“What do you want?” Jonghyun asked, shoving his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt. Dongho reclined back in his chair. “We need your help, and as much as we don’t want to have to resort to this, we need you Haetae.” Jonghyun frowned, gazing over them. Minki was leaning against Dongho’s shoulder with his eyes closed and Aron refused to look up from where he was seated cross legged on the floor.
Dongho waved his hand, a soft orb of blue light floating up into the air between them. As it cleared a face appeared, a male Jonghyun’s age with earbuds in, staring out a bus window. He had a strong jaw, dark eyes with faint double eyelids, and fine dark brown hair swept over his forehead. Worst of all, Jonghyun recognized him. Searing white pain shot beneath his eyelids, fists tightening unconsciously as he bit back a gasp.
When he opened his eyes Dongho was smiling. “Recognize him?” Jonghyun glared. “Why does it matter?” Minki hit Dongho lightly in the arm. “Hurry up. Time is shortening.” He said urgently. Dongho nodded absently. “His name is Hwang Minhyun. Currently he’s a lost spirit wandering the world of the living.”
Jonghyun’s lips quirked upwards at the corners. “You messed up.” Dongho crushed his fist. “No! He had to go and ruin everything!” He hissed angrily, jerking his head at Aron who sunk down lower in his position on the floor. Jonghyun felt a small burst of sympathy for him. Dongho’s anger was bright and furious, not something someone as weak as Aron could probably handle.
Steadying his breath, Dongho continued. “We’ve been hunting his soul for a long time and when he met fate like he should’ve centuries ago, Aron let him go free.” Another pointed glare. Jonghyun’s interest was piqued now. He couldn’t remember a time the Koktu had messed up, a spirit not traveling in peace to the other side as it should.
“What does that have to do with me?” Jonghyun asked, keeping his tone disinterested and posture relaxed. Out of the corner of his eye Minhyun’s picture revolved slowly in the orb of blue light, tantalizing, taunting, but not quite there. Minki sighed heavily, resting his chin in the palm of his hands. He looked bored, which made Jonghyun feel a bit indignant. It was because of them that he had to be summoned at all.
“You’re a Haetae. You are the bearer of order and justice and law in between our worlds.” Dongho gestured to the roof of the cavern dramatically. “You know the difference between innocent and guilty, and only you have the power to bind them and take them to where they belong.” He paused, glancing at Jonghyun. Jonghyun shifted positions, now more wary.
“I know that. You’re not answering my question.” He cut in bluntly, tired of being summoned in the early morning and standing around just to listen to Dongho talk about something he already knew well.
Huffing, Dongho sighed. “We need you to go into the human world and capture his soul for us so that we can rightfully take him to have justice dealt.” Jonghyun gazed at them cautiously. “What sort of justice?” Dongho shrugged. “It might have been in another life, but his soul still carries those crimes. Also, he should be dead and in the afterlife by now, but he’s not. In conclusion, being a good person for a couple years is not enough to balance the punishment already laid out for him. His soul is tainted and dirty.”
Looking down at his shoes, Jonghyun remained silent. Dongho was smiling, he could feel it. “Besides, Kim Jonghyun,” Jonghyun bristled at the use of his name. He was so used to being referred to as ‘Haetae’ that he had forgotten what his name sounded like on someone else’s tongue. “Don’t you want revenge?”
Jonghyun looked up at the swirling blue orb as it slowly rotated. He set his face into an emotionless expression. “It’s not like I have a choice. I’m bound by ancient law being a Haetae to hunt down souls and bring order and justice.” Dongho chuckled softly, smiling widely up at Jonghyun.
“Fourteen days. You have fourteen days to successfully do your job.”
Minhyun hummed softly to himself as he took a sip of his mocha. He tapped half heartedly at his laptop keys before sighing and slumping down his seat. His temples hurt like heck, he didn’t have caffeine in his system, and he had woken up way too early. There was no way he was going to be able to write a 5,000 word essay at the moment.
“Is this seat occupied?” Minhyun’s head jerked up to see a smiling male in his early twenties staring down at him, one hand on the seat across from Minhyun and the other holding a cup with steam rising from it. “Oh….” Minhyun glanced around the cafe. It was more crowded than usual, but there were still plenty of empty seat choices. Plenty of other places for the male to sit.
“I guess.” Minhyun said uncertainly, staring at him warily. “Thanks.” The male slid in across from him, taking a sip of his drink. He winced, making a face. It had probably been too hot.
