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The Songbird and the Sea

Chapter Text

 

 

The forest was alight with the sounds of nature, a choir made out of the humming of cicadas and bright chirping of birds flying in and out of their nests, their plumages a beautiful mix of the colors of early spring. It was that time of the year when mothers taught their offspring to walk, run, and fly, no matter what species they were. Tiny birds would flap their wings in effort, little rabbits would hop tentatively after their brothers and sisters, and even the forest lynx cubs were learning how to stalk and hunt, their little growls hardly intimidating to even a squirrel just yet.

There was only a light breeze in the air and not a cloud in the sky; in other words, a perfect spring day for all animals to break out of their nesting.

But up high on a tree branch sat an apparent intruder, a young man, a boy, really, his hair the softest hue of peach pink, with kind eyes and round cheeks, and plush lips pulled into a bright smile. He was observing a family of bulbuls in the middle of a flight lesson, the mother bird hovering next to six chicks, all of whom were flapping their little wings in heavy enthusiasm, their talons still firmly gripping the branch.

“Go on,” the boy whispered, so quietly not even the birds caught his voice. “Trust in your wings and let go. You can do it.” He leaned closer against the tree stem, barely blinking for fear he’d miss the magical moment. His bare feet moved soundlessly against the bark, his calloused soles long since accustomed to the rough exterior of the tree; he’d spent more hours on this particular branch than he could remember. Every year, he’d climb and perch precisely here, eager to watch the first flight of his beloved birds.

He held his breath in waiting, his heart humming in his chest, and when the first of the little birds finally stepped off the branch and into the air, he almost gave voice to his delight. He had to press his hand down over his lips to muffle himself, too happy to trust himself to be able to contain it. Internally, he cheered as he watched the other chicks follow their brother’s example, and soon, all six of them had taken flight, chirping excitedly at their mother.

With a soundless giggle, the boy reached for the small bag tied loosely to his waist, shifting around the grip of his bow to pull out a book and a pencil, eager to make note of this miracle of nature. He riffled through the used pages, turning until he found an untouched one and quickly scribbled down the time and location, as well as a sketch of the bulbul family. He wasn’t particularly skilled as an artist, but he’d always believed it to be a shame to not even try to capture the beauty of what he was allowed to witness.

Suddenly, a twinge of dread rose in the boy’s chest, the skin of his arms contracting into goosebumps. His smile faded in an instant and he looked around, narrowing his eyes as he searched for the source of the ominous sensation. He couldn’t see anything on the ground that’d cause him such worry, so he tilted his head back and looked up, and his eyes widened when they landed on a massive shape soaring above the treetops, a large red eagle out hunting for prey, for smaller birds to feed on.

Quick as a cat, he shoved his notebook back into his bag and rose into a crouch, throwing a glance over his shoulder and at the family of bulbuls. They were still blissfully unaware of the looming threat above them, too caught up in their joyous first flights to be able to sense the sky’s predator. They were the eagle’s obvious target, so oblivious and unsuspecting, and the thought of them dying made the boy’s heart ache.

Not today, he decided and turned his eyes back up to the sky. When he spotted the eagle, he stood up straight and pulled the bow from around his shoulders, reaching to take an arrow from the quiver at his waist, and as soon as he’d nocked the arrow, he parted his lips to beckon the attention of the bird of prey.

The sound that left his lips wasn’t human, but a high-pitched trill, a sound identical to that of a singing bird, bright and beautiful, and most certainly innocent enough to draw the eagle’s attention away from the flock of bulbuls. The large bird of prey broke out of its circle to chase after the boy’s call, hungry for an easier target, and what could possibly be easier than a lone, defenseless little canary?

The boy repeated the sound once, twice, nimbly moving out along the branch as he sang, drawing back the arrow until the string of his bow grew taut enough to snap. He waited, his eyes following the eagle’s movements through the curtain of leaves, and when the large bird was right above him, he emitted one final trill before releasing his arrow.

The projectile caught the eagle square in the chest and drew a blood-curdling cry from its throat, it’s giant wings thrashing in sudden panic. Quickly, the boy scurried out of the way, pressing himself flat against the tree stem just as the large bird came crashing down onto the branch where he’d just stood, causing a hellish cacophony in the previously quiet forest. The crackle of wood and rustling of leaves mixed with the eagle’s screams, and the boy had to tightly hold onto the tree to not lose his balance when the branch snapped and tumbled to the ground along with the bird.

