(Phase 28 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Twenty-Eight: Unwanted Finality
The sounds of fighting surrounded him as he tried to sit up. His vision was still blurry, figures in the night being shadowed one minute and then lit up by the moon the next. He felt strong hands pulling at him, trying to help him up, but he struggled to balance his weight on his shaky limbs. He felt as if all his limbs were made of jelly, as if all the strength had been taken from him completely.
“Kyu, damn it, we have to run!”
Kyuhyun looked up at Sungmin who had managed to pull him up and was now completely supporting his weight, one of his arms draped over the shoulders of his friend, “Min, I’m too weak, you have to go without me.”
“To hell with that,” Sungmin scowled as, with one last glance at the hunters, he began dragging Kyuhyun through the piling snow to the school.
“I have to help them… they have no chance of beating him,” Kyuhyun stammered as he tried to pull away from Sungmin but found he could not.
“You have no chance of beating him. He fed from you, Kyuhyun, which means your blood supply is depleted,” Sungmin hissed, “Even if I had half a mind to let you go fight that vampire, you’d need to feed first and, if you haven’t realized it yet, I’ll fight that vampire before I let you fight him.”
“I’m glad you said so,” a cold voice stated.
Sungmin looked back and immediately tried to pull Kyuhyun away from the vampire who was suddenly right behind them. The vampire reached out to them and Sungmin immediately threw Kyuhyun to the ground, putting himself between the vampire and Kyuhyun. Sungmin turned to face the vampire, arms wide open like a guard and eyes narrowed,
“You can’t have him!” Sungmin exclaimed,
The vampire’s arm shot out, fingers wrapping around Sungmin’s neck as his fingers pressed in like talons. The vampire slowly pulled Sungmin to him, raising him so that Sungmin’s toes barely brushed the surface of the layers of snow. He pulled Sungmin until his mouth was at the teacher’s ear, “I already fed from him… I wanted a taste of you.”
“NO! GET AWAY FROM HIM!” Kyuhyun tried to scramble to his feet, making two steps before his knees gave out beneath him and he tumbled to the snow-covered ground. He struggled to drag himself through the thick layer of snow, “LET GO OF HIM!”
“I will enjoy this,” the vampire licked his lips but did not bite Sungmin.
Kyuhyun watched, horrified, as the vampire held Sungmin to his side, slowly holding him up so that not even his toes touched the snow. The vampire smirked as his grip on Sungmin’s neck tightened and the biology teacher screamed out. The sound pierced through the night until it was dulled, blood slowly coursing down the vampire’s hand and arm, dripping down onto the pristine white snow.
Suddenly, the vampire’s hold on Sungmin was released as he was tackled to the ground. Kyuhyun glanced back, one of the Hunters was still on the ground, unmoving. The other one, Hunter Lee, was now struggling with the vampire in the snow. Kyuhyun’s attention was focused when he heard gasping sounds. He immediately scrambled to Sungmin’s side, turning his friend over onto his back,
“Damn it,” Kyuhyun swore as he bit into the pads of all his fingers until they bled. The cuts and the wind made his fingers sting, but he pushed away the pain as he swiped all of his fingers over the wounds the vampire had made with his nails. “Min, are you okay? You didn’t lose too much blood?”
Sungmin tried to speak, but only whispers of parts of words floated from his lips. He grabbed at his neck, healed but covered in his own blood and Kyuhyun’s. He shook his head in a silent answer.
“He must have hit your vocal chords,” Kyuhyun surmised as he cleaned off his fingers. He glanced towards the Hunter and Vampire, “I have to –”
“Both of you get back to the school,” the second Hunter had finally gotten up. She stood behind the vampire who was straddling Hunter Lee with a gun in her hand, pointed at the vampire’s head, “Don’t slow down and don’t look back just get back to the school and raise the alarm.”
“You won’t get away that easily,” the vampire hissed.
Hunter Lee took the distraction as his advantage, flipping the vampire to the ground and straddling him, one hand pinning the vampire’s neck. “GO NOW!” He exclaimed, not even bothering to look up.
Kyuhyun hesitated, but Sungmin grabbed his arm and began dragging him away. Several times on their way towards the back courtyard, Kyuhyun stumbled, but he continued on, not wanting to slow Sungmin down. Every few feet he would glance back but could only see the blurred images of three figures fighting in the snow.
They made it to the back courtyard. Sungmin yanked open the doors he had exited through earlier and began to pull Kyuhyun in. They were almost through the courtyard when Kyuhyun dropped to his knees, his hands holding his head. Sungmin turned back, kneeling before him.
He opened his mouth, tried to force out the words, but all he got was a hoarse, “Kyu?” before his entire throat seemed to burst into flames. He cupped the younger man’s shoulders and shook it violently, trying to get some answer out of him, trying to draw his attention.
Kyuhyun swung away from him, his hands still clutching his head, “We have to… hurry to the Headmaster…”
He staggered towards the doors as he tried to fight against his body. His heart was racing faster, stronger than ever before. His muscles were tensing, contracting, ready to pounce. His head was pounding like a jackhammer had taken up residence there. Worse of all, his fangs had elongated, throbbing painfully as his vision was slowly eaten up by a red hue.
Sungmin tried to grab him but Kyuhyun only stumbled away from him, frantically shaking his head. “Clean off… your neck,” Kyuhyun managed as he practically collapsed against the door into the school.
Immediately, Sungmin pulled off the sweater he was wear and wiped at the crimson residue that had been caking his skin. He tossed the sweater to the ground and looked at Kyuhyun who seemed to be breathing easier. The younger man nodded and gestured to the school.
