Time turns its wheels as ages come and pass, leaving behind it memories-turned-legends. Of those many legends: Ocalis.
Home to mythical beings and magic wielders, Ocalis was a peaceful and prosperous land. Merpeople swam the oceans and seas, while dragons and other sky creatures soared in the skies; each protecting the land, acting as guardians in their own rights. Among them, Elementals and Mystics walked and settled. Elementals lived as nomads, traveling the lands and harnessing within them the power of the elements—taking into their bodies energy from the earth itself. Mystics were more recluse and had the tendency to keep to themselves on the borders and in the mountainous areas, hidden away. For years, the different races lived together in harmony, each relying on each other, and protecting one another.
The lack of a leader gave rise to conflict within the lives of the people of Ocalis. It was like something was missing. Like there was nothing that was keeping the races together, uniting them, besides the land that they all lived on and protected. Conflict led to distrust; and from that distrust…War.
In the Second Age, battles raged and ravaged the lands, leaving in their midst the broken bodies of the fallen. One Mystic—a psychokinetic by the name of Jun—sought to rule the land, believing it was his birthright given his inborn power. With his recruited army, he slaughtered any and all of those who dared to defy him or stand in his way, driving most of the creatures and people of Ocalis into hiding. Those who were able to escape scattered. Some sought refuge in faraway lands; and some joined forces with Jun, providing their allegiance in exchange for security. Many Mystics went into hiding, seemingly disappearing from the face of the earth.
The remaining few Mystics and Elementals came together to forge an alliance—The Order of the White Circle—in order to protect those that remained. Elected by The Order to govern the alliance was the Great Protector, deemed The Phoenix. Blessed by the gods, The Phoenix held within him the strength and power of a thousand men; his vigor and skill were second to none. He held within him a power gifted to him by the gods, worthy of only a god. A power that put him among the gods themselves and regarded him a true protector of the people. He led the alliance into battle against Jun, and was rewarded with victory. Jun’s followers that weren’t killed in the battle were detained, forced to serve a life sentence for the crimes they’d committed. The Phoenix, after that day, was known to all to be invincible, indestructible, and above all, immortal. He led with wisdom and compassion, earning the respect of the subjects under his care and protection.
It took years to rebuild Ocalis from the ruins of war, but with the help and efforts of the people, and with the protection and guidance of The Phoenix and his Order of the White Circle, peace was once again restored to the land. Ocalis flourished in another age of prosperity under the rule of The Phoenix.
Ocalis — 164 years in times past
A chilling wind howled through the night, carrying with it the foul stench of defeat and loss. Dressed from head to toe in sable robes, a clairvoyant by the name of Areum stood among the trees, hidden by the shadows, and lifted her head as she gazed into the distance where the distant sound of galloping could be heard. A sheer black veil covered the bottom half of her face as she stood, rigid in anticipation with a hand resting upon on the handle of the blade hanging by her side. The moon’s light reflected upon her pale complexion, making it appear as though she was glowing. She looked every bit human except for the dark, empty hollows where her eyes should be, and the pernicious aura of darkness that seemed to follow her; radiating from her, strangling every bit of light and life surrounding her. Another wind blew, sweeping her hair across her shoulders and making it look like black flames dancing in night.
Areum turned her gaze upwards, towards the Heavens where the waxing crescent moon glowed dimly in the night sky, steadily being consumed by a thick blanket of fog. A smirk spread across her face as the horses’ gallops became louder. She turned her head to the left, looked over her shoulder, and addressed one of her companions. “Spread out and prepare the attack. They’re coming.”
The man standing three paces behind her, known to everyone as Sol, her second-in-command, gave a short nod and motioned with a flick of his fingers for the others to follow. Out of the corner of her eye, Areum watched as her army in black spread out across the forest, moving as swiftly and quietly as the wind. They camouflaged into their surroundings and stilled, hands on their weapons and at the ready, waiting for her command.
Leagues away, three men rode under the light of the night, unaware of the trap that lay ahead of them.
Baekhyun tightened his hold on the reins and squeezed his calves against the stallion’s sides, willing his horse to go faster. His breath came out in short gasps as both man and horse forged onwards, away from the cacophony of death; from the smoke and flames of destruction they’d left behind. His stomach churned at the thought of leaving his brothers of The Order behind, but he’d sworn himself to the protection of their leader—they all had—and in that moment, protecting The Phoenix was the only thing that mattered. His white cloak lined with gold trim—a symbol of the brothers of the White Circle—fluttered in the wind behind him, glimmering in the light of the moon. He glanced shortly to his side, to his brother, and then cranked his neck back. Baekhyun threw off his hood and squinted, looking around as he experienced a moment of panic which was quickly eased when he spotted the dark horse and its rider hidden by the shadowed part of the road. Unlike Baekhyun and Baekbeom, the man adorned robes of black which helped him camouflage more into the night. It was Baekhyun’s idea—he had insisted that the normal ruby red attire would have stood out too much, and would’ve painted them a clear target for their enemies. Before they’d left, the elders had also placed upon them a concealing spell that would prevent them from being tracked by any kind of magic—whether it be Mystic magic or other—for some time; he only hoped that it would be enough to get them through the night.
The booming of explosions sounded from somewhere behind them, and all three heads turned to gape at the blazing light of fires that burned in the distance.
“We should’ve stayed,” the black-hooded rider protested, his voice laced with sorrow. He’d caught up to them and now rode in the middle of the road, where Baekhyun and Baekbeom flanked him on either side. This close, Baekhyun was able to see his fiery red hair peeking out from below the hood.
“You wouldn’t have survived,” came Baekhyun’s response, annoyance in his tone as he casted a worried glance backwards, and then to the man who was his superior. He glared at the red-headed man, almost as if blaming him for the outcome of the night’s events. The tension between the two so thick it was suffocating.
Anger flared in the The Phoenix’s eyes as he whipped his head towards the platinum-haired Elemental. He could feel the heat rising from within him, but before he could bite back a reply, a calm voice interrupted him.
“Enough,” was all Baekbeom uttered quietly as his eyes focused forward on the dark road before them, but the dejection and tiredness in the man’s voice, mixed with the air of pain, was enough to end whatever dispute was surely about to occur.
In truth, The Phoenix wasn’t angry at Baekhyun’s words, for he knew them to be the truth. It was the truth that cut deep and brought out the anger—not at Baekhyun, or at the guards that had let the enemy slip through the border, but at himself. He realized that even if they had stayed behind and fought, it would only be futile; and before long they would’ve been overtaken. The castle had long been overrun, the pillars that acted as support crumbled and lay as dust on the ground. In the state that he was in, the usually-invincible Phoenix would’ve been no help; he would’ve only been a burden to those around him, for he knew they’d all give their lives to preserve his. It hurt knowing that those who he’d vowed to protect were dying because of him. Because he wasn’t strong enough. Because he’d had a moment of weakness that had costed him his whole nation, along with the lives of the innocent. It was the knowledge that he’d failed that hurt him the most, and that was what caused the deep-rooted anger in his soul.
Under normal circumstances, The Phoenix was unbeatable. Tonight, he alone had fought and defeated hundreds of attackers. But the fighting had taken a toll on him; and with his missing Familiar—the extension of his power—he had grown weaker at an alarming rate. If it hadn’t been for the Byun brothers, who barged in to aid him moments before the deathblow struck, he was sure that tonight would’ve marked the last night of The Phoenix’s legacy.
Baekbeom pulled on the reins and stuck his arm out, a signal to his two companions to slow. He brought his finger to his mouth when Baekhyun opened his to ask what was wrong, and closed his eyes as he allowed his senses to travel further down the path.
Quiet. Too quiet.
Even given the time of night, the lack of usual sounds of the forest struck a spark of doubt, enough for Baekbeom to heighten his alert and defense. Missing were the soft pitter patter of woodland creatures’ footprints, and the chirping of hoppers that roamed the forest. Gone were the loping wolves, the scampering hares. Nothing stirred, only a sepulchral silence hung over the forest.
“Brother?” Trepidation laced in Baekhyun’s question as he eyed his elder brother, and then cranked his head to look all around them.
“Something’s wrong,” Baekbeom replied, staring straight ahead.
The path that Baekhyun knew led to a small clearing before them greeted them eerily. Overhead, the ancient trees stretched, like towers of wood, blocking out the light of the moon.
Baekhyun exchanged a look with his brother, and then reached behind him to pull his hood back over his head. “Stay with Phoenix,” he said, addressing his brother first, and then the redheaded man who opened his mouth, an objection on his tongue. Baekhyun raised an arm up, interrupting the words of protest before they could even leave The Phoenix’s mouth. “I’ll go ahead.” He offered what he hoped to be a reassuring smile before motioning for his horse to move onwards.
Keeping a slow and steady pace, Baekhyun entered the darkened part of the forest. He felt small, dwarfed by the claustrophobic blackness. He could feel the distress radiating for the clear stone amulet hanging around his neck from a thin gold chain, hidden beneath his cloak. The smoke trapped with the stone began to swirl as his Familiar became more and more agitated.
Baekhyun reached up to grasp the stone in his hand, through the material of his cloak and tunic. ‘Not now…’
For a moment, he considered giving some light to the forest; but quickly extinguished that thought. Using his magic now would only alert any enemies that may be hiding in the trees—something he could not afford with his brother and The Phoenix in such a close perimeter. However, as he continued down the path, his trepidation only seemed to grow.
Let me out!
“No,” Baekhyun ground out softly, tightening his grip on the stone, “not now.”
Steadily, fog closed around him like a blindfold. He could no longer see much in front of him, only being able to view a few feet in front of him. A gentle wind passed through, chilling Baekhyun to the bone. He pulled on the reins and stopped, holding his breath to try and make out any sound of change. Baekhyun’s head snapped to the left a moment later when something whizzed in front of his face.
Baekhyun bent back just in time to avoid another arrow aimed at his head a second later. He growled in displeasure and jumped off his horse. His right hand reached over his head, and immediately light filled the clearing. Against his chest, he felt the desperate vibration of the soul trapped in his stone.
Three thing happened all at once within the next few seconds.
A cry of his name sounded from somewhere to his right, followed by a cry of battle all around him; another arrowed zipped by him, clipping his left bicep as it passed; and a flash of blinding, bright white light erupted from Baekhyun’s chest.
Baekhyun darted forth, pushing aside the pain from his cut, and leapt onto the back of the magnificent, giant white tiger. His Familiar roared when a burst of hot black flames swirled past them, barely missing Baekhyun. The tiger’s eyed glowed in the dark as she lashed her tail, ears twisted in aggression.
Baekhyun raised his right hand and summoned his weapon of choice—a bow and arrow formed from billions of light particles. The weapon glowed bright in his hands as he held it at the ready.
Movement on his right had the Elemental snapping his head in that direction. The tip of the arrow followed the movement.
“Jesus, Baek,” a deep, familiar voice growled.
He shouldn’t have been there. He should’ve stayed back, but Baekhyun was suddenly relieved with the presence of The Phoenix by his side. “Where’s Beom?” he asked in a hushed whisper.
“Here,” his brother responded, somewhere in front of him.
“Can’t you do anything about this blasted fog?” Baekhyun asked in annoyance. He felt the warmth of The Phoenix’s weapon on his arm—a long blade forged of flames.
“It seems we’re surrounded,” Baekhyun’s older brother stated, “there’s no way out. We’ll have to fight.”
Baekhyun turned his head slightly to the right and eyed the redhead next to him, still on horseback. “Defense only,” he warned, shooting a concerned look at the man, “you know with your missing Familiar you won’t be–”
“I can take care of myself, Baekhyun,” The Phoenix growled. He looked up and scanned the top of the trees. “Stop putting my safety before yours. You,” he reached over and grabbed Baekhyun’s jaw in his hand, forcing the Elemental to face him, “are not to die. Do you understand me, Byun Baekhyun?”
“And neither will you,” Baekhyun calmly returned with steely determination.
As fast as it came, the fog disappeared, creeping back into the crevices of the forest.
Baekbeom lowered his hand to his side and glanced back at his brother. He reached into his cloak and pulled out his own stone—a black stone in which grey smoke swirled—and summoned his Familiar. From the stone, a cloud of black smoke emerged, swirling across the ground and finally taking shape of a winged panther. The panther glided over to take position behind The Phoenix, spreading its wings as a protective barrier.
Baekhyun deflected the first arrow aimed at The Phoenix with an arrow. And then, all hell broke loose.
A mass army of black fell upon them, trapping them in the center of the clearing. In the chaos of the battle, Baekhyun was forced away from The Phoenix’s side. He shot an arrow at the soldier aiming for his brother, and then another at the one behind The Phoenix. His Familiar was doing her fair share, slaughtering any enemy that was stupid enough to come close enough for her to grab them. Blood of the enemy ran down her mouth, staining her white coat carmine.
Baekhyun snapped his head back when he heard the pained howl of his brother’s Familiar. The panther was breathing heavily, it’s left wing lame. There was no blood, however, which only meant one thing. Baekhyun’s eyes widened as he searched the battle field, trying to locate his brother in the mass of bodies.
There. By the perimeter of the clearing, Baekbeom knelt on the ground, right hand held over his gushing wound. His severed left arm lay a few feet beside him, fingers still twitching on the ground. His brother was pale, and even from so far away, Baekhyun could tell the older Byun was having trouble breathing. Rage filled his being as Baekhyun roared out in anger, flinging the bow and arrow to the side to thrust both of his hands out in front of him. A blast of white light flew from his palms, enveloping the hundreds of soldiers surrounding his brother.
He brought his hands down, slumping in exhaustion. Baekhyun made his way over towards his brother, only to be stopped by Baekbeom’s desperate cry of warning of The Phoenix’s name.
Baekhyun turned just in time to see her.
She floated down from one of the trees and landed gracefully. She smirked. Baekhyun growled. Areum waved at him, taunted him, before holding her hand up to point at the distracted Phoenix. Out of the corner of his eye, Baekhyun caught Sol sneaking up behind his brother.
Baekbeom’s Familiar was distressed—torn between wanting to save his master, and obeying Baekbeom’s orders to protect The Phoenix.
Baekhyun glanced at both men who meant more to him than his own life. There was no way he would be able to save them both. As Sol raised his sword for the killing blow, Areum’s blast of dark magic shot towards the redhead.
Making the split-second decision, Baekhyun raised his hands and blasted his light, forcing himself, willing the particles to move faster. Baekbeom’s panther sprung forward, leaving The Phoenix suddenly defenseless and unaware of the danger behind him.
“CHANYEOL!” Baekhyun cried out, pushing himself to the brink of his limit.
Darkness met light.
An explosion mixed in with flames.
Baekhyun felt his eyes grow heavy; felt the darkness that came for him as he slumped and fell over. He landed with a painful thud on the ground. In the distance, he saw the fading form of the black panther hunched over his brother’s still form—as if trying to protect him one last time.
And then, darkness.
Seoul — Present day
He’d realized as soon as he’d turn the corner into the dark alleyway that this probably wasn’t his brightest idea. He stumbled and quickly righted himself as he continued to cautiously step away from the lighted street of the city, and murmured a quick curse to himself as he gripped the worn shoulder strap of his messenger bag.
His hand reached up to pull the visor of his baseball cap even further over his eyes. A useless motion, he realized, since no one would be able to clearly see his facial features anyway in the pitch blackness that seemed to envelope him. He could hear it already—his roommate’s nagging voice in the back of his head calling him an idiot. The amount of times Do Kyungsoo had berated him for being so reckless, this time, he just happened to agree.
Park Chanyeol had absolutely no business lurking around a dark alleyway at two o’clock in the morning, waiting for a lead that he wasn’t even positive would show up. Why he’d even agreed to this bizarre meeting was beyond him. Chanyeol leaned against the brick wall behind him and waited. He waited for what felt like ten minutes, but still, no one showed up.
The vibrating of his phone against his side nearly had him jumping out of his skin. Patting a hand over his chest, Chanyeol reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out his mobile phone, squinting at the sudden bright light that glowed in the darkness. A notification of a new message flashed across his screen. Chanyeol swiped his finger across the screen to unlock his phone, and breathed out a relieved sigh when the sender turned out to be his roommate asking his whereabouts. The time on his phone confirmed that he’d been waiting in the dark alleyway alone for precisely eleven minutes. With a heavy sigh, Chanyeol returned his phone to his pocket and left the dark alley, walking much faster than he had when he’d enter.
Hidden in the shadows of the tower of plastic barrels in the corner, a pair of golden eyes watched the retreating back of the journalist moving further and further away.
The next morning, Chanyeol weaved through the dense crowd of people towards the office. Kyungsoo had sleepily wandered out of his room when he heard Chanyeol come in last night, and had given him a one-over to make sure he was fairly unharmed before returning back to his room. Chanyeol trudged into the small kitchen of their two-bedroom apartment, too lazy to turn on the lights, and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge before making his way to his room. The desk lamp in his room stayed on all night, as he burned the midnight oil typing up a lackluster article that he hoped would be approved.
He pushed the glass door open and cursed under his breath when he came up to the “Out of Order” sign taped to the elevator. Searching around for the staircase that he’d never once had to use until now, Chanyeol trudged up step after step, and landed slightly out of breath on the sixth floor roughly five minutes later. Adjusting the strap of his messenger bag on his shoulder, he pulled the door leading towards the office of operations for one of the city’s hottest magazines, and walked through what was known as “The Pit” towards the desk at the other end of the room.
The editor-in-chief looked up as soon as Chanyeol stopped in front of his desk. An attractive man around his mid-thirties, Kim Hyungi was of medium-build and was quite tall. His chestnut-brown hair was styled upwards and back, and round spectacles sat upon the bridge of his nose, framing his face nicely and showing off the man’s sharp brown eyes. For as long as Chanyeol had known him, Hyungi was ambitious and diligent—traits which helped him climbed the ladder to the position he held today.
Chanyeol nodded his head slightly and pulled the chair in front of the desk out. “Sir,” he said, taking his seat.
“What’ve you got for me?”
“To the point as always,” Chanyeol chuckled, reaching into his bag to pull out the papers he’d freshly printed that morning.
Hyungi regarded him. “You think I got where I am today by participating in small talk?” the man gruffed, taking the papers Chanyeol offered. Chanyeol remained silent as he watched the editor scan his work, his palms began sweating as the time ticked on. His mouth turned downwards in a frown when the man sitting opposite him dropped the papers in his hand to the side of his desk with a quick shake of his head.
“Come on, Hyungi…” Chanyeol started, ready to beg if it meant that he would be getting the compensation he needed to cover his half of this month’s bills. He’d relied on Kyungsoo far too much these past two months, had let his roommate shoulder his half of the rent as well as grocery costs because he was unable to write an article that Hyungi approved.
“People love cats!” Chanyeol tried, taking the papers and shoving them towards the editor again. “They’ll eat up this story of a fireman saving a litter of kittens from their abusive owners.”
Hyungi was not swayed. “I need more than this, Chanyeol. You think I haven’t been given dozens of articles covering basically the same topic already?”
Chanyeol sunk back in his seat, defeated. “I’ve given you quality articles for the past five years,” he muttered. “You and I both know that I gave you more last year alone than any of your full-timers. I’m going through a slump… just help me out, please?”
“I want to, Chanyeol, but–”
“Hyungi, please. You know how hard things have been for me recently, but believe in me a little, won’t you? You know I’ve been after a more permanent position for years now…” Chanyeol said, “just… When?”
Hyungi sighed and reclined back in his seat, regarding Chanyeol, stony-faced. After a moment, and with another exhale, the man reached into his top drawer and pulled out a folder which he dropped in front of Chanyeol.
Chanyeol looked at the folder in front of him. “Belacre?” His heart sunk. The people of Belacre Island were known to be recluse and unwelcoming of visitors. In the past years, journalists and news reporters had tried to venture out to the isolated island; almost all of them never returned, having been stated to be lost at sea before they were even able to reach the island. The island was undiscovered land, and its inhabitants remained a mystery — one that most have given up on trying to uncover.
“There is an opening…” Hyungi explained, folding his hands in front of him on the desk. “Sunmi will be retiring soon, leaving her column open for grabs.”
“The Wonders of the World column?” Chanyeol asked.
Hyungi nodded. “That,” he pointed to the folder on his desk, “will be your application. Head to the island and make friends with the natives. Find out why they’d been so adamant on secluding themselves for so long, and how they’ve been surviving until now. Everyone has been so curious about the island and its people that anything will do, really. If you can, figure out what happened to those missing reporters.”
“You’re asking the impossible of me…”
“You asked me to believe in you. This is me believing in you, Chanyeol.” He paused, deliberating, and then added on as incentive. “All expenses will be taken care of for you.”
Chanyeol looked at the desk, to the folder sitting seemingly innocent upon it, to the man sitting behind it. How hard could it be to go to the island and take a few pictures with the locals? Chanyeol had always been told he was charming (actually, only his family told him this), he was sure that mingling with the inhabitants of Belacre Island would be a piece of cake. He’d be back with a written article and picture proof in no time.
With a nod of his head, Chanyeol reached out and grabbed the folder from the desk. “Consider it done.”
“Chanyeol, you’re crazy.”
“Crazy or not, just imagine how awesome this would be if I actually come up with something!” the redheaded male exclaimed, stumbling frantically around the room as he grabbed items to throw into his suitcase. On his way back to the bed, he grabbed the stack of notes that lied strewn haphazardly across his desk.
He had known, of course, that his roommate would not be on board with his impulsive decision. To be honest, if he were in Kyungsoo’s position, he’d probably be skeptical of himself as well. However, opportunities don’t come presenting themselves often, and Chanyeol had been chasing after this chance for far too long to pass it up now that it was obscenely being dangled in front of his face.
“This could be my breakthrough, Kyungsoo. My chance!”
“Or it could be your death.”
“Jeez, stop being such a buzzkill, will ya?”
Chanyeol’s roommate sighed as he started to take out the pile of clothes that Chanyeol had carelessly thrown into the suitcase and neatly folded each article of clothing before placing them methodically back in their place. “Chanyeol, just slow down and hear me out for a second, will you?” Kyungsoo practically begged as his eyes followed the taller male’s movements around the room, wincing when he heard Chanyeol curse and moan when he’d stubbed his toe on the corner of the bookshelf. “I know this is important to you. I know you really want this position at the magazine, but did you even consider that Kim Hyungi is sending you on a scouting expedition to a place hardly shown on the maps, which has only ever seen the light of day through reports of travelers gone missing? Did it even cross your mind how dangerous this all could be? This isn’t just another article on forgotten, uncharted places with pretty beaches and pale sands people dream of going to, Chanyeol. He’s basically sending you to the middle of nowhere, where people are disappearing. I doubt that all of the missing people are chilling on a beach somewhere sipping on fresh coconuts. Hell, they’re probably dead for all you know!” Kyungsoo looked up to find Chanyeol staring down at him in wonder, eyes shining wide and bright as the corners of his mouth began to curve slightly upwards in a teasing smile.
“Do Kyungsoo, are you worried about me?” he asked incredulously, teasingly.
