It's the imperial year of 1028.
On a peaceful rocky road somewhere in the mountains, a carriage led by two horses suddenly stops. The man holding their reins jolts in surprise.
The ground below them trembles and one man shouts in warning before the earth in front of them explodes, revealing a beast that looked like a huge scorpion with claws for hands.
The horses buck up, terrified by the sudden noise, and overturn the carriage in their haste to get away from the scene. The men don't even realize; they're too busy trying to run away themselves.
"Earth dragon!" One of them screams. The rest of them scream and scatter.
It's no use. The beast is ten times larger than them, pincers snapping menacingly as it gives chase easily. Its beady eyes tracked the men's movements as they shrieked and attempted to save themselves.
Just as the beast reached down to grab the closest man in a clawed hand, another man appears in its way. This carrying a long sword strapped to his back, which he unsheathes and uses to slice off the monster's hand.
It roars and stamps its feet, shaking the ground, but the man holding a sword remains unfazed.
He sheathes it calmly, running a hand through his messy black hair. He turns to the men, who are staring in shock and give them a smile.
"Saving people is the best way to get my name out there, right?"
The dark-haired man was young, but he carried himself with confidence. The men who were in the carriage were still trembling and wordless, pointed frantically to something behind him.
The young man didn't even turn around as black hieroglyphs traveled up the monster's arms from where its hand was cut off. The black bands of hieroglyphs wrapped themselves around the dragon's neck, glowing faintly before the beast fell to the floor with a heavy thump, sending sand and dust flying.
The dragon's body gave a feeble twitch before stilling.
One of the men whimpered. The others turned to give their thanks to their savior, but the young man was already gone.
Jungkook whistled, impressed when he saw the entrance to the Capitol. Huge towering walls enclosed the circular area, the main palace in the middle, protected by another set of even taller stone walls. The sun shined bright overhead, glinting off of metal structures. Jungkook was already sweating in his long pants and sweater, but he hadn't had the chance to go clothes shopping yet.
People and carriages bustled around, chattering and occasionally stopping to purchase from street vendors. The streets were pretty full. He didn't think he could extend his arms and walk without hitting someone.
Jungkook stared in wonder. He passed by two stone statues of a lion and a dragon in the entranceway and stopped to pat them on the head, earning him strange stares from the people around him.
He had never seen such a developed place before. Jungkook originated from a small village on the outskirts of the country, and he'd made his way to the Capitol in hopes of joining the military army to support his poor village. He'd started his journey with two childhood friends, Eunha and Minho, but they were forced to split up during a monster attack. They'd agreed beforehand that if anything happened to them, they'd meet back up in the Capitol.
Jungkook wandered through the gates, blending into the large crowd of people. His first goal was to go to the barracks to sign up for the military army before heading off to find his friends. He asked a few people for directions, and they pointed him to a store in the corner of a large building.
There was a crowd of people standing around the entrance, but Jungkook shouldered passed them confidently and sauntered into the place with his chin held high.
Immediately, he was hit with the stench of sweat and alcohol and winced. Even so, he walked to the man seated in a wooden chair behind a rustic-looking table who was writing on a scroll with a quill. He didn't even look up, not even when Jungkook cleared his throat dramatically.
"Excuse me. I'm here to sign up for the army?" Jungkook tapped his foot impatiently. The man reluctantly placed the quill down and reached underneath his desk to pull out a piece of paper.
"Fill this out and bring it back when you're done," the man didn't even spare him a glance before going back to his scroll. It was a clear dismissal, but Jungkook happily took the scroll and headed to the side of the room to fill out the sheet as soon as possible. He squeezed himself between two people and grabbed a quill.
"Wait a second." Jungkook squinted at the paper and felt his excitement drain away. He stomped back to the man at the desk.
"I have to start off as a foot soldier?" Jungkook slapped the piece of paper onto the table. The man sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He acted as if he had answered that question a million times.
"Of course you do, kid."
Jungkook bristled. He didn't think he looked that young. At least not young enough to be called 'kid'.
"I don't have the time for that!" Jungkook exclaimed and placed his sword, still sheathed, onto the table as proof. "Look, I'm skilled, I promise, so can't you promote me to... say, captain class?"
The man's eye twitched violently.
One second later, Jungkook found himself on his ass outside the barracks. He blinked owlishly, preparing to storm back in and demand an explanation. The man at the desk was at the door, and he tossed Jungkook's sword onto the ground in front of him.