He didn’t move until the eagle’s cries had faded, holding his breath as he waited for its inevitable death to arrive. He kept his eyes trained on the tree stem, knowing there would be nothing else to look at now; the ruckus he’d caused had most certainly scared off any nearby animals, bird or not. “It was necessary,” he mumbled to himself, his short fingers clenching around the grip of his bow. “Necessary to save an entire family.”

He thought of the bulbuls, the little chicks barely old enough to learn how to fly, and his guilt eased somewhat. Carefully, the boy made his way down the tree, descending expertly until his feet touched the soft moss of the ground. He donned the straw shoes he’d left waiting by the roots, and without tying his bow back around his chest, he walked over to where the eagle had fallen.

It really was a monster of a thing, with a wingspan that could’ve easily fit two of him. Granted, he wasn’t the tallest man around, but even so, it was a frightening sight. The bird had gone still, a large stain of dark red dirtying the white feathers of its chest, still seeping from the wound dug by the boy’s arrow.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly and sank to his knees, finally setting down his weapon in favor of touching the eagle’s head, tracing his fingers through the rough feathers. “I know you were simply hungry, but I couldn’t let you kill those babies.” He pulled the arrow from its chest and hesitated for a moment before parting his lips to sing once more, the sorrowful trilling echoing through the silent forest.

It was in moments like these when Park Jimin felt uncertainty about his blessing.

He’d been seven years old when he had happened upon the Rune of the Canary, finding it out of nothing but pure luck. Much like on this day, he’d been running around in the forest, childish laughter bubbling past his lips as he chased rabbits and collected pretty flowers, too excited to pay proper attention to where he was going. He’d strayed deeper into the woods than his mother would’ve liked, but, too caught up in his own little world, he hadn’t noticed.

He’d ended up at a nearby creek, and at its bank, he’d found a deceased pink canary, the sight of which had brought tears to his eyes. He’d approached it with the thought of giving it a proper burial, but before he could touch it, the canary’s feathers had fallen and its body had turned to dust, leaving only a little pebble behind, a stone barely the size of a songbird’s heart.

Little Jimin had been loath to touch it, recalling his mother’s stern words about leaving unknown things be, but the stone had been so pretty , with a faint glow and some weird letter engraved into its surface. It had definitely been too special to leave behind, and so the boy had taken it in his hand with the intent to show it to his mother.

As soon as the stone had made contact with his skin, he’d felt a rush of warmth flooding up his arm and into the rest of his body, as if something had entered his bloodstream to be carried to every last cell of him. The warmth had been soothing, and for a moment, the stone’s glow had intensified, flashing brightly before it had disappeared completely, the shine gone along with the strange letter.

The whole ordeal had left Jimin with an odd feeling, and only when he’d found his way back home had he learned what had happened. “A Blessed Rune,” his mother had called the stone he’d found, smiling down at him as he sat by the edge of her sickbed. She had pulled out a little mirror and shown Jimin his reflection, and his eyes had widened in surprise when he saw his hair had taken on the same color as the little canary from the creek, a soft pink replacing his natural black. The stone he'd found had been the Rune of the Canary, and ever since that day, Jimin had been blessed with the same qualities as the little songbird. He had never grown very tall, he had learned to love high places, and he'd found himself much swifter and sure-footed than before, with an irresistible call to the beautiful forest.

Naturally, his voice had changed as well, and it was with the canary’s voice that he sang for the eagle, a sad melody of farewell for the bird he’d killed.

When the last tone of his song had faded, Jimin rose to his feet and pulled a coil of sturdy rope from his bag. He would’ve preferred to bury the eagle in the woods somewhere, but he knew it would only be dug up by a fox or lynx not hours after, so instead, he set to work, folding the bird’s impressive wings to its chest and working the rope around its body.

The eagle was certainly heavy, but however soft-hearted Jimin was, he was no weakling; years of running around in the forest and swimming in the creek had awarded him with a strong body, his slender form corded with muscle. Thus he hoisted the bird’s body up on his back with a huff, securely gripping the ropes, and steered his steps towards the edge of the forest and his village.

