Seongwoo was exhausted. He'd had four classes today, had to help the drama club with their next production even though he was too busy to participate this semester, and had just come back from the library where he’d been helping Guanlin study for his Korean Literature class. It's 11pm now, and he just wants to pass out on his bed.
He opened his dorm room door and flipped on the light switch right next to it - then promptly flipped it off.
Daniel was sleeping at the kitchen counter.
Great. Figures. Wonderful.
Fumbling in the dark, Seongwoo put his backpack down in the hallway and made his way over to Daniel. There was a bowl of what looked suspiciously like cereal in front of him, and his open notebook was smushed under his cheek. The pen was still in his hand, and he'd scribbled on the edge of his notebook because of his tendency to move around so much in his sleep.
Sighing a little fondly, Seongwoo wrapped his arms around Daniel's waist. Repeating "I’m a strong man, I'm a strong man" to himself, he waited until he could feel the power surging through him to lift upwards. Kang Daniel, tall muscular man, should have been near impossible for scrawny I-hit-the-gym-when-I-start-to-feel-faint-climbing-stairs Ong Seongwoo to carry; but Seongwoo wasn't just a regular college student.
Seongwoo was a regular student in that he had an overworking roommate who gave him more trouble than he intended to. He shifted said roommate onto his back, and made his way to their shared bedroom.
His other roommate, Jisung, should already be asleep in the other room - and Woojin, well, after he abandoned his room at the end of last semester saying he had "found his calling" - whatever that meant - he hasn't slept in his room since. Seongwoo still saw him in class, so at least he knew the guy was alive, but he didn't know what in the world he was getting up to outside of that.
He lowered Daniel onto his bed, put the mouth guard on the cabinet between the two of their beds into his mouth, and pulled the blanket up around his elongated form. The blanket was never quite long enough for him, and though Daniel seemed to have gotten used to it, it still bothered Seongwoo. He promised himself again that he'd buy the boy longer ones for Christmas.
After a quick wash up, Seongwoo collapsed into his own bed. On top of his already hectic school work, he kept getting accosted by Daehwi with cryptic warnings, and every time he went into territory not marked by his cohort, he could feel people giving him the stank eye. Was "the game" starting to heat up? Would he need to talk to his King about it?
He’d have to deal with it tomorrow, he thought with a yawn, as the sweet call of slumber beckoned his eyes close.
The fourth year turned around to find his same-age friend Seongwoo jogging to catch up to him. It was between classes right now, so they didn’t usually meet.
“Hey,” Minhyun called, “what’s up?”
“Has there been any movements?” Seongwoo whispered conspiratorially.
“I don’t think so?” Minhyun said, unsure why this had come up. Even though they knew there were at least two Kings at the university, neither of them tended to make big moves.
“Okay, that’s good,” he smiled, looking relieved. “Did you see that essay Mr. Lee assigned us? 20 pages!”
Minhyun laughed, just like Seongwoo to change the topic to something completely irrelevant. “It’s alot for a first assignment,” he admitted, “but you’ll pull through, you always do.” He patted Seongwoo on the shoulder encouragingly.
“I guess,” Seongwoo heaved a long suffering sigh.
“Don’t you have class?” Minhyun reminded him.
“Yes, I do,” Seongwoo agreed easily, “just wanted to make sure my most important highness was safe.”
Minhyun swatted the top of Seongwoo’s head lightly. “Not so loud,” he muttered, even though no one else was paying attention to them.
“Your wish is my command!” Seongwoo gave a faux salute, though he lowered his voice as well.
“Says the Commander himself,” Minhyun laughed good-naturedly.
He shooed Seongwoo away as he neared his classroom, and the other waved goodbye before heading down the stairs. As Seongwoo joined the rest of the students moving towards the lecture room at the end of the hall, he felt someone stumble up beside him.
“Hey hyung, is my phone haunted?”
It was Daniel, hair disheveled and a look of mild alarm on his face.
“What?” Seongwoo frowned.
“My phone flopped on my face a good five times before it stopped,” Daniel said, the offending instrument held up in his hand like it was a radioactive space rock, “and that was only because I woke up.”
“Oh that,” Seongwoo said, suppressing a chortle; he hadn’t exactly anticipated such a reaction when he urged Daniel’s phone to wake him up in time for his first class this morning. “That was me. I just wanted to make sure it would really wake you up, since I can’t be there to do it myself.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, lowering his arm a little meekly. He rubbed at his cheek, which now that Seongwoo looked at it, was a little red. “It hurt.”
Seongwoo couldn’t help but laugh. “Now that I know it works, I’ll be sure to do it every morning so you don’t miss any more classes.”
Daniel swung his arm around Seongwoo’s shoulder as if in a gesture of goodwill, only to put him in a headlock. Seongwoo retaliated by pinching his side, and the two of them tussled all the way to class.
Another late evening for Seongwoo; it was becoming a habit to leave campus around 10 or 11pm. He knew some students left way later, but on principle he didn’t let himself study past midnight. He would be groggy and grumpy at that point, which wasn’t very conducive to studying; plus, he did like to have at least a little bit of a life, thank you very much.
He packed up his books and left the library. It was a Friday evening so there weren’t many people around anymore, probably too busy partying. But Seongwoo anticipated a busy weekend, what with his part time job, promises to hang out, and the calls from the drama club he was sure to get. He needed to put in as much work as he could while he still had time.
He’d managed pretty well he thought; he’d put his phone on silent and just worked on his assignments with no distractions. Now he opened his phone to check on anything he might have missed, enjoying the cool evening breeze. There were 15 messages from Daniel - why did that boy feel the need to send him so many messages? 2 from Minhyun, and even 1 from Jisung. Maybe they were wondering where he went, since it’d been at least four hours since he last talked to anybody. He was just about to reply to one of them - Daniel's, since he seemed so urgent with his 15 messages - when he heard something behind him.
Maybe it came with being roommates with a werecat, but he was highly alert to any unnatural sounds of animal growls or breathing, and there were definitely some behind him. He whipped around, and was chilled to the bone when he saw two medium-sized grey wolves running at him, teeth bared.
“Fuck!” he turned back around and bolted. He was definitely not outrunning them, but there was nothing else he could think of to do. He had two textbooks in his backpack, his phone was still clamped in his hand, and there was absolutely no one else around. If he was attacked now and ripped to shreds he might not be found until tomorrow morning.
All he wanted to do was go home, to see his roommates, and to live past 21 years of age-
“Fuckin-don’t come any closer!” he whirred around and actually held up his hand, like he’d seen a man do at a busy intersection to Command a car to stop.
The wolves slammed to a stop against what seemed like an invisible barrier. The one leading at the front shook its head and growled deeply at Seongwoo; it had a dull grey, spiky mane, and sharp looking brown eyes.
“Get lost!” Seongwoo tried, bolstered that his Command seemed to have worked. “Shoo!”
Flames flared up around where the wolves stopped, and the faint outline of what looked like a bobcat pounced forward with a snarl. The two wolves flinched back further, the slightly smaller one in the back with a whiter tone to its fur letting out a small yelp.
With the familiar figure by his side - even though it wasn’t real - Seongwoo stood his ground and gave a final firm Command. “Leave, now!”
The fiery bobcat flared to twice its size, teeth bared and an unearthly yell ripping through its throat. The wolves growled one last time before turning around and trotting away. Seongwoo felt his legs give out, and it took all his willpower to stay on his feet. He didn’t want to be out any longer in case any other Units were still around, in case that had only been a scout and not the real attack. The illusory bobcat circled him once comfortingly before disappearing. Thinking of that as his roommates beckoning him back home, he gathered the last of his strength and ran back towards his dorm.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Actually, since I have most of this written, and it's pretty long, I'm going to update maybe 2 or 3 times a week.
When he burst through the door Daniel was already halfway up the hallway. His body stiffened at the sight of Seongwoo, and his eyes nearly shifted to the yellow of his cat form.
“You smell like dogs,” he said; Seongwoo just noticed the mug in his hand.
Seongwoo closed the door behind him and collapsed against it.
“I-uh-yeah,” he managed to say, still out of breath.
“Did you get attacked?” Daniel was in his predator mode now, and was approaching Seongwoo with that territorial possessiveness he had for anything he routinely marked as “his” - for the sake of safety of course.
“Kind of,” Seongwoo said; he didn’t want to get Daniel riled up, but he wouldn’t exactly mind a little retaliation to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. “To be fair, they only sort of ‘threatened’ me.”
“You mean you fought them off,” Daniel said, seeming to relax now that he’d established Seongwoo wasn’t hurt. “Who were they?”
“Dunno,” Seongwoo said. He peeled himself off the door and shuffled into the kitchen; he really needed some comfort food after that. “Didn’t know there were any werewolves on campus.”
“The other King’s Infantry,” Daniel grunted, butting Seongwoo aside to get at the fridge himself. He took out the pizza Seongwoo was about to reach for.
“I’m heating it for you,” Daniel said over his protests.
Seongwoo hadn’t known Daniel could be so caring. The image of the bobcat protecting him still floated in his mind, making him feel warm inside. He hummed, pleased, and rested his head on Daniel’s shoulder as the other put the pizza into the microwave.
Daniel turned his head to sniff at Seongwoo lightly. “Too bad you didn’t let them nip you a little so I can get a better scent.”
Seongwoo took back what he’d thought of Daniel. “Wha-”
Daniel laughed, the sound passing through Seongwoo’s body. “I’m joking, I’m joking. Beast form scents are always concealed when the Unit is in human form anyway...”
But he still turned around and gave Seongwoo a serious look as the microwave beeped behind him. “But this won’t happen again. No more late nights for you, and tell me when you go somewhere less populated so I can lurk nearby.”
“Daniel, you don’t have to,” Seongwoo started to say, “you’re already so busy-”
“It’s my duty as your Infantry,” he said simply, a smile on his face.
Seongwoo wilted a little. Their Infantry-Commander status always made him feel guilty. When Daniel first moved in and Seongwoo wasn’t aware he was an Infantry, he’d accidentally influenced him a few times - Infantry were most affected by Commanders, perhaps why the wolves had backed off so easily - but the other had only laughed it off when Seongwoo apologized. When they formed a cohort with Minhyun and Jaehwan, Daniel had jokingly but very seriously “pledged” himself to Seongwoo, saying he would be at Seongwoo’s beck and call. But Seongwoo had not wanted that at all; because above being Daniel’s Commander, he treasured being his friend much more.
“Try again,” he said, folding his arms like he was an elementary teacher, and Daniel was a misbehaving child. They’d talked about this before, and he wasn’t about to set back two years of progress.
“Uh, it’s my duty as your sworn best friend,” Daniel said instead, cheeky grin blossoming wider.
“Accepted,” Seongwoo said, retrieving the forgotten pizza from the microwave. “But no playing bodyguard; I have a much better plan.”
“Lee Daehwi, my favourite underclassman!”
“Oh no, what do you want?”
Seongwoo put down his tray in front of Daehwi with a little thump, smiling coquettishly at him. They were at one of the university’s food courts, and Daehwi was sitting in a corner table by himself, as usual. Both as a Seer and because of his guarded personality, he didn’t tend to associate with alot of people. Those he did though, he always made sure to look out for, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t every bit the bratty 19 year old that he was.
“Just a few days ago you were warning me against going out after dark, and now you’re giving me the cold shoulder?” Seongwoo said, pretending to be hurt.
“But you didn’t listen did you?” Daehwi shot back, “and now you’re crying back to me because you almost got your ass bit.”
“Honestly I forgot about it,” Seongwoo admitted sheepishly, “you give me these cryptic warnings so much these days it’s hard to always pay attention.”
“That’s because something really is about to happen!” Daehwi said, stealing a bit of Seongwoo’s pasta in retaliation, “I’m just telling you about as much as I can See in case any of them became real; you know Futuresight isn’t really my forte.”
“Not a very good Seer are you?” Seongwoo teased.
“Seeing is more than just predicting the future-” Daewhi started to say.
“I know, I know,” Seongwoo said placatingly, “which is why I wanted to ask you to make use of your ‘other talents’.”
“What do you mean?” Daewhi asked, narrowing his eyes.
“I have a proposal for you,” Seongwoo started, folding his hands together and forgetting his lunch altogether.
“You know I don’t take sides,” Daehwi said quickly; he had made himself clear he was a neutral party when Seongwoo had tried to get him to join their cohort - “we have the King”, he had said as an incentive, though Daehwi wasn’t part of any other cohorts at the time. In the end that had been the reason Daehwi rejected him, because he didn’t want to come between the two Kings he knew was on campus.
“I know,” Seongwoo said, “I’m not asking you to side with us, just to help us a little; you’ve always been doing that for both sides when you could anyway. Since they made the first move, it’s only fair to level the playing field.”
