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Once the Light Flickers

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A few steps here, a few steps there.

Feet quick on the ground.

He watches him, silently admiring the eccentric personality currently serving tables. His light brown hair is sticking to his forehead, bright smile never once betraying his exhaustion. A hurricane, really. Cup of coffee for this table, serve sandwich while warm to the other, extra french fries, but non-fat milk for the macchiato. His sleeves are rolled up on slightly toned arms, pen stuck over his ear.

He's been serving tables all afternoon, the restaurant has been busy the entire shift, and there's only him. He watches, serene and calm like those of his kind usually are. Cars pass by and kids play around the busy street, but he’s one with the tree now. He's been here since the boy arrived, and here he can remain for eternity without an issue.

But the boy eventually leaves, so he doesn't.

He follows. Follows the light, the warmth, and maybe a call.

Through the street, he loses him for a minute. The boy is quick, full of life in everything he does.

He should know.

He eventually arrives to a house. A few blocks away in a residential part of the city. Nothing extravagant, but he can smell the small tinge of love in between cream coloured walls, and sometimes that is better than a mansion on a hill.

There's also a bitter touch in that house.

He wonders what it is.

Yoongi sits on yet another branch. He's got all night and trees get comfy if he asks nicely. He can see several windows, through one holds the sight of the boy greeting his mother and elegant woman with short brown hair and a kind smile.

He loses sight for a minute, until a window lights up and he follows with mismatched eyes. He sees a pair of arms shooting upwards, has half the mind to process an unblemished expanse of skin before he tucks his face on his shoulder.

Heat rises on his cheeks as he pointedly ignores what must be the discarding of the remaining clothes. He counts to a hundred before looking back, and his eyes hold a pair of adorable polka dot pajamas.

He realized that the boy was more than tired when he dropped face first into the mattress and didn't really move afterwards. No closing curtains, no duvet to keep him warm. He did pull a pillow to his side, and that was the end of it.

He fully intended to stay there. However a harsh wind current carrying the scent of jasmine made his face look towards the moon. To his eyes, and his only, the moon turned a wicked blue colour.

Job call.

He got down from his tree, whispering a quick thank you and a farewell. A flick of the wrist and his scythe greets the palm of his hand.

First he needs a tall building. He could find his people first but they'll end up in the same place anyway.

He finds an apartments' building, and climbs up the fire escape. The cool breeze of Seoul makes a few stray hairs dance, and kisses his pale face.

He walks over to a ledge. Not afraid to fall, as he would come right back to the same spot he is standing on in an hour or so. It would be a mild inconvenience at most.

The expanse of the city greets his eyes, time to search.

He covers a mismatched eye, leaving the sharp blue to witness it all.

"Let me know, moon of mine, where shall freedom shine"

Tendrils of blue exploded in a nearby street, like a fast-paced blooming flower.
Good, if it's on a street, it's best. He hates hospitals.

He jumps from building to building, trying to follow the sight of the eye showing him the path. Most would think his scythe would throw him off balance, but it provided him an unnatural balance, the same way a cat's tail would.

Shadows are near. Those little suckers took long.

He reaches it first.

Car crash, common in busy cities like Seoul. The traffic has been cleverly redirected to avoid the tragedy.

It's gruesome, both cars look like a stepped on soda can.

He nears the obvious fatality.

Fate was kind this time, the body seems mostly intact. He hears two presences behind him and, if they weren't so familiar, he would have swung the scythe already.

"Took you long enough," he muttered.

"Sorry hyung, I needed to finish my homework," added Jimin.

"Isn't this like your third degree?" Grunted Yoongi.

"Well, yes, but Biology is interesting!" Said the blonde, and no one could deny a smile the reflects even in the eyes. He was leaning on his lantern staff, winking yet another mismatched eye. His blonde hair shone with the reflection of the lantern's light. The delicate capsule of light dangled from one side to the other, betraying previous movement.

"Shall we begin?" Namjoon started in a deep voice, holding his book to his chest as if anyone but him could carry it. For anyone else, it would be terribly heavy, and the cover to unveil its secrets even more so. For him? The perfect fit.

All three lean onto the body, allowing space for Jimin's lantern dangling on the staff to bathe the place in golden light. It was a black male, maybe 25.

A shape emerged from the body, the same man but now bathed in iridescent light. His soul, for short. Quite clean, seems like he had his life sorted out. He looked like he wanted to move, but his ankles remained tied at the body's ankles.

The voice came out higher than expected.

"Wha-? What happened? I was on my way out of college and then I saw two lights and... I can't move?"

All three guardians stepped back.

"Henderson Jihyun-ssi? Born to American mother and Korean father? 25 years old to death date?" started Namjoon, reciting the lines out of his book.

