(Phase 10 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Ten: Homecoming
It was like they were kids again. It had been so long since he spent so much time with his childhood friend and it felt good. He felt as if all the smiles up until then were all false; all forced. Well, perhaps not all, all his smiles were true whenever he was around…
“And that one time when we were running from Sifu,” Hankyung stated as he sat on the closest desk to Zhou Mi’s,
“Which time? We were always running away from Sifu,” Zhou Mi stated,
“When we were so hungry that we –” Hankyung stopped when the door to the classroom burst open. They watched, silent and startled as Taeyeon ran into the room. She approached Zhou Mi, barely even acknowledging that Hankyung was there.
Zhou Mi turned in his chair to look at her, “Kim-sshi?”
Taeyeon stared at him, her big eyes narrowed, her fists clenched at her sides and her entire body moving with each breath as if she had just ran a marathon. Suddenly, she dropped to her knees. She sat back against her heels, her fists digging into her thighs as she bowed her head, clenching her eyes tightly. She tried to control her rapidly beating heart and her shaking lungs. The literature teacher’s classes were still cancelled for the rest of the week despite him being back at SJA and she was merely hoping he was in his classroom. Her luck, once more, left her surprised, thankful and wary.
“Please, Seonsaeng-nim,” she managed, forcing all her strength into her words and to fight the impending tears, “Apologize, yell, lie – I don’t care. Just please, do something to make him accept your help… Please, Seonsaeng-nim –”
“Kim-sshi,” Zhou Mi went to her, grabbing her arms to make her stand, but she refused, slipping her arms from his grasp, “Kim-sshi –”
Taeyeon bent forward, her fists opening and lying flat on the floor as her body curved to the floor until she could feel her breath rebounding against the floorboards and touching her face, “Kyuhyun’s not healing, he’s dehydrated, he’s been starving… I don’t… I don’t know what to do anymore. He won’t accept anyone’s help and now… now he has a fever and… and he collapsed and he… he won’t wake up…” She struggled for a breath of air before she cried, “I am begging you to do whatever it takes to make him accept your help… Please… Please, Seonsaeng-nim… I’m begging you.”
“I… I don’t think he’ll accept anything from me,” Zhou Mi said quietly as he tentatively put a hand on Taeyeon’s shoulder.
She pushed herself up, her eyes filled with tears as more tears trailed down her face, “Then make him! I don’t know why… I don’t understand why… but he’ll let you do things he won’t let anyone else… He won’t let me… he won’t…” She tore her gaze away, using the cuff of her school sweater to wipe at her tears, “Only you have succeeded where I’ve failed…”
“Mi, perhaps you should call that person from the Council,” Hankyung said as he walked over and, grasping Taeyeon’s arm easily brought her to her feet, “If that person can help Jo-sshi.”
Zhou Mi nodded as he slowly stood, “Kim-sshi, there’s a person who I can get –”
“I know,” she interrupted quietly; “I was there that day when you told the Headmaster. Heechul explained the Council to me… you’re a Council member aren’t you?”
Zhou Mi said nothing as he pulled his cellular phone from his pocket, “I’ll call the Head Hunter here.”
“And, Seonsaeng-nim,” Taeyeon paused as Hankyung led her out of the classroom, “I’m… I’m putting my trust in you… I’m putting Kyuhyun’s life in your hands… I hope for his sake that your judgement is not wrong.”
Zhou Mi slowly followed them out, murmuring to himself, “I hope so too.”
When Zhou Mi stepped into the private room, he felt his heart contract painfully. Kyuhyun lay supine in the bed, his torso seeming even smaller than before beneath the bed’s thin blanket which was pulled to just his waist. Sungmin sat on the edge of the bed, lightly pressing a compress to Kyuhyun’s forehead and neck. Kyuhyun’s pyjama top was unbuttoned, the edges pushed to the sides to reveal his still-purpled torso and his chest barely rising with each shallow breath.
Taeyeon pulled away from Hankyung’s supportive hold on her as she rushed into the room, standing so she was at Sungmin’s back. Her hands gripped his shoulders as she chewed on her bottom lip, “How is he?”
