Title: The Count's Masquerade
Pairing: ~HaeHyuk~ / HaeEun -- (Lee DongHae x Lee HyukJae [EunHyuk] )
Summary: Count Donghae invites the village to a grand masquerade ball where he will choose the hand of the fairest women or man, in marriage. Lee Hyukjae, a citizen of the village, is dragged by his sister to attend the masquerade ball as her guardian. He must not separate from his precious sibling. However, once the Count’s hand is in front of him, Hyukjae does not need to think twice before leaving his sister behind and accepting the dance. Later, he must face the consequence of his actions.
Declaiming: I do not own Super Junior or the members, however, the plot is mine and only mine!
a/n: based off of Opera mv ^^
The Count's Masquerade
“When will the flowers arrive?”
“We sold out ma’am, when we cut the new ones I will personally deliver them to your home.” A boy in his teenage years was sitting down in the garden and cutting the red roses for his family’s flower shop.
“Oh, lovely! Thank you very much young man. I will be on my way then. Good day!” the elder lady waved at him from under her umbrella, which was protecting her from the sun, and soon disappeared on to the streets.
The light brown haired boy picked out a rose and stared at the petals. He was a skinny boy, tall and slender. Poor but able to provide for himself and his older sister, he was hardworking and soft-hearted. His big brown eyes were becoming hazy as the sweat from his forehead began to slip down his face. The sun was bright and hot today in the afternoon. His thick plump lips were pink, complementing his creamy white skin and defined jaw line.
This boy’s name was Lee Hyukjae. His parents passed away when he was a child, his older sister, Lee Sora, raised him up by herself until he was old enough to work at their family’s flower shop. It was hard work but they received enough profit to get by with their lives. There was never a time the two asked for more than what they had and never had they once been dishearten by seeing other with more than them.
“Hyukjae, where is your hat? Please put it on before you get a sun burn.” Sora was running out of the shop with her brother’s white hat in her hand. She reached him and placed it gently on his head as he worked to pull the flowers out of the bush and cut off the thorns.
Elsewhere, on a hilltop, which over looked the village, a huge white palace was shimmering in the sunlight. The palace had three tall towers, and giant glass windows. The interior was crimson red and dark purple – two colors best loved by the Count, Lee Donghae.
Covered in his black and dark green feathered opera cloak, Donghae made his way to the grand hall where his servants waited for the special announcement. Donghae stood on a small balcony which over shadowed the circular ball room.
“A week from now, I will be holding a grand masquerade ball for all the citizens in my village. Please be sure the invitations are send out to each eligible household who has a son or daughter worthy of attending. Let it known I will choose my bride at the masquerade ball.” He raised both his hands and held the ledge of the balcony, while speaking he made sure to make eye contact with his servants to let them know the importance of this event.
The servants were left in glee. They were happy and whispering to one another, excited that their Count had finally decided to get married. This excitement motivated them to work hard for the preparation and host the most memorable event for their Count.
“Where are the flowers I ordered?” Count Donghae asked his right hands man as they walked.
“The lady came back with none, Sir. The shop had sole out this week and we are not sure when they will have the new ones.” The man wearing a black vest over a white collared shirt told his Count.
The Count hummed, “will they be available by the ceremony?”
“I am afraid we do not know at the moment.”
The Count sighed, “very well.”
Back in the village during evening time, Sora was busily chasing around the hens that had left their little hut. Her brother refused to assist her in the catch, as he was concentration on counting the number of eggs hatched. Once Sora caught two of the hens she quickly brought them back to their hut. Her long wore out blue skirt was ripped from the bottom. She sighed as she looked at it.
“Hyukjae, go get me the stitching kit please.” She waved to her brother who left the eggs and did as his older sister had asked.
“Why don’t you buy a new one? How much longer will it hold up with sticking?” Hyukjae innocently asked, sitting in front of his sister and staring at the cut.
She glanced at her brother, her eyes hardened and she flicked her index finger on his forehead. Hyukjae trembled back in both surprise and slight pain.
“That is not for you to worry about.” She told him with a straight face.
As Hyukjae opened his mouth to speak, there was a knock at their front door. Both siblings looked at one another and asked the same question with their eyes. They had never ad guests ever since their parents passed away, two years ago, who in the world would come to visit them now and at this hour?
Hyukjae stood up to go open the door but his older sister pulled him back by his sleeve. He watched and wondered why she had done that until she unlocked and opened the door.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed in surprise, seeing one of the Count’s guards at her door.
“Good evening young lady!” The man smiled brightly; however seeing his face was impossible due to the silver helmet he wore. “The Count has invited the villagers to a masquerade ball. Please accept this invitation.” The man handed Sora a white envelope with a dark purple stamp on it. The stamp was of three circles crossing one another and the letter “C.D” carved into it.
“Thank you.” That was all Sora count find to say as the man took his leave.
She closed the door and looked at her brother.
“What?” He asked.
“W-we...” She tried to stay calm, “I was invited to the Count’s ball! Look!” she raised the envelope in front of her brother and began to open it.
Her eyes read quickly.
“The Count’s Ball...Masquerade....a week from today....blah blah blah....any man or women attending the ball must accept the decision of the count as he will seek the fairest of all as his bride!!”
“WHAT!?” Both Hyukjae and Sora blurted out in shock.
“A chance to marry the Count! I have been invited to the ball where I may have a chance to be the Count’s wife.”
Hyukjae glared at his sister as she had lost herself in the current situation.
“Any man or women...why a man?” Hyukjae asked, slightly disturbed.
