(Phase 30 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Thirty: End of the Scarlet Night
Tuesday; Third week of December 20XX; 7:30AM
As the sun rose over Shim Jang Academy’s campus, everything was silent and still outside of the school. The sky was finally clear, the rising sun showing a pale, blue sky. The grounds were empty, although the snow north of the school seemed to have been trekked several times. The surrounding trees stood like tall, silent sentinels, their branches covered in thick piles of snow. Within the school, it was a different matter.
The hallways were quiet and the dorm rooms were empty. All the students and most of the staff were collected in the dining hall, still asleep in various places around the large room. The security guards stood at the doors and windows, keeping everything out and everyone in. The nurse’s office was full of people, the nurse working overtime and his apprentice helping as much as she could.
“Then he looked at me and said he didn’t know me,” Kibum finished relaying his account of the events to the Headmaster.
Kibum sat in one of the chairs before Eeteuk’s desk. In the other chair sat Sungmin. Both were highly aware of the other presence in the room, leaning against the bookcases and standing in the shadows as the office was slowly lit by pale morning light. The large man leaned his shoulders back against one of the bookcases, his thick, muscled arms crossed over his chest. He hadn’t said anything nor moved an inch since they came in. He didn’t even look their way, refusing to acknowledge their presence. It was a shame they couldn’t do the same with his presence.
“Did he say anything else?” Eeteuk asked,
“I asked him if he knew his name, if he knew where he was… He said no to all of my questions,” Kibum’s hands fisted on top of the chair’s armrests, “I swear, if Zhou Mi hadn’t just died, I would have called his bluff, but… his eyes, his expression and even his tone, it all went from devastation to an emptiness. It was as if he was completely void of everything – his personality, his thoughts, his memories… He’s like a blank slate now.”
“K…Kangin,” Eeteuk said, his voice slightly faltering, still not used to having that name on his lips again, “Do you have any idea what happened?” He slowly turned his gaze to the large man, hesitant, scared that he wouldn’t be there, scared that he was hallucinating.
It was like a ripple of muscle as Kangin slowly straightened, turning to face them. He leaned a shoulder back against the bookcases as his dark eyes swept over all three men, “The pureblood used his psychic abilities to wipe out Kyuhyun’s memory. Through the blood bond, he had access to Kyuhyun’s mind, his body, that’s how he was able to control him and his bloodlust in the first place. Before the pureblood died, he must have used the last of his strength to annihilate Kyuhyun’s memories… it’s just a theory, but that’s what I’m guessing from the circumstances. Having not been around many vampires near their pureblood creators… it’s hard to say.”
Eeteuk stared at Kangin a moment longer than necessary, his gaze seemingly trying to memorize every line, every minute detail. Then, he turned his attention back to Kibum and Sungmin. “Kibum, have you ever witnessed anything like that?”
Kibum shook his head, “We’ve never allowed a vampire to live long enough to display their powers. Of course, the Council has its research department but… I don’t know how they get their information.”
“Vampires, of course,” Kangin snorted, his tone bitter, “Probably have a torture chamber for vampires – pureblood and turned.”
Kibum gazed directly at Kangin, unflinching, unmoved, “Perhaps. I’ll be honest, I used to care not at all about vampires and couldn’t give a damn about their treatment or how the Council has so much information on them. If it weren’t for Kyuhyun, I probably would have killed him.”
Eeteuk saw the subtle change in Kangin immediately. The larger man hadn’t moved, but all of his muscles had tensed. His eyes had narrowed a fraction, his eyes glinting dangerously. His aura, the air all around him had shifted, changed and crackled with menace. He didn’t know why, but the change filled him with warmth; perhaps, because, he knew that for all the violence and danger Kangin could cause, he would always be safe from it, would always be protected by it. His heart ached painfully as he turned his attention back to the matter at hand; there would be plenty of time in the future to deal with everything between them.
The double doors to Eeteuk’s office opened and Hankyung strode in, stopping just behind the chairs Kibum and Sungmin sat in. Briefly nodding at Kangin, Hankyung addressed the Headmaster, “The wounded Hunters have been treated and instructed to return to their rooms and remain there until the Council can be contacted. The Hunters who were killed have been cleaned and prepared for burial by Heechul. The final two Hunters who were in the dining hall are remaining there, both wanting to remain useful to you since they no longer have a Head Hunter. One Hunter is remaining with the dead, not wanting to leave them. I… I didn’t have the heart to send him away.”
Eeteuk nodded his agreement and approval, “Kyuhyun?”
“Since the sun began to rise, Heechul has Kyuhyun in the isolation room. He responded little to having Kim Taeyeon-sshi and Jo Kyuri-sshi around. He was given a sedative and Heechul’s treating him now…” Hankyung paused, his gaze slightly altering; “He’s… it’s as if Kyuhyun’s body’s returned, but without his spirit. The moment he was brought in, all I could think was ‘where is the kid?’.”
Eeteuk paused before nodding slowly, “Thank you Hankyung… You can go to sleep now –”
Hankyung shook his head immediately, “No… I… I stay with Zhou Mi.”
Eeteuk locked gazes with the mathematics teacher and saw everything in that single gaze. He suddenly saw the front the teacher was putting. Beneath the surface, he saw the sadness, the grief. He saw the loneliness, the bitterness. He saw the man who suddenly lost another loved one to a vampire. He saw the boy who was left behind. When Hankyung looked away suddenly, Eeteuk understood the fragility the mathematics teacher was desperately hiding.