“You’ve only been gone for fifteen minutes,” Sungmin said calmly, quietly, trying to hold on to any strand of rationality to keep him sane, keep his paranoid thoughts away. He was distantly aware of her touch, of her hold on him; his thoughts centered at his dear friend who hadn’t so much as moved since they found him. Sungmin glanced at the doorway where Zhou Mi and Hankyung stood. He raised a single eyebrow in silent questioning.
“I’ve… I’ve called for medical help,” Zhou Mi explained as he slowly, hesitantly stepped into the room, “He… That’s all I can do.”
Sungmin stared at him, Kyuhyun’s words echoing in the back of his head and then, he turned back to Kyuhyun, dipping the compress in the basin Heechul left him. He wringed out the cloth and then brought it back to Kyuhyun, gently dabbing the bruised skin of his chest; “Sometimes, it shouldn’t be just about blood,” he said quietly, hoping that Hankyung couldn’t hear him.
“What?” Taeyeon asked, confused,
Sungmin didn’t answer her, however. Instead, he glanced at Zhou Mi, their gazes locked for barely a minute and then he turned his attention back to Kyuhyun. “How long do we have to wait?”
“They’ll be here within a day,” Zhou Mi replied, “I said it was urgent.”
Sungmin said nothing, just nodded his approval.
Slowly, Hankyung stepped away, allowing the three to have their vigil. He stepped back into the main part of the nurse’s office and walked over to the nurse’s desk. He dropped into one of the chairs before the desk, eyes sweeping over Heechul. He sat back in his chair, arms crossed about his torso and his long locks flowing unkempt around him.
“What are you thinking?” Hankyung said simply, leaning forward in his chair to prop his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands together. When Heechul said nothing, he admitted softly, “I know that Jo-sshi is a turned vampire.”
Heechul gave him a single glance in silent, surprised response before stating, “My job is to keep that kid healthy, to keep him alive. I can’t force anything on him so, with him refusing to feed, our last resort is to bring in that Head Hunter with his supposed medical experience.” He looked to the computer screen where Kyuhyun’s charts were being shown; “We’re risking a lot exposing Kyuhyun to a Head Hunter… but it’s all we have left.” His eyes flashed towards the other man, “I know you’re not part of the Council, but you’re well respected there… I want your promise that if anything happens, you’ll do something about it.”
“Heechul, I don’t actually have power in the Council; I just have their respect because of my grandfather,” Hankyung said, “I don’t have power to stop a mission or stop a Head Hunter…”
“I can’t let that person near Kyuhyun then,” Heechul said,
“They’re not from the Korean branch… what if we told them that for certain reasons, Kyuhyun is a vampire but is under the protection of the Korean Council?” Hankyung offered, “They cannot do anything without stepping their bounds and challenging the Korean Council.”
“Will that work?” Heechul asked,
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a try,” Hankyung said, “If we want to keep Kyuhyun alive and, if he’s refusing to feed as you say… then it’s all we can do.”
“We were lucky to find him when we did… we were lucky that the headmaster was able to get doctors in to treat his broken bones… we’re lucky that Zhou Mi knows of a Head Hunter who can treat Kyuhyun… I’m hearing the word ‘luck’ a lot and that doesn’t make me too comfortable,” Heechul said simply, “How much longer before our luck runs out with Kyuhyun? Damn it, Zhou Mi doesn’t even know this guy, he just knows of him… Maybe we’re pushing our luck too much…”
A silence fell between them when approaching footsteps echoed in the nurse’s office. Zhou Mi came and sat down in the other chair before Heechul’s desk,
“Have you given him any medications? Antipyretics?” Zhou Mi questioned,
Heechul raised an eyebrow, “I have not been stingy in my care for that kid, so don’t you –”
“If he’s been unconscious, there’s no way you’d be able to give him any medication unless you did it intravenously,” Zhou Mi interrupted,
“His fever started way before he collapsed,” Heechul stated,
“Heechul, you’re a horrible liar,” Zhou Mi said bluntly, leaning back in his chair, crossing his arms and his smile nowhere to be seen. “Why haven’t you given him any medication?”
