Jeongguk is helplessly lost.
He frowns at Miho, who giggles nervously with her tail waggling from side to side in an awkward motion, head cast downwards to hide her embarrassment. Jeongguk wants to scream, maybe rip his hair out as well because why did he think it was a good idea to accept the half-wolf humanoid's suggestion to explore the Phantom Forest without Namjoon, who was his guide and Lord and Saviour in this world?
Oh, right, because they had a lonely partnership going on.
And he was desperate to hunt for more Astromons so Miho would lay off his back about being lonely.
So he finds himself holding his tongue and letting out a slow sigh. He can't blame the usually bright and energetic little wolf girl for wanting more friends to play with whilst he is too tired to even pay attention to her, and that's the majority of the time.
"Come on, let's go find somewhere to rest first," Jeongguk suggests quietly, reaching a hand out expectantly at the humanoid.
Miho's ears visibly twitch at the gesture, eyes wide that her master isn't yelling or cussing like he usually would in any other similar situation. Hesitantly, she places her tiny hand into his, to which Jeongguk firmly grips hold of. He then stalks off into the opposite direction, where a large tree sits amidst the havoc of thick wilderness, dragging Miho along with him.
The soft pit-pat of Miho's bare legs against the grass soothes Jeongguk's nerves as he tries not to panic. Without Namjoon around, Jeongguk is as lost as a blind man here - and he isn't sure if he wants to die while dragging an innocent wolf girl with him as he faces his terrible fate. Or die in general. After all, Jeongguk is still young so he's got goals and wishes to fulfill too, the number one wish being to able to go home.
Home. He wants to go back to that suffocatingly tiny dormitory room that he shares with Jimin in Seoul, who always stays up late at night with him to scream and laugh as they play Mario Kart like how they did when they were kids. Their recent score was a 75-76, the latest winner being Jimin, and Jeongguk's ego can't handle that blow. So Jeongguk wants to go back and settle their differences - back into the real world.
Unknowingly, Jeongguk clenches his jaw a little, the subtle movement not going unnoticed by the Astromon beside him.
The boy plops down onto his back immediately when they arrive at the base of the tree, Miho whining petulantly about how old he's acting when Namjoon looks so much older than him. Though, it doesn't take much for the wolf girl to give up on expecting any fun from Jeongguk, who is already lying down with his eyes closed. Instead, she opted to pounce in glee and circle the tree multiple times on all fours. Jeongguk's closed eyelids twitch when she lets out a delighted howl but softens at the sound of her laugh that follows it.
Her laughter immediately stops upon the faint sound of leaves rustling in the distance.
Jeongguk cracks an eye open, glancing at Miho whose ears are twitching every so often in all directions. Her eyes scan the now quiet forest floors, stance ready to attack with her legs tucked behind her hands. Jeongguk stands up and walks towards her.
"What's wrong - " Jeongguk doesn't manage to get his sentence out before the leaves rustle again and a flash of blue darts into his field of vision, black paws with a tint of yellow charging straight into his direction. The creature lets out a growl that mildly reminds Jeongguk of a wolf, just like Miho who's also growling ferociously beside him. He yells just in time before the blue creature - a small wolf pup leaps into his face, "Miho!"
Grass blades flutter into the air when Miho and the blue wolf pup tumble onto the ground, rolling in the grass and onto a side with their fangs bared at each other. The pup swipes its claws at the human Astromon, who instinctively leaps backward to dodge the attack. The pup growls again, meeting Miho's own aggresive one in response. They hover back and forth with each other, both evading and attacking the other with a deft swiftness only wolves can possibly have.
"Oh, it's a Latt! Fascinating!"
Jeongguk whirls around to be greeted by the sight of a man dressed in black. A long black coat, a black top hat, and not to mention the thick black frames perched on the bridge of his nose. His pink-tinted hair is a stark contrast to his otherwise dull choice of a black wardrobe. "Namjoon! When did you? - "
"And you, my friend, have greatly disappointed me." Namjoon frowns at Jeongguk, who wants to roll his eyes but unintentionally gulps instead. "Yes, young man. Fear me. If I hadn't given you Miho on the first day you arrived here, you'd probably be that pups food by now, torn and shredded into pieces with those deadly claws they have! Although Latts can be considered as rare sightings, which proves that today is your lucky day, it's still disagreeable with me that you thought you could explore the forests alone - "
"Wait, did you just say rare sighting?" Jeongguk's heart is already filled with anticipation, the throbbing so powerful it might just break the bones of cartilage around it. He's already turning on his heel and moving towards the direction of the two Astromons. "Got it, thanks, Joon!"
Because if there's anything that excites Jeongguk to a point where it sends chills into his bones, it's a challenge.
"I'm not even finished with my lecture yet!" Namjoon yells exasperatedly, but trails after the younger nevertheless.
"Miho, step aside!"
The wolf humanoid leaps further away from the pup, ears twitching in anticipation when she turns around to face her master.
