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Red Eclipse

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“Good morning, ma’am.” The younger girl says as she lifts the bright red tape that loudly reads, ‘Bureau of Vampire Extermination’ high enough for Byulyi to pass.

She’s one of those kids who still have the passion burning deep inside, yet to be disappointed in life. Byulyi can only nod at the girl who’s looking at her superior with admiration, she can’t find it in herself to smile when she is a disgrace to all hunters.

She was like that once, so full of life and ambition, ready to put a hole in every blood-sucker in her hometown. She even went solo before the bureau caught her, a street rat ready to risk her life to feel some adrenaline, to feel anything. She honestly can’t tell if that was a good thing that she had been found.

Nowadays, her only motive is to finish her paperwork fast enough to go home in time to catch a shitty show she’s watching to fill her empty evenings. It’s sad, really. She used to be fierce, not yet projected to injustice. She has now seen enough of it to last her a lifetime.

Byulyi shakes her head a little, getting rid of anything in her mind that isn’t work related. She still has a job to do after all.

The scene in front of her is horrid as usual, Byulyi has seen enough of these to become desensitized. A tragically young boy, probably in college, with nasty scratches all over his body and a messy bite mark that has dried blood around it. Byulyi can only sigh as she wears her plastic gloves, this is most likely the job of a newly turned vampire, she thinks. They are the most animalistic ones, after all.

Byulyi grimaces as the smell hits her nose, this is the only part of the job she still hasn’t gotten used to, that and occasionally having to break the news to the family of the deceased. It’s always disturbing, seeing their faces break down as devastating words reach their ears.

She tries hard to keep a straight face as her partner, Jaehwan, approaches with an identical expression, seemingly in the same situation with Byulyi. He flicks the tail of his coat as he crouches down next to the corpse and Byulyi. His well-sculpted face is tense when he turns to her as if to ask what’s the situation.

“Lee Minseok, 21, a literature student in Yonsei University. Found by a passerby two hours ago, no eye-witnesses so far.” Heeyeon’s voice is heard in the deserted street when she comes close. She is careful to avoid the blood stained sidewalk as she nears them, careful not to tamper with the evidence, not that vampires leave any DNA behind.

Jaehwan sighs next to her. “They always like the younger ones.”

“And apparently drunk ones.” Byul says as she pulls out a receipt from the victim’s pocket. It’s from a bar nearby, and the list of the things the kid bought is impressive.

“He couldn’t have drunk this all by himself, maybe he paid for his friends. Let’s find them.” Heeyeon says as she takes the receipt form Byulyi and sticks her tongue out to her when she protests. She tucks her long brown locks behind her ear, not letting them disturb her as she examines the details on the paper.

“Why are you with us on field today, anyway?” Byulyi challenges, she loves Heeyeon as a friend but as a partner she annoys her with being one step ahead at all times. It was simpler when she was back home and the best there was in town. She would be envied by everyone, peers and seniors alike. But then she was foolish enough to accept the offer that lured her to the shiny lights of Seoul. Now, in the big city, suddenly everyone is a star. “Where is Hyojin?”

“I got here before you two and since this is her day off, they didn’t let me do this alone. You’re stuck with me.”

Byulyi frowns at the words her colleague just uttered. “What? Why is it her day off? Is she sick?”

“Byulyi...” It’s Jaehwan who scolds her when Heeyeon just sighs, “It’s her bachelorette party today. You forgot, didn’t you?”

“I, uh,” Byulyi blabbers, “I’m sorry, there’s just so much on my mind. Last night I couldn’t even sleep because I kept thinking about this coven case.” She shakes her head at herself as she continues monologuing, “It’s impossible! It’s an impossible case, I think they’re trying to punish us by giving us an unsolvable one.”

Jaehwan hurriedly eyes the clean up crew, Byulyi sees worry inside his brown orbs. He takes Byulyi and Heeyeon by their arms and lowers his voice noticeably, “I don’t think this is the place to open that subject.”

Byulyi wants to roll her eyes but decides not to. She knows Jaehwan is right, even if it makes him look like a scaredy-cat. They can’t afford to anger their superior more than this. She doesn’t want to end up dead in a ditch.

“Right.” mutters Byulyi under her breath and continues to examine the boy further. She doesn’t have much luck since she only manages to find a family photo in his wallet and a piece of paper that has a drunkenly-scribbled number on it. Probably a girl he tried to pick up last night. They could call her and try their chance to see if she saw anything.

“Do you think this is related to the coven?” Asks Jaehwan, not really believing it himself either.

“No. They are way too careful and I don’t think they have a newborn. At least not an out-of-control one.” She says, stepping away to let the crime-scene photographer take pictures. Even if they are not the police, the government is nice enough to let them pretend so. They don’t have forensic teams or all those flashy equipment that cops in TV have. It’s only them, their silver bullets and stakes, and the clean-up crew that helps the civilians pretend that vampires are not that deadly. Their office doesn't even have A/C.

“I feel like they might have one to be honest.” Heeyeon says as she leans against one of the walls that isn’t stained with blood. “You gathered that they have around six members but the amount of people we find that fits their style of hunting is too much for cautious old vampires to hunt. They must have a newborn on a leash.”

Byulyi raises one of her eyebrows as if to challenge her. “So? They can be cautious and thirsty at the same time. We don’t have much evidence to believe there is a newborn.”

“We don’t have anything against it either.” Shoots back Heeyeon, crossing her arms.

Jaehwan sighs as he gestures them to get into his car. They are done with the crime scene, even if they didn’t do much. “We don’t have anything anyway, stop running your mouths, we have paperwork to do.”

