(Phase 19 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Nineteen: Return of the Regrettable
Wednesday; First week of September 20XX
“I’m just going to go over there and beat the little brat,” He hissed.
His friend looked up briefly where his gaze was focused before looking back at his food and continued on to eat. It was the breakfast hour and the students were ridiculously loud for such an early time. He ate silently for a moment when he realized his friend was on the urge of jumping out of his seat and lunging across the entire dining hall.
He sighed, putting down his spoon, “Geng, calm down.”
“No, that little brat has been walking around for four days now and not once has he talked to you. Damn, I should get him just for what he did to you over the summer break,” Hankyung stated vehemently,
“Don’t. Besides, I should have known he wanted to break up,” Zhou Mi said with a slight shrug of his shoulders; “I knew something was off before we left for the break… When he didn’t contact me all break, I should have just accepted it and moved on.”
“Don’t act like this is your fault,” Hankyung glared at his friend.
Zhou Mi glanced at him and then pushed his plate away. He stood up and strode out of the dining hall. He was halfway towards the nearest stairwell before he heard Hankyung’s footsteps behind him.
“Look, I pushed him… I pursued him relentlessly and even took things too fast…” Zhou Mi shook his head, “No… I pushed things too much, too far… and… and I scared him away. That’s what happened.”
“But if he cared about you – truly cared about you – the way you care about him, then that shouldn’t have affected him,” Hankyung stated, “He would have stayed and he wouldn’t be playing… the ice princess.”
“Just leave him alone,” Zhou Mi sighed as he climbed the stairs, aiming to just go to his classroom and staying there until his first class.
“Zhou Mi, you’ve been sulking for months,” Hankyung stated, “For a week before school started, you stayed in your classroom and didn’t sleep or eat. He put you through hell and you want me to just leave him alone?”
Zhou Mi paused, a few steps ahead of his friend and stared down at his friend; “Yes. Leave him alone.”
Hankyung narrowed his eyes but replied, “Fine.” Hankyung sighed, heading to the door for the second floor as Zhou Mi prepared to continue to the third floor. He looked up at Zhou Mi, “Zhou Mi…”
“Do you believe anything you just told me?”
Zhou Mi said nothing. He continued on up the stairs and remained silent. Hankyung stood there, listening to the echoing sounds of his friend’s footsteps. He heard the door open and close before sighing and exiting the stairwell.
During the lunch hour, Kyuhyun parted ways with his cousin and headed to the second floor of the central wing. During his first period, the teacher had passed on a note to Kyuhyun and he had waited during two classes to see the conclusion of the note. He headed towards the designated place, opening the door to the empty classroom.
“Thanks for coming, Jo-sshi,” Hankyung said as he began to wipe the boards clean; “I’m sorry to just call you here, especially since I’m not even your teacher but…”
“This is about Mi… Zhou Mi… right?” Kyuhyun asked as he took a few steps into the room, but not too deep since three-quarters of the room was drenched in sunlight.
“Yes. I’m glad I don’t have to beat around the bush,” Hankyung stated, “Look… I don’t know what is between you two and honestly, I made sure I didn’t know because the less people who know the truth, the safer you and Zhou Mi would be.”
“Thank you… I suppose,” Kyuhyun replied as he leaned his hip against the nearest desk, shoving his fists into his pockets.
“All I know is that things have changed… that you two are… not as close as before. Zhou Mi is… Zhou Mi is…” Hankyung sighed, “Since I first met Zhou Mi, there has only been two times when he stopped smiling. The first was when he came to live with me at my grandfather’s house in China. The second… was when I saw him after the summer break and he told me that you hadn’t contacted him even once.”
“What do you expect? Do you want me to feel guilty? To apologize for what I did?” Kyuhyun demanded, “Because you’ll get neither. I have my reasons for doing what I did and there’s no way in hell I will apologize for going on with my plans.”
“So you toy with him? You let him believe in happiness and then you take it away? Was that your plan?” Hankyung demanded as he continued with his task, “You know… when I realized what Zhou Mi felt towards you, I warned him, but I felt that it’d be okay because you always seemed like a down-to-earth kid… not like the other brats and snobs. You were always quiet and you only really smiled around Kim-sshi… But I thought maybe you’d bring a stability to Zhou Mi’s life. I thought maybe you could be a calm in his storm… despite being younger.”
“I can’t be that… I can’t be that for Zhou Mi,” Kyuhyun stated, “You don’t know me and you don’t know my life… I can’t… I can’t be that.”
