Hansol looks to the other's eyes, the eyes with sight that no longer sees, the eyes with light that no longer glints. There's white trapped in between the glazed circle, flickering between this world and the next.
Soon, the blizzard will bury them in pile of cold white snow.
There's not much time left.
"Greetings, Royalties of Kingdom of White." The two men kneeled and bowed their head in front of the throne, tattered leather cape spread over linoleum throne floor.
"We are adventurers and peddlers, and we come in peace."
Hansol was too young to sit in the throne, but he saw from his seat beside it, how the two men smiled so brightly, despite the obvious grime and dirt, despite the visible scars and bruises.
The taller man spoke, "I am Lee Junyoung, and this is my companion, Kang Yuchan. At your service, Your Highness." despite having little to no eloquence in the art of speaking to royalties, Hansol couldn't help but be caught in those captivating charm.
They only have three feets between them, now. Hansol can reach if he wishes. If he raises his arm just so, it will graze the throat, and then he just has to push, and maybe then it will end.
But they're quiet, there, in between roars of wind, facing each other. No more leather cape, no more sturdy boots. The body in front of him is no more than haphazard limbs compiled together and wrapped in thin linen shirt. There are ice on the juncture of his neck, on his elbows, on his ankles, on his toes. He is almost frozen solid, yet he doesn't even shiver.
There's a bald spot near the back of his left ear. The ear itself is cut off in half and bleeding, making blocks of frozen red around his neck and shoulder. His right cheek is almost gone; yellow liquid oozes over charred flesh, not quite freezing but not quite flowing. And yet, his mouth is still smirking, smiling.
Hansol wants to choke, because despite being more cuts than actual lips, he would never mistake the smile.
It's the worst smile he has ever seen.
"Good day, Prince,"
Hansol was startled, to say the least. It had been two years into his proper training of ruling a kingdom, and one of the most important part was to never look shaken, because if the King couldn't have it under control, people will panic. But Hansol was a gentle soul that got easily nervous, and so the training had been less than fruitful.
He was lucky Gwangsuk, his mentor, was not here, or he would face the disapproving glare and additional hours of meditating and sword trainings. "Greetings, Junyoung the Adventurer."
The smile on the peddler's face was unsettling, but the eyes were gentle and affectionate. He smiled with his lips upturned, with his teeth showing, with his whole body radiating tendrils of comfort and warmth. "I have a present for Your Highness."
It was a stalk of an enchanted summer flower, its petal glowing yellow and orange and light blue. Hansol's heart fluttered at the sight, receiving the stem with utmost care, as if the flower would wilt on his touch.
"It's a charm for courage. I hope it serves you well."
The peddler smiled again, then bowed and left, and Hansol felt a kind of longing similar to watching the sun set.
The flower never wilted; not in his touch, not when he placed it in a vase on his bedstead, not even after several month, even when Hansol definitely forgot to water it everyday.
The name feels foreign, because it should be said only in companion of refreshing laugh and warm presence, and the figure in front of him is anything but.
There is no answer. He doesn't need it, doesn't expect it, but it tears his heart apart anyway.
Hansol unsheathes his sword.
"That's not possible," Yuchan's face blanched at the news, horrified.
Junyoung looked at him, worry apparent in his furrowed eyebrows. "It's what they say. We've got witness."
"But it's our magic, and we have never failed..."
"We can handle this. We must be. There must be a way." Junyoung held Yuchan's arm, willing the other man to calm down and understand.
Hidden in the corner, a few feet down the hall, was Hansol. He clutched the amulet he just finished a few hours earlier, the one he had wanted to give to the peddler with dazzling smile, close to his chest, trying to make his heart beat slower.
There's a flicker of consciousness in the pair of eyes, and suddenly, it's almost like he's aware of his surroundings. He blinks, puts his arm around his body in a strange attempt to warm himself and then, realizing that he doesn't feel the cold, drops it. He looks at Hansol's eyes then, and now it finally feels like they are looking at each other, as if he's back.
"T-there's a c-cure," Junyoung tries to say in a voice so hoarse it's almost a groan. A piece of skin flakes off of his neck, revealing rotten flesh in disgusting black and brown, and he doesn't even notice. "...there's ...a cure! Sa..ve h-him!"
He raises his hand towards Hansol, trying to convince the prince of the possibility to resolve this situation, but Hansol knows better.
Behind him, buried between snow and wind, lies a body with decapitated head, as listless as the figure talking to him, but now as dead as the ground below. There's no cure, not really. Even after everything that happened, even after fighting for so long, there has never been a cure. It's just an illusion.
Hansol wishes it was all a dream.
"The Royal Adventurer has gone rogue!! The Royal Adventurer has gone rogue!! Citizen advised to stay at home!!"
Dozens of children ran around the blocks, spreading the news about the two most famous adventurer of the city. Murmurs were heard between houses, in the street, in the market. People talked with increasing worry, hushed their children to the safety of their walls, and appeased them to stay in. Shops closed, business went down. People were panicking.
Hansol was in the throne room once again, with the King, and the royal advisors. He could tell how the news had unsettled his father but his face never betrayed. Hansol admired his father. For him, his father was the most perfect King a country could ever had.
Hansol readied himself for command to fleed to safety along with evacuation, or for tasks of managing the town's food ration during the lockdown. He mentally reviewed his lessons about accounting and management. He hoped he could have been ready when his father said,
"You're going to slay them."
Hansol lights a fire on a single stick of dry twig he prepared, infusing it with potion to keep it burning longer. He tosses the rest of the potion on two dead bodies. Bodies that was two people treasured by the country, that used to belong to the men he so loved.
He drops the fire.
There is never a cure. There is only mercy.
And the sky lights up.