“Very well,” Eeteuk said quietly.
Hankyung said nothing more, didn’t even look back at Eeteuk or Kangin. Instead, he turned on his heel and left in silence.
“The vampire succeeded,” Sungmin murmured. Three gazes swung towards him and he continued, his gaze distant as he looked towards one of the sun-filled windows; “The pureblood threatened to have his revenge… to take away what Kyuhyun holds dear. Since Zhou Mi was already gone, he indeed took the rest. He took Kyuhyun’s memories, disabling him from even the liberty of remembering, or reminiscing… In the end, the pureblood had his revenge on all of us. We now have Kyuhyun, but… he’s an empty shell.”
“It’s worse than if it was just what happened to Zhou Mi,” Kibum agreed, his tone flat and quiet, “It’s bad enough that we lost Zhou Mi to the vampire… but to lose Kyuhyun in such a way also… he’s basically dead to us.”
Sungmin’s hands fisted in his lap, “As long as he’s still breathing, I won’t lose Kyuhyun… I won’t… I’ll… I’ll find a way to restore his memory.” With that, the science teacher took his leave, his hands fisted at his sides, his fox-like eyes narrowed in anger and determination. Not once did the others judge the tears that hovered at the corners of his eyes.
Kangin turned his gaze to the Headmaster and, automatically, as if sensing it, Eeteuk returned the look. “I’ll deal with the Head Hunter’s body. If the Council hears about him being bitten before he was shot, they’ll try to take his body and who knows what research they’d want to perform.”
“What about Hunter Lee’s body?” Kibum inquired,
Kangin shook his head, “His partner, the Hunter who won’t leave him, will take care of his body. Right now, Zhou Mi-sshi doesn’t have that same courtesy since Kyuhyun probably doesn’t even know him.”
“Hankyung-sshi…” Eeteuk murmured,
Kangin nodded, “I figured as much. I’ll talk to Hankyung and help him with Zhou Mi-sshi.” He made a step towards the doors, when he paused and swung his gaze back to Eeteuk, “I’ll just be down the hall.”
Eeteuk hesitated for a moment, opened his mouth to say something, perhaps beg him to not go, to stay by his side physically, but then all he did was nod in silent understanding. Kangin hesitated, and then left, knowing full well how hard it had been for the Headmaster to let him walk out of the room. When Eeteuk brought his attention back to the only person left in his office, Kibum had risen an eyebrow in a silent question.
“Have you ever heard about my lover who was killed by Hunters?” Eeteuk asked quietly.
Kibum began to nod when his eyes widened, the first sign of emotion Eeteuk had ever seen on the younger man, “That’s him? That’s your vampire?”
“Those Hunters must have slacked off on their job… fortunate for you,” Kibum commented bluntly,
Eeteuk nodded again, “Apparently he’s been close at hand for some time… in fact,” he sighed heavily, leaning back into his leather chair, “He’s even taken Kyuhyun under his wing for the past few months.”
“Kangin’s been meeting Kyuhyun secretly, helping him understand his vampirism since summer break,” Eeteuk revealed. He paused before stating tentatively, “I wonder who else has had their life touched by Kyuhyun.”
Kyuhyun lay in the windowless room, a bedside lamp providing his only light. The metal-frame bed was small, but somehow, he felt as if he could fit another person – one other – beside him if he chose. However, why he’d ever want someone lying beside him, he didn’t know. The door opened and he pulled the blankets up to his chin.
A tall, lanky man entered dressed in a black scrubs, his long hair braided and pulled forward over one shoulder. The man stopped when he was halfway to the bed, looking at him hesitantly.
“Nurse…” Kyuhyun addressed hesitantly, testing the word on his lips, “The man in the bed next to this room… what happened to him?”
He recalled walking past the bed on his way to the room. The man was lying on his back, his hands folded on top of his abdomen. He was fully dressed and Kyuhyun had seen the nurse pulling a white sheet overtop the man’s entire body, even his head. For some reason, Kyuhyun had wanted to stop the nurse, tell him to keep the man uncovered, but he didn’t know his reasons and, so, had kept quiet.
“He died,” Heechul explained quietly, trying to keep his hands from fidgeting, twisting, showing any anxiety at all before the boy who had been in that room so many times that year; “I covered his body so no one would disturb his body.”
“Oh. That’s sad,” Kyuhyun answered, his tone flat. He felt as if he were missing something, as if he were supposed to know more, feel more and that this man’s death was, indeed, very sad. However, he didn’t know anything and, so, kept quiet once more.
“Kyuhyun… do you know who that man was?” Heechul asked tentatively, trying hard to keep a hold on his emotions, trying to regain the control he had learned in school.
“No,” Kyuhyun replied almost immediately. “Kyuhyun… that’s my name… but what’s yours?”
Heechul had to physically restrain himself from reacting. He had wanted to either run from the room or collapse at the bedside. He had wanted to either yell his name at Kyuhyun or cry for him to remember. He inhaled slowly, deeply through his nostrils and it was a pregnant pause before he could calmly, quietly reply, “Heechul.”
“Heechul…” Kyuhyun repeated and then subtly nodded, “I’ll remember your name.”
A knock at the open door interrupted whatever Heechul was going to say. The nurse turned around and was subtly surprised to find Kangin standing there. Kangin entered and stopped when he was beside Heechul,
“Hey, Kyuhyun,” Kangin greeted, his voice low so as not to alarm the younger man.
