(Phase 29 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Twenty-Nine: Into the Fray
Three hours since the pureblood arrived; 3:30AM
“I don’t… I don’t understand.”
Eeteuk spoke through his fingers, which curved over his mouth. His heart had stopped the moment the moonlight had touched the other man’s face and still, his heart didn’t dare beat, didn’t dare hope, afraid that it were all a dream and would fade suddenly.
“You can’t be here,” Eeteuk murmured as he continued to retreat until he felt a chair at his back. His hand over his heart clutched the material there tightly as if he were scared his heart would break out of his chest and fly towards Kangin. Eeteuk saw his vision blur, the edges of his eyelids burn as tears slowly coursed down his cheeks like burning wet reminders. “You’re… you’re supposed to be dead.”
“I don’t have much time to explain myself, so just let me speak,” Kangin said as he crossed the distance between them, his hands landing on Eeteuk’s shoulders like heavy burdens; “I was left for dead. They were sloppy, shoddy and missed my heart by about an inch.”
“The blood… there was so much… and you … you weren’t there,” Eeteuk stammered, his entire being in shock as he replayed in his mind the moment he walked into their home together; “You weren’t there… you weren’t there… you weren’t there!”
“I had to leave,” Kangin insisted, “If they ever realized I was still alive, they would have come back. I was scared that the next time they came back that you’d be there, too. I was scared that they’d attack you, try to kill you, too, regardless of you not being a vampire.”
“Don’t say that to me!” Eeteuk exclaimed, pulling away from Kangin, slipping away from between him and the chair. He turned to face him, eyes narrowed, both hands now clutched over his heart, “I thought you were dead! I thought you were dead, Kangin! You do not – DO NOT – get to waltz back in here after three years of being dead and explain everything away!”
“Damn it, Eeteuk, I don’t have the time to make peace with you right now!” Kangin growled, “I need to help them fight the pureblood out there!”
“Fine! Leave!” Eeteuk flung his arms wide, welcoming the other man to his suggestion, “You’re good at doing that!”
Kangin lunged across the distance between them, his hand curling around Eeteuk’s neck as his mouth crashed down on the other’s. He titled his lips, deepened the kiss as he forced his tongue between the older man’s lips. He touched, caressed and tasted each surface of Eeteuk’s hot mouth, drinking in the drugging taste he had been without for years.
He broke the kiss suddenly, pulling back enough to look directly into Eeteuk’s eyes. His grip tightened around the other’s neck, “I don’t have time for this, but I need to make sure you won’t go do anything stupid while I go after that pureblood!”
Before Kangin could even react, could even finish the thought that slipped into his mind from the other man, Eeteuk’s palm scored against his cheek, causing his head to whip to the side. In his moment of distraction, Eeteuk yanked himself from the other’s grip, his breathing ragged from the kiss. It had been a long time – too long a time – since he had last felt those lips, tasted that kiss and yet, it still had the same intoxicating affect on him.
“To hell with you!” Eeteuk hissed, “You don’t get to dictate to me! You lost that right the moment you left me!”
“I never left you! I have been watching over you this entire time!” Kangin revealed, his hand rubbing his stinging cheek, “I have been around.”
“But you weren’t with me!” Eeteuk accused, not caring that his voice was breaking, that his heart was beating excitedly and that his tears were coming in torrents. “I thought you dead – DEAD! Do you have any idea what that feels like!? Do you have any idea what that did to me!? DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HAVE HALF OF YOU DIE!?”
Eeteuk’s strength quivered, his knees buckled and he fell to the ground, his hands still clasped over his heart, his gaze now on the ground as he struggled to stay on his knees. In that moment, he remembered the cold, hollow loneliness that had permeated his entire being, his entire soul when he thought Kangin dead. He remembered the endless days, walking about listlessly, his entire being continuing to pointlessly hope, pointlessly wait for a face, a person who he’d never encounter again. He remembered the haunting dreams, waking up to a wet pillow and an empty space beside him. His body shook from the ferocity of his dark memories, from the continuing disbelief that this reunion wasn’t happening.
Suddenly, warmth surrounded him, strength surrounded him. Eeteuk remembered the feel of those arms, of that body wrapped around him. His body relished in the feel, in the remembrance. His heart beat frantically, hoping, hoping and hoping more. He fought down his instinctive reactions, fought down his heart that was already opening up again to having Kangin back in his life. His hands, sandwiched between their chests, fisted and he began to beat and hit the other man.
Kangin embraced him tighter, tried to restrain him without hurting him. Eeteuk fidgeting caused his position on his knees to waver, toppling them both to the ground with him over Eeteuk. His entire body pinning Eeteuk’s down on the ground, he propped himself on his forearms on either side of Eeteuk’s shoulders. Eeteuk continued to pummel his chest and Kangin could do no more than take the blows, his gaze locked with Eeteuk’s tear-filled eyes.
“I’m sorry, Eeteuk,” Kangin said then, “I’m a bastard, I know and I would never have lived a day if I ever thought you were dead. I’m a fucking bastard to make you go through that, I know all of that and I have regretted every day since I left our house. I have regretted just the thought of what I put you through, of what I did to you.”
“I’M THE ONE WHO LIVED IT!” Eeteuk cried out,
“I know! I know that!” Kangin shifted his arms so that he could cradle Eeteuk’s face, forcing the older man to look up at him, “I know that, but I can’t change the past, you can’t change the past and I sure as hell know that regretting can’t change the past. But I’m here now… I’m here now.”
“You think that means anything to me now!?” Eeteuk demanded ruthlessly, his voice dark and bitter, “You think having you with me means something? I have lived – survived – three years without you! I have lived on – moved on – without you! You leave me and then walk back into my life and expect me to welcome you back like some long-lost hero…”
“Eeteuk, please –”
“Well, fuck you, Kangin!” Eeteuk yelled angrily, fiercely, “Because I’ve lived without you!”
Kangin searched the other’s eyes in the dark office. He saw pain, betrayal and determination. Slowly, he moved his hands away from Eeteuk’s face, pressing his palms to the floor to push himself up. Suddenly, slender arms wrapped around his torso and shaking fingers grasped the shirt at his back, pulling him back down. His eyes whipped back to Eeteuk’s face, but it was ducked and pressed against his shoulder.
Kangin shifted to the side, leaning his hip on the floor and pulling Eeteuk again him, keeping him in the shelter and warmth of his own body. He pressed Eeteuk’s head against his chest as he pressed his cheek against Eeteuk’s crown. He held him still, silent, scared that if he spoke, whatever spell that had overcome Eeteuk would break and he would lose him.
“I can’t…” Eeteuk murmured into his shirt, his fingers twisting into the back of Kangin’s shirt as his arms tightened their hold; “I… I can’t.”
“I… I can’t understand what you’re saying,” Kangin said tentatively, quietly.
Eeteuk inhaled deeply, taking in Kangin’s scent, filling his senses completely one last time before turning his head to the side, keeping the side of his face plastered to the younger man’s strong chest. He blinked back the thick, burning tears that kept coming.
