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The Prettiest Roses Have the Most Thorns

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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. 

Now what?

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.

"Hey!"

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.

"Hm?"

"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.

Ah, right.

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."

"Y-yeah."

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.

But this...

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.

Bangtan.

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.

"Wait, hyung."

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.

Anger, fear. 

Anger.

Fear.

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.

Tried.

"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.

"Wait."

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.

Or hatred.

He didn't care, either.

"No."

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.

Chapter Text

“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.

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.

"Uh-"

"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. 

"I'll join." 

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.

Somebody cooed.

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." 

Jungkook nodded.

"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."

Jungkook nodded.

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.

"Don't die!"

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-"

"That means-"

"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.

Jimin smirked. 

"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.

Not Yoongi.

"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."

Home.

That's right. 

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.

"Wha-?"

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.

He didn't.

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.

Holy shit.

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."

"Uh..."

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."

"What?"

"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."

"Hm?"

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. 

"Wow." 

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.