1 Chapter 1

It was a pleasant, warm summer afternoon in Bora. The sunlight glinted on the waters of the harbour, and fresh sea breezes filled the sails of merchant vessels and royal ships as they drifted in and out of port. Seagulls flew across a vibrant, cloudless blue sky, their cries disappearing within the echoing tolls of the guardhouse bell. In the city, people passed and chatted—shop owners sold and bartered—animals bleated and clucked as their masters led them to the market. Life was going on, as it always seemed to have done, as usual.

So that made Prince Jungkook wonder why his life was not going on as usual.

"Mother, I just don't see the point of-," the tall, twenty-two year-old man protested as he adjusted his collar, "-of inviting every nobleman in the city. I already told you I'm not eligible."

His mother rolled her eyes from where she sat on the couch, replying, "Dear, you're 'not eligible' when you've found someone. Right now you are what they call a bachelor—a very stubborn, very close-minded young man who has yet to understand the importance of what his mother is trying to do."

Jungkook checked his cufflinks, muttering, "What my mother is trying to do is enslave me."

"No—I'm just trying to find you a Husband Or wife."

"Is there really a difference?" He demanded in frustration, turning around to face her.

She sighed, gazing up at her son. He was taller and thicker than her husband, though he had his broad-shoulders and dark brown eyes. His face was squarish—handsomely so—and his chin and mouth were rimmed with a set of whiskers he had so carefully grown during the winter.and his forehead bore that strong crease of thought—in this case, of discontentment—that she had seen on his father so many times. He was almost a physically matured man now. But he was still her son, and he also needed to grow up.

"Kookie, I don't know why you believe you don't have to consider the idea. I'm not forcing you into it, but I want you to think about the possibility." She stood and walked over to him, reaching up to smooth back his brown hair. "After all, dear, you are twenty-two years of age. Most of your friends have already found someone… but you haven't."

"I don't want one, Mother. I've told you that I am quite fine without."

"I know you have. Just—know I am doing this because I love you and I care about your happiness."

He nodded slowly, murmuring, "Yes, ma'am."

She smiled and patted his cheek as she said, "I'll see you out in the gardens, dear. That's where we'll be meeting them."

"All right, Mother. But if I don't—if I can't find one this time, can we please not do it again?"

"We'll see." His mother left the room, closing the door behind her.

Jungkook went over to his wardrobe and rapped his knuckles on the wooden siding.

"All right, Jimin, you can come out now."

There was a rather loud grunt, and then, a few seconds later, a muffled voice said, "Um… the door is stuck."

Jungkook grinned and yanked open the door to watch his cousin tumble out. Park jimin, quickly straightened to glare at his chuckling relative. Rubbing his nose, jimin muttered, "I see you had fun. Getting all spiffy and proper while I was stuffed in the old clothes closet. I think I tripped on one of those—what do you call them? Those marshmallow-looking things I tried to eat when I was three and Mum nearly throttled me for it."

"Um, they're called fireballs and—if I remember correctly—that was only a few Christmases ago when yoongi hung made a bet with you."

"Yes, but Mum still choked me for it—kept saying the stupid things were poisonous."

"They are poisonous."

Jimin nodded, "Ah. No wonder she did it then. Anyhoo, why did you stuff me in the closet?"

"Because she'd have you thrown out if I didn't. You know you weren't supposed to be here until next Thursday."

"Well, your lovely Auntie mijoo decided that her last, unattached son should go see the pickings. Speaking of—who is going to be out in that garden?"

"You were eavesdropping?"

jimin looked insulted. He set a hand on his chest, remarking snippily, "I always eavesdrop,kookie. Can't help it. God gave me big ears for a reason, you know."

Jungkook held up a fist, smirking, "Yes, so I can box them when I've found out you've been listening in on private conversations."

"Hey, you're the one who stuffed me in the closet —and I can't plug my ears up with fireballs."

His cousin shrugged, "That's true. There're probably not enough in there to get one of your enormous ears blocked, let alone both."

"All right—all right. Stop with the 'pick on jimin' time. Time what's really bothering you, kookie?" Jimin asked, folding his arms and staring up at his cousin.

"Well-," jungkook sat down in a chair set against the wall, sprawling comfortably and wrinkling his clothes, "-Mother's having tons of young, single noblemen over today so I can 'meet, muse upon, and eventually marry' one of them."

"Hey—your mum says that all the time."

"I know, that's why I put air-quotes around it." He leaned forward, shaking his head as he sighed, "jimin, I don't want to be married."

"At least your mother hasn't given up on you. My dear mum says she's lost hope. Matter of fact, so have I." Jimin sniffed slightly.

Jungkook groaned and waved his hands vaguely, "Oh, you'll find a guy, Jiminie—you're looking for him. Me… I don't want a guy or girl . I don't want a husband let alone a wife, I don't need a husband—I can rule bora perfectly fine without one. Men are just—they're just too difficult. All of the boys I know just take and take and never give—never think about giving. What am I saying, they never think at all!"

