(Would you like me to write a time skip or you?)
(You could write a time skip if you're cool with it.)
(Alright then, I’ll try my best)
It felt as though she had only slept for a few moments before Jimin found herself awake, watching numbly as dawn greeted her with the pale warm colors of the lightening sky. For a moment it was difficult for her to rise, the memories of last night filtering back through her mind like some sort of moving picture. Those memories were comforting at least, even as the anxiety and stress of what was to come settled in.
Sometimes, she’d learned, it was better to deal with an uncertain future head on, and so she found the courage to rise. She slipped from the covers of her bed, reciting and practicing the words and lies she planned to speak as she dressed and made her way to the Queen’s chambers. Some lower ranking court ladies stopped her with a matter concerning a few documents stored in the palace archives, but she briefly instructed them and moved on.
Once she was before the Queen’s doors, she took a deep breath and knocked to announce her presence, then entered.
“Good morning, Your Majesty,” Jimin said, kneeling before her. “How are you? I believe last night yielded more information than last time.”
Are things getting better or are they getting worse? That is what Her Majesty has been asking herself ever since she woke up. Although it was still cloudy outside, she was in good spirits, but was not sure why. Perhaps today will be a good day.
Like always, she was at her table with a cup of tea. After yesterday's meeting she decided to switch from magnolia berry to passionflower, just to try for once. It was a simple change for her, but she quite enjoyed the passionflower.
Despite the change of tea, Queen Seohyun still found herself to be a bit energetic. Her finger tapped quietly against the table while she gazed over at the door every couple of seconds. The corners of her lips curved into a light grin as she waited.
When a knock rang from the other side of the door, she let out a sigh. Her shoulders relaxed while the tapping stopped. Straightening her skirt, she looked over watching as Jimin walked in.
"Good morning to you as well," She greeted, motioning for her court lady to sit. A brow quirked right after hearing about there being more information. It must be a good day after all. "I suppose that I am fine, now I've heard there's more to report. Let's go ahead and go over it, yes?"
Jimin nodded, then obliged and sat down. After clearing her throat, she began, “When I came in, I asked to listen to His Highness’ heartbeat again. He refused, and I didn’t want to disrespect him, so I didn’t insist further. I decided to ask about his eating habits, since I had heard from one of the maids that he rarely eats his meals. The prince, on the contrary, said he ate three meals a day. I’m pretty sure I saw plates of uneaten food in the room, however, and when I asked about them, he wouldn’t respond directly. He tried to move the conversation on to other, less relevant topics, though I don’t remember them now. Something strange happened, though. He mentioned that he smelled blood coming from me. At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then I remembered I had pricked my finger earlier that evening. So I held up my hand and asked if it was where the smell was coming from, and he said yes. Somehow he had detected the small amounts of blood even as it was starting to dry.”
She kept her voice steady, even as her heart pulsed with nervousness. Maybe mentioning blood was a bad idea, but admittedly she couldn’t come up with anything better than that. She took a breath.
“Perhaps you have heard of things like this by now, but those were the observations I made. After that he seemed very wary of me, avoiding my other questions and sending me away not long after.”
Queen Seohyun kept her gentle smile as Jimin became to speak, but it gradually faded away. She let her gaze wander to the wall as she listened. Thankfully there was more to today's report compared to yesterday.
It was always reported to her that he ate every meal. She even had the servant that held his umbrella get it from the kitchen himself. For a quick moment, she closed her eyes, only to open them right away and widening with concern.
Blood? He can smell blood from a distance? So many rumors about him have been running around the palace grounds. Every single one of them made her more curious than the last. She wants to ignore them and pretend that the chances for them to be true were very low.
Her eyes flickered across the table at Jimin. Something felt off as she stared at her lady in waiting. Oh how she feels bad for the young lady. There's a chance that this may be dangerous, especially since the prince still isn't cooperating a lot and sent her away. And the fact he smelled blood….
"Rumors are only rumors, but they do make us all very puzzled and pique are interest." Her Majesty leaned forward as she asked, "Do you ever feel wary or worried about being in danger around him?"
Jimin did not like the look on the Queen’s face. She took a breath to steady herself, trying to think. If she said no, it would look suspicious considering all that she’s told the Queen so far. If she said yes, then it would seem like she would be confirming Her Majesty’s worst fears and only get them found out sooner. Perhaps it would be best if she said neither.
“Sometimes I’m afraid he will punish me for displeasing or disrespecting him,” she replied slowly, “But I don’t feel as though I’m in immediate danger.”
Were those the right words to say? She had no idea. It was so rare for her to lie continuously to someone above her, even to protect someone else. How could she know what to say?
