’s endearing. “I’m curious about your love life.” Jimin changes the subject. “How’s it been so far? Is anyone waiting for you at home?”

Jungkook is taken aback by Jimin’s question, confident expression turning into a wary one, like he doesn’t like talking himself. Jimin noticed that when he told him about his past and his occupation. Jungkook downplays everything because he’s uncomfortable when the focus is on him.

“I don’t have a home,” Jungkook says, turning to the face the water. “But no, there’s no one,” he mutters under his breath.

“That’s surprising.”

“Why?” Jungkook frowns, looking offended for some reason.

Jimin hesitates for a few seconds. If it was anybody else Jimin would use that conversation as a chance to be flirty but he’s not sure he wants to blur the lines between them just yet.

“It just is,” he simply says. “Have you ever been in love then? You seem to know a lot about it?”

“No.” Jungkook blushes, looking down at the water, a small pout on his lips. “I’ve never been in love. But I like the company of omegas like any other alphas.”

“I bet there wasn’t many omegas where you trained.”

“More than you think.”

“Do you like the company of alphas, too?” Jimin teases, quirking an eyebrow.

“Not particularly.” Jungkook turns to him. He looks straight into Jimin’s eyes when he says, “I like your company.”

Jimin laughs at Jungkook’s boldness, more to hide his nervousness than because it’s funny. Jungkook doesn’t seem to have a problem with blurred lines.

“Many people do, Jungkook-ssi,” Jimin says, giving him a soft smile.

He doesn’t wait for a reply or to watch Jungkook’s reaction, walking down the stairs of the pavilion. Jungkook doesn’t try to flirt with him again as they head to the library and Jimin is thankful because he doesn’t know how to handle it.

~

The next day, Jimin and Jungkook don’t get to spend a lot of time together. Jimin is busy with lectures and spends the rest of his day reading books at the library. When the sun begins its descent in the sky, Jimin opts for a short walk before heading home. Jungkook doesn’t hide his happiness, telling Jimin he’s getting cramps from standing around for so long.

Jungkook is a lot quieter today which Jimin finds unsettling but he doesn’t comment on it. Perhaps he’s tired. Jimin walks towards the east wing of the palace where his dad’s living quarters are. He doesn’t plan on paying him a visit, mainly because his dad is probably still working at this hour, but there’s a garden with pretty waterfalls there that Jimin loves. It’s a part of the palace Jungkook hasn’t seen before.

Before they can enter the east wing, however, they come across Choi Hajoon. The alpha beams at Jimin but Jimin freezes; he’s not allowed to be in this part of the palace. Jungkook stops so close to Jimin that he can feel the warmth of his chest against the back of his shoulder. Hajoon walks up to them and Jungkook is about to say something when Jimin stops him with a flick of hand.

“Prince Jimin,” Hajoon says, stopping in front of Jimin, completely ignoring Jungkook’s presence.

“Hajoon-ssi,” Jimin says, a tight smile on his lips. 

The alpha is releasing pheromones, wildfire scent erasing Jimin and Jungkook’s scents and it’s making Jimin uncomfortable. He’s posturing to try to appeal to Jimin’s omega but Jimin’s omega is less than impressed. Jimin pushes Jungkook back with his elbow as discreetly as possible. Hajoon is too busy staring at Jimin’s lips to notice. Jungkook tries to resist but eventually gives up, taking a step back.

Jimin knows it’s hard for him to listen to Jimin’s orders instead of the king’s but Jimin is thankful that he does. Hajoon is close to King Junsik and it would be considered rude to scold him. The relationship between Sunhae and Sinsan is already fragile enough, Jimin ought to be cordial. 

Fortunately, Jimin is used to acting sweet to manipulate alphas into believing they have control over him. Jimin is a great politician for that exact reason; he makes alphas believe they’re in control and he ends up getting exactly what he wanted from the start. Jimin sweetens his scent, relaxing his tense body and smiling softly at Hajoon.

“Felt like taking a stroll, Hajoon-ssi?”

“I did,” Hajoon nods. “I was hoping our paths would cross and I’m glad that they did. You look beautiful, Your Grace.”

Hajoon’s compliments won’t make his eagerness any less unattractive. By breaking the rules, he just blew all of his chances to get picked by Jimin.

“Thank you very much,” Jimin says. “I’m sorry but I was heading to my father’s quarters.”

“Oh, are you meeting with the king?”

“Yes,” Jimin replies, forcing his scent to stay neutral as he lies.

“Really?” Hajoon quirks an eyebrow, a dark smile on his face. “I hear the king is in a Council meeting, though.”

Jimin doesn’t appreciate getting called out on his lie; it’s rude of Hajoon and a big red flag. He sounds controlling and doesn’t seem to care that he’s making Jimin uncomfortable. His strong scent makes Jimin want to puke but he doesn’t let any emotion show.

“He’s going to meet me once he’s done.”

“Well, then you have a few minutes to spare me,” Hajoon says, taking a step closer to Jimin. Jimin can feel the way Jungkook tenses up behind him, pine scent turning strong enough to overpower Hajoon’s scent. Jimin takes a deep breath, filling his lungs with the familiar scent. His heart is threatening to beat out of his chest.

“Sure,” Jimin says between gritted teeth.

“I hope that you’ll consider me as a potential mate for you, Your Grace. I’m a very strong and very competent alpha.” The way he says it makes his words sound a lot dirtier than they should be and Jimin couldn’t be less turned on by it. He really doesn’t care to hear about how competent Hajoon is because he’ll never get a chance to prove it to Jimin.

Hajoon is too close for comfort, so close that Jimin almost chokes on his wildfire scent. Jimin is frozen in place both out of forced courtesy and shock; he can’t believe how bold this alpha is. He’s a different kind of bold than Jungkook; he’s rude and, quite frankly, creepy. Jimin wants to run away, he wants to tell him to fuck off and never speak to him again but he doesn’t want to cause any troubles to his dad so he keeps his mouth shut.

“I’ll give you a chance as well as the other alphas competing,” Jimin says.

Hajoon dares to take Jimin’s hand in his, “I wish you would only look at me, Your Grace.” He rubs his thumb against Jimin’s wrist before lifting it to his face. Jimin is too shocked to react. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. Your beauty left me breathless when we met.”

And then he does something unacceptable. He brushes his nose against Jimin’s wrist, scenting him without his permission. Jimin shivers in horror, eyes filling with tears of anger. Wildfire erases his citrus scent and bile builds in Jimin’s throat. Jimin doesn’t have time to push Hajoon away before Jungkook’s growl pierces the silence of the palace. Birds fly out of trees, the sounds of their flapping wings matching the rhythm of Jimin’s racing heart.

Jungkook grabs Hajoon by the throat before he can react, pushing him away with brutal force. Jimin startles, catching himself just in time before falling face-first on the floor. His eyes go wide when Hajoon tries to strike Jungkook’s face with his fist but Jungkook is fast; he catches his arm and twists it behind Hajoon’s back, pushing his chest down onto the floor, pinning him down with his knee.

“You’re fucking dead, asshole,” Jungkook growls, eyes as dark as night. Hajoon struggles in Jungkook’s hold but he can’t move under his weight. He’s growling too, jaw snapping like his alpha wants to bite into Jungkook. “You hear me. You’re fucking dead.”

Jungkook pushes Hajoon’s head down until his cheek is pinned to the floor. Jimin feels stupid, frozen in place like he is. Everything happened so quickly, his brain is having a hard time processing; all he feels is anger and anguish, he feels like scratching at his skin until Hajoon’s scent disappears. He holds his wrist to his chest, hand wrapped around it like it’s going to erase it somehow.

Hajoon stops struggling when Jungkook kicks him in the ribs, gritting his teeth to stop a pained groan from escaping his lips. That’s when Jimin snaps out of it. His expression hardens, his back straightens and his eyes turn dark. He walks to Hajoon and crouches next to his face, looking at him with fire in his eyes.

“You’re going to regret that, Hajoon-ssi,” Jimin says, voice ice cold with hatred. Hajoon’s scent turns sour with fear. Jungkook’s eyes don’t leave him when Jimin stands up, waiting for his orders. “We’re gonna have a talk with my father.”

“Jimin-ssi-,” Hajoon tries, pushing against Jungkook’s hold but his words are cut short by Jungkook’s grip around his nape as he forces his face down again.

“Do not dare to speak,” Jimin says, looking down him like he’s dirt under his shoes.

He starts walking in the direction of his father’s office and doesn’t have to look back to know that Jungkook is following him with Hajoon in his grip. There are no sounds of struggles; Hajoon knows there’s no point in fighting his fate. Scenting an omega without their consent is a sign of disrespect especially when said omega is a prince. Scenting is for people omegas are intimate with, for their mate and their family. It’s something personal, meant for wolves to connect on a deeper level, something special meant for special people. Jimin has only ever been scented by his family; he’s never allowed anyone else to do it because it’s something sacred to him, something he wants to save for his future mate.

Hajoon’s scenting was too brief to leave a lasting mark but Jimin’s omega feels like ripping his throat out. He doesn’t claim Hajoon’s alpha nor does he have any interest in him whatsoever.

Jimin spends the way to his father’s office gripping the fabric of his hanbok by his thigh to keep himself grounded. He wants to cry from anger, wants to punish Hajoon for thinking he’s easy; he wants to wash away his scent as soon as possible. Jimin can’t smell anything but woodfire, no matter how hard he tries to fill his lungs with the scent of lotus flowers and flowering pear trees, all he can smell is Hajoon’s stupid scent.

It’s clear to see Jimin is interrupting an important meeting when he enters his father’s office. The king of Sinsan, the king of Pyoncheon and a few other clan leaders are sitting in front of tables, the smell of tea filling the room. They all turn their heads towards Jimin, Jungkook and Hajoon. King Junsik’s eyes widen when he sees the state of Hajoon, standing up in his stupor.

“What’s going on, Jimin?” Jihwan asks, worry in his eyes. It’s clear to see Jimin is shaken up; his hanbok has loosened around his shoulders, revealing his collarbones, a few strands of hair are sticking out when they’re usually pristine and his cheeks are rosy from anger.

