“I’m alone now, aren’t I?”
The wind ruffled Jungkook’s hair, rustling his clothes and the grass field he was sitting on.
Two large stones were in front of where Jungkook was kneeling. They stood out in a field of green grass.
A single blood-red rose bloomed between them.
How fitting, Jungkook mused. It was Eunha's favorite flower. Even when they were piss-poor back in the village, Eunha kept a small piece of land flourishing with flowers. She'd spend all of her free time tending and caring for them, and even Jungkook, who did not know anything about plants, had to admit that they were beautiful.
The dark-haired man tilted his head towards the clear skies and took a deep breath with his eyes closed. It was still hard to believe that his two best friends were gone. He'd no longer get to annoy Minho. Or get to hear Eunha's tinkling laugh.
Jungkook hadn't realized he'd started to cry.
The spring breeze only served to remind him of the cooling tears streaking down his face.
Jungkook chuckled softly, humorless, and full of self-depreciation. They hadn't had the chance to take Eunha and Minho's bodies, so Jungkook had to settle for two gray rocks as gravestones.
His friends deserved better than just two ordinary rocks as their only commemorations. Jungkook silently vowed that he'd give them a proper burial as soon as this was over.
Whatever 'this' was.
It had been three days since Jungkook had first encountered Bangtan and murdered Ahreum. He didn't remember passing out, but when he woke up, he had been in an unfamiliar room.
Bangtan hadn't tried anything on him so far, no matter how much it obviously annoyed them to let an outsider into their prestigious, hidden hideout.
Jungkook had spent the three days mostly sleeping and pacing around his room, trying to come to terms with his situation.
He'd gotten rejected from the imperial army, scammed of all his money, taken in by a nice girl who turned out to be a sadist and murdered his best friends, killed said girl and kidnapped by a group of infamous assassins that happened to include the handsome blonde who scammed him.
It was funny, now that he thought about it.
"What do I do, Eunha? Minho?" Jungkook asked out loud. His knees were starting to hurt from kneeling for so long.
Jungkook's only answer was another gust of wind.
"They asked me to join them." Jungkook paused. Saying the words out loud didn't make them less hard to believe. "A group of assassins invited me to join them." The disbelief was clear in his voice.
"If I decline, I'm dead, right?"
"Not necessarily." A new voice answered, startling Jungkook so hard he unsheathed his sword, whirled around, and held it threateningly at the newcomer's neck.
"It's you," Jungkook sighed and carefully sheathed his sword, taking in Taehyung's unimpressed expression.
"Have you decided yet?"
Taehyung, Jungkook learned his name, was standing behind him in all of his beautiful glory and staring at him, signature white pet perched on one shoulder.
"Um." Jungkook stuttered eloquently. His crush had not abated in the slightest, even after he came to know that the blonde was a murderer, much to Jungkook's disappointment.
The blonde tapped his foot impatiently, but his lips broke into the smile that Jungkook had been mesmerized with.
Is still mesmerized with.
He had to consciously close his jaw and swallow the saliva pooling in his mouth.
"Come on, baby, I'll introduce you to the others now that you're feeling better. Maybe they'll be able to convince you to join." Taehyung shuffled a few steps towards Jungkook, closing the small distance between them and extending his hand to help him off the floor.
"My name is Jungkook. Not baby," Jungkook blushed but accepted the hand that hauled him off the grass with surprising strength. He realized he hadn't ever told them his name.
Taehyung tilted his head curiously. "Jungkook," he said as if testing the sound of his name on his lips. "Hm. I think 'baby' still suits you more."
The man didn't wait to hear Jungkook's indignant sputters. He turned around and headed towards the large building even visible at this distance, and Jungkook had no choice but to follow.
The meeting room was huge. High, arched ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows lined one side of the room, letting in the spring sun and warming the place up. It provided a clear view of the forest that surrounded this hideout, Jungkook noticed.
It would be very difficult for anyone to approach their hideout without being spotted.
A large marble table, big enough for at least three grown men to sleep on, stood in the middle of the room. A strip of plush red carpet was rolled down the middle, under the marble table and equally beautiful chairs.
A man with pale green hair was sitting there, quietly reading a thick book.
He turned towards them, and Jungkook took in his feline features; sharp eyes and a cute button nose. His expression remained neutral, even as he glanced at Jungkook up and down. The man was dressed more normally than Taehyung, in a black sweater and ripped jeans, but Jungkook noticed the fingerless black gloves on his hands. A protruding circular disc was installed in the middle of the back both of them, which struck Jungkook as a strange choice of design.
"Jungkookie, this is Yoongi-hyung." Taehyung gestured to the green-haired man cheerfully. "Hyung, this is Jungkook. Tell him something that will convince him to join us. "
Yoongi's eyes raked over Jungkook, eyes flickering but his face remained impassive. He opened his book and continued reading.
"You know the location of our hideout. If you don't join us, you'll be killed." Yoongi says flatly, still not taking his eyes off of his book.
Jungkook shivered. He'd guessed that by himself, although hearing it didn't comfort him.
"Hyung, that's not going to help!" Taehyung whined. The blonde man grabbed Jungkook's wrist and turned to lead him out of the room, but the doors they entered from burst open to reveal a panting man with cotton candy pink hair. Jungkook recognized him from the night of their raid.
Jungkook resisted the urge to run his fingers through the man's hair to see if it was as soft as it looked.
