(Phase 23 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Twenty-Three: A Losing Battle
The next morning; First Saturday of November 20XX
Kyuhyun was silent as he sat in the isolation room once more in the nurse’s office. He sat on the edge of the bed as Heechul sat before him on a chair, holding his hand and gently, securely wrapping that hand with bandages. Kyuhyun’s gaze was on a spot on the wall behind Heechul, his dark eyes dull.
“I said I wouldn’t push feeding anymore, but I just wanted to say that if you fed, I wouldn’t have to cover both your hands with bandages,” Heechul said as he secured the bandage. He raised Kyuhyun’s other hand, already bandaged from just before and double-checked the bandages.
Kyuhyun said nothing, only rising from the bed after Heechul had stood from his chair. Dressed in dark jeans and a simple, black t-shirt, Kyuhyun followed him out of the room to the main part of the nurse’s office. Taeyeon stood from the chair before Heechul’s desk where she had sat since they entered to get Kyuhyun’s hands treated.
Her hair flowing freely, dressed in dark jeans and a fitted, white, three-quarter-sleeved shirt, Taeyeon looked anxiously between Heechul and her cousin. Heechul glanced at Taeyeon, subtly shook his head and continued to sit behind his desk, beginning to type on the keyboard. Taeyeon stepped towards her cousin, but he said nothing.
Kyuhyun headed towards the door and Taeyeon began to follow him. They made it to the junction where the central and east wings met when a door to their right opened, revealing the stairwell beyond. Kyuhyun was silent as Kyuri and Kibum stepped into the hallway.
Both Kyuri and Kibum immediately took in the site of Kyuhyun’s bandaged hands, but it was Kyuri who raised an alarmed gaze to her brother’s face. A not-too-subtle shake of head from Taeyeon barely stopped Kyuri from questioning Kyuhyun.
Before Kyuhyun and Taeyeon left, however, Kyuri called out to her brother. He paused and turned partially back towards her, merely raising his eyebrows in silent questioning.
“Tonight… I have to do something and I wanted to know if you could be there with me,” Kyuri said quietly, her words starting out tentative and slowly gaining conviction.
Kyuhyun blinked. He glanced at Kibum but, naturally, he couldn’t read anything in the older man’s schooled expression. He looked back at his sister and nodded. Without another word or, in Kyuhyun’s case, silent gesture, Kyuhyun and Taeyeon walked off.
Since it was the weekend, the school was gloriously empty. They walked through a corridor in the central wing, Taeyeon simply following Kyuhyun, trusting him implicitly. It didn’t take her long, however, to realize that she was following her cousin to Zhou Seonsaeng-nim’s classroom. They stepped in and, instinctively, Taeyeon locked the door behind them. When she turned back, Kyuhyun was already sitting behind Zhou Mi’s desk and lying his cheek on the desktop.
Taeyeon slowly walked towards the desk, her sneakers’ soft thuds on the floor the only noise in the classroom. She came around the desk, and sat on the floor, crossing her legs and leaning back against the desk’s set of drawers. Simply, she asked, “What happened last night?”
“I had barely been asleep… I couldn’t sleep. The storm hit and…” Kyuhyun slowly shut his eyes, inhaling slowly, steadily, “My whole body seized and then reacted as if I were running a marathon. My heart was beating so fast I thought I was having a heart attack. I had to leave, escape the thunder. I ran into the bathroom, shut myself in and turned on the lights.”
“When I came in the lights were off,” Taeyeon commented quietly,
“I was in the bathroom and my fear was rising as the storm continued… the bathroom door did nothing to silence the storm,” Kyuhyun continued, flashes of last night lighting in his memory, “My blood lust took over and I lost… control.”
“What I saw, Kyu, was horrible,” Taeyeon admitted, absent-mindedly fiddling with the hem of her shirt, “The damage… the blood… your blood lust, how bad has it gotten?”
“There are times when I can’t control it,” Kyuhyun admitted quietly, “Sometimes, all I can do is just ride it out until it passes. It’s… stronger than before. No, I don’t know… maybe it’s just that I’m weaker. All I know is that sometimes, when it rises in me, I can’t stop myself. I crave blood… I crave it so much that I hate myself. I lock myself up so that I can’t feed; worse – so that I don’t attack anyone.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me, Tae. All I know is that something is different, something is changing and I don’t know what it is,” He swallowed hard, “I hate that Zhou Mi’s not here to explain these things to me. I hate that I can’t ask Kyuri because I don’t want her to worry, because she already has to worry about her baby. I hate that I can’t even ask the headmaster because I don’t want him to kick me out of SJA… I… I can’t even ask the other vampire because he might tell me something I don’t want to hear.”
Taeyeon reached over and grasped one of Kyuhyun’s hands, which were fisted on his thighs. She kept her hand over his, her slender, small fingers assuming bands of steel to keep holding on, to keep protecting. “I wish I knew more… I wish I could tell you more… I wish I could help… God, how I wish I could help you, Kyu.” She inhaled slowly, deeply, to centre herself, keep her composure knowing that she couldn’t be weak, not when Kyuhyun’s façade was slowly crumbling, had been crumbling since she found him the other night.
