Warnings: execution by hanging, poison symptoms, vomit, internal body fluids, blood, smut (implied and actual), death
Part 1 Here!
The wedding reception was a blur, congratulatory comments from noble guests and comments on how big your ring was. The food was good, but there wasn’t enough of it to be satisfying to your hunger. Jisung was visibly uncomfortable from all the comments, and he could feel the menacing glares of his brothers even when they danced across the floor with their fiancées. Only Chenle had walked up to have any conversation with you, a rough brotherly hug given to Jisung in celebration of his marriage.
“so this is the lovely couple” Chenle had observed, walking over to you with a smile on his face and white wine in his hand.
“brother!” Jisung exclaimed, thankfully not loud enough to turn heads as Chenle hugged him tight. “it’s been weird not seeing you every day. how have you been?”
Chenle sighed. “I’ve been better, I will admit. I don’t know if you saw, dear brother, your majesty, but I am still without a woman. You’ll see our brothers over on the dance floor, Haechan with the princess of the West, Renjun with the countess-to-be of Wendolyn, Jeno with the recently widowed lady of Reminst, and you can see the rest. But I’ve always considered my brother Jisung to be the luckiest of us all”
You didn’t know if it was a compliment for Jisung or you, opting to be confused on the whole ordeal. “it’s okay, Chenle. You’ll find someone, you seem very dashing and charming, you should have no troubles”
He smiled. “I thank you for your kind words, your majesty. Give my kind words to the people who planned this event, it was quite the event of the season”
“I’ll be sure to”
“brother, may I talk with you in private? There’s something I need to run past you” Chenle asked, awaiting Jisung’s response.
“of course, it’s been a while, I’d love to catch up beside all the women talk” he answered. “I’ll be right back, Y/N” he promised, walking off to a secluded corner to talk with his brother.
This was the first real time you had gotten to meet Chenle, the events with him almost none during your courtship with all the princes. You stared out to the dance floor, marvelled at how five of the seven princes had managed to find a noble match in such a short period of time. You guessed they had other women waiting for a response while attempting to court you, seeing as how you were in the most prime position to be married into.
Chenle seemed.. bland, almost. There was nothing about him that stood out to you, unlike Renjuns fiery calm or Jaemins charisma. Chenle didn’t make an effort either, unlike a few of his brothers. He didn’t strike you as vengeful or opinionated, rather just…there. Still, he was Jisungs most beloved brother, and it was in your interest to get to know him more, maybe he was only bland on the surface. You would have him around for dinner sometime, dinner and a few glasses of wine normally got someone loosened enough to show their ‘fun’ side.
You glanced at the two brothers conversing as the song ended. Looking back in the direction of the dance floor, you noticed all of Jisungs other brothers were slowly making their way towards you.
“Congratulations, your majesty” Renjun said as he bowed deeply. “thank you for inviting us to your wedding, it’s been a lovely one”
“yes it has” Jaemin piped up, louder than Renjun’s quiet tone. “the food was delectable, give my thanks to the chef”
You laughed a little, the difference in personality between the two brothers almost giving you whiplash. “I hear all of you are engaged, my congratulations to you all”
They smiled, but it didn’t reach their eyes. They looked almost smug at your remark, before training their eyes on their two youngest brothers still quietly talking in the corner.
“would you know what they would be discussing?” you asked the brothers, curious.
They shook their heads. “our upbringing was one of separation, your majesty. They were the only ones to maintain a proper brotherly relationship, one of the few perks of being a younger prince in a family” Haechan answered stiffly, his fingers tapping rhythmically on his dress pants.
“Chenle was one of the brothers in a position to receive next to no attention from our parents or the public” he explained further. “he was.. almost invisible. Hardly ever spoke, never smiled, kept his emotions bottled up. He seemed.. greedy perhaps, for affection in his youth, but he grew up and out of those hopes. The only one to ever give him more than the time of day was Jisung, our naïve youngest brother”
“Why didn’t any of you help him? you are brothers after all” your curiosity grew at the information.
“you know what it’s like having royal parents, your majesty. Could you have done anything in the position you grew up in?” this time Renjun spoke, a rare occurrence you knew of even despite the lack of time spent together.
He had a point. You couldn’t shake the feeling something was a bit off with the information though. You would have to ask Jisung for the whole truth later.
Jisung and Chenle, now done with their chat, walked back to you, less than pleasantly surprised at the company you kept. “hello brothers” Chenle said with venomous hostility.
Jisung situated himself beside you, his hand on your arm in silent protection should you give him a signal. An awkward silence ensued over the small crowd, the two sides of brothers met in a stalemate, and you caught in the middle. You were only saved from the uncomfortable situation when the Duchess of Barveux, Mark’s fiancée, appeared behind him, ready to dance with him again. He allowed her to walk him out to the floor, and without their eldest, the brothers didn’t feel like keeping up the stalemate.
They dispersed, leaving only Chenle and Jisung with you. Chenle bowed deeply, taking a sip of his wine. “I shall take my leave now, your majesty. I hope we are able to connect better through my brother, I hope to catch up properly with him soon.” He walked off, indulging in the attention of the daughter of a lesser-known noble running up to him and attempting to chat.
“what were you talking with him about, Ji?” you asked, hoping for answers about this suspiciously weird family dynamic.
“Nothing much, just the regular congratulatory statements and catching me up on some family news” he answered.
“really? I didn’t think something that banal required such privacy”
“I promise you, my love, it was just that, we haven’t seen each other in a short while, but if it’s our family, even a week can have the juiciest gossip that can leave a family in shambles”
The premise of his explanation seemed easy enough to understand, entire families have had their wealth and dignity stripped from them in an instant before, and many more were in charge of dividing said wealth, causing a lot of money to go missing without a trace.
The rest of the reception went by very slow after that. The discomfort of your outfits and being endlessly cornered by guests and toasts made in your honor by drunk dukes who barely knew your names made for a very annoying wedding reception.
It soon came the time the guests left. Many of them leaving without your knowledge, the brothers made sure you saw as they all left with their fiancées, Chenle leaving you with a hug to Jisung and a respectful kiss to your hand.
You both retired to your new palace, one of the few staff members guiding you through the winding hallways to your shared chambers. You stripped yourself of the veil, accessories, and shoes, massaging the bruises and worn skin of your feet. Jisung took off his shoes as well, shedding his stuffy and too-small jacket.
“so.. what should we do tonight?” Jisung asked nervously.
“what do you mean? I don’t think either of us is up for intercourse, your bodies are banged up and need rest” you answered.
“oh good, I was worried” he remarked.
You checked in the chest of drawers for clothes, and lo and behold, there were pairs of clothes. Shifts and nightdresses for a queen and pants and shirts for a king. You took a lilac nightdress and went to the adjoining bathroom, stripping off your dress and undoing your chair, the pins in it a laborious chore. You took a quick shower to get rid of the annoyances of the day and to clear your mind, then towelled off and dressed in your nightdress and underwear.
You found Jisung reading a book in the bed provided for you, closing it when he heard you walk back in. He smiled widely when he saw you, patting the space beside himself and lying down, placing the book onto a small bedside table. A small lamp was the only source of light to the room, illuminating the wall and white sheets in a light orange hue. You climbed into bed and turned off the light, Jisung pulling you in to cuddle.
“this is so surreal”
“I guess it is”
“I never thought I’d be king”
That was the only conversation for a while, but you couldn’t shake off what Haechan and Renjun had said at the reception.
“hey, Ji?” you tested, seeing if he was still awake.
”what is your relationship like with Chenle?”
“oh, well” Jisung launched into a long speech about his childhood, Chenles lack of attention, and his very inward personality. The way he talked about Chenle was one of brotherly love, but also concern, as Chenle no longer had the attention he had from his brother, and he was still single.
“I hope he finds someone soon, he’s always felt alone, besides for me of course”
“ah. Should we have him over for dinner once we get a spare moment in the next few months? I wish to know him a little more”
Jisung kissed your brow. “thank you, it’s comforting to know you approve of him”
Chuckling at his statement, you pulled him in a close hug, your breath intermingling with each other. “I love you, Y/N” he mumbled, so soft you could barely hear him, but still, you did.
“I love you too” you answered, falling asleep peacefully in his arms.
The next few months were chaos. Hiring and re-introducing staff, working on new censuses for the combined kingdom, and making sure the economy was stable enough to keep operating. Barely a spare moment was found, the two of you often pulling all-nighters with your advisors and getting advice from the nobility about how to govern smaller regions, then moving onto ruling over much larger ones. Jisung made sure to keep in contact with Chenle whenever he could, but letters were few and far between. Finally, you were able to breathe, and you arranged a night where Chenle could visit for a few nights and properly get better acquainted.