"Tae! I've been looking for you- oh." The newcomer was shorter than Jungkook and Taehyung, but his presence seemed to take up so much room. Jungkook resisted the urge to hide behind Taehyung. He'd known the man for less than a week, but at least the blonde hadn't scared him.
"You're back on your feet, puppy?"
Jungkook blushed. He opened his mouth to tell the man his name, but Taehyung beat him to it.
"His name is Jungkook, Jiminie," Taehyung smiled. "Convince him to join us."
Jiminie, or Jimin, Jungkook assumed, fixed his stare on him for a second before his face melted into the cutest smile Jungkook's ever seen. Jimin's eyes curved into crescents, all but disappearing, and his cheeks puffed out, making him seem younger.
"If you join us, puppy, you'll get to hurt people all you want," the horrifying words didn't match Jimin's innocent face.
"Not everyone likes that, Jiminie!" Taehyung slapped Jimin's arm lightly but was that... a blush coating the blonde's cheeks?
Taehyung led Jungkook out of the room, but not before Jimin gave them a salacious wink and a wave with one hand.
"Is everyone... like that here?" Jungkook asked hesitantly, following a few steps behind Taehyung. He had a great view of the man's long legs from here, and Jungkook would have ogled them some more if it weren't for Taehyung's weird white pet thing that had turned around on his shoulder and proceeded to glare at Jungkook. Or at least, it looked like a glare. He wasn't sure dogs could glare.
They were walking outside, now. Jungkook registered the sounds of metal against metal as they approached an open field where two figures were training.
"Like what?" Taehyung stopped, gesturing for Jungkook to come over to where he was and looking at the people spar.
Jungkook stared openly. The two men were both shirtless, holding wooden swords and dancing around each other on nimble feet. Their sweat glistened on their naked chests in the sun, muscles rippling every time either of them moved. Jungkook could justify his staring by saying he was merely impressed by their skill.
"That's Hobi-hyung and Jin-hyung."
Taehyung waved enthusiastically, and both men turned with bright smiles on their faces. Their chests were heaving with exertion, and Jungkook had to actively prevent himself from looking down.
He did, however, feel his breath hitch at the sight of their faces.
He recognized one of them from the wanted posters. Hoseok, if he wasn't wrong. The man was smiling at them the same way he had smiled on the poster.
The other one was the man who had been sucking on a lollipop the night they'd killed Ahreum. Jungkook noticed a silver stick in the man's mouth even now.
The two of them walked towards Taehyung and Jungkook, dropping their wooden swords haphazardly on the way.
They were even more beautiful up close.
Were all assassins this beautiful? Was it some sort of requirement when you wanted to join? When you kill someone, you give them one final gift by letting them see your ethereal face?
Because now that Jungkook had a good look at the men, he would gladly perish for the not-so-innocent thoughts running through his head.
"This is Jungkook, hyungs."
They both waved their hands in greeting. Hoseok gave him a heart-shaped smile. "It's always nice to have a recruit. Please do consider joining us. We don't bite, I promise."
Jungkook nodded dumbly. He'd totally let them bite him.
"Tae, Joonie just came back from his trip. You should take Jungkook to see him," Jin suggested.
Taehyung blanched and stiffly nodded. "Is he mad?"
"I don't think so."
"Great. Come on, Jungkookie!" It was like a switch was flipped, and Taehyung went back to his normal cheery state.
"So Namjoon-hyung is our leader," Taehyung explained, leading Jungkook back into the building. "He was a well-respected general in the imperial army."
Jungkook tried to reign in his shock. An ex-general chose to become the leader of a gang of assassins that opposed the Capitol?
Taehyung stopped in front of the meeting room. He shoved the doors open, but instead of one figure in the room, there were two. A man was sitting across from Yoongi at the table, absent-mindedly flipping a small knife.
"Hey, Taehyung-ah." The unknown man had light brown hair and was dressed in a pitch-black suit that hugged his large frame perfectly. He flashed Taehyung a smile, revealing deep dimples in his cheeks that Jungkook immediately fell in love with.
Jungkook recognized the man's voice as the one that was slightly muffled that day in the armor. This was Namjoon, then.
"Joonie-hyung!" Taehyung flew forward with his arms out, intending to launch himself into Namjoon's lap.
He was stopped with a large hand to his face. Taehyung slumped to the ground comically, an adorable pout resting on his lips. The white dog on Taehyung's shoulder hopped eagerly onto the brunette's arm, unaware or uncaring of its owner's state. Yoongi looked up from his book for a second before flipping a page and continuing to read, unbothered.
At the moment, Taehyung looked like a kicked puppy more than the dog did.
"Hi, Yeontan," Namjoon gave the white dog a few pats on the head with his other hand. "I told Taehyung to not let you eat the targets, but he didn't listen again."
He slid his gaze to Jungkook, who was still standing at the doorway with a small smile. He forced himself to keep his expression neutral the moment those black eyes locked onto him and bowed respectfully at the waist.
"Is this the baby you were talking about, Taehyungie?"
Jungkook took a few seconds to realize that the leader was talking about him.
"I'm not a baby," Jungkook huffed petulantly, crossing his arms like a child.
"Yep! Boss, this is Jungkook. Isn't he cute?" Taehyung ignored him and got off the floor, striding over to pinch Jungkook's cheeks like a child. Jungkook batted the elder's hands away, blush rising to his face.
"Mm," Namjoon hummed, face unreadable. "So I've taken that you've decided to join Bangtan, Jungkook-ssi?"