“I can’t keep living without you,” Eeteuk whispered, his voice small, hesitant and breaking. “I have managed to live this long without you, but I cannot go on like this… I can’t, Kangin… I can’t.”
“You won’t have to,” Kangin promised, holding the headmaster to him, turning his head so his lips brushed Eeteuk’s crown, “I’m not leaving you… never again, Eeteuk… never again.”
“Stay with me now,” Eeteuk begged, his voice desperate, his arms shaking from holding him so tightly.
“But the pureblood –”
“I don’t care… I can’t care,” Eeteuk interrupted, “I don’t want you to walk away and never walk back. No… no… no, I can’t… I don’t care…” He clutched Kangin to him even tighter, despite his entire body shaking; “Please, Kangin… please… please don’t leave me,” he begged, his voice breaking over and over again as he fought to keep his sanity, to keep his heart together.
Kangin was startled to feel the burning evidence of tears in his eyes. He blinked them back, mercilessly pushed away his own feelings to concentrate on Eeteuk and his feelings. After all, he didn’t have a right to any pitying emotions. He had done all of this, he had done this to Eeteuk; he wasn’t allowed any selfish emotions.
When it all began, he thought it the best solution to protecting Eeteuk. Not the easiest solution, nor the happiest, but the best. He realized less than twenty-four hours later what a bad solution it had been, but by then, it was too late to return; especially when he found Hunters stalking the house day and night whenever Eeteuk was present. Suddenly, Kangin knew that in order to protect Eeteuk, he had to do so while playing a dead man. He couldn’t allow the Council to know that he was still alive.
“Please… Please…” Eeteuk was murmuring over and over again.
“No, I won’t leave,” Kangin promised, embracing him tightly, securely, protectively, “I’ll stay with you now… I’ll stay with you.”
Kangin’s voice washed over Eeteuk like warm milk – comforting, soothing and refreshing. It went far to assuaging his fears and yet, it renewed different fears. Fears of tomorrow, fears of the future. Fears of waking up and realizing it was all a dream. Eeteuk’s tears burst forth like a reservoir breaking through a dam and he lost the last of his control. He sobbed body-shaking cries, clinging to Kangin desperately as his tears poured forth and his throat was ripped raw.
Eeteuk continued to beg and cry for Kangin not to leave him and Kangin had to deny his instincts to reassure Eeteuk with his love because he had lost the right. His silence was his first step in regaining that right.
In the back of his mind and in the centre of his heart, Zhou Mi had known Kyuhyun would choose that; would choose others before himself as he had always done. But all of his body, all of his heart had wished that for once, Kyuhyun had been selfish, had chosen himself first.
Zhou Mi could feel his cheeks burning even more than before and when his vision blurred for just a moment, he realized he had twin streaks of tears on his face. For half a heartbeat, his forefingers hesitated, trembled on the triggers. Slowly, slowly, he began to press the triggers, wanting to close his eyes, wanting to look away, but knowing he couldn’t, knowing these last few seconds was all he had, was all he’d ever have. He wanted to shut out the noises around them, wanted to block out the sharp sounds he knew would be emitted by the guns, but he could hear Kyuhyun’s breathing, could hear the stifled sobs and couldn’t block them out if they would be the last of what he heard of him.
A shot rang out through the night and an accompanying scream.
Zhou Mi’s eyes flickered past Kyuhyun to watch the pureblood fall backwards into the snow. As if feeling the difference, Kyuhyun exhaled, sagging against the guns. Zhou Mi moved the guns, catching Kyuhyun beneath the arms and holding him to his chest, his guns crossed behind Kyuhyun’s back.
Zhou Mi brushed his lips across Kyuhyun’s forehead as he flung Kyuhyun behind him, lifting his guns and pointing them to the rising figure. A cold laugh crackled through the night as the pureblood rose to his full height, blood seeping from a hole in his chest. He raised one hand, shaking his finger in a scolding gesture as his other hand waved over the bullet wound. When his hand no longer covered it, the wound was completely healed.
Three of his Hunters charged at the vampire. He raised his hands, waved them before him and all three Hunters were rebounded off an invisible shield. The other two still standing went after the vampire, he faced a palm to each Hunter and they were sent flying before they even got within a metre of him. Zhou Mi watched, timed it and as his two Hunters flew through the air, he shot several rounds of bullets.
The sounds cracked through the night. The vampire turned his attention, directly looking at Zhou Mi. He smiled cruelly and just a fraction of a second before the first few bullets could hit him he waved a hand before his chest. The bullets flew back towards Zhou Mi and he immediately spun around to shield Kyuhyun who had fallen to his knees behind him. The other bullets were ricocheted perfectly towards his Hunters as if it were the vampire who had the gun and not him. One Hunter clutched his arm as a bullet grazed through his clothes. Another Hunter fell to the ground, the white snow immediately being painted with red.
He heard another shot, then a second.
“No!” Zhou Mi cried out as Donghae, who was still on the ground, shot from his place in the snow. He swung his gaze back to the vampire, “Everyone, take cover!”
He moved to turn and shield Kyuhyun again, however, before he could turn completely around, two arms hooked beneath his from behind, fingers lacing behind his head, effectively holding him. He felt the hands at his nape shaking as the arms wrapped beneath his pits and over his shoulders were like steel bands.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” Kyuhyun cried, his voice trembling as the vampire guided Donghae’s bullets back towards Zhou Mi.
Zhou Mi struggled, trying to move right and left, wanting to move out of the path of the bullets, but wanting also to carry Kyuhyun with him so as not to save himself while putting the younger man in danger. However, Kyuhyun’s vampiric strength combined with the pureblood’s control was overpowering Zhou Mi. He couldn’t escape and he couldn’t move safely with Kyuhyun and so, he stood still, closed his eyes and whispered,
He gasped once, twice, as a bullet entered his shoulder, piercing the juncture where his collar bone and his arm bone met, and the second buried itself high in his abdomen, just beneath his breastbone. His body burned in two places and he knew that if the fight continued any longer, the wound to his abdomen would prove to be more problematic.
“I think… I think he wants me to snap your neck,” Kyuhyun whispered as the pureblood turned his attention to the four Hunters still standing. “My body is still but… but my hands want to untwine and… and…”
“Let him control you,” Zhou Mi replied, trying to breathe slowly, deeply, fighting against the burn in his torso and shoulder.
“But… I can’t!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, his body now trembling of his own accord at the thought of allowing the pureblood to kill Zhou Mi through him.
“There’s no other way,” Zhou Mi grounded out as he watched his Hunters weave amongst each other, trying to confuse and distract the pureblood as they tried to get close enough to attack mortally. “No one can get close to him but you and I can’t fight against your strength when it’s combined with his. Let him.”
“I… I can’t… I’m sorry, I can’t,” Kyuhyun cried as he tried to keep his fingers laced, tried to keep them from untwining and grabbing Zhou Mi’s neck more firmly.
“Just trust me,” Zhou Mi replied, grunting when Kyuhyun pushed him to his knees,
“That- that wasn’t me,” Kyuhyun whispered desperately.
“I know… but let him do what he wants,” Zhou Mi replied as he pretended to struggle against Kyuhyun’s hold.