“Writing a paper?” He asked and Minhyun stared at him blankly for a moment until the other indicated the laptop and notes sitting in front of Minhyun. “Oh, yeah.” Minhyun paused. “Well I’m trying to. It’s not going to well.” He grimaced, gulping down more of his coffee. The caffeine gave him a warm buzz that was already starting to spread through his blood, waking him up inch by inch.
The man smiled sympathetically. “Rough.” There was a beat of silence and just as Minhyun was resetting himself into concentration mode, the man stuck out his hand and said; “I’m Kim Jonghyun.” Startled, Minhyun shook it. “Hwang Minhyun.” Jonghyun smiled, eyes crinkling. Minhyun’s temples panged sharply and he clutched his head, grimacing in pain.
“I thought you weren’t coming.” Minhyun smiled. “Do you have so little faith in me?” He asked, scrambling over the wall to land in the grass softly. He looked over at him, sitting cross legged with his skirts spreading out around him. “No. I’m being realistic.” The hint of a smile, lips quirking. Minhyun smiled a bit ruefully. “I’m your bodyguard. I’ll always be there when you need me.”
“Are you okay?” Jonghyun asked and Minhyun gritted his teeth, nodding. “Migraine. I think this paper is stressing me out.” Jonghyun nodded, leaning back in his chair and sipping his coffee. They sat in mutual silence for the following hour.
Minhyun found that he liked it.
It became a routine, Minhyun setting up his space to try and work and Jonghyun joining him at some point. In the beginning they sat in silence, but soon Minhyun found himself wanting to talk to Jonghyun, to share random tidbits. Jonghyun answered. His smile was the sweetest thing Minhyun had ever seen and when Jonghyun smiled because of him, it was like winning a victory.
Around Jonghyun, Minhyun’s head seemed to hurt less and so he figured he must be doing something right. Occasionally there would be points where he would get the images behind his eyelids, but when he opened them again and saw Jonghyun they dissipated. It was a relief.
It was around a week after Jonghyun had started sitting across from him when it happened. Jonghyun had finished his drink-Minhyun noticed that he never seemed to drink much of it-and was watching him work in silence. Out of the corner of his eye Minhyun watched Jonghyun, head resting on his folded arms. His hair was a stark black against the soft fuzziness of his sweater.
“Minhyun,” Jonghyun started. Minhyun took out one of his earbuds, tilting the screen downward to show that he was listening. “Why are you so nice?” Minhyun choked on his coffee. “Me?! You’re so much nicer than I will ever be.” Jonghyun made a sound similar to a snort, turning his head so he was looking Minhyun in the eyes.
“I’m serious. How do you deal with this world?” He waved his hand in a short gesture, sweater ends flapping over his fingers. Minhyun blinked, narrowing his eyes in confusion for a second. “By ignoring it.” He said bluntly, gulping down the burning hot liquid. Jonghyun sat up, eyes far away. He seemed to be looking past Minhyun, but when Minhyun looked back there was only empty tables.
Abruptly, Jonghyun stood. “I have to go.” He started to leave and Minhyun stood also, chair nearly falling over. “Why? Did something come up?” He asked in concern. Jonghyun paused. “I…” He swallowed, hugging himself. “I’m just really tired.” Minhyun looked at him closer and saw it, the eye bags, how quiet his voice was, how heavy his eyes were.
Without thinking Minhyun hugged him. Jonghyun stiffened, but Minhyun only squeezed tighter and he relaxed into it. His hands tentatively found Minhyun’s back and Minhyun smiled, smelling his shampoo and conditioner. Eventually Jonghyun stepped back, hands curled up over the edges of his sleeves and gaze downcast.
“You make it so hard.” He whispered and Minhyun was opening his mouth to ask him what he meant, but he blinked and when he opened his eyes Jonghyun was gone. The only thing left was the ringing of the bell hanging above the door, jangling back and forth. He sat back down, looking across the table and noticing that Jonghyun had left the napkin he had been drawing on.
Minhyun picked it up, smiling at the doodles that filled it, working and twining their way among the rips from the harsh tip of the pen. He placed it carefully back down and pushed his earbuds back in, starting to write again. It didn’t really work.
All he could think about was Jonghyun.
