His breath came out in hazy shudders, and his hands shook like dying leaves. The instinct to draw his bow and arrow in self-defence was gone- years of training, of hunting in these very forests, gone when his eyes met golden irises. The forest floor was dark with so little light streaming through the canopy of sky-high evergreen trees that the pools of yellow glowed in the shadows.
He took a step backwards, snow crunching underneath his foot.
Before him stood a man with ashen, pale skin, blue-grey hair, and eerie yellow eyes. The man grinned, softly, sweetly - a pretty, gentle smile. But his smile held something that was terribly unnerving, a grin that was terribly unhinged. He wasn't all there. Not human - not man. Not of this earth.
This was a god.
“I know who you are," the boy whispered.
“Do you?" the yellow-eyed god asked, his voice silky and thick, soft like the hiss of a snake.
"You saved me," the boy answered. "All those years ago."
“Did I?" the deity said. He stepped closer, footfalls silent as he moved. The boy found himself rooted to the forest floor, unable to budge as the looming, unearthly man stood before him, his breath fanning over the boy's face.
"What is your name, child?"
"Kim Won..shik?" the deity said as if testing the name on his tongue. The man's grin grew wider, and Wonshik's heart began beating faster, but he did not feel fear.
"I saved you," the god repeated. "I saved a mortal?"
Wonshik nodded, hand raising and brushing his neck, laying fingers over the fabric covering the marks that extended over the skin.
It was almost ten years ago when Wonshik was just old enough to accompany his father who - as chief of his small village - led the merchant caravan that ventured into the city. Wonshik was only fifteen then, and it was the first journey he ever made.
He spent just a couple of days in the capital before the plague struck, and a lockdown befell the entire city to prevent the disease from spreading. It wasn't long before Wonshik's father fell to the illness, and Wonshik soon succumbed to the symptoms after. The boy knew his time was coming when the headache and chills morphed into bloody coughs. So, Wonshik prayed, and unlike the others who begged to be healed by the God of Medicine and those who prayed to the God of Life to give them more time, Wonshik prayed to the God of Disease and Pestilence - an ill-advised action.
The deity of sickness was revered, but no mortal ever dared to call forth his name.
But Wonshik prayed to the god to spare his life, for he had a family to provide for and a village to lead.
"I was supposed to die in that city when the plague came," Wonshik explained. "But I prayed to you, and you listened to me."
The god raised an eyebrow, lifting a hand to lay on top of Wonshik's as he pushed away the high collar and furs. There were two tiny dots like puncture wounds on the boy's neck.
He remembered. At the touch of god's hand across the mark, Wonshik remembered praying as he lay in his sick and sweat. He thought he saw a cobra with yellow eyes slither from the bottom of the infirmary bed up his body and around his neck. In the daze of fevered dreams, he thought he felt sharp fangs pierce his skin. He thought it was over.
But Wonshik did not die. As those around him perished from the disease, he grew stronger and stronger until he was well enough to leave.
"Ah, I remember now, what an active time for me," the god said. "It was when all the dying mortals were begging for the mercy and grace of the Gods of Medicine and Life." He traced the inky black lines that crawled along Wonshik's skin. "But I remember, a single mortal who chose to call upon the God of Pestilence rather than spurn him."
"So, you are the boy I saved. How you have grown." the god murmured. "How noble you are, Kim Wonshik." His hand fluttered up from Wonshik's neck to rest on the boy's cheek. Wonshik closed his eyes, and he leaned into the deity's touch. Despite how stricken he was earlier, he couldn't help but feel comforted by the god's presence.
"Did you enjoy the years I've given you?" the god asked. "Jaehwan-hyung was rather… amused by my actions, as was Seokjin-hyung."
"I did," Wonshik answered, meeting the god's eyes again. "Have you come to collect your payment?"
"Nonsense," the god laughed. "I have given you the grace of the gods."
"Thank you for heeding my prayers," Wonshik murmured.
The god tilted his head to the side, blinking slowly as he regarded Wonshik. Just as something caught Wonshik's eye out of the sleeve of the god's cloak - a scaled creature coiled around the man's wrist - a snake - perhaps the cobra that bit him.
"You are gorgeous for a mortal," the god said, thumbing over the curve of Wonshik's lips. "It would be a shame to leave you here to wither into old age."
"Leave me here?"
"In the mortal realm," the god answered. He leaned in, catching the corner of Wonshik's lips with his own. "Come with me to the Realm of the Gods. You will never want for more."
Wonshik paused, considering the offer. It was undeniable that he was attracted to the god, and he yearned for more.
But the mortal boy had obligations and duties - the same responsibilities that he prayed to live for.
"I would want for nothing more," Wonshik whispered. "But… I have a duty to my people, to my family - this winter - it has just begun, and already my village is suffering. They will not survive without a chief."
The deity sighed, lowering his hand. "Alright then, come spring.
"I will return for you when spring comes," the god said, with that same charming grin. "Pass on the mantle of the chief to another, come with me - I will not take no for an answer."
"Come spring," Wonshik repeated. "Yes."
So, over the months, Wonshik waited for the day that the snow would melt, and the flowers began to bloom. However, the days were long, and the winter was cold and harsh. Food quickly became scarce, and the village feared starvation.
Wonshik, as chief, decided to gather up the able men to hunt for food in the forest nearby. But the animals had gone into hibernation or perhaps succumbed to the unrelenting cold. The men abandoned hope, returning to the village empty-handed.
With the knowledge that he had the blessing of a god, he stayed in the forest until nightfall, where he could catch a deer unguarded. But as dusk settled and the night waxed on, snow began falling faster and faster until a blizzard formed.
Then the mortal man lost his way.
He left the deer behind, now fearing for his life.
He prayed to the God of Pestilence, hoping that his immortal lover would save him.
But even the blessing and protection from sickness and plague could not save him from the harsh sway of winter.
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
– Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Jimin struggles to put on the animal hide vest given to him. It hangs strangely on his thin frame - the months of low rations had eaten away at his body. His mother returns from the bedroom with a pile of dark-blue fabric draped over her arms. Jimin bends as she tosses the luxurious, brocade cloak over his shoulders, her hands shaking as she clasps the silver brooch around his throat.
It is the most expensive piece of clothing that the family-owned.
Jimin finds it hard to meet his mother's eyes as she concentrates on smoothing the fabric, then fixing the hoops hanging from his ears and the silver rings around his fingers. Her hands linger over his right forearm. When she finishes and lifts her head, Jimin can see the glossiness in her eyes.
"Forgive me, Jimin," she whispers as she leans up and presses a kiss on his brow. "I failed to protect you."
Jimin closes his eyes as he feels hot wetness against his skin: tears. He tries hard not to think about it - tries hard not to think at all. He shakes his head.
"It's my Fate, Eommoni," he says, practiced, colourless words falling from his lips.
His father stands beside him with pressed lips and balled fists. He raises a hand, grasping Jimin's shoulder.
"Be strong, my son," he says. "You have made me so proud."
Jimin lowers his head, placing his hand on top of his father's. The older man's fingers were cold and all skin and bones. It makes Jimin feel a little less scared - a little more assured that he was doing the right thing.
When his father's hand leaves his shoulder, Jimin falls into the desperate embrace of his younger brother, who tosses his arms tightly around the older, digging his fingers in the fabrics of Jimin's clothes, as if that would keep Jimin from leaving. The older brother returns the hug with equal fury as the younger buries his head in the crook of Jimin's neck.
"It's up to you now, Jihyun," Jimin whispers, patting his younger brother's head in comfort. "You are the heir to this household, make Abeoji proud, take care of Eommoni."
"It's not right," Jihyun says, words muffled by Jimin's shoulder. "It's not fair."
“It is what the gods have willed,” Jimin says calmly, repeating what everyone has told him, and he wonders if he’s saying it to reassure his younger brother or himself. “It is an honour and a privilege. It is my Fate.”
Then came a soft knock on the door, and Jimin’s heart drops as Jihyun somehow manages to tighten his hold and a broken sob escapes his mother’s lips. His father answers the door, and when he pulls it open, outside stands a woman in a blood-red cloak: the High Priestess.
“It is time, Park Jimin,” she says, and under the shadows of her velvet cape, Jimin could not see her eyes, only the red tinge of her lips.
Behind her loom two large men, and Jimin knows that they are there to force him into submission if he does not cooperate. But he has too much pride for that – they will not take him to the lake kicking and screaming: he will accept his Fate of his own volition.
Jimin coldly tugs his way out of Jihyun’s hold and slowly pulls the hood over his head and eyes. He deliberately does not look back at the family he leaves behind as he follows the High Priestess out the door. The hood serves to shield Jimin from the gazes of the villagers that follow him to the lake – he has seen nothing but pity and contempt in the eyes of those who he thought he knew and trusted. But the darkness of the hood could not protect him from the murmurs and whispers that passed him by.
“Pity, he was such a beautiful and kind child.”
“How could you say such a thing? He’s just a boy.”
“He was cursed. Have you seen that mark on his arm? Cursed by – by him, it was this boy’s Fate to die young.”
“It is what the gods want – it is his Fate.”
“It is his Fate.”
It is his Fate.
The villagers accompany Jimin down to the lake as he follows behind the High Priestess, tuning out her prayers in the ancient language. The two men follow behind him, nipping at his heels, ready to restrain him should he attempt to escape. Jimin had seen it happen before, in the two offerings he had witnessed in his lifetime.
The light of the sun fades behind the horizon by the time they reach the shores. Despite the frigid winter, the lake had not frozen over save for a small patch of ice like an island that floated in the centre of the waters. It is during these times that the High Priestess says that the god demands a sacrifice.
The High Priestess waits as the two men push a small boat into the waters. She turns and kneels before Jimin, and the villagers follow in suit.
“We thank you for your sacrifice, Park Jimin,” she says, “and may the God of Winter have mercy, and may he welcome you through the gate of the Underworld.”
Jimin nods slowly, helplessly, before the two men are pulling on him, hauling him into the boat and rowing to the small, icy island. He turns, watching as the High Priestess and the shore disappear in the fog-like smoke rising from the waters.
Finally, when they arrive at the island, the two men help the boy off. Jimin thought they’d be rough, but despite the villagers’ disregard for him, they’ll respect him – because it is his sacrifice that will end the Winter.
Untouched snow crunches underneath Jimin’s boots as he steps onto the small islet, and he could hear the tell-tale sound of cracking ice.
The men never meet Jimin’s eyes as they leave him on the island and push off for the shores.
The boy stands still, apprehensive that any movement will further crack the ice. He could barely see the shore in the mist, just the dim glow of torches in the distance.
But he could hear the High Priestess’ words, it echoes and bites in the falling temperatures of the night, and her loud, shrill voice stings his ears.