“What’s your name?” Kyuhyun asked suddenly, “I’ve decided to remember people’s names, especially since everyone knows mine.”
Kangin blinked, hesitated and then answered, “Kangin… but you can call me hyung.”
“Hyung… are you my brother?” Kyuhyun blinked innocently.
Kangin blanched and looked at Heechul in confusion.
“His memories about people are completely gone. Skills, objects, history… even this school, he still remembers. Anything having to do with people, however, have disappeared,” Heechul said quietly so only Kangin could hear him.
Kangin looked back at Kyuhyun, “No, I’m not. You call me that because we’re… friends and I’m a few years older.”
Kyuhyun nodded, naively accepting his explanation, “Hyung. But your name is Kangin. Okay, I won’t forget.”
Kangin nodded, a smile tugging at his lips. He turned back to Heechul, “Thank you for keeping my secret from Eeteuk. I won’t tell him of your involvement, but he has to know at some point.”
“I know,” Heechul sighed, “I’ll tell him myself… he’s bound to want to talk to me about your revival. I’ll tell him then.”
Kangin smiled apologetically, placing a hand on his old friend’s shoulder and squeezing comfortingly. He glanced back at Kyuhyun, “Take care.”
Kyuhyun blinked and then smiled brightly, “Why thank you. You take care, too, hyung!”
Kangin shared a sad look with Heechul before leaving. Heechul glanced at Kyuhyun, wanting to say more, but noticing that the younger man was blinking a lot more, his head slightly rolling back and forth across the pillow.
“I’ll… I’ll let you rest now,” Heechul said, “If you need anything, I’ll just be outside that door, okay?”
“Yes,” Kyuhyun replied, “Thank you, Heechul.”
Heechul hesitated in leaving. He wanted to stay, wanted to talk, wanted to shake the memories back into Kyuhyun’s head. However, he knew he couldn’t do that, didn’t even know how he could help the younger man regain his memories. For the past year and half he had been experiencing and encountering new things that he couldn’t solve that years of nursing school hadn’t taught him or prepared him for. When he saw Kyuhyun trustingly close his eyes in his presence, he turned and quietly left.
Outside of the room, Heechul encountered Hankyung who was just slipping away from the curtained area where Zhou Mi’s body was.
“Kangin is making plans to transport Zhou Mi to China,” Hankyung said simply as they began to walk down the room, “I told him where Zhou Mi’s family is buried so his grave can be erected beside theirs.”
Heechul grabbed his arms, gently stopping him, “Hankyung…”
“I… I just want to be alone,” Hankyung said, turning his gaze away,
“If you need anything…”
“Look, the last person I love has just been taken away from me, can’t you just leave me alone!?” Hankyung demanded, his face swinging back to glare at Heechul.
Heechul’s fingers slipped from Hankyung’s arm, his expression dropping immediately. He felt all the strength just leave his body as a cold front swept through him, chilling him to the bone, filling the emptiness Kyuhyun’s state had caused. He was suddenly filled and encased with ice.
Hankyung saw the change in expression and it was like he was ripped from his trance, from the precipice of his grief. “Heechul… what I meant…”
“Excuse me, but I have other bodies to see to,” Heechul said curtly as he turned away, “You’re hale and whole, so if you need anything, don’t bother me.”
Hankyung watched as Heechul walked away from him. Frustration layered over the guilt, which twisted his mind and the grief that tore at his heart. Unable to do anything for either of the people he held dear, he promptly left the nurse’s office.
Thursday; Third week of December 20XX
When Sungmin came out of the bathroom, completely dressed for the day, he was met with an anguishing sight. Taeyeon sat on edge of his bed, her body curled over her lap as her hands covered her face. Sungmin dropped to his knees before her, catching sight of the tears that slipped past her fingers. He wrapped his arms around her small, trembling body and held her tightly, firmly, fighting against his own urge to cry with her; he needed to be strong for her.
“You were fine a few moments ago,” Sungmin said quietly. “You woke up this morning and were fine. What happened?”
Taeyeon shook her head and just cried even harder. When she heard that Kyuhyun had returned to the school alive, she and Sungmin had raced to the nurse’s office. Even when she was told his memory was gone, she still felt happy because he was alive. However, in the time after Sungmin left to go talk with Eeteuk and before Heechul tended to Kyuhyun’s body, Taeyeon had sat at Kyuhyun’s bedside and it was clear that the other person didn’t know her.
She had talked to him, cajoled him, tried to make him remember. She had even touched his hand, hoping he would hear her thoughts, see her memories, but all Kyuhyun had done was look at her hand and ask her what she was doing. When she looked in Kyuhyun’s eyes and saw nothing, she felt lost. When she had forced a hug on him and felt nothing from him, she felt dead.
It was maddening to see her cousin, her best friend, right before her eyes and yet, he wasn’t Kyuhyun. He wasn’t the one who knew her thoughts before she had them. He wasn’t the one who knew what made her angry, happy or sad. He wasn’t the one who was always quick to comfort, to smile, to understand. He wasn’t the one who held her hand affectionately, hugged her securely or whispered to her confidently.
She wanted to tell him of their time together, but it didn’t matter because he didn’t know and wouldn’t remember with her. He wouldn’t remember their ride when they returned to SJA at the beginning of that school year. He wouldn’t remember how she brought him toast because he refused to feed. He wouldn’t remember how she laid beside him and held him as he cried. He wouldn’t remember how he held her as she cried after that. He wouldn’t remember all their talks, all their laughs, all their words. He wouldn’t even remember the night they spent dancing together.