Heechul glanced towards the open door of the private room. After ensuring himself that Sungmin and Taeyeon were out of ear-shot, he answered quietly, “Kyuhyun’s body rejects any type of medication. He doesn’t want Sungmin or Taeyeon to know because it’ll worry them…”
“I gave him medication –”
“Yes and he said his body rejected it every time,” Heechul replied before adding quietly, “He probably didn’t want you to worry either.”
“Have you thought of what to tell the headmaster?” Zhou Mi asked then,
Heechul raised an eyebrow, “Me? You’re the one who’s calling in the Head Hunter.”
Zhou Mi sighed heavily, “I knew you were going to say that.” He shook his head slightly as he glanced at his childhood friend, “Geng…”
“No, no… I warned you we weren’t kids anymore; I can’t save you from Eeteuk,” Hankyung offered a small smile,
The corner of Zhou Mi’s lips quirked, “Do you think the headmaster can run as fast as Sifu?”
The next day; Friday; Third week of April 20XX
The sky was overcast and the grounds had a sparse amount of snow than the previous days. For the first time since school started, it actually began to look like spring. He leaned a shoulder against the doorframe as he watched the taxi make its way up the long driveway to the school and then, come to the apex of the circular drive and pull to a stop before the front of Shim Jang Academy.
He pushed away from the door and sprinted over to the taxi just as the sky opened up and rain began to fall down to the earth. Just as he reached the car, the back door opened and a man, younger than himself and dressed in black slacks and a black button-up, stepped out. Zhou Mi watched as he reached in and offered his hand to a young lady whom he helped out of the car; she, too, was dressed in all black, a pencil-skirt and a button-up blouse. She opened up an umbrella and glanced at Zhou Mi,
“I’m assuming you’re the Head Hunter who requested I come here immediately?” She asked quietly, formally, her words holding a slight accent as she swept her long, dark locks over her shoulder.
Zhou Mi nodded as the taxi driver came out and handed two suitcases to the young man. He watched as the young man began to take out a wallet, but immediately took out his own, handing the driver money.
“Come, you’re here because of me; let’s get you both out of the rain,” Zhou Mi said as he led the way back to the school.
In the entrance hall, he watched as the young lady compacted the umbrella once more, shoving it into a side-pocket of one of the suitcases. When she looked at him expectantly, Zhou Mi turned and began to lead the way to the east wing’s second floor.
“Of all places, a school,” she said simply, looking around the vast hallways, the classy décor, “From the summons, it makes me think this isn’t for a mission. Actually, considering you contacted me personally rather than through the Council makes me wonder what this is about.”
“There’s a student here who was transformed last year,” Zhou Mi said quietly, swiftly, glad that classes were in session and the corridors left empty. “For reasons I cannot say, the student is under the Korean Council’s protection.”
“You asked about my medical knowledge; this student… this half-vampire is injured, then?” She inquired and then added promptly, “I do recall stating that I have had no formal training. All I know is simply field experience as a Hunter.”
“But no one else boasts the same experience; at least, not to the extent that follows your name,” Zhou Mi said, “You focused on medicine whenever in the field with a partner or team. Because of that, your extent of medical knowledge is more than the average Hunter. I heard of you when I last visited the Japanese Council a few years ago.”
“And you remembered me until now? I’m touched,” she said dryly.
As they walked, Zhou Mi glanced at the young man who had remained silent the entire time. He glanced at the young lady who had seen his obvious perusal;
“This is Kibum. He was an orphan of Korean descent whom the Council took in,” she answered swiftly; “He has been with the Council since he was five and is considered one of the best Hunters in Japan.”
“No offence, but I only asked for one Head Hunter,” Zhou Mi said, offering an easy smile,
“Kibum isn’t a Head Hunter; he is my partner. Because of this, he refuses any promotions and goes with me everywhere,” she locked gazes with Zhou Mi, “Everywhere.”
“Ah, my apologies,” Zhou Mi insisted as he looked at Kibum, “Well, I welcome you both to Shim Jang Academy.”
“I must say, I’m not entirely excited for the prospect of using my skills to attend to a vampire – regardless of him being a transformed – so, to make this process as smooth as possible, I will spend the least amount of time in the vampire’s presence,” She said swiftly. “So, you might as well tell me now what is wrong with the vampire.”