Jeju was a small village and slightly after its time, lacking the resources to keep up with the development of the outside world. It was a quaint place, it’s most extravagant building being the white stone church near the harbor, its tall peak reaching as high as the lighthouse. The town was located on the coast of a small island some miles off the mainland, inhabited by some five hundred citizens. They were farmers, mostly, with a few hunters to work the forests, and so nearly everything apart from food and linen cloth had to be imported by sea, which was expensive.

The cargo ship only passed their island every two weeks, and whenever it did, the villagers would hear about the latest ideas and inventions of the mainland’s government. First it had been mundane things, such as lanterns to replace oil lamps, and the boilers that heated water for your bath without needing a fire. Jimin had been a bit envious of the latter, but he had survived this long with heating his own water, so surely he could make do with what he had.

Then, a few years ago, the inventions had taken on a more dangerous tone. With the drastic rise of crime on the sea, weapons were being shipped out from the mainland, automated cannons and stronger handheld pistols finding their way onto every vessel. Protection, they called it, safety in the form of firearms that could kill a man with one pull of the trigger.

That time, Jimin was as far from envious as one could be. On the contrary, he was more content with his uneventful life than he’d ever been, wanting no part in the ongoing war between pirates and mariners, and he’d rolled his eyes at those from his village who eyed the cargo ships cannons with obvious enthusiasm.

No, peace was what he wanted, and he had plenty of that in the little village of Jeju.

As soon as he reached the outskirts of the town, he was greeted by a small group of people, four boys the same age as he, although they were more fit to be called young men; whereas he was small and appeared almost delicate, they were tall, broad, and bursting with the pride of youth. And obnoxious, as young hunters tended to be. “Look at this,” one of them called out over his shoulder, grinning toothily as he sauntered over to Jimin. “The little bird brought home a friend.”

Jimin’s smile was tight-lipped, but he smiled all the same; he knew better than to pay any heed to the teasing undertone of the youngsters in this village. “I wouldn’t call her my friend, Minjoon,” he said as casually as he could. “Or at least not a very good one, since I ended up shooting an arrow into her chest.” He tightened his grip on the ropes and moved to walk past the man, but found himself trapped by two of the others, who were seemingly too interested in the bird of prey to let him go just yet.

“Look at the size of this freak,” one of them marveled, and if Jimin had been in a worse mood, he would’ve wondered if the man was talking about the eagle or about him; he’d heard it both ways before. “Those talons could tear open the roof of your house, canary.”

The nickname could’ve been an affectionate thing - it was what his mother had called him - but from these boys’ lips, he knew it meant to do nothing but spite him. “Then I suppose it’s good I killed it before it could kill me,” Jimin said stiffly and took a step away from the group, suppressing the urge to flat out ask them to leave. He didn’t want to provoke an argument with these men, seeing as he was hopelessly outnumbered. “If you’ll excuse me, I still have to pluck its feathers before dinner, so…”

“You know we can help with that, canary,” the oldest, Minjoon told him, speaking in that voice Jimin despised to his very core. An undertone of desire was the last thing he wanted to hear from a muscle-headed dullard such as Hong Minjoon, but it seemed no matter how many times he tried to make that clear, the young hunter just wouldn’t accept it.

“No, thank you,” Jimin said flatly, having half a mind use his bow to knock the lecherous smirk off the man’s lips. “I’ve done it several times before, Minjoon, I don’t need your help.” He knew the hunter wouldn’t let him go so easily, but Minjoon and his friends had already managed to completely dampen his joy of seeing the bulbuls chicks’ first flight, and Jimin had no interest in letting them affect him further; this group seemed to have a particular talent for burning through his patience quicker than anyone else. “I’ll see you around.”

“Oh, come on, little bird, don’t be like-”

“There you are, Jimin!”

The voice sounded from some paces behind them, effectively startling the four hunters, and not for the first time, Jimin thanked the heavens for Choi Jihyun. “Here I am indeed, ma’am,” he called in relief, quickly pushing his way past Minjoon to scurry towards the old lady, mouthing the words, thank you, with an expression of exaggerated relief. “What brings you to the outskirts of town?”

Someone told me he would be back before four o’clock,” the woman scoffed and greeted him with a smack up the head. “But here you are, at quarter past, making nice with your little,” she eyed the four with a skeptical glare before scoffing, “friends,” in a voice that indicated the word had a sour taste on her tongue.

“We were just offering to help the little bird with his catch,” Minjoon said sullenly, his voice uncharacteristically meek. “We weren’t going to keep him long.”

