XIII.

with you ; na jaemin

"you're sleeping again?!" a loud slap roared across the dungeon. one of the guards that were supposed to prevent yuri from escaping fell to the floor after the impact. yuri could tell the other guard was going to help him out, but he didn't dare move a single bit. the head guard had been unreasonably too violent for the past week, to the princess' opinion.

"how many times do i have to tell you to stop doing this?! do you want the king to kill me?!" as the head guard said this, he got even more violent and also kicked the unfortunate guard. yuri couldn't stand it any more.

"hey, stop it! you could've just talk nicely to him!" the head guard, despite yuri being a princess, disrespect her by glaring at her. he kicked the poor guard for the last time before leaving. yuri secretly sneered behind the head guard's back but remembered that the guard was injured. no matter who it is, she felt like it's her job to tend to injured people. the other guard who was still standing instantly dropped down, helping out the injured guard stand up. he seemed to be struggling to stand up despite the aid from the other guard.

"i know i'm currently a damsel in distress, and i promise i won't run away. but please, at least let me out to tend his injuries." of course, the thoughtful yuri always does things like this despite the situation she's in. the unharmed guard was hesitant for a while, but he slowly took out the keys that were hooked to his pants and released the princess.

the princess rushed to the injured guard and took out some herbs that she kept whenever jaemin was somehow hurt.

"you're lucky I saved some." yuri told the guard to show her the area where he was in pain. and clearly, there was a pretty bad bruise around his stomach area.

"thank you, your highness." yuri could tell that the guards felt guilty about the situation, but she just lets it go since they are just doing their job. being the yuri she is, she tries to break the slight awkwardness by asking their names.

"i'm wonwoo, and this is mingyu, your highness." the uninjured guard spoke. still continuing to tend the wound, wonwoo asked, "why are you still helping us even after what we did to you, your highness?"

"i can't leave anyone being hurt. my heart can't take it." yuri did her finishing touches before helping mingyu up along with wonwoo.

"alright, i'm going to go back in. i'll check it often to make sure it's healing." after all of that, both the guards were reluctant to lock her up again, but they have to. they cannot compete against their head guard, neither can they go against the king himself. even if they let her escape, they are more afraid that the princess will get into more trouble than them getting a punishment. they wouldn't want the emerald princess to get harmed.
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"alright, guys, i-i mean, your highnesses and seungcheol oppa." taehee almost slapped herself for accidentally being informal to the princes. not that the princes' mind about it actually. since taehee knew the castle well, including where the guards will stand at, the princes allowed her time to speak first before having the actual plan - saving the princess. somehow taehee had a map of the castle hidden in the base and showed them the areas of which the princess could be possibly be hidden.

"why not all of us just barge in from the front door?" prince jisung said.

"wow, that's a brilliant idea, jisung. that's how we are totally going to do it discretely." chenle being sarcastic as always.

"I mean we could just go through the princess' room's window like jaemin did." donghyuck suggested.

"yeah, but it's too far from the area that she could possibly be kept at. we need to save her in the shortest possible time." jaemin spoke.

"why can't we just fight all of them face to face? we have the abilities, and we have you, the strongest and the smartest amongst us, jaemin." jeno admitting that jaemin is the strongest and smartest is weird. jaemin appreciates it, but no, of course, he's not. if he's strong, he could've fought the 'unknown' with just his abilities. if he's smart, he would've known the 'unknown's plans and could have avoided this situation.

mark notices jaemin being his emo self again and nudges him back to his senses.

"jaemin, you need to stop blaming yourself. this is not your fault, and you didn't want her to be in this unexpected situation. wake up, and start thinking on how to save her. we need an extra brain for this to work, alright?" mark's right. the time is ticking, and the 'unknown' would've had plans to harm her, or even kill her.

renjun was quiet but suddenly pushes everyone for a group hug.

"let's do this guys, for my sister." taehee and seungcheol just look at them from the back and felt proud of their growth as the next rulers of their own kingdoms.

they broke from the hug and renjun finally spoke.

"guys, chances of the princess being in held in these areas at the castle might be low. if she's there, it would've been too easy. plus the 'unknown' can trick all of us into thinking that he's the king for years, he wouldn't close one eye for this one when he plans to rule the kingdom forever."

"so, what are your thoughts then?" seungcheol asked.

"there might be a hidden room somewhere." renjun nodded after jaemin replied.