Suddenly, Zhou Mi heard a gun cocking, the sound like dread incarnate to his ears. He tried to turn his head to the side, just barely catching sight of one Hunter – the one who had been shot twice – on her knees and pointing her gun at Kyuhyun,
“NO!” Zhou Mi ordered,
“If I shoot him, he’ll let you go,” the Hunter stated, her words hissed through clenched teeth as she struggled through her own pain.
“Don’t you dare shoot him!” Zhou Mi exclaimed,
“There’s no other way!” The Hunter argued, “We need you to win this!”
“That’s an order!” Zhou Mi yelled, the winter wind taking his words and whipping them violently at the Hunter,
“L-L-Let her,” Kyuhyun stammered, “I… I can’t control myself, Zhou Mi… Let her shoot me. If I’m down then the vampire can’t control me.”
A shot rang out. Kyuhyun watched, horrified, as the bullet went into the Hunter’s temple and out her other. She toppled sideways to the ground, blood pooling around her lifeless head.
“You know better than to shoot!” Zhou Mi roared, his soft, usually gentle voice assuming the quality of rough brick, his words bruising his Hunters,
“I thought… if he was distracted…” A Hunter stammered, hands shaking as he pointed the gun back at the pureblood,
“You think your little tricks can fool me?” The vampire laughed arrogantly as a Hunter jumped at him, knife raised.
The vampire caught the Hunter by the neck, claw-like fingers wrapping around the Hunter, holding him high in the air as his cold, dark eyes swept over the others. The Hunter gritted his teeth, held back a cry as his neck burned in five different places, the vampire’s nails breaking the skin. The Hunter clawed at the vampire’s hand, trying to kick and wriggle out of the pureblood’s hold. Blood trickled down the vampire’s grey-coloured hand, down his sleeve and splattered on the white snow. His hand waved towards the standing Hunters, knocking them to the ground as he turned his head, extended his tongue and began to lap at the trails of blood on his sleeve.
Kyuhyun had to turn his head away, clench his eyes tightly closed. The stench of blood was everywhere and it was like a fragrant aroma filling his nostrils, each waft like a delicious temptation. He bit down on his teeth until his jaw ached, his fangs throbbing and grazing against his lower gums. His awareness of the blood, the pounding in his head was momentarily dispelled when he felt Zhou Mi’s weight slightly become heavier. His eyes opened, burning from the wind, the cold and his own tears.
“Don’t mind me, just let him control you,” Zhou Mi grounded out as he forced one eye to stay open as his entire face flinched, the pain like a twisting dagger in his shoulder and abdomen, the feeling of his strength slowly seeping from his body.
“Your bullet wounds… my blood,” Kyuhyun whispered, “You have to use my blood to heal.”
Before Zhou Mi could argue, before he could even begin to question Kyuhyun, the younger man bent his mouth to one of his own wrists. He stifled a cry as he tore a jagged cut into his skin with his fangs, blood spurting forth like a scarlet river. Zhou Mi felt the warm fluid move down along his neck, soaking his collar and staining the front of his shirt. Zhou Mi wiped at his neck with his hand, tried to twist and tug at his arm for more give from Kyuhyun’s hold. His fingers slowly inched towards the bullet wound below his breastbone.
Zhou Mi felt a large impact against him before he could swipe the blood against his wound. He flew through the air until he landed face down in the snow, sliding slightly backwards. His wounds burned with cold fire as snow dug itself into them. He had to take several deep breaths before he could raise his head from the bed of snow and look up.
The Hunter the vampire had attacked was lying on the ground just a few feet before him, supposedly what had knocked against him. Just a few feet from the Hunter was Kyuhyun. He had just gotten to all fours, but his head was bowed as his entire body shook violently. The remaining three Hunters were attacking the vampire, trying to get past his defences, trying to catch him off-guard, however, Zhou Mi’s entire attention was focused on the half-vampire crouched on the ground.
Kyuhyun would raise his head, look at the fallen, nearby Hunter and then whip his head away. The cycle continued and continued and Zhou Mi realized that Kyuhyun was fighting his compulsion to feed from the Hunter whose blood was still spilling forth from the five wounds in his neck. Kyuhyun clawed his hands into the snow, trying to find purchase in the frozen ground below as a means to stop himself. He tried to dig his knees into the ground, the cold and wet snow seeping into his clothes, chilling him to the bone. His head was pounding and his vision had already been tinged with red.
“Fight it, Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi managed as he tried to crawl and drag himself towards the younger man.
“Stay away,” Kyuhyun growled, the familiar scent of Zhou Mi’s blood filling his nostrils, teasing his taste buds.
He brought his wrist to his mouth, the tear already slowly healing itself. He lapped at the red residue on his skin, allowing himself only that much blood. Kyuhyun felt his entire body tense up, felt his calves, his feet preparing to lunge from his dog-like position. Suddenly, he jumped from the ground, trying to attack the fallen Hunter when he was tackled mid-air back into the ground. He landed with his back in the deep snow, the air momentarily forced out of his lungs as he was sandwiched between the frozen earth and a warm body.
“Kibum,” Kyuhyun hissed as he found his sister’s fiancé above him.
Kibum pushed up, his knees straddling Kyuhyun’s hips as his hands shackled Kyuhyun’s wrists to the ground on either side of his shoulders. It had taken him too long to get through the school, too long to cross the snow-laden campus. He was a highly-regarded Hunter, basically a trained assassin. He had gone on hundreds of missions, completing them perfectly.
However, when the mission mattered most, when so much rode on his ability to help complete the mission with success, it seemed as if all his training, all his luck was gone. He had taken one too many wrong turns in the large school and his body ached after tripping and falling down a set of stairs. When he finally recovered from his fall, he had made a mad dash for the back courtyard, only to find a pain stab his foot and shoot up to his knee; he had sprained something and one of his hands had gone completely numb.
Suddenly, Kibum’s world tilted and turned around as he found himself on his back in the snow, Kyuhyun above him despite his hands still manacling Kyuhyun’s wrists. Kyuhyun was breathing heavily, his face flinching every few seconds,
“Sorry,” he murmured. His head began to lean down towards Kibum’s neck when he roughly turned his face away, growling to himself, “No!”
Kibum watched the emotions play across Kyuhyun’s face for a heartbeat before Kyuhyun locked gazes with him, his dark irises tinged with a red quality, “Kyuhyun, fight him!”
“I can’t!” He grounded out as his tongue licked along the pointed lengths of his fangs, “Stop me, Kibum,” he begged as his eyes narrowed with purpose, his face leaning closer and closer, “Stop me… please!”
Kibum felt the younger man’s breath on his neck, felt the fangs graze his skin before his Hunter’s attitude slipped into place and he forgot all personal feelings. With all his strength, he brought up his knee between them, making harsh contact with the younger man’s stomach. Kyuhyun grunted with the impact, his head jerking backwards. With the momentum, Kibum flipped them, pinning Kyuhyun down into the ground, his fingers tightening around Kyuhyun’s wrist, his knee planted firmly against Kyuhyun’s abdomen.
Kyuhyun gasped for air, but managed to whisper a faint, “Thank you.”