Yuna was brushing your hair an hour before Chenle was scheduled to arrive at the palace. A hearty meal selected and being prepared as she teased your hair into a bun, you hoped he would appreciate it. Jisung was already ready and downstairs, reading a book as he heard Chenles ride pull up in front of the palace early. Ushered inside by a butler who unlocked the door, the two brothers got to talking, still waiting on your arrival from upstairs.
Yuna, upon hearing the news Chenle had come early, flew into a panicked state as she finished up your hair quickly and practically pushed you down to the landing to greet Chenle.
You ran down the stairs as best you could, your heels echoing loudly against the carpeted marble. They heard you before they saw you, Chenle gracefully bowing as you entered. “hello, your majesty”
Almost out of breath, you took a minute to get your breath back before speaking. “hello, Chenle. I trust you had a safe journey?”
“yes I did” he answered cordially.
“shall we go inside to the dining hall? the cooks may not be done yet, but we can crack open a bottle of wine soon enough”
He laughed. “of course, your majesty. If you could please lead the way?”
You nodded, Jisung walking in stride with you to take Chenle to the smaller dining hall used for smaller parties of guests. Guards and servants were at every corner, ready to do their jobs as one of them was setting up the final pre-opened bottles of Merlot, its dark colour in the glasses contrasting to the white tablecloth. The servant was rather young and new, eager to learn the ropes and do her work. She stepped back to her corner as you walked in, her head bent down in subservience.
You took your seats, chatting about royal affairs and sipping on the drinks as the cooks brought out hearty roast beef, crispy potato and freshly harvested and cooked greens. Jisung complimented the cooks, as he always did, and dug into the meal. You and Chenle did the same.
You were fairly buzzed after two other meals, with two bottles of wine under your shared belts. Jisung then opened a third, and poured himself and you a glass, then filled up Chenles. He took a sip, sighing at the taste. The three of you resumed talking during dessert, slowly eating at the rich brownie and sweet strawberries underneath a white chocolate ball. As you talked, Jisung began to fidget and put his hand to his forehead, almost as if he had a fever.
“Ji? Is everything okay?” you asked concerned.
‘I don’t know, my mouth feels dry and I feel nauseous. I think I’ve been poisoned” he explained between more splutters, now holding his hand to his mouth in a bid not to dry heave.
At the mention of poisoning, one of the guards stepped up to sniff the wine bottles and glasses. Sure enough, Jisung’s glass had been poured over with a small dose of poison, just enough for symptoms to start occurring a couple of hours after use.
The servants started fidgeting, and the servant who had first served the wine looked like a deer in headlights. The guard called her over, asking her questions and effectively trapping her in her answers, forcing her to confess.
As Jisung was still dry heaving and retching, the guards cuffed the young girl and led her away, the girl not putting up much of a fight. You gave her a second of thought, then trained your eyes onto your husband, retching and vomiting into a bucket, Chenle at his back helping him get all the poison out. He soon stopped, bile dripping from his mouth as he collapsed onto the floor. You and Chenle were shell-shocked but remained calm as you called for a guard to help carry an unconscious Jisung to a medic.
He was carried by the guard like a baby, leaving you and Chenle with the others in the dining room. The guards were heavily questioning the other servants, attempting to see if they had anything other to do with the attempted poisoning of the king, but they had no information to give besides what was already obvious. They could only label this as a threat to the King's life, and the servant who was caught would receive heavy consequences for her actions.
You were crying, your face splotchy and red and tears streaming down your cheeks. Chenle, who looked as scared as you guessed he could muster, wrapped one arm over your back in a bid to comfort you. “he’s going to be fine, your majesty. We’re lucky it was spotted right away” he spoke gently but seriously, angered at the events that had taken place.
The guards left to assess the culprit and possibly get more information out of her, and the other servants quietly trickled out of the room to tell the higher maids and attendants what had transpired. You didn’t know how long you and Chenle stood in a standing half-hugging position, but it was long enough for you to break away as soon as Yuna hurriedly threw open the doors, with Chenles assigned attendant in tow.
“your majesty!” she shouted, fear lacing her voice. “I heard the King got poisoned! I’m so glad you’re okay!” she ran and hugged you tight, almost knocking you over. Chenle looked on with a surprised face, not used to this kind of display between royal and maid. His attendant quietly walked up to him and bowed before telling him the dinner was over and needed to be adjourned to be cleaned, and to get the offending wineglass of poison to be tested in order to get the cure for Jisung. He nodded in agreeance and turned back to you.
“I must adjourn, your majesty. Thank you for the dinner, and please inform me of my brother's condition as soon as possible”
With Yuna still hugging you, you couldn’t send him off to his quarters properly, so you said “I will” while Yuna’s arms were still wrapped around your torso. Chenle gave the ghost of a chuckle before beckoning his own attendant to take him to his quarters, and they left.
You and Yuna left just as a few maids entered to clear the room, an elder maid vigorously telling them to keep the wineglass Jisung used out in order for her to take it to be tested for the cure. You were still on edge and shell-shocked by the events that occurred not half an hour before, and try as she might, Yuna wasn’t much help to keep your scared thoughts at bay.
For the first time since before you got married, you went up to your quarters without Jisung waiting there reading when you arrived. Rather than kissing his cheek and telling him to not look as you undressed yourself, you were undressed by Yuna into your nightwear. You climbed into your bed alone, swiping your hand over the cold and empty space that would normally be filled with his body, lying down and chatting before going to sleep.
It had been so long since you slept alone you weren’t able to sleep straight away, thoughts creeping in of Jisung’s health declining and not being able to see him. it kept you awake, silent tears seeping into your pillow and a death grip on your bedsheets.
You jerked awake, your face covered in the salt water of your tears, and knew you couldn’t sleep. You needed a remedy to help you relax, and there was another male you could go to help you. whenever you couldn’t sleep since Arin was born, you would always sneak out of your room and go to see him, nurse him, pick him up and curl up in the rocking chair that took up the opposite corner of his nursery. The maids who looked after him would find you curled up in the chair the next morning, holding your son as he slept on your torso. It was the few times you got to see him that made it all the more special, especially if he woke up and looked up at you with his wide dark eyes, identifying you as ‘mother’ and curling his little body even more into you, comforted by your scent and touch.
Now, it wouldn’t be classified as ‘sneaking out’ in the conventional sense, but it would still be called that as you would get an earful from Yuna the next morning. Holding a small lamp to help guide your way down to his nursery. Now being just over two years old, Arin already taken his first steps and started walking small distances, and it had been a tearful day of consoling from Jisung as you hadn’t been there to see it. He hadn’t yet started talking though, the maids who looked after him would tell you if he had. You silently crept through the dark palace, being careful to not bump into things and to take the right path.
You found Arin’s nursery soon enough through the maze of corridors that led to it, quietly opening the door and letting yourself in. Unsurprisingly, he was sleeping in his crib, a blanket covering his little body. You stifled a sob at the sight of him, the son you loved so much but barely saw, and after missing his first steps you were worried about missing the other important milestones of his early life. You remembered your husband, the one who loved you so much who was now in the infirmary of the palace. You tiptoed over to the crib against the left wall of the nursery, picking Arin up and getting yourself comfortable in the fleece-lined rocking chair in the opposite corner.
He was still asleep, his small snores and breaths helping to calm your nerves as silent tears trailed down your cheeks. Sadness or not, you needed to cry, so you cried as silently as you could muster as to not wake Arin up. You held him close, wrapping your arms around his little torso and hugging him tightly. With the slight rocking of the chair and the calming demeanour of your son, you quickly fell back asleep.
Arins carers found the two of you huddled up together the next morning, silently ‘aww’ing at the cute display between mother and son before them. One of them quickly notified Yuna before she could turn the palace upside down searching and screeching for you in the halls, which would have hindered the comfort of Prince Chenle. Yuna had already been up and fuming over the empty bed in your quarters before the maid found her, the both of them rushing to you to get you ready for the day ahead.
The maids had gently scooped Arin out of your arms after a great unconscious fight from you, your arms gripping him even more every time they tried. Once successful, he had woken up, screaming at being disturbed, which alerted you. You awoke in alarm, almost falling off the rocking chair, training murderous eyes on the maids for interrupting your much-needed sleep. Yuna and the messenger maid chose that moment to burst into the room, Yuna grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you, the other maids looking on in shock.
“Y/N! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU TO STAY IN YOUR BED AT NIGHT?” Yuna screeched at you, not caring about the company you kept.