“Oh, God of Winter,” she yells. “We call upon your mercy, accept this boy as a token of our faith. We beg you to shed your grace upon the lands, end the frigid cold and deliver us from this Winter!”
She repeats the mantra, over and over and over.
Jimin closes his eyes and tries hard to focus on his own breath.
There are two options when sacrifices to the God of Winter are brought to the island. The first is to await the judgment of the deity, where the warmth he bestows will crack the ice, and the sacrifice would drown. The second was to succumb to the bitter cold – to be dead by morning.
Either way: there is no escaping death.
As darkness finally descends, the High Priestess stops her chanting. The orange light of the torches begins to slowly dissipate as well: no one wants to stay and watch the death of a sacrifice – to hear the desperate cries of drowning lungs and the sobbing prayers for mercy.
It is now that Jimin falls to his knees, and he begins to feel fear.
He closes his eyes, clasping his hands together as he prays.
“Oh God of Winter,” he whispers, licking cracked and bloody lips. “I pray to you, please lift the frost and snow from our lands, make way for the Spring, accept my flesh and blood as a tribute.”
The ice beneath his legs chills his body to the bone, and his breath fogs the air. He could barely see – the light of the waning moon was not enough, and the sounds of the lapping waters and the howls of the wolves in the forest do not ease his suffering.
It was then that Jimin heard the ice fracturing loudly. His eyes shoot open, and slowly he climbs to his feet.
Has the God of Winter heard his prayer?
Jimin tries hard to swallow the lump in his throat, pulling the hood back. The hairs on the back of his neck stood, and he could feel a shiver running up his spine.
There was someone behind him.
He turns slowly, suddenly realizing that he stopped breathing.
Jimin heard stories about the God of Winter, tales to scare children into staying in their homes in the dead of the icy months. They said that the God of Winter is more beast than man, with cold, black eyes, a mouthful of fangs, and a lust for human blood. They said he was a relentless god who takes joy in the suffering of mortals, unleashing his wrath in the form of ice and snow.
But those stories were wrong because before Jimin stands a man with pure, white hair and icy, blue eyes. A man so ethereally beautiful – it was inhuman.
This was a god.
“So,” the god murmurs, his voice dark and thick like the chill of the air, “you are the pretty little flower they have offered to the God of Winter.”
Jimin lets out a shudder of a breath as the deity approaches, footfalls barely grazing the waters.
“What is your name, little flower?”
“Park Jimin,” he whispers.
“Park Jimin,” the god says, and the way the name rolls off his tongue has Jimin shivering.
Jimin should be on his knees, grovelling and begging for mercy – for a quick death, pray that the God of Winter pulls him under instead of letting him freeze to death, pray that when his body hits the icy waters that the air is knocked from his lungs and he blacks out and cannot feel the pain of drowning. But he doesn’t. He stands still – the God of Winter cocks his head to the side, brows rising in amusement – as if he read Jimin’s mind.
“What, not going to beg that I make your death painless, little flower?” the god asks. He circles Jimin, and the boy follows the movement, ignoring the hissing cracks beneath him.
He will hold the eyes of his executioner.
“I don’t think I could expect such grace from a god like you,” Jimin whispers boldly.
The god’s brows furrows.
“What a brave little flower,” the god smirks.
Jimin takes a deep breath, holding his head high, and despite how fast his heart was beating, he kept his eyes trained on the god.
“For shame, it would be to let you die.”
And before Jimin could ask what that meant, the ice crumbles. He heard only the sound of a ragged gasp fall from his lips before he was fully submerged. It knocks the air out of his lungs, and quickly his body forgot how to breathe, forgot how to move, and all his thoughts stopped for one blissful moment.
He thinks he passed out, but then his body responds, the icy water now burns like fire, and he desperately tries to claw his way to the surface, Jimin takes in an unwilling lungful of water, and the pain radiates everywhere until suddenly – it numbs.
And somewhere, he remembers this pain, the sharpness of teeth digging into his forearm pulling him away from what feels like scales and webbed fingers, pulling him down and down and down where the darkness finally takes over.
“Wake up, Jimin,” his mother calls. He stirs, reaching to pull the furs and blankets over his head. But sleep ebbs from his thoughts as he realizes just how hot he is under the covers.
How could that be?
He remembers falling asleep shivering as the frost of winter chills his bones, and now, as he shifts, he feels how his hair sticks to the pillows with sweat.
"Wake up, Jihyun,” his mother calls, “do you feel it, children?”
“Why is it so warm, Eomma?” Jihyun slurs, knocking into Jimin’s back as he rolls over in the tiny bed the brothers shared.
“The West Wind has come,” their mother whispers, “and you know what the West Wind brings?”
Jimin opens his eyes, blinking rapidly as he clambers out of bed, moving as quickly as his small legs could take him.
He pulls open the paper doors, and in came a soft breeze - it was cold as it nips at the boy’s skin, but with it came the promise of warmth.
“Spring,” Jimin answers with a smile. “Spring, Eomma!”
Jimin doesn’t expect to wake swathed in layers of furs and blankets.
He forces his eyes open and squints against the ivory white that surrounds him.
This was not his home.
But he isn’t dead, is he?
There weren’t many stories of the Underworld in his village – just vague poems about the dark embrace of the
unmentionable god and the nothingness that proceeds it.
Jimin struggles to push himself upright and finds himself in a large bed, covered in russet furs and white down blankets. He was in a room with ivory marble walls, high ceilings, and thick columns. In the corner was a large fireplace with two lounge chairs and a table between it. He crawls off the bed slowly when his limbs refuse to function in the cold. The boy shivers when his bare feet hit the marble floors, and he tugs the blanket with him, fumbling to wrap it around himself as he stumbles to a window.
Jimin’s village laid against the coast of a great lake with blue-green waters and rocky shores. On the other side were plains that only seemed to continue beyond the sun’s horizon.
This was not his home.
Beyond the glass window lay a landscape with picturesque, snow-capped mountains, dark evergreen trees, a clear blue river running in between. It is stunning.
But it isn’t home.
Jimin pulls the blankets tightly around himself, struggling to keep his breath even as his thoughts raced.
Suddenly, the sound of opening doors has Jimin spinning around.
In walks a beautiful man with lilac-coloured hair and pools of black for eyes, and despite how cold Jimin was, the man wore little but a shirt of fine silk and simple trousers.
He wasn’t human.
“Who are you?” Jimin asks the question bubbles out of his raw throat as he realizes how broken his voice sounds. It hurt to swallow.
The man winces at the sound of Jimin’s voice.
“You probably inhaled a lot of water on the way down…” the man muses in a smooth voice.
...on the way down?
The lavender-haired man calls for servants who file into the room carrying heavy furs, fabrics, and trays. The man sits by the fireplace, directing the servants to place the plates of food onto the table.
The mortal boy watches wearily. The servants were dressed in equally thin fabrics of simple shirts and trousers as if the frigid temperatures affect only him.
One of the women stops in front of Jimin, offering a black, fur-lined cloak.
“You should take it,” the man says. “A fur cloak would be warmer than a blanket.”
Jimin hesitantly hands over the blanket to the servant and takes the cloak. The man was right. As Jimin swings it over his shoulders, the furs cut the cold from his skin.
“Thank you – ” Jimin rasps, glancing over to catch the man’s eyes. He smiles brightly as he watches.
“Come,” he beckons.
Jimin wearily follows, sitting and staring dully at the plates of food before him. There were sections of oranges and grapefruit piled in a bowl, steam rising from a pot of stewed root vegetables in the middle, and a basket of bread – familiar foods that he would find in his village.
The harvest was poor this year, and the rations had run out quickly with the number of mouths to feed, and famine was soon to follow.
His stomach calls for the food, and his mouth waters, but his head tells him to be cautious, telling him that not all is what it seems.
Jimin stares at the oranges and grapefruit; it must be winter in this land, judging by the amount of snow that covers the ground. There was no way that fruits could grow here – not unless –
“The fruits are from Sunmi-noona’s orchards,” the man says as if reading the confusion on Jimin’s face, “little grows here, most of the food comes from Hoseok-hyung’s country.”
“Where am I?” Jimin asks.
The man laces his fingers together.
“This must be very confusing to you,” he says sympathetically. “To answer your first question, my name is Taehyung, and this is the Realm of the Gods, in the Country of Ice. Yoongi-hyung’s dreary palace, to be exact."
“…Yoongi?” Jimin repeats.
“Did he not tell you his name?”
“The one who brought you here, the one who pulled you out of the water, the God of Winter,” Taehyung says with a grin.
On the way down.
Now Jimin remembers. The pain in his lungs, the icy waters that turned into lava underneath his skin. The crystalline-blue eyes and snowy-white hair. He scrunches the fabric of his clothes tightly around himself – but it doesn’t prevent a frightened shiver from running up his spine.
“No…no, he didn’t,” Jimin whispers, and Taehyung’s brows furrow. “Are you a god?”
Taehyung laughs. “Of course, I am! I am the God of Dusk.”
The God of Dusk. That explains Taehyung’s vibrant hair, the purple hues shifting in the light.
“Am I, am I dead?”
“No. No, you aren’t,” Taehyung says, shaking his head vehemently.
“Do you know why he would bring me here?” Jimin whispers.
“Now that is a question you have to ask Yoongi-hyung,” Taehyung says cryptically. He leans forward, grinning as he pushes the plates closer to Jimin. “Go on, eat. Then the servants will help you get dressed; you must meet everyone."
Taehyung rambles as he skips along beside Jimin down the halls of the grand palace. Nearly everything was white, just like his rooms were. Brilliant, white ivory walls made with limestone and marble, it was the decadence and luxury that Jimin could not even associate with royalty. Not even the castles of the aristocracy in the cities could be as extravagant as this. Only then did it begin to sink in that this was not the mortal world anymore.
The God of Dusk rambles, telling Jimin about the Country of Ice, how the God of Winter, Yoongi, presides over the residences, most of which were courtiers with spiritual powers, winter sprites, and fae folk of the realm. Though there were other countries ruled by the Tempus Gods, Taehyung likes to stay with Yoongi the best, as does his brother and several others who drop by to visit.
Taehyung introduces Jimin to his brother first, after running into him exiting a room and closing the door behind him. Namjoon, a man with light-pink hair, bright green eyes and a kind and calm smile – the God of Dawn. The brothers were complete opposites, but there was an otherworldly, ethereal beauty to them both.
Next came Taehyung’s beau, the God of Rain, an adorably shy boy named Jeongguk, who flits around Taehyung. Jimin’s village often prays to the God of Rain to ensure a safe harvest, offering dances and the like. He did not expect the god to be so sweet and innocent looking.
After, Taehyung drags the mortal to the throne room to meet the God of Winter, who was in the middle of a meeting with another man.