“Zhou Mi!” Kibum called, his gaze never leaving Kyuhyun’s.
Zhou Mi, being able to gather what strength he had left due to Kibum’s intervention, managed to push himself to his knees and slowly began rising to his feet. As he did so, he revealed two knives, which had been secured to his calves. He brandished the two lengths of metal, the sharp blades glinting in the peeking moonlight. He could no longer feel his bullet wounds, both completely numbed by the cold snow, but he could feel the dull ache in his body, could feel the heaviness of his limbs due to his loss of blood and strength.
“Blood…” Kyuhyun breathed, smelling his own blood mixed with the scent of Zhou Mi’s as the older man walked by. He thrashed violently against Kibum’s hold despite tears coursing down his face. Fortunately, Kibum kept his hold on him.
“Damn it, Kyuhyun, fight it!” Kibum hissed, his fingers tightening on his wrists,
“Stop me… before he… takes over again,” Kyuhyun countered angrily as his arms pushed against Kibum’s hold and his body twisted and tried to turn.
“You’re just riding on your blood lust right now?” Kibum asked,
Kyuhyun nodded as he bit down hard on his own teeth, trying to command his fangs to retract. Kibum dug his knee into Kyuhyun’s abdomen and the younger man sucked in a quick breath of air. The moment Kyuhyun’s jaw dropped and his lips parted, Kibum released one of his wrists, shoving his own wrist into Kyuhyun’s mouth. Kyuhyun’s eyes widened as Kibum pressed his wrist more firmly into Kyuhyun’s mouth, the younger man’s teeth pressed against Kibum’s skin.
“Bite down,” Kibum commanded. When Kyuhyun tried to shake his head, he repeated gruffly, “Damn it, if you have blood lust, then take my blood! It’ll take the edge off when the pureblood takes control again!”
Zhou Mi, who now stood between them and the pureblood who was still fighting off the three Hunters, clenched the hilts of his daggers, “Do it, Kyuhyun. I know you hate feeding and you know I would never force this on you, but Kibum is right.” He looked over his shoulder then, briefly locking gazes with the younger man, his heart clenching painfully at the sight of the half-vampire’s tears. “Please.”
Kyuhyun closed his eyes, shut himself away from the sight of Zhou Mi’s eyes, from the sight of whom he was feeding from, from everything as tears burned the seams of his closed eyes and he bit down hard. Blood spilt forth into his mouth, touching each surface and swirling around and teasing. His body relished in the sudden feeding, but his mind and his heart rebelled. He wanted to pull away while his mouth latched on and fed greedily.
Kibum gritted his teeth when he felt Kyuhyun’s fangs rip into his skin. He shut his eyes, unable to watch Kyuhyun feed and cry at the same time. He felt his arm go numb, felt the tingling sensation spread to his body as blood and strength left him. His mind shifted as if he were dizzy and drugged. He pulled his wrist from Kyuhyun’s mouth, realizing the younger man had fed too much from him.
Kyuhyun turned his head away as Kibum rose to just his knees, ripping a strip of cloth from his shirt and wrapping it around his bleeding wrist.
“I could heal your wrist, but I don’t trust myself near your blood,” Kyuhyun admitted quietly.
“Don’t worry; I don’t trust myself to not kill you on instinct if you feed again,” Kibum returned lightly as he tightened the knot of his makeshift bandage with his other hand and his teeth. He looked up at Zhou Mi, “Let’s finish this. You lead and I’ll watch your back.”
Zhou Mi nodded, his gaze brushing Kyuhyun’s before turning his attention forward, “Protect Kyuhyun.”
Four and a half hours since the pureblood arrived; 5:00AM
“How is she holding up?”
Sungmin looked over his shoulder as Heechul came over towards him. Huddled in a corner of the dining room, Sungmin sat with one knee propped up, his elbow on that knee to form a shield between Taeyeon and the others. With his other hand, he gently stroked back strands of hair from her forehead as Heechul sat against the adjacent wall. The nurse bent his knees, laid his forearms on his knees and clasped his hands loosely before him.
“She cried herself to sleep an hour ago,” Sungmin explained, his voice still hoarse although his throat no longer burned. He glanced around the room, “Where’s Hankyung-sshi?”
“Checking on everyone,” Heechul answered; “It’s been two and a half hours since you and Taeyeon came here… Kyuhyun is –”
“I… I can’t think negatively,” Sungmin interrupted; “Even if it’s realistic, I can’t think that way. I have to believe that he’ll be okay, that the Hunters won’t turn on him. I have to believe that I’ll see him again.”
Heechul nodded his silent agreement, his eyes sightlessly passing over the numerous forms in the dining hall, finding makeshift beds around the large room. “The students and staff don’t know what’s going on. Because of that, their attention has been on you and Taeyeon.”
“I know and on any other occasion I would have distanced myself but, tonight…” Sungmin sighed as he tightened his arm around her shoulders, fractionally drawing her closer to him, “Taeyeon needs me. In truth, I need her, too.”
“The next time I see that kid, I’ll kill him with my own hands,” Heechul muttered disgustedly, “All this time, after everything we’ve all been through for him – with him – and this is how it’s all going to go down? No… No… when I see him, I’ll kill him for putting us all through this.”
“Heechul-sshi… I’ve always wondered… why Kyuhyun?” Sungmin asked quietly. When Heechul looked at him confusedly, he explained, “All the students here at SJA and it’s obvious you show some favouritism towards Kyuhyun.”
“Well, he’s a regular patient of mine,” Heechul said dryly. He laughed softly as he turned his gaze to his hands, which were still lightly clasped; “Because it’s him. He’s this genuinely nice kid already thrust into a harsh and cold world because of the other students at this school. Because I was there. Taeyeon brought him to me the night he was attacked. She was tired, exhausted and, so, I stayed up with him. I was there when the conversion took place.”
Heechul was startled to feel his eyes water. Even in the darkness of the dining hall, the only light being from the moon streaming through the windows, he turned his head away from Sungmin on the off-chance the young teacher would see. One of the lessons he learned in nursing school was to not get personal, to keep distance between oneself and the patient. However, every step of the way, he faltered with that lesson in regards to Kyuhyun. Once again, his feelings for the student were surfacing; he didn’t want to lose the only person he had ever considered as family.
“No one should have to suffer as that kid has,” Heechul said quietly, praying his voice didn’t break; “All this time, I have sought to ease his physical suffering as much as possible. You ask me ‘why Kyuhyun’ and I’ll be honest with you. Against all else, I love that kid.”
Sungmin stared through the dimness at the nurse. The one person who had always been so calm, collected and flippant. When Heechul first answered his question, his tone was simple, matter-of-fact. When he continued, his voice had softened, warmed. His last four words were dense with protectiveness, wrapped with affection. He knew what Heechul meant, the older man’s tone could cause no misunderstanding; he spoke as an older brother.
Hankyung approached them, sitting against the wall on the other side of Heechul. Without even so much as looking at Heechul, he brushed the back of his fingers beneath of the other’s eyes, catching the tears on his knuckles. “The students and staff have all fallen asleep.”
