[ prelude ]
/ You are my sweetest downfall /
/ I loved you first, I loved you first /
Bam remembered the endless falling.
He remembered the push from Rachel's hands that tipped him off the bubble they stood on. They only had to stay there for a while so they could pass the final floor test.
Yet why Rachel?
Countless questions drowned his senses as Bam continued sinking.
Heaviness filled in his body, the cool water numbing the muscles under his skin. As darkness edged on the corner of his vision, Bam prayed to the sun still shining bright even from his view under the sea.
I don't want to be alone.
Khun shut his communications with his team as soon as the presence of another was made known inside his lighthouse. When he turned, the same blue eyes and light-colored hair he despised met his unwavering gaze.
The intruder controlled his lighthouse without complications. He said he only needed to find his teammates, and soon, the voices from his handheld device called the stranger "blueberry."
"Are...are you also a son of Khun?" Khun couldn't help but ask.
'Blueberry' pocketed his device and flicked his pin. A badge with eight white wings, which Khun recognized. Wolhaiksong. An organization rivaling Jahad's and the 10 great families.
"I don't really care, I've been out of the family for a long time." 'Blueberry' smirked, "Are you jealous?"
"Why should I be jealous of a guy with a wing who ran away like a loser?"
His lighthouse dimmed, but all Khun wanted to focus on was Blueberry's reaction. Blueberry had his eyebrow arched with Khun's statement. Taunt me, dare me, every single Khun.
"I'm Khun. I'll use this name to rule the Tower one day."
"I'm glad," Blueberry loosened his shoulders.
The lighthouse around them flickered on and off. Khun jumped towards the panel board. Command slipped from his fingers, the codes he inputted not registering.
"What did you do?!" Smoke purged from the corners of Khun's lighthouse. Blueberry already had a mask on as Khun covered his mouth.
Khun coughed the stinging sensation in his throat, but instead of being relieved, more smoke clogged in his lungs.
Khun glared at the dwindling form of his uninvited family. He couldn't see the expression underneath the mask, but he heard the hope in Blueberry's voice.
"I'm glad, brother, because I'm here to help you."
The gas implanted by Blueberry in his lighthouse scorched the insides of his head.
Before losing coherence in this cube, Khun asked himself: When did the Khun family write 'help' synonymously with 'pain'?
Wangnan Ja strode inside the room for the 20th-floor test. This time, he swore he'd pass and move on to the next test. His throne will be waiting for him at the top.
On second thought, maybe his velvet seat can wait for a bit longer.
All men (and women) who entered the examination room were lying on the floor, unconscious. Only two men dressed in black remained alive in the middle of it all. The one on the left had dark brown hair in a long ponytail, beside him, a man whose face was shadowed by his own hood.
Did they eliminate everyone here...?
As Wangnan took another step, his shoes created a plopping sound. He cursed inwardly, his savings once again allocated for a new pair.
That is if he survived this test.
Damn, if I fail here, I'll lose my organs.
"Hey!" Wangnan called, and the two finally swiveled to acknowledge him. "Let's be a team."
"It doesn't matter how many of us will survive after 30 minutes, let's eliminate the rest of the field." Wangnan reasoned out. His lifespan will depend on how these two will buy his tactic.
The hooded figure whispered to the long-haired guy, Wangnan caught a glimpse of the face beneath the other mysterious guy. Fair skin, smooth lips, flaxen hair...with an odd presence that sent Wangnan jittering beneath his green jacket.
Wangnan can't even hear their conversation but judging how the guy with the ponytail turned, the hooded man following after him to whisper more stuff (which was no doubt about Wangnan but all Wangnan cared at this point was his life), they decided to spare his life.
They sat by the wall, no more of the hushed talking. Wangnan figured the two were pretty close, considering their shoulders left no proximity between each other.
Wangnan let out the longest exhale from his diaphragm, he sat by the wall too, a few meters away from them.
This was going to be the most dangerous thirty minutes of Wangnan's memory in the future.
"The exam is for teams only."
'Hoody' leaned over to whisper again in 'Pony's ear. Since the two were so adamant in keeping to themselves, Wangnan named them in his mind. If only they could read minds, the legend of Prince Wangnan Ja will be no more.
"There is nobody here who can be our teammate." Pony declared, "We don't want to choose unqualified teammates."
"Nobody can be your teammate? Aren't you full of yourself?" The girl from the Yeon family retorted. "How can you be proud of that fake symbol?! You should be embarrassed!"
Her words rang loud and clear enough that everyone on the floor was stunned in silence. Children from the 10 Great Families always had the guts to say whatever they pleased.
But Yeon's actions did not please Hoody.
What happened next was a scene in quick succession: somebody whizzing, something freezing, and someone gasping.
The hood fell away from the enigmatic man Wangnan found in the earlier test area. Wangnan’s suspicion of a beautiful being hidden beneath obsidian clothes did not disappoint.
The man was unfairly pretty and handsome.
" A.A !"
Utterly deadly and dangerous too, as ‘A.A.’ tipped a dagger forged in ice under Yeon's chin. His body perfectly stanced to have zero escape routes for the lady.
"Still thinking this symbol is fake?" Sapphire blue irises as sharp as glass. Blood dripped from Yeon's flawless skin.
A.A. looked familiar...like someone Wangnan encountered from the previous floors. Or somebody resembling the same arctic strands and cunning eyes.
Wangnan placed the dots already, he only had to connect them.
'Pony', name still indecipherable, squeezed A.A’s shoulder. A.A. did not spare his friend any sliver of attention.
"I'm Jyu Viole Grace, a nominee for FUG slayer." Pony, a.k.a. Viole introduced.
The shard of ice wounding Yeon melted and A.A. let the girl go. Yeon slumped down the carpeted floor, touching her neck as she panted breathlessly.
"Secret's out, then." A.A. trudged back to Viole's side. "FUG never intended to keep it any longer."
A.A. eyed Viole who nodded in acquiescence (for what?), then placed his hand (the one used to hold his weapon) atop Viole's shoulder.
The red butterfly in A.A’s cloak fluttered as he twisted and regarded every single soul -dead or alive in the hall. Authority hung heavy in the atmosphere, and Wangnan guessed this guy hid his identity because of its tremendous power.
Light blue hair, smart blue eyes...pride in their skin.
"I'm Khun Aguero Agnis, another slayer nominee for FUG."
Wangnan supposed he connected the dots earlier, but he just didn't want the result.
"I'm going to help this Irregular kill Jahad and the 10 Great Families."
Shivers snaked from Wangnan’s spine up to his nape.
Two FUG slayer nominees on one floor. An Irregular at that, and another from a Great Family.
Judging from his intuition too, the pair of slayers looked ready to kill anyone. One almost did a while ago. No, that wasn't the unsettling feeling for Wangnan.
They're only slayer candidates for now...
But Wangnan's subconsciousness agreed these two will make true to their promises.
What will happen to this Tower?
[ break ]
/ Oh, we couldn't bring the columns down /
/ Yeah, we couldn't destroy a single one /
"Today, we'll start training you to become a slayer." Hansung declared, "If you show the slightest hesitation..."
Bam read the signatures of his friends on the paper at the ground.
"I'll kill off your friends one by one."
The days where they all gathered to eat lunch together seemed like a dream in this lone abysmal cave.
"If you stay good and obedient, then maybe we'd let you meet one. Since we also brought him here with you." Bam blinked and stared aghast at Hansung.
