Pairing/ Characters: Yunjae
Form: Chaptered ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 )
Genre: AU, Fairy tale, 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.
I have reached Orion, and I'm sorry that I'm only writing to you now. It has been quite busy here.
The king treats me like his and he extends his well wishes to you. The king has a peculiar son and I may be staying here for a while to figure him out.
I hope you are well, and old Prometheus wishes that you had not saddled me with him.
I shall learn and expand my horizon to benefit our kingdom. Pray extend my best wishes to sister.
P.S. If you are reading this, the pigeon must have found you. Isn’t this quite handy? We should have these pigeons too, father.
Rolling his letter up happily, the young prince secured it to the leg of the pigeon a young palace servant had given to him. Trailing a finger down the bird's smooth feathers, he met the docile creature’s intelligent eyes with a faint smile as it cooed under his ministrations.
Blowing a light kiss onto the crown of the snow-white creature, the prince released it before watching it disappear into the horizon with guarded incredulity. His kingdom had relied on couriers, but the use of homing pigeons was serviceable if truly successful.
As he returned to sit on the high bed, he wondered if his father had ever received pigeon mails. As he smoothed the wine-red spread with his fingers, he thought about the many things he had yet to learn before he became king.
Patting the duvet, the young prince sighed to himself. The quilt was thick under his fingers; Jaejoong’s kingdom slowly approaching winter. But unlike the nervous tension common back home when the cold arrived, the people seemed strangely accustomed to the winters he had learnt descended four times a year, spanning two months each. As the town's bell rang twice in the distance, the prince broke out of his reverie to stand.
His Majesty had beseeched Yunho to accompany his son and he joined the young prince in most of his activities, in his lessons, performing duets or listening raptly while the other sang effortlessly.
They also sparred occasionally under the king's presence, and Yunho had quickly learnt that the prince was a fine warrior despite his fey-like features. He still remembered the shock of being bested to the ground during their first duel, and the light pressure of the other’s blade against his neck while the king's yelled agitatedly for him to stand in the background.
As he knocked the prince’s hand away while bringing him down with a quick manoeuvre of his legs, Yunho decided then that he had found another reason for Prometheus's insistence to visit the kingdom. Standing swiftly as he wielded his discarded sword in his sweaty hand, Yunho focused on Jaejoong’s cold expression as the boy flipped himself to rise.
His birth right as a prince came with differential treatment and Yunho never had a companion of his age and equal status. His closest confidant was Yoochun, the son of his music tutor, and while he was skilled with the sword, the knights in his kingdom were conscious of his position, unlike Jaejoong who fought with the intention to draw blood.
As he parried the other’s attacks to the king’s resounding calls of approval, their next duel ended in a draw with a heartfelt promise to continue.
Staring at his reflection in the mirror within the ornately carved rosewood border (probably the work of a fine local artisan), the prince swirled a plain cloak around him mechanically as he headed for the door. He had a hunt with a certain prince today.
"How's life, my prince?" Prometheus asked softly as they picked up speed, riding to the forest behind Jaejoong as the guards followed a little further down.
Yunho rolled his eyes, wind in his hair as he pushed aside his surprise of a conversation despite the possibility of discovery. The prince straightened the leather strap of the quiver Jaejoong had lent him before replying. "I just groomed you in the morning, darling."
Prometheus merely laughed at the deadpan reply. "Orion’s filled with boundless opportunities and untold stories, my child. So much could happen in hours."
Yunho almost snorted as he rolled his eyes with incredulity. "Right. I might just decide to fall in love with a maiden and take her hand in marriage within two hours without your supervision." He replied sarcastically as smoothed his guardian’s mane lightly.
"Oh little boy, one never decides to fall in love. Love just happens."
Yunho frowned in distaste, noting how Prometheus had conveniently ignored his statement. Oh he would marry a random girl just to spite his guardian, alright.
Ignoring the other as they reached the forest behind the palace, Yunho bade Prometheus to slow as he focused on his surroundings. If he hadn't yet felt the whispers of chill in his bones, he wouldn't have thought that it was winter as he rode in the forest. The trees were the coniferous types he had seen in his books, a rich, marvellous green despite the temperature. He couldn't help but reach for it as Prometheus strength shifted underneath him.
"Is it much different from those back home?" Jaejoong asked coolly, rounding back towards him when he noticed that his companion has stopped. Yunho nodded quickly in reply with an amused smile.