Kyungsoo paused and gaped up at his taller roommate from his place on the bed. “Of course not,” he grumbled, suddenly finding the patterns on Chanyeol’s comforter interesting. “I just don’t want to have to go through the trouble of finding another roommate if you do end up becoming one of those missing people, that’s all.” He huffed and then lifted his head defiantly, and added as an afterthought, “It’d be rather inconvenient.”
Chanyeol chortled. “As much as I appreciate your, uh…concern, Kyungsoo, I’m a big boy, okay?” He tossed a pile of socks into the suitcase, which Kyungsoo pulled out and put next to his “to-fold” pile. “I’ll be able to take care of myself.” Chanyeol glanced over his shoulder as he resumed his haphazard gathering of items to see the smaller male continue to quietly fold up his laundry in silence.
“A few of the guys that disappeared were even bigger than you…and they were experienced travelers,” he heard Kyungsoo mumbling after a beat, speaking so quietly that Chanyeol almost didn’t catch it. “They were bigger and probably stronger... and they still–”
“Kyungsoo, I’ll be fine,” Chanyeol stressed, finally slowing down to stand in front of his roommate. “I promise, I’ll be extra careful. And I’ll even find a way to contact you every day so you’ll know that I haven’t been abducted and murdered, or eaten by cannibals or something! Okay?” Chanyeol ducked when one of his socks came flying towards his face.
“That’s not funny, Park Chanyeol!”
Chanyeol chuckled, and then became serious again when he noticed Kyungsoo’s more-than-worried expression. “Soo, everything will be fine,” he said again, placing a comforting hand on Kyungsoo’s shoulder tentatively, wincing as he expected his roommate to whack his arm away. But Kyungsoo sat still and allowed Chanyeol’s arm to rest on his shoulder as he looked downwards one again, and Chanyeol suddenly felt a pang of guilt jab at his gut when he realized just how concerned his roommate was. “Soo…”
Kyungsoo shook his head and focused once again on folding. “No, you’re right,” the raven-haired male said, seeming to be reassuring himself more than Chanyeol. “Everything will be okay,” Kyungsoo said with a nod of his head. Chanyeol stood by the bed and watched Kyungsoo busy himself with his laundry, and then resumed his frenzied packing. He looked up when he heard Kyungsoo speak again.
“But just in case,” Kyungsoo said with a straight face, “I’m going to type up an advertisement for an open room.”
Chanyeol chuckled and tossed his grey Supreme sweatshirt at Kyungsoo. “You do that.”
“I hear someone hasn’t been taking their medication.” Chanyeol smirked as he leaned against the doorframe and folded his arms across his chest, feigning anger.
“She’s trying to poison me…” his grandfather grumbled from his bed, “she’s trying to kill me.”
Chanyeol chuckled as he walked around the bed towards the table in front of the casement window and picked up the small paper cup with two white pills in it. “Hyejin is not going to poison you, Grampy,” he said, handing the pills over to his grandfather, who knocked them back and chased them with a gulp of orange juice. “Not yet, at least,” Chanyeol added on teasingly, dodging the now-empty paper cup that his grandfather tossed at his head. He bent down to collect the cup and tossed it into the waste bin before taking a seat on the edge of the bed. “You can’t keep doing this,” he sighed.
“I’m not doing anything,” his grandfather pouted, jutting his bottom lip out like a scolded child.
Chanyeol chuckled and rearranged the covers on the twin-sized bed, smoothing them over the elderly man’s legs. “I mean it, Grampy. I worry about you, ya know?”
“I don’t know why you do. I’m perfectly healthy.”
“Let’s keep it that way, yeah?” He looked up from the stray strand of thread of his jacket to his grandfather’s face, taking in the fine lines around the man’s eyes and the whole head of trimmed white hair.
The kids in the neighborhood he’d grown up in used to always make fun of Chanyeol when he was younger, teasing him about how he looked nothing like his family. They said he was adopted. They called him names and bullied him; but never did Chanyeol really care. He’d asked, once, while his parents were both in the kitchen—his mother at the sink washing the vegetables while his father was bent over the pot on the stove. He’d asked who his real parents were, and why they didn’t want him. His parents only exchanged a brief look between themselves before smiling down at him, telling him to stop asking nonsensical things.
“We’re your parents,” his mother had said as she brushed the stray hair away from his face. Chanyeol had nodded, accepting the answer at face value, and was quickly shooed into the living room where his grandfather was known to be sitting in the big, brown leather armchair by the fireplace.
Growing up, his grandfather was the coolest man he knew. Chanyeol remembered spending the weekends with his grandfather while both of his parents worked; while his grandfather was still lucid. Much of his time was spent on his Grampy’s lap, listening to him animatedly narrate stories of heroes and fantastical beasts. There was a time when Chanyeol was naïve enough to believe in the tales his grandfather told—in the idea of heroes defeating villains and monsters and good triumphing over bad. There was a time when he believed in happy endings. He’d felt cheated when he realized that none of Grampy’s stories could possibly be true. Time and age had cruelly ripped from Chanyeol the innocent belief that he’d held onto as a child. The murder of his parents forced Chanyeol to grow up, to become jaded and hard-headed realist. The killer was never caught, and Chanyeol’s idea of good-over-evil crumpled to dust. He realized that the hero characters from his grandfather’s stories were just that—characters. Figments of imagination that could never exist.
“Grampy…” Chanyeol began, suddenly feeling guilty when he looked into his grandfather’s curious, wrinkled eyes. “I won’t be able to come visit you for a while.”
Chanyeol watched as his grandfather’s expression morphed from curiosity to confusion, to sadness, and then understanding. “Of course, I know you’re a busy boy,” the elderly man smiled, reaching his hand up to cup his grandson’s face. “You’ve grown up so fast, Chanyeollie. And so well, too…” Chanyeol smiled bashfully at the compliment. “But you’re still an overgrown child.”
Chanyeol furrowed his brows and pouted. “I’m anything but little anymore…”
“You’ll always be my little boy, Chanyeol,” Grampy responded, lightly patting Chanyeol’s cheek before bringing his arm back to rest on his lap. The old man sighed and appraised his grandson silently, as if trying to memorize every inch of Chanyeol’s face. “And why exactly, may I ask, will my favorite grandson be neglecting to visit his grandfather?”
“I’m your only grandson, Grampy,” Chanyeol grumbled through a smirk. Grampy chuckled. “It’s for work. I’m heading to Belacre Island to see what I can dig up about all those missing people over the past few years.”
There was something in his grandfather’s eyes that had Chanyeol wondering. For a while, Grampy remained silent as he stared at Chanyeol with his brows knotted together and his lips turned downwards in a frown. Chanyeol was about to ask the old man what was wrong when his grandfather sighed and reached over to place a hand on Chanyeol’s. “When will you leave?”
“Tomorrow morning.” Chanyeol frowned and looked at his grandfather, whose apprehension only seemed to grow. “Grampy,” Chanyeol said, looking down at Grampy’s hand over his. Grampy’s hand was shaking. “Is everything okay?”
The older male remained silent for a while and stared off, lost in his thoughts. He startled when Chanyeol cleared his throat gently, and heaved another sigh. “Are you sure about this, Chanyeollie?”
“What?” Chanyeol asked, but one look at Grampy’s face and he suddenly thinks he understands. Chanyeol scooted forward on the bed and took Grampy’s hands in both of his, mentally chastising himself for not thinking about it sooner. “Grampy, it’s going to be fine. I know they’ve been making it seem bad on the news, and I know that so far none of the missing people have returned but–” Chanyeol suddenly stopped, sure that what he was saying wasn’t easing his grandfather’s mind in the slightest. He sighed, unsure of what to say. “I’ll be careful, okay? And I’ll be back before you even realize I was gone! And when I come back, we can have our weekly marathons while eating horrible TV dinners.” Chanyeol glanced at Grampy, who still looked unconvinced. “Or, if you’re really good and promise me that you’ll take your medication while I’m gone like you’re supposed to… maybe I’ll even sneak in some of the good stuff.”
Grampy’s eyes lit up at the bribe. “With those little marshmallows that I love so much?”
Chanyeol grinned. “I’ll bring you a whole bag full of ‘em.”
There was something about being stuck in a three-hundred-ton death trap flying at five hundred knots through the air that unnerved Chanyeol. Or maybe it was being stuck in a seat far too small to even be considered slightly comfortable, surrounded by strangers. Either way, Chanyeol had never been a fan of flying.
He shifted in his seat, scooting closer to the plane’s wall, and leaned his head against the cool plexiglass window. In his head, he chided himself for having forgotten his sleeping mask at home. ‘Ironic…’ he thought, that the person scared of flying would be seated right next to the window where they could see just how high up they could possibly fall. It had completely escaped him when he’d agreed to go on this assignment that he would have to take a plane to Borderidge, where he would then take a ferry to Belacre Island.
It also didn’t help that the passenger sitting directly behind him was the devil’s spawn.
The moment he’d paused in front of the row of seats and glanced around his assigned area, Chanyeol had inwardly groaned at the young boy, no older than four-years-old he was guessing, sitting in the middle seat in the row behind him, in between his parents. The boy had been throwing a tantrum, demanding the window seat, and had cried so shrilly that Chanyeol and a few of the other passengers on the plane winced and cover their ears. He actually groaned aloud when he’d finished stuffing his carry-on into the overhead compartment to find that the little brat had somehow managed to get his way, and was now situated directly behind his seat.
‘Great…’ Chanyeol thought as he’d shuffled in the cramped area to the window seat that was to be his home for the next nine hours, give or take.
Chanyeol had to commend himself for his patience and ability to not strangle the little shit kicking against his seat every other second. Really, he was practically a saint. However, he was human, after all, and after spending more than half of the plane ride suffering through his unasked for, rough massage, Chanyeol had had enough. He’d turned around and directed a pointed glare at the boy’s mother when the kid had kicked his seat particularly hard just as he was on the brink of sleep. The woman had muttered a soft apology and scolded her son, causing the brat to cry out and then eventually pass out from exhaustion.
’Thank the Lord!’ Chanyeol cheered with a huff. The estimated time of arrival on the mini screen in front of him read two hours and forty-nine minutes, and Chanyeol could only hope that the kid would be asleep for the duration of that time so that he could also sleep and try to forget his minor flying phobia. He moved around in his seat, trying to find a more comfortable position, and closed his eyes.
The next time he awoke was (thankfully) not because of the kid, but because of the beeping and the words of caution from the plane’s pilot announcing that they were about to land. Chanyeol gulped as he brought his seat back to its upright position and gripped the armrests in a death grip. He closed his eyes throughout the landing, coaching himself through deep breaths, and only opened them when the pilot’s voice once again sounded through the plane.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Borderidge.”
Belacre Island was a short twenty-minute ferry ride from Borderidge.
Upon arrival to the island, Chanyeol took a deep breath and allowed the salty air to penetrate his nostrils, filling his lungs. His eyes were closed as the cool breeze brushed across his face, caressing his features in a gentle, lingering touch. In the distance, he could hear the soft crashing of waves against the rocks; and the cries of seagulls circling above. He allowed himself another moment to relish in the calm and utter quietness that couldn’t be found in the city. Sweet, sweet silence.
A bit too silent.
As he glanced around his immediate surrounding, Chanyeol couldn’t think of any reason why the island would draw tourists to it. Belacre Island, with its population of forty full-time residents, was, at first glance, unrelieved and desolate; the small, secluded village didn’t have much to boast about. The island was known to be lackluster, with weather more erratic than any possible mood swing. The limestone that almost all of the buildings and half-walls on the island were all of grayscale, fitting in perfectly with the glum aura the entire island gave off. If Chanyeol were to be honest, it felt as though he’d stepped through a time portal as soon as he’d gotten off the ferry and had been thrown back a few decades in the past. The only touch of color to the otherwise dull landmass was the greenery and occasional sprouts of wild flowers that bloomed alongside the walkways. That, and the one building that seemed to stand out from the rest.
Chanyeol looked down at the hand drawn map one of the crew on the ferry had sketched for him, trying to pinpoint the location of where the inn the man had mentioned sat. “Whatchu wanna go there for?” Chanyeol remembered the older gentleman asking, expression muddled with apprehension as he drew a pen from his chest pocket. The man had grumbled something under his breathe; something which Chanyeol couldn’t catch either because how quietly he had spoken, or because of the toothpick hanging between his lips.
After a few minutes of failing to decipher the scribbles, Chanyeol sighed, folded up the piece of paper and began the trek up the stone path, dragging behind him his suitcase and readjusting the strap of the camera case around on his shoulder as he headed towards the building towards the end of the stretch. He passed someone on the way—an elderly woman who was sitting on a rickety old bench just to the left of the door. Chanyeol offered a smile, but only received a cautious glance in return as the woman stood and regarded him for a moment, and then retreated into the building which he assumed was her house. Shrugging, Chanyeol trekked on hoping he would come across someone else along the way, maybe someone a bit more willing to converse with an outsider, that would be able and willing to point him in the right direction.
The post office, with its bright cobalt door and windows and the rustic red payphone standing in the front of the building, stood out from the uninspiring surroundings and immediate drew Chanyeol’s eyes. The building itself appeared to be newer than the rest, and sat at the end of the row of buildings, right by the foot of the mountain. The stones that made up the building were grey, as were the shingles on the roof. The blue windows were lined with a layer of bright white; and above the windows and the door was a layer of red brick. To the left side of the door, cemented slightly above the height of the door, was a small cement square from which a short black post stuck out; and from the post, an orange-red sign. On the door’s right side sat a bright red mail drop; an old looking one that seemed like it had a new paint job. The smell of still-fresh paint slightly lingered, permeating through the air. The hinged door of the mail drop squeaked when Chanyeol tried to open and close it. Directly underneath the mail drop was a flower box, where small, red blooms were beginning to blossom.
If the sign indicating that it was the post office wasn’t there, and if the windows weren’t covered every inch by flyers and random old newspaper articles, Chanyeol would’ve thought it looked rather similar to the old cottage illustrated in one of the children’s picture books his Grampy used to read to him.
Chanyeol spent a good five minutes trying to peer through the flyer-covered window, only then to notice the small handwritten “Hours” sign taped on the bottom-right corner of the door’s window, right above the doorknob. The post office, unfortunately, was closed. Sighing, and feeling like an idiot for not having seen the sign in the first place, Chanyeol backed away from the building and unzipped his camera bag. He might as well snap some photos of the scenery while he was there.
Squatting down and positioning his elbow on his knee for balance, Chanyeol snapped some photos of the post office from various angles, and then aimed his camera down the stretch of buildings. He noticed a face in one of the windows in one of the nearby houses, and offered a wave and a smile. The man, similar to the woman from before, only offered him a wary expression in return before retreating away from the window.
“What’s with these people…” Chanyeol mumbled as he stood, zipping up his camera case. He held his camera in one hand and grabbed the handle of his suitcase in the other, and turned the corner around the post office to continue his exploration of the island. He’d have to come across his lodging eventually, if he kept walking around the island, right? It wasn’t like Belacre Island was very big to begin with. Chanyeol guessed that it would probably take him no more than three, maybe four hours, tops, to circle around the entire isle.
Along his way, Chanyeol paused to take pictures of the topography of Belacre—not that there was much. The terrain was bumpy, the roads made of small pebbles which were pressed into the dirt from years of foot traffic. He wandered off the beaten path the closer he got to the shore, and abandoned his luggage by the stone half-wall.
The beach, with its tan sands and cascading waves from the ocean, was the most beautiful thing on the island. He bent down to remove his shoes and socks, and left them behind with his suitcase as he wandered down the path towards the beachfront with his camera in hand. The waves hitting against the drifting boats, anchored to the docks by lengths of thick rope, was soothing and instilled in him a sense of tranquility. He took some photos of the pathway down towards the beach, of the small blue flowers surrounded by greenish-yellow weeds that seemed to sprout from the sandy dirt. Picture after picture, Chanyeol captured the essence of nature that surrounded the island—from the limestone caves to the brilliant sunset that reflected off the aquamarine waters of the ocean. Being on the beach made Chanyeol forget about the eerie island to which it was attached, and about its mysterious inhabitants. It was odd that the same island could offer two drastically different ambiences.
He continued his stroll down the sandy beachfront, walking close enough to allow the cool waves to wash over his bare feet. At the end of the beach, he reached a high ground of part limestone and part grass. In the distance, against the backdrop of the setting sun, Chanyeol spotted two huge, strangely shaped boulders sitting atop the mount. The wind blew softly across him, leaving behind an unfamiliar scent. He heard the soft scuttling of footsteps as he hung his camera around his neck and prepared to climb the foothill, only to turn around curiously when the soft, quiet giggle of a child rang in his ears.
Weird boulders forgotten, Chanyeol jumped back down onto the soft, sandy ground and headed towards the boy playing by the shore. “Hey! Excuse me?” he yelled as he got closer. The boy stilled, the pebble that he was about to throw held in his hand high above his head. Chanyeol watched as the boy turned his head slightly towards him, his emerald eyes widening in wonder as his mouth dropped slightly open. There was a splash in the water, but when Chanyeol scanned the waters, only ripples remained. 'Must've been a fish or something...' he thought.
“You’re not from around here,” came the statement that seemed more like an accusation.
“No,” Chanyeol responded, stopping a few feet away from the boy. Up close, Chanyeol could see the slight trembling of the boy’s body, and the way his feet were slightly turned as if he was preparing to run. Whether he was scared or he was shivering from the cold weather, Chanyeol wasn’t sure. “I just arrived at the island today,” Chanyeol further explained. “Can you help me?”
The boy squinted and regarded him for a moment, staring at him as if he were staring into his very soul, and then mumbled quietly as a gust of wind blew, muffling his words.
“What was that?” Chanyeol asked.
The boy shook his head and eyed him carefully, then took a few steps forward and reached his arm out to cautiously poke at Chanyeol’s side. His eyes grew even wider, almost as if he was amazed that the person in front of him was real, and that he was able to actually touch him.
“Umm… look, kid,” Chanyeol said, taking a step back, “I’m looking for the inn. Can you help point me in the right direction?”
The boy shook his head.
“Come on,” Chanyeol almost whined. It was getting late, and the little exploring he did managed to tire him out. A low grumble from his stomach also reminded him that he hadn’t eaten anything since he’d gotten off the plane. “Kid–”
“Jaehyuk,” the little boy interrupted.
“Right, Jaehyuk,” Chanyeol said, giving the boy a pointed glare. “I’m tired, and it’s nearly dark. I sure as hell don’t want to camp out on this beach tonight, so will you please just point me towards the inn?”
“It’s rude to learn of someone’s name and not tell them yours in return.”
Chanyeol sighed and prayed for patience. “Chanyeol. My name is Chanyeol, okay? Now will you lead me to the inn?”
Once again, Jaehyuk shook his head. “Can’t.”
“Why?” Chanyeol actually whined this time.
“It closed,” Jaehyuk replied simply. “Few years ago. No one came so there was no need for one.”
Chanyeol groaned and slumped down into the sand, defeated. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” He could feel Jaehyuk’s eyes on him, and a moment later, felt the boy’s presence beside him as he squatted down next to Chanyeol. The boy didn’t say anything, just offered his quiet companionship as Chanyeol stared off across the water, where the tip of the sun was barely peeking. “How old are you, Jaehyuk?” Chanyeol asked, breaking the silence.
“Six winters have passed since my birth.”
Chanyeol turned and stared at the boy sitting beside him. Six winters? “So...uh, you’re six-years-old?”
The boy nodded and stared at him blankly. “That’s what I said.”
Chanyeol shook his head and chuckled. “Right. Sorry, my bad.” Another silence fell between the man and boy. The sky was darkening with every passing minute. “Say, don’t you have to head home soon? It’s getting pretty late; won’t your parents be worried?”
Jaehyuk shook his head. “Mum’s dead, and Pa’s been gone for a few weeks now.” Questions swam in Chanyeol’s head as he side-glanced the boy. Jaehyuk looked pensive for a while, and then suddenly turned to Chanyeol, bright-eyed. “Oh, I know! You can stay at ELYSIUM!”
Jaehyuk nodded. “Baekhyun will surely give you a bed! Come!”
Chanyeol allowed himself to be pulled up to his feet, the promise of a bed far outweighing his curiosity and wariness of the strange little boy who seemed way too comfortable around a stranger he’d just met not even ten minutes ago. This would probably be another thing Kyungsoo would berate him over if his roommate ever found out. Not that he had any plans of telling him.
“Wait, my luggage and shoes…” Chanyeol said, stopping Jaehyuk from running too far ahead. He watched as the boy paused, looked back, and then rolled his eyes. Great. He was being judged by a little pipsqueak who barely reached his bellybutton. “I’ll be quick,” he said, jogging off towards the direction that he’d originally came from. He managed to pull on his socks and one of his shoes by the time Jaehyuk had caught up to him, walking at a leisurely pace. The boy nodded and walked past Chanyeol, taking the path upwards that he’d yet to explore before going down towards the beach.
Chanyeol followed along, dragging his suitcase behind him, towards the odd-looking boulders he’d spotted before; which he now recognized to be a house.
Two boulders, both stretching thrice as tall as Chanyeol’s height, sat adjacent to each other on the cliff against the serene background of the ocean. One of the rocks was slightly larger than the other. What appeared to be a distorted house made of variegated limestone sat in between them, squished together and molded into the boulders. If one paid enough attention, they would notice that the biggest rock on the left was shaped in a way that resembled that of a man’s face. The grey-black roof of the house slanted, starting from the edge of the face-like boulder and stretching across the house and half of the center of the rock on the other end. A rustic red door sat in the center, slightly slanted towards the right; and pane windows were spread out on the center surface, also crooked and misaligned. Green moss grew on the stones, spreading sporadically up from the base towards the top.
“So, this is where this… Baekhyun lives?” he asked as Jaehyuk paused in front of the whimsical homestead. He watched as Jaehyuk moved towards the door instead of replying and brought his hand up to knock. Chanyeol startled and took a semi-step back when the door opened moments before Jaehyuk’s hand made contact, and Jaehyuk was left standing there with his arm raised, hand formed into a fist, midair.
Chanyeol was left stunned, standing there with his jaw dropped slightly open and eyes wide, staring at the man that appeared in the doorway. The man was slightly shorter than Chanyeol, with platinum-grey hair and striking blue eyes. He donned a white, thin tunic tucked into his pants, and knee-high leather boots which laced at the front.
“Ahh, Jaehyuk,” the man said as he crossed his arms across his chest and leaned his shoulder against the frame of the door. He glanced towards Chanyeol for a moment, locking eyes with him, before returning his attention back to the young boy. “I was wondering where you’d gone.”
Jaehyuk brought his hand down to his side and walked to stand by the man. Chanyeol watched as the man bent down, offering his ear for the boy to speak into. After a moment, he straightened and turned to face the “strange foreign man” Jaehyuk had spoken up.
The man stared at Chanyeol for a while in silence, regarding him in a way one would an old friend. When Jaehyuk tugged on the hem of his shirt, the man shook himself out of his stupor. “I hear you’re in need of lodging?” the man asked, offering the most brilliant smile Chanyeol had ever seen in his life.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol said, rubbing at the back of his neck—a quirk he’d picked up from his Grandfather as a child whenever he was placed in an embarrassing or awkward situation. “I don’t want to impose…but well, I hear the only inn on this island has closed down.”