Jihyun scrunched her nose and made a tutting sound, far from impressed by the lame excuse. “That’s good, then,” she said snappishly before turning on the heel and grabbing Jimin’s arm. “Come on now, Jimin, you can play with your friends after you’ve escorted me back home. I came all the way out here to look for you, so the least you can do is help me return.”

Jimin was more than happy to comply, flicking his wrist in a brisk farewell to the young men before turning his back on them and correcting the old lady’s grip on his arm so she could walk easier. “Thank you, ma’am,” he sighed, the smile returning to his lips only once they were out of sight from the hunters. “They really won’t quit their teasing, and Minjoon never misses a chance to try and court me.” He gave a theatrical little shudder. “I’ve seen birds in the forest be more classy than him.”

“That’s because he thinks with his cock, not his brain,” Jihyun said matter-of-factly, not even bothering to lower her voice as they walked onto Jeju Village’s main street, her words awarding her with several disgruntled looks. “I swear, it’ll be a sad day when he takes over after his father as mayor of this town.” She pulled her face into a grimace and mimicked Jimin’s shudder. “Hopefully, I’ll already be dead by then.”

Choi Jihyun was the oldest woman in the village and straightforward to a fault, with a temper that was feared by near everyone. She walked with a cane, a heavy stick that could easily be turned into a weapon, one the wrinkly old lady would wield with the strength of a fully trained warrior when she saw fit. Even the four young hunters, the pride of the village, were wary of her, and in all honesty, Jimin couldn’t fault them.

Luckily, he himself stood on Jihyun’s good side, having earned that privilege early in his childhood, when she’d found him nursing an injured raven, singing in the voice of the canary to soothe the black bird. She’d asked him why he would help a bird of such a dark name, and he’d blinked owlishly up at her and told her she shouldn’t condemn the animal based on the colors of its plumage; the raven could’ve been the kindest bird in existence and she would never know, because she was so quick to judge.

It had hardly been the best thing to say to a woman rumored for lack of control on her anger, but Choi Jihyun had thrown her head back and laughed, and told him he was absolutely right before settling down next to him so they could take care of the bird together.

She’d been right about the raven, of course; as soon as it was healthy enough to fly, it had almost clawed Jimin’s eye out, and that in turn had Jihyun laughing all over again, none too gently patting his back while he cried.

They’d shared a strange bond ever since, one that had intensified after his mother had passed away in sickness.

“You say that, but I’m pretty sure you’ll outlive us all, ma’am,” Jimin hummed and emitted a little giggle when she smacked his shoulder. “Hopefully, Minjoon will get married before he’s put in command. Someone like Song Eunha or Lee Jihee could probably subdue him and his arrogant ass, though I can’t see why either of them would ever look his way.”

“Listen to you, so cheeky,” Jihyun said with a snort, her lips stretched into a toothy grin. “You should talk to those fools like this and maybe they’d learn some respect.” She emitted a short cackle, shaking her head at his own antics before sobering up and heaving a soft sigh. “It’s that pretty face of yours, Jimin,” she mused and peered at him. “All it does is bring you trouble.”

He quirked a brow at that, amused. “Last time you said it was because I’m too sassy for my own good,” he said innocently, smiling when that prompted another wave of laughter from the old woman.

“Ain’t that the truth, birdie!” she chortled, and this time, Jimin didn’t mind the nickname; only when spoken by Jihyun did it lack any trace of mockery or spite.

“Will you come over for dinner?” he asked her and adjusted his grip on the eagle. “I’m making stew. And I thought I’d give you something special as thanks for saving me from those idiots. This bird’s feathers are really beautiful, so I could make you a new set of quills.”

That earned him a pinch of his cheek. “You really are a kind boy, Jimin,” the old woman said fondly. “But I’m afraid I can’t come over today. My son is bringing his children over, and lord knows I need all the energy I can get for those little beasts. I’ll be taking a nap as soon as I get home and wake up only when the demons come knocking on my door.”

“Okay,” Jimin hummed. “Then I’ll bring you your quills tomorrow.”

They strayed onto the topic of his visit to the forest as they walked. Both Jimin and Jihyun lived at the eastern edge of Jeju Village, and while it wasn’t that long of a trek, the old woman was slow to walk, her joints aching from age. Jimin was in no rush to get home, so he moved to her pace, happily letting her lean on him, and he let her go every now and then only to animatedly describe what he’d seen in the woods.

