Whether it is due to Yoona planting the thoughts in Taeng’s mind or not, he isn’t sure. But one thing he is sure of—he can’t stop thinking about Steph over the weekend and wondering how Prince Fluffy is doing at Yoona’s place. He wonders if Steph is missing Prince Fluffy just like he is and he wonders if Steph is doing okay on her own. With a shake of his head, Taeng chides himself. Of course Steph is okay. She’s an independent girl. He is the one he should be worrying about if he ever lives in an apartment by himself.
When Monday comes around again, Taeng is quite impatient. He needs to get to Seo before everybody else trickles in. More importantly, before Steph comes in. Taeng wakes up bright and early and rushes through breakfast.
“Your majesty, why are you eating so fast? Slow down or you might choke,” Grandpa Kim advices like he always does.
Taeng keeps on chewing and shakes his head. “I have to go to school early today.”
“Why is that, my dear King?”
“I need to look for Seo.”
“Do you mean Seohyuk? The class monitor?”
Taeng nods. “How did you know?”
“I have my means, your Majesty.”
Taeng frowns. “Are you spying on me?”
Grandpa Kim breaks into laughter. “Of course not. Security measures, your Highness, security measures.”
“You are spying on me.”
“I have to know if there are any threats to your safety. The kingdom cannot do with a king.”
“Jebudo is only an island, Grandpa Kim. All we have is a small town and a small port. It will do just fine without me.”
“Your majesty! You shouldn’t say that of your kingdom.” Grandpa Kim’s tone is admonishing. “We have resources. We have businesses. We have wealth. And the entire population of Jebudo depends on your wisdom to lead our kingdom to a better future.”
“Grandpa, the entire population of Jebudo is smaller than my schoo—”
“Hush. You shall say no more. Don’t ever say that again. Your kingdom is great and it shall flourish under your rule.”
Taeng doesn’t see why he can’t be honest about his kingdom. It is small. He knew the world out there is bigger but after going to school, he has a better sense of how small Jebudo really is. Not that it makes him think any lesser of his kingdom, but if anyone were to listen to Grandpa Kim talk about Jebudo, they would think it is as massive as Seoul. Or more.
“Jebudo is great, Grandpa. I’m not saying it isn’t.”
“Good. Yes. Be proud of your kingdom, your majesty. It is yours.”
“I am proud of it. The beaches are lovely and we have the best underground water.”
“Not forgetting clam hunting and sea fishing.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Taeng pouts. “But I’ve never been clam hunting or sea fishing.”
“That’s because you’re a king.”
“Why can’t a king go clam hunting and sea fishing?”
“We’ve gone through this before. It’s too dangerous, your Majesty.”
“I’m older now. I’m eighteen, old enough to get a driving license.”
“Well, well. So you are.” Grandpa Kim is looking at Taeng strangely, as though seeing him in new light. “You’re right, your Majesty. You are old enough to get a driving license even if you don’t need one. You have dri—”
“I have drivers to drive me around,” Taeng finishes the sentence. He’s heard that line way too many times since he turned sixteen and grew a strong interest in driving. “I know.”
“It’s good you know that. Now, don’t you have to get to school to look for your class monitor?”
“Oh, yes. I almost forgot.”
Grandpa Kim smiles. “It’s good to know you’re finally mixing with the right people.”
“Steph is the class monitress, Grandpa.”
“A class monitress who breaks school rules.”
Taeng doesn’t like the disapproval he sees in Grandpa Kim’s eyes. “She doesn’t skip classes or forget to do her homework. She’s a good student. She only broke the school rules to save a poor puppy from the streets. Doesn’t that prove how kind she is?”
“As a king, you cannot be one who breaks rules out of kindness. You have to stand firm and uphold the rules.”
“Steph isn’t a king, Grandpa.” Anger overcomes Taeng in that moment. “And sometimes I wish I weren’t a king too.”
Grabbing his blazer and bag, Taeng exits the dining hall before Grandpa Kim can say anymore. He doesn’t want to hear another ‘you have to’ or ‘you should be’ line from Grandpa Kim in this very moment. Just not right now.
Upon reaching the school, Taeng finds Seo in their classroom setting the desks so they are aligned in straight rows.
“Good morning, Seo.”
“Good morning, Taeng.”
Moving to Seo, Taeng decides to say exactly what Seo said to him. “Seo, I need to ask you a question but you can’t tell anyone about it.”
This time, it is Seo who looks at Taeng, eyes wide in shock. “H-Huh?”
“What is it like to have a crush on someone?”
“I need to know what it feels like. I might have a crush one someone but I’m not sure because I’ve never had a crush on anyone before.”
Seo’s eyes open even wider than before and Taeng can almost see his entire eyeball. “You’ve never had a crush on anyone before?”
Taeng pouts and shakes his head. “Never. This might be my first crush ever. If it is a crush.”
“Er . . .”
“So, what’s it like?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“Because you have a crush on Yoona.”
“H-How did you know?”
Taeng grins. “I figured it out.” Seo grabs him by the collar suddenly and Taeng splutters. “H-Hey, lemme go.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
Taeng shakes his head violently. “No.” The hands on his collar loosen and he signs in relief. “I didn’t tell anyone. So you can’t tell anyone too.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” Seo promises, looking as solemn as usual.
“How did you know it’s a crush?” Taeng asks.
Seo blushes. “I don’t have to know it’s a crush.”
“I feel the crush.”
Taeng’s jaw drops out. “Wow . . .”
“Every time she walks by our class, my heart beats faster. Every time I see her flip her hair, my heart beats harder. Every time she smiles, my heart beats slower. Time slows down. And nothing else in the entire universe matters.”
“Wow . . .”
“Do you feel the same way for Steph?”
Taeng blinks. “H-How did you know it’s Steph?”
Seo grins suddenly and puts his hand on Taeng’s shoulder, gripping it firmly. “I’m a genius. That’s how I know.”
Seo is definitely a genius. Taeng feels enlightened after the short talk with him and is convinced he has a crush on Steph after spending a morning observing the way he feels about her.
From the moment she stepped into class, his heart began beating harder. The beating became thumping when she sat down beside him and smiled a good morning. And the thumping persisted all through Math, Physics and became a health threat when she leaned closer to him to copy his answers during Biology class.
And her smile. Her smile would have been the cure to his heart attack if he had one.
For the rest of the day till the moment they part to go home, Taeng is hyperaware of his heart’s desire. Just like genius Seo said. He feels the crush. But does Steph feel the crush too? She’s the one who insisted he doesn’t know what a crush is. How is he going to convince her of his feelings for her if she doesn’t think he’s experienced enough?
He’s occupied by his musings all through dinner and into his shower.
Sincerity? Would sincerity work? Can I show it by giving her gifts? Or notes? Would that be too much? Or how about extra presents for Prince Fluffy? Would all these prove my feelings for her?
A quote comes to him right then, from a book about a king that Grandpa Kim had him read.
There is nothing impossible to him who will try.
“Well, if that’s what Alexander the Great says, then try I must,” Taeng says to his reflection in the mirror. “I could give her flowers. Don’t all girls like flowers?” His reflection nods and he grins back. “Flowers it is.”