"Stop messing around, kid!" He yelled, face turning red. "Promote you to captain class? As if! You need to win a raffle to even become a foot soldier!"
He slammed the door behind him.
Jungkook stared, shocked, before grabbing his sword and getting up, brushing the dirt off of his pants.
He hadn't expected to be rejected from the army. He knew he was skilled. Likely more skilled than most of the people here. Especially with the sword he carried.
Jungkook wandered aimlessly around the streets, lost in his thoughts. The army paid really well, and Jungkook needed to support his village. He promised the head chief that he would make them proud.
He found a spot where there were fewer people and sat down onto the warm concrete. Jungkook carefully strapped his sword to his back.
Eunha and Minho. Where were they? Jungkook had gotten distracted and sidetracked many times on his way here, so they should have arrived before him. Jungkook felt a spike of worry course through him before he forcefully calmed his heartbeat. They were probably fine and wandering around the Capitol, happy and unharmed.
Jungkook turned around at the voice, unsure of whether it was calling for him amidst the few other people.
A young man that looked around his age was walking towards him with a big smile on his face.
The first thing Jungkook noticed was how stupidly attractive the guy was. He had almond-shaped eyes, pierced ears, and pale platinum hair that caught the glint of the sun.
The second thing he noticed was his clothes. The newcomer wore a strapless piece of black fabric on his chest, covering his body from the top of his pectorals to just above his navel. Puffy sleeves decorated his arms, matching a pair of the tiniest shorts Jungkook had ever seen on a guy. His outfit was topped off with knee-length boots and a shiny belt.
The third thing he noticed was the thing the newcomer was holding. Was that a... dog? It was small and white, but instead of four paws, it had two little feet and tiny arms. Regardless, it was adorable.
"Uh, hi?" Jungkook asked hesitantly, glancing up at the guy from the ground.
The stranger stopped in front of him and crouched down to his level. His eyes seemed to sparkle, and Jungkook felt himself staring into them in wonder.
"You seem troubled, baby. Need some help?" The stranger smiled, boxy and gorgeous.
Jungkook blushed, both from the term of endearment and at the attractiveness of the stranger. Was it normal in the Capitol for hot people to go around and offer help to random people on the streets?
Nevertheless, Jungkook wasn't about to question his good fortune. Besides, anyone with such a cute pet couldn't be untrustworthy.
"Uh, yeah. Do you know a good way... to get promoted in the imperial army quickly?" Jungkook couldn't help but stare at the ethereal sight in front of him as the blonde tilted his head curiously.
"Of course I do, cutie," the stranger stood up and reached out a hand to help Jungkook up. He took it gratefully, blushing as he touched the stranger's warm hand. "Let's talk about it over a meal?"
That's how Jungkook ended in a local pub, seated at a table with two, staring slack-jawed as the stranger in front of him wolfed down his fifth bowl of rice.
The blonde slammed the empty bowl down on the table and patted his stomach contentedly. "Ahhhhh. That hits the spot." He fed his dog-pet thing a bone from a chicken leg he'd eaten. It took it eagerly, razor-sharp teeth flashing as it crunched down noisily.
"Um. Right." Jungkook stopped himself from looking down at the strip of exposed skin. "You said something about getting promoted quickly?"
The blonde stretched leisurely before casually leaning onto the table and placing both hands under his chin. He smiled dazzlingly.
"Here in the Capitol, you can do anything with the right connections and lots of money." He tapped his fingers on his cheeks innocently. "Today's your lucky day, baby. Hyung's got an uncle who's pretty high up in the army. If you show him enough money, he'll put in good words for you, and you'll be promoted in no time." The blonde batted his eyelashes.
Jungkook nodded understandingly. "Money, huh."
He reached into his bag and brought out a heavy pouch about the size of his head. He placed it on the table and loosened the string so that the other could see the gold coins gleaming inside.
The blonde's eyes widened before the corner of his lips tugged up into another boxy smile.
"That's definitely enough." His gaze raked over Jungkook, slightly impressed. It lingered on the sword strapped to his back.
Jungkook blushed and awkwardly scratched his neck. "I⎯⎯ um. I killed a lot of danger beasts on my way here. Earned a lot from rewards." He said by way of explanation and gestured to the sword on his back.
The blonde whistled lowly. "You're strong, huh." He reached forward and took the bag of money.