Her Majesty tried to find reason with the information she just learned. She attempted with all her might to find it being perfectly fine. Anyone can smell blood really. From a tiny drop to a whole battlefield worth, anyone can smell it. There's nothing strange about that. And sometimes she tends to skip meals too, although no one should, but it's normal. Yet even with reason, she wondered if the crown prince was normal.
"He shouldn't. His Highness should be well enough to know that he should punish anyone in my court, let alone his own," She muttered. The queen curled her lips back as she let her shoulders relax. Looking down at the floor, she cleared her throat.
"Good. Well I suppose that this is progressing well enough for now, but something does not seem right," Queen Seohyun said. "If he isn't eating, then why is that his condition not worsening? Aside from appearing tired, he doesn't seem to be any worse….although he was oddly different yesterday, but I do not believe it was not the fact he was not eating."
After finishing her sentence, she shook her head. When they find out one thing, it leads to another problem, and they haven't even come to a solution to the original issue. "Something must be done soon," The queen sighed, picking up her cup of tea. She took a sip, but still held the cup.
Jimin nodded, some of the anxiety fading. She was getting used to the flow of conversations now, and predicting how the Queen might respond to her words. She knew what to say.
“I wondered the same,” she said. “And I don’t know why. I had planned to use this first week as a time to gather my observations, then the following weeks I would try and piece them together. But if Your Majesty wishes, I can begin doing that now.”
Indeed, none of her words were lies, which is why they were easier to verbalize. This is what she had originally planned to do, before she had found the truth of the prince’s condition much quicker than she had anticipated. She could use what she had told the queen so far to form a false assessment of His Highness, but that could be incredibly risky. Were there any illnesses that were similar to vampirism that her uncle had informed her of?
The queen's lips curled back. Almost three weeks remain and yet she is not that worried as of right now. She nodded in response to the plan.
"Please do. Try to still observe him if possible, but you should start to piece what you already have together," Her Majesty instructed. "I am not sure how much he'd be willing to tell or if he will dismiss you again, but I feel as if there's more to uncover."
Her finger lightly tapped on her knee. Was there something that she is missing? Perhaps if the prince has not been saying much, but it does not make sense to her. Something is wrong but he is also okay. Queen Seohyun stopped tapping her finger.
"Also, I have not had much luck with having someone look for the medical journals. When you do go over tonight, try to ask His Highness if he might know where they are," She instructed.
Jimin nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty. Will that be all?”
A different kind of anxiety was surfacing now, one that feared the future. Whatever doubt she had left was gone. The Queen would find out the truth sooner or later, and it wouldn’t be pretty when the day came. The only thing that could be done now was to prepare.
She mentally went through all that she had told the Queen in the past few days. If she just ignored the ‘no pulse or heartbeat’ part of it, what would illness would those symptoms indicate? Nothing came to mind; it was hard to think now. It would be better if she was alone, she could figure something out more easily.
Without saying a word, she nodded. Her lips lightly trembled as they curled back. She bit the inside of her cheeks. Somehow it was difficult for her to let even one word slip out. Was it truly a better day than before? Surely it has to, the more information and the more evidence, the better. Right?
None it makes sense anymore, and it pains her to even question the prince's condition further. The word floated around her mind, but she didn't even want to say it, let alone think of it. Queen Seohyun shook her head, in hopes of forgetting her thoughts. Her nails digged into the palm of her hand.
"That will be all for this morning," She said, almost in a whisper. Her Majesty went back to tapping her finger against her knee, focusing her attention on that for the time being. "Go on with the others, and be sure to keep an eye on him. Do not let His Highness try to play games with you. And I do not want to hear of him dismissing you early."
Picking up on the Queen’s body language, Jimin’s lip started trembling as well. She wanted to ask if she could do something for Her Majesty, but figured she would only refuse and put on a brave face. She got to her feet.
“Yes, Your Majesty, I will do the best of my ability.” She almost turned to leave, but then couldn’t keep herself from ignoring the Queen’s emotional state. “And please, if you don’t mind me saying, I’d like you to do something that will put your mind at ease. I don’t like seeing you like this, and I don’t think a different tea alone will help. Just… just do something that you enjoy doing, and it will make this easier. For all of us, I think.”
She bowed, and left the Queen’s chambers.
Deapite the finger tapping continuing, she found some assurance in Jimin's words. Queeh Seohyun couldn't help but let a tiny smile appear. Her lips kept on trembling. She gazed up at her lady-in-waiting, giving her a subtle nod.
Once she was alone in her chambers again, another sigh had left her lips. Her gaze shifted towards the cup of tea. It must be getting cold at this point, and yet she doesn't feel like reaching over for the cup. "Something that will put my mind at ease….," She whispered to herself. "At ease."