“You know… when you first told me what was happening to you, I wasn’t scared,” Taeyeon admitted, her tone scarce of any bragging or smugness, just simple facts; “You needed me, that was easy to see and your parents… I was so angry at them. I saw this as my chance… my chance to be finally there for you, to be the support, the strength that you were always for me as we were growing up. You finally needed me and that’s all I cared about.”
She managed to pry his fist from his thigh, pulling his hand before her face. She propped her elbows against her raised knees as she slowly forced his fingers to straighten, “I was naïve then… I think we both were, but me more so. I believed I could help you, that it would be easy for me to stay by your side. I was wrong, Kyu… I realized that from the beginning of the school year. In this, I can’t help you. I know nothing about what it means to be a vampire or what it means to be a turned vampire. I don’t know how you feel or what you’re going to feel. Heck, have you noticed how I’ve never said ‘I understand’ whenever you’re upset? It’s because I can’t say it… not without lying, anyway.
“And it’s not easy for me to stay by your side; not by a long shot,” she laughed softly, more at her own ignorance than anything; “It was hard enough that you wanted to keep me at a distance. It was hard to want to help without pushing you, scared to push you away and to lose you. But then, as more things kept happening, I was left on the sidelines, unable to help, forced to just watch you suffer. For months I believed that I could help you like no one could, but once school started, I knew otherwise.”
Slowly, she brought Kyuhyun’s hand to her cheek, pressing it flat against her face, closing her eyes as she felt the warmth in his touch. “There have been times over the past few months where I have been worried, concerned over you, sure that my heart would break from the worry. But last night… last night I felt pure, unadulterated fear. I found you and everything I knew and felt was only solidified ten-fold – no, a hundred-fold. I didn’t know anything, so how could I, in any way, help you? And then I realized, considering how much I don’t know, what must you be going through? You, who is the vampire and knows just a bit more than myself… my fear worsened for your sake.
“You’ve been hiding your blood lust from me,” Taeyeon said simply, no question or hesitation in her voice or words, just a stating of the fact. “I want you to let me help in any way I can, no matter how small a thing it is. I want you to let me stay by your side… I want you to stop hiding things from me, to let me know, let me share your suffering… otherwise, I can’t stand it that you’re alone… that you’re suffering alone. I can’t stand it.”
Kyuhyun was startled when he felt a warm wetness against his palm, realizing that Taeyeon was crying. It was then that he realized that he had twin streaks of tears on his own face. He wiped them quickly away as he straightened in the seat and gazed down at his cousin who was directly asking him to let her suffer alongside him. How could he say yes? Worse yet, how could he say no?
“You know I can’t do that, Taeyeon… you know I would never willingly make you upset in anyway, let alone let you suffer along side myself,” he tipped her face up to his, waiting until she opened her tear-filled eyes; “But I will tell you, I’ll stop hiding things from you. We always prided ourselves for never hiding things from one another, for my telepathy never to affect us because I always knew how you felt. I’ve been proven wrong before about being confident about knowing your feelings and it seems I’ve been wrong again. I’m sorry for not realizing how much my secrets have hurt you.”
Suddenly, he pulled Taeyeon up and before she could completely straighten, he hugged her tightly, closing his eyes, “You’re my best friend, Tae…”
“I… I know,” she stammered, trying to keep her balance as she tried to hug him back was unable to since his arms wrapped overtop of hers, restricting her.
Kyuhyun inhaled deeply and then, after a five-count, he quietly admitted, “I’m scared of what’s happening to me… of what might become of me… I’m scared.”
Taeyeon blinked back her tears and, being unable to hug him back, pressed her cheek against the crown of his head, “I understand.”
“You’ve been at the Council for weeks and only now you are deciding to grace us with your presence? Your insult goes too far, Zhou Mi!”
“You disrupt me during my mission, pulling me out of an area known to be plagued by a pureblood for over a year now… what do you expect me to do?” Zhou Mi shrugged slightly, his expression easy, his usual, light smile, tugging at his lips.
He sat in what looked to be a type of boardroom in the heart of the Korean Council. He sat in a simple wooden chair before a long, wooden desk. Behind the desk sat seven Council Members that ran the Council, all older men and women with uncompromising expressions. In the middle sat the most intimidating of them, an older man with broad shoulders and a heavy built despite the white hair on his head. He had been the one to yell at Zhou Mi. He was the Head Councilman.
“You could have reported to us immediately and have returned to your mission immediately,” the Head Councilman stated icily,
“No, I wouldn’t have. I would have come here immediately and you would never let me go back to my mission in one piece. So, I decided to wait until I was fully capable of asking all of your questions completely so that I could return to my mission,” Zhou Mi replied keeping his tone and expression light. Leaning back in his chair, he crossed one knee over the other.
“We’ve been notified that the Japanese Council has some of their agents in the country,” the Head Councilman stated.
“Two to be exact,” Zhou Mi stated, holding up two fingers from his right hand. He gave a slight shrug, “But of course, that’s just my knowledge.”
“So you’ve made contact with them?”
“On several occasions,” Zhou Mi admitted,
“What are they doing here!?”