"Um, I'm still in the middle of deciding." Jungkook hesitated before tentatively asking, "You'll kill me if I don't join, right?"
Yoongi made a sound from his throat.
"No. There's a revolutionary army that's still recruiting in the south. If you decide not to join Bangtan, we'll send you there. The more people who oppose the Capitol, the better."
Jungkook hadn't known that there were so many rebels. He'd been told that the Capitol was a strong and unified place where people could live in harmony. He'd thought that these assassins were merely a small group of people that weren't satisfied and took out their frustrations on the few people who weren't so nice.
But for an entire rebel army to be in the making...
That changed things.
There was a possibility that everything could change. If a war broke out, an army might be enough to overthrow the Capitol. It was wishful thinking, Jungkook knew, but he'd take whatever slim odds he could get.
I can change the world, Minho.
Yoongi and Taehyung's heads snapped up with terrifying synchronization. Namjoon gave Jungkook a genuine smile. "I was hoping you'd say that. Taehyung, go get the others. We've got to make some formal introductions."
The seven of them were gathered around the large table. Even with all of them seated, there were still empty chairs, which Namjoon moved aside. Taehyung, Jungkook, and Yoongi sat along one of the longer edges, across from Hoseok, Jin, and Jimin. Namjoon sat at the head of the table, assuming his position of authority.
"Everyone, Jungkook has decided to join us. Please welcome the newest member of Bangtan."
No one clapped, although Jungkook did see a few smiles. He stood up hastily, knocking his chair back.
"I-it's nice to meet you all again. Um. I'm Jeon Jungkook. I'm a swordsman from a small village, and I turn twenty-one this year," Jungkook stammered out, voice getting higher and higher.
Jungkook snapped his head up to find the source of the sound and made eye contact with Jin.
"A literal baby." The man's handsome face was schooled into an expression of interest.
Jungkook made a strangled sound in his throat while a flush rose to his face. Twenty-one was not that young, right?
"Welcome to the team, Jungkook." Namjoon's voice cut through the air. He gestured to the people around the table. "Make your introductions, please."
"I'm Kim Taehyung!" The blond man next to him reached over and patted his arm. His lips were stretched in a beautiful boxy smile. "I'm twenty-three, and this is Yeontan."
The white dog hopped onto Jungkook's thigh and climbed up him with surprising strength until its wet snout was pressed against his neck. Goosebumps erupted along his arms in a natural reaction.
"He already knows you, Tae. I'm Park Jimin, puppy," the pink-haired man smirked at him from across the table.
"It's nice to meet you, Jimin-ssi." Jungkook bowed his head politely.
"Hyung is fine. I'm the same age as Tae."
"I'm Jung Hoseok." The redhead gave him a sunny smile. The same one on the posters, Jungkook noticed. "It's nice to finally have a new maknae. I'm twenty-four, by the way."
Taehyung gave an offended scoff from beside Jungkook.
"That's Yoongi-hyung. Min Yoongi, if you will." Hoseok pointed to where Yoongi had fallen asleep beside Jungkook. His eyes widened. He hadn't even noticed the green-haired man slumping over the table into his book. "He's a bit of a sleepyhead, but that's why we love him."
"Don't let him hear you say that," Jin said. "Hi, Jungkook. I'm Kim Seokjin, but you're free to call me Jin-hyung." The man smiled affectionately.
Jungkook's mind told him it was wrong to find six men attractive at the same time but his heart was telling him to take a picture of them to put on his grave so he could show everyone that he had six gorgeous men in his company.
"And I'm Kim Namjoon." The brunette gave Jungkook a dimpled smile. "I'm the leader of this rowdy bunch. We're all older than you, so you can call us hyung."
With faces like that, he'd call them anything they wanted him to.
"That's good to know, puppy," Jimin's lilting voice called out. Jungkook saw smirks from the others.
Well fuck. He'd said that out loud.
His face burned. He hadn't realized he'd said those words out loud. Jungkook wanted to crawl into a nice hole and die so he wouldn't have to suffer through this embarrassment.
"Don't worry about it, Jungkook. You're cute, too." Hoseok looked like he wanted to laugh.
Yoongi'ssuddenly bolted upright from where he was sleeping on the table, startling everyone. Jungkook jumped so hard his knee hit the bottom of the table and he winced. The green-haired man's eyes were wide and alert, no sign that he'd just woken up. His hands went to touch the back of his gloves.
"We've got intruders."
The atmosphere of the meeting changed immediately, smiles slipping off everyone's faces so fast it made Jungkook dizzy.
"Location and number?" Namjoon's deep voice was steady but hard.
Yoongi tilted his head quizzically, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he prodded and tugged at what looked like a piece of translucent string tied around the back of his glove. "Eight. In the forest."
"Close by, huh." Namjoon took a deep breath, running a hand through his light brown hair. "Mercenaries, then. Pretty good, too, if they managed to get this close to our hideout." He leaned forward in his chair, placing both of his elbows on his knees. With his hands folded neatly under his chin and a serious expression on his face, Namjoon was the perfect picture of intimidation. "You guys know the drill. Go."
Before Jungkook could ask how Yoongi knew and what Namjoon's orders meant, everyone sprung into action, dashing off to, presumably, grab their weapons and sprint out. Jungkook blinked as Taehyung rushed by him without so much as a word of acknowledgment.
"Jungkook!" A voice bellowed, audible even amongst the cacophony of noises in the room.