“Then why did you let him get close? Why did you get close to him?” Hankyung demanded as he finally turned to face the student,
“Because I didn’t know then what I know now,” Kyuhyun defended and then shut his mouth, turning his gaze to the sun-filled windows. “If I had… then I never would have allowed him to get close at all.”
“What do you know now?” Hankyung inquired, “What is it that’s making you act like this suddenly? Is it something that Zhou Mi did?”
“No… it’s something that I will do,” Kyuhyun stated quietly.
Silence passed between the two and to Hankyung, it seemed as if the lunch hour were almost done before the younger man spoke again. When he did, Hankyung felt as if he would collapse from relief, his body being so tense for so long.
“If it were anything else… I wouldn’t say anything. However, I believe you can help me once the time comes,” Kyuhyun said quietly, steadily,
“Once the time for what comes?” Hankyung asked tentatively,
“For when I kill Zhou Mi.”
She closed the door behind her and leaned her back against it. Without looking at him, keeping her gaze straight ahead towards a window, she asked simply, “Why did you want to see me? A girl’s got to eat lunch, you know.”
“I wanted to talk about the first day of school…” Sungmin said simply from his seat at the front of the classroom, “And I… wanted to apologize.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for. You were right,” Taeyeon said simply, her gaze locked on the blue sky outside the window,
Sungmin gazed at her, startled. Something was… different. Something was… wrong. Her tone, her voice, the quality in it was wrong. Too wrong. He stood up slowly and made his way towards her,
“I said words… empty words. I tried tactics… heartless tactics… No, Sungmin… You had full right to what occurred between us that morning,” Taeyeon replied steadily, her voice monotone, her face blank as her stare remained focused on the outside. “So you see, there is no reason to apologize when –”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Sungmin demanded as he slammed both of his palms against the door on either side of Taeyeon’s head.
She flinched and dropped her gaze away from him.
“That morning… that wasn’t you, Taeyeon… right now… this isn’t you. What are you doing? Why are you acting like this?” Sungmin questioned, his fox-like eyes bearing down at her despite the fact that she refused to meet his eyes.
“I just… don’t know,” Taeyeon said quietly, “I don’t… all I want is to be with you, but I don’t… I hate that I can’t be with you when we’re here. I hate that I have to pretend as if we don’t know each other, as if I don’t love you. I hate that I have to pretend that I didn’t just spend the summer by your side and I hate that we have to go back to how things used to be… I hate it when people see you and they smile. I hate it when you smile back. I hate it when your smile isn’t for me when it’s for someone else.”
“I want to leave SJA… I want you to lose your job. I want so many things that will ruin both of our lives. I… I feel all of these horrible… horrible things and… and I don’t know what to make of them… or how to control them and… and they make me want to be this horrible person and yet… I don’t care,” she looked up, locking gazes with Sungmin, “I don’t care because it means that you’ll stay beside me!”
Under his hard gaze, Taeyeon forced her eyes away.
“Taeyeon, we’re both new to this… we’re both experiences new thoughts and feelings. Do you think you’re the only one of us to feel and think those things?” Sungmin questioned. Immediately, Taeyeon looked at him and he continued; “Of course I’ve thought those things. I’ve thought of ways to steal you away from SJA, to damn my career to hell. I’ve thought of ways to be with you and damn the consequences.”
He moved in closer, moving his hands from the door to her face, cradling it as his eyes remained locked with hers. “I hate remembering the fact that I haven’t seen your face in years… that others witnessed it grow and change and I missed it all. I hate the fact that others have seen your face, heard you speak and rejoiced with your laughter. I hate all those things because I am more selfish than anyone you have ever known… because I want it all for myself. No, Taeyeon, you are not the only one to think such things… nor are you the first. I have been this way since the very beginning.
“When we were children, I loved Kyuhyun… but I hated what he had in you… I hated what he got from you,” Sungmin admitted darkly, coldly, his fox-like eyes narrowed dangerously, “Even when this school year started and I saw how much more your bond had tightened, increased… intensified. I hated that he was close to you… that he was able to have your body against his, in his arms… at his bedside. I hated that your hands held his hand, touched his shoulder, his face… his body. I hated that your eyes sought his, saw him, all of him, saw through him… I hated that he knew everything about you, knew your thoughts and you allowed him to know freely through touch. I hated it all despite loving Kyuhyun… And God help me… but I wanted to keep you away from him when he was sick…
“I love him, but I hated him for everything he had of you.” Sungmin pushed away from the door, “So don’t you ever try to be… or act like something you’re not… Don’t ever be untruthful to me… to yourself.” He turned to walk back to his desk, “I can’t fight who I am anymore than you can… So stop it… because that’s not who we are. I am selfish in my love for you, Taeyeon… we’re both selfish beings. However, we cannot be selfish in this world because there are others around us who would get hurt by it… who wouldn’t understand it.”
