Pairing/ Characters: Yunjae
Form: Chaptered ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 )
Genre: AU, Fairytale, Fantasy
Summary: Prince Jaejoong has a frozen heart from a curse when he was young, and Prince Yunho itches to explore beyond his kingdom.
Also known as the one where Jaejoong has fairies or the one where Yunho has a talking horse.
"Would you like some rabbit meat?" The prince asked his companion lightly over the fire, shrugging when the other only sniffed in disapproval before wandering towards the river.
"Don't get lost, comrade," Yunho called out idly as he continued to roast his catch. He had refused the neighbouring king's offers for both an extended stay and supplies, and the experience of setting up his own fire and cooking his own food made him feel incredibly independent.
It was just too bad that Prometheus didn't quite appreciate rabbits.
- - - - -
"Slow, Prometheus." The prince urged as he tightened the reins before looking around himself. The trees in the forest were slowly baring with a dust of dried leaves on the ground.
Swinging off his ride, he inspected the trees leading to the kingdom closely, with the tired and muted foliage unlike the green and gold back home. The foreign kingdom had seemed to have already entered autumn, the fallen leaves a melancholous brown to the rich red of his neighbouring kingdom's during fall.
"The world's bigger than you think, my prince," Prometheus interjected as if reading his thoughts, and Yunho dropped the curl of leaf in his hand.
"But we just had our spring celebrations back home!" He protested as he walked beside his companion that had begun to trot away, pulling a face when Prometheus snorted under his breath.
"Oh I know you're curious too. I'll help you ask about it, comrade." Prince Yunho pat his horse lightly as he ignored the other's ‘I wasn't curious, kid.’
The pair continued to travel for miles without a single person in sight. The land was beautiful, but incredibly strange; without plains of crops for the working peasants. Every single house along the dirt path was empty, seemingly built for extreme weathers. The air was incredibly still.
It was hours later that the prince finally saw smoke emerging from a lone chimney. Dismounting, Yunho knocked on the door lightly.
"Good afternoon, sir." The prince began politely as the door opened to reveal a fair rotund man. "There's nobody in sight. Has there been a plague?" Yunho asked to a soft snort from the horse standing outside.
The stranger however didn't seem to mind as his laughter bubbled. "Because we don't have fields to tend to, or livestock to care for?" He prompted, and the prince nodded in naive earnestness.
"Well, you've asked the correct person, young man," he said as he opened his door wider in invitation, and the prince pressed his sword closer cautiously before entering the house with a thanks.
"Nineteen years ago, our country suffered a curse," the round man began as he poured a glass of water for his visitor. The prince tore his eyes away from an intricately painted vase to look disbelievingly at the man as he accepted the drink gratefully.
"We now have intermittent winters to balance the curse." He paused to point at the furnace in the corner. "Our kingdom has instead turned to the production of artisan goods of porcelain, glass and jewelry."
The prince ran his finger down a bowl with raised floral details around the sides. "So where have the people gone?" He asked in part jest and part curiosity as the man laughed while returning to the furnace to inspect his batch.
"Our kingdom has occasional music festivals, and the everyone has gone to join the merriment."
The prince was quiet as he pondered about the credibility of the man's words. After meeting a talking horse, curses didn't quite seem too far away.
"You should join too, young fellow. Prince Jaejoong is performing, and he has quite the voice of birds and an amazing skill with the harp. I would have gone if the next sale wasn't so close. Cried the last time I heard the prince play."
Deciding to cast his doubt aside momentarily, the prince queried about the location of the festival. He loved music, and if he met the prince, he could ask about the climate anyway. Thanking the man with an anticipation for a half hour's ride to the heart of the province, the prince mounted his obliging ride.
- - -
The festival had already begun when Yunho arrived, the city packed. Inspecting the untended wares on display as he walked past, the crowd went silent when the small child climed onstage to sing in a clear voice about rolling mountains and gushing rivers.
The prince dismounted his horse as he made his way through the crowd, taken by the raw power of the voice. His father enjoyed music and Yunho had studied it too. Watching the rapt attention on the citizens' faces, he began to favor introducing similar music festivals back home.
Clapping along with the people when the boy bowed, the prince watched the other acts with similar awe and an easy smile when noisy whispers suddenly broke out at the ascension of a burly man with a harp.
Puzzled, the prince looked about from his spot at the front, finally noticing how he had suddenly became surrounded by girls. Curious, Yunho was about to make a query when a pale teenaged boy in a black coat and waistcoat with cream breeches ascended the stage to a collective sigh by the crowd in his vicinity.
The dark haired boy that looked about his age swept his eyes across the audience blankly before his lips cocked up in what seemed like a sardonical smile. It didn't seem to matter to his neighbours though, as he watched the knees of the girl to his left give way. Rolling his eyes in ridicule, the prince focused on the new performer, expectations mounting with the brouhaha as the boy took seat before leaning the harp onto his shoulder easily.