"Khun Aguero Agnis. He's such a brilliant boy. That pride, courage, talent, cunningness, and arrogance..."
Hansung's footsteps echoed as he exited the cave, his chuckle reverberating in the enclosed air.
"I just want to break him into pieces."
For the first time since Bam woke up alone again in a cave like this, something inside him snaps.
"Don't touch him."
His friends from the Floor of Tests were tracked, Rachel pushed him to this terrifying place...and Mr. Khun.
Bam doesn't have to be as intelligent as him to conclude a truth among the many: FUG dragged down one of his closest friends to keep him in check.
Rachel betraying me wasn't enough, FUG targeting my friends wasn't enough...They had to bring Mr. Khun here too.
"Then let's see how well you will do, Mr. Jyu Viole Grace."
"That was harsh. He didn't have to do that." A man in onyx long sleeves and brown pants emerged from the shadows of the tunnel.
Bam hugged his knees closer to his face. Somewhere around here, his friend was also captured by this dangerous group. His whole body tingled with the instinct to find Mr. Khun, but his powerlessness locked him in place.
If Bam found Mr. Khun and tried to escape, their friends will be hunted. Worst, they'd also kill Mr. Khun.
A stinging sensation prickled his eyes and throat. Not now, not in front of anybody, please.
"I'm Jinsung Ha, your martial arts teacher starting today." The visitor greeted Bam.
"Don't be too angry, I know you hate us now." Jinsung said, "I'll tell you where that Khun bastard is."
Bam lifted his head to assess the person he will spend a lot of time with. He searched for a hint of deceit beneath his promise, before he reached a conclusion to trust him or not, Jinsung pointed his finger at the area behind Bam.
"Behind that wall of stone is your friend. Destroy it and you'll meet him again."
Bam sprinted towards the rock, palming its surface. Shinsu flows anciently in the walls to sturdy the form of their location. Unlike the cave Bam lived in before the Tower, Bam felt that breaking through this one wasn't as simple as throwing force and rocks.
"We won't harm you or your friend if you both cooperate. Instead, we'll provide you with everything you need."
Jinsung ranted off a list of mundane things Bam didn't care for.
"Tell us what you want and we'll get it for you."
Bam stared at the wall of rocks once more, imagining his friend safe and sound behind it.
"I want to be strong."
Bits of rock crumbled from the stone where Bam scraped his nails off.
"Strong enough so I won't have to be alone."
Bam won't stay in this cave waiting for another miracle like Rachel.
He'd tear this cave apart and reunite soon with Mr. Khun.
The amount of truths and lies Khun dissected from Hansung was enough to muddle his skilled brain.
Add the fact that he woke up groggy and pained in a cave with the blonde Ranker smiling down at him. Khun never pegged Hansung as a sadist but considering how he was imprisoned in a cold, dark cave with only thin blankets, then maybe Hansung was truly a sadistic creature.
Khun was entitled enough to believe that he can escape here anytime, or maybe it was his pride speaking.
But Hansung Yu memorized him efficiently. The first words Khun accounted for as he roused from his sleep was enough to chain him down in this icy cavern.
"Rachel pushed Bam at the Final Test."
Khun cannot even speculate how many days have passed in the outside world. He doesn't trust the lines he carved on the ground, since he desperately drew one each time Hansung visited him.
The Ranker explained everything right when he woke up. Khun created a mental box to store every information he accumulated from his kidnapper.
He divided Hansung's account into two: the truth and the story.
The truth was:
Rachel pushed Bam off the bubble at the Final Test.
FUG was interested in Bam, the Irregular, to the point they extracted him from the Floor of Tests. As to why, Khun doesn't know yet.
FUG wasn't interested in Khun at first, but they recognized his talents after watching him work with Bam.
FUG was an organization formed to oppose the empire of Jahad and the 10 Great Families, Hansung Yu is a Ranker undercover FUG member. Khun Hachuling, also known as 'Blueberry', was a spy of FUG in Wolhaiksong.*
FUG planned to train him and Bam to become FUG Slayers, refusing to cooperate will equal to FUG assassinating their friends.
*Wolhaiksong also had matters in the Floor of Tests, so when Hachuling arrived, he was granted the mission to extract Khun.
The story was:
The Twenty-Fifth Bam fell off the bubble as he protected Rachel from the Bull.
Khun Aguero Agnis was killed by an assailant with a grudge to the Khun family.
Bam's body was presumed to be eaten by the Bull, and Khun's body was said to be collected by the Khun family.
Their friends passed the floor test, gifted with silver rings for remembrance of their great losses.
Soon, the Tower will be shaken with Jyu Viole Grace and Khun Aguero Agnis as FUG Slayer nominees.
Khun was at his utmost disadvantage here. Cut-off from the outside world without contact with anyone besides caffeine-in-human-form. He couldn't pinpoint Bam's exact location, but Hansung also promised they'd meet soon.
He was stuck training with the blonde coffee-addict in this desolate cave. No choice in the matter, carefully orchestrated, and researched by FUG. He wasn't given a lighthouse for training, all Hansung did was play mind games with him each visit and fuck up the temperature of the area.
" Oh , Hansung really did intend to break you." A man in black button-up shirt invaded his cell. Khun shivered, eyes scanning the stranger head to toe.
"W-who are you?" Khun chattered.
"Are you sure you want to know?" The man approached Khun nearer and with each step of his, the thin layer of ice melts around him.
"Any information I can have in this situation will do."
"Jinsung Ha, Viole's trainer. Or maybe he's still Bam in your eyes."
Khun's blood roared at the name belonging to the man before him. The ice around him crystallized, his breath puffed in foggy clouds. Maybe Bam rebelled against FUG, and Khun will be the first hostage to kill.
If so, Khun will gladly lay down his life for Bam to escape.
"H-hansung did mention cha-changing his ss s name."
"From what I've heard, it was supposed to be Bam's name." Jinsung informed.
"Wha-what'd you mean?"
"Look, kid. I don't know. Rumors from the higher-ups. I don't even know why they took an interest in you . I'm just here to see how Viole's motivation was doing." Jinsung was famous for his hatred towards the descendants of Great Families, and Khun was at its receiving end.
"If you want to know more, rise from the ranks, son of Khun. Help Viole eradicate the rulers of this Tower." Despite Jinsung's proximity with the freezing temperature, the ancient Ranker did not faze from it.
"Of course we had no choice but to kill for all of you." Khun spat, the blackmailing, the hostage, the research done on him, and Bam all meticulously executed.
"Viole chose to be strong so he could save you, Khun. Why don't you watch your words and focus on becoming stronger instead?" Jinsung glanced at the ice rink surrounding the cave.
"Is Bam in a place this cold too, Jinsung?"
"Bam is also in a cave, but you misunderstood, Khun." Jinsung headed for the exit, before examining Khun and the glacier cave.
"No ice could be formed in this cave, all this cold came from you."
According to Hansung, ten months flew by when Khun first molded an ice spear. Afterward, the Ranker presented him with a limited edition high-spec lighthouse.
Khun tinkered with his upgraded device, it had information he couldn’t access as an ordinary light bearer (i.e. illegal files). The time displayed was accurate to the outside world, the lighthouse also had an arsenal of basic weapons stored.
When he typed in to search for Bam, no results showed. Khun tried again but used Jyu Viole Grace, a red dot birthed appeared on the map landscape of their prison.
He can't believe how near Bam was.
His lighthouse blared sirens, warning of an indescribable amount of shinsu detected from where Bam was.
