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the marks humans leave don't have to be scars

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(12) 김명수

 

Myungsoo was twelve the first time he traveled to Flora on an errand for his mother. Something about a crystal and the flowers Flora was so famous for. Being the residing town of the king and queen, it made sense that it was home to most things of beauty. His mother had started training him in magic a few weeks back, and he was still having trouble when it came to controlling the elements, so this had been her idea of training him. He could almost hear her voice now. Don’t rely solely on raw power, a properly-brewed potion can work just as well.

 

One of the boys from Casus Village had accompanied him, a slightly older boy named Sunggyu who had small eyes and a lisp whenever he got too flustered. He sounded pompous at first, but Myungsoo quite liked him.

 

“Don’t stray too far, Myungsoo-yah.” Sunggyu said, looking around nervously as if expecting one of the fruit vendors to attack them.

 

“You worry too much, hyung ...”

 

“Of course I worry! I’m supposed to make sure you get home safe and sound or else your mother will have my head.” Myungsoo stopped at that, imagining his mother flying into one of her rages and turning Sunggyu hyung into an animal ... or worse. He shuddered, pulling his cloak tighter around himself.

 

Sunggyu noticed this, slinging an arm around the younger’s shoulders. “Hey... are you alright?”

 

The younger nodded, smiling faintly. “Yeah... let’s just, find the things we need.” He reached for the pouch his mother had given him, only for it to be snatched by a hooded figure, the force of it knocking Myungsoo more than a little off-balance.

 

“Yah!” Sunggyu yelled as he helped Myungsoo back to his feet before the two took off after the thief. “Get back here, you rascal!”

 

The thief didn’t look back, but merely ran faster, weaving in and out of the crowd before turning around a corner with both Sunggyu and Myungsoo at his heels. What greeted them was ... surprising, to say the least.

 

The thief was on the ground, unconscious while a teenage boy slightly older than Myungsoo dangled the pouch in front of them. “Looking for this?”

 

Myungsoo quickly reached for it, only for the boy to raise it a little higher, one eyebrow raised. “Give it back, it’s mine!”

“What’s so important about this pouch?” The boy asked, expression curious as he tried to open the pouch.

 

“C’mon, Woohyun. Hand it over.” A new voice said, the speaker another boy about the same age as the first, though with thicker eyebrows and shorter hair that was covered by a hood. And maybe a less sharper nose. Woohyun handed the pouch back to Myungsoo, who quickly slung it over his shoulder. Sunggyu’s face was one of disapproval as he looked at the two boys, grabbing Myungsoo’s arm. “Come on, Myungsoo. We have to go.”

 

“Wait,” The second boy said, looking from Myungsoo to Sunggyu. “Where are you two headed? Maybe we can help...”

 

“I think you’ve done enough.” Sunggyu said quickly, but Myungsoo piped up. “We’re looking for crystals and flowers.”

 

The second boy grinned at him, his teeth slightly pointy... almost like fangs. “Well, you’ve definitely come to the right place. We know where to get the best ones.”

 

“Depends on what you mean by get.” Woohyun mumbled, grunting when his companion nudged him in the ribs. Said companion laughed a little awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “So, how about it?”

 

Sunggyu rolled his eyes, looking to Myungsoo for confirmation. The younger nodded, smiling at the pair. “Alright—I’m Myungsoo, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

 

“I’m Hoya. Nice to meet you, Myungsoo.”

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

Myungsoo stares at his reflection in the mirror; half-expecting his reflection to reach out and drag him inside. People like to tell him he’s handsome, that he can get by on his face alone. He’s used to hearing it, but he never likes it. That’s why he had begged his mother to teach him magic, so he could be good at something, be more. Be more than just his face. 

 

He's gotten a lot better at controlling elements, his potions and spells have improved, though he still has trouble teleporting without missing his destination. His reflection is still the same though, though his face is sharper, jawline more defined and the bags under his eyes much darker. He feels like six years old again, playing with his mother’s things and wandering around the castle. He remembers his mother entertaining a guest; a woman with a melodic voice who warned his mother of her possible futures – most of them victorious, with only one future predicting her downfall. He remembers that one outcome rattling his mother even though she tried her best to hide it, climbing into her bed at night and hugging her out of comfort.