“I’m sorry for interrupting, Appa,” Jimin says, bowing ninety degrees. “There’s been a…,” he clears his throat, uncertain of his words. King Junsik’s eyebrows are furrowed, his face is serious and he’s clearly hanging onto Jimin’s every word. “There’s been a commotion.”

“What kind of commotion?” Jihwan asks, eyes trained on Jungkook and Hajoon. His expression darkens as he’s probably starting to piece everything together.

“We came across this alpha in the east wing of the palace,” Jungkook replies, voice loud in the quiet of the office. Jimin tenses up when Jungkook addresses the king without permission to speak.

“That’s it?” King Junsik says, quirking a confused eyebrow at them. “Is that why you’ve beaten one of my men?”

“Your man,” Jungkook says, anger clear in his voice, “scented my prince without his consent.”

Everyone in the room gasps. King Junsik’s face falls, disappointment written all over his expression. Jimin’s dad looks like he’s about to rip Hajoon’s throat out and some leaders in the room have fear in their eyes, others are trying to hide their excitement about what’s about to unfold.

Hajoon escapes out of Jungkook’s hold to throw himself on his knees, bowing until his forehead rests on the floor, hands joined in front of him.

“I am so sorry, King Jihwan,“ he pleads. “I didn’t mean to. I couldn’t control my alpha. Please have mercy on me.”

“It’s not to me that you should apologize to.”

“Prince Jimin. Please, accept my sincere apology. I didn’t mean to offend you. You are just so beautiful. I know I could make you happy.”

“I have no interest in you nor do I have any interest in your apology. As far as I know, you’re dead to me.”

“Prince Jimin,” Hajoon breathes out, staring at him with pleading eyes. Jimin refuses to look at him.

“Quiet,” King Junsik says before turning to Jihwan. “King Jihwan. I am so sorry for this alpha’s behavior. I promise you that I’ll make sure he gets the punishment he deserves. He’s a disgrace to Sinsan and to alphas.”

“My king-” Hajoon attempts to speak again.

“Speak one more time and I’ll cut your throat myself.” There’s hatred and disgust in Junsik’s eyes and Jimin realizes that as pacifist as he claims to be, he’s still a dangerous and powerful king.

“Choi Hajoon,” Jihwan says, stepping in front of Hajoon’s trembling form. “You are not to come back to Sunhae ever again. You are not to approach my son ever again. If you do, you will suffer a painful death.”

Hajoon’s behavior doesn’t deserve the death penalty but he’ll probably never work for the palace again. He’ll probably lose his title and will be sent out into the streets. Jimin thinks it’s a good punishment for such an entitled alpha. Jimin’s never been disrespected like this in his life, he’s never felt this powerless ever in his life. It never crossed his mind that an alpha could ever do that to him. He feels sick, his omega wants to whine and run away. He has to wear Hajoon’s claim until it fades away; people will look at him and think he offered himself to someone that doesn’t deserve him.

Jimin wants to disappear. He feels ashamed and gross.

“Yes, King Jiwhan,” Hajoon says, voice shaky with fear. “I apologize for my mistake.”

“Take him away,” Jiwhan tells his guards.

Hajoon is escorted out of his office and the room falls silent, all eyes trained on Jimin who feels uncomfortable in his own skin. Jimin doesn’t have the strength to pretend like he’s okay; he feels vulnerable in a room full of powerful people. Jungkook takes a step towards him but Jimin can’t take it anymore; he runs out of his father’s office, ignoring his father’s calls of his name.

He runs towards his private quarters, runs so fast his legs ache, hair flowing behind him. Everything around him is blurry, all he can hear is the sound of his heartbeat and Jungkook breathing as he chases after him. He could easily catch up to Jimin but he doesn’t, he keeps his distance and runs with him, behind him. It brings Jimin comfort, makes him feel safer. He’s thankful for Jungkook, thankful for the space he offers him.

Jimin runs until his lungs burn, ignoring the gasps of the servants he comes across. He runs, runs, runs and only stops when he’s inside his courtyard. The guards standing at the entrance stop Jungkook, thinking Jimin is running away from him. But Jimin was running with him.

“Let him in,” Jimin says, turning around to face Jungkook, breath ragged. As soon as the guards let go of him he walks up to Jimin, concern written all over his face. He lifts a hand as if to touch Jimin but stops himself. Jimin stares at him, admiring the way his hair sticks to his temples, the way his chest rises and fall with every breath. Jimin closes his eyes and inhales deeply, filling his lungs with the scent of pine that he’s become so familiar with, body relaxing instantly.

“What can I do?” Jungkook whispers. Jimin opens his eyes. Jungkook looks helpless. “What can I do to help?”

All Jimin wants at this moment is to bury his nose in Jungkook’s scent gland but he can’t. 

“Nothing,” Jimin replies. His throat burns with the scent of woodfire. “You’ve done more than enough.” He smiles at Jungkook.

“What are you gonna do?” Jungkook’s eyes fall to Jimin’s wrist.

“I’ll ask Jihun to scent me.”

Jungkook nods, face turning determined. “I won’t listen to your orders anymore,” he states with fierceness. “From now on, I don’t care who they are, I won’t let any of them get close to you.”

Jimin chuckles, looking down at his feet. His heart races in his chest and he knows it’s not only due to running.

“Okay,” Jimin mutters, nodding. “Thank you.”

They stare at each other for longer than is appropriate but Jimin doesn’t care. He basks in Jungkook’s concern, welcoming the way Jungkook envelops him with his pine scent. It’s not going to stick to his skin for long but it’s enough to placate Jimin’s omega. If Jimin stays any longer he’ll say or do something he shouldn’t do so he forces himself to look away from Jungkook’s beautiful eyes and turns around to walk to Jihun’s quarters.

He doesn’t look back even though his omega is begging him to go back to Jungkook.

~

“How are you?” Jihwan asks Jimin the next day.

“I’m fine, Appa.”

After Jihun thoroughly scented him, Jimin laid in his bath until the water turned ice cold. He didn’t speak to anyone, didn’t stop to eat the food his servants brought him for dinner and went straight to bed. When he woke up this morning he felt like himself again, mind a lot less fuzzy than yesterday. A servant knocked on his door as soon as he was done getting ready  to tell him his father asked for a meeting and so here he is, in his father’s office, Jungkook by his side.

“Hajoon left the palace last night. You don’t have to worry about seeing him again,” Jihwan says. Jimin’s body tenses at the mention of his name but he doesn’t feel sick like he did yesterday. Jungkook moves a little closer to him.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“We’re missing a participant for the tournament,” Jihwan says, sitting on his throne. “I’m afraid it’s too short notice for another alpha to travel from Sinsan to Sunhae. I’m not sure what to do. The tournament has always had 50 participants.” He sighs, crossing his legs.

“Perhaps we should ask an alpha from Sunhae to participate?” Jimin offers. He couldn’t care less about which alpha is going to replace Hajoon but the tournament would be canceled if they didn’t have the right amount of participants. His encounter with Hajoon may have shaken Jimin up but he’s still determined to go through with it.

“Mh.” Jihwan nods. “I guess I could ask the Kan clan if one of their alphas would like to participate.”

“I can do it,” Jungkook says all of a sudden. Jimin turns to him with furrowed brows but Jungkook ignores him.

“What do you mean, Jungkook-ssi?” Jihwan asks, looking intrigued.

“If you just need a participant, I can do it.” Jungkook shrugs like it’s no big deal. “Even if you ask someone from Sunhae wouldn’t it be too short notice with how long it’ll take for them to travel and the time they’ll need to settle in?”

“You’re right,” Jihwan says, the beginning of a smile curling at his lips. “It’s settled then. Jungkook-ssi will be our 50th participant.”

“But…,” Jimin says, looking between both of their satisfied smiles. “Jungkook isn’t from a noble family, Appa.”

“Oh, who cares,” Jihwan says, shrugging as he stands up.

“I just have to participate, My Prince. I don’t have to win,” Jungkook says, turning to him. “In fact, I can lose on purpose if that’s what you want.”

Amusement is written all over his face and Jimin doesn’t know how to interpret it. It’s strange that Jungkook offered to participate in a tournament where the winner gets to court him. What’s more strange is how overjoyed his omega is at the news. Jimin is curious to see how good Jungkook would do in such a tournament.

“Don’t offend me, Jungkook-ssi,” Jimin says, chin tilted up. “You should at least try.”

He smiles at Jungkook before leaving his father’s office, basking in the way Jungkook puffs his chest out and the way his scent turns sweet with joy and excitement.

He misses the way his father smirks at them.

~

“Welcome to Prince Jimin’s tournament!” King Jihwan says to a crowd of fifty alphas. “You all were selected for a chance to complete a series of challenges in hopes of getting the opportunity to court him.”

They’re all standing at the bottom of the mountains outside the palace, waiting for the first challenge to start: hunting. Jimin is standing next to his father in a gorgeous dark blue hanbok and behind them stand the king’s guests. All the alphas’ eyes are on Jimin, looking at him like he’s the best prize to be won.

Jimin spots Jungkook in the crowd. He hasn’t seen him in a while. He’s been replaced by another guard for the last few days. Alphas have to go through a series of meetings where the rules of each challenges are explained to them and so Jungkook’s been busy. Jimin must admit he misses him a lot.

When their eyes meet, Jungkook winks at him. Jimin rolls his eyes and drops his head to hide a smile. 

“For your first challenge, each of you must hunt an animal of your choice and bring it back. The last ten alphas to bring back something will be eliminated,” Jihwan says and all the alphas nod. “It’s your first chance to impress Prince Jimin. On the count of three you may go. 1, 2, 3!”

The alphas disperse into the mountains until they disappear behind trees. Everyone goes to their seats on a platform that was installed especially for the tournament and start conversing with each other. Jimin sits with Jihun, Taehyung and Yoongi. Seokjin is standing with the other guards and Hoseok in front of the platform, casting glances at Taehyung here and there. Namjoon sits with the kings and queens with the other advisors. 

Jimin promised himself to go into this tournament with an open mind but his mind is elsewhere. He's preoccupied with too many things to fully invest himself in what's going on; between his fear of making the wrong choice by choosing the wrong alpha, what happened a few days ago with Hajoon and Jungkook, Jimin is barely keeping it together.