"Okay, baby," the stranger stood up and slung the bag over his shoulder. "I'll go settle this. Wait for me here." He gave Jungkook a wink and a smile before walking off slowly. His white pet followed close behind, short legs working fast to keep up with its owner.
Jungkook nodded eagerly and felt his lips tug into his own smile. Finally, he would be able to rise up the ranks quickly. He couldn't believe his good fortune.
"Oh, hey, baby?" The blonde had paused at the doorway and turned to face Jungkook, who was still seated at their table.
"I think you'll learn a lot from this meeting."
And with that, the stranger disappeared, leaving Jungkook with a table full of empty bowls and a promise of a promotion.
"Excuse me, sir, but we're closing soon."
Jungkook lifted his head from where he'd been laying on the table. He looked around blearily and couldn't see the handsome stranger anywhere. In fact, the entire restaurant was empty except for himself and a few waiters.
Outside, the sun had set, which meant that Jungkook had been sitting at that table for at least a few hours.
A waiter had long since cleared his table, and now he was staring at Jungkook sympathetically.
"I'm, uh, waiting for someone," Jungkook said.
The waiter shook his head and gave him a dry smile. "I was watching you guys, and I'm pretty sure you had your money stolen."
Jungkook visibly startled. He hadn't even considered that something like that would happen. Back in his village, no one would ever take advantage of another like that. Were things that different in the Capitol.
"What? No way," Jungkook's shock gave way to anger. He stood up abruptly, knocking over a chair in the process. "I'll sue him. How dare he⎯⎯"
"It's your fault for believing such a blatant lie, kid."
Jungkook's jaw dropped.
"The Capitol is in a shitty state right now. I didn't think that there would be people stupid enough to fall for something like that."
The fight drained out of Jungkook and he lowered his head. His friends and family had always told him that he was a little too naïve, a little too innocent. He hadn't had any reason to believe them until now. He headed out the door after paying for the food with the few coins he'd thankfully kept in his pockets.
Was that what the blonde stranger had meant by 'I think you'll learn a lot from this meeting'?
Jungkook pouted and cursed the guy in his head. Without the afternoon sun, the weather was cold. The moon shined brightly in the sky, casting a dim glow as Jungkook found a deserted corner and settled down against a wall. The coldness of the hard concrete seeped through his clothes, chilling him down to the bone.
What a shitty way to start his life at the Capitol. He'd gotten rejected from the imperial army, scammed of all his money, and developed a crush on the hot guy who scammed him.
Jungkook shivered and drew his knees to his chest, curling up as tight as he could to preserve as much heat as he could in preparation for a cold, harsh night. He hadn't been forced to endure one of those since his village had been raided.
Just as he put his cheek on his knee and started to doze off, the sound of horse hooves clicking against the concrete and several faint voices yanked him from his almost-sleep.
A pair of heeled boots came into his vision, and for a second, Jungkook thought that the pretty stranger had come back.
He looked up, excited, only to find the face of a young girl staring down at him.
She was pretty, he supposed, with shoulder-length wavy blonde hair and emerald green eyes.
She smiled down at him.
"Hi. I'm Ahreum. You're from the countryside, right?"
Jungkook's glanced at the carriage the girl had just gotten out of and the numerous guards trailing behind her. Combined with her expensive-looking dress and hairpiece, Jungkook guessed that she was pretty rich.
"Uh, yeah." Jungkook's sleep-addled brain struggled to function. The girl didn't look dangerous, but Jungkook knew better than to judge someone by their appearance. He inconspicuously reached a hand back to rest on the hilt of his sheathed sword. It wouldn't be the first time he'd had to deal with bullies and bandits.
The girl, Ahreum, she'd said, smiled cheerfully. "If you don't have a place to stay, why don't you come sleep at my house?"
Jungkook stared at her blankly. His immediate thought was to be suspicious since he'd gotten fooled once already. Why was a young girl like her offering a man a place to stay?
The guard behind her spoke up. "Lady Ahreum can't leave people like you alone. You should just accept her offer."
Jungkook slowly took his hand off of his sword. He contemplated for a while. After weighing his options, he decided that going with the nice-looking girl was better than having to sleep outside in the cold. Besides, there wasn't anything to scam him of anymore. Except for maybe his sword, but he'd make sure to keep a close eye on it. Physical assault wasn't too much of a concern; Jungkook knew all too well how to defend himself.
"I don't have any money," He warned, eyebrow raised skeptically.