The cave shuddered, and the lighthouse's automated defense systems activated. Rumbling and crashing sounds emitted outside his lighthouse. When the noise stopped, Khun emerged from his cube.
Bam stood meters away from him, face streaked with dirt. His chest heaving from the baangs he controlled in order to destroy the stone wall dividing them. Jinsung Ha stood far behind him, a proud expression in his features.
"How touching," Khun turned to Hansung, perched in the debris of rocks Bam annihilated earlier. "Try to survive together then."
Hansung smirked as he kicked a pebble towards the ceiling of the cavern.
The cavern quivered as cracks elongated along the surface.
Jinsung was screaming bloody murder at Hansung.
Bam dashed, eyes widened at the place above Khun's head.
" Khun !"
Khun only smiled and mouthed simple words.
Bam threw his arms over Khun, shielding him from the incoming large boulder. They plummeted on the ground together, his fingers fastening on Khun's back.
Bam closed his eyes and waited for the heavy impact, I'd rather be hurt than see Khun die in front of me.
Instead of the excruciating weight Bam expected, a pair of hands trailed on his back to clasp together.
"Open your eyes, Bam." Khun whispered warmly in his ear.
As Bam opened his sight, Khun was safe and unscathed in his arms. Khun had tears drooping in his bony cheeks, and Bam realized some of his tears mixed with his.
When Bam surveyed the scene, three lighthouses encircled them to construct a protective barrier. Khun built them to save them both. A sentiment which caused Bam’s heart to burst.
He cried on the shoulder of his most trustworthy friend, the one who saved him from another hellish cave.
"Khun," Bam murmured, "Stay with me, please."
"Wherever you go, Bam."
[ interlude ]
/ Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth /
/ I have to go, I have to go /
/ Your hair was long when we first met /
Bam dreamt he was climbing the Tower with Khun and Rak again.
The test needed seven members, along with Shibisu's trio and Endorsi, they fulfilled the first requirement. The game was based on a childhood play of Captain Black Jack. Whereas, two teams will battle to steal opponents as they reach the goal of touching the enemy's base. First team to lose all members or touch the opponent’s base wins.
Khun strategized impeccably, composure in his voice as he commanded which players go North and East. Shibisu reported his scouting, which routes were laid with traps and which paths weren't. Endorsi lured in the enemies to where Hatz was as Anaak jumped to locate the base. While Anaak canvassed the grounds of the base, Khun will decide where to put Bam and Rak depending on the situation.
Everything was going according to plan, until it wasn't.
The enemies Endorsi lured in were human bombs, which ticked off as Endorsi kicked them. Hatz was near where the explosion happened, and Shibisu ran where the two were. Bam glanced at the players guarding the base, and was reminded of how unfair and dreadful this Tower will always be.
" Khun, our enemies...they're not Regulars! " Bam chirped in his earpiece, Khun replied breathlessly.
" I know! They're from- " Static.
When Bam blinked, Rak and Anaak were lying in a pool of blood at the base of the enemy, surrounded by FUG members. Bam shrieked and inflicted two baangs at the enemies. They skidded in various directions Bam couldn't follow.
A chilling presence crept behind him, and Bam turned to witness his greatest horror manifested.
A hooded FUG member with a blade on Khun's throat. Their friends' dead bodies were scattered around them. When Bam gazed into Khun's eyes, all calm was replaced with panic.
"Khun, what should I do?!"
" I'm sorry, Bam. "
The knife pierced Khun's skin, deep enough to draw blood.
"Khun!" Bam whimpered, the shinsu not heeding his call.
" Get out of here! Leave me! "
This is just a dream, Bam. Khun promised to stay with you.
"No, I won't!"
Khun yelped as the blade sliced in slowly but surely, dyeing the ground in more red.
This can't be real.
Bam jolted awake as FUG delivered the final blow. Bam was sweating buckets in his forehead and chest, heart thudding in erratic beats. He gawked at the broad ceiling, counting one, two, three, exhale as practiced.
There was no surprise as Khun took his hand and rubbed circles on his palm. He confessed to being a light sleeper, and the only instance Khun wasn't there was when he was in a nightmare of his own. Bam was a bit disappointed in himself on how he never comforted Khun having nightmares unless he woke up from his own.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Khun asked, and Bam lifted his forearm to cover his eyesight.
"You asked me to leave." Accusation spilled in his tone, despite how many times Khun assured he'd never be the 'Khun' in Bam's nightmares.
His hips were straddled by the comforting weight Bam had grown to be familiar with. Gentle fingers pried his arm away from his face and Bam's vision adjusted to the dimmed light of their room. Khun bends over, glowing cyanic eyes never leaving his.
Despite Khun utilizing ice shinsu, their family was famous for maneuvering shinsu in lightning. Bam could feel every inch of his skin electrifying as Khun knocked their foreheads together.
Warm air ghosted over Bam's lips, and he gulped. The mattress beneath his pillow dips as Khun pressed his wrist tight right next to his ear.
" Bam ,"
Ever since Khun and Bam died on the Floor of Tests, they wore on several names to survive. Each with a persona they built to protect themselves.
Khun doesn't call him Bam whenever there is someone in the vicinity. Like everyone in FUG, Bam was revered as Jyu Viole Grace, the god who'd ascend the Tower. He was called Viole on the outside, and Bam almost forgot his true name some nights.
Khun tethered him to his roots when they're alone. In public, Bam cannot call him 'Khun' in fear of recognition. His name garnered power and attention. Khun settled with his childhood nickname: 'A.A.' The initials his family titled him with, a memory of a past too broken to be fixed.
'Khun' was a name from his blood and lineage, 'A.A.' was a nickname from his family. Bam wanted Khun to be his, so he picked the only name for him to call on nights they wobbled between insanity and reality.
Moist lips brushed as Bam murmured.
'Khun' was tied to his family, 'A.A.' was chained to his past.
Aguero was Bam's.
His and his alone in a bed too soft for their nightmarish battles.
Before Bam passed out from their previous activity, Bam thanked him.
"I'm glad you're here." Bam said, "I dreamt of us climbing the Tower again with our friends."
"Was it fun?" Khun asked, depicting the answer.
"We were happy," Bam yawned, "I wish you were the one who found me in the cave back then."
Khun was about to argue it was Bam who tore down the cave and rescued him. Then, he realized Bam wasn't talking about the cave FUG imprisoned them with. Bam wished it was Khun instead of Rachel who taught him everything.
If only we met before the Tower, then maybe...
Yet, these were fleeting and unnecessary thoughts, Khun will have to organize contingency plans and align their actions with the objectives of FUG. Tomorrow, everything will change. There will be threats and attempts over their lives, and his name along with his new title will cause wildfire among the loving citizens of Jahad and the 10 Great Families.
Their skills and abilities too will have to be assessed. His ice dagger was melted by the blood of the Yeon daughter earlier. She could be his worst enemy, avoiding her will be the best course. Bam was eloquent with his wave controlling, but what concerned Khun was how he woke up every night when Bam was distressed.
Khun was a light sleeper, yes, but whenever Bam had nightmares, Khun could always detect. His ears were ringing loud whenever Bam was tossing in his sleep, Khun managed the situation before it got out of hand.
The shinsu in the air was too compressed and pressurized. Like it was accumulating to generate an explosion with a tiny spark. Khun relayed this phenomenon to Hansung once after hitting roadblocks with his deductions. The blonde just hummed in wonder and mused: " The shinsu responded to Viole's emotions? Interesting. If that is true, then he may even rival the power of Administrators ."
