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A bittersweet love

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Day 1

" We are going to be late, Mingyu." A voice rang out in Mingyu's chambers. Mingyu startled but composed himself when he saw it was just his brother.

"Go ahead without me." Mingyu told his brother as he looked towards him. Seokmin was standing at the entrance of his chambers, dressed in blue similar to him.

" How long are you going to keep staring at the mirror? " Seokmin had moved closer, his voice sounded near. Mingyu kept his gaze fixed past the mirror, on the view outside the open window. He could see the guests streaming in through the courtyard.

" At least for an hour or so. "

Mingyu turned to the door at the sound of Minghao's voice. Judging from the yelp Seokmin let out it seemed that he was startled by the sudden appearance of their brother.

"Shouldn't you be welcoming the guests ?" Mingyu asked his brother. He was after all the reason his father was making such a fuss. Minghao had returned successful from Lorensil, their neighboring country two days ago.

"Why are you two always in my room?" Mingyu whined, walking over.

"Is that anyway to greet your brothers, who have lovingly come to visit you ?" Seokmin said.

"I thought we could go together and welcome them. " Minghao said with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. Mingyu wondered what happened.

"That's actually really nice of you. " Seokmin praised, nodding in half surprise and half something that Mingyu didn't know.

"Let's not delay any longer. " Mingyu said patting his Minghao's shoulders.

Minghao flinched slightly at his touch before nodding and following him along. Mingyu found his brother’s reaction weird.

Mingyu walked in the front with his brothers close on his heels. He could hear their conversation, Seokmin's unrelenting but innocently curious questions about Minghao's travels that Mingyu found endearing and Minghao answered his questions patiently. Whatever problems Minghao had with Mingyu they didn't extend to Seokmin.

"Who were you writing for? You just came home. Did you meet someone interesting? A friend?" Seokmin's question made Mingyu turn. He was met with the sight of a flustered Minghao, which led to some more teasing from Seokmin. Mingyu found himself smiling.

When they left Mingyu's personal chamber, the guards surrounded them. Mingyu thought it was excessive for a trip to the banquet hall. Chan took his usual place at his right. Chan was dressed up for the evening. He looked his age for once, now that he was out of work.

Mingyu could see that his father made the right choice in letting Seokmin plan the welcoming feast for Minghao. Mingyu internally marveled at his brother's talent. The walls were decorated with tapestries, full of colorful stories. Mingyu would have been excited if he hadn't been seeing it for all his life.

 

As they neared the banquet , Mingyu felt the number of guards trailing them had tripled from when they had left his chambers.

It's not like they would need protection inside the palace. Even with their respective personal guards it shouldn't be this many people. It would be foolish of anyone to attack them in their own palace.

As the south were known for their impenetrable defense. Mingyu could hear music and the sound of indistinct chatter as they neared the hall.

A quiet fell over crowd as the herald announced their presence. Mingyu and his brothers made their way to the dais. His father was sitting, surrounded by his ministers, Mingyu headed straight for him. Mingyu took his seat on his father's right and he watched as Seokmin and Minghao took the seat on his left.

Mingyu promptly zoned out, eyes curiously going around the crowds with people he both recognized and didn't, as his father made a heartfelt welcome home speech which was clearly written by the King's advisor who was standing next to him.

Finally his father ended his speech with a much needed toast and a glass of wine was held in front of him and Mingyu took it and downed it as gracefully as he could. A servant refilled the glass as Seokmin leaned back to face him behind his father.

"Slow down, Mingyu. The wine won't run away and you have all night." Seokmin whispered.

"Say that to him" Mingyu said, looking at Minghao, who was already on his third refill.

"Ah, you two. Are you princes or drunkards?" Seokmin said, leaning back to his chair.

"Why can't we be both?" Minghao said, sipping his wine.

"I can toast to that. " Mingyu said, with a roguish grin.

"Don't ruin the feast. I mean it, you two. Behave." Seokmin reminded.

After a while, Mingyu bid his father goodbye and left the dais with the excuse that he was going to socialize.

He could hear Seokmin and Minghao doing the same and leaving the dais.

After an hour or so, talking with the courtiers, Mingyu made his way to the balcony. On his way, he saw Seokmin talking excitedly to his father's advisor, Yoon Jeonghan. The smile on Seokmin’s face was brighter than he had even seen. It would be obvious to anyone who saw them that Seokmin liked Jeonghan, maybe more than he should a member of his court. Mingyu wished he could spare Seokmin from the heartbreak he was inevitably headed to but the look on Seokmin's face made it clear that there was nothing Mingyu could do about it now.