“Are the guards and Hunters here still giving in reports to Eeteuk?” Sungmin asked,
“They have, but there haven’t been any confirmations that Eeteuk’s received them,” Hankyung admitted,
“What? Should we go check on him?” Heechul asked suddenly,
Hankyung shook his head, his gaze looking away, “I… I think he’s in a meeting right now.”
“A meeting? Right now? How important can that be compared to the –”
“It’s with Kangin,” Hankyung interrupted hesitantly. His voice low, uncertain, “I don’t… I don’t understand it, but it was definitely Kangin who I walked past in the corridor. When I realized who it was and turned back, he was gone.”
“So he’s finally returned,” Heechul said quietly.
Hankyung’s gaze whipped towards the other man’s, “What do you mean by that? You knew Kangin was still alive!?”
Heechul nodded as he pulled his hair forward over one shoulder. Absent-mindedly, he began to braid the long locks as he explained, “It’s how you were able to see him tonight. After the Hunters left their house, Kangin contacted me. However, the only way he’d let me treat him was if I swore to his secrecy. All these years, I’ve only been able to keep in contact with him was because I kept my silence about him.”
“But Eeteuk… you saw – you know - what he went through!” Hankyung hissed angrily, his fists clenching,
“What would you rather I do?” Heechul replied, “Above all, my first loyalty was to Kangin. He was my friend through whom I met Eeteuk. If I didn’t keep his secret, he would have slipped from my life as well! I would have lost him, too!”
“So you chose to be selfish?” Hankyung questioned, “You chose to allow Eeteuk to suffer, to fundamentally change, all because you wanted to keep a stupid promise to Kangin?”
“I was the only one he would see, the only one he’d let near him!” Heechul defended, “What was I to do? Drive him away? He had his reasons and it wasn’t my secret to tell!”
“So all those times that Eeteuk came to you, all those times that he broke down before you because you were his last link to Kangin and you still could only think about yourself?” Hankyung demanded,
“Yes, okay? Yes! I was selfish, damn it. Kangin was selfish and I was selfish, are you happy!?” Heechul hissed as he got to his feet. He glared down at the Chinaman, “I had almost lost him once… I couldn’t chance losing him again.” Heechul breathed heavily, deeply for a few moments before he nodded to Sungmin and walked off.
“You shouldn’t judge what other people do, Han Seonsaeng-nim,” Taeyeon said quietly, sleepily, as she raised her head from Sungmin’s chest to look at the mathematics teacher directly. Using the back of her hand, she rubbed the sleep from her sore eyes as she stared at him clearly; “When someone only has one or two people in their world who they can truly relate to, who they can truly open up to, trust… it’s hard to let go of that person, it’s hard to do anything but preserve what little they have left of that person, for that person, with that person.”
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience,” Hankyung murmured as he slowly stood up, not liking that he had just been scolded by his own student.
“For Kyuhyun, I would do anything,” Taeyeon said simply, easily.
Hankyung stared at her a moment before nodding, turning and silently leaving them, secretly on the trail of Heechul.
“You can go back to sleep,” Sungmin said quietly, “I’ll wake you if I learn anything.”
Taeyeon shook her head as she turned back into him, pressing her cheek to his chest again, “I don’t think I can sleep anymore…” She paused taking Sungmin’s free hand into both of hers, bringing the backs of his fingers to her lips, “Sungmin, I’d do anything for you, too.”
“I know, sweetheart,” Sungmin hugged her to him. He glanced at her quizzical expression, “What?”
“‘Sweetheart’?” Taeyeon’s lips twitched,
“Does it sound weird coming from me? It does, doesn’t it? I take it back,” Sungmin looked away, pulling his hand from hers just so he could run his fingers through his hair.
Taeyeon felt her heart lighten for the first time that evening. She took his hand back and cupped his cheek, forcing him to look back at her, “Why did you call me sweetheart, Sungmin?” She asked lightly,
“Because… because it felt right and… and no one else can call you that,” Sungmin replied,
Taeyeon smiled at the petulant look and tone of Sungmin. With her hand still cupping his cheek, she ran her thumb along his lower lip, “Then call me that.”
“Really? It’s not weird? It sounds weird the more and more I repeat it,” Sungmin muttered,
“It does, but I’ll get used to hearing it and you’ll get used to saying it,” Taeyeon insisted quietly,
“Are you sure? I can just call you Tae,” Sungmin replied, “Taeyeon’s just too long to say.”
“Sweetheart is basically the same length,” Taeyeon countered. She stretched up to brush her lips against his, momentarily forgetting where they were and who was around them; “I like it because only you can call me that.”
“Yeah, I like that, too,” Sungmin sighed before she kissed him lightly again. He glanced over his shoulder, but all the students and teachers, save Heechul and Hankyung, were asleep. He looked back at Taeyeon, “What was that for?”
“For making me forget for a moment why I’m so sad,” Taeyeon whispered as she huddled closer to him, slipping her arms around his torso.
Sungmin squeezed her tightly, “I’m glad I could make you not sad for a little while.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Taeyeon replied as she buried her face against his heart, “Sungmin… It’s been three hours since he left. I wish he were here.”
Sungmin moved a hand to tangle in her hair, his fingers cupping around the base of her skull, holding her more firmly to him, “I know, sweetheart,” he closed his eyes, pressing his face into her crown, “Me, too.”
Five hours since the pureblood arrived; 5:30AM
They slowly paced in a small circle, watching, waiting for the other to make the first move. It was the younger of the two who moved first. Kyuhyun dashed across the diameter towards Kibum, jumping in the air to gain the advantage. Kibum bent his knees, stayed on the balls of his feet.
At the last minute, Kibum grabbed Kyuhyun’s arm, turned his back and threw Kyuhyun to the snow. The younger man landed in the thick snow with a soft thud, the air forced out of his lungs. Kyuhyun lay there, gasping, his body sore, his limbs sprawled out. He didn’t want to move, couldn’t move and yet, he did. He rolled onto his stomach, slipped his palms beneath him and pushed himself up, facing Kibum once more.
“I didn’t hurt you, right?” Kibum called to him,
“No. Don’t worry, I trust you not to hurt me,” Kyuhyun returned,
“I wish I could trust you not to hurt me,” Kibum replied just as Kyuhyun charged at him. He slipped to the side, getting behind Kyuhyun and hooking his arms beneath Kyuhyun’s pits, locking his hands together behind the younger man’s neck in the same hold Kyuhyun had Zhou Mi in before. “See, if I wasn’t paying attention, I could’ve been seriously hurt and your sister would not be pleased.”
“It’s not like I can –” Kyuhyun’s words cut off abruptly as he fell to the ground, his breath coming out like a hiss as Kibum stumbled to accommodate Kyuhyun’s new position while keeping his hold on him; “- control myself.”
“What just happened?” Kibum questioned,
“Blood… more…” Kyuhyun’s words were rough, practically bit out as he struggled against Kibum’s hold, wanting to run into the main fight where four Hunters – Zhou Mi included – were engaging the vampire.
