(Phase 1 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase One: The Setting Sun
First week of March 20XX
The first day of school is never supposed to be busy. The first day of school is supposed to be that achingly annoying transition day from vacation to having to work and study until one’s eyesight was compromised. For Shim Jang Academy, better known as SJA, the first day of school was always busy incarnate. The first day of March always consisted of students – old and new – returning to SJA’s campus in the secluded countryside north of Seoul. SJA was the school of choice of the ridiculously smart and ridiculously rich because of its challenging and highly praised curriculum, not to mention its limited seats for enrolment every year.
The four-storey building was surrounded by cement walls, separating the school’s grounds from the surrounding forest. The school was in the shape of a squared-out C, the root of the C being the front of the school and facing the circular drive which led to a lane and out the school gates. The west appendage of the building housed all of the school’s three years while the east wing was (from the top floor to the bottom): teacher housing, the library, the offices and staff room, and then the recreational hall. The central part of the school was where all the classrooms were located, along with the dining hall.
That first of March was heavily clouded and threatening to open up as the winter’s crisp wind embraced anyone who dared go outside. The circular drive of SJA was packed with cars and limousines as students slowly returned to campus.
From one of the fourth-floor classrooms, the young headmaster of the school peered down at the front courtyard (for there was also a rear courtyard located between the two wings) and watched over the slow trudge of cars coming and leaving. A small, pitying smile tugged at his lips as he saw one of his spoiled students ordering about her butler (or perhaps a footman, or whoever the brats brought the first day of school) to carry her luggage to her designated dorm.
He turned away from the window to the middle-aged woman who had entered the classroom, “If this school didn’t rely so heavily on tuition, I would hand-pick my students,” the headmaster admitted, leaning a shoulder against the wall and half-turning his face back to the window, “Is everything all set?”
“Yes,” she answered. Youthful in appearance, only the slight lightening of her dark hair and the subtle creases at the corner of her eyes revealed her true age, “I’ll be going now.”
“You won’t be able to get out in this crush,” the headmaster said lightly, turning his face to look at her, “the staff driveway by the east wing, however, should be clear if you’re anxious to leave.”
“All the teachers have already arrived?” She inquired politely,
The headmaster shook his head, “Classes don’t begin until tomorrow, so only those who live here during the school year have arrived; a good portion of my staff commute every day from the city.”
She nodded indulgently, not truly listening as she kept looking out the hallway every other minute. When she looked back at the headmaster, he was smiling at her, “I should be going,” she said, “But everything is okay?”
He nodded, looking back down at the front courtyard, “Are you sure you won’t stay a bit longer?”
“No… I’ve done what I came to do,” she stated abruptly. She turned to leave, but paused, one delicate hand on the doorframe, “Headmaster Park… do you think I am a monster?”
“I don’t judge – can’t judge – anyone, ma’am,” he replied honestly, “but don’t you think I’m the wrong person you’re asking?”
He watched silently as she slipped away, the soft sounds of her footsteps fading away. When he could hear her no more, he turned back to the window and looked down as more vehicles came through the school gates, driving down the long lane to the circular drive. The sky opened up and he looked up at the dark, grey sky.
Silently, he prayed, “Let’s make this a good year.”
“Kyuhyun, it’s snowing!”
He slowly raised his head, opening his eyes and glancing at the young girl across the seat from him in the black town car. Arms crossed loosely about his torso, he caught the sight through her window of snowflakes slowly swirling from the sky. She looked over at him and sighed,
“Will you smile already?” She asked, eyes narrowing slightly,
“Tae, this is my fourth year at SJA. I was supposed to graduate in February and yet, here I am again; there’s nothing to smile about,” he replied, his voice as soft as velvet,
Taeyeon frowned slightly, not knowing what to say. Finally, she suggested hopefully, “At least now we’re in the same year?”
He shot her a look as the town car pulled to a halt near the top of the circular drive. She sighed as she opened the back door and stepped out in the cold winter breeze. He slowly exited the car from his side of the back seat, shutting the door and coming around to stand beside her. He watched silently as other students greeted one another; they were all strangers to him. Shaking his head slightly, he turned towards the trunk of the car just as the driver was unloading two bags and two suitcases.