Khun threaded his fingers over the strands of Bam's hair. Bam, who snored peacefully beside him, long hair splayed around the sheets. Khun didn't mind the mess, albeit combing Bam's hair in the morning was such a chore.
Once, Khun suggested cutting the growing hair since it might have proved harder to maintain. Bam shook his head and said no, Khun, it's better not to be recognized . Khun deliberated whether to lengthen his own hair more than usual, but when he looked at the mirror, Khun snipped it back to its standard.
Bam may be Viole who had luscious long strands and expertise with shinsu control now. Khun may be another FUG slayer nominee working with an Irregular to rise in the Tower. Their situation and goals have changed since then, but Khun wanted to let this appearance stay the same.
The same hairstyle he had when he shook hands with the innocent 25th Bam on the second floor.
Maybe, just maybe, a reminder of the time we were truly happy.
[ break ]
/ And he told me that I'd done alright /
/ And kissed me 'til the mornin' light, the mornin' light /
During their first missions for FUG as Slayer candidates, Khun aimed to have Bam shed as little blood as possible.
Stakeouts, assassinations, reconnaissance, with all things involving FUG, blood staining the Tower was irrevocable. Bam developed immensely in his shinsu manipulation, getting creative with each attack and scenario. As his lightbearer, Khun tracked charts and statistics on Bam's performance as a wave controller.
He remembered sitting in his lighthouse for a few hours, analyzing the bar graphs and collateral damage from their last five subsequent jobs.
Bam's growth rate...the money invested for our endeavors...
Khun suspected the 'Jyu Viole Grace' image was long drafted and sketched. Like a part of a grander scheme Khun wasn't aware of. Which prompted his curiosity more, why was FUG interested in Bam? His Irregular status wasn't the only catch there...there had to be more.
Luckily for Khun, FUG was able to supply countless archives and artifacts not available for common Regulars. When Khun was done simulating battle scenarios in accordance to Bam's newly discovered skills, he read the documents to pass time. FUG also had files on the 10 Great Families, most of them controversial enough to cause Tower-wide scandals and issues.
Even the stories about the Khun family archive were morbidly fascinating because they were all the opposite of what Khun was taught back in the Estate. No wonder Hachuling said he'd help him overthrow their father, FUG only needed a public figure perfect to reveal these secrets. Who better to recruit than a deported son of Khun who favored another sister to be a Princess of Jahad?
When his search came to Bam, all records showed the history of the moment Headon supervised him on the first floor then up until his 'death' at Evankhell's floor. Nothing further.
He delved into 'Jyu Viole Grace,' and there was some SS-classified data Khun must have a FUG Elder's permission. Khun could hack it, but only one step at a time. No doubt FUG was recording his search history, his excuse of knowing the insides of the organization will let me know our resources to kill King Jahad, we can outline plans then might be suspicious. Khun had utilized FUG's resources too many times to count, they delivered it swiftly with only raised eyebrows.
Bam was working on a solo assignment when Khun threaded against the dangerous waters of illegal information. As much as they insisted on staying together in FUG since the training from the cave, there were missions Khun wasn't necessary and Bam was vice versa too.
(Bam, after solo missions, always came in their shared room with blood all over his clothes, his hair, his face.
Khun drags him towards the shower to wash the blood off his hands, his skin, and his lips. Bam never spoke during these periods and Khun didn't bother to ask. The casualty report of Bam's assignments were always sent to him.
Whenever they receive an assignment together, Khun wanted to lessen the sticky dirty blood in Bam's hands but somehow, that included hurting himself one way or another. Khun was never meant to stand on the frontlines, and Bam didn't like seeing him hurt. The casualties were higher than supposed to be, and Khun woke up to Bam frantically pleading: don't do this for me, please.
It was a sight Khun did not personally like.
Jinsung advised him later on: " In this Tower, the more you protect something, the greater your chances of losing it. "
What could he say? Old habits of keeping jewels instead of wearing them die hard.
Khun compromised with his 'protectiveness' months after, when Bam shielded him from an attack and they fought shouting at each other in the infirmary. In the end, Khun understood Bam only wanted to protect him as much as he did. Hanging onto these possessive desires will only be their weakness which they did not need adding to.)
Khun was on his final step of hacking the SS-classified archive. He cleared his imprints on the Server, and carefully extracted the readings.
Jyu Viole Grace
Jahad entered the Tower along with 13 Irregulars...Arlene Grace was a woman Jahad adored...She eloped with V, a warlord Luslec served...Arlene and V opposed Jahad's ruling...but lost the war...
They had a child which Jahad murdered...Unable to cope with the loss, V committed suicide...Arlene was immortal, and kept the dead baby from rotting...She found a way to escape the Tower...
[excerpts of Arlene's diary translated]
"...I could not let go the longing for my love and the pity for my dead child. So I decided to offer this child's body to the 'god' on the outside. Someday, that god's power will enter this dead child's body and awaken him again...He shall achieve vengeance for my love and finish the war which we started with his own hands...
He shall find the hidden key, open the door, and lead everyone on the Tower to greater heights."
Jahad and the 10 leaders did everything to erase anything pertaining to the child of prophecy…
Khun was shaking in fear as he closed the notes. His head dizzied with epiphany after epiphany: Luslec was the current head of FUG, who also served 'V', FUG gave Bam the name Jyu Viole Grace...
If all of this is real, then Bam...Bam is...
"Khun," Bam invited himself to his lighthouse. Under any circumstance, Khun shouldn't be shocked since he granted Bam rights to enter his lighthouse long ago.
His fear grew tenfold as he accommodated Bam, hair dripping with blood, hands trembling nonstop, and eyes too empty as he gazed at Khun.
This was the god FUG demanded, the child Arlene prophesied. FUG didn't steal Bam, because Bam belonged to FUG from the very beginning. Bam was born -no, maybe revived- to usurp Jahad. Bam was destined for more chaos and catastrophe in the Tower.
Khun quaked as Bam stepped closer, his presence almost compelling Khun to kneel. Bam, who was nothing like the naive boy from the second floor, Bam, who suited the name Viole, a FUG Slayer, the best.
A prince of rebellion and revolution.
"Khun, I don't want to do this anymore."
Viole will taint those hands with the blood of the innocent.
Khun will fight tooth and nail the destiny FUG forced onto Bam before Bam ever forgot his own name.
"Bam, let's escape FUG."
Bam had never felt so alive from the past two and a half years he spent in FUG. Aside from his tender moments with Khun, this day will be engraved in his memory. Maybe if they lay low for a while then they could meet Rak and Shibisu's team again.
They'd travel first and hide, lose their scent of FUG, and eliminate anyone threatening their freedom.
Bam was holding Khun's hand as they were transported by the lighthouse to an underground tunnel.
"Bam, you don't remember anything before Rachel found you, right?" Khun queried, thumb fiddling their clasped hands.
"Yeah," Bam replied, "Why?"
"Would you want to know why you were in the cave?" Khun asked as the lighthouse completed the transport sequence.
"I..It doesn't really matter, right?" Bam chewed his lip. "If it explains why we had to suffer like this, then maybe I'd like to know."
"Once we got out of here, I'll tell you something," Khun promised. Bam smiled hopefully, they'll have the time in the world tomorrow and so on.
Compared to Khun's meticulous plans, their escape stratagem was easy: Run . Khun told him the more complicated the plan was, the more evidence and tracks they'd leave.
Once they're outside, Khun will fabricate their pathways.