Jeongguk fixes his posture by planting both of his feet steadily against the ground, and swipes his Astrogun out from its holder; a pistol of blue as the base of its body, with the barrel and trigger point tinted in silver. At the center of the gun where the barrel connects with the grip, a black circle with a star glows brightly - a sign that shows how it is ready to claim its next victim.
He aims the muzzle at the pup, who is seemingly aware of what is about to come with the way Latt growls menacingly back at the gun. Jeongguk once again reaches into the back of his pants, where slips of round coin-shaped chips are kept inside the pocket. He flips one up and loads it into the cartridge, the casino-like chip with the similar star adorning its surface gleaming brightly in the air. The tip of the gun glows a pretty shade of cyan as the hammer clicks shut when the chip is safely loaded inside.
Jeongguk takes a deep breath, knowing that if the chip doesn't manage to capture this Astromon, Miho will have to deal some pretty sick damage to it before he has another try. He aims the gun back at Latt again. His finger brushes the tip of the trigger, and he holds his breath before pressing down -
"Don't forget to strike your pose!" comes Namjoon's sudden shout, and Jeongguk squeaks in surprise while pressing down roughly onto the trigger without being fully prepared for the shot. His footing slips, causing him to fall backward and crash into the grass, swearing loudly as he goes. He can hear Miho screaming in concern, her bare foot pit-pattering against the grass, but Jeongguk is honestly so tired because -
"Jesus fucking Christ Kim Namjoon stop fucking scaring me like that!" Jeongguk yells from the ground, clearly exasperated with the way his voice comes out shrill and angry. Miho stiffens above him and sighs, looking at her master with little to no sympathy whilst her tail wags excitedly from side to side, causing dirt to be flung onto her master's red face. It only serves to set Jeongguk off even further, roaring while Miho simply laughs.
"I'm simply doing my job in assisting you to become the world's most renowned Astromaster, Jeongguk." says Namjoon, who looks at him with mirth dancing in his eyes. "And I've told you time and time again that striking a fabulous pose before using the Astrochip is a customary rule in this world. I wouldn't need to 'scare' you if you stop acting like a rebellious child and abide by said rule."
"It's fucking ridiculous, that's why," complains Jeongguk, who begrudgingly takes the hand Namjoon offers in front of his face.
When he stands up - courtesy of Namjoon pulling him up - Jeongguk's heart stops at the sight of the Astrochip floating on the patch of grass where the Latt was supposedly standing at. He holds his breath, praying and praying and praying that it doesn't break -
The chip bursts open, causing white light to stream in all directions with glowing stars swiveling out - and Latt, the smug little wolf pup, gently lands on all fours back on the ground.
Jeongguk clicks his tongue.
"That certainly is unfortunate," Namjoon unhelpfully supplies a beat later.
The young Astromaster flips another chip up into the air from his back pocket, and the Astrogun glows its bright cyan when he hears the satisfactory click of the Astrochip being loaded into the cartridge.
"Miho," her ears twitch again in anticipation at his commanding voice, "Perform the Vulpine Dance."
So she does. She dances - twirling around with her arms freely bending to the current of the wind. With every spin, clouds of fire and smoke gather and lump together above the wild Latt; and with a swipe downwards as the finishing move of her ritual, the orbs of flames swerve through the air before directing down onto the wolf pup, causing it to growl and yelp in pain at every sizzling contact of the fire balls.
Miho dances and swipes and dances and swipes, causing Latt to be burned again and again with red orbs of flame. The virtual HP bar sitting atop of Latt's head gradually decreases with every attack from Miho's side. At some point, Latt howls, a painful and hollow sound, as though signalling the proximity of its weakening - the previously green bar now flashing an alarming red - and Jeongguk thrills at it.
It signals his chance!
He pulls out the loaded Astrogun and aims the muzzle once again at the Astromon. He breathes in deeply - slow and controlled unlike his nervously palpitating heart - and the hairs on his neck stand when his finger comes in contact with the trigger before he presses down.
"Also, for the love of God, Joon, please shut up this once," Jeongguk says icily, glaring at the man who stands beside him. From the corner of his eyes, he can briefly make out Namjoon's silhouette bringing both his hands up into the air as a sign of surrender.
The Astrochip shoots across the air, sharp and fast and more importantly accurate before it bursts open to form a large circle with symbols scribbled across the edge of it, glowing a bright cyan in the air with a star that resembles the one on his chips and gun at the center of it. The magical circle vehemently sucks in the targeted Astromon, who tries to grasp onto the ground and escape from the chip but to no avail, as the current is far too strong.
The circle closes in on itself when Latt reaches the core of it, before disappearing into thin air with a spark and leaving only the Astrochip from before floating in the air; a sight that stops Jeongguk's breath every time he witnesses it.
He's praying again, eyes trained onto the Astrochip with perhaps a mixture of excitement and desperation. He lets out a slow, relieved breath when the chip twirls around in its spot in the air - a telltale sign that Latt is indeed successfully captured.