Sungmin took a step away when slender arms wrapped around his torso from behind, one hand clutching his shirt above his heart. He felt a soft face press against his back between his shoulder blades as those arms tightened around him fiercely, protectively… possessively.
“Please… just let me be selfish for this little moment… please let me steal this moment and just be with you like this… please,” she murmured, pressing her face into the contours of his back, relishing in the warm strength she found there.
“You said that you love me,” Sungmin said quietly.
“Yes. As did you,” she replied, tightening her embrace even more.
“Then allow me to turn around so that I may hold you, too,” Sungmin requested softly.
“No,” she answered quietly, sternly; “Because if we are caught like this, then only I am punished. However, if I allow you to do as you want, you will also be punished.”
“You are right in saying we are both selfish. I’m selfish, Sungmin… selfish enough that I want to steal these small, minor minutes with you in such a fashion. But I am also selfish enough that should there be trouble… should there be consequences… then I will take all of it for myself,” Taeyeon stated tightening her hold even more, disallowing Sungmin the chance to turn in her arms. She knew he could overpower her should he wish to, but he didn’t move and so, she continued on. “So let me be selfish for a little longer and then we can go back… I can go back to being the person who fights her selfishness in order to protect everyone else from the consequences I may cause.”
Sungmin placed his hands over hers. He raised her hands as much as he could and pressed a kiss to both of them. Then he laid them over his heart and closed his eyes, relishing in her warm embrace.
“What are you talking about?” Hankyung demanded, suddenly feeling very cold. Who was this kid?
“I know you’re not a part of the Council… however, your connection to them means you must know some things about vampires,” Kyuhyun stated simply,
“Yes… my grandfather drilled everything the Council knew about vampires into me,” Hankyung replied tentatively. Where was this leading?
“Do you know much about turned vampires?” Kyuhyun inquired,
“Only as much as the Council knows,” Hankyung answered,
“Vampires have psychic abilities… telepathy,” Kyuhyun stated,
“But a turned vampire has no control over their telepathy at all. Granted, a turned vampire, can only activate their telepathy via touch, however, their telepathy cannot be trained, focused. It can only represent what the person is thinking and feeling in that moment,” Hankyung prompted,
“But I have been able to use my telepathy to see someone’s future,” Kyuhyun revealed,
“Are you admitting that you’re a turned vampire, Jo-sshi?” Hankyung inquired carefully,
Kyuhyun slanted him a look, “You already knew that, didn’t you? For some time now?”
“Yes,” Hankyung admitted.
“Then let us continue to not beat around the bush,” Kyuhyun said, “As I’ve said… I have been able to use my telepathy to see the future and… the future does not bode well for Zhou Mi.”
Hankyung swallowed hard. Was the kid lying? Was the kid telling the truth? How could he know? His lessons from Sifu and from his grandfather did not apply to this situation… didn’t work in this situation. How could he know? How was he supposed to know? Whatever the answer… answers… he had to know.
“What did you see in Zhou Mi’s future?”
“Blood. Everywhere. It poured out of him… pooled around him…” Kyuhyun allowed his eyes to close as he remembered the vision, allowed it to replay in full in his mind… in his senses and emotions. “I was beside him and he was dying… if not dead already. It was dark out, but the moon was full. And then I began to run away… I began to run, to escape what I had done…”
Hankyung paused, crossing his arms over his chest. He closed his eyes and focused his mind into himself. He shut off his senses to everything else but what was in his mind. He replayed the student’s words in his mind, formed the images those words invoked and placed himself in the kid’s shoes… pictured himself as the focal point of the vision.
However, he couldn’t.
He tried to recreate the vision in his mind. He tried to focus his mind and the images as he had been taught to do as a child by Sifu, to teach him how to strategize in a fight. However, his one problem continued to be focusing the vision, become its center, the one whom the vision revolved around. Why couldn’t he –
Hankyung opened his eyes to find Kyuhyun watching him silently, patiently, curiously. “Your vision, do you remember anything else? Emotions?”