She wanted him back.
She wanted the boy who held her hand when she ran too slowly and the man who held her hand to keep the suitors away. She wanted the boy who protected her from the rain and the man she protected from the thunderstorms. She wanted the boy who carried her on his back when she was injured and the man whose bedside she sat at for hours when he was injured and sick. She wanted the boy who craved his parents’ attention and the man who began to grow from his freedom.
She wanted him. She wanted Kyuhyun.
She had sat there while Sungmin had slipped into the bathroom to get ready. Surrounded by silence except for the muffled noise of Sungmin’s ministrations in the bathroom, her thoughts had bombarded her, her emotions overwhelming her. It had begun with a tremble in her heart which turned into a tremble in her lip. It had began with a pain in her heart which turned into her body doubling over. It had begun with her sadness spilling over her heart which turned into a torrent of tears spilling over her cheeks.
Since the days following, Sungmin had walked Taeyeon to each of her classes and, after the final period, had kept her with him in his classroom. He knew that Kyuhyun’s state tormented her. He knew the way her mind raced and turned dark, knew the way her heart twisted and collapsed within itself, knew the way her entire body ached, craving for the other’s touch, acknowledgement, just the physical presence of Kyuhyun’s spirit nearby. He knew it all because he felt the exact same.
Two days had passed and still Kyuhyun hadn’t regained any of his memory. He kept Taeyeon away from the east wing’s third floor altogether while fighting his own urge to go and force his memories upon his friend. However, from Heechul’s updates, Kyuhyun wasn’t remembering anyone. He knew it would only further damage and torture Taeyeon if she kept trying to see him.
He had spent years leading Kyuhyun around, being the older brother Kyuhyun never had. He had spent years chasing after Kyuhyun when the younger boy ran ahead of him. Then, he had spent years pulling him back to make sure there was no danger ahead. Lately, he had spent time following Kyuhyun around, finding the friend he had lost. He had spent time chasing after Kyuhyun when the younger man hadn’t appeared for class. Then, he had spent time watching over him when he was sick, healing or sneaking down dark corridors.
He wanted the Kyuhyun who distrusted easily, not the one who naively trusted. He wanted the Kyuhyun who questioned everything, not the one who easily accepted every answer. He wanted the Kyuhyun who was discriminating of who he smiled to, not the one who had smiles for everyone. He wanted the Kyuhyun who was blunt and snarky, not the one who was pleasant and childishly precocious. He wanted the Kyuhyun whose eyes expressed every feeling, every thought, not the one who stared blankly at every word, every person.
Over the past few days, he had allowed Taeyeon to sleep in his room. He knew the darkness would consume her and he was scared to lose her too. He kept her warm and safe in the night. He held her tightly and securely in his bed. He whispered words and wiped tears as they came. It was the first time they had ever shared a bed, but just holding her had been more intimate than sex ever would be between them. There had been nothing illicit in their nights, just a sharing of spirits, a comforting of souls, of two hearts trying to keep the other whole.
A knock at the door pulled Sungmin from his thoughts, but Taeyeon was still crying and he daren’t disturb her, allowing her to purge all her sadness, to go through the motions of her grief. Instead, he called to the intruder, not caring who found her with him, who witnessed such an embrace between teacher and student. All he did do was adjust his hold so her face was shielded, her tears protected.
The door opened just a few inches and Kibum peered in, “Eeteuk-sshi wants Taeyeon and Kyuri to go to his office before first period.”
Sungmin nodded, “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Sungmin speared his fingers through Taeyeon’s thick locks until he palmed her skull. Gently, gently, he lifted her head from her hands. She looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes, her cheeks covered with rivers of tears.
“We have to go to the Headmaster’s office,” Sungmin said quietly as she buried her face against his shoulder, her arms wrapping around him. He held her firmly, securely, one hand stroking her hair over and over in a comforting gesture. He bowed his head, his lips by her ear, “I know this is hard for you… I know that… but we have to go now, okay? I’ll stay with you the entire time. I won’t leave you. We have to stay together, stick together. No matter what happens from this moment on, we’ll face it together, okay?”
Taeyeon nodded through her tears. She clung to Sungmin shamelessly, not wanting to lighten her grip out of fear that she might lose him. She had lost Kyuhyun, had even lost their memories together because she couldn’t share them with him, because they were no longer mutual moments. She couldn’t lose Sungmin, too, couldn’t let go of him.
Sungmin held her when the emptiness and loneliness settled in. Sungmin talked to her when the darkness and sorrow were too much. Sungmin protected her, comforted her and, through her mourning, fell even more in love with him.
He managed to get her standing and she didn’t know how long she stood there, crying in his embrace. All she knew was the feel of his strong arms around her, his warmth enveloping her, his words washing over her and his love, always his love, strengthening her, stabling her, anchoring her. When they left his room, her eyes were red but dry, her throat burning but silent, her body weak but still. The entire way, Sungmin held her hand and didn’t let go once.