“Sightseeing perhaps?” Zhou Mi suggested. When he saw the Head Councilman narrow his thick, grey eyebrows, he amended himself at a leisurely pace, “One of the Japanese Hunters has a brother at the school which has been serving as my base. They’ve been staying at the school so she can remain with her brother and expand her medical knowledge.”
“That’s all? They don’t have any other mission but some… some kind of family reunion?” One of the other Council Members questioned.
Zhou Mi shook his head.
“Then how do you know they are Hunters? Further yet, do they know you’re a Hunter?” Another Member demanded,
“If you recall, I received a package – a mission – despite being on one already. One of the Hunters assisted me during that mission, indeed, was one of the key reasons for the success of the mission with no injury to myself or the one other Hunter I called on to help in the mission,” Zhou Mi explained. He raised his right had again, this time holding up three fingers, he stated, “That mission, which lasted for almost two days, which usually require at least five Hunters in total to complete, only required three Hunters.”
“Do they know your real purpose for being at Shim Jang Academy?” A Council Member asked,
“I have never spoken of it to them, but they probably can guess why I, a Head Hunter, am spending months on end at a high school academy in the Seoul countryside,” Zhou Mi answered easily, “And before any of you begin to rip into me, let me say that I believe to have established a… rapport of sorts so that neither Hunter will interfere with my mission.”
“And about your mission. You haven’t given a damn single report since you established yourself at that school,” the Head Councilman stated standing from his seat, “What is your progress? What is happening there? WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD A DAMN THING!?”
Zhou Mi waited until the last of the Head Councilman’s words echoed into silence. Then, he cocked his head slightly to the side, “Well, other than saving both myself and yourselves time and simply sending a letter with the word ‘nothing’ on it… I didn’t see the need to report on… well, nothing.”
“Nothing happened? No vampire sightings? No attacks? No vampiric activity of any kind?” The Head Councilman demanded, his voice a low roar, his thick hands fisted atop the long table.
“None at all,” Zhou Mi answered easily, the lie rolling off his tongue without change in expression, tone, not even the smallest flinch in his muscles.
Secretly, he commended himself for answering so calmly and then chided himself for an early victory. The interview was far from over and most of his time hiding in his office in the Council since he left SJA was spent in controlling his ability to lie. After all, before him sat distinguished men and women in the Council, each a top Head Hunter from their own times. They would know, without a doubt, if he was lying if he didn’t pace himself, didn’t learn to control his instinctive reactions to hiding the truth.
He sat there still, keeping his breath steady, aware of every muscle in his body, even every hair on his head. He blinked slowly, steadily, having kept his blinking intervals timed since he sat down before them. That had been one of the hardest things to control: his blinking when he lied. He sat there, silent, still, awaiting their next question. If he spoke again, it could be seen as being anxious. If he didn’t control his entire body, every cell, it could be seen as nervousness. So, he waited.
‘Bastards,’ he thought, ‘They’re waiting to see if I’m lying still… it’s been five minutes already… any sane person – lying or not – would react by now.’
He waited a five-count and, then, slowly raised a single eyebrow in silent questioning, crossing his arms loosely about his torso.
The Council Members subtly nodded their heads, one by one. The Head Councilman, without even looking directly at them, merely trusting his peripherals as his dark gaze stayed locked on the young Head Hunter before them, finally sat back down, slowly, his fingers uncurling.
“Very well,” he stated, “You may go and continue your mission.”
Zhou Mi felt his heart pound wildly, but stabilized his emotions, his reactions almost immediately. He merely kept that one eyebrow raised, showing his suspiciousness without revealing his relief. Without a word, Zhou Mi stood gracefully from his chair. He had barely straightened when the Head Councilman held up a hand, stilling him.
“On second thought, perhaps you should sit down,” the Head Councilman stated, his voice quieter, calmer now, but Zhou Mi didn’t mistaken the steel hidden beneath the apparently harmless tone. “We have more we want to discuss with you.”
“You could have said so before I began to stand up,” Zhou Mi replied simply, forcibly repressing all acid from his tone as he slowly, casually sat back down, crossing one knee over the other, he held up his hands in a supine motion, “What would you like to discuss? I’m an open book.”
For once, the Head Councilman glanced to his left and right, to the other Council Members who briefly met his hard gaze. He looked back at Zhou Mi, a poor excuse for a smile in the curling snarl of his lips; “I’m… We’re glad you say so. We want to discuss a little more with you concerning the Japanese Hunters and your original mission at Shim Jang Academy.”
Zhou Mi suddenly couldn’t fight the hard glint he knew had entered his eyes. He belatedly suppressed the tensing of all the muscles, joints and bones in his body. He belatedly forgot to continue breathing in even intervals, holding his breath for just a second too long. He immediately took in the change of light in all their eyes.
‘Damn,’ he thought.
He suddenly felt trapped.
That evening, Kyuhyun found himself following his sister towards a random room in the central wing. He knew the hallway fairly well, having a class or two before in the same general area. She led him to a room and he entered after her, closing the door securely behind them. She walked over to the grand piano in the room, knowingly closing the lid so it sat flat; she didn’t need it for her purpose. She gestured to the piano and Kyuhyun, who had been carrying a black laptop bag for her, placed it on the piano. He stepped aside to allow Kyuri access.