“Deep regret… guilt… sadness… That’s typical for what I’m picturing, though,” Kyuhyun stated,
“Do you remember your location?”
“I don’t recognize it at all,” Kyuhyun admitted, “But… I remember grey, flat stones beneath me… wooden pillars… That’s all I can remember about the location.” He closed his eyes, his face cringing, “I remember the most… horrible smell… it was putrid and thick… as if it would suffocate me at any moment.”
“That’s how he describes it,” Hankyung murmured.
“Jo-sshi… I’m going to tell you something and I want you to listen to me… to obey me,” Hankyung stated, “I know I’m asking a lot and I really have no right to tell you. But if you want to understand what you saw… if you want answers to any questions you have about that… vision… then I ask you… no, beg you to do as I say.”
Kyuhyun swallowed hard before nodding slowly. It wasn’t much but at least, in this, he would get some answers and solve some of the mysteries swirling and surrounding his life.
“Go to Zhou Mi.”
Thursday; First week of September 20XX
The sun had set hours ago. Indeed, curfew was already in place and yet, he was out on the campus grounds, walking through the darkness. With hands shoved in his pockets, he walked slowly, steadily with a purpose all of his own. The grounds were dry, crisp from the cool autumn night. The air was fresh and felt cool against his heated skin. For a moment he paused and looked over his shoulder; no one was there.
He continued on, towards the east gate, which served as entrance for the teachers who commuted from Seoul every day. He unlocked the gate easily with a broken pen tube just as he had a year ago. He pushed the metal gate open just enough for him to slip through and then, he was out. He was free.
He walked a few steps into the surrounding forestry before he heard the snap of twigs and crunching of fallen leaves. He looked ahead to see a shadow walking towards him,
“You shouldn’t be out of grounds,”
Kyuhyun looked up, recognizing who it was. They stood just three meters apart. The other man leaned a shoulder against the think trunk of a tree. He crossed thick, muscled arms over his chest as he tilted his head. “So you got my message?”
“I said if you ever needed me I would come,” the man stated,
“How did you get all the way out here? It’s not like we’re still in Seoul,” Kyuhyun stated as he matched the other’s stance, but turned sideways, leaning his shoulders back against a tree, one shoe idly kicking at dead leaves.
“I have my ways. Besides, I made you a promise and so, I’m keeping it,” the other shrugged casually. “So, what’s bugging you?”
“How long have you been a vampire?” Kyuhyun asked bluntly,
“About three and a half years,” the turned vampire answered easily, “Give or take a week. Would you like the precise date and time? I still remember.”
Kyuhyun shook his head, “No, I just wanted to know if it’s been over a year for you.” The other nodded and he continued, “On the anniversary… does anything happen?”
“Just another year passes… like a birthday but… more morbid,” the vampire shrugged, “What were you expecting? Confetti and chocolate cake? For a turned vampire, an anniversary is just like any other day. It just happens to commemorate when we became vampires.” He watched Kyuhyun a moment and then asked, “Is that what you’ve been worried about? Something happening after a year?”
Kyuhyun nodded as he stopped kicking at the ground. He straightened and turned to face the turned vampire, “Well, I know next to nothing about being a vampire and no one else around me is one… I just… I’m tired of not knowing what’s going to happen.”
“You’re right, it’s a scary time and… to be honest, I wasn’t your age when this happened to me. I was older and so… I guess you could say I was a little more accepting?” He shrugged, “I wasn’t in high school dealing with the drama of being a teenager. Besides, being so isolated here, it must have been even worse for you.”
“You were here that night… weren’t you?” Kyuhyun asked then.
“The night I was attacked… you were there,” Kyuhyun stated,
“I was wondering when you were going to bring that up,” the vampire admitted, “Yes… I was there. I came late… the vampire was already feeding from you at that point. I couldn’t stop the transformation, but I stopped the vampire from killing you like a black widow does.”
“But it was more than that… you… you gave me some blood,” Kyuhyun recalled,
The vampire nodded, “If I didn’t, you wouldn’t have been able to survive… You… you lost a ridiculous amount. It was the only way I could save you.”
“Thank you,” Kyuhyun said tentatively, “Before… before I would have hated you for doing such a thing… because I didn’t want to live like this.”
“My family… my friends… everything has changed since then and… and I find I cannot regret any of that,” Kyuhyun answered, “So… thank you.”
“It was no…” The vampire paused and slowly side stepped behind the tree, “Someone’s coming. Contact me if you need me.”