Jungkook whipped around to stare wide-eyed at Namjoon, who looked calm despite the pandemonium. He jerked his head towards the door. "Follow someone. Anyone. Watch what they do."
The dark-haired man nodded frantically and practically tripped over his feet as he rushed to the door. Just as he was about to close it behind him, Namjoon's voice rang out once more.
A small smile graced Jungkook's lips as he shouted an affirmation and chased after the closest figure in front of him in the hallway. A messy mop of cherry red hair disappeared around the corner.
"Hoseok-hyung!" He yelled.
The redhead skidded to a halt and turned back to look at Jungkook, wide-eyed but smiling. He waited until Jungkook had caught up to him before resuming a brisk walk, forcing Jungkook to lightly jog to match his pace.
"Uh, Namjoon-hyung told me to follow someone and watch them," Jungkook trailed off, the end of the sentence becoming more of a question.
Hoseok nodded. The two of them burst out a door and Jungkook inhaled the fresh air. He didn't have much time to appreciate the weather, however, when Hoseok grabbed his arm and led him into the forest.
There was a small dirt path cleared through the forest, about wide enough for five men to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Jungkook sprinted behind Hoseok, keeping a hand on the hilt of his sword strapped to his back.
He had guessed that there would be a bloodbath.
These... mercenaries had come close to finding the base of the most sought-out group of assassins in the Capitol. There was no way they would be allowed to get out alive and report to whatever government official that had dispatched them. He steeled his nerves. It was like battling monsters, Jungkook tried to tell himself. He was an assassin now, and he couldn't afford to be squeamish about murder.
"Jungkook, stay here and guard the path. If any of them try to escape, kill them. Don't hesitate." He pointed to the forest. "I'm gonna go hunt them down. Good luck!"
Before he could protest, Hoseok was already gone.
Jin stood in the middle of a beautiful clearing, sun warming his face and wind tousling his long hair.
The three soldiers in front of him sneered at him menacingly, no fear on their faces even as they saw the sword hanging by his side. They were all shirtless, long scarves serving to cover up the bottom of their faces like a makeshift mask.
None of them even reached for their weapons, which was really fucking offensive.
Well, maybe it was the huge breasts and the short skirt that made the mercenaries not take him seriously. Jin bit down on the silver stick in his mouth before giving the men a flirty smile.
"Isn't the weather beautiful today?" Jin brushed a strand of long hair out of his face. His voice was high and feminine.
The men whispered amongst themselves, but Jin could hear them in the open clearing.
"If she's here-"
"Their hideout must be near-"
They nodded and turned towards Jin, who was still smiling pleasantly, pretending to examine his fingernails.
The men gave Jin ugly sneers before talking.
"The bitch is so pretty. You think we would be rewarded with more if we dragged her back with us to the boss?"
"No way! This chick's all mine. I'm not sharing her with any-"
It was over in the blink of an eye.
Jin calmly wiped the blood off his sword.
Behind him, two neatly-severed heads thudded to the ground, closely followed by the thump of their bodies. Faster than they could blink, Jin had unsheathed his blade, moved towards them, and cut off their heads.
He turned towards the last man with a sickly sweet smile on his face, but he was already gone.
Jin shrugged, heading towards the river to wash his face.
"That one's yours, Jiminie."
On a cliff that oversaw the entire forest, Jimin sat on the ledge, swinging his legs with a smile. The trees looked like tiny sprouts of broccoli from this distance.
Jimin tapped his ear twice to activate his eyepiece and lifted his massive gun.
The orange-tinted glass slipped over his left eye and whirred mechanically, automatically scanning for movement in the forest. It locked on and zoomed into a lone figure running through the forest, likely trying to escape to report to his boss.
"You've made it pretty far."
Just as Jimin raised his gun to fire, he sensed a figure emerge from the trees behind him. He casually turned his head, unalarmed, as a mercenary leaped towards him, sword raised, and a victorious smile on his face.
He was impaled from the back with a gleaming sword, effectively halting and killing him. Blood splurted from the mercenary's mouth, splattering onto the ground at Jimin's feet.
"Thanks, Hobi-hyung." Jimin smiled before turning back towards the forest. The cherry-haired man gave him a bright smile, blood splattered on his face, before grabbing the man's body and hurling it off the cliff with an "oops, sorry, dude."
His gun charged up in his hands. "That was just the right amount of danger I needed."
It fired a huge yellow laser, momentarily blinding Jimin and Hoseok. As soon as the gun stopped buzzing, Jimin blinked his eyes rapidly to clear the spots from his vision.
He'd annihilated the man and a line of trees.
"Overkill, much?" Hoseok asked, but kissed Jimin on the cheek before intertwining their arms and leading him back to the hideout.
Jimin swung the rifle over his back and turned to Hoseok with a smile, prancing along beside the taller man casually as if he hadn't just obliterated a man and a few dozen trees.
Taehyung leaned back against a large rock next to a river. Beside him, Yeontan was happily chewing on the leg of one of the mercenaries.
He spotted a flash of yellow light before smoke was curling towards the sky from the forest.
Taehyung sighed and got to his feet, gesturing for Yeontan to follow. The white dog gulped down the remainder of the leg, wiped the blood off of its fur, and bounded happily after its owner.
"Jiminie went overboard again, huh. "
Yoongi stepped into a dark cave near the edge of the forest.
His strings told him that someone had gotten caught in the trap he'd laid.
There were jagged spires of rocks all around him, scattered throughout the deep cave. The ground was uneven. There was no reason for anyone to have entered this place unless they were searching for a place to hide.