"Would you like to taste it, Prometheus? I'll bet it tastes different." He tugged a clump of the needle-like leaves to his ride's mouth encouragingly only to receive a huff, yelping when he almost fell off his stirrup with the stallion’s violent shake. "Hey! You could have just said no, alright?" Yunho complained as he released the leaves that didn't really count as leaves in his opinion.
"No, Yunho, your horse can't. And I don’t believe that it’ll taste good." The other replied dully, and Yunho froze, suddenly conscious of his previous actions. Oops. He had forgotten that Jaejoong was staring at him.
"Ha..." he laughed weakly with a sheepish smile. Jaejoong looked on, a raised eyebrow in question, otherwise the picture of unflappable suave. "I've yet to break the habit of conversing with Prometheus while travelling,” Yunho explained.
Jaejoong nodded grimly, a flash of a small smile across his lips before he turned to race deeper into the forest.
"Idiot." Prometheus whispered in amusement as he followed immediately. Yunho grimaced, resisting the vindictive urge to poke the other.
The forest had scarcely any animals unlike the other ones he had trudged through in his journey, save for the few snakes slithering on the dark ground. Keeping his bright eyes peeled for the cold blooded creatures when they slowed, Yunho failed to see Jaejoong reaching for his arrows, only realising when he heard the dull thwang of the bow.
"Wha-" he couldn't even finish as he watched the arrow sink into the flesh of the target in horror, his eyes clouding ominously as the mother moose turned to look their way. A mere heartbeat later, the sizeable beast began to charge towards them in full throttle, a muted roar as its hooves clapped on the forest ground like the thunder of his heart as its calf stood rooted in the background, frozen by its first witness of violence.
Instinctively drawing his bow, Yunho shot at the animal, jumping off his horse swiftly and switching to his sword the moment the beast neared. His mind couldn't even react as he watched the creature charge head-on towards them undeterred, even as arrows from both the distant guards and the prince sank into its flesh. Running towards the moose with his sword in hand, Yunho met the animal, holding his blade high before stabbing the blade into the middle of its head, pushing it deeper as it struggled closer, beyond the resistance of its skull, into its brain as it trashed wildly, pushing Yunho backwards as the prince tried in futility to dig his heels into the ground.
Holding his stance with a grimace, Yunho watched the crimson blood emerge from the wound, looking into the moose’s eyes that for a moment seemed to hold infinite sadness that washed him in guilt. As his soul sank, the moose shuddered with a deep groan as its lashes fell shut, obscuring its glassy eyes before its legs gave way. Yunho didn't even realise that his hands were shaking as his cold hands struggled to pull his sword out. Watching the blood trickling down the polished metal detachedly before taking in the sight of the carcass at his feet, the boy felt lightheaded as his heart thumped wildly in his chest, his mind whirling from the adrenaline coursing through his veins.
A halo of blood began to form around the head of the fallen beast and Yunho watched with a daze as the foal bounded into the trees with a frightened noise as if conscious of its imminent fate.
Finally turning to look at Jaejoong who but looked at him expressionlessly, shrouded in that sickening air of regality as if he had merely enquired about the weather a second before.
"It had a child." Yunho stated flatly, as he held the other's dark eyes.
"All's fair," Jaejoong replied as his eyes returned to the trees the calf had disappeared into.
Yunho stared at the man in disbelief. "It's going to be winter! The calf will die without its mother!" He roared, resisting the urge to knock the prince off his horse and initiating a fight over the boy’s amorality. “It being fair does not imply that it is right!” He yelled as Jaejoong looked down at him impassively.
"We need meat to last us for the winter." Jaejoong replied while the guards moved to slice the carcass into smaller pieces for transportation.
"You needed meat, not a mother," Yunho spat heavily, mounting his saddle in a swift move as he turned to leave, tearing through the forest to the place that would never feel like home as his head rang in furious disbelief.
- - -
A knock at the door came, and Yunho grumbled in displeasure as he uncrossed his leg without leaving his perch. Had he not delivered the message of his throbbing headache and lack of appetite?
"I'm dead," he called back in fury from the stone terrace. He had spent his time stewing, and his resentment against Jaejoong had faded to worry and frustration at his impropriety for acting out of turn as if he was in his own kingdom with the protection of his father.
The knocks persisted.
Aggravated, Yunho stormed towards the door, taking a deep breath to compose himself before pulling it open to the sight of a smiling Junsu, the palace servant that had brought him the homing pigeon the day before. "What." He asked gruffly as he noted distractedly how the boy’s smile had instead widened at his brusqueness.
"The Majesty sends his concern together with the royal draught specially brewed for chronic headaches." The boy produced a small vial of black liquid from the folds of his coarse breeches.