It was not difficult to recognize the God of Winter with his pure white hair. He sits on the marble alcove before a large window, resting an arm on a bent knee with a bored expression on his face.
The other man was just as beautiful, if not more, with blonde hair and dark eyes. He lounges on a settee with a goblet in hand.
“He’s awake, Yoongi-hyung,” Taehyung sings as he bounces into the room. “Oh, Jin-hyung! I didn’t know you’d be coming to visit.”
The God of Winter turns around upon Taehyung’s call.
Jimin quickly looks away. The boy drops his gaze and finds himself staring at the other man.
“Yoongi requested a short meeting,” the man said, his eyes turning from Taehyung to Jimin. The boy must stand out whilst beside the God of Dusk – Taehyung radiates power and light while Jimin stands cold and small. “Who’s your friend, Taehyung?”
“Park Jimin,” the God of Winter answers. The sound of his voice made Jimin look over, and their eyes meet. “The guest at my court, Seokjin-hyung. Taehyung is just showing him around.”
Seokjin blinks, turning to question Yoongi. “The mortal?”
But Yoongi’s eyes never leave Jimin’s.
“Yes – the mortal,” Yoongi repeats in a hushed tone.
“The grouch is Yoongi-hyung,” Taehyung chirps, “and that is Seokjin-hyung, he is – ”
“God of Snow,” Yoongi says. The God of Winter blinks, turning away from Jimin.
“Ah, yes,” Seokjin says with a broad smile, “I’m a courtier in the Country of Ice. A lesser deity to you mortals.”
The boy lets out an uneven breath, realizing that he held his breath while holding Yoongi’s eyes. “Well met, Seokjin,” he says slowly, hoping that his voice sounds less shaky than he felt.
“Well met, Jimin,” Seokjin replies. He stands, a servant appearing and taking Seokjin’s goblet. “But I must be off. I’ve come to understand what the issue was. I will speak to Jaehwan about it – it should be fine - I’ll see you soon, Yoongi.”
The God of Winter grunts in reply, muttering a ‘hyung’ and a ‘thank you’ in salutation as the God of Snow sweeps out of the room, and Taehyung turns on his heels, calling after the other. It leaves Jimin reeling. He turns, reaching out to grab the playful God of Dust.
“I need to speak with Seokjin-hyung,” Taehyung says, with a subtle wink, “I’ll just be outside, Jimin.”
He skips after the other man, leaving Jimin alone with Winter Deity.
Jimin turns back, slowly. He squares his shoulders and slowly lifts his eyes, meeting the God of Winter’s.
“You look better without bleeding lips and nearly frostbitten fingers, Park Jimin,” the god comments.
“Thank you... Yoongi,” Jimin says, testing the god’s name on his tongue. The man grins. He stands, circling Jimin once before walking to his throne and sits down with a flourish of his cloak.
“Come,” he beckons, and Jimin listens, stepping forward until he stands at the base of the dais. “Have you eaten?”
“It does not look like you have.”
“Your Winter has been… unforgiving,” Jimin says shortly. “I don’t think one meal will fix the famine of months.”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow – with a smirk, “Dare you to disdain the god who spared your life?”
“I did not ask you to,” Jimin says.
“Why didn’t you?”
Jimin casts his eyes to the window, squinting at the bright snow-covered landscape.
“Why have you brought me here? Why didn’t you kill me?” Jimin asks, his voice growing brazenly louder with each word.
“Did you want to die?” Yoongi returns, and Jimin realizes just how soft the god’s voice is. As if he didn’t want to frighten Jimin. It makes him stop, pause and consider Yoongi’s question.
“Then why ask me to kill you, little flower?”
“But why did you let me live – you’ve killed before.”
Yoongi crosses his legs, resting his head in the palm of his hands. “Because I could see in your eyes that you wanted to live.”
“No sacrifice wants to die.”
“No sacrifice has stood and insulted the God of Winter. No sacrifice has failed to grovel for mercy before you,” Yoongi says.
Jimin gnaws on his lip.
Yoongi leans forward, smiling, “And none were as beautiful, little flower.”
Heat rises to Jimin’s cheeks, but he refuses to let the compliment distract him. He straightens his back, holding his head high.
“Have you ended the Winter?” Jimin asked
“Why does it matter anymore?”
“Because my people will die if you don’t because that was the price for my life,” Jimin says, indignantly.
Yoongi raises an eyebrow.
“Oh? And you still care about the people who have betrayed you? Discarded you and tossed you into the jaws of a heartless god to die?”
The air suddenly grew colder, and Jimin could see tendrils of hoarfrost slithering across the marble floors from where Yoongi’s feet touched the ground. He takes a step back, but the frost stops before it leaves his peripheral vision. It was as if Yoongi was testing him – showing him the strength of the gods – and just how much Jimin should be frightened of him.
He swallows, holding Yoongi’s eyes.
“It must be done,” Jimin says quietly. “It is what has always been done. It is my Fate.”
“Is it?” Yoongi raises an eyebrow, “humans are such confounding creatures.”
He sighs, getting up and walking down the steps, the frost retreating now. He stops before Jimin, and the young human soon realizes that he can look into the god’s eyes without raising his head. But despite that, Yoongi exudes a sense of cold command, and it takes everything Jimin has not to take a step back and cower.
“I will not kill you. But I will end the winter.” Yoongi says.
“What do you ask in return,” Jimin asks wearily, for there is always a price for answered prayers.
“And what would a mortal human have to offer a god?” Yoongi asks, almost teasingly.
“…Nothing,” Jimin whispers. “I have nothing to offer but what you have chosen not to take.”
“Your life?” Yoongi clarifies.
He blinks, looking away as if considering something.
“Your company would be nice.”
“Only if you so wish, I will never force you to,” Yoongi concludes. “You are free to roam the palace – if you do wish to go outside, ensure that someone accompanies you.” Yoongi leans in, and Jimin could smell the fragrance of sandalwood and oranges. The god’s breath fans over his skin as he whispers in Jimin’s ear.
“The Realm of Gods is no place for fragile, little flowers,” he murmurs before sweeping out of the room and leaving Jimin on shaking feet.
Jimin often finds himself in the company of one of the gods; they often came to visit the Deity of Winter, Namjoon was around when Seokjin was, and the God of Dawn made an unlikely couple with the God of Snow.
It was clear to see how the pair loved each other in the quiet moments of companionship where Seokjin sat at a desk, going over some sort of ledger written in a language that Jimin couldn’t read. Namjoon was close, often with a book in hand hovering nearby.
“What is death like,” Jimin asks quietly, glancing over at his companions. He was in the library, sitting by the fireplace, nursing a cup of mulled cider.
Namjoon shifts, eyes downcast as he crinkles the pages of his book.
Seokjin stops writing, brows furrowing as he glances up.
“Sorry, is it something that I can’t ask? Is it something only he – ” Jimin catches his words, licking his lips before uttering the title of a god all mortals fear, “something only the God of Death would know?”
“No, not that,” Seokjin returns, putting the quill down and folding his hands together. “It was just unexpected… mortals tend to avoid the subject of death.”
“And the very mention of the god’s title,” Namjoon says.
“It’s because we’re scared,” Jimin murmurs, “it’s because death is the end.”
The God of Death is a deity who is revered, as is the God of Pestilence and Disease. Both are respected, honoured, and never to be mentioned by name – even thinking about the God of Death is a terrible act. If anyone accidentally mentions the god or his dominion in the village, they would stop and pray for forgiveness, for it was said that the God of Death always looms over their heads.
Namjoon closed his book, “You believe death is the end because you cannot remember your past life.”
“The Underworld is where souls reside, waiting to be reborn,” Seokjin continues, leaning against the backrest of the chair. “They float upon the River of Oblivscere, and when the time is right, Jaehwan, the God of Life, pulls them from the waters, past memories are forgotten.”
“When is that?”
“It all depends,” Namjoon answers. “the God of Life works closely with the God of Death and the Goddess of Fate.”
“I’ll still die, won’t I?” Jimin asks. “Even though I’m not part of the mortal realm anymore?”
Seokjin pauses, “You will, as all mortals must.”
“But you will live a good life here,” Namjoon says.
Jimin brings the cup to his lips, taking a small sip of the spiced liquor. Namjoon is right. The mortal boy spends most of his days wandering around the palace. To be honest, he was rather content with how things turned out. There was little that Yoongi did not offer him.
The furs and fabrics he wore were of the finest quality – putting the clothes his family gave him to shame.
The God of Winter had also offered him jewels to adorn his body, and wherever he went, there was always a servant who ducked in and out of the rooms, lighting the hearth if he lingered. He always had more than enough to eat, and in a matter of a fortnight, he had gained back some of the weight he’d lost.
“Does he often spare sacrifices?” Jimin murmurs into the porcelain.
Namjoon shakes his head. “I’ve never, in all my years, seen Yoongi-hyung spare a sacrifice. It is not like it has never been done – just never by Yoongi-hyung.”
“He spared me, though,” Jimin mumbles as he brushes his hand over the marks on his right forearm. “I thought it was my Fate to die.”
“Perhaps it is Fate in a different sense,” Namjoon answers, “Sojin-noona weaves the thread of Fate. The tapestry of life that Sojin-noona makes binds people together – it does not differentiate between god and mortal. Perhaps you have been Fated to meet.”
“Besides, with Yoongi…” Seokjin starts, “if you disregard his rather taciturn nature, he really does care.”
Jimin considers it – how Yoongi has treated him thus far, how Yoongi treats the other gods that visit his domain. How he tolerates Taehyung and Jeongguk’s teasing and loud nature, how he sits and drinks with Namjoon and Seokjin, how he provides Jimin with the space he wants.
In the short time he’s spent in the palace, Jimin has yet to heed the God of Winter’s wish. He flits out of the room once Yoongi enters. But it wasn’t as if Jimin was scared, perhaps just… weary.
“And I see it too,” Namjoon says.
“Take it as it is, Jimin,” Seokjin says. “You have been received by perhaps one of the most feared gods of the realm.”
But despite the honour and the care and the gifts – Jimin was lonely. Even Taehyung and Jeongguk’s bright laughter and Seokjin and Namjoon’s comforting presence fail to bring Jimin the warmth that he so desperately misses.
The nights are long in the Country of Ice, the sun sets as quickly as it rises, and the darkness encloses him, surrounding him constantly. The halls were always so dark, and the oil lamps that he carried around brought little light. Though filled with the comforts of material wealth, his room does not bring him comfort in the heart.
At night, he buries himself deep underneath the covers, but even then, the coldness of the country seeps through his skin.
It becomes harder and harder to sleep. The quiet pushes Jimin deeper and deeper into his own thoughts, and the cold did not help.