Kangdae sat on the bed, staring over at the flower laying on the table. After Jimin had left the night before, he did not sleep. How could he? From the taste of the dried blood to kissing her cheek, he was up and all over the place.
Though he was very energetic then, he ended up being much more lethargic come morning. His servant had to carefully poke him so he wouldn't fall asleep while doing his duties. Only when everything in his schedule was crossed off, did the prince go to sleep.
Now here he is, sitting on top of the covers with his hair down. He kept staring at the flower as he thought back to last night. His fingers rested above his lips. Though he really cannot feel anything from it, a strange sensation came over him. Kangdae's eyes flickered towards the door.
Jimin’s mind raced, even now at the end of the day. Working had given her plenty of time to reflect on the morning’s and previous night’s events, and now she mentally outlined a list of things she wanted to do once evening came.
Pacing quickly toward the prince’s chambers, she found herself rather excited to be back, almost like those nights she waited excitedly for a good chance to sneak a ride on Bam while her uncle was fast asleep. Then once she was approaching the prince’s doors, she slowed in her step, though she wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was only nerves.
As usual, once Jimin had arrived she took her binyeo and placed it with the guards. She knocked once to announce herself, then stepped inside. She bowed.
“Good evening, Your Highness,” she said. “How are you?”
There's that sweet aroma again. It must be time! He sprang up from the bed without any hesitation. Quickly he gazed around the room making sure that nothing was out of place, but his eyes flickered over to the flower. Rushing over, he picked up a book and placed the flower inside, then moved the book to the corner of the table.
Suddenly he remembered about his own appearance. Is there any color in his cheeks? Does his face look bloated? Kangdae shut his eyes and shook his head. There's no way for him to know on his own nor should he be worrying about his appearance. Although, he did fluff his hair and fixed his robe.
When the door had opened, he bit the inside of his lip. His eyes were staring straight across at Jimin before wandering down to the floor. A soft hum came from his throat while he nodded. "Same as always, I suppose," He responded. "And you?"
For a moment she stared, taking in the prince's new hairdo. Then she smiled, a strange happiness bubbling in her chest at the sight of him. Why was she feeling this way? Sure, last night was rather… surprising, to say the least, but it felt like a one-time-only situation. It seemed silly to feel this way, to… expect something like it to happen again.
So she took a breath and refocused. "I'm doing well, thank you," she said. "I have news from this morning if you want to get that over with. Nothing major has changed, but we will definitely want to discuss the future when something does eventually change."
Jimin quirked an eyebrow at him. Having his hair down suited him, she decided. It released a kind of tension his appearance usually held when his hair was up. Her gaze flickered to the side, just waiting in case Kangdae had something he wanted to say before she informed him of what happened this morning.
Kangdae forced himself to look at her. Princes should never be staring down at the floor. When his eyes met hers, his breath hitched. That smile, it is as bright as the sun. It surely isn't as deadly as the sun, but to him, he just couldn't. He turned his head to the left trying his best to keep his focus to the wall.
News. Biting his bottom lip, he wondered what the news could be. All he could assume was that it wouldn't be completely good and that he'll have to do something about the whole ordeal at hand. "Well, we should probably get on with it then. The sooner the better," He sighed.
In the corner of his eye, he noticed the cushion on the floor. "Excuse me," He mumbled while picking it up. Ambling over to the other side of the table, he switched the other cushion with his then sat that one in his spot. As he gazed back at Jimin, he motioned for her to sit down while using his left hand to fix his hair. "Let's get down to business. Shall we?"
Jimin nodded, moving to sit across from him. Resting her chin in her hand, she sighed, going through the morning’s events in her mind.
“The main thing is that she wanted me piece together the symptoms I’ve told her about and come up with a diagnosis for you,” she said. “She also wanted me to ask you where I could find the medical journals made by your previous doctors and physicians.”
Her gaze kept drifting back to Kangdae’s lips and shimmering skin. How they glistened, the moonlight and candlelight seemed to conflicting upon their surfaces. How cold and pale yet soft they looked. She forced herself to stay on track.
“A-after I gave her a false account of last night, she looked quite distressed. And with the whole coming up with a diagnosis thing, I’m definitely sure that she will eventually find out the truth. Of course, we still have to hide from her for now. I’m just not sure how with creating a fake diagnosis.”
His gaze became unfocused as he thought back to last night, having Jimin in his arms. And when she hid her face in his chest…Feeling the blood rush as she blushed…Her expression when he kissed her cheek…. He grabbed at the silk of his robe, making a fist. Kangdae could feel her gaze on him, but he wasn't paying attention and didn't take it into account.