“Of course,” the man said after a beat. He turned to the side slightly, ushering Jaehyuk in with a soft “in the kitchen,” before gesturing for Chanyeol to enter.
“Thanks, man,” Chanyeol said, pushing the handle of his suitcase down and picking it up, “I really appreciate it.”
“It’s no problem,” his host replied, closing the door as Chanyeol stood awkwardly in the dimly lit foyer. There was another door, Chanyeol noticed, opposite the front door; and staircases to the left and right of the small room they’d entered.
“I’m Chanyeol, by the way…” the tall redhead said, holding out his hand awkwardly with what he hoped was a charming smile.
The smile that was returned to him definitely beat his tenfold. “I’m Baekhyun,” the platinum-haired man said, taking Chanyeol’s hand in polite greeting. His touch lingered for a moment as he stared down at their hands, almost as if he was unwilling to lose contact. He then turned towards the staircase on the right and gestured upwards. “Your room is this way.”
Chanyeol nodded and followed Baekhyun up the stairs, leaning his body to the side to balance the weight from his luggage. They reached the second story landing, where Chanyeol continued to follow Baekhyun down the hall to the second door on the right.
“I hope this is alright,” Baekhyun said, opening the door.
The room was easily twice as big as Chanyeol’s room back home. Two windows slanted towards each other on the opposite wall; and in the space between them was a queen-sized poster bed made of deep mahogany. A floating stone desk protruded from the left wall, with a matching seat of stone. Against the right wall, a Camel back sofa sat. Intricate designs were carved into the stone walls of the room, and despite the dark colors of the walls themselves, the room was anything but gloomy.
“This is more than alright,” Chanyeol said, staring around the room in awe. He walked over and placed his camera bag on the storage bench at the end of the bed.
“The bathroom is right next to this room,” Baekhyun said, standing by the door, “and next to the bathroom is Jaehyuk’s room.”
“Jaehyuk stays here?”
“He does occasionally when his father is away.”
“He said his dad has been gone for weeks now,” Chanyeol said, remembering the conversation he and the boy had on the beach, “does he go away often?”
“He does,” Baekhyun responded. “Junmyeon has…obligations,” he added when he noticed the frown forming on Chanyeol’s face. “These obligations require him to leave often, but he comes and visits Jae when he can.”
“So, he has to travel for work?”
“Something like that…”
Chanyeol nodded in understanding. “That must suck for Jaehyuk…being away from his dad and all.”
Baekhyun hummed, and then turned and grabbed onto the doorknob. “I’ll let you settle in. My room is on the second floor of the west wing, please let me know if there’s anything you may need.”
Chanyeol thanked Baekhyun and wished him good night. Sitting on the trunk, he reached into his pocket to pull out his phone and groaned when he saw the “no signal” sign at the top right corner of the screen. Of course, there was no signal. He walked over to his suitcase and unzipped it, pulling out his laptop and charger. On his way to the desk, Chanyeol grabbed his camera bag as well—he might as well charge his battery to make sure it would last him through the day of exploring he was planning to do tomorrow. After that, he returned to his suitcase, pulled out a towel and his pajamas, and headed to the bathroom for a nice, warm shower.
Fifteen minutes later, he returned to his room to find a tray of food waiting on his bed. Chanyeol’s stomach growled, and he all but dived towards the bed and scarfed the food down. When everything on the tray was polished off, Chanyeol set the tray onto the ground next to the bed and climbed under the covers, making a mental note to thank Baekhyun the following morning.
Chanyeol woke up the next day to the warmth of the rising sun creeping across his face, burning through his eyelids a radiant, hot orange. He’d half the mind to throw a pillow over his head and go back to sleep. However, there was work to do; and he knew that the sooner he could finish his work, the sooner he would be able to leave this godforsaken island.
With a groan, Chanyeol rolled out of bed and stumbled out of the room towards the bathroom. He returned to his room considerably more awake than when he’d left, with a towel slung around his neck. He quickly changed out of his pajamas into a pair of jeans and a plain white shirt, and pulled a purple hooded sweatshirt over his head. Slipping his wallet into the back pocket of his pants, Chanyeol unplugged his camera from its charger and headed downstairs.
He took his time walking down the staircase, admiring the etchings on the stone wall that he’d missed the night before. The door that was closed the night before was now propped open with a wooden wedge, and inside the room, Chanyeol heard chattering and laughter. He craned his head up, where a wooden sign with the word “ELYSIUM” hung above the door, and then into the room. It was a café, he realized, with round tables set up on the left side, and a counter on the right. Behind the counter was a door, which Chanyeol assumed led to the kitchen.
Chanyeol walked into the room and paused at the door when all conversation seemed to stop. The eyes of everyone in the room turned to stare at him, making him feel more than uncomfortable. At one of the tables—the one in the corner—sat the same lady he’d recognized from yesterday; the one who’d given him the stink eye. He briefly wondered if he should just turn around and leave as the feeling of being unwelcomed suddenly took over, and had just turned around to do just that when someone called his name.
“Oh, Jaehyuk,” Chanyeol said, turning and bending down to greet the little boy.
Jaehyuk cocked his head to the side and studied Chanyeol. “You’re feeling uneasy. Confused.”
There it was again. The same tone the boy had used with him yesterday—like he was stating rather than asking.
“Uhhh… Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“There’s no need to feel that way,” a new voice said from behind Jaehyuk. Chanyeol looked up to see Baekhyun.
If Chanyeol had thought Baekhyun was striking last night, he was beyond words today. Today, in full light, Chanyeol realized that “striking” wasn’t enough to describe Baekhyun’s beauty. Baekhyun’s blue eyes sparkled, the bits of grey scattered in his irises appearing like stars. His lips, a rosy pink, slanted downwards cutely. Today he wore a navy tunic which he had tucked into leather pants at the front. The blue of the navy seemed to only bring out more of the blue in Baekhyun’s eyes. Around his neck, peeking through his unlaced collar, was a gold chain; and hanging from it, a clear stone set in the center of an intricate golden sun. The necklace seemed familiar to Chanyeol. He stared at it for a while, trying to remember if and where he’d seen it before.
Movement in the far-left corner of the room had Chanyeol looking up and away from Baekhyun’s chest. The lady had leaned slightly forward in her seat, watching the interaction between the three standing by the door with curious eyes.
Chanyeol swallowed, coating his suddenly dry throat. “Baekhyun,” he greeted with a smile, hoping his face wasn’t coloring red in betrayal. He gulped when Jaehyuk looked between him and Baekhyun curiously.
“I hope you slept well?” his host asked, resting his hands atop Jaehyuk’s shoulders.
“I did,” Chanyeol replied. “Oh! Thank you for bringing up the food last night. I was so tired, I almost forgot how hungry I was.”
“It was no problem,” Baekhyun smiled. “Will you have breakfast here?”
“Oh, uh…” Chanyeol stood and glanced around the room, where the occupants were still eying him in silence.
Baekhyun followed his gaze. “Don’t mind them, they’re just…” he glanced at Chanyeol quickly, and then looked down. “They’re not used to seeing you here is all.”
“Right. I forgot you all don’t take well to visitors.” If possible, the room got even quieter. Chanyeol scratched at the back of his neck, chuckling awkwardly. “It’s much bigger in here than I thought it would be…” he said, motioning to the room in an attempt to change the subject.
“Looks can be deceiving.” Baekhyun looked like he was about to say something else, but only ended up staring at Chanyeol for a moment before turning away. “I’ll bring a hot plate out for you,” he said, walking towards the kitchen. “And you all,” he added pointedly, glancing around at the small crowd, “back to your own business now.” His words seemed to do the trick as the people of the islands’ eyes lingered on Chanyeol for another second before turning away to resume their chattering.
“Come on, Chanyeol,” Jaehyuk said, grabbing ahold of three of Chanyeol’s fingers in his small hand, “we can sit over here and wait.”
Chanyeol, once again, allowed himself to be led by the little boy. Jaehyuk chose the table closest to the kitchen, by the counter. “So,” Chanyeol said as he placed his camera onto the table and sat down, “I take it this is some sort of café?”
“Sure,” Jaehyuk nodded. “Yeah… Yeah, that’s what it is.”
Chanyeol furrowed is eyebrows. Jaehyuk seemed to have a way of speaking that made him want to ask more questions. Chanyeol opened his mouth with another question on the tip of his tongue when the smell of food wafted into his nose, efficiently distracting him.
Baekhyun set the two plates in his hands on the table and turned to walk away, returning again shortly after with a cup of milk for Jaehyun and a steaming mug of coffee for Chanyeol. “Is coffee okay?” the silver-haired man asked, placing the mug next to Chanyeol’s plate.
“Perfect,” Chanyeol answered, swallowing the saliva as to not drool. He picked up the mug in his hands when Baekhyun motioned for the both of them to dig in, and allowed the nutty aroma of the black drink to penetrate his senses. Chanyeol eagerly brought the mug to his lips, and almost choked when he took the first sip.
“Is everything alright?” Baekhyun asked, looking at Chanyeol with what Chanyeol swore was a teasing twinkle in his eyes.
“Y-Yeah! Haha… Everything’s fine.”
Everything was not fine. To someone like Chanyeol, who took his coffee very seriously, everything was definitely not fine. Baekhyun’s coffee was, to put it in the nicest way possible, the worst coffee Chanyeol had ever had the displeasure of tasting. However, he couldn’t possible say that to his gracious host, so Chanyeol did the best he could to force himself to take another sip to appease the man standing next to him. ‘At least his food is decent…’ Chanyeol thought as he stabbed a sausage with his fork. Jaehyuk eyed him from across the table with an amused expression, Chanyeol noted, as he stuffed food into his mouth. His plate was nearly empty before Chanyeol had even taken his first bite.
“Thank you for the meal,” the little boy said to Baekhyun, climbing off his seat.
Baekhyun nodded and called after the boy to be careful as he ran out the door.
“He’s a polite kid, isn’t he?” Chanyeol commented. “He’s pretty different than a lot of the city brats back home.”
Baekhyun took the vacant seat across from Chanyeol. “Jaehyuk is rather mature and wise for a child of his age. It makes it a bit difficult for him to make friends his age, I’m afraid.”
“Hmm, yeah, I can imagine. He seems like a good kid though.”
“He is.” Baekhyun said. He nodded at one of the men who’d gotten up to leave, wishing him a good day. “May I ask what brings you to the island, Chanyeol?” Baekhyun asked after a few beats of silence.
“My boss—well, I guess he’s technically not my boss…not yet at least,” Chanyeol chuckled, getting giddy at the possibility of finally having a steady income once this was all over. “Anyway, I’m a journalist, and I was given an assignment to come here and write about this gem of an island.”
“I’m supposed to be trying to figure out anything I can about a few missing reporters and journalists from a few years back, too. They were all on their way to this island, just like me, but I guess none of them ever made it. Apparently, every single one of them suffered from some freak accident or something… Either way, none of them ever came back.” Chanyeol moved to pick up the cup of joe again, almost having forgotten how horrible it tasted, and grimaced when the liquid hit his taste buds. “Oh! Actually, one of them did return. An old man. He was crazy though, he went around spouting nonsense about mermaids and flying turtles, magic and…all sorts of crazy shit. Most people just reasoned it was due of his old age—they were saying he was losing it, ya know? But man, you should’ve heard some of the other stories some of them were telling. The news outlets were having a ball with that one for a while,” Chanyeol chortled. He ripped off a piece of biscuit and stuffed it into his mouth, and then added as an afterthought, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you? The missing people, I mean. Obviously not that other crazy nonsense.”
Baekhyun regarded him carefully, and then shook his head. “Sorry.”
“Nah, don’t be,” Chanyeol waved him off, plopping another sausage into his mouth. “Have you been here long?”
“Quite a long time.”
“Do you have any suggestions as to where I can head to first, then?” Chanyeol asked, finally putting down his utensil. He eyed the coffee carefully, mentally debating whether he wanted to suffer through that taste again. In the end, he quickly sipped a bit of the now-cold coffee, trying to hide his distaste from Baekhyun. “I figured I’d head down to the beach again and snap some more photos. I’ve always been a fan of beaches.”
“Yes, you always have,” Baekhyun responded softly, smiling as if in reminiscence.
“What was that?”
Baekhyun startled at the question. His eyes widened slightly, like he was embarrassed for having been caught saying something he shouldn’t have. “I said the beach has always been nice,” the island native said, sinking in relief when Chanyeol nodded, seemingly accepting his answer.
“Thank you for breakfast, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol said, rubbing his stomach in satisfaction. “I forgot to ask you last night, but is there anything I can do to thank you for accommodating me? I didn’t bring much cash with me, but if there’s an ATM around I could–”
“You don’t need to pay me, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun interrupted, “I don’t need anything in return.”
“Are you sure? I kinda feel bad just freeloading off you like this… I mean, you’re even feeding me,” Chanyeol frowned. “Is there anything I can do to help you? I could… I don’t know, wash dishes or something? Help you clean up around the place?” ’Teach you how to make better coffee…’ he added on in his head.
At this, Baekhyun laughed. ‘Like you’ve ever washed a single dish a day in your life,’ he thought. “Really, Chanyeol, it’s perfectly fine. Just enjoy your stay here. I hope that you’ll be able to find what you’re missing.”
Chanyeol nodded reluctantly. “Okay… If you’re sure.”
“Well, thank you, then. Again. But seriously, please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help.” Chanyeol offered Baekhyun his most genuine smile.
“You’re welcome. I will.” He glanced past Chanyeol when the front door open, and a young man with chestnut-brown hair walked in. “You should probably hurry off if you’re hoping to take some photos before the rain starts.”
“Right,” Chanyeol grabbed his camera and stood, “I’ll see you later, Baekhyun!”
Baekhyun walked up and greeted the man who’d just arrived with a nod and smile. “Good morning, Jongdae.”
Said man watched the journalist exit, and then turned to stare at Baekhyun, almost in awe. “Is that him? He’s back?”
Baekhyun looked towards the direction of the door, where he spotted Chanyeol strolling down the concrete pathway towards the waterfront. His hand reached up to thumb the stone pendant hanging around his neck.
Chanyeol strolled around the island for the next two hours. He’d started at the beach, taking pictures at various angles of the waves and fishing boats docked in the bay. Other than that, there wasn’t much else.
The town was empty, as expected. Chanyeol wondered if the people on this island spent their entire day indoors. He had been wandering around for quite some time now, and had yet to see anyone outside.
Hyungi had asked for an article, but he never specified that it had to be an interesting article. Even if he had, Chanyeol doubted there was anything interesting enough to write about on this island; and if there was, no one would disclose it to him.
Chanyeol had half the mind to just call it a day and return back to Baekhyun’s. He was inexplicably drawn to the man, even though they’d just met not even twenty-four hours before. He wasn’t quite sure how to explain it. There was just a familiarity with Baekhyun; something about the café owner that had Chanyeol drawn to him.
He turned around, ready to make the trek back to ELYSIUM, when something caught his eye. There, in front of the post office, was a raven-haired man dressed from head to toe in black leather who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“Where did he even come from?” Chanyeol muttered, returning his camera to his camera bag. He definitely wasn’t there a moment ago.
The man noticed Chanyeol at the same moment Chanyeol began walking towards him. However, instead of running to hide from him like the people yesterday, he smiled and walked towards Chanyeol.
“Wow,” the man said when he stopped in front of Chanyeol, “I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“Uhhh…” Chanyeol didn’t know how to respond to that. How was one supposed to respond to that?
“I mean, look at you!” the man exclaimed, grabbing ahold of Chanyeol’s shoulders like one would an old friend—he had to reach up a little, since Chanyeol was slightly taller than him. “Talk about growth spurts.”
Chanyeol furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Do you know me?”
The man opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by another man. Chanyeol recognized the newest arrival as the man who’d entered ELYSIUM as Chanyeol was leaving.
“Jongin!” the brunet called, flashing a toothy smile at Chanyeol as he swung an arm around his friend’s shoulder. “I see you’ve met the tourist.”
It was the raven-haired man’s turn to furrow his brows as he turned to look down at the brunet. “Tourist?”
“Tourist,” the brunet repeated again. “He just arrived yesterday, isn’t that right?” He glanced at Chanyeol. “Stayed at ELYSIUM last night.”
Something seemed to click in the leather-clad man’s head. His mouth formed an “o” as he nodded his head in understanding. “Sorry, I must’ve mistaken you for someone else I know,” he said, turning to Chanyeol and sticking out a hand. “Name’s Jongin.”
“Nice to meet you, Chanyeol,” Jongin smirked. “This here’s Jongdae.”
Chanyeol shook Jongdae’s hand as well. “Likewise.”
“Anyways, I’ve got some errands to run,” Jongdae said, turning to Jongin. “Give me a lift?”
“Sure,” Jongin shrugged. “It was nice seeing you, Chanyeol,” Jongin smiled brightly, clapping Chanyeol on the back as he and Jongdae walked away. “Tell Kwang I said hi!”
It took a moment for Jongin’s words to register in Chanyeol’s mind. “Wait…” he said, “I never said anything about my Grampy.”
When he turned around, however, Jongin and Jongdae were nowhere in sight.
Chanyeol bumped into Baekhyun on his way in.
“Ah, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun greeted him by the door, “I didn’t think you’d be back so soon.”
Chanyeol ambled in and flopped down onto one of the vacant chairs. “I’m doomed, Baekhyun,” he groaned into his hands. “I’m never going to get this position.” He felt Baekhyun’s hand on his shoulder, squeezing it lightly in comfort.
“I’ve never known you to be one to give up so easily,” Baekhyun said quietly.
Chanyeol chuckled. “You’ve barely known me for twenty-four hours, Baekhyun.”
“Well…” Baekhyun pouted. Chanyeol had to resist the urge to reach up and pinch the man’s cheek. “I’m an excellent judge of character.” Chanyeol laughed, his eyes followed Baekhyun as he walked around the table and sat down. “Were you able to find anything interesting?”
“No offense,” Chanyeol snorted, “but it seems there’s really nothing interesting on this island.” ‘Besides you.’ he added silently.
Baekhyun hummed. “That’s a shame.”
“I did bump into Jongin and Jongdae though,” Chanyeol said, turning on his camera to review the photos he’d taken. “That was definitely something, at least. I feel like everyone on this island speaks in riddles or something. And the clothes you all wear, too…like you’re stuck in the past or something. Like, come on man,” Chanyeol chuckled, hoping Baekhyun would pick up the teasing in his tone and not be offended, “haven’t you ever heard of jeans and a hoodie?”
Baekhyun eyed Chanyeol’s sweatshirt, at the words “Sexual Fantasies” printed in red against the purple material, and shook his head. “I find it rather callow.”
“I feel like I should be offended,” Chanyeol chuckled. He held his camera up, about to show Baekhyun a picture of the sunset he’d taken last night that he particularly liked, when he noticed the bag slung over Baekhyun’s shoulder. “Were you planning on going somewhere?”
“Yes, I have some errands to run.”
“Everyone does, apparently…”
“Nothing,” Chanyeol said, “Jongdae just happened to say the same thing when I saw him and Jongin earlier. You wanna hear something odd? He said he had some errands to run, right? And then he asked Jongin to give him a lift. They said goodbye to me and I literally blinked and then turned around and they were gone. I didn’t even notice a car or carriage or whatever you guys use here for transportation. It was like they just vanished!”
“Jongin travels very fast,” Baekhyun offered.
“That’s not the weirdest part though. The weirdest part was that when Jongin left, he told me to say hi to Kwang. My grandfather’s name is Kwang, but I never even told him that. I barely had time to say anything to him before Jongdae came to whisk him away to be honest…”
“It’s possible that Jongin mistook you for someone else he knows,” Baekhyun offered, not looking at Chanyeol.
“That’s what he said too… I don’t know, I just find it weird.” Silence fell over them as Chanyeol continued to skim through his pictures, and Baekhyun studied Chanyeol. “Wait,” Chanyeol said suddenly, looking up as though he’d just remembered something, “where’s Jaehyuk? I walked around the entire island and didn’t see him. Has he been here this entire time?”
“Jae has gone to see his father,” Baekhyun replied. “Junmyeon has returned from a long trip, and Jaehyuk had wished to spend some time with him before he had to leave again.”
“Ahhh, that must be nice. He must love it when his old man comes back home to visit, huh?” Chanyeol said, suddenly feeling a dull pang in his chest when he thought of his old man. “My dad used to leave for business trips too when I was younger. Never for as long as Jaehyuk’s dad though. I remember sitting on the couch in the living room staring out the window, waiting for him to come home.”
Chanyeol noticed the guilt-ridden expression on Baekhyun’s face before he turned and blinked his eyes, replacing the frown that Chanyeol swore he saw on his lips with a smile.
“Well, I should get going,” Baekhyun said, standing up. “I’ll be back before dusk. There is bread in the kitchen, and meat. Please help yourself if you’re hungry, and make yourself at home.”
Chanyeol watched Baekhyun leave and then grabbed his camera and bag to head upstairs. In his room, he powered on his laptop and connected his camera, waiting as the pictures registered on his screen. He spent the next hour or so on the computer, transferring files of the pictures he approved of and deleting pictures that didn’t make the cut.
When his eyes started to grow tired from staring at the screen too long, Chanyeol closed out of the folder. He frowned at the signal indicating “No Wi-Fi” on the top right hand corner of his MacBook Pro, and internally flinched when he imagined the scolding he’d receive from Kyungsoo for not keeping in contact. Chanyeol powered his laptop off, closed the lid, and then stretched his arms loudly above his head.
He found himself downstairs and in the kitchen, searching out food to satiate his hungry. Baekhyun had said there was meat, but Chanyeol, for the life of him, couldn’t find it. Instead, he settled for some bread and a glass of water, and ambled out of the kitchen with his lackluster dinner. He was prepared to go back to his room and spend the rest of the night editing He didn’t know what stopped him from taking the left turn back up the staircase towards his room, or why he was standing at the door, staring up the staircase leading towards the west wing. He’d never been up there, Chanyeol realized.
In the end, curiosity got the best of him. Chanyeol took another bite of his bread and washed it down with a swallow of water. He backtracked a bit to put the glass onto a table, and then headed up the westward staircase.
The second floor of the west wing resembled that of the east. There were three doors along the hallway, one of which Chanyeol assumed was the bathroom. The one thing that differed was the small staircase the continued upwards at the end of the hallway. Chanyeol took a few steps closer—those stairs led to a single, closed door.
Chanyeol walked to the middle door and turned it, wondering if the layout of the rooms was also the same as the opposite wing. He frowned when he discovered the door to be locked. Out of curiosity, Chanyeol tried the door to his right, which also ended up being locked. Sighing, he headed towards the staircase, only to stop when he walked past the third door in the hall—the door that was slightly ajar.
He knew he shouldn’t snoop, he shouldn’t even be up here. However, the journalist in him urged him to get closer, to investigate. He’d just have a quick peek inside, he reasoned with himself. Baekhyun did say to make himself at home.
‘This is definitely not what he meant, Park Chanyeol,’ the reasonable side of him argued. He pushed that thought to the side, choosing to ignore it. What harm could come to just peeking in?