Eleven days after meeting Jonghyun, it was snowing. Minhyun had left his work at home for once, his feet nervously tapping as he wondered what would happen now that his attention wasn’t divided, nothing else to do but talk. Jonghyun was late, coming in at nine fifteen instead of nine o’clock. He looked frazzled, hair sticking up. He’s wearing a red scarf over a fuzzy black sweater today, the sleeves of a white shirt sticking out.
“Sorry I’m late.” Jonghyun patted down his hair. Minhyun let his hand drop back to the table, realizing he had been reaching out to do the exact same thing. He hide it with a smile as Jonghyun explained; “I ran into some trouble coming here.” Minhyun was immediately on high alert, concern filling his features as his eyes scanned Jonghyun for any visible injuries. Jonghyun laughed. “I meant traffic trouble.”
Minhyun felt his cheeks redden and he looked into his hot chocolate. For once he was wide awake, meaning there was no need for coffee. He didn’t dislike coffee, but it was bitter and strong and gave him headaches. But as a college student, coffee was essential to surviving through late night and morning classes, as well as essays and projects that had been forgotten about.
“The snow is really picking up.” Jonghyun observed. “It is winter.” Minhyun said, swirling the melting whipped cream into his drink with a wooden coffee stirrer. “Years ago, my lover and I snuck out to meet each other when it snowed.” Jonghyun remarked wistfully. Minhyun raised his eyebrows. “Lover?” Jonghyun turned to him quickly, panic in his voice as he said; “An old boyfriend of mine,a long time ago...it wasn’t an approved relationship…” Instead of turning pink like Minhyun had, he was turning paler by the second.
“Well, it’s really none of my business.” Minhyun stated, leaving no room for argument. Jonghyun’s expression died off, smiling at him-
The ground was covered in several inches of snow, almost coming to the tops of Minhyun’s boots as he tromped across it, hand resting on his sword. It was cold, but he was forbidden to don any extra clothing as it might slow his speed and agility. He would suffer through it. For him, Minhyun would do anything.
He was at the tree, touching snow blossoms and their radiant red and pink petals. Minhyun soaked up his smile and warmth, the angelic expression on his face when he turned to Minhyun. Ice crystals were caught in his hair, snow on his eyelashes. Minhyun wanted to kiss him, fall backward into the snow or against the tree, have snow shower down around them as they were alone among the flowers.
That’s exactly what he did, pinning him against the tree, feeling snow catch on his back. The flowers glowed against the black of his hair and Minhyun plucked one off, tucking it into his hand.
“Minhyun?” Minhyun opened his eyes, not realizing he had closed them. Jonghyun touched his forehead, hand cool against it. He had nice hands, slim and moving with a practiced ease, soft as if he had put on lotion. “You seem warm, do you have a fever? Come on, let’s get you home and I’ll get some medicine.”
“Jonghyun.” Minhyun placed his hand on Jonghyun’s, stopping him from getting up. For a moment the world seemed to flip in front of him and he was seeing snow and flowers again. “I’m fine, I’m just a little overheated and tired.” Jonghyun sighed. “Still,you should go home and rest.” He looked outside and Minhyun followed his gaze, watching the snow fall thickly. The sky was a blinding white. “I’ll walk you back to make sure you get there safely. We should leave now so the snow doesn’t trap us.”
This time, Minhyun didn’t stop him from standing. Instead he followed him out of the cafe, shrugging on his hoodie, which he had discarded on the back of the chair. Snow blew into his face as he stepped outside, already catching on his eyelashes. Jonghyun shivered, pulling up his red scarf to cover his nose and mouth. He looked like a very cute gangster.
Jonghyun shivered, shuffling over to be closer to Minhyun. “Why does it have to be so cold?” He asked in a slightly whiny voice. Minhyun patted his head. “It’ll only be for a little bit. I live the next block over.” He smiled, pointing. “It’s why I come here so often. I’ve been a regular for years.” Minhyun laughed. “Far before I became a college student, anyways.”
He started off on the sidewalk, Jonghyun scrambling to be at his side. “Convenient.” He said with a laugh. His laugh was like a drug, warm and bubbly, filling Minhyun to the brim with happiness. Jonghyun’s emotions were practically contagious, Minhyun feeling happy when he smiled and laughed, depressed when Jonghyun showed a tinge of sadness.
“I guess you could think of it like that.” Minhyun said. He was suddenly aware of the height difference between himself and Jonghyun, the inches separating them. They turned the corner, Minhyun pointing. “There’s my apartment building.” Jonghyun took it in, brows raising slightly. Minhyun coughed. He knew it was a pretty nice looking building, but to him it was just home.