Once they're outside-
Bam liked yellow, it was bright, sunny, and everything positive encompassed in one color. Yellow was the light that shone when Rachel lent her hand in the cave. Yellow was the field at the second floor where he teamed up with Khun and Rak. Yellow was far from black, the color of loneliness in that cave.
Bam used to like the color yellow.
Now, he just didn't want to look at it anymore.
Yellow was Rachel's eyes and hair when she betrayed him. Yellow was Hansung's eyes and hair when he threatened to kill everyone dear around Bam.
Yellow was the only warning he glimpsed of before Khun was snatched away from his hold. The shinsu inside his body frozen to the will of the manipulator. The very same technique he learned at the Floor of Tests. Bam cannot move an inch of his physique, powerless again despite years of training as Hansung looped his arm around Khun's neck.
"Let Bam go!" Khun gasped as he struggled to escape the chokehold.
"We can't." Hansung tutted and only tightened his lock. "We need Viole as much as you need Bam."
They were only a few meters away from the exit, Bam could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Bright yellow like the hole in the cave, the hope to escape.
Why does this have to happen?
Bam followed the path of shinsu as it formed on the tips of Hansung's fingers. Hansung's fingers which he pointed at Khun's temples, like a gun ready to set fire.
That shinsu...will blast Khun's head.
That shinsu will explode once triggered, blood with muscle tissues showering the ground, his hair, and his hands like how it happened in his earlier solo job.
I just want to stop the blood from spilling needlessly...
Khun helped him so much by cleaning his body and mind after each kill. Khun deserved better than taking care of someone who dragged him downwards to hell. Their friends' lives didn't have to be in danger every single day because of him.
"Get out of here! Leave me!" Khun shrilled as tears beaded his lashes.
"He really could do that, you know?" Hansung taunted Khun. "Viole could leave you but Bam won't."
Hansung was wrong.
Bam regained the control of shinsu in his body, eradicating the remains of Hansung's authority.
Bam or Viole, there was only one answer over anything concerning Khun Aguero Agnis.
Bam bowed and knelt in surrender. The bright yellow far from his periphery.
"I'll dedicate myself to FUG, so please ..."
The shinsu Hansung charged dissipated sliver by sliver.
"Wise choice, Viole. You never disappoint FUG."
"I'm sorry, Bam." Khun morosely said.
There's nothing to apologize for, I was too weak.
"As for you, Khun, let this serve as a warning." Hansung raised his hand, Bam jerked in his position.
Shinsu flowed from Hansung's hand as he chopped Khun's nape.
Bam leapt towards Khun who dropped unconscious on the pavement. He cradled the periwinkle head in his lap, smoothing the suds from strands. If only it could soothe the impact of Khun's fall somehow.
He didn't care whether Hansung heard his screams, he didn't care how near the exit was from their place. He was always careless, how could he care about anything else other than the person in his lap now?
So Bam wailed, screeched, and cried how unfair everything was. He complained until his throat was sore. He damned all the gods of this Tower and cursed each of them.
Jinsung found him later rather than sooner in such a degrading state, voice croaking, gold irises rimmed with red, and hands clutching onto the sleeping boy which was his downfall.
"Ugh...where am I?" Khun groaned as he rose from the bed.
Bam was diligently at his side for two days, leaving only when summoned.
"Khun! How are you?" Bam smiled, relieved.
Khun darted his sight around, confusion etched on his face.
"How did I get here? How was your solo assignment, Bam?" Khun checked him from head to toe.
He gulped the salty lead in his throat. Damn Hansung's shinsu...
Bam could have updated Khun with the truth, how they attempted to escape FUG and failed. Instead, Bam pulled Khun closer, fondly brushing the light-colored bangs and pale cheeks with his fingers.
Alive, alive, alive, and still with me.
"I finished the assignment and found you passed out in your lighthouse. You were so caught up in your research!" Bam beamed.
"Really? I can't remember what I was tinkering in the light house though..." Khun deflated. "Is that all?"
Bam sealed his lie with a kiss on the forehead.
"Yes, that's all, Aguero. Rest up for me, will you?"
[ postlude ]
/ Beneath the stars came fallin' on our heads /
/ But they're just old light, they're just old light /
/ Your hair was long when we first met /
Since the fiasco on the 20th floor, FUG sent out reinforcements suited for the pair of slayer nominees. In preparation for the Workshop Battle, Viole and A.A. worked with the prototype team for two years.
The group was composed of quirky personalities, each with a category of motivations Khun memorized for future references.
Xia xia was the easiest, her loyalty towards wealth for her kind. Her intelligence gathering was a feat Khun respected as well.
Dan was a scout Khun personally invited (or blackmailed, whatever). Khun couldn't trust the scouts FUG presented, so he proposed to recruit instead. FUG agreed with his proposition since Dan was a famous scout on the floor.
In exchange for Dan's membership was Wangnan Ja . The Regular whom they passed the test with on the 20th floor. For otherworldly reasons, Karaka had taken the boy under his wing. Karaka supported Khun's choice with Dan as long as Wangnan was also at the party. Apparently, Karaka's influence as a FUG Slayer had a range Khun have to exemplify someday.
Novick was a hard tooth to pick, Khun checked his background and ended with numerous dubious hypotheses on why the man was here. The only dead giveaway was the fact that Novick trailed after Khun Ran.
Khun Ran . That was a name Khun did not anticipate. Since the news of two FUG slayer candidates popping on the 20th floor, rumors have tangled with one after the other in the height of this Tower. An Irregular challenging Jahad? The son of a Khun family as a FUG Slayer?
Khun never predicted the stringing rumors about them will bring Khun Ran into FUG. The boy was an exceptional spearbearer, having Khun Mashcenny Jahad as his sister. He was blunt and obedient to Khun which posed no difficulties in their relationship.
Ran did not hesitate to answer when Khun asked him why he joined FUG.
"I must climb the Tower to kill my sister."
Ran explained his terms of contributing his talents to Khun's cause, since it will mostly coincide with Ran's in the far future. Adding Princess Maschenny in their list of targets did not need much deliberation: a Princess of Jahad and a direct descendant of Khun Eduan strikes Khun and Bam's goals as FUG slayers.
Khun was inspecting Emily in the Archimedes halls when two strangers passed by him.
"Is Hatz not joining for sure?" Green skin, height as tall as Ran.
"He hasn't returned since he went out last night...maybe something happened." Tracksuit guy, a lilt in his voice.
Khun can't be wrong with the identities of the pair, but for once in his life, Khun begged his brain not to draw the conclusion.
Trepidation clambered beneath the silver mask Khun wore in public.
"The first battle is individual anyway. Just leave him alone."
"But...I wish Khun was here right now."
Seven years without communication with the past.
Seven years without their real friends aware of their lives in serious danger.
Seven years of harshness for Bam, seven years of torture for Khun.
I'm here, we're here, Shibisu, Anaak...everyone.
His lips were quivering as he texted with Emily. The air in his mask was too congested, Khun strode in a rush away from them, his former teammates.
He had a theory on the algorithm of the mainstream application. Perhaps, now would be the most appropriate time for Khun to test it.
[ A.A. LOGGED IN ]
EMILY : Hi, A.A!
A.A. : Why is Team Shibisu here?
EMILY : They're searching for the 25th Bam and Khun Aguero Agnis.
Khun landed on his destination before his legs ever betrayed him. He entered his private room with Bam in the Archimedes ship. Bam was sitting diligently on their bed, rust gold eyes confused as Khun peeled his mask off and slipped off his robe.