Stepping over a few rocks, Yoongi headed further into the cave, illuminated by the afternoon sun. He yawned and stretched his arms before stopping after seeing the body.
A girl was suspended by his near-invisible threads, hands bound above her head and crying uncontrollably. Yoongi could see the beads of blood forming all over her body from where his strings crisscrossed and dug into her skin. The string looped around the cave, curling over different rocks, but ultimately, led back to the disc on the back of Yoongi's hand.
The girl's eyes widened when he saw him, and she flailed violently in the air, causing more cuts to open.
"Please, let me go! I'll do anything!"
She was a beauty. Large, innocent-looking eyes, red swollen lips, and curvy body. It wasn't difficult to imagine that she had used seduction before to get out of sticky situations like these. Perhaps any other man would have considered it.
"I don't even like women," He muttered.
He yanked his hand back, tightening the razor-sharp threads, slicing through the woman's body as if it was made out of clay.
Her screaming stopped, body falling limp as the thread cut into her neck.
Yoongi retracted his strings back into his glove, letting the girl's body fall sadly to the floor.
He turned around and headed towards their base.
He needed a nap.
Jungkook hated guard duty.
He was standing in the middle of a bunch of trees, breathing as shallowly as possible to remain inconspicuous. Hoseok disappeared without a trace after giving him the curt instructions.
Huffing under his breath, Jungkook silently cursed him out.
Behind him, the trees rustled abnormally.
Jungkook's sword was drawn in a heartbeat. Not a second later, a man was flying at him with a war cry. The dark-haired man raised his arms instinctively, halting a lethal blow from his opponent's blade.
"So they have someone stationed here too, huh." The man took a few steps back and panted heavily. His eyes kept darting between Jungkook and the flat land beyond, clearly calculating if he could avoid a fight.
Jungkook felt the first bead of sweat slide down his temple. His sword was steady, however, when the man lunged again, sword raised above his head.
He was fast, but he was nothing compared to Namjoon. If Jungkook could survive against a trained assassin, he could beat a lowly mercenary.
Jungkook sidestepped the blow and stuck Juhgeom into the man's massive bicep.
He howled in pain and withdrew. He pressed a hand to his wound, backing away from Jungkook and heading towards the barren plains.
"You little bitch! You won't get away with this!" The man turned from where he was running just to give Jungkook a hard glare.
Any ounce of remorse and sympathy Jungkook might have had drained out of him. He watched, detached, as the man ran as fast as he could without faltering.
He wouldn't make it very far.
Black hieroglyphs emerged from the wound on the man's arms, traveling towards his neck and wrapping themselves around it. The man screamed and thrashed in terror. The black bands of words lit up, and the man fell to the ground, dead.
Jungkook let out the breath he'd been holding. He glanced down at his blade and found it covered with blood. He'd have to clean it very carefully when he got back.
A wolf-whistle rang out from behind him. "I see we were worried for nothing." Taehyung flashed him a smile. Yeontan trailed behind the blond, white fur tinted suspiciously pink.
"You've got some skill, baby. Come on, let's go back home."
Jungkook's new home was a mansion in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of professional killers.
Life was going to be a lot tougher from now on.
"Jungkookie, you're gonna get fat from all the lazing around you've been doing," Hoseok brought up a week later at the dining table. The seven of them split up to do various activities during the day, but it was an ironclad rule that they always had dinner together.
Well, not so much 'ironclad' and more of 'Jin gets whiny' when people weren't there to eat his delicious food.
Jungkook has come to learn that those two expressions were interchangeable in the Bangtan household.
He forced himself not to choke on the bite of rice in his mouth, swallowing it half-chewed. Jungkook winced when he felt the hard grains of rice got stuck in his esophagus. "It's not my fault you guys don't tell me to do anything!" He sputtered indignantly, earning a few chuckled from around the table.
"We thought you'd want a period of adjustment, but it seems you've adapted pretty quickly." Namjoon took a sip from his glass. "It's settled, then. Jimin has a mission tomorrow. Why don't you tag along?"
Before Jungkook could respond, Jimin's voice piped up, along with Taehyung's groan.
"Yes! Suck it, Tae. I get him first!"
"Not fair," Taehyung whined, sulkily crossing his arms and turning away with an adorable pout on his lips. "Minnie always gets first dibs."
And Jungkook didn't know how to respond to that.
Jimin whistled cheerfully as he led Jungkook into the Capitol. For a man who was one of the most wanted people in the Capitol, he sure was chipper.
Jungkook glanced at the sort-of-familiar streets. There were still people and merchants bustling around, lively as always, but Jungkook could pick out many unhappy-looking people amongst the crowd.
"Hyung, a lot of people look unhappy," Jungkook had to lower his head slightly to meet Jimin's eyes, something he found adorable.
"That's what happens when your emperor rules by fear and not love." Jimin gestured for him to hurry up.
"Is it alright for you to be walking around in broad daylight like this?" Jungkook kept looking around to see if people were whispering and pointing at them. Generally, that was a sign to run, because someone was bound to report them to the authorities.
Jimin pointed to four wanted posters on the wall. "It's fine. They're the only ones that have wanted posters."
Jungkook looked closely at them. The edges of the papers were frayed, indicated their age, but the images and words were still clearly visible.
There was Hoseok, smiling in all of his glory, Namjoon, stern-looking as always, Yoongi, half-asleep, and... a girl?