The Headmaster’s office was lit up by lights and the sunshine pouring through the windows. The towers of books surrounded them, each title, each author like a witness to the meeting. The sunshine itself like a perverse intruder, reminding them all of the one person who couldn’t feel the sun, couldn’t enjoy the sun. The Headmaster, himself, was sitting in his big, leather chair, his hands folded atop his desk. In the two chairs before his desk sat Taeyeon and Kyuri; behind them stood their respective partners. Sungmin had his hand on Taeyeon’s shoulder, her opposite arm crossed over her chest so that her fingers could remain linked with his. Kibum had his hands on the back of Kyuri’s chair, completely aware of everyone – their breathing, their blinking intervals – every tiny nuance. Heechul was off to the side, sitting on the ladder that gave access to the higher shelves. The nurse was silent, seemingly casually lounging on the metal contraption, idly twisting and braiding locks of his long hair.
“Tomorrow is the last day before Christmas break. After that, all is left are finals. Kyuhyun has displayed his knowledge much this past year and considering the circumstances, I believe it would be cruel to not give him his diploma just because he cannot take final examinations,” Eeteuk said steadily, his gaze unwavering as he looked at them all; “That being said, Kyuhyun will not have to return here after the Christmas break.”
“Kyuhyun will not be staying with you and your parents,” Eeteuk shook his head, “I have deliberated over the past few days of what course of action to take and I have decided that Kyuhyun will return to his parents. I have informed them earlier this morning and they will come tomorrow to collect their son.”
“Collect their son? They don’t even acknowledge him!” Taeyeon exclaimed angrily, Sungmin’s hand on her shoulder the only thing keeping her down. Her entire body shook with anger as she glared at the Headmaster, her fingers desperately clutching Sungmin’s; “So it’s come to this? After everything… after all he’s fought to gain, after losing everything… he’s still returning to his parents!?”
“They’re still his parents. Regardless of appearances, they never forgot that… never forgot him,” Eeteuk interrupted,
“They told me they had no son!” Taeyeon argued,
“I would rather die than give Kyuhyun back to them!” Kyuri added, her voice like ice, lashing out and cutting, drawing blood; “They’re horrible parents and have treated us both disgustingly! It doesn’t matter that Kyuhyun doesn’t remember them or their treatment of him – he does not deserve to go back there! He cannot!”
“As I said, regardless of appearances, they never forgot about their son,” Eeteuk continued on, his tone calm and annoyingly patient; “Despite abandoning him, they continued to pay for his tuition for SJA. I cannot allow a student to attend without paying. It isn’t fair despite what biases I may hold. So, your mother came on the first day of school and paid me the tuition fee. She had her misgivings, I could tell.”
“I didn’t see my aunt,” Taeyeon interrupted,
“She couldn’t face Kyuhyun, so I directed her to the staff gates by east campus. Besides, you know the crush of cars coming and going on the first day of school; you were probably still in your family’s car at the time,” Eeteuk explained.
“That still doesn’t prove anything,” Taeyeon practically hissed,
“Furthermore, when Kyuhyun was seriously injured in April, it was your father that stepped forward to help,” Eeteuk revealed; “When Kyuhyun was battered, upon being informed of his state, your father sent over doctors to see to the setting of Kyuhyun’s broken bones to ensure they healed properly. He paid for their silence when we couldn’t offer Kyuhyun anything. He even caused those few students to leave the school, having great influence in the business world through his company. He threatened the livelihood of the students who attacked Kyuhyun. And, as much as I dislike it, he did come to see him.”
“He came to make sure Kyuhyun wasn’t embarrassing the family name!” Kyuri yelled, “You say regardless of appearances, but I’m telling you they did all of that strategically because of appearances! What would be said if the known heir to his company suddenly died or had an incomplete education? No! They did all of those things because as much as they hated it, they needed Kyuhyun because the world knew about his existence!” Her fingers began to curl into fists as she fought the urge to release her anger physically against the Headmaster; “I bet if they could, they would have sent him away as they did me. If you think for one moment that the best choice is to send him back to those monsters, then you’re just as… just as…”
Kyuri blanched as her hands suddenly flattened against her stomach. She bent forward as she clenched her teeth, a wave of pain piercing through her body. Kibum was at her side immediately. She eased as fast as she had tensed. She reached for his hand immediately and he carefully pulled her to her feet,
“I… I think it’s time,” she said, her only thoughts now surrounding their baby.
Kibum nodded. He turned his gaze to the Headmaster, “Since you’ve already gone and told their parents, there’s nothing else we can do. This meeting was merely for you to inform us of what was going to happen, correct? I’m taking Kyuri to the hospital… we should get there in twenty minutes at the most.”
“We can take my car,” Sungmin said immediately, feeling that Kyuri’s labour would distract Taeyeon from her new-found anger that would settle nicely with her depression.
However, Sungmin didn’t even have to try to convince Taeyeon, she was already out of the chair and helping Kyuri to the door despite her previous abdominal pain a distant memory. Sungmin spared one long look at the Headmaster. Then he turned and ran after the others.
As the double doors shut behind the two couples, Heechul slipped from his seat on the ladder, walking over to the desk and slamming both palms on the surface, “Was that the best decision, Eeteuk?”
“They’re his parents,” Eeteuk shrugged, his voice nonchalant,
“Kim-sshi’s parents were more his parents than his own and you know that!” Heechul exclaimed, his eyes narrowing angrily,
“What am I supposed to do Heechul!?” Eeteuk demanded, jumping to his feet, “Send him away to his aunt’s? Hide him from his parents? Hide his condition from his parents? You know I cannot do that! I’d be breaking a dozen laws if I did. Not to mention how powerful his father is –”
“So after all this time… after everything that has happened at this school and all the bullshit that kid has had to suffer…” Heechul straightened, his hands curling at his sides, “After all your talk about protecting him, watching over him, ensuring his happiness… It’s all been about money and saving it, protecting it. It’s all been about his family’s damn money!”