So, he slowly climbs out of bed and pulls the blankets with him, taking the oil lamp as he searches for the company of someone other than the servants who said little else but ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ and ‘can I get you anything else, sir.’
He looks for Yoongi, and he wasn’t surprised to hear that the God of Winter was in his study.
Yoongi’s study was located in the highest tower of the palace, and after a hefty hike up the stairs, Jimin stands in front of the double ivory doors, taking a moment to catch his breath – and catch his courage before he knocks softly on the doorframe.
“Come in,” comes the god’s gruff voice.
Jimin slowly pulls open the door, cautiously peeking inside.
The room was airy, and he could feel the chill of being outdoors striking him as soon as the door was wide enough.
But despite it being nighttime, the room was surprisingly bright, with the open windows letting in the light of the moon as it reflected the sparkle of snow.
Yoongi glances up from his books, eyes widening when he sees Jimin.
“Little flower,” Yoongi says, “what a surprise, is something amiss?”
Jimin shakes his head, biting his lips.
“Could I – could I come in?"
“Certainty, little flower,” Yoongi says. Jimin enters and finds that Yoongi already has the company of a great, white wolf splayed out underneath the window. It sits upon its front legs when Jimin enters. The mortal boy unconsciously shuffles closer to Yoongi, hands growing white with the strength of his grip on the handle of the oil lamp.
“That is my Familiar, Holly,” Yoongi says, “She’s harmless to you.”
The wolf snorts, laying back down.
“She’s beautiful,” Jimin says, pulling the blanket tighter.
“Light the hearth,” Yoongi orders the servant, who had followed Jimin up the stairs. “Close the windows and get him something warmer.”
Jimin could feel Yoongi’s eyes follow him as he sits in the chair by the fireplace, quietly thanking the servant who draped more furs and blankets over the chair. It was silent as Jimin curls up in the chair, eyes settling on the tendrils of smoke and flames that curl up from the hearth.
“What brings you here?” Yoongi asks.
“You asked for my company, didn’t you?” Jimin replies.
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “Yes, I did, almost three weeks ago. Why do you choose to grace me with your presence now, little flower?"
Jimin returns his attention to the flames.
“Have you found everything to your liking here?” Yoongi asks. Jimin glances over to see the god bent over a large book, taping a quill between long fingers.
“Yes,” Jimin says softly. “You have been very generous.”
“Even for a god like myself, little flower?” Yoongi says teasingly, repeating the words that Jimin had spoken.
Jimin didn’t answer. He curls up into a ball, savouring the warmth of the fire.
But the dreary and coldness bleeds into his skin.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Jimin whispers, honestly.
“Why couldn’t you sleep, little flower.”
“Why do you call me that?”
Yoongi looks up, blinking slowly, and his eyes glow in the light, “Because that is what you are, isn’t it?”
Yoongi returns to his books, and the sound of a scratching pen resumes.
He doesn’t ask any more questions.
Jimin shifts, beginning to shiver more, and his teeth are on the verge of chattering. He moves, taking all the blankets and furs to form a makeshift bed in front of the fire and laying down. Holly watches him from the window, and soon the beautiful, white wolf joins him, curling around Jimin as if knowing that its fur and body heat would bring comfort to the mortal boy.
Jimin smiles, settling closer against the wolf. But even buried under layers of blankets and furs, Jimin wasn’t warm, and despite how tired he was, he couldn’t sleep.
“They called me flower child in the village, too,” Jimin starts softly, inching his hands out from underneath the covers to warm them by the fire. “I thought it was because of how light my hair was. But it’s because I was happiest during the spring.”
Jimin tucks his arms underneath his head as he turns to face Yoongi. He stares at the god. It is undeniable that Yoongi is beautiful, ethereal, divine. But his beauty is also cold, like the element of his dominion.
Yoongi looks up, catching Jimin’s gaze.
“What is it, little flower.”
“I always imagined the gods to be inhuman creatures,” Jimin says softly. “Those were all the stories that the elders passed on. Gods are above mortals, above everything.”
“Are you saying that I am not?”
“No, not exactly,” Jimin says, “But you look mortal. A beautiful mortal. And you’re kind…. kind and generous…and the stories… have it wrong about you.”
“I can’t understand what you’re saying anymore, little flower, perhaps you should sleep,” Yoongi says.
“I miss my family,” Jimin murmurs as the tendrils of sleep begin to pull on him, and it loosens his tongue. He knows he won’t remember this conversation by the morning. “I know that I’ll never see them again. I’ve accepted it. I am grateful for all you’ve given me, Yoongi. For everything – but I can’t help but miss them – and – but – ”
Jimin tries to keep his eyes open, seeing Yoongi’s silhouette disappear beyond blurry eyes.
“Don’t leave,” he hears himself say, “please don’t leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere, little flower,” comes Yoongi’s voice, closer now as is the scent of sandalwood and oranges. It fills Jimin’s thoughts, mingling with the comforting familiarity of smoke. Heavier fabrics envelop Jimin, and he struggles to keep his eyes open.
The pain in his chest grows and grows, and it overflows into tears.
“Don’t leave,” Jimin slurs again, “you’re all I have left.”
Suddenly he feels fingers running through his hair. The tension in his muscles drain out, and exhaustion finally overcomes him. The promise of a dreamless sleep calls him.
It was as if he was a flower, starving for the touch of sun.
Though a small part of Jimin’s mind hopes that it was his mother’s hand, he knew who it was, and the little comfort drags him under.
“Forgive me, Jimin.”
Jimin knocks softly on the door of the study before silently letting himself inside. Yoongi has never reprimanded him for such actions in the weeks he's been here: every room is free for him to use and explore.
It was nearly nighttime again when the boy arrived in front of Yoongi’s study.
He finds himself there often now, just when the sun dips over the horizon, and the sky morphs into variations of Taehyung’s hair.
He slept better in the past couple of days. The dark circles underneath his eyes were slowly dissipating, as were the growing hollows of his cheeks.
Jimin always sleeps in the study now. So much so that the servants have brought in a mountain of cushions and formed a makeshift nest in front of the fire before a rug. He knew it was Yoongi’s doing.
Just as he was about to shut the door behind him, he realizes that Yoongi had company: two women and another man.
Jimin pauses as all four of them glance over at him.
“I – forgive me,” he says in a rush ‘I – I.'
“It’s alright,” Yoongi sighs. “Little flower, I’d like you to meet my siblings, Sunmi-noona, Goddess of Summer, Hoseok, God of Autumn, and Hye-ri, Goddess of Spring.”
The Goddess of Summer, a gorgeous woman with luscious auburn hair and warm brown eyes, raises an eyebrow, inspecting Jimin.
“Yoongi-hyung, is this a mortal?” Hoseok asks. The God of Autumn was a handsome man with vivid red hair and a bright aura with a smile that could rival the sun.
Hyeri stood, smiling softly, and as the season of her dominion, her beauty was softer and less striking than her siblings, with light brown locks and a crown of tiny white flowers atop her head. “I remember Sanghyuk saying something about a mortal in the Country of Ice, I thought he was joking.”
“Indeed,” the Goddess of Summer whispers as she circles the mortal boy. “He’s beautiful.”
She stops in front of him, taking Jimin’s right hand, lacing her fingers with his. Jimin blinks, holding back a cough as his senses were assaulted with the smell of dense, warm spices: cedarwood, cinnamon, and bergamot.
“Don’t scare him, Noona,” Hoseok says.
“I’m not,” Sunmi says, smiling mischievously. “Why have you brought a mortal here, Yoongi?”
The heat of Sunmi’s touch floods through Jimin’s veins, and he struggles not to sigh in relief with the warmth that touches his bones. It is a sweltering heat that brings back memories of hot days before the harvest, a heat that he hasn’t felt since the beginning of autumn.
“Oh, Yoongi, he’s freezing,” Sunmi says, cupping Jimin's cheek, and he fights the urge to lean into the woman’s hand.
“And look how he withers like a flower here,” Hyeri murmurs.
Out of the corner of Jimin’s eye, he could see Yoongi frowning, crossing his arms tightly over his chest.
“I think you’re better suited for the domain of summer,” Sunmi says. “Don’t you think, Jimin? Or perhaps even the Country of Flowers, don’t you say, Hyeri – he’d love your chateau.”
“Unnie – "
Sunmi slides her fingers over Jimin’s wrist, and he could feel the pad of her thumb slip over the bump of the scar on his skin. Her grin falters, and she glances down for a moment before meeting his eyes. She raises her eyebrows.
Shards of ice suddenly shoot out from underneath Yoongi, slithering over the floor and walls until it begins to climb up Sunmi’s legs.
“Yoongi-hyung!” Hoseok yells, backing away from the Winter God. Hyeri winces, backing away and hopping onto Yoongi’s desk, away from the ice.
The room falls deathly silent, and the temperature drops immeasurably. Despite the heat of Sunmi’s hand, Jimin shivers. He could see his breath forming clouds, and his vision turns blue-white as the sounds of cracking ice trickle through the room.
“Or perhaps not,” Sunmi whispers.
“Jimin is under my protection, Noona,” Yoongi growls.
Sunmi’s grin returns as she glances back at her younger brother. The ice had already melted as she took a step back, and despite the lightness of her touch on Jimin’s skin, the contact began to hurt – like a burn. Jimin could see the heat radiating from the goddess as the ice started to melt around her legs.
“Of course,” she says, “I wouldn't dare to touch a mortal who bears the grace of another god.”
Yoongi’s eyes widen, and he scowls, eyes narrowing.
“Stop it, Noona.”
She chuckles, letting go of Jimin, and the warmth disappears with her. Jimin unconsciously takes a step backwards, hand rubbing his still tingling forearm.
His heart beats loudly, and his ears ring with adrenaline.
Somehow, in the last couple of weeks, he’s forgotten the situation he was in, surrounded by gods and their immense power.
“Well, I think I might have overstayed my welcome for today,” Sunmi sighs. She turns to smile at Jimin.
“It was nice meeting you, Jimin,” she sings, leaning in to brush a soft kiss on his cheek, “The offer still stands,” she whispers, “if you’d ever like to visit the Country of Fire.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jimin returns cautiously, eyes trained on Yoongi’s tight expression.
Sunmi laughs, turning to the door. She grazes by Yoongi, leaning in to brush a kiss on his cheek as well. He scowls, and despite the tense spat between them, he lets her press her lips against his cheek as he wraps an arm loosely around her.
“It was good seeing you, Yoongi, until next time,” she sings as she leaves.
Hyeri stands, brushing the snow off her hands that formed on the desk.
“Leaving too, Hyeri?” Hoseok asks.
“Yes,” she returns, “though it is summer, there are some things I have to look into.”
She turns and stops in front of Jimin, smiling.