Kyuri unzipped the laptop bag and just opened the laptop, keeping it in its bag. She pulled out her headset, putting it on as she waited for her laptop to turn on. She caught her brother’s curious stare, “Yes?”
“Why am I here, Kyuri?” He asked bluntly, crossing his arms loosely about his torso.
“I was given another mission and today is when I’m implementing it. In about five minutes, I’ll make contact with my team and we’ll begin the mission,” Kyuri explained,
“In… Shinjuku – was it? – again?” Kyuhyun inquired, leaning his side against the grand piano.
“Yes, last time was Shinjuku. This time, it’s not,” Kyuri answered as she began to log onto the laptop and began to set up the connections. “Shinjuku is a ward of Tokyo… This time, the vampire in question has been active in a different ward, Taitou. Have you heard about Asakusa?” At Kyuhyun disjointed nod, she continued, “Asakusa is a district in Taitou… if that means anything to you?”
“It really doesn’t,” Kyuhyun admitted easily, “Father had me tutored in the language, nothing more about Japan.”
“Well… just know it’s not in the same place,” Kyuri shrugged. She grew silent as her fingers flew over the keys. When next she spoke, Kyuhyun knew she was working, “Kin?”
“Here… all of us are here.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Kyuri’s voice softened just a fraction before she steeled her resolve, “Okay, the vampire we’re after has been going around Asakusa. Apparently their victim count is in the double-digits, close to fifty if not already surpassing the number.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes narrowed. He straightened his arms, only to shove his fists in his pockets. He tried to angle himself against the piano so he could see his sister’s computer screen better. On the screen, he saw his sister pull up several windows. One had a photograph and information, presumably on the vampire targeted for the mission. Another window was a detailed map of the area. There were other windows, but his eyes drew to the map and the four coloured dots on it.
“She targets tourists and young, inebriated males,” Kyuri stated.
She typed in a few commands on the computer and the map was duplicated. She moved one to the left side and the other to the right. A few more displays of her quick typing and the map on her right changed into a black screen with green lines, displaying a three-dimensional map giving a view within the map rather than a bird’s-eye view.
“I’m sending you the co-ordinates of the vampire’s usual haunts to your G.P. systems. Scan those areas and then –”
“Target in sight,” a Hunter interrupted,
“Already?” Kyuri questioned,
“Matches the photo in the profile,” another Hunter confirmed,
“Civilian count?” Kyuri inquired,
“Two dozen at the most,” a Hunter answered,
“Get her into an alley or some deserted area,” Kyuri commanded, “I’ll send you co-ordinates if I find an area before you. Manipulate her movements to where you want her to go – isolate her quickly before she can find another victim!”
Kyuhyun could feel his nails digging into his palms as he listened to Kyuri’s side of the conversation, watched as she typed furiously on the keyboard, windows switching and distorting madly at her will. He wanted to do something, wanted to help in some way. He knew first-hand what it was like to be a victim of a vampire. If he could stop at least one person from ending up like him, then he’d want to do it.
Kyuri’s eyes darted back and forth between the many windows on her screen, her fingers typing without a single hesitation from any of her digits. For the moment, she pushed away her initial purpose for being there. She had a mission, true, but first and foremost, she wanted the truth between herself and her twin brother. She wanted to pull the scales from his eyes, indeed, rip them as it were. She wanted to break the disillusionment between them, to taint the building fairytale with the truth, the harsh reality. If he was going to accept her, she wanted him to accept all that she was.
“I’ve found an alley, Kaze, your first left. None of the surrounding buildings exit into the alleyway, so there’s less of a chance of civilians intruding. All you have to be wary about are windows and people walking past the mouth of the alley,” Kyuri stated, “Kin, Ki, Mizu, I’m sending you the co-ordinates of the alley. Try to triangulate the vampire towards the alley. Kaze, I want you in the alley cutting off all possible escape once the vampire enters. Understand?”
She monitored the movement of her Hunters on the different maps, saw the three slowly draw closer. Mentally, she drew lines from their dots on the screen to their directions and was positive she had – more or less – estimated the exact position of their target. She began typing again, helping them as best she could from across the sea. If Kyuri was right, the vampire would have caught on that she was being followed by at least one person and was trying to get away. So, she hacked into the traffic system of that district, controlling ‘walk’ and ‘don’t walk’ signals, hoping to influence the vampire’s path.
Adjacent to her, Kyuhyun watched the screens, his eyes slowly adjusting to the quick pace of changes on each different window, piecing together what his sister was doing. He saw her type a command in one window and watched as the three moving dots immediately changed directions to compliment whatever Kyuri had done in Asakusa. One dot hadn’t moved for ten minutes and Kyuhyun guessed that was ‘Kaze’, lying in wait for the vampire, ready to cut the vampire’s escape and trap her.
Kyuri stilled her hands, watching the progression of the three dots as they slowly got closer and closer to each other. They were close and she knew that in a few minutes, the vampire would have to make a decision. Would she escape into the nearby dark alley and attempt to lose whoever was following her? Or, would she trudge on and try to escape into the thinning crowd? In her mind, she calculated the possibility of the vampire making either choice and knew, considering the risks and what-if-factors, the vampire would, more likely than not, escape into the designated alley.
