Miyeon tells her Soyeon is different. Yuqi doesn’t need to be told; she can see it.
Soyeon’s back has two ugly wounds that run parallel on her shoulder blades. It’s where her wings used to be, it’s where the last of her humanity was before it was stripped away.
Yuqi is fascinated while everyone else is scared. Shuhua avoids Soyeon like a plague, but Yuqi can’t blame her, it probably reminds Shuhua too much of what happened to Soojin, Minnie pretends it’s not real, and Miyeon gives Soyeon these pitying looks, boo-hoo, Heaven cries, another angel gone.
“Can I touch you?” Yuqi quietly asks under the canopy of leaves from the large tree.
Soyeon gives her a strange look. Her eyes are sharp, making her look angrier than she is (if Yuqi thinks back, she doesn’t think she’s ever even seen Soyeon angry). “What?”
“Your,” Yuqi starts, and then realises how weird the question is. “Never mind.”
Soyeon keeps staring at her, like she’s picking her apart, and Yuqi doesn’t bristle, just looks back at her. After awhile, Soyeon says, “you meant my wings, right?” She pauses. “Well, where they used to be at least.”
Yuqi swallows. “Can I?”
Soyeon should have asked her why, but she doesn’t. That’s okay, because Yuqi doesn’t think she has any answers. “Okay.” Soyeon steps towards her, and then gingerly takes off the white top she has. She doesn’t even cover her breasts, she just stands there shamelessly. Yuqi’s face reddens, and it’s only when Soyeon turns around, her back facing Yuqi, does Yuqi finally look again.
The wounds are ugly. There’s really no way to romanticise them. It doesn’t look any different from when Soojin had her wings ripped off: it’s red, harsh, still fresh. It hasn’t scarred yet. They run from the top of Soyeon’s shoulder blades to the bottom of them.
“Go ahead,” Soyeon speaks up, pulling Yuqi out of her reprieve.
“Okay,” Yuqi says, walking towards her, and then gingerly places a hand on Soyeon’s lower back. She feels the older angel—well, fallen angel—shiver under the touch, and then she slowly drags her right hand upwards. Soyeon’s skin is so smooth, so pure in a way that isn’t anymore, and when Yuqi reaches her shoulder blades, she hesitates. “Will it hurt?”
She feels Soyeon nod. “Probably.”
“Oh.” Yuqi probes the side of the wound with a finger, and asks, “Is this okay?”
“Yeah,” Soyeon replies, her voice a little strained.
Yuqi continues, and starts stroking the wounds, not using any magic to heal them. It would be pointless to anyway. Even Angel-magic can’t heal the wounds God inflicts; this will heal on its own. She knows it all too well, because Yuqi will never forget Shuhua’s grief-stricken face as she hovered over a bleeding Soojin who knelt before God, her wings in God’s hands, while Shuhua tried to desperately heal Soojin’s wounds to no avail.
It was a tragedy, it always will be—the matter of Heaven, and wings, and falling.
Soyeon hisses when Yuqi hits a particular spot. “Sorry,” she mumbles, pulling her hand back as if electrocuted.
“It’s okay,” Soyeon replies. “Still fresh. Are you done?”
“Yeah,” Yuqi dryly replies, swallowing.
Soyeon puts her top back on, and then turns around to face her. “It’s ugly,” the fallen angel tells her. “Right?”
It is, Yuqi thinks, but not in the way she thought it’d be. It’s ugly in a way that it feels too harsh, it feels like something died there. Wings weren’t just a part of an Angel’s body; they were the lifeline of what it felt to be an Angel. A gift from God, or a curse, if you were Soojin who defected and sinned, and decided this wasn’t worth it anymore.
Apparently, Soyeon shared the same sentiments.
“No, not really,” Yuqi replies after awhile.
Soyeon raises an eyebrow at her, and then laughs. “Angels aren’t allowed to lie, you know.”
“I’m not lying,” Yuqi tells her, dead-serious.
Soyeon shrugs. “I guess not. You were never the type.”
“Where—what’s going to happen to you?” she asks, voice soft.
“Well, Soojin says I can join her in Hell,” Soyeon bluntly replies, watching Yuqi’s face for a reaction, but Yuqi doesn’t give her one. “But I think I’m going down to Earth.”
“Yeah. I mean, I just wanted to be,” Soyeon smiles at Yuqi, but it looks sharp. “Free, you know.”
“Yeah,” Yuqi says. “I know.”