“Where’s Zhou Mi?” Eeteuk asked as he looked at the ensemble before him.
It had taken Kyuhyun and Sungmin fifteen minutes to get to his office and another five to drag him out of bed. It had taken another fifteen minutes to gather the security guards and Hunters in his office. He looked amongst those gathered there, but couldn’t spot the literature teacher. Even Hankyung and Heechul, who had also been called from their beds, shrugged and shook their heads in silent answers.
“Very well, I’ll operate everything until he arrives,” Eeteuk turned his attention to the guards, “What I am about to say is serious and I don’t care what misconceptions you may have, but from now until the matter is resolved, I must have your absolute faith and cooperation. There is a dangerous vampire on the premises.” A murmur began amongst the security guards but Eeteuk raised his hands immediately to silence them, “I said what I said. Now, I need you all to listen to my orders and follow them to the tee. Gather all the staff and students and bring them into the dining hall. Lock all the windows and doors and guard those areas.
“We’re fortunate that most students and staff commute everyday. I have lists of who remains on campus during the week – make sure everyone is accounted for,” Eeteuk’s eyes narrowed dangerously as his gaze swept over the guards, “Keep everyone together, watch over everyone and, if matters progress that far, I need you all to protect them.” He paused and slowly lowered his hands, “I know this isn’t in your job descriptions and not once did I anticipate the need for it, but I need all of you to help protect this school and its people from this threat. Any of you who cannot do as I say may leave now, indeed, must leave now, however I cannot guarantee any semblance of safety outside of this school’s walls. Understood?”
When all of his guards stated clearly their affirmations, Eeteuk began handing out sheets of lists, “These are the students and staff on campus. If any are missing I want names so I can ascertain their whereabouts and if they went home this evening. You all have your radios, so use them. I want reports after each evacuation of dorm rooms. After everyone is gathered in the dining hall, I want status reports every fifteen minutes. Understood?”
The guards replied in the affirmative once more and stormed out of the office.
Eeteuk turned his attention to the Hunters, “Until Zhou Mi arrives, I’ll serve as the head of operations. I don’t like the prospect any more than you all do, but we have a vampire on campus. He’s located north of the school in the back lawns. The information we have is that the vampire is going against two Hunters, one of them identified as Hunter Lee Donghae.”
“Hunter Hwang ShinBo is also missing,” a Hunter stated,
“Then that must be the other Hunter down there,” Eeteuk stated, “I want four of you to join Hunter Lee and Hunter Hwang against the vampire. The remaining two will join my guards in the dining hall in protecting the students. I’m sure once Zhou Mi arrives he’ll join in the fight as well.” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out two more radios, “Both radios go to the fight in the northern campus. If possible, I want half-hour reports on the status there… but we all want this resolved quickly.”
Two Hunters stepped forward to take the radios and they dispersed as quickly as the guards had.
Eeteuk turned to the three teachers present, “I need this school secured. While the guards gather all staff and students, I want you three to secure all doors and windows leading into the school. Once everyone is collected, enlist some of the guards to assist you. Once this school is secured I want no one in or out of this school without my permission.”
Hankyung and Heechul nodded, leaving immediately. Sungmin threw one tentative glance at Kyuhyun before following his colleagues out. Kyuhyun, who had been silent, sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, looked up at the Headmaster.
“Kyuhyun I don’t want you anywhere near this vampire. It’s obvious he’s here for you, to finish off what he couldn’t last year,” Eeteuk stated, “But I need your help too. I need you to go find Zhou Mi and tell him what’s going on. After that, I want you to head to the dining hall with the other students. I want one of the security guards to confirm with me that you’re there, understood?”
When Kyuhyun was silent, Eeteuk came around the desk and stood before him, “Kyuhyun, understood? I won’t have the efforts of everyone here wasted simply because you got the idea in your head to play hero! For months, so many people have been working to keep you alive and well – so don’t you dare throw that away by walking into the vampire’s hands. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Headmaster,” Kyuhyun replied quietly, not meeting the older man’s eye.
“Kyuhyun… if you won’t do it for yourself, then… then at least think about Zhou Mi,” Eeteuk stated quietly, his arms slowly folding across his chest, “I know what losing a loved one can do to a person.”
Kyuhyun looked up then, startled as pieces of his recollection slid into place like puzzle pieces; “Headmaster… what you said.”
“There’s no time, Kyuhyun. Go find Zhou Mi,” Eeteuk urged as he turned and retreated to his desk. He clenched his fists as he headed towards one of the windows, trying to catch glimpses of the northern campus, “There’s no more time.”
Kyuhyun stood up slowly, wanting to tell the Headmaster everything and yet, scared that he was wrong, scared that he would place hope where it didn’t belong. He headed to the doors and said as much as his conscious allowed before leaving, “Maybe… maybe we don’t lose as much as we think we do.”
Kyuhyun found Zhou Mi the way he had left him. He stood in the room, his back pressed against the door as he forced himself to move, forced himself away from the compulsion to return to the vampire. As he sat in the Headmaster’s office, he had slowly regained some of his strength. When he had left and headed back to his dorm, he had to run and force himself to ignore the sweet smell of blood around him, ignore the sound of pulses he could clearly hear. He had bumped into several people and had to repress the urge to growl, to pounce as his fangs bared themselves and hunger roared through his body.
He pushed himself away from the door to the bed, sitting on the edge as his eyes went over Zhou Mi’s form in the darkness. He knew what he had to do, knew that Zhou Mi would want to know of what was happening. However, a part of him, a large part of him, wanted to keep Zhou Mi sleeping, keep him ignorant. He wanted to protect the older man forever, wanted to protect him as Zhou Mi had protected him this entire time.