“Now, now Hyukjae. We have no right to question the Count’s sexual preference. The Count is a man who believes in love at first sight and true love, gender is not his concern. I personally think he is a beautiful man.” She assured her brother.
“How do you know so much about him?” Hyukjae asked, slightly suspicious.
“My friends work at the palace with their mothers. They have told me so much of him. It is a girl’s dream to marry him. He’s handsome and very gentle.”
Hyukjae shook his head.
“In that case you need to buy a dress. You do not have one. Therefore, you must not go!” He huffed.
He was against his sister’s attention to the Count. Who was this guy? Hyukjae was told to respect the Count but he had never even seen the man in the village – not even once.
“You do as well. I am not going alone. It says here “eligible man and women”, if I do not get lucky, you just might!” She winked and teased her brother.
“I am not interested!” He stomped away into his room.
His older sister loved teasing him. She loved the cute reaction he gave when she caught him off guard. However, Sora had decided. She planned to sell off the next batch of roses early enough to be able to buy a perfect mask and dress for herself and her brother. To be honest, she was much more excited for her brother than herself.
Sora loved her brother very much. She had never seen him dress up. He must look handsome if proper male clothing. He was beautiful as well. She wanted so much for him, for him to be happy and grow up as a stronger person. She was a mother figure for Hyukjae, the boy may not have realized it, but that was the reality. It was natural for her to want good luck to come to him before herself.
“Ah, what am I thinking...?” Sora sighed.
She wrapped up the invitation and placed it under her hair brush on her table. She turned off the lights to her room before going to sleep.
Days had passed since that day of the invitation. Hyukjae and Sora argued constantly as he refused to go with her as one of the candidates.
“Then come with me to take care of me!” Sora shouted.
“Why do you need me?” He asked, raising an eyebrow in confusion.
“Because I am nervous, on top of that your beautiful sister will attract too much attention and needs her brother there to protect her from ugly men.” She faked a few tears.
Hyukjae had no choice. Being gullible as always to his sister, Hyukjae decided he would go, only to protect his sister. Maybe he was being selfish because in truth, he did not want her sister to be off married to another man at the moment. If that happened, where would he go? He would be alone.
Sora and Hyukjae opened their flower shop a few hours early in order to attract more customers, with preparation to weddings in the village and funerals. Not to mention birthday parties and other celebrations, their flowers were being sold out fast.
At last, Sora picked up the last batch of roses. She looked at them all, counted them before putting them in the front. Seeing her brother next to her, smiling at the customers, she pulled one of the thornless roses out and hid it under the counter, telling the man that was all there were in the batch.
“Thank you, my wife will love these.” He bowed before leaving.
When the last of the flowers were gone, Sora slammed closed the shop and pulled her brother to the back of their house. Hyukjae had noticed how his sister’s gentleness had changed ever since the invitation came. He did not like it at all.
“We have enough to go and buy the clothes!” She exclaimed in excitement.
Hyukjae wanted to tell her to use the money for something better than a one in a million chance situation but seeing how happy his sister was, he did not want to let her down. He follower her around to all the shops, picking up both their outfits and then walked into a small antique ship with masks on the wall.
“I am sorry, all the pretty ones sold out yesterday. Everyone is excited about the Count’s masquerade ball.” An old man with wrinkles and black glasses smiled at them as they walked inside.
“Um, do you have a simple one for me, please?” Hyukjae pointed to himself while asking.
The old man stood from his chair and went to the back. Sora looked around for one of the wall. Hyukjae made faces at the feminism each mask gave off with its pretty gestures and tiny jewels around the eyes.
“This was one we recently make a week ago.” The old man crept up from Hyukjae’s back and scared him.
Hyukjae opened the box and looked inside. There on a soft dark purple mat sat a beautiful white mask which covered the eyes with its black crowned designs. The masked gave off a slightly golden shade while complemented the white and black. In the center it purged up into a three crown head which sat in between the eyebrows.
“It’s beautiful!” Sora gasped once she had a look. “Put it in front of your face.”
Hyukjae did as told and looked at his sister.
“We will buy it! This is just the right one for you!” She squealed while suddenly pinching his cheeks. “Now, look one for me, something pink and white.”
Hyukjae groaned. He hated the color pink.
After a full day of shopping, Hyukjae lifted the entire bags home with his sister. Since they had run out of money for some accessories, Sora had to buy fabric instead of a complete dress. As soon as she got home, she took out her sewing machine and began to work. Hyukjae was left to make dinner, as well as breakfast the following day.
The Count was looked down into his garden three nights before his ceremony. The workers had worked had to make it look beautiful. Count Donghae loved roses, but his garden never grew any as he would have imagined. The died too soon no matter how well they were taken care of.
Count Donghae closed his eyes and took in the fresh smell of air that breezed by. In three days he would have chosen a wife. That was his father’s dying wish. To become married and live a loyal life to his wife – that he could not because his father was afraid of dedication.
“And if I am unable to find anyone at the ball? Will I have to force myself?” He wondered out loud.
The Count looked down towards the village and wondered what the life of his potential wife was like, what she was doing right now that he did not know of. It made him wonder why he did not know of her existence.
“Come on Hyukjae! Let me scrub your back!” Sora was shouting from outside the bathroom door.
“No! I can do it myself. Are you not ashamed I’m a man?” Hyukjae shouted back, slightly blushing.
“Fine then, you better scrub off the nasty tan and show me your white skin!” She stomped away after warning her brother.
Hyukjae splashed some water on to his back. He was unable to process how a man could simple pick a bride by beauty – especially when it is covered with a mask. It seemed illogical. What if he was chosen? It was highly unlikely from just what if. Sure, the man will accept him but what if Hyukjae did not love him. There had to be love. For his sister, he wanted there to be the same thing. Mutual love, if she married him, it was not certain the man was an ideal type. Could it be possible?