Kyuhyun watched as the vampire disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Then, and only then, did he hear the slow approach of footsteps. Casually, unhurriedly, he turned around. It took him a moment before he recognized his sister.
“Kyuri? What are you doing out here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she shot back,
“I’m not pregnant… I don’t have an overprotective boyfriend who could potentially kill my twin brother if he found out what I was doing,” Kyuhyun said as he approached her and turned her back around to head back to the campus grounds.
“Fine, fine… but… what are you doing out here? Who were you talking to?” Kyuri questioned,
“Didn’t you say you have no right to pry?”
“That was before I find you sneaking off campus after curfew talking to no one,” Kyuri shot,
“That’s true. I wasn’t talking to anyone,” Kyuhyun lied. He paused a moment and then revealed, “I came out here to think. And I was thinking out loud.”
“Of all the damn places you can do that on campus… you snuck out of the east gates to do it?” Kyuri stated suspiciously,
Kyuhyun stopped and turned slightly back, looking over his shoulder to where he had once stood. Kyuri did the same, standing parallel with her brother. Slowly, he pulled one hand out of his pockets and pointed to the spot that would have been precisely in the middle of where he and the vampire had stood. “One year ago, that is where I was attacked by a vampire. One year ago, that is where my life changed.”
“Today is your anniversary?” Kyuri asked tentatively,
Kyuhyun raised his other hand from his pocket, angling his watch enough that the rare beam of moonlight caught the metal face; “In about twenty minutes.”
“So you came out here to think?”
“Think… remember. I would say to mourn, but really… there is little I mourn about my old life,” Kyuhyun admitted as he turned and waited for his sister to do the same before he continued back to the campus.
“Really? But… Our parents… sunlight… you lost all of that,” Kyuri stated baldly,
“Yes… but I found I can live without our parents. In truth, I have done so all these years. The sunlight… it… it saddens me that I cannot feel the sun on my skin… or tilt my face up to its bright light. But I can still see sunlight, it is not completely gone from my life,” Kyuhyun paused and then shook his head, “No… the greatest loss I faced that night was colour.”
“Losing my ability to see colours devastated me. Things I saw no longer seemed significant because I couldn’t find joy in their colours,” Kyuhyun said as he shoved his hands back into his pockets.
“And now? How many colours have you regained?” Kyuri asked,
“Red, yellow and orange,” Kyuhyun answered.
They reached the east gates and Kyuhyun held the gate open for his sister. Then, he followed her and secured the gate behind him, ensuring that the lock fell into place. They walked in silence before Kyuhyun broke it,
“I was… scared,” He said quietly. “Scared that something would happen tonight… Scared that something new would happen to me… Scared that my life would change. Again.”
“Damn, Kyuhyun, it’s night, your one-year anniversary and you spend it out at the place where it all happened? Do you just not think sometimes?” Kyuri scolded as she crossed her arms just above her stomach,
“I needed to think and… if something did happen, at least I’d be away from everyone,” Kyuhyun shrugged, “Besides… I thought it’d be the right place to go at such a time.”
They continued on in silence. Just a few feet before they stepped onto the stones of the back courtyard, Kyuri grabbed her brother’s arm, stopping him. He looked at her in silent askance, but she was looking down at the watch on her wrist. Then, after a five-count, she looked up at him and offered him a small smile,
“It’s been one year now, Kyuhyun.”
Kyuhyun looked up at the sky, “Ah… yes, it has.” He looked down at his sister, “Nothing happened, so I was worrying for nothing.”
She nodded and then began walking again. When her brother was at her side, she stated, “Next time you’re worried over something, don’t just go wandering off like that. You’re target-prone as it is,” she scolded lightly, her hands slowly sliding over her stomach, “You can always talk to Taeyeon and that Sungmin guy is a friend from your childhood, right? You should talk to them.” She paused and then added quietly, “And… you can talk to me, too.”
Kyuhyun grinned, “Really? Can I call you Noona, too?”
Kyuri shot him a sharp look, “You’re older than me.”
“Ah… but we really don’t know… and here I thought you were really warming up to me,” Kyuhyun sighed in mock-sadness,
“I am warming up to you,” Kyuri muttered, “I haven’t killed you yet, right?”
Kyuhyun laughed loudly, sincerely as they got closer to the doors. Kyuri said nothing, but smiled softly. For the moment, she was silently proud she had drawn her brother’s fears away from his one-year anniversary.
Friday; Third week of September 20XX
There was no other way and he felt pathetic.