"Bangtan has a female member?" Jungkook asked, confused.
"No, silly, that's Jin-hyung," Jimin giggled as if it was the funniest thing in the world.
Jungkook's eyes bugged out and he read the name underneath the picture. Yep, Jin's name was staring back at him in bold letters.
The dark-haired man was sure Jin was a guy. He'd seen him half shirtless, for god's sake. His face was distinctly masculine, too.
The girl on the poster didn't look anything like Jin. From the way Jimin had been cackling, Jungkook expected the pink-haired man to pat his arm and tell him it was all a prank.
Jimin wiped the tears from his eyes and suppressed the last few rogue giggles. A soft smile still stays on his lips. "Jungkookie, have you ever heard of Imperial Arms?"
Jungkook tilted his head curiously. He felt like he'd heard that term somewhere before, but he couldn't remember if anyone had explicitly explained it to him, so he shook his head.
The pink-haired man didn't seem surprised. He gestured to a café they were standing in front of. "I'll teach you over a meal."
Once they were seated at a small table for two, Jimin downed a sandwich and two cups of tea before leaning back, satisfied.
It reminded him of Taehyung.
Jungkook sipped his tea, casually glancing around for threats. Jimin nodded approvingly. He lowered his voice and gestured for Jungkook to lean closer to hear him, resulting in both of them leaning across the table.
"Imperial Arms, or IAs, were created more than a thousand years ago by the very first Emperor."
Jungkook nodded, eager for him to continue.
"He knew he would die, but he wanted to protect his empire forever, so he dedicated his life to making weapons that would last an eternity." Jimin drummed his fingers on the table. "The best blacksmiths and the greatest scientists were gathered from all over the world. They hunted the rarest of beasts for materials, intending to make each weapon so powerful they would be equivalent to a thousand soldiers."
Jungkook's breath hitched. He had an idea of where this was heading, and he wasn't sure if he was ready to hear it.
"The first Emperor accomplished a feat that would be impossible in the current era. He made forty-eight unique weapons; the Imperial Arms," Jimin smirked at Jungkook's wide-eyed expression. "Each and every one of them was powerful beyond comprehension, but over half of them were lost or destroyed in the wars that broke out over the years. All of them have a secret skill."
"Which one is the most powerful?"
"It's hard to compare. Each one thrives under different conditions. But," Jimin dragged out the last word. "You probably don't want to anger Hobi-hyung."
Jungkook nodded frantically. He didn't have to use his imagination very much to envision what the skilled swordsman could do to him, even if he didn't think his sword was all that special.
"You guys... all have one, right?" Jungkook was pretty sure the weapons that each of them carried weren't your everyday long sword.
Jimin looked a little smug. "That's right." He patted the large gun slung over one shoulder. "Mine is called Hobak. It's a long-range artillery-type that uses mental energy and fires it in the form of a concentrated shockwave."
His eyes sparkled and he licked his lips. "The more danger I'm in, the more powerful Hobak becomes."
Jungkook recalled the annihilated forest and shuddered, but he gestured for Jimin to continue.
"Taetae has Yeontan."
"Yeontan is an Imperial Arm?" Jungkook asked, amazed. The cute puppy-like creature was as large as his hand. It didn't seem like it could do much harm, even if Jungkook had seen its rather-sharp teeth.
Jimin must have seen the apprehension on his face because he shook his head calmly with a smile. "Yeontan may usually look harmless, but wait until you see it in battle." Jimin wiggled his eyebrows. "It's a biological-type IA that modifies its body to whatever situation it finds itself in. Secret skill? Indestructible. Unless you know specifically where to hit."
Jungkook exhaled shakily. Okay, maybe not so harmless.
"Hobi-hyung has Mulyong. It's a ring made from the scales of a water dragon. Can you guess what it does?"
"Uh, it allows him to control water?" Jungkook asked dumbly.
"Mmhm. That's not all, though," Jimin leaned forward as if he was sharing a juicy secret. "Mulyong's secret skill is that it allows the user to control any liquid." Jimin's arms prickled with goosebumps. And Jungkook steeled his nerves because whatever could give Jimin goosebumps was bound to be terrifying. "Do you understand?"
The pink-haired man snapped his fingers. "Just like that, he could stop the blood flowing to your heart."
Jimin stared into Jungkook's eyes, gaze boring holes in his mind. "Just like that, he could evaporate all the blood running through your veins."
Jungkook's mind seemed to short-circuit.
He'd thought that Juhgeom was unfairly powerful, but what good was a sword when your opponent could kill you before you even had the chance to get close enough to cut them? What good was anything against a power like that? Jungkook was kinda jealous if he was being completely honest.
"W-wait. Then why is there the need for him to carry a sword? He could do anything. He could be-become the Emperor-"
Jimin's soft chuckle interrupted him. His voice came out hard, though. "Jungkookie, listen to me."
The younger snapped his mouth shut and stared at the smaller.
"Nothing comes without a price. Not kindness, not freedom, and especially not power."
Jimin set down his teacup, contents now cold. "Hobi-hyung's price for his overpowered Imperial Arm is that he feels everything his opponent does, as long as the wounds were inflicted by his ring. He stabs his opponent with a water sword? He feels it. He stops the blood from pumping to his heart? He feels the pain of a heart attack, even if he won't die."
Suddenly, Jungkook wasn't envious anymore.
He imagined having to suffer through the same thing as your target and felt a full-body shiver run through him.
God, no wonder Hoseok preferred a normal blade most of the time.