Ahreum tapped her foot patiently, a pleasant smile still on her face. "You wouldn't be here if you did. Come on!"
A short carriage ride later, the guards led Jungkook into a huge mansion.
It was enormous and prestigious, chandelier hanging overhead and numerous priceless-looking artifacts on display. A grand staircase faced the door, lined with plush carpets that looked like they cost more than Jungkook's entire hut back in the village.
"Woah." Jungkook looked around in awe. He'd never seen such a place before. He hadn't even known houses could be this big.
Ahreum giggled from behind him and led him to another room where a middle-aged man and woman were seated at a large table. The man was reading something while the woman was sipping slowly from a mug.
They didn't look surprised at all to see them.
"My, my. It seems like Ahreum-ah brought another one." The woman gave Jungkook a warm smile. It settled his nerves slightly. She reminded Jungkook of his village chief's wife, who had taken on the role of Jungkook's mother ever since his real one had passed away when he was young.
"How many does that make, dear?" The man, who Jungkook assumed was Ahreum's father, asked lightly, as if they were talking about the weather.
Jungkook bowed respectfully at the waist. "Thank you very much for your hospitality."
The woman casually waved her hand dismissively. "Nonsense. We're always happy to help those who need it." She gestured to one of the guards stationed nearby. "Why don't you show our guest to his room?"
The guard bowed his head respectfully before gesturing for Jungkook to follow him.
As they mounted the stairs, Ahreum called out, "Sleep well!"
That night, while laying in a comfortable bed, staring at the ceiling, Jungkook smiled. It seemed like there were good people in the Capitol, too.
Unconsciously, his thoughts drifted towards his friends, Eunha and Minho. We're they alright? Jungkook had always been the best fighter out of the three of them, but they could defend themselves just fine.
He'd gotten lucky; a nice girl decided to give him a warm place to stay. Jungkook hoped Eunha and Minho were warm and safe as well.
He drifted off to sleep while reminiscing about the happy memories they'd shared.
The next day, after eating a quick and warm breakfast, Ahreum had insisted that they go shopping.
"It'll be fun!" She'd insisted. Jungkook found himself tagging along with two other guards. He needed a tour of the Capitol anyway. Once again, the streets were occupied by lively people and carriages, the scent of horses and hay filling the air. The harsh sun was back, bringing a heat that was a complete contrast to the chilly night air from the night before.
Soon, each of the three men was loaded with heavy shopping bags. Jungkook swore and tried to keep his grip on the numerous bags and boxes, but it was proving to be more difficult than he'd imagined, especially with sweaty hands.
Ahreum pranced along ahead, oblivious to their struggles.
They painstakingly made their way to the carriage and unceremoniously dumped everything into the wooden vehicle. The guards muttered something about it being 'typical for girls' and how they were 'not even close to being done'.
From what Jungkook had known, the only girl he knew well enough was Eunha, who'd never liked trivial things like shopping. She much preferred practical matters such as training and sparring, claiming that they were skills that she'd actually need.
Jungkook flexed his arms experimentally, trying to gauge the amount of pain he would be in tomorrow. What was the point of buying this many clothes and accessories when you'd likely never be able to wear them all?
One of the guards ran ahead to tail Ahreum, but the other stayed behind with Jungkook. They paused to catch their breath. Jungkook was now sweating because of the combined heat and exertion. His clothes stuck to his skin and Jungkook squirmed uncomfortably.
"Look up." The guard pointed to something.
Jungkook's eyes followed the guard's arm and gasped. The inner ring of walls was clearly visible from where they were, standing tall and grey. They towered over the buildings around them, casting a shadow over most of them. A large palace stood taller than even the walls in the middle, gleaming a royal green in the sunlight.
"Is that where the Emperor lives?" Jungkook had only heard rumors of the monarchy in the Capitol. The people were governed with an iron fist, where disobedience and rebellion were punished harshly.
They ruled by fear. Not by public approval.
The guard's gaze darkened. He whipped his head around, checking for possible eavesdroppers before gesturing for Jungkook to come closer.
Curious, Jungkook leaned over until he could hear the guard's whispers over the dull chatter of the people around them.
"The Emperor... is still a child right now."
Jungkook's eyes widened.
A child? How could a child run a country? His mind whirled with questions and possibilities. It wasn't possible for a child to run an empire; even Jungkook knew that. Children had no understanding of right and wrong and were easily influenced by others, which was both a good thing and a bad thing.