And finally came the day of the masquerade ball. Horns and trumpets rang through the village as the qualified male and females rode to the palace.
“Hyukjae wear this.” Hyukjae’s sister faced her brother and showed him the rose she had kept from a few days ago. She had attached a pin to the bottom of the rose and stuck in on Hyukjae’s white shirt – just above his right nip.
“Where did you get this from?” Her brother asked, she only winked and giggled before opening the front door. “Let’s go!”
Hyukjae sighed and dragged himself out of the door way. The only thing keeping him motivated about this ball was the fact that he was doing this for his sister.
Meanwhile at the Count’s palace, guests were gathering in the grand hall, which was decorated in gold, dark purple and green. There was a crystal chandelier hanging in the middle of the ceiling, overlooking the golden and white floor. A navy blue stair case rose to the top and parted in two directions. At the top of the stair case was a maroon and dark brown old fashioned chair, on which the count sat, while watching his guests enter, wearing various beautiful masks.
“Shindong, where is m-” Count Donghae was interrupted when one of his men, Shindong, placed in front of him the object Donghae was searching for.
It was the count’s mask - base color of black with light gold patterns around the eyes. The crown at the forehead was dotted black on a light golden base. The mask beautifully complemented the Count’s choice of a black and navy blue outfit. His black feathery coat was long from the back and openly loose at the front, showing off the double patterned blue best. The sleeves were all collaborated from the various tops he wore and held together in the end by a brown silk. His fingers were covered with golden black and white rings. His dark brown hair was curled and brushed off towards his left eye.
Count Donghae raised his mask before his eyes.
There was the slow beautiful melody of music sounding all around the palace. The Count stood from his seat and took the first step down towards the ball room floor. Despite the hundreds of people who were in the room, the Count was aware of all around him and still there was no one in particular he was walking towards. In fact, he did not even know why he was coming out of the floor, he just felt like it.
Count Donghae took another step down the staircase when a trumpet sounded; signalling that another guest had arrived. It had been sounding for the past three hours as guests continued to arrive. The Count stood on the third step from the top and watched the gates to the ball room open slowly.
‘Exactly how many people were still to arrive?’ He wondered.
The gates opened fully for the hundredth time this evening, and in walked the guests that had arrived at this hour. There were most likely twenty of them from the looks of it.
Hyukjae pulled his sister closer towards him when the people behind them rushed into the hall. He was annoyed by their bumping and pushing. When Hyukjae and Sora walked into the ball room, his sister squealed. Hyukjae was impressed by the beauty of the room and the soft music, not to mention the amount of people present.
However, Sora was impressed by something else. She leaned up to her brother and whispered, “look, that’s him!”
Hyukjae moved the black hood, which he wore with his outfit, from the side and looked towards the direction his sister’s eyes were looking. He saw an elegantly dressed man standing on top of the stair case wearing a unique mask.
Did they just make eye contact?
“H-he’s looking at us!” Sora gasped, she fixed her pink and silver mask over her eyes and cleared her throat.
Hyukjae looked at his sister then back up at the count, who was still staring at them.
“Let’s go look around.” He turned towards his sister and pushed her foreword gently.
The Count watched as the young man, wearing a beautiful golden and silver mask, turned his back towards him and walked with a lady.
‘Who is he?’ was the first thought to bother his mind.
Count Donghae had never seen someone look so beautiful at a masquerade. The combination of colors and not to mention the color of his skin made him breathtaking all together – no wonder his eyes immideteally caught him from the crowed. Maybe it was the rose he wore on his shirt that caught Count Donghae’s attention. Donghae had wanted that flower for a long time.
The Count retrieved back up the stairs and decided to watch before going down. Shindong stood by his side, bringing up as casual of a conversation as possible so that Count would not grow tired of waiting.
Hyukjae and Sora were looking out into the garden through the window.
“He had no flowers, how sad.” Soras pouted, “But look how nicely cut the grass is.”
“This is boring, what are we doing here?” Hyukjae asked with a nasty attitude.
As Sora turned to explain to her brother, a man tapped Hyukjae’s shoulder from behind, surprising them both. When Hyukjae turned, a tall man was standing behind wearing a black and navy blue mask over his eyes.
The man put out his right hand and asked with a smile, “May I please have this dance?”
He was looking at Sora; however, she was not paying attention. Her eyes were staring elsewhere, and when Hyukjae and the other man followed her gaze, they rested on a man by the door way.
“That’s the guard who brought us the invitation, right?” Hyukjae asked his sister.
Sora did not answer him and when Hyukjae looked at his sister, she was not there. Sora was happily skipping towards the guard and stating a conversation.
Hyukjae covered his face with his hand, wanting to scream out in frustration over his sister. Why did she bring him alone if she was going to be the one hitting on guys instead of them hitting on her? She really did not need him here, so why drag him along?
Then Hyukjae realized the other man beside him. He laughed with guilt over his sister’s action.
“I apologize for her behav-”
“Would you like to dance?” The man interrupted.
“Eh!?” Hyukjae’s voice was caught in his throat. “Um, I...don’t real...”
He really had no excuse or anything to say in return. He decided, this was only in favor to his sister’s behaviour that he would in fact accept this one dance. A little hesitant, Hyukjae took the hand in front of him and saw the other man smile. The smile was heart warming, almost making Hyukjae’s heart skip a beat.
