True to her promise, Hayeon had gifted a thick, worn book through Hongbin. Gold decorating the white leather cover and elvish written all along the edges, Minseon looks on in awe as just before the entourage is ready to set off, Hongbin runs up to her, book in hand, and passes it on with a gentle smile.
"For you, Princess," he says, "so that we may stay in touch while I am away."
Minseon nods, smiling at Hongbin politely while her father beams beside her. But just before the carriage pulls away, she catches Hayeon's gaze and smiles. She holds the book close to her chest, holding it tight until the carriage disappears from view.
Over dinner, her father drones on about how much he enjoyed Prince Hongbin's company, about how Prince Hongbin is a very smart, charming, kind man who would be a good fit for Minseon as her husband. Minseon doesn't listen to an ounce of it because as smart, charming, and kind hearted as Prince Hongbin is, she's in love with Hayeon.
And the distance makes her realize it with each passing day.
When she has a chance in between studies and meetings with dignitaries that she's required to attend to by her father, she pulls out the book and writes to Hayeon. Every moment she can spare, she writes and draws and goes back through the pages to read all the messages Hayeon had written to her. Throughout the month, Hayeon is busy almost all the time during the day, and she often doesn't respond until nightfall. Minseon doesn't mind it much; instead, she writes a little more and draws pictures so that Hayeon has a lot to read when she has the time.
The longest period they are able to talk is nighttime. Minseon has fallen asleep over the book on more than one occasion, handwriting scrawled to form garbled letters and cheek stained with black ink when Kyungmi had woken her up the next morning. Hayeon, though, is never short of things to talk about. She writes about her days in the Northern Mountains, a place so cold beyond belief. Minseon had never traveled that far north herself and she reads with rapt attention as letters form onto worn pages, telling of all the things she's never seen before.
Some nights, when Minseon longs to be by Hayeon's side and to kiss Hayeon again- so much that her heart aches- Hayeon writes stories to ease her heart enough to lull her to sleep. When thunderstorms brewing from the east shake the windows of her room ferociously or when the threats from the west latch on to her mind with sharp claws, words of elven lore spill out onto pages. They are tales of love that Hayeon had grown up with, stories that Minseon dreams about with a smile on her face and warmth in her chest, and it gives her enough energy to get through another rough day.
Your stories have no tales of humans, do they? Minseon writes one day, book propped up on her thighs while she's avoiding her history texts. It had been a passing thought, and she had been distracted soon after as Kyungmi snuggled into her side under the sunlight filtering in through the windows.
She doesn't see a reply until she wakes up the next morning, ink stained on her cheek once more. No, they don't, Hayeon replied. Not all tales have happy endings.
By the beginning of the fourth week, the book is nearly filled with days upon days of writing to each other. Minseon worries a little, unsure as to how the magic cast upon the book works. If they reached the last page, would they be able to continue writing to each other, or would they have to sacrifice precious memories written into the pages to continue? Minseon doesn't ask, and she writes less each day to conserve what space is left.
However, Hayeon finally writes that she's leaving back to the Southern Shores and she will be home in a few days time. Minseon grips the book hard, almost spilling the jar of ink on it when she reads the message. Finally, they were so close to seeing each other again and not even an infinite amount of pages could explain how happy Minseon is. Each day after passes with bated breath as she spends it hoping that today would be the day a note calling her to the Southern Shores would be delivered.
In the six days of silence, when there is no more space left in the book, Kyungmi combs through Minseon's hair at night and stays by her side until she falls asleep much later than she ever has. And it's often with a sad smile on her face that she ends up drifting asleep beside her, wishing she could take away some of the burden of heartache.
On the seventh day, when Minseon sits down at the dinner table, her father hands her a white envelope embossed in gold and addressed to her. Doing her best to hide the tremble in her hands, Minseon opens the letter and reads it aloud- that Prince Hongbin had asked if she would be able to spend two weeks at the Southern Shores.
Her father doesn't hesitate to say yes, and tells her to begin packing in the morning. And in two days time, carriage packed to the brim and heart beating rapidly in her chest, she wishes her father goodbye and sets off for the south.
The ride takes all day, and just as the sun is high in the sky, Minseon falls asleep against Kyungmi's shoulder from the exhaustion of hardly sleeping in the last two days. Kyungmi sings her to sleep with a song written in the old tribes of feles breeds before their nations were torn apart and doesn't bother to wake her until the carriage stops at the castle of the Southern Shores that very evening.
Hongbin is the first to welcome her, smile pleasant and a glint of mirth in his eyes. He spends the afternoon introducing her to the king and queen of the Southern Shores and spends supper making up stories about all the official business they'd talked about while they had been separated.
The king and queen look extremely impressed. Minseon just barely manages to mask her discomfort with shy smiles and embarrassed laughter.