His omega is on edge all the time, the skin on his wrist still burns with the ghost of Hajoon's touch and he feels uneasy every time he comes across an alpha that he doesn't know. Jungkook isn't even by his side to make him feel safe anymore, he has to spend his days with a beta from his father's kingsguard who's way too quiet for Jimin's liking. 

Jimin doesn't feel like himself. The only thing that brings him comfort is thinking about Jungkook which is just another problem to Jimin's long list of problems. Jimin misses his scent, he misses the way his omega feels at peace when he's around; even Jihun's scent isn't enough to placate him anymore. Jimin, no matter what he's doing, can't stop thinking about Jungkook.

He's gotten used to spend time every day, used to the sound of his voice and his snarky remarks, he's used to his comforting presence and his earthy scent. Jimin's omega craves Jungkook's presence and it's something Jimin doesn't know how to deal with because he's never craved anyone's presence before. Jimin is independent and more of a loner than he likes to admit. He's never felt like something was missing until Jungkook came; sometimes it feels like he was the missing piece.

But if Jimin thinks about it for too long he starts to panic because they could never work and Jungkook's never shown any interest in courting him. They're from two completely different worlds; Jungkook is too much of a free spirit and Jimin is tied to his prince duties. Jimin thinks that perhaps he simply likes Jungkook as a friend, that the way he feels around Jungkook isn't romantic. Perhaps, Jungkook is the platonic missing piece he's always been craving.

Or perhaps, Jimin is in denial.

"Do you have a favorite, Jimin-ssi?" Taehyung asks, ripping Jimin out of his thoughts.

He blinks at Taehyung, wondering for a second what he's talking about. "Oh," he says, clearing his throat. "Not really. I want to give everyone a chance."

His reply is concise and made up. Deep down he knows he has a favorite but he's not ready to admit it yet. There's no point in admitting it if Jungkook is just going to lose on purpose.

"There's a lot of handsome alphas, I'm sure you'll find someone to your liking."

"Yes." Jimin smiles at him but it doesn't reach his eyes.

Physical appearance is a criteria when choosing a partner for life but it's not the most important one to Jimin. The tournament is made to evaluate alphas' different abilities like being able to provide for their mate, their strength, their artistic skills and the final challenge, giving Jimin a handmade courting gift. While these are important and something Jimin looks for in a mate, no challenge will ever be able to evaluate chemistry and Jimin is starting to realize that chemistry is probably the most important part of a relationship.

Jimin doesn't feel any with any of these alphas because he doesn't know them, he's never spoken to them. He may find them attractive, strong and talented but is it really enough to decide who he's going to mate? The tournament is made to get a chance to court him so Jimin guesses that he'll evaluate his chemistry with the winner once they start courting each other. But what if he chooses the wrong person? What if there's no chemistry?

Jimin is unsure about everything at the moment. All he knows is what his omega wants and it's very clear his omega wants Jungkook. 

Jimin loses himself in idle chatter, shutting his mind off as best as he can and letting himself get distracted by Taehyung's stories. The bristling sound of trees is like music to Jimin's ears, soft and relaxing. He sits looking at the rocky mountains, the sinewy paths leading to the deeper parts of a forest Jimin used to hunt in with his father. He hasn't been back here in years; it just doesn't feel the same without him.

Jimin perks up a few minutes later when he hears the sound of footsteps coming towards them. The first alpha. Everyone stands up to welcome the winner and Jimin's heart drops when it's not Jungkook. He can't even remember the name of this alpha but everyone is clapping and congratulate him. Jimin doesn't think there's anything impressive with bringing back a pheasant but he claps out of politeness. The alpha lays his game at the bottom of the platform in front of Jimin and bows to him, eyes glistening with pride. Jimin gives him a small smile before sitting back down.

More alphas start coming back after him, each of them bringing back an animal that they've hunted and killed. Jimin's heart drops every time it's not Jungkook and the more alphas are coming back the more worried he's getting. What if Jungkook gets eliminated in the first challenge? A part of Jimin also worries that something might have happened to him but it's silly. Jungkook is a competent alpha, there's not much that he can't take on. 

Jimin loses hope by the 15th alpha and can't even remember the faces of all the alphas that got here first. And then, Jungkook arrives. He's the 18th alpha and he's bringing back the biggest game yet. There's blood all over his green hanbok from the boar he's holding in his arms. Jimin's mouth drops open at the sight. That boar looks heavy but it looks like nothing for Jungkook who's not even breaking a sweat.

Jimin's breath hitches in his throat when their eyes meet. Jungkook looks shy under all the attention he's getting from the guests; they're whistling and screaming praises at him. There's also a hint of pride in the way he puffs his chest out and smiles at Jimin, showing off his bunny teeth. Jimin is too awestruck to clap or congratulate him but it's obvious he's impressed in the way his lips are parted and the way his scent turns sweet, omega keening at Jungkook's hunting skills.

Jungkook drops the boar on top of the other alphas' games and makes a show of bowing to Jimin. He winks at him before joining the other alphas waiting on the side of the platform. Jimin can't take his eyes off of him and it doesn't go unnoticed from Taehyung and Yoongi who snicker at him. Jimin scoffs and looks away, cheeks turning pink with embarrassment.

Jungkook might be in the 18th place but he's the only one Jimin's omega cares about.

The hunt ends two hours later with the last alpha to bring back game. King Jihwan announces the names of the ten alphas eliminated and invites everyone to meet at the Banquet Hall in 4 hours to enjoy a nice dinner together. Jimin doesn't have time to find Jungkook to congratulate him properly as alphas are taken away to wash up.

Jimin decides to go back to his chambers to change and get some time to himself. He opts for a vibrant silky hanbok with gold stars sewn into the sleeves, a silver wolf head pinned to his chest. His lips are tinted pink to match the natural blush of his cheeks. He looks beautiful.

When he comes out of his chambers a few hours later he meets Jungkook. Jimin has to stop himself from beaming; it would give too much away but his scent betrays him. It's sweet and wraps itself around Jungkook so naturally, it feels like his omega has been doing it for years. Jungkook blinks at him, eyes trailing down Jimin's body as he takes him in.

"What are you doing here?" Jimin asks softly. It's dark out now, the courtyard is illuminated by lotus lanterns, casting an orange glow on the side of Jungkook's face. He looks so handsome.

"They don't need us anymore so I thought I'd take my job back just for tonight," Jungkook says, lips curling into a smile.

Jimin feels instantly more at ease with Jungkook. It's like all of his toxic thoughts and problems disappear with a smile.

"You look beautiful," Jungkook adds, eyes shining with the reflection of the lit lanterns. "How have you been?"

"Bored," Jimin chuckles. They start walking in the direction of the Banquet Hall. "My new bodyguard is too quiet."

"Oh, how the tables have turned," Jungkook jokes. "I thought you liked when they were quiet."

"That was then, I'm a new and improved man, now."

Jungkook throws his head back as he laughs, hair falling out of his face and the sound fills Jimin's chest with warmth. The moon looks beautiful in the night sky, shining over them like a halo.

"You didn't have to take your job back," Jimin says, so softly it's almost imperceptible. "You should rest."

"Is this your way of asking me to leave?"

"No." Jimin shakes his head quickly, looking at Jungkook with wild eyes. "That's not what I meant."

"I know." Jungkook chuckles, bumping their shoulders together. "I'm only joking. Why are you so nervous?"

"I'm not nervous." Jimin rolls his eyes.

He is. He is so nervous. Jimin feels like his scent is betraying his feelings too much, he feels like he's going to say something he's not ready to say just because Jungkook looks absolutely beautiful under the moonlight. They're alone in the beautiful palace ground, it's quiet and, in a way, almost romantic. 

"Well, I don't really mind being here. It's been a while since I've been able to annoy my favorite prince," Jungkook says, chest puffed out and a cocky grin on his face.

"How many princes do you have?"

"Just you."

Jimin shouldn't like that so much but his heart is soaring in his chest, omega preening at Jungkook's words. It's getting harder to ignore the flutters in his stomach every time Jungkook calls him his prince or shows any kind of possessiveness over him. Jimin doesn't know why he's indulging him; he shouldn't play with fire. He could keep flirting with Jungkook and in another world, he would but instead, he stops just a few meters away from the  Banquet Hall where they're hidden behind trees and people can't see them yet.

The building is located on a peaceful pond and offers some of the most beautiful views of the palace. It sits on top of stone pillars with wooden stairs connecting the second floor to the first floor. Three stone bridges connect the building to the palace grounds and corners of the balustrades around the island are decorated with sculptures depicting the Park clan's history.

There's already alphas sat at tables on the bottom floor and Jimin can make out his father and King Yoongun on the top floor. The light of the lanterns reflect on the pond water and music can be heard from where Jungkook and Jimin are standing. People are filtering into the banquet hall, guided to their tables by servants.

Jimin turns to face Jungkook. "You did well today but I must admit I expected you to do better," he says, a teasing smile on his face. 

"Did you?" Jungkook chuckles, stepping closer. "I didn't mean to disappoint you, My Prince," he tilts his head. He looks younger when he's playful, a lot less intimidating. Jimin likes seeing him like this. "Would you like me to do better?"

"I did tell you not to offend me." Jimin quirks an eyebrow. Jungkook's scent is all around him, enveloping him like a hug. "But I guess 18th isn't so bad."

Jungkook stares at him for a little too long to be comfortable. The silence between them is charged like they're both daring the other to say something. Jimin doesn't know what to say, he can't tell what Jungkook is thinking. Sometimes it feels like Jungkook is flirting but he can't tell if it's just him being his usual playful self. Jungkook's scent doesn't give anything away either so Jimin just holds his gaze and waits for something. Anything.

His breath hitches in his throat when Jungkook brings his mouth to his ear. The move is so sudden that Jimin almost stumbles but his shock keeps his feet planted on the ground. Suddenly, Jungkook's scent clogs all of Jimin's senses, sending shivers down his spine; his nose is so close to his scent gland, so close he could easily brush the tip of his nose against his neck tattoo. Jungkook's breath is hot on his ear when he speaks.

"It actually only took me 10 minutes to catch my boar but I felt like taking a walk in the beautiful Kangsan mountains I've heard so much about," Jungkook whispers before stepping back. He smiles at Jimin and says, "Have a good night, My Prince." And then he leaves.