However, he made a promise to remain honest with Zhou Mi. Tentatively, he brushed back strands of hair from the older man’s forehead. The light touch had Zhou Mi murmuring, slowly pulling through the thin webs of sleep. Zhou Mi blinked in the darkness until his eyes adjusted and he recognized the silhouette before him,
“Kyuhyun?” He reached up, cradling the younger man’s face and felt an immediate wetness against his fingertips, his palm, “Why are you crying?” He asked, sitting up immediately, the sheets falling to his waist,
“Because I’m scared,” Kyuhyun admitted as he allowed Zhou Mi to pull him into his embrace. He huddled there, his forehead on Zhou Mi’s shoulder as his arms wrapped around the older man’s torso.
“Of what?” Zhou Mi asked, his mind slowly clearing from sleep,
“There’s a pureblood on campus,” Kyuhyun explained quietly, “It’s… it’s the same one that attacked me last year that turned me into… He’s back and your Hunters are fighting with him.”
“I need to go,” Zhou Mi said swiftly, pulling from Kyuhyun’s embrace and beginning to search for his clothes strewn about the floor. He was almost fully dressed, pulling on his shirt when he paused and looked back at Kyuhyun, the younger man’s silence finally registering, “Kyuhyun…”
“I know you need to go… it’s why I woke you, why I told you,” Kyuhyun replied as he sat on the edge of the bed, his hands idly twisting in his lap, “It’s why you first came here, right? To find that vampire?”
“But I found so much more,” Zhou Mi insisted as he grabbed his jacket which had been draped on Kyuhyun’s desk. He came to Kyuhyun, tossing his jacket to the mattress as he knelt before the younger man; “Everything that has happened to this point has only made me want you more, need you more, love you more. Everything we have gone through has brought us to this point when I can finally fulfil my purpose here at SJA and move on – with you. After this is done, after the vampire is gone then there’ll be nothing else between us.”
“The Council –”
“Can go to hell,” Zhou Mi replied simply, swiftly as he cradled Kyuhyun’s face and kissed him swiftly, sweetly, his lips lingering for just a moment before he pulled away and broke the spell settling fast between them; “I don’t want to continue on in the Council if some of their policies don’t change. How can I when I know better? When I know you?”
Kyuhyun covered Zhou Mi’s hands on his face with his own hands, “Don’t do anything stupid, Zhou Mi, okay? Please, I can’t… I can’t lose you.”
“You won’t and I won’t do anything stupid,” Zhou Mi promised, “Besides, how can I promise our future while thinking about being reckless and careless?”
“Still… I’m scared that… that something will happen and…” Kyuhyun swallowed hard, “I didn’t expect to be happy this school year… didn’t want to be happy, but from the first time I saw you, all I’ve ever wanted was you. You have changed my life in so many ways, Mi… You’ve made me want more than what life was offering me… Heck, you gave me back my sister –”
Zhou Mi kissed him then, hard. He tasted Kyuhyun, tasted the tears and felt his heart clench painfully as a cold dread swept through him. He broke the kiss and fought hard to smile, “Why does that sound like a goodbye to me, Kyuhyun?”
“Maybe because it –”
Zhou Mi kissed him again, forcing his silence, stealing away his breath and his words. He pulled back from the kiss, shaking his head, “No goodbyes because we don’t need them.” His hands dropped from Kyuhyun’s face as he pulled his jacket closer, his hand slipping into one of the inside pockets and pulling out a long, thin box, “I was actually saving this for the end of the week because I figured, by then, it’d be hard for you to fail your third year – again – since it’s close to the end of the year and this would serve as congratulations…” He opened the box and pulled out a silver chain with a thin plate. He took Kyuhyun’s left hand and draped the thick chain around his wrist as he began to fiddle with the tiny clasp, “Then you invited me to Christmas with your family and I thought perhaps I should save it for another week…”
Kyuhyun raised his wrist to eye-level when Zhou Mi’s hands fell away. His other hand briefly touched the plate, his sensitive fingertips feeling grooves and dips in the smooth metal, “Mi…”
“And then you started spouting all of these useless goodbye-words and I figure now is the best time to give this to you,” Zhou Mi replied. He slowly stood, pulling his jacket on as he rose to his full height; “Engraved is my name in Chinese calligraphy. That way, no matter where I go, no matter what stupid little fights we may have in the future… I’ll always be close to you… will always be with you.”
Zhou Mi threw him one last smile in the darkness before he turned to leave. He was halfway out the door when arms wrapped around him from behind, a warm face pressed between his shoulder blades; a familiar embrace. For the first time since Kyuhyun woke him up, he felt scared, truly afraid to leave the younger man, to step out the door and face the vampire. For years, he had fought against vampires and had won. This time, however, he was scared because he finally had something, someone, to return to after the victory.
“Kyuhyun…” Zhou Mi said quietly, his hands covering Kyuhyun’s, drawing them up to cover his heart, “I’m scared.”
“I believe in you,” Kyuhyun murmured, turning his head so he could speak clearly, his cheek pressed against the other man’s back, “Despite all my worries, I do believe in you, Mi… it’s just that… it’s just that how can I be so happy? How is this all so possible? Now that I have everything, now that I have you, I don’t want to lose it… but I believe in you.”
