“It is called Summon Cupid or something,” Taehyun is saying, bumping the vending machine with his fist in a way only people who have worked here for at least a year know. The vending machine whines before the stuck cheeto bag shakes from the force of Taehyun’s fist and drops down into the tray below.
“Don’t you mean OK Cupid?” Sungwoon asks, hands cupped around his coffee mug to get them a little warmer.
“No, OK Cupid is full of white people just looking for a fuck these days.” Taehyun says and opens his cheeto bag gleefully. “The website I am talking about is like a legit dating service.”
“I have never heard of it.” Sungwoon shrugs, wondering what stage of adult he is at if he is discussing his love life and online dating services with a colleague in his company pantry.
“It’s there though.” Taehyun replies. “I can help you ask my sister for the link.”
“Thanks,” Sungwoon nods.
“You sure you want to go for online dating so soon?” Taehyun asks. “I mean, you just found out Minhyun is dating three hours ago. You move on that fast?”
Three hours and twenty seven minutes to be exact. At nine o’clock sharp, Sungwoon stepped into the café next door to their company for his daily morning coffee and muffin, only to find the object of his affection for the last few months – the owner of the café (and Sungwoon’s heart), Minhyun talking to a guy who he introduced to Sungwoon as his boyfriend who had been abroad for the past year due to a job relocation.
It is now 27 minutes past noon, a whole two hundred and seven minutes since Sungwoon had realized that no one is ever going to love him in his life.
“It was just a stupid crush.” Sungwoon replies.
“Yeah, alright.” Taehyun raises an eyebrow, clearing not believing him. “Good luck, man. I need to run for lunch with the guys in Call Center.”
“You just ate a whole bag of Cheetos.”
“A bite-size bag, and it’s pre-lunch snack.” Taehyun says before giving Sungwoon an encouraging pat on the back (which Sungwoon is sure has left some orange cheeto dust stains on the back of his shirt), and leaving without a care in the world.
It must be nice to be a person whose secret crush hasn’t been dating the whole time you were crushing on him. Sungwoon thinks bitterly, and sips on the too hot coffee that tastes like shit because he got it from the office instant machine and not from the next door café, made by the hands of a god (who has failed to mention his boyfriend to Sungwoon in the past six months that Sungwoon has known him)
“You wanna join us for lunch?” Dahye, who sits three cubicles across from him, asks as she flutters past him in a cloud of perfume and sharp heels.
“No, thank you.” Sungwoon replies. “I am not hungry.” I just want to wallow in self misery for a little longer.
Sungwoon spends the entirety of lunch searching for the Summon Cupid service Taehyun mentioned that hooked up his sister and her husband. They always looked so happy and in love whenever Sungwoon went out with them – the kind of couple that looks like they had been sweethearts since birth, and not the kind that randomly found each other via an online match making algorithm.
All he could find on Google search are some fishily-named websites (he is sure at least half of them are porn sites), a couple of movies with the name ‘Cupid’ in it, a shitload of useless Yahoo answers and some blogs with myspace-style visuals that listed some stupid spells on how to summon a cupid. Taehyun must be remembering the name wrongly but Sungwoon does not want to ask him again because that’d make him seem more desperate than he already is.
He did note down the last blog he visited out of both boredom and a tiny little spark of curiosity because the blog at least looks clean and professional, almost like some service portal and not some myspace page made by an emo teenager who listens to nothing but Evanescence (so basically Sungwoon circa 2008). The website is called magic.co and it has a spell listed on how to summon a cupid using your commonly found around the house items (who the fuck has a red candle around their house though). He is just curious, that’s all.
And he also buys a red candle from the market when he is getting his dinner later that day because he is just curious. There is no harm in trying and it is not like it is some weird sacrificial shit. The blog just says to draw a circle with a lit red candle at the center, to focus on the person you are in love with and to repeat the chant listed on the blog for three times. Worst case scenario, Sungwoon would look like a fool, but he is at home and the only living things in his house apart from him are his plants and they had witnessed far worse from Sungwoon. Best case scenario, well, who knows, but it is Friday and Sungwoon is bored and blue and has nothing to do.
After he dug out a lighter from a knick-and-knack bin that he hasn’t used in month to light the candle though, Sungwoon realizes that he can’t exactly focus on Minhyun for the spell. The dude is very obviously in love with his boyfriend and Sungwoon is not the type to steal someone else’s man, especially when he doesn’t know if it will involve magic and consent issues and all that.
And then Sungwoon stares at himself in the mirror for fifteen straight minutes at how much he has been downward spiraling, actually thinking magic is real and feeling concern over it.
The candle he has lit has now burnt halfway and the wax is melting onto the floor inside the makeshift circle Sungwoon has drawn with a whiteboard marker. Sungwoon, annoyed, but not wanting to waste the 15,000 won he spent on the candle, sits cross-legged just outside the circle and folds his hands in his lap, looking down at his phone which has the blog opened.
I just want someone to love, and someone to love me back. He thinks, knowing how pathetic each word sounds even in his head, and whispers the short chant written on the blog for three times.
