Wonwoo blinked awake as he heard voices whispering in his room. It was so dark that he couldn't see anything but the voices seemed to be getting nearer. Wonwoo tried to get up but found himself bound. He thrashed against the ropes but it seemed to tighten around him the more he struggled. Wonwoo screamed, calling for help.
The voices stopped suddenly. Wonwoo still couldn't see anything. He called out for his guards but there was no response. Wonwoo felt his breath quicken as the voices came closer again. He couldn't hear what they were saying.
Wonwoo tried to get away from the voices but he was held in place by the bindings. Wonwoo closed his eyes willing it to be just a dream. He muttered a prayer that someone would save him.
"He is awake. " A strangely familiar voice said. Wonwoo couldn't place where he had heard the voice. The rope against his hands burned as he struggled against it. He felt the ropes cutting into his skin, his blood dripping on to the floor.
Wonwoo was pulled to his knees roughly by his collar. Wonwoo flailed against the person who had grabbed him. He still couldn't see where he was or who they were. He yelled for his guards again but all he heard was laughter. Wonwoo screamed as he felt someone's boot in his stomach. Wonwoo was held in place as they kept hitting him. He couldn't block or dodge.
Wonwoo struggled against the ropes and stilled as he felt something sharp press against his throat. He still couldn't see who was doing this. The voices were still talking too fast for him to understand. He wondered if this was how he would die.
"Please." Wonwoo whimpered as he felt the knife nick his skin, drawing blood.
Wonwoo heard laughter again. The voices were clear now.
"It's all your fault." The voices accused.
Wonwoo saw flashes of red, walls painted with blood, bodies strewn across the floor cut down by swords.
"It's all your fault." The voices echoed.
Wonwoo saw the bodies swinging in the hanging block, the burning rubble of buildings, people bleeding out on the streets.
"It's all your fault." An overly familiar voice said as Wonwoo's vision cleared.
Wonwoo choked on a sob as pale hands pressed the knife closer to his throat. Black eyes filled with hatred stared at Wonwoo from a pale ashen face.
"I'm sorry." Wonwoo cried.
"It's all your fault." His father said as he buried the knife in Wonwoo's neck.
Wonwoo woke up screaming, thrashing around in his bed, clutching his neck, trying to stop the bleeding. The lights were turned on as the guards rushed in.
"Your highness, is everything alright? "
Wonwoo nodded still heaving, looking around the room. He let his hands fall when he realized it had been a nightmare. He had asked his guards not to inform anyone about his nightmares which he had been having frequently these days.
Wonwoo pressed his palms against his eyes, stopping the tears before they could fall. He knew that what had happened was out of his hands but he also knew he was the cause of it all, the rebel's deaths.
Wonwoo felt his breath stop as he remembered the last part of his nightmare. That was new or more like it had been so long since his father had stopped haunting his nightmare that it felt new.
Wonwoo fell back on his bed but stayed awake refusing to even close his eyes, in case he saw his father again. Wonwoo wondered if it was because he had been learning more about his father's deeds in his lessons. He finally moved out of bed when the servants prepared his bath. He decided to have breakfast in his room. His eyes would give it away.
Wonwoo wanted to cancel the classes for today but he knew Jun would question him why. He didn't want to worry them needlessly. He knew he was safe inside the palace. There was no way anyone could harm him now. His guards were always with him and he hadn't left the palace since he had returned from Vestex.
Wonwoo slumped back in his chair as the morning lessons ended. The Imerian customs were as boring as his own. Wonwoo went to Seungkwan's room. Seungkwan and prince Hansol were having archery practice together. He had been appointed as Seungkwan's new chaperone. Wonwoo found it more tolerable than his lessons, so he did it without complaint. Jun probably knew that too.
"Do you think I should wear this jacket or this ?" Seungkwan asked showing him almost identical jackets of the same color.
Wonwoo pointed to the one on the right. Seungkwan threw the one he selected on the bed and put on the other one.
"Why bother asking if you are just going to disregard it ?" Wonwoo asked with a pout.
"I have to know which one to discard." Seungkwan said with a shrug.
Wonwoo waited until Seungkwan was ready. Prince Hansol was already waiting at the training grounds with his secretary.