The nerves bubbling in her chest don't ease until nightfall and she finally sees Hayeon again. Unable to stop herself, she pulls Hayeon into a her arms and kisses her until her head feels dizzy- uncaring entirely that Hongbin, Kyungmi, and Jaehwa had been watching. They spend the night discussing in hushed whispers about the best ways for Hayeon and Minseon to sneak around the castle- at least for the first few days. With an eager smile, Hongbin reveals that their parents were to set off to the Northeast Hills for the entire duration of a week, and they would only truly have to be careful for the first three days.
Overcome with excitement, Minseon grips Hayeon's hand so hard that Hayeon whines for her to stop and demands she kiss it better. Minseon simply rolls her eyes and complies anyway.
For three days, they make sure to proceed carefully in front of the king and queen. Minseon spends time with Hongbin attending dull meetings and presiding over small disputes under the watchful eye of the king. They spend time sitting side by side on the lounge's couches, talking and holding hands when they know the queen is passing by. Minseon only sneaks away from Hongbin at night to slip into Hayeon's room because the king and queen are far more perceptive with their magical abilities.
But they manage. For three days Minseon puts up with spending time at Hongbin's side until she wishes the king and queen well on their voyage. The anxiety wound around her heart like the thorny stem of a rose finally releases as the carriage disappears from view and Hayeon steps to her vacant side, taking her hand with a bright smile.
For all the time that they've suffered apart, they are finally granted time together.
Just after they finish breakfast on the morning after the king and queen of the Southern Shores had left for business, Hayeon captures Minseon's wrist as they leave the dining hall and tugs her into a darkened corridor.
"Would you like to go on an adventure today?" she asks, mischievous smile glinting in the darkness.
Minseon glances warily around the corner, looking for any curious ears who might listen in. "Where are we going to go?"
Hayeon's smile widens, impish as she leans in closer, pressing Minseon to the cold stone walls. Her eyes twinkle with mirth and Minseon can almost see the excited sparks of magic flying off the surface of her skin. "Change into the loosest, lightest clothes you've brought and bring an extra change with you. Meet me in my room and we'll head out."
"But-" Minseon is cut off abruptly as Hayeon kisses her, a chaste press of lips that has her almost chasing after her.
"Don't worry," Hayeon says. "I'll take care of everything else and I'll tell Jaehwa to let Hongbin know so he can stall for us should anyone ask."
Minseon looks on unsurely, but she relents and heads back to her own room. Kyungmi helps her find a loose, nearly sheer pink sundress that brushes against her thighs and ties up with black ribbon in the back. She hands her a change of undergarments tucked discreetly in black cloth with a kittenish smile and an eager flick of her ears.
Minseon suspects she knows exactly where Hayeon is taking her, but she decides not to push it and ask. Kyungmi walks with her to Hayeon's room, an eager bounce to her step. She's so excited that Minseon notices her tail swinging wildly enough to keep hitting her calves as she walks.
Strange, she thinks, but Kyungmi is already leading her into Hayeon's room before she can think any more of it.
Hayeon's room is spacious, windows that reach the ceiling making it seem even larger than it is. Sunlight filters through the windows, bathing the white floors in warmth. Even from a glance, Minseon can see that the windows overlook a balcony that leads out to the ocean. Most of the furniture in the room is white and decorated with gold trim and sapphire jewels, much like the rest of the Southern Shores' castle. Hayeon's bed is dressed in similar white and gold colors but is surrounded by white, sheer veils that drape over the frame. The room feels almost dreamlike, though Minseon suspects that there is some magic cast on the room to make it feel so.
By her dresser, Hayeon packs away her own change of undergarments. She'd changed into a loose peach colored dress that brushed against her ankles when the wind caught it. Minseon catches herself staring at Hayeon's long, toned legs from where the dress slits at her thigh.
"Perfect," she says, taking the clothes from Minseon's hands and packing it away in a blue rug sack with her own clothes. Jaehwa comes in with a small bag of food, her white tail eagerly flicking behind her. Hayeon takes it as well and stuffs it in her bag before buttoning it up and sliding the straps over her shoulders. "Are you ready?"
Minseon's breath catches with Hayeon's bright eyes and she nods. Jaehwa is nearly vibrating with so much excitement that her tail swings and hits Kyungmi by accident. Kyungmi only grumbles about it for a moment before she tugs on Jaehwa's ear as a playful reprimand.
Hayeon leads them out to the gardens through familiar hallways to ornate glass doors off of the library. They make it there without too much hassle, none of the servants stopping long enough to care that Hayeon was likely doing something the king wouldn't approve of, but they do receive a few curious looks. Through the garden, they reach a wooden gate built off to the right that creaks when Hayeon pushes it open.