Kyuhyun picked up his duffle bag, slipping the sling so it hung diagonally from one shoulder to the opposite hip, as he grabbed the handle of both the suitcases, he watched as Taeyeon picked up her own duffle bag, simply carrying it over one shoulder. As they said goodbye to the driver, they slowly made their way to the school’s front doors.
“Honestly, when I see kids with more than two suitcases, I wonder what they bring,” Kyuhyun muttered to his companion,
“Considering the school has a uniform, I wonder too,” Taeyeon agreed as she smiled at those who past, returning greetings that were sent her way. She was not oblivious to the fact that all Kyuhyun got were silent, questioning stares.
Once in the front foyer, Kyuhyun put down the suitcases, extending the handles on each since both had wheels. Without asking her, Taeyeon took the handle of her own suitcase and they continued on their way through the spacious foyer.
“Personally, I’m excited for finally being on a third-floor dorm room,” Taeyeon said amicably as they passed by one of the school’s elevators.
Since the school had three years, each year had its own floor in the west wing; the level of the floor correlating with the year the students were in.
“It’s pretty much the same deal after you’ve been in a second-floor dorm,” Kyuhyun insisted, glancing at the ridiculous crush of people waiting to ride the elevator to their floor.
He and Taeyeon continued down, walking towards the west wing of the school, the noise slowly fading away as they got away from everyone else. It was ten minutes of silence before they reached the west wing, the corridor suddenly turning right. They reached another set of elevators, these ones were deserted.
“Do people not know about these elevators?” Taeyeon shook her head as she pressed the ‘up’ button,
“They do, but they’re all such lazy brats that they don’t want to walk this far the first day,” Kyuhyun shook his head, “It’s not like they carry their stuff anyway; I counted at least 27 servants in the foyer.”
The elevator stopped at the third floor and Taeyeon stepped out. She turned back towards Kyuhyun, her free hand over the elevator door’s sensor, “Aren’t you coming?”
“I’m not on this floor,” Kyuhyun explained, “I got my own room on the fourth floor.”
Taeyeon’s jaw dropped, “You never told me that!”
“Because you would’ve fumed with envy the entire vacation,” Kyuhyun replied, “I get a single room like the monitors.”
SJA had only 300 students, 100 for each year. For each floor, there were two monitors – one for the girls’ dorms and one for the boys’. These monitors were recommended by their teachers and the headmaster chose them, usually from the second and third-year students. These monitors were expected to keep order in the dorms as well as in the rest of the school. Holding such a respected position, the monitors were given single rooms on the fourth floor of the west wing. The rest of the student population were two to a dorm room and there were still students who insisted on commuting to the school every day.
Kyuhyun waited, silently, as Taeyeon stood there, her hand still over where the door slid out from. She cocked her head slightly, concern lighting her eyes.
“I’m fine,” Kyuhyun replied simply as he reached out, took her hand and pried it away from the sensor.
Before he could pull away, she grabbed his hand, eyes locked with his, “If you need anything-”
“You’re the first one I’ll look for,” Kyuhyun replied. He offered her a small smile, “It’s not like I know anyone else.”
Not reassured at all, Taeyeon slowly loosened her grip on the other’s hand. As they lost contact, the elevator door slid close, separating them.
Kyuhyun rode the elevator another level up, the corridor silent when he stepped out into it. Considering there were dozens of rooms on this floor also and only six monitors, Kyuhyun knew he’d have a lot of privacy in his single room. He walked the short distance across the hall from the elevator to the first room and opened the door.
Having the room to himself, the room seemed bigger despite all his previous dorm rooms being the same size. This time, however, there was just one bed, one desk and one drawer. He stepped into his room, tossing his duffle bag onto the bed as he left his suitcase by the door. He walked around, his fingers brushing the surfaces of the desk, the drawer, the wall, until he came and stood by one of the windows in the room.