Yunho looked at the gift, biting his lower lip in guilt without accepting it. The combination of Junsu’s sincere smile and the King’s misplaced concern made him look away in shame as he calculated the possibility of convincing Prometheus to leave in the morning.
Mistaking the prince’s guilt for mistrust, the servant hurried to explain himself. "Please, your highness, I assure you its safety at my life. It came from the same stock consumed by the prince."
Yunho’s brows rose at the assurance. He had oft seen the prince draining from a flask inside his coat. "Consumes? Jaejoong suffers from migraine? Is the draught specially formulated for the prince?" He asked quickly as the servant grimaced. Realising that he had asked the right questions, Yunho straightened authoritatively as he waited for his reply while the boy’s eyes darted frantically.
"I am grateful to see you well, your highness. But I have chores that I must return to. His Majesty will be delighted to receive the news of your recovery." The boy excused himself, returning the vial as he turned the other way.
"No, wait," Yunho protested as he caught the other’s wrist swiftly, intrigued by the sudden drastic change in the servant’s usual sunny disposition. As Junsu looked at him in fright, Yunho began to realise the number of answers that the servant could give him.
"Did you hear about this evening's happenings?" He looked squarely into the other's face as the young boy shifted his gaze away.
"Yes, your highness."
"Then tell me what you think, Junsu." He beseeched as he released the other's wrist. “Was I wrong to expect empathy that his highness oft seems to lack?”
Junsu’s mouth fell open as he surveyed the corridor they stood in. "Pardon my insolence, your highness, but since you asked, I thought that you were too hard on the prince." He whispered as he offered the draught once more.
Yunho frowned at the reply, reading the sincerity on the boy’s face before accepting the offer grudgingly. The boy’s expression seemed to settle with the action as he opened his mouth to continue, before quickly closing it as if realising the gravity of his subsequent words.
Yunho inspected the corridor before offering the servant solace in his room.
"You would probably have heard, but our kingdom was like yours nineteen years ago." Junsu began when Yunho gestured impatiently for him to start.
Yunho raised a brow in incomprehension. Did Orion phase out the use of couriers nineteen years ago?
"We too had a single winter yearly. However, most importantly, we were both celebrating the birth of a male heir." Yunho blinked without reply.
"There was great merriment until a curse was set on the defenceless boy. The-" Yunho burst into incredulous laughter at the development, unable to comprehend the servant’s desperation to redeem his prince. His mirth faded slowly when Junsu frowned at him with a moue of disapproval.
"So the kingdom's fairies-" Yunho interrupted the boy with a raise of his hand. "I'd understand your defence of the prince, Junsu. But I am not interested in your elaborate lies of curses and fairies." He stated with a disdainful curl of his lips as Junsu levelled a look of disbelief on him.
"My loyalty lays with the royal family, but a liar I am not. I only shared the truth at your insistence, your highness. I apologize for wasting your time." He turned to leave with palpable antagonism, and Yunho felt his panic rise.
"Wait!" He pleaded as he pulled the other back once more. The other's conviction swaying him a little despite the tall words. "Continue, Junsu. I promise to keep an open mind." He begged as he watched the other's fingers tighten around the door knob, hesitation wavering in his eyes.
"And not interrupt," Yunho interjected as he held the other's gaze steadily, hoping to convey his sincerity, exhaling in gratitude when the servant finally released the door handle.
"So the prince grew up, and never once did a tear stain his cheeks, nor a wail escape his lips. The king was duly worried, and he sought the consult of the kingdom's fairies-" he paused to gauge Yunho's reaction as the other only gestured for him to continue.
"The young prince never displayed any emotion, nor a smile ghosted his lips despite the fairies' beckon." Yunho couldn't help but nod vehemently in agreement. The servant’s story was congruent to his impression of the older prince.
"It was found that the prince had a heart of ice, knowing naught the complexity of emotions. His highness also suffers grievous headaches during fair temperatures. In solution, the kingdom’s fairies have descended a temperate of intermittent winters to relieve his highness’ pain without jeopardizing the citizens’ livelihood."
Yunho bit his lip as he grasped the vial tighter in his slippery palm, predicting his consumption of the draught upon the servant’s departure.
"His highness has been schooled on emotions and the right responses to situations, but it's hard to comprehend when you do not empathise. Due to his deficiency, his highness was unable to comprehend why the death of the cow wasn't right."
Yunho felt a distant throbbing in his jaw as the servant searched his eyes in worry.