Jimin's frozen where Jungkook's left him, trying to process his words.

Ten minutes.

The first alpha to bring his game back arrived forty minutes after the hunt started.

Which means Jungkook was the first alpha to successfully hunt game.

~

The next day, Jimin finds himself standing in front of 40 shirtless alphas in the Main Hall's courtyard.

The second challenge consists of showing off their physical appearance. Jimin has to go through  row of alphas, look at their physique and then eliminate ten of them. It's not that hard of a challenge, especially for Jimin, and usually attracts a lot of guests. Alphas don't usually have a problem with showing skin but Jimin's cheeks are burning. He's often the center of attention but this just feels a little too intimate to be watched.

Every time Jimin stops in front of an alpha they straighten their backs and puff up their chests, head held high with confidence. Objectively, they're all attractive but none of them really do it for Jimin who doesn't spend more than a minute trailing his eyes up and down their bodies.

The crowd is chattering about their favorite alpha and most omegas are swooning. There's a group of servants hidden behind the Main Hall's building who couldn't help but stop and stare.

It's the middle of the afternoon and the sun is shining. It's a particularly hot day and the heat is making the alphas' skins glisten with sweat. Jimin is starting to get a headache, nose filled with too many scents. 

Jimin's omega is anticipating one thing and one thing only: seeing Jungkook.

And boy does he see him.

Standing in the third row, Jungkook stands out with all the tattoos on his chest. As soon as Jimin's eyes fall to Jungkook's body he can't think anymore; his tunnel vision is on the alpha and everyone else around them is forgotten. Jimin barely looks at the alpha standing next to Jungkook and misses the way he scoffs unhappily. 

Jimin stops in front of Jungkook and stares at him in the eyes. Jungkook's face is blank but his eyes are glistening with mirth and his scent betrays how shy he feels in front of Jimin. Jimin feels breathless as his eyes trail down Jungkook's muscular chest; it's well defined and covered in black ink that Jimin had no idea was there.

His tattoos are beautiful just like him. There's a wolf head on his left pectoral, a depiction of each moon cycle one side of his ribs and a list of names on his other ribs that Jimin guesses belong to his family. There's a tiger lily on his right forearm and pine trees on his left one. His biceps are covered with symbols that Jimin don't know the meaning of. Jimin wants to trace his fingers against the drawings but he stops himself. He's not allowed to touch the alphas.

Instead, he traces them with his eyes.

Jungkook is like a work of art; it's like his entire life is on his body and Jimin wants to hear about the stories behind each and every one of them. His body is impressive; his abs and chest are well defined and the V of his hips look more than inviting. Jimin's heart is racing and the way his scent turns sweeter gives everything away. His omega is more than pleased with Jungkook's appearance and if it was up to him he'd present right here and there.

Jimin's cheeks burn at the thought. He knows he's been standing there for way too long compared to the other alphas but he can't take his eyes off of Jungkook. His eyes are trained on Jungkook's happy trail disappearing inside his pants and he allows himself to wonder if Jungkook is well endowed. As soon as the thought crosses his mind and his scent turns heavy with arousal, he snaps out of it. Some alphas are looking at him with interest and others are glaring at Jungkook who's cheeks have turned a bright shade of pink.

They avoid each other's eyes and Jimin clears his throat before moving on to the next alpha. He forces himself to look for longer than he cares for but he can't even remember what the alpha looks like when he moves on to the next one.

He spends the rest of the challenge wishing for it to end so he can hide in his chambers and never come back out again. Jimin is mortified when he gets back to his father and brother's side and they snicker at him. Everyone saw that he couldn't look away from Jungkook and some people probably smelled his arousal, Jungkook included. 

Jimin doesn't think he can ever face Jungkook again.

When his father asks him who he's decided to eliminate, Jimin names ten random alphas that he can barely remember the name of. They all look devastated but Jimin doesn't have the heart to care when he's pretty sure he can feel slick pooling out of his hole.

~

That night Jimin doesn't feel like going to the Banquet Dinner so he tells his father that he'll eat in his chambers and go to bed early. Instead, he decides to go to his favorite pavilion to enjoy the quiet of the lake. He's accompanied by his new bodyguard who doesn't dare breaking the silence.

Jimin's skin burns every time he thinks about Jungkook's body and no matter how hard he tries he can't seem to think about anything else. Unlike warriors he hasn't mastered the way to keep his scent neutral in situations like these. He's glad that his new bodyguard isn't the type to mention the way Jimin's scent turns thickly sweet when hi mind conjures up images of Jungkook's naked chest.

It's been way too since he's gotten laid. Jimin has seen better chests than Jungkook's and none of them had that effect on him. Jimin's omega is begging to be let out and take matters into his own hands but Jimin won't allow it. He's a prince, he can't allow himself to lose control and make rash decisions.

It doesn't matter how horny he is or how his heart always goes wild when he's near Jungkook, Jimin can't go there. 

Jimin's peace is disturbed by the sound of someone climbing up the stairs of the pavilion and he knows who it is right away. He would recognize that scent from miles away.

"I've got this," Jungkook says to the other guard. Jimin doesn't have to turn around to know he doesn't put up much of a fight. Everyone knows Jimin favors Jungkook.

Jungkook leans against the railing next to Jimin but he doesn't say anything. Jimin feels too shy to look at him. They settle into a comfortable silence, enjoying each other’s presence and the quiet of the night. The only sound that can be heard are the hooting of owls and the wind rippling water. 

Silence never lasts long between them, however and as usual it's Jungkook that breaks it.

"Have you never seen tattoos before?" he asks, turning his head to look at Jimin. 

"I have." Jimin licks his bottom lip nervously. He doesn't know why he expected Jungkook to pretend as if nothing happened. He has a knack for pointing out the obvious. "I've just never seen that many on someone."

"Ah," Jungkook breathes out, an amused man curling at his lips. "So, you've never been with a Sinsan man, then? We all have a lot of tattoos."

Jimin is thankful that it's dark out so Jungkook can't see his pink cheeks. He's not in the right headspace to talk about his sex life with the alpha that he's apparently turned on by. He's still trying to process that new discovery.

"Sinsan men have never really been my type."

Before a few weeks ago, Jimin would have never blinked twice at Sinsan men. They're too loud, too brutish and improper but Jimin sees them differently now. They're also loyal, honest and exciting. 

"Perhaps your type has changed, My Prince," Jungkook says, smirking. Jimin never thought his type would change so drastically in such a short amount of time but life is full surprises. Perhaps his type isn’t Sinsan men but just Jungkook. "You smelled exceptionally sweet earlier."

Jimin wants to jump off this pavilion. He's taken aback by how straightforward Jungkook is but it's not like him to back now from a little bit of flirting.

"You have a great physique, Jungkook-ssi," Jimin says, turning to face him, holding onto the railing. He tries to exude the confidence that he doesn't feel. "I'm not blind. It doesn't mean you're my type."

"Thank you," Jungkook says, a satisfied grin on his lips. He mimics Jimin's position and tilts his head to the side. "You know.," he hums. "I thought you would have eliminated me by now but for some reason I'm still here."

Jimin snorts, rolling his eyes.  "I just like playing fair."

"Right."

They stare at each other, tension thick between them. Jimin can't look at Jungkook without imagining his naked chest, how strong he looks under his hanbok and all the things he could do to him. Jungkook is a very attractive alpha, that much is obvious, but there's something else about him that makes Jimin want more than just meaningless sex. It's the way he looks at Jimin like he hung all the stars in the sky, the way he always asks if Jimin is okay, the way he makes Jimin laugh.

Jimin never gets bored when he's with Jungkook. Jungkook brings out a side of Jimin that he didn't know he had. The free-spirited side of himself that he probably used to have when he was a kid, when his father was still alive. Jimin wants to throw everything away, forget about his duties, forget about everything that isn't Jungkook when he's with him and that's a dangerous thought.

"You smell really good," Jungkook breathes out. It sounds so intimate, like one would speak to his lover and it's making Jimin's heart race. Jungkook is so close yet not close enough. "Are you in pre-heat by any chance?"

Jimin's eyes widen and he gasps, cheeks turning a vibrant red. If it was anyone else who asked him that Jimin would have slapped them but for some reason his omega is pleased that Jungkook's alpha cares to ask. 

"What kind of question is that?" Jimin says, shock obvious in his voice.

"I'm just asking." Jungkook shrugs, smirking. Jimin feels unnerved which is a feeling he's familiar with when Jungkook gets too cocky. There's pride and playfulness in Jungkook's scent that makes Jimin's omega feel giddy.

"You're so... so....," Jimin scoffs, taking a step back and facing the water. He's speechless. No one's ever asked him such a blunt question.

"Use your words, My Prince," Jungkook whispers as he steps closer to him. Jimin shivers when he feels the warmth of Jungkook's chest against his shoulder.

"You really have no shame!" Jimin exclaims, putting a hand on Jungkook's chest to push him away. He gulps when he feels the muscles under his palm, heat pooling at the pit of his stomach. He takes his hand off like he's been burned and says, "I'm tired. Goodnight, Jungkook-ssi."

He hurries down the stairs and almost falls over when Jungkook says, "I'm here if you need anything."

~

The next day's Banquet is special as it's where the third challenge will take place.

The tables are placed in a circle, leaving space in the middle for alphas to perform a dance they've prepared especially for Jimin. Jimin asked for it to be one of the challenges as he's dancer himself and would love for his future mate to share the same passion, or to at least be somewhat talented.

It's the middle of dinner and some guests are already too drunk to pay attention to the performances. Some are laughing loudly with each other and others have fallen asleep on their table. Jimin is sat with Taehyung and Yoongi who love to share their opinions on each performance like they're professionals. Their comments make Jimin laugh and while none of the performances have really caught his eye, he's still having a good time.

His stomach is full and his cheeks are flushed from the three glasses of wine he drank. As usual, he’s anticipating Jungkook’s performance above all else. He wonders how Jungkook will do; he doesn’t strike Jimin as a dancer. A warrior with his background probably didn’t have much time to dance or do anything artistic in his life. 

He hasn’t seen Jungkook since their conversation on the pavilion last night but Jimin hasn’t stopped thinking about him for one second.