"Yep, it's pretty horrible, so we only use Hobi-hyung as a last resource." Jimin signaled to the waiter to bring more tea. He daintily crossed his legs and smiled again.
"Where was I?" The pink-haired man tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Oh right. Yoongi-hyung's Imperial Arm is Koli, a multi-function IA." Jimin lifted his left hand and traced a circle on the back of his hand with his right hand, imitating the gloves Yoongi wore.
Jungkook nodded in recognition.
"It's a piece of infinitely-long razor-sharp thread that is as thin as spider silk. As its name suggests, one can use it in many ways: setting traps, bundling it together to make weapons or armor, and a whole lot more. It's unbreakable; once you've been snared, you're done."
Ah. That explained how Yoongi had known about the mercenaries that day. They probably accidentally stumbled over one of Yoongi's clever traps.
"Jin-hyung's IA is probably my favorite." Jimin giggled, high and lovely, and Jungkook decided that he'd like to hear that sound again for the rest of his life. He's sure that his train of thought was revealed by the flush dusting his cheeks, but Jimin prattled on, willfully oblivious.
"Gicho is a bit of an anomaly, I guess, even amongst Imperial Arms. The Emperor made it specifically for the empire's hired assassins."
Jin's male and female face flashed through Jungkook's mind.
"It's a makeup powder that transforms the user into any form they want." Jimin was practically vibrating with excitement. "Once, Jinnie-hyung's turned into Namjoon-hyung's spear just so he could be held by Joonie the entire day."
Jimin cleared his throat dramatically. "Whenever Jin-hyung goes on a mission, he makes sure to take on the appearance of a girl, so they know Jin-hyung's name, but they don't recognize his face. "
"Smart," Jungkook piped up.
"Very." Jimin nodded agreeably. "The last one is Joonie-hyung's. It's called Yongkap, and it's a suit of armor made out of the hide of the most dangerous dragon out there. Very good for defense. It's still alive, you know."
"The armor. It's still alive, and it adapts to its surroundings and suit the battlefield. It has a cool special skill, too. It allows the user to become invisible for a short period."
"Useful for an assassin. "
"Yep." Jimin's eyes trailed to the sword on Jungkook's back. Something flickered through the older's eyes, too quick for Jungkook to recognize.
"Juhgeom is an Imperial Arm too, isn't it. " Jungkook had noticed the way the assassin's had recognized his sword. He even thought it was wariness swimming in their eyes when they saw him use it.
"Yes." Jimin sighed. He hesitantly continued, "We call it One-Hit-Kill. It's infamous amongst Imperial Arms users." Jimin shook his head. "Not sure how it came into your possession, but it's an incredibly sought-after blade."
"Um, some guy who passed through our village gave it to me randomly. I had no idea about its powers or history. I nearly shit myself the first time I hunted with it."
Jimin's eyes were stormy and distant, looking off into some memory of his past. "As you probably know, Juhgeom only needs to cut anything once before a poison inevitably kills the victim within seconds. There is no antidote. "
Jungkook swallowed nervously and tried not to think about all the times when he'd been so close to accidentally cutting or pricking his finger on the edge of the sharp blade.
"We've lost... quite a few members to a clash with Juhgeom's previous owner, so forgive us if we ever flinch or startle at the sight of it."
The younger shifted uncomfortably. He hadn't considered that his swords previous wielded could have been an assassin, even if it made sense. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Jimin blinked a few times, and when he made eye contact with Jungkook again, his eyes were clear. "Don't worry about it."
They elapsed into silence where both of them casually sipped their tea. Eventually, they paid with a few coins and left, but not before Jimin could eat another sandwich.
"Oh, and one more rule."
Jimin gave him a twisted smile. "If two Imperial Arms users fight with the intent to kill, at least one of them is guaranteed to die."
Jungkook's blood seemed to turn to ice, but he reluctantly elapsed into silence and trailed behind Jimin, who was whistling nonchalantly.
"So, uh. What's our mission?" Jungkook asked awkwardly, trying to break the silence that had settled between them and lighten the topic. The two of them were walking along the streets, headed in a direction that Jungkook didn't recognize.
"A relative of the Prime Minister has been abducting women from the villages. He rapes them, beats them, and then sells them to illegal prostitution rings." Jimin's gun bobbed up and down on his back with every step. His voice was hard but devoid of the emotion Jungkook was feeling.
Bile rose in his throat. Jungkook tried to tamp it down, but he could feel the disgust and anger burning inside him. He wasn't sure how Jimin was still calm and collected.
They approached an open square where a hoard of people was gathered around something. Jungkook couldn't see what it was from where he was still in the narrow streets, but he could see the expressions of the townsfolk.
Most of them looked shocked, eyes wide and mouth slack, but Jungkook could see a few that were stained with tears. A young woman close to them stumbled back and retched into a nearby alleyway.
Anticipation and dread bubbled up inside of Jungkook, creating a horrible sensation of foreboding. Jimin showed no sign of stopping, even as his fists clenched by his side. The pink-haired man delicately grabbed the younger's hand before leading them into the clearing, giving them a full view of what the people were looking at.
Large, twenty-meter crosses stood upright in the concrete. Each one had a naked man or woman strapped to it, arms pinned to the horizontal wooden beams with steel nails stabbed through their flesh and feet dangling meters of the ground.
None of them were alive if the flies buzzing around their bodies were anything to go by.
All of them were missing limbs; whether it be a leg, a foot, a hand. Or all of the above.