The man did not seem to totally process what was asked, the word "death" totally flying over his head. It was obvious because he simply nodded with no alarming reaction.

"I am sorry to inform you that tonight, at 11:37pm on a night of April, you were granted passage to the afterlife. A man that has abused of his rights to alcohol has eased your passage to the hands of death," Namjoon continued, with the warm light allowing him to read his book.

"Dead? Dead! I can't be, I was just..."

The man's soul sat back down, feet still tied to his body.

"We are guardians of the Cycle of Life, you get three when you die. An enchanter, to read the funerary process and cast the proper spells to protect your soul through your path to the afterlife, a Light-bearer, to illuminate the path and a Severing Guard, to cut your soul from your body."

"What if I want to keep my soul IN my body? Wouldn't that keep me alive? Isn't that the obvious choice?" The man did not stand, but he wrung his wrists continuously. Nervousness is common during this process.

Yoongi, hearing his duty being called out, answered instead of allowing Namjoon to read the answer from the book.

"No, you are already dead. We can leave your soul attached to your body. If you do, you'll enter a vegetative state and remain unmoving in a hospital room until you feel brave enough to get your soul cut." Yoongi explained in a cold but not harsh tone. He tugged the scythe away from view, so the man wouldn't worry more.
"I'm sorry, but there is no other way," said Jimin, bringing his lantern closer to provide warmth in the soul. The fire that burns inside of his lantern is different from any fire a human can create.

“There IS someone waiting for you there, we believe you remember Mrs. Im and Mrs. Henderson?” carried on Namjoon, reading from a list his book supplied. The night was cool, the fading winter still biting the skin. Namjoon shivered and a long finger flipped the page.

“My grandmothers? Yes, I sure do.”

“We can stay here all night until you’re ready, we’re your guardians after all.” Jimin gave him one of “the smiles,” those that reach his eyes and provide comfort. His job as a Light Bearer was well assigned.

Yoongi seriously hoped it wouldn’t really take all night. The world still carried on around them and soon there would be flashing police lights and nosy bystanders. Usually, that causes the souls to stress.

“Why do I need guardians, why three? What am I supposed to be guarded from?” asked the soul, rubbing at his ankles as if it would free him. Yoongi bit back the urge of telling him that only a scythe would cut it.

More questions, Namjoon’s territory. “We’ll, you’ve led a pretty decent life and have no malicious intent, and demons are attracted to that. The lantern’s light keeps them away, something as pure as a clean soul must be protected.”

“Those really do exist?”

“Yes, things of nightmare really. You don’t have to worry though!” Jimin gave him a thumbs up, and the man looked pensive again.

“What if my soul wasn’t clean? What if I led a life of twisted intentions?
“The conversation we are having would be completely different,” answered Yoongi in a unreadable tone, only giving some context as he stroked the scythe with a thumb.

Silence took over.

A while passed and they head a rumble in the city, one unlike the thrum of human civilization. Namjoon turned a knowing glance at Yoongi. The hellhounds must be on patrol.

“Cut it.”

All three gave a relieved sigh. There would be no hellhound-fighting today.

Namjoon dipped his head back into his book, a river of old sounding words dripping from plump lips. Silver coloured bangs covered his eyes, but he made no move to remove it.

Yoongi’s scythe turned warm in the presence of magic. The cut wasn’t supposed to be a cold bite of steel, but the welcoming warmth of freedom.

Jimin lifted the staff, clicking it once against the pavement. The light grew brighter.

All set, his turn.

The man stood, soul burning with uncertainty yet committed.

Yoongi took a step back, scythe as light as a feather as he swung it in direction of the soul’s connection to the body.

The freed soul followed Jimin. Jimin always stood in the middle, allowing the light to reach both the front and back of the group. Namjoon led the party of 3 as his spells opened portals and Yoongi kept to the back to fight back anything that might come for them.

As soon as red and blue lights appeared in the corners of their vision, the three guardians and one soul disappeared into the shadows.

The walk was quick, Yoongi’s scythe needed just one more time as there was a web of a spider-like demon in the way. No sign of an amplified spider, not even when Yoongi tore it to shreds. The party neared a pond, crystal clear water uninterrupted but for a tiny boat.

Yoongi pressed a coin into the soul’s hand, and all three guardians took a step back.

“What was it this time?” asked the Charon in turn, hood hiding most of his face. All they could see was a peek of lips and a slim jaw.

“Car crash, drunk driver,” stated Yoongi curtly.

“I swear those metal things will end up killing more people than the bubonic plague and the yellow fever together. I preferred chariots.” said the Charon.

“Not like you were alive for all three things you just mentioned, huh Jin?” said Yoongi.

“Yah, formalities!” said the Charon, pulling the hood down to reveal the face of a porcelain doll and a soft frame of hair. One thing identified him as part of the job and set him apart from the Guardians at the same time, his eyes where both the unnatural blue the Guardians had in their right eyes. The peek of plump red lips was all Yoongi needed to know it was him.