Daehwi hesitated a little, but Seongwoo could tell what he said made sense to him. “You didn’t get hurt or anything right?” he asked first.
Seongwoo smiled softly, nudging his pasta towards Daehwi since he was now basically only eating out of his plate anyways. “No, I’m fine; they scared me a bit is all.”
“Okay,” he said, looking a little sad; from Seongwoo’s understanding, he was friends with quite a few of the Units from the other King’s side. He probably only knew Seongwoo personally from their cohort, though he seemed to have great respect for their King. “That’s good.”
“What do you say?” Seongwoo prompted.
“Let’s hear it first,” the younger said, back to his business demeanor.
Seongwoo chuckled. “Alright,” he said, “I want you to arrange for a chance for our King to meet with one of their Units; it doesn’t have to be anyone important, just an Infantry even.”
“Wha-that doesn’t have anything to do with my ‘other talents’!” Daehwi blurted.
“Of course it does,” Seongwoo pretended to be shocked, “your natural friendliness and personal connection with the enemy, allowing them to let down their guard and be tricked into shaking hands with the charming Min-”
“No, I mean my magic ,” Daehwi interrupted impatiently.
“Well you could persuade them by other means,” Seongwoo said easily, “a potion maybe, an enticing charm; you could drug them for all I cared, I just want to know who one of their members are, since they clearly knew who I was.”
“There’s no way I’d do that to my friends!” Daehwi cried, offended.
“I didn’t say you should , I just said you could ,” Seongwoo said simply.
Daehwi sighed, sounding like he really was disappointed. “And here I was hoping I could get a real job; do you know how wasted I am in here? No one knows my true talents.”
Here was part of Daehwi’s long suffering speech about how he wished he could go to a small village and join a traditional witch's covenant, where he could discover his true potential; but both he and Seongwoo knew he couldn’t give up his friends or city comforts to really do so. He was talented though, Seongwoo admitted; in a campus where witches weren’t exactly trusted, and college students only had so much money to spend, it’s no wonder he doesn’t get any real jobs. Maybe Seongwoo could cut him some slack just this once…
“Well, my mom’s birthday is coming up,” Seongwoo said offhandedly, “and a good luck charm for the rest of the year sounds pretty good. If you help me out with my original request that is.”
“Ooh!” Daehwi squealed like how a regular teenager might squeal at fancy jewelry or a new phone, “okay I’ll do it!”
If Seongwoo had known it’d be so easy, he would’ve started with the commission bait. He reached across the table to shake on the deal, but Daehwi was already raving about the charm.
“Do you mean actual ‘good luck’ or just the appearance of good fortune-”
Park Woojin was many things, but he was definitely not a quitter, and he was not a coward. But in the face of an angry Park Jihoon, he may just be both things.
“What do you mean he’s your old roommate?” his friend’s eyes shone in the dark of the closet that he’d dragged Woojin into moment’s earlier.
“Uh, I mean he’s one of the people who lives in the dorm I’m supposed to still be living in?” Woojin said, trying to find a comfortable spot amongst all the brooms and mops.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Jihoon demanded.
“I was afraid you’d be angry?” Woojin mumbled, “also I didn’t know what to do with the information…”
“Is that what your whole dorm is?” Jihoon asked, “a cohort hideout?”
“I don’t know,” Woojin shrugged helplessly, “I honestly didn’t know anything about Units until I found out I was one at the end of last semester, and then I moved in with you guys. None of the others had shown any signs of being anything other than...human.”
“Well he’s literally right there so we can find out-” Jihoon made to move out of the closet but Woojin stopped him.
“No way, he’ll recognize me!”
“That’s fine! He doesn’t know who we really are-” Jihoon’s eyes lit up at the thought of a new idea, “we can find out more about his cohort if we pretend to befriend him!”
“We don’t even know if he’s part of the other King’s cohort-” Woojin started to protest.
“Sungwoon-hyung is fairly sure Minhyun is part of the cohort that houses the King,” Jihoon interrupted, “he was already active before he suddenly gained himself a cohort; they’re a pretty influential bunch, and Sungwoon-hyung recognizes the crown symbol Minhyun used to leave everywhere he marked.”
“Doesn’t that mean he’s the King?” Woojin asked, distracted.
“Not necessarily,” Jihoon said, a little impatient with the change in topic, “no one else in his cohort used to be active, so it’s possible they’re still using his symbol since it’s already been exposed to hide the real King.”
Woojin nodded, but Jihoon hit him on the arm to bring him back to the topic at hand.
“Seongwoo is like best friends with Minhyun - Sungwoon-hyung already suspected him - and now we’ve found out he’s a Commander; the chances of him being in the same cohort as Minhyun is high.”
Woojin groaned at the reminder of their little reconnaissance mission a few days ago, dragging his hands down his face. Sungwoon-hyung thankfully didn’t know about it yet, but he’d kill them when he found out. “We weren’t even supposed to do anything,” he cried softly, “and I didn’t know ‘Seongwoo’ meant that Seongwoo.”
“Well, what do we do now,” Jihoon crossed his arms, giving Woojin a look of ultimatum, “you didn’t want to tell Sungwoon-hyung we’d confirmed Seongwoo’s identity, and now you don’t even want to tail him to find out more about his cohort. Are we just gonna sit around on this information and let it go to waste?”
“Let’s confirm he’s part of Minhyun’s cohort first then,” Woojin conceded, “isn’t there a test to confirm cohort bonds?”
“Yeah,” Jihoon said, “Daewhi would know about those.”
“Okay,” Woojin nodded, “let’s ask him to help us.”
Seongwoo wondered how long it would take for Daniel to realize he was there. He used the time Daniel’s eyes drifted to and from his textbook and notebook listlessly to stare at his face. The little mole under his right eye, his currently droopy eyes, and his full cheeks that looked a little sunken compared to before. He seemed tired all the time these days, and not as energetic as he used to be.
Seongwoo may have leaned a little too forward on the desk, because suddenly Daniel’s eyes caught the edge of his sleeve, and travelled up until they met his eyes.
“Oh,” he said with a little plop of his mouth.
“Yeah, oh,” Seongwoo mirrored, smirking. “Only took you twenty minutes to notice I was here.”
“Oops,” he said with a cheeky grin.
“You almost fell asleep five times in those twenty minutes,” Seongwoo said a little sadly, “are you not getting enough sleep these days?”
“Studying lots,” he said vaguely.
“And?” Seongwoo prompted.
Daniel drew circles on the table with his finger. He could lie if he wanted to, but Seongwoo was good at looking through him, and he didn’t seem to like lying to him anyway. “Patrolling,” he finally said, “marking spots that are ours.”
“Oh,” Daniel mentioned he did that before, but Seongwoo didn’t realize it was something that took up all night. “Is it really that important?”
“Better than letting some bully cohorts take over,” Daniel said, “they throw their weight around when they think they own the place. People prefer the Golden Crown King better you know?”
“Is that what they call him?” Seongwoo asked with a tilt of his head; admittedly he didn’t pay that much attention to Unit gossip, though maybe he should have given his rather high position. But he was busy enough being a fourth year college student without having to make more problems for himself, though it seemed inevitable now.
“Yeah,” Daniel said, looking a little proud, “they call the other King the Cloud King, after that little cloud symbol that shows up in areas he’s marked. You know some cohorts and independent Units have alliances? Instead of trying to override the mark in a territory they just add their own sigils underneath either our crown or the other King’s cloud.”
“Are we winning?” Seongwoo asked with a expectant smirk.
“Yup,” Daniel said with his own wide grin.
“Hmm,” Seongwoo settled into contemplation.
It had been a few days since his “deal” with Daehwi, and while the boy had been sending him updates via text, nothing has been finalized yet. The plan seemed to be heading towards having Minhyun meet one of the Units at a party, but Seongwoo didn’t really like the idea. There were way too many people at a party, and Minhyun needed to keep his identity secret. Plus, the other King’s Unit would be cautious around so many people as well, and it might not be easy to get in physical contact with them.
“What are you thinking about?” Daniel asked, prodding his arm with his pen.
“The ‘plan’,” Seongwoo replied.
“Oh,” Daniel flicked his pen a little restlessly, “do you think the Cloud King would suspect anything if we suddenly found one of their Units out?”
“I don’t think so,” Seongwoo said, “a person might purposely or accidentally come in contact with so many people in the span of a week. Heck, I don’t even know how the other King found out about me .”
“That could be a clue,” Daniel said thoughtfully, “did you come in contact with anyone new or use your ability in front of any strangers?”
“No…” Seongwoo said slowly, “although I may have joked and almost gotten our TA to give us the answer key for a quiz…”
Daniel’s eyebrows lifted as if to say “and you think that wasn’t a big deal?”
“There’s only like twelve people in that lab if we need to probe,” Seongwoo said quickly, “maybe I should give our class list a look.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Daniel stifled a huge yawn, the points of his teeth showing; Seongwoo was very much reminded of a cat yawning. The werecat looked down at his phone absentmindedly. “I gotta go,” he mumbled.
“Patrols?” Seongwoo asked sadly.
“Yeah,” Daniel stood up and stretched, the bottom of his shirt lifting up.
“Do you piss on the buildings to mark them?”
“Wha-” but Seongwoo was laughing, so Daniel knew he was joking. “No, I just spread my scent a bit, wait until my cohort bond acts up. Maybe scare a few Units away if they’re lurking around.”
“Sounds like tough work.”
“Very hard on my paws,” he said, rounding his hands in a weak attempt to make cat paws.
Seongwoo’s hand was in Daniel’s hair before he could stop himself. Daniel had many unconscious behaviors that made Seongwoo want to pet him, and he wasn’t sure if the younger boy knew that he was leaning into the touch as well. Seongwoo even got him to purr once when he was half asleep, and Daniel had been so mortified he banned Seongwoo from touching him for three weeks - as if that was going to happen when he had to haul Daniel to bed every other day.
“Don’t work too hard,” he said softly, “we can divide up the marking. I’ll just take Jaehwan with me more often to our areas; he needs to start pulling his weight and all.”
“Sure,” Daniel said, but Seongwoo knew he was just saying that. An Infantry’s scent marking was the most effective at keeping territory; it was the Infantry - the rank and file, the lowest of the rung - that was meant to do this work, the dirt work that set the foundation of a King’s empire.
Daniel moved away from Seongwoo’s touch reluctantly, gesturing at his mess on the table and his bag with a cheeky smile. Seongwoo sighed and gave an OK sign that meant “yes, I’ll clean up your shit and bring it back to the dorm”. Daniel blew him a kiss in thanks, and was walking away before Seongwoo had a chance to blow one back.
He exhaled slowly as he started to pack up Daniel’s stuff. He hoped everything would go well; the meeting, Daniel’s hard work, their apparent feud with the other King. He’d always wanted to just be a regular college student, even if a sense of duty made him form a cohort with Minhyun when he found out he was a King. Back then Minhyun had no Units around him at all, saying he didn’t want to trouble anyone with old-fashioned cohort hierarchies. But they’d become friends more than anything, and he only hoped they could stay friends after all this was over.
Jaehwan scratched at his chin as he mulled over what was on his computer screen. It was hard to imagine what kind of effects you would need on the battlefield without ever having been on one before. He had tracks for boosting attack, speed, giving heightened senses, even an illusion one that he wasn’t sure would work. He’d joked to Minhyun that he wanted to run some simulations with him before, but the other had only given him an astounded look that said “I make peace, not war”. There was also a hint of something like “you’re just a 20 year old finance major with a music minor you buffoon,” to which Jaehwan would very indignantly reply in his head - no , I’m a Bard , and I take my job very seriously thank you very much.
He’d made sure to send all those music files to everyone in his cohort, but god knows if they ever had any reason to use them other than to make it to class on time or to strong-arm their way to the front of a lunch line. He even made some songs that would enhance memory or increase intelligence during tests, but Minhyun quickly shut him down, saying using magic for such things was cheating and could get Jaehwan expelled. He was reduced to making some soothing tunes for when Seongwoo needed his “five minute breaks that felt like he took a ten day vacation”, or lullabies for when Daniel had trouble sleeping after drinking too many cups of coffee.
In the vaguely familiar words of someone he might have met before, “no one knows my true talents”.
“Are you moping? Why are you moping?”
The voice startled Jaehwan out of his self-imposed stupor. He turned around to see Minhyun coming into his studio - uninvited - with two plastic bags in his hands. Jaehwan knew it was food, so he forgave the intrusion.
“I’m moping because I’m a very serious Bard but I have to make Guanlin a hip hop track that would make deciphering language easier for him,” Jaehwan said, making a grab for one of the plastic bags but missing.
Minhyun is sending him one of those “are you sure you’re doing the right thing” looks again, which Jaehwan hates with a passion - aimed at someone else, sure, he loved watching them squirm, but not when it’s directed at him. Him who should only ever have Minhyun’s undivided attention and adoration.