Eeteuk slipped away from his chair, slowly walking over to a window, bathing himself in the warm glow of the morning sun. With his hands clasped behind his back, he titled his head slightly to the sky and allowed his eyes to shut lightly. Quietly, he replied, “I never said it wasn’t about money.”
Eeteuk stood silent and still as he heard the retreating footsteps and the echo of the slamming doors. It was a long time before he moved, before he stopped digging his nails into his palms until his entire being and mind focused on the stinging pain and the drops of blood he drew. It was a long time before he stepped away from the warm embrace of the sunlight that thawed him, kept him heated. It was a long time before he could open his eyes without the fear of tears escaping.
The next morning; Friday; Third week of December 20XX
The room was filled with the insistent whine of a newborn crying as the mother practically collapsed against the piles of pillows at her back. Beside her, the father was clasping her hand tightly, his other hand holding a small, face towel and dabbing the layer of perspiration from her forehead. She was exhausted, her skin flushed, her body weak and her hair sticking to her face and neck.
Kibum leaned his forehead to hers, brushing a kiss to her temple, “My love, you were amazing.”
“Go to hell,” Kyuri murmured as she breathed heavily, trying to get her racing heart under control.
She had been in labour for almost an entire day before she had dilated enough to give birth. At her harsh words, Kibum only straightened and smiled back. Over the past twenty-four hours she had thrown slurs and meaner comments as her body was wracked with wave after wave of blinding pain. There was even a time when she had banished him from her side, spending a few hours dedicated to blaspheming his name to Taeyeon. However, once her contractions had come closer together and the doctor had deemed her ready to give birth, the first thing she did was call Kibum back to her side.
A nurse approached the pair, handing over a little baby wrapped in the typical blue blanket. Kyuri accepted the baby, leaning back on her pillows for support as she slid over to give Kibum room on the edge of the mattress. Kibum slipped in beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders as he gazed down on the sleeping face of his son.
“Kyuki…” Kyuri murmured as she gently hugged the babe to her. She leaned her head against Kibum’s jaw as her eyes stung with hot tears, “He’s perfect.”
The nurse returned to them, holding out another little baby, this one wrapped in a pink blanket. Kibum slid his arm away from Kyuri’s shoulders so he could hold the baby properly. Tucking the bundle in the crook of his arm, he brought her closer for Kyuri to see their calmed daughter.
“She’s beautiful,” Kibum whispered as he turned his head enough to kiss her temple again.
“The damn doctor always told us the baby was healthy. He probably got a kick out of not telling us we were having twins,” Kyuri scowled,
Kibum chuckled softly, a rare sound escaping from his upturned lips, “Well, we did tell him to only tell us if the baby was healthy. We never asked for a head count.” His eyes swept over the two heads before resting on his daughter’s, “What should we name her? All we ever discussed was that our child would have a combination of both of our names.”
“I… I want to name her Kyumi,” Kyuri said hesitantly as she tipped her head to look at Kibum directly.
He looked back at her, raising a brow, “For your brother and Zhou Mi-sshi?”
“For the loss of everything my brother had and… and for the loss of another to a vampire,” Kyuri explained, keeping her voice low as the nurses in the room cleaned up around them.
“Zhou Mi-sshi is the reason we came to Korea, the reason we went to Shim Jang Academy in the first place,” Kibum reminded, “I think it a appropriate name… homage.”
Kyuri smiled at him, brushing a kiss to his jaw before looking back down at her children, her loving gaze sweeping back and forth between their complacent, sleeping faces. She leaned her head against his shoulder as she said quietly, tentatively, “He’s leaving today…”
“Probably as we speak,” Kibum agreed, knowing exactly whom she was talking about. He looked down at her when he felt wetness seep through the material on his shoulder, “Kyuri?”
“He was excited when I told him he’d be an uncle. Even though we still hadn’t settled everything between us… even though we still could barely string words together when we were alone… he was still happy, still excited…” Kyuri swallowed hard against the lump forming in her throat; “I think… I think that for a long time, even though he was here, he was longing for a family and now…”
Kibum ensured his daughter was secure in the crook of his arm before slipping his hand out from under her and wrapping that arm around Kyuri, pulling her and his son closer to the warmth of his own body, holding his family in his arms; “One day we’ll bring them to him and maybe that will help bring his memory back.”
“I… I don’t know,” Kyuri answered honestly as she huddled closer to Kibum, hugging her son even more closer, securely, protectively to her; “Even after seeing Sungmin and Taeyeon, he was unaffected and… and apparently he even saw Zhou Mi’s body and still…”
“Then all we can do is hope,” Kibum said quietly, simply, his tone giving no more hope than the situation called for, allowing for no false, high hopes with such bleak statistics. He offered her the unvarnished truth; “From this point, all, all we can do is hope and go on with our lives.” He brushed a kiss to both his children’s soft heads before kissing the corner of her mouth, “Thank you for giving me my children… for giving me a family.”
Kyuri looked up at him, her dark eyes shining with tears, “You were my family long before I ever found mine.”
“We’ll get him back one day, Kyuri,” Kibum whispered, suddenly wanting to give her all the hope he could, regardless of the irrationality of it, the impossibility of it all – he wanted to give her warmth and aspirations. He kissed her then, fully on the mouth, the taste mingled with salty tears as he went against all his instincts and added sincerely, “I promise.”
