Youth Behind Adulthood

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There's a strange noise, outside my door.

It echoes a little distant. And my eyes leave the book open on my lap as I listen, to the sound. It's almost as if someone's dragging their feet against the floor of the hall. Footsteps. But—

A sharp, heavy sound seals it. Someone's collapsed.

I abandon the book on the chair, eyes tense with alarm as I leave the room. The hallway outside is empty. But I hear low, strained gasps. It comes from around the corner.

My steps are cautious at first.

But the moment I recognize the figure crumpled on the ground, I rush forward, guard completely lowered. It's Taehyung. And there is something wrong with him.

Then I hear a voice, just before I reach him with my hands outstretched to hold him.

"I don't think you want to do that, Your Majesty."

Someone else stands there, in the opposite corner of the hall. A tall man, with rumpled dark hair and silver eyes. A look of both warning and amusement tinges the corner of his lips.

Silver eyes.

He's the one I've been looking for. I recognize that slant, that amusement. He had looked at me the same way back at the auction when he had been draining me out of my money over Taehyung's possession.

I glance back at Taehyung. He's shivering, shaking from how he's trying to suppress those shivers. His dark mask is in tatters over his fangs, already extended to full length with his hunger. Blood runs in a thin rivulet from where he's biting down on his lip too hard.

And I look back at the man, realizing he knows about Taehyung's Tarakan secret.

How he isn't running away in a storm, to tell everyone else in the entire Palace.

My eyes instantly narrow. Voice hardens like ice.

"Who are you?"

A smile flickers through his lips.

"Someone who doesn't matter, my Queen." He whispers, eyes slightly widening. Almost as in a Challenge. He glances towards Taehyung. I see his lip slightly curl upwards.

I hear him murmur.

"And I thought that he was in good hands. How foolish I was."

Who is he?

My jaw flexes.

"I asked you a question." I say, meeting his eyes straight on. "And I asked who you were."

"Answer me. I will be the one to decide whether you truly matter or not."

His brow raises the slightest angle. And his lip curls, in the face of my presence. His silver eyes gleam like the deadliest diamonds.

"Dear Queen." He smiles. "You are clever. And surprising, in more ways than I'd expected."

He glances at Taehyung. Then he looks back at me. His gaze is like steel, mirrors of truth.

"Do you love him?"

I don't answer. Because I do not have to.

The man laughs. And just from the sound of that laugh, I know that whoever this man is, he is not someone to look lightly upon. The silver in his eyes are stained with his past. The aura he carries is a type that I have not seen in a long, long time.

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