Somebody else recognized him, that became known as they heard a book snap shut and Jimin nearly bumped into his scythe as Namjoon took a step back into Jimin. The light flickered.

“Ah, Kim Namjoon and Park Jimin, yes?”

“Kim Seokjin-ssi?” asked Jimin, stilling the swinging lantern with a small hand.

“Call me hyung, both of you” said the brunette, looking at both in the eye. Both nodded enthusiastically.

“Let’s go Jihyun, you’ll enjoy the view,” he lifted a cloaked arm, pointing with his staff to the boat. As they departed, Seokjin began to row with the staff. The ripples of water glowed in their path as Seokjin gave him descriptions of each passing thing. From the waterlilies to the dragonflies that greeted them. His voice grew smaller as he rowed away.

“Hyung, you are friends with Kim Seokjin? The Kim Seokjin?”

“Yes, we went to college together. Let’s go, I’m hungry.”

“I saw this cafe at the corner of our street, maybe we should go!” said Jimin, waving his staff excitedly.

“They’re closed” added Yoongi off handedly.

“How do you know?” asked Namjoon suspiciously, again back to hugging his book to his chest.

He had half a second to compensate for his mistake, but it came easily.

“It’s midnight, most cafes are closed. I wish they were, I need a black coffee.”

They all walked away from the lake, chatting amicably as if they weren’t walking away from the doors of death, through an abyss and into Seoul as if it were a walk in the park.

Chapter Text

Some days are better than others, he guesses.

Some days they lead pastors and opera singers to the lake, with a plethora of fascinated words and background vocals to enhance the trip. Every soul is different, so the trip feels individually crafted for each soul.

Some days they get old ladies that somehow manage to bring the cane with their souls and nag that it would’ve been more convenient to reap her soul after she watered her plants. The path fitting her soul is nice, he guesses, just a little old fashioned. Yoongi is sure they somehow passed a 1940s hallway a few feet ago, if the wallpaper was a sign.

At least the hellhounds won’t be coming for her.

“They’d probably bring her back” muttered Namjoon between incantations. Jimin agreed, the lamp swaying as he nodded. They were close, the fog nearing the water becoming dense.

The Sun sets accordingly in the lake as it does in life. The way the light hits the water? That’s entirely different. When Yoongi first started here, he remembers thinking that the reflection of the light in the water was all wrong.

All three greet the Charon in turn, bidding farewell and nearly stumbling upon themselves as they rushed to leave.

“Hyung, you rarely rush to anything. Where are you going? Jimin and I were heading out for a drink.” Jimin perked up at the mention of alcohol.

“Rushing to my bed, I’ll go sleep” answered Yoongi, head already in the tree opposite to the cafe.

“Sounds like you, bye hyung!” said Jimin while tugging on Namjoon, the light on the staff receding.

Yoongi is left walking away from the lake, fog all the way up to his knees and orbs of light growing on flowers. He loves this place, and despite his extended life, he knows one day he won’t be able to make a round trip, so he enjoys every time like the first.

Purple trees recede and turn into street lights, bluish grass becoming pavement.

Seoul moves, full to the brim with life.

He walks. He walks because flying is not an option.

Through alleys and next to shops, he eventually arrives at the cafe. Maybe he should go inside?

Brave like no other day, he walks in, tugging his pierced cap down so no one stares at his mismatched eyes. He still has the Sight, feels the life energy of every single customer. It’s the combination of scent and color, through his eyes.

Here it comes, the strangest life energy ever. It feels as if you’re walking down a hall of candles, and someone suddenly hands you a torch.

He ducks his head as Taehyung, such has he learned, nears him. Before being told to, he plopped into a table and sunk his eyes into the menu.

Taehyung follows with a pen and pad. He’s wearing glasses today, with a shirt with holes that have a little of him woven into them. He must’ve made them himself. The little fashionista.

Yoongi points at a few pictures in the menu, cap still on and without looking at his waiter. Taehyung understands regardless and bows before moving onto another table.

What had he been thinking? How can he face him?

The coffee and bagel arrive, and Taehyung introduces himself in a chirpy voice. So fitting for his soul, chirpy yet bearing the possibility to hold a sea with its depth.

Inherently, Yoongi looks up, a thank you on his lips. Taehyung gasps, obviously seeing the mismatched eyes. He was sure he had seen a blue and an orange like that before. Where though?

Yoongi snaps his sight back down, using his cap as a shield between the two.

His waiter obviously had seen his eyes, his Sight. Long gone are the days where the other would screech and people like Yoongi would wake up tied to a burning stake. There is a cultural memory of it though and he shivers, regardless. A soul that burns so bright would not intend harm to him, so he just watched his back as Taehyung walks into the kitchen.