He pushed the door open slightly and peeked his head into the room. He guessed that the room belonged to Baekhyun, it had the distinct smell that he’d come to associate with the silver-haired man. The set-up of the room was similar to his own—bed, couch, desk and so on. What caught his attention were the canvases that were propped up against the wall in the left corner of the room. Frowning, Chanyeol walked towards them as if in a trance.
The man in the painting had red hair and wore clothing in similar style to Baekhyun. He was holding a rose up with his left hand, and on his pointer finger there was a ring. Behind the man, chaotic flames stretched across the canvas. It took Chanyeol a moment to make out the shape of a bird in the flames. The painting itself wasn’t what surprised Chanyeol. What stunned him was the man’s face. Every aspect of it, even down to the man’s ear, resembled Chanyeol himself.
Chanyeol reached out and touched the canvas and immediately pulled his hand back, accidentally knocking over a box that was sitting on Baekhyun’s desk. The paint was not fresh, and the corners of the canvas itself showed signs of age. When had Baekhyun painted this?
Slightly shaken, Chanyeol turned to pick up the box that he’d knocked over before leaving, and stopped when his eyes fell upon a heart locket that had opened up from the crash’s impact. Chanyeol’s eyes widened as he leaned down, picking the locket up with trembling fingers. The woman in the picture…Chanyeol had seen her face before. Where? He searched his mind, trying to remember, when suddenly it hit him.
Kim Jihyun. The news reporter that had left for the island and never came back two years ago.
He gathered the items and haphazardly placed them back into the box, too shaken to care whether Baekhyun would notice an intruder had entered his room or not. He had to get out of there. He had to leave before he became another one of Baekhyun’s victims.
Chanyeol put the box on the desk and pocketed the locket, keeping it as evidence for when he returned home. He strode towards the door, ready to head back to his room to grab everything and go, when the sight at the door stopped him. Chanyeol gulped, his body trembled. He tried to convince his feet to move; tried to convince himself that he was bigger and he could just push Baekhyun aside and make a run for it. It body, however, was not listening to him. Chanyeol stood, frozen in fear at the blue-eyed, platinum-haired man standing in the doorway.
“Chanyeol? What are you doing?” Baekhyun asked, surprised. He took a step forward, and paused when Chanyeol yelled.
“Stay away from me!”
“I-I know your secret,” Chanyeol stuttered, trying not to sound so frightened. “I’ll go to the police.”
“I would advise you not to do that,” Baekhyun said, stepping into the room.
Chanyeol took a step back. “Yeah? And why’s that? You gonna kill me?”
“No, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun sighed. “Because they wouldn’t believe you. You’d only be labelled an insane man, just like that other elderly gentleman.”
“I’ll prove it them! I’ll show them the locket.”
Baekhyun took another step towards him. “Chanyeol, please,” he begged. “I’m not the bad guy here. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to return… How long I’ve waited so I could see you again. I don’t want to hide anything from you, anymore. The Order doesn’t either. Please…just calm down and let me explain.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because I have your best interest at heart, Chanyeol. Because I would never do anything to harm you. Because…I used to be the only person you trusted with all your heart.” Baekhyun looked at Chanyeol with eyes so sad, so hopeless. ‘Because I love you, and you used to love me, too.’
Chanyeol studied Baekhyun, and then sighed. “Fine.”
He felt like he was the main character of a horror movie, being led to his death.
Dramatic, yes, but Chanyeol couldn’t help the suffocating dread that only seemed to get worse and worse the higher he climbed. ‘Please don’t be a psycho murderer…’ Chanyeol thought as he followed Baekhyun up, passing by the second floor altogether. He gulped as they continued to climb higher.
Baekhyun stopped when he reached a wooden door at the end of the staircase, with a diamond-shaped golden knob. He glanced back at Chanyeol briefly, sighed, and then turned the doorknob to open the door.
The door opened into an open room; an attic. Natural light shone through the single dormer window on the far end of the room, spreading light to half of the room while leaving the rest shadowed in darkness. Chanyeol was immediately reminded of every single horror movie he’d ever watched. Now, more than ever, he felt the urgent need to slam the door shut, turn around, and hightail it out of there.
In the center of the room, situated right at the margin where the light ended and darkness began, stood an ancient, ornate mirror. Chanyeol took his first step into the room, eying Baekhyun cautiously. A few more steps had him standing directly in front of the mirror, where his and Baekhyun’s reflections were casted back. He turned his body around, shuffling his feet in a circle as he looked around. There was nothing else in there except the lone mirror.
It was the norm that questions led to answers. In Chanyeol’s case, his questions seemed to lead to even more questions, circling him around in an endless loop of dubiety. The moment he’d stepped foot onto Belacre Island, questions had begun churning in his head. He’d only spent the last two days there, but it seemed as though he’d collected a lifetime’s worth of doubts.
“So…this is what? An attic?” Chanyeol asked, even though he already knew the answer. He felt like he had to ask something, say something, to distract himself from the nervousness; the uncertainty. “You do know that attics are meant for storage, right?”
He continued to babble on. “Who only keeps a mirror in–”
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun repeated, reaching his arm out.
“You’re not going to kill me now are you?!” Chanyeol shrieked, bring his fisted hands up as a form of defense.
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun sighed, as if resigned. “I’m not going to kill you.”
“Oh.” Chanyeol lowered his fists and cocked his head. “You’re not?”
“No,” Baekhyun assured him. “Though I’d like to,” he muttered under his breath. If Chanyeol had heard him, he didn’t say anything. The taller male watched as Baekhyun raised an arm up and held it over the mirror. He slowly waved his hand over the mirror’s surface, and slowly, the glasses started to move.
Chanyeol took a half-step back, eyes widening, as he stared in disbelief as the mirror’s surface began to ripple and swirl under Baekhyun’s hand. He could hear the distant sound of voices, but when he turned to look behind him, there was nothing. No one. He stared back at the mirror in front of him, now stilled again as Baekhyun had lowered his hand back to his side. His reflection showed his shocked and confused expression, which only became even more bewildered when he leaned forward to confirm his suspicions.
The voices were coming from beyond the looking glass.
“W-What’s happening?” he managed to croak out, trying to keep the panic at bay as he stared at Baekhyun, waiting or an answer which he was afraid he would not get. “How is this even… What the fuck is this? What is going on?!”
Baekhyun simply smiled calmly and turned to face Chanyeol. “You said that you wanted to know, did you not? Where everyone went?”
Chanyeol dumbly nodded because his brain couldn’t seem to come up with a better response.
“You asked where everyone went. Well,” Baekhyun waved his hand towards the mirror.
A hundred different theories bombarded Chanyeol’s mind all at once. Was Baekhyun some sort of evil sorcerer? Did he collect people’s souls and keep them locked up in a mirror? Was he the Devil? He glanced over at the seemingly innocent man. Was Baekhyun crazy? Was he crazy?
“Showing me a magic trick doesn’t answer my question,” Chanyeol deadpanned, finally finding his ability to form words again. “I’ll ask you again, where are you keeping everyone?”
Baekhyun sighed in annoyance. “I’m not keeping them anywhere, Chanyeol,” the platinum-haired man exasperated, turning his body fully around to face Chanyeol. “They’re not my prisoners. Nor am I their warden.”
“Well, excuse me for thinking that you’re some sort of maniac when you like inside a freakin’ rock, for Heaven’s sake, on a desolate island where literally no one else lives. Not to mention, everyone I do come across seems to tiptoe around you, like they’re afraid of you or something. Oh! And of course, we can’t forget the little trinkets you have stashed in your room. The trinkets that belonged to the missing people.”
“This is all a colossal misunderstand, Chanyeol.”
“Misunderstand or not, I’ve had enough. I don’t care about the damn job anymore, I’m catching the first ferry off this godforsaken island,” Chanyeol said, turning to leave.
Baekhyun reached out and grabbed Chanyeol’s arm with both of his hands. “Chanyeol, please,” Baekhyun said. Begged. “You’re jumping to conclusions. It’s not what you think, at all. If you would just let me explain…”
Chanyeol huffed and folded his arms across his chest, regarding Baekhyun. The man seemed crestfallen, tired even, but Chanyeol couldn’t seem to detect any sign of deceitfulness. He looked at the mirror again, where the voices had disappeared with the movement of the mirror, and then back at Baekhyun.
Baekhyun nodded, sighed, and ran a tired hand over his face. “How about I just show you?”
Chanyeol raised a brow and waited, watching as Baekhyun reluctantly let go of his arm—as if he was afraid Chanyeol would bolt as soon as he let go. When he was sure that Chanyeol would stay, he turned towards the mirror and once again raised his hand. The swirling started again, this time more so than before. It seemed that the longer Baekhyun held his hand up, the more chaotic and fast the ripples moved.
“After you,” Baekhyun said, gesturing his free hand towards the mirror.
Chanyeol gulped and widened his eyes, staring at the man like he’d sprout another head. “You…want me to…walk into the mirror.”
Baekhyun nodded, and motioned for him to go again. “I can’t hold it open forever, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun said. His next words came out as a whine. “My arm hurts.”
Cautiously, Chanyeol stepped forward. He reached his arm out in front of him as he neared the mirror, preparing himself to touch cool glass; preparing himself to applaud Baekhyun for his magic trick. His hand, however, went straight through. Chanyeol’s eyes widened even more as he looked at his arm, where his wrist stopped and mirror began. He tried to wiggle his fingers and felt a gentle breeze blow through them. Gathering his courage, Chanyeol took another step. And then another. His entire arm had disappeared now, and he stood with his shoulder aligned with the frame of the mirror, staring at Baekhyun in questioning amazement. With one last inhale and a quick prayer to whatever holy spirit was listening, Chanyeol scrunched his eyes shut and surged forward.
He felt a gentle breeze across his face, felt the warmth of the sun on his skin. He heard the rustling of movement, and heard Baekhyun step beside him a second later.
Chanyeol opened his eyes. His jaw dropped as he looked around in wonder at the view before him. Birds with white tails of feathers—dozens of them—flew side by side through the sky, squawking a wonderful symphony of melodies as they passed. A crack of a branch to his right introduced Chanyeol to a luminous white horse with a pointed horn attached to its forehead.
“A unicorn, yes.”
Chanyeol stared on in amazement. “What is this place?”
“Welcome to Ocalis.”
“This…is…amazing,” Chanyeol breathed out, spinning around to take in the sights. He stopped and looked at Baekhyun seriously. “Pinch me,” he said, “I want to be sure this is real.”
Baekhyun laughed and shook his head. “It’s real, Chanyeol. Ocalis is real, and it used to be your home.”
Chanyeol froze. “Wait, what?” Chanyeol crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Baekhyun. “Stop spouting nonsense. You said you’d explain everything to me, so go on.”
“Walk with me,” Baekhyun said, “let me tell you a story.”
Chanyeol eyed Baekhyun curiously, but decided to go along with the man’s request. For now, at least. “What kind of story?”
Baekhyun moved to the side, where there was a small stone bench surrounded by wildflowers sprouting from the cracks of the cliff. Chanyeol recognized them to be the same kind of blue flowers that he’d seen on the island. He followed Baekhyun to the bench and took a seat next to him, leaning forward with his arms resting on his knees as he waited for Baekhyun to tell his story.
“Years ago, Ocalis was ruled by a cruel and tyrannical man—Jun. He was a Mystic, a gifted human born with the power of psychokinesis. Jun believed his race of Mystics was above others, and saw himself as the only fit candidate to rule the land. At that time, Ocalis did not have a ruler.
With his greed and thirst for power, Jun caused suffering to the many people of Ocalis who’ve lived in peace for centuries. He had a following of people consisting of those who voluntarily joined him, and those who were forced to.
He began killing off other Mystics, afraid that one day, there would be one more powerful than him. Mystics went into hiding, as did many Elementals.”
Chanyeol held up his hand to interrupt Baekhyun. “Elementals?”
“I guess you would know them as something similar to sorcerers,” Baekhyun pondered. “Witches and wizards who harnessed the power of the elements in the earth, and use it to power our soul magic. We dedicate years to mastering soul magic.”
“So…you’re an Elemental?”
“Right, cool.” Chanyeol gaped at the silver-haired man. “Continue.”
“There were people desperate to put an end to Jun’s oppressive reign. We came together and started an alliance, The Order of the White Circle, and elected a leader who we believed would rule justly. In the end, we won the battle. Jun was beheaded, his followers either killed or captured. A statue of Jun’s head was placed in front of the burial ground where he and his dead army lie as a lesson, and a warning.
Those who fled Ocalis during Jun’s reign gradually caught news, and some came back. It took us years to rebuild Ocalis; to return it back to its tranquil state that it used to be. The ruler that The Order elected was known as The Phoenix, and under his rule, Ocalis prospered for many years.
However, jealousy and resentment created a traitor amongst us. Ocalis was once again attacked, and The Phoenix… He disappeared that night.”
Baekhyun looked down at his hands and blinked away tears. Chanyeol held back the urge to wrap his arm around the shorter male and bring him into a hug.
The Elemental got up and motioned for Chanyeol to follow him as he walked towards the edge of the cliff they were on. Baekhyun stopped a few feet before the cliff ended and turned to motion Chanyeol forward. Reluctantly, Chanyeol inched towards the edge.
Ocalis was flawless—a picturesque land surrounded by oceans as clear as skies. Mountains stood tall against the sky, painted with dusty snow at their peaks. Streams waved through the land, curving around bends of lush green hills, leading to a mountainous forest.
Standing from where they were, Chanyeol and Baekhyun had an impressive panoramic view of the lands below. Looking down at Ocalis was like looking at a painting, Chanyeol mused.
Chanyeol turned to look at Baekhyun, and then back to where they’d emerged. Behind them, a waterfall cascaded down directly into a bay hundreds of feet below. The cascade hit the surface and created foam, which dissipated as it spread across the aquamarine waters.
“We spent days trying to look for him, but there was no trace. We knew he was not dead, though, so we turned our efforts to protecting the place that he swore to protect with his life; and we waited. Members of The Order put up a barrier around Ocalis, preventing unwanted visitors from entering.” Baekhyun pointed towards the border of the land, where pale pink blossoms created a wall. “The barrier protects the life within it, and is invisible to those outside. We have Faeries standing guard along the borders as watchers. The Cherry Blossom Forest is their home.”
Chanyeol nodded, trying to take everything in. “And that Phoenix guy? Did you ever find him?”
“The Order all but gave up after so many years of fruitless searching. They wanted to elect a new ruler, but some of us were vehemently against that. I continued to search. I knew he was still alive, and I made it my life goal to find him. And twenty-seven years ago,… I did.”
“You found him?”
“Well? Where is he? Did you bring him back?”
Baekhyun shook his head. “The impact of the three colliding powers did something that night… It should have killed him. Actually, I think it did.”
Chanyeol frowned in confusion. “So…you’re saying he what? Reincarnated?”
“The extent of The Phoenix’s powers was kept a mystery; only a few knew of its full capacity. It seemed the mix of the three magics resulted in an unforeseen outcome. He was transported out of our world and into another, where he was reborn without any memory of his previous life. He didn’t truly die, though, I know of that. I’m a bit stumped myself of what exactly happened.”
“Okay…” Chanyeol exhaled, “so you found him. Then what?”
“He was adopted by a couple who were having trouble conceiving. They took him in and raised him as their own son. I reported this back to The Order, and we all decided it would be best to allow him to continue living with his foster family. Away from Ocalis and ignorant of any possible dangers that may be seeking him out. I used to visit the family with Jongin, but some…unforeseeable events happened and I’ve been forced to keep my distance ever since.”
“We’re the two of you friends?” Chanyeol asked.
“We were much more than that,” Baekhyun chuckled forlornly.
Chanyeol noticed the way Baekhyun only seemed to smile when he was speaking of his lost Phoenix. “You were in love with him?”
Baekhyun kept his head down and nodded.
“Man…that must really suck. Knowing where he is and not being able to be with him…”
“It’s been hard, yes. But he’s returned recently,” Baekhyun smiled. “After twenty years, I finally met him again two days ago.”
Chanyeol furrowed his brows, and then widened his eyes a second later. “You can’t mean me,” he exclaimed. Baekhyun remained silent, neither denying or affirming. But his silence was enough of an answer for Chanyeol. “You must be mistaken.”
“When I used to visit, Kwang used to be particularly interested in the stories I had to tell.”
Chanyeol suddenly flashed back to his childhood home, to the night he’d walked downstairs, half-asleep, and had seen Grampy sitting by the fire petting a giant white tiger. He’d passed it off as a dream, of course, because the following morning, Grampy had denied any claims Chanyeol had made of seeing him.
He rubbed a hand over his face and groaned. “Are you sure I’m not dreaming? This seems like I’m dreaming…”
“He’s not taking well to be our long-lost Phoenix, I see,” a voice called from somewhere above them.
Chanyeol looked up and sputtered when Jongdae jumped down from a tree—a tree three times as tall as Chanyeol himself—and landed smoothly on the ground in front of them without a scratch.
“Will you ever drop your habit of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, Kim Jongdae?” Baekhyun sighed.
Jongdae shrugged, and then stuck his tongue out and laughed. “Hey Phoenix, want to see something cool?”
Chanyeol mutely nodded, his eyes growing wide in anticipation.
Jongdae smirked before he faced forward, eyes narrowing in concentration as he stared ahead of him. Towards the cliff. He let out a controlled exhale and then crouched down. His legs began to move, one in front of the other, as he started at a slow jog and finally launched himself into a full sprint.
‘What the fuck is he doing?’ Chanyeol wondered to himself as he watched the brunet run full speed towards the edge of the cliff. He glanced over at Baekhyun to see if he was as confused or shocked; but Baekhyun stood still and calm as ever—maybe even a little bored—as he watched the scene unfold.
Chanyeol gaped as his eyes returned to Jongdae and followed his movements. The brunet yelled out a final cry of excitement, or fear—Chanyeol wasn’t quite sure which—before he launched himself off of the cliff’s side.
‘Oh, my god…’ Chanyeol’s eyes almost fell out of their sockets as he stared at the space where Jongdae used to be. “FUCK! OH, MY GOD!” he yelled, aloud this time, as he launched into a run towards the cliff’s edge. He frantically looked around trying to search for something, anything, that could be used to somehow save the man. “Baekhyun, what are you doing just standing there?” Chanyeol cried over his shoulder, “help me get–”
The rest of his sentence died in his throat when Jongdae’s smiling face appeared before him, laughing boisterously. Chanyeol’s jaw dropped open as he took a step back, and then another. His eyes travelled from Jongdae’s now-smirking face down to where his legs seemed to disappear and merge with the body of the big, majestic eagle. Chanyeol stumbled backwards even further when the eagle lurched forward, and not-so-gently landed full on his rump. “What…?”
“Man, you should’ve seen your face!” Jongdae laughed.
Chanyeol’s mouth opened involuntarily in surprise when Jongdae swung his leg over and slid down from the eagle’s back. The brunet landed gracefully on his feet, leaving behind a wisp of smoke where his feet used to be before the smoke diffused and the eagle’s body appeared whole again.
The redhead flinched when he felt a presence behind him, only to flash an unsure smile when Baekhyun offered his hand to help him up. Chanyeol graciously accepted Baekhyun’s hand and marveled for a moment, admiring the way Baekhyun’s hand fit into his like two pieces of a puzzle. He was jolted out of his relatively short reverie when he heard Jongdae snort, and cleared his throat as he pulled his hand away from Baekhyun’s.
“Someone tell me what the fuck just happened.”
“You’ve just seen Jongdae’s Familiar,” Baekhyun replied nonchalantly, appraising the eagle that now circled around them.
“A spirit which takes form of an animal,” Baekhyun explained. “They’re the extension of an Elemental’s power. We share our soul with them, bond with them. We’re as much them as they are us.”
“So, all Elementals have one?” Chanyeol asked.
“Not all,” Jongdae offered this time. “if there’s no connection, there’s no bond. You don’t choose your Familiar, it chooses you. It’s a challenge some of us choose to take; a sacrifice we choose to accept.”
Baekhyun nodded. “To bond with a Familiar is to give up a part of your soul. The bond is created and forged with our soul magic—it’s like a contract, if you will. To bond with a Familiar is forever, and there is only one time. It’s a sacrifice for both parties as their lives are forever tied to their bonded.”
“What do you get from the bond then? Besides a freakin’ awesome pet.”
Jongdae’s Familiar emitted a low grumble from its throat and eyed him dangerously. “They’re not pets,” the brunet chuckled, “and they don’t take well to being called one.”
Chanyeol took a nervous step back behind Baekhyun as the eagle stepped towards him.
“Jongdae,” Baekhyun sighed.
“Alright, alright. I best be off anyway,” the brunet said as he pulled out a silver-gray stone amulet. The eagle flashed Chanyeol another disapproving stare, and then dived towards Jongdae, swooping him onto its back. “It’s nice to have you back, Phoenix,” the brunet called out as his Familiar spread its wings and took off.
Chanyeol watched as Jongdae and the eagle grew smaller and smaller the further away they flew. Baekhyun had begun walking again, and he scrambled to follow, catching up with the man in a few long strides.
“Will you tell me more about these Familiars?”
Baekhyun led him down to a field of sunflowers which stretched high over Chanyeol’s head. They walked over to a bench boulder by the side of the field, where Baekhyun sat and motioned for Chanyeol to do the same.
“What would you like to know?” Baekhyun asked.
“Anything… Everything! This is all really so fascinating, I’m kinda mind-blown,” Chanyeol chuckled. “It feels as though I’ve stepped into some kinda of fantasy book or movie. This is all so surreal.”
Baekhyun nodded. “I suppose it’ll take some getting used to considering you’ve been gone from it for so long.”
“That too! I mean, I just can’t believe that all of this is real, ya know? I mean, my Grampy used to tell me these same stories all the time…but I never actually thought it was true. That you all existed.”
Chanyeol sighed and leaned back, placing his hands on the rock beneath to steady himself. “So, these Familiars… You give them your soul?”
“Yes,” Baekhyun nodded. “It’s part of the exchange. It allows us to communicate with them, and proves to them that they can trust us. After all, there is much more at stake for a Familiar with a bond.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because we share souls, we share, essentially, everything else as well. Happiness. Fear. Pain. Our Familiars can detect our moods, can feel our pain; and us, theirs. A bonded pair will be able to pick up on the other’s emotions, will feel what the other feels.”
“Okay…but why is it then that there’s more at stake for the Familiar? If everything is shared?”
“Animals are selfless creatures, Chanyeol. The soul exchange is meant to be an equal one, but it always ends up that the Familiar gives more. It results in a slight shift in the balance of the soul magic. If an Elemental were to die, you see, his or her Familiar would also die. However–”
“It’s not the same for when the Familiar dies?”
Baekhyun shook his head. “We’ll feel the pain. We’ll feel the loss as part of our own soul dies along with our Familiar, but we’ll be able to live on without them.”
“I can see why they don’t like being called pets now…” Chanyeol chuckled sardonically. “They’re definitely more than that.”
Baekhyun hummed in agreement.
“Do you have a Familiar?” Chanyeol suddenly asked, turning to face Baekhyun.
“Can I see?”