You held your hands up in surrender as she continued to shake you until the annoyance had left her system. Now thoroughly disoriented, you relied on her to escort you back to your chambers, to first get ready in your queenly garb, then to visit your recovering husband and king in the palace infirmary.
She got you dressed in a simpler styled dress in your closet and let your hair run free before pushing you out the door to visit your poor, poisoned husband. For all the time you had spent in that palace, it truly was big, and you didn’t know where the infirmary was. Luckily, a messenger maid spied you traipsing the halls looking confused and asked where you planned to go, your answer being immediate.
She gladly took you there, winding down corridors you didn’t even know existed until she finally stopped. The door was a baby blue and donned a plaque stating “infirmary” on it. The obvious place. She pushed the door open, closing it behind you and telling you she would fetch another maid to bring you back to your study to do your royal duties.
Jisung was lying down comfortably in a bed occupying the off-centre space to the left. As you had hoped, there was no major machinery or anything running through his skin, so he seemed fine. Medics occupied a row of chairs, mumbling about information you barely heard and cared about, and a new person wearing swords and black clothing took up a chair right beside him, looking at him expectantly.
They heard the door shut and ran to you, assuring you he was fine and that the poison wasn’t very harmful, only a small dosage was administered, and luckily they had a cure on file. He was resting for now, but after Jisung’s poisoning, they said that Prince Chenle, concerned for his brother's wellbeing, had hired a bodyguard to keep him properly safe.
The person sitting beside Jisung stood up and bowed deeply. “I am Jeongin, your majesty. I have been assigned by my lord to look over his royal majesty should the event of attempted assassination arise again. I hope I can be of service”. He stood back up straight and went back to sitting beside Jisung. You now noticed that Jeongin was holding his wrist, probably checking the pulses of his heartbeat.
Although you never met Jeongin, you felt a warm sense of security with him around. He wore swords and had numerous scars slashed down the skin that wasn’t covered by tight black robes, black to instill fear, tight so it would be difficult to smuggle anything in. You also trusted Chenles ability to keep his only true brother safe.
“may everyone excluding Jeongin please leave the room?” you asked loudly, making sure the medics heard.
The room went silent, the mumbling silent for a moment. The medics started shuffling things around and left the room as quickly as they could, bowing or curtsying to you before leaving you alone with Jeongin and Jisung. Jeongin helpfully set up a chair beside him so you could properly look at your currently resting husband.
No words were spoken and no sounds were made except the steady breathing of Jisung in the infirmary bed. You were only fixated on the sight of your husband, wondering for his safety in the palace. Deep in thought, you didn’t even register the squeak of the door opening and the scratching of Jeongins chair as he stood up to greet the newcomer, now standing in the doorway.
“how is he doing?” an unsteady voice asked. Jeongin remained upright.
“he has been cured, my lord. He now lies asleep until he wakes up” Jeongin responded, the word ‘lord’ prompting you to look up. Chenle stood, carefully closing the door, and walked over to the bed, looking over his unconscious brother. “have you thought about what to do with that servant? The one who poisoned his drink?”
You stared back down at Jisung, taking his hand in yours. “no, but I’ve been thinking about a prison sentence. Keep her atoning for her sins with loneliness rather than a swift death”
Chenle quirked an eyebrow. “wouldn’t death be more cruel? It all depends on the type of death. And keep in mind, what if she had been successful?”
You shivered at the thought, squeezing Jisungs hand tighter. “may I ask why you’re so persistent about how I go about ruling my own country?” you asked confusedly.
“it was merely a suggestion. I’m concerned for my brother's health and wellbeing, hence why Jeongin is here. He was exceptional at fighting in our youth, and he never strayed. I trust him, and I would think my brother trusts him too. I’m trying to think about the big picture regarding the punishment of the servant, but I trust your judgement and my brother’s” Chenle explained.
He had a point, but all thoughts were abandoned when you felt a slight squeeze in your hand.
“he's waking up! One of you, call a medic, they’ll do a precursory search before he's deemed fit to leave”
Chenle nodded at your command, leaving the room to find a medic. Jeongin moved away in readiness for the check-up, now standing rigidly against the far opposite wall. Chenle appeared with a medic in tow a few minutes later, the medic immediately helping Jisung sit up and take his pulse, as well as check on other parts of his body that were affected the most from the poison. He was groggy as the medic did the final rounds before giving the all-clear for Jisung to go.
You helped him up from the bed, Jisung groaning in discomfort at the change of pace. You gave him a quick kiss on the cheek to make him feel better. Chenle stayed farther away, only giving him a brief pat on the back. Jeongin announced himself in his normal deep voice, Jisung perking up a little bit at the mention of his old acquaintance from his childhood. He smiled weakly, needing guidance from you as he walked out of the infirmary towards your shared chambers, Jeongin trailing a decent distance behind.
Jisung thankfully managed to get into his clothes just fine, but he still had a bit of trouble walking around too much, which meant a few breaks on the way back to your chambers. As concerned as you were for him, it was rather awkward to be crouching down at his resting form while Jeongin still stood up, towering over the two of you a few paces behind.
After leaving Jeongin at the entrance of your chambers, you ushered Jisung into bed, the colour back in his cheeks but the weariness of the remains of the poison still lingering in his system. Setting him upright with a bucket just in case, you rested yourself on the other side of the bed.
“can you read to me, love?” he asked hoarsely. You patted his shoulder lovingly.
“of course, Ji” you answered, picking up his favourite book. He usually was the one to read to you, but since he was still out of sorts, it was your turn. You started at the page he was up to last, reading in a soothing voice until you heard soft snores coming from the other side of the bed.
Kissing his sleeping forehead, you put the book back and turned off the lamp illuminating the domestic affairs between husband and wife, quickly falling asleep beside him.
With the initial scare of the poisoning out of the way, your focus was now on the aftermath of it, the telling of it to the public, and the punishment of the servant who had committed the crime. Chenles words had seeped into your mind, the future protection of yourself and Jisung being the focal point of your judgement.
“I believe she should be killed for her crimes” you had stated.
Jisung was hesitant. “but she failed though, wouldn’t a prison sentence be better?”
“think about it Jisung. What if she had succeeded? She would very well be dead if that had happened, a threat to your life, no matter the outcome, should be met with swift force, otherwise it could happen again. Not all people still like you on the throne” you explained.
His head dipped. He didn’t like being reminded of his reputation among the skeptic side of the kingdoms. “but are we strong enough to stomach a whole life on our hands?” he mumbled, looking down at his large hands to emphasise his point.
You nodded in response. “she was willing to, and it’s a good thing she was caught. Things wouldn’t have been good if we hadn’t caught our criminal, as well as the poison in use”
“okay, I trust you love”
With his consent, you went to prepare the necessary documents and send them to the guards. You could only hope Chenles logic and advice was sound.
The guards had received the paperwork finalising the execution, working hard to retrieve the long-unused traditional mode of execution, hanging. It was to be a private affair, the public knew of the attempt at the Kings life and were weirdly rather invigorated by the news the servant would get what she deserved. Their enthusiasm rubbed you the wrong way, but you chose to ignore it as you set your mind on other matters around the kingdom. A new census would soon be taken to keep track of the population growth of the new kingdom, the second of its kind after the first one was done merely a few weeks after you were wed and crowned.
Setting your attention onto that and other matters, the execution date drew nearer right under your nose, with only reminders from Jisung to eat and sleep keeping you grounded to reality. The notion of an execution was now making you feel very anxious, with Jisung struggling to help you through it. Chenle expressed concern for you as well, giving you a set of pills he had acquired on the neighbouring continent that helped with anxiety. You had thanked his kindness, hugging him tight at the gift.
The date soon came. You, Jisung, and Chenle as well as your most trusted advisors and guards overseeing the private event in the specially crafted execution chambers. It had been installed in a space beneath even the dungeons, dim lighting being all too appropriate for the affair. The crying servant was escorted up the steps leading to the platform, anger in her eyes as she stared at the trapdoor on the platform, a hole she was to fall through. A light breeze blew the noose around like a pendulum before the guards stood her still and tightened the noose around her neck.
You felt sick at the whole ordeal, squeezing Jisungs shoulder a little too hard as the guards called out to her with bored voices. “any last words?”
She kept silent, only turning her head towards you and raising a finger to point at you. she then moved her finger to her neck, making a slicing motion over it. Your eyes went wide in horror at the meaning of her final movements. She had barely finished the gesture before the platform dropped, a scared look in her eyes that haunted you as she dropped in mid-air, her head slumping down and her body swinging.