 

The sound of the door opening startles Myungsoo a bit, making him jump. “I’m sorry.” His mother smiles apologetically, striding into the room until she’s standing behind Myungsoo, the difference in height not really surprising. She reaches out to ruffle his hair lightly, expression fond. “You should be celebrating, son. Not holing yourself up in your room.”

 

“It’s not like we’ve won the war yet, Mother.” Myungsoo says quietly, taking a seat at the edge of his bed. His mother looks amused at his response, studying her son intently.

 

“True, but we just gained a huge advantage. Because of you, we’re close to gathering all of the ingredients for our spell.” She picks up her skirts, heading for the door. “We have a chance of winning, son. Tomorrow, we shall resume our preparations, alright?”

 

“Yes, Mother.” He says obediently, not getting up as his door closes with a click. He instead focuses his energy on his mirror, closing his eyes from any distractions that might mess up the spell.

 

When he opens them, the mirror doesn’t show his reflection, but the face of another boy pacing around his prison, scanning his surroundings and overturning the loose stones. There’s no doubt in Myungsoo’s mind that the prisoner is trying to escape, an audible sigh escaping his lips as the mirror window vanishes in a puff of smoke, his reflection returning once more. He then takes takes out the pouch he had been carrying earlier, Howon's heart beating in his outstretched palm.

 

“I’m sorry.” Myungsoo tells the mirror, knowing fully well that the boy in the dungeon can’t hear him, no matter how much he apologizes.

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

Collecting hearts was easy, Myungsoo thought. The trickier part was actually ripping the heart out of a person’s chest. But the part that definitely hurt the most was the look on the person’s face once they’ve realized what you’ve done; shock, fear, the resignation once they realized their fate. The amount of magic it took to rip a person’s heart was a lot, and Myungsoo was lucky in the sense that he happened to have a lot of magic. His mother was the Evil Queen, after all.

 

Myungsoo had never ripped anyone’s heart before. He liked using his magic for useful things, like when their castle needed fire during the winter, or the waters in the stream have dried up. Conjuring things had always been easy, and in Obscurans, people had to learn these things quickly or risked facing the consequences.

 

Obscurans was dark, it always had been, which provided a stark contrast to Flora, the country where the actual king and queen lived. The king and queen had always been in charge of uniting all the countries in Tellu,... well, save for Obscurans. Obscurans was reserved solely for all the villains, the evildoers, the ones who were beyond hope. As his mother liked to say,, villains didn’t get happy endings.

 

“Myungsoo-yah.” His mother called from the entrance of the garden, so he immediately got to his feet and made his way towards her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “My darling boy, why must you keep playing like this? Future kings don’t dirty themselves like commoners.”

 

“Mother.” He handed her the flowers he had enchanted to bloom, grinning at her. “I got these.” That caught his mother off-guard, somewhat. She took them gingerly, a far-off expression on her face. It made her features look less severe, less ... harsh in contrast to her usual scowl.

 

“They’re lovely.” She finally said, and a small smile made its way to her lips. “You’re getting better at harnessing your magic. Perfect for your first task.”

 

Myungsoo reached out to rub the back of his neck, head tilted in confusion as he stared at her. “First task?”

 

“For the kingdom of Obscurans, of course. You’re already eighteen, and you need to learn these things in order to protect yourself from those heathens in Flora.”

 

He refrained from telling her that they weren’t heathens; Florans were actually quite nice from all the stories Sunggyu hyung-nim told him after his journeys. But then again, Flora in general was a sensitive topic for his mother. Almost everything was a sensitive topic with his mother.

 

“In fact, you have enough magic to do what I can do.” Myungsoo continued to stare, not saying anything. What his mother usually did was rip out hearts,... made deals with unlucky victims... that sort of thing. Hearts were actually quite useful in controllling people, if his mother’s actions were anything to go by.

 

“Do I... have to? Do that, I mean...” The Evil Queen laughed at his hesitance, the flowers in her hand already drooping as she concentrated on letting them wither. She then reached out to pat his cheeks affectionately, pleased.

 

“Of course not, you need more practice. What I need you to do is more of an ... inside job.” His mother usually had accomplices for that, sorcerers with familiars or some of the pickpockets from the neighboring village.

 

“You will be accompanied by two of my best men at your choosing, and you will travel to Flora ... to bring me King Woosung’s Sword.”