“They were beautiful,” Taeyeon said wistfully as she sat in the passenger seat of Sungmin’s car.
After Kyuri had given birth and they both had seen the twins, they left the hospital to get their belongings from the school since the holidays would be starting. Sungmin drove through Seoul towards the northern countryside where SJA presided. The moment he had slipped into the driver’s side, Taeyeon had taken his hand, laced her fingers and hadn’t let go once.
“I don’t want Kyuhyun to return to his parents,” Taeyeon admitted tentatively.
Sungmin waited before replying. He knew Taeyeon’s feelings on the subject and, indeed, they mirrored his perfectly. However, he waited to see if her statement would cause any extra reactions from her. When she remained silent, patiently waiting for his comment, he breathed easier. That was the first time she had said Kyuhyun’s name without crying.
“A good thing I can see from Kyuhyun returning to his parents is that they have the power and money to get him proper help for his amnesia,” Sungmin said slowly, keeping his tone even, matter-of-fact; “Also, isn’t it a good sign that they’re even taking him back? They could have refused the Headmaster, could have left Kyuhyun alone. Instead, they’re coming for him, bringing him back to them. Not to mention all those things Eeteuk said they’ve been doing this past year.”
“Who’s side are you on?” Taeyeon questioned angrily, her temper rising despite his attempt to not alarm her;
“I’m on Kyuhyun’s side,” Sungmin replied, calmly restraining his own defences; “I want what’s best for Kyuhyun, just like you, but I want to take into account the positives of the situation since we can’t stop his parents from taking him back.”
“Maybe my parents can get him back,” Taeyeon suggested,
“And further cause problems between your mother and Kyuhyun’s? Taeyeon, I know how much you dislike his parents. Frankly, I’d like to give them a piece of my mind, too, however, that doesn’t stop them from being his parents. Given the situation, given Kyuhyun’s condition, isn’t it better to try to repair the rift between the two families rather than continue to battle against his parents?” Sungmin asked simply, trying to activate her rationality. "Besides, earlier this year Kyuhyun told me that if anything bad with his vampirism happened to contact his father. I wasn't too pleased with it, but it means they still matter to him despite everything."
“I just… I just can’t believe that after everything it feels like we’ve all gone back to square-one, as if everything that was gained has been lost and… and for what?” Taeyeon sighed heavily as she willed herself not to cry; she had done too much of that that past week. After a pregnant pause, she said quietly, “I just don’t want Kyuhyun to suffer again at the hands of his parents as he has in the past.”
“I know,” Sungmin replied. He paused and then added slowly, “A lot has been lost because of what has happened to Zhou Mi-sshi and especially to what has happened to Kyuhyun… however, not all has been lost,” he emphasized his point by squeezing her hand slightly, “With what we still have, we have to keep moving forward, to try regain what was lost. We’re not completely back at the beginning – close, but not the beginning.”
“I will do everything in my power to get his memory back, Sungmin,” Taeyeon swore seriously, clasping his hand tightly as a source, anchor of strength; “I will get his memory back and save him from his parents even if it means knocking down their door and barging into their house everyday.”
Sungmin squeezed her hand back, “I know, sweetheart, I won’t stop trying to find a cure, too. One day, hopefully, Heechul and I will find a cure to his amnesia.”
Taeyeon raised their hands to her lips, brushing a kiss across his knuckles before holding their clasped hands against her heart, “You’ll never give up… it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.”
“I didn’t give up on you and I won’t give up on Kyuhyun,” Sungmin agreed, promised. He turned his head, his gaze briefly locking with the other’s. He offered a smile, a genuine, easy smile – the first in days – as he stated firmly, confidently, “We’ll fight for him together.”
Three men stood at the top, front steps of Shim Jang Academy. Beside them, two suitcases were packed and ready for transportation. They had hesitated coming out in the morning light, however, the sky was overcast with thick, dark clouds but the weather was mild, surprisingly warm for a winter’s day. They watched in silence as a black town car entered through the front gates and came towards them down the long driveway. By the time the car had pulled to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, the clouds had opened up for a downpour, cold rain falling to the earth in thick sheets, turning the snow into dangerous territory.
The backdoor opened slowly and a black umbrella popped open. A middle-aged woman appeared and slowly approached them, carefully ascending the stone steps. She appeared youthful, but when she stopped before a metre before them, it was easier to see the lightening of her hair and the creases at the corner of her eyes which told of her true age.
“Your husband?” Eeteuk asked mildly as the driver came up the steps with another umbrella,
“Busy,” the lady said simply, slightly shrugging her slender shoulders. She pulled her gaze away and turned them to her son. She stared at him a moment, taking in the slightly confused look in his eyes. She nodded slightly at him, “Kyuhyun, shall we go home?”
Hesitant, Kyuhyun reluctantly looked back at the Headmaster and nurse, both of whom had frequently talked to him over the past few days as he stayed in the windowless room. A silent question was in his eyes as he stared at the older men for guidance.
“She’s your mother,” Eeteuk said simply, keeping all emotion and biasness from his tone and words; “It’s where you… belong.”
Kyuhyun glanced at the nurse who had remained silent that entire morning. The older man had his long locks free, flowing down his back like a curtain. He still wore black scrubs and his pale face suggested loss of sleep. He wanted affirmation from this man, the one who talked to him often and every day. For a moment, Heechul looked as if he were going to say something but all he did was slowly nod. He wasn’t sure how, but that one nod gave Kyuhyun confidence.