“It’s not illegal, in case you were wondering,” Jaehwan said, automatically raising one hand to his chest and the other out in solemn promise, “it’s just to help him unscramble the words more clearly while he studies; there are literally TA-led study rooms for that.”
“Fine,” Minhyun conceded, pulling up a chair to sit next to Jaehwan in the cramped studio - really an empty office space in the music building that Jaehwan had claimed as his. He always played a deterring tune that only his friends couldn’t hear when he was in here, just in case anyone wanted to give him trouble. Minhyun didn’t know about that - since he couldn’t hear it - which saved Jaehwan another round of lectures he was sure.
The older man was finally taking out the containers in the plastic bags, which had Jaehwan mesmerized. There was fish cake soup, spicy rice cake, and rolls of kimbap in there. Not exactly Minhyun’s most healthy delivery, but it was nearly 10pm, so knowing Minhyun it was probably a concession that Jaehwan needed to eat something. He’d been on this year-long plan to convert Jaehwan into an upstanding healthy young man - probably a vegetarian, went to yoga and zumba regularly, and cleaned his room once a week. He’d accomplished a few things on his list, but he’d ended up giving in to Jaehwan and making excuses for him just as much.
“Did you finish your Econ assignment for tomorrow?” Minhyun asked, also unpacking two milk tea drinks and handing Jaehwan’s favourite to him.
“Uh, oh yeah,” Jaehwan fibbed, “sure did.”
“What’s the answer to question 10?” he asked with a sharp glance.
Jaehwan nearly sputtered on his drink, “ you don’t even know the answer to question 10!”
“No, but Jisung-hyung is your TA so he does, and I have his number right here to text him for it.” His phone was perched primly in his hands.
Jaehwan made a quick grab for his phone, but Minhyun was fast. He ended up dissolving into giggles when he tried a few more times to no avail. There was no room in here, but Minhyun could be surprisingly nimble if he wanted to be.
“Okay fine,” he admitted defeat, “I’ll do it after this.”
“It’s 10pm, and your class is at 8am tomorrow!” Minhyun cried.
“I’ll just stay up,” Jaehwan said with a shrug.
Minhyun sighed. “Show me your assignment. I’ll do some of the work for you.”
“Ohh hyung-” Jaehwan hooted, already reaching into his backpack for his papers, “breaking your own rules!”
“They’re my rules so they don’t apply to me,” Minhyun said with fake airs.
“Spoken like a true tyrannical King,” Jaehwan laughed, handing the assignment to Minhyun.
Minhyun chuckled and accepted it; there were only two sheet so it shouldn’t take that long. He’d give a glance over all the questions, fill in some of the work for Jaehwan and write notes on the questions so he knew which direction to take. Jaehwan could probably finish it pretty fast; he wasn’t necessarily a bad student, just a lazy and undisciplined one.
“Are you really gonna go through with meeting the Unit from the other King?” Jaehwan asked, eyes back on the computer screen but mind clearly somewhere else.
“Yeah,” Minhyun said, filling in Jaehwan’s name on the assignment in an imitation of the boy’s sloppy handwriting for fun, “I have to make a stand since they attacked Seongwoo.”
“I thought you wanted to avoid fighting with the other King?”
“I do,” Minhyun said, “I want to form an alliance with him actually. There are way too many Units on campus these days trying to muscle their way through the rest of the student body and even the staff. Their territorial marks are filled with hostile intentions and intimidation, and students have a hard time going to those places because of it. If the two of us work together we can cover more ground; I know he has way more territory on the other end of campus away from us.”
“One of you will probably have to abdicate then,” Jaehwan said lightly, “you know there can’t be two Kings on campus.”
“Why not?” Minhyun said, but it was a rhetorical question really. It wasn’t a rule, but it was just easier for cohesion if there was only one power figure. He already knew that, and he was ready to give up his place if the Cloud King was as he imagined him to be - smart, calculated, but ultimately just.
“You should be the only King,” Jaehwan said, as if able to read Minhyun’s mind. “I don’t see the other guy going around buying people coffee if he feels them being upset inside his territory, risking visits to his areas and checking on the staff personally, or actively talking down people causing a ruckus. Even if people don’t know who you are, they feel comforted to be in your presence; it’s why your areas are so well-liked, because of the kind intentions you put in them.”
Minhyun is struck for words for a few moments; he’d never heard Jaehwan talk about him in this way before - or talk about anything so sincerely that wasn’t music. When he asked Jaehwan to join their cohort he’d been a little worried he’d say no - after all, they'd only had one class together, and he’d scouted Jaehwan for his talent more than anything. But after getting to know each other, he found Jaehwan tended to cling to him and enjoyed making his life difficult. Yet he was also sincere about his position, made great friends with Seongwoo - who he already knew - and Daniel, and, apparently, was deeply invested in Minhyun as the King.
“Thanks,” he found himself mumbling, not knowing what else to say.
“I’ll accept it if you feed me a rice cake,” Jaehwan said, his mouth already open.
Minhyun rolled his eyes, but stuck two pieces of rice cakes into his mouth anyway. Jaehwan made a pleased noise as he chewed.
“I want to meet him first,” Minhyun said, “before I make any decisions about abdicating. If he keep using his current methods though, maybe I won’t want to give up my throne after all.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” Jaehwan said with a big smile.
I think in my mind I always kind of saw Jonghyun as older (my only exposure to Nu'est members are through Produce, so I don't know them that well), so I unconsciously wrote him that way before double checking their ages. But I think it fits with the story, so I'm going to leave it like that; Jonghyun and Aron are older and already graduated, while Dongho, Minhyun, and Minki are the same age.
There was a reason Seongwoo didn’t usually attend college parties. There were way too many people; it was sweaty, noisy, and smelled like alcohol. He probably couldn’t even recognize his best friend in this dark cavernous place, face contorted and lost to intoxication. Thankfully none of his best friends were dumb enough to get shitface wasted, and especially not when they were travelling together as a cohort.
Only Jaehwan wasn’t here yet, having to tutor piano for one of his demanding clients; but he promised he would come later with their “getaway car” - could he even drive? Seongwoo tried to remember. Daniel was elbowing him on his right side, behind Minhyun who they were sandwiching as they made their way through the crowd. He pointed a discreet finger at a bobbing head on the other side of the room - and lo and behold there was their lost roommate, Woojin, in all his red-headed glory.
“Wow” Seongwoo mouthed back, “should we go accost him and demand to know whether he still loves us?”
“Nah,” Daniel laughed, though he seemed a bit tense, eyes lingering on Woojin for a few more seconds meaningfully. “Let him enjoy his party.”
“Psst,” Minhyun hissed by their ears, “social interaction, incoming.”
They both snapped back around, trying to look presentable, and not sticking too closely to Minhyun’s side. Just casual, laid back, Seongwoo told himself, like they were a group of friends and nothing else.
“Hey!” it was Dongho, the host of this party. Seongwoo knew he was a classmate of Minhyun’s, but not much else. “Fancy seeing you here,” he and Minhyun slapped hands - Seongwoo was always very conscious of every time his King touched someone, because it revealed to him what Unit they were if they were one. Dongho though, Minhyun had mentioned before, was not a Unit at all. In the words of Jisung - referring to himself - he was just a peasant, a sad bystander to all this craziness.
“Yeah, I’m not really one for parties, as you know,” Minhyun said, keeping an eye on his surroundings but still being effortlessly friendly, “but I heard the whole troupe’s going to be here, so I wanted to come too.”
That was the excuse Minhyun had said he would use for his attendance, though it was true that his old dance group members were all here. If it wasn’t because of the “plan”, Seongwoo would’ve really liked to just let him relax with his old friends. Although, catching up in a crowded place like this was probably not the best idea for him.
“Jonghyun’s keeping Aron company on the sofa by the window,” Dongho said, “and Minki’s shuffling around somewhere trying to give people drinks. I’m not sure why he feels the needs to host my own party, but I think he’s trying to get more people to throw up in my sink.”
Minhyun laughed; sometimes he was so serious and responsible, that Seongwoo forgot he was just a 21 year old college student with a past - and a future. Sometimes he was sorry to have robbed him a little of his present.
“Your friends?” Dongho gestured to Seongwoo and Daniel.
“Yeah,” Minhyun said, “this is Seongwoo, same year as me; and this is Daniel, a third year.”
Dongho shook each of their hands; Seongwoo was glad he knew beforehand Dongho was not a Unit, because he didn’t want to use his “I have an illness that makes my palm really sweaty so you probably don’t want to shake that” excuse again.
“Do you want to go talk to the guys, or get a drink first?” Dongho asked.
“I think we’ll get a drink first,” Minhyun said, speaking for all of them, “maybe Minki can make us something.”
“You probably don’t want that,” Dongho said, “I have no idea what he’s going to put in there.”
Minhyun chuckled and followed Dongho over to the kitchen, Seongwoo and Daniel lingering behind. Seongwoo scanned the room for any sight of Daehwi, and found him leaning against the balcony window talking to a tall slim boy with a mop of dark hair. That must be the one he was setting up for Minhyun to meet.
The plan was for Minhyun to bring drinks over, get introduced with a fake name, and lightly make contact with the target somehow - even the smallest touch was enough for a reveal. Seongwoo would have to make himself sparse while that happened in case he was recognized. He probably shouldn’t have even come, but his abilities were infinitely more useful if something happened than having Daniel go bobcat in the middle of a party. Jaehwan was slightly more preferable as well, but his client suddenly called him in and he couldn’t get himself away.
Dongho ushered them into some stools at the granite counter; he must have been loaded, Seongwoo thought, because his place looked nice . There was a smaller, slightly intoxicated looking boy, just to the left of Minhyun; all the other seats were to the right of Daniel. Even though Woojin had been around this area earlier, he was nowhere to be seen now.
A slim, pretty looking boy came up to them when Dongho waved him over. He lit up in a smile when he saw Minhyun, and the two of them exchanged a hug. That must have been Minki - another “pleb”, Seongwoo reassured himself. Of all Minhyun’s troupe friends, only Jonghyun was an Unit, another Commander. They had almost formed the beginnings of a cohort back in the day, but Jonghyun was graduating and Minhyun didn’t want to impose.
“Long time no see!” Minki gushed, giving Seongwoo and Daniel each a nod. “You don’t even visit me at the shop anymore, what’s up with that?” Minhyun had told Seongwoo Minki dropped out of school early to start his own clothing store, which was doing quite well.
“Been busy,” Minhyun said apologetically, “how have you been?”
“Fine,” Minki waved his hand, “getting ready to put out my summer collection; you have to at least come to the show this time!”
Seongwoo lost track of the conversation as his attention wandered back to Daehwi and the tall boy. They too were chatting amicably, until Seongwoo saw Daehwi drawing something on his glass with his finger. A second later the word “now” formed there, glittering gold for only a moment.
“Oh Minhyun,” he leaned closer to his friend, hoping he had chosen an opportune moment to interrupt, “I think I see your friend over there, do you want to go say hi?”
Minhyun glanced behind him, then quickly turned back to Minki with a slightly apologetic expression.
“Sorry, I think Seongwoo’s right; my friend said he’d only be here for a while, and since I came pretty late, this might be my only chance to catch him,” he explained, “I’ll just bring a few drinks over and say a quick hello. Can I take one of these?” he was gesturing to the pre-prepared drinks on the table. Both Dongho and Minki nodded, giving him slightly curious looks.
He smiled and picked up one of the drinks, carrying his own in the other hand. Daniel, too, picked up one of the pre-prepared drinks and got out of the stool with a smile and nod at the hosts. He followed behind Minhyun a bit, but stopped halfway to the balcony, pretending to be preoccupied with something on the dresser there. He had wanted to be close enough to Minhyun to keep an eye on him, but not be directly involved in the meeting.
That only left Seongwoo at the table, giving hopefully a convincing enough grin at Minhyun’s friends. To their credit, they seemed to wave it off as some prearranged thing, and Minki was already offering to make Seongwoo a drink. They’re interrupted by a thud on the left side of the table though, and Seongwoo looked over to see the drunk looking boy earlier with his head on the table. He looked pretty young, and had probably had a few too many drinks.
As a responsible upperclassman, Seongwoo felt it his duty to check up on him. So he scooted over until he was hovering close to the boy.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
The boy slowly lifted his head. Something about his pale brown eyes that seemed to shine in the darkened room was familiar to Seongwoo. The boy blinked a few times groggily, until whatever he was seeing - Seongwoo? Dongho’s house? The beer pong that was happening in the back? - made him widen his eyes in shock and recognition.