He lay in his room, curled beneath his sheets with his back to the orange light streaming into his windows. He clutched the sheets to his body, turned his face into the pillow and buried it. The sun poured into his room, but the shadows overtook half of the room, his bed almost like a barrier between the light and dark. The sun felt hot against his back as the shadows felt cool against his face. He wrapped his arms around his torso and shut his eyes tightly.
A soft knock on his door intruded upon his peace.
He banished them away in his thoughts. Mentally willed whoever disturbed him to turn around and walk away. He wanted silence and peace. He wanted darkness and sleep. However, he could get none of those things. He wanted to be saturated in the cold, in the darkness. He wanted to fall into slumber and allow it to wrap comfortably around him, enclose him and keep him. He wanted it, his body want it… he craved sleep. Escape.
The knock came again and he spoke before he even planned to.
“GO AWAY!” He growled fiercely at the intruder, sitting up.
The door opened and closed, the student pressing their back against the door.
Suddenly, he felt even more ill. “Kyuhyun,” He said dully, “What are you doing here?”
Kyuhyun looked at him, his heart burning painfully. It had taken him two and a half weeks to strengthen his resolve. However, after seeing him, all strength left him. The other was shrouded and lit in the extreme, half of him doused in thick, orange light and the other half of him cloaked in thick, dark shadows. What’s worse was that as the other sat, his sheets had fallen to pool down around his waist, revealing his bare torso, the contours lined by the extreme contrasts from both the sun and the shadows. For that moment, that brief period in time, he forgot everything except him.
“Han Seonsaeng-nim told me to come to you… and to ask you about your brother,” Kyuhyun said hesitantly, quietly.
Zhou Mi swallowed hard, “My brother? Why?”
“He said it might explain my vision…”
Zhou Mi blinked a moment, “Your vision? You mean that nightmare you had? You’re calling it a vision now?”
“Never mind,” Kyuhyun turned to leave,
“Wait,” Zhou Mi called out, “You came here to ask about my brother… and Geng thinks it’s connected to your night… to your vision? Damn… I should’ve realized this sooner… should’ve realized this when you first had the dream.” He inhaled slowly, deeply before he looked away, “Can you come here, please?”
Kyuhyun didn’t move an inch.
“I’m too ill to stay up long and… and I won’t make it through a full telling about my brother. So… the best way to tell you about my brother is through your telepathy,” Zhou Mi explained, holding out a hand.
Slowly, hesitantly, Kyuhyun stepped deeper into the room, slipping closer to the shadows and avoiding the piercing light. Eventually, he made it to Zhou Mi’s bedside, and his eyes locked on the slender hand being held out to him. Warily, he extended his hand and laid it in the other’s.
He was covered in blood. He looked down at his hands and they trembled with scarlet as they glinted off the moonlight. He took a step back and felt his foot hit something. He spun around immediately, his eyes darting to the floor. It was dark out, but the moon was full like a lantern. It shone down upon the crumpled body at his feet. His entire body was shaking now as he took another step backwards, his eyes taking in the dark pool of blood beneath the body.
He scrambled closer, falling to his knees and not caring that his knees were immediately soaked through his pants. Shaking, he reached out for the face, wanting to turn it towards him so he could see. His heart was pounding fiercely, but for once, it wasn’t because of the smell of blood; the temptation. Instead, he felt fear. He felt it so greatly, so thickly that it was like a bitter taste in his mouth, a putrid smell in his nostrils.
His eyes swept over the face. It was so pale, the lines so familiar. He fell back onto his bottom and he pushed away with his heels, scrambling away. It was then that he remembered the blood on his hands and his soaked pants. He slowly raised his hands to his eyes again. They were stained with blood. They were small, very small, like those of a child. They were trembling fiercely as the blood trickled from his hands, down his forearms.
Suddenly, he turned and ran. He ran without seeing where he was going, but knowing exactly where he wanted to go. He ran fast and hard, the bright, round moon his lantern in the dark night. The air was hot and sticky, and the warm air whipped at him as he ran, stumbling, falling, scrambling to his feet and dashing again.
He reached the other house, pounding on the front door, his small hands leaving red marks all over of the wooden panelling. He knocked harder and harder, wanting to call out, wanting to scream but his voice was lost and words couldn’t be formed. Most of all, he didn’t want others to hear, didn’t want them to come running from their homes and finding out what had happened… what he had done.