“Thank you,” Zhou Mi replied earnestly as he raised one of Kyuhyun’s hands and pressed a kiss into his palm and then did the same to the other. He held both hands to his lips, his head bowed in a silent prayer. Without raising his head, without opening his eyes, he said quietly, “I don’t need to hear the words, because I know how hard they are to say but… I need to know… Kyuhyun, do you love me?”
“Yes,” he replied, the words falling from his lips as his heart seemed to burst from being so full. He hugged Zhou Mi to him even tighter, pressing his face against the other’s back as he blinked back the hot tears that lined his lashes, “Yes… Yes, of course. For so long, for so damn long, Mi.”
Zhou Mi breathed a sigh of relief as he raised his head, looking straight ahead at the dark corridor, “Then I’ll be okay… Knowing that, I’ll be able to defeat the vampire and come back to you.” He turned in Kyuhyun’s embrace and kissed him swiftly before stepping back and away from him, “I’ll return the sentiment after I’ve defeated the vampire.”
Kyuhyun stood there long after Zhou Mi disappeared into the deep darkness, long after he heard Zhou Mi’s footsteps dissipate, long after the warmth of Zhou Mi’s body left his skin. With a hardened resolve, he clenched his fists and ran into the darkness.
He was just inches from his destination when he threw himself away from the double doors he sought. Facing the opposite wall, his hands fisted against the cool surface as he pressed his crown into the wall, eyes closed as he inhaled deeply. His body was pulling him out the door, indeed, he wanted to go out the door for his own reasons, but this pull was like an invisible rope tied around him and pulling, pulling. At the same time, his body wanted to lounge at the person who had come too close, who caused him to pull away before he attacked them.
His mouth watered, his fangs throbbed and his entire body anticipated the meal standing just feet away. He shook as he tried to fight against his vampiric instincts, snarling like a beast when a hand touched his shoulder;
“Get away, Taeyeon!” Kyuhyun turned to face her, pressing his back against the wall as he did so, trying to get as far from her as possible without actually leaving the vicinity of the double doors.
“The security guards came to my dorm. There’s an emergency. I went to your room and when I found it empty, I knew… I just knew,” Taeyeon stated angrily.
Kyuhyun dropped his gaze from her face, focusing on her sneakers peaking out from her pink, flannel pyjama pants; “Tae…”
“In any other emergency, either you would have come to me or you would have been in your room waiting for me,” Taeyeon continued, “But if the emergency is a vampire then you would leave. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“You’re right,” Kyuhyun answered as he slowly raised his gaze, locking with his cousin’s in the dim hallway, “And that’s why you need to go join everyone else in the dining hall.”
“The hell I will!” Taeyeon exclaimed angrily, “Kyuhyun, I’m not going to let you face a vampire all by yourself!”
“I am a vampire!” Kyuhyun countered, “Do you not realize how hard it is for me right now to not pounce on you and feed from you!?”
“Then do it!” Taeyeon argued, tugging at the collar of the sweater she had thrown over her pyjamas to reveal more of her neck, “Then just do it, get it over with and we can go.”
“No… No, no, no,” Kyuhyun shook his head vigorously; “I’m not putting you in more danger than you need to be. I was the one changed, I was the one affected, so I’m the one who needs to go out there and beat this guy!”
“Yes, you were the one who was changed, but you weren’t the only one affected!” Taeyeon yelled, “I thought I was going to lose you that night I found you, Kyuhyun! I thought I was going to lose you so many damn times this past year I’ve lost count! Do you not understand how hurt I was that you didn’t want to feed from me when I offered? I offered you life and you refused – do you not know what went through my head afterwards?”
“You know how I feel about feeding,” Kyuhyun grounded out,
“That doesn’t matter because I still ended up feeling I wasn’t good enough,” Taeyeon confessed, her voice already breaking as tears trickled down her cheeks, “Since you’ve turned, I’ve been so damn scared of losing you, if not through death then from my life in a different manner… I’ve been so… so complacent, so timid because I’ve been so afraid of pushing you… of pushing you away.”
Taeyeon shook her head as she spun around to pace away from him. She reached the double doors when she stopped, gripping the door handles as if they were the only things keeping her upright; “I’ve been so scared to go against you, even when I knew it would save your life… would protect you… all because I believed that if I pushed too hard, you wouldn’t stay. And yet… and yet Zhou Seonsaeng-nim does exactly what I refused to do… He pushed you, forced your compliance.”
She turned back to face him then; “I’m not complaining about Seonsaeng-nim because I’m glad he did all he has… I’m just saying that… all this time I’ve been going along with everything you’ve said and done… I’ve never truly complained or fought against you since you turned. I’ve realized that up until now, I haven’t done anything for you… anything to help you. All I’ve done is sit back and wait for Seonsaeng-nim to take action. I can’t… I can’t not do anything again, Kyuhyun… I can’t.”
“You haven’t done anything for me? Haven’t helped me? What kind of bullshit is that, Tae!?” Kyuhyun demanded, his anger fighting against his bloodlust as he pushed away from the opposite wall to approach her; “You have been by my side ever since I turned. My own parents abandoned me, Tae, but you – YOU – did not. You even yelled at them, scolded them… fuck, you even defended me in front of your parents before they could even say anything. Even though you didn’t have to, you demanded they take me in, threatened to leave if they didn’t.”
“That wasn’t that difficult… your parents were jerks and my parents just didn’t speak quickly enough. They were going to accept you regardless of what I said or did… even if I went against you,” Taeyeon murmured,
“You offered me your blood without any questions, without me asking –”
“As if that did any good –”
“Just because I didn’t take it, doesn’t mean it didn’t do good, Tae. You accepted what I am completely… you showed me sympathy, understanding… I wanted to die, Tae, I hated myself so much… all you ever did was open your arms and accept me,” Kyuhyun admitted, his voice low and tentative, “Yes, Mi made me do things that you and Sungmin weren’t able to… but I only made it this far, made it to see each day, to meet Mi, to reunite with Sungmin only because you were there. If I didn’t have you this entire time, Tae, I wouldn’t have made it past day one.”