"Jaehwa, please let Hongbin know where we've gone and that we will be back by sunset," she says. Jaehwa bounces on her heels, nodding eagerly. Her smile stretches even wider as Hayeon takes Minseon's hand and pulls her through the door. Hayeon then looks at Kyungmi and her smile softens into something more caring and endearing. "I'll protect her should anything happen," she says simply.
Kyungmi nods, ears atop her head flickering slightly. "I trust you."
With that, Hayeon takes Minseon's hand and tugs her down the pathway past the gate, shutting the door behind them and leaving the castle behind for the day.
Past the edge of the castle's gardens is a hill that overlooks the sea, sapphire blue waters sparkling under the sunlight. Minseon stalls for a second, stunned by the scenery, before Hayeon tugs her out of her daze. They make their way down the hill together, laughing a little at each other when they stumble until they end up racing each other down the hill to the beginnings of the beach. When they hit the edges of the sand, Minseon and Hayeon take off their sandals and tuck them away in the backpack before continuing down towards the shore.
It's the first time Minseon has seen the ocean from the Southern Shores. She had often visited the kingdom to the east of summer pixies, but she had been a child then and the pixies used to pull at her hair and push her into the water when she'd worn her prettiest dress. However, the waves are calm as they crash along the shores and the entire stretch of land for as far as Minseon can see is empty.
But they don't walk directly towards the water. Instead, they walk in the sand parallel to the ocean, talking animatedly about playing in the water and stealing kisses, heading for the rockier part of the shoreline.
"Where are we going exactly?" Minseon asks, looking warily at the large rocks Hayeon had started climbing over. She's already over the largest rock when she holds out her hand and helps Minseon climb over it.
"You'll see," is all she replies, carefully navigating Minseon through the rocks so she doesn't slip. She gives no more hints either as they walk a little longer through the rockiest part of the shore until they reach an alcove at the edge of the beach.
When the alcove comes in sight, Hayeon's grip on her hand tightens with her excitement. Hayeon tells her that the alcove used to belong to the mer kingdom and she'd found it by accident while running away one day. After that, she'd sneak away to play with the mermaids she'd befriended from the first time she'd gone until the mermaids no longer came as they grew up and became busy with their own studies.
Minseon laughs, bumping into Hayeon as the waves finally brush up against their feet. Both of them had run away so often that maybe it was only a matter of time until they ran away to each other.
They climb over the last bit of sparse rocks surrounding the alcove, hopping into shallow waters at the mouth of the cave. Minseon gasps as she lands in the water, stunned at the green lights twinkling in the cave that reflect the sunlight streaming in. The walls of dark rock look as though they are embedded with lights, pale yellows and light blues mixed with the greens catching the sunlight and illuminating the dark shade. The alcove seems endless, lights reaching back almost as far as Minseon can see, shining over a long stretch of sand towards the back. The water, cool and crystal clear, twinkles with a new magical vibrance.
They're standing on a sand bar, the boundary between the alcove and the ocean, so Hayeon walks her up steps engraved in rock towards the sandy beach in the back. The further they walk into the cave, the quicker Minseon realizes that the lights are floating in the air, dancing with the breeze blowing into the alcove. She stalls for a moment, holding out her palm to catch one of the blue lights floating by before blowing it away and watching it soar up with the wind.
By then, the sun is already high in the sky so Hayeon sits down where the soft waves just barely reach the shore and pulls out the food Jaehwa had packed. Jaehwa had snuck quite a bit of food from the kitchens, but Hayeon had planned for them to stay at the alcove all day. It takes them a while to finish lunch regardless between talking and tasting sweet chocolate chip cookies in their kisses.
But once they finish, the rest of the food packed away for later, Hayeon hops up and dusts away the sand on her palms. "Let's go swimming!" she says, already pulling her hair off her shoulders, exposing the points of her ears and the gold jewelry catching the sunlight.
And now the extra change of clothes had made sense. "But won't it be hard to sneak back into the castle with wet dresses?"
At that, Hayeon laughs. "You weren't planning to swim with your dress on, were you?"
Minseon flushes, ducking her head to hide the burn on her cheeks. "No," she grumbles, nervously picking at a thread at the end of her dress.
"Good," Hayeon says, reaching into her bag to tie up her hair with gold ribbon. Her nimble fingers make quick work with the buttons on the back of her dress. The fabric pools around her feet as it falls away from her shoulders and she's left standing in a loose, off-white corset, with the neckline cut just above the start of her cleavage, and matching white panties.
"You're staring, Minseon."
Minseon buries her head in her hands and groans, her face heating up. Maybe if she were magical, sparks would be crackling off her skin like fire burning hot in a furnace.
With a sigh and a look from Hayeon that leaves room for no arguments, Minseon finally gets up and starts to undo the buttons of her own dress. She can feel Hayeon's gaze on her, hotter as she moves to stand behind her with extra ribbon from her bag and works Minseon's hair into a neat bun. She steps out of her dress, left only in a soft pink corset and matching panties, picking it up and folding it neatly back into the bag to keep it dry. Not even seconds after she's out of her dress does Hayeon take her by the hand and pull her fast into the water.