The man placed his left hand on Hyukjae’s hips, making him flinch at the touch he was not use to. Hyukjae’s hand went up on the taller man’s left shoulder before they began to cross each other’s feet and dance to the slow music.
“Um, don’t you find this weird?” Hyukjae suddenly asked.
“Not at all,” the man replied, “where I’m from, this kind of thing is normal.”
“You’re not from the village?” He asked looking up at the masked stranger.
“No, I’m a close friend of the Count. I was invited here for the ceremony.”
“I see.” Hyukjae nodded.
The two danced until they were the center of attention of the golden and white floor. Hyukjae found it somewhat embarrassing while the other casually held him as if it did not seem out of the ordinary.
Hyukjae wondered if he was allowed to ask the man for his name. Was the allowed? He had never been to a masquerade ball so the rules were unknown to him.
The Count was watching the entire scene since the beginning. What was Choi Siwon up to this time? Why of all the people he had to go dance with that guy? It irritated Count Donghae but there was nothing he could do except wait for the dance to end before going down himself. As if listening to his patience, the music died down and he watched Siwon and Hyukjae separate.
When the dance came to an end, Sora left the guard and was about to run over to her brother and congratulate him on a dance well danced when she saw the Count coming down the stairs. He was almost skipping every other step, as if in a rush, and heading straight towards her brother.
Her heart was beating fast. What was happening? She remained in her spot and watched.
“Thank you for the dance.” The man bowed, with one hand on his chest.
Hyukjae did the same, not sure if he was supposing to or not. He noticed the atmosphere in the room quiet down and looked around curiously. Why had everyone gone quiet?
All eyes were staring at him and Siwon, except for his sister’s. Who was she looking at? Hyukjae looked towards her direction and saw someone walking towards them as the stood right across the staircase.
It was the Count!
Why was he coming towards them?
Suddenly, the reality hit Hyukjae as he recalled the invitation saying an eligible “man or women”. Panicking he looked at his sister, the grin on her face made him forget the will to ask her for help. The Count tapped the taller man’s right shoulder and had the man step of a side. Hyukjae watched with surprising eyes when the Count held out his hand to Hyukjae. It was the same situation as with Siwon, only the Count did not say a word.
Too bothered by the confusion in his head, Hyukjae’s hand rose on its own and placed itself in the count’s hands. The touch made him shiver at the softness of the other’s hand. When Hyukjae accepted the dance, he heard whispered and murmurs amongst the rest of the guests. The music started again and the Count pulled Hyukjae closer towards him.
Hyukjae’s heart skipped another beat.
Unlike the other man’s hand, which was only placed on his hips, the Count’s arm wrapped all around Hyukjae’s lower back and his right hand intertwined between Hyukjae’s fingers. The music had slowly gotten louder, like an opera starting peacefully slow and suddenly rushed towards the end. The Count moved with the music, taking quick steps, pulled Hyukjae with him and then slowing down occasionally.
Thought their faces were hidden behind the masks, their eyes did not escape each other’s look. Hyukjae found himself unable to look away from the gaze the Count poured into his eyes. As for Count Donghae, he was searching himself in Hyukjae’s eyes. Aside from the eyes, the other’s lips caught Count Donghae’s attention as well, not to mention the defined jawline.
All beautiful features Count Donghae loved.
Suddenly, the hand that held Hyukjae’s left him and rose to the boy’s face. The finger of the Count’s hand tapped Hyukjae’s mask. As an instinct, Hyukjae’s free and rose and slammed over the mask. There was no way he was letting his face be shown in public, after dancing with two men. It could be tough showing his face to the Count, for all he knows, this man might just choose him as his marriage partner.
The Count blink twice and then smiled. Hyukjae blushed at the angelic smile which suddenly appeared out of the blue on the other’s face. The Count cupped Hyukjae’s right cheek with his palm, making the boy flinch and shut his eyes for a second before opening them.
Count Donghae admitted the boy was cute and not to mention very stiff in his hold. Was there a way for him to relax his body and make this dance much easier?
He brushed his thumb once over the boy’s thick pink lips. Hyukjae’s eyes widened in surprise. His ears suddenly went deaf, as the music and whispered around him disappeared and the only thing he could hear was the racing beat of his heart. The Count moved closer; bring himself into Hyukjae’s personal space and leaving inch worth of space between their faces.
“So beautiful,” Hyukjae blinked in surprise when he heard the Count’s voice.
It was like music to his ears because the Count’s voice was gentle and passionate, making Hyukjae feel the hair on his skin rise. Then slowly, Hyukjae saw the other’s mask coming closer. The black and gold was drawing him in, those eyes of the other that he could not stop staring into were beginning to close slowly.
Just as it happened, Hyukjae felt something warm and soft press against his own lips.
His heart stopped beating at that moment, his could not breath.
Count Donghae closed his eyes and pressed his lips against the plump ones of the other - kissing the masked stranger in his arms.
Hyukjae’s sister gasped in shock and disbelief. The guests began to talk amongst themselves, saying the Count had made his choice. However, it was not decided yet.
Not intentionally wanting to do any harm, yet unable to accept the current situation, Hyukjae pushed the Count away and broke the kiss. He covered his mouth with his right hand and looked at the other with pain and sadness in his eyes.
“Hyukjae!” Sora shouted when her brother turned and ran away.
The Count was standing by himself in the middle of the dance floor as the boy pushed him away and ran out of the hallway with a girl running after him.
“Hyukjae...” Count Donghae repeated the name over his tongue.
Aside from the name, there was another thing Count Donghae could never forget from this day forward.
It was the hurtful look in the masked boy’s eyes.