A performance ends and everyone who’s lucid enough clap to congratulate the alpha. Jimin smiles at him before taking a sip of his wine. Jimin has lost count of how many alphas have performed already but his heart starts to race when he smells Jungkook’s scent. 

When Jungkook enters the circle Jimin’s jaw drops. He’s shirtless, chest glistening with sweat already, pants hanging low on his hips. He stops in the middle and hides the bottom of his face with a fan, eyes trained on Jimin. His hair is parted in the middle, eyebrows on full display and the fire of the lanterns reflect in his dark eyes. He takes Jimin’s breath away; he can’t hear or see anything but Jungkook. There’s electricity in the air when their eyes meet, both of their scents turning sweeter.

The first note of traditional drum-based song starts playing and Jungkook starts moving. He’s good. He’s more than that. His movement are both sharp and fluid, he’s graceful and strong, the fan is like another part of him. He slides across the floor like water, looks boneless when he moves his body. Jimin can’t take his eyes away; his omega is in complete awe.

There’s nothing Jungkook can’t do; he’s full of surprises. Jimin is itching to join him. He wants to dance with the alpha, feel his body against his; he wants to connect with him in this way, souls dancing in unison. 

Jimin loses his breath every time Jungkook looks at him as he rolls his body; heat pooling in the pit of his stomach. The way Jungkook moves his hips is giving Jimin ideas; he’s starting to sweat himself, feels too hot in his emerald green hanbok. He’s flushed from the wine and his obvious desire for Jungkook. Jimin is too lost in Jungkook to control his scent or his body. He thinks he hears Taehyung and Yoongi snickering at him but he doesn’t pay attention to them.

Jungkook is dancing for him like there’s no one else in the room.

He dances with confidence and grace and Jimin knows at this moment that he’ll never feel like this for anyone else in his life. The way his heart is soaring, the butterflies in his belly when Jungkook smiles at him, the way his hands get clammy when Jungkook flirts with him because he’s so nervous. No one makes Jimin nervous. But Jungkook has turned Jimin’s world upside down; he’s made a home in Jimin’s heart. 

Jungkook ends his performance in front of Jimin table, chest heaving as he looks down at him with soft eyes. Jimin can barely hear everyone’s cheers over the sound of his heartbeat. Jimin doesn’t want Jungkook to go and his omega doesn’t want to watch another alpha dance for him. He just wants Jungkook.

Jungkook bows and winks Jimin before leaving and Jimin is left with feelings he doesn’t how to deal with and heat under his skin he doesn’t know how to get rid of.

That night, when Jimin finds himself alone in his chambers, images of Jungkook dances in his mind, slick pouring out of his hole as he pleasures himself with Jungkook’s name on his lips.

~

After seeing it two times Jimin should be used to seeing Jungkook shirtless but every time he sees the beautiful ink on his tanned skin, Jimin’s breath hitches in his throat.

It’s hard even looking at Jungkook without thinking about the way he let himself go last night, moaning Jungkook’s name when he had three fingers into his ass. Jimin doesn’t pleasure himself often unless he’s in heat; usually when he’s in the mood he seduces an alpha and spends a few hours with him.

Thinking about someone while he pleasured himself is something he’s never done before and thinking about Jungkook, in particular,  intensified the force of his orgasm. Jimin liked it so much that he made himself come twice.

So, when his eyes meet Jungkook’s, Jimin can’t help but a look away. He wouldn’t say he’s ashamed of himself but he feels like it’s written all over his face like people can tell he made himself come so hard he cried. Because of Jungkook.

It’s like his omega wants the world to know Jungkook has that effect on him with the way his scent turns thick every time he looks at him for too long. It’s embarrassing when he’s sitting next to his dad and his brother. So, he refuses to look at Jungkook altogether. For the duration of this challenge at least.

In the fourth challenge, alphas have to wrestle each other out of a circle made of stones until one alpha is left. The last ten to leave the circle will move on to the next challenge. And of course, since this tournament is for entertainment, the alphas will fight shirtless. 

“Ready, set, fight!” a guard yells and the sound of skin on skin and muscle hitting muscle is loud in the courtyard.

Jimin gasps as one alpha gets thrown out of the circle right away, landing on his ass. He growls, punching the floor before standing up. He’s upset. The other alphas put up a good fight, grabbing each other’s legs to make each other fall to the ground and pushing each other like bulls until one of them is out of the circle. Jimin finds it entertaining, although he can barely decipher who’s who. 

Alphas get thrown out of the circle one by one and all of them put up a good fight. It doesn’t take long for Jimin’s eyes to find Jungkook and as soon as he does he can’t look away. He lets out a defeated sigh; there’s no point in trying to ignore him, his omega will never agree to that.

Jungkook is quick on his feet and very agile, he uses the force of his opponents movement to throw them over his shoulder and push them out of the circle. He’s smart and Jimin understands why his father hired him.

“He’s an incredible fighter,” Jihun says, ripping Jimin out of his thoughts.

“Who?”

“You know who.” Jihun chuckles. “Your alpha.”

“He’s not my alpha,” Jimin scoffs, elbowing Jihun’s arm. He didn’t think he was that obvious.

“You should tell that to your omega. I don’t think you realize you release pheromones every time you’re with him.”

“No, I don’t,” Jimin gasps, looking mortified. “You’re lying.”

“I’m not.” Jihun laughs.

Jimin has never felt more embarrassed and more betrayed in his life. He had no idea. He can’t believe his omega would do that without his permission. He doesn’t need to release pheromones to attract alphas; there’s no need to go to such lengths. Jimin groans, hiding his face in his hands. 

The fact that he’s been doing that all this time and Jungkook never made a move is impressive. Jungkook either has a lot of self-control or he’s really not interested in Jimin which would be devastating. Jimin, although he’s slowly accepting that perhaps, maybe he has feelings for Jungkook, still isn’t ready to dive into whatever having feelings for someone entails.

He’s never had feelings for anybody but he knows that some type of confession needs to happen that then leads to a relationship. Jimin still thinks that’s a bad idea. If he wasn’t the Prince of Sunhae and if Jungkook wasn’t a farmer’s son turned into warrior, Jimin would have made a move already but, unfortunately, Jimin doubts Jungkook has any interest in becoming a consort. Jimin doesn’t even know how his dad would react if he told him he wants to be with a farmer’s son. Parks have always gotten married with people of their own rank as far as Jimin knows.

“He’s really handsome,” Jihun comments, a cheeky smile on his face. “I see why you would be smitten.”

“I’m not smitten ,” Jimin replies, rolling his eyes. “Will you stop talking? I’m trying to focus on the fight.”

Jihun snorts and shakes his head in amusement. There’s only eight alphas left which means they’re all qualified for the next challenge but the winner of this one will prove his physical strength to Jimin which is a big source of pride for alphas and something omegas are attracted to.

Jimin can’t help but notice that Jungkook is fighting hard to the point where most of the opponents try to avoid being against him. Jimin wonders why he still hasn’t thrown the competition, why he’s trying so hard to win when he’s already qualified.

It doesn’t take long for Jungkook and another alpha to push their opponents out of the circle. They’re the only two left and the crowd’s cheers become louder as they start fighting. They’re panting and sweating, hair sticking to their foreheads. They growl at each other and run towards each other, grabbing at naked skin to get a good enough grip to push the other out of the circle. 

Jungkook bends down and grabs the other alpha’s leg, making him fall onto his back with a loud thud, the other alpha doesn’t have time to fight back before Jungkook throws him over his shoulder and throws him on the floor outside of the circle, in front of Jimin.

Jimin’s eyes widen, dust flying on the bottom of his hanbok as the losing alpha lies there, panting heavily.

Jungkook wins.

Jimin looks up and Jungkook is smirking at him, a proud look on his face. Jimin can’t help but smile back. The crowd cheers and clap, yelling praises at Jungkook as a guard declares him the winner.

“Looks like he’s willing to fight for you,” Jihun says, leaning into Jimin’s side.

Jimin’s omega celebrates Jungkook’s win by making his scent sweeter and stronger, and for the first time Jimin sees how it affects Jungkook. His nostrils flare, his chest swells with satisfaction and his pupils dilate.

Jihun was right. 

He’s been sending Jungkook signals.

And Jungkook has been responding to them.

~

Jimin misses Jungkook even though he saw him yesterday. But seeing him during a challenge isn’t the same as spending the whole day with him. Jimin misses his conversations with Jungkook, his snarky remarks, and his teasing. He just misses his presence in general. He used to like the quiet but the quiet feels suffocating when Jungkook isn’t here.

It’s the middle of the afternoon and Jimin is taking a walk, his bodyguard trailing after him. He’s bored. He has no duties this week because of the tournament so he spends most of his days reading, going on walks with Taehyung and hanging out with Yoongi.

The alphas are all busy with preparing the final challenge. They have to make a handmade courting gift that they will offer to Jimin tomorrow and Jimin will only accept the winner’s courting gift, the one he’s chosen as a potential mate. Jimin’s omega knows exactly what he wants and the courting gift won’t change that but Jimin is still torn about many things. He’s been torturing himself with the same thoughts this whole week and he’s exhausted.

As usual, he goes to his favorite pavilion. He stops in his tracks when he sees Jungkook sitting at the bottom of the pavilion playing with something in his hand. Jimin’s heart soars when he sees the alpha; his chest fills with warmth and it feels like coming home. Jimin doesn’t waste any time before joining him.

“What are you doing here?” Jimin asks, stopping in front of Jungkook who hides whatever he has in his hand in his hanbok. He looks up at Jimin and beams.

“I’m just relaxing. I like it here.”

For some reason, that does something to Jimin. He’s glad that Jungkook likes his favorite place in the palace.

“Can I join you?”

“Of course.”

Jimin sits on the grass next to him, not leaving much space between them. He can feels the warmth of Jungkook’s body against his side and he relaxes, closing his eyes to soak in the sun shining on his face. They sit in silence for a little while; they don’t need to talk to feel comfortable in each other’s presence; but there’s still tension between them that Jimin doesn’t how to break. All he knows is that he could stay like this forever, with Jungkook by his side, his pine scent enveloping him like a warm hug.