Seongwoo had enough time to raise his eyebrows before a splash of liquid hit him on the bottom of the chin. The boy had pulled out a phial of some sort, and dumped its contents right at Seongwoo’s face. He smelt an unearthly perfume, which he realized too late meant magic, and when he looked down at his tingling wrist, a golden crown had already formed there.
“Oh shi-” he clamped his other hand down on his cohort symbol immediately, but it was too late. The boy - he must have been one of the wolves that tried to attack him - and even Dongho and Minki, had already seen it.
Seongwoo stumbled out of his chair and his instincts told him to run, but he remembered Minhyun was still here so he couldn’t just leave - and oh shit he shouldn’t have looked in Minhyun’s direction - but the boy was already gone. Seongwoo could see him running towards the back door and then smack dab into none other than Park Woojin. He felt someone coming up against him and looked up to see Daniel’s worried face.
Seongwoo pushed him back a little so he wouldn’t get the potion on him; the mark was already fading on his wrist. “Stay with Minhyun; I have to go.”
Daniel looked down at his clamped hand, then at the direction the boy had ran. Seongwoo nudged him towards Minhyun, who was probably blowing his cover entirely by looking over at them worriedly. But luckily Daehwi was keeping the tall boy occupied, though he seemed a bit flustered as well. Without another glance Seongwoo hurried out of the party. A string of curses went through his head, not only at the situation but also at himself. His stupid carelessness, letting his guard down then letting himself be found. He’d been nothing but a liability these days.
“What’s going on? Is the party over?”
Never had Seongwoo been so happy to hear Jaehwan’s familiar voice. He was here with his “getaway car”, still dressed nicely in his white dress shirt and slacks.
“Yes, it’s over, get me out of here,” Seongwoo said, wiping at the remainder of the potion that was caking on his chin, “just drop me off at the bus stop and come back for Minhyun and Daniel.”
“What, why? Let’s just wait for them,” Jaehwan said.
“No,” Seongwoo said through gritted teeth; he didn’t want to face them right now, was too ashamed to. “I’ll just call a taxi-”
“Seongwoo!” it was Minhyun, and he was coming out of Dongho’s house hurriedly, Daniel not far behind him. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Seongwoo groaned and pressed himself against the side of the car. “I’m fine, I just-” a pair of firm hands turned him around. It was Daniel; he checked Seongwoo over for injuries resolutely, and when he noticed the hand still clamped around Seongwoo’s wrist, he gently peeled it back. The mark was only faintly there now, a small dusting of gold.
“Oh,” Minhyun looked at it and then at Seongwoo, and he must have noticed how guilty Seongwoo looked because he quickly smiled. “What? That’s not a big deal! I found out their Commander too!”
“Huh-” Seongwoo started to say, but Minhyun was already pushing him into the car.
“Let’s just leave first; I prefer parties at your dorm much better anyway,” he squeezed himself into the car beside Seongwoo, and Daniel followed suit. Three very tall people probably shouldn’t be sitting together.
“What about your troupe friends?” Seongwoo murmured, bundled up rather comfortably against the side of the car.
“I’ll text them, they’ll understand,” Minhyun said, “we got up to no end of trouble back in the day too.”
“You said you found their Commander?” Daniel said, making sure to keep the conversation going lest silence and self-deprecation fell again.
“Yes!” Minhyun said, giving Seongwoo an encouraging smile as Jaehwan got into the driver’s seat, more than a little baffled. “Daehwi said his name is Bae Jinyoung, and I managed to touch his finger a little. He looked surprised when I did, but hid it well. He’s the Commander Unit.”
Seongwoo found himself sighing a little, relieved despite himself. Daehwi had been kind, offering an equal trade of Commander for Commander. It also made his own blunder a little more bearable, knowing they now had crucial information on the other side as well.
“Oh yeah,” he said quickly, glad to be able to contribute something out of this mess, “the one that splashed me with the potion, I’m sure he’s one of the Infantry for the other King. I got a good look at his face, but I don’t know his name-”
“Park Jihoon,” Daniel said, his jaw set rather tightly, “he’s the friend Woojin found in first semester, the one that got him over to the dark side.”
Seongwoo couldn’t help laugh a little at Daniel’s choice of expressions, but he was mostly just incredulous. “Wait, do you mean the other wolf was-”
“Woojin, yeah,” Daniel said with a nod, “I thought I smelt something on the last night of the term, just before Woojin’s supposed big discovery about himself. That was probably the first time he transformed, so the scent was extra heavy and still lingered when he returned to the dorm.”
“Whoa,” Seongwoo said, leaning back against the headrest, “mind blown.”
“So we know they have two Infantry and one Commander,” Minhyun summarized, “that makes their numbers the same as ours right now counting in the King. I wonder if they have any Supports like Jaehwan.”
“Daehwi,” Jaehwan suggested. Seongwoo wouldn’t exactly call his driving good, but at least they were still within the lines, and there weren’t many people on the road to test his skills.
“I don’t think so,” Minhyun shook his head; he seemed to have equal respect for the young witch despite not really knowing him personally. “He’s been a pretty neutral party all along, and he helped us tonight too. He even made sure I was talking to Jinyoung, who doesn’t know Seongwoo.”
“But he did give the potion to the two tricksters,” Daniel said a little vehemently.
“There must have been some misunderstanding,” Minhyun said, “I don’t think he would have given the other side information so quickly, maybe after we’d settled down a bit with our new information. He’s always been pretty sure on keeping the balance in check. I think he didn’t anticipate Jihoon and Woojin would be there, and certainly not that Jihoon would act on his own.”
He looked quickly to Seongwoo as he finished, sounding apologetic. “What do you think though? You know him best.”
Seongwoo shook his head to say he didn’t mind Minhyun defending Daehwi. He hadn’t really thought about Daehwi being the one to give the potion to Jihoon. Now that Minhyun mentioned it, he also didn’t think so. Daehwi was bratty and cheeky but he wasn’t cruel, and he wouldn’t do something as manipulative as give them information on the one hand and put another into the enemy’s reach at the same time. Seongwoo would have to ask though, just to be sure; he couldn’t know how close Daehwi was with the other King’s Units, and he must have been pretty chummy with Jinyoung to convince him to attend a party with him.
“Anyway, I’m beat,” Minhyun said, clapping his hands on Seongwoo and Daniel’s thighs encouragingly, “let’s go to your dorm and continue the party.”
“Yeah, I never got to have one,” Jaehwan piped up from the front of the car.
“Why do we never have parties at your place Minhyun?” Seongwoo mumbled.
“Your place is bigger!” Minhyun said.
“It’s because he can’t stand us slobby college kids messing up his apartment,” Daniel snickered.
“That too…” Minhyun admitted.
“You always clean up after a party at my place anyway,” and Seongwoo was always grateful for it, “what difference does it make?”
“Just the thought of you guys making so much mess at my place is too much for me,” Minhyun said with a shudder, “especially you two.” He pointed to Jaehwan and Daniel.
“Me?” Jaehwan yelped, scandalized, “I’m converting to Minhyun-ism aren’t I?”
“Not enough,” came Minhyun’s reply, “are you going to help me clean up today?”
They laughed. Minhyun was right, Seongwoo thought, their own parties were much better.
This one's going to be a bit short because the next chapter is a long continuous scene and isn't easy to divide. I may update a bit more quickly.
“Daehwi please,” Jihoon tried again in what was probably the third time in the last five minutes, “I’m sorry?”
But the young witch was still giving him the cold shoulder. They had crowded him into an empty classroom to try and talk to him properly, but he was doing a good job making moot their efforts.
“Daehwi…” it was Jinyoung this time, who’d stayed quiet while Woojin and Jihoon - the decided culprits in this case - took turns begging Daehwi’s forgiveness. “We’re sorry for taking your potion without your permission, but you can’t just ignore us forever.”
Daehwi gave him a look that seemed to say “try me,” but he finally relented to speak. “ You didn’t do anything so you don’t have to apologize,” he said evenly, “but I just want you two to know-” he stared pointedly at Woojin and Jihoon, “that what you did caused a great breach of trust between me and the other hyungs.”
“Why do you still associate with them anyway,” Jihoon puffed, dropping his saccharine tone now that Daehwi had forgiven them enough to speak. “Aren’t we your good friends?”
“So is Seongwoo-hyung,” Daehwi said, “and Minhyun-”
“Don’t even say it,” Jihoon cut across him, knowing he was about to compliment Minhyun again. He didn’t know what Daehwi saw in the other man - the one they had now confirmed to be King, since Seongwoo’s cohort mark had been the crown, and cohort marks always took after the highest ranking member - Sungwoon-hyung was a good King too!
“Look, I’m not supposed to take sides,” Daehwi reinforced, “my interest is in keeping the university safe, and assisting both of you while you have your petty fights is the best way to do that."
“We wouldn’t need to have petty fights if Minhyun would just be more decisive.” The door opened and in marched Sungwoon himself. “I only stepped up because I didn’t think he was doing a good enough job securing the campus grounds.”
Daehwi jumped down from the table he had been sitting on in surprise. “I should go-”
“Just one thing,” Sungwoon flagged him down for a moment, “have you been getting anything about the Special Unit?”
The two Parks looked between their King and their unofficial adviser in confusion, though Jinyoung seemed to know what Sungwoon was talking about.
Daehwi was frowning as well. “No,” he shook his head, “I wasn’t aware there was one.”
“You always did say you weren’t very good at Seeing,” Sungwoon said with a small sigh, waving him out of the room.
Daehwi huffed indignantly and walked out, blowing a raspberry in Sungwoon’s direction as he passed by. Sungwoon blew one right back, but Daehwi was already gone. Closing the door securely behind him, Sungwoon turned back to his troublesome younger cohorts, finger wagging at each one.
“You,” he started with Jinyoung, “letting yourself be tricked into revealing your identity to the enemy by Daehwi, and you’re still friends with him?”
“It’s only fair…” Jinyoung mumbled, “we got alot of favours from Daehwi about the other side’s movements as well.”
“And you two,” he turned his reproaching finger to Woojin and Jihoon, the former shrinking noticeably; he was still not that used to Sungwoon’s reprimands as their newest member. “Charging at Seongwoo even though I didn’t give you the go-ahead to do anything,” he listed their offenses on his fingers, “using an underhand tactic to reveal his bond mark in public - never do that again, understand? As Units we have to mutually respect that identities should not be revealed to the general public if it's not wanted - and blowing your cover in front of almost their entire cohort. I know we got something from them too, but it feels like they got more because they found out three of us at the same time when they didn’t know any before.”
Sungwoon sighed for a moment, finger pinching the bridge of his nose. Woojin at least looked guilty, while the other two looked unfazed - Jihoon defiant even. “Well, I’d say the playing field’s pretty even now, although we do have the added advantage of knowing their King while they may still have second guesses about ours. Let’s review their cohort members-”
He plopped onto the table where Daehwi had been sitting. “Seongwoo, Commander, verbal influence type - casts magic, illusions, or mild hypnosis using persuasive speech; Jaehwan, Support, Bard type - affects mood and boosts or lowers stats with music; Daniel, Infantry, werecat - able to transform into a bobcat, gaining heightened senses and power; watch out for him now when you guys go on patrols,” he warned his Infantry duo, “we’ve been avoiding their territory on purpose to avoid running into him, but now he might come looking for us.”
“And finally, Minhyun, King - same kind of abilities as me, able to read a Unit’s type through touch, able to feel the mood and intention of subjects in his territory, and able to take away an Unit’s abilities forcibly and re-assign to someone else.”
Woojin’s hand shot into the air, “a King can take away another King’s abilities right?”
“Yes,” Sungwoon said, pointing at him like he'd answered a quiz show question. “Only the King can abdicate another King in that way.”
“Are you going to abdicate Minhyun when you get your hands on him?” Jihoon said animatedly, making swiping motions in the air.
“I’m not sure yet,” Sungwoon said, fingering his chin, “I’m up for negotiations, but he’ll have to play nice and cooperate for a while if what I think is happening is true.”
“Is it what you said before hyung?” Jinyoung asked, “the smaller cohorts are banding together and they’re gonna do something crazy to cause a ruckus on campus?”
“All the signs point to it,” Sungwoon said, nodding, “alot of the ones that used to be powerful don’t like that the power has swayed to Minhyun and I now. There didn’t used to be Kings on campus at all you know? They want to have land and influence again.”
“Maybe we should just talk to Minhyun-hyung,” Woojin suggested in a small voice, “I’m sure he’d be willing to help us deal with this.”
“No, I have to test him a bit,” Sungwoon said a dismissive wave of his hand, “this isn’t a one or two week thing, it’s been happening for a while now. Minhyun keeps trying the ‘talk things out’ approach; I need to see that he’s willing to throw a few punches when things get rough.”
“What’s the plan?” Jihoon had that evil look on his face again.
Sungwoon’s expression mirrored his.
“We take the fight to them.”