The taller man, wearing a black and blue masked, came by the Count’s side and rested his hand on the man’s shoulder. Count Donghae sighed and walked past him.
“End the ceremony soon; I will be going to my room for the night.” He told Siwon.
“But what about... I mean, do you want to go after him?” Siwon asked against his will to do so.
The Count did not give him an answer and disappeared amongst the crowed.
Hyukjae ran away as fast as he could, his sister was right behind him. He stopped at the door to their house before she reached up to him and unlocked it with her keys.
“What is the matter with you?” Sora asked once her brother ripped off his mask and tossed it aside.
“Nothing, I’m fine.” Her brother looked away from her and went up the stairs.
“You know, you should be happy he picked you!” She shouted from below but Hyukjae only ignored her.
What did she mean by be happy? Wasn’t she the one in love with the Count? Hyukjae rubbed his lips with his index finger, still feeling the presence of the other’s on him.
“Of all the people there, he has to pick the poorest one...” Hyukjae bit his bottom lip and sat of his bed.
He did not feel good enough for the Count. Sure, the man was highly attractive and the kiss did light a heart beating spark inside him but the fact that the rich will continue to look down on the poor made him question both their actions. Once the Count found out he was from a poor family, there was no way he would want to marry Hyukjae. Was it not obvious to his sister? Or was Hyukjae just thinking too much?
The following day when Hyukjae left the house to open up the flower shop, what shocked him was the atmosphere outside. There were horses all around and men going door to door. Hyukjae’s heart beat heavily, as if he had committed a crime and now must go into hiding. Hyukjae quickly unlocked the flower shop and ran inside before slamming the door shut.
Could they be the Count’s horses? Looking for him?
The moment reminded him of Cinderella, how one of the Prince’s men went door to door to see if the shoe fit.
Hyukjae shook his head. But he had left nothing behind? There was no way they could recognize him. A knock on the door made him jump.
“Hyukjae it’s me!” his sister shouted from outside.
“What in the world is going on?” she asked once he opened the door.”
“I don’t know...” he half lied.
Back at the palace the Count has risen from his bed once he heard what Siwon had done. He had sent out a few men to go look for the mysterious masked boy from last night.
“What is the meaning of this?” Count Donghae shouted, pulling on his green silk shirt with a golden chain around the neck.
“Please, Donghae,” Siwon raised his hand in front of his friend’s face, “I know how desperately you want to meet him again.”
Count Donghae cursed and looked down towards the floor.
He picked up his grey jacket with golden shades and put it on, followed by his black boots and golden rings. When walking into the grand hallway of his palace, Count Donghae notices the various vases of roses empty. Again, each morning he woke to this scene and it made him depressed. He continued to ask his servants when the fresh batch will arrive and it never ever did.
“Siwon, did you notice something when you were dancing with him last night?” The Count randomly asked.
“Nothing special, just that he had a very petit body that is easy to wrap one arm around.” The said man looked at the ceiling and pondered.
“Do you think he is perhaps from the poor family?”
Siwon looked at Count Donghae as the question was heard. What was he thinking?
“You are thinking of giving up because of his social status?”
The Count narrowed his eyebrows, “of course not! If that was a deal, I would have send invitations only to the middle class families.” He shook his head at Siwon question which he claimed to be stupid.
As the two men descended down the stairs and into the ball room they saw a maid bowing by the left side of the stairs. In her hand she was carrying white lilies, which the count noticed right away. They were definitely not from the garden. He raised his hand and halted the young girl.
“Why are you bringing lilies again?” He asked her.
“T-there were no roses master, my apologies but the shop owners have not made a new batch.”
“It has been three weeks! Take me to the shop! This is an outrage, leaving the Count to be served last!” Count Donghae snapped and shouted.
The Count’s father’s favourite flowers were roses. After his father passed away, the Count grew red roses in his garden to remember his father. But the soil on which they grew was not the best and so he began to order the flowers from shops.
Siwon pulled out the Count’s horse, along with his own and rode his to the front gate.
Back in the village, Hyukjae replaced his sister in the shop because she needed to go make lunch for the two. He wrapped the flowers in bundles and sold them quickly. He wondered in the back of his mind about last night and everything that happened. The boy sighed and let it go; telling himself that it was all a mistake.
“How much are a dozen roses?” A little boy asked, leaning on his tip-toes to see over the counter.
Suddenly, Hyukjae remembered the order from the elder lady who had been coming down from the palace to get the same flowers. He had told her he would save them for her next time.
“Er, I’m sorry we ran out of them quickly.” Hyukjae felt bad for lying.
The boy looked sad. He wanted to give those flowers to his sick mother who had returned from the hospital this morning.
“Well,” Hyukjae went in the back of the shop and pulled out one rose from the bundle. “I can give you one. I’m sure she’ll be happy with it.”
The boy nodded and smiled. He was about to pay but Hyukjae told him he did not need to since it was for his mother.
“Thank you so much Mister!” The boy took the rose and ran home.
Hyukjae felt great.
“Ah, now I gotta take these to the palace.” He looked at the order in front of him. “Why do they want so many flowers anyway?” He asked himself quietly before hearing a few horses arrive in the distance.
The boy looked out of the shop’s window and gasped from the unexpected surprise. Two handsome men on horses had come down from the palace. He wondered who they were.
“Look the Count has come to our village!!” He heard a shout outside that made him freeze.
The Count? The man who’s masquerade ball Hyukjae went to with his sister? The man who danced with him and kissed him. Him, Lee Hyukjae, a man! The boy was shaking. He was panicking about being found out, forgetting that the mask once covered his face. What were they doing here? It was a lifetime chance to ever see the Count visit the village.