Kibum looked up ahead of them just as a spray of blood flew up into the air and a body was flung from the fray. Hunter Lee was dragging himself slowly over to his fallen comrade but, from the way the Hunter shook his head, pounded a fist into the thick snow and crossed himself, Kibum knew that the other Hunter was already dead. Momentarily remembering the first time a comrade had died on a mission, Kibum’s focus wavered and Kyuhyun broke free of his hold.
Realizing immediately that Kyuhyun was after Hunter Lee and the fallen Hunter, Kibum ran after him as he called out, “Get away from the body!”
Hunter Lee looked up and scrambled out of the way, tripping in the snow and tumbling back down to the ground as he held his shoulder to protect it as he went down. Kibum lunged, his arms wrapping around Kyuhyun’s waist and tackling the younger man to the snow. Kyuhyun snarled, growled and clawed into the snow at the frozen ground, trying to pull himself towards the fresh source of blood. Suddenly, Kyuhyun paused, tilted his head to the night sky as it slowly cleared of grey clouds, the moon and stars completely on display. Kibum watched him, completely aware of every slide of muscle, of every slight twitch and contraction. Before Kyuhyun even moved, before he could even figure out what his body was going to do, Kibum called out to Hunter Lee,
“Clean the blood off yourself!”
Hunter Lee managed to sit up, staring at Kyuhyun with wide eyes. He dug his heels into the ground, trying to push himself backwards, move away from Kyuhyun as he kept his eyes on the vampire. “I… I can’t even lift my arm!” Donghae exclaimed,
“Try to take off your jacket – anything to get the blood away from you,” Kibum instructed as he struggled to keep his hold on Kyuhyun.
Donghae began to struggle out of his coat, he had managed to slip his injured shoulder and arm out of it before Kyuhyun got free of Kibum, kicking the older man first in the gut and then in the shoulder. Donghae let out a yell as he tried to scramble backwards as Kyuhyun landed on top of him. The student had his hands pinning Donghae’s shoulders down, his palms pressing down even over the one shoulder’s bullet wound. Donghae cried out again as his shoulder began to burn anew.
Kyuhyun wanted to pull away, wanted to roll off the Hunter and just get away. However, his body pinned the Hunter down, causing his mouth to open wide as his fangs elongated. His body began to bow his head down to Donghae’s neck even as the Hunter thrashed wildly beneath him. Unable to control himself, Kyuhyun shut his eyes tightly, not wanting to witness his own chaos. His eyes flew open when he felt something wedged into his jaw horizontally.
The onslaught of blood in his mouth startled Kyuhyun, immediately beginning to sate his inner monster. The taste, however, was familiar and, having only fed from four people, he knew whose it was. He felt another hand grab him beneath his arm and he was thrown off the Hunter, his fangs tearing through skin and muscle. He was in the snow again, on his back, with a trail of blood smearing his cheek and red splotches staining the snow, leading back to Kibum, who was kneeling beside the Hunter, clutching his left hand to his chest. Red rivers trailed from Kibum’s hand as he plunged his fist in to the snow, using his right hand to cover his hand with more snow.
“Snow… won’t mask the scent… from me,” Kyuhyun breathed heavily as he clung to the frozen ground, hoping to buy time before his body decided to make another attack.
“I know that. I’m doing this to constrict the vessels in my hand and to help stunt the blood,” Kibum explained as he winced from the pain. Now, his right wrist was bandaged and the back of his left hand was torn apart.
Kyuhyun slowly stood up, turning towards them, “This isn’t me, this isn’t me!” He said hurriedly as he tried to fight against the control.
For once, when his body wanted to go forward, he was able to turn away. Step by step, he walked towards the main fight, but it took a longer time because he kept turning right and left, twisting the path his body wanted to take. Looking ahead of him, he saw that Zhou Mi was close to the pureblood, his blades slashing at an invisible shield. The other Hunters were trying to help him, but they kept getting shoved away by the pureblood’s telekinesis. He drew closer before Kibum came up behind him, his arms wrapping beneath his arms and around his chest, his forearms crossed firmly.
“He wants to draw you closer, to use you as a shield again,” Kibum stated, “That’s the only explanation as to why you’ve stopped attacking other people.”
“I know,” Kyuhyun replied, “But I’m finally able to fight against the vampire’s control. I think he’s too distracted by Zhou Mi since he’s able to get close and stay close. If he pays too much attention to me, Zhou Mi will kill him.” Kyuhyun’s eyes followed the movements of the Hunters and the vampire. Finally, he spoke again, “That’s exactly what I’m thinking and I’m fully aware that Kyuri would kill me.”
Kibum, not surprised that Kyuhyun had read his thoughts, added dryly, “She’d kill me, too, if she knew I willingly let you go through with your plan.”
“For hours now I’ve been under his complete control. The vampire is arrogant, proud enough to believe I still can’t fight his commands,” Kyuhyun stated, “I’ll continue to his side and then, at the last minute, I’ll attack him.”
“If I give you a knife, will you turn on me and stab me?” Kibum asked bluntly,
“No… I don’t think so,” Kyuhyun answered uncertainly before adding more confidently, “No, he’s too worried about himself to care about anyone else. He wants me as a shield and weapon first and foremost.”
“Okay… we’ll do this as if you broke free of me,” Kibum said quietly as he slowly slid a knife from its hidden spot along his spine to Kyuhyun’s hand. “Wait for it… now!”
Kibum flung himself backwards to the ground, crying out as he clutched his abdomen as if having been stabbed. He rolled over onto his knees, his body doubled over as if in pain. Kyuhyun looked down at the knife suddenly in his hand, shocked to realize there was blood on the blade. Had he actually injured Kibum? He raised the knife to eye-level, seeing that most of the blood was already dry on the blade; Kibum must have used blood from his previous injuries to coat the blade. The vampire would never get close enough to inspect the blood.
He allowed his compulsion to draw his body forward, fighting every so often to make it believable. He drew so close to Zhou Mi and the vampire that he could hear each clash of metal against shield. When he just barely slipped in between the two, his back to he vampire, he knew it was the vampire who guided his movements, but it was Zhou Mi who ensured he didn’t get hurt.
Kyuhyun held up his knife, pointing it directly at Zhou Mi’s face. The Head Hunter had his knives before him, crossed so as to defend should he need to on the ready. Up until that point, he had given the vampire complete control. He couldn’t test it, couldn’t push the boundaries just in case the vampire realized his slipping hold. Kyuhyun needed an absolute surprise attack.
Kyuhyun prepared himself to turn around and drive the knife into the vampire’s chest.
He felt the vampire at his back. One hand slide around and up his chest until long, cold fingers wrapped around the front of his neck, the pad of the vampire’s thumb pressed threateningly against his pulse. Another hand slid along his extended arm until more fingers wrapped around his own, effectively prying the blade from his shaking hand. Immediately, Kyuhyun shoved his thoughts out of his mind, trying to fill it with pointless thoughts and blank spaces. Unfortunately, the vampire caught one dominant thought.
“Oh… so this Hunter is your lover?” The vampire hissed, his lips by Kyuhyun’s ear.
The Hunters tried to charge, but Zhou Mi called out, “STOP! Don’t move until I say so!”