The execution was complete, an ordeal that took less than ten minutes but felt like an eternity as you were led out of the execution chambers, almost too stiff to move. Jisung looked shaken up by the event too, but Chenle seemed almost no different, comforting you both as well as he could on the way back to your study.
Unable to work the rest of the day, you went to read in the living area, hoping to clear your mind with a book. You found Jisung already there, but he was only sitting down on the ground, his back slumped against a couch as he hugged his knees and stared into an abyss. Eyes that were once full of life were now dim and grey, lifting his head robotically when you entered the room.
“hey” he said passively.
They were the only words spoken between you as you sat next to him, your book now discarded on the floor and few centimetres away from you. He continued to stare at nothing, and you felt helpless.
“why did we do that?” he asked, no emotion or life in his voice.
“I don’t know” you answered. You truly wish you had a reason. You had only gone with Chenles way of thought, but you regretted it now. Maybe he had done it out of a sense of protection for his brother, but everything felt wrong. That type of ruling wasn’t you, nor was it Jisung, and it felt horrible to know that you had been the cause of a death.
“maybe Chenle should leave”
Jisung looked at you, then nodded. “maybe he should”
Footsteps broke the ominous silence that had been overflowing the large space you were in. It was Yuna, holding a plate of yummy snacks for you. “Prince Chenle saw you weren’t doing so well after the event” she explained. “so he asked the chefs to make something to cheer you up. They’ve prepared dragon fruit and strawberry parfaits for you” she set them down on a nearby stool, making sure to give you the correct dessert spoon, then curtseyed and walked out solemnly. You wished she’d done more with you in terms of your friendship, but she understood your bond was more when you were alone, not with anyone else present.
You eyed the delicious-looking parfaits, feeling like eating but not in the mood to eat. Jisung didn’t move either, only going back to his staring at the floor. “we should ask Chenle to leave tonight, maybe after dinner”
“yeah, if we’re able to eat after that. Why did we do it?!” You held your head in your hands, feeling tears prickling your eyes at the regret you felt. You would do anything to turn back time and undo everything that happened, but of course it was impossible.
He laid a hand on your shoulder in loving solidarity. “you did what Chenle said you should do. I get why he wanted it, but I don’t think that’s us. We should probably tell him to go”
You looked back up at him, streams of salty tears down your cheeks, your voice breaking as he answered. “yeah, we should”. He smiled sadly, giving you a small kiss to your cheek and wiping away the tears. “we’ll get through this together. Are you able to eat the parfaits?”
“eat as much as you’re able to, love”
You had gotten only a few bites in before you stopped, unable to properly eat, the memory of the day seared into your brain. Yuna had come to take the parfaits away, only to find you breathing heavily and crying with Jisung crouching over you, a scared expression on his face. She had leaped into action, asking him to take the parfaits away as she tried to coax you into calming down. “it’s okay, you did what you had to” she whispered, trying to make you feel better, but you only continued. She gave on words after that, just tangling you in a hug and not letting go until you slowly managed to calm down.
“do you want something else to eat? Do you want someone’s company?” she asked, worried.
You were still breathing heavily as you grounded yourself. “can you stay with me? And Jisung?” you answered between loud pants and catching breath.
She nodded. “of course. Let’s wait until he gets back”. Yuna started to stroke your hair, helping you to fully calm down and breathe normally as Jisung showed up, back from returning the half-eaten parfaits to the palace chefs.
“are you okay, love?” he asked solemnly. You nodded, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“can you come here, Ji?” you mumbled.
Ever the loving husband, he obliged your request and moved closer to you, eventually putting had hands around you in a hug. The three of you stayed that way for a while, then out of nowhere Yuna remarked that it was time for dinner. You untangled from each other, Yuna escorting you both to the dining room, and giving you a hug for support before she opened the door and let you in, closing it behind her.
Chenle was already seated, and Jeongin had also gotten there before you, standing silently in a corner of the room away from the table. You sat down opposite of him, and Jisung next to you, picking your food around your plate as Chenle dug in like it was any other day.
“your majesty, are you alright? you don’t seem like yourself” Chenle asked when he noticed you weren’t eating.
“the events of the day make it difficult to eat, Prince Chenle” you answered monotonously.
“ ah, I can see why” he said to no one in particular.
Like so many dinners before, the silence was suffocating as you managed to get a few bites down of your food, but not more than five, any more and you wouldn’t be able to keep it down. Jisung was concerned at your gloomy disposition and your mostly full plate, but you managed to dismiss it partially by giving him a soft smile and squeezing his hand.
“so, brother” Jisung began once everyone was finished eating. “we have decided, as a couple, that you should probably leave the palace as of tomorrow or the day after. The events of today have taken a bigger toll on us than we thought, and as it was because of your advice out of protection for me, we wish for you to leave so we can have time to ourselves to evaluate how we plan to rule”.
Chenle quirked an eyebrow upwards as he mulled over his brother's request, his cheek in his hand as he pondered. “alright, I shall. I apologise profusely for overstepping my boundaries, take as much time as you need” he said politely.
“thank you. Jeongin!” Jisung called out to the silent man in the corner. “may you please tell the maids and guards of the new arrangements, and perhaps start the task of preparing an acceptable mode of transport for Prince Chenle?”
He nodded and walked out, leaving just the three of you in the dining room. Chenle looked mildly saddened at the request to depart early, but there was nothing he could do about it. “may I spend one final day with you then, brother? I assume it shall be a time before I’ll see you again”
“of course” Jisung replied.
With that request, Chenle took his leave, you and Jisung departing the hall not long after, opting to sleep early.
You spent Chenles final day mostly alone, Jisung getting up early to spend as much time with his brother before he left the palace. The execution still stalked you, the split-second scared gaze of the young girl as she fell haunting you every time you closed your eyes. Chenle was another thing that confused you. On the outside, he seemed like a rather regular ruler, doing his best to ensure the beloved brother got the protection he figured he needed. On the inside, well, you still didn’t know much except that he wasn’t given much attention besides by Jisung since he was a little boy. You didn’t know what kind of man that treatment bred, but it was nothing you knew about.
You couldn’t physically get up until around 2 in the afternoon, sleep-deprived and filled with regret. You stalked down to Arin’s room, hoping your child would help cheer you up, but upon knowing from the maids he had just started his nap, you could only sit in the rocking chair and gaze at the little face of your son. Looking at him had become your saving grace the past few months, whenever things had gotten too much to handle you had always come to him, the one thing you could have to yourself and your husband. Jisung rarely saw him, but he made sure to always stay updated, no matter how many inquiries Arin’s maids had to answer.
You didn’t bother to say goodbye to Chenle when he left, only continuing to rock back and forth in the chair until Jisung showed up in the nursery. Not even looking up, you stared at your son as Jisung slowly walked towards you, being careful not to spook you, as his shoes were quiet against the soft carpet. He crouched down on his knees in front of you, his hand raising to your cheek to direct your gaze to him.
Dead eyes stared back, ones that held no tears yet were overflowing with the regret of the actions you couldn’t shake off your mind. He enveloped you in a hug, his stronghold against your frame almost causing you to cry. He stayed silent, stroking your back soothingly, his head going to the side of your neck.
Your arms clutched at the cloth of his suit, holding onto him tightly as if he would disappear if you let go even a little.
“Chenle left a few minutes ago” he mumbled into the nape of your neck, planting a small kiss after he spoke.
“ok” you deadpanned. The knowledge didn’t faze you, nor did the broken silence make you flinch. Jisung didn’t let you go, your deadened actions concerning him. He knew what had gone on the previous night, having been woken up by your sobs when the time was nearing dawn. You had been facing away from him, your back to his front, your body wracking with your cries. He had reached out a hand to try and comfort you, but decided against it as he might spook you, so he just let you cry.
You weren’t yourself, having no motivation to do anything besides sit there in his arms, especially when he had slid onto the chair with you, propping you in his lap. He kissed the hands of his lover as he peered at your face, as emotionless and steady as your portrait he had seen those months ago.
“love?” he asked, testing the waters at a conversation.
“hmm?” you made a sound in response and question.
“we need to work” he said, bringing your hand wrapped in his and kissing it.
You only nodded as you made no attempt to move away from him, now looking at the wall as you shimmied further into his back.
He stood up from the chair, setting you down then picking you back up bridal style before walking out of the nursery. “love, we need to work. I know things haven’t been entirely good, but we need to focus on our job and who we are, okay?” he left the nursery and began walking through the winding hallways, more and more servants running along the farther away you got.
“this reminds me of our wedding day” you spoke softly, the first time in a while.