“Are you rich?” Jonghyun asked innocently. Minhyun coughed again, trying to smother a laugh. “My parents paid for it with the trust fund they left.” Seeing Jonghyun’s expression, he added; “They both died after I started college.” Jonghyun nodded as if he understood, but didn’t add anything to the conversation.
It had started to snow harder, whiteness almost blinding them both. “You can let me off here.” Minhyun said. “I want you to be able to get back as soon as possible.” Jonghyun smiled sweetly. Minhyun took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. He reached out to lightly touch Jonghyun on the back, Jonghyun looking up at him. Snow was sprinkling his hair, caught in his eyelashes, white against the black, his clothes black against the white.
Minhyun leaned down and kissed him, tasting the chocolate on his lips, a streetlight flickering on above them and bathing them both in a pool of light. Jonghyun broke away gently, the ends of his scarf having fallen off his shoulders again. He stared at Minhyun wordlessly, eyes dark and unreadable. Minhyun looked up at the building.
“Thanks for walking me back.” he said shyly. Jonghyun nodded, tone clipped when he replied; “See you tomorrow.” Minhyun watched him walk back, shoulders hunched against the cold, his scarf and hair a bright red and black against the whiteness surrounding them.
Jonghyun shoved his hands into his pockets, sniffling. The tears on his face were frozen, like streams of ice on his cheeks. His lips burned where Minhyun had kissed him, visions swirling before his eyes.
“I’m scared.” Jonghyun whispered. “Don’t be.”
“You’re getting too invested again.” Minki spoke up behind him, voice solemn. Jonghyun’s footsteps halted and he turned around, hoping the snow would hide his red rimmed eyes, the icy tracks of his tears. Minki’s face was set in sadness, as if he could see straight through Jonghyun to his soul. Maybe he could. The Koktu were much more powerful than Haetae like him, except in some cases, like Minhyun’s, when enlisting his help was needed.
“It’s time for the final stage.” Minki said after a moment, holding out his hand. Jonghyun glanced down at the envelope gilded in gold, held out to him. “The masquerade party.” Minki added, voice holding a sort of reverence in it. Jonghyun dipped his head. The masquerade party, the day the dead and the living merged together, spirits at their strongest. Humans called it the winter solstice.
Jonghyun took it, sliding it into the pocket of his sweater. “Do you know what you’re supposed to do?” Minki asked, searching for clarification. Jonghyun nodded. He knew what he was supposed to do too well, the thought making him sick to his stomach. “Close your eyes. I have a surprise for you.” The voice whispered in his ear.
Minki was regarding him curiously when Jonghyun opened his eyes, pushing away the soft voice and the dark eyes that had captivated him at first look. “Jonghyun…” Minki said softly, ancient eyes pinning Jonghyun in place when he looked up to meet them. Minki hardly looked older than twenty, but, like Jonghyun, he would last for infinity. Together they judged and collected souls, an endless cycle. Neverending justice.
“What?” Jonghyun snapped, voice betraying more emotion than he should have let it. The kiss was a memory, bringing back emotions he thought he had forgotten. When becoming a Haetae, Jonghyun had tried to be emotionless, heartless, cold. It had worked, him becoming a sword of justice, but now...Minhyun was an emotion unto himself, poison to Jonghyun, the touch of him slowly killing Jonghyun.
“Don’t forget what your purpose is.” Minki said, watching Jonghyun carefully. Jonghyun could read between the lines; Don’t forget that you hate him. Don’t forget that his soul has a long awaited sentence on it. Don’t forget the reason why you are a Haetae. Jonghyun could never forget why he had become a Haetae, his death causing his soul to become one that was killed unjustly, making him a Haetae. A spirit who repays back those who have done crimes.
“As if I could.” Jonghyun said. The invitation was heavy in his breast pocket, weighing down on more than just his clothes. Minki nodded after a long moment, somehow finding the truth in his words. “You’re taking care of yourself, right?” He asked, scrutinizing Jonghyun. Jonghyun nodded. He was taking care of himself as well as he could, but he knew being around Minhyun was draining him.
Minki sighed. “I know what it’s like, Jonghyun.” He said. Jonghyun stared at him silently, willing him to leave. Minki obviously had something to say, prolonging his stay more than he should be. “But...it’s your choice.” The look he gave Jonghyun was heavy, holding something unreadable. Jonghyun took a step back involuntarily.