Hyukjae kept looking out his window and eventually a crowd gathered around the horses. The boy studied the features of the man on the horse - the Count’s soft brown hair, jawline and lips. He found himself blushing once his eyes landed on the man’s thin lips. Hyukjae’s thoughts snapped back to reality when he saw a little girl pointing her finger towards him.
“Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!” Hyukjae closed the window quickly and looked around for something to do. “I...should run!”
He was about to open the back door and run home when the horses grew near and stood in front of the shop.
“Damn...” Hyukjae bit his bottom lip. “Just calm down Hyukjae. You’re not that easy to recognize.”
The two men got off their horses and came closer to the stand in front of the flower shop.
“Are you the owner of this shop?” A taller man beside the count asked.
The voice rang in Hyukjae ears until he felt dizzy. He knew that voice. Damn it, he knew that voice. Just his luck, the two men he dances with were standing in front of him. Why was this happening? Hyukjae cleared his throat and changed the tone of voice to a deeper, more vocal, one.
“My sister is the owner on paper but we both are responsible for this shop.” Hyukjae stated.
Siwon explained to Hyukjae about the situation with the roses and asked why they were always out when the Count’s orders arrived. Hyukjae did not understand the value of the flowers to them and thus, Siwon explain further. He told Hyukjae about Donghae’s father’s love for roses and that the soil quality up at the palace was poor. The entire time of their discussion, Hyukjae was sweating like a pig because the Count kept staring at him.
His heartbeat was racing all thanks to that man, which made it harder for him to continue the discussion. He thought of ending it quickly and having them leave before he was found out.
“We do apologize, if you’d like we can keep a special order for the palace that can be picked up every week on the sixth day.” Hyukjae smiled, without showing his gums.
Then he gave all the roses he had been holding for the servant lady to the taller man, named Siwon. As Hyukjae took his hand back, his finger poked into one of the thorns he had forgotten to cut off. Hyukjae flinched and shook his right index finger. He bit his bottom lip to endure the sudden pain before sucking the blood away.
The moment Hyukjae bit his bottom lip; the Count’s mind ran a flashback of the boy in the mask. And his suspicions suddenly rose. He stared at the flower shop boy and his lips, remembering the same lips that he had kissed. He studied the other features he had noticed at the masquerade ball, like the jawline for example and the long curly eyelashes. There was no doubt this boy was the one Count Donghae was looking for.
Hyukjae snipped the last thorn off and apologized to Siwon. He placed the scissors down when suddenly his hand was grabbed. Hyukjae’s heart skipped a beat. He looked to see the Count staring at him.
“What is your name?” The Count asked, not letting go of the hand that he was familiar to him now.
“W-what?” Hyukjae panicked; there was no other way out but to lie, “Eunhy-”
“Hyukjae!” Sora cut Hyukjae off as she slammed opened the door with a smile. “Lunch is ready, little brother!” She teased and then saw the intense atmosphere in front of her.
“Hyuk...jae.” The boy heard his name being repeated from the Count’s mouth.
Sora was too dumbfounded and shocked to speak. Was that really the Count in her shop or was she hallucinating?
Hyukjae did not know what to do. He could only push past his sister and run out of the shop from the backdoor. He wanted to run and hide so all this embarrassment would go away.
“Wait!” Count Donghae jumped over the stand and landed inside the shop before running out of the back door and following Hyukjae.
Sora and Siwon stood there quietly.
“W-what happened?” She asked, looking at the door.
“I am not sure.” Siwon sighed.
Hyukjae closed the door to his house and locked it. He wanted to cry because the Count knew who he was. He felt shameful for not being able to meet the expectation of what rich people loved. But inside what made him cry the most was what the Count thought of him without the mask. The man was handsome; everyone in the palace was handsome. Hyukjae would never be as good-looking as those people. Why would the count want someone as ugly as him?
The only reason he looked good was because of the pretty mask. He already knew how disappointed the Count must have been just now. He wished he had never gone for the ball.
“Why am I crying over this?” He asked himself. “So what if he thinks I’m ugly.”
He tried to encourage himself but his heart was in pain.
“Hyukjae!” A loud shout came from outside the door. “Are you in here? Please open the door!”
Hyukjae moved away from the door and gasped. Why the heck did the guy follow him?
“How embarrassing, not only am I an idiot but I’m poor too. He’s only going to laugh at me.” Hyukjae ignored the knocks.
“Hyukjae please!” The Count’s voice made his heart race, “I...”
There was a pause. Hyukjae’s ears were listening and his mind wanted to as well – no matter how much he tried to ignore the voice.
“I need to see you again.” The Count said quietly. “I want to see you right now so please open this door. I will not leave until I see you.”
Hyukjae’s face was flustered. He moved closer to the door and placed his right hand on the wood.
“If you want to say something, please say it already.” He spoke gently yet loud enough for the man to hear on the other side.
“No! Just open the door Hyukjae!” Count Donghae shouted, a little angry since his patience was growing on him. “If not, I will have to break it.”
Hyukjae was shocked. He unlocked the door and opened it before the Count did anything to hurt himself. Hyukjae let the doors open all the way and was about to shout at the Count when suddenly two hands cupped his cheeks. Hyukjae had no time to think or react as his lips were taken the second time by this guy.
At the sight of Hyukjae, Count Donghae could not help himself. He moved fast and cupped Hyukjae’s soft cheeks before kissing the boy’s lips. He closed his eyes and deepened the passionate kiss. Hyukjae moaned when Count Donghae’s tongue brushed against his own. Hyukjae shut his eyes and pulled away from the kiss to breath. He had not fully recovered his breathing when the man kissed him again.