“Severe internal bleeding noted by bruising all over his body; dehydration caused by prolonged exposure to indirect daylight; malnutrition caused by the refusal to feed since December –”
“Refusal to feed!?” She exclaimed incredulously;
“He’s been fighting his vampirism since the previous school year and refuses to feed,” Zhou Mi explained as they neared the nurse’s station, “Also, he has broken bones in his left hand and his ribs.”
“What the hell happened to the poor boy? Was he attacked by a mob?” She questioned,
“More or less… he’s been a target for bullies since the school year began; something about being an easy scapegoat for them. They don’t know he’s a vampire and by chance they did the one thing that could have killed him and locked him out on the school’s roof,” Zhou Mi answered, his voice taking on a bitter, ruthless edge. Abruptly, he paused outside of the nurse’s office, locking gazes with the other Head Hunter; “I asked you to come to make sure he lives. I am begging you not to hold any prejudices you have against vampires against him.”
“Fine,” she said simply, immediately, “Then he better not try anything funny. Blood lust or not, if he tries to attack anyone, I will do my duty and kill him.” She glanced into the nurse’s office, seeing no one; “How old is the boy? Fourteen? Fifteen?”
“He turned eighteen this past February,” Zhou Mi answered,
She swung her gaze back to Zhou Mi, “Eighteen? Why is he still in school?”
“He missed most of his senior year due to his turning,” Zhou Mi explained as he led the way into the nurse’s office. As he headed towards the private room, Heechul exited, leaving the door open, assured that no stray rays of sunlight could creep into the room.
Heechul’s gaze swept over the two strangers, “These are the ones you called to help him?”
“We’re both Korean and can understand you perfectly,” the Head Hunter stated swiftly, crossing her arms over her chest,
Heechul glanced at her and then looked back at Zhou Mi, “His fever’s down and he’s awake… barely. But he needs to rest –”
Zhou Mi’s eyes widened as he hastened into the room. The top part of the mattress had been raised at a 45-degree angle and Kyuhyun sat back against the pillows, a compress on his pale forehead. Kyuhyun’s head lolled back against the pillows as his gaze slowly swung to Zhou Mi; his eyes lit with recognition.
Towering over the younger man, Zhou Mi gazed down at him, eyes slightly narrowed with worry, “Despite whatever it is I did to hurt you… please trust me with helping you.”
Kyuhyun blinked, slowly inhaled, opened his eyes and nodded gently, “I’m too tired to argue with you anyway.”
“Please, come in,” Zhou Mi called, stepping aside to look at the open door.
The Head Hunter came into the room, Kibum crowding the doorway with Heechul. She stepped halfway into the dim room lit by just a small lamp on the bedside table. She paused, her arms falling loosely from their crossed positions as her eyes slowly widened.
She glanced at Zhou Mi and then back at the young man in the bed; “Kyuhyun? You’re the vampire?”
Kyuhyun blinked once, twice and then the corners of his lips twitched in the barest of smiles, “Kyuri – it’s been a long time.”
Heechul walked over to where the three people were gathered by his desk. Almost immediately after the Head Hunter entered Kyuhyun’s room, he had banished them all outside to the main part of the nurse’s office to give Kyuhyun time to rest; after all, it had taken half a day to reawaken him. Quietly, he took his place behind his desk before sitting back in his chair, crossing his arms and glancing at those before him. Zhou Mi sat in one chair, the Head Hunter in another and the silent man stood behind her. His gaze landed on Zhou Mi,
“Kyuhyun knows the Head Hunter?” Heechul questioned,
“They’re related,” He looked at Kyuri, “Aren’t you? That’s why you look so similar and your names are practically alike.”
Kyuri sighed, crossing her arms and looking away from the others, “He and I were born on the same day… to the same parents.”
“He’s your twin!?” Zhou Mi and Heechul exclaimed as Kibum finally spoke up, “You have siblings!?”
“Sibling. Singular. Just him,” Kyuri replied. She glanced up at her partner, seeing the silent accusation in his stoic face, “I didn’t feel the need to tell you about Kyuhyun. For all intents and purposes, I was an orphan.”