Wonwoo sat away from the training pair, mindful of stray arrows. He watched quietly. Hansol was better than Wonwoo had expected and Seungkwan was uselessly competitive. Wonwoo laughed as Seungkwan yelled at Hansol after he corrected him.
Wonwoo watched them for a while before he got down to the ground. It had been a while since he had picked up a bow. Wonwoo had never been interested in fighting, he had skipped whenever he could and after coming home, he had completely ignored it, despite Soonyoung's insistence.
Wonwoo missed the target completely on his first try. He didn't think he would be this bad.
"Wow. You missed the whole board. Can you even see it ?" Seungkwan asked, walking over to him with laughter.
"I'm just a little rusty. " Wonwoo said as he notched another arrow.
The next one hit the edge of the target board. Seungkwan giggled with prince Hansol. Wonwoo's cheeks heated in embarrassment. One of the guards corrected his posture and taught him.
Wonwoo went back to his room holding his arms, he may have over done it. His back and shoulders were sore. A servant handed him a letter. Wonwoo smiled as he recognized the seal.
Mingyu had written about the weather in Imeria and about how much he missed Wonwoo. He had written an entire page on how much he loved him. Wonwoo wondered what poems he had copied them from. Mingyu would claim that he was just referencing them.
Wonwoo put the letter down, Mingyu hadn't said anything about the marriage. He didn't want to ask how long he was going to postpone it, he didn't want to pressure Mingyu but it was starting to worry him.
Wonwoo laughed as he wrote about his recent failure at archery. He mentioned about Seungkwan and prince Hansol and how adorable they were. He asked about Mingyu's brothers and if work has gotten any easier.
Wonwoo laid his head on the table. It had been almost six months since Mingyu had postponed the wedding. When they first decided the date for their wedding, Wonwoo had thought six months was too soon. Now, it felt like an eternity had passed. He trusted Mingyu but he wondered how hard Mingyu must be working to persuade his council.
Wonwoo sat up straight as he heard the knock. Seungcheol walked in with a bottle of liquor. Wonwoo stared in surprise.
"You look surprised to see me." Seungcheol said, sitting down.
Wonwoo walked up to him with glasses. He set them on the table, sitting opposite him. Seungcheol poured it and slid one glass to Wonwoo.
"Is something wrong?" Wonwoo asked, taking a careful sip.
"Yes but I don't want to talk about it." Seungcheol said .
"Is Jun busy ?"
"When isn't he busy ?" Seungcheol asked, downing the entire glass.
"Slow down. " Wonwoo said. He wondered what was wrong. He hadn't heard anything was amiss.
Seungcheol drank quietly. Wonwoo was still on his first glass while Seungcheol was already on his fourth.
"Mingyu wrote again. " Wonwoo said. Seungcheol paused to look at him.
"He seems to be writing frequently. " Seungcheol said, his words slurring a little.
"He is. But he isn't saying anything about the marriage and I don't want to bring it up to him. I am worried." Wonwoo confessed.
"Do you want me to ? I can fix a date in a few months. "
"No. Thank you though. I trust him. It's just... waiting is so... hard. How do you do that ?"
"When you run a country, there is no time to worry. I'm too busy to miss anyone." Seungcheol said, looking down.
"Now, that's a lie." Wonwoo said, looking at Seungcheol for a reaction. Seungcheol laughed.
"You are right. I miss him so fucking much. I can't believe I let him leave like that."
"Oh. I heard he left because his mother was sick. " Wonwoo said.
"No. We had a fight. I was angry at him."
"It will be fine. Friends fight all the time. Just apologize to him. He wouldn't have left because of a simple fight."
"It wasn't a simple fight. There is nothing about us that is simple. I was so angry and I said somethings I regret. "
"Why did you fight with him ?" Wonwoo asked.
"He lied to me. He said it's for my own good. But it hurts even if I knew that he did it for me. "
"Would you have done the same if you were in his position or would you have told the truth ?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not." Seungcheol said after consideration.
"Apologize for getting mad at him."
"It might be too late for that."
"Why ? What did you tell him ?"
"I told him I didn't want to see him anymore. That we should end it."
"Why would you? Isn't he your friend?" Wonwoo asked.