The door swung open and an older man appeared, tall and filling the doorway almost completely. He locked gazes with the older man and launched himself at him, wrapping his arms around the thick waist and burying his face into the soft cloth.
He looked past the older man where a young boy stood tentatively, looking at him with concerned eyes. Zhou Mi suddenly pulled away from the older man, seeing the red remnants in the man’s clothing and he recoiled at his own taint. Then he was falling, falling, falling to the ground in a small ball, his reddened hands covering his face as tears spilt over his fingers and splattered on the wooden floor.
Kyuhyun did not pull away. Rather, Zhou Mi dropped his hand, his gaze looking away at the disappearing sunlight. Slowly, Kyuhyun lowered his hand to his side and then fell to the bed, sitting with his back to the older man,
“That was… your brother?”
“Yes,” Zhou Mi said quietly, “His name was Sou and he was my little brother.”
“Did you… but you wouldn’t… what… what happened?” Kyuhyun asked tentatively, the memory (he now understood what it was) fresh in his mind and replaying over and over again.
“I told you before, right? How I’ve seen brothers turn on one another?” Zhou Mi asked,
“Yeah… I remember something like that,” Kyuhyun replied, “Did… did you two fight?”
“What you saw… I ran away from my house to the house of another. Why?” Zhou Mi prompted,
“There was no one else around? Your parents…” Kyuhyun shut his eyes, “They weren’t around.”
“Because he killed them,” Zhou Mi said steadily, quietly; “He had killed them… and was going to kill me too if I hadn’t… if I didn’t…”
Kyuhyun was silent for a moment, allowing his thoughts to ruminate. Why would…? Now that he analyzed the memory more, the dead boy was… well, a boy. How could he…? Kyuhyun knew he felt a lot of resentment towards his parents. For years, he felt a pain in his chest whenever they were around and whenever he thought of them. And yet, he knew in his heart he would never…
His thoughts suddenly switched to his twin sister. They had both suffered, but she had suffered far worse for much longer. She had been abandoned, left alone for years. He knew, without a doubt and despite knowing her for a few short months that her temper, her anger was passionate and powerful. He knew that if she hated, she would hate with all her heart. Could she ever… but no, even then, he knew she would never…
He swallowed hard, slowly before he was able to form words once more; “Why?”
“Bloodlust,” Zhou Mi answered swiftly, simply… softly. His eyes slowly shut as he allowed his mind to travel back to that time and remember every minute detail. “He had been a turned vampire. He came home that night and attacked our parents… bleeding them and leaving them for dead. For some reason, that wasn’t enough for him. For some reason, he needed more and he came after me. I had… I walked in when he was done with our parents and I ran away as he ran towards me… I don’t even remember how, but I remember attacking him as he jumped towards me.
“Then all I remember was blood. It was… it was everywhere and I could smell the metallic scent mingling with the thick stench of dying bodies…” Zhou Mi inhaled steadily, deeply; “After I realized what I had done, I ran away. I ran to the closest house… the only house I could run to.”
“That was… that was Han Seonsaeng-nim, wasn’t it? The other boy in the house,” Kyuhyun guessed,
“Yes… and that was his grandfather’s house,” Zhou Mi answered, “There was no one else I could turn to and I told his grandfather everything. I don’t… I don’t know what he did, but his grandfather fixed everything, covered it up with a story of an attempted break-in and how my family was slaughtered. He told the village that I had managed to escape before I was killed too. Because of his grandfather, my family was able to be buried in consecrated ground… even Sou.
“After that, I moved in with Geng and his grandparents,” Zhou Mi continued on, his voice quiet and soft, almost as if he were relaying a sad story not of his own; “Within a year, we left the village and moved elsewhere. It was then that Geng and I began to be taught with the knowledge of the Council and trained by a Sifu in the village. When Geng’s grandfather wanted to bring the Council to Korea, Geng went with him, but I stayed behind in the village and continued to train under Sifu and, eventually, in the Council.”
“This is why you became a Hunter? This is why you hate vampires… because of what it did to your brother… what it did to your family?” Kyuhyun asked tentatively, slowly opening his eyes, but keeping his back to the older man,
“I don’t hate all vampires… you must know that,” Zhou Mi stated quietly, simply as if it were a statement that should never be questioned or forgotten.
“To think… this entire time I thought… when really it was…” Kyuhyun mused and then stated bluntly, “You thought of it that night… when we were together.”