Jihyun kissed his cheek when they arrived at her house and gave his hands a firm squeeze. “You tell your mother I said hi,” she told him with a toothy smile. “And tell her I’m going to knock Minjoon’s teeth out next time I catch him leering at my favorite birdie.”

He laughed at that, the sour feeling from his encounter with the hunters as good as gone. “I’ll do that,” he said, nodding. “Now get some sleep. I don’t wanna hear about you collapsing halfway through dinner due to overplaying with your grandkids.” He giggled at her dry scoff and raised a hand to wave her off, waiting for her to make her way into her house before taking off, humming a soft tune under his breath as he strolled towards his house.

Much like the rest of the village, his home was small. It was a wooden building with only two rooms, a kitchen with a pantry, and a chamber, barely big enough to fit his bed. It was certainly not much, but Jimin had always been content in small spaces, so he liked it well enough.

He left the eagle’s body outside while he stripped off his bow and quiver, leaving everything unnecessary inside. He changed out of his leather vest and donned his favorite white shirt, the smooth, billowing fabric feeling like heaven against his warm skin. He kicked off his shoes as well before grabbing a knife from the kitchen and heading back outside, hoisting the eagle into his arms before walking around to the back of the house, where he settled in the grass before his mother’s grave.

“I’m back, mom,” Jimin said cheerfully and started fiddling with the ropes he’d tied around the bird’s body. “I’ve been in the forest since morning, and you won’t believe it, but I got to see the bulbul chicks’ first flight! I told you it was gonna happen soon. It was such a beautiful moment, and I could really tell how proud the mother was.”

This had been a habit of his ever since he’d learned to talk, to relay every detail of his day to his mother, starting long before she’d even fallen ill. He would go on his adventures in the forest or to the meadow, or even only as far as the farms, and every time he returned home, the first thing he’d do was to tell his mom about the things he’d seen, what he’d learned, everything. The habit hadn’t stopped even after her death, and so here he sat, in front of a grave surrounded by flowers, speaking animatedly as if his mother could still hear and see him.

“I heard some of the villagers talk about pirates again,” he told her as he plucked the eagle’s plumage, carefully pulling out the most pristine feathers and setting them aside. “It seems they’ve started attacking cities to rile up the government. Apparently, they struck a big harbor town somewhere on the mainland’s coast and burned almost half the city to the ground.” He frowned at the thought. “Jihyun’s son seems to think the man responsible uses the powers of a Blessed Rune. The Rune of Fire or something similar.”

He considered the possibility for a moment; he didn’t know much about Blessed Runes to begin with, only what his own had taught him and what his mother had told him. According to her, there could only be one of each blessing alive at the same time, which meant that there was only one human being in the entire world that could harness the Rune of Fire. “If it’s true, then we’re bound to see a bounty on his head any day now,” Jimin said and nodded thoughtfully to himself. “I mean, whether or not the pirate possesses the blessing, he’ll probably get a price on his head either way. He still burned half a city.”

He’d seen the bounty posters decorating the walls of Jeju Village’s inn, nailed into the wall to constantly remind visitors of the dangers lurking out on the sea. Jimin knew their faces by heart by now, and their bounties as well; some of them were worth more than the entirety of his village, and he sometimes wondered how terrible a person could be for someone to want to pay so much to see them dead. He knew the names the mariners had given them; Sabertooth, One-Eye, the Black Fox of the East, the Reaper, and plenty more, all titles given to somehow describe the horrors of their actions. Burning cities, razing villages, stealing, kidnapping, raping, slaughtering, just about everything that went against the law of the government.

With a shake of his head, Jimin pushed all such thoughts of out his head and smiled at the tombstone. “I’m making some quills for Jihyun,” he said and held up a few of the feathers, a beautiful mix of white and red. “I know she likes to write a lot, and those old owl feathers she’s using right now are losing their touch. I think she’d be happy with a few of these.”

He fell silent after that, only humming a little song his mother had taught him when he was young. It was her favorite, and when he sang it now, it was with his own voice, not the voice of the canary.

Jimin didn’t move from his spot until he’d removed every last feather from the eagle’s body, saving the softest of them to use in his bedding, the down a welcome addition to the unyielding straw. The rest he would use to make arrows. He fetched a sack to store them in for now, making sure to not rumple them too much, and he grabbed the five feathers he’d use to Jihyun’s quills before rising to his feet and heading back inside.