Kyuhyun peered out. The sky had darkened considerably and snow was falling in thick, fluffy sheets. He turned away from the window to another door in his room. Opening it, his eyes slowly swept over the smooth surfaces of the private bathroom. With white walls and white tiles, the room was pristine in its presentation and somehow, that made Kyuhyun’s heart clench.
“So this is where you disappeared to for high school.”
Kyuhyun swung around, startled. He felt himself physically relax against the doorframe as he saw a familiar man standing just inside his room by his suitcase. “Actually, the room I usually got had another person living in it, and we had to share our bathroom with our roommate.”
“Hey, don’t complain,” the older man replied, “I had to walk to school every day and I promise you, my school sure as hell was not like this place. Oh wait, I shouldn’t say ‘hell’ anymore, should I?”
Kyuhyun blinked, “Wait… Sungmin, do you work here now?”
The other man, Sungmin, shoved his hands into his jeans’ pocket as he smiled, “I sure do. You’re looking at the new science and biology teacher.”
“You never said anything!” Kyuhyun accused as he closed the door to the bathroom and walked towards the bed, plopping down,
“Well, it’s not like we’ve had a lot of contact since I left for college,” Sungmin amended, “And before that when I moved away…” He sighed heavily, leaning a shoulder against the doorframe, “How’ve you been, Kyuhyun?”
“I’ve been alright,” Kyuhyun insisted, feeling incredibly lighter than before.
His mother and Sungmin’s had been best friends. So, even while Kyuhyun was still in the womb, he and Sungmin had been pushed together. They grew up living next door to each other until the day Sungmin’s parents died in a car accident. It had happened the year before Kyuhyun was to first attend SJA; at the time, Sungmin was a second-year high school student. After the funeral, Sungmin had been shipped off to live with other relatives and suddenly the friend who was always there, was suddenly gone.
“Don’t lie,” Sungmin warned, “I may be a science teacher, but we do learn math too – I’m just two years older than you and you shouldn’t still be in high school, Jo Kyuhyun.”
“I missed too many classes last year, so I have to repeat,” Kyuhyun explained casually as he stood to his full height and turned to open his duffle bag,
“You never seemed to be the type to skip classes,” Sungmin stated, allowing his words to trail off,
Kyuhyun turned back to face him, crossing his arms loosely about his torso, “Okay, you’re fishing for something; you already know, don’t you?”
Sungmin nodded as he grabbed Kyuhyun’s suitcase and pulled it into the room, picking it up and dropping it on the bed, “I mentioned to the headmaster that a friend of mine used to go here and when I mentioned your name, he explained you were here and what room you had.” Sungmin turned to face Kyuhyun, “I heard you were gone for almost half the year… Are you okay?”
“I had some health problems, but it’s okay now,” Kyuhyun replied as he began unpacking his duffle bag. When he said no more, Sungmin didn’t probe. After a moment, he asked, “So, I guess I have to call you Seonsaeng-nim Lee, huh?”
“Not when it’s just us,” Sungmin clasped a hand on his shoulder, “Kyuhyun.”
The next morning, Kyuhyun was up earlier, dressed in the black slacks, white button-up and navy blue sweater-vest that was the school’s uniform. He had lain in bed for at least an hour before he finally left his dark bedroom. When he entered the corridor, he was surprised to find Taeyeon standing by the elevators. She raised her head and smiled at him instantly. She was dressed in a black skirt and the same button-up and sweater-vest combo that Kyuhyun was wearing. Her knee-high socks were white and, unlike the rest of the school who wore designer heels or dress shoes, Taeyeon wore clean, white sneakers.
“What are you doing here?” Kyuhyun asked bluntly as he walked over and pressed the ‘down’ button,
“Well, I didn’t know which room you were in, so I was waiting for you,” she said simply as they began to wait, “Actually, I think it’ll be awhile until we get the elevator.”
Kyuhyun sighed, “I figured,” he replied as he immediately turned to his end of the wing closest to his room. There, he pushed open the door to the stairwell and led the way down,
“So… why weren’t you at dinner last night?” Taeyeon asked simply as they slowly walked down the newly-waxed, mahogany stairs,
“I wasn’t hungry,” Kyuhyun replied,
“That’s not what I meant,” Taeyeon said quietly.