Furtively, Kyuri glanced at her brother, her heart clenching when she noted his narrowed, attentive gaze on her computer screen. Her eyes darted back to her laptop, recalculating how much time left until the vampire was caught in their trap.
‘Five minutes,’ she thought, barely repressing the urge to look at her brother once more. ‘Yes or no, Kyuri? Yes or no?’
The three glowing dots continued to move. Beside her, she could feel her twin’s tension like a palpable force, as if, for once, she believed in that ‘special bond’ that was supposedly borne between twins. In that moment, her hands slowly, ever so slowly, slipped from the keyboard to her stomach.
“Leave,” Kyuri stated quietly as she moved the mouthpiece away from her mouth.
Kyuhyun, as if ruthlessly pulled from a reverie, blinked at her a few times before questioning her, “What?”
“Leave, now,” Kyuri repeated, grabbing his arm and effectively towing him towards the door of the music room.
“What? But why? You said you wanted me here with you, why are you –”
“Because I made a mistake,” Kyuri interjected when Kyuhyun dug in his heels and refused to move. “Because I had you come here in all the wrong ways and… and if you stay I’ll never be able to forgive myself.”
“Kyuri, we have the vampire cornered,” Kin spoke into her headset.
“Please, Kyuhyun,” Kyuri implored, gripping his arm tightly, trying to use that damn ‘special bond’ to will him to leave.
“We’re apprehending the vampire before she slips past us,” Mizu stated,
“Kyuri, what’s going on?” Kyuhyun demanded, yanking his arm from her grip only to clamp his hand down on her arm,
“She’s fighting back,” Ki reported,
“Kyuri? What is it!?” Kyuhyun questioned in frustration when Kyuri didn’t reply, seemingly suddenly immersed in what she was hearing through her headset. She shook her arm none-too-gently, “Kyuri!”
“Ki, retreat from the vampire… the mission, immediately!” Kyuri ordered as she replaced the mouthpiece with one hand and tried to shove her brother out the door with the other shoulder, but he stood like an immoveable wall.
“What? Why!?” Ki questioned, his tone thick with confusion,
“Kyuri, why do you want me to leave? I can help you if you need help! Even if you don’t, just let me stay,” Kyuri insisted,
“Ki! Retreat now! THAT’S AN ORDER!” Kyuri exclaimed,
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?” Ki and Kyuhyun demanded, Ki in complete submissive confusion while Kyuhyun was an order all on its own.
“THE VAMPIRE ISN’T A PUREBLOOD!” Kyuri exclaimed, finally wrenching herself free from her brother’s iron grip. She barely stumbled as she suddenly regained her balance. She gripped the mouthpiece to her lips and she stated simply, sternly, her back to her brother, “The vampire is a turned one… I don’t want you a part of the mission unless you can accept that.”
“We have the vampire,” Kin reported, “… What are we to do?”
“What we normally do,” Kyuri replied, her tone suddenly flat and monotonous, “Nothing has changed. We are still Hunters. Disposing of vampires is our job.”
“Why did you want me here?” Kyuhyun asked, his tone low, rough and his words demanding an immediate answer.
“I wanted you to know what I truly am. I wanted you to know the me that is a dedicated Head Hunter,” Kyuri answered, lips and back stiff and straight as she replied swiftly, not bothering to turn to look at him, “I wanted you to understand that if you truly want me in your life… then you have to take all of me; not just one part or one side that is sympathetic to you… but all parts, all sides, and that includes the ruthless and respected Head Hunter I am known to be these past four years.”
“You said you had me here in a wrong way, is that what you were referring to?” Kyuhyun questioned, his tone detached,
“I still believe in my reasons for wanting you to come, but yes, I should have gotten you here differently. I should have told you the truth about my mission and why I wanted you to come,” Kyuri explained as she slowly, surely, walked back to her laptop. “Like with Ki, I shouldn’t have forced you into a situation while you were only partially-informed of the facts and situation. As a Head Hunter, a leader and team mate, that was wrong and disrespectful of me. As your sister, as your twin… that was manipulative…”
Kyuhyun said nothing, couldn’t even fathom what he could say in reply. His heart was pounding fiercely and he could feel a dull ache blossom in his head, thudding steadily, slowly progressing in power. His world shifted, tilted, and what little colour he could see was suddenly all awash in red. He knew what was happening, knew what it meant and too slowly did he decide his sister didn’t deserve to witness his rampaging. So, he turned on his heel and left, slamming the door so hard, Kyuri half-expected it to fall right off its hinges.
“We’ll dispose of the vampire and send you our reports in the morning,” Kin’s voice floated through her headset.
“Your… twin – was it? – will forgive you, surely,” Kaze insisted and it was then Kyuri realized that all she had said, all she had confessed, had been heard by not just Kyuhyun, but her entire team as well. She had forgotten to move the mouthpiece away.
“Ki’s left, but… when you need us again, he’ll return… as will I,” Mizu promised, her voice warm despite the distance between them both physically and symbolically.