Taeyeon, whose tears were now like rivers coursing down her face, suddenly launched herself at him, her arms like vices around his waist as her face buried against his chest. Kyuhyun immediately hugged her back, holding her, squeezing her tightly, comfortingly, affectionately. He bowed his head until his lips brushed her crown,
“Since that day, I kept living so I could spend more time with you,” Kyuhyun confessed, his voice soft, quiet, a whisper as if he were telling her a secret that only the two of them could know. He made the admission private, special, specifically for her. Just theirs.
“I don’t want you to go,” Taeyeon murmured into his shirt, clutching onto him with every bit of her strength,
“I have to… I’ll be surrounded by Hunters and… hopefully they’ll protect me. Me being there will give them a better shot with the vampire,” Kyuhyun explained quietly, “He’ll let me in close… right, Sungmin?” Slowly, Kyuhyun released his embrace of Taeyeon to include Sungmin into the discussion.
Sungmin, who was leaning against the wall heavily breathing, nodded. He opened his mouth to say something but then held up a hand, signalling for them to give him a moment to catch his breath.
“He just got here now,” Kyuhyun said quietly, her silent question slipping into his mind; “He doesn’t know any of the things you told me…”
“He already knows,” She replied in a whisper. When she locked gazes with him, she added, “He has his own reservations…”
“I’m in the dining hall locking up all the windows and I hear one of the guards mention that everyone was evacuated to the dining hall. To my surprise, the two people I’m looking for were not there,” Sungmin stated, his voice still rough as he straightened, crossing his arms over his chest, “I ran to the dorms and back and by chance – mere chance – I came down this corridor.” He sighed and then cocked his head, “Let me guess… Kyuhyun is determined to face the vampire and Taeyeon is determined to either stop him or go with him.”
Both nodded in silent replies.
Sungmin looked both each in the eyes, reading their feelings easily, understanding their thoughts without difficulty. He turned, leaned his back against the wall and tipped his face to the ceiling, closing his eyes, “I can’t stop… either of you from doing what you want.” He paused, clearing his throat several times before continuing, his throat still burning from the earlier attack, “So, I’m going to go over the good and bad points of this situation and leave it up to the two of you to decide. You’re both adults now, might as well start making your own decisions.”
Kyuhyun, without being asked, walked over to Sungmin. Standing before the older man, he flattened his palm over the other’s heart. When Sungmin began to fidget, he explained, “Your vocal chords are slowly healing because I used my blood on your neck… but they won’t heal fast and talking probably hurts. I’ll say your words for you.”
Sungmin, who had lowered his gaze from the ceiling, looked at Kyuhyun and saw the determination in the younger man’s eyes. He nodded and then tipped his face to the ceiling once more.
“He says… er… thinks? Sungmin says: Kyuhyun’s right, he does have the best chance of getting close to the vampire. He can act like he’s being lured in when, in reality, he’s completely willing –”
“More or less… I feel the compulsion right now,” Kyuhyun interjected his own words before continuing on,
“Sungmin says: However, this also means practically handing Kyuhyun over on a silver platter. Also, I’m a little biased because it was hard enough – ”
“I never asked you to come after me… although I do appreciate it,” Kyuhyun sighed when Sungmin looked at him, “I do and… I hate that you got hurt because of me and… fine, fine… I’ll keep talking for you.”
“He says it was hard enough getting away the first time… the second time around Kyuhyun might not…” Kyuhyun paused, swallowing hard.
Taeyeon blinked, glancing between her cousin and her boyfriend, realizing that their thoughts were identical on the subject. Sungmin thought what Kyuhyun feared and so, the latter could barely say the words aloud.
“Sungmin says: If Kyuhyun doesn’t go, he’ll remain safe. He’ll be doing what everyone wants him to do. However, it’ll be hard to keep everyone safe while the vampire is near.” Kyuhyun glanced at Taeyeon, “He also says that he’s not even going to broach the subject of you coming with me because that’s not up for discussion.”
“The moment I realized he was here, I thought the same thing,” Taeyeon muttered. She crossed her arms and stared through the windows of the double doors which led to the back courtyard. She stated bitterly, “I don’t want you to go… I don’t… I don’t like knowing I’m sending you off and… and that you might not…”
Kyuhyun dropped his hand from Sungmin’s heart, walked the distance to Taeyeon and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a half-embrace. His lips against her temple, he whispered, “Don’t think like that, okay? Go to the dining hall with Sungmin. I’ll join you two as soon as this is over, okay?”
Taeyeon nodded as she pulled back enough to look up at him, “Don’t you dare die on me, okay, Kyuhyun? If you do, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll hate you forever, okay?”
Kyuhyun offered a small, sad smile as he replied quietly, “Okay. I’ll make sure not to die then… so, you can’t hate me.” He looked towards Sungmin, startled to find the older man already at his side, “Min…”
Sungmin pulled him into a rough embrace, his lips at the younger man’s ear so as not to strain his vocal chords anymore, “I already lost you once, I can’t… We haven’t had that much time together, Kyu. We’ve already lost so much because of me. So, please…”
Kyuhyun hugged Sungmin tightly, his mouth pressed against Sungmin’s shoulder to stop himself from crying out. Slowly, he turned his head so his words were little puffs of air against Sungmin’s cheek, “Everyday that you weren’t in my life, I wanted so desperately to call you, to hear your voice, just for the reassurance that everything would be okay. I wanted you to lead me around, for me to follow you, for you to hold my hand as I clutched yours tightly. I know I never said it before, but I have felt so happy, so lucky to have you back in my life. You were my first friend, my best friend…” He squeezed Sungmin one last time, “You were – are – my brother, Min.”