As they passed the landing on the third floor, other students trickled into the stairwell with them. Taeyeon moved to the side, falling in behind Kyuhyun as more people opted to take the stairs rather than the elevator. People greeted Taeyeon on their way by. She would wave or ask how they were doing, but she remained steadfastly with Kyuhyun whenever they continued past. When they reached the landing on the second floor, Kyuhyun paused, Taeyeon following his lead.
She looked up at him, “Is something wrong?”
“I’m going back to my room,” he replied,
She blinked before her eyes filled with alarm, “Why? Are you okay?” She asked quietly,
“I’m just not in the mood to be in the dining hall where everyone’s bound to be loud and obnoxious. I’ve been brushed and pushed by so many people already and…” He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, “I have a headache.”
She reached up and touched her middle and index fingers to his temple and frowned, “You’ll be in class?”
“Of course,” Kyuhyun replied as he took her hand and lowered it from his face, noticing the curious stares from the other students.
Still frowning, she cocked her head slightly, “If you’re sure?”
He nodded, “I could be hungry by first period; so, can you bring me some toast?”
“Plain?” He nodded. She squeezed his hand once before tentatively turning and continuing on down the stairwell. Kyuhyun waited until she was out of sight before he headed back up the stairs to his dorm.
Since he opted out to going down to breakfast, Kyuhyun relished in the quiet corridors when, an hour later, he headed for his first class of the day: literature studies. With his satchel-bag at his back, the strap lying diagonally from one shoulder to the opposite hip, he walked slowly, languorously with his hands in his black slacks’ pockets.
When he arrived at the designated classroom, he wasn’t at all surprised to find no other students there. However, when he stepped into the classroom, which seated 25 students, he realized a young man – perhaps Sungmin’s age – was sitting at the desk at the front of the classroom. A teacher?
At the sound of his footsteps, the other man looked up from the papers he was poring over. “Is it almost time for class?” He asked, adjusting the thick-framed glasses as he looked at the wall clock, “Oh, you’re early.”
“Sorry, is that a problem?” Kyuhyun asked, frozen in the doorway.
“No, not at all,” the teacher beckoned him in.
Kyuhyun sat in the nearest desk, opposite to the classroom’s wall of windows. As he slipped off the strap of his bag, allowing it to fall to the ground, he sat at his desk and tried to look away from the teacher who continued his work as if he hadn’t been interrupted.
They were the only ones in the classroom and it would’ve been silent if not for Kyuhyun’s heart. He could hear it pounding relentlessly, loudly, as it contracted wildly in the cavity of his chest. He could feel his blood thrumming in his vessels as he watched the teacher. He found it hard to breathe, hard to talk and his mouth had gone completely dry. At some point, Kyuhyun realized he was gripping the sides of his desk in an attempt to stop himself from jumping up and walking over to the teacher.
Never had he ever felt such an attraction, reaction, to another person. It surprised Kyuhyun, scared him to his core. He prayed for his heart to stop beating so rapidly, prayed for his lungs to take in air, prayed that someone – anyone – would come into the classroom. Maybe then, this strange spell he was under would end and he could relax.
The teacher raised a hand, spearing his fingers through dark, black hair and as he pushed his hair back. Kyuhyun didn’t know whether to follow that hand with his eyes, or observe the small expanse of skin that had been hiding beneath his hair. When that hand suddenly lowered, adjusting his glasses slightly before picking up his pen and continuing on, Kyuhyun felt as if he were in a trance, his eyes following every minute movement of that hand.
In the back of his mind, Kyuhyun was aware of his hands loosening their grip on the desk. He was aware of his feet itching to move, his limbs already anticipating how they would make their way across the room. He had risen from his chair in a single, graceful move and –
“Kyuhyun!” The familiar, almost sing-song voice drifted towards Kyuhyun and that was all it took for him to drift back to reality. Taeyeon hooked the straps of her backpack over the chair in front of Kyuhyun’s desk. She turned to him and held out a small package wrapped in napkins.