“Oh yes, of course,” the vampire mocked, “Wouldn’t want me to kill this boy on the spot, would you?” The vampire turned his head slightly, inhaling deeply Kyuhyun’s scent, “Unfortunately, I need another snack. You’ll just have to watch unless you want me to kill him now.”
The vampire darted out his tongue, running the tip down Kyuhyun’s neck. Kyuhyun visibly shuddered. The vampire’s lips grazed over his pulse point, a smile twisting his lips as he found his prize. His fangs elongated and the moment he pierced the skin, his eyes fluttered close, relishing the sweet nectar of Kyuhyun’s blood. Suddenly, the warm body in his arms was ripped from him as he landed on the ground and he found the Head Hunter on top of him. The vampire tried to move and was startled to find that the Head Hunter had wrapped his arms around him, locking his own arms to his sides.
Unable to move his arms, the vampire immediately plunged his fangs into Zhou Mi’s neck. He stunted a yell of pain as he held on tightly, refusing to loosen his hold even as his strength was quickly depleted.
“Kill him now while I have him!” Zhou Mi exclaimed, “If he can’t move his hands, he won’t be able to use his telekinesis!”
Kyuhyun scrambled to Zhou Mi’s side, grabbing the dropped knife as he did so, “I can’t get at him!”
“You’ll have to kill him through me,” Zhou Mi grounded out as the vampire continued to feed greedily, hoping to weaken Zhou Mi enough to escape his vice grip; “I’m not strong enough to move while restraining him!”
Kyuhyun glanced at the Hunters who all looked reluctant to do the deed. He turned his gaze back to Zhou Mi who had his head turned just enough to look at him through the corner of one eye, “I can’t!”
“Do it!” Zhou Mi commanded, “I can’t hold him for much longer!” As if to emphasize his point, his entire face scrunched up with a flinch as the vampire bored harder on his neck while feeding, “Kyuhyun! Hurry!”
“He’ll never be able to do it,” The vampire hissed as he withdrew his mouth from Zhou Mi’s neck, his tongue licking his blood-red lips and fangs,
“We… we can wait until the sun rises!” Kyuhyun insisted,
“It’s the middle of winter; it won’t rise for another hour at least!” Zhou Mi exclaimed, fractionally tightening his hold as the vampire began to thrash against him, trying at least to roll them over. “There’s no more time! I’m already struggling!”
Kibum came forward, kneeling on the other side, using his damaged and weakened left hand to pin the vampire’s neck down as he withdrew a gun from his boot, “I’m sorry, Kyuhyun, but Zhou Mi-sshi is right. We can’t wait any longer.” Kibum swallowed hard and raised his knife.
“NO!” Kyuhyun dropped the knife in his hand to clasp both of his hands around Kibum’s, “I’ll… I’ll do it… It… it should be me.”
Kibum allowed Kyuhyun to take the gun as he grew silent. Kyuhyun stretched on his knees before clasping the handle with both hands, pointing the barrel just to the side of Zhou Mi’s spine.
“Make… make sure you’re aiming at his heart,” Zhou Mi grounded out,
“I... I love you, Zhou Mi,” Kyuhyun whispered, having to release the gun with one hand to wipe at his tears with the back of his sleeve; “I should have said it before now… should have said it so many times… but you already knew… you always knew.”
“Love? Is this what you call love?” The vampire spat as he twisted, trying desperately to break free of Zhou Mi’s hold, but he was effectively wedged between the Head Hunter and the solid, frozen ground; “Is this what you do to the person you love!? YOU KILL HIM!?”
“Mi…” Kyuhyun’s voice trembled as he clutched the handle with both hands again,
“I have always loved you, Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi replied, able to look over his shoulder more now that the pureblood was no longer feeding. He offered him a tremulous smile, “But you already knew that.”
With shaking hands and tears coursing down his face, Kyuhyun let out an anguished cry as he pulled the trigger. The sound was muted by the bodies but, to Kyuhyun, it was like a crash of thunder in the winter night. A scream was wretched from the vampire’s body as Zhou Mi yelled out before they both grew silent and stopped moving. The cool metal of the gun slipped from Kyuhyun’s hands as he dropped to his side, his hands planted in the snow. He pounded the earth, screamed into the night and remembered why he never wanted to smile at the beginning of the school year.
Kibum’s flat voice echoed in the night. Kyuhyun looked up, suddenly pulled Zhou Mi off the pureblood. He held him in his lap, pushing away strands of hair from his face,
“Mi… Mi… please stay with me,” Kyuhyun begged, his tears splashing onto the older man’s pale face,
“I want to,” Zhou Mi murmured, “How I want to… lost… blood… too much,”
Zhou Mi’s voice rasped as his breaths got shallower, his entire body shaking with each breath. Weakly, he reached up with one hand, his fingers skating along Kyuhyun’s jaw before his arm fell back down, his head turning towards Kyuhyun’s warmth. His hand weakly pulled on Kyuhyun’s shirt, signalling for the younger man to come closer. Kyuhyun arched towards him, bringing his face as close as possible as his entire body shook with silent cries.
Zhou Mi’s breath was warm against his ear. Zhou Mi’s words were like fire against his heart:
“Love you… forever.”
When the warm body in his lap and the familiar face against his stomach grew limp, Kyuhyun began to whisper fervently, “No… no, please… please, NO!” He held Zhou Mi firmly against him, his body slowly rocking back and forth as his tears came anew and he screamed over and over again, “NO! NO! NO!”
His entire being went numb as Zhou Mi’s final words echoed again and again in his mind like a strengthening chant, like a tease of what once was and what never will be. He felt his heart physically break, the pain like a hundred gunshots to the chest, as if his chest were exposed to sunlight and his skin, the muscle and tissue were being burned from his body. Despite unable to feel anything but the pain reverberating in his hollow chest, his entire body felt like lead, as if he couldn’t move even if he wanted to.
His screaming stopped as he held Zhou Mi to him and he sobbed into the older man’s shirt, soaking the material almost immediately. His body shook violently as his cries wracked his body, became a vocal echo that touched each Hunter, wrapping around them like ghostly reminders of death’s fingers.
“His lung was pierced… it probably filled with blood and…” Kibum trailed off as he sighed heavily. He kept one hand on the vampire’s neck, the other holding his forgotten knife, twisting it into the vampire’s chest cavity to ensure its death.
“I will have… my final… revenge against… you,” The vampire hissed as his skin seemed to shrink, forming to his skeleton, “I will take away the one thing… you hold… most dear.”
“You’ve already done that!” Kyuhyun spat angrily as he hugged Zhou Mi’s lifeless body to him,
“And now… I will take away… the rest.” The vampire slowly shrivelled until his entire being seemed to collapse within itself before disintegrating into dust atop of the snow. Slowly, the winter wind picked up the small particles and scattered them, leaving the snow pristine as if untouched, unblemished.
Kyuhyun turned his gaze back to Zhou Mi’s face, stained with his own tears. Kyuhyun pressed his forehead against Zhou Mi’s, the other’s skin already getting cold. He bit down hard on his bottom lip to stop from crying out, tasting his own blood when he bit too hard. However, the sting on his lip wasn’t even a fraction of the pain that swamped the rest of his body.