"I believe that his Majesty has placed you in the company his highness hoping he would better understand the ways of interaction with your equal statuses. I believe you right in the forest but my prince requires your patience, your highness."
Yunho felt vaguely ambushed by the task entrusted to him without consent.
"I have now seen that you are well, your highness. Do take the medicine and have a good rest. The pain will fade in due course." He bowed slightly before pulling the door open. "His Majesty awaits my report," the servant excused himself smoothly before showing himself out so quickly that he was long gone before Yunho snapped out of his stupor.
Sighing to himself as he massaged his temples, Yunho returned to his bed as he pondered over Junsu’s grim expression. Could it have been a delusion, an intricate story woven so deftly by the royal family to explain their son's handicap and the poor climate of the kingdom?
But even so, he argued fairly as he laid on his bed. It was too far-fetched a story to convince any listener easily. Unless the peasants believed in fairies too... Yunho wondered as he revised the words of the craftsman at the edge of the kingdom. A curse that commenced nineteen years ago had been distinctly mentioned.
Exclaiming in frustration at the situation that had somehow instead become more complicated, the prince downed the draught in a two short gulps before dressing for the stables.
- - -
"Don't you want to sit?" Yunho asked curtly as he picked another rock, tossing it as he watched it skip across the surface.
"It's too cold to sit. You need to study harder, you ignorant child. Horses rarely sit unless to bask in the sun."
Yunho nodded moodily as a stock apology rolled off his tongue while he looked out dully into the dark, shimmering lake. He knew that Prometheus had intentionally chided him to instigate a protest, but right now, he felt so incredibly tired. "Can the other horses speak?" He asked finally as he turned to look at the other.
"No. I'm obviously special." Prometheus replied haughtily as he turned to leave with a swish of his dark tail.
"Hey! Where are you going!" Yunho called out furiously as he craned his neck to look at his companion.
"Back to the glorious warmth since you don't seem particularly interested in sharing what's on your mind." The stallion called out airily as it made its way gaily across the grounds.
Yunho hurriedly scrambled to stand. "You wouldn't believe even if I told you," the prince explained apologetically as they fell into step.
The prince bit his lips in hesitation as he pondered about the stallion’s response. Shrugging defiantly to himself, he embarked on the story.
"It's probably one of the worst cover-ups, don't you think?"
Prometheus lifted his head from the trough of water to look at his ward. "Back home, you people believe in spectres. The people here would probably scoff at you at the mention of the floating dead."
Yunho gaped in disbelief. "But ghosts are real! People return to bid their loved ones goodbye!"
Prometheus grunted as if emphasising how Yunho had proved his point. "And the previous kingdom believed greatly in fortune telling."
Yunho grimaced in recollection. The king was often in the presence of seers.
"And you're talking to me. If I exist, why not fairies?"
"But it's different!" Yunho argued in frustration. "I mean, talking animals are impossible, but you're here so there's something to look at, and believe in! Whereas fairies are-" he waved at the air to convey the impossibility.
"Things only have power because people believe in them. Ghosts occur back home because you believe that in their existence. Fairies reside here because the people give them power."
"Don't tell me you actually believe the servant’s story," he complained as Prometheus circled the wide stall.
"I do, my prince. The world is, as I've said many times- much bigger than you know. There are many things beyond you, my prince."
"But-" Yunho began to protest before falling quiet at his companion’s pointed look. Here Prometheus was, adopting the role of his guardian. Whoever had heard of an animal caring for a human? Besides, the servant wouldn’t deceive him, would he? In light of the new development, Yunho’s felt his guilt towards the prince multiply.
"You wouldn't be able to wait till morning, would you?"
Yunho smirked at his companion conspiratorially. "Yes, I indeed wouldn't," he replied playfully as he brushed the other's smooth coat with a fond smile.
"Just so you know, the palace's roses smell the best at midnight."
Yunho sighed, giving his comrade a final pat before bursting out of the stall while yelling praises of his guardian.
"So what happens now?" The handsome stallion in the neighbouring stall that Jaejoong had rode in the evening asked when it was but them animals in the stable.
"We'll wait, Eron. The prince isn't wise, but he's smart enough. He'll do the right thing." Prometheus laughed to himself at the other's disapproving grumble. "Just so you know, it's really good to be back, having you around to eavesdrop in my conversations."
- - - - -
A/N: For watah who I spent the entire day yesterday editing for. Thank you for pushing me so politely.
For lindabelinda99 who doesn't know that this exists.
I'm working on part 4 right now. I hope to get the entire story up before the coming week ends.
Mistakes mine, leave a comment because idk