“Thank…” Kyuri closed the laptop before she could even attempt to finish her words.
She pulled the headset from her head, the device slipping from her fingers to the floor almost immediately. Slowly, slowly, she sank to the floor beside the grand piano, one hand propping her up, stopping her from completely curling onto the floor and the other hand curled protectively over her protruding stomach.
“That was manipulative,” Kyuri whispered into the empty music room, her head slowly bowing as she fought against the hot pinpricks of tears, “… And unforgivable.”
A few days later
“So… does this school have any special functions? The school year’s almost done and there’s been nothing but studying and classes,” Sungmin stated, looking up from the lessons he was revising for later that week.
Taeyeon, sitting at a nearby desk, looked up from her homework, “Functions? Like what?”
“Dances, carnivals, trips – anything. One would think with a school like this there’d be something of the sort,” Sungmin stated,
Taeyeon blinked before continuing her work, “Nope. Nothing like that.”
“Liar,” Sungmin muttered.$
Taeyeon looked up, “I am not!”
Sungmin, who hadn’t looked away, stared at her, “Yes, you are! You just lied!”
“How did I just lie?” Taeyeon questioned,
“You said this school doesn’t do anything but I know it does,” Sungmin stated,
“Then why did you ask if you already know otherwise!?” Taeyeon shot back,
“Because you never talked about it so I thought I should!” Sungmin retorted,
Taeyeon snorted as she grumbled under her breath and went back to her work. A thick silence fell between them. After minutes without speaking to each other, of feeling the tension suffocate, seep in, and of hearing naught but the strokes of her pencil, Taeyeon lifted her pencil but kept her head bowed.
“I’m assuming you’re talking about the senior ball?” She asked with a resigned tone,
“What? Oh? This school does have something of the sort?” Sungmin questioned in mock ignorance.
Taeyeon looked up at him, prepared to scowl when she was taken back by the hard stare and uncompromising expression on Sungmin’s face. “Why are you so angry?” Taeyeon questioned,
“Because you lied to me,” Sungmin stated, “You never lie to me.”
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Taeyeon shrugged, loosely folding her arms about her torso, “It happens, usually, mid-December and it’s for the third years who are graduating. It’s just like any other dance at any other school.”
“Except that it’s not,” Sungmin replied, standing from his chair and walking towards her desk, “Except that this dance is at this school and this dance is your dance. Aren’t you excited for it just a little bit?”
“Just a little bit?”
“Just a tiny bit.”
Sungmin raised an eyebrow at her, crossing his arms as he leaned a hip against her desk. “Taeyeon.”
“Okay, okay… a lot,” Taeyeon sighed, “I’m really excited about the ball – ridiculously so.”
“Then why didn’t you just say so?” Sungmin asked lightly,
“Because I’m not going,” Taeyeon shrugged as she picked up her pencil again and began working again, “There’s no point talking about something, or getting excited about something, when I’m not going. The rest of the school can get excited and prepare for the ball, but not me.”
“Why aren’t you going? If it’s the only thing this school does and it’s your senior ball, why aren’t you going?” Sungmin inquired,
Taeyeon looked up at him pointedly. When she saw the light of revelation enter his dark eyes, she continued her work; “Exactly.”
“You should still go,” Sungmin insisted,
“No, not if you’re not there,” Taeyeon replied, “There’s no point in me going if I can’t go with the person I want to. So, I’m not.”
Sungmin sighed heavily. He knew the tone she was using, knew that there was no budging her. He would work on her in the coming weeks until she finally relented to go. There was only one senior ball and he knew Taeyeon would regret it if she didn’t go.
“Fine,” he sighed. He leaned down to press a kiss to her crown when the classroom door suddenly opened.
“This door has a lock for a reason,” Kyuhyun said dryly as he approached, a notebook tucked beneath his arm.
“You could have knocked,” Sungmin stared at him,
“Where’s the fun in that?” Kyuhyun shrugged, “Besides, I thought the reason you two spent time together was because you couldn’t be together at school?”
“It is,” Sungmin muttered as he turned towards his desk, “And you coming in here isn’t helping.”
“Yeah, yeah, I was looking for Taeyeon, not you,” Kyuhyun retorted as he pulled up a chair to Taeyeon’s side and plopped down in it,
Sungmin sat down in his own chair, “Are you still mad about me going to Heechul?”
“Why did you go to Heechul?” Taeyeon inquired just as Kyuhyun shot him a dark look.
“Because I was worried about Kyuhyun not feeding,” Sungmin said swiftly, recognizing the irony that he had just gotten upset that Taeyeon lied to him and here he was lying to her.
Kyuhyun shook his head slightly at Sungmin before turning to his cousin, “Taeyeon, I wanted to show you something.” He handed her the notebook he had with him.
She took it and opened it on top of her books. Immediately, her jaw dropped. Before her were the beginnings of drawings and sketches. She slowly perused through the few pages that were drawn on, her eyes taking in the tentative markings, the minute details. It had been over a year since she last saw anything her cousin had drawn and it felt like she had forgotten his skill, forgotten his attention to detail. She was awed anew at being able to see such works of art in her cousin’s hand.