“Did Dongho set you up?” He asked, words slicing through the arm. Minki seemed to crumple inward, gaze turning wistful. “Dongho sent me to deliver the invitation, nothing else.” He responded sharply, drawing himself up. Jonghyun felt slightly bad, but Minki continued; “Just because Dongho and I kiss time to time, doesn’t mean he tells me what to do.” His words were strong, but they didn’t match the slump of his shoulders. It had been a crappy thing to say, for Jonghyun to point out something he knew was Minki’s weakness, his insecurity.
Minki’s form flickered, slightly, startling Jonghyun the tiniest bit. Even though they were already spirits, it was easy to forget they weren't entirely human. “I have to go.” Minki muttered, flashing in and out of space again. This time it took him longer to reappear, a faint outline of himself. “See you at the ball.” He mock-saluted Jonghyun, flickering out, and, this time, not coming back.
The tension failed to leave Jonghyun’s shoulders after Minki had left. The Koktu and him had never been on good terms, Dongho being their leader, the Guardian, making it even worse. He took out the invitation, touching the gilded gold edges carefully. Three days left.
Minhyun looked down at the piece of paper Jonghyun had slid across the table to him. It was on expensive cardstock, creamy and squarely cut. It was edged in gold, ‘you’re invited’ scrawled across the front in twirling inky black cursive. Minhyun felt a strange urge to open it, the words enticing him somehow.
Instead, he looked at Jonghyun expectantly. Jonghyun wasn’t exactly smiling, but it was close enough to it. “My friends are hosting a masquerade party, and I need to bring a plus one.” He smiled, eyes crinkling, and Minhyun opened the invitation, reading the information. “Okay.” He said slowly. “I’d be honored.” Jonghyun took the invitation back, slipping it into his sweater pocket.
They hadn’t spoken about the kiss. Minhyun wanted to, but he figured that the fact that Jonghyun had continued their routine must mean that either he liked him back or he was willing to let nothing change. “Thanks.” Jonghyun said, voice almost a whisper, Minhyun realizing that he felt just as nervous and shy as Minhyun did. For some reason, Minhyun felt his heart beat faster at this.
“Are you coming tonight?” They were laying in the snow, letting it soak through their garments. Minhyun nodded, sitting up. “Of course. Why would you even ask?” He asked, looking down curiously, taking the time to memorize his face, the smile and raven black hair. “You’re lying.” He muttered, reaching up a hand to shield his face from the sun. Minhyun repositioned himself so that he blocked the sun, leaning over him. They were close enough to kiss.
Minhyun leaned in and captured his lips, deepening the kiss quickly. He groaned at Minhyun’s touch, pulling Minhyun down on top of him. His body was warm though his clothes were cold. Minhyun let all thoughts race from his head, filling himself with only him. He wasn’t sure how long they were like that, hands roaming bodies, lips never leaving each other’s. He only knew that when they broke away, his lover had forgotten their previous conversation.
As it should be.
Minhyun frowned, trying to recall the details of the face he had been memorizing in the strange vision, but that part was only a blur, though every single detail remained clear in his mind. He could feel the lips on his, the cold snow on the ground. “This is the address.” Jonghyun had taken his phone, was tapping in something quickly. A part of Minhyun hoped it was his number, though he knew that it was obviously the address.
“It’s a date.” Minhyun said. Jonghyun smiled widely.
Minhyun pushed through the crowd, hoping he looked alright in his plain charcoal suit, the dark straight tie, the crisp white shirt with the top buttons daringly unbuttoned. Someone had handed him a champagne glass, but it did little to douse his nerves. He was beginning to realize that he recognized nobody, which made a sense as this seemed to be a high elite party, but it still unnerved him.
He hadn’t concluded that Jonghyun was rich, but it had to be something of the sort. This was obviously an expensive party, Minhyun knowing because he had been to a few when he had lived with his parents. Jonghyun must have connections if he wasn’t rich, which would match up with his story that his friend had invited him to the party. For some reason, Minhyun didn’t want to think of Jonghyun being rich, living like the rest of them did. Like he had. It wouldn’t fit Jonghyun.
“Are you looking for Jonghyun?” Minhyun turned as a hand tapped him on the shoulder, finding himself face to face with a slight man with short wavy black hair, a silver mask obscuring most of his face. Minhyun self consciously adjusted his own mask, a gilded gold peacock mask, complete with blue and green feathery outlines, casting an eerie glow in the lighting.