The music began suddenly, and the boy's fingers moved skilfully, plucking the strings easily as he began to sing along, lamenting an incomparable love lost to foolishness. His voice was rich even as he scaled the octaves easily, his fingers never faltering as it danced to the quiet rhythm.
But the performer played like a scholar, presenting a tune with emotions that he oddly never seemed to truly comprehend. While the prince admired the voice, it felt mechanical and hollow, unlike the joy and optimism in the young child he had first heard, singing of the sunshine.
He could not experience the sadness of the loss, nor the anguish of being incomplete with the performancer's poor conveyance. When it ended, he was barely drawn by the boy, unsatisfied and inexplicably frustrated by the performance.
The crowd clapped jubilantly nonetheless when the spell broke, and Yunho acquiesced for the undeniable skill as he watched the same smile play across the performer's angular features- the one that never quite reached his eyes. Signalling for the crowd to quiet, the performer took a deep breath, and with a rock of his body, he launched into another song.
Prince Yunho lit up as he bounced on his heels in excitement at the tune- it was one of his kingdom's songs, a joyous melody of happiness that they sang during the summer celebration as their crops flourished while their food grew in abundance. Tugging at Prometheus's reins excitedly, the young prince searched his luggage for his flute. Bringing it to his lips, he joined the performer in the melody, both tunes weaving seamlessly into one as they shared the vitality of a warm summer and the rich ground beneath their feet.
The performer on stage looked up in curiosity, their eyes locking while their fingers moved deftly across their respective instruments. When the song ended, Yunho put his flute down with a small smile, awashed in the memories of the bustling days, vivid blue skies and the heated air that pressed against his skin.
The audience started to clap, and Yunho broke out of his reverie with a start, finally registering what he had done.
"The prince has found his match," a girl behind him whispered in awe to her friend, and Yunho looked disbelievingly at the boy who was now beckoning him onstage. His feet couldn't move as the chatter faded into a distant ringing as he gaped.
There was an impatient nudge to his side. "Get up!" Prometheus whispered harshly, and Yunho wanted to argue, but his mouth had turned to that of a desert, inexplicably overcome with shyness and the consciousness of his impropriety, having unintentionally stolen the prince's limelight callously after boldly finding the prince's performance lacking.
"Hurry!" Prometheus urged once more and with a forceful nudge, Yunho stumbled forward to take his share of the applause beside the prince.
"Are you from the southern kingdom beyond, traveller?" The other prince asked as they descended the stage after thanking the fawning crowd.
The peasants parted for them to reach his horse.
Yunho couldn't even muster enough composure to reply, his thoughts instantly evaporating as the prince looked at him blankly. The prince was like his music up close, beautiful but regretfully soulless, his face barely registering any interest while his voice lilted, as if he had forgotten to school his expressions.
"I-" Yunho groaned mentally to himself at his lost eloquence.
Squaring his chest with a steely resolve, he extended his hand quickly. "I am Prince Yunho of Cassiopeia, and I have came to renew our kingdoms' alliance."
Jaejoong's palm came out to meet him without a change in expression.
"Pardon my previous insolent intrusion. I've always loved summer best, and when you played the tune of home, I couldn't help but join in. You play very well, Prince Jaejoong." If the prince was surprised that Yunho knew his name, he didn't let it show.
"Jaejoong. Just call me Jaejoong, please" he offered, and Yunho beamed widely at the other.
"I'm exploring the world while visiting our allies," he elaborated needlessly at the uneasy silence as two guards fell into step behind them.
"Then I would like to extend our hospitality to you and invite you to stay with us for however long you wish. My father would be glad to meet you as I am." Jaejoong said primly, and it suddenly dawned on the prince the reason of his guardian's insistence to visit the kingdom. Prometheus had always frowned at his brazen, straight-talking manner, and the magical horse had obviously meant him to become as frigid as the local prince. He couldn't help but feel a little betrayed as he poked the beast in bitterness, staring daggers at the other when Prometheus turned to look at him disapprovingly.
Yunho suddenly noticed the prince watching his silent interaction with the horse. "Sorry," he coughed awkwardly as he straightened his own collar. The local prince unsettled him with the way he fixated his dark eyes on him without blinking as if he seeing through him and into his soul. He didn't even look particularly human with his pale, elfin features, and Yunho had the sudden urge to reach over to trace the angles of the other's face- the slope of his nose, the edge of his jaw. It looked so unnatural that he didn't quite believe that anyone could even look like that.
"What?" Jaejoong asked, a light frown barely reaching his brows as his eyes seemed to blaze.
Yunho shrugged as he swung himself onto Prometheus easily."Pardon me for my rudeness, Jaejoong. But you're much prettier than the countless maidens I have encountered." The prince smiled at the other as Prometheus choked in what sounded like laughter beneath him.
Jaejoong only blinked without reply.
- - - - -
A/N: Edited on May 23, 2015 and wow, my editing skills seemed to have improved...