He only barely heard you. “what do you mean?” he asked, cautious as to where the conversation would go.
“when you picked me up and carried me to our chambers” you explained. “it made me feel special for the first time in my life, like I was worth more than gold”
He smiled. “because you are worth more than gold, love. You are special” he placed a kiss behind your ear, making you smile just a crack.
“thank you, Ji. I made the right choice”
Those words were almost enough to make him cry, tears of joy welling in his eyes as he heard them.
You closed your eyes, resting your head against his torso in a bid to rest your eyes as he walked the rest of the way to the workroom.
Neither of you noticed the shadow of the man trailing behind you.
It had been a few weeks since Chenle had left, and things were relatively back to normal in the palace. You still had your days where you couldn’t handle things, but Jisung was always there to lovingly coax you back to life, even if it were just for a short while.
The scare of the poisoning and execution had passed, and you were doing a little better with your new night terrors. You were waking up during the night less, and spent less time in regret and crying, which Jisung was happy about. It killed him to see his wife sad, especially over something like that, so he did his best to help out and be supportive of you, your progress coming in time.
Work had been fine and dandy since he left, nothing unusual happening besides the odd scandal of an advisor hooking up with a nobleman’s son, or when a particularly crafty theft was exposed by someone with connections in dark places. Peaceful and relaxingly quiet, things were perfect between the palace and its people.
That night, Jisung came to bed a bit later than usual. Checking her small pocket watch as you readied your book to read before bed, Yuna noticed that Jisung still hadn’t come to bed, despite the time being later than normal.
“do you want me to look for him, Y/N?” she asked.
“no, it’s okay, he’s probably just holed up with work, he’ll be okay” you reasoned.
Yuna nodded and left the room with a curtsy, immediately on the lookout through the hallways she passed through on her way back to the maid's quarters. Being the Queens most private maid, she got a room to herself, one that was a little bit more spacious and decorated than the others. Once becoming queen, you had asked your staff what kind of rooms they wished to sleep in and to furnish them how they liked. Most of the staff chose plain rooms with others for someone to talk to, but since Yuna loved things of decoration and beauty, she chose a slightly larger room with light yellow wallpaper. She furnished it with a small bookcase to read from, and a small white table with comfy chairs and a tea set for when you needed some ‘girl time’ away from everyone else.
She was glad to see a small letter on her bed, delivered by the small mail-boy who delivered to and from the palace. It was addressed to her from her lover, one who she adored most lovingly. She greedily read through the words of devotion, comically holding it to her chest and sighing, then rushing to word a response filled with just as much love and adoration as he wrote her. Leaving it with a note for the mail-boy to collect on a little dresser near the doorway, she hoped her King had returned to his bedchambers, concerned for his wellbeing and yours as the amount of work on your worktables piled up by the day. She dressed for bed and went to sleep.
Jisung had appeared a few minutes after Yuna had left, closing the door softly behind him. “hey love” he greeted you, smiling as he saw your face away from your book.
“hey, Ji. Work a bit later?”
“yeah, there’s a lot to get through around this time in the year”
He was right, there were a lot of documents of updates on the treasury on the country and the vitality of the soils and plants for food and- it was a lot, you could agree, but you were still concerned for your husband.
“are you doing okay? you’ve been working later for a few days in a row now. You need sleep” you closed your book and stared at him while he dressed out of his suit and into his winter nightclothes. “I’ll be fine, love” he kissed your cheek, settling himself down on his side of the bed to sleep. you did the same, placing your book on your bedside table and turned out your lamp, cuddling his back as you got comfortable.
The next day was busy, Yuna bringing you your food to your tables in the study, Jeongin doing his regular job of watching you as you worked. Normally it was a silent matter, but this time Jisung was coughing. A lot. Deep, throaty coughs that looked like they hurt his throat, if the look of discomfort on his face was anything to go by.
As Yuna set down your noonday meal of steak and greens near your workspace, Jisung seemed to force down his meal, his face scrunching up in disgust every time he swallowed, leaving his plate more than half full. You were concerned, looking over at your husband who begrudgingly let Yuna take his plate when it was still ¾ of the way full. The steak was barely touched, not even fork marks etched in the meat, the greens partially eaten with small bites taken out.
“are you okay, Ji? You normally eat everything” you asked.
“I’m fine, just have a sore throat” he responded, his voice scratchy and low.
“rest your voice, Ji. It helps”
“if I may, Y/N, I know a marvellous tea recipe that helps with a sore throat if his majesty wishes me to bring to him”
Heeding your advice, Jisung only nodded, a faint smile on his lips as he tilted his head back and closed his eyes, taking a short break from the workload. Yuna curtseyed and felt the study.
You went back to reading through population documents while Jisung laid back in his chair, his hands on the armrests and his breathing steady, relishing in his break. He grimaced every time he swallowed, silently wishing for Yuna to come back with the tea that could soothe his throat.
Yuna returned as you had just finished reading the document, slightly winded as if she’d been running. She carried a small tray, holding a teapot, a teacup, and a small jar of honey with a spoon. “your tea, your majesty” she said, setting down the tray and pouring him a cup, the air filling with the sweet aroma of chamomile tea. “it helps to reduce swelling and repair throat tissue” Yuna explained. “would you like some honey in it, your majesty?”
Jisung nodded, Yuna giving him the jar of honey and a spoon. He drizzled a teaspoon of honey into the tea and swirled it around, the honey soon dissolving in the hot liquid. He got a small plate to rest his tea on and took a sip, grinning in relief at the warm liquid soothing his throat. He set it back down.
“I think that should be it for now, Yuna” he rasped, his voice still croaky.
She nodded, leaving the tray in the study in case he wanted more. She promptly left after, going to do her maidly duties of making the beds in the royal chambers and washing the used clothes.
A few hours had gone by, neither of you having made an etch in the piles of documents sitting on your desks. The tea had been completely drained, the honey only half full. Despite the tea, Jisung was back to his old self. Coughing and wheezing and having trouble swallowing. You glanced at the date on the calendar and flipped it over to the correct date. 17th February, flu season.
“Ji, I think you have the flu, go to bed and get some rest, I’ll do some work then join you”
“love, I’m fine. I can power through this” he coughed, violently. You stared at him.
“okay okay, I’ll go and rest” he said begrudgingly, getting out of his seat. He felt funny as he walked, a weird feeling of pins and needles in his fingers and toes, the tingling feeling unnerving him.
“are you alright, your majesty?” Jeongin asked. “you don’t seem too good”
Jisung hacked out another coughing fit, his throat feeling tight and achy. He chose to not talk, talking made his throat feel worse. He instead nodded, confirming Jeongins observation.
“ah, I see. I shall call for Yuna to help you then”
Jisung was grateful for the offer, arriving at his bedchambers and slipping into his pyjamas. It was still light outside, the time being late afternoon. Very early for bedtime.
Jeongin asked a passing maid to find Yuna and bring her to him, the maid speeding off at the bodyguard's request. Yuna appeared soon after, slightly winded from her run through the large palace. “is everything alright with his majesty?”
“no, we’re going to need more of that chamomile tea you brewed a few hours ago, his throat is no better” he requested.
“tea doesn’t work in only a few hours Jeongin, but yes, I shall make some more”
Yuna walked off to brew more tea, Jeongin standing stoic in front of the door as was his job.
Now alone in the study, you were finalising some more documents to be sent to noblemen and women to be enacted upon in the larger provinces. You laid back in your chair, rubbing your eyes and stretching your back, aching from slouching for four hours straight. You worried for Jisung, if he did have the flu, which was highly likely, it would no longer be in best interest to sleep in the same bed for the time being, as he was highly contagious.
You got out of your chair and exited the study, going to the common to read a book. You saw Yuna carrying another tray of tea in the direction of your shared royal chambers, making you anxious about how bad Jisung must have it.
“Yuna!” you called out to her, the woman turning around to your voice.
“ah, Y/N. how may I be of service?”
“is that more tea you’re carrying?” you asked her.
“yes, Jeongin requested it out of concern for his majesty Jisung, his throat is no better”
“even with the tea?”
“the tea only does so much, Y/N. Please, give him a few days of rest in bed as well as the tea, and he should be good as new by the middle of next week. It’s flu season, so there’s no events on I gather?”