“Yes...how did you know?” Minhyun replied cautiously, realizing just how strange it felt to look at a masked face, meeting their eyes but unable to actually see them. “He’s out on the balcony.” The slight man responded, then vanished into the crowd. Minhyun blinked, then turned and peered over the heads off the crowds, searching for the balcony doors. He saw them at the far end, slightly open. A wind blew threw them, ruffling the lacy curtains hanging over it.
He made his way through the crowd, excusing himself from possible conversations. The smiling masks were giving him a bad feeling, though it was really no different than any other masquerade party. Minhyun abandoned his glass on a small glass countertop by the balcony, carefully pushing open the doors.
Jonghyun was standing with his back to him, staring out over the skyscape. A wind blew, tousling his already tousled hair. He was holding a champagne glass in his fingers, loosely dangling at an angle. His shirt was untucked on one side, unbuttoned a bit like Minhyun’s, jacket fitting him perfectly. His tie wasn’t exactly straight either. It gave him the feel that either he dressed like that and looked good, rebellious, or that he had already gone through a makeout stage or two.
He turned at the sound of the doors opening, smiling at seeing Minhyun. He motioned for him to come closer, Minhyun realizing just how wide and closed off the balcony was. It was a large square, almost wrapping around the corners of the building. It was empty, the balcony doors swinging shut and sealing them off from the noise and warmth. Minhyun shivered.
Jonghyun crossed over to him, shoes clicking on marble granite. He had left his drink somewhere, Minhyun couldn’t find where, but he knew that Jonghyun no longer had it in his hand. He looked dazzling, a dash of makeup around his eyes, sharp edges and warm smiles. Minhyun was glad he had bothered to dress up nice, style his hair, and put on makeup.
Blood dripped off the end of his sword as Minhyun made his way around bodies in the dark, the room wide and empty. A pool of moonlight shone down on a figure who sat in a swirl of skirts, head bowed in submission. Waiting for him. The only one Minhyun had left to kill.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” Jonghyun asked, standing relaxedly. Minhyun nodded, looking around as casually as possible. “It’s nice.” He said conversationally, unable to shake the feeling of being unsettled. Jonghyun nodded. Minhyun swallowed, the conversation lulling again. It was now or never.
“Jonghyun, I like you a lot.” Minhyun spit out. Jonghyun turned his head slightly, tipping his chin to look at him curiously. Minhyun moved closer. In a softer voice, he continued; “I think I’m falling in love with you.” Something changed in Jonghyun’s face, but Minhyun didn’t have time to think on it as he was already kissing Jonghyun, eyes closing.
Jonghyun froze as Minhyun kissed him again, this time so passionately that Jonghyun could practically feel his emotions. Minhyun’s lips moved against his, parting slightly. A gasp escaped Jonghyun’s lips before he could stop it. He had forgotten that kissing Minhyun was like this, like fire was racing up and down his body. The kiss three days ago had been only a teaser, this, this was everything and nothing.
Minhyun’s hands traveled up his body, under his jacket where the thinness of Jonghyun’s shirt could barely separate the warm feeling of his hands on Jonghyun’s skin. Jonghyun practically fell into him, deepening the kiss, rational thoughts flying from his head. He let his own hands touch Minhyun in every way possible, fingers flying over his body. Minhyun unbuttoned another button of his shirt, hand slipping in to touch his bare skin.
The feeling of fire intensified, Jonghyun biting back a moan. Minhyun broke the kiss for a second, whispering someone incomprehensible before moving to Jonghyun’s neck, kissing him lightly, traveling down his neck. It sent shivers up Jonghyun’s spine, and he leaned his head against Minhyun’s soft hair.
“Don’t get too attached.” Minki’s voice cut through his thoughts, the golden chains tightening around his wrist. Jonghyun took a deep breath, steadying his mentality, and remembered. The reason why Minhyun-Minhyun was a lie.
Moonlight spilling out across the floor, illuminating the bodies of his loved ones, his father and his mother and the rest of his family. Everyone. Everyone.
The chains seared his wrists, and Jonghyun flicked them off from under his jacket in a fluid movement, wrapping around Minhyun’s. Minhyun stumbled back, surprise etched across his features, and the Koktu descended from the shadows. Their binding chains flew through the air, catching in circles around Minhyun, his waist and his wrists. Minhyun screamed, twisting, eyes filled with disbelief.