Baekhyun nodded and reached into his shirt to retrieve his amulet. He showed the clear stone to Chanyeol, which started to cloud over in his hands. “She’s eager to come out,” Baekhyun laughed quietly. He stretched his arm out and moved the stone in front of him, and eyed Chanyeol with a gentle smile on his face.
Chanyeol watched in awe as the smoke swirled more and more in the stone, causing vibrations against Baekhyun’s palm. Then, a blinding flash of light erupted as all of the smoke was released.
Chanyeol opened his eyes and blinked a few times, blinking away the black dots in his eyes—a result of the sudden brightness. His mouth opened slightly as he watched the smoke swirl, slowly taking form. Within seconds, a giant white tiger materialized in front of him.
Chanyeol yelped when the tiger suddenly leapt forward, towards him. ‘Oh, god…it’s going to eat me!’ he thought, desperately throwing his hands out in front of him in a futile attempt to defend himself. He opened his eyes when he heard Baekhyun laughing, and turned to see the tiger with its head cocked to the side, eying him inquisitively. It sniffed at his palms and then lurched forward again, rubbing its head against his hand.
“She has missed you,” Baekhyun said fondly.
Chanyeol slowly let out the breath he’d been holding and tentatively scratched at the tiger’s head. The feline purred and nuzzled her head against him more aggressively. Chanyeol laughed when Baekhyun’s Familiar crouched down and rubbed her body against his legs, almost pushing him over and off the bench.
“Did I have a Familiar as well?”
“Yes, you did.”
“Did it…die?” Chanyeol asked sadly, absently petting the tiger’s rump.
“No, it was stolen.”
Baekhyun nodded, his features darkening. “The few nights before the ambush, someone took your Familiar from you,” Baekhyun explained. He scowled as he remembered back to that night.
Baekhyun ran into the Great Room and rushed over to The Phoenix’s side. “Chanyeol!” he cried out, tapping the man lightly on the cheek to wake him. His eyes scanned The Phoenix’s body for any sign of injury. None. He looked down at Chanyeol’s hand, where his ruby ring that he usually wore on his left pointer finger was missing. “What happened?”
“My Familiar, Baekhyun” Chanyeol groaned, holding a hand to his head. “She took it.”
Anger filled his body as he clenched his hands into fists. “Who?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
“Areum… She stole my ring.”
Baekhyun was shaken from his stupor when he felt his Familiar rubbing herself on his legs.
“Are you okay?” Chanyeol asked, staring at him in concern.
“I’m fine,” Baekhyun answered, his smile not quite reaching his eyes. “Come on,” he said, standing up from the bench, “there’s still much more to show you.”
They had spent the entire day walking around until Chanyeol’s legs were sore and felt like jelly. He tried the best he could to commit to memory everything that Baekhyun told him about the world, and everything that he saw along the way. He’d met some of the people, who’d looked at him in shock and surprise before bowing their heads. Chanyeol had flustered at that, not used to such treatment.
They came across the cottage that Chanyeol recognized from the picture books Grampy used to read to him—the same one that the post office from the island resembled. It was another portal, Baekhyun explained; another way to pass from the island into Ocalis.
Along their walk, Baekhyun had answered his questions about the people who ventured to the island and failed to return. Many of them stumbled upon the world, Baekhyun said, and had not the heart to leave. A few of them were killed, drowned in the shipwreck before they could even reach Belacre. The trinkets in Baekhyun's room all belonged to those lost; and were collected at the shipwreck site. “Junmyeon helped to me gather them,” Baekhyun had explained. “I’ve kept them in case anyone ever happened to come looking for their loved ones, but so far, no one has.”
When the sun had said its goodbyes and the moon rose in the sky, Baekhyun led Chanyeol to his house to rest.
Baekhyun’s home in Ocalis was much nicer than the one on the island.
Chanyeol gaped at the magnificent lordly castle that greeted him. “You…live here? This is your home.”
“It was my family home,” Baekhyun replied, a hint of sadness laced in his voice. “I didn’t spend much time here, though. I spent more time at your estate.”
“It was your wish,” Baekhyun chuckled. “You sent servants to my house to steal all of my belongings, and then demanded that I come stay with you instead.”
Chanyeol rubbed at his nape. “I sound like I was an asshole.”
“You were,” Baekhyun laughed, “but not all the time. Most of the time, you were rather decent.” Baekhyun’s eyes shined with a teasing glint as he looked at Chanyeol, his eyes formed into crescents when he smiled. “Come in,” he said, leading the way.
Baekhyun gave him a quick tour of the estate, and then showed him to his room. “I have some matters to discuss with The Order,” the Elemental said, “I’ll have someone bring you supper in a little while.”
“Thanks.” Chanyeol watched Baekhyun leave, and then closed his bedroom door. The room he was given at ELYSIUM was big, but this room was easily twice as big. It was furnished lavishly, and had a private bathroom. Chanyeol wanted to shower, but realized that he had none of his stuff with him. He groaned and looked down at his sweatshirt. Wearing the same clothes again for another wouldn’t kill him, right? He would just have to make sure to ask Baekhyun for some clothes the next day.
Chanyeol whistled when he entered the bathroom, with the lavish tub in the center of the room. The trim of the walls was of gold, and the white of the walls seemed to shimmer under the twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling.
He spent more time in the shower than he normally would. There over a dozen various knobs and buttons, and Chanyeol had fun pressing each and every one of them. He stepped out of the shower and reached for his clothes, only to find them missing.
“What the–” Chanyeol looked around the room, on the floor and behind the sink. He was sure he’d placed his clothes atop the chest by the door, so where had they disappeared to? Sighing, and slightly freaked out, Chanyeol grabbed the silk crimson robe hanging from the hook by the door and quickly wrapped it around himself.
He cautiously opened the bathroom door and peeked into the room. It was quiet, and he didn’t spot anyone else in there. On the bed, a pair of silken pajamas—the same color as his robe—was spread. Chanyeol briefly wondered if Baekhyun had come back and laid this out for him. He slipped into the night clothes, and was had just finished buttoning up the button of his shirt when someone knocked on the door. Curiously, Chanyeol moved to open it.
He commended himself for not screaming.
There, floating at chest level in front of him, was a tray of food. The tray dipped, as if bowing, before floating passed him and into the room. It settled itself on the round table in front of the bay window. Chanyeol blinked when a tiny being emerged from underneath the tray, fluttering up and flying around his head in circles. ‘A pixie?’ he thought, chasing the flying little being with his eyes. He heard twinkling as the pixie fluttered its wings, finally stilled in front of his eyes.
The pixie seemed to blush, her tiny cheeks heating up to red, and bowed before flying out of the room.
“Cute…” Chanyeol chuckled as he made his way over to his dinner. There was meat and potatoes, bread, some sort of red soup, and a goblet of what looked like wine. Chanyeol’s mouth watered, and he sat down to eat.
The first sip of the wine had his head spinning. He saw the room spin, heard the crash of the goblet hitting the floor, and then nothing else.
Gentle hands soothed wet fabric over his heated skin.
Chanyeol leaned into the touch and breathed in the familiar, comforting scent of powder and strawberries. The hand left his face, and the sound of water splashing sounded somewhere near his head.
He moaned—whether from the pain of fever radiating through his body like shockwaves or from the loss of the comforting touch, he didn’t know.
“Chanyeol,” the soft, worried voice called his name. He heard himself moan in response. “Wake up for a moment,” hands reached under him to help him sit up, “drink some water.”
He opened his eyes, blurred by exhaustion and pain, and smirked despite it all. “Will you feed it to me?” he croaked.
The Elemental rolled his eyes and shot him a disapproving look. A goblet was pressed to his lips. “Feed it to me,” Chanyeol pouted, refusing the drink.
With a sigh, the platinum-haired Elemental brought the goblet to his own lips, and then leaned forward. Chanyeol smiled in triumph as he felt soft lips upon his cracked ones, guiding liquid into his mouth. His hand reached around to cup the man’s head, keeping him there even when all the liquid had already slid down his parched throat.
A fist hit his chest when he finally pulled away, cheeks tinted pink turned away in embarrassment. “You’re the mighty Phoenix, ruler of Ocalis, and yet you still whine and asked to be coddled like child every time you’re sick.”
Chanyeol reached out to grab the man’s hand, waiting for him to turn to face him once again. He reached up to cup the man’s cheek, brushing his thumb over the mole above his pink lips. “I only ask it of you,” The Phoenix confessed, “only you, Baekhyun.”
His advisor smiled shyly. “Chanyeol…”
Chanyeol opened his eyes and immediately closed them again. “Too bright…” he mumbled, bringing a hand up to block to sunlight. He heard the scrape of chair legs against floor and then the shuffling of feet moving away from him. The room darkened slightly after.
“Is that better?” Baekhyun’s voice asked.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol groaned and opened his eyes and stared into Baekhyun’s blue ones. “W-What happened?” Chanyeol asked. His head felt like it was going to split open, his body ached everywhere.
“You were poisoned.” Baekhyun said, his tone cold, once he had seen that Chanyeol was okay, leaned back and sat in the chair by the bed.
“There is someone in Ocalis who doesn’t like that The Phoenix has returned.” Baekhyun’s eyes darkened.
Baekhyun shook his head slightly. “I am unsure, but The Order is looking into it.” He seemed to be contemplating, and then looked up with guilt-ridden eyes. “I’m sorry, Chanyeol. It was my oversight. I should’ve known. I should’ve had someone here to guard you.”
“How would you have known?” Chanyeol chuckled. “Stop blaming yourself… I mean, I’m okay…right?”
Baekhyun continued to avoid his eyes as he started playing with his fingers, twisting them in guilt.
“Right?” Chanyeol asked again, eying Baekhyun as the Elemental shook his head. “Oh, my god! I’m going to die?!”
At this, Baekhyun’s head shot up. “What?” he asked, eyes wide in confusion.
“Baekhyun, I can’t die right now. I haven’t even done anything memorable in my life yet. I haven’t gotten married. I haven’t become famous. I… I’m too young to die!”
“No, Chanyeol, you’re not going to die.” Baekhyun assured him. “Not now, at least. Not today.”
‘Not on my watch.’
Chanyeol heaved out a sigh. “Phew…” he laughed, slumping back into the bed in relief. “How long have I been out?”
“Two days,” Baekhyun whispered.
He glanced at Baekhyun, and only then did he notice that the man’s eyes appeared to be wet. There were dark circles under his eyes, like he hadn’t been sleeping. And his eyes were red-rimmed, like he’d been crying.
“Did you stay with me the entire time?” Chanyeol asked with wide eyes.
Baekhyun nodded, and then sniffed.
“Are you okay?” Chanyeol prodded. He reached out to pat Baekhyun’s hand in comfort, only for his hand to be grabbed as he was pulled forward and into a crushing hug.
“Please don’t ever leave me again,” Baekhyun sniffled against his shoulder. “I don’t think I’d survive having to mourn you for a second time.”
Chanyeol reached around to wrap his arm around Baekhyun, to pull him closer. He used his other hand to rub comforting circles on Baekhyun’s back.
A sense of familiarity spread through him as he held Baekhyun in his arms. Like this wasn’t the first time he’d done so; like he’d held him countless times before. Briefly, Chanyeol thought back to the dream he was having—to the kiss he and Baekhyun had shared and the declaration he’d uttered to Baekhyun—before he awakened. It felt nice. Having Baekhyun in his arms felt nice.
Baekhyun pulled back after a while, albeit reluctantly, and wiped his tears. “We should get you dressed,” he said, looking away from Chanyeol’s bare chest with a small blush on his cheeks. “The elders want to meet with you.”
The Order of the White Circle consisted of over a hundred Elementals, and few Mystics. Chanyeol noticed Jaehyuk among them, standing near the back. Heading The Order were a group of twenty-four members—those who were there when the alliance was created.
Chanyeol stood before those men now.
He felt oddly like an animal at the zoo, being observed as he stood in the center of the grand room on top of a circular platform, surrounded by men dressed in white robes with their hoods pulled over their head.
“How can we be sure it’s him?” one of them asked.
“It’s him,” Baekhyun said. He was standing among the elders, but he was the only one without his hood.
The man that spoke before turned to Baekhyun. “You’ve been waiting for so long, Baekhyun. Searching so hard. What’s to say you aren’t believing it’s him because you want to?”
Anger flashed across Baekhyun’s eyes. “I’m telling you,” he ground out, fisting his hands at his side, “that it’s him. This isn’t a mistake, Hakyeon.”
“Enough,” one of the others injected. He pulled his hood down and walked towards Chanyeol, who stood rigid, watching him approach. The man looked like a more aged version of Baekhyun; but Baekhyun’s eyes were much brighter, and his smile much warmer. His robes hung limp where his other arm should’ve been. He reached his one arm up to place on Chanyeol’s shoulder, squeezed a little, and offered a warm smile. The way he looked at him reminded Chanyeol of the way his Grampy looked at him.
“Taekwoon,” the man called, turning his head to look over his shoulder. One of the others stepped away from the circle and walked towards Chanyeol. Two more left and came back carrying a chair and placed it behind Chanyeol.
The newcomer stood in front of Chanyeol and lowered his hood. His black hair was long enough to cover his eyes, barely showing the green in them. On his hands, he wore a pair of black leather gloves.
“Sit, Chanyeol,” the one-armed man said, gently pushing him down into the chair. Out of the corner of his eye, Chanyeol saw Baekhyun observing him with what looked like concern in his eyes. He then turned and addressed his fellow brothers of The Order. “Taekwoon will help us find out if he really is our Phoenix.” He then turned back around and explained to Chanyeol, “Taekwoon has the ability to see your memories, your past. If you really are who we’re hoping you are, he will be able to know.” He gave Chanyeol’s shoulder another comforting squeeze and then backed away.
The man named Taekwoon took his place in front of Chanyeol and pulled out a cloth, which he rolled up.
“So, uh…you’re some kind of psychic?” Chanyeol asked nervously.
“No,” Taekwoon replied, handing him the rolled-up cloth. “When I touch someone, it rips open their mind.”
Chanyeol’s jaw dropped. He watched as Taekwoon took the gloves off and pocketed them.
“You may want to bite on that,” the raven-haired man said, motioning to the cloth Chanyeol was holding.
“Will that make it easier?”
“No.” Taekwoon flexed his fingers and placed his hands on either side of Chanyeol’s head. “I just don’t want you to bite your tongue off.”
Chanyeol had just enough time to stuff the cloth in his mouth before the pain started. The waves struck hard as searing pain spread erupted in his head. It felt like nails in his head, in his brain. He heard screaming, and realized it was him. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t feel anything besides the burning pain that left him paralyzed, sputtering.
As soon as it came, the pain left. The residual pain lingered, seeping out of him as he came to. His breaths came out in short gasps. His muscles contracted painfully, then released and contracted again.
When he opened his eyes again, he noticed Baekhyun at his side.
“You really have returned,” Taekwoon whispered, his voice shaking. He dropped his hands to his side and knelt down on one knee, bowing his head. “Our Phoenix.”
Baekhyun’s eyes were teary as he cradled Chanyeol’s face in his hands. All around him the other members of The Order knelt, one after another.
Chanyeol watched them in awe, and then turned his attention back to his side. Chanyeol only caught a brief glimpse of Baekhyun’s teary-eyed smile before he was blinded by a flash of silver as Baekhyun launched himself into his arms.
It took Chanyeol a moment to come back to himself, but when he did, he gently pushed Baekhyun off and away from him. “I don’t understand,” he said, standing up and almost falling back down from the pain still present in his head. He shook his head as his eyes made contact with all of the people in the room, who at some point had taken off their hoods. “I don’t understand any of this!” he yelled again.
He felt suffocated. Trapped. He needed air. Chanyeol turned and took one last look at Baekhyun; and then he ran.
And he kept running. Past the sunflower field. Past the center square. He passed by Baekhyun’s house and eventually, stopped at the edge of the waterfall.
Baekhyun found him some time later siting on the same stone bench they’d sat on when he first arrived in Ocalis. Slowly, cautiously, Baekhyun sat down next to him.
“I know this is a lot to handle at the moment,” Baekhyun started to say. He reeled back when Chanyeol turned to him with an angry, crazed look.
“You don’t know anything, Baekhyun!” Hurt briefly flashed on Baekhyun’s face, and Chanyeol felt the pang of guilt prodding at his gut. But still, he continued. “You have no idea what it’s like. You have no idea what I’m feeling or what I’m thinking right now, so stop acting like you do!”
Baekhyun was silent. When Chanyeol glanced over, the Elemental was twisting his fingers in the material of his robes. “You’re right,” he finally said, “I don’t understand. But I’m willing to listen, Chanyeol. Please. Please don’t run away. Please let me be there for you as before. Please…just trust me.”
He heard Baekhyun’s voice break at the last part, and he swore his heart broke a little as well. However, his brain was in panic, and all it wanted was out.
“No, Baekhyun.” Chanyeol ran his hands down his face. “I want…” he paused. What did he want? He really didn’t know anymore. “I need to go home.”
Baekhyun nodded. “Let’s go home then,” he stood and offered his hand to Chanyeol. “I’ll run you a hot bath. You can unwind and take some time to think about it, and then… And then we can talk about it.”
“No, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol said. He looked up at Baekhyun, made sure their eyes were meeting before he said what he was going to say next. “I want to go home.”
Baekhyun’s hand dropped to his side. He looked at Chanyeol with the most heartbroken expression Chanyeol had ever seen. Chanyeol avoided his eyes. No, he wouldn’t change his mind.
“Take me home, Baekhyun. I want to leave.”
He was at the airport again.
Standing in front of the glass sliding doors that led to the outside world, Chanyeol stood staring at the raindrops that plummeted to the ground, causing ripples in the small formed puddles in the divots of the road. People were moving all around him; some muttered curses at him for standing in the middle of the way and blocking their path. Chanyeol didn’t care; couldn’t care. His hand tightened around the handle of the luggage as he tried to forget the world around him. The world he knew, deep down, that he did not belong in. The mundane world.
He startled when a hand touched his shoulder, and turned to see scowling face of his petite roommate.
“I thought you were dead, you fucker.”
Chanyeol forced a smile and leaned down to hug Kyungsoo. “I’m sorry, Soo.”
As if he felt like something was off—he probably did, Kyungsoo had always been rather perceptive—his roommate dismissed the matter of scolding him and returned his hug instead. If Chanyeol was in the right state of mind, he would’ve made a joke about it; something about marking the date on the calendar.
“You’ve lost some weight, Chanyeol,” Kyungsoo frowned. “Come on, let’s go home.”
Chanyeol nodded and followed Kyungsoo out through the glass doors. Home. He repeated the word over in his head. For some reason, the word didn’t sit well in Chanyeol’s gut. He felt lost, unsure.
Before, when Chanyeol thought of the word “home” he would think of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house he’d grown up in. He would think of his small, cramped apartment he shared with his roommate.
Now, all that came to mind when he thought of home was Baekhyun.
Getting back into the swing of things was much harder than Chanyeol had expected.
He wasn’t able to deliver the article, to Hyungi’s disappointment, and was stuck where he’d always been while the job he was aiming for was given to someone else. He suffered through an even worse slump than he’d ever had before in the weeks following his return. Every time he slept, he dreamt of Baekhyun—the dreams feeling so real that he sometimes questioned if they were really dreams, or if Baekhyun really had come to visit him in his sleep.
Most of his dreams were of the same thing; or rather, the same person.
There were few other dreams that stood out, those that felt more like a memory. Those were the ones that Chanyeol had the most trouble waking up from. They showed visions of him and Baekhyun in another place, another time. There was one time he’d dreamt he had a fight with Baekhyun, and woke up crying and a desperate pain in his chest at the memory of tears streaming down the Elemental’s face as he ran out of what looked like a throne room.
He spent most of his days at home, his will to do anything dwindled down to nothing. He felt drained, even though he didn’t even do anything.
Kyungsoo had sat him down one evening when his roommate had come home from work only to find Chanyeol sitting in the living alone, in the dark. “You’re depressed, Chanyeol,” Kyungsoo had said. “Go talk to someone.”
Kyungsoo would feed him more food than he’d ever had as his way of telling Chanyeol he cared and was there for him without actually having to say the words. Chanyeol never said it either, but he was grateful Kyungsoo was there.
After a month of moping around in his apartment, Chanyeol received a call from the nursing home who told him that his grandfather had gone into cardiac arrest.
“You said you’d bring me a whole bag,” the old man pouted, doing his best to look hurt.
Chanyeol gave a pointed glare at his grandfather. “And you said you’d behave.”
“I did behave!”
“Hyejin begs to differ.”
Grampy crossed his arms over his chest and mumbled something to himself, something that sounded a lot like “tattletale” to Chanyeol.
“At least give me your marshmallows,” Grampy bartered, leaning over to peer into Chanyeol’s cup. He sank back into the bed, disappointed, when he saw that Chanyeol had already polished off his mug of hot chocolate.
Chanyeol chuckled at his reaction. He’d laughed more in the past hour and a half with his grandfather than he had the entire month. It was nice to laugh, to feel an ounce of normalcy again. To not feel like he was going to suffocate from his own depressive thoughts. He wondered why it took him so long to finally visit.
He’d told Grampy everything—from the bratty little kid on the plane to his weird encounters on the island. He told Grampy about Jaehyuk, the brilliant but odd little boy who was the first to welcome him. And then, he told him about Baekhyun.
Grampy listened to him recount the experiences in Ocalis—about the people he met, the creatures he’d seen. And he’d accepted it all. His grandfather listened to Chanyeol’s tale—a bizarre one that would have anyone thinking he was crazy—and believed him.
Even when he’d told him that he was, apparently, The Phoenix, ruler of Ocalis.
“And?” the old man said, looking at him seriously, “did you believe him?”
Chanyeol sighed. “I don’t know. I trust him, Grampy. It’s so weird how much I trust him, a stranger I literally just met. But there’s just something about him…something about being around him that makes me happy. His presence puts me at ease.”
“Then why did you leave him, Chanyeollie?”
Chanyeol opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out. He couldn’t answer, simply because he didn’t have an answer.
“When I met your grandmother, we thought we had a connection, but look where that’s gotten us. The kind of connection that you have with Baekhyun, those soul connections, are hard to come by. Don’t let it go before you’ve even given it a chance.”
“You make it sound so easy,” Chanyeol grumbled.
“And why shouldn’t it be?” Grampy smiled at him, “Love, itself, isn’t hard. It us that makes it so.”
Chanyeol contemplated Grampy’s words for a while. “He begged me not to leave but I did anyway.”
“He’s waited for you for a long time, Chanyeollie.” Grampy placed his hand over Chanyeol’s and squeezed. “I’m sure he’s still waiting. It’s not too late to go back, if you want to.”
It wasn’t something that Chanyeol hadn’t thought about. At times while he was sitting in his room, he’d considered buying another ticket with the last of his savings and returning back to Belacre Island, back to Baekhyun. But fear of facing him again thwarted his plans before they even began.
“So, what movie do you want to watch?” Chanyeol asked, changing the subject.
Grampy raised an eyebrow and stared at him for a beat. “Harry Potter,” the old man said finally. “I’d like some magic tonight.” Chanyeol nodded and pulled out his laptop to find the movie. Grampy looked out his window as Chanyeol stared at the screen, and then cleared his throat. “I’d also like another mug of hot chocolate, and that bag of marshmallows you owe me.”