Daniel had been prowling around the math building for a while. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he was fairly certain he didn’t just imagine the two pairs of eyes watching him a while back. He had a feeling something was going to happen tonight, and he was just waiting to draw it out now.
Forsaking his pacing, he climbed onto a tree and then jumped onto the roof of the building. From there he could see the dorm he, Seongwoo, and Jisung shared, though he didn’t think either of his roommates were home yet; Jisung was probably still in his office, and Seongwoo had a late lecture. The music building was somewhere to the east, where Jaehwan was no doubt still holed up. Minhyun had said he was meeting Jonghyun at a cafe to catch up, so he should be somewhere behind the rows of buildings across the street. It made him feel at ease to know where his friends were, though that sense of peace was interrupted when he heard low growls from behind him.
He turned around to see two large wolves on the roof with him, standing on the other end with their teeth barred. Must be Woojin and Jihoon, he thought, picking up the slightly familiar scent of his old roommate. So they had made their move, and it was two against one huh? Well, there was a reason Daniel had managed to patrol alone for so long.
Creator’s block was about the worst thing that could happen to a person, other than running out of food or having to clean up a messy room. There were several pieces of paper lying around Jaehwan's studio, filled with scribbles and half-formed melodies. The worse thing was that he was stuck in his battle tunes and his assignments, which meant he couldn’t even use one to help with the other. He couldn’t work on anything right now, and it was driving him up the wall. Just as he was about to go grab a quick bite to give himself a break, the lights suddenly went out in the room.
He felt a breeze from the direction of the slightly open window, and something flew by his head. There was a sudden bang, and millions of small objects fell down around him.
“What the hell! What the hell!” he screamed, flinching and trying to squirm away from whatever was moving all over the room. He was starting to make out shapes in the dark, and what looked like large bugs were crawling onto his desk and papers. He tried to make a grab at them, only for one to turn around and bite him on the finger.
“Ahh!” he yelped, shaking his finger until the paper unfolded and fluttered down on the ground, harmless. But the ones that had gotten into his papers started to tear them up; his drafts - which might still be of use for inspiration - his homework, even his already finished songs -
“No no no!”
He started swatting at any of the creepy-crawlies he could see, tripping over his things that had fallen onto the floor, and bumping into the shelf. He tried the light switch, but found it wouldn’t turn on. The bugs that he caught flipped over and became inert, but so many more were still making a feast of his papers.
When the lights finally turned on, he found himself standing in a sea of shredded paper. There were colored origami paper that he didn’t recognize, which must have been the bugs that had rampaged in his studio. He knelt down and scooped up the remains of a song he had been excited to show his cohort friends, lyrics he hadn’t gotten around to putting into the computer yet, and almost felt tears spilling over his eyes.
He took out his phone and dialed the first number he could think of.
Seongwoo was having trouble focusing on his lecture. It was a late class, he hadn’t had dinner yet, and he was still sleep-deprived from a near all nighter to finish a presentation. He had run out of coffee, but the clock couldn’t run fast enough. For a second he thought he was seeing things when a multi-colored paper airplane flew into the room through the sliver of the door.
But when his classmates started screaming as the paper airplane erupted into a thousand paper butterflies, he knew it was very real. What was even more real was that the butterflies were currently all flying in his direction.
“Oh no,” he whispered to himself.
He just managed to duck his head when the whole horde of butterflies came at him. He rolled onto the aisle, rather more ungracefully than he’d imagined himself, and almost fell down the rest of the stairs as he scrambled up and ran for the door.
He shouted a quick apology to his professor - why did he even bother - and bolted out of the classroom. The butterflies, of course, were flying after him still, even though he had made sure to slam the door. But they were made of paper, and apparently capable of folding and unfolding themselves to fit through narrow spaces. He chanced a look back to see that they were flying much faster than butterflies should be capable of flying, and that they were merging with each other to form bigger butterflies that flew even faster.
Not exactly known for his stamina or speed, Seongwoo did his best to make it out of the building before remembering he could persuade himself to go faster. He started muttering an encouraging mantra under his breath, his legs pumping faster underneath him. But the butterflies had evolved into birds now, and one flew right by his ear and exploded.
“Ah!” he clamped his hand over his ear too late, the ringing leaving him dazed for a moment. Caught off guard, the rest of the butterfly-birds overtook him and exploded around his head like firecrackers. He knelt down with his arms around his head, unable to conjure up anything other than fear and pain as the explosions gave his body what felt like a dozen slaps at the same time.
Somewhere high above on the rooftop of a nearby building, a young Commander viewed his handiwork with a satisfied smile.
“What? Bugs?” Minhyun repeated, having trouble following what Jaehwan was telling him.
“Yeah hyung,” Jaehwan sounded distraught, and Minhyun was already halfway out his chair, but Jonghyun was still with him- “I don’t know what they were but they looked like bugs? They teared up all my assignments and even my music sheets; ah what am I gonna do-”
“Stay there Jaehwan, I’m coming,” Minhyun started to say.
“Hang on hyung,” Jaehwan said, “maybe there’s something going on. You should check on Seongwoo-hyung and Daniel first.”
Minhyun nodded, worry bubbling up in his stomach. “Okay, I’ll do that. Let me know if anything else happens.”
“Okay, I’ll be go look around too; be careful!”
Minhyun hung up after a quick goodbye, and turned to explain to Jonghyun, but the look on his face told him he already knew.
“I’m glad you found a cohort that stands by you and that you can stand by,” Jonghyun said with a smile, “you know I would have agreed to be your Commander if you had asked right? But that’s in the past; go on now, there are times for talk and negotiation, and there are times for action.”
Minhyun nodded; he’d really have to stop leaving in the middle of meeting his old friends like this. He made a silent promise to treat them all to a big meal after things settled down. He gave Jonghyun a quick hug, then ran out of the cafe.
Before he went any further, he closed his eyes and probed around his territory for any spikes in emotion. He could sense a frustration and animalistic competitiveness from the west, which must have been Daniel. A feeling of distress and pain was coming from the northeast though, which he worried might have been Seongwoo. He had to trust Daniel to take of himself for now, making a run for the direction of the distress.
When he was almost there the feeling dissipated. Instead, there was a slight confusion and lingering fear. He could see Seongwoo ahead, surrounded by piles of shredded colored paper, similar to what Jaehwan had told him. Feeling another presence nearby, he looked around and then upwards - and saw Bae Jinyoung. Thankfully the younger boy had not seen him yet, staring intently at where Seongwoo was. Minhyun wanted to go over and check that Seongwoo was alright, but was worried Jinyoung would leave if he was finished with his task. Changing his mind as he felt Seongwoo’s heartbeat slow down, he turned and ran into the building on whose rooftop Jinyoung sat.
He took the stairs two at a time until he came onto the highest level. He had never been to the rooftop before, but the way had already been opened for him by Jinyoung. He climbed up the last set of stairs and burst through the open doorway at the end of it.
Jinyoung seemed momentarily surprised to see him, but recovered quickly. The boy had composure of steel, Minhyun thought to himself, probably much more than Minhyun's own Commander. There were several sheets of colored paper around his feet. Minhyun assumed he liked to use paper to carry out his Commands, which could apparently be quite complex and contain multiple layers of instruction.
“Jinyoung,” Minhyun called resolutely, breath still coming out heavily, “whatever you’re doing, stop it.”
“Why should I?” Jinyoung said airily, purposefully provoking him. He had been a friendly and outgoing boy when he hadn’t known who Minhyun was at the party. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Come on Jinyoung, let’s not fight-”
“Your Infantry’s fighting pretty hard though?” Jinyoung pointed, and Minhyun turned around to see the three shapes tussling against the moonlight in the distance. “Not bad considering it’s two against one, but I think I see him tiring out?”
Minhyun reached out with his senses again. He felt greater frustration, a wariness, and soreness. He realized too late that Daniel tended to gloss over any injuries and tiredness, so even though he didn’t feel particularly beaten down, it didn’t mean he wasn’t.
Minhyun clenched his fists. What was he doing here, by himself? His friends were getting hurt; they worked hard day and night, and all he could really do was talk to a few people and try to make them favourable towards him.
His insecurities were voiced by Jinyoung, still using the same light tone that Minhyun knew wasn’t really him. “Kings are pretty useless don’t you think? Commanders, Supports, Infantry, they could all do so much more than a King - speed, power, influence, the use of magic. But what did Kings have? A few words, feelings, always trying to keep everyone happy; it seems a bit like Kings are the ones serving the public doesn’t it?”
Minhyun was fine with that; he felt it his job to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable. But he couldn’t be subservient in the face of his friends being hurt. He had to make a stand, even if not for his own sake, but for the sake of his friends.
While Jinyoung was distracted for a second by a snarl in the distance, Minhyun lunged forward for the paper by his side. Jinyoung seemed to be anticipating it, for he reached out and stuck a note onto Minhyun’s shoulder before scrambling out of his reach. Minhyun immediately fell to the ground, his body feeling pressed down as if five people were laying on top of him. He just managed to glance at the sticky note Jinyoung had stuck, which had a single word “heavy” written on it.
“Hyung,” Jinyoung called again, having to give up his papers as Minhyun was still resolutely holding onto them, “what will you do?”
Minhyun gritted his teeth and pushed upwards. He could feel the concern, the determination, and the courage of his friends around him. He couldn’t just give up, not when they were all counting on him, not when he was counting on himself. He was a King, and he had to act like it, he had to become someone worthy of owning this title!
The note ripped and fell off him as he broke past its threshold, pushing himself up with every last ounce of his strength. He dragged himself the rest of the way upwards, taking Jinyoung’s papers with him so he couldn’t cause anymore harm. He was about to give Jinyoung a firm warning before going to find the rest of his friends when a voice interrupted him.
“Well done,” a figure emerged from behind the entrance of the rooftop, clapping his hands slowly. “Who knew you had so much grit Minhyun?”
“Ha Sungwoon?” Minhyun said, not entirely surprised but still rather incredulous. “You’re the Cloud King?”
“Bet you never expected it huh?” Sungwoon smirked.
“Well, your name did come up when we were investigating a while back,” Minhyun said, “people who might have recently seen Seongwoo use his ability. You also used to be pretty vocal about unifying the campus, and I know you tried to get Jonghyun to join you in a cohort.”
“Yeah, and he always rejected me because he was waiting for you,” Sungwoon rolled his eyes, “well, I already had suspicions of you from the beginning and right now I think I’m one step ahead-”
“Freeze! Nobody move!”
The rooftop door opened and out rolled Seongwoo. He held his hands up in a mock gun, which was coincidentally pointed at Minhyun, but Jinyoung was the one whose hands shot into the air; perhaps the young man was pretty impressionable to other Commands.
Sungwoon sighed, tired of theatrics. “Alright alright listen, I’m here to make a proposal.”
Seongwoo was at Minhyun’s side immediately, but turned around at Sungwoon’s voice to point his finger gun at him.
“And why should we listen to you?” he demanded; he still looked disheveled from the earlier attack.
“Because I have news about the state of the campus that you’ll want to hear?”
Minhyun and Seongwoo exchanged glances.
“Fine,” Minhyun said evenly, “we can talk. Call off your attack on Daniel first.”
“Alright hyung, I think that’s enough-”
The rest of Woojin’s words were lost in a grunt as Daniel pushed him down. He was still in his cat form, even though Woojin had already transformed back into human; in the distance, he had seen Sungwoon-hyung showing himself, which was clear sign that they didn’t need to harass Daniel anymore. But Daniel didn’t seem to be done, a low growl still in his throat; Woojin swallowed, thinking he might still be upset about the attack on Seongwoo-hyung, the party, and maybe even Woojin’s own abandonment of their dorm and by extension, them.
A flurry of white fur knocked Daniel off Woojin, who was actually in the middle of transforming back since he had made his point that he was still angry. Daniel tumbled onto his side rather hard, scraping against the ground to a stop.
“Jihoon!” Woojin shouted, trying to stop his friend from attacking again. They were supposed to make good now, not piss each other off more. “Don’t!”
Jihoon growled at Daniel as the latter pushed himself up, bleeding from his chin, arm, and hands. He wiped at the blood, laughing a little helplessly.
“Sorry sorry,” he said, holding his hands placatingly, “I was just trying to scare him a little, I probably took it too far.”
Jihoon snarled again, but didn’t make any more moves. He turned back into his human form and ignored Daniel to check on Woojin.
“Apologize to him too!” Woojin hissed, elbowing Jihoon, “Seongwoo-hyung and the others are going to be pissed when they see Daniel’s hurt!”
“He asked for it!” Jihoon snapped back, unrepentant.
Daniel was about to make a move to remedy the situation - mature hyung that he was, he couldn’t leave the situation like this since they seemed to be trying to make a truce of some sort - when he saw a figure coming towards them in the distance.