“Little flower, was it that Yoongi-oppa calls you?” she says. She conjures up a crown of tiny pink and white roses with lush green leaves, gently placing it on Jimin’s head. “I think the nickname suits you.”
Jimin smiles, tenderly touching the crown of blossoms on his head. His grin brightens as his fingers brush against soft petals.
“I hope you won’t mind Sunmi-unnie,” Hyeri says,” her intentions are good. She’s just rather playful.”
Jimin shakes his head.
Hyeri says her goodbye, waving to Yoongi before making her exit as well.
Hoseok remains, sipping on the drink in his goblet.
Yoongi sighs, flopping down onto a chair and downing the contents of his own chalice.
Hoseok sits down by the window, grinning widely.
“Are you not going to leave?” Yoongi grumbles.
“I just got here,” Hoseok replies with a pout.
Holly seemed to be content having Hoseok around, even circling the god and laying her head in his lap.
“Does it matter?” Yoongi snaps, but he doesn’t move to kick Hoseok out.
The God of Autumn grins, giving Jimin a mischievous wink, “Don’t mind him,” he says. “Though Yoongi-hyung may look frightening, he’s just as soft as Hyeri’s flowers – perhaps even more so."
Jimin chuckles and glances over to the God of Winter, where he catches Yoongi rolling his eyes and shaking his head – but there was a small grin on his lips.
And Jimin knows that to be true. He remembers multiple instances in the short time he spent in the palace.
One of which involves Jeongguk running to Yoongi for aid when he got severe burns from angering the Goddess of the Sun for bringing out rain clouds during the midnight sun. Jimin remembers how Yoongi grumbled under his breath while healing the childlike god.
He remembers how Namjoon seems to always seek out the god for a drink or two.
How he lets Taehyung tail alongside him, singing and rambling on with his arms wrapped around the shorter man.
How he gives Jimin the space he desires – never pushes him for more.
“I can see that,” Jimin says finally.
Yoongi’s eyes raise to meet Jimin’s, and his eyes soften.
“You do look good with blossoms in your hair, little flower.”
“Do gods sleep?” Jimin asks as he lay by the fire in front of Yoongi’s study.
The number of blankets and furs that piled up during the week that Jimin’s been sleeping in Yoongi’s study continues to grow. Holly takes up residence at the foot of the pile, curling comfortably on Jimin’s legs, and although the large white wolf was heavy, he did not mind, for her body heat provided so much warmth for his usually freezing feet.
“Not out of need,” Yoongi answers easily, flipping through the pages of his book, “its indulgence that we sleep, that we eat, and drink, and take pleasures of the flesh.”
“Do you not want to indulge?”
Yoongi chuckles – a breathy, short sound that is rare. “What are you asking, little flower? Are you offering?”
Heat rises to Jimin’s cheeks.
“N-nothing, I’m not offering – that’s not what I meant.”
His laughter diminishes, and Yoongi answers, “I like to sleep.”
Jimin sits up, “Do you – do you want to come to lay down with me?” His words were barely above a whisper – thoughts racing faster. Yoongi doesn’t move, and Jimin wonders if the god had heard him. But then he glances up, and in those blue eyes, Jimin catches hope and shyness so sweet.
“Are you sure?” Yoongi asks.
“There is enough room for two,” Jimin says, “and – it’s strange, sleeping when you’re not.”
For a moment, Jimin thought Yoongi would refuse. But then the white-haired god calmly closes the book in his hands and stands from his desk, slowly walking towards the hearth.
Jimin shifts over, pushing the blankets to make room for Yoongi on the furs.
The god stops him, bending down and placing a hand on top of Jimin’s. The coldness of the god’s touch has Jimin’s gasping. But he doesn’t pull back – not until Yoongi lifts his hand.
“Leave the blankets, little flower,” Yoongi says, clearing his throat. “It’ll only make you colder.”
Yoongi slowly settles across the top of the furs and blankets, pressing into Jimin’s side.
Holly moves, standing and trotting over to Yoongi and sprawling out by her master’s head. Yoongi lies on Holly’s back, his hair almost blending into the wolf’s fur. The god lets out a sigh, closing his eyes.
Jimin blinks. He thought his heart would be beating past its breaking point with the god so near. But instead, the strong smell of sandalwood and oranges, the soothing sound of Yoongi’s breaths and the cracking fire slows Jimin’s heart and lulls him closer to the comfort of sleep.
Jimin joins him, turning on his side and tucking his arms underneath the pillows. He closes his eyes for a moment.
“Why did they choose you?” Yoongi suddenly asks.
Jimin’s eyes shoot open.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did they choose you to sacrifice to me?”
Jimin shifts, pulling his arms out from under his head and pushing back the sleeves on his right arm, rolling down the layers of fabrics and raising it to the light of the fire.
“There’s this scar on my forearm,” he explains, tracing the pinkish raised teeth marks on his skin.
He could see Yoongi’s brows furrow at the sight of it, and unlike Sunmi, who brushed her fingers against it, he doesn’t touch the marks on Jimin’s skin.
“I don’t really know how I got it. I can’t remember. I was only a boy when it happened,” Jimin started, his voice quiet and low with Yoongi lying beside him. “But my mother told me that I wandered too far from the village, ended up by the lake. When she found me, I was unconscious by the shore, with this mark on my arm – alive, unharmed, but soaking wet and cold.”
Yoongi remains quiet, waiting for Jimin to continue.
“She thought it was him – the God of Death, who tried to drag me into the lake and drown me. My mother believed that the Goddess of Fate stopped him, telling him that it wasn’t my time yet,” Jimin whispers, smiling at the thought of his mother. “She tried so hard to keep me safe, to hide this mark, but when the High Priestess discovered it, she said that this scar is the Mark of the God of Death, a curse.”
Holly nose at the mark, sniffing at it before backing off.
“There was a story about a chief of the village who bore a strange scar,” Jimin continues. “It was a long time ago when the plague wrought terror on the lands. He had a mark like a bite of a snake on his neck, and he claimed that he was blessed and saved by a god – but he was killed in a blizzard by his cockiness – so everyone believed it to be a cursed mark.”
The boy licks his lips, rolling the sleeves down over his arm and covering his cold fingers with the fabric.
“The villagers were always wary of me after. They probably felt relieved to be rid of me.”
“Do you hate them?” Yoongi asks. “For sacrificing you?”
He sits up, and Yoongi shifts.
The god cracks an eye open, a small frown pulling on his lips as he eyes Jimin. The mortal’s brows furrow as he considers the question.
Jimin shakes his head. “No – I – I don’t hate them.”
Yoongi scoffs, “It’s either you're lying, or you’re too kind, little flower.”
“I was angry – and – and scared,” Jimin says honestly. “I didn’t want to leave my family behind. It wasn’t fair – it wasn’t fair – those were my first thoughts. But it’s not about fairness – it’s about Fate and… it was necessary, to save my people, to save my family - it must be done.”
Silence. Jimin looks away and finds himself staring at Yoongi’s long fingers resting on his chest.
“…What do you miss the most?”
Jimin closes his eyes.
“Spring,” he answers with a fond smile. “I miss the hot weather – sunshine on my skin, afternoon naps where I wake up to the sound of rustling leaves and the smell of flowers. The colours of the flowers….”
He hums to himself at the memory, and when he opens his eyes and glances over, he finds Yoongi with his eyes open too. Like the colours of dawn and dusk, the hues of Yoongi’s eyes change. They grow darker, sharper when he’s angry, lighter and bluer when he’s calm.
Now – Yoongi eyes are almost grey.
The god blinks, looking away.
“Nothing –” he says.
Jimin frowns – he doesn’t believe him, but he won’t push the god further.
He yawns. Yoongi sighs.
“You should sleep, little flower.”
“Only if you stay,” Jimin mumbles incoherently.
Jimin was confused when the servants asked him to come with them and led him outside, where a glass building was built beside the castle.
A massive glass dome was built in the courtyard, with black arches and elegant lines. The servant hovers behind Jimin as he stares wide-eyed at the dome. The glass reflects the white of the castle and the snow. But he could catch the faint glimpse of pinks and greens inside. He takes slow and cautious steps and hesitantly opens the door.
The first thing that hits him is the humidity and warmth that flushes through the little crack. He yanks the door open. There, vibrant, green leaves and lush red, pink, and orange flowers greet him. Then came the scents: the intoxicating smell of flowers and foliage, the earthiness of soil, and the wetness of the humidity.
“Oh,” was all he could say.
“Do you like it?”
Jimin spins around to find the servant replaced by Yoongi, who stands on the pathway, almost nervously shuffling from foot to foot. He wears a small smile – not a smirk, not a teasing grin – a genuine, sweet smile.
“Did you – did you build this – for me?”
“You like flowers,” Yoongi says quietly, “You seem quite fond of them, and you said you missed the warmth of spring – I cannot bring you back to the mortal realm, but I thought it was possible to – to bring it here. It wasn’t all me though, Hyeri helped and Jeongguk too – ”
But Jimin had stopped listening to the god ramble, and for once – he could see the god fumbling with his words as if blushing, as if embarrassed. The boy barely remembers his own ramblings about spring and about his love of flowers, but he remembers the way God of Winter looked at him when Hyeri gave him the flower crown, but he didn’t know Yoongi would remember.
Jimin’s heart swells, with just how far the god would go to make him happy.
The mortal boy runs, flinging himself into Yoongi, wrapping his arms around the white-haired man. The god lets out a guttural huff. Jimin could feel the god remain frozen, but slowly Yoongi wraps his arms around Jimin.
“I know how hard you’re trying to make me happy here – and I am happy, Yoongi – I’m so happy – It’s beautiful,” Jimin whispers.
Yoongi buries his head in the crook of Jimin’s neck. “Anything for you.”
“Sir, Lady Sunmi is here."
Jimin glances over, putting down the watering can he is using to tend to the peonies. Sunmi skips through the doors – starring as she circles the dome-like structure.
“Sunmi,” Jimin greets with a grin.
“Ah, Jimin,” Sunmi says, touching the vibrant flowers, “I thought he was kidding.”
“Sanghyuk,” the Goddess of Summer answers. “The God of Mischief and Rumour, he said that Yoongi had apparently added another building to his home. He hasn’t changed the walls of the palace for centuries – and now, only after a few weeks of having you here, he’s built a conservatory.”
Jimin meets her by the water fountain. Sunmi carries a large, wicker basket in her arms, a familiar design of leaves wrapped around the handle: Hoseok’s emblem.
Jimin sees the God of Autumn often around the palace. He always brings vegetables and fruits from his country when he does come, offering Jimin a variety of different foods when he joins the mortal boy for dinner. Sunmi has visited once or twice, and despite the somewhat rocky first encounter, Yoongi has long since forgotten about it.