(Miyeon had told her anyways. “Did you hear?” She’d asked Yuqi.
“God’s right hand woman,” Miyeon replied. “The archangel. She lost her wings.”
“What?” Yuqi remembered gasping into her bowl of honey.
Miyeon nodded, and sighed. “Yeah. Well, I’m not surprised.”
“Soyeon’s always been good at what she does though,” Yuqi had replied. Because Soyeon had been, she was powerful, and had golden wings, and carried Michael’s sword. “It’s not like,” she lowered her voice. “Like with Soojin.”
Soojin was still a sore topic for everyone. It had been a damn shame, really, but she’d fallen into a demon named Hui’s enchantments, and then became a seductress and started to rebel against the doctrine. Basically gave God the middle finger. At one point, she even overpowered Hui, and when she was stripped of her wings, she didn’t even cry. She just bled, and bled, and bled—and then left.
She had broken Shuhua’s heart. Shuhua, who had loved her, who refused to believe it had happened, who almost defected too, but was kept sane by Miyeon. Miyeon who stayed by her side, and fixed the phantom pains left by Soojin’s absence.
“No she’s not,” Miyeon agreed. “Soyeon’s different.”)
“Was it worth it?” Yuqi asks, curious. This is why Miyeon and Minnie were worried about her—they said she was too curious, always wanted to know things. It was why Adam and Eve sinned, it was why Soojin had become a demon, and now this: why Soyeon had lost her wings and fallen out of favour.
“I don’t know,” Soyeon honestly answers her, giving her a sad look. “I mean, this is all I’ve known. I haven’t—“ She looks at the distance, beneath them, was the celestial plane where Earth was. “I’ve never been free before, so.”
“Oh.” Yuqi makes a face. “What does it feel like?”
“No. That thing. You know, freedom.”
“Good, I guess.” Soyeon shrugs. “Like, I can do whatever I want now. Or, like, I don’t have to worry about making mistakes.”
Yuqi wonders if that was how humans felt, and why they lived so recklessly. “Sounds nice, I think?”
Soyeon laughs at her tone. “Yeah, it is.” She stares at Yuqi suddenly, and Yuqi can’t look away. She doesn’t know what it is about Soyeon. She isn’t pretty like Miyeon, or innocent looking like Shuhua. She isn’t deadly looking like Soojin, or warm like Minnie. She’s something else entirely—like dangerous, but not harmful. She also looks like she wants to tell Yuqi something, but then she stops herself.
“What?” Yuqi asks.
“No, tell me. Come on.”
Soyeon laughs again, and then shakes her head. “Nah, I think you’ll figure it out on your own.”
“Figure what out?”
Soyeon doesn’t answer for a while, she just stares at Yuqi with that same sharp look. “That you’re different too.” She doesn’t say anything else after that, and the sound of thunder fills the skies.
Yuqi feels a tingling in her body, and knows that the angels are being called. Her silver wings spread out, not of her own free will, and when she looks at Soyeon to say goodbye, Soyeon’s no longer there.
Yuqi returns to the spot by the garden, where she and Soyeon had talked earlier later on that day, but Soyeon is still not there. She folds her wings in, and wonders what Soyeon meant. About her being different.
She wonders if it’s true. Everyone else called Soyeon selfish, or felt bad for her, or were angry at her.
Yuqi, in all honestly, thought Soyeon was brave. She’d told the others earlier.
(“I don’t think it was wrong,” Yuqi slowly said when they were all by the pillars.
Minnie had opened her mouth and gasped so loud it made some of the white doves fly away, while Miyeon had swatted Yuqi’s arm and gave her a scared look. “Don’t say that,” Miyeon whispered to her.
“I’m just being honest,” Yuqi replied. “It’s in our nature.”
“But that’s a dangerous line of thought,” Miyeon warned her. What she didn’t say, but Yuqi understood: We might lose you too.
Shuhua was the only one that didn’t judge Yuqi for her stance. She gave Yuqi a look that seemed to be understanding, like she knew how Yuqi felt, like she believed Soyeon or Soojin weren’t wrong too.)
Yuqi spreads her wings and flies over the celestial sphere. She tries to find Soyeon on Earth, but doesn’t. She wonders if she’s safe, if she’s living the life she felt was worth it, or if she was with Soojin. She could have lied to Yuqi anyways, for all Yuqi knew she could have been a demon by now.
But something tells Yuqi, Soyeon didn’t lie. Soyeon’s sins, after all, wasn’t that she was a liar.
It was that she wanted to be free.