 

 

 

 

(19) 이호원

 

Howon sits back down on the floor, not minding the dirt and the coldness of it all. He doesn’t know how long he’s been trapped in here, but he’ll wager a guess at two days. After all, he hasn’t felt his heart being squeezed to death just yet.

 

He looks up when someone enters the dungeons, expression guarded once he sees who it is. “Good evening, Your Highness.”

 

The Evil Queen chuckles a little as she steps in front of his prison, studying him like he’s a rare specimen. “Polite even to the person who controls his fate? Are you sure you’re Soohyang and Woosung’s son?”

 

“I’m stubborn, but they did tell me to respect my elders.” Howon says wryly. “Evil queens included.” This is Myungsoo’s mother, he reminds himself. She’s also a queen who can kill me with a single squeeze of my heart.

 

“So the rumors are true... you’re quite full of wit, Prince Howon.” The queen is beautiful, and it’s not difficult to see that it’s where Myungsoo had gotten his looks, but her eyes are... different. Colder, more calculating, and guarded. “You’re also quite the swordsman, and have gotten yourself into more dangerous situations with both magic and weaponry involved. It’s a shame, really. I could use you as a general for when your parents invade Obscurans.”

 

“Yeah, too bad you need to kill me to enact your curse.” Howon gives her a wan smile. “A resilient heart, right?”

 

“Smart.” The queen steps a little closer, peering at him. “It will be my pleasure to crush your heart as your parents watch in horror from their prisons. All I need is the product of the truest love, and then the curse will take effect.”

 

“I highly doubt that.” She turns around, one eyebrow raised at his audacity.

 

“And what? Do you think you’ll be able to escape and stop me?”

 

“I have faith.” Howon says, surprising even himself. It’s sounds like something his mother would say; her belief strong even when all seems to be so hopeless.

 

“Faith? Faith in what? That someone will rescue you and help stop me? You’re forgetting who I am, Prince Howon. I know everything there is to know about magic and no matter how many armies you send against me, I will defeat them all.”

 

I have faith, Howon repeats to himself, the queen having left the dungeons awhile ago in a quiet fury. I have faith that your son is not you, and that you trained him well enough to beat even you.

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

It took about an hour to get to Flora via the underground portals, since Myungsoo couldn't teleport that well yet (He had tried to teleport them to the portal entrance, but really, Sungyeol had nearly lost an arm). Unfortunately, the exit of the Flora portal was smack-dab in the middle of sauna, and Myungsoo wasn’t exactly the best when it came to warm places, especially since he only visits the country about once a year.

 

“Are we there yet—“ “Yes, dumbass.” Sungyeol had just about enough, having stashed his cloak in his travel pack as soon as they had stepped inside the main village. Sunggyu was also feeling the strain, rubbing his temples since the two had been bickering ever since Myungsoo's disastrous teleportation attempt.

 

“We need to find a place to sit, then work on how to get...” Sunggyu glanced around, suspicious as he steered both Sungyeol and Myungsoo towards one of the fruit stalls. “What we need. Myungsoo-yah, what’s the plan?”

 

Sungyeol turned to look at Myungsoo as well, the youngest opening his mouth and closing it a few times before he finally spoke.

 

“I... don’t have a plan yet.”

 

“Did I hear someone say plan?” An all-too familiar voice spoke from behind them, making the three jump in surprise. Sunggyu immediately scowled once he saw who it was. “What exactly do you do for a living?”

 

“I hunt.” Woohyun grinned, gesturing to the bow and arrow strapped to his back. “Nice to see you again, Sunggyu hyung, Myungsoo.”

 

“Woohyun, damn it—next time warn me before you dart out of the castle— oh. Myungsoo-ssi, Sunggyu-ssi.” Hoya looked shocked to see them, bowing his head profusely. “What are you doing back here? More crystals? Flowers?”

 

Myungsoo opened his mouth to speak, only for Sungyeol to nudge him. “Well that, and we wanted to do some sight-seeing. Casus can get really boring, even if the snow is really pretty.” Hoya nodded vigorously, looking at Woohyun. “Well,... we could bring you to—“

 

“Your Highness!” A voice called out, and Hoya’s eyes widened a bit before he glanced around, nervous. “Let’s go.”

 

Sadly, he was interrupted when a horse stopped in front of them, the rider climbing off with ease. He was beautiful, Myungsoo thought, with a kind of frailty to him that made you want to protect the other.