“Hoseokie asked me to bring this for you on my way here,” she says. “I added some things from the Country of Fire.”
The basket is heavy, filled with colourful, dark root vegetables from Hoseok’s lands and bright fruits from Sunmi’s orchards – the pair have enjoyed spoiling him with an array of different fruits and vegetables.
Jimin thanks the goddess, setting the basket aside as she sits down by the water fountain, stretching out across the warm marble. He joins her, laying across the smooth rock on his stomach, resting his head on his forearm as he runs his hand through the warm water with the tips of his fingers.
“Yoongi built it for me,” Jimin says with a soft smile, “because I missed the spring. He says that he had help though, from Hyeri and Jeongguk and Ah-young.”
Sunmi laughs, “It has Hyeri’s touch, and nothing would grow without Ah-young and Jeongguk.” She hums contently. “It’s so nice and warm here.”
"I love it. It’s more than I ever imagined,” Jimin says. Yoongi does not join him in the conservatory very often – but Jimin makes up for that by cutting fresh, soft pink, peony blossoms for the Winter Deity’s study. The flowers wilt faster in the frigid temperatures, but they bring a smile to Yoongi’s face – and that’s all Jimin wants nowadays.
“So, tell me, how did you meet?” Sunmi asks, rolling onto her stomach. “Yoongi rarely ventures into the mortal world; he does not pay much attention.”
“I was an offering to him,” Jimin answers honestly, sweeping his fingers through plush petals floating on the water. “A gift so he would end the Winter.”
“A sacrifice,” Sunmi says as she kicks her feet in the air. “And he chose not to kill you? Why?”
“I wasn’t so sure, either,” Jimin replies. “Yoongi says it’s because I defied him, because I refused to beg... because he found me pretty.”
“How curious,” Sunmi says. “Yoongi does not show mercy to sacrifices in the past, ever.”
“I’m glad he did, though,” Jimin murmurs quietly. “I think he smiles more with me around.”
“Do you love him?” Sunmi asks.
Jimin snaps his head up.
Does he? Did he?
Yoongi has been nothing but good – nothing but human, showing Jimin such kindness and generosity and care, and Jimin’s grown to like the little quirks of the taciturn god.
“Yes,” Jimin answers. “Yes, I do.”
“You, Park Jimin, are special indeed,” Sunmi says with a smile.
She reaches over, digging into the basket and pulling two apples from its depth, handing one to Jimin.
“Yoongi must have made Seokjin furious,” Sunmi says off-handedly.
Jimin’s brows furrows. He takes the bright pink fruit carefully.
“Seokjin?” he mutters. “Why?”
“Because you’ve eluded him,” Sunmi says.
“What? Seokjin is a noble – a courtier, isn't he?”
Sunmi’s brows furrow and she shakes her head.
“No. He's one of the Altums: the God of Death.”
A shiver runs down Jimin’s spine, and he touches the mark on his arm.
He could feel his heart dropping.
He so blatantly spoke of death in front of the God of Death – it was no wonder that Seokjin was incredibly knowledgeable – no wonder that Namjoon was uncomfortable.
“The God of Death?” Jimin whispers over the lump in his throat. “And I have…cheated him?”
Sunmi hums, taking a bite of the fruit. The loud crack of breaking into the skin of the fruit resounds in Jimin’s ears, just as Sunmi’s words echo.
“What do you mean?” Jimin asks.
“Yoongi chose not to kill you,” Sunmi says, chewing as she speaks. “Sojin-unnie weaved your tapestry of life – it should have ended with your death that night – it was your Fate – until Yoongi blessed you with that Mark.”
Jimin stares, the Goddess of Summer’s words making little sense to him.
“What – what – I don’t understand – what mark?”
“You mean you don’t know?” she sits up, grabbing Jimin’s hand and tracing the pink bite marks. “Don’t you know what this is?”
“I – I thought it was the Mark of the God of Death – I thought it was a curse.”
“No – no – Seokjin’s Familiar are crows. These are Holly’s teeth – the Mark of Yoongi’s Familiar. It is the Mark of Yoongi’s grace. All the gods know: you’re protected. They will not touch you unless they want to incur the wrath of the God of Winter.”
Sunmi didn’t know that Jimin has had a scar on his arm since he was twelve. She assumes that it was given to him when Yoongi spared him that night.
But now Jimin understands.
It wasn’t the God of Death that tried to drag him into the lake eight years ago.
It was Yoongi.
Jimin hovers by the doors of the study, where Yoongi always is. He shifts on the heels of his feet, closing his eyes, takes a deep breath before walking in.
But that doesn’t help – it doesn’t help to ease the knot in his throat and the prickling in his eyes.
“Little flower?” Yoongi calls from inside.
Jimin pushes the door open, hesitating by the entrance.
“What’s wrong?” Yoongi asks.
Jimin’s throat was parched, words were failing to leave his mouth.
He wasn’t sure if he felt betrayed by the god or if he was just scared and angry and hurt.
“It was you,” Jimin finally says, his voice barely above a hoarse whisper. “It was you, all those years ago. When I thought it was the God of Death who tried to kill me, it was you.”
Yoongi pauses, closing his eyes and sighing, shoulders sagging as if he was waiting as if he knew.
“I wanted to tell you,” Yoongi says, just as quietly as Jimin’s accusation. “But I just – I couldn’t find the right time.”
“You…knew it was me, didn’t you? That night on the lake.”
“Not at first, but – ”
“I – still don’t understand – why did you – save me?” Jimin stutters, and in the turmoil of confusion, he finally feels hot tears begin to trickle down his cheeks. His vision blurs. “Why did you – did you try to take me back then? I wasn’t sacrificed to you – I was twelve, you didn’t have the right to – ”
“I did not try to kill you, Jimin,” Yoongi explains quickly. “I never would take what wasn’t offered to me.”
The god sighs, running a hand roughly through his hair.
Jimin waits, hoping that Yoongi had a reasonable explanation. Because Jimin hopes that he wasn’t betrayed by Yoongi – because he didn’t want to feel scared and angry and hurt when he already has fallen so deep.
“Twelve years ago, there were malicious spirits in the lake,” Yoongi starts, “sirens who grew unhappy with my long Winters. They decided to take matters into their own hands and lured a young boy to the lake to drag him down as they’ve seen the mortals do to end the winter. But such offers are not theirs to make. Such actions would upset the balance, and thus, I saved the boy. I sent Holly to pull the boy from the waters.”
Yoongi gently takes Jimin’s hand in his, keeping his eyes on Jimin’s as he rolls up the boy’s sleeves as if asking for permission before laying his palm on the marks.
Jimin remembers then – the pain in his lungs, the confusion and disorientation. The webbed fingers and scaled hands that clutched his ankles and pulled him away from the rocky shores and down into the blue-green waters. He remembers the pull of two different directions—the low-pitched rumble of an animal and the high-pitched unearthly cries that followed.
“When I met you again that night on the lake,” Yoongi continues. “I did not know you were the boy I saved. I just wanted you. I did not know until I touched you when I pulled you out of the water.”
“Did you – did you kill another?” Jimin asks, “because you didn’t take me as a sacrifice.”
Yoongi hesitates. “There was a woman who gave birth that night in the village. She was ill, and childbirth took a toll on her, especially in winter, and she would not have lasted another week. I asked the God of Death for permission to take her soul as my offering.”
“Seokjin?” Jimin whispers. “Is that what he was discussing with you when I met him?”
Yoongi’s eyes widened, “Who told you – ”
“It doesn’t matter. Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you lie to me – why did you both lie to me?”
“You mortals, you fear the God of Death as this dark, unmerciful entity, as you do the God of Winter,” Yoongi begins to explain. “Seokjin-hyung – he – I did not want you to be frightened of him. Seokjin-hyung takes souls so the God of Life can create more – it is his duty. I did not want you to hate him and fear him."
Yoongi lets out a shuddering breath.
“It was not my intention to lie to you, Jimin.”.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that you saved me from the sirens?”
“I did not tell you because I did not want you to be indebted to me. You owe me nothing.”
“You should let me come to my own conclusions,” Jimin says. “I would still have fallen in love with you.”
Yoongi’s eyes widen, and he stares unblinkingly.
The mortal boy gasps loudly as he realizes the weight of his words. He lowers his eyes, looking away as the heat rises up his neck and cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” he says, taking a step back. “I didn’t mean to – I won’t force you to return my feelings – you’ve given me everything –”
“Have you heard the story about the wind that comes after winter, little flower?” Yoongi asks suddenly, asks softly.
“…The west wind,” Jimin answers quickly, his words slowing down as he notices Yoongi stepping closer until their chests touched. Jimin greedily inhales the familiar scent of oranges and sandalwood. “It…it brings the promise of spring and hope of warmer weather.”
“I loved you from the very beginning. I fell in love with you the moment I laid eyes on you. I could only hope that one day you’d feel the same.” The god’s breath fanned across his face. Yoongi’s hand brushes against Jimin’s cheek. “You are my west wind, little flower.”
Like the scent that constantly follows him, Yoongi’s lips taste like oranges.
Jimin lay in the grass, closing his eyes as he dozed in Yoongi’s lap. It was humid in the conservatory, reminding Jimin of the hot summers in his village. But with his cheek pressed against the fabric of Yoongi’s leg, and the god’s free hand resting softly over his chest and neck, he was cool.
He’s forgotten what summer was like, especially with how long the winter was before. Jimin sometimes imagines that this is what summer would be like in his village right now, with the high grass and wildflowers. He inhales the sweet scent of wisterias and wonders faintly what it would be like to sit in the fields of his village during the summer with Yoongi.
“How long has it been since that night?” Jimin asks, and he doesn’t have to open his eyes to feel Yoongi shifting, the book closing, and the god settle comfortably against the tree.
“Almost three months – but it has been almost a year in the mortal realm.”
“A year?” Jimin says, startled as he sits up and stares with wide eyes.
“Time in the Realm of the Gods passes by slowly, little flower,” Yoongi explains, reaching up and plucking a pale purple flower petal from Jimin’s hair. “It will be winter again soon.”
Jimin blinks, absentmindedly twiddling a blade of grass between his fingertips.
“That means I would have turned twenty,” Jimin murmurs.
Yoongi cards his hands softly through Jimin’s hair.
“Is that upsetting, little flower?” he asks.
Jimin shakes his head, “Not exactly – but I wonder – I won’t have more time here, will I?”
Yoongi’s brows furrow at Jimin’s question.
“I’ll still die a human death – a mortal death – whenever that will be?”
“You’re right,” the god says softly. “You are still mortal.”
A frown settles on Yoongi’s lips, and the god turns away, settling blue eyes on something beyond Jimin’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong, Yoongi?”