He sat back down in his seat as Taeyeon took her seat in front of his. He opened up the napkins and revealed four pieces of bread. He looked up at her, raising one eyebrow in question,
She held up her hand, two of her fingers extended, “You missed two meals, so you get double the serving.” When Kyuhyun took a bite of one of the slices, Taeyeon allowed her attention to drift from him, “Hey, Kyu, I’m not crazy, right? New teacher?”
Kyuhyun nodded as he chewed almost savagely, swallowing hard and taking another hearty bite of the bread, “I heard from the headmaster that the last teacher is… no longer with us.”
Taeyeon blinked at him, “What? But… how?”
Kyuhyun swallowed his food, his eyes on the half-eaten slice in his hand, “The same as me… except the teacher didn’t survive.”
As a bell rang, signalling the end of the lunch hour, Sungmin stood from his desk, stretching his arms to the ceiling. He was glad he didn’t have a class during third period. He could hear chaos in the hall as students ran off to their classes, despite the bell already having been rung. He walked to the door of his classroom, leaning a shoulder against the door as he watched the last few students disappear towards their classrooms.
He pushed away from the doorway, stepping into the corridor. He hadn’t explored the school as much as he would have liked and, seeing as he had an hour free, decided to do so at that moment. He was walking down the corridor at a leisurely pace when he heard a banging sound. Pausing, he turned towards the boys’ washroom where it was coming from. Tentatively, he pushed open the door,
At first there was no response. Had he been hearing – suddenly, he heard his name being called. However, it wasn’t his name that startled him. What caused him to immediately burst into the washroom, opening stall doors was the fact that it was the diminutive of his name that had been called out. In the last stall in the row, he found, curled on the floor with an arm wrapped around his stomach, Kyuhyun.
Sungmin grasped Kyuhyun’s free arm and gingerly pulled him up, hooking that free arm around his neck and wrapping an arm around Kyuhyun’s torso to help him stand,
“Kyuhyun, what happened?”
“I’m the only person repeating… I don’t know anyone… I’m an obvious target for people with nothing better to do with their lives,” Kyuhyun managed, his head lolling onto Sungmin’s shoulder, his eyelids sliding shut.
“I hope this doesn’t lower me in your opinion of me as your teacher… but where’s the nurse’s office?” Sungmin asked as he slowly walked Kyuhyun out of the washroom,
“Second floor, at the very end of the east wing,” Kyuhyun murmured, his face cringing every few steps they took.
One flight of stairs and almost twenty minutes later, Sungmin got Kyuhyun to the nurse’s office. He helped Kyuhyun over to one of the beds and the younger man immediately collapsed atop the mattress, his other arm joining the other to wrap around his stomach as he rolled onto his back. Sungmin looked around,
“Is there a doctor or nurse or something?” Sungmin looked around, “There’s no one here!”
“There’s a nurse but she could not be back from vacation… usually this place isn’t open until after the first week of school,” Kyuhyun explained when Sungmin returned to his side. “And the doctor only comes here twice a week.”
“Ah, it’s good to be back!”
Sungmin immediately looked out from the curtains that surrounded Kyuhyun’s bed, a young woman had entered, dressed in a thick coat and pulling two suitcases behind her. She looked at Sungmin and blinked, “I’m sorry, can I help you?”
“Are you the nurse here?” Sungmin asked and she nodded. “Please, I have a student here that I found.”
The nurse immediately let go of her suitcases and walked briskly over. As she stepped inside the curtain, she took off her coat, tossing it onto a nearby chair. It was then that Sungmin realize the nurse was actually a guy. Dressed in dark jeans and simple t-shirt, the nurse approached the bed, tying back his long hair into a loose ponytail at the nape of his neck.
“Jo-sshi?” The nurse said as he reached the bedside, “Damn, let’s get this shirt off and let me have a look.”
Sungmin stood by silently as the nurse gently helped Kyuhyun out of his sweater vest and tossed it with his coat. He unbuttoned Kyuhyun’s shirt and pulled apart the sides to look where Kyuhyun had been wrapping his arms. Sungmin couldn’t help the hand that flew to cover his mouth, stifling a gasp at the sight of Kyuhyun’s torso. The smooth skin was heavily bruised and there were even cuts in some places.