As if the guard read his mind, he continued. "The Minister is the one manipulating the children Emperor. He's the one responsible for this corrupted country."
Jungkook made a noise of dissatisfaction before the guard clamped a hand over his mouth and held a fingertip to his lips, signaling for him to be quiet.
"Don't say anything against the Minister, or he'll have you publicly executed, got it?"
Jungkook nodded, wide-eyed and afraid, and the guard slowly peeled his hand off of his mouth.
"The Minister has been taking out his frustration on the innocent townsfolk lately because he can't solve the problem with Bangtan."
Jungkook tilted his head, still shaken by the new information. He felt like he'd heard that name before. "Bangtan?"
The guard nodded solemnly and directed them to the nearest wall, where several wanted posters stared back at him.
These posters were everywhere. Jungkook had seen at least a few dozen of them yesterday alone, and he was new in town.
"They're... assassins?" Jungkook read the description on a poster that had a picture of a handsome, smiling man on it with the name 'Hoseok' written in big letters.
"They're assassins that have rattled the entire Capitol." The guard said seriously. "They earned their name by being, well, bulletproof. The emperor has dispatched countless soldiers to eliminate them, but none of them were successful." The guard's eyes flickered with an emotion that Jungkook couldn't decipher. "They conduct nocturnal raids, mostly on wealthy and influential individuals."
Jungkook shivered. The man's smiling face on the poster didn't look like that of a killer. Then again, the blonde stranger who stole his money didn't look like a scammer, either.
Jungkook had long since learned that people were just monsters hiding underneath human skins. The prettier the mask, the more hideous the monster underneath. He supposed that meant that his own monster was rather ugly.
"Prepare yourself, just in case, kid."
Jungkook slept fitfully that night, dreaming of a group of unknown, faceless terrors lurking in the night.
Jungkook startled awake. A glance outside told him it was sometime around midnight. His instincts told him something was amiss. And his instincts were never wrong.
He threw aside the blankets, grabbed his sword from on top of the nightstand, and bolted out of the room. The long hallway stretched both ways, and Jungkook whipped his head back and forth, trying to decide which way to go.
The guard's warning of assassins rang through Jungkook's head.
It couldn't be... right?
Jungkook hastened his running, so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice the obstacle in his way until he went sprawling to the ground.
He landed on his knees with a groan of pain. He stood up slowly and made to rub his knees to ease the throbbing when his hands came into contact with a warm wetness.
Alarmed, Jungkook turned around to check on whatever he'd tripped over, because he was certain he wasn't injured enough to bleed.
What he saw made him clamp a hand hard over his mouth to keep down the violent lurch in his stomach.
Ahreum's mother, or what was left of her, lay in four pieces on the ground. Her torso was separated from her legs, both arms severed cleanly from her body. Jungkook could see part of her guts spilling onto the pristine floor. Her once-blonde hair was dyed a scarlet red and sticky with her own blood. Her eyes were closed, but her mouth was curved up in a remainder of a smile.
The body parts were cut cleanly. There were no signs of struggle or hacking.
There was so much blood. It pooled under the dismembered body, splattering along the walls in a morbid recreation of art, and soaking into Jungkook's shoes.
Jungkook trembled and stumbled away. He'd witnessed death before; he himself had killed countless wild beasts.
This kind of gruesome murder was something Jungkook had thought no human was ever capable of.
Voices outside drew Jungkook's attention to the window. He walked over to the glass panels with shaky legs and tried to ignore the warm blood dripping down his pants from where he'd fallen into the pool of blood. He forced himself to stay calm.
Standing on a rooftop, illuminated by a full moon, were six figures.
Under the moonlight, capes and clothing fluttering in the night wind, Jungkook would have thought they looked majestic if he didn't know better.
Jungkook's blood ran cold and his heartbeat pounded in his ears. All pretense of composure flew out the window, and Jungkook resisted the voice inside his head telling him to run, run, run.
He gritted his teeth and forced himself to head towards the end of the hallway.
He had to protect Ahreum. It was least he could do to repay her for giving him a place to stay.
He ran but watched as guards emerged outside the window, brandishing swords and glaring menacingly at the assassins on the rooftop.
One of the figures leaped gracefully off the rooftop and landed in front of the half dozen guards. The metal clanked as he landed with a thud.
Jungkook got a good look at him and swallowed a gasp.