“Daniel!” it was Jaehwan, and he was blasting rock music from his phone, which immediately dragged down the atmosphere and made him feel woozy. “Are you alright?”
“I will be if you turn that off,” he choked out, feeling like he was about to barf any moment. Jaehwan probably didn’t think that track through - what hurt the enemy also hurt them, even though Jaehwan himself didn’t seem affected; it was probably a werebeast-only tune.
“Oh sorry,” he said, pausing the song just as Woojin also turned away with his hand over his mouth. “I just thought I should be prepared in case I had to break up a fight.”
“Yeah I guess it would have been broken,” Daniel mumbled, “since we’d all be too busy being sick…”
Jaehwan waved his arms in a series of fake punches when he noticed the two underclassmen near him, shuffling away and closer towards Daniel. “Is this the enemy? Should we subdue them?”
“No I don’t think so,” Daniel said, dragging Jaehwan towards him in case he tried to do anything, “they seem to have something to say, right?”
It was Jihoon who stepped forward this time, since Woojin still looked mildly green. “Our King wants to strike a deal with you guys,” he said haughtily.
“A deal?” Daniel’s raised his eyebrows.
Jihoon nodded, “he felt he had use for you, so he’s granting you an audience.”
Daniel couldn’t help but laugh; Park Jihoon took himself way too seriously. “Alright kid, let’s go talk to the others then.”
Jihoon turned his nose and led the way with Woojin in tow, Daniel and a slightly confused Jaehwan following behind.
“What the fuck!” were the first words out of Seongwoo’s mouth when he saw Daniel coming through the door.
Then his hands were on Daniel’s bloody chin, then his arm, and then he was glaring at Jihoon and trying not to glare at Woojin.
“It’s just a scratch,” Daniel ensured him, trying to untangle himself from Seongwoo’s grasp and steering him back towards the others and away from the wolf duo. “Didn’t quite stick my landing.”
“Oh yeah?” Seongwoo was still trying to get at the two Parks, acting like he was an angry beast himself, “because I thought cats always land on their feet-”
“Well I’m a human too,” he said, dragging Seongwoo back down into a seat.
Seongwoo spent the next few minutes alternating between growling at Jihoon and giving Woojin awkward acknowledging glances. They were stuffed around the living room table at Seongwoo’s dorm, and Jisung, who was unfortunately home, was huddled behind his room’s door, telling himself he shouldn’t spy but not being able to help himself. If he was right, he currently had the two campus Kings in his dorm, and their entire entourage. Too bad he’d probably never be able to tell anyone what had gone down here.
It was Sungwoon who broke the silence first, clearing his throat. “So, just to be clear, this is everyone’s entire cohort? No one’s hiding any secret members?”
“You first,” Seongwoo said rather snappily, before Minhyun could reply.
“Well yes,” Sungwoon said, “me, the King, my Commander Jinyoung, and my two Infantry Jihoon and Woojin. And before you ask, no I don’t have a Support Unit. I couldn’t find anyone suitable to recruit and Daehwi wouldn’t join us. But having two Infantry is pretty useful, and Daehwi is pretty much both our Units anyway.”
Minhyun nodded, feeling rather like the young witch should be here with them; but perhaps he wouldn’t want to be - hard to be a neutral party if he heard everything that went on. “This is our whole gang too,” he said, “one of each Unit.”
“Alright,” Sungwoon said, “let’s get down to business.”
Everyone seemed to be at attention now - and, not exactly unknown to them, so was Jisung behind the door.
“First of all, just so we’re not holding grudges with each other,” he glanced meaningfully at Seongwoo, and also Jihoon and Woojin, “all this back and forth for the past month or so was really just a test to see if it would be better to work with you or absorb you. I admit I did consider forcibly abdicating you if I found your cohort - and you - too weak.”
“Sounds pretty high and mighty,” Seongwoo said; he tried not to be bitter, but he had been personally victimized quite a few times by their “test”, and now they had even hurt Daniel - and Minhyun, and Jaehwan - really, the lot of them had gotten away scot free from all this, “what gives you the right to play around with us like that?”
“Well, I won’t say I’m the better King, but I’m a different kind of King than you are,” Sungwoon said, speaking to Minhyun now, “you focused more on harmony among the students, while I worked harder to secure strategic locations around campus. Why didn’t you work around the dormitories much? You know that’s a prime place for bullies if there wasn’t a good presence marking it.”
“I thought it was better to make sure public places students would go to every day was safe and pleasant for them,” Minhyun said, “but I admit we didn’t really have the manpower to spread to all areas, and it’s not as easy to approach students in private domains like the dorms.”
“You don’t always have to make personal contact,” Sungwoon pointed out, “sometimes just showing who’s boss is enough. We can be like guardian spirits of a place, and if someone acts out of line too much, we can make sure things are taken care of through anonymous tips or a show of appropriate force.”
“I guess you’re right,” Minhyun said with a nod.
Sungwoon seemed satisfied. “Like I said, we have different methods, but I had a wider picture of everything and I’ve noticed something. Some of the smaller cohorts that have fallen out of power are getting antsy to start a revolt.”
“What do you mean?” Minhyun frowned.
“I’ll go into detail later, but the pressing thing is that I believe they’re going to try to summon a demon on campus.”
“A demon?” Jaehwan repeated.
“Some kind of malevolent spirit,” Sungwoon explained, sounding a bit vague on the details himself, “what it does depends on the intentions used to summon it, but its penchant is generally towards mindless destruction.”
“Oh,” Jaehwan said, looking concerned.
“Yeah,” Sungwoon said, “not something you want on campus.”
“And you’re saying some cohorts are going to summon it?” Minhyun asked, “how?”
“Some Support types that are adept at magic can do it,” Jinyoung piped up, “like witches.”
“They probably just have to study some formulas and combine their powers to summon it,” Sungwoon said, “but I think this time they will make use of a Special Unit as well.”
“A Special Unit?” it was Jaehwan who spoke, but there was confusion on more of the others’ faces than Sungwoon thought was appropriate.
“Don’t you educate your kids at all?” Sungwoon said impatiently to Minhyun.
“Yours are confused too,” Minhyun pointed out with amusement.
Sungwoon mentally slapped himself for not explaining to Jihoon and Woojin the last time it was brought up; there goes his plan to appear the superior cohort, but at least he could still be the one to educate them-
“Special Units are unique and more-powerful-than-usual Units with abilities that normal Units don’t usually have,” but Jinyoung beat him to the explanation, returning a cheeky grin when Sungwoon glared at him, “like being a werebeast that turned into a mystical animal, or a Commander who could actually get inside people’s heads and control them.”
“What makes them really special though,” Sungwoon added quickly, seeing a pause in Jinyoung’s explanation, “is that their abilities can be reassigned to another Unit, adding on top of the Unit’s already existing ones; usually reassigning only works by taking from one Unit and transferring completely to someone who wasn’t a Unit to begin with. So Special Units can be coveted for many reasons. But for the sake of the demon summoning, all you need to know is that a Special Unit’s blood is used in some magical ceremonies.”
“Their blood ?” Seongwoo had been daydreaming how nice it would be to either be a special Unit - he’d really like to mess with some people’s heads right now - or have one in their cohort, but now he was just feeling sorry for the poor chap, whoever they ended up being.
“You don’t have to sacrifice them in a satanic ritual or anything,” Sungwoon said with a roll of his eyes, “but a sizable cut spilling a good amount of blood is key to enhancing some magicks.”
“So we want to locate this Special Unit, protect them, and prevent the demon summoning from happening,” Minhyun concluded.
“How do we find the Special Unit?” Daniel asked.
“Some of the Seers from my partnered cohorts - yes, we have those - have told me they See a Special Unit realizing their ability soon, so there isn’t one yet,” Sungwoon said, “but I think I can work with them to track the S-Unit down; they’re starting to get a face now.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?” that was Daniel again.
“The S-Unit is supposedly a werebeast type, so anyone who’s been feeling a rash lately, maybe growing hair or scales, or have developed strange appetites and sensibilities might be it,” Sungwoon said, “the three of you probably know the likes.”
The three werebeasts nodded, probably the first thing they’ve agreed on all evening. Daniel tried to catch Jihoon’s eyes with a teasing smirk while the latter pointedly ignored him, and Woojin looked awkwardly between the two of them.
“So we’ll leave tracking the Special Unit to you and the Infantry,” Minhyun said, “what about the expected time and place of the summoning or riots the rogue cohorts might cause?”
“That’s still a bit blurry,” Sungwoon said, “but it’s likely going to be a busy night when there’s alot of students still out after dark, like the open air party right before spring break.”
“Ah!” Seongwoo’s hands were suddenly on his head, his eyes wide and his mouth equally slack, “my friend asked me to help out for that, I almost forgot!”
“Perfect, we have our insider!” Sungwoon said with a snap of his fingers.
He was busy relaying instructions, but Seongwoo couldn’t hear it over the sound of his own internal agonizing, his head still in his hands.
“Why did you agree to so many things?” Daniel murmured, his hand patting Seongwoo’s thigh comfortingly. “Don’t you have volunteer at a school during break as well?”
“They always try to guilt you into it,” he said, emerging from his hands with the expression of a man who’d weathered the world. “‘It’s the day before a two week break, can’t you just help out for a few hours?’ ‘You have two weeks , you’re not going to study the whole time right? Why not do something good with it?’”
Daniel resisted laughing like he usually might, instead giving a sympathetic smile, his hand rubbing on Seongwoo’s thigh. Without thinking, Seongwoo placed his hand over Daniel’s; this was the injured one - he started inspecting Daniel’s fingers with great interest.
“Alright, I think we can confer again another day,” Minhyun said, noticing the younger ones yawning and also the way Seongwoo was starting to get extremely distracted.
Sungwoon paused in the middle of his explanations - even he had stopped listening to himself - and took a look around at the sleepy and dazed faces. He sighed, but relented. “Fine, let’s call it a night.”
The other three members of his cohort let out a simultaneous cheer, nearly running over each other to leave the dorm. Sungwoon made sure to exchange phone numbers with Minhyun - “for business purposes only,” he stressed - before excusing himself as well. Minhyun patted Seongwoo on the back, made Daniel promise he’d get his wounds treated, then dragged a sleepy Jaehwan out of the room.
Seongwoo was half asleep by now, and found Daniel’s calloused but familiar fingers so fascinating, that he still hasn’t let go of them yet. Daniel, finally able to return the favour of being constantly “tucked into bed” - Jisung’s words - by the older man, bodily hauled Seongwoo towards their shared bedroom. He made one last trip out to the kitchen to grab the first aid kit - Seongwoo could still nag about that, even in his stupor - before flicking the lights off and shutting the door behind him.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Jisung was still curled in the same spot behind his door, and had been since Sungwoon mentioned those symptoms of werebeast realization. He was shaking a little as he whispered “oh my god, oh my god” repeatedly under his breath. Even though it was almost 1am, he couldn’t stop his trembling fingers from pulling up the contact of one of his favourite students and typing a hasty message. He only hoped his suspicions weren’t true.
funny enough the words "only true King" actually show up in this chapter; I had forgotten I wrote them when I made the title, which was just a spur of the moment thing since I'm not very good at titling..
the second part after the line break was actually just added today, so it might be a little sloppy, and also shorter compared to the first part. It felt kind of empty to have just one side of the group, so I added the second part to show a bit of Sungwoon's side as well. I might develop more in side stories.
The last week of classes before the big night passed a little differently than usual for Seongwoo. Every time he saw members of the other cohort on campus, he would awkwardly acknowledge them - except Jihoon, who he still instinctively growled at. He didn’t want to appear overly friendly with them, whom he still considered his enemies, especially when their relation to each other after this tenuous partnership was still up in the air. Minhyun on the other hand was getting along swimmingly with Jinyoung, and seemed to be trying to adopt - or re-adopt in Woojin’s case - Jihoon and Woojin.
The two cohorts also tried to meet every other day to discuss new findings and strategies; Daehwi, as honorary member of their tentative alliance, sometimes joined too. Most of the time they were crammed into Seongwoo’s dorm - the lower years complained their dorms were too small; Woojin had still not moved back, although he slept in his old room sometimes - or else in Minhyun’s bigger apartment off campus. Jisung had oddly not been around alot.
Seongwoo had unfortunately learned more about the other cohort members, more than he’d wanted to. He knew Jinyoung liked to use paper or objects for Commands because he couldn’t get verbal Commands to work well. He found out Jihoon and Woojin met in English class, and Jihoon, not having much of a filter at the time - it was only marginally better now - had practically bragged about being a Unit. Since Daniel was always more lowkey and Woojin didn’t know he was a werebeast at all, it made sense that Woojin turned to Jihoon when he realized his own beast form.