Before Sungmin could say more, before he could blink back the tears or fight against the burning fire in his throat, Kyuhyun pulled away and walked between him and Taeyeon to the double doors. Taeyeon swirled around to watch him, her eyes wide, brimmed with tears as he walked past her, his hands brushing hers for a moment before he opened the doors and stepped through. With a backward glance over his shoulder, he raised his hand, held up two fingers and saluted them with the bright smile he saved for the few people he let into his heart.
They watched, silent, as he ran through the back courtyard, out the door and disappeared into the winter night. Taeyeon turned to Sungmin just as he began to pull her into his arms. He held her, still, strong, silent as she cried into his chest, huddled in his warmth and fought the urge to run after her cousin, her best friend.
It was a few moments before Sungmin tucked her beneath his arm and slowly, ever so slowly, led her to the dining hall. He didn’t remove his arm when they entered the dining hall of students and staff, merely walked her over to a secluded corner and shielded her from the others. He didn’t care about rules and regulations and he didn’t care of the consequences to either of them because he knew some things were more important than all of that; that night was more important than all of that; Kyuhyun was more important than all of that.
In their corner, he held Taeyeon to him, held her up and kept her sane. All the while, he shed his own tears in the comfort of the dark shadows.
“I’ll be joining the fight then.”
Heechul looked up at the younger man who stood before him. Kibum stood in the hallway, the door to his and Kyuri’s bedroom closed, his arms folded over his chest.
“What about Kyuri?” Heechul asked,
“She’s staying put. I would tell her to join the others in the dining hall, but I have a feeling she’d go crazy and mass-murder all the students,” Kibum stated dryly. He sighed heavily, “At most, I’ll ask her to join the Headmaster… then at least she isn’t alone.”
Heechul nodded his understanding, “She still has another month to go but… who knows.”
Kibum nodded, “Thank you for informing me of the situation. Kyuhyun?”
“Last I saw of him he was in the Headmaster’s office, but who knows how long he’ll stay put,” Heechul stated darkly, running a hand through his long, flowing locks. He sighed, “I have to finish securing the entrances…” He locked eyes with the younger man, “Be safe.”
“That’ll be hard with a vampire,” Kibum stated bluntly,
“Then good luck,” Heechul amended,
Kibum nodded and offered a small smile in the dimness of the corridor, “Thank you.”
He watched, waited as the nurse turned and left. The remaining teachers on the floor exited their dorms and followed Heechul’s path, not even giving a double-take to the only person who wasn’t running off. Slowly, he turned back into the room, closing the door firmly behind him. He swore when he found Kyuri standing by a window instead of in bed where he had left her.
“Vampire. Pureblood,” Kibum confirmed her silent thoughts. He began moving about the room, dressing, preparing for a fight with the vampire. “Apparently, it’s the vampire who attacked Kyuhyun last year.”
“What’s happening?” Kyuri asked, her eyes gazing out the window, concentrated on the courtyard below,
“Staff and students are being gathered in the dining hall. Most of the Hunters are being sent out to where the vampire is,” Kibum explained, “That’s where I’ll be heading. Your brother is –”
“Running through the courtyard,” Kyuri interrupted. She swung from the window only to end up in Kibum’s hold, his hands on her shoulders. She glared up at him, the room partially lit by the moonlight, “I need to protect my brother.”
“And I need to protect you,” Kibum argued. His hands tightened fractionally, “Stay here and I’ll go. Just stay here and be safe – go to the Headmaster’s office if you need to leave the room just… stay away from the vampire. Promise me, Kyuri.”
“But there’s a number of Hunters already and there’s still no word of defeating the vampire!” Kyuri argued, trying to struggle from his hold,
“Promise me, Kyuri!” Kibum demanded,
“I have to help my brother! You don’t have anyone else and I didn’t either, but now I have… I can’t lose him!” Kyuri replied, “I’m a Head Hunter!”
“And you’re pregnant!” Kibum argued, “You’re my Head Hunter. You have been my partner for years. Lead me, command me and I will fight in your stead… You know there is no other way, Kyuri.” At her silence, he exclaimed, “Promise me, damn it!” He pulled her roughly into an embrace, his lips pressed against her temple,
“I… I promise,” she stammered, trembling in his embrace, her heart hammering as she clung to him desperately.
“I’ll protect your brother,” Kibum insisted, “I’ll protect Kyuhyun.” He pressed a kiss to her temple before he released her and turned to leave.
“Wait!” Kyuri called out to him, one hand outstretched as the other lay over her large stomach, “Don’t… don’t forget to protect yourself.”
“Of course,” Kibum replied, continuing to the door,
“Promise me!” Kyuri demanded, feeling the threat of hot tears behind her eyes. When Kibum hesitated, she cried out, “Promise me!”
Kibum swung back to face her, his eyes searching her face, her wet eyes and tear-stained cheeks, “I promise.” He strode back to her, his heart clenching painfully at the sight of her tears. He held her face and pressed kisses to her wet cheeks, “I promise.” He pressed a kiss to her lips, “I promise.” He slowly fell to his knees, holding her waist as he pressed a kiss to her stomach, “I promise.”