Chanyeol chuckled. “Alright, fine,” He stood and pulled on his jacket. “Just because I promised. I’ll be back soon.”
The walk to the corner store was about five minutes. He headed straight for the aisle which he knew housed the fluffy confection, and grabbed a can of coffee on his way to check out. When he arrived back at Grampy’s door roughly fifteen minutes later, the door was locked. He was about to knock, but held his hand steady over the door when he heard voices coming from inside the room—one of them sounding a lot like Baekhyun’s.
Chanyeol shook his head. “Don’t be stupid, Park Chanyeol. What would he be doing here?”
He leaned against the wall and waited, trying to listen in on the conversation. The voices were muffled, however, and he couldn’t make out anything. Then, all of a sudden, they stopped.
Chanyeol leaned closer to the door, but still heard nothing. A beat later, he heard Grampy call him.
“Chanyeollie, is that you?”
“Yeah!” he called through the door.
“What are you doing out there, then? Come in, you silly kid!”
Chanyeol placed his hand on the knob and answered, “I can’t! The door is–”
The knob turned, and the door opened. Grampy stared at him from his bed.
“What were you saying about the door?”
“I…” Chanyeol frowned, and then shook his head. “Nothing. It must’ve been jammed. Did you have visitors?” he asked, looking around the room.
“That’s strange…I thought I heard voices.”
Grampy shrugged. “Maybe it was from the room next door.” He reached out to Chanyeol. “Now, give me my marshmallows.”
After his visit with Grampy, Chanyeol felt much more motivated to return to his previous lifestyle. He started searching for news stories and taking pictures again—anything that he could use for another article.
He’d ended up walking back to Hyungi’s desk a week later with three different articles, and a proud “good work” from the editor-in-chief. With the money that he’d received, Chanyeol planned to treat Kyungsoo and Grampy.
He’d called Kyungsoo telling him to not buy anything for dinner. “I’ll cook tonight!”
Kyungsoo was silent on the phone for a while before he responded with a quick, “Okay. Don’t burn down the apartment.”
Chanyeol was in a marginally better mood than he had been in weeks as he walked through the grocery store and picked out items he would need for the dinner that night. He’d walked out of the store swinging the bags in one hand, whistling, as he pulled his phone out to call his grandfather.
The first sign that something was wrong was when it took more than three rings for the phone to be picked up. The second thing that made Chanyeol slow down and frown was that it wasn’t Grampy who answered the call.
The groceries along with his phone dropped from his hands and hit the pavement when Hyejin gave him the news: that his grandfather had passed away.
Chanyeol was numb as he sunk down in the blue seats of the hospital with the piece of paper crumbled in his hands.
Grampy hadn’t died of natural causes; someone had killed him. Murdered him.
His blood was boiling. He thought of his grandfather’s face, calm and peaceful on the coroner’s table; and raged filled him when he remembered the dark finger marks that marred his Grampy’s skin. The killer had on a ring—one which impressions was left behind on the side of his grandfather’s neck.
The detective Chanyeol had spoken with had assured Chanyeol that they were doing everything in their power to try and put a match to the ring’s rather unique indentation.
“Chanyeol?” He heard his roommate call his name. Kyungsoo sat down beside him and put a comforting hand on his thigh. “Chanyeol… I’m so sorry.”
Chanyeol’s murderer would be sorry, too. When he found him, Chanyeol swore he would make them pay.
He was in a constant dazed state in the following days.
Kyungsoo, bless his soul, had requested time off from work to help Chanyeol with the specifics of Grampy’s funeral. Chanyeol couldn’t think, couldn’t function; he couldn’t even cry.
He stood in front of Grampy’s grave after everyone had left and simply stared at the gravestone dully. His only family member left in the world was gone. Chanyeol was now, truly, all alone.
He didn’t know how long he stood there staring blankly down at the final resting place of his childhood hero. It must’ve been hours. Only when the raindrops started to fall and wet his face, acting as surrogate for tears, did Chanyeol turn and walk away in a zombie-like trance.
If he was more aware, he probably would’ve noticed the man with silver-white hair and blue eyes standing behind one of the cedar tree, crying tears that Chanyeol himself was incapable of crying.
When he finally arrived at home, he was drenched. Kyungsoo had fussed over him and helped him out of his suit jacket. He was pushed towards the bathroom with instructions to shower as Kyungsoo heated up the food.
Chanyeol stood under the scalding hot water not feeling anything. He stared at the white tiles of the shower wall, and finally, in the privacy of his bathroom, Chanyeol cried.
He emerged from the bathroom half an hour later in black sweatpants and a black T-shirt.
Kyungsoo was sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop opened and framed spectacles on his face. Chanyeol felt bad that Kyungsoo had taken so much time off work to help him with things that he should have been the one to do, but he appreciated it. He knew that he wouldn’t have been able to get anything done in the state of mind he’d been in in the past couple of days.
“Work?” he asked as he took his seat across from Kyungsoo at the table.
“Yeah, just finishing up typing up this email to my boss. You eat first.”
Chanyeol looked down at the plate loaded with food, and picked up his fork.
“Thanks, Kyungsoo.” It was more than just a simple “thank you for the food,” and he hoped Kyungsoo knew that.
“We’re friends, Chanyeol. That’s what friends are for.”
He’d barely been able to swallow two mouthfuls before an explosion rocked their apartment. Kyungsoo screamed and Chanyeol snapped his eyes to the side where there was a giant, gaping hole in their wall. He got up and pulled Kyungsoo up and behind him, staring at the smoke that rose as the result of the blast.
“What’s happening?” Kyungsoo asked behind him. He was shaking.
Chanyeol shook his head and pushed his roommate another step back when a man in black flew into their apartment, stepping over the rubble of the blast that he, no doubt, created.
“It’s been too long, Phoenix,” the man said, smiling a crooked smile at Chanyeol. “You’ve been hiding from us.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chanyeol said. “What do you want?”
“What I want is very simple, Phoenix.” Chanyeol flinched at the name. “I just want you to quietly come with me.”
“And why the fuck would I do that? Do I look like an idiot to you?”
The man chuckled. “You’ll do as I say if you don’t want me to kill you friend, too.”
Chanyeol took another step back, put his arm up and pushed Kyungsoo further behind him. He turned when he felt Kyungsoo tugging on his shirt. “What, Kyungsoo?” he hissed.
Chanyeol’s eyes widened in realization as he slowly turned his head back to their intruder, to the silver ring on his finger that matched exactly the impression left on his grandfather’s neck.
He felt the fire raging within him as his eyes slitted. “I’ll kill you,” he seethed, stalking forward. “I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
He launched himself at the man, who laughed and easily dodged him. Chanyeol didn’t give up; he turned and charged again. Once again, he missed.
The man seemed to be playing with him, mocking him. This only fueled Chanyeol’s anger. He grabbed one of the kitchen knives and chucked it, as hard as he could, towards Grampy’s murderer.
He blanched when the knife froze midair and turned to face him.
“I’m getting bored, Phoenix.”
Chanyeol ducked just in time, and the knife struck the wall behind him. He was about to charge again when he felt invisible hands closing around his throat, lifting him up. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Kyungsoo picked up a chair and chucked it at the man’s head.
Chanyeol was flung to the side, hitting the wall hard. The man turned on Kyungsoo, stalking him like a predator.
Chanyeol groaned in pain. “Leave him the fuck alone!” he yelled.
The man looked over his shoulder and smirked as he lifted his hand and raised it; Kyungsoo rose three feet into the air, choking.
“KYUNGSOO!” Chanyeol yelled.
A blast of white light hit the man square in the chest, making him stumble back. Kyungsoo dropped to the floor and grabbed his neck, coughing and sucking in breath after breath. The man growled and turned on Chanyeol, stalking towards him.
Chanyeol tried to shuffle back, but his back hit the wall. His eyes widened as he looked at the smug, smiling face of his attacker.
A brisk wind carried cool air into the apartment, and Chanyeol’s eyes grew even more when Jongin appeared out of midair. “PHOENIX!”
The man roared and turned around, flinging a blast of energy towards Jongin. Jongin disappeared and reappeared closer to Chanyeol.
“Get Kyungsoo,” Chanyeol said.
“I was given orders to come bring you back,” Jongin replied, dodging another power blast as he eyed the frightened man across the room remorsefully.
“Jongin, please!” Chanyeol cried desperately.
Another blast aimed at Jongin. Chanyeol took the time both were distracted to crawl towards his roommate. “Kyungsoo, come on let’s–”
“Chanyeol, watch out!” Kyungsoo yelled.
Chanyeol turned around in time to see the massive black mass heading towards them, and Jongin running slightly before the energy. Chanyeol grabbed Kyungsoo’s arm and pulled him forward, and with all of his strength, he pushed his roommate forward into Jongin.
Both Jongin and Kyungsoo vanished as soon as they made contact, and Chanyeol clenched his eyes shut as the blast overcame him.
Three days without food or drink, or anyone to talk to besides the guards that would come in to taunt him every night after their commander—Sol—had grown bored with him. He never responded to them though.
“Oh, how the mighty Phoenix has fallen.”
Their words rang in his ears. Their laughter echoed. His body ached from the patchwork of bruises littering his body. His broken rib made it hard to breathe; the bone of his ribcage scraped against his lung every time he breathed in too heavily. But that wasn’t the worse of it. What was worse was the hunger pains.
The first day, he’d tried to focus on anything but the dryness in his throat and uncomfortable cramping in his stomach. He’d watched the light filter through the cell window; observed the way the light seemed to fill the area and then recede bit by bit as the day wore on.
He hummed to himself, trying to replace the deafening silence. He tried to convince himself that he would be okay; that someone would eventually come and save him; that the cell wasn’t too small. He thought of different things to distract himself from the slow-moving time. He thought of his Grampy, and the last conversation they’d had. He thought of how Kyungsoo would’ve been angrily yelling and punching through walls by now if he were the one locked in Chanyeol’s place. He thought of Baekhyun.
There were moments when he would close his eyes and imagine Baekhyun there, beside him. Other times, he would imagine himself with Baekhyun, free and safe from the clutches of the monsters that kept him captive. The images of Baekhyun that played through his head kept him from losing it all together. Images of Baekhyun smiling, of Baekhyun laughing. Images of Baekhyun throwing a snowball at his face and then running away. He wasn’t sure if they were memories or if they were products of his own imagination; but regardless, they gave him some sort of comfort in this miserable hellhole.
Why were they keeping him alive? Why didn’t they just kill him and end it all? Were they planning on starving him to death? Maybe he should just smash his skull into the damn concrete and speed up the process.
He was going crazy, and he hated himself for it. He hated how weak he was; and how that weakness had made him question whether he preferred death over survival. He hated being mocked. Hated being caged like an animal. But most of all, he hated being alone.
You are not alone.
Moving his head to the side took more out of him than it should’ve. Damn, he really was weak. “W-Who is that?” he croaked, his voice hoarse, throat raw from all the screaming from his previous tortures.
He heard the voice shush him. Quiet. You don’t want to alert them.
“Oh, god…” he muttered. “It’s finally happened. I’ve actually gone crazy.” He blinked up at the ceiling as sadness crept over him, and then closed his eyes, resigning to his fate.
You’re not going crazy.
“That’s exactly what a crazy person would tell themselves…” he chuckled.
Why do you insist on talking? You’ll alert them!
Chanyeol chuckled. His fevered mind associated his crazed, inner counterpart as Jaehyuk. Was he missing the boy that much?
He was tired. So tired. He heard the creaks of the metal doors open, and the sound of footsteps approaching.
‘It doesn’t matter anyway.’ Chanyeol thought as he closed his eyes and allowed himself to be pulled into the darkness.
The next time he woke up, he was lying in a bed.
He thought he was dreaming, that his brain had somehow tricked his body into thinking that the cold and hard cement floor of the cell measured up to the comforts of a mattress. If he really was dreaming, Chanyeol thought, he did not want to wake up.
His stomach had other thoughts though, when the smell of warm biscuits wafted into his nose. His stomach growled loudly, painfully, as a reaction to the mouthwatering smell. He tried to shift his burning, aching body, to try and find a slightly more comfortable position. A pained moan slipped from his throat. Christ, he hurt.
Chanyeol glanced down and immediately recoiled. Standing at the foot of his bed was a woman with long, wavy black hair. She had on black robes, which contrasted greatly against her pale, almost white, skin. She was smiling, but all Chanyeol could focus on were the black voids where normally eyes would be.
She noticed his discomfort and reached up to pull a sheer veil over her face. Chanyeol didn’t miss the frown of her lips before the veil covered her completely.
He was going to ask “what,” but Chanyeol figured that it was best he didn’t piss off the horror movie villain lookalike.
“You really don’t remember…” the girl said softly to herself.
“Look,” Chanyeol said, trying to push himself up. He grimaced when the movement jostled his ribs, and took a moment to gather himself before he looked back up at her and continued. “If you’re one of those people who’s claiming to have known me from my Phoenix days,” he put “Phoenix” in air-quotes, “don’t be offended. You’re not the only one I don’t remember.” His mind immediately flashed to Baekhyun.
“It will all come back to you soon.” She walked around the bed and picked up a golden goblet, then she turned to him and ever-so-gently lifted his head off of the pillow. “Drink it slowly,” she whispered, cradling his head in her head like precious cargo as she brought the cup to his mouth.
Chanyeol hadn’t an ounce of water anywhere near him for the past few days. His mind knew that she wanted him to take it easy, that she wanted him to give his stomach time to adjust to having something in it again. But his throat was parched, and his survival instincts kicked in the moment the cool liquid touched his tongue, sliding down his throat to coat the dryness. He drank, gulped, slurped—did everything he could to get it down his throat before it could be taken away from him. He felt her try to pull back and brought his hand up to covers hers in an effort to keep the goblet right where it was.
The moment it was empty, as she took it away and placed it back onto the tray sitting on the nightstand by his bed, Chanyeol rolled over with a groan and threw it all back up.
He heard her tsk as he tried to blink away the tears. His stomach contracted painfully, and the nasty taste of bile still lingered on his tongue.
In his head, he thought he heard the voice from before—the voice that sounded a heck of a lot like Jaehyuk.
He felt the smile on his lips, small but present, as he slumped forward and slept.
Baekhyun walked into the room as the goblet hit the floor, spilling its wine across the floor. He raised his brow in question at the man with his back to him, dressed in royal, crimson robes.
“Who has dared to anger The Phoenix?”
“She has locked herself in her room for days!” The room grew hotter. Heat radiated from The Phoenix in waves.
“She’ll come around,” Baekhyun shrugged, bending to retrieve the goblet from the ground. “What was it that caused this tantrum this time?”
Chanyeol glanced over his shoulder and sighed. “You.”
The platinum-haired Elemental frowned in confusion. He thought back the past few days, trying to remember if he’d crossed their friend. He came up with nothing; he’d been away the past few days, making it impossible for him to be the cause of the Mystic’s anger. Then, it hit him. “Ahhh,” he said, taking the few steps to place the goblet onto the table. “So… Areum has discovered that you and I are lovers.”
Chanyeol whipped his head around and glanced at Baekhyun in surprise. He tried but failed to remember a time before now that Baekhyun had outrightly called them lovers. A small smirk spread across his face before Areum’s crestfallen and betrayed face flashed across his mind. “Yes.”
Baekhyun sighed and walked over to Chanyeol. His arms ghosted up Chanyeol’s arms before resting on his shoulders. “Should I go talk to her?” Baekhyun asked, worrying at him bottom lip as he hand stroked Chanyeol’s tense shoulder absentmindedly.
“It won’t do any good,” Chanyeol sighed as he reached his hand up to catch Baekhyun’s. He brought Baekhyun’s hand down with his own and interlocked their fingers; and for a moment, the two stood in comfortable silence in the middle of Chanyeol’s chambers. “She’s in no mood to listen.”
A knock sounds at the door, distracting them both. Chanyeol calls for whoever it is to enter, and a frazzled pixie zooms into the room.
The twinkling is too fast, and the damn pixie wouldn’t stay still. “What in the world are you saying?” Chanyeol exasperated, “calm down and say it slower.”
Baekhyun placed his hand on Chanyeol’s arm and squeezed, his eyes wide.
“Baekhyun?” Chanyeol asked, turning to take ahold of Baekhyun’s shoulders. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Areum…” Baekhyun whispered, “Areum has destroyed her Familiar stone and left.”
Chanyeol’s eyes snapped open. He glanced at the girl who stood beside his bed, looking down at him curiously. She had her hand on his cheek.
“Who are you?” Chanyeol asked, shoving her hand away.
“I believe you already have an answer to that question,” she replied calmly, quietly.
Chanyeol swallowed. He pushed himself up and stared at her in disbelief. “Areum?”
He kept having dreams; dreams that seemed more like memories. Dreams of himself as The Phoenix. Dreams of Baekhyun.
He dreamt of Areum also, only then, she still had eyes. She had stayed with him—having been orphaned by the battle against Jun. He remembered her being so full of life, so happy. He saw her as she grew, as she became easily the fairest in all of Ocalis.
Every time he would wake up, she was there. She would stay for a while, and they would sit in silence. It made Chanyeol’s skin crawl…having her there, only staring at him and never talking. She never answered any of his questions, and she always seemed to be calm.
That was, until he uttered Baekhyun’s name.
He was sure that if she had eyes, they’d narrow into slits. She had pushed back her chair so hard it toppled over and had stormed out of the room with a slam of the door.
I thought she’d never leave.
Chanyeol looked around the room. When he didn’t see anyone there with him, he tried confirming whether his speculation was correct. ‘Jaehyuk?’
Chanyeol laughed dryly. ‘What are you doing in my head, Jaehyuk?’
There was no response, and for a moment Chanyeol thought that maybe the connection was lost. Really, he had no idea how Mystic power worked.
‘Jaehyuk?’ he tried. Crazy as it may be, hearing the voice inside his head made him feel less lonely; less afraid.
Baekhyun wants me to tell you to hold on. He says they’ll be there soon.
A sense of relief spread over him. Baekhyun said he was coming for him. Baekhyun hadn’t forgotten him.
He has yet to forget you even after one hundred and sixty-four years, he heard Jaehyuk’s voice in his head, he will not forget you now.
Chanyeol felt himself smiling as he leaned back into the pillow. For the first time in a while, Chanyeol closed his eyes and didn’t feel afraid.
He felt a soft prodding in his mind.
Chanyeol. Chanyeol, wake up!
Chanyeol groaned and rubbed at his eyes, blinking them in the darkness. ‘Jaehyuk?’ He jumped when the sudden pounding of footsteps sounded outside his door. ‘Jaehyuk, what’s happening?’
She’s probably put more guards on you. They’re coming, Chanyeol. Be ready, they’re coming to get you.
Chanyeol got up with a groan and pushed the blankets off of his body. He stared in front of him, picking a spot and focusing on it, trying to get his eyes to adapt to the darkness. A soft wind carried through the room, ruffling his hair.
Chanyeol swallowed. “Jongin?”
A shadow moved from somewhere near the corner, and Jongin emerged, half of his body lit from the light of the moon. He bowed his head. “Phoenix.”
Chanyeol wanted to hug him. He would’ve, if movement didn’t cause him so much pain. “You came.”
Even in the darkness, Chanyeol saw the confusion in Jongin’s expression. Jongin cocked his head to the side. “Did you think we would not?”
An explosion rocked the ground before Chanyeol could reply. “That’ll be Baekhyun. Come, we should go.”
“Baek’s here too? Shouldn’t you help him?”
Jongin scoffed. “I’ll never get used to the two of you putting each other’s safety before your own,” Jongin mused. “Don’t worry about Baekhyun, he can take care of himself.” Jongin grabbed Chanyeol’s arm. “Now, hold on tight, and whatever you do, don’t let go.”
The room tilted on its axis, and then all of a sudden, Chanyeol felt like he was being sucked into a whirlwind. His head swirled, twisted, and then stopped altogether.
Chanyeol leaned over and barfed what little he had in his stomach the moment they landed, all over the floor of Baekhyun’s study. His head was still spinning, his stomach lurched.
“It takes some getting used to…” he heard Jongin say apologetically somewhere behind him. The room spun. Or was Jongin in front of him?
He felt Jongin’s hand on his back, patting it. “Will you be okay?” Jongin asked. “I need to go back for Baekhyun.”
“Go,” Chanyeol croaked, blinking the tears from his eyes. He felt the wind, and when he looked up, Jongin was gone.
He materialized a minute later with Baekhyun in tow. Baekhyun, unlike Chanyeol, landed perfectly only his feet, seemingly unaffected by the wild method of Jongin’s transportation.
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun whispered. He knelt down in front of him, cupping his face in his hands as his eyes scanned him for injuries. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring—the same ring Chanyeol recognized from the painting he’d seen in Baekhyun’s room at ELYSIUM. As soon as the stone made contact, Chanyeol felt the sudden tingle of warmth spread through his body. He could’ve been imagining it, but he felt his broken rib begin to shift slightly, as if realigning itself. “Jongin, help me get him up,” Baekhyun said, wrapping one of Chanyeol’s arms over his shoulder. Chanyeol groaned when they lifted him.
“Where to?” Jongin asked, looking past Chanyeol to Baekhyun.
“Upstairs. My room.”
When they’d climbed the stairs and stopped in front of Baekhyun’s room, Jongin took his leave with a quick bow to Chanyeol.
Baekhyun ventured into the room and helped Chanyeol over to the King Canopy bed situated against the middle of the wall. His gaze followed Chanyeol’s once he’d unwound Chanyeol’s arm from his shoulder, around the room and then back to rest on the bed Chanyeol was sitting on.
“Rest,” he said as he started towards the door, “I’ll go see what I can gather for supper.”
Chanyeol stood and reached forward, groaning at the pain that shot through his body, but caught Baekhyun’s wrist before he could take more than two steps. He yanked on Baekhyun’s arm, pulling him close until they were flush against each other. “Stay.”
Baekhyun’s mouth parted as he tilted his head up to look at Chanyeol. He sucked in a breath and licked his lips nervously, and then opened his mouth to respond when Chanyeol interrupted him.
“Stay here with me. In that bed,” Chanyeol continued, nodding back towards the only bed in the room, “with me. With me inside you, with my arms wrapped around you.” He leaned down to rest his forehead against Baekhyun’s. “I have to be honest… it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about for the past couple days. The only thing that has been keeping me sane.”
Baekhyun frowned, his eyebrows knitted together as if he were pondering something. Then, his hand went up to rest against Chanyeol’s chest and he looked up at Chanyeol, giving him a doubtful look. His frown transformed into a scowl as his fingers curled into a fist. “We can’t make love, you idiot,” Baekhyun said, hitting Chanyeol softly with his fisted hand. “You’re hurt. You need rest and food.” He scrunched his nose up and then added, “And a bath.”
“Will you help me bathe?” Chanyeol smirked, raising a brow mischievously.
Baekhyun hit him again in response, eliciting a soft groan and a chuckle from the taller male. “I think you’re smart enough to know the answer to that, you overgrown man-child.”
