Seokjin raised the cup to his lips as he inhaled the fragrant jasmine fumes. It smelled delicious. Just as he was about to take his first sip, a man seated himself in the place opposite him. The second Kim brother abandoned his surprised frown for glaring at the unwanted visitor over the rim of his cup. "Can I help you?"
"Sorry," the stranger gestured around the teahouse, "this place is quite crowded today."
Seokjin surveyed the rustic teahouse and found it was the exact opposite. While the teahouse did have other patrons, there were still vacant seats. Seokjin raised a brow. He had purposefully chosen the seat farthest from others so that he could drink his tea in peace. He knew from experience that whenever a stranger approached him it was because they wanted something. Whether this latest one was friend or foe Seokjin had yet to determine.
"I see," Seokjin replied doubtfully.
It had been a while since he last visited a teahouse, the only place that helped him unwind. Seokjin tried to recover the peaceful solitude he had by ignoring the stranger but to his dismay, the man spoke again.
"I haven't seen your face around here before. Were you just passing by?"
Seokjin glowered. Dressed in sooty rags from head to toe, the stranger was scruffy. His tousled, black hair was matted against his tanned skin and his eyes were as bright as shiny coal. Seokjin took note of the way the man's lips formed a heart shape when he smiled, revealing his crooked teeth.
"Sort of," Seokjin curtly replied before taking a sip.
The stranger eyed Seokjin expectantly as if waiting for him to elaborate. When Seokjin didn't, he questioned, "So, what brings you here?"
"I'm sorry for bothering you but you look like you have a story to tell."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well, you're sitting alone in a dark corner of the teahouse looking all broody and mysterious. The patrons who do that almost always have something on their mind."
"Even if I did, what makes you think I'd tell you?"
"So you can feel better about yourself?" The stranger shrugged, undeterred by Seokjin's indifference and following scoff. "Oh, c'mon, don't be like that. I'm not here to swindle you."
Seokjin let out a suspecting hum. "Then what do you want from me? You didn't approach me without a reason."
"I just want to talk," the man replied earnestly. "Is it a crime to socialise?"
Seokjin didn't answer.
The stranger laughed as if to dispel the awkwardness. "You're not much of a talker, are you?" He scratched his head. "I know, why don't we make a bet? If I can correctly guess three things about you, then you have to keep me company. Oh, and share the rest of your tea too."
Seokjin was sceptical.
"If I get any wrong, I'll leave you alone. Is that agreeable to you?"
"...All right," Seokjin hesitantly agreed. "I'll humour you just this once, but you must keep your word should any of your inferences be wrong."
The stranger grinned. "Of course." With his coal-black eyes twinkling, he inspected Seokjin with interest. "Judging from how your face has hardly been weathered by the elements, you haven't travelled far."
Seokjin glanced at the stranger as he gestured to his cloak.
"From what I can see, your cloak hasn't been stained by mud or debris. This means you've been travelling by horse." The stranger gestured to the foggy window where they had a view of the outdoors. "There are only two horses outside but only one of them carries luggage." He pointed to the russet mare. "And since most travellers coming into the capital often do not have many possessions, they also cannot afford to replenish at a teahouse, but you can. In short, you have wealth and that horse is yours."
Seokjin's smile was wry. That was a fluke, he thought. Seokjin, believing it was the end, was surprised when the man kept going.
"I have no doubt that you've come from somewhere in the capital," the stranger continued, "and I know you're definitely going far away, judging by the size of your pack." He gestured to Seokjin's hands. "You're also a swordsman. I can tell from the way you hold your cup that you have calluses on your palms." The stranger had a knowing smile as he rested his chin on his palm. "You probably have a weapon on your person right now."
Seokjin's eyes flickered. How did he...?
"Only men who face danger carry weapons with them," the stranger remarked as if reading Seokjin's mind. "If I am correct, you have fought many battles." He narrowed his eyes. "Having said that, the capital is the land of opportunity." The man leaned back. "Most of the time, only merchants leave the capital with heavy luggage. You travel too lightly to be a merchant and you seem to be travelling alone. There are only a few reasons why people leave the capital and when I take this all into account, it seems yours is that you're running away."
Seokjin was tense. He placed his cup down as the stranger continued to grin innocently. How does he know so much? Had he been following me? Who is he? Seokjin reached for the short sword he had tucked behind his cloak. If the stranger was part of an elaborate plan to ensnare him, then he had to be ready.
"I wonder why you're running away," the man playfully mused. "Could it be that someone is after you? Did you steal something precious?"
Seokjin's fingers curled around the hilt of his sword.
"Or is it because of a woman?" The stranger gasped at the realisation. "I bet you're running away because you don't love your wife anymore!" He shook his head and tutted, "That would make you a bad man."
Seokjin eased his grip.
"So, was I right? I was, wasn't I?"
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Seokjin regarded the stranger warily. "Those things you mentioned. How did you know?"
"I didn't," the stranger replied simply. "I just guessed." He leaned in as he whispered, "So, you're really running away from your wife?"
"No!" Seokjin blushed when he noticed the other customers staring at him. "That part you got wrong."
"Oh." The man slumped in his seat. Just as he was about to honour their agreement and leave, Seokjin suddenly offered him an empty cup.
"But everything else you said," Seokjin said as he poured tea for the stranger, "they weren't far from the truth..."
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