“yes, you’re correct. They’ve all been postponed since half the noble families have at least one member that’s sick”
“then it appears to be settled. I’ll take it to his majesty Jisung while it’s still hot”
She walked away, leaving you in the middle of the hall, book in hand. Having nothing else to do, you sat in the common area and read your book, your eyes mulling over the same word twenty times over, as if trying to sink it into your memory. You stayed there for a good two hours, nearing dinner time. You retired to your bedchambers to see Jisung soundly asleep, smiling warmly at his peaceful face only visible when sleeping. You changed your dress and headed down to the dining hall, leaving Jeongin in his regular spot in front of your chambers, a promise of a raise for his hard work in his long hours. He remained stoic but nodded at your offer, extending a polite hand to guide you down the first few steps of the staircase.
You found Yuna again, rushing around like a madwoman doing her duties for the day. standing on the lowest step of the staircase, you waved her down as you stepped onto the marble floors. She didn’t even look out of breath, a testament to her normal workday as your most private maid and best friend. She looked around before speaking. “Y/N, you should be at dinner, why aren’t you there?”
“I was late getting out, and it's lonely eating alone” you said, dipping your face and slouching your shoulders. “I was wondering if you could eat with me, we could chat about how you’re doing”
Yuna beamed a wide smile, nodding incessantly as she went to loop her arm in yours, but stopped herself. Some of her sister maids were coming, and she had to be professional. “thank you for the offer your majesty, and I accept your kind offer”. She held her head down until the maids had passed, and she lifted her head back up, tiny squeals coming from her excited mouth.
You chuckled at her reaction. “come, then, let’s go to the dining hall” she squealed like a schoolgirl, giddy with excitement at the idea. She walked through the halls with a new vigour, one that put a spring in her step. At the sight of the intricately carved dining hall door, she pushed it open for you as she always did, but this time, went inside.
She marveled in her childlike delight at the carved mahogany table you pulled up a chair for. Patting the seat beside you, she rushed to it and sat down beside you, ecstatic at the feeling. “we haven’t gotten together properly like this in ages, Y/N. I haven’t seen the inside of a royal dining hall since we were kids”
You recalled the fond memory of your youth. All tired out from playing in the gardens after your studies, the cooks had prepared the youngsters some biscuits and tarts for you to snack on. The girls you had shared that found memory with quickly grew jealous and away from you as you grew older, but Yuna stayed with you. Your oldest friend, Yuna had been your maid since your early teen years, before that, your play buddy, after that, the dearest friend one could have. You giggled and gossiped as you did by candlelight after hours when you were thirteen. Being with you made her feel carefree, like she didn’t have her jobs to do, and eating a five-star meal fit for royalty was her childhood dream.
You quickly polished off our meal of roast chicken, fresh potato fries and fresh-cut greens, watching as Yuna savoured hers. She took quite a bit longer than you to finish, but once she had, she slumped back in her chair, patting her belly. “that meal was amazing, Y/N. I’ll give my thanks to the cooks on my way out”.
You smiled. “so, is there anything new in your life? any gossip among the staff you know of?”
She grinned wickedly. “a few things. Something about a scandal in one of the neighbouring countries. People have said there was a mutiny with the royal family over there, the king was allegedly killed”
“wow, sounds heavy” the news of a king being killed reminded you of your husband's present state, even if for a few days.
“everything okay?” Yuna asked upon seeing your downturned face.
“yeah.. I guess, I’m worried about Jisung”
She set her hands on your cheek, pulling it up in a determined motion. “you listen, he is going to be okay, it’s only the flu, we’re all had it before. Okay?”
You nodded. “okay” but you still ached for his presence.
“I get how you feel though, I’d be pretty worried if my lover was sick”
“Jisung isn’t just a lover, Yuna”
She smirked as you said it. You re-thought about what she had said. “no way..”
She nodded. “yep! Someone likes me!”
“oh my gosh Yuna! Wow, never thought this would happen. When did you meet?”
“a few weeks ago, while I was out in the courtyard. A handsome young man approached me and said hi. We got to talking, and now we’re sending letters. He’s amazing with words”
Still seated, you hugged her. She was squealing and bouncing in her seat.
You continued talking through the evening, clearing out only when a few other maids entered to clear the plates. You thanked them and left the dining hall, parting ways when you arrived at her bedchambers. “promise me you’ll show me these letters”
“not yet, when I’m ready though”
“okay, goodnight Yuna”
Leaving her to get ready for bed, you walked back to your bedchambers, Jeongin still guarding the door when you got there. Rather than moving aside to let you enter, he stayed firmly in front of the door, staring you down. “his majesty isn’t fit to be slept beside, your majesty” he said, monotone. “it would be in your best interests to find another spot for nightly accommodations. The junior maids have transported your clothes to another room fit for your rest, and furnished it to your liking”
He remained in front of the door, saying nothing else. Rather, he extended an arm and pointed to another room a few meters away from where you stood, still in his eyeshot when he guarded your regular bedroom. You begrudgingly obeyed his request, walking into the room and inspecting it. A grand double bed, a chest of drawers filled with nightclothes, a walk-in closet with all your day dresses, and a small bedside table filled with books and a lamp to read them. Everything you were used to, in almost the same format, but it felt too big now you were alone. You were used to Jisung’s presence.
You were allowed to see him the next day, and he looked awful. His skin was clammy and paler than normal, he screwed his face in disgust every time he swallowed still, and he now complained of tingles in his hands as well as numbness. The medics were called to come by as soon as more symptoms of his flu persisted. You were there for support, trembling and close to biting your nails in worry. Even after a thorough search, they couldn’t find anything wrong, only an amplified version of the flu, so they gave their verdict and told him to rest and stay in bed. You nodded, but you were suspicious. This didn’t look like the flu, but you didn’t know what else it could be. You gave them polite goodbyes and thanked them for their help, sending them on their way back to the palace infirmary.
The senior medic did mention, however, is that his throat was so tight it would irritate the inflamed skin if he attempted to speak at all, so one of the medics gave him a sheet of paper and a pen, prompting him to ask any requests using written words, giving him a bell in case no one was in the room with him. Jeongin stayed at Jisungs side as he wrote out his first request: some chamomile tea. It seemed to be the only thing he could swallow without his throat pulsing in agony. You, who had stayed at the doorway, ran off to find Yuna and send up his tea.
Once done with that, and still nervous about his condition, you went to the study to work, knowing that one person still had to keep up the royal duties. Piles of documents reaching above your head flooded your desk and his, so you got to work, sighing as you picked up a piece of paper at the top of the pile.
Yuna was swiftly bringing the majesty his tea, eyeing Jeongin when she got to his room. Normally he was situated in front of the door, so she was surprised when she had to knock, and heard the man’s voice invite her in. He quickly told her of the medics' verdict as she poured out a cup and drizzled some honey for Jisung, who took the cup weakly. He lay back down in bed after he had downed the cup of tea, attempting to get to sleep, so the two people left him alone in the room. Yuna leaving the pot of tea behind, and Jeongin, eager to not catch his kings illness, took up his regular spot outside the door.
4 weeks went by after the medic’s verdict, and as time went on, the worse Jisung got. At one week after the medic’s visit, welts started appearing on his skin. They looked to be filled with pus, and were as large as a bottle cap. At three weeks, he started experiencing severe burning pains in his abdomen, causing him to cry out and further irritate his throat. His abdomen area also increased in sensitivity, if even the lightest pressure was placed on it, he would vomit translucent yellow. Jeongin could sometimes hear unceasing shifting coming from his master’s bedroom, and when he would inspect him to see if everything was okay, he would find Jisung seizing up and shaking, muffled crying noises coming from the royal. Due to his only diet being of tea, he lost notable amounts of weight while being bedridden.
You continued to work, being the sole ruler able to do so, living on coffee to power through working late into the night to take your mind off the fact your husband was seriously ill. He had deteriorated so quickly, and in your panic overwork you could barely think straight. You were so busy working yourself to the bone you didn’t even see Jisung, scared for what half-dead shell of a husband you’d be setting your eyes upon if you did.
As Jisung remained in his bed for weeks on end, no one able to diagnose his illness, he took to sleeping a lot more than he did before. When he couldn’t sleep, which was more often than not due to the wracking pain his body was in, he would read in a bid to take his mind off it. It wasn’t only physical pain though, not seeing you hurt him more than his written words could ever describe. He knew you had to work to keep the kingdom running, but he also knew about your habits of not taking care of yourself besides work, little amounts of rest and the occasional break.
He knew he was dying, even if those around him denied it, and at the rate he was going there wouldn’t be much time for him left. You were at your breaking point, pulling out your hair in crying frustration, sobbing atop your desk when Jeongin delivered news from Jisung.
“his majesty has asked me to write to his highness prince Chenle to help you with ruling in his absence” Jeongin had said first. “he fears your health more than his own, and is scared for your state, so he is allowing highness Chenle to temporarily help you rule the kingdom. Do you desire his help, your majesty?”