The assassin was clad in full head-to-toe silver armor, grey cape fluttering in the wind and huge spear clutched in both hands. Instead of a standard spear tip, it flared outwards, red and menacingly into the shape of arrowhead the size of Jungkook's torso. Large shoulder guards made him seem bigger than he actually was, a perfect picture of intimidation. There wasn't a visible chink in the armor, not even on his face. Instead of spaces for his eyes, nose, and mouth, the assassin wore a complete dragon-head-shaped helmet, yellow diamonds placed where his eyes were and small holes around the nose and mouth that allowed him to breathe.
The guards hesitated for a millisecond before they roared and charged, swords raised and ready to kill the single man before them.
Jungkook knew what was going to happen moments before it did. It was over before it even started.
The moonlight glinted off of the assassin's silver armor as he slashed and parried the guards' blows with ease. Even outnumbered six-to-one, the man didn't even seem fazed as he dodged blow after blow.
One guard stumbled, and the assassin drove his spear straight through the guard's gut before ducking the sword and snapping the neck of another.
Jungkook tore his gaze from the slaughter in front of him. The assassin was skilled. More so than Jungkook had ever thought possible for a human. He clenched his jaw and ran as fast as he could to Ahreum.
He could only assume that Bangtan was targeting these people because they were wealthy. Jungkook shook his head in disgust. His village chief had been right; the Capitol was full of shit. He couldn't even begin to fathom the assassins' thoughts as they killed these innocent people for self-gain.
At the end of the hallway, Jungkook saw a familiar head of blonde hair disappear around the corner.
"Ahreum-ssi!" Jungkook yelled and caught up to them. A guard was leading her outside, taking an inconspicuous route from the back of the mansion. They should be shielded from view.
Jungkook hastily followed. He knew that the terrified expression on Ahreum's face was likely mirrored on his own, but he grabbed her hand and led her further away from the mansion.
The guard pointed to a large wooden shed a few hundred feet in front of them, solitary in the otherwise empty clearing. "Go!"
Jungkook almost dragged the girl behind him in his hurry to bring them both to safety. The shed was definitely large enough for both of them and many guards to hide inside until Bangtan left.
"More guards are coming! Kid, hold them off in the meantime!" The man drew his sword and moved with his back towards them, slowly walking and guarding the rear.
Six figures landed softly on the ground a few meters in front of them. Jungkook recognized the armored man as the one who'd killed the guards earlier. They varied in height, some of them carrying visible weapons. One of them was eating what looked like a lollipop, which made Jungkook's lip curl in hatred.
In the middle of killing a family of innocent people, the man was casually eating a piece of candy, as if this meant nothing to him. As if this was a casual occurrence.
Jungkook drew his sword, metal singing as it dragged along the sheath. He didn't know how they found them, but he wasn't about to stick around and ask questions. The familiar weight of Juhgeom, his sword, in his hands settled his nerves slightly. The shiny blade curved beautifully, as usual, catching the pale rays of the moon.
Adrenaline coursed through his body even as he swallowed nervously. His chances of victory were next to none, he knew that, but he refused to back down. He'd been taught to fight to his last breath, and he wasn't about to die without a valiant fight.
Even though their battle would result in at least one of their deaths, Jungkook's grip on his weapon remained steady. He ignored Ahreum's whimper from behind him.
His legs were already coated in blood. What did it matter if his hands were stained, too?
Several assassins gasped at the sight of Jungkook's sword.
An assassin with pink hair turned to the one clad in silver armor, dripping in blood that wasn't his. "Hyung, he's not a target. And he wields... Juhgeom."
Jungkook bristled at the mention of the name of his sword. He'd received it as a gift from a mysterious man who'd stayed at his village for a night. He'd given to Jungkook after seeing him spar, telling him that the sword was named Juhgeom before disappearing. Jungkook had never seen him again. He had to learn by himself that the sword killed everything it cut, even if it wasn't a lethal blow.
The man in armor nodded. Faster than his eyes could follow, the guard that was standing next to Ahreum was collapsing to the ground, throat spraying blood, a horrible gurgle filling the clearing as the man choked to death on his own blood. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as the assassin yanked the spear out of his throat.
The assassin raised the blood-drenched spear, prepared to bring it down one last time to end Ahreum's life.
The girl was on the ground, crying and trembling. She was blubbering pathetically, mumbling incoherent pleads for the assassin to spare her life.