Jimin is the one who breaks the silence this time.

“Congratulations on winning the last challenge,” he breathes out, opening his eyes to look at Jungkook’s profile. “You fought well.”

“Thank you.”

Jungkook is uncharacteristically quiet; almost shy as he looks at his fidgeting fingers. Jimin wishes he could read his mind to know if he’s thinking about him as much as he does. After yesterday, Jimin thinks that perhaps Jungkook feels the same way about him or at least is attracted to him. There’s no reason to have fought so hard yesterday except for wanting a chance to court Jimin.

Perhaps, it’s just wishful thinking. Either way, Jimin feels like he should ask.

“Why haven’t you thrown the competition, yet? You have to make me a courting gift, now.”

“Well,” Jungkook says, confidence coming back to him as he smirks at Jimin, “you said you didn’t want me to offend you so I’m competing to the best of my abilities.”

“Oh.” Jimin doesn’t try to hide his disappointment.

There’s silence again but this time it’s heavy with awkwardness. Jimin looks away, playing with the grass by his hips. He wanted Jungkook to have a better answer, something that would indicate his interest in Jimin but it’s always the same answer. If Jungkook was interested in him, surely, he’d be courting him. He’s the only alpha Jimin spends time with but he hasn’t tried anything other than some playful teasing. 

What they have is too ambiguous for Jimin to make a move. He doesn’t want to show interest if he’s going to get rejected. He shouldn’t even show interest when he’s so uncertain about a possible future with Jungkook. Jimin probably is thinking too far ahead but the way he feels for Jungkook is so intense and different from what he’s ever experienced that it must mean it’s special.

Some would probably call it love.

“It’s not in my nature to throw a competition, My Prince,” Jungkook says, clearing his throat. There’s a hint of anxiety in his scent that doesn’t sit right with Jimin. He wants to take Jungkook’s hand and release calming pheromones but it would be inappropriate. “And, I must admit that you’ve piqued my interest.”

Jimin’s heart skips a beat, hands going clammy with something akin to anticipation and fear. Fear of interpreting Jungkook’s words in the wrong way. Jimin’s scent turn sour; a perfect match to Jungkook’s. Jungkook looks at him but Jimin is too nervous to look back. This could mean anything. Perhaps, it means Jungkook is simply intrigued by Jimin which doesn’t really mean much.

“Have I?” Jimin mutters. “I must be different from Sinsan omegas.”

“Very different.” Jungkook nods, a small smile on his face. “I like it. I like you .”

Jimin is too overwhelmed to reply. He’s not sure he heard that right or that Jungkook meant it the way Jimin wants him to mean it. Liking someone means nothing and everything at once. His heart is beating so loud in his ears that Jimin can barely hear anything else. He thought he wanted Jungkook to show interest but now that he’s doing it he doesn’t know how to react.

He’s happy and scared; excited and shocked that someone like Jungkook would like him. He’s so different and Jimin feels like his life is too boring for someone like Jungkook. He could have any omega in the world, someone who’s adventurous like him, who doesn’t care about people’s opinions of them, someone who isn’t tied down to a palace that sometimes feel more like a prison than a home.

And yet, if Jimin believes what Jungkook is saying, he’s interest in a Prince who is sometimes cold and has unresolved resentment against his kingdom.

Jungkook must be crazy to like someone like Jimin.

“Look, Jimin-ssi,” Jungkook says and Jimin shivers at the way he says his name. Jungkook kneels in front of Jimin and Jimin gasps when Jungkook takes one of his hands. Jungkook’s hands are rough compared to his soft ones and they’re a lot warmer. Jimin feels like he’s going to faint when his eyes meet Jungkook’s determined ones. 

“I know that you’re a prince and I’m warrior,” Jungkook continues, voice shaky with nerves. ”I’m a simple farmer’s son but…” He licks his lips, scent going haywire with all of the emotions he’s feeling. “I’m a good man. I have a good heart and I promise you that if you give me a chance, I will prove to you that I can be worthy of your interest. I can treat you right. So, please, consider me as a potential suitor when you make your choice tomorrow. That’s all I ask.”

“Jungkook-” Jimin breathes out but Jungkook cuts him.

“You don’t have to answer now,” he says, eyes wide with panic. Does he think Jimin will reject him? “I just wanted you to know how I feel.”

Jimin is speechless. He stares at Jungkook in silence, hoping that he’ll understand how he feels with just a look but Jungkook’s panic only grows, making his scent bitter. Jimin’s omega is over the moon because their alpha just confirmed he wants them just like they want him. Jimin’s cheeks turn pink when a wave of possessiveness washes over him. If it was up to Jimin’s omega he’d be on Jungkook’s lap, scenting him until his pine scent is replaced by citrus.

Jimin is too shocked by the sudden confession to move but his entire being is yelling at him to take Jungkook into his arms and hold him until there’s no hint of fear left in his scent. Jimin’s eyes fall to Jungkook’s lips for a second before Jungkook stands up.

“I’ll go now,” he says, giving Jimin a tight smile. “Have a good day, My Prince.”

And then he flees, turning on his heels without looking back even once, leaving Jimin at their favorite pavilion. Jimin is alone again and he really needs to figure out what he wants because tomorrow he has a choice to make.

~

Jimin has never felt more nervous in his life, standing in front of a crowd of noblemen and royals.

The time has come for the final challenge. Ten alphas are standing before him, each holding a gift they made especially for Jimin who’s heart is threatening to beat out of his chest. Jimin couldn’t sleep last night because all he could think about was Jungkook’s confession. It still doesn’t feel real; he’s still not sure how he ended up here when all he wanted was to find a nice nobleman to spend time with until they fell in love.

Instead, he fell for a Sinsan warrior; an alpha he should hate for his kingdom killed his father. Jimin wonders what his father would say if he’d tell him to follow his heart or to choose with his head because marrying a farmer’s son isn’t something Parks do. Jimin has been too scared to talk to his dad and brother about it, although he doesn’t have to tell Jihun for him to know.

He should have. He should have asked for advice because right now he feels lost and he feels like he’s going to pass out any minute. All eyes are on him; everyone is waiting for him to choose their son, their brother, warrior. No one here is rooting for Jungkook and Jimin knows it. Everyone expects him to choose someone from his rank and Jimin thinks it would be easier if he did.

He doesn’t want to disappoint his dad or his kingdom by making the wrong choice.

Alphas step in front of Jimin one by one to present their gift to him and make a small speech to profess their interest in Jimin. They offer him necklaces, vases, clothes, rings, and even food but Jimin isn’t moved by any of them. He listens to them speak and his heart doesn’t race at their compliments or at the way they look at him. Their scents don’t make something curl in Jimin’s stomach the way Jungkook’s does.

Jimin can see pride written all over the alphas’ families after they finish their speech; some of them look like they’re certain Jimin will choose them because there’s no way the Prince of one of the most powerful clans in South Korea will choose someone that isn’t worthy of his title.

Jungkook is the last one to stand before Jimin and Jimin’s breath hitches in his throat when their eyes meet. He notices the way Jungkook’s nostrils flare and the way his eyes darken when Jimin’s omega releases pheromones which pleases Jimin immensely. Jungkook takes something small out of his hanbok.

“Prince Jimin,” he starts, clearing his throat when his voice shakes. He straightens his back and puts on a mask of confidence. “I made this bracelet for you.” He opens his palm to show Jimin. “There’s an emerald stone in the middle because it’s your father’s birthstone and I know how much he meant to you. I hope that you’ll accept it and wear it with pride. I think it would look beautiful on you.”

Jungkook's gift is so thoughtful that Jimin feels like crying. Jimin has no idea how Jungkook got that emerald stone but it's the most beautiful bracelet he's ever seen. His father had a ring with an emerald stone too but he got buried with it. Jimin used to play with it whenever he sat on his father's lap when he read him stories as a kid. He never told Jungkook but the fact Jungkook asked around to know his father's birth month makes his heart swell with love.

“I don’t think anyone would be better suited for you than me," Jungkook continues. He speaks so softly people probably can't hear him, like his words are only met for Jimin. "I think that you feel it too. That pull between us." He chuckles, eyes shining with emotion. "You are the most incredible man I’ve ever met and I want a chance to stay by your side. I want a chance to court you properly. I want you to laugh with me, spend time with me, fall in love with me. I want to show you the world and support you through everything." He takes a deep breath, looking at Jimin with the softest eyes. Jimin feels like his heart is going to explode. "Jimin-ssi," he whispers his name with reverence. "Give me a chance and I’ll make you the happiest omega in the world.”

Jimin smiles at him, the kind of smiles that's only reserved for the special people in his life. Love must be written all over his face because Jungkook lets out a relieved sigh. Jungkook must be the most romantic and softest alpha he's ever met. It's a side of Jungkook he wants to see more of. He wants to know how Jungkook acts when he's not on the job, how he acts in the privacy of a room with just the two of them. He wants to get to know him inside and out, wants to spend every single second with him and fill his lungs with his scent until he's dizzy with it.

Jungkook is told to go back to his spot next to the other alphas and then Jimin's father speaks.

“Thank you everyone for making such beautiful gifts for my son," he says, voice loud in the courtyard. "This tournament has finally come to an end. You’ve all put a lot of effort into impressing Prince Jimin and I thank you for your participation. It is now time for my son to choose the winner. Jimin." 

Everyone looks at him expectantly, voices hushed as people whisper the name of the alpha they want Jimin to pick. Jimin is sweating under the afternoon sun, long hair sticking to the back of his neck. He knows what everyone wants him to say. He knows what everyone expects of him. There's weight on his shoulder that he's always been able to carry because life has always been simple, he's never been introduced to a perspective other than marrying a Prince or a nobleman.

He always thought he knew what he wanted in a mate but he realizes now that he knew nothing.

Jimin shivers when a gust of wind washes over him and makes the bottom of his hanbok fly before it washes over Jungkook's face, pushing his hair back from his forehead. A faint smell of rain and pine trees comes with it and Jimin feels like he's been punched in the chest. His dad and he look at each other, eyes glistening with emotion. His father's scent.

His father. Telling him to follow his heart.

Jimin doesn't have to think for another second.

"Jeon Jungkook."