 

He was sorely mistaken when the newcomer grabbed Hoya by the ear though. “Yah, what the hell are you doing out here—“

 

“Sungjong—what are you—ow!” Sunggyu smothered a laugh at the obvious discomfort on Hoya’s face before it dawned on him who the newcomer was. “Wait—Prince Sungjong of Flora? Son of King Woosung and Queen Soohyang?”

 

“Sungjongie!” Another person rode up on horseback as well, climbing off and placing a hand on Sungjong’s shoulder. He was a lot shorter, his features different from the typical Floran citizen. “You shouldn’t run off like that. Who knows what’s out—Howon-ah, what are you doing here?” Howon cleared his throat, about to explain when Woohyun piped up. “We were just taking a walk.”

 

Sungjong snorted at that. “You’re no better than him, Woohyun.”

 

Woohyun opened his mouth to argue, but Sungyeol interrupted them, arms folded across his chest. “I’m sure that you’re all pissed, embarrassed, whatever. But can someone at least explain what’s going on?”

 

Woohyun and Hoya suddenly became very interested in their shoes, while Sungjong’s companion (who introduced himself as Dongwoo) looked around. “Come on, guys... we can’t be out in the open like this... your father will be really angry, and your mother can’t move around so much since she’s due any day...” Sungjong merely huffed, glaring at Hoya.

 

“My brother has a habit of wandering off from the castle grounds. I thought that he had gotten into something suspicious, like gambling.”

 

“Yeah, no gambling here.” Sungyeol commented, much more experienced with lying compared to the other two. “We’re travelers from Casus, and our employer asks us to retrieve items from various villages every year. Prince Howon and his companion show us around.”

 

Myungsoo had been spacing out for most of the conversation, only to snap out of it at the name ‘Prince Howon’. He stared at Hoya in disbelief. “You’re... Prince Howon?”

 

“Maybe we should take this conversation somewhere else.” Dongwoo suggested. “Perhaps inside the castle?”

 

Howon merely nodded, and Myungsoo exchanged a panicked look with his comrades.

 

Hoya was Prince Howon. King Woosung’s son. The person whose sword they had to steal.

 

 

Shit. 

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

Myungsoo wakes up with a start, patting his chest and gulping for air. His heart is still in his chest, but he feels as if it’s so close to jumping out of his chest, taking a few more deep breaths to calm himself down. It’s just a nightmare, he tells himself. It’s not real...

 

He peers outside the window, sighing when he realizes that it’s still too early to get up. He can’t go back to sleep, not after last night’s dreams.

 

He decides to just get ready, trying to flatten his mess of hair into something more acceptable before heading downstairs. Sure enough, his mother is already at the table, eating porridge for breakfast.

 

It strikes him sometimes, how normal his mother seems to him while at the same time being this powerful being who wants to take down the capital of Tellu. His mother then looks up, the chair next to her immediately moving back so that he can sit. “You’re up earlier than usual.”

 

“I can’t sleep.” Myungsoo says automatically, taking the proffered seat and helping himself to a bowl of porridge. “He’s been there for three days, mother... can’t we just let him go?“

 

The queen sighs, placing her spoon down. “Myungsoo, we’re already so close to getting what we want. We have a chance to make things right for our family. And that needs to start with taking the royal family of Tellu down.”

 

“That’s what you want though.” Myungsoo turns to her, knowing that he has to get this off his chest now or risk losing his nerve. “Why do you hate the royal family so much? What did they ever do to you?”

 

The look in his mother’s eyes is terrifying, her hand finding one of Myungsoo’s and gripping it much too tight. “They took everything away from me.” Her voice is soft, but it doesn’t fail to send a shiver down Myungsoo’s spine, her eyes cold and unforgiving. "They ruined my best chance of living the life I deserve and now, I’m going to take everything away from them. Starting with their children.”

 

 

 

 

(30) 이유리

 

The village of Casus was freezing, hidden deep in the country of Snow. The residents were used to it, considering that each country had their own share of trials, but Casus was relentless with the cold, with lives succumbing to things such as frost bite or the simple loss of body heat.

 

 

However, that did not stop three girls from making the most of their time there as they grew. They played together, dreamt of escaping the village that never stopped snowing, and sought to visit the Kingdom of Florens in the country of Flora. They were loyal to each other, as well as inseparable.

 

But what they didn’t understand then, was that sometimes people drifted apart; people strayed until they turned into someone almost unrecognizable.