“Except you weren’t,” Kibum grounded out, his monotone voice holding a slight edge;
“Wait – wait – wait,” Heechul sat up straight in his chair, holding up his hands for silence, “You’re the sister his parents shipped off before you could talk?” She nodded once. “This is great; we could do the blood transfusion. Wait – you do have the same blood type as Kyuhyun, right?”
“A negative,” she confirmed before adding immediately, “What blood transfusion? I haven’t agreed myself to anything.”
“Because Kyuhyun’s been starving himself, I have this theory that if he continues to do so, his body will begin to eat away at his own blood, much like a person who’s anorexic and their muscles are attacked,” Heechul explained, “If he still refuses to feed, the next best option is a blood transfusion.”
“It’s a sound argument except that you appeared to not have heard me: I have not agreed myself to anything,” Kyuri stated firmly,
“He’s your brother,” Heechul stressed,
“As far as I’m concerned, I have no family,” Kyuri replied simply, eyes narrowing; “I was abandoned by my parents simply because I wasn’t a boy, because all they needed was an heir to their damn fortune –”
“Kyuhyun was abandoned too,” Zhou Mi interjected.
“What!?” Kyuri swung her gaze to him, unbelieving, “That… That can’t be… He’s the boy… He’s the heir. They need him.”
“Apparently they don’t because the moment Kyuhyun was transformed, they turned their backs on him, too,” Zhou Mi replied, crossing his arms, “According to Kyuhyun, they’ve even moved out of Seoul.”
Kyuri gaped, stunned. She tried to connected ideas and form words and yet, was unable to. Kyuhyun abandoned? He was their treasured heir. They didn’t need her, but they needed him to succeed in the business. It was such a simple statement that Kyuhyun had been abandoned too and yet, she couldn’t believe it, couldn’t completely comprehend it. She felt confused, disoriented as if something fundamental in her life had become even more twisted than she previous presumed. Suddenly, a hand on her shoulder pulled her out of her tumultuous state.
She looked up at Kibum who stood silently behind her. Finally, she looked back at the other two men, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help Kyuhyun. There’s too much history… too much… anger and bitterness. I can’t readily give up my own life source under such circumstances.”
“You say you learn about medicine in the field, what of the ethics associated with it?” Heechul challenged, “What of beneficence?”
“I will treat him for his injuries, but I will not give him my blood,” Kyuri stated firmly, quietly, “I can get him healthy again without a blood transfusion… I refuse to give him the only thing my parents were unable to take from me.”
Heechul glanced at Zhou Mi, who nodded his head. Slowly, he stood up and offered her a sincere, small smile, “You’re right; we were wrong to assume things and take advantage of your generosity for coming here to treat him in the first place. If you’ll both follow me, it’s time you meet the headmaster of Shim Jang Academy.”
As Kyuri and Kibum were preparing to leave, Heechul caught Zhou Mi’s eyes, “Figured out what to tell Eeteuk?”
Zhou Mi shook his head, “I was hoping to ride on the fact that they’re related. Once I explain they’re actually twins, well… I don’t think he’ll see a danger in that, right?”
“She’s still a Head Hunter,” Heechul stated bluntly as he stood from his chair,
“Yeah, let’s not repeat that too often in front of him,” Zhou Mi said before he left, leading them down the hall to the headmaster’s office.
Upon entering, they found the headmaster behind his desk with a large ledger before him. Eeteuk looked up, raised an eyebrow at Zhou Mi before his curious eyes wandered over the two strangers. He nodded for them to sit. Zhou Mi gestured to Kibum to take a chair, but the silent partner shook his head, opting to stand behind Kyuri’s chair instead. Once Zhou Mi had gracefully sat down in the chair beside Kyuri’s, he turned his attention to the headmaster as he silently sent up a prayer to the heavens.
“Remember that Head Hunter I told you about?” Zhou Mi began, not knowing how else to explain himself to the headmaster.
Eeteuk’s eyes widened as his gaze fell upon the only female in the room. He cleared his throat, regaining his wits and said solemnly, “I regret that you’ve wasted your time, um…”
“Jo,” Kyuri quipped, “Jo Kyuri.”
Suddenly, Eeteuk sat back in his leather chair, a hand rising to cup over his mouth. For a few peculiar moments, Eeteuk glanced between Kyuri and Zhou Mi while occasionally slipping to the silent stranger standing behind Kyuri’s chair.