“Are you happy here, Jimin?” Yoongi asks quickly, snapping his eyes back to Jimin’s. “Are you happy to spend the rest of your life here, with me?”
Jimin smiles, taking Yoongi’s hand and curling into his chest. The god hums as Jimin tucks his forehead against the other’s neck.
“Yes,” the mortal answers. “However long that may be, I am happy to spend it with you.”
After their conversation in the conservatory, Yoongi left the country for the day, storming out of the castle with Holly hot on his heels. He didn’t explain where he was going – only that it was vital that he did and promised he’d be back before dusk.
With Taehyung and Jeongguk across the world visiting the God of Sleep, and Seokjin and Namjoon gone, Jimin decides to spend the day in the conservatory.
It was only a short walk from the entrance of the palace into the courtyard where the greenhouse was situated, and Jimin had stopped asking for a servant to come along with him.
He grabs the nearest fur cloak he could find in the expanses of his room, tossing it over his shoulder as he hums under his breath and bounces down the stairs out into the courtyard.
The beauty of the Country of Ice catches him off guard every single time. He’ll never get used to the country's eternal winters, especially not the magnificent mountains surrounding the palace. He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment at the foot of the stairs.
But when he opened his eyes, something catches his peripheral vision—someone wearing a black cloak.
Jimin pauses. It wasn’t one of the servants, nor one of the many friends he has made.
“You’re not the God of Winter,” the voice calls from the shadows of the cloak. “Nor one of his stone-cold servants."
“Who is it asking?” Jimin says.
Pale hands appear from the arms of the cloak and pull down the hood. A handsome man appears from underneath the fabric. A man with silvery-blue hair, a bright, warm smile and yellow eyes – and despite how brilliant and soft they looked, the vibrant yellow was unsettling.
“I’m a friend of Yoongi’s,” the man says.
“Yoongi… he left on some business, he’ll be back before nightfall,” Jimin answers cautiously.
“Is that so,” the man says, he turns and just as Jimin thinks that he was leaving, the man sits down on one of the snow-covered benches, smoothing out the fabrics of his clothes as he glances up and meets Jimin’s eyes.
“I can wait,” he says, smiling. Jimin’s stomach churns uneasily. The smile was just as bright – just as pretty as one of Taehyung’s or Namjoon’s, but it lacks sincerity. “My name is Hongbin. What is yours, child?”
The man’s voice is beautiful, hypnotic, and deep, and Jimin unwillingly glances up and finds himself ensnared in the man’s eyes. He finds himself stepping towards the man as if his body was moving involuntarily.
“Park Jimin,” he answers.
Hongbin stands, smiling sweetly still.
He circles Jimin. “You are mortal, aren’t you, Park Jimin?”
“I am,” Jimin says, “why does it matter?"
“How curious,” Hongbin says, “that the heartless, cold God of Winter now keeps in the company a beautiful, mortal human.”
Hongbin tugs on the tip of Jimin’s ear and traces Jimin’s jawline, lifting his chin up. Jimin grits his teeth, wanting to step back. But there was something that stops him, a fear that roots his feet to the ground as he maintains eye contact.
A snake – Hongbin’s eyes remind him of a snake’s.
“And here I thought that he was above mortals.”
He takes Jimin’s hand, pushing his fingers into Jimin’s sleeve and finds the mark on the boy’s wrist – the bite of a wolf.
“Ah, I knew I felt Yoongi’s ice when I touched you,” Hongbin muses. “You were Marked by his Familiar. You are blessed.”
Hongbin’s grip tightened around Jimin’s arm, squeezing to the point where it burned. And the pain made Jimin realize the danger he was in. He blinks, tearing his eyes away from Hongbin’s and trying to yank his arm out of the other’s grasp.
“Hongbin – Hongbin, you’re hurting me, let go – let go!"
Hongbin loosens his grip.
Jimin yanks his arm out of the god’s grasp, but before Jimin could take a step back, Hongbin pulls on the back of Jimin’s head and crashes his lips on Jimin’s.
The mortal boy lets out a muffled yelp, viciously pushing the man away. He wipes his mouth against the sleeve of his shirt, trying to breathe deeply through his nose. Jimin could taste iron on his lips, and it makes his stomach churn.
Hongbin grins wickedly.
“Forgive me, Jimin, I couldn’t resist.”
“I think you should leave,” Jimin snaps, stumbling backwards. “Yoongi will return tonight – ”
Jimin turns, hearing the loud, warning growls of Holly. The giant white wolf lurks, jumping in front of Jimin and putting herself between Hongbin and the mortal human. She lowers herself onto her forefeet, ready to pounce.
Something slithers out from underneath Hongbin’s cloak.
A cobra – a snake – it was his Familiar, Jimin assumes.
Jimin steps backwards as a whirlwind of ice accumulates behind him. He shuts his eyes against the flurry of snow, and when he opens them again, deep blue fabric blocks his vision.
“I thought I smelled something rotting,” Yoongi spits. “Hongbin.”
The bright smile returns to Hongbin’s face, and he grins widely, showing off perfect teeth as the slits in his eyes widen. He looks so harmless now, and it profoundly unsettles Jimin.
His breathing is louder, harsher now, and he is beginning to feel the chill of the air through the fur cloak.
“Well, Yoongi, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“Almost a hundred years,” Yoongi says.
“Eighty-three, to be exact."
“Too soon,” Yoongi replies, “What are you doing here?”
“I heard from dear Hyukie that you had a guest in the Country of Ice – a mortal human at that,” Hongbin muses. “And I just had to meet him.”
“What are you doing here, Hongbin,” Yoongi repeats. His tone of voice is dark and cold. Not teasing or nonchalant, like how he speaks to his siblings or friends. Now Jimin realizes that Hongbin isn’t who he said he is, that he isn’t an acquaintance of Yoongi’s.
And now Jimin realizes the magnitude of the situation.
“What, can I not come to visit the lord of the Country of Ice?”
“You’re not the type to pay a cordial visit.”
Hongbin grins. “Your right, Yoongi. I wasn’t here for a social visit. I am here to repay you for the crime you committed against me eighty-three years ago.”
Hongbin stares, and the grin falls, and his eyes thin into slits again, and Jimin could see anger washing over him.
And Jimin suddenly feels incredibly scared. Without the smile on Hongbin’s face, it was clear to see how frightening his eyes looked.
“You killed Kim Wonshik,” Hongbin whispers.
Yoongi’s eyes narrow, “The mortal who died in the blizzard? He was foolish. The signs of a blizzard were all there. It was his Fate – it was his Fate to die that night – ”
“It was not his Fate!” Hongbin roars, “he was under my protection. He bore my Mark – and you killed him.”
Yoongi steps forward as Hongbin storms towards them.
Hongbin’s Familiar snaps at Holly, forcing the wolf to sidestep and move away from Yoongi’s side.
Hongbin stops, standing chest to chest with the God of Winter, and Yoongi pulls Jimin protectively behind him, holding onto tightly to his hand.
The God of Winter’s hand feels incredibly cold against Jimin’s skin – Yoongi’s touch never hurt like this before – like Jimin was holding on to ice. Goosebumps rose, and Jimin shivered uncomfortably as his teeth began to chatter.
His head was starting to hurt.
“You killed him,” Hongbin repeats.
“What are you going to do about it,” Yoongi murmurs.
“I loved him, and you killed him,” Hongbin echoes, “so I came to repay the favour.”
Yoongi turns to Jimin – eyes widening, and Jimin did not like it – because he saw fear in Yoongi’s eyes, and he didn’t like it.
His heart is beating unnaturally fast, and it wasn’t fueled by the fear and the adrenaline running through his veins. There was something else, something else that settled uncomfortably in the pit of his stomach as the world began to spin dizzyingly.
“Yoongi – what’s happening? What’s wrong.”
Yoongi twists back to Hongbin. The blue-haired man backs away as snow and ice hurricanes from Yoongi’s body.
“What did you do to him – what did you do to him!” Yoongi roars.
Hongbin grins. “Jimin, I did not properly introduce myself to you. I am Hongbin – God of Disease and Pestilence. Forgive me for using you in my vendetta against Yoongi.”
“Perhaps it was your Fate to tangle with the gods,” Hongbin says sarcastically “And Yoongi’s Fate to reap what he sowed.”
Yoongi lifts his hand, a feral growl ripping from his throat as razor-sharp icicles emerge from his fingertips and aim at the God of Disease. It strikes, but the cloak of black and the god himself morphs into hundreds of flies.
Yoongi turns to Jimin.
“Jimin – Jimin, little flower, are you alright.”
He grips Jimin by the shoulders, meeting his eyes in desperation, and in the fervour of the events, Jimin is dizzy. He blames it on the adrenaline.
“Yes – ”
Yes, but his head hurts – it’s pounding and –
“ – did his Familiar bite you?”
No, the cobra didn’t bite him. But he’s finding it hard to breathe – harder to answer Yoongi’s questions and harder to focus.
“No, no – ”
“ – what did he do to you?”
Nothing – nothing Jimin can remember… nothing past the pounding headache.
“Nothing – he just – he kissed me. But I – I don’t, Yoongi – I don’t feel well – ”
“Jimin - ”
He feels light-headed – nauseous.
Everything blurs into grey and black.
His knees give out.
Jimin feels as though he’s underwater when he could hear and put memories together again. An off-putting scent of iron is stronger than the familiar smell that accompanies Yoongi, and he wonders if he’s being carried in someone’s arms.
“Yoongi – Yoongi!” that was a familiar voice: Seokjin. “Yoongi, what happened? Jimin’s soul – it’s – it’s calling for the Underworld.”
Silence, then movement, Jimin’s moving again, and he could hear ragged breaths, a chest that heaves underneath him not with exertion, but with terror and fear.
“Yoongi-hyung, what happened.” Namjoon – that was Namjoon.
“Hongbin,” rumbles the voice next to Jimin’s ear: Yoongi. Yoongi. “Hongbin was here, blames me for the death of a mortal he loved.”
The arms release him, gently lowering him onto a bed.
“I – I think he gave Jimin the plague.”
Plague – Jimin knows what that is – it wreaked havoc in the towns and villages near Jimin’s before. He remembers the scent of sage, peppermint, and lavender that always burned in the hearth of his home when the threat was nearby. Thankfully it never came – the God of Pestilence – Hongbin, was it? Perhaps he sought to spare them.
But now – now he brings his wrath.
“Summon my brother and sisters,” Yoongi orders, “Seokjin could you speak to –”
“Jaehwan? I’ll try…”
Jimin whimpers, forcing his eyes open. His vision swims and swirls with whites and colours. He closes his eyes, head lolling weakly.
He feels something gripping his hand tightly.
“Jimin – little flower – just –"
“The plague?” Jimin whispers.