 

 

“You’re not the girl I knew back then.” Soohyang said flatly, having unsheathed her husband’s sword and pointed the blade at the queen before he could stop her. Yuri wouldn’t call that traitor a queen even if they tortured her. They could try, of course, but they wouldn’t be very successful, unless they wanted to die themselves.

 

“People change.” Yuri said coolly, giving the man next to her a once-over and snorting inwardly. To think that she had fought with Soohyang over him. That had just opened her eyes to the truth: she had power, and Soohyang had made her believe that it would lead to nothing but trouble. On the contrary, she felt ... stronger, more in control.

 

Soohyang opened her mouth to counter that, but the king, Woosung, slowly pushed the sword down until the tip touched the floor. “You’re not welcome here, leave us.”

 

Yuri feigned an expression of hurt, a hand placed on her chest. “Now, now... I’m hurt. I merely wanted to congratulate the new King and Queen of Florens. I even brought a gift.”

 

“We don’t want it.” Soohyang said immediately. It didn’t matter what it was.

 

“Nevertheless, I’ll give it to you.” Yuri raised an eyebrow. “You always said that I should get into the spirit of giving.” The queen was beautiful and terrifying all at once, features that had once been soft and innocent had now hardened from all the hate and bitterness. Soohyang had known her for a long time, and she didn’t understand how one person could have so much hate in them.

 

The evil queen’s gaze did not waver, even as the palace guards surrounded her from all directions. “My gift is happiness. Only for today.”

 

“I beg your pardon?” Soohyang did her best not to let her confusion show, her grip on Woosung’s sword not loosening one bit.

 

Yuri merely smiled before disappearing in a cloud of inky-black smoke, leaving the new king and queen dumbfounded.

 

She would let them off for today... but tomorrow, that was when her plan would begin.

 

 

Yuri sensed some movement, not turning around as she spoke in a bored tone. “Show yourself or I’ll turn you into a bug.”

 

“Always with the threats, Yuri-ah.” The queen turned around at the familiar voice, expression stern at the newcomer. The woman did not have the severity that Yuri herself had, nor the purity that Soohyang radiated. She was somewhere in between, and it made a lot of sense, considering that she was always in the middle; the mediator between two strong-willed friends.

 

“It’s been awhile, Ara-yah.” Ara smiled sadly, looking at Yuri’s spellbook. “Indeed it has.I don’t suppose I can talk you out of this, right?”

 

“If this is some ploy by Soohyang and her husband—“

 

“It isn’t.” The younger interrupted, gesturing towards the spellbook. “I came here of my own free will. I wished to share some insights.”

 

Yuri stilled at that, scrutinizing Ara for any sign of trickery. “I don’t like liars, you know that. Have you forgotten who I am?”

 

“You’re the Evil Queen, I’m well aware of that. Just like Im Soohyang is the Queen of Flora... and just like I have a knack for seeing possible futures.” Her friend countered. “But before that, you were Lee Yuri, one of my closest friends who did her best to protect those she loved.”

 

Hearing Ara say those facts so casually, so freely, made Yuri ball her fists in frustration. “What do you want?”

 

“I’m here because I’ve been looking at your future.” Ara began. “There are threads where you stand in triumph, the most powerful in Tellu.” Yuri nodded, expression still calm. She knew this, knew that she had a good chance of overthrowing Flora.

 

“But there are also threads where you are defeated. One in particular, caught my attention.”

 

“You know better than anyone that I’m untouchable, Ara. Even the Good Queen can’t harm me.”

 

“The person you least suspect will be your downfall, old friend.” Ara stood up, her cloak billowing around her. “I suggest you read up on something called Greek mythology. There’s a lovely tale about the Titan Kronos. He ate his own children, but they ended up defeating him anyway.”

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

“You look like hell.” Sungyeol says bluntly as soon as he sees Myungsoo step inside the cottage. Sunggyu takes a good look at the other and nods, ripping open a fresh pack of his vitamins. “Hate to say it, but Sungyeol’s right. Couldn’t sleep last night?”

 

“Well he did capture a prince and rip his heart out. Literally.” Sungyeol adds. “I’d have nightmares if that happened to me.”

 

“You’re not exactly helping...” Myungsoo grumbles. “I’m just... thinking. Of something my mom said this morning.” Sunggyu looks interested at that, nodding for the younger to continue. “I asked her... why she was so bent on destroying the royal family. Then she mentioned that they basically ruined her life and that she wants to get back at them... starting with their children.”