Abruptly, Eeteuk stood from his chair and walked over to a bookcase, “You are being serious, right? This isn’t some twisted joke.” He pulled a leather-bound folder from the book case, paused and turned back to them. From across the room, his eyes swept over the young lady, “No, it isn’t a joke… you look almost identical to him.”
Zhou Mi blinked, “You know her?”
Eeteuk shook his head as he strode over. He stood behind his desk, but opened up the folder on his desk. Crossing his arms loosely about his torso, he looked down at the papers within the folder, “Jo Kyuri, born February 3rd at Seoul General Hospital. You attended Jakunen Shougakkou until you were ten, but after that all other school records have not been found for you at Jakunen or any other elementary, middle or high schools in that area.” He looked at Kyuri, “Am I right?”
She blinked, startled before nodding once, “Yes. After Jakunen, I attended Kyouko Gakuen for the remainder of my education.”
Eeteuk slowly sat in his chair, “So, you were no longer living in the same city as before?”
“When I was ten, that’s when the Council found me,” Kyuri said simply, steadily, her gaze never wavering from Eeteuk’s, but he saw the shadow pass over them. “I began training. They provided board and education for me.”
Eeteuk nodded his understanding as he looked down at the folder again, “That explains why you only have school records until you’re ten… also why any other trace of you is gone.”
“Headmaster, why do you even have my elementary school records? Further more, why was I looked for?” Kyuri questioned, arms crossed tightly about her torso. Eeteuk glanced at the silent young man and Zhou Mi, causing Kyuri to swiftly add, “Say what you will, I don’t mind.”
“Well, you see, after your brother,” Eeteuk paused, glancing at Zhou Mi who, seeming to know what question he wanted to ask, nodded and then, Eeteuk continued, “was bitten and he told your parents, apparently they began to look for you. Before they left Seoul, they gave me what records they could find of you and said to keep them on the chance that they find you and bring you back to Korea.”
Kyuri immediately stood, “Are you telling me that they were going to trade Kyuhyun for me!? That only after Kyuhyun was nothing to them, THEN they were going to start caring about me? If they thought for even a moment that I was going to play spare to their heir, they’re more twisted than I thought!”
Kibum reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. Kyuri glanced back at him. After a moment, she nodded and slowly sank back down into her chair. Kibum looked at the headmaster and said quietly, “Please continue.”
Eeteuk blinked, startled that the young man had finally spoken. Finally, he looked back at Kyuri, who was silently fuming in her chair; “I don’t know what they intended; only that’s what they told me. Of course, they didn’t find you and, after some time, I never heard from them again.” He leaned back in his chair, “So that’s what happened to you, you became a part of the Council and a Head Hunter no less…”
Kyuri nodded, “I was asked to come here to treat a student. The irony being that the student is Kyuhyun.”
“Jo-sshi, I cannot let you go near your brother if your duty as a Head Hunter comes first,” Eeteuk said seriously,
Kyuri looked away, “I was told he’s under the protection of the Korean Council. I cannot kill him without hurting my own reputation and job with the Japanese Council.”
Eeteuk glanced at Zhou Mi who simply smiled encouragingly at him. Eeteuk looked back at Kyuri, silently observing her. After a moment, he nodded, “Very well… I will allow you to stay here at Shim Jang Academy to treat Kyuhyun.”
“My partner stays with me,” Kyuri said swiftly, swinging her gaze back to the older man, “This is Kim Kibum.”
Eeteuk nodded, “That’s fine. How long do you intend to stay?”
“As long as it takes to treat Kyuhyun,” Kyuri replied, “I haven’t assessed him myself, but from the recount of his injuries, it could range from a week to several weeks to even a few months. It depends how fast he’s healing especially since he’s apparently not feeding properly.”
Eeteuk leaned back in his chair, “Your presence will be a curiosity to the other students. Shall I enrol you two here as students?”
“No,” Kyuri said immediately. Then, she added, “Headmaster, I am eighteen years old; I finished my high school studies when I was fourteen and I refuse to do another year of learning that I’ve already done.”
Eeteuk looked at Kibum, who looked young enough to act a sophomore at SJA.