“Kyuhyun, these are beautiful,” Taeyeon beamed at him,
Kyuhyun shrugged, feeling his cheeks heat from her praise, “It’s not much, but I’ve been doing what you said.”
Sungmin, who was able to see the gist of the drawings from his desk, stated, affronted, “I’m the one who told you to try drawing again!”
Kyuhyun slanted him a look, “Yes, but Taeyeon’s the one who convinced me to actually draw again.” When Sungmin said nothing, he glanced at Taeyeon, “Really? You never told him?”
Taeyeon ignored Sungmin’s questioning stare, looking at Kyuhyun as her cheeks pinked, “It’s not something for me to tell!”
Kyuhyun shot her a grateful look before looking at Sungmin. Leaning back in his chair, he sighed heavily and stated simply, “I’ve been having bad spells of blood lust. Taeyeon suggested that whenever I feel one coming, I start to draw something – anything – that it might help focus my attention and to calm me down.”
“Has it helped?” Sungmin asked, leaning forward, his face etched with concern,
Kyuhyun shrugged, “More or less… It’s only been a few days when I started this practice and I haven’t had a particularly bad one happen yet. Time will tell I guess.” He stood from his chair and took his notebook back, “Well, I’ll leave you two to your … work. I only wanted to get your opinion on my drawings.”
Taeyeon looked up at him, smiling brightly, “They’re beautiful, Kyuhyun. Your skill never ceases to amaze me.”
“Now you’re just sucking up,” Kyuhyun laughed as he gently squeezed her shoulder before heading to the classroom door, “I’ll see you both later.”
“Lock the door on your way out,” Taeyeon stated, picking up her pencil and bowing her head to her work again.
Sungmin gave one last nod to Kyuhyun before the door closed after his friend. Silence drifted over them once more as his gaze fell upon her. He wondered if Kyuhyun noticed and, if he did, why didn’t he stay? He glanced at the door he had seen Kyuhyun lock before leaving. If he did, what did this mean? Was this some kind of test? Some kind of milestone? Was Kyuhyun passing him some kind of symbolic torch? If so, he would gladly take it with both hands and run with it.
“Taeyeon,” he said it softly, quieter than he had intended, his voice like a gentle caress, a warm blanket that enfolded her, comforted her.
Without saying anything, she pushed away from the desk, dropping her pencil to the floor as she walked over to him. Head still bowed, she came to his side. Sungmin turned his chair to face her, finally catching sight of her face, just inches higher than his own despite sitting. He reached up, brushed away the tears with his thumbs. He gently tugged her onto his lap and she curled against him, buried her face into his shirt as the tears brimmed her lashes and then spilt over onto her cheeks.
He wrapped his arms around her, filled his embrace with her soft warmth. He pressed a kiss to her crown and kept his lips there, a never-ending kiss, connection and comfort. He waited, not wanting to push or prod. He waited, allowing her to gain her ground, gather her strength and tell him herself. He waited. He trusted. He loved.
“His blood lust has changed,” Taeyeon revealed quietly, “It’s… more intense… more scary… more… volatile.”
“I’ve been trying to help him when I can, but I only found out on Friday,” Taeyeon explained quietly, hating how her voice trembled, how her body gently shook, pressing closer to Sungmin, needing to press closer to his strength and warmth. “I sing to him sometimes because that used to calm him… but sometimes it’s not enough, so, I suggested he draw to help himself calm down… but I’m scared it’s not enough. I’m scared and...
“And I hate Zhou Seonsaeng-nim for going away. I hate him for not coming back sooner. I hate him for not even calling Kyuhyun because I know… I know he can help Kyuhyun even when I cannot. I know even just hearing his voice would calm Kyuhyun like none of my efforts could…” She swallowed hard, “I hate that he can help Kyuhyun and I cannot.”
“You can help Kyuhyun – you do. Just staying with him, just helping him as much as you can… it all helps, Taeyeon, and I know he appreciates it,” Sungmin insisted softly, fractionally tightening his embrace around her,
“But it’s not enough! I know it’s not enough!” Taeyeon cried into his chest. Her hands clutched at the front of his shirt; “He needs more and I can’t give it to him and the one person who can isn’t even here!”
“I know… I know…” Sungmin said quietly, one of his hands rubbing soothing circles on her back, “I… I feel helpless too…”
Taeyeon wasn’t sure how long Sungmin held her. All she knew was that his arms never eased, that he never tried to distract or pull her away from her turmoil. Rather, he allowed her to go through the motions, to feel sadness, to feel worry, to feel anxiety. He allowed her to face her demons, to step in the shadows. He allowed her these things, but never left her, was with her every step of the way.
He held her, reminding her she wasn’t alone. He held her, reminding her that after the darkness and sadness, she had someplace warm, someone strong, to return to. He held her and she knew she would be strong again. He held her and she knew he would help her help Kyuhyun. When she finally left his embrace, the sun had set, but she knew she was ready to face another day by her cousin’s side. After all, Sungmin would be by her side also.
One week later; Friday; End of the second week of November 20XX
It had been a month.
One month had already passed since he last saw his face. One month since he last heard his voice. One month since he last touched him. One month since he last tasted his kiss. One month since he fed.