"we need to go back to the castle. to find this place and save her."
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jeonghan is tired. tired of trying to impress his father who was never pleased with him. he was never praised even though he always gets what he wants. he's tired of his father, not believing in him. jeonghan has been kicking rocks by the small lake near the garden, hopefully getting over his stress.

"if only I had friends, I wouldn't have felt like this."

it's like his prayers are heard instantly as he saw both minjae and the woman that he talked to briskly walking and looking around, as though finding something. the worried look on their faces revealed how desperate they were trying to find something. he saw them spoke for a bit before splitting up. of course, he's curious, so he followed the woman who he has yet to ask for her name.

jeonghan felt like a stalker, just tailing her, looking at every nook and cranny. after a while, the woman decides to take a break and sat at the nearest bench she saw.

this is my chance, he thought.

"hello again." yes, that's totally not weird, jeonghan. he sat at the end of the bench, resulting in an awkward gap between them. she was trying to catch her breath but almost choke one her saliva as jeonghan sat beside her without warning.

"sorry, did I surprise you?" the woman nodded.

"umm, hi, what do you want?" jeonghan thought that he might've said something wrong that made her reply sounding pissed.

"nothing, i just saw you and minjae walking around trying to search for something. just thought that i could help."

"it's alright. we are good. thank you for asking." she's pissed at me. she stood up immediately.

"i need to leave. bye."

"wait! but, i didn't even catch your name." too late for jeonghan. she walked too far before he could even ask again. damn it, jeonghan.

as much as jeonghan doesn't want to look like he's stalking her, he decided to follow right behind her, ensuring that he's doing it discreetly. his heart tells him to follow. what are they desperately trying to find?

he saw her ran towards minjae, which made him slightly uncomfortable (he isn't sure why). minjae was looking pretty distraught and stressed as though he almost lost hope in finding the thing that they are searching for. they kept whispering and whispering, and of course, jeonghan was curious on what they are talking about. thus, jeonghan crept nearer to them, hiding behind pillars, hoping to hear bits and pieces of what they are conversing about.

"this is not working. we won't be able to find her."

"your highness, you need to calm down. i'm confident that we will find her, no matter what."

your highness?

"but how? even you, who stayed here for years, don't even know the existence of a secret room. maybe it didn't even exist in the first place, and yuri is somewhere deep in the unknown forest."

yuri? the princess? why are they finding her?

jeonghan was so into the conversation that he leaned even more. he heard them shuffling around, of which he assumed that both of them sat at the nearest bench.

"jaemin, for now, i'm here as your noona, not your maid-of-honour. so i'm sorry, but you have to listen to me. you have to stop thinking negatively and blaming yourself for the things that you don't expect to happen. because we won't be able to move forward if you keep doing this, so please jaemin, wake up. yuri is waiting for you, and she wouldn't want to see you in a mess and distraught. where's my younger brother, jaemin, the strong, selfless and kind jaemin?"

jaemin? isn't it minjae? jeonghan's confused about everything he just heard. he was so into it to the point that he leaned in too much. and with that, he lost his balance and fell in front of them.

in an instant, jaemin pulled out his sword and placed it against the man's neck.

"how long have you been behind that pillar?"

"wait, wait. don't kill me. and I promise I did not hear anything."

"lies." jaemin put the sword closer, almost leaving a cut on jeonghan's neck.

"alright, alright! I did hear everything." jeonghan was desperate that he hoped that the woman beside minjae or jaemin would help him. and she did.

"hey, it's you!" she paused for a moment before telling jaemin to put away his sword.

"you better not tell anyone about this, even the king." jeonghan for some reason, felt he had to obey jaemin than feeling threatened, and nodded slowly. he thought that he's more powerful than his father.

"I know you are lost and that the king is someone you need to obey to. but the princess is someone we adore and love. hence why we need to save her before anything else could hurt her. so please, let us through. we will appreciate your help." this is the first time someone told jeonghan that she appreciates him if he helped them. even his father didn't appreciate him at all despite all the work he did for him. so of course, jeonghan would want to help them.

this time, he doesn't want to be forever in his father's hands. jeonghan has to live on his own, and he believes he can be a better person by doing this.

sorry, father. you saved me once, but she saved my heart a million times more.

"follow me." jaemin and the woman looked at each other, lost at what jeonghan said.

"I know where she is."
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