Heeyeon playfully sticks her tongue out to her once again as she rushes to the passenger seat. “You’ll see, I’m going to turn out right.”

Byulyi puffs away her hair as she settles onto the uncomfortable backseat of the old car, one that Jaehwan got from his grandfather’s will, listening to the horrible music the two in the front picked. The day already feels too long as she glances to her watch that says it’s only ten o’clock.

 

//

 

The loud bass deafens Byulyi’s ears as Heeyeon and Jaehwan eagerly drags her through the strip club. The reds and blues of the flamboyant stage lights tease the fake jewelry scattered around the decorations.

Byulyi wants to go back home and sleep after obsessing a bit more over the coven but Jaehwan already has enough teasing material against her, she’s not going to give him more by refusing to ‘have fun’. So that’s why she’s dragged here unwillingly, even though she’s happy that her colleague found happiness.

They meet Hyojin and her fiancé Solji by the bar with happy faces and a growing tipsiness. Hyojin waves at them even though they’re within three meters, signalling the trio that she’s already getting tipsy. “Byul-ah, Hwannie, Yeonnie! Welcome, power bottoms!” Hyojin teases them only to get her arm slapped by Solji who’s trying to muffle her laughter at her fiancé’s words.  

“Go ahead and sit somewhere, we’ll start soon.” Solji says with a kind voice and a gentle smile, it’s almost surreal seeing her in a strip club but knowing that this was her idea is even more bizarre. The florist looks like she doesn't even know what a stripper is, yet here they are.

They settle onto the flimsy plastic chairs thrown around the stage that has a shining pole ready to be spun on. Just as Byulyi is about to lean towards Jaehwan to dare him to spin on the pole, Hyojin raises her glass to silence the small crowd. There are people she recognizes like, their seniors in the office, Wonshik and Hakyeon. There are a few more girls, who she guesses to be Solji’s friends.

They all turn to Hyojin, who’s waiting for the conversations to dim down. “Good evening, dear guests. First of all, thank you all for coming, we know it wasn’t for us but for strippers but we still appreciate it. I’ll probably talk a lot when I get eventually more drunk so I’m going to keep this short. I love my fiance and she’s better than all of you. Thank you.” She finishes off, there are cheers and boos around her as Solji laughs and rewards her -totally uninspiring- speech with a kiss.

“Yes, as Hyojin elegantly put, thank you all for being with us and we expect to see all of you at the wedding as well. Let’s have fun and see some tiddies.” Solji says, gathering a roaring response from her small crowd. She waves her hand to the DJ and the spotlights flicker.

First comes out a stripper in a bright red robe that barely covers what she has underneath. The DJ announces her to be ‘Hwasa’. She seems fierce, her eyes burning with passion and not at all fazed by the size of her crowd. She reminds Byul of a lion, strong and ready to prey on the clueless.

She smirks at them as she bends over with a smoothness that compliments the music, gathering a whistle from someone in the crowd. Her eyes tease the couple and her hand roams around her body threateningly. She manages to hypnotize them all with her performance, even before she touches the pole. Her fingers grasp the metal as her other hand unties the knot that is keeping the small robe on her. Byulyi slightly gasps as she sees the corset underneath, earning herself a mocking look from Jaehwan.

Hwasa takes of the red clothing completely to reveal the glory of her body, a curvy visual-feast that makes Byulyi’s mouth hang open. Maybe this is better than dozing off on the couch.

The rest of her performance leaves the small crowd mesmerized, with loud claps at the end. She winks at them as she bends down in the most seductive way possible to retrieve her robe, getting cheers once again.

The DJ never stops the slightly annoying songs that make you bop your head instinctively and a few more girls get on the stage. Their routine doesn’t involve the poles but they make up for it with all the synchronized movements and the priceless facial expressions that lure people in as if the dancers were a pack of sirens.

Byulyi blushes as one of the dancers drops to her knees right in front of her and grinds on the floor, making the dancer get out of character for a second and smile cutely. Heeyeon hits her shoulder as she laughs at the interaction between them.

They get their drinks refilled while a woman named ‘Joy’, performs a very sensual medley of popular songs, making them also join in.

As the night progresses, different acts go on stage, impressive dancers, breath-taking pole-dancers, heart racing strip tease shows but none of them leaves the mark on Byulyi like the last one.

The DJ changes the pace from upbeat songs that you would hear in clubs to a very slow, sensual beat as she announces the name of the performer that will take the stage next.

“For the next performance, some might need sunglasses for Solar who shines brighter than the sun.”

Byulyi is about to make fun of the woman's cheesy stage name to Heeyeon when the dancer sticks one of her legs out the curtain as if she’s testing the waters with her toes. Her leg moves with the rhythm, bringing her whole body forward with a firm step forward.

The woman is revealed behind the curtain as if she is a newly presented art piece in a gallery. Her dark locks flow on her shoulders, making their way down in a way that makes Byulyi want to run her hand through them for hours. Eyes look lost in the beat, her body moves in a way that makes it obvious to the audience that she has embodied her craft. Her face shows the simplest of emotions, yet they are so condensed. The lust, the excitement, the love is all there for them to take in.

And Byulyi does.

The outfit she wears is a black lingerie that looks like it was only made for her to wear. Byulyi feels overwhelmed by the woman’s excellence even before she starts her act but she is completely speechless when she does.

Byulyi decides, midway through the performance, that Solar must have a liquid body. The way she spins and folds herself around the pole, serving everyone what they asked for and would never even think to ask. Byulyi feels like she is witnessing the birth of