He had hoped too much, hadn’t he? He had wanted happiness and found it. He had wanted a future and had been so close to it. Before he even realized it, so many strands of his life, so many facets of his future were all tied into the man lying in his embrace. He had been reluctant to trust, scared to love and yet, with Zhou Mi, it had all seemed right. He had trusted before he wanted to and loved with fear even to that moment. At the same time, however, he knew he could trust Zhou Mi with his life and knew he loved Zhou Mi with all of his being.
He had few things in life. He had no parents that cared for him and the few friends he did have, he could count on one hand. He was living in two worlds, cursed by the weaknesses of both of his natures. He was damned by the day, lived in the night and the one thing – the one person - that had made it more bearable, that had made him anticipate each day, was now gone, ripped from him so suddenly like everything else in his life.
The world suddenly seemed colder, darker and lonelier, despite his rational mind reminding him of the others who he had that cared about him, for him. No, instead, all the happiness and love that had warmed him, comforted him, all the memories that blanketed him and buffered his fears slipped away with the soul of his beloved. Already he felt as if he couldn’t remember Zhou Mi’s soft, warm laughter, his voice that could be stern or gentle, his touch that was both a blazing fire and a comfy blanket. He forgot to think, to breathe, to feel as he felt everything leave him, abandon him.
He pressed trembling, tear-soaked lips to Zhou Mi’s forehead as he used all of his strength, all of his soul and heart to whisper, “Love you… for…”
A gun shot pierced the silence of the night.
“What the hell was that!?” Kibum demanded as he turned and whirled in the direction of the offending sound. He walked forward when he froze, seeing one of the live Hunters standing over Hunter Lee’s body, her gun pointed and the barrel smoking, “What –”
“HE WAS YOUR COMRADE!” Hunter Lee Eunhyuk exclaimed, slapping the Hunter with the back of his hand, sending her to the ground clutching her burning cheek.
“HE WAS TURNING!” She shot back, “He was starting to go through transition into a vampire! I had to stop him before he turned and attacked us!”
“WHAT IF YOU WERE WRONG!?” Hunter Lee Eunhyuk demanded, “WHAT IF HE WASN’T TURNING!?”
“He had been fed from by the pureblood! He began displaying the signs of transitioning!” She defended angrily, slowly getting to her feet. She pointed her gun towards Kyuhyun and Zhou Mi, “The Head Hunter has to be killed, too! He was fed from by the vampire as well!”
“If any of you even try to shoot Zhou Mi, I will kill you all before any of you realize it!” Kibum’s threat came like a dark blade, lashing out at them with the winter’s whipping wind. He had two guns now in his hands, his aim sweeping back and forth over the remaining three Hunters.
“He’ll turn on us all!” Another Hunter exclaimed,
“He’s already dead!” Kibum countered, “You all just witnessed the same thing as me!”
“We have to make sure!” The first Hunter stepped forward again.
Kibum cocked his gun, his arm still as he pointed it at her, “I do not make idle threats.”
“Then I’ll check,” Hunter Lee said quietly, steadily, “I’ll check to see if Head Hunter Zhou is still alive. Unlike the others, I won’t shoot him upon sight,” he insisted, his voice like acid as his eyes narrowed dangerously to those he once called friend.
“Fine, but if you try anything, I’ll kill you,” Kibum said quietly, deadly,
“Then go ahead,” Hunter Lee spat back as he brushed past the Japanese Hunter, “My partner was just killed, it’s not like I can trust anyone else from my team!” Eunhyuk walked over to Kyuhyun and Zhou Mi, kneeling before them, “Is it… is it okay if I take him for a second?”
When Kyuhyun didn’t reply, Eunhyuk carefully slipped Zhou Mi from his slack hold, transferring the Head Hunter to the snow expanse between them. His hand went to Zhou Mi’s neck, the pads of his fingers checking for a pulse. He picked up Zhou Mi’s wrist, his fore- and middle- fingers on the inner face searching for any sign of life. Finally, he arched over the Head Hunter, turning his cheek to hover over Zhou Mi’s mouth as he laid a hand over Zhou Mi’s chest and then, after a few minutes, over his abdomen.
Slowly, Eunhyuk rose to his feet. Head ducked, he shook it as one hand rose to his face, the back of his hand swiping at his eyes, “Nothing… He… He died before he could be transformed.”
“We… we should still make sure he’s dead –” One of the Hunters stammered,
“YOU WOULD DISHONOUR A DEAD MAN!?” Kibum roared, his entire face transformed with disgust and anger as the night was filled with his bitter, acidic words. “FINE, THEN!” He swung one gun towards Zhou Mi and, before he could regain control of his temper, he aimed and shot, a new bullet wound appearing on the left side of Zhou Mi’s chest. When Kibum lowered his arm, he swung his dark gaze back at the other two Hunters, “You’ve killed your own team mate, taken the last of your leader’s dignity… If you both know what’s good for you, you’ll leave my sight immediately.”
Without waiting for their decision, Kibum turned and walked back to Kyuhyun. He knelt beside the younger man, “Kyuhyun… I’m sorry I had to do that, but they wouldn’t have let Zhou Mi-sshi die peacefully, otherwise.” He turned his gaze up at Hunter Lee. From his angle, he could see that the Hunter was crying for his partner and his leader; “Take your partner to the nurse’s office in the school. The school nurse will clean him up for a proper and dignified burial.”
Hunter Lee Eunhyuk swiped at his eyes with the back of his sleeve again. He turned and walked over to Hunter Lee Donghae’s body. Carefully picking up the body of his dead partner, he began the journey back to the school leaving Kyuhyun and Kibum alone with Zhou Mi’s body.
“It’s… it’s best we go back inside,” Kibum said quietly, steadily, “I know you probably don’t want to… and that you want to stay here, but you could get sick again and if that happens your sister will kill me.”
Kyuhyun was silent and still.
“Kyuhyun…” Kibum called gently. He placed his hand on Kyuhyun’s shoulder and shook lightly, wanting to be a soft presence when he knew the younger man was in a delicate and vulnerable state, “Kyuhyun?” He shook a little rougher, “Kyuhyun!?”
Finally, Kyuhyun moved, his muscles and limbs shifted as he turned and looked directly at Kibum. His skin was pale blotched with red from the wind, his dark eyes wide as his entire face was highlighted by the moon and lightening sky. His eyes, still wet, his lashes, still dotted with tears, blinked once, twice.
Kibum waited patiently for Kyuhyun to say something, anything. He wanted a response, needed one, but didn’t want to push. He was scared that if he pushed, if he prodded, then the last of Kyuhyun’s strength would be drained and the young man would just crumble before him into a shell of his former self. And so, he knelt in the cold, wet snow, accepting the harsh wind as he waited for Kyuhyun to break free of whatever trance being heartbroken and devastated had felled upon him.
Finally, Kyuhyun tilted his head to the side, regarding Kibum peculiarly, “I’m sorry…” He said, his voice soft, hesitant, “But, do I know you?”
(Phase 30: End of the Scarlet Night)