The crowd gasps, shock written all over their faces when he says the name of the man he loves. 

Jimin only cares about Jungkook's reaction and the alpha is beaming, smile so big his cheeks must be hurting. He's never looked more beautiful than he does at this moment. Jimin feels like a weight has been lifted off of his chest; it feels like he can finally breathe. 

This is what his father would have wanted for him.

Jungkook is what his father would have wanted for him.

And when he turns to look at his dad's smile, he knows that he made the right choice.

~

Jimin's skin is burning with anticipation as his servants get him ready for the final banquet. He didn't have time to speak to Jungkook after he made his choice because Jungkook was taken to his quarters to get ready too but they exchanged a knowing smile before they were separated.

Jimin wants to look pretty for Jungkook so he decided to wear his most gorgeous white hanbok, made of silk and with stars and moons embroidered with gold thread. His cheeks are colored a light pink, his lips look glossy and his eyes are catlike with the black eyeshadow he's wearing. It takes him three hours to get ready because he took a long bath with essential oils and he smells amazing.

The walk to the banquet hall feels like an eternity. His body is buzzing with excitement to be reunited with Jungkook. He's chosen him and now they have all the time in the world to get to know each other. They haven't talked about how they'll make it work which is quite scary but Jimin doesn't want to think about it just now. Tonight, he wants to enjoy a delicious dinner with the alpha of his dreams.

Jimin finds Jungkook one of the bridges that leads to the banquet hall and he looks magnificent. He's wearing a fancy hanbok like Jimin but his is made of black silk with moons embroidered with silver thread. Jimin is left breathless at the sight of him.

"Wow, you look beautiful," Jungkook breathes out, eyes trailing down Jimin's body. Jimin's omega swoons at the compliment.

"Thank you. So do you do."

"I feel weird wearing these clothes." Jungkook chuckles, playing with the silky fabric. 

"You suit them. You look like a prince."

Jungkook's cheeks turn pink and Jimin finds that he loves complimenting the alpha very much. He always gets flustered which Jimin finds adorable.

"I think I’d make a great prince," Jungkook says, puffing his chest out as he winks at Jimin. Jimin rolls his eyes at him. Jungkook always hides his shyness with cockiness.

"Let’s go in, they’re probably waiting for us."

They go to the second floor of the banquet hall where the usual guests are already sat at their tables enjoying a glass of wine. Jungkook usually eats on the first floor with the other alphas and the guards. A servant leads them to their tables next to each other and they're served a glass of wine too.

"I feel like everyone is looking at us," Jungkook whispers against the rim of his glass.

"They are."

Most guests are looking at them with curious looks like they can't believe Jimin actually chose a commoner over a royal but Jimin doesn't particularly care. He's happy with his choice and no is going to ruin that for him. When Jimin looks at his dad, he winks at him which makes Jimin laugh. Jihun gives him a thumbs up.

Servants filter into the room to put food on their tables and everyone starts eating after the king takes his first bite.

"They’re just looking at you," Jungkook says around a mouthful of rice. "You look so pretty."

"Stop it," Jimin swats at his shoulder and has to stop a giggle from escaping his lips. He'll never get used to Jungkook's compliments. 

"What?" Jungkook shrugs as he swallows his food. "I’m just being honest." He bumps their shoulders together. "Thank you for choosing me. I feel… really happy and excited."

He smells like it too. Jimin's omega is on cloud nine with how sweet Jungkook's scent is which is a telltale sign of how content he feels. 

"Your speech was really sweet."

"I was so nervous I thought I was going to pass out."

"You did well." Jimin chuckles, looking at him with sincere eyes. It's an understatement, really. Jimin felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest when Jungkook made his speech. It's not a feeling he'll ever forget.

"Will you go on a walk with me after dinner?" Jungkook asks.

"I’d love to."

Jungkook's forgotten all about his food; he's chosen to stare at Jimin instead. Jimin almost chokes around a piece of fish when he swallows from how nervous he feels. When he turns to look at Jungkook, he shivers. Jungkook looks like a lovesick fool.

"What?" Jimin asks, cheeks turning pink.

"Ah, really." Jungkook shakes his head and leans into Jimin's side. "You look so beautiful. It’s hard for me not to look at you."

"You are so generous with your affection today. What’s gotten into you?"

"I’m allowed to openly flirt with you, now." Jungkook raises his eyebrows and bites on his bottom lip. Jimin's eyes trail down his face and something hot coils in his stomach when Jungkook licks his lips. Jimin wants to kiss him so bad.

"Not in public. My dad is right there." He tilts his head towards the king who isn't even looking at them.

"I’m sure he’s used to you smelling like that," Jungkook smirks, pupils dilating when he inhales Jimin's scent. Jimin feels hot all over, he really can't do this here.

"Like what?"

"Like you want to jump me."

"I do not smell like that!" Jimin whisper yells. "That’s nonsense."

"You smell so sweet when I compliment you." Jungkook chuckles, resting his head on Jimin's shoulder and looking up at him through his lashes. "Ah, Jimin-ssi, what should I do? You drive me crazy." He whines in an exaggerated high voice, brushing his nose against Jimin's cheek. Jimin's omega is delighted by the show of affection from the alpha.

When Jimin turns his head and their lips brush together, Jungkook pulls back and he turns red in the face. Jimin leans into his space, a smirk on his face. He's willing to play Jungkook's games.

"Ah, Jungkook-ssi," he mumbles, a pout on his lips. "What should I do when I think about you at night? When I’m all alone in my chambers. You drive me crazy, too."

"What?" Jungkook looks dumbfounded but his scent turns spicy. His alpha is clearly intrigued.

"Such a strong and handsome alpha like you, it’s hard not to think about all the things you can do." Jimin flutters his lashes at him, acting coy.

"Your dad is right there," Jungkook mutters under his breath, afraid that someone will hear them. He doesn't seem as confident anymore which makes Jimin chuckle.

"I’m kidding," Jimin says, rolling his eyes as he leans back.

"Are you really?"

"Hm?"

"You do not think about me at night, then?"

"It doesn’t have to be at night." Jimin winks at him as he takes a sip of his wine.

"Aish. You’re gonna be the death of me, My Prince."

Jimin giggles into his glass and Jungkook quickly joins him.

They're both mortified when they notice that the king is looking at them.

~

After dinner, they find themselves at their favorite pavilion, leaning against the railing as they watch the water rippling under the moonlight. The night is serene and warm, the smell of citrus and pine trees fitting together like two puzzle pieces. There isn’t an inch of space between Jimin and Jungkook.

"I know I already said it but I'm really happy you chose me," Jungkook says, softly, not to disturb the quiet of the night.

"I hesitated for a long time," Jimin admits. "There wasn't a doubt about who my omega wanted but for me it was a harder choice."

"I understand."

"I never considered choosing anyone else, though," Jimin says, looking at Jungkook's profile. "It was either you or nobody. I almost chose nobody."

Jungkook turns to face him, leaning his hip against the railing, and he smiles at Jimin. His scent turns sweet with joy. He looks at Jimin like he's the most beautiful person he's ever seen.

"I promise to court you properly," Jungkook says. "I've never courted anyone before but I'll do my best."

"You don't have to court me." Jimin faces him and rests his hand on top of Jungkook's on the railing. "There's no need."

"What do you mean?" Jungkook frowns.

"I only have eyes for you, Jungkook-ssi," Jimin breathes out, staring into Jungkook's beautiful eyes. "You don't have to court me because my heart already belongs to you."

Jungkook's face lights up like never before and his beautiful smile makes Jimin weak in the knees. Jimin can't take it anymore. His feelings for Jungkook have grown so much in just a few weeks that his heart can barely handle it. He's wanted to touch and feel him in ways that he hasn't allowed himself to have but there's no point in holding himself back anymore.

So, Jimin makes the first move.

He rests his hand on Jungkook's chest and bring their lips into kiss. It takes a second for Jungkook to realize what's happening but when he does it's like fireworks. He wraps his arms around Jimin's waist and hugs him so tight it almost hurts. Jimin giggles into the kiss as Jungkook lets out a pleased growl. It's obvious Jungkook has been holding back too in the way he kisses Jimin like a starved man. He sucks Jimin's bottom lip in between his own and slides a hand to the small of his back, scent turning thick with arousal.

Jimin yelps into the kiss when Jungkook pushes him against the wall, tilting his head to deepen the kiss. Jimin loops his arms around Jungkook's neck and tangles his fingers in his hair. Jungkook kisses like he acts, shamelessly and passionately. They're putting all of their pent up energy into the kiss and it feels like heaven; Jimin feels like he's floating. Jungkook makes him feel wanted, attractive and loved.

A moan escapes Jimin's mouth when Jungkook bites on his bottom lip and Jungkook's responds with a growl that vibrates against Jimin's chest. Jungkook's hands are greedy, pawing at Jimin's body like he can't believe he is real.

They kiss for what feels like hours, until their lips start to hurt and until they're breathless. Burning passion turns into softness as they gently brush their lips together before pulling away, resting their foreheads together. Their breathing is loud and their hearts are racing at a matching rhythm. Jimin never wants that feeling to go away.

Jimin cups the side of Jungkook's face and leaves a soft kiss on his lips. "How long have you wanted to do this?"

"Since the first day I met you," Jungkook breathes out, brushing their noses together.

"Really?"

"I couldn't believe my eyes when you entered that office. You don't realize how beautiful you are and the effect you have on people."

"I do." Jimin nods, biting on his bottom lip. "I just didn't think I had that effect on you."

"Now you know."

"Yeah," Jimin says, pulling back to smirk at Jungkook. "Now I know."

"You're gonna use that to your advantage, aren't you?" Jungkook asks, an amused smile on his face. He runs a finger down Jimin's nose before leaving a kiss on the tip of it.

"Absolutely."

Jimin smiles into another kiss, chuckling when a soft purr vibrates in Jungkook’s chest. His alpha is pleased and content and it makes him happy. Jungkook lifts Jimin’s up by the waist and spins, their lips parting as they laugh. They must look ridiculous but Jimin has never been so sure about anything else in his life. This is where he’s supposed to be, in Jungkook’s arms.

“Let me walk you back to your chambers,” Jungkook says once he puts Jimin down.

“Only if you hold my hand.”