“Here’s what I think…” Chanyeol said, wrapping his arms around Baekhyun’s waist and linking his fingers together at the small of Baekhyun’s back. “I think you should take that bath with me. You can help me wash my back,” he moved his hands up Baekhyun’s back, “and my front,” his hands traveled over Baekhyun’s shoulders and down his torso, “and all the parts in between.”
Baekhyun eyes slightly glazed over and he quivered as Chanyeol leaned down and nipped at his neck.
“And I’ll have you know,” he breathed against his ear, “that I plan on making love to you, and I don’t care if it’ll kill me in the process. I need you, Baekhyun. I need you with me in bed, in my arms. I need to feel your skin against mine. I just need you.”
Baekhyun let out a soft, breathy moan as he leaned into Chanyeol, curling his arms tightly around the latter’s waist. “What am I going to do with you?” he mumbled against Chanyeol’s chest, but there was no bite in his words; only soft teasing laced with worry, accompanied by a smile on his face. “Sit,” he said, unwrapping himself from Chanyeol’s hold and gently pushing the man down on the bed. “I’ll go run the bath.”
Chanyeol nodded and grinned. He could've sworn he saw Baekhyun roll his eyes as he turned and disappeared into the conjoined bathroom.
The platinum-haired male reentered the room a few minutes later and silently offered Chanyeol his hand. Chanyeol grabbed onto one of Baekhyun’s hand and used it as leverage to heave himself up and off of the bed. He smiled graciously as Baekhyun carefully rested his arm on his shoulders and wrapped one of his own arms around Chanyeol’s waist to steady him.
“Do you need help?” Baekhyun asked when they’d reached the washing room, nodding towards the large tub sitting in the middle of the room. Steam rose from the water and gradually began to fog the small room.
Chanyeol’s eyes took on an unholy gleam as he smirked at Baekhyun. “I could use some help undressing.”
“Of course, you could…” Baekhyun muttered under his breath, this time not hiding the fact that he was rolling his eyes. Chanyeol swore he heard Baekhyun call him a “horny bastard” under his breath as well, but he was too distracted by Baekhyun’s fingers’ sudden contact with his skin. Baekhyun carefully helped to strip him of his shirt, wincing when he saw the array of bruises coloring his torso. He folded the shirt and carefully laid it to the side, and turned away when Chanyeol started to shimmy out of his pants. When he heard the soft splash of water, he glanced back to a prime view of Chanyeol’s backside as he slid into the hot water with a groan. Baekhyun leaned down to pick up the discarded bottoms, folding them and holding them carefully in his hands, his back towards the tub.
“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol called from behind him. Said man turned to find Chanyeol watching him through half-lidded eyes. “Come,” he beckoned in a hoarse voice, raising a wet arm towards Baekhyun.
Baekhyun felt the shivers down his spine as he walked forward, towards Chanyeol. His fingers worked to untie the strings of his shirt. He pulled the shirt over his head and allowed the thin material to drop to the ground as he stopped in front of the tub. The predatory gleam Chanyeol held in his eyes only fueled Baekhyun’s desire. Chanyeol was looking at him with such intensity, such yearning—like he was laying claim and dared anyone to take away what was his. Baekhyun swallowed and unbuttoned the waistband of his pants, pulling them down slowly at first, teasingly. He smirked when he heard Chanyeol’s impatient growl. “Patience,” Baekhyun said pointedly as he brought the material past his hips, and then further down until it was bunched around his ankles.
Chanyeol held up his hand to help Baekhyun into the tub, and tugged him down impatiently to kneel in between his slightly parted legs. Baekhyun gasped and shook his head at Chanyeol’s eagerness.
“You’ve never been one for patience, have you?” Baekhyun pondered to himself, chuckling, drawing circles on Chanyeol’s chest beneath the surface of the water.
“You tell me,” Chanyeol smirked before he leaned forward to capture Baekhyun’s lips with his own. He groaned, the sound vibrating in his throat. “You don’t know how much I’ve been wanting this.” His eyes followed the movements of Baekhyun’s arms as the man raised them from the water, and studied in fascination the steam that evaporated from Baekhyun’s skin as it touched the cooler air.
Baekhyun wrapped his arms around Chanyeol’s neck. “I think I can venture a guess,” he smirked, leaning forward to steal a kiss. Chanyeol met his lips with fervor, and then pulled away, gasping for breath. Baekhyun smiled a teasing smile as he reached for the bottle of soap, pouring the thick liquid into the palm of his hand before returning the bottle to the edge of the tub.
Chanyeol watched as Baekhyun worked to lather the soap before bringing his hands to his body, running them up and down Chanyeol’s chest and across his shoulders. He allowed Baekhyun to do as he wished, leaning his head back against the side of the tub and closing his eyes. He winced when Baekhyun’s hand brushed against the still-sensitive bruising on his body, and felt the latter still. Chanyeol opened his eyes and raised his head to find Baekhyun staring at him in worry, mouth parted slightly.
“Did I hurt you? I’m sorry.”
Chanyeol shook his head and leaned back once again. “It’s tender, but I’m fine.” When he still didn’t feel Baekhyun’s touch against his skin, Chanyeol opened his eyes again and sighed. “I’m not made of glass, Baekhyun.” He reached up to cup Baekhyun’s cheek, smiling gently. “They’ll heal.”
Baekhyun nodded and returned to his task, albeit gentler, lathering Chanyeol’s body with the soapy suds. “I’m sorry,” he whispered softly after a while.
Chanyeol peeked his eyes open and sent Baekhyun a curious look.
“We could’ve gotten there sooner…” Baekhyun continued, staring at his soapy hand now resting on Chanyeol’s chest. “If I hadn’t been so stubborn about wanting to give you time and space… if–”
Chanyeol halted Baekhyun’s words with a finger pressed firmly against Baekhyun’s lips. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. He moved his finger down to Baekhyun’s chin and lifted the man’s face, demanding his attention before he continued. “You came.”
Baekhyun nodded and swallowed the tears that had not yet fallen.
Chanyeol sighed. “Turn around,” he whispered, patting Baekhyun’s hips under the water.
Baekhyun obeyed and allowed Chanyeol to maneuver him until he was sitting in between the man’s legs, with his back planted flush against Chanyeol’s chest. Chanyeol wrapped his arms around him and enveloped him in an embrace, pulling him further back and melding the two of them together. Baekhyun leaned his head back, laid his head upon Chanyeol’s shoulders and allowed his lover’s caress to lull him into relaxation. Chanyeol lazily ran his hands over Baekhyun’s body, squeezing at certain spots where the muscles seemed to be too tight, teasing away the tautness and taking away the pain. Baekhyun moaned when Chanyeol’s thumb dug into a certain spot between his shoulders and arched his back slightly.
“Feel good?” Chanyeol whispered against his neck, kissing a trail across his shoulders as he continued his massage.
Baekhyun could only hum in response, too lost in bliss. Chanyeol’s fingers continued to dance along his skin, approaching closer to the apex of his thighs. Baekhyun let out a breathy sigh as he parted his legs, allowing Chanyeol easier access. He gasped when Chanyeol took his member into his hand, his finger gently teasing along the slit. When Chanyeol fisted his hand and began pumping, pleasure shot through Baekhyun’s body, burning its way through his veins. Like a magician, Chanyeol continued his ministrations; taking Baekhyun so close to the peak only to slow his speed, leaving Baekhyun boneless in his arms. Just when Baekhyun was about to lose all hope over finding release, the redhead adjusted his grip and picked up his speed again. He stroked him faster, teasing Baekhyun’s engorged head with the pad of his thumb with each upward stroke.
“Come for me, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol murmured, his words muffled against the sensitive spot of Baekhyun’s neck. His hand relaxed and then tightened again as his finger rubbed against Baekhyun’s slit. “Let go for me, baby.”
His words were like the magic words that triggered Baekhyun’s release. He came hard with a shout, losing all sense of himself. After a moment, Baekhyun became aware of Chanyeol kissing him—of his lips on his neck, and then up his jaw towards his ear. Chanyeol caressed his shoulders and murmured sweet words against his ear as Baekhyun remained slack, body resting against the man behind him.
“We should get out,” Baekhyun finally summoned enough strength to breathe out. The water was losing its temperature, and he was sure the skin on both of their bodies would resemble that of a prune if they remained in the bath for any longer. He grasped at the sides of the tub and lifted himself up, and then stepped out and turned to offer a hand towards Chanyeol. He helped steady Chanyeol as he stepped out from the tub with one hand, and with the other he jerked a towel from one of the towel racks. Gently, he worked the towel over Chanyeol’s body, taking care to wipe as much of the wetness away. “Even battered and bruised, you’re a beautiful man…” Baekhyun whispered under his breath, tossing the towel aside to help Chanyeol walk back into the bedroom.
Chanyeol smiled fondly after Baekhyun as he followed the shorter male. He sat on the bed and grunted in pain, his lips pursed together in a thin line and his brows knotted, as Baekhyun helped him recline. Once comfortable, Chanyeol held his arm out and reached for Baekhyun. He beamed when Baekhyun silently laid himself next to Chanyeol, careful not to agitate his injuries, and wrapped his arms around Baekhyun’s waist.
“You should rest,” Baekhyun whispered softly, tracing patterns on Chanyeol’s forearm that rested across his body. He was well aware of their state of undress, and of Chanyeol’s erection poking against his back.
“Later,” Chanyeol grumbled back, placing tender kisses along the back of Baekhyun’s shoulders. His fingers reached down to fondle Baekhyun’s backside as he continued to pepper Baekhyun’s shoulders with his kisses.
“Chanyeol,” Baekhyun moaned when he felt a finger sliding in between his crack.
“Please, Baekhyun,” Chanyeol said, reaching to turn the Elemental onto his back. “I need this. I need you.”
Baekhyun spread his legs to accommodate Chanyeol, who’d crawled down to sit on his haunches at the bottom of the bed. “You’re going to puncture a lung,” Baekhyun worried, but allowed Chanyeol to lift and bend his legs to the redhead’s liking.
“And I told you, I don’t care.”
Resigned, Baekhyun laid back and let Chanyeol do as he wished. He’d be a fool to say he hadn’t missed this—being with Chanyeol. His hands flew to fist at the sheets beneath him when Chanyeol’s tongue made contact with his puckered hole. He squirmed when his thighs were pushed up even further, and his most private part was rewarded with another lick.
“I’ve been dying to do this,” Chanyeol mumbled against him, sending vibrations through his bottom.
“Stop talk with your mouth full,” the Elemental hissed.
Chanyeol’s face appeared above him a second after, frowning. He was about to go into panic, thoughts of his lover in pain constricting his throat, when Chanyeol furrowed his brows and looked around the room.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any lube, would you?”
Baekhyun stared blankly at The Phoenix. Robotically, he raised his hand to point at the shelf by their bed. “There are oils…”
He felt the bed dip by his side as Chanyeol reached over with a groan and collected the first bottle of oil he could reach. His face returned over Baekhyun’s, this time smiling. With his teeth, Chanyeol uncorked the glass container and poured some over his fingers. He reached down to coat his standing erection, and then motioned for Baekhyun to lift his legs again.
Baekhyun did, holding his legs up by hooking his arms under his knees. He felt Chanyeol pour some of the slightly warm oil down his crack, rubbing it around his entrance, and then felt the first intrusion of a lone finger. Baekhyun squirmed, getting used to Chanyeol’s finger as the man slowly moved it in and out of him.
“I’m adding another,” Chanyeol warned him quietly, and then did just that.
Baekhyun moaned when he felt Chanyeol’s fingers moving within in, scissoring, stretching his walls. He was a gasping mess by the time Chanyeol had three on his thick fingers up his ass. His eyes followed the glass bottle when Chanyeol tossed it to the side, but immediately snapped closed when he felt the curl of Chanyeol’s fingers inside him.
“Chanyeol,” he whispered his name breathlessly, pushing himself back against the fingers. “Ahh!” he moaned when the tip of Chanyeol’s longest finger brushed across his prostate. “Chanyeol…now…” he breathed out, his ability to form coherent sentences leaving him.
He felt the fingers withdraw, and then felt the blunt tip of Chanyeol’s cock at his entrance. Baekhyun moaned when Chanyeol started pushing in, but opened his eyes immediately when Chanyeol also let out a moan—his not of pleasure, but of pain.
Eyes wide, Baekhyun brought a hand up to Chanyeol’s chest to halt his movement.
Hurt and confusion flashed across the redhead’s eyes for a quick second before it was replaced with steely determination. “I’m not stopping, Baekhyun.”
“I don’t want you to,” Baekhyun responded. “Lie down, Chanyeol.”
Reluctantly, Chanyeol pulled himself out and allowed Baekhyun to help him lie down. He groaned as the movement jostled his broken ribs.
“You’re lucky you heal faster than most…” Baekhyun muttered under his breath as he swung his leg over Chanyeol’s body to straddle him. He reached under and grabbed Chanyeol’s member in his hand, aligned it with his hole, and smirked. “It’s better this way, anyway. You were moving too slowly.”
Chanyeol was forced to swallow his rebuttal when Baekhyun put his weight down, impaling himself on Chanyeol’s cock. He panted and looked at Baekhyun with hooded eyes as the platinum-haired male remained still for a moment, allowing himself to get used to the sizable intrusion. Chanyeol’s eyes nearly rolled to the back of his head in ecstasy when Baekhyun started moving again, pulling him up and then slamming back down.
Their moans of pleasure mingled together as the sound of skin slapping against skin filled the room.
“God, Baek,” Chanyeol breathed out.
“Sadly, I am no god,” Baekhyun breathily replied.
“You can be my god,” Chanyeol said, shouting in pleasure as he jutted up to try and reach further into Baekhyun’s heat. He frowned when Baekhyun suddenly stilled above him.
“Will you not be so schmaltzy while you’re cock is buried deep inside my ass?”
Chanyeol burst out in laughter. “I won’t apologize,” he said, swirling his hips, causing Baekhyun to moan in pleasure. “Move, Baekhyun.”
Baekhyun scowled, but began to move again, increasing his pace. Chanyeol felt the tightness build in his lower abdomen; he felt Baekhyun squeeze around him. “Come with me,” he uttered as he thrusted up repeatedly in swift, short movements, meeting Baekhyun’s downward motion. He tried to hold off; tried to not go off like a heat-seeking missile.
But he did anyway.
Chanyeol threw his head back and came in a firestorm of power, the effects of his orgasm vibrating through him like the blowback of a fired gun.
When he came back to his senses, Baekhyun had collapsed on top of him, breathing heavily against his skin. Chanyeol wrapped one arm around Baekhyun, crushing the smaller male to his chest, and nuzzled his nose into the crook of his neck.
“You just made me bathe you for nothing,” Baekhyun said. Chanyeol could feel the pout of his lips against his chest.
Chanyeol laughed. “We can take another bath later. I’ll bathe you this time.”
Baekhyun raised his head and quirked his brows. “I know what that’ll lead to. I’ll just bathe myself, thank you.” He carefully rolled over and nestled himself next to Chanyeol on the bed. Then, he reached down and pulled the folded blanket at the foot of the bed up and over them both.
Chanyeol tried to pull Baekhyun even closer, wanting to feel the other’s heart beat through his skin. He carded his fingers through Baekhyun’s sweaty hair while Baekhyun draw patterns on his chest.
“Baekhyun?” Chanyeol inquired after a while.
“I’ve been wondering something…” Chanyeol said. He glanced down when Baekhyun raised himself up and propped his body on his forearm. “I technically died and was reborn…or whatever… more than a hundred years ago, right?”
“So… How come you still don’t look like you’ve aged a day?”
“The mutual bond between one and their Familiar. It’s all about balance.” Baekhyun frowned when Chanyeol still looked at him, confused. “Think of it as a game of Tug-O-War. When your soul is being pulled in both directions, your body slows its functions. It’s the reason why we have a lower heart rate, and why we don’t need as much sleep.”
“But, I also have a Familiar…”
“Our Familiars are always with us, spiritually, mentally, and physically. Through this,” Baekhyun held up his Familiar Stone. The effects of the bond work its best when you’re with your Familiar, when it’s close to you. I think…” Baekhyun looked down at his stone, and then at Chanyeol. “I think the reason you aged in your world was because you were missing your stone. Your soul bond was still there, but it couldn’t have been as strong. The contract between you and your Familiar was still there, but the rope was pulled more to one side. You were out of balance.”
Chanyeol nodded. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
“Your magic still should’ve worked though, even if just a little… Have you ever noticed anything strange about yourself? Something that put you apart from others in your world?”
“I heal crazy fast,” Chanyeol chuckled. “I once broke my leg from falling out of a tree, and it healed in like, a week. The doctors were all stumped.”
“The magic of the bond,” Baekhyun nodded. He moved, and winced at the stickiness between his legs. “We should clean up.”
“Lie back down,” Chanyeol said, pulling on Baekhyun’s arm. “I’m tired.”
Baekhyun whined. “Chanyeol…”
“You’ll live, Baekhyun. Let’s sleep.”
Reluctantly, Baekhyun complied and laid down facing Chanyeol, allowing Chanyeol to wrap his arms around him once again. He drew lazy circles on the redhead’s back, lulling the taller to sleep.
“I love you, Baekhyun…” Chanyeol whispered as he felt the after-effects of their taxing workout. He felt Baekhyun move his head, felt the soft tickle of Baekhyun’s lips against his, before sleep exhaustion overtook him and everything faded to black.
In the following few days, Chanyeol was confined to bed with only the company of Baekhyun, and occasionally, Jaehyuk. He couldn’t complain, though; he loved being with Baekhyun.
It was on the third day of his bed rest that Baekhyun walked into the room with a mysterious smile on his face. “I’ve got a surprise for you,” he singsonged.
The redhead cocked his head to the side and chuckled. “Does it involve you with less clothes on? Because I’d totally be down for that again. Or, I’d totally be up for it again.” He wriggled his eyebrows and flashed a grin.
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “If you weren’t already injured, I’d smack you.”
“Seriously, Park Chanyeol? Stop thinking with your dick.” Do Kyungsoo walked into the room with a scowl, much to Baekhyun’s amusement, and Chanyeol’s surprise.
“He’s always been like this,” Baekhyun said, pouting as he folded his arms over his chest.
“You mean to tell me that he’s been a dull-witted horndog for more than two centuries?” Kyungsoo asked.
Baekhyun nodded in earnest. “Hasn’t changed one bit, that one.”
Chanyeol groaned. “Can you guys stop?” he whined. “It’s bad enough with one of you always teasing me, now you’re both going to join forces and do it too?” He huffed and crossed his arms. “I take back everything I said this week. Baekhyun, I don’t love you the most. And Kyungsoo, fuck you.”
The two boys standing by the door exchanged looks and then started laughing, leaving Chanyeol even more flustered.
“I hate you both!” the redhead exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, Chanyeol,” Baekhyun said between gasps, “but teasing you has always been so fun.”
Chanyeol glared at him.
“As much as I’d like to stay and make your life miserable along with Kyungsoo, here, I have matters with The Order to take care of,” Baekhyun said. “I’ll leave him in your care,” he said to Kyungsoo before backing out and pulling the door closed.
The moment the door closed, Kyungsoo dropped his strong facade and briskly walked over to the bed. He wrapped his arms around Chanyeol, surprising the taller man with his rare display of affection.
“You idiot, I thought you’d died!”
Ah, there he was. The Kyungsoo that Chanyeol knew.
Chanyeol chuckled. “To be honest, I thought I’d die, too.”
His roommate smacked him, and then apologized when he saw Chanyeol wince. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that you’re a king of a magical land! And! Why would you push me into the arms of an egotistical, bumbling buffoon like that?!” Kyungsoo exclaimed.
Chanyeol barked a laugh. “Oh, come on, Soo. Being saved by a buffoon that looks that good isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to you.”
Kyungsoo turned his head trying to hide his blush. “It was basically torture. Do you know how much that idiot talks?”
“Actually, I haven’t heard him talk much at all. He must just really like you,” Chanyeol teased. He swore Kyungsoo’s blush got even worse. Chanyeol smiled, glad to know his friend was safe and to see him before his eyes.
“Sit, Soo,” he said, patting the edge of the bed, “tell me all the horrors that bumbling buffoon put you through.”
When Chanyeol was well enough, they started training. Baekhyun dragged him out to the clearing by the forests and tossed a sword at him.
“Pick it up,” the Elemental had said. “We’ll duel.”
Chanyeol scanned Baekhyun and then frowned. “You’re going to fight with your hands?”
“Worry about yourself, Phoenix,” Baekhyun smirked before pulling a sword seemingly from the air. “Light particles,” he explained when Chanyeol looked on flabbergasted.
For days, they returned to the clearing. Chanyeol was sure he was sporting more bruises now than he had when he had in Sol’s dungeon.
“You’re ruthless,” the redhead had muttered, throwing away his sword and flopping down onto the ground. He laid on his back and stared up at the sky, watching the clouds pass by.
Baekhyun eased down beside him and folded his legs up, wrapping his arms around his knees. “You used to always have a special kind of love for the sky. You spent a lot of your free time soaring through it.”
“Are you sure you’re talking about me?” Chanyeol asked, raising his eyebrows. He raised himself up on his elbows. “I hate flying.”
Baekhyun laughed. “Yes, I do remember when we were kids. You were terribly afraid of heights. Then, when you bonded with your Familiar, you suddenly loved flying. It was quite a surprising change.”
“We knew each other as kids?”
Baekhyun nodded. “We basically grew up together. Us and…Areum.”
Chanyeol pushed himself all the way up into a sitting position, folding his legs. “If we all grew up together, why does she hate us so much?”
“Not us,” Baekhyun replied quietly. “Me.” He sighed deeply, and then turned to Chanyeol. “Everyone always believed that Areum would eventually be your bride. Even she believed so.”
Chanyeol’s mouth opened and formed an “o.”
“As kids, we used to all play well together,” Baekhyun continued, smiling as if remembering a beautiful memory. “We used to get into quite a bit of trouble, the three of us.”
Chanyeol chuckled. “What happened to change it then?”
“As Areum grew, her beauty grew with her. She was renowned in Ocalis for her beauty and grace. A picture of class and elegance. The envy of many others.
When Areum became of age, the elders had everything settled for the marriage between you and her. She was to become your queen.” Baekhyun voice seemed to quiver as he recounted that part. He cleared his throat and continued.
“You, however, rejected their plans. You rejected her, and when she stormed up to you to demand an answer, you told her that you couldn’t unite with her in matrimony…because you’d already fallen in love with someone else.”
“You…” Chanyeol whispered.
Baekhyun didn’t reply, only smiled down at his palms. “Areum was beside her with grief. She looked herself in her room and refused to come out. Eventually, her grief morphed into anger; and anger into resentment. She left that night; fled into the darkest parts of the forest, leaving behind the shattered shards of her Familiar Stone.”
Shocked crossed Chanyeol’s face, his mouth dropping slightly. “She destroyed the stone? But wouldn’t that mean…”
“Yes. She broke the soul contract with her Familiar that night, and a part of her soul died along with it. Her Familiar did not leave without a fight, though.”
“You mean…her eyes?”
Baekhyun nodded. “A price for breaking the bond; the contract.” Baekhyun quieted and looked up at the sky, deep in thought. He eventually stood and dusted off his pants. “Get up, Chanyeol.”