"He isn't my friend. I love Jisoo." Seungcheol said.
Wonwoo looked at him confused.
"I thought you loved Jeonghan?" Wonwoo asked.
"Why can't I love them both when they both love me ?" Seungcheol asked.
"So, the three of you.." Wonwoo trailed off as he realized. He was shocked. It made sense how his brother was always with them whenever they were together.
"Hmm, we are together. "
"How long has this been going on ? " Wonwoo asked.
"Since I was eighteen. "
"Seungcheol, that's.. more than a decade. " Wonwoo said, wide eyed.
Seungcheol just stared at him.
"How could you tell him you didn't want to see him? Even if he lied to you, how could you be that harsh ? Did he really leave because of that ?" Wonwoo yelled.
"No. I said I wanted to end it. "
"Do you ?"
"I don't know. I love them but it is so complicated. Sometimes it feels like it's the best option."
"Are you okay ?" Wonwoo asked.
"Obviously not. I am still so angry but I'm worried about him. I didn't think he would just leave. I expected a fight but he gave up so easily. "
" You told him you wanted end it. He probably thought you gave up on him. You can't just take everything out on him. Write to him. Apologize and maybe he will take it better than you did."
"I really thought it would be in our best interest to just end it. They would be happy if they didn't have to worry about me. "
"Are you going marry someone else ? The council has been hounding you for it." Wonwoo asked.
Seungcheol sighed, leaning back in the chair. Wonwoo watched him. He had been rude to Minister Jisoo because he thought Jeonghan was cheating with him. He was embarrassed.
"You don't have to decide anything now. Take some time, think about what you want. I'm sure you can work it out. You've known each other for so long. He probably knows you better than anyone." Wonwoo said.
"When did you become so wise ?"
"I've always been wise. You just never came to me for advice. "
Seungcheol laughed, ruffling his hair.
"Don't laugh. I'm being serious right now. "
"Okay. " Seungcheol nodded, trying to control his laugh.
Wonwoo poured himself another drink.
"You okay? You didn't have breakfast with us. Or lunch." Seungcheol asked. Wonwoo swallowed.
"I am fine. Just tired." Wonwoo mumbled.
"Are you sleeping well? Your eyes are so sunken. "
"I am fine. I want to ask you something. May I ?" Wonwoo asked.
"What was father like after I left?" Wonwoo asked.
Seungcheol immediately sobered up, setting down his glass.
"Why do you want to know ?" Seungcheol asked, his tone casual.
"Just curious. It's okay if you don't want to tell me."
"He wasn't angry at first. He thought you'd run back to us. You didn't. Then he got angry, he was hard to handle on certain days. By then the rumors that you ran away were everywhere, the council began to question it and he kept sending people to find you. I fought with him a lot, said you'd return when you wanted to."
"Did he hate me?"
"I don't think so. You are his son."
"I think he hated me."
"I can't say anything on his behalf but I don't think he ever hated you. He tried to train us for the future, to make sure that we wouldn't kill each other for the throne." Seungcheol said.
"Do you think we would try to kill you for the throne?" Wonwoo asked.
"It wasn't about us. It was how he had grown, fighting his brothers for the throne, always on guard. "
"That doesn't give him any right to do what he did."
"He was just paranoid. Why are we talking about him ?"
"I just remembered him. The anniversary of his passing is next month." Wonwoo said.
"You don't need to concern yourself with that. "
"Okay." Wonwoo said with a nod.
"I will leave now. It's late. Don't stay up too late. " Seungcheol said before getting up.
"I think you should go to Lorensil. " Wonwoo said.
Seungcheol looked at with a raised eyebrow.
"You should go talk to him instead of writing a letter. I know how it feels to be thrown away by someone I love, Seungcheol. I don't think you want minister Jisoo to feel that way. With Jeonghan on the run, don't you think you two need each other now more than ever? "
"I'm a king, I can't leave the country as I wish. " Seungcheol said.
"You are just afraid of what minister Jisoo will say. "
Seungcheol didn't answer him.
"Have you found Jeonghan yet ?" Wonwoo asked when Seungcheol was at the door.
"I won't tell you even if I did."
Wonwoo nodded, knowing it was for the best.