The water is warm as it brushes against her ankles, but the cool breeze in the alcove makes her shiver as she wades into the ocean. Hayeon interlocks their fingers and tugs her hard, trying to get her into the water faster, but she catches herself and ends up pressed flush to Hayeon's chest.
Hayeon swoops down quickly and pecks her cheek, stunning her a little. "Sorry, but this has to stay on for now," she smirks, taking Minseon's spare hand and leading it back to where the corset buttons at her spine.
"I wasn't-" Minseon cries indignantly, but Hayeon is already laughing and Minseon pushes her playfully. She pouts, shyly tugging on the ends of her corset. Hayeon is quick to come up from behind and hug her, pecking her just behind her ear. Minseon squeaks in response, hands flying up to her mouth to stop any more embarrassing sounds come out of her mouth.
"Someday, okay?" she says, winking. Her laughter bounces off the walls, vibrates down to Minseon's bones, and she's too stunned to notice Hayeon taking her hand and tackling her down into the water, submerging them both with a splash that rings out in their ears.
Minseon bursts through the surface of the water, still able to stand in the relatively shallow ocean floor. She's gasping for laughter as Hayeon comes up after her, hair pulled loose from the golden ribbon and plastered to her face.
Hayeon cups the water and splashes her with it, stunning her to silence with the usual dark, mischievous glint in her eyes. They play that way, splashing water in each other’s faces and grabbing each other beneath the water until their stomachs hurt from laughing and their cheeks hurt from smiling. They take turns jumping off the rocks into the water until they exhaust themselves and instead lazily paddle in the water until their stomachs start to grumble for food again.
The afternoon drifts by as they climb onto the shore and eat the last of the fruits atop the rocky ledge. They dive back into the water immediately after and swim until the sky turns pink with the beginnings of sunset.
Minseon looks on in awe as the water glows orange with the sunset, sparkling as the sun begins to fall over the horizon. She pulls her knees up to her chest, wading in water deep enough that the waves crash just above her ankles.
"It's wonderful here," she murmurs, playing with the ends of her hair that had come loose from her bun. "It's no wonder you ran away so often."
Hayeon just chuckles softly, accidentally bumping into Minseon when she pulls her knees to her chest. "It is nice," she says, resting her cheek on her knee. "Not even Hongbin knows exactly where this place is. It's nice to escape sometimes." Then she sighs, propping her chin on her knees and looking out to mouth of the alcove. She holds out her hand in front of her face, white sparks of magic flying into the air and disappearing with a sizzle. "There's a lot of pressure to become the kingdom's royal Caster, especially when the spells are taxing on your body."
Unsure what to say, how to convince Hayeon that she'd share that burden with her in any way if she could, she takes Hayeon's hand between her own and pulls it close to her body. Hayeon smiles at her softly, her gaze warm and endearing.
And overcome with feeling so much happiness and love from the day they'd spent together, Minseon leans in and kisses Hayeon, molding their lips together in a slow kiss. She holds on to Hayeon's waist to steady herself, gently leading Hayeon back until she's on the sand, waves crashing below her back. With a quiet moan, she bites down on Hayeon's lip, and Hayeon goes pliable in her hands. Minseon licks into her mouth, kiss turning slowly needy and desperate as the steady fire burning in her belly flickers ferociously to life. Hayeon whines her name, caught in the space between their lips, and Minseon swallows the noise down.
They kiss like that until Minseon's arms ache from holding herself above Hayeon and until their lungs burn- until they are nearly driven to lust by it all. Hayeon pulls away, panting, and cups Minseon's face in her palm.
"You're a sweet girl," she murmurs, teasing smirk back on her pink, kiss swollen lips. "I think I'm in love with you."
Flustered, Minseon ends up flopping on her to hide her embarrassment. They end up laying that way for a bit, waves brushing against their backs, until Hayeon sits up with a sad smile. She doesn't have to say anything for Minseon to understand that it's time to head back to the castle.
They pull away from the glimmering water reluctantly, shoulders bumping as they reach down into the bag and set out their separate clothes onto the shore. Minseon strips down first, quickly stepping out of her wet clothes and cupping water in her hands to wash of the sand clinging to her skin. When she turns around, Hayeon had already stepped out of her clothes, but Minseon notices for the first time that there are intricate lines of gold on her skin, inked over the curve of her hip and scrawled up to the curve of her chest.
When Hayeon steps to the water, Minseon's hand catches her hip. Her fingers delicately trace the gold on her skin, brushing over every stroke of ink that glints with the sunlight.