“I’m nineteen,” he replied, as if that was all the explanation that was needed.
Eeteuk sighed, “I understand, but we need a cover for you two, especially if Kyuhyun’s treatment turns out to be for the rest of the semester.”
“Teacher’s aides?” Zhou Mi suggested, “They’re the right age and that way, they can move freely throughout the school without question.”
Eeteuk nodded, “Yes, we’ll do that. Will you be staying on campus?”
“If that is of no consequence,” Kyuri said,
“There are plenty of rooms free on the teacher’s floor,” Eeteuk said before explaining, “Majority of my staff commute everyday from Seoul.” Eeteuk stood from his seat, came around the desk and approached the two, “Jo-sshi, Kim-sshi,” he extended a hand, “Welcome to Shim Jang Academy.”
After Zhou Mi had shown Kyuri and Kibum to their rooms, he returned to the headmaster’s office; hesitant when he was called to enter. He approached the desk as Eeteuk stared at him from his chair.
“Headmaster,” Zhou Mi inclined his head slightly,
“Give me one good reason not to send you back to the Council,” Eeteuk grounded out,
“Because you can’t trust any other Council members?” Zhou Mi attempted, offering a light smile. When Eeteuk merely glared at him, he sighed and stated, “I know you hate I did that even when you told me not to and I know you hate that there are even more Council members on campus; worse, one is even a Head Hunter. However, Kyuhyun’s condition is worsening by the day and I had to do all I could to help him.”
Eeteuk turned his chair, giving his back to Zhou Mi, “Of all the damn Head Hunters in the Council, you find his twin sister.”
“In all honesty, I had a feeling they were related,” Zhou Mi admitted, “I always felt as if I had seen Kyuhyun somewhere. It turns out I saw his sister when I was in Japan a few years ago. I… I purposefully sought out a Council member with the last name ‘Jo’.”
“You’re damn lucky you found her,” Eeteuk stated resentfully, “You have no idea how much I want to kick you all off the grounds. However,” he swung back to face Zhou Mi, “You’re right: Kyuhyun needs her. How’s his condition thus far?”
“He has a fever, but it’s less than before. He’s still dehydrated,” Zhou Mi answered,
Eeteuk nodded his understanding, “I was going to visit him, but it doesn’t look good for the headmaster to show such attentiveness to one student. Besides, I had to take care of the assailants.”
“You know who did this to him?” Zhou Mi questioned,
“Yes,” Eeteuk replied, “It took an hour’s worth of coercion, but I convinced Kyuhyun to tell me. Apparently, it was all of the boys who attacked him the previous times. This time, however, they joined forces against him.”
“I can’t believe he told you. He didn’t even say anything to his cousin or Sungmin,” Zhou Mi said,
“Well, I mentioned either he had to do something about his attackers or I would,” Eeteuk said, “He figured that if it was left to him, he might get them during a rage and end up accidentally killing one of the boys.” Eeteuk leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms loosely about his torso; “It’s suffice to say that they won’t be going near Kyuhyun from now on. Actually, three of the five who attacked him will be resigning after midterms.”
Zhou Mi gaped, “Really? Even with their parents and the school relying on tuition?”
Eeteuk nodded, “Their parents had similar inclinations that it would be in their best interests to withdraw their children from SJA. The other two will be removed from the dormitories and will be commuting everyday.” Eeteuk sighed, shaking his head, “If I could run this school as I wanted; if the school board had less sway… all of those boys would be expelled and I would make sure all of Seoul knew of it…” He sighed heavily as his gaze drifted away from Zhou Mi, “I try to remember why I first accepted being Headmaster here and sometimes, thinking of how the school is run, I can’t remember. Worse, I wonder why I’m still here…”
Abruptly, as if realizing how much he had revealed to the other man, Eeteuk stood from his chair and walked over to a nearby window. After a moment, he said simply, softly, “You may go.”
“I still have my job?” Zhou Mi inquired tentatively as he gracefully rose from his chair.
Eeteuk glanced over his shoulder at him, “I suppose,” he replied before offering him a genuine smile; a dimple appearing by the left corner of his mouth.