Preparing the meat was easy enough; he’d dealt with chickens before, and really, an eagle was only a bigger version of poultry. He did have some trouble fitting the thing into his small kitchen, so he ended up having to butcher it outside, which, in hindsight, was probably a better idea either way, what with the mess.

Several hours later, when the sun had already set and Jimin had eaten and stored away the rest of the food in the pantry, he curled up in his armchair in the kitchen and set to work on the quills, using his knife to clean the feathers and sharpen the tips. He knew he could’ve gone out to the tavern to spend time with the other villagers, perhaps make an effort to socialize with the ones he would live among for the rest of his life, but he willingly chose the loneliness of his cabin. He knew some of the inhabitants of Jeju Village could be kind enough, but most of them viewed him with the same eyes as Minjoon and his friends; weak and odd, with an abnormal ability that set him aside from the rest. They would never simply let him be, always demanding him to sing and scoffing when he refused, always wanting him to show off somehow, even though he had no idea what it was they were after.

Jealousy, Jihyun called it, that and the fear of what they can’t understand. She truly was his saving grace in the village, somehow always showing up when he needed her to get out of a tough situation, and he could never thank her enough for it. Sure, he could make her quills and invite her to dinner, but her reputation had suffered from taking care of him; she used to be known only as the oldest lady in town, but after she’d used her cane to beat the literal shit out of a tourist who wouldn’t leave Jimin alone, some of the more nervous inhabitants started avoiding her on the street as if she bore the plague.

Jimin set down the knife and closed his eyes, burying his teeth into his lower lip when he felt it begin to quiver. No, he told himself firmly, fighting against his sadness before it could rise to his eyes and take form in his tears. You will not cry, Park Jimin. You’re stronger than this. He inhaled deeply, over and over, keeping his eyes screwed shut to ensure not a single tear would fall, and after some minutes, he felt the burn dissipate and he found his peace.

He didn’t stay up for much longer after that, suddenly feeling too tired to even work on the quills. He’d have time in the morning, always being the first one awake, so he put away his knife and dragged his feet to his chambers, huffing as he slumped down onto the bed and buried his face in his pillow. “If I could live in the forest,” Jimin muttered, leaving the rest of the sentence unspoken; he knew he was only sulking, that things weren’t truly as terrible as he made them out to be, and so it was a ridiculous thought.

His life was as good as it could be; he had Jihyun, he had his precious time in the forest that he loved, he had the voice of the canary. He had all he needed right here, and he was content with that. Or so he told himself, over and over, as he slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

-

 

Jimin had no idea for how long he’d been sleeping when he jolted awake, so suddenly it was as if someone had screamed right into his ear. His heart was beating furiously in his chest as he sat up straight in his bed, eyes wide as he searched for the source of his fright, but he found nothing in the almost compact blackness of his room. It was now the middle of the night, dead silent and dark, with no trace of anything that could’ve caused the boy to wake with such a start.

He remained unmoving in his bed for well over a minute, hardly soothed by the lack of noise. On the contrary, it seemed almost too quiet, an eerie silence that had the fine hairs of his arms stand on edge. He slid out of bed, raising his arms to blindly feel his way around the darkness of his room, hissing when he stubbed his little toe against the narrow door frame. He limped into the kitchen and tried to find his oil lamp, hands groping at the surfaces of his counters and cupboard, and after several seconds of unsuccessful shuffling, he emitted a frustrated sound and gave up.

He turned to stare at the front door, holding his breath as he listened intently, waiting for a sign of life from whatever it was that had woken him, but when seconds ticked by without him hearing or seeing or sensing anything out of the ordinary, he decided he’d probably had a terrible dream. He heaved a soft sigh and shook his head at his own jitteriness before steering his steps back to the chamber, hoping he could catch at least a few more hours of sleep before the sun began to rise.

He was almost back in bed when he heard it, and his blood went cold in his veins.

It was the sound of cannon fire, the loud boom tearing through the night’s silence, instantly followed by a deafening crash at it hit its mark, the very ground shaking with the impact of the explosion. Screams followed shortly, panicked and terrified, but even the cries of the villagers were drowned out by the building roar of their aggressors, a choir of menacingly delighted cheers drawing closer for every passing second.

Pirates, Jimin realized with an almost paralyzing ripple of dread. His village was under attack by pirates.