"Cormlle naa tanya tel'raa ar' vanimle sila tiri," she murmurs. With shaky breath, she pushes Minseon's hair behind her ear. Their gazes meet, intense to the point that Minseon feels heat sparking in her veins, but Hayeon doesn't look away for a moment. "Your heart is that of the lion and your beauty shines bright."
Minseon shivers involuntarily, hand dropping weakly back to her side. Hayeon kisses her forehead, pulling away with a soft smile to continue dressing.
With their wet clothes packed away and finally covered in the dresses they'd worn out, they set back on their way towards the castle. The sunset glitters over the ocean as they step out of the alcove, beating down heavily on their backs as they climb over the rocks and back up the hill towards the castle. It almost feels surreal to step back into their shoes and walk back into the castle as the sun finally sets over the horizon, the black of night approaching and swallowing the last bit of light.
"You must be tired," Hayeon says as they walk through the gazebo in the garden, lights just starting to flicker to life.
Minseon is about to deny it when a yawn bubbles up. She presses her lips together shyly and in turn, they sting a little.
"Sleep well, okay?" Hayeon leans down and pecks Minseon's forehead before heading into the castle and turning to walk down a different hallway. The trail of her dress disappears around the corner and Minseon's heart stutters as the last of the warmth in her chest fades away.
Kyungmi asks her for details as she helps wash her hair in the bath. Minseon is mostly tongue-tied to respond, and ends up staring dazed at her own hands more often than actually responding. Exhaustion hits her hard as soon as she's dressed in her nightgown, more than she'd really expected.
And so with the memories of warmth on her skin, Hayeon's laughter in her ears, and bright smiles and dark eyes in sunset filling up her vision, she drifts off into a deep sleep.
Minseon spends the next few days with Hayeon, again disappearing after breakfast with Hongbin and returning later only for dinner. But there's a different tension in the air on the last day of the week as they sit beside each other in the library, curled up on pillows beneath the sunlight, or as they walk through the gardens after lunch. The tension feels heavy, something in the heat of Hayeon's gazes pulsing in her veins every time their gazes meet. Her heart beats hard and heavy, stuttering when Hayeon lingers a little longer when she pecks her lips or when Minseon brushes Hayeon's hair back and her fingers brush slightly over the gold jewelry decorating her ears.
She doesn't realize what it is until after supper, when the heat of Hayeon's eyes almost feels like too much and she finds herself crossing her legs beneath the table. After they are dismissed from the table, Hayeon tugs her into the familiar darkened corridor and brackets her against the wall and kisses her until her hands are trembling when she places them on Hayeon's hips.
Because now she understands as Hayeon holds her hand firmly and takes her to her bedroom. Whereas Hayeon's room had been bright during the daylight, it was nearly swallowed whole by the darkness of night save for the candles flickering at her bedside.
Tonight was the second to last night of Minseon's stay. The king and queen would be returning from their trip tomorrow and she would be expected to be around Hongbin until she left.
Hayeon pulls her close, grip tightening around Minseon's hand as her breath comes out shaky, her eyes clouded with desire. "Let me take care of you," she murmurs, the space between their lips nearly nonexistent. "Let me show you how much I love you."
Minseon nods, shaky hands latching on to Hayeon's hips and pulling her flush against her, lips locked as they kiss. The small of her back is pressed against the bed as Hayeon holds her steady, thigh wedged between Minseon's legs and fingers tangled in her hair, tilting her head back to deepen their kiss. Minseon moans, feeling the friction increase from Hayeon's thigh pressing the cloth of her dress against her. Her grip tightens on Hayeon's hips, nearly dizzy, as she shifts down trying to increase the friction.
Hayeon pulls back, only for a breath, before she's kissing down Minseon's jaw, lips hot on her neck. Her fingers walk around the buttons at the back of Minseon's dress, ghosting over hot skin until Minseon shivers. She kisses gently at the juncture of Minseon's neck, sucking a mark as she slowly undoes one button at a time. Minseon whines, cut off abruptly in a soft gasp as teeth gently graze against her skin. With each button taken out, Hayeon sucks an even darker mark into her pale skin, just low enough to hide underneath clothing.
The dress falls away and Hayeon looks on with glazed eyes at Minseon, heat churning in her chest at the trail she's left on Minseon's alabaster skin. Lips kissed raw, eyes darker under the flickering candlelight, Minseon tugs Hayeon forward again, kissing her strongly, guiding her hands to the back of her dress to take off her lace corset.
"Please, Hayeon," she gasps, thighs quivering around Hayeon's. Her name coming off Minseon's lips, sounding wrecked already, makes her shiver. She pulls Minseon back in, nipping on her bottom lip as she pops off four buttons and the corset falls away, pooling at their feet on top of Minseon's dress.