He had also learned, however grudgingly, that Sungwoon was a smart King. He made strategic relationships with other cohorts, and used that network for information and to keep hold on some of his territory. That was probably why his Infantry didn’t need to work so hard, not like Daniel. He was approachable and charismatic when he needed to be, and people felt him to be a dependable older brother figure.
But Seongwoo was nothing if not loyal, and the only true King in his heart will always be Hwang Minhyun.
“Good god, when was the last time you took out the trash?” These were times, however, when he didn’t love Hwang Minhyun quite so much.
Seongwoo groaned from the sofa where he was resting his head on Daniel’s lap; he’s not sure why he’s here, but it’s comfortable, so he doesn’t want to move.
“I’ve been busy!” Seongwoo wailed. He hasn’t even gone near the kitchen for like the whole week.
Minhyun tutted and, like the great friend and busybody that he was, tied the garbage bag close and proceeded to drag it towards the front door.
“I’ll be right back!” he called.
“Hwang Minhyun I love you!” Seongwoo popped up from the sofa to send Minhyun a big heart, before plopping back comfortably into Daniel’s lap.
“Me too!” Jaehwan quickly added from where he was seated at the other end of the sofa. He had been regarding his two friends as if they had sprouted multiple heads, hand digging into the popcorn even though they hadn’t picked a film yet.
“Do you think things will change after Friday?” Daniel asked, the ends of his fingers dancing on top of Seongwoo’s hair.
“What do you mean?” Seongwoo asked, tilting his chin to look up at him.
“Will there just be one King? Are we going to merge with them?” Daniel asked out loud, “will people recognize us now?”
The first two Seongwoo had already thought about to different conclusions, but the last one he had not thought of. It was true that they had never really done anything on this scale, and people were bound to see them. While Daniel could at least hide his identity if he stayed in cat form, the rest of them were exposed. Minhyun’s position as the King may even be in jeopardy.
“Maybe I can Command them to forget,” Seongwoo suggested, half joking half serious. Daniel had started twirling strands of his hair together.
“I actually looked into making a song that would make people forget,” Jaehwan piped up, “it’ll be like the neuralyzer the Men in Black use.”
Daniel whistled, impressed by Jaehwan’s dedication.
“What if we forget too?” Seongwoo was making his “The Scream” face again; it seemed to be a default for this past week. “I don’t want that.”
“Hmm,” Jaehwan chewed his popcorn thoughtfully, “it hasn’t exactly been easy to test. I’ve been using it on squirrels or my TA - don’t tell Minhyun that, he’ll say I’m violating human rights - but you know…” he was looking at Seongwoo with a kind of evil curiosity in his eyes, “I’ve always wanted to collaborate with you, did I tell you that?”
“Me?” that got Seongwoo to sit up, bits of hair now standing up in strange corkscrew shapes. Daniel was making a poor job of suppressing his laughter behind Seongwoo. “I can’t write songs.”
“But you can sing in them,” he said conspiratorially, “you have a really nice voice Seongwoo, a very commanding one. That musical number you did in the play last year was a hit!”
“Ohhh,” Seongwoo sat back on his kneeling legs, understanding what Jaehwan was getting at. “You want me to use Commands in your song?”
“Bingo,” Jaehwan snapped his fingers, sending bits of popcorn everywhere - Minhyun’s going to kill him. “I’ll write you some proper lyrics and if you sing parts of it in Command, it should be convincing enough for people to forget. I can also set more parameters for who gets affected and how in the music itself.”
“Are we talking about something vaguely illegal again?” Minhyun had come back up, and was making his way around the back of the sofa.
“Ah hyung!” Jaehwan cried, sounding genuinely upset, “I’m being very serious here!”
Minhyun laughed, patting Jaehwan’s head as he walked past. “I know, I know, I’m just teasing.”
They put aside the talk of cohorts and work for now, determined to just relax for one of their last free nights before the "big operation". They ended up letting Jaehwan pick a horror movie, and dimmed the lights to watch it. Daniel was doing a good job pretending not to be scared, but when Seongwoo picked a climactic moment to startle him, he jumped about ten feet in the air. Needless to say they spent the rest of the movie trying to prank each other to varying degrees of success. Jaehwan had shamelessly laid his head on Minhyun’s shoulders, and Minhyun, always needing someone to drape an arm around for movie nights, let him there.
It was to this that Jisung returned to the dorm. He stood still in the front hallway for a few minutes, no one even noticing he had come in, debating whether or not he should tell them the secret he had unwittingly found himself. But he argued himself down in the end, like he’d been doing all week. He just couldn’t be sure yet, and Guanlin was being very skeptical and uncooperative. Tomorrow at least, he told himself as he went into his room, tomorrow he’d mention it to Seongwoo.
“Alright kids,” Sungwoon sat back down on the edge of the railing with two big buckets holding bags of popcorn in his arms, “there’s only enough for four people so someone’s gotta share with Daehwi.”
Jihoon and Woojin had already snatched themselves a bag before Sungwoon had finished, and the elder gave Jinyoung a slow measured look to say “that third bag is mine ” before making a grab for it. Jinyoung shrugged, willing to share with Daehwi from the start.
“Do you guys do this alot?” Daehwi asked them a little skeptically, accepting the last bag of popcorn from Jinyoung with a smile.
He had only agreed to come out because Woojin and Jihoon had said they were gonna catch a free movie, and that it’d be fun. He hadn’t realized they would be sitting on top of the basement exit of the library, and trying to watch the outdoor film being played across the courtyard. It was cold and they could barely see anything.
“Only if the film is good ,” Sungwoon said matter-of-factly.
“Let me guess, you really asked me out here because you wouldn’t actually be able to do this without me right?” Daehwi asked.
“Don’t give yourself too much credit,” Sungwoon started to say, “Woojin and Jihoon would’ve-”
“ Everyone would’ve been fine,” Daehwi cut in, “except you.”
That made Sungwoon purse his lips, a slight splotch of red on his face. Woojin and Jihoon chortled into their popcorn, which the latter had already made quite a dent of.
“Well do I have to say please or something?” Sungwoon grumbled, “do your thing.”
Daehwi rolled his eyes good-naturedly, a smile on his face. He wasn’t as familiar with Sungwoon - frankly found him rather intimidating, and personally preferred Minhyun as a King - but he was starting to warm up to him more with all these meetings. There were surprisingly playful and cute sides to the oldest of their cohort group, which he usually tried to keep hidden in front of Minhyun, but which slipped out sometimes quite against him. Daehwi knew both groups were warming up to each other, and he was really glad for this direction towards cooperation.
So he swept his hand over all of them first to cast them inside a warm bubble, protected against the cold. Then he drew two circles around his eyes while chanting a vision enhancement spell under his breath, and a pair of thin golden glasses appeared perched on his nose. He did the same for each of his friends down the line. Now they were warm, armed with snacks and drinks, and could see clearly what was on the screen across the courtyard through the glasses.
“ Up, really?” Jihoon grumbled, “this is an university…”
“Hey it’s a good film!” Sungwoon retorted, already engrossed.
“You know what the best thing about this spot is?” Woojin stage whispered to Jihoon.
He took the piece of popcorn out of Jihoon’s fingers - ignoring the strangled cry that escaped from him - and chucked it down near the library exit. Of course he completely missed because of the glasses he was wearing, but the student who had just walked out still jumped and looked around frantically for the source of the motion. Woojin and Jihoon suppressed giggles, Jihoon hitting his friend for his terrible aim. They entertained themselves by throwing popcorn at squirrels and birds in the courtyard below, and trying to hit one of the windows - by ten minutes in, two people had already moved away from there, and one student was glaring openly up at them.
Daehwi chuckled to himself. The movie was fun, spying on the viewers across the courtyard was fun, and being in this rowdy silence was fun too. He sometimes felt like he was holding himself back by not joining one of their cohorts, and it had admittedly been a little lonely. But if a bit of head butting could result in this kind of dynamic partnership, even just for a while, then his distance and impartiality had all been worth it. A little part of him, though, hoped that once the big chaos on campus was settled, there would still be room somewhere for him to slip into.
I finished this story quite a while ago actually, and I'm okay with it as it is so I didn't change anything big. Some of the progression might fall a bit flat, but I hope it's not too bad.
The night of the “big operation” is a pleasant one. The weather has been mellowing into clear skies and just a bite of chill. There was already a throng of people around the plaza in front of the student building, where the party was happening.
Seongwoo was busy serving drinks and collecting money for raffle tickets. He had a wireless earpiece through which he was connected to Jaehwan, who had insisted on being his recon guy, even though all he was doing was watching the choke point Sungwoon had marked out for him like everyone else. Right now, their two cohorts - sans the Kings - were surrounding the area around the party; Sungwoon was giving last minute instructions to his alliance cohorts, while Minhyun was with Daehwi, trying to piece together the last clue they had to the Special Unit.
Over this last week they had not been able to locate the Special Unit after all. Despite hints of brooding eyes and a lanky figure, the visions of the S-Unit were eventually overridden by images of the chaos that was supposed to happen tonight. The only thing they had gotten was that the S-Unit seemed to be a green-scaled dragon, which Daehwi was scrying the campus for one last time.
“ A dragon ,” Woojin exclaimed for the upteemth time, snorting through his snout, “ how cool is that .”
“ It’d be even cooler if we could find him ,” Jihoon replied back; he pawed at the ground restlessly, eyes scanning from behind the bushes.
“ The Seers saw him fighting didn’t they? He’ll probably join us .”
Instead of replying, Jihoon lifted his head into the air.
“ They’re here! ” he growled.
Half a dozen students with bandanas or face masks around their mouths ran towards the plaza area with what looked like clubs or sticks in their hands. The sight alarmed Woojin and Jihoon, who immediately jumped out of the bushes, letting out long drawn-out howls ringing into the skies before running to intercept the hooligans.
From the other side of the lane, perched atop a tree, Daniel’s ears twitched up in alarm at the sound. He looked down towards his own choke point, and saw about the same number of masked students making a run towards the plaza from a shadier side street. He let out a snarl of his own towards the lone figure atop a roof not far from him, who was guarding the same point he was - Jinyoung.
Wasting no time to see if he got a response, he jumped down from the tree and onto the backs of the ruffians, swiping at any he could reach. Sungwoon had been right, there were two groups making for the party to cause trouble. A third one should be somewhere more secluded, trying their hand at the demon summoning; one of Sungwoon’s most trusted alliance cohorts - led by Noh Taehyun - was going to sniff them out. He only hoped Minhyun and Daehwi would have some luck finding the Special Unit before the crooks got to him.
“ They’re coming they’re coming! ” Jaehwan was screaming into Seongwoo’s ear.
He was the only one positioned close enough to actually be able to see the party, on the second floor balcony of the student building. The fact that he could see them must mean they were really close.
Seongwoo started panicking a little, nearly dropping the tray of drinks that was still in his hand. Jaehwan would be starting up the track he made right about now, one that made anyone running on two legs trip up and be so violently sick they couldn’t move. It should be able to hold up many if not all the hooligans, assuming they would all be running when they came through Jaehwan’s choke point. But he could only cover that one entrance, and anyone else sneaking through other entries would have to be stopped by someone else - by Seongwoo if need be.
Seongwoo’s main job was to keep everyone at the party safe and calm should the attack come this way. They had thought about vacating everyone first, assuming Seongwoo would be able to talk his way into their heads. But since they couldn’t be entirely sure where the gangs would be coming from, they didn’t want to accidentally relocate people to an even more dangerous spot. Plus, having most of the people who would still be on campus at this hour together was better than having them scattered.
Another call was coming through his phone just as he replaced his tray and tried to make some flimsy excuse of having to leave his station for a second. He really didn’t have time for this, and who in the world would be calling him now?
He scrambled to get his phone out, walking away from the noise of the party. It was a call from Jisung, of all people. What the?
“Hello?” he answered, warning Jaehwan he was putting him on hold one second before he did so.
“ I lost Lai Guanlin!”
“What?” did he hear that wrong?
“ I-” he could feel Jisung taking a deep breath, “ look, don’t get mad at me but I think Guanlin is the Special Unit. I was going to tell you, I really was, but I didn’t want to cause extra trouble in case I was wrong. I kept trying to confirm with Guanlin on my own first, but he was so skeptical he wouldn't hear me out. And now he hasn’t answered any of my calls or messages since two days ago!”
“Hyung!” Seongwoo couldn’t help but wail; he felt like everything was collapsing around him in a second. He had really been too busy to pay attention to anything that wasn’t school or cohort activities, only managing to message Guanlin once mid-week - which, now that he thought about it, he never got a response out of. Why hadn’t he paid more attention when Guanlin messaged him asking if it was normal to have a craving for raw meat, or how he didn’t reply to Seongwoo when he checked in on him on Wednesday. “You should have told me earlier!”