The man didn't even falter as he brought his spear down. No mercy whatsoever.
Jungkook raised his sword just in time to stop the assassin's spear from slicing Ahreum's head off.
As it was, Jungkook's arms shook with the amount of strength he had used to block that simple blow.
He couldn't beat him. They both knew it, but Jungkook was stubborn.
"Step aside or die with her." The man's voice was amplified by the metal helmet. His expression was completely covered by his armor mask, but Jungkook imagined it would be one of disdain.
A bead of sweat trickled down Jungkook's neck.
When Jungkook refused to step aside, the man raised his arm again, and Jungkook knew he wouldn't be able to block it again.
He braced himself for the end, but a voice rang out over the clearing.
The assassin lowered his spear and turned to look at his teammate.
Jungkook recognized that voice. Remembered it all too well.
He tried not to show his shock as the blonde who had scammed him stepped into the moonlight, still clutching his white pet in his arms. Its mouth was rimmed with red, though, and it was chewing on something that looked suspiciously like a finger.
"Hello, baby. We meet again." He smiled another one of his gorgeous smiles, and Jungkook hated himself for unconsciously blushing, even in this situation.
"Y-you tricked me!" Jungkook tried to make it sound like a harsh accusation, but it came out more like a pouty whine, earning a few chuckles from the other assassins and further intensifying the red dusting his cheeks.
He couldn't raise his arms, but if he could, he wouldn't have smacked him. Or all of them.
The blonde's expression morphed from fondness to seriousness when his eyes latched onto to Ahreum's shaking form, and Jungkook felt goosebumps rise along his arms. The novelty wore off, and reality set in.
The handsome man who'd smiled so prettily at Jungkook yesterday was a killer. A renowned killer who's target was the girl who'd showed Jungkook kindness and expected nothing in return.
"You're defending her because you think she's innocent, right?"
Jungkook nodded hesitantly, all too aware of the multiple sets of eyes on him. The sword in his hands hung limply at his side.
"Well then, let me show you this."
The blonde walked to the front of the shed and kicked the doors open. "This is the darkness of the Capitol."
Immediately, Jungkook was hit with the stench of rotting flesh and feces. He only glimpsed inside for less than a second before he turned around and vomited into the grass. The blonde stranger's eyes were cold and unforgiving, showing no sign of the sparkles that Jungkook had seen a few days ago.
Those were the eyes of an assassin.
He retched, eyes burning, but he forced himself to look back into the large shed.
Numerous bodies littered the ground, all covered with gruesome injuries and in various stages of decay. More bodies hung from the ceiling, limp and swaying in the wind. An assortment of limbs and organs were scattered along the ground, attracting flies and contributing to the pools of blood already forming on the ground.
Jungkook gave another dry retch as an eyeball rolled to a stop at his feet.
Jungkook felt his heart stop when he saw a familiar figure dangling from a rope tied around her hands. Her body was limp, head drooping down against her chest. Every inch of visible skin was covered with dried blood and open, festering wounds. Blood caked her lips and face and leaking down her body, dripping onto the floor from her leg with a consistent drip, drip, drip.
Her left leg was missing. It was lost amongst the other various limbs.
"Eunha?" Jungkook's voice was shaking. He barely recognized his own voice, small and so so wounded.
The two emotions roared inside him, unfurling themselves like a bloody whip and rearing their ugly hides. Jungkook felt himself falling into the black hole inside him, succumbing to the twisted desires that were now blooming in his mind.
Never had he felt so angry in his life. Jungkook knew that his lips had twisted themselves into an ugly sneer that he'd only ever worn once before.
"No! I didn't know that this place existed! Please, you have time believe me! I swear I didn't know!"
Ahreum's voice sounded so far away, muted and dull by the roaring in his ears. He spared her a glance and tried to find a shard of pity for her.
"J-Jungkook?" A weak voice called from inside the shed.
Jungkook whipped his head towards the source of the sound. His movements were jerky, rage coursing through his veins so overwhelming that he could barely control his body.
A desperate sob tore its way out of Jungkook's throat when he saw Minho, bloodied body clinging to the bars of a metal cage.
"Jungkookie, don't listen to her. S-she invited us to stay at her house-" Minho wheezed on a cough, and Jungkook saw his best friend wipe blood away from his mouth with the back of his hand. "After we ate, we passed out, and we woke up here. She killed Eunha, Jungkook."