Minseon pulls away, eyes fluttering heavy with want as she turns to sit on the bed. She sits propped up against the headboard, watching with heavy eyes as Hayeon's glittering dress falls away and the candlelight flickers warm on her tan skin. Her corset falls away after, and Minseon feels her breath hitch as she takes in the soft curves of Hayeon's body and her narrow hips, golden words twinkling in the light on her skin. The only fabric left is her white lace panties, and in close distance, Minseon tugs Hayeon over her by the waistband, shivering when she lets it go and the snap rings out in the night.
Hayeon captures her lips again, kissing her and mapping out the press of their mouths, as her hands roam over Minseon's body. Minseon locks her hands around Hayeon's neck, grounding herself as Hayeon splays her palm over her stomach. She tenses under her palm, feeling heat coil there and intensify as Hayeon's fingers work their way to Minseon's breasts. Minseon gasps, thighs trembling as Hayeon cups her breasts and works them in her hands, thumbs brushing over her nipples to keep working her up. Minseon bucks up against her, voice lost in their kiss. Her nails dig into Hayeon's shoulders as the pressure builds.
"Hold out for me," Hayeon whispers, pressing a sweet, chaste kiss to the corner of Minseon's lips. "I'll take care of you."
After a silent, eager nod, Hayeon readjusts them until Minseon is propped higher against the backboard and she's sitting between her thighs. Hayeon looks at her reverently, hands trailing with care at every scar and mark on her chest and abdomen. She presses a tender kiss to a scar just below Minseon's ribs, eyes filled with nothing but love as she takes her time worshipping every bit of Minseon.
Minseon's heart stutters as Hayeon trails her fingers along the insides of her thighs, carefully avoiding where Minseon is aching. She places kisses where her fingers had walked, ensuring she sucks deep, purple marks into the pale skin closest to her panties. Minseon fidgets and moans her name brokenly, hair messy around her face as she glances at Hayeon between her legs.
"Please," she begs, voice cracking as she admires the way Hakyeon looks just as wrecked as her. "Please, Hayeon, please."
She arches off the bed suddenly, Hayeon having pressed the soaking wet fabric of her underwear against her clit. She rolls down for more friction, trying to get herself off this way because the pleasure building is almost unbearable. Hayeon manages to work even slower, pulling her fingers away, and Minseon almost cries out until Hayeon ducks between her legs and works her underwear off with her teeth. She purposefully presses her lips against her clit through the fabric, drinking in every sound as she finally slides the wet fabric off.
With a calm hand pressed to her trembling thigh, Minseon only has a moment to catch her breath until Hayeon mouths at her folds and she nearly loses it then. Her thighs clench and she has to make a conscious effort not to lock them around Hayeon's head. Hayeon is nothing but gentle still as she holds Minseon's hips and works her tongue deeper into her. Minseon's vision darkens at the edges as Hayeon hums, pushing her past the edge. Fingers wound in Hayeon's hair, she sits up and pulls her in fast for a chaste, messy kiss as she orgasms not moments after.
With Hayeon's thumb pressed to her clit and fingers scissoring her, Hayeon works her through her orgasm, pushing the stimulation until Minseon's kisses are sloppy and her vision has gone blindingly white. Minseon keens against her, weakly pushing forward, and Hayeon finally pulls away. She kisses her tenderly until Minseon floats back into her head, dazed and sated.
"I love you," Hayeon murmurs, lying flat beside her and weight on her elbow by Minseon's head as she brushes Minseon's sweaty bangs from her face. Her eyes are caring and sweet as her thumb brushes carefully over Minseon's tender lips. Minseon reaches over with a shaky hand and cups Hayeon's cheek, rubbing her thumb over the heavy flush staining her cheeks.
Silently she asks to return the sentiment. Hayeon agrees with a subtle nod, but Minseon tries to sit up properly and her elbow locks under her weight and she flops on her side. Hayeon chuckles lightly and instead pulls herself closer.
Minseon murmurs praises of love with every inch of skin her fingers touch, kissing Hayeon when she runs out of breath. Her fingers dance along the waistband of Hayeon's panties until she whines, head dropping forward with a desperate moan. Hayeon adjusts their position, hooking her knees on either side of Minseon and hovering over her pelvis.
Working almost agonizingly slow at first, Minseon dips her fingers below her panties, pushing the wet fabric back just enough to slide her fingers in Hayeon's folds. Instantly, Hayeon clenches around her fingers and moans, head thrown back as she quickly sinks down on Minseon's fingers. Minseon works her fast, pumping her fingers fast and scissoring against the tight, wet heat working against her. Hayeon bounces on her lap, bowing forward as Minseon's fingers sink deeper and stretch her wider. With glassy, dazed eyes, she takes Minseon's hand on her hip and interlocks their fingers, squeezing as she orgasms with a shuddering gasp of Minseon's name on her lips.