The nurse abruptly left the bedside, heading to one of his suitcases. He laid it on the ground and opened it up, extracting a stethoscope and returning to Kyuhyun. As he was placing the earpieces into his ears, the nurse looked over his shoulder at Sungmin,
“If you’re staying because you’re worried, you can at least be of some use. I need you to get on the school phone and call… oh what’s that name…” He began to mutter to himself as he placed the diaphragm of the stethoscope on Kyuhyun’s abdomen. Finally, he said, “Zhou Mi. Call that guy… or girl… whoever it is, call them and tell them I have a student here who’s been injured.”
It was after third period ended when Taeyeon ran into the nurse’s office. She looked around and spotted Sungmin who was pacing before a section that was surrounded by a curtain. When he saw her, he stopped, jaw dropped,
She rushed over to him, “It’s Kyuhyun, isn’t it? I heard some guys in my class talking about him. I would’ve been here sooner, but class –”
“It’s okay,” Sungmin insisted, “The nurse is in there with Kyuhyun and he says Kyuhyun will be just fine.”
Taeyeon breathed a sigh of relief, sagging against the nearest wall, “Thank God that Heechul-sshi was here.”
Sungmin blinked, “Heechul?”
Taeyeon gestured to the curtain where she assumed Kyuhyun was, “The nurse, his name is Heechul. He says ‘nurse Kim’ doesn’t suit him, so he tells us all to call him Heechul-sshi.” She looked at Sungmin a moment before asking, “What are you doing here?”
“I found Kyuhyun in the washroom –”
“No… Sungmin, what are you doing here at SJA?” Taeyeon asked,
“I’m a teacher now,” he explained, “I teach science and biology.” His eyes swept over her face, “Is there a problem with that?”
“No,” She shook her head as she looked back to the curtain, “It’s just been a long time.”
Suddenly, the curtain slid open and Heechul, who had changed into navy blue scrubs, stepped out and acknowledged Taeyeon with a slight nod of his head. Hanging his stethoscope around his neck, Heechul began to walk towards his desk in the spacious room that housed three more beds.
“Without doing serious tests, everything feels and hears fine. If his condition worsens after a week we can send him off to Seoul to get checked out for real,” Heechul explained – Kyuhyun giving his consent for him to do so – as he walked over to a book case filled with folders. He pulled one out, “The doctor won’t be in until next week, so we’ll have to play this by ear and just watch how Jo-sshi heals.”
“Is he… okay?” Taeyeon asked, her eyes darting between the space in the curtain where she could see Kyuhyun and to Heechul,
He looked at Taeyeon, caught her meaningful look and nodded, “Yes, it seems he had just some blows to his stomach.”
“Just some blows to his stomach!?” Sungmin exclaimed, “He was collapsed on the washroom floor and you say it like it’s nothing –”
“No, I say it like it could’ve been worse,” Heechul interjected, eyes narrowed slightly as he crossed slender arms over his chest, “Especially after last year –”
“Heechul-sshi,” Taeyeon interrupted, subtly shaking her head when the nurse turned his attention to her.
However, Sungmin caught the small exchange, his fox-like eyes narrowed, “I stayed to help Kyuhyun, but it seems like I’m just being in the way –”
“I have a class to teach,” he cut Taeyeon off. Abruptly, he turned and left, only sparing one last glance towards where Kyuhyun was before leaving.
“I have to go unpack my things since I just arrived,” Heechul said as he finished writing in the folder, closing it and returning it to the bookcase, “I trust I can leave you here with Jo-sshi?”
Taeyeon nodded and watched as Heechul picked up his coat, grabbed the handles of his suitcases and tugged them away with him. Taeyeon slipped past the curtains, coming to stand by Kyuhyun’s bed. She bit her lip to stop from crying when she saw Kyuhyun, now clad in just his black pants and purple splotching his abdomen.
Kyuhyun opened his eyes, looking up at Taeyeon, “Did Sungmin leave?”