 

His two friends are silent for awhile, mulling over Myungsoo’s words before Sunggyu speaks. “Revenge plan... she had you take Howon’s heart, yes?”

 

“Yeah.” It’s something Myungsoo’s ashamed of admitting, and he can’t really help but worry about Howon in that dungeon, defenseless. “She also has King Woosung’s sword.”

 

"The sword.” Sunggyu nods, taking out his notepad. “What spell would she need to enact for her to need a sword and a heart?”

 

“That’s not the only thing though. There are two more missing.” Sungyeol’s eyes widen at that, heading for his bookshelf and taking out a spellbook. “Did she say anything else about what the next items would be?”

 

Myungsoo shakes his head, expression troubled. “No, she didn’t want to say anything else. Just that the items involved the princes.”

 

“Well, she already has Howon’s heart, the sword from the king... so she must be taking something from each member of the family, meaning that she plans to collect something from Prince Sungjong and the queen herself.” Sunggyu mutters, tapping his pencil on the notepad in frustration.

 

“You mean we have to collect something.” Sungyeol says darkly. “No offense, Myungsoo, but your mother has us doing her dirty work even more than before. Going back when we disappeared around the same time Howon did would be suicide.” He turns another few pages of his spellbook, frowning once he reads what’s on the page. “Wait a second... the sword.”

 

Sunggyu gets up, looking over Sungyeol’s shoulder. “What about the sword?”

 

“Swords symbolize courage, right?”

 

“Yes...” Myungsoo eyebrows furrow, leaning in to get a good look at the spell book as well.

 

“And Howon’s pretty resilient, hence why Myungsoo’s mother needs his heart. She needs a ‘resilient heart’ that has survived trials.” Sunggyu nods at Sungyeol’s words, writing furiously before pointing to the one page in particular. “This one. Time travel spell.”

 

“Time travel is tricky though, and no one’s actually succeeded at it.” Sungyeol adds, scanning the list of ingredients. “But if she wants to destroy the royal family, doing so at the root would be the best method. Change one little thing and the entire time stream can change. She could erase them from existence if she wanted to.”

 

“What else does she need?” Myungsoo asks, the other two exchanging a look.

 

“Well, according to the book... she would still need a brain filled with knowledge, and a product of the truest love.” That’s when everything clicks. His mother still needs Sungjong’s brain, and...

 

“Queen Soohyang’s almost due to give birth, isn’t she?”

 

“Guys, you need to head back to Flora. Now.” Sunggyu’s expression is solemn, nodding slowly. “What about you, Myungsoo?”

 

“I’m setting Howon free and giving his heart back.”

 

 

 

 

(19) 이호원

 

Howon looks up when the dungeon doors open once more, Myungsoo heading towards his cell in a hurry. It’s only when the other slides the key into the lock that Howon gets it. Kind of. “What are you doing?”

 

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Myungsoo hisses, hand encircling Howon’s wrist as he leads him upstairs. In Myungsoo’s other hand is a small pouch, Howon’s heart thrumming inside of it with nervousness. “I’m busting you out.”

 

“What?” Howon’s sure he’s mishearing things. They make it to the entrance to the castle, dashing across the grounds before Myungsoo retrieves Howon’s heart from the pouch. “Hold still—“

 

Howon opens his mouth to speak, but Myungsoo quickly shoves Howon’s heart back into his chest, making him gasp at the sudden action, hands patting his own chest in disbelief. “Did you just—“

 

“Listen to me.” Myungsoo grabs his shoulders, eyes darting around them as he tries to maintain his composure. He opens one of Howon’s hand and shoves the hilt of the king’s sword in it, curling the prince’s hand into a fist. “Take the tunnels underground to get back home and warn your family. There’s a portal that travels directly from Obscurans to Flora. My mom needs your heart, your father’s sword, Sungjong’s brain, and your unborn brother. She’ll use them to travel back to the past in order to change a few things that could be big trouble for you. I cast a protection spell on your heart before I put it back in so it can’t be yanked out again.”

 

Howon is trying to wrap his mind around everything the younger is telling him, mouth opening and closing in an impressive imitation of a fish. “What about you?”