“...I’ll find the cure,” Yoongi says resolutely. “I will find the cure, I swear to you.”
“It shouldn’t be progressing this fast,” Seokjin says, “Doesn’t the plague take days before symptoms appear?”
“Not when it was given by a god – Hongbin kissed him,” Yoongi hisses. “Directly infected him.”
Suddenly, Jimin doubles over, hands flying weakly to cover his mouth as a coughing fit overtakes him, and wracking pain sweeps over him. Hands help him sit up, and he curls in on himself, hacking and coughing as his lungs burn. When the fit subsides, Jimin pulls his hands away to reveal blood, spilling over the cracks of his fingers.
“How long do I have?” Jimin croaks.
Yoongi doesn’t reply.
As the disease progresses, Jimin has difficulty discerning his dreams from reality. Everything is unclear as time goes by. He remembers so little.
But of one thing he was sure: he was dying.
He grows delirious, feeling only the cold that seeps through his skin, and it’s not the cold that he has gotten used to, not the cold that accompanies Yoongi, not the refreshing air. But the cold that settles in his chest as he sweats and promises death.
He remembers Jeongguk and Taehyung arriving, offering Jimin to administer a drug – a painkiller. A gift from Taekwoon, the God of Dreams.
It pulls Jimin out of his limbs and lungs – disassociated him from the pain – but it also disassociated him from everything else.
“There is no cure, Yoongi-oppa,” Hyeri says, “especially not when it has progressed this far.”
“Jaehwan will not get involved – not when this dispute involves his younger brother.”
“And Hakyeon-hyung declares that it is within Hongbin’s rights, as the laws dictate. You killed his lover, Yoongi-hyung. Kim Wonshik had the protection of a god.”
Jimin drifts and drifts, and he faintly remembers apologies.
“I’m sorry… this was my fault… you were never supposed to get involved, every time …it was my fault…it was always my fault.”
“You cannot take him, you cannot take him, Seokjin-hyung – you can’t.”
Cool hands press against Jimin’s cheek.
“I love you, Park Jimin –” Yoongi says. “I love you, and you cannot leave me. I have waited millennia – you cannot – ”
And Jimin tries – he holds on, clinging desperately to consciousness as he forces bleary eyes open, focusing on Yoongi’s – beautiful – beautiful crystal blue eyes.
He could see tears pooling in the god’s greying-blue irises.
“I don’t want to leave you,” Jimin rasps.
“Forgive me. Forgive me, Jimin, for I failed to protect you. I was going to turn you,” Yoongi whispers, “I was going to ask permission from the King of Gods to turn you – to give you the ichor of immortality. But now – now it’s too late.”
“Would I have been a god?” Jimin slurs through bloody coughs.
Yoongi chuckles weakly. “Yes – yes.”
“What would I be the god of?”
“The west wind,” Yoongi says. “You would be the usher of Spring. You would bring happiness to all mortals.”
“Yoongi – you are only prolonging Jimin’s suffering if you do not allow me to take him.”
“You cannot take him from me!”
“Seokjin,” Jimin calls.
“Yes, Jimin?” Seokjin answers quickly.
“You said… that mortals are reborn – aren’t they?”
“Yes, mortals are reborn – but it could take years – centuries, and you will not remember – ”
“But you’ll remember me, right, Yoongi?” Jimin asks quietly.
“Of course, of course.”
“You’ll find me?”
“Jimin – ”
“You’ll find me?”
“I will – I swear to you, I will.”
“Find me then – and let me love you again. I’m not afraid of death, Yoongi,” Jimin whispers, and he could see Seokjin smiling softly from behind Yoongi. “I’m just so tired…Please.”
“I’ll – wait – for you,” Yoongi says through broken gasps, “I’ll wait for you – and I’ll find you, little flower.”
Jimin smiles softly, closing his eyes. “Till we meet again.”
“Till we meet again.”
Seoul, South Korea
The God of Winter grumbles under his breath as he crouches by the shrub of pale pink peonies. The lush green leaves were overgrowing as the flowers followed in suit. One blossom lay right in the middle of the stone pathway.
He’ll have to cut it.
“The weather is still horrifically cold for March, Yoongi-oppa,” Hyeri comments lightly. The Goddess of Spring sits by the roses, quietly tending to the flowers as she wills them to grow and behave.
“I know,” Yoongi says quietly.
“You do this every year, Hyung,” Jeongguk whines. Shifting into a more comfortable position across the edge of the water fountain.
“I don’t remember a Spring that starts before April anymore,” Hyeri continues. “Winter dominates the year.”
“I give Hoseok a longer reign in return for shortening yours, Hyeri,” Yoongi mutters.
“That’s because you fall into such a miserable state of hibernation every year that you don’t want to start your reign,” Jeongguk says.
The gods of the old religion were no longer relevant in modern times. Mortals no longer worshiped the Tempus or Maior Gods with the introduction of science. But that does not make the gods any less powerful.
But they were just a distant memory – a reminder of the past. Offerings were smaller, done out of respect. The days of sacrifices were over, and Yoongi was relieved by that.
Hyeri stands and brushes the back of her jeans as she joins Yoongi by the peonies. She kneels beside him, frowning, and Yoongi knows precisely why. He was sitting with the shears poised over the flower, but he has yet to move. She pushes his hand away and wills the blossom and its leaves out of the path.
“You don’t hesitate to cut any other flower down,” Hyeri says, “only the peonies.”
“It was his favourite,” Yoongi whispers.
Jeongguk sits up, swinging his legs over the side.
“It was around this time that he died, wasn’t it?” he asks in a low voice.
“344 years ago,” Yoongi answers.
“Has Jaehwan-oppa –”
“Nothing,” Yoongi says, “It is impossible to track a soul once they’ve passed through the River of Oblivscere. Everything is erased, the ties of Fate severed.”
“Sojin-noona?” Jeongguk questions hopefully.
“I’m forbidden to step foot inside the Imperial City when I tried to beg her to weave the Thread of Life for him again,” Yoongi says. “But, to no avail. All I got was: when the time comes.”
Jeongguk snorts, lying down again and dipping his hand into the water.
“I’ll end the Winter soon,” Yoongi says quietly, “It’s not the mortals’ fault for my transgressions, and I shouldn’t be interfering with your season because I’m miserable, Hyeri.”
“Thank you, Oppa.”
The wind chime sings then, signally an arrival, Yoongi stands, brushing off his pants.
The God of Winter spends more time walking the Mortal Realm – the three-hundred odd years have passed by in a slow haze of dark nights and days too bright. He passes the time pretending to be human, tending to a conservatory he built in Insa-dong, but he wasn’t good with flowers like Jimin was.
Hyeri and Jeongguk often stop by to see the garden’s flourishment, but they’ve chosen not to interact with mortals.
“See you soon, Yoongi-oppa,” Hyeri says, dissipating in a flurry of yellow petals.
Jeongguk makes an exit as well, rolling into the fountain and disappearing with a splash.
Yoongi stifles a yawn, trying to put on a smile to greet the guest.
The words never leave Yoongi’s lips.
“Hi. Uh, this is a public place, right? I’m allowed to be in here?”
Soft skin, full lips, and bright eyes.
There was no mistake.
His hair was different – dyed blond instead of black-brown, but there was no mistake.
The boy swipes snow from his hair, undoing the buttons of his coat as he walks in, eyes wandering from corner to corner. He still has that grace – the gentleness of a spring wind.
He stops when he meets Yoongi’s eyes.
“Yes,” Yoongi answers quickly. “Yes. Of course. You’re always welcome here.”
Always, little flower.
“Ah, really? Thanks,” the boy says with a soft giggle. He shrugs off the overcoat, draping it over one arm, running a hand through his hair. A habit he always had.
There was no mistake.
It was really him.
“It’s really beautiful,” the boy says, walking around the ferns and shrubs and stopping by the fountain. He sits down where Jeongguk sat moments before and dips his fingers in the waters.
“Thank you,” Yoongi says. “Uh, what brought you here?”
The boy shrugs, reaching out to stroke a petal of a peony flower. “I don’t know… felt like I needed to. It’s freezing outside, and I saw all the flowers – it – it’s really pretty.”
Yoongi joins the boy by the fountain.
“It must remind you of Spring.”
“Yeah,” the boy says. “Spring is my favourite season. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer, just don’t know how long that would take.”
Yoongi looks outside, where fern frost gathers on the glass walls. Already, the intricate designs have begun to melt as the Sun peeks out from grey snow clouds.
“I think it’ll end quite soon.”
“Really?” the boy asks, as his face lights up. “What makes you think so?”
Yoongi turns to face the boy, melting in the warmth of bright brown eyes.
“Have you ever heard of the west wind?” Yoongi asks.
The boy cocks his head to the side. “The west wind… it’s an old folk story, isn’t it? That after a long Winter, the West Wind is the usher of Spring.”
Yoongi hums as a smile pulls on his lips. “I think the west wind is returning.”
The boy stares, blinking with furrowing brows, and Yoongi knows it’s because of how he’s staring at the boy. Because how he leans towards the boy, how he clings to every word, and how his lips yearn to be closer, and long-forgotten words want to tremble out of his throat.
I found you, little flower.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
“Do I know you?” the boy asks. “It feels as though we’ve… we’ve met before.”
“Perhaps in another life,” Yoongi laughs.
“What’s your name?”
“Min Yoongi, and yours?”
The Pantheon of Gods: In Order of Power then Age
The Altum | The High Gods
Cha Hakyeon | God of Medicine and Health | King of Gods | Residence: The Imperial City | Familiar: Peacock
Park Sojin | Goddess of Fate | Residence: The Imperial City | Familiar: Raven
Lee Jaehwan | God of Life | Residence: The Imperial City | Familiar: Hawk
Kim Seokjin | God of Death | Dominion: Underworld | Familiar: Crow
The Tempus | The Seasons
Lee Sunmi | Goddess of Summer | Dominion: Country of Fire | Familiar: Mountain Lion
Min Yoongi | God of Winter | Dominion: Country of Ice | Familiar: White Wolf
Jung Hoseok | God of Autumn and the Harvest | Dominion: Country of Grass | Familiar: Fox
Lee Hyeri | Goddess of Spring | Dominion: Country of Flowers | Familiar: Badger
The Maior | The Major
Jung Taekwoon | God of Dreams | Familiar: Turtle
Kim Ah-Young | Goddess of the Sun |
Lee Hongbin | God of Pestilence and Disease | Familiar: Cobra
Bang Minah | Goddess of the Moon |
Kim Namjoon | God of Dawn |
Kim Taehyung | God of Dusk |
Han Sanghyuk | God of Mischief and Rumour | Familiar: Otter
Jeon Jeongguk | God of Rain | Familiar: Deer