Minseon pulls her fingers out, keeping her hand steady and warm on Hayeon's hip as Hayeon flops on the bed, whining about how wet her panties are. She tiredly kicks them off and, after cleaning them both up, makes to tuck them both into bed, hands still trembling as she pulls the covers back and helps Minseon slide into bed. She climbs in afterwards, tangling their legs together and making herself small enough to tuck herself under Minseon's chin.
"I love you too," Minseon whispers, pushing Hayeon's hair back. The pads of her thumb brush against the point of Hayeon's ears. "I love you so much that not even a lifetime of talking could express just how much."
Hayeon's breath hitches audibly. She looks up at Minseon with sleepy eyes, leaning up just enough to press a kiss under her jaw. "Me too," she exhales, curling her fingers against Minseon's side. "Me too."
With the last bit of her energy, Minseon sits up enough to blow out the candle and bathe the room in darkness. She falls asleep to the even, constant pattern of Hayeon's soft breath ghosting across her skin, and the image of Hayeon smiling gently in her sleep.
Minseon wakes up the next morning to find herself curled against Hayeon, head pillowed on her shoulder. She groans, untangling their legs and trying to work out her stiff muscles. From above, Hayeon chuckles softly as she scrunches up her nose and stretches her legs out until she feels her muscles begin to strain.
"You're even pretty when you wake up," Hayeon says, smiling as she brushes Minseon's bangs back from her eyes. When her vision clears, Minseon drinks in the way Hayeon's tanned skin glows warm in the morning, the way her dark eyelashes flutter against her flushed cheeks when she blinks, and her plush, red, kiss swollen lips as she bites down shyly into them.
"We have to bathe," Minseon replies, voice scratchy in her throat. "My thighs are sticking together."
Hayeon hums, but neither of them make any move to leave the bed. Hayeon continues lazily carding through Minseon's hair while Minseon drags her fingers across Hayeon's bare skin, kissing her at random intervals when memories of last night spark at her fingertips. They memorize every moment in each other's arms because mornings of waking up together like this are numbered.
Minseon does her best to swallow around her heart jumping into her throat when there's a knock at the door. She grips at Hayeon's waist tighter, hoping to keep her here longer, but Hayeon calls out to Jaehwa that they'll bathe in a moment and dress themselves to meet Hongbin for breakfast.
"Though I think I'd much rather eat you instead," Hayeon says, looking at Minseon with a smirk. Minseon does her best to shove a pillow in her face, but she feels suddenly weak thinking about Hayeon eating her out once more.
With a sigh, Hayeon clambers out of bed first and goes in search of two robes. By the time she comes back, two dark blue silk robes in hand, Minseon had managed to roll out of bed and steady herself on legs that didn't feel like her own. She blushes red as Hayeon looks at all of her in the morning light, not being discrete in the least, but Hayeon takes her hand with a smile and walks them both towards the bathroom.
Much like the bathroom in her own room, this bathroom has a similar layout. There's a small tub carved into the floor, filled with warm water and soap that smells of lavender, surrounded by glass bottles of more soaps. The walls and ceilings are covered in light blue glass, and Minseon shivers as she steps onto the cool floor. Hayeon sets the bathrobes aside on a table laid out with towels for the both of them before she steps into the tub, leading Minseon in after her.
Minseon sighs as she sinks into the hot water. Standing fully in the tub, the water reaches her neck while the soap foaming over the water hardly covers Hayeon's breasts. She frowns, standing on the tips of her toes as she reaches for one of the bottles of soap along the edge of the tub.
Hayeon just laughs, hands on Minseon's waist as she pulls her close to kiss the corner of her lips teasingly. She leads Minseon over to a ledge at the edge of the tub, fingers pressing into bruises still on her hips. Hayeon sits with her back against the wall of the tub and pulls Minseon to sit between her legs. She presses a kiss to the darkest bruise at the junction of her neck and shoulder before taking soap into her hand and working it into Minseon's hair.
Like that, to only the soft sound of birds chirping in the morning, they bathe in relative silence. Occasionally Hayeon hums to herself when she scrubs herself clean, but Minseon doubts Hayeon even realizes she's doing it. Regardless, there's a lot on Minseon's mind and the silence doesn't do much to untangle the web of thoughts strung taught in her head.
Because last night had solidified what she'd felt that first night at the Moonlight Festival two months ago. She wanted to wake up beside Hayeon every morning and she wanted Hayeon to be the last thing she saw before she drifted off to sleep. She wanted to share their burdens of being royalty with each other, she wanted to sneak into street festivals and dance under the starlight with her, and she wanted to take Hayeon away to special places where they could laugh and smile together. She wanted to be by Hayeon's side, hands intertwined until they were old and their hands were wrinkled when clasped together and the laugh lines ran deep into their cheeks.
Hayeon was strong and kind, independent and gracious, and beautiful down to every bit of her, and Minseon doesn't think she could bear to watch someone else take Hayeon's hand to rule alongside her.