Nothing happens. Well, Ms. Maggie from upstairs barks but she barks at everything including her own shadow so Sungwoon does not think that counts. Sungwoon sighs, annoyed and embarrassed at himself, and moves to get up from the floor. He is not sure what he was expecting but here he is, reciting magical chants from an online website he found from the 30th page of a Google search on a Friday night like a fucking loser. He is just gonna shower and hits up some of the guys later – see if they want to go out or something. Jongin will come drink with him if Sungwoon whines at him long enough.
Except a whoosh of cold wind blows past Sungwoon, causing the candle to flicker until the light goes out completely. Sungwoon stands still, chills running down his spine. He hasn’t opened the windows in months since the winter started because he hates the cold and there is something that just feels unnatural to him about the coldness of the wind that blew past him. Maybe he just accidentally left his front door opened or something. He turns his head towards the front door to check when a very distinct male voice says “Oh no” just three feet in front of him.
Sungwoon thinks he screamed or shrieked – something assembling to a dying cat probably – he cannot exactly remember, because there is a guy – an honest to god, person inside the lopsided circle he just drew, standing in the place where he had put the red candle before. The man is blinking and looking at his surrounding, and giving a deep sigh like he is disappointed, and Sungwoon’s mind has kind of dissociated from his body right now because what the fuck
“Wh..what..who are you?” Sungwoon stutters, stumbling back until the back of his knees hit the edge of the sofa.
“I should have known,” the guy is saying, shaking his head and rubbing at his forehead. “This is gonna get me another round of Caution for Summons session.”
“Hey!” Sungwoon snapped at the guy. He is dressed in a casual t-shirt and ripped jeans with a messenger bag like your friendly neighborhood post-grad student, but then he also just materialized out of thin air right inside Sungwoon’s living room. “Tall and wide, I am talking to you. Who on earth are you?”
The guy finally pays attention to Sungwoon and narrows his eyes at him. “Aren’t you the one who called for a cupid?”
Sungwoon’s legs finally give out and he goes tumbling down onto the sofa.
“A cupid.” Sungwoon says to himself. He is about two more mental break downs away from holding himself and rocking back and forth, muttering magic is real…cupids are real…cupids..magic “I called a cupid.”
“Are you alright?” The cupid asks. He has sat down cross-legged, still inside the circle once he has realized that Sungwoon’s mental breakdown is not going to end anytime soon. “Why would you do a summoning spell if you weren’t expecting the thing you summoned to actually show up?”
“I didn’t think it was real. I was just …” Sungwoon says, at a loss for words. “ … fucking around.”
“Well, congrats.” The guy says, opening his arms wide. “I am here because I am a lousy cupid who never paid attention in any of the training.”
“Training?” Sungwoon blinks. Cupids have trainings?
“Yeah, you are just a human, aren’t you?” The guy narrowed his eyes.
“Of course I am.” Sungwoon splutters. “What do you think I was?”
“Wow, amazing. I fell for a summoning spell by a human, not even by a witch.” The guy mutters.
“Witches are real?” Sungwoon blinks, feeling another onslaught of breakdown coming at him. “Wait. Am I a witch? Am I MAGIC?”
“No, obviously not.” The guy replies. “No witch goes into adulthood without becoming aware of their magic. You are just .. probably more sensitive to the magical energy than the rest, if you can get a spell right. And happens to have an idiotic cupid right here who can’t even tell a amateur summon trap.”
“So,” Sungwoon vaguely gestures around the circle. “This is a trap? For you.”
“Yes,” the cupid – it is still so weird to call him that – shrugs. “Summoning spells are kind of fake signals, you know, they imitate the official signal we get when we have a case. We have like regular trainings to tell them apart – kind of basic stuff like energy level and signal strength but I slept through the last one. Damn it. I even got my bag because I thought I am having another case.”
“What’s in the bag?” Sungwoon asks, suddenly curious. “Is it your bow and arrows? Can I see?”
“No, I can’t even shoot a bow.” The guy furrows his eyebrows. “It’s just my driving license and passport. And a few notebooks and pens.”
Sungwoon blinks. “Cupids have licenses? And passports?”
“Yeah, how else are we gonna drive? Or travel?”
“You cannot just teleport?” Sungwoon asks, dumbfounded. “Or I don’t know, shrink the earth to get to … wherever.”
“Magic cannot shrink the earth.” The cupid rolls his eyes. “Plus, teleportation needs approvals from like three different departments. It’s a lot easier to just hop on a plane.”
Apparently, magic is a lot more bureaucratic than Sungwoon would have thought, if he, you know, has ever thought about magic being real.
“This is a lot to take in.” Sungwoon mutters while the cupid sighs.
“Can you at least let me out of this circle first so I can do whatever you called me for and go back? I have about five letters to write on why I failed to notice a summon trap by a human.”
“Wait, you cannot do magic when you are inside the circle?”
It is not even a good circle.