His cousin frowned, "That's not necessarily true. They think about clothes, and woman also men—hopefully men like me.

"You sound so sure of yourself." jungkook said, smiling.

"Oh, blast you kook! As if you know any better."

"Yes, and I don't want to know. I don't want to be married. I don't care, jimin. I just don't care."

"Too bad about that. We have to go humor your mum. I need to go conquer a fair maiden's heart—or several. And you—you have to follow Auntie mijoo around and mumble pleasantries and try not to scare any of those beauties off."

"Ha ha. Very funny." His cousin commented dryly.

Jimin shook his head, "No, I'm serious. You're a big scary giant, jungkook. Just—just try to smile a bit. Who knows, maybe you'll find someone today."

"Yeah, and maybe, right now, there's a guy who doesn't want to be here as much as I don't want to be here."

"Taehyung , will you please put that book down and get out of the coach?"

"Mother, please—I just have one more chapter-."

"No! We're late enough as it is! Besides, Jin, you are nineteen years old, we're here to see his Highness, and I will not let you walk around with your nose in a book."

Taehyung rolled her eyes and continued to read, muttering, "I thought Jin was the prospective victim, not me, Mother."

"You're not the vict—I mean—you're just here to keep jin sane and to prevent him from making eyes at the Namjoon of Kim."

"But he likes Namjoon, Mother. He's going to marry him."

"I know. But we have to keep up an appearance of interest to the crown. Now get out of there!"

Taehyung closed his book, set it on the seat, and carefully exited the carriage. His mother was frowning at him.

"Jin is already half-way up the steps and he'll have a panic attack when he realizes we're not with him. Hurry up, dear. And fix your hair while you're at it."

"Yes, Mother."

He hastened up the steps to join his trembling brother , smoothing back his hair and automatically lifting his shirt to avoid any collision. It was a rather hot day, and he hoped they would not have to stay outside for the entire duration of the afternoon. After all, shirts could only be made so comfortable for wearing in warm weather, and no matter how delicate noble boy he was supposed to be, sometimes perspiration got the better of them.

His mother followed behind, considering his son's One boy twenty and almost engaged to a Duke's son, while the other simply refused to be interested in men at all. Both were built the same way: not quite , slender, but with broad shoulders and with large wide eyes and black hair. The only difference was that jin was nervous and Taehyung, composed. Well—there were a slew of other differences as well, but not such as could be seen by anyone other than their mother.

Meanwhile, in the palace gardens, jungkook dolefully followed his mother around the various rose bushes, flowerbeds, and topiary. A servant passed them, carrying a tray of drinks to refresh the royal guests. The waiters drifted in and out of a virtual sea of pastel-colored dresses. Making up this crowd were daughters and sons talking to their mothers, noblewomen and mens gossiping with their friends, girls and boys of all kinds chatting and singing and giggling. Basically, it seemed that every member of the male and female sex was here today. And he—the prince of Bora—was doomed to speak to each of them.

At first, the hours of matchmaking had gone well considering his resistance to the notion. He had actually met some kind boys who were rather pretty. But they were the early arrivals. It was the latecomers that he really had to watch out for. They were the ones whose parents—especially their mothers—long nursed a deep-seated desire to have their child sitting next to the king's throne. It was starting to annoy him that all these men seemed to be sizing him up as if he were nothing more than a generous slice of political chocolate cake. Not to mention, the temperature had risen and he was sweating like a hog underneath his finest doublet.

As they passed on to another family, his mother scolded him, "Kookie, stop gasping like that and come meet the Queen of daegu ."

He tugged at his collar, snapping, "Mother, I can hardly breathe! Is all this frippery really practical in such a heat?"

"Probably not but I did warn you to wear your light doublet."

"This is my light doublet!"

She pursed her lips, "Hmmm… we need to have a talk with the royal tailor, then."

Queen of Daegu smiled and hugged his mother, exclaiming how beautiful she looked that afternoon. His mother did the same, commenting on the boy's new haircut. As they did this, jungkook sensed the eyes of the twin daughters studying him. He bowed to them as customary, and they curtsied back.

"This is my son, Jungkook." The queen introduced.

"These are my daughters, jisoo and jenny ." The queen of daegu replied, her face splitting into a proud smirk. "They are both eighteen, very well-bred, and love to attend royal parties. They also enjoy chocolate."

Both girls grinned. jungkook let out a groan—which was cut off by his mother's sharp elbow to his stomach.

"Jungkook likes chocolate too."

"Chocolate is a very good thing to build a relationship on."

Jungkook's eyes widened. This could be bad.

"Um—I see another friend of ours over there. Sorry, dear Hyuna, we've got to scoot. Come along, Jungkook." She laid a hand on his arm and hurriedly pulled him away.