“I remembered it in my dreams,” Zhou Mi corrected; “It happens from time to time… however, I do not think of it a lot. Indeed, I try to limit the amount of times I do think of that night. Rather, I remember my parents and Sou for what they were before that night. Those are happier memories.” He glanced at the younger man’s back; “That was your nightmare this entire time… and in truth, it was my memories intruding on you. I’m sorry.”
Kyuhyun shook his head, “It’s not your fault. And I’m the one who… I thought… believed that they were… visions.”
“Of the future.”
“Is that why you’ve been avoiding me? Because you thought these were visions of some type?”
Kyuhyun nodded, “Your brother… your brother looks a lot like you and… and all I could think was that it was you and that the night distorted what you looked like. I was scared that… that it was true and… well… I was scared.”
Zhou Mi felt his lips twist into a smile for the first time in months. He raised himself to his knees and slowly trudged through his blankets until he was directly behind the younger man. He draped his arms around his shoulders from behind, leaning his cheek against the crown of Kyuhyun’s head.
“You should have told me your worries,” Zhou Mi said,
“You should have told me that they were still troubling you,” Zhou Mi amended; “But I should have asked about it… then I would’ve known sooner… we would’ve known sooner what was happening.” He closed his eyes, relishing in the feel of Kyuhyun in his arms again; “I’m sorry my memories burdened you.”
“I’m sorry that happened to your family,” Kyuhyun replied tentatively, his body immediately elated at the familiar presence, warmth, strength… comfort. He shut his eyes tightly, “I’m sorry… what I… lately… everything, I’m… sorry.”
“How sorry?” Zhou Mi mused, “Sorry enough to kiss me? Sorry enough to stay here with me every night? Sorry enough to tolerate daylight for as long as possible? Sorry enough to go outside in a thunderstorm? Sorry enough to eat pork buns?”
Zhou Mi felt wetness splash onto a bare arm, “Kyuhyun!”
“Please don’t look at me,” Kyuhyun said quietly, forcing himself not to stammer, “Please… I don’t want you to see… please.”
“Of course,” Zhou Mi replied as he shifted his hold, sliding his face to bury against the juncture where Kyuhyun’s neck met his shoulder. “Besides, I want to hold you like this for just a little longer.”
Kyuhyun said nothing, merely shut his eyes to his own veil of tears. Zhou Mi embraced him, held him and remained silent. After a moment, the literature teacher spoke,
“Please tell me this isn’t a dream, Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi said quietly, his lips pressed just below the other’s ear, “Please tell me you’re real… that what is happening is real. Please tell me everything up until now has been real… Please tell me that I… that I… haven’t lost… you. Please…”
“I don’t deserve you… this,” Kyuhyun murmured as he leaned back against the other’s strength, “After everything your family has been through –”
“No, they have nothing to do with this. They have nothing to do with what is between us,” Zhou Mi argued gently; “If they did… if they did then I would never come near you… talk to you… be with you. No, Kyuhyun, my family does not affect or influence what we are… what we have.”
“But after everything I’ve done –”
“Was because of me.”
“But if I had just –”
“You said you were sorry.”
“But not nearly enough –”
“Retribution then. You, Jo Kyuhyun, are hereby sentenced to always talk to me if something is bothering you… if something worries you… if something scares you. You are sentenced to always share with me your anger, your sadness and your happiness. You are sentenced to always remain at my side… in good times and bad. You are sentenced to spend forever with me,” Zhou Mi declared softly, sternly, as he held him securely, his lips still pressed against the other’s bare skin, “That is how you redeem yourself, Jo Kyuhyun.”
He moved his head, pressing his forehead against the other’s shoulder and willing himself not to shake as his soul and heart were. He shut his eyes tightly, “Do you accept your punishment?”
Kyuhyun broke free of the other’s embrace. He stood up from the bed and stared down at the older man. His eyes dark and narrowed dangerously, “Is that all you have to say? Is that what you believe is your worth?” He demanded fiercely, “That is no punishment! None of it is!”
“Kyuhyun…” Zhou Mi murmured as he sat back on his heels and gazed up at the youth, his form outlined in the shadows and small, reflected kisses of sunlight highlighting his features.
Kyuhyun placed a knee on the bed, drawing closer to the older man. He reached out with trembling hands, holding his face as he slowly leaned down to him, “If that is my punishment… Then, your punishment is to spend forever with a vampire.”
Zhou Mi willingly tilted his face up towards the younger man, “I accept.”
“Thank God,” Kyuhyun whispered before lowering his lips to Zhou Mi’s.
(Phase 20: Hung Up)