Taeyeon nodded, “You haven’t told him about what happened last year, have you?” When Kyuhyun said nothing, she continued, “You’ve known each other since before you were even born. I think you can trust him – teacher or not.” She sighed heavily, grasping the nearest of Kyuhyun’s hand, “Oh Kyu, look at your stomach!”
“It hurts worse than it looks,” Kyuhyun stated and then laughed when her eyes widened in alarm, “I’m fine, Tae.”
“My mom would disagree if she saw you,” Taeyeon muttered,
“Don’t tell her,” Kyuhyun stated, squeezing her hand for emphasis, “Taeyeon, please – let’s just keep this between you and me, okay? I don’t want to burden your parents.”
“Burden them? Kyuhyun, my parents are not like yours –”
Taeyeon looked over her shoulder when the literature teacher appeared in the gap in the curtains. “Seonsaeng-nim?”
“I heard there was an injured student,” the teacher explained, stepping into the curtained area, “I know a thing or two about caring for injuries, so all student reports are given to me as well. It comes in handy on weekends – I hear the nurse is only here during the week.”
Taeyeon nodded her silent reply as the teacher approached.
“Is it okay if I examine your injuries?” The teacher inquired,
Kyuhyun swallowed hard, nodding. Taeyeon stepped aside to allow room for the teacher, but Kyuhyun refused to release her hand. Her eyes slowly drifted down to Kyuhyun’s, noting that his gaze was fixed on the teacher, that he had become rigid and his hand had tightened around hers.
“Excuse me,” the teacher said. Taeyeon stepped aside as the teacher came to the head of the bed. Taking Kyuhyun’s chin in hand, he gently moved Kyuhyun’s head to the left and then to the right.
“They just got my stomach,” Kyuhyun insisted as he was forced to release Taeyeon’s hand.
“Just making sure everything else is okay,” the teacher explained. “How did this happen?”
“There are students here who are privileged, gaining entry to SJA through their parents’ wallet… some of them, the bored ones, like to prey on those who aren’t so fortunate,” Kyuhyun explained,
Taeyeon shook her head, “It’s not that, Kyuhyun. They did this because of me.”
Kyuhyun and the teacher both looked at Taeyeon; a silent question on both of their faces.
“Two of them confessed to me over the vacation, but I rejected them. They must have seen us together because in class I heard them talking about us… how… how they can’t believe I chose you over them,” Taeyeon explained quietly, guiltily; not quite able to meet his eyes.
“Taeyeon, I’m fine, really. Let's go Tae... after Heechul and Seonsaeng-nim, I have a headache,” Kyuhyun insisted as he struggled to sit up. The teacher immediately grabbed his arm and placed a hand on Kyuhyun’s shoulder to help him up, the touch sending streaks of fire straight to somewhere in the left side of Kyuhyun’s chest. He looked at Taeyeon, “Can you get my shirt and vest? Heechul-sshi brought it out there when he went to change his clothes.”
She nodded and slipped through the curtains.
Kyuhyun swung his legs over the edge of the bed and gingerly made to stand up. Immediately, the teacher came to his side, helping him up and steadying him. Kyuhyun ignored the way his skin warmed at the contact, the way his heart began to race, the way his throat seemed to tighten and the way his head began to pound even more painfully.
“Listen, if you ever need any help… just let me know,” the teacher insisted,
Kyuhyun looked at him, slightly alarmed, “Why?”
“It’s my job to protect the students; being a teacher and all,” he replied,
Kyuhyun pulled away from the teacher just as Taeyeon returned. She helped him slip his arms through his button-up shirt. After he did up his shirt, Taeyeon tucked herself beneath one of his arms to help him walk, an arm around his waist as the other held his sweater-vest. They almost made it to the door when the teacher called out to them,
“You didn’t fight back did you? Your hands don’t show any signs of fighting,” the teacher stated, leaning a shoulder against the wall as he stood in the gap of the curtain,
Kyuhyun stopped his and Taeyeon’s progress, but he didn’t turn around, “No, I didn’t.”
“Why?” The teacher asked simply.
“Because I would’ve ended up killing them.”
(Phase 2: Consequences of Knowledge)