You mulled it over, your over-caffeinated brain being disagreeable with your train of thought. You urgently needed assistance, but- no. You needed assistance.
“yes, please tell him to come at his earliest convenience. I’m at my limit”
Jeongin nodded. “of course, your majesty. Will do”
It had taken Chenle less than two days to arrive, Jisung’s condition worsening by the hour. He was still resting and reading his days away in pain, only drinking the chamomile tea to soothe his throat, ordering for a new one just as the pot ran out. You gotten down the stairs to greet the man when he stormed in, shoes clunking loudly against the floors, and dropped his bags on the ground. He bowed quickly to be polite, then looked at you sadly, his face in a slightly less neutral face, his head in a slight droop.
“how much time does he have left?” he mumbled.
“I’m not sure. No one knows what’s been happening or why it’s occurring, but he’s started to sick up blood”
He slowly looked back up at you, pinning you dead with his stare. “my brother is dying, then”
Forcing your tears down in your eyes, you nodded. A few seconds passed between your soft stare and his hard one at the miserable events, you couldn’t take the overwhelming revelations you were forced to come to, falling forward into his frame. You clutched at his dress shirt and sobbed into his chest loudly, not caring about the company you held. You heard small sniffles from above you, looking up at Chenles face as he wrapped two hard arms of muscle around you, caging you in his embrace as he lowered his head to your neck, hot, silent tears hitting your skin.
“may I see him?” he whispered, his voice saturated with gloom.
“of course. Come, I’ll take you to him” pulling yourself out of his embrace, you took him by the arm and led him up the staircase to the chambers you and your husband shared. You yourself hadn’t seen Jisung in over two weeks, the guilt killing you inside, but you kept more tears at bay as you rounded the corner and saw Jeongin in his usual spot in front of the door.
The man bowed. “your highness Chenle, your majesty”
“may we see him, please?” you asked, your tears drying and itching at your skin.
He nodded wordlessly. Opening the door and leading you in, he announced your arrival to Jisung.
“your majesty, you have visitors. For the first time in two weeks”
He muttered that last part as he closed the door back behind him, leaving you and Chenle with the sick king alone. Jisung looked up to see you and his brother and almost smiled. He quirked up the corners of his lips, but he couldn’t smile fully, the pain in his abdomen and throat hindering his spirit. His skin looked ashen grey, no longer the ivory shade you were used to. He weakly picked up the pad and paper and pencil from near his legs on the blankets, scrawling a message for you.
Chenle could barely look at how his brother had changed in the few months he had been away. Jisung’s skin was unnaturally grey, his face sunken, his muscles small and weak, bones could be outlined through his skin. He was using written words to communicate, his throat almost bulging from the swollen tissue lining it. He felt an iron grip on his arm, turning to look at you, and he wondered how you were holding on as much as you were.
The only sign you were upset was the silent tears running down your cheeks, as well as the tightening iron grip keeping his arm captive in your hand. You weren’t breaking down or sobbing any louder, merely just numbly paying attention to what he was writing on the paper. You were as numb as he had become on the outside, but he knew enough about people to know you were suffering almost as much as he was, only mentally.
Jisung’s scribbling stopped and held out the paper for you to read, Chenle plucking it from his weak grasp as he hacked out another coughing fit. His coughing served as background noise for a quick scanning of the message, Chenle’s face morphing into a neutral sadness, before passing the paper to you. You could vaguely see Chenle bend down and extend a hand of support to his brother's arm as he continued to cough, rivulets of blood staining the tissues he used as tears filled your eyes once more.
“My love and dear brother,
I know I do not have much time left on this earth, so I must entrust this Kingdom to you, my dear wife, and hope you run it as you have in my eternal absence. I love you and always have, and will continue to do even after my passing. My only hope is your face be the last thing I see before I go.
Dear brother, I leave you my Kingdom to rule beside my wife in the years after my death. Rule it with the pride I know you have, and treat her as you would your own love, for I trust she will do the same with time.
I will write the more formally in my will, but I figured to let you know ahead of time.
Please love and rule as I would have.
You looked up from the note to see Chenle tending to his brother's bloody mouth and Jisung’s outstretched and shaky arm wordlessly asking for the paper back. You gave it to him, and he set it down on his small bedside table. Once Chenle had ceased cleaning him up, he shuffled deeper into the blankets and closed his eyes, going to sleep.
“we should perhaps leave your majesty” Chenle observed after he tidied up. “I wish to know the deeper ins and outs of ruling a Kingdom such as this”
“alright, I’ll take you to the study”
He followed you out of the bedroom. “goodnight, brother” he mumbled as he left through the doorway and out into the halls.
It had been a few days since Chenle had come to the palace, and things were going surprisingly well. You had your doubts about him, being the second youngest in that long line of succession to you meant he wouldn’t have gotten a lot of kingly training, but he was picking up on things and remembering names easily. He was graceful and kind to the staff, even if a bit stiff when it came to social interactions.
The two of you visited Jisung twice daily, once after he had woken up and once before he retired for bed, and each day he got even worse. Thin and weak from his diet of tea, coughing up yellow vomit which now held streaks of blood. He had finalised his will, the succession of the throne going to you and Chenle, and once Arin was old enough he’d take the crown as it would normally go. After a cursory reading of Jisung’s will to make sure everything was in order, you figured it was time to tell Chenle about Arin, as he would become Arin’s father after Jisung passed.
He faithfully followed you through the winding hallways to the nursery, eyes still wide with shock at the news you had a son. The maids were gone by the time you arrived with him in tow, Arin having woken up from his nap and pawing at his crib to be let out. you smiled with Chenle still in the doorway, wrapping your hands around your son's little body and hoisting him up, wrapping him up in your hold like a cat. His arms stretched over your ribs, his face nuzzled in your chest.
Chenle’s eyebrows quirked. He didn’t like young kids very much, but this one seemed quiet and sweet, so he made his way over to you, patting Arin on the head, his face close to yours as he did so.
It was a chilly early autumn night when Chenle had found you out at one of the balconies, perched over the edge of the railing staring out at your kingdom as the wind kissed your face with its cold sting.
“your majesty, why are you out here? It’s cold” he asked, a hint of concern in his tone.
“I was just thinking” you deadpanned, not brothering to turn around.
“what were you thinking about?”
“life, death, sadness”
“ah” he walked up to you briskly and stood beside you.
“your majesty, you have goosebumps all over you. Here, allow me.” he said helpfully as he shed his jacket and draped it over you, covering your arms from the chill.
“thank you, Chenle”
Silence reigned as you both stared out at the kingdom at night. the people had of course knew about your husband illness, and while they had prayed for him, their prayers were no use. They weren’t angry at Chenle’s arrival, though, so you considered it a win, even if it was a small one.
“there’s something I feel I need to tell you, your majesty” he spoke after a while
“what is it”
He was suave as he took your cold hand in his warm one and pressed a kiss to it. “I have been enamoured by you since we first met, your majesty. Since I came here and saw Jisung, I have been riddled with sadness at his deteriorating state, but, somehow, you have helped me through some of it, even a little, just by being next to me as we worked. I know you’re still married, but know I’m open if ever you need me”
You were taken aback by his confession of supposed love, surprised he could harbor such feelings so quickly. “prince Chenle, I appreciate the confession, but as you said, I’m still married and even after that, you aren’t my type of man. I will need you once Jisung does pass on, I’m getting used to the idea, so prepare for when the time comes, but know I am happy to be ruling with you” you rejected him as cordially as you could muster, slipping your hand of his and giving him back his jacket as you headed inside to chat with Jisung before bed.
She kissed the man who stood in her doorway, closing the door before anyone could wake and hear them.
“You’re never here at night, what’s going on?” she asked innocently.
“those royals have stoked my last nerve, YuYu. That damn king has required everything of me, and I’ve had enough”
“the king is half-dead darling, you can’t do much more now”
“maybe not, but I know what else I can do”
“what do you have in mind?”
“this” he holds up a small vial of poison, a tiny amount yet able to kill in only a couple of hours.
“it’s tasteless and odorless, YuYu. Maybe after this we can usurp the throne and get the power you’ve always dreamed of”
“by killing the queen? Darling-”
“I know, sweetie. But don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed of dancing around in a dress that costs more than yourself?” he whispered into her ear as he leaned into her neck. “to work the way a queen does, with maids waiting on her?” he caressed her waist, slipping underneath her nightdress, her bare skin heating and prickling at his touch. She stifled a groan at the fingers circling her navel and reaching down lower, kissing languidly at her neck. “what if we get caught?”