Jeongguk holds his palm up, ready to catch the Astrochip that would swerve into his direction as the new master of the previously wild Astromon, before promptly choking on his spit when the Astrochip flies past him and towards the person who is behind him instead. And so he turns around in shock -
"Aw yeah! I've been waiting for this moment where I can become a Latt's master!" A rectangular grin, boxy and bright and too fucking annoying for Jeongguk to bear, paired up with large almond eyes that crinkle in glee at the sight of the chip sitting snugly in the palm of his gloved hand. He gives a wink to Jeongguk. "Thanks!"
Jeongguk remains silent.
He hears a quietly uttered oh no resound behind him, which he's sure had come from Miho, and he thinks that the phrase indeed works with the situation at hand because, oh, no, Jeongguk is really pissed this time.
The boy that stands in front of him merely grins at Jeongguk's, quoting Jimin, 'certified look of death' with his furrowed brows and scowling downturned lips - and Jeongguk can't stand it. Can't stand his stupidly bright orange hair, his wide boxy grin, his happy eyes, and more importantly the smug interior that briefly paints itself across his expression - and well, there's also his attractiveness to hate.
Oh, no, Jeongguk cannot handle anymore blows to his ego.
"Give it back." is the first thing that leaves his mouth, palm outstretched widely in the space hanging between them. Jeongguk frowns deeper. He can be civilized first. "The one who made it catchable was me, you had no right to be shooting an Astrochip in its direction."
The boy pauses, his expression turning blank while he processes Jeongguk's words, right before he throws his head back and roars with laughter.
"What - 'give it back'?" Tears are brimming at the corners of his eyes when he looks back at Jeongguk, arms curling around his stomach. "Do you even know how ridiculous you sound? No one can do that! We can't trade Astromons moreover give them to other players."
"Says who?" Petty, that may be Jeongguk's middle name. He crosses his arms. "No one said that kill-stealing someone is legal here either, and yet here we are."
The boy laughs again, one hand coming up to cover his mouth in a poor attempt to muffle his giggles. "Oh boy. This is the system we're talking about." He pauses briefly to crack a grin in Jeongguk's direction. "But I'll agree with you that kill-stealing is indeed, illegal. If that's what you wanna call it. Although... Not punishment-worthy illegal."
He flips the Astrochip up into the air before catching it midair, then waggles his eyebrows at Jeongguk. "So you, my friend, will sadly have to suck it up. Because there are no punishments or bans with it comes to catching someone else's desired Astromon."
Jeongguk wants to be the matured one for once and put his anger aside in order to have a civilized debate with this really annoying bastard, but, "Then again, you made a really poor shot the first time too, so I definitely recommend myself to be the owner of this rare Astromon."
A vein definitely popped out on his forehead, Jeongguk is sure of that. Okay, fuck it. "Listen here you asshole - "
"Oops, I've unleashed the beast!" The boy laughs, throwing his hands up in mock surrender. "But eh - while I'd really love to stick around and have some fun with you, I've really got to get going."
"Wait - " Jeongguk's heart drops at the sight of the boy flipping the chip into the air that isn't in a playful manner, but a gesture of releasing the Astromon that is locked inside the chip. Sure enough, his Latt comes into view, glorious and mighty, standing in front of the orange-haired boy in a defensive stance against him.
Jeongguk frowns. This isn't the Astromon League where Astromasters can battle each other with their Astromons, for really gratifying rewards at that. They would be on surveillance by both guards and watchers of the stadium so that no Astromaster would dare to hurt the other player. The rule of the game is that if your Astromons have all been heavily damaged to a point of fainting - you automatically lose. No Astromaster should be hurt in any way.
Or is this something that Namjoon hadn't filled him in on?
Either way, Jeongguk keeps his legs firmly rooted to the ground, hand steadying itself in his back pocket where his other Astromon chips are kept. If this guy wants a battle, Jeongguk will give him a God damn battle regardless where they are -
The boy then promptly picks up the small wolf pup and turns into the opposite direction, feet dashing across the grassy fields and leaving Jeongguk terribly lost and confused as he stands there, watching the head of orange move further and further away from them.
Behind him, Namjoon clears his throat. "Well, today just isn't your day, Jeongguk. Let's head back to the Airship now - "
Jeongguk runs past him.
"Master! Wait for me!" comes Miho's excited yell.
"Hey Jeongguk - no - Miho, don't follow him!" Namjoon throws his hands into his hair and tugs roughly in an attempt to stop himself from yelling in frustration. "Master!"
"Miho! Perform the Vulpine Dance again!"
"To who, Master?"
"To the bloody orange head, that's who!"
Namjoon stiffens. "Don't even think about it, Jeon Jeongguk! That's illegal according to Lacterian Laws!"
"Fuck that!" he yells back venomously. "That bastard stole my Astromon - that should be illegal!"
Maturity? Jeongguk clearly hadn't heard of that term before. He's going to get his Latt back because what's rightfully his will remain his - or so he thought.