As Mingyu was hidden by the thick curtains of the balcony, he could finally relax ever since stepping out of his chamber. The wine in his cup was almost gone and it would be his fifth glass of the night. The chill air of the night was doing wonders to his wine heated body and when he was finally starting to feel the cold seep in, he made his way back.

Except, the curtain got in his way and he stumbled. To avoid falling, Mingyu steadied himself against the wall, shattering the wine glass in his hand and felt a sharp sting of pain in his palm.

Mingyu cursed seeing the blood in his hands. Chan appeared from around the curtain and asked " Again, your highness?"

Mingyu scowled as a reply and it wasn't his fault that bad luck followed him wherever he went.

A servant came over and cleaned the glass and another handed him a towel and tried to stop the bleeding. Mingyu waved the servants off.

"Get the chief healer, he would here somewhere." Mingyu hissed in pain as he wrapped the towel around his right hand. He remembered seeing the chief healer when he was scanning the crowd earlier.

"If you look to your right , your highness, two tables over, you can see the royal healer passed out drunk. " Chan said with that even tone of his that Mingyu hated.

"Fine. I'll treat it myself "

"I'm sure we can find at least one of the healers at the royal infirmary, who must be sober, your highness. I'm sure some of them stayed behind instead of attending , your highness."

"Fine. Just ask someone to report to my father that I'll be stepping out for awhile ."

"Already done, your highness. "

"You're getting more and more annoying as the day goes on." Mingyu mumbled to himself as he made his way out of the banquet. He walked as if nothing was wrong.

Mingyu dismissed the guards as they tried to surround him. The last thing he needed was more attention.

Chan led him through a series of hallways and stairs as they entered the east wing of the palace. As expected the royal infirmary was dark when he looked through the window as he passed.

"Now what?" Mingyu asked , feeling stupid holding a towel to his bleeding hand. He could see small spots of red on the towel, indicating he was still bleeding. Chan led him through a few twist and they came upon a row of doors. Mingyu knew this was the healers residence even though he had never been here.

"Are we going to knock on the doors one by one until someone answers?" Mingyu asked, hoping to tease the younger. By the look on his secretary face, Mingyu realized he had guessed right.

As embarrassed as Mingyu was, he seemed to be losing a lot of blood and his hand required immediate treatment.

Chan set off and knocked dutifully on the doors. The first two doors was a bust.

A sleepy voice rang out from the far left as they were knocking on the third door
" Who the hell is knocking at this hour?"

Mingyu turned to the sound of the voice and Chan immediately started explaining their situation. It wasn’t even that late.

Mingyu watched the man go from sleepy to alert in a span of a second. The man was dressed to sleep with his hair sticking out in an odd direction. He looked pale under the dim light of the hallway. The man bowed to him as he noticed his presence and quickly invited Mingyu in.

When Mingyu made his way through the narrow door, his first thought was that the room was small. His second thought was at least the room was clean. His third thought was where he going to sit, he couldn’t see a chair. Chan stood in the doorway. The small room was already cramped.

There was bed adjacent to the wall and a small desk which held quite a few letters and books.

"Please excuse the clutter, your highness. " the healer said as he motioned for Mingyu to sit on the bed as there were no chairs.

Mingyu sat down and thought that there was no way that the healer could sleep comfortably here. Even just sitting down, Mingyu took up half of the bed. The healer was almost as tall as him.

He watched the healer take a bag from the shelf, which was neatly arranged. Then he turned to Chan and said something which Mingyu didn't hear as he was focused on the shelf in front of him which held some clothes and books. Mingyu tried to read the title on the covers of the books which were arranged on the shelf. He squinted and could only make out a few before he gave up.

The healer had laid out various things on the floor near the bed and Mingyu knew quite a few of them as he was a frequent visitor to the royal infirmary ever since he could walk. The healer seemed content to work in silence as he bent down and unwrapped the towel Mingyu had hastily tied on.

"Isn't it too dark here ? " Mingyu asked the healer, looking around the dim lit room.

"Forgive me, your highness. I'll light more candles." The apprentice replied, getting up. He took the candles from his shelf and placed them in their stand after lighting it. Mingyu could see better than before.

The healer pulled out several fragment of glass which were impinged in his cut.