"Minseon," Hayeon murmurs quietly, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Minseon turns around, sloshing water over the side of the bath. She sits cross legged between Hayeon's thighs, kept in place by Hayeon's legs locked around her waist.
Looking up at her, Minseon gets her breath taken away again. She runs the pad of her thumb across Hayeon's collar bones, feather light touches across the marks littered over her tan skin. She drags her fingers up Hayeon's neck, tracing the shape of her thick, pink lips. She traces over where her eyelashes flutter against her cheeks and marks the way her left eyelid slopes more than her right. She runs her fingers to the tips of her ears, taking in all of it with a trembling heart before she leans in and kisses Hayeon, slowly and passionately for as long as she can.
"What's worrying you," she asks, hand searching for Minseon's beneath the water. She squeezes it comfortingly, and Minseon feels the familiar spark of magic in her palm that calms her anxious heart.
Exhaling, Minseon bites down into her lip and meets Hayeon's worried gaze. "What are we going to do?"
Hayeon presses her lips together, looking away to a distant spot off the side of the bathroom. She squeezes Minseon's hand, almost nervously tapping her fingers in rhythm at the back of Minseon's palm. "Truthfully, I never expected we'd make it this far," she murmurs. "I've been terrified ever since we started this whole plan that we'd be caught and separated. I can't tell you-" and she pauses, swallowing back the tremble in her voice, "-how many nights I've woken up in terror thinking that maybe we would be separated if anyone told our parents."
Minseon reaches forward, cupping Hayeon's cheek in her palm. Hayeon sinks into her touch with a sad sigh, meeting her gaze with wet eyes. "We've made it this far but I wouldn't be able to stand it watching you hold someone else's hand or kiss anyone else. I want to be by your side every sunrise, every sunset, and every moonlit night sky until we are too old and blind to see the stars anymore."
Hayeon exhales shakily, reaching forward and brushing her thumb underneath Minseon's cheek. Minseon struggles to swallow around the lump in her throat when she catches the tears on Hayeon's fingers.
"I want it too," she chokes out, holding on to Hayeon's hand tighter. "I want us to be together."
"We will have to tell our fathers, then," Hayeon says, pulling Minseon forward with each word. "It's better they hear it from us than finding out on their own."
Minseon looks down between them. She bites down into her lip hard enough for it to bleed. "When will we tell them?"
Hayeon stays silent, pursing her lips as she thinks. "After you depart, I plan on taking Hongbin with me the following week after to the Central Woodlands. Our father will likely come along as well, and together we can tell both of them."
Minseon nods. Hayeon, holding on to her wrist, pulls them together and kisses Minseon until her lungs start to burn. Hands roaming each other, grasping on like they'd slip through each other's fingers if they let go, they kiss until there's a soft knock at the bathroom door.
Hayeon pushes their foreheads together, grip tightening where her hands are placed at Minseon's sides. "Be strong, love," she murmurs. "I promise with all my heart that we will be together."
And even though it’s hard with so many doubts and worries pushing in the back of her mind, Minseon replies, "I believe you."
They finally get out from the bath water, shivering as their feet hit the cold floor once more. Hayeon grabs the towels set off to the side and passes one to Minseon before drying herself off. They work in terse silence, slipping into warm bathrobes before heading back to Hayeon's room. Jaehwa and Kyungmi are waiting there, piles of clothes in their hand and boxes of pigments set up on the dresser.
The tension in the room eases up as Kyungmi pulls pigments from the box and presses harshly into the marks around Minseon's chest. Minseon hisses in response, batting Kyungmi away with a heavy flush on her cheeks and Hayeon's gaze dark on her shoulders.
After breakfast with Hongbin, they spend most of the day together between the library, the garden, and the kitchen. By nightfall, they haven't said much to each other- not needing to say anything to just relish in the moments they have alone together. They haven't touched upon the topic from the morning either, instead kissing when the silence felt like too much or when their thoughts overwhelmed their heads.
By nightfall, they separate thinking it safer to sleep in their own rooms as it was Minseon's last night in the Southern Shores and it was more likely her entourage would find it suspicious if she weren't in her room or Hongbin's. However, reluctant to let go, they hide away in the gazebo until not even the most powerful magic could keep them awake.
She won't see Hayeon in the morning, so Minseon kisses her goodnight and goodbye beneath the twinkling lights of the gazebo. And like the first night they met, Hayeon leaves first with promises that this isn't a permanent goodbye. Though Hayeon won't be able to see her off in the morning, a week is not a long wait when they've been a month apart.
And yet, Minseon's heart feels heavy with worry as Hayeon disappears into the castle, the lean curve of her back draped in a soft dark green gown the last thing captured beneath the twinkling lights before she'd left. Both of them were worried and scared, but maybe there would be a shining strobe of moonlight in the darkness that would guide them together no matter how much the darkness of night robbed their sight of each other.