He stumbled on their shared bed, panting hard and shaking violently as Bam put his head on his lap. Khun tried his best to explain, other than the garbled synonyms and pathetic whimpers spouting from his mouth.
But the words seized in his throat. Bam smiled melancholic and understanding at him, shushing his cries as Khun clung onto him for dear life.
Khun fervently wished he was a little braver. Their friends at the Floor of Tests were foolish enough to believe his false bravado and confidence.
A.A. : Emily, they can't be found.
Unfortunately for Khun, fate loves toying with him.
The individual battle consisted of ten Regulars which scored the highest points from the One Shot, One Opportunity Game. Thus, also pronouncing them as leaders of their teams. Khun had no problem with the mechanics of gambling, he can observe their potential enemies while simultaneously betting.
Ran and Anaak's competition was intense and destructive not only to the arena, but also the rules. Since people of the Tower loved entertainment, the organizers of the event fanned the flames of the match more instead of remedying their collapsing stadium.
His problem wasn't betting All-in to Ran and losing the money his team could spend for the next tournament. Everyone totally lost as much as he did in the game, a clean slate fair for the leaders.
His problem was Shibisu contacting him right after the match.
Khun escaped to the toilet room in hopes of dyeing his hair another color and wearing a new pair of contacts.
Shibisu was a scout who never lost his prey.
The door of the room shut with a loud thump. Khun jolted, his mask untying from his face. The silver accessory clanged as it hit the tiled floor.
" You ...really are alive, you bastard."
I can still stop this before I regret anything I'd do.
Khun jumped for the door but Hatz (older and leaner) suddenly appeared in the hallway and raised a fucking rifle at him.
"Don't even think about running away, earrings." Hatz regarded. Something inside Khun churned warmly with the nickname.
"Do you even know how to pull the trigger?" Khun remarked.
"Still a douche, I see. I'd like to blow your head off but we have urgent matters." With that, Hatz shut the door in front of him, standing guard outside the lavatory.
Khun sighed and met Shibisu's fretting gape. Khun directed his eyes to the corners of the room, searching for bugs and wiretaps. Shibisu threw several devices at the toilet and flushed everything down the drain.
No escaping this one, then.
"Stop finding me and Viole." He warned.
"Bam is Viole, right?" Shibisu speculated, to which Khun hung his head low in affirmation.
He counted the seconds which ticked by before Shibisu reacted. It was eight.
"Crazy...You two are crazy..." Shibisu erupted in chuckles, "We didn't want to believe it at first when the Tower gossiped about two FUG Slayer nominees on one floor."
"Then we heard Khun Aguero Agnis, presumably dead, working for FUG as a slayer nominee."
Khun gritted his teeth, he never imagined it would be this painful to receive the disappointing tone from Shibisu's accusations.
"What more was that Jyu Viole Grace was an Irregular with brown hair and light copper eyes..." By this point, Shibisu's tone increased in crescendo. "Guess who also had the same color of hair and eyes and died with you at Evankhell's floor! Guess who, Khun?! "
Their friends had the right to be angry the most. So Khun bit his lip, let Shibisu chew everything out at him. Maybe it could help them at least, by venting all those grudges and feelings at him.
It's nothing compared to the dangers he and Bam have put them through.
"You proclaimed to take over the Khun family along with Bam. Is that it? You and Bam went into FUG because you can't reach your goals with us? We all have selfish reasons for climbing this Tower but you two just had to stage fake deaths and have mysterious comebacks like cheap movie villains!"
Khun winced, remembering how deafening Shibisu could be.
"Just because you're both powerful now does not mean...Have you ever thought of Rak? He was miserable to the point we couldn't talk about turtles whenever he's in the room! How about Endorsi who carried Rachel away despite knowing the girl could walk?! How about us who mourned your deaths every time we cleared a floor? Thinking how we could've climbed this Tower happier if you or Bam were alive."
"Endorsi carried Rachel...?" Khun titled his head as Shibisu gave him exasperated looks.
"You stayed quiet for so long and only speak up when Rachel was mentioned? What the hell, Khun?!"
"No, no...Okay, fine. I can't say anything more, Shibisu." Khun exhaled. "Bam and I...we're not in the best positions. We do miss you and everyone, all the damn time."
Shibisu parted his lips, about to shoot the question of then, why? Khun swayed his head in defiance, not opting to relay clues and only inferred hints.
"Rachel pushed Bam at the Floor of Tests."
"Endorsi was right! That bitch was involved in Bam's death!" Shibisu had his hands fisted. "She left with Rachel from the team and climbed the Tower on their own."
"Bam was hurt ...badly. We knew Rachel was everything to him. Bam changed from the Bam we knew on the third floor." I did, too. "Circumstances are different, FUG cannot find you, Hatz, and I even interacted."
"Did you and Bam try to escape FUG?"
I don't think we could . Khun had hazy delusions of running in a tunnel with Bam but he wasn't sure. Maybe his dreams mixed in with his memories, they always don't end up well too.
"I can't escape if Bam doesn't want to."
Khun retracted as Shibisu placed his hands over his shoulders.
"Stop looking down, this isn't like you. Maybe we just have to find a way for us to convince Bam."
"Didn't you hear what I said? We're not in the best positions-"
"We came here for urgent matters." Hatz joined in, locking the door behind him. "We're here to save you and Bam."
"Khun, Bam's in danger."
Later on, Khun erased all traces of his interaction with Hatz and Shibisu inside the lavatory. Fake alibis were posted in the network to convince the three of them never coincided in one location.
His pocket was ringing. The caller: Wangnan.
"I finished talking to Karaka...Is it true, Khun? What the other FUG elders were doing?" Wangnan asked.
"Yes." Politics, it’s everywhere . "All we have to do is wait for Karaka. Can you buy some drinks for the team, Wangnan?"
"We'll have a little celebration tonight."
Name it gut instinct or intuition but Bam spent seven years with Khun as his most trusted confidant.
Bam always figured out what bullshit Khun had in his literal pockets. Their teamwork relied heavily on how Bam deciphered Khun's antics and strategy.
For this strange act, Bam had no idea what Khun was up to.
First, they were drinking with the rest of their FUG teammates. Khun chalked it up to strengthening trust and bonds for the semi-finals tomorrow. Also, to cheer up Ran who sipped from his grape juice grumpily at the couch. Bam heard the match blasted the whole arena in shambles. The organizers had to hire electricians real quick.
But Khun was not the type to comfort his family. He has the attitude to rub in a person's loss at their face so harsh, that person will hate Khun and train harder to improve. At least, that's how Bam remembers it.
Or maybe Bam was overcomplicating stuff.
Maybe Khun ached to drown in sin, pleasure, and escapism. Maybe Khun craved to partake in acts of hedonism with the way he purred over his shoulder. Bam blushed furiously as an effect from the alcohol and the small bites Khun pecked on his neck.
" Aguero ," Bam grunted, "Not here."
Xia xia was deliriously drunk, and in a betting card game with a tipsy Wangnan and quiet Dan (Bam assumed he was drunk in his own way too). Ran was snoring on the couch, exhausted from the fight. Novick bidded to smoke at the rooftop and haven't returned since then.
Everyone at FUG respected their relationship, despite being vague at most. Khun preferred their displays of affection not blatantly exposed for show. He and Khun got careless once or twice in FUG headquarters, and the poor soul who witnessed them had to face the infamous icy glare threat of the Khun FUG slayer nominee.