“did we get caught that last time YuYu?” he whispered into her neck, going back to kissing and nipping at the porcelain skin. “no…” she trailed off as he roughly bit into her neck, moaning at the rough sensation his teeth bought her. “do you suppose we do it tomorrow?” he asked one final question, his fingers now dipping under her cotton panties. “two days.. ah!” his fingers reached her clit and harshly pressed down on it, waves of pleasure surging through her even at that tiny touch. “okay, two days my love, then we poison the queen, agreed?”
He continued thumbing at her clit even as she answered breathlessly. “okay.. Chenle”
You were early to the study the next day, expecting brand new documents detailing the rights and responsibilities of the new planned pairing. You got what you expected, piles upon piles and waves of papers covered with ink and sour truths. Chenle was on time, surprised to see you already on your third cup of coffee as bought to you by Yuna.
He sat down and started on his own documents to sign, the day passing by obnoxiously slow as the minutes rolled on and the hours slowed down. The both of you living on coffee by 4 in the afternoon was not a rare occurrence as of late, but it had you feeling a different kind of buzz. Rather than hyping you up, it slowed you down, your head feeling heavy and your heart pounding in your chest. Your fatigue showed on your face, your face and neck becoming red.
“are you okay, your majesty?” Chenle asked.
“yes, Chenle, can you pass the coffee pot, I’m feeling a bit tired”
He sent a confused look as he reached for the coffee pot on his study, less hot but still enjoyable. He passed it to you, your arm trembling when his grip left the handle. Your arm was jelly, almost unable to hold it up without dropping it. He stared at you in confusion, struggling to pour the coffee and milk into your cup, your arms on the verge of giving out as you stirred in your sugar.
You took a quick sip of coffee using the last strength of your arm, and set the coffee back down, your arm abnormally aching and tingly. You shook your head to focus and put forth your attention to the papers in front of you, picking it up and resting your wrist on your desk. You took to reading the small words on the page detailing the upcoming visit of the King and Queen of the Southern Kingdom on the neighbouring continent, but around halfway down the page you felt your skin heat up.
You thought nothing of it, probably just the coffee working its heated magic, caffeine kicking your pulse into overdrive as it had been for the last few hours, but your face was heating up rapidly. You fanned yourself with your hand to help the heat dissipate, but it didn’t work. “you majesty?” Chenle asked in concern, having been watching in his peripheral vision the whole time.
Your face was getting hotter, your skin now sweltering under your dress, and your stomach began cramping up, searing hot twangs of pain bursting in your abdomen. You doubled over, the agony more than you had ever experienced. Chenle stood up in alarm, kicking away his chair and rushing to your aid, crouching down and putting a hand to your forehead to feel your temperature.
“your majesty, you’re burning up!” he said urgently. “I fear you’re coming down with something”
You shrieked as another cramp seized up in your belly, going light-headed from the pain, your head turning to cotton and you slurred out a response.
“take.. me.. to… a bed..” you whispered, sweat running down your face. You were about to faint, your skin a bright vermilion, cramps tearing apart your stomach, your skin hot and muscles weak. He swiftly picked you up bridal style, taking note of your quivering and heated body, and paced out of the study, walking through the hallways to your room used since Jisung had been deemed unfit to sleep next to.
He encountered Yuna on the way, you having slipped into sleep in his arms.
“what is the meaning of this?” he asked the maid sternly but quietly.
“I-I..” Yuna stuttered, unable to meet his angered eyes.
“you were the one who said two days, Yuna. Now YOU were the one who couldn’t wait? You’re lucky I don’t take milk in my coffee, otherwise I would’ve been as bad as this bitch right here” he said, gesturing to you with his head.
“I’m sorry okay? I’ll get the rest of the job done”
“you better, otherwise you’re going to find yourself in worse places than beside me on a throne”
She paled. “you wouldn’t-”
“do you want to be a queen or not?”
“yes, of course, but-”
“then no buts. You have to take what you want in this world, so help me get what we deserve!”
She nodded hurriedly, trailing behind him as he ran up the staircase.
They found Jeongin in front of the kings door, hurriedly told him of the situation, and asked if the King was awake.
His beady, neutral eyes glared back at them, Jeongin’s one hand on the doorknob stilled. “I know you did something” he whispered.
Chenle smiled. “it’s too bad the two people with enough power to do anything about it are out of commission. Now, open the door”
Jeongin stood firm, his hand leaving the doorknob and adopting a fighting stance. His eyes were blazing with anger, but his body showed a deadly calm only bodyguards can possess.
Chenle only chuckled. “you act as if I’m not in possession of your girlfriend and child, Jeongin”
The man stilled, the mention of his loved ones scaring him. In the events of the merge between royal families, a lot of the staff had been left without work. The staff formerly in charge of your family were better off since even though your parents were firm, they paid their staff well. Chenles family, however, as influential as they were, kept it under wraps that they paid their staff next to nothing.
In the merge and split, Jeongin was left without a proper stable job, dotting between three jobs just to keep his love and little one in a tiny room barely more than an inn attic. Chenle had then come along after his visit, asking of his most adept bodyguard he knew at the palace, and offered a job at the new palace. The man had accepted, taking up the job and sending his monthly paycheque to his family.
He had assumed they were fine and cared for on their own, and they were, but they were merely pawns in the game for power, fuelled by Chenles greed.
“you don’t have them, I know you don’t” he slurred through gritted teeth.
“are you willing to risk it? I could easily cut your wages and leave them with nothing. How unfortunate, a young mother with an infant and no money” Yuna had taken a few steps back out of Jeongins range, scared at his strength and bodily prowess.
His eyes bugged, tears streaming down the furious man’s face. His anger stewed under his surface, tears running hot as he angrily lowered his fists and opened the door, letting the sadistic man and faithful woman inside.
Chenle laid you next to the sleeping King, now covered in welts that adorned his skin that resembled used charcoal, a sickening red rivulet of blood spilling out of his mouth. The King and Queen beside each other even in life-threatening sickness, how poetic, a true symbol of their love. It made Chenle sick even thinking about it. Yuna had stayed behind him the whole ordeal with Jeongin, but then stepped forward and sat down beside you, rubbing circles into your hands as her thumb rested against the pulse point on your wrist.
“she’s still alive” she reported. “but it’s getting slower”
Chenle leaned down over her and checked your pulse for himself, deeming you too alive for his standards.
“prop her up” he ordered Yuna.
The woman did as she was told, sitting you up on your behind as Chenle took the vial of arsenic from his pocket, opened your mouth and poured it down your throat. He closed up your mouth after he had done so, and it would only be a few minutes before you awoke and then died, weak and sick.
He glanced over at his sick brother, expecting him to still be asleep, but Jisungs eyes were open, the stare at his trusted elder brother one of betrayal and grief. He then glanced at Yuna, still focused on checking your dwindling heart rate, in disappointment.
Chenle only smiled wickedly at his dying brother before he backed up and leaned against the chest of drawers on the opposite side of the bedroom, checking his gold pocket watch to see when you would wake up. Yuna stood and stopped beside him, looking at the watch occasionally.
It was only a few minutes before you awoke, your heart pounding and becoming thready at the same time. Your body felt like it was on fire, your throat aching like you were being choked.
You looked to your right and saw Jisung beside you, staring at his beloved wife with tears in his eyes and a throat incapable of speech. He slowly and weakly moved his hand to yours, taking in his and giving it a light squeeze.
You choked up with your own tears at the sight of him. your beautiful husband, gone to his illness. His once healthy and bouncy skin was grey sunken and shrivelled, bloody welts covering almost all of its surface area, even some dotting the once chubby cheeks you squished so much. He was bony and without muscle, weaker than a newborn lamb. He looked and acted more like a corpse than a human being.
A trembling hand rose to your mouth in shock, your eyes leaving him in favour of glancing at a smug-looking Chenle and a conflicted Yuna. Chenle held a small vial by the neck of the bottle in his hand. He smiled wordlessly, walking up to you and shoving the vial in your face, the label becoming clear in your blurring vision.
Poisoned, Chenle had poisoned you, and you were willing to believe he had poisoned Jisung too. You looked in sorrow at your once faithful maid, tears dotting your eyes and blood spraying out of your mouth as the poison took away your breath. Your vision faded away to black, but you could barely make out the sound of a door shutting, your murderers leaving you.
The last thing you felt was the weak kiss of your dying husband, his hand squeezing yours.
“at least we’re together my love” he croaked out, his voice barely registering.
You tilted your head towards him and smiled, your hearing going out and his hand going limp.