The rain was coming down harder now in thick sheets. Torrents hit a window in her room relentlessly. She had finished unpacking half an hour ago. Now, she sat on the edge of her bed, her gaze on the rain outside her window. Still dressed in her black pencil skirt and black blouse, she clasped her hands loosely in her lap as she sat ram-rod straight. The door opened to her room and then closed. Soft footsteps approached until Kibum stood beside her.
Without looking at him, she asked simply, “Am I wrong to deny Kyuhyun my blood?”
“You were the one most hurt by your childhoods,” Kibum stated, in Japanese; easily slipping back to their usual language; “However, you must realize that your brother has nothing to do with what your parents did to you.”
“He’s not my brother,” Kyuri said calmly, quietly, her hands clasping tightly, as, she too, reverted back to Japanese.
“You cannot hold your anger to your parents against your brother,” Kibum continued,
“I’m not angry at my parents; I feel nothing towards them at all,” Kyuri said and then added, “And he is not my brother.”
“Why are you so adamant of him not being your brother?” Kibum questioned,
“Because I was abandoned, Kibum,” Kyuri stated, “My parents shipped me off to Japan and didn’t care enough to realize that I was alone in Japan. They didn’t even realize I was no longer with the host family they sent me to live with. As far as I’m concerned, I have no family.”
“You make good points. However, you still haven’t convinced me that Kyuhyun deserves this treatment from you,” Kibum reasoned,
“Don’t you see? Because of him, my parents treated me the way they did,” Kyuri said, swinging her gaze from the window up to Kibum’s eyes, “If I hadn’t been a twin, I would’ve been the heir and I wouldn’t have been shipped away like damaged goods to the garbage dump.”
“That’s still not his fault,” Kibum said calmly, steadily as his gaze never wavered from hers.
She scowled, forcing herself to look away. All her life, the only person she had was Kibum and that was only after she joined the Council. When she was younger, she had been hot-headed, easily angered and, because she excelled in her studies and training, no one crossed her. Well, not no one; Kibum was the one to ever dare contradict her. He became the calm to her storm; the rock that kept her grounded. But sometimes, she hated his calm rationality.
Her eyes locked on the building storm outside the window. The pouring rain, the relentless wind – it all seemed to mirror what she was feeling. She felt conflict when there shouldn’t be. She had always been adamant in her feelings against Kyuhyun, but then, she comes face-to-face with him and suddenly, she’s not sure anymore.
“You are angry with me because I challenge your thinking,” Kibum said simply, easily,
“You always challenge my thinking,” Kyuri murmured, but there was no hint of resentment in her tone.
“I do so this time because I do not understand your thinking,” Kibum explained, “I was orphaned before I can even remember; a plane crash, I’m told –”
“I know, Kibum, you’ve already told me. And ‘you were the only survivor’,” She interrupted,
“Let me finish,” Kibum said quietly, firmly, an edge of steel to his tone. When Kyuri said nothing, he continued, “Like you, I suddenly had no family and the Council took me in.”
“Then why can you not understand what I’m thinking?” Kyuri questioned,
“Because unlike me, you still have family living,” Kibum answered,
“They may have created me and given birth to me, but those people are not my parents,” Kyuri said simply, apathy drenching her words. She had long ago accepted what her parents did to her and had learned to stop caring where they were concerned.
“I am not talking about them,” Kibum corrected, “I am talking about your brother.” When she didn’t reply, Kibum headed towards her bedroom door, “Let us go. If you are to treat your brother, you should begin immediately. His injuries seem severe and extensive.”
“Do you think I am a monster?” Kyuri asked, her tone quiet and unsure; something he hadn’t heard from her in years.
He looked over at her just as she stood and turned to look at him. He saw her emotions playing across her face; a rarity since she had learned to control her emotions during her training as a Hunter. He smiled then, a simple, brilliant smile that he only gave to her;
“Never,” He answered easily, firmly, his tone full of conviction; “And whatever you decide, I will remain by your side – on your side – and walk the same path as you.”
She nodded, taking control of her emotions. She crossed the room, past him to open the door. Once opened, she paused, looking back at him, up into his steady gaze, “Thank you, Kibum.”
He shook his head gently, “There’s never a need for those words.”
And, together, they returned to the nurse’s office.
(Phase 11: To Trust Again)