“If I do, I’ll never let go, My Prince.”

“Good.” Jimin smiles, biting on his bottom lip. “Because I don’t want you to.”

Jungkook smiles and offers his hand for Jimin to take. They intertwine their fingers and go down the stairs of the pavilion to head to Jimin’s quarters. The paths are illuminated by lanterns and the sound of people laughing at the Banquet Hall can still be heard from afar. The night is warm and bustling with the sound of nocturnal animals hiding in trees and bushes. Jungkook’s hand feels warm in Jimin’s and the sound of his breathing is relaxing.

“We should talk to your dad,” Jungkook says in a hushed tone. “We should ask him if he’s okay with us being together.”

“We will. I don’t you have anything to worry about though.”

“I’m probably not what he expected for his son.”

“He expected someone that makes me happy,” Jimin says, voice full of confidence. “And you make me happy. It’s all that matters.”

“I hope so.”

“Do you think Min Jinho will be pleased?”

Jimin knows that he’s like a dad to Jungkook and he’d like to meet him one day. He could invite him to the palace or perhaps visit him in Sinsan. 

“He’ll make fun of me for falling for a Prince.” Jungkook chuckles.

“Why?” Jimin gasps, looking at Jungkook with curious eyes. “What’s wrong with that?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, My Prince,” Jungkook says before kissing Jimin’s cheek. “It’s just that I used to say Princes are boring and too uptight and that I don’t understand why so many people are fascinated by them.”

“Prince is just a title,” Jimin says, tightening his hold around Jungkook’s hand. “I’m just Jimin.”

“You’re not just Jimin. You’re more than that,” Jungkook breathes out. “You’re everything.”

Jimin smiles at him and brings their joined hands to his mouth to kiss his knuckles. Jimin is excited about the future. He wants to get to know Jungkook inside and out and fall for him harder than he already has. He wants to tell him all of his secrets and share all of his inner thoughts, things that he’s never told nobody because he trusts Jungkook to take good care of his heart.

They stop in front of Jimin’s quarters facing each other. There’s light coming from the security building and from the private kitchens but the courtyard is quiet and empty. They look at each other like they’re sharing a thousand words. Jimin doesn’t want to say goodnight, doesn’t want to let go of Jungkook’s hand, scared that this is only just a dream and he’ll disappear in the middle of the night. Jungkook feels real like this.

“I’ve got something for you,” Jungkook says. He kisses the back of Jimin’s hand before letting it go to take something out of his hanbok. “The bracelet I made for you. You never accepted it.”

Jimin’s heart flutters, lips curling into a smile. Everything went so fast after Jimin made his choice that he forgot to take Jungkook’s gift. It looks as beautiful as it did then.

“Will you put it on me?” Jimin asks, lifting his arm.

“Of course.” Jungkook nods, hands shaking as he ties the bracelet around his wrist. “As I expected, it looks beautiful on you.”

“I love it, Jungkook-ssi,” Jimin whispers, brushing his fingers against the emerald stone. “I couldn’t have asked for a better courting gift.”

Jungkook smiles, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s waist to pull him into a kiss. Jimin cups Jungkook’s face and melts in his hold. Jungkook sucks on Jimin’s bottom lip, teeth grazing against the plump skin. Jimin lets out a content sigh, stroking Jungkook’s cheeks with his thumbs. The kiss doesn’t have time to deepen before they’re interrupted by a whistle.

“Hey!” Jihun yells as he enters the courtyard. Jungkook pulls back like he’s been electrified, putting unnecessary space between them like he’s just been caught by his mother. Jimin laughs when he bows ninety degrees at Jihun. “You know the rules, hyung. No making out in our shared courtyard. There are things that your little brother can’t unsee.”

Hoseok laughs behind him and Jimin rolls his eyes.

“It was just a goodnight kiss,” Jimin says, shaking his head. He takes Jungkook’s hand and brings him closer to his side despite Jungkook’s reluctance. “Don’t act like a prude all of a sudden. Give me some privacy while kiss my alpha some more,” he drawls, putting his hands on Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook’s face has turned red and he refuses to look at Jimin.

“Just bring him inside your chambers, no one wants to see this,” Jihun whines, rolling his eyes; a habit he’s picked from Jimin. “Breathe, Jungkook-ssi. You’re not gonna get executed just because you got caught kissing the prince.”

“I…,” Jungkook tries to speak, face turning even redder.

“Leave him alone,” Jimin says, stroking Jungkook’s cheek with fondness. “He’s shy.”

“I’m not,” Jungkook mumbles, a small pout on his lips.

“Fine, I’ll leave you to it. Goodnight, hyung.”

“Goodnight.”

Jihun enters his chambers and Hoseok heads to the security building. Jungkook lets out a loud sigh when they’re alone again. Jimin chuckles, kissing his cheek.

“I should go, too,” he says. He doesn’t look like he wants to go at all.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me if you can come in?” Jimin asks, biting on his bottom lip. He pulls on the collar of Jungkook’s hanbok and leaves a short kiss on his lips. Jungkook’s scent turns spicy with interest.

“Do you want me to?”

“Mh,” Jimin hums, tilting his head coyly. “One day. Maybe not tonight.”

Jimin would love to spend the night with Jungkook but he also wants to take things slow. He’d like to get to know Jungkook first, get used to being in a relationship with him before they move on to something physical. He wants their first night to be special and perfect when they’re both ready. For now, being with Jungkook like this is more than enough.

“That’s okay,” Jungkook breathes out. “Goodnight, then, My Prince.”

“Goodnight.”

Jungkook starts walking backward holding onto Jimin’s hand until he has to let go and then he blows him a kiss before heading to the security building. When Jimin enters his chambers, he puts a hand over his racing heart and muffles a happy squeal with his other hand.

~

In the morning, Jungkook is waiting for him outside of his door and Jimin is instantly put in a good mood.

“Good morning, my beautiful Prince,” Jungkook mutters before kissing Jimin. “Did you sleep well? Did you dream of me as I dreamt of you?”

“I did,” Jimin replies with a smile. “I dreamt you were holding me.”

“Mh, that sounds nice,” Jungkook hums against Jimin’s lips.

Jungkook is back in his usual clothes and he looks just as handsome as he did last night. His face is relaxed and he can’t stop smiling; his scent is filled with happiness. 

“Come with me,” Jimin says, leading Jungkook out of the courtyard.

He woke up with an idea; he wants to introduce Jungkook to his father. It’s something his father would have liked if he was still here. He always loved meeting Jimin’s friends and always encouraged Jimin to make new ones. He was too young for him to encourage him to find love but Jimin knows he would have loved to meet Jungkook. They would have gotten along well.

Servants bow to them as they cross paths, chuckling between them when they notice their joined hands and it makes Jimin feel shy. He’s never shown off anybody before but he feels proud to show off Jungkook; he’s proud to be by his side and he wants everyone to know he’s his alpha.

Jungkook doesn’t ask questions; he would probably follow Jimin to the ends of the world if he asked. It doesn’t take them long to reach his father’s shrine and when Jimin goes to enter, Jungkook lets go of his hand.

“What are you doing?” Jimin asks, brows furrowed.

“I’ll wait here.”

“No,” Jimin says, tugging on Jungkook’s hand. “I want you to come with me. I’m gonna introduce you to him.”

“Oh.” Jungkook’s eyes widen and anxiety fills his scent. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Don’t be nervous, it’s just a spirit,” Jimin jokes, laughing when Jungkook’s eyes widen even more.

They enter the shrine and Jungkook breathes out an impressed “wow”. Jimin kneels in front of the Moon Goddess and tugs on Jungkook’s hand for him to do the same. Jimin lights a candle and guides Jungkook as they bow two times to greet her and his father. Jungkook looks nervous, fidgeting with his fingers on his lap. Jimin takes one of his hands and entangles their fingers. They smile at each other and then Jimin speaks.

“Good morning, father. I hope you’re well,” he breathes out. Jungkook is looking at him. “I brought someone special with me today. Jungkook. Remember? I told you about him last time I visited you.” Jimin chuckles, cheeks turning pink. His father would have teased him about his new love if he was here. Jungkook stays quiet and looks at Jimin’s father’s plaque, a small smile on his lips.

“Did you enjoy the tournament, father?” Jimin asks, shivering when he remembers the way he smelled his scent at the final challenge. “You were there to guide me as I asked. Thank you. I made the right choice because of you.”

Jungkook’s eyes glisten with emotion when he looks at Jimin. There are goosebumps on his arms and he looks overwhelmed.

“I just want you to know I’m happy,” Jimin continues, voice trembling. “I wish Jungkook could have met you. I’m sure he would have loved you.” He clears his throat, tightening his hold on Jungkook’s hand. “Who would have thought I’d fall for a Sinan man, huh?” He chuckles. “It doesn’t matter where he comes from. All that matters is how well he treats me.” He looks at Jungkook with fondness before looking up at his father’s plaque again.

“I love you, father. Keep watching over me. I’ll make you proud.”

Jimin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, letting go of every bad thoughts and stress until he feels completely relax. A gust of wind makes Jimin and Jungkook shiver and makes the bells hanging on the ceiling tinkle. Jimin’s heart fills with warmth and he smiles. He smiles so big his cheeks hurt. His father will always be here when he needs him the most.

“Thank you, dad.”

They bow two times and Jimin blows the candle out before they exit the shrine. Jimin doesn’t let go of Jungkook’s hand. They face each other and fall into each other’s arms like it’s second nature. Jungkook wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist and kisses his forehead. Jimin feels like he’s finally found a home in Jungkook.

“He would have loved you,” Jimin says, pushing Jungkook’s hair back.

“Even if I’m from Sinsan?”

“He would have loved you because I love you.”

Jungkook’s eyes turn soft when he smiles, crinkling at the edges. His scent turns sweet, his heart starts to race and he puffs his chest out.

“I love you too, My Prince.”

They’ve come a long way since the first time they met, from resentment to love, from annoyance to laughter. Jimin had hoped he’d find the one at the tournament but he didn’t think he’d find it in someone like Jungkook. They’re different in so many ways but they complete each other in the most perfect way.

Jimin wouldn’t exchange Jungkook for the world.

He’s going to make Jungkook his world.