“Oh my god, you are a total noob, aren’t you?” The guy says exasperatedly and Sungwoon is kind of offended. It is not his fault that he somehow accidentally summoned a freaking magical being, ok? If anything, the cupid himself was also at fault since has has openly admitted that he is kind of a lousy cupid who slept through training. “The whole purpose of this circle is to strip us of magic so the summoner can be safe. So, yeah, I cannot do magic when I am in here.”
“If I break you out of the circle, are you gonna use magic to kill me?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous,” the cupid says. “Killing a human with magic means tons of paperwork nobody wants to go through.”
Yeah, that’s a real confidence boost.
“But you are just going to go back, aren’t you?” Sungwoon asks. “There is no guarantee that you’ll do whatever I called you for once I gave you back your magic.”
The cupid pursed his lips. Clearly, Sungwoon has struck a nerve. Good to know that trickey is not only limited to human beings after all.
“Look, man. What other option do you have?" The cupid says. "You don’t have the power of a witch to bind my magic to you after you let me out. Are you going to just leave me here in your flimsy circle that will not hold for long? This isn’t even permanent marker, is it?”
“I didn’t want to ruin my flooring,” Sungwoon mutters.
“So, I am going to get out sooner or later. Just let me out now and I promise I will not harm you in any way.”
“How do I trust your word?” Sungwoon murmurs.
“You'll just have to.” The cupid shrugs.
Sungwoon sighs. “Fine. I’ll let you out. For what it is worth though, I really did not think it’d work.” He holds out his one foot and wipes at the market mark with his slippers. “You can go. I’ll just stay up and reconsider my entire existence since I accidentally found out magic is real.”
The cupid just shakes his head and steps out of the circle, stretching his arms and Sungwoon automatically shrinks back a little at his movement.
“Why aren’t you leaving?” Sungwoon narrows his eyes and asks, as the cupid leisurely strolls around his living room, apparently interested in Sungwoon’s mismatched decoration.
“There has to be a reason why you called me, right?” He turns to Sungwoon suddenly and asks. “It can’t be just because you are bored. And since you asked for a cupid, it has to be matters of the heart.”
“Matters of the heart.” Sungwoon mumbles. “That sounds stupid, but anyway, what is your point?”
“When I get back, I’ll help you.” The cupid grins and now that Sungwoon’s brain is not scattering around, the cupid is kind of attractive.
Sungwoon really wishes he has some soju right now.
“Why would you do that?”
“I need your help as well.” He continues. “I want a vacation.”
“Right. Magic newbie.” The cupid says and sits down on Sungwoon’s sofa like he is a regular house guest. “Let me lay it out for you. When we are in human realm, we are not allowed to use magic, unless it is sanctioned by the Bureau for a case. If you are a witch, you can mask that magic, but since you are not, the Bureau will know once I use magic to go back, which is why I cannot hide the fact that I fell for a summon trap.”
“So, turn it around, and it means that as long as I don’t use magic here, they won’t know that I am in human realm. I’ve been dying to take some times off. The last case I took was really heavy, but I am a junior and we don’t really get vacations, so I am gonna chill here for a little bit before I go back, and they won’t know a thing.” The cupid finishes off gleefully.
Sungwoon blinks. “Won’t someone notice that you were gone for I don’t know how long you plan on staying here?”
“Time doesn’t really pass the same way in our realm.” The cupid shrugs. “They won’t know unless they are assigning me a new case, and if I don’t respond, the protocol will automatically find another available cupid.”
“Heaven has protocol?” Sungwoon says in wonder.
“It is not exactly heaven.” The cupid says. “Just … another realm, world, if you will.”
“This is so cool if my brain can slow down enough to absorb all this information.” Sungwoon mutters. “But I still don’t know how that relates to me.”
“Simple. Since I cannot use magic, I am gonna need a place to stay and some money.”
“You want me to sponsor your vacation?” Sungwoon says slowly.
“Yeah,” the cupid nods in satisfaction. “And in return, I’ll help you with whatever you need. I am guessing it is to find the love of your life?”
“Well,” Sungwoon trails off. “Sort of? But again, same question. How do I believe you? I can’t just blindly give you money.”
“We can shake on it.” The cupid extends a hand. “Look, I am a magical being. My words bind me. I will keep my promise. I already kept my promise about not harming you in anyway.”
“Well, yeah, but I am not like rolling in money or anything. And I don’t know anything about magic. What if you are not a cupid but like, I don’t know, a money scamming leprechaun or something?”
“Leprechuans don’t exist,” says the cupid. “And I am not going to backrupt you here. I just want to get some R&R, you know, just something small for me to go around and explore.”
Sungwoon bites his lips. What the hell. How often is he gonna have a bona-fide cupid asking him for a favour? It is kind of ethereal and Sungwoon is kind of interested, especially if the cupid keeps his words and finds the love of Sungwoon’s life or whatever.
“Fine,” Sungwoon grasps and shakes the cupid’s hand, which is warmer than expected. “You can stay in my spare room. I am not shelling out a hotel booking for you.”
“That’s fine.” His sudden house guest shrugs and looks around.
“Also,” Sungwoon asks. “Do cupids have name or do I have to keep calling you Mr. Cupid?”
“Of course, we have names. I am Daniel.”
“Cupids speak English?”