It took him awhile to get back to reality, to recount what she said, and figure out what to say. While his focus still wandered, he whispered, "I do not know where they are. I have no idea where they could be….No idea whatsoever." You do, he immediately thought to himself. He hummed then shook his head. After sitting down, he rested his finger lightly on his bottom lip while the other hand was sitting on his left knee. Still, he kept his gaze away from her, looking towards the left.
"Of course, it's imminent," He sighed, "You could possibly say that I have a weak heart and it's difficult for my body to produce blood, that is a possible option. Fainting spells wouldn't seem to be a better one, maybe constant fatigue due to not enough blood in my body."
She tilted her head at him, waiting for him to respond. He seemed distracted, why? By what? She could only wonder silently and wait, eyes drifting back to his lips.
“Are you sure?” She asked once he’d replied. “Well, if you don’t know, I suppose I could always look in the palace archives.”
A frown came to her face at his suggestions. After lowering her gaze and thinking for a moment, she said, “I could say that, but it wouldn’t explain how no one had noticed something like that after three years. Also, after I had told her Majesty that you do not eat your meals, she noted that if that was the case, it would worsen your condition. I believe that would mean we would see physical evidence of your fasting. But just as you don’t look like you’ve been starving yourself, you also don’t look constantly fatigued. Do you think we can explain that?”
Jimin raised her head to study him. In spite of her words, he did look somewhat tired, in addition to being distracted. She wanted to ask him what the matter was, if he was alright, but was scared to for some reason.
With slight hesitation, he nodded again. His eyes squinted as he tapped on his knee, but he kept moving his head up and down. Yes, he has no clue where those journals could be. None at all. Surely. Of course.
A strange feeling had overcome him as he listened to her. Each word rang in his ears like mellifluous music though it made him more tensed. He focused his gaze down at his chest. "I don't believe we'll be able to show any physical evidence," He responded in a whispery manner. "I mean I could pretend to faint and such….but I don't think it would work…..I am not sure."
Kangdae glimpsed up at Jimin before his eyes rested on her lips. For a second, his eyes lit up red. He shouldn't let his eyes and thoughts wander so freely, it will only make him more tense and even timid, he looked away. But oh how soft they look. They must be as sweet as blood. No, they have to much more sweet. The corners of his mouth lifted into a smile briefly as his thoughts wandered.
Oh dear…. He won't ever be able to stop thinking, it's incessant. His Adam's apple bobbed before he said, "My head hurts…" Once again, he nodded. Randomly, he got up and turned towards his bed. Without saying another word, he got in bed and pulled the cover. Only after shutting his eyes for a mere second did he open them to look at her. Slowly, he looked away and pulled the cover over him.
She paused when he hesitated, questioning his nod, but the flash of red in his eyes made the gears turn in her head. She considered the idea that he was lying again.
“No,” she decided. “You do know where they are, don’t you?” A sigh. “And no, that wouldn’t work. Perhaps we could merely pass it off for your servants trying to hide evidence of the starvation and fatigue with makeup. Maybe a simple explanation is all we need.” Her voice was a little sharper than usual, contrasting Kangdae’s whispers.
She watched him intently, though now not just because he was pleasing to look at. As he moved to the bed, she sighed as frustration simmered somewhere inside her chest. They were not on the same page. Her mind was buzzing with anxiety and thoughts of the future, while he seemed both distracted and exhausted, unable to focus. She went quiet for a moment, lowering her gaze to look at her lap.
“I can come another time if you wish, Your Highness,” she said softly. “Maybe it’s my fault. I just get worried about things.”
"No…" He whispered again. What would be worse? Lying that he doesn't know where they are or the fact that some of them are gone for good? Oh it is so clear, yet his mind is incredibly foggy. Every time he tries to think about something else, his mind just goes back to last night and the desire to wrap his arms around her and to….
He shook his head at the thought. Resting on his left side, he opened his eyes. "It isn't my court's fault. I do not want her to punish them," He mumbled, "Everything is my fault. Not Myung's…Not even the ladies who do my clothes…Mine, it's all mine from the start." Closing his eyes, he frowned at himself. In the end it is and now he is even more guilty for dragging Jimim into this too.
Right away he shouted, "No!" Pulling the cover down from his face, he sat up. His hands covered his face for a second. No…this wasn't what he wanted. Everything will only get worse now since it's his fault. No no no. He just didn't want to make things worse himself the longer he looked at her.
With his right hand, he used it to beckoned Jimin to come over. "It will only hurt more if you go…." He stated. Kangdae kept his gaze down while he fiddled with his fingers trying to find the right words to say. "And I believe I may have a way to calm your nerves. You must be very tired. Come over here. Please stay."