Not a single rumor was gossiped the succeeding day.
That's why Bam pondered how wildly strange Khun acted tonight, throwing away the status of their relationship kept secret for years.
"We're in front of everyone, " Bam hissed as Khun's hands traveled places not safe for work.
Khun, cheeks blazing hot, only giggled and arched his eyebrows towards their drunken teammates. Not a single one of them sparing the slayer nominees a glance.
"What are you planning?" Bam queried, Khun stole Bam's glass and chugged the liquor in it. Deft fingers cupped his chin as Khun crashed their lips together, alcohol dripped as he drank the liquid Khun poured in their kiss.
If Aguero was drowning himself in sin tonight, Bam might as well be thirsty for a taste of sweet temptation too.
Aguero stood, not even wobbly as he held out his hand in an offer. Bam giggled, the alcohol giddying his senses, and shook hands with the so-called devil.
"We're fucking tonight, no disturbing!" Khun slurred and pulled Bam up to exit the common room of their team.
Bam checked the trio still engrossed in their playing and Ran who was an inch away from falling to the cold floor. Nobody even batted an eyelash as they left the party with Aguero's parting announcement.
Their room was only next to it anyway, not much distance traveled. Bam doesn't think they'd last with only holding hands for another five minutes after the teasing.
"Stop worrying, they won't remember a thing," Aguero muttered as they strolled in their private quarters.
Bam trusts Aguero had a contingency plan in case their teammates recalled their explicit adventures in the common hall. He trusts the man's leadership, the man's dominance as he was pushed vehemently on the concrete wall.
Bam fumbled for Aguero's tie, unknotting it distractedly as Aguero peppered sloppy kisses on his lips. The tie cascades on the floor, together with the blazer Aguero undressed him of. Bam unbuttoned Aguero's shirt after sliding his gray vest off when Aguero tutted and paused from his ministrations.
" Bam ," Aguero brushed his thumb over his swollen lips, "You know I love you, right?"
Bam heated with the declaration, Aguero's fingers gliding to palm his heaving neck. Aguero brushed his thumb once again over the moving bob of his throat.
The touch spiked shivers in delight through Bam's body. With the ardent gaze Aguero delivered him, glowing like the lighthouse he controlled, Bam might re-evaluate himself as a hedonist.
Only for you, Aguero.
"Yes, I love you too."
The rush of Aguero kneading his thigh over his groin was a speed he cannot track. Fingers slithered on the necktie Bam donned in. A harsh tug of his hair, and a frenzied pull of his tie brought his neck in perfect proximity for Aguero to bite. Bam whined as teeth sunk in the column of skin above his Adam's apple and under his chin.
Ugh...he's pretty rough tonight, not that I don't like it.
The r in Aguero meant rough in nature, but in bed, it also meant rare. Because Aguero was rarely rough in sex, favoring soft vanilla, except on stressed-out nights when some of his strategies did not go according to plan.
Maybe the alcohol tended to Aguero's rougher nature.
Bam moaned as Aguero dragged him with his tie, leading him to their silky bed. Bam staggered for a few steps until Aguero swiftly hauled his body over the mattress with the necktie.
Aguero was such a chiseled portrait even as Bam sprawled under his lover, dizzy from the sight, the touch, and the sensation of it all. Aguero climbed over him, working on his tie to loosen as Bam stared at the sweaty collarbone Aguero had.
The marks Bam previously tattooed Aguero with have healed and faded. Bam pondered, how should I mark you tonight, Aguero?
Aguero grinned when he caught Bam peeking over his shirt. His eyes responded teasingly, mark me as yours only.
Bam reached for Aguero's white shirt and unbuttoned the rest. He was unbuckling the leather belt of his partner when Aguero finished with his tie and flung it onto a corner.
"Owwww !" Somebody, surely not Aguero who was busy doing wonders on his neck, groaned. "Is it always the mating season for you turtles?!"
With that, Aguero jerked away from their activity and flicked his fingers. Lights radiated blindly in their room, Bam scrunched his eyes from the irritating brightness.
Voices floated in the area one after another.
"Why the hell are you here, Shibisu?! And you had the audacity to bring crocodile with you?"
"First, you invited us here-" Nostalgic, so nostalgic Bam didn't want to realize who was speaking.
"Second, tracksuit turtle did not bring me. I brought him!" Familiar, too familiar, I must be dreaming.
"I said come and try breaking every security system and wiretap here. It was a threat, not an invitation!" Khun shrieked, and Bam removed his arm from blocking his vision.
He sat up, groaning and feeling indecent with how the cold air slapped on his exposed chest. Khun wasn't any better, judging how he was pinching his fingers over the crook of his nose
"Hey, don't underestimate us, we did disarm the spyware here." Bam swiveled to the owner of the voice. "Figured most of them were installed by you."
There was another person by his side, nodding to whatever he just stated. Bam didn't care.
"Seriously, Khun, do you record yourself with Bam every night and watch it from time to time? Should we be alarmed?"
" Shut the fuck up , Shibisu!" Khun beeted tomato red from his collarbone to cheeks.
Bam convulsed awake at the name Khun called.
Bam scrutinized his lighted bedroom, a man in a sports jacket and jogging pants standing together with a short, armored crocodile. Khun, who slapped his palm over his face, praying for reality to cease his existence.
They're talking...with Khun...like...everything.....was normal.
"If this is a dream, can we push them away and continue the sex?" Bam addressed Khun who flinched and withdrew the hand covering his face.
"Bam, my love, I'm sorry. This is real, they're here at the Workshop Battle, searching for us. I tried to stop them, but they're here, at least hear them out." Khun headed for the bathroom.
Rak and Shibisu stayed quiet after Khun's departure. Bam twitched, he needed Khun to be here at least.
"Black turtle!" Rak shouted as the animal bounced and dived towards him.
Bam hated how his hands immediately caught onto Rak.
"You were alive, you and the blue turtle! Tracksuit turtle was telling the truth."
Shibisu waved and smiled meekly from his position, Bam listening over and over to the joy in Rak's voice.
I hate this.
"I won't let you go...I won't forgive those who made you and the blue turtle like this." Rak embraced him for emphasis.
"Let's get out of here, black turtle! Let's go up the Tower with the blue turtle like before!"
His sight settled on Shibisu who observed them in reprieve silence. Shibisu, who never changed his view of him after seven years. Rak, who still cradled him like he wasn't Viole who murdered countless innocents for the cause.
Shibisu, with his dirty gold eyes almost resembling yellow...
Bam calculated how many inches his hands had to move, for him to grasp Rak in return.
Approximately four and a half inches.
Rak, with his presence that shone like the sun, warm and yellow...
So close, maybe the universe was kinder for an opportunity like this.
Yellow, like Rachel's hair and eyes when she pushed him...
Yellow, like Hansung's color when he knocked Khun unconscious...
Yellow was hope.
Yellow was betrayal.
Yellow was killing everything the 25th Bam was happy for.
"Mr. Rak," Bam gently pried the alligator's hold away. "That's...impossible."
"What do you mean?" Rak retreated. Shibisu had his mouth hung open.
"Run away, both of you, please ." Bam hoisted Rak off his lap and placed him on the floor. His yellow necktie haphazardly coiled next to the alligator.
"I don't want to reach the point where we have to kill you all."
He avoided the judging glares and astonished gasps. It wasn't enough to prepare him for the pain.