“Jonghyun...Jonghyun, what’s going on? What’s happening?!” He asked, terror in his voice, pain filling his eyes as the chains tightened with every movement he made. They were glowing a bright golden, their pure magic wrapping around the spirits. Minhyun screamed in pain, a short burst of flames flying up. He was staring at Jonghyun, eyes pleading, begging him to help him, asking what was going on.
Jonghyun stumbled back a step, breathing heavily. He could still feel Minhyun’s lips, his warm touch, a surreal dream he had fallen into and believed to be real. He stared at Minhyun silently, waiting, waiting, for him to understand. Minhyun’s form flickered, Minhyun gasping aloud as he looked down. He slowly raised his gaze again, staring at Jonghyun fearfully. You’re dead. Jonghyun wanted to say, though he knew that Minhyun had already realized that.
The memories flew through his brain faster than ever, a piercing headache making him feel like his head was splitting open. Old emotions he thought he had forgotten, hatred and love mixing together.
The memory seemed to rewind, everything vanishing until there was a pair of boots clicking on the stone floor, a sword stained red permanently. Minhyun walked through the throne room, head raised high, a fiery light in his eyes. He nudged aside the dead bodies with the toe of his boot, feeling satisfaction flare up. He had killed them all with his own sword, fulfilling the duty that had been handed to him.
The figure was sitting amidst the bodies, moonlight illuminating their bowed head, skirts spreading outward, blood soaking through the fabric slowly. Minhyun strode forward, narrowing his eyes in set determination. He stopped in front of the figure, waiting in silence. The figure raised his head.
Black hair. A face that was usually smiling expressionlessly looking at him. Dark eyes judging him silently. “This whole time, the spy, the ‘great jeonsa’, it was you?” He asked, eyes holding Minhyun in place.
Minhyun brought his sword down.
Jonghyun felt like he had been stabbed all over again, Minhyun mouthing his name silently. Prince Kim Jonghyun of Silla. Hwang Minhyun, the jeonsa assassin of Baekje. Jonghyun thought silently to himself, knowing the title by heart. Over the centuries of time, he had had ample time to memorize the person he hated the most.
“Jonghyun.” Dongho hissed, blue swirling out from around his figure. “Hurry.” His teeth were gritted, the strain of having to keep a soul as powerful as Minhyun’s contained sapping their strength. All Jonghyun needed to do was release his soul to the underworld. A simple sentence.
“Jonghyun.” Minhyun choked out. Jonghyun looked down at him coldly. He didn’t look like the Minhyun he had been spending time with these past two weeks, instead, as if overlapping, the Minhyun Jonghyun had known centuries ago shining out from him. Jonghyun’s bodyguard and protector, his closest friend, the first and only person he had kissed. The one who had killed him.
“Jonghyun please.” Minhyun gasped. Now that they had captured his soul, now that he knew who he truly was, the realization of what came next was weighing down on him. Jonghyun matched his gaze, evening out his breathing. He walked forward, aware of Minki watching him carefully with his measured gaze, Dongho’s eyes burning, Aron in the shadows.
He stopped directly in front of Minhyun, kneeling to look at him from where the chains had dragged him down. “Did you really think that I’d make the mistake of falling in love with you again, Hwang Minhyun?” He asked, so softly that only Minhyun could hear. He stood back up, glad his mask was covering his eyes. Minhyun was silently crying, tears trickling down from under his mask.
“I release you.” Jonghyun whispered, stepping back and watching the golden and blue light mix together, Minhyun, Minki, and Aron disappearing. He stood there, aware of the sudden cold, his jacket lying abandoned somewhere on the stone floor behind him. Dongho remained, regarding him curiously.
“I didn’t think you had the guts to do it.” He said in an almost amused voice, a half smile on his face. His form was fuzzy around the edges, his blue magic dragging at him. Jonghyun opened his mouth to say I hate him, but instead he said; “Don’t hurt him.” His voice was too quiet, too fragile. I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care. Hwang Minhyun deserves to pay for his crimes, for what he did to me and my family. Hundreds of souls on his conscience. You saw the truth that day. He never loved you. Never love him. Never love him.
“Well, it’s not like you can do anything about it.” Dongho replied, laughing softly. “After all, you’re only a Haetae.” Then, in a slow glimmering motion, he too was gone. And Jonghyun was alone.