Hyukjae was beginning to feel dizzy. He moaned into the kiss and accidentally bit the Count’s bottom lip when trying to get some air. Count Donghae pulled back and touched his bottom lip.
“I’m sorry!” Hyukjae panted in between breaths.
Hyukjae wondered why the guy was smiling after he had been hurt.
“It’s quite alright.” Count Donghae wrapped his arms around Hyukjae’s shoulders and hugged him. “I’m sorry for coming on to you so quickly. You are even more beautiful without the mask.”
Hyukjae was shocked. He was beautiful in this guy’s eyes? Or was he just hearing what he wanted the man to say?
“I can say that I fell in love with you when I saw you walk into the ball room.” The Count grinned, remembering that moment.
Hyukjae’s eyes widened.
“L-love...?” He murmured, “B-but I’m poor and I’m not as good looking as you or anyone else I saw there. Why would you l-love me? And I’m a man on top of that.”
The Count laughed.
“Hyukjae, I take it you don’t travel much. Male relationships are not so strange in our world and neither are common relationships. Have you heard the saying, love has no gender?”
Hyukjae shook his head.
He never had anyone to teach him things about the world he lived in. Not even his sister since they had difficulties attending school.
“I only went to the ball for my sister.” Hyukjae explained. “I had no intension of dancing or being a part of the candidates. I did not want my sister to go either. It would be embarrassing if she had been chosen and then you had found out were so poor.”
Hyukjae looked depressed. He could never tell his sister how he truly felt or she would cry. No matter how much she tried to make things normal for Hyukjae, deep down Hyukjae knew that they were looked down upon in the village because they were the poorest family.
The Count found it hard to sympathize with Hyukjae because he had never felt everything Hyukjae was feeling. He did not pity the boy either because he did not want to. The Count took Hyukjae’s hand once again and sat the boy on a chair in the room, by the dinner table.
“I apologize for being rude but Hyukjae; you may just be the dumbest person I have ever had a conversation with.” The Count narrowed his eyebrows and look at him.
Hyukjae’s mouth dried. Somehow those words hurt him.
“It was my father’s wish for me to get married. I refused to marry into the family because of their snobby personalities and since I had never been in love, I did not care who my wife was.”
Hyukjae was surprised to hear that the Count had never been in love. Well, neither had he.
“I invited everyone in this village to attend, well aware of their class and their poverty. If I really cared about you being rich or poor I would have never done that. I am not like the people you know. Whether I marry a man or woman did not concern me because the marriage would really be meaningless since it was never going to be a person I would love. I just wanted to complete my father’s wishes.”
Hyukjae felt sad seeing the softness which had taken over Count Donghae’s face when he spoke of his father.
“But,” the Count sat down on his knees in front of Hyukjae, “I love you now. I truly do and I will not let you turn me down. I want to marry you.”
Hyukjae’s face turned red.
Hyukjae thought to himself. He had finally gotten what he was looking for and it was love. Not the love he received from his sister and friends but the love that was full of passion. Count Donghae’s words did not make him feel lonely inside. As he spoke, that loneliness slowly began to disappear inside of him. He has goose bumps all over his body because the love the Count was giving him actually frightened him a little. He grew up thinking because he was poor that no one would marry him. No girl would want to be with him. But, Donghae made all the sadness go away. It disappeared within him and he cried because he was happy. Being sad and depressed brings pain, and putting on a fake mask to cover your true feelings inside, only makes the pain build up until one becomes an emotional wreck.
Hyukjae quickly wiped his tears. Count Donghae brushed a few away from Hyukjae’s eyes with his thumbs.
“Thank you.” Hyukjae sighed and tried smiled, showing his gums.
“Hm?” The other boy wondered what he was being thanked for.
“Hyukjae!!” Sora ran in to the house, interrupting the two. “Ah, why is he crying? Hyukjae are you alright?”
Sora ran and hugged her brother from behind, who was still sitting down. She glared at the Count in front of her and her brother.
“Look, I know you are the great royal Count and all but no one makes my baby brother cry except me! What do you two want from him? If he doesn’t want to marry you then go away.” She shouted, angry, but frightened inside.
The Count looked at Hyukjae when he heard Sora mention him rejecting the marriage offer. To be honest, he was actually scared of being rejected by the person he loved.
Hyukjae looked up at his sister and laughed. He knew that inside she was regretting what she had said. Sora turned to her brother and slapped him on the head while blushing. She knew that he found out she was afraid.
“Stupid...” She muttered.
“Sora, I’m okay.” Hyukjae assured his older sister. “Count Donghae didn’t make me cry, I was crying because I was happy.”
“What are you so happy about that you cried?” She asked as he moved her away to stand up.
“Because I have someone who loves me different from the way you do.” Hyukjae stood by the Count and held the boy’s left hand.
Count Donghae was a little taken back by the action.
“And I feel like, I love him too.” Hyukjae blushed.
The two other in the room gasped dramatically and widened their eyes at Hyukjae. He wondered if he said something wrong.
“O-of course I’d like to be friends first.” Hyukjae told the other boy.
The Count nodded.
Siwon was amused by the refreshed aura around the Count when they arrived back at the palace. Meanwhile, Hyukjae was being teased at home by his sister. She made fun of how cute and girlish he looked when he was shy. Sora noticed a change in her brother that night. Something about him changed that she could not exactly put a finger on. Maybe it was that his confidence had grown or maybe he was just growing up. She was not sure.