Chan returned with a bowl and the healer went to get the bowl. He set it on the floor and took a clean cloth and dipped it in and started cleaning the cut with water.

Mingyu winced and the healer looked up from the floor, murmuring a quiet apology.

" What is your name?" Mingyu asked, trying to distract himself from the pain.

"Jeon Wonwoo, your highness." the apprentice answered as he dipped another cloth in some liquid and wiped his cut. Mingyu winced again.

Wonwoo opened a jar and spread a salve on the surface of the cut and started wrapping his hand in bandages.

 

"Oh, Apologies, your highness " Wonwoo said, quickly looking up at him and went back to wrapping his hand. Wonwoo's cheeks were colored in red which stood out with his fair face. Mingyu had a suspicion that Wonwoo wasn't from Illdreles. No one was this pale with the sun blazing in the south.

" It's alright. You're not from around here, are you ?" Mingyu asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"No, your highness " Wonwoo looked up with wide eyes.

" No one from the south is this pale with the sun smoldering. Unless you never leave this room." Mingyu said, looking around the room to find any indication that Wonwoo might have never left this room.

"I assure you, your highness, that healer Han keeps his apprentices busy."

So Wonwoo was an apprentice.

"Then how come I have never seen you?" Mingyu asked, curious. He was a frequent visitor to the royal infirmary and he had never seen Wonwoo before. Not that he knew everyone in the palace.

" I've only been here for four months, your highness. " Wonwoo said with a chuckle.

"Ahh, that explains it. " Mingyu said, looking at him. He scanned Wonwoo's face, trying to figure where he might be from.

The sound of someone clearing their throat got his attention.

Mingyu turned his head towards Chan, who was looking at him expectantly as if waiting for an answer. He turned his head towards Wonwoo, who was looking at him the same way.

Mingyu had a feeling he missed something.

"Shouldn't you answer the healer's question, your highness?" Chan asked pointedly stealing his attention away from Wonwoo.

" The bandage isn't too tight is it, your highness?" Chan asked, still with his eyebrows raised.

"Right. It's not. Too tight, I mean. It's perfect." Mingyu stammered, feeling embarrassed.

Wonwoo answered with another chuckle and stood up as he finished packing up his case. Mingyu had a feeling that was his cue to leave but he wanted to see how long it would be before annoyance starts showing in Wonwoo's face.
“ I would give you something to reduce the pain but I can’t do that without a healer’s permission, your highness. I apologize.” Wonwoo said, bowing.

"Is there anything else, your highness? " Wonwoo asked, turning around after placing the case back in it's original place.

Mingyu hummed in thought. He did not want to go upstairs to talk about politics, he would rather stay here.

"No, that will be all. We do have a party to get back to, your highness." Chan said, ruining his mood.

Chan has been doing that a lot lately. Maybe advisor Yoon did this on purpose to annoy him. After all, he heard it was the royal advisor's decision to make Chan as his personal secretary. Never mind how inexperienced or how young he was. Not that Chan was bad at his job, he was good, way better than Mingyu had expected. It's just that there were times where he would hope the younger would shut up.

Mingyu went back to the banquet hall sulking.

As he expected, Seokmin found him as soon as he entered.

"Mingyu , Are you alright?" Seokmin asked, eyebrows coming together in worry.

"It's fine. Look for yourself" Mingyu said, waving his bandaged hand in front of his brother.

"Why are you so careless? Mingyu, please be careful in the future" Seokmin said, patting his shoulder.

"Seokmin is right, you should be careful, your highness. " Advisor Yoon said, appearing next to Seokmin.

"Sure, I'll take your advice " Mingyu said, walking to his father to announce his return.

"I don't like him " Chan hissed.

"Who? Seokmin? You have a lot of nerve telling me that you don't like my brother " Mingyu said, caught off guard. He wasn't sure why Chan didn't like Seokmin, but Seokmin had a better personality between the three brothers.

Chan gave him a flat look before saying " I meant advisor Yoon, your highness. That guy is a snake. "

" I thought you were close with him. Wasn't he the one who got you this post ?"

"No, How could you even think that, your highness ? " Chan said, appalled.

"Huh?" That was all Mingyu could say.

"My father is the General commander, so of course I got this post through him. Not that snake. Please get it right. Your highness. "

Mingyu blinked taking the information in.

" I didn't think your father would be like that. I thought commander Lee was righteous "

"You are really bad at reading people, your highness " Chan commented, handing him a glass.

Mingyu took it as his cue to shut up.