The roaring drowned out everything.
Rage, rage, rage.
His hands involuntarily clenched themselves into fists, nails digging crescents into his palms hard enough to draw blood.
Jungkook didn't even feel it.
He felt liquid drip down palms and looked at his own hands as if they were foreign objects.
His hands were stained now.
It didn't matter anymore if he dirtied them further, right?
"Okay, fine!" Ahreum's voice was shrill. Her normally-cheery face contorted into one of hate and rage. "I killed them! So what? Isn't that all you countryside pigs are good for?" Her eyes bugged up, nostrils flaring. Spit flew everywhere from the sneer painting her lips. Her perfect teeth seemed so sharp as she screamed until her chest was heaving with anger and hatred.
Jungkook thought that she was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen.
Her anger and hatred may have been great, but it was nothing compared to the sharp blade of fury tearing Jungkook apart from the inside.
The blonde spoke up. "They're a family of sadists. They lure innocent villagers and torture them to death." He gestured to the dead guard where a pool of blood was slowly growing on the concrete. "The guards stood by and watched, so they were guilty as well."
He nodded to the assassin in armor, who has been standing impassively the entire time. "Go ahead, hyung." He pointed at the girl.
Jungkook's voice came out steady and flat. It was like a blanket was tossed over his emotions, dulling the roaring in his ears, just for a moment.
It was enough.
The blonde tilted his head curiously. "After all that, you still won't let us kill her?"
Jungkook moved mechanically up to Ahreum's shaking form. He didn't know if she was shaking from rage or fear.
He didn't care, either.
His sword seemed to whistle as it arced through the air and decapitated Ahreum with one clean slice, cutting her ear-piercing scream short. Her head hit the concrete with a horrifying crack, rolling to a stop a few feet away. Her eyes were still open, wide with shock. Her lips were still parted in a scream, blood leaking out of her severed neck.
Ahreum's headless body collapsed to the concrete with a thud.
She looked normal, now. As normal as one could look without a body. She looked nothing like the monster Jungkook had seen when she'd admitted to torturing his best friends to death.
Jungkook raised his foot and crushed her skull.
"I'll kill her."
Someone whistled lowly, impressed.
Jungkook paid them no mind, only rushed to Minho's side after the latter had laughed weakly at his tormentor's death. He was careful to step over the discarded limbs and organs on the floor. The blanket was gone, along with the bloodlust and ache for revenge. The red-hot blade of fury melted and gave way to sorrow as he cradled Minho's head in his lap.
Tears ran down Jungkook's cheeks as he embraced his best friend's weakened body and tried to ignore the countless bruises and injuries. The horrid stench of this place seemed to choke him.
Minho reached out a bloody hand and interlaced their fingers.
Jungkook's tears dripped down onto Minho's face. "Come on, let's get you to a hospital." He tried to lift him up to a sitting position.
"It's no use." A new voice interjected.
Jungkook glanced up briefly to see the pink-haired assassin standing a few feet from them. He looked down at Minho pitifully.
"The mistress here liked to test poison on them and keep a journal with all of their effects. There's no cure."
Minho smiled weakly as if his imminent death didn't bother him. "You know, Jungkook, Eunha didn't submit at all. Not even at the very end."
Jungkook gripped Minho's hand harder. He was choking now, both on his tears and the smell.
"I won't submit either." Minho wheezed, coughing up another glob of blood. "You have to succeed for us, Jungkook. You have to fix this world."
Minho took one last shuddering breath before his head lolled to the side and his arms fell limp to the ground. His best friend's lips, even coated in blood, curved upwards in the most beautiful smile Jungkook had ever seen.
Jungkook shakily wiped away his tears and stood on wobbly legs. He'd experienced so many emotions in the past hour that he was numb now. Couldn't feel the sadness, rage, or hatred that had once made a home in his gut.
He teetered to the exit of the shed and ignored the handsome blonde stranger's sympathetic gaze. He was all too aware of the blood coating his hands and clothes.
He lifted his head and breathed in the night air. Static noises seemed to buzz in his ears, making everything a little fuzzy. "What is wrong with the Capitol?" He asked numbly. "Why is everyone... a monster?"
No one answered. Jungkook saw them exchange dark looks. The handsome stranger reached out a hand in an attempt to offer comfort.
Jungkook swayed on the spot. He heard a few warning cries before his vision faded to black and collapsed into strong, sturdy arms.