He smiled brightly at the nurse before grabbing his suitcases. His mother gestured for him to go with the driver and, beneath the second umbrella, he slowly made his way down to the car. At the car, the driver insisted he go into the car to remain dry. Without even a glance back, Kyuhyun slipped into the back of the car as the driver attended to his bags.
The lady hesitated in following her son. She inhaled deeply before asking tentatively, “Is… is it true? Is my daughter also here?”
“She was. She left for the hospital yesterday… she went into labour,” Eeteuk revealed.
The lady clasped the handle of her umbrella tighter; “She… is anyone with her?”
“She is surrounded by those who care about her,” Heechul answered swiftly, his tone low and full of barely-concealed anger towards the woman;
Hearing the tone, the hidden message immediately, the lady locked gazes with the nurse, her expression unreadable as her dark eyes seemed to widen slightly, “I… I never… she’s my baby girl. But… but she was born first and their father worried she’d contest Kyuhyun inheriting the company.”
“So you let her go?” Heechul questioned, folding his arms and curling his fingers to stop himself from lunging at the woman and shaking her violently;
“No, I… Yes… Yes, because… because I love my husband,” the lady answered simply as if it made sense, as if that were all the answer needed.
“I see… you love your husband so much that you have no love left for your children,” Heechul lashed out, his eyes narrowed darkly.
The lady met his gaze with her own unwavering eyes. Without giving him confirmation or denying anything, she turned to leave. She paused as she hovered on the top stair; “When… when my daughter was here… did she seem happy? Did she look happy?”
“Yes,” Heechul answered, his voice softening at the memory of the twins, of the change that had taken place between the two and in them individually. When talking of his witness to such an account, he couldn’t help the way his heart warmed and contracted painfully, nor the way his voice lightened and threatened to choke him; “Especially after she and Kyuhyun reconciled.”
The lady hesitated a moment more before beginning to descend the steps. She was halfway to the ground when Heechul called out to her, even going so far as to step into the pouring rain, becoming soaked immediately; “Can’t you even say her name? This entire time you’ve referred to her as your daughter, but not once did you do the same with your son.”
The lady turned just enough to look over her shoulder, tipping the umbrella slightly to look up at the nurse who had a slightly desperate look as he looked down at her; “Regardless of how you see me, I did love them – do love them,” she paused and added, “Kyuhyun and Kyuri.”
With that, she descended the last of the steps and carefully got into the car. Closing her umbrella and placing it on the ground by her feet, she offered no spare glances at the Headmaster and nurse as she closed the door firmly beside her. The driver started the engine but before he could pull away from the school, a knock came at the lady’s window. Slowly, the window rolled down and the lady came face-to-face with the Headmaster once more.
“At the beginning of the school year you asked if I thought you were a monster,” He reminded, his voice quiet, loud only enough for her to hear,
“Yes… and you said you could not pass judgement. Has your stance changed, then?” She asked simply, her voice calm, her hands tightly clasped in her lap.
“No matter what I believe, indeed, what your children believe… monster or not, you can always fight it, draw back from its nature,” Eeteuk insisted, his dark eyes narrowed slightly in determination, his tone full of confidence and knowledge that a teacher used with his students; “Kyuhyun taught me that.”
The lady paused, glancing at her son who was idly peering through his own window up at the dark sky. She looked back at Eeteuk and offered the barest of smiles, “Thank you, Headmaster Park, for watching over my children.”
The window closed and Eeteuk stepped back from the car. Slowly, the black town car pulled away from Shim Jang Academy. They were barely halfway down the driveway when the lady shifted slightly to look at her son.
“The Headmaster explained to you about your sensitivity to light? How you’re highly allergic?” The lady asked slowly, hesitantly, having not spoken to the young man for over a year and a half.
“The house we’ll be going to will only be our house for a little longer,” she went on to explain; “The trouble with your memory… your father and I believe it’s best to be away from Shim Jang Academy and Seoul. We’ll move to a different part of Korea so you can learn your father’s business without the pressures and strains of this area and city.”
Kyuhyun blinked, hesitated, but eventually accepted her explanations. Nodding his silent understanding, he slowly turned his gaze back out the tinted window up at the sky which was black despite it being morning. The dark clouds were suddenly lit by jagged blue lights and then the silence was dispersed by a deafening boom of thunder. Suddenly, Kyuhyun’s entire body, each muscle and joint stilled, locked and seized.
“Is something wrong?” The lady asked immediately, seeing the way his body had frozen, been statuesque as the blood and colour seemed to drain from his blank face.
The thunder disappeared into silence and the moment passed, his body relaxing immediately against his seat.
“No, everything’s fine,” Kyuhyun insisted even as his eyes searched the sky for more warning bolts of lightning.
He was pulled from his search when they passed through the front gates of Shim Jang Academy’s campus. He twisted in his seat to look out the back, tinted window, the large school looking small in the distance. He could barely make out the front steps and the rows of windows were blurred by the pouring rain. As the school slowly moved farther and farther in the distance, Kyuhyun was suddenly overcome by the want to stop the car, to return to the school and never leave it.
For a moment, Kyuhyun felt as if he were forgetting something very important and now he was leaving that very thing. The school disappeared completely from sight as the road began to curve towards the left. Slowly, he pushed away his apprehension and empty feelings from his mind. He turned back in his seat and put the school behind him and out of his mind.
After all, if it had been truly important, then he never would have forgotten.
(Epilogue: One Year Later)