Kyuri pulled him against her, his cheek cushioned against her heart as she held him to her, “I don’t want either of you to come back without the other… so don’t forget your promise.”
He pressed a kiss to her covered breast, just above her heart. He rose to his full height as he leaned forward, brushing his lips against her forehead, “I love you.”
“I… I’ll say it when you come back,” Kyuri insisted, turning her face away.
“And if I don’t come back? I want to hear it before I leave, Kyuri,” Kibum stated. He cupped the side of her face, forcing her to look back at him, “Regardless of promises and efforts, I still want to hear it before I leave.”
She stared up at him as she fisted her hands and pounded at his chest, “Damn you, Kibum… damn you!” She cried as her face slipped from his hold, her head tucked beneath his chin.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, his other hand caressing her stomach, up the side of her ribs, over her arm to hold her jaw again, his thumb lightly stroking back and forth, “Say it, Kyuri… Please.”
“I love you,” she replied. Without his prompting, she raised her head to look up at him, “I will always love you, Kim Kibum,” she raised her hands to cradle his face as she leaned up to kiss the tip of his nose, “Forever,” she kissed his chin, “Always,” she locked gazes with him, despite her eyes blurred by the thick tears veiling her eyes, rolling down her cheeks; “I love –”
He stopped her words, pressing his lips to hers. He tasted her kiss and her tears; savouring the feel of her soft, plump lips; savouring the feel of her body pressed against his; savouring the way she sighed softly, the way her body seemed to melt into his, the way he knew, without a doubt, what she felt all in one kiss.
He tried to put all he felt, also. He knew he was difficult to read. He knew he rarely expressed his feelings in facial features or words. He knew his voice rarely moved beyond monotonous. He knew he was all these things and yet, he knew that she, Jo Kyuri, knew him better than anyone else, could read him better than anyone else. For her, above all others, he didn’t want any doubts of his feelings. So, it was with great reluctance that he broke the kiss.
He stared down at her in silence for long minutes before he ran his thumb along her lower lip and said quietly, his voice low and warm and full of all the words he didn’t have time to say, but wanted desperately to be able to say in the future, “Finish what you were going to say when I come back… with your brother.”
“You come back, Kibum,” Kyuri stated with the strength, calm and grace she always projected; “That’s an order as your Head Hunter.”
Kibum bowed at the waist formally, “I accept your order.”
“Good luck, Zhou Mi.”
Zhou Mi tilted his head and couldn’t help the small smile tugging at his lips, “Headmaster Park, this is the second time you’re being civil towards me.”
“Well, make sure you come back alive and I’ll ensure there’s a third time,” Eeteuk stated, turning away from the window and facing Zhou Mi for the first time since the Head Hunter appeared in his office.
Zhou Mi opened his mouth to reply when a voice came over the radio on Eeteuk’s desk. He picked it up, “Headmaster, here.”
“The vampire isn’t alone anymore!”
“What do you mean? Another vampire?”
“A student, the one who was in your office earlier.”
“Damn it, that’s Kyuhyun,” Eeteuk hissed, “I warned him not to go!” He spoke into the radio again, “What is the vampire doing with the student?”
“He’s… he’s using the student as a weapon, controlling him somehow. We don’t know how, though… none of us are affected.”
“It’s because of their blood bond,” Zhou Mi’s words came out as a low growl, his hands fisted at his side, “That’s why Kyuhyun’s bloodlust has been out of control, the vampire must have been near this entire time, irritating Kyuhyun through the blood bond.”
“Bring back Kyuhyun,” Eeteuk stated,
Zhou Mi nodded as he turned and ran out. The doors barely closed behind the literature teacher when the mathematics teacher entered.
“All the students and staff present have been moved to the dining hall – all are accounted for,” Hankyung reported, “They don’t know what’s going on, but we made it clear that the school is in danger and it was imperative they listen to instructions. What do you want me to do, Eeteuk?”
“I… I don’t know,” Eeteuk answered honestly as he slowly lowered the radio to the desk; “Protect the students. Grab Heechul and just… protect the students.”
“And you, Eeteuk? You cannot seriously believe I’ll leave you behind,” Hankyung stated gruffly,
Eeteuk was silent as he slowly swept his gaze around his office, his eyes touching each surface, each object as if memorizing every minute detail to his mind. Slowly, he looked back at Hankyung who had repeated his name, “I don’t know… But you know the most important thing to me has been gone from this world for some time now, Hankyung.”
“I know that, but you still have friends –”
“Thank you, but I request you leave me now,” Eeteuk stated. “I will hold down the command centre from here. I’ll send word to the dining hall should there be a change in status to the school’s safety.”
“My one regret has always been not being there when Kangin died… in these precious hours where the fate of SJA… where the safety of everyone is in question, I suggest you not create the same regret,” Eeteuk said simply; “Get Heechul and protect the students. In the dinning hall. Together.”
Hankyung hesitated, “I’ll be waiting for word from you, Eeteuk.” Another moment’s hesitance and then he turned and left.
Eeteuk stood in the silence of his office for a few more minutes. He picked up the radio and gripped it tightly, “As Headmaster, I cannot idly stay here.”
He rounded the desk and was halfway towards the double doors when one of them opened, a silhouette in the shadows. He pointed the radio at them, knowing full well if it was the vampire, he wouldn’t stand a chance. However, he strengthened his resolve and calmed his mind and racing heart, “Who are you?” He demanded.