"Sorry about hyuna, jungkookie dear. I had no clue she was that interested in a marriage."

"Mother, they are all interested in marriage—that's why they're here for goodness sake."

"That's not the only reason."

He snorted, "Yes, they're also hungry. We should probably start calling the girls and boys inside. They're talking about food and—and it's steaming hot out here."

"I know, dear, I'll get one of the waiters to start dispersing them. Go and cool off somewhere." She squeezed his arm before heading over to speak with a nearby servant.

"Thank you, Mother."

He knew just where to go. He had already discussed the location with jimin should the opportunity arise. Now it had.

Jungkook rolled his sleeves up and stuck his hands into the cool water of the fountain. He splashed the cold liquid over his face, sighing in relief as his body heat went down several notches. He repeated the action again. And again.

He was going in for a fourth time—most of his top sopping by now—when a familiar voice met his ears.

"You know, you could get an eye infection from that."

"Jiminie?" He glanced behind him to see his cousin's pointed face poking out from amongst the leaves of a neatly cut, topiary giraffe.

"'Hello cousin. Enjoying the hunt?"

Jungkook shook his head, "Not in a million years. How long have you been hiding in that animal?"

Jimin looked upward thoughtfully, "How long have I been sharing stomach-space with holly? Oh, I'd say about since you came down an hour or so ago."

"You can't be comfortable in there."

"The royal gardeners are going to hate that. You know how disembowelment disturbs them."

"Yes, but would you believe I actually learned several things while I was in there?"

"What did you learn?" jungkook asked, running his fingers through his wet hair while he took a seat on the edge of the fountain.

A trio of gossipers walked by talking about jenny—or was it jisoo? Anyway, I have something of grave importance to say, kookie, and I want you to listen."

The young man was speaking in a serious tone now, and jungkook straightened to attention.

"I." Jimin announced dramatically.

"You." Jungkook responded.

"Have fallen in love with yoongi of Min kingdom. Or was it Hoseok? Doesn't really matter I sup—wot? Why are you laughing?

The prince shook his head, howling with a deep, booming laughter that frightened away several pigeons roosting in.

Jimin pouted, "Now really, kookie, I would have thought you'd be a bit more sensitive to your cousin's needs."

"You do you realize that-," he chuckled, "-what you're saying is completely ludicrous?"

"How so?"

"Those guys don't care a bit about anybody but themselves and their cake."

"I like cake." Jimin pointed out defensively.

"I know you do but—hold on. Hold on—someone's coming."

Jungkook hastily rose to his feet, waiting for whoever was coming around the bend. A second later, a young man walked by, stopped, and then turned to him.

"Excuse me," he said, smiling at him, "but could you point me in the direction of the Ballroom?"

"Erm—just take a right and go straight." Jungkook answered, trying to figure out where he had seen the boy before.

He nodded, "Thank you. I was just wandering around and I got lost. You had a smart idea, though."

"Pardon?"

The boy pointed at his dripping front, explaining, "What you did with the fountain—I'm assuming you used the fountain water to cool off?"

"Um, yes." He grinned awkwardly. "Yes I did."

"Good idea. It's the hottest day we've seen in a long time. Thank you again, sir." he curtseyed—quite well, actually—and flashed him another one of those soft smiles again as he departed.

Jungkook cocked his head, watching as he left. he still looked familiar and—and different.

"Who's the wayward man?" jimin asked, emerging from the bush again.

"I don't know. he didn't seem to recognize me but I think I know him from somewhere."

His cousin smirked, "Perhaps from your dreams? He looks nice."

"Nice." Jungkook muttered distractedly, walking towards the direction the boy had taken.

Jimin trotted beside him, ducking behind every shrub or tree available. Eventually, jungkook spotted Taehyung, for it was him, rejoining him mother and brother with another cluster of boys. he had a book in his hand, and immediately looked guilty when his mother began to fuss at him for its existence.

Jimin glanced over the top of the honeysuckle bush, remarking: "Oh look he has a book. Wonder where he kept that… you don't think he could fit that in his body, do you?"

Jungkook rolled his eyes, reproving, "minnie, it is no business of ours where he keeps his books. Though—it is an interesting conundrum."

"Why, that's the most flattering thing I've heard you say about any of these people." His cousin said, surprised.

"he's not like others."

"Well—wot is he then?"

"Different." Jungkook answered, marching to where his mother had started to head towards the interesting boy and his family.

He joined his mother halfway there, stepping easily in beside her. The queen frowned at her son.

"kookie, why are you all wet?"

"You told me to cool down, so I did. Who—who are they over there?" He indicated the object of their destination.

"That's Lady jungha and her sons, Jin and Taehyung.""

"I thought I recognized him."

"Yes. Wait—which one?"

He smiled, "The one with the book."

"Oh, Taehyung"

"Taehyung." He repeated.

Tae.