" Goddammit !" Shibisu kicked the wall. "You're serious, you're both fucking serious in pushing everyone away!"
Because it was the only way for everyone to be safe.
The sharp edge of a burgundy spear slanted under his chin.
"Consider this a token for the times we shared, I'll leave with tracksuit turtle here...But the next time the three of us meet, I'll hunt you and blue turtle for real."
Rak stored his spear and turned away.
"...I'll hunt you and kill you both mercilessly."
Rak was stomping towards the main door, Shibisu followed suit. The scout stopped and screamed towards the toilet area: " I know you heard us! I hope you're happy with him! " then banged the bathroom door afterward.
Rachel never said goodbye when she disappeared off the Tower, so Bam couldn’t comprehend the concept of closure and separation.
“If you want to be a weapon FUG wields so bad, then we won’t stop you anymore.”
Shibisu and Rak pounded the door as they fled, they sounded like the farewell Bam never understood until tonight.
There was so much red in the haze that Bam cannot spot the calming blue anymore.
Moments of tranquil silence after the chaos vanished as Khun resurfaced from the bathroom. The aristocratic face and cerulean hair was wet, from the waters or the tears, Bam wasn’t able to determine.
Red coated everywhere before Bam realized what was happening.
Khun, in the white mattress they shared, pinned underneath Bam’s trembling hold.
“ What the hell did you do, they shouldn’t have found our room!” Bam sizzled as tears pricked his sight. The air grew hot and condensed, and Khun stared aghast towards his unprecedented actions.
Red was the blood singing in his veins as the thought Khun brought our friends in danger concluded.
“I want an opportunity!” Khun yelled, wrists wriggling to escape Bam.
Chills enveloped his skin, fog puffed from their breaths as they fought for dominance. Heat emanated from Bam while smoke filled his lungs, a defense to the cold Khun emits.
“Opportunity for what?” Bam swore ice was crystallizing around Khun’s irises. “Opportunity for FUG to kill our friends? You’re better than that !”
“Tell me you didn’t think of escaping FUG every night,” Khun dared, “Tell it to my fucking face, Bam!”
The said ice in those eyes Bam confided himself with was stinging sharp and painful as it shattered.
Khun frosted their room, which Bam didn’t notice was burning in red.
“I’m happy to be the god FUG needs.”
Khun kneed his chest, his sternum wracking in agony. Bam staggered back, slipping on the accidental rink of ice on the floor. His butt ached as Bam plummeted on the ground.
Vapor evaporates from the arctic spikes surrounding Khun as he stood tall before Bam.
Blue , my comfort and rest.
Blue was the color of Khun’s bandana when we first shook hands on the 2nd Floor.
Blue was the coldest night where Khun stayed.
As Khun rose his arm, in the form Bam identified as Khun gathering ice shinsu to forge a spear, Bam hitched in his epiphany.
Blue was calm.
The calm before the storm.
The spear never shaped to completion, the energy flurried in a blizzard. The ice cocooning them bursting in snowflakes. Their quarters returned to its normal temperature.
“I thought I was the bigger liar between us,” Khun stated, “Turned out you’re worse, lying to me and yourself.”
“Don’t sleep with me tonight,” Bam said, hugging his knees as the snow melted in his skin.
“Fine,” Khun strode past him, “As if we could ever sleep tonight.”
Please understand...that I just don’t want to lose anyone anymore.
Bam held out his palm, catching the intricate snowflake Khun fragmented.
Somehow, the blue still comforted him.
“Did you and Viole fight?”
Khun was at the rooftop of their lodgings when Wangnan joined his lonely company. The dawn blanketed the skies of indigo and mist, Khun shivered again. The ice he expended earlier was too potent, any other Regular will freeze to death.
Bam burst in flames, locked him in place, and his first instinct was to save my own life .
Bam, I’m scared.
If he wasn’t in better control of his emotions, that spear would have jaded Bam.
“How could you tell, Wangnan?”
“You claimed to sleep with Viole last night, and you’re here when I woke up.” Oh right, FUG probably shared his and Viole’s locations for their teammates to track them with.
Khun snickered, “Unfortunately, Viole gave me a bad case of blue balls last night.”
So much for staking the status of our relationship on the line, I could’ve used it as an excuse to escape FUG. How romantic was it to hear that Khun and Bam left FUG because they fell in love?
“It’s hard not to notice when two people who’re like monsters look so human.” Wangnan mused, “I don’t think Ms. Xia xia and Mr. Dan noticed though.”
Maybe Wangnan Ja can be trusted.
“How was the deal with Karaka?” Khun asked.
“I’ll forward the updates to your pocket later but fortunately, Karaka negotiated with the FUG elders. If Viole could acquire the thorn before they melted him with it, then they’d recognize the two of you as slayer nominees.”
“Karaka was such a life-saver.” He sighed, at least one problem was solved. He can’t waste what Team Shibisu discovered in this year’s Workshop Battle.
To think they’d attempt to molten an Irregular as an Ignition weapon.
“Are you and Mr. Karaka friends?” Khun raised his eyebrows at the inquiry from the strange boy. Out of everyone in their team, Wangnan didn’t belong there. Darkness shrouded the people FUG selected, but Wangnan doesn’t have a sliver of shadow behind him.
“Can friends be considered in FUG?” Khun rhetorically questioned.
“I don’t know…” Wangnan looked down.
“You see, Wangnan, Viole and I abandoned our old friends last night.”
“I stole a jewel and paid the price.” Khun tucked a stray lock in his ear, “Couldn’t even wear it because I might lose it.”
Before Wangnan could ask for elaboration, the door of the rooftop swung wide. Viole stood, long chestnut hair undone.
Wangnan quietly excused himself and left.
The sun was rising in prominence as Bam stepped towards him, apologetic and guilty in his gait.
“Are we bad people or were we left with no choice?” Bam asked.
Khun shook his head in disagreement.
“We had a choice Bam, but we chose the wrong decisions. We have to live with it.”
With their powers spiraling out of control, their past buried like their corpseless coffins underground, their relationship borderline obsession and possession...Khun could only promise.
“I’ll get you the Thorn of this Workshop Battle, I’ll give you the Crown Jahad wore.”
You are my sweetest downfall.
“What can I give you in return?”
I loved you first.
“Your smile. That’s the only thing I want.”
[ encore ]
/ And the history books forgot about us /
/ And the Bible didn't mention us, not even once /
Headon greeted the new conquerors of the Tower with a deep, respectful bow.
Anyone who reaches the top will be granted a wish in accordance with the rules.
This Tower will take everything away from its climbers first so that when they arrive at the top, the prize will be well-thought and deserving.
These two seemed to have decided on their wish a long time ago. They must have lost each other at some point.
Khun Aguero Agnis stared fondly at his partner before clasping their hands together. 25th Bam smiled and addressed Headon, his voice courageously bold when he answered Headon.
“What do you desire?”
“What’s your name?”
Bam shielded his eyes as he adjusted to the bright yellow light of this cave’s ceiling. He collected and piled mountains of rock to reach the top, and the hand offered by the boy from the hole wasn’t something he expected.
“Bam, the 25th Bam. And you are?”
Since he woke up alone in this desolate cave, warmth overwhelmed his chest. The sight of light blue eyes, smart blue hair calmed his senses.
“I’m Khun Aguero Agnis, but call me Aguero.”
“Nice to meet you, Aguero! What are you doing here?”
The boy smiled, pearly teeth glinting in the darkness of the cave.
“I’m here to get you out of this cave, Bam.”