The blood had started to dry on their bodies, coating their bodies along with dirt and grime until none of their natural skin color was visible.
"W-what is this?" Jungkook asked shakily.
Jimin's expression was dark, but he squeezed Jungkook's hand as if he was offering reassurance.
"It's a public execution." Jimin tugged the younger forward until they were moving on from the square. "The Minister likes to make an example of those who defied him."
They passed the square, but the image was forever seared into Jungkook's mind. He found himself gripping Jimin's hand harder.
"I won't end up like that," Jimin's voice was quiet, but it seemed to echo through the world. The pink-haired man stopped, looking back at the people in the square. His eyes were fierce, glowing with passion, even if they seemed a little sad. "I will survive until I get to see a better world."
His voice was so strong with conviction, even Jungkook believed him.
He admired the hell out of the small man standing in front of him.
"You have to be strong, Jungkook." Jimin gave him a tentative smile. "In this kind of world," the smaller gestures helplessly around them, "the only way to survive is to be strong." He spoke as if he knew from experience.
A pause, as if Jimin was debating whether to continue. "I'm an orphan."
Jungkook stayed silent.
"When I was thirteen, I was picked off the streets by a brothel owner and made to.. work there," Jimin choked up, but he was determined. "For years, I was treated like trash, abused and neglected by the customers and the others in the brothel," Jimin trailed off, recalling the horrors he'd endured as a prostitute. "I wasn't paid, like the others. They knew I had no one to report them to, and they took advantage of that."
"I was going to kill myself, you know?" Jimin looked up to the bright blue sky, avoiding Jungkook's gaze. He didn't want anyone's pity. "I was going to jump off a bridge the night that Namjoon-hyung found me."
It was Jungkook's turn to swallow his tears. "He offered me a way out. A fresh start in a completely different life. And I took it. After that, I vowed to myself that I would never let someone best me again."
Jimin's eyes finally landed on Jungkook's face. The pink-haired man's face was contorted with anguish, eyes brimming with unshed tears.
And maybe it was the adrenaline pumping through his veins, or even the raging emotions inside him that allowed Jungkook to boldly step up to Jimin and wrap his smaller hyung in a fierce hug.
Jungkook heard Jimin's breath hitch slightly when he wrapped his arms around his tiny waist, but Jimin relaxed almost immediately, burying his face into Jungkook's sweater and twisting his hands into the fabric.
And if Jimin cried, no one was around to witness it except for Jungkook.
"He should be here any moment now," Jimin muttered.
The two of them were perched on a ledge that was opposite to a brothel. From this distance, Jungkook could just about make out the outline of the building, but certainly not anything else, let alone find a single person amongst dozens, even with the binoculars Jimin had brought.
They'd quickly made their way here after Jimin's small breakdown. The pink-haired man had stepped away after a few moments, wiping his tears away and taking a few shuddering breaths. They had to hurry here because they'd lost time, but Jimin had started to look at Jungkook a little differently when the younger hadn't treated him any differently after seeing him cry.
"I still don't understand how you can see," Jungkook grumbled. He'd taken to playing with the glades of grass by his feet. In the thirty minutes they'd been sitting here, Jungkook had given up on trying to find their target. Maybe Juhgeom was not as great as he thought.
"He's coming out." Jimin ignored him. His orange eyepiece whirred, and he lifted his gun, Hobak, into both arms.
The grey machine still scared the shit out of Jungkook, but he wasn't about to admit that to Jimin. "Uh, Jimin-hyung?" Jungkook lifted the binoculars and could barely make out the outline of people coming out of the door, but he was pretty sure that there was more than one person. "You're not going to... kill all of them, right?"
He recalled the day where the mercenaries had invaded and the huge ass yellow laser that had demolished a chunk of the forest along with the man he'd been aiming for. Jungkook did not doubt that Jimin could kill their target from here, but that also meant killing the innocent women hanging around him. And probably demolishing the brothel, too.
"Don't worry about it, puppy."
There was no hint of worry in the older's tone. Hobak started vibrating in his hands, and Jungkook instinctively backed away from the laser-shooting death machine.
"Wait, hyung! You can't just kill the innoce-"
The blast of a laser interrupted Jungkook. Jimin lowered his gun, tapping his earpiece to vanish the orange-tinted glass. He gave Jungkook a confident smile, gesturing for him to look through the binoculars.
Indeed. Jungkook could still make out the outlines of the people, now scrambling to get back inside. A blurry picture of a body was left.
Jimin giggled cutely as if he had just won a stuffed animal at a carnival and not completed his mission by sniping a man. Jimin looked at him, and Jungkook was still not used to the change in demeanor when the older looked at him.
It was like... Jimin no longer saw him as a cute stray puppy that Bangtan had adopted out of pity, and more like... a man. The epiphany struck him stupid and caused butterflies to erupt in his stomach.
Jungkook got to his feet, still stunned by Jimin's skill and his gun, but cheeks flushed pink at the attention anyway.
"I know you're impressed and all, but we should probably go before the assassins they sent catch up to us."
Not even a statement like that could ruin Jungkook's good mood. They were on their feet and moving before Jimin had stopped talking.
On the way back, Jungkook was so absorbed by the giddiness of Jimin's change of attitude that he didn't realize that there was no shred of guilt, fear, or disgust inside him after watching his hyung ⎯⎯his beautiful, brave, and abused hyung⎯⎯ murder a man and walk away like it was nothing.
None at all.