Lately, he felt his sanity slipping. The past few days, especially, he could feel the tension coiling tighter and tighter. He could feel his muscles tensing of their own accord whenever someone looked at him oddly and he knew his body was ready to pounce. He could feel his incisors lengthen when he caught a sight of someone’s neck or even their wrist, knowing there was a strong pulse in those places, just waiting for him to bite into and…
He had lost weight again, had found it harder to keep warm against the dropping temperatures of the weather and yet, he was stronger than ever. His blood lust, his surging rage, was empowering him like never before. His blood coursed powerfully, his muscles contracted strongly – all waiting for the perfect victim, the perfect timing to feast again.
On Monday, he had been overcome by his blood lust, this spell worse than the ones before. He was volatile, not even having enough control to escape to his bathroom, to lock the door. He was rampaging, banging on the walls, throwing himself away from the door every time he smelled blood walking by in the form of the school monitors. He punched and clawed at the walls, trying to release the building tension within him, doing so until his nails were worn down, bleeding and his knuckles were split horribly.
He had attacked someone that night, he knew it the moment he woke up Tuesday morning. He had awoken sore, bruised and his hands were heavily bandaged. Worse of all, he was lying in a bed in the nurse’s office. When Heechul approached him that morning, before the nurse could say anything, Kyuhyun had requested to be locked in the isolation room, to have access to the room whenever he was experiencing his blood lust.
And so, here he was again for the second time since Monday.
The moment he had stormed into the room, Heechul had locked the door after him, effectively sealing him in until his blood lust past. He could never really understand what he was doing during his rages. He could feel it begin by the way his heart would change beating, the way he was suddenly aware of everything around him to a startling, almost obsessive manner. He knew how fast it was progressing by the way he was reacting to people near him. He knew he had to escape, had to get to a safe haven – and fast – when his vision was suddenly tinted in red. He knew that, like a bull, he would react.
He had only been in the room for a few seconds before he threw himself onto the bed there. After the first time, Heechul had seen the damage Kyuhyun could cause during his blood lust. They had switched out the hospital bed with a simple, wire-frame, single bed. He lay there for only a moment before he jumped to his feet. Before he realized what his body was doing, he crouched down, grabbed the metal frame and flipped the bed towards the wall as easily as if it were paperclips instead of metal bars.
He lunged towards the wooden chair in the room, picked it up and threw it at the door. The chair splintered, then shattered against the door. Kyuhyun flung himself at the door, gripping the knob with his hands while his feet tried to run in the opposite direction. He could feel two parts of his mind fighting with one another. One told him he had to leave the room and the other told him he had to stay in the room. One told him he needed to feed and the other told him he needed to fight the blood lust. One told him he had all the power in the world and could pull the door from its hinges and the other told him that power was dangerous and shouldn’t be tapped.
He was in a constant battle with himself. He was confused, he was agitated and he was angry. Worse of all, he was hungry. He felt as if he had two choices to decide between and each time, his body wanted to go both ways. Unfortunately, he was starting to forget which were the right choices, which were the ones he was supposed to choose. After all, who said he had to choose certain ones? Why couldn’t he do what he wanted? What he needed? What he craved?
One hand was shaking the doorknob, half trying to force it against the lock, the other half trying to uncurl his fingers from the knob. His other hand was pounding on the door, half trying to make a hole through the door, the other half trying to call for help. His mind was clouding over and he knew he was getting angrier and angrier. At what? He could no longer recall, but he was beginning to feel that if he allowed one half of his brain to reign, then he would cease to be angry.
He stopped suddenly.
He froze, pressing his forehead to the door. He inhaled deeply. Past the metallic smell of the door, he could smell what he wanted, what he needed. He could smell the rich nectar he knew could solve all his problems. He could practically taste the thick, coppery liquid in his mouth, could feel the nourishment fill his body, every cell and allowing him to not just live, but to thrive. Yes, he could smell it. And he wanted it. Now.
He began to claw at the door with bandaged fingers. He disregarded all stabs of pain, convincing himself that if he only had blood, everything in the world be right again. What was his world again? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that blood was on the other side of the door and he wanted it. He needed it.
Blood began to soak through the tips of his bandages and the scent filled his nostrils, taunting him with just a bit of what he desired. He needed blood, but not that of his own. No, he needed another’s blood. He needed the blood on the other side of the door. His vision was completely in shades of red now as he began to pound his fists on the door again, kicking at it, trying to either get through or make someone open the door.
The smell of blood doubled and then intensified. He heard the approach of footsteps, emphasized by the sweet smell of blood in his nose. The door swung open and he jumped out of the way just in time.
Suddenly, he lunged at the older man, pinning him back against the door, sealing them in together. Hands manacled around the other’s wrists, he opened his mouth, his incisors growing rapidly. Without a thought, he sunk his fangs into the other man’s neck, practically hearing the pulse point there.
A scream then.
As thick, hot liquid spilt into his mouth, enticing his taste buds and granting him serene euphoria, he drank greedily, fed voraciously and forgot about everything else. Forgot about everyone else. Forgot about his family and his friends. Forgot about himself. Worse of all, he forgot about…
(Phase 24: Parasite)