The silhouette moved closer, stepping into a square of moonlight cast into the office by one of the large windows. Eeteuk gasped, stumbling backwards as the radio dropped to the floor with a loud thud. One hand rose to his mouth as the other rose to his heart,
Kangin’s gaze locked with Eeteuk’s, a sight neither had seen, witnessed for a long time; too long a time. His eyes narrowed as his arms crossed over his chest; “I cannot allow you to leave this office, Eeteuk.”
Zhou Mi burst into the cold night, the wind whipping at him, causing his skin to burn and his eyes to water. He disregarded the deep snow as he ran across the north campus towards the figures he could see in the distance. He came to a halt just behind his Hunters, not wanting to give himself away so suddenly. He crouched down beside the Hunter who lay in the snow, the tracks around him showing that his comrades had pulled him away from the battle.
“Hunter Lee… Donghae, what’s going on?” Zhou Mi asked as he checked the wound beneath the Hunter’s hand before allowing Donghae to press on it again,
“That… that kid you… he came out of nowhere, ran through our ranks,” Donghae stopped to hiss air through his teeth, fighting against the burning pain starting in the wound in his shoulder and spreading to the rest of his body.
Zhou Mi pulled Donghae’s other hand from his neck, “You were bitten?” Zhou Mi questioned quietly as the Hunters began to shift before him, trying to attack the vampire without hurting the student,
“Yes… at some point… I don’t… remember,” Donghae muttered as he clenched his eyes shut, fighting back the pain, “But the student… danger… Vampire using him as… weapon.”
“If he can’t be rescued, he must be stopped,” Zhou Mi stated simply, softly… ruthlessly.
“But he…” Donghae shook his head as he fought his words past his pain, “Even I can see… being controlled… by vampire.”
“I know,” Zhou Mi hissed, his voice a low, bitter growl, “But if we don’t stop him, we can’t stop the vampire and… there are too many lives at stake just to try to save one student.”
“But he… and you…” Donghae murmured, pressing his hands into his shoulder and neck, trying to ease the throbbing, burning pain. He struggled to sit up, but when he tried to stand, Zhou Mi held him down, “If you command it, I’ll… I’ll be the one.”
Zhou Mi shook his head, “No. If… if it’s him, then it must be me.” He swallowed hard the lump forming in his throat; “It must be me.”
“But don’t you… love him?” Donghae asked as another Hunter was sent flying to the ground. The fight continued before them, but the Head Hunter refused to let him rejoin in the effort.
“I do and that’s why it has to be me,” Zhou Mi replied easily, his voice a deadly whisper.
He slowly, slowly rose to his full height, his gaze slipping past the moving bodies before him, locking on the student, the boy – no, man – he had come to cherish, to treasure, to love. He fisted his fingers at his sides to stunt the trembling that began to sweep through his body. He tried to ignore the painful pounding of his heart as it went crazy, knowing what he intended, rebelling against the actions, the thoughts, pouring his emotions into each of his cells, into his mind, his soul, making him paralyzed with pain, guilt and anxiety.
“Can you?” The soft, tentative whisper reached his ears.
Zhou Mi felt as if time stilled, as if all his focus, all his being concentrated on that simple, small question. Two words penetrated him so deeply as none ever had. Two words had him questioning everything – every thought, every feeling. Two words caused the cracks to deepen in his heart, slowly severing it into pieces. Two words caused him to cage his soul, shut down his emotions and lock away his heart.
“Of course,” he stated solemnly, his voice still and as cold as the environment around them. Slowly, he retrieved the two guns he had strapped to the small of his back, exposing them to the night, his fingers gripping them firmly in anticipation of what was to come. He took a step forward, his eyes never leaving the student, the half-vampire, the love of his life’s face. “Didn’t you know? My own brother was a turned vampire…” He took another step closer to the fight, “And I killed him.”
Zhou Mi felt the hesitation in his limbs for a brief second. Then, he took a third step, steeled himself and immersed himself into the fight. He stepped before his Hunters, showing himself completely to the vampire and to Kyuhyun. He raised both guns, pointing them perfectly at both vampires before him.
“Zhou Mi…” Kyuhyun whispered as he stood between Zhou Mi and the pureblood.
“What’s this? More food?” The vampire licked his lips even as his fingers curled tightly around Kyuhyun’s neck. “My, my… you are proving to be a useful tool.”
Zhou Mi’s hands and guns remained steady, his gaze unwavering as his forefingers brushed along the triggers.
His grip tightened, his forefingers stilled.
“I have a choice to make… I can either choose you, Kyuhyun… or I can choose the lives of everyone else,” Zhou Mi stated, his gaze locked with Kyuhyun’s, his peripheries catching every slight movement, every nuance of the pureblood’s.
Kyuhyun stepped forward, his movements stilted and awkward; completely under the control of the pureblood. He struggle to fight back, struggled against the vampire, but the pureblood’s hold were like invisible iron bands around his limbs, forcing him. He proceeded, step after step until both of Zhou Mi’s guns were pressed into his chest, tears streaming down his face as he struggled to regain control, as he struggled to fight the vampire.
For a moment, Zhou Mi’s hold wavered, his heart trying to break free of its lock, trying to regain control of his entire being. He forced his heart down, his body stilling once more as he gazed into the tear-filled eyes of his beloved.
“Love or life, Kyuhyun… I have to choose now.”
Kyuhyun felt his limbs forced forward, the barrels of the guns pressed painfully into his chest now. He fought down a sob, fought down the lump rising in his throat, fought down his wild heart and the pain it brought him now. He narrowed his eyes against the burning tears, finding strength when the vampire controlled everything, finding courage when the vampire afforded him nothing.
(Phase 29: Into the Fray)