 

“I’ll make something up once she gets home.” Myungsoo’s hand is still holding onto his, and Howon gives it a light squeeze. “I can’t leave you here to deal with her alone, Myungsoo.”

 

“I can handle her, I’ll be fine...”

 

“I’m not so sure about that.” The queen’s familiar voice has them both backing away, backs facing each other as they try to pinpoint where she is. “My darling boy, I know your magic has gotten a lot better, but rebelling against me isn’t something you want.”

 

“I don’t think you’re in any position to have an opinion about what I want.” Myungsoo shoots back, his hands crackling with electricity as he concentrates on gathering his power. Howon’s grip tightens on his father’s sword, ready to spring into attack at any moment.

 

“I don’t want to hurt you son, but you’re being bull-headed.” The queen’s tone took on that nagging mother sort of voice that Howon recognizes from his own mother. “Stand down and hand me the prince.”

 

“Or else what?” Howon spits out, wanting nothing more than to hit the queen up the head with the hilt of his sword. Nothing else could be heard save for the queen’s hollow laughter, until something snapped in the trees. Several figures in hoods appear from their perch in the trees, brandishing their own weapons.

 

They’re outnumbered.

 

“Oh, I would love to stay and chat.” The queen continues, the smugness evident in her tone. “But I have somewhere else to be. Let this be a lesson for you two. No one dares cross me, and this is why.”

 

“Attack.”

 

 

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

“Why do you let her do this to you?” Howon had asked the first night of his capture, Myungsoo’s back turned towards him. Myungsoo paused, the door slightly ajar as he turned to face Howon. He didn’t meet Howon’s eyes, didn’t want to see the look of betrayal and hurt when he finally did the deed.

 

“She’s my mother... I... she’s family, and... I don’t want to let her down.”

 

“Myungsoo,” Howon sighed. “I don’t know you that well. I play tour guide for you and your friends like.. once a year. But even I can see that you’re trying to continue what she started, even if it isn’t what you necessarily want.”

 

Myungsoo swallowed the lump in his throat, and finally met Howon’s gaze. “And what’s wrong with wanting that?”

 

“You’re not her.” Howon said softly, one of his hands clutching at the metal bars that kept him inside his prison. “You’re not evil. You don’t have it in you to kill... that’s why I’m still alive, right?”

 

“That’s enough.” Myungsoo said quietly, striding back towards the entrance of the dungeon. He didn’t want to hear anymore.

 

“Just because she’s this witch hell-bent on getting revenge doesn’t mean that you’re limited to being her lackey. You deserve a lot better, Myungsoo.

 

But as he tried to sleep, he couldn’t, Howon’s words repeating themselves in his mind.

 

As much as Myungsoo didn't want to believe it, what Howon said about his mothermade much more sense than he’d like to admit. He wasn’t his mother, and he had some choices to make.

 

 

(18) 김명수

 

Howon’s blade immediately clashed with someone else’s, Myungsoo could hear it as he shocked the others with sparks of electricity. His mother is long gone by now, no doubt on her way to Flora to gather the last things she needs. He could only hope that Sunggyu and Sungyeol had gotten there in time to warn them. Unless...

 

He summons fire as the enemy increases in number, the flames encircling the new arrivals and towering over them. Right now, everything is a mess of blood, sweat, and weapons, with Howon growing weaker as he continues to fight off the others. Even Myungsoo could feel it; putting Howon’s heart back had taken more magic out of him than he had realized.

 

“They... keep... coming.” Howon pants as his back bumps against Myungsoo’s once more, knuckles white as he continues to hold onto the sword. “You need to stop your mother— you need to go to the underground portals—“

 

“I’m not leaving you here!” Myungsoo cuts in, an idea forming inside his head as he manipulates the water in the stream, dousing more of the goons. “I have an idea... we can try to teleport to Flora, or at the very least to the entrance of the underground portal.”

 

“Define ‘try to’.”

 

“I still haven’t gotten the hang of teleporting. I... there’s a risk that I could leave a body part behind... that sort of thing. And we need to hold hands...”

 

“We don’t have time to practice—“ Howon says quickly, the blade of his sword sinking into one of the goons before grabbing a hold of Myungsoo’s hand. “I know you can do it. Just get us out of here—”

 

So Myungsoo concentrates, focusing on making them both intangible. He’s nervous, he hasn’t exactly succeeded at this yet.

 

But for now, he just hopes his powers are enough for this.