Over the days, Hyukjae and Donghae saw each other often. Donghae had told Hyukjae and Sora to forget the formality and call him by his name only. To Hyukjae and Sora he was Lee Donghae, not a Count or royalty. However, that did not stop the towns’ people from gossiping about the family. By now everyone knew about Hyukjae and the Count. Of course there were the jealous ones, thinking how the Count could actually want to marry into a poor family. But there were those who could not wait for the wedding.
Donghae took Hyukjae out into the forest and by the river that opened into a lake. The two usually sat under a tree and Donghae taught Hyukjae literature. Hyukjae knew how to read, since his sister had taught him, but there were many things he was missing in his education. The time the two spent together, Donghae was like a teacher to him. As they walked together outside, Donghae answered all his questions. He taught him the morals and the immoral, the rights of him as a human and part of the village and the guidelines of being a Count and a part of the royal families. He even taught Hyukjae how to fight and ride a horse.
By evening time, Donghae would comeback with Hyukjae to Sora. There he ate with Hyukjae and his sister before Siwon came by with a horse to take him home. It was like this for almost a month until Sora got married to one of Donghae’s guards. Now there was one more person at the dinner table and Hyukjae did not feel threatened by it. Her wedding was from her and Hyukjae’s hard work trying to save money. They did not ask anything from Donghae no matter how much aid he offered.
Eventually, nine months had passed since Donghae and Hyukjae fell in love and with Sora’s baby on the way, Hyukjae decided to move out. Donghae felt it was long enough being friends and was ready to propose to Hyukjae once again.
On a night of the village festival where Donghae took Hyukjae towards the palace, he stopped and rode the horse into the rose garden. Hyukjae was sitting on the horse, in Donghae’s arms, the entire time. He did not ask why Donghae was taking him there and kept his curiosity in his eyes. Donghae could tell by the boy’s eyes, what he wanted to ask.
Donghae jumped off the horse and Hyukjae was about to follow but Donghae stopped him.
“I can’t ride a horse yet, you still have to teach me two weeks of class.” Hyukjae pouted, “Is this a test?”
Donghae laughed, “No.”
He then took Hyukjae’s right hand and look up at him. Hyukjae still looked confused but was anticipating. He gasped when Donghae held out a box in front of him and opened it to see a gold ring for his finger.
“Donghae...” Hyukjae tried to calm down.
“Will you marry me Hyukjae?” Donghae asked, he already knew the answer but asked anyway.
“Yes! Idiot, I thought you were never going to ask me again!!” Hyukjae laughed, he jumped off the horse and Donghae caught him in his arms.
Hyukjae wrapped his arms around Donghae’s neck and kissed him hard. Donghae wrapped his arms around Hyukjae’s slender waist and hugged the boy.
“I love you Donghae.” Hyukjae whispered after breaking the kiss.
Donghae smiled. Hyukjae already knew the reply and so Donghae kissed him instead.
Unfortunately, the day they planned their wedding was the same day Sora was going to have her baby. Hyukjae put the wedding off for three more months until one full year had passed. The more the two waited, the more anxious they got until finally the day came.
The villagers were envious of Hyukjae and his sister. They may have been looked down on before but they were the envy of everyone today. Sora and a few maids at Donghae’s palace dressed Hyukjae in a wedding dress which Donghae had forced the boy to wear.
“But I’m a man!!” Hyukjae shouted, near tears because his boyfriend was being too stubborn.
“Wear it or I will not order the strawberry cake for our wedding!” Count Donghae argued back.
Hyukjae sobbed as he remembered his cruel lover he was going to marry. Maybe it would have been better if Donghae did not learn everything about Hyukjae over the year.
“At least I have my cake.” Hyukjae licked his lips.
“Agh, you idiot, you ruined the lip stick.” His sister groaned.
“I don’t want to wear it!”
But there was no use in arguing.
Hyukjae was extremely red when he was walking down the aisle, approaching Donghae in his white wedding dress and veil. Good thing it was covering his face from everyone that looked at him. He could not feel anymore pathetic than he did right now.
‘Why do I have to be the wife?” He nagged to himself.
A baby’s crying distracted Hyukjae from his thought and relaxed him a little. Hyukjae stood in front of Count Donghae after the royal ceremonies had taken place. The man was reciting slowly and it made Hyukjae anxious. He really wanted to get out of this dress before he was made fun of. He felt people were looking at him because he looked terrible when in reality, the entire room was breath taken by Hyukjae’s beauty. It even made Count Donghae jealous seeing all eyes on his bride.
“I, Lee Donghae, take you Lee Hyukjae, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Donghae vowed softly with a smile while looking into Hyukjae’s eyes.
Hyukjae felt himself choke a little. What if he messed up? He could barely speak right now because he wanted to cry. Donghae assured him with his eyes that everything will be okay. Hyukjae took a deep breath. He could not believe this was actually happening.
“I, Lee Hyukjae, take you Lee Donghae, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”
When Hyukjae finished and breathed, Donghae moved closer and whispered to him.
“I love you.”
Hyukjae smiled and Donghae lifted the veil before kissed him. When they kisses, all of the cheering and clapping shut out of their ears and they only memories each other and their moments together over the year.
Looking pass all the hardships that came in their lives when they two were unaware of each other’s existence, there truly was happiness behind each obstacle. There truly was a purpose, a reason, for everything that happened in both their lives. At first, it was hard to tell in which directly their lives were headed. But all that just fit together in the end like a puzzle.
Destiny had played its role...all thanks to the count’s masquerade.
a/n: sorry I have not updated for so long! feel like a long time to me! I wrote this months ago and got to finish it today ^^ hope you liked it! thank you for commenting and reading!