“ I’m sorry, I really am!” Jisung sounded like he was running somewhere, and now Seongwoo’s heart squeezed from worry that he might run into trouble. “ Can you guys look for him please? I remember seeing some green scales on the base of his neck, and he kept saying he was so hungry all the time. Maybe he’s looking for food somewhere. ”
“Okay okay,” Seongwoo had to tell himself to stay calm a few times before his breathing returned to normal; he needed to keep it together for Jisung and Guanlin’s sake too. “Go somewhere safe inside, or at least message Minhyun and join him - don’t go poking around by yourself. I’m going to get the others to look for Guanlin, just trust us.”
“ Okay ,” Jisung seemed to be mimicking Seongwoo’s calming deep breaths, “ okay, I’ll go find Minhyun; I trust you. Take care!”
He quickly hung up and switched to Jaehwan.
“How is it?” he blurted.
“ Good!” he could hear Jaehwan cackling. “ They’re falling at my feel like waddling ducks!”
“Great,” Seongwoo mumbled more to himself than anything else, “listen, I’m going to redirect the crowd right now, I think I have a good idea where the bad guys are coming from-” he could see Daniel tussling with a few bodies in the distance, “I have to leave this spot for a while, can you and the others move in if necessary?”
“ What? Where are you going? ”
“I have to go find Guanlin! He’s the Special Unit!” he really wanted to hang up now.
“ OH!” a moment of stunned silence, “ okay okay go! I’ll keep them occupied - finally, Kim Jaehwan enters the field for real .”
“Don’t get yourself killed!” Seongwoo screamed one last time before switching the line off. He was itching to call Minhyun about the details, but he was sure Jisung was already telling him about it. He had to do this last thing before joining them; he owed it to all these people who had just wanted to party and get shitface wasted before a two week break.
“Everyone, attention please!” he waved his hands in the air and tried to raise his voice above the music, the familiar tone and intention of Command seeping into his throat.
It was subtle, but slowly the people around him started to turn around as he kept hollering for their attention. Those who had been flailing their arms in the air put them down; those laughing maniacally with their friends stopped and got a good look at Seongwoo. Even the DJ was lowering the sound of the music as Seongwoo gave a good last few poundings to his words.
Everyone was looking at him now, even his friend who had asked him to volunteer for this thing. They were all a little slack jawed, eyes glazed over yet attentive as they considered this person that was suddenly so interesting and charming to them. Seongwoo swallowed a bit; he’d never Commanded so many people before, and had never been at the centre of so many people’s attention. He was glad Jaehwan had prepared that song of forgetting, though he had a feeling by the way these people acted that they may not really remember him , per se, maybe just the sound of his voice, or the overall impression of who he was to them at the moment.
“Everyone,” he said slowly, with certainty, “it’s forecasted to rain really hard later, and that would really ruin the party. So I think everyone should move into the science building up the main road. Sewoon-” that was the name of his friend, “will show you the way. Won’t you?” he directed the last sentence at Sewoon, making sure he really knew he meant it. Sewoon nodded meekly.
“Everyone!” he clapped his hands over his head - the struggle in the distance was getting closer, and there were more hooligans than before - and repeated again emphatically. “Let’s go now, let’s go!”
The crowd began to move. The sight sent goosebumps down his back; he had done that, he had told all those people to get a move on with a weak ass excuse, and they had listened. Scary , he thought, never want to do that again .
He clasped Sewoon on the shoulder firmly before he left, maintaining eye contact as he told him what he should do - lead the crowd, keep everyone safe and entertained, tell them to run if there’s danger. Then he ran as he’d never run before, taking the other main road that was free. He quickly called Minhyun.
“ I heard-” were Minhyun’s first words, which effectively shut Seongwoo’s gaping fish mouth up, “ we think we know where he is, we’re going there now .”
“What should I do?” Seongwoo said, though he was still running.
“ Go find Sungwoon-hyung ,” Seongwoo was so thankful Minhyun still sounded calm, though harried; it put him at ease. “ He’s with the summoning group; they seem to have summoned a few lesser demons since they couldn’t summon the big one.”
“Where are they?”
“ I’m asking Jinyoung to send you the directions, you should see it soon .”
Seongwoo looked around and was relieved to see a bird made of colored paper come flying at him - he never thought he’d be thinking these words. The bird unfolded itself and hung suspended in front of him, neatly printed lines and arrows showing him where to go.
“Okay, I got it-” he reached out to grab the paper before it fell.
“ Go, we’ll take care of Guanlin,” Minhyun said, “Be careful yourself .”
I was kind of thinking of adding more to the "big operation" scenes, but I don't think I will at this moment. So I've posted the conclusion in this chapter as well. To those who have been reading, thank you! I hope it was an enjoyable experience.
Minhyun switched off the phone. The air around the alleyway was different, even though they were just hovering around the mouth of it; there was a sense of magic, of mysticism. Was this what it meant to be a Special Unit?
Minhyun placed a comforting hand on Daehwi’s shoulder. The young witch didn’t know Guanlin as well, and the presence of magic must be pretty overwhelming - a newly turned Special Unit, a dragon werebeast. He wondered if anything like it had ever been seen on campus. He felt slightly awed, but also full of concern - this was his precious underclassman before anything else.
He gave Daehwi and Jisung - who had joined them and figured out where the image Daehwi scried was - a look before rounding the corner.
At the end of the alley, lying on top of a half deformed trash bin, was a jade dragon. He wasn’t too big, just enough to take up the width of the alleyway. His scales glistened in the dark, and so did his eyes of a deep grey. The remains of half-eaten food, rodents and - was that a raccoon? - littered the ground around the trash bin.
“Guanlin?” Minhyun called, edging himself just the slightest into the alleyway.
A trail of mist puffed out from the dragon’s snout; Minhyun could see the points of fangs out the side of his mouth.
“Do you recognize me?” he asked. Guanlin had wiggled his way into the hearts of a few hyungs, including many in Seongwoo’s friend group; they all tried to help him adjust to life in Korea better, especially seeing how hard he worked at it himself.
In response, the dragon lowered his head onto his front paws, regarding Minhyun with a look of understanding and trust. Minhyun relaxed a breath he hadn’t noticed he had been holding, feeling that fondness towards Guanlin he often felt.
“This is Daehwi, who you’ve met a few times before,” he gestured to the timid witch, hiding a little behind him, “and this is Jisung-hyung, your nagging TA who was really worried about you all week.”
Jisung gave Guanlin an admonishing but gentle smile. The dragon rolled his head a little on his paw, as if in acknowledgement or embarrassment - or both.
“Can hyung come closer?” Minhyun asked.
The dragon nodded. Minhyun walked slowly forward, Daehwi and Jisung in tow, when suddenly a loud voice came from behind.
“There it is!”
Minhyun whipped around to see three students with bandanas around their mouth blocking the opening of the alleyway, and one of them was aiming an outstretched hand at him-
Guanlin roared, so loud that some of wall crumpled, and with such force that everyone was blown out from the alleyway a little. The hooligan witch missed his spell and hit the ground just by Minhyun’s feet. Daehwi was in front of Minhyun in a second, brandishing his hands to summon a gust of wind that blew the three hooligans further back.
The air around the alleyway stirred again, this time because of powerful wings beating down as a newborn dragon took its first flight. Guanlin struggled and dipped, but found his balance quickly and rose just over the edge of the alleyway before swooping down. He flew over Minhyun, and just slightly over the hooligans so that they screamed and covered their heads. He gave another roar that sent the leaves of the nearby trees ruffling, breaking a few branches, and landed on the other side of the hooligans, caging them in.
“Fuck-” one of the hooligans transformed into a tiger.
But before she could do anything else, glimmering chains coiled around the three of them and drew them into a tight embrace. Daehwi was commanding the chains until they were wound securely around the troublemakers. Guanlin gave a last growl, which sent the tiger trembling and turning back into human form.
Minhyun let out another breath; he was sorry once again that he was so useless as a King, but he was thankful for his trustworthy friends. He ushered a shaken Jisung - hand still over his chest - forward, and rubbed Daehwi’s arm in thanks.
The young witch pushed the subdued hooligans forward until they were pressed up against a tree, and fastened them there. Guanlin watched them close by with sharp eyes, sitting on his haunches. Minhyun approached the young exchange student slowly.
“Guanlin, are you not able to turn back?” he asked, having suspected as much given his apparent disappearance and the fact that he had still not turned back yet.
Guanlin looked at him, and shook his head.
“Let’s go find the other hyungs,” Daehwi said to Guanlin comfortingly, “they’ll know. But I hear it helps if you relax, and let your mind retract a little from heightened awareness.”
Guanlin tilted his head to the side a little, but seemed content to stay as he was now that he knew he could turn back somehow. He straightened up a little and huffed out his chest, gazing intently at Minhyun, Jisung, and Daehwi.
“I think he’s saying he wants to stay like this for now to protect us,” Minhyun said with a chuckle.
Guanlin nodded enthusiastically. Daehwi smiled up a little shyly at him, but the two seemed to have formed the beginnings of a friendship.
“Let’s go find the others,” Jisung said, “I think I’ve had enough excitement to last me the rest of my graduate degree.”
“Hyung, I think the excitement’s only about to start when you know people like us,” Daehwi teased, his reservations against newly formed acquaintances apparently not extending as much to those older than him.
Jisung heaved a long suffering sigh, but seemed happily resigned to his fate nonetheless. Minhyun put his arms around his human companions - even chancing a small pat for his new dragon friend - as they walked back to join the rest of his friends. A smile lit his face as he heard Sungwoon’s triumphant report over his earpiece that everything was taken care of. The night had been long and eventful, and though it wasn’t quite over yet - Sungwoon was going to take photos of every hooligan and report them to the university and police - they had all done so well. Once again he looked forward to nothing but a quiet night together with his friends - all of them - relaxed and comforted in each other’s company.
Shuffling into the science building on tired feet, Jaehwan strong-armed his way forward until he reached the DJ, who had set up camp to continue the party, completely unperturbed from the commotion outside. He slipped him $15, and asked him to put on the track on his CD. He put his hands over his ears as a precaution as he stumbled out of the building, the first notes of Seongwoo’s voice filling the room.
And so the campus slept, to the hypnotic sound of Seongwoo’s lullaby.
Daniel still hummed Seongwoo’s forgetting song weeks afterwards, having listened to it when Jaehwan played it for the hooligans after everything was done - just enough that they didn’t remember any of their faces, though they remembered everything else, like how they’re getting in trouble and probably getting expelled. Seongwoo kept giving Daniel funny looks whenever he caught him doing it; sometimes Daniel wouldn’t even realize and simply returned a quizzical head tilt, other times he would laugh and say:
“What? It’s a good song!”
“Ask Jaehwan to make you another one,” Seongwoo said, leaning over the fence down which they could see the beach. They were taking a walk through the forested area surrounding the university, wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle a little - and their suddenly expanded friend group. “I’m getting tired of this one.”
“Ong Seongwoo, tired of his own voice?” Daniel said in mock shock.
“I’m always tired of my own voice,” Seongwoo said with an exaggerated sigh, “I’m not really that charming to myself you know?”
“You probably could be,” Daniel mused, “what happens if you convince yourself you’re the sexiest man alive?”
“That would only make me look that way to someone else,” Seongwoo said, “I wouldn’t believe it myself. Although, in this case, it’s already true.” he gave Daniel a coquettish smile.
Daniel laughed. He leaned back against the fence and took in a deep breath. “I’m glad everything’s still the same after all this,” he said, smiling contently, “it’s crazy having so many brats running around now - and Sungwoon-hyung - but it’s fun. I’m glad Guanlin was okay as well, and I bet Jisung-hyung feels so special being the only non-Unit in the group. Did you hear him calling himself the true ‘Special Unit’ the other day?”
“Or how he keeps wondering if he’s going to turn into an Unit from being around us,” Seongwoo added with a roll of his eyes, “I told him it was too late for him, at his age, and he gave me the cold shoulder for a week.”
They shared a laugh, happy to be in each other’s presence and comforted by their ever growing group of companions.
No one had had to abdicate after all. The rest of the campus was still largely unaware of the identities of the two Kings, or chose to keep it secret, and Sungwoon and Minhyun had decided to act together. Minhyun would continue his previous campaign to provide a comfortable and safe environment for students, while Sungwoon kept up his strategic defenses around the campus. The two of them occasionally traded posts, or dabbled in each other’s fortes, to continue challenging themselves and to learn from each other.
The papers had taken to calling them the campus’ Guardians since the incident, despite not having any details to report since no one remembered. Their two cohorts tried to fill out this role as much as possible, but Seongwoo was just glad he could go back to being a regular college student most of the time.
Because just looking after himself - and sometimes Daniel - was already a handful.
“Oh shit! Don't we have an assignment due tonight?”