“But I’m tired,” The Phoenix whined.
“We don’t have time for you to be tired,” Baekhyun said, unrelenting. He tossed the sword back to Chanyeol. “Get up.”
By the end of two weeks, Chanyeol had gotten pretty good at sword fighting (in his opinion, at least). Baekbeom, the one-armed man who he discovered to be Baekhyun’s older brother, praised him as well. The only problem lie within the stone sitting on Chanyeol’s forefinger.
Baekhyun had walked him through the steps. “It’s a bond between you and your Familiar,” the platinum-haired man had said, “I can only tell you how it’s supposed to work, but I can’t help you draw him out.”
Chanyeol had sighed. He’d tried everything—from trying to channel all of his energy into the ring to talking to it, begging it to come out. Jaehyuk had happened by him one day while he was begging his finger and had given him an odd look before scuttling away before he could explain himself.
There was one time he thought he’d felt something. There was a very small vibration on his finger, but it was not even two seconds later. Apparently, his Familiar hated him. Or resented him for leaving it so long in the clutches of an evil sorceress and her stupid, sadist lackey.
Besides Baekhyun, Jaehyun, and Jongdae, everyone else in The Order treated him like he was some sort of king; or some kind of god. It made Chanyeol uncomfortable, somewhat, and he expressed his uneasiness with Baekhyun over dinner one night.
“You’ve always hated that,” Baekhyun chuckled. “That’s why you insisted we call you ‘Phoenix’ rather than ‘Your Majesty.’”
“Are you saying I’m actually a king? Like, a real king?”
Baekhyun blinked and stared at him. “You’re the ruler of Ocalis, Your Majesty. Of course you are ‘like, a real king.’”
“Don’t call me that!” Chanyeol had shouted, almost choking on his soup.
“My apologies, Phoenix.”
“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol whined.
Baekhyun laughed wholeheartedly, his eyes crinkling. “Eat your soup, Chanyeol.”
“They’ll come. You know they will.”
Baekhyun looked up from the map strewn across the desk. “We’ll just have to be prepared for when they do.”
Jongdae leapt down from the beam where he’d been sitting and regarded Baekhyun seriously. “And The Phoenix?”
“What of him?” Baekhyun stared down at the stone Jongdae placed on the table, on his map. His Familiar Stone.
“He still can’t get his Familiar to come out. What’s he going to do in battle then? What good will he be?”
“Jongdae,” Baekhyun warned.
“No, he’s right.”
Baekhyun looked up in surprise when Chanyeol strolled into his study. “In a battle, I’m basically useless.”
“That’s not true… You’ve improved a lot with the sword.” Baekhyun argued.
Chanyeol chuckled. “Thanks for the confidence, Baekhyun. But you know a sword won’t do me much good against Areum’s powers.”
Baekhyun frowned, and Jongdae shrugged as he pocketed his stone. “We’ll just have to try harder then… Figure out why it won’t come out.”
“Maybe it’s because he still doesn’t believe in all of this,” Jongdae snorted. He held up his hands when Baekhyun glared at him. “What? I’m serious. Maybe the Familiar isn’t coming out because it can sense that the one it’s bound to doesn’t even believe in it. I mean, if it were me, I wouldn’t want to see him either.”
Chanyeol shuffled in the corner, looking between the two Elementals carefully. “Do you…really think that’s what it is?” he asked, sending a guilty look to Baekhyun.
Baekhyun contemplated quietly, and then sighed. “It’s possible.” He noted Chanyeol’s crestfallen expression, but before he could comfort the redhead, a powerful gust of wind knocked the door open. An Elemental with rainbow-colored hair charged into the room shortly after, frazzled and out of breath.
“What is it, Sehun?” Baekhyun asked, eying the young boy.
“The faeries,” Sehun breathed out, bending over to catch his breath. “The faeries say the protection spell has fallen on the southern border. They say there is an army of black heading towards us!”
Jongdae narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. “Have you alerted the others?”
“What does that mean?” Chanyeol asked, taking a step towards Baekhyun.
“It means, Chanyeol, that we must prepare for battle.” He turned to the younger boy in the room, and glanced back at Chanyeol before giving his orders to the boy. “Prepare what is needed for The Phoenix to go into battle.”
Sehun nodded, eyes wide and almost in awe as he stole a quick look at the redheaded man in the room, before turning and running right back out the way he came.
“Battle?” Chanyeol asked apprehensively. “Baekhyun…are you sure I’m ready?”
“We’ve no choice. You have to be ready, Chanyeol.” Baekhyun looked eyes with Ocalis’ leader. “Areum is coming.”
An eerie silence spread across the mountains of Ocalis.
Chanyeol stood at the mountain’s peak, in the center, absently rubbing over the smooth ruby of his ring finger. He had on red armor with swirls of flames made of gold dancing throughout, meeting in the middle in the symbol of a bird. It was the armor of The Phoenix.
On his sides, the brothers of The Order of the White Circle stood alongside their Familiars, donned in their usual robes of white. They stood rigid in anticipation, eyes casted forward. He felt Baekhyun shift and glanced over, not missing the way the Elemental’s hand lay atop the head of his white tiger. He was calming her, it seemed; or she him.
The Faeries took perch on the branches of the trees, seemingly calm as they lounged among the pink blossoms. Leaning against the trees, Chanyeol spotted few of the Mystics who he’d seen at the last Order meeting.
Below them, the waters of the lake were eerily still.
“They’ll come,” Baekhyun said quietly beside him, “Junmyeon said they would.”
Chanyeol let out a controlled exhale, hoping Baekhyun’s words were true and that Jaehyuk’s father had someone convinced his fellow merpeople to join them.
A strong gust of wind blew through Baekhyun’s hair, wafting the smell of fresh strawberries and powder into Chanyeol’s nose. He allowed himself a smile and tried to hold onto the scent. It helped to calm his nerves. The flapping of wings followed the wind—like rumbling thunder directly overhead. Chanyeol looked up. The dragons had arrived.
“They’re here,” Baekbeom announced quietly, but it was heard by everyone.
Chanyeol felt everyone tense around him when the first roar of Areum’s soldiers was heard distantly. He squinted and saw them—her Black Army.
Heading the army was the man that had taken Chanyeol captive and tortured him relentlessly for days. The man that had killed his grandfather. Sol. He rode towards them with a confident smirked on his face. Chanyeol itched to wipe that smirk off of his face. He scanned the crowd for Areum, but of course, couldn’t find her.
“Where is she?” he muttered, apprehension taking ahold of him as he tried to seek her once again. He felt the vibration of his Familiar Stone against his finger.
She appeared, like she was summoned. Areum landed gracefully on the other end of the lake and calmly regarded him, waiting for her army who spread out behind her like a mass of black. Sol stopped behind her. His eyes sought Chanyeol, and then pinned him like a predator would his prey.
Chanyeol was dimly aware of the silence that befell around them. Baekhyun shifted slightly beside him as he glared down his opponent.
Eyes turned to Chanyeol, seeking orders. He held up his hand and motioned for them to stay. He would let Areum make the first move.
Her veil lifted. She tilted her head slightly and smiled a manic smile. A dagger of black smoke flew past him, in the space between him and Baekhyun.
The dragons roared as fire shot down from the sky, mixed with the shouts of men launching into battle. Chanyeol looked over at Baekhyun, who’d climbed on his Familiar’s back.
“Stay safe,” the Elemental said. His white tiger purred and pressed her head against Chanyeol’s hand.
“You too,” Chanyeol said, patting the tiger’s head and then grabbing Baekhyun in a one-armed hug. “Both of you.”
Baekhyun returned Chanyeol’s hug, twisting his body to wrap his arms around Chanyeol’s waist. “I love you,” he whispered into Chanyeol’s ear. Reluctantly, he let go and faced forward. With a nod of his head, he and his Familiar charged into battle.
The fight broke out around him, as he and Areum were left standing on their respective sides. Areum’s army had already begun circling around the lake, attacking from either side. Trees blazed in fire as the dragons soared, dived, and attacked. Chanyeol felt the movement of his stone get more intense the longer the battle went on.
Chanyeol was given specific instructions from Baekbeom before they entered the battle to stay away and stay safe. “Your safety is our priority,” the brother of The Order had said. “Unless absolutely necessary, stay out of it.”
Chanyeol knew that it was because Baekbeom cared for him. He knew that they were worried because even if he looked like their Phoenix from before, he didn’t possess their Phoenix’s power. They wanted to protect him, but that only made him feel useless and like a burden.
His eyes zeroed in on Baekhyun, who shot arrows of white light into their enemies as his white tiger mauled anyone and anything that dared get too close. He then scanned the lake, where Black Army soldiers were being dragged under the water by merpeople. He itched to charge down and help them when one of Areum’s men shot a blast that hit Baekhyun in the shoulder. Even from such a distance, Chanyeol could see the pained expression on Baekhyun’s face.
Another hit to Baekhyun had Chanyeol turning to his guard. “Take me down!” he demanded.
“No can do,” Jongdae replied, folding his arms over his chest. “You’re supposed to stay right here.”
Chanyeol fumed. “As The Phoenix, Ruler of Ocalis, I demand you to take me down there right now!”
Jongdae looked at him in confusion and shock, and then let out a booming laughter. “Now that’s more like The Phoenix I used to know and respect,” the brunet said. He pat the place behind him on the back of his Familiar. “Hop on, Phoenix.”
Chanyeol eyed the eagle warily as he stepped closer, not sure if it was still holding a grudge against him for calling it a pet. Thankfully, all seemed to be water under the bridge as the eagle lowered its wing to help push him up.
He grabbed onto Jongdae’s shirt tightly and screamed when the bird took off, and all but jumped off when they reached solid ground. Jongdae flew off before he could even thank him, and Chanyeol was left in on the middle ground, surrounded by soldiers and bodies of the dead.
The smell was pungent. Chanyeol sucked in his breath as the scent of blood, dirt, and death filtered through the air. Smoke from the fires burned his eyes, and the roaring of man and creatures were deafening. A roar from his side. Chanyeol unsheathed the sword Baekhyun had given him and blocked the blow aimed at his body. He twisted the weapon in his hands and then swung with a shout. His opponent dropped to the ground, dead.
Chanyeol had no time to be shocked at the fact that he’d just killed someone when two more of Areum’s soldiers came at him. He swung. Cut. Stabbed. His body moved on its own, almost like it was remembering a dance Chanyeol didn’t remember learning.
He looked up when his name was called, raising his blade in anticipation. He relaxed when he saw that it was Baekhyun running towards him with his Familiar bounding behind him. Baekhyun stopped in front of him and looked at the small mass of bodies surrounding Chanyeol. He regarded Chanyeol with a strained smile, almost as though he was unsure whether to praise him.
Their short moment was interrupted when Baekhyun raised his bow and shot an arrow in Chanyeol’s direction. The arrow whizzed past him, landing between the eyes of the man sneaking up on him. A crazed laughter had both Chanyeol and Baekhyun turning.
“How sweet,” Areum smirked, “the lovers, together at last.”
She stood a short distance away from them with Sol at her side. Areum narrowed at her eyes at Baekhyun, who scowled. She turned to her second-in-command, speaking loud enough for them all to hear.
“Bring me his head.”
Both advanced on Baekhyun, completely ignoring Chanyeol on the side. Chanyeol yelled and charged forward, running at Sol with one sole purpose. He was thrown to the side by a heavy impact, and rolled as he hit the ground.
Chanyeol groaned and righted himself, pushing himself up from the ground. He looked up in surprise at the person that had stopped. “Jongdae?”
Jongdae looked away from him shamefully.
Chanyeol looked past Jongdae, where Baekhyun was taking on both Sol and Areum, dodging powerful attacks and throwing back his own. Chanyeol sat mesmerized by the way Baekhyun fought; how he looked like he was dancing so fluidly between each attack. He watched as Baekhyun’s light arrow hit Areum in the shoulder and heard her scream out in pain.
Then, he saw something glint.
He pushed himself off of the ground and ran towards them. “Baekhyun! Watch out!”
Too late. He’d warned him too late.
Chanyeol froze when Sol’s blade sliced deep into Baekhyun’s gut. It was Baekhyun who grunted and gasped for air as he sunk to the ground, but Chanyeol felt like he was the one who couldn’t breathe.
Sol twisted the blade, and Chanyeol screamed along with Baekhyun.
The white tiger roared in agony and slumped to the ground.
“NO!” the redhead yelled, launching himself into a sprint. Sol pulled the blade back and threw in onto the ground. He retreated and helped Areum move to safety.
Chanyeol landed on his knees beside Baekhyun. Blood poured from the wound in his gut, soaking his white robes a dark red. Chanyeol slid his shaking hands down Baekhyun’s chest and clasped his fingers together to apply pressure to the wound.
“Please,” he begged to anyone that was listening.
Baekhyun face had turned pale. Too pale.
Baekhyun’s eyelids fluttered open and closed; his blue eyes out of focus. “Chan…” he gasped, wincing in pain.
“Shhhh, don’t talk. Save your strength.” He could feel his eyes stinging with tears, blurring the outline of Baekbeom as he knelt across from him beside his brother.
Chanyeol could see the rise and fall of Baekhyun’s chest gradually becoming less and less noticeable. He could hear the gurgled wheezing from blood entering his throat. Baekhyun was dying, and it was all his fault. If only he’d looked up earlier; warned him sooner. If he’d been able to use his magic too.
“Chanyeol…” Baekbeom’s grief-ridden voice brought him out of his guilt-ridden thoughts.
He followed Baekbeom’s gaze downwards, to where his hands were wet with blood, Baekhyun’s blood, to where Baekhyun’s chest had stopped moving.
Chanyeol removed his hands like he was shocked, falling back on his rump. “No…” he shook his head, eyes glazed with tears as he stared at Baekhyun’s face. His eyes were closed, his face peaceful. If it wasn’t for the trail of blood running down his cheek from his mouth, Chanyeol would’ve thought Baekhyun was asleep.
“No!” Chanyeol yelled again, lurching forward again. He picked Baekhyun’s head up, cradled it in his arms ever so gently. “Stop playing, Baek,” he whispered, gently tapping on Baekhyun’s cheek. “It’s not funny. Open your eyes.”
Around them, the battles continued. The elders had surrounded them, creating a barrier, a shield for The Phoenix and his lost lover.
“Wake up,” he cried, shaking Baekhyun’s body in his arms. “I command you, open your eyes!”
He felt the burning of hot tears stream down his face; dropping onto his hand, over the stone of his ring.
“He’s gone,” Baekbeom whispered, the pain in his voice evident as he looked at the still body of his brother. “He’s gone, Chanyeol.”
Chanyeol wailed. He hugged Baekhyun’s body closer, burying his face into the crook of Baekhyun’s neck. To the side, one of the Order members stepped away from the impromptu human wall they’d all created. He heard whispering, but it was all jumbled together. His ears only perked up when he heard the name. His name.
They’d captured Sol.
He saw Taekwoon move to follow the messenger, and lifted his head. “No.”
Taekwoon froze and turned to him, as did every other set of eyes in the circle. Chanyeol gently laid Baekhyun down on the ground, taking care to brush the silver strands away from Baekhyun’s face. He leaned down and placed a kiss on Baekhyun’s forehead; his tears dropping and hitting Baekhyun’s serene face. His fingers closed around the handle of his blade as he stood. He turned, making out the kneeling form of Sol in the middle of the battlefield below them. Chanyeol’s eyes hardened.
“That one’s mine,” The Phoenix growled.
The stone on his finger vibrated, faster and more powerful than it ever had before. Chanyeol took the first step, and then the second, stalking towards his prey. He would have revenge, both for Grampy and for Baekhyun. Uncontrollable rage filled him; took over and drowned him as he stared at the one man responsible for the deaths of the two most valuable people to him. Chanyeol launched into a run, leaving a trail of flames behind him, and jumped off of the cliff.
Red smoke erupted from his ring, swirling around him. It latched onto him and blazed hot against him. The Phoenix slitted his eyes, zeroing in on his target. With an enraged cry, The Phoenix flapped his wings and circled around his prey, taunting him before burning him.
Sol’s cries of pain from being burned alive mixed in with the cheers and exclamations of surprise throughout Ocalis. The people of the land looked up in relief and in awe as the flaming fire bird took to the sky.
Their Phoenix had, truly, returned.
Two years later
Chanyeol sat at the corner table of the nearly-empty café sipping on a cup of the world’s worst coffee. In front of him, his MacBook Pro sat opened to to the latest chapter of the newest fantasy novel he was working on—the sequel to his first novel, Ocalis: The Lost Legend.
His first book had been published over eighteen months ago, and was an instant hit. However, the ending caused an uproar amongst many of its readers. Chanyeol and his publishing company had received more than a few thousand emails asking for a sequel or alternative ending. His fan page had been bombarded with angry comments demanding justice for the ill-fated Elemental. Reading through the comments had become one of Chanyeol’s favorite past times.
Bryce deserves a happy ending, why would you kill him off like that???!??
u know what. FU CHASE FOR JUST FLYING OFF INTO THE SUNSET ALONE LIKE THAT.
screw chase and bryce, i wanna know what happens with kai and do (but seriously. who names their kid “do”???)
You know… I doubt Bryce’s coffee really sucked that bad. Chase was probs just a coffee snob or something LOLOLOLLL
I am in pain… I don’t know how to move on… Why, Bryce, WHY??? T__T
“Reading comments again?”
Chanyeol looked up from his laptop screen and smiled, accepting the muffin that his boyfriend offered him. “Yeah, they’re pretty amusing.”
His boyfriend leaned over his shoulder and scanned through the comments.
“Kai and DO are doing well. DO has taken over ELYSIUM, and has renovated it into an inn for visitors of Belacre Island.”
Chanyeol raised a brow. “Have you been talking to Jaehyuk again?”
“Of course,” Baekhyun nodded. “He says they miss us…” Baekhyun’s mouth curled downwards into a small frown. “I miss them, too,” he said quietly.
Chanyeol placed a comforting hand on Baekhyun’s arm. “As long as we know they’re there…” Chanyeol said, trying to find words to comfort his boyfriend. He knew how hard leaving Ocalis had been for Baekhyun. “We may not be able to go back, but at least we’ll always know they’re there; that Ocalis is there. It’ll live on through us. It’ll remain a fond memory to us; somewhere only we know.”
Baekhyun blinked back tears as he tightened his hold, embracing Chanyeol in a back hug. He placed a kiss on the author’s cheek, and then leaned back slightly to point at Chanyeol’s laptop screen.
“I agree with that one. You’re just a coffee snob.”
“Baekhyun,” Chanyeol sighed, turning around. “Look around your café. If it really was just me being a coffee snob, would there only be three people in here?”
Baekhyun pouted. “You’re just always here at the wrong time. There are always a lot of people in here in the evenings.”
“Those are high school and college students, Baek. They don’t count.”
“And why not?” Baekhyun asked, blowing his hair that had grown a bit too long out of his face.
“Because,” Chanyeol sighed, “they don’t really come for your coffee. They come for the cute silver hair, blue-eyed barista that makes the coffee. Trust me on this, I used to be one of them.”
Chanyeol realized he’d said something wrong when Baekhyun narrowed his eyes.
“And who did you stalk in your school years, Park Chanyeol?”
Chanyeol laughed nervously and grabbed his cup of joe, downing it in one shot “The coffee’s great today, Baek! Have you done something different?”
“Don’t change the subject on me, Park Chanyeol! Who did you–”
‘Saved by the bell.’ Chanyeol silently thanked the man and his little girl for picking that moment to walk into the café. “Look, Baek! You have customers!”
Baekhyun glared at him, and then turned around to greet his new customers.
Chanyeol groaned for the umpteenth time.
He had a deadline in two days, and he’d barely written more than one hundred of the three thousand words he was supposed to turn into his editor. He rubbed the tiredness from his eyes and took another gulp of lukewarm coffee. Chanyeol moaned when he felt the warm arms of his lover embracing him from behind.
“Still having trouble?” Baekhyun asked, resting his chin on Chanyeol’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Chanyeol whined. “I don’t know how to bring Bryce back to life for this damned sequel.”
“Why not just write it the way it happened?”
“What? That I cried over you when you died, and because of my phoenix tears you were revived but, we were banished from Ocalis because I inadvertently broke one of the sacred rules of not meddling with life and death?”
Baekhyun looked down at him and nodded seriously.
“Baekhyun, do you know how crazy that sounds?”
“Just about as crazy as the rest of your story, I presume,” Baekhyun chuckled. “Stop thinking too much about it, Chanyeol. You’re basically writing your autobiography in the pretense of a fantasy novel.”
Chanyeol sighed. “I guess you’re right. I mean… Who’s gonna believe me even if I tell them this is all true anyway, right?”
“That’s the spirit,” Baekhyun smiled, leaning down to steal a kiss. “Now, will Chase, or Chanyeol, or The Phoenix…whoever you want to be today, come and join me for dinner? I’ve been sitting by myself for the past half hour, and the food is getting cold.”
“Chanyeol would love to.”
Chanyeol followed Baekhyun into their kitchen, where he was pushed to sit at the table.
“Just wait a moment, I’ll reheat the food.”
“Baek, I can do it,” Chanyeol said, standing up to take the plates from his boyfriend’s hands. “You sit. You’ve probably been on your feet all day.” He waited until Baekhyun had walked over to the table and pulled out his chair before taking the plates to the microwave, where he covered Baekhyun’s plate first and put it in to heat. He switched the hot plate for the cold, pressed the “Quick Minute” button, and then walked over to place Baekhyun’s food on the table in front of him. Chanyeol headed back to retrieve his own food, and returned back to the table a moment later.
They spent the next two hours at the table, eating and talking. Baekhyun always had the most humorous stories about his run-ins with his customers at the café. Apparently, a little girl had taken a liking to Baekhyun’s cupcakes, and had been forcing her father to bring her there every other day after school.
“She calls me Grampy,” Baekhyun pouted. “She said it was because of my hair.”
Chanyeol laughed. “It’s okay, I love your hair.” They’d known each other for so long—a little under two centuries, if anyone had been counting—and yet Baekhyun’s cheeks still colored into the pink of cherry blossoms every time Chanyeol paid him a compliment or expressed his love. Chanyeol found it adorable.
They did the dishes together after dinner—Baekhyun washed and Chanyeol dried—and then settled onto the couch for some quality cuddle time.
Chanyeol had just started the first episode of The Flash when a soft gust of wind blew through their living room. “Did you leave the window open?” Chanyeol asked.
“No…” Baekhyun responded; but he cranked his neck around to check, just in case. “It’s closed.”
Both sets of eyes turned towards the kitchen when they heard someone clear their throat.
“Hey, Baekhyun,” a shadow greeted in the dark. They heard the man move, and shortly after, the light from their television illuminated half of a familiar face. The man bowed his head, “Phoenix.”
Chanyeol gaped at their visitor, while Baekhyun leaned forward and flashed a confused yet happy smile at his long-time friend. His smile melted off his face when he noticed the man’s grim expression, and the dried blood that caked in his friend’s hair.
Against his finger, Chanyeol felt the feeble vibrations of his Familiar Stone which had remained dormant for the past two years.