Coming of Age

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SILIN



"How is he?"

Jimin glances out the curtained window.

"There's not much to tell you, Princess. He goes to the Arena at dawn and leaves at midnight." He murmurs, with a sigh. "I've also talked to the instructor. He tells me that he doesn't socialize at all with the other soldiers. None of them want to talk to him either."

My brows furrow.

And I feel Jimin watching me as I slip out of bed, cinching my robe tighter around my chest. He shifts to the side as I stand by the window, where I have a clear view down at the dusts of the training Arena.

He's there by himself.

The day is coming to a close. Yet he stands there, blade tight between his fingers. His dark red eyes are dull with physical exhaustion. I can see the sweat matting the material of his shirt to his back. His hair is also soaked with sweat.

I watch him for a long time.

And a small part of me. In the back of my mind, I want to have him standing in front of me again. I want him to show me the smile that he doesn't show to anyone else, bow his head and let me run my fingertips through his soft, sable locks.

I breathe.

I'd told him that there had been no excuse.

Yet here I was, using that as an excuse to keep him away.

I see him sway. For a second, his focus breaks. He drives the edge of his sword into the dirt, his eyes squeezing shut as he leans heavily against the hilt. Sweat drips in rivulets down the line of his jaw.

That's before he recovers, and starts swinging again.

I turn.

"Jimin."

"Yes, Your Highness."

"I want you to go to the Healer and ask him for some balm. Leave it in his room— he'll be needing it. And have one of the servants bring him some food and hot tea."

Jimin nods, and I see him hiding a soft smile.

My lip twists. "Make sure he doesn't realize it's from me."

"Of course, Princess. I'll have that for him right away." He says, his honeyed eyes twinkling gently. "I also just want to let you know that he will be turning eighteen this week, my lady."

My voice is on edge.

"And what does that have to do with me?"

He shrugs with another smile. "Just something that I wanted you to know."

The door clicks shut behind him.

Dammit, Jimin.

I look back at the Tarakan boy, just as he sways again. This time his legs give out, and I see the sword clatter to the ground as he crumples to his knees. I see his crimson eyes, agonized with an anguish as he clasps his face with a bruised, darkened hand.

I see the way he breathes, each time more labored than before.

Why?

Why was he training this hard? For what?

He will be turning eighteen this week, my lady.

Had anyone ever celebrated his birthday with him? Would he be alone training like this, even on the night of his eighteenth?

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