He’s almost done with the bagel when he sees Taehyung hang his apron in the corner. Ah, change of shift. The next guy walks in and gives him a high five, a quick exchange of words before Taehyung walks out. Yoongi cleans crumbs from the corner of his lips, leaving a few bills on the table before wandering behind.

Time and time again he wonders if what he does is ethical. He found it weird in Twilight when Pattinson kept ogling and following the girl, isn’t that the case? His following comes out of pure curiosity, however, and he intends no harm. His only intention is to find out what sets his soul aside from the rest, he repeats to himself. He just needs to find out and he’ll leave it.

Probably.

The trees whispered into his ears, giving him an alternate route to a path he has followed before. Taehyung deviates, however. One minute it looks like he’s heading home and the other he takes a right where he was supposed to keep straight. Yoongi falls back the minute he sees orange locks.

Is that…?

No he isn’t. Taehyung fist bumps him and starts speaking lightning fast. No extra, extra affection, and he has seen that the younger is full to the brim with it.

Should he leave them alone? He has never followed him home since that first night.

He turns around, giving the orange-haired man and Taehyung behind. He’ll be lying if he said he left them behind from his thoughts as well.

Back into his apartment feels lonely. He’s not used to it feeling this way. The wall have greet Sun, Moon or Rain various times with Yoongi curled in front of his computer for hours. Selling beats is dope, it is what he wanted from the start, even before his “side job.”

He hears uneven steps in the hallway. It must be his neighbors. They could’ve chosen to get an amazing apartment together, joining their incomes, but they each value different aspects of privacy. It’s not like he’s totally far from them. He’s been graced with the echoes of Jimin’s “Alone Time” since their bedrooms are separated by a wall due to the building’s layout.

The air outside is hot and humid, inside there’s the cool whisper of Yoongi being left to be himself.

More stumbling sounds from the hallway, his mind goes out to Joon. If they went drinking, he’s sure as hell that it is not Jimin. That man must’ve been a sailor in a past life. Sure, sweet and caring personality, but he’s seen him ask Namjoon if he will dare him to chug down three beers while doing a handstand.

He opens his door, a small spark of concern requesting him to.

Jimin is laughing, cheeks a bit pink. Yoongi stands in front, waiting to be seen.

“Woah, hi hyung.”
“-What’s wrong?”
“Joonie-hyung got a little “experimental”, a giggle “- he mixed something he probably should’ve have and it is not sitting well on his stomach-” Jimin, however, seems fine. Articulate,if nothing else.
He grunted, of course.

“I’ll run to the convenience store to get him something for his stomach…” The track could wait, and he could use the outside air and a fresh carton of milk for tomorrow.

“Thank you hyuuuung,” sing-songed Jimin, eyesmile deadly and he closed the door to Namjoon’s apartment.

Quiet doesn’t really mean calm in cities like Seoul, he sure there’s at least two of everything happening right that moment. It is calm for him, however, and he likes it, loves the shadows broken by streetlights and the soft hum of life. The neon lights of the convenience store create a green glow on the leather jacket he threw over his PJ’s. He doesn’t mind. The night cashier at the convenience store has seen him in the widest range of attire possible, from a suit for a wedding to a three-days-used tshirt when he hit a composer’s block in the midst of a looming deadline.

The cashier is smoking outside, but he steps on the cigarette once he recognizes Yoongi.

He grabs what he needs, leaves the coins in the jar and walks out.

White “Thank You” bags dangle from his wrists as he whistles the tune he was working on. He has his head on a potential “Mixing” conversation with Namjoon. Not Today, though. Namjoon couldn’t stick to a stereotypical type of drunk. Noooo, the man had to be a philosophical one.

His arms’ hairs stand up as he feels the scent of Jasmine before the breeze directs his head to the moon. What really stopped any train of thought was the color that usually indicates what type of job he’ll get. Blue is for death, reaping souls. Orange is for life, bringing souls to births.

Which makes it inexplicable as the moon looks like a marble of both colours.

Yoongi throws an arm out, stretching his fingers as the blunt part of the blade kisses his fingertips.

In seconds, he’s over the convenience store’s rooftop.

He doesn’t need to cover an eye, he doesn’t know what phrase to use either. It seems like the time for improvisation. With both mismatched eyes wide open, the blue and orange piercing the night as a sword through a maiden’s veil, he speaks his call into existence.

“Sweet cosmos, speak to me, what can it possibly be?”

For the first time in the time he’s had this job for, two differently coloured tendrils of light intertwine. That is not what sets his heart to race, however.The light comes from a familiar street, with known trees and bushes. It’s close to the Kim household. He can feel it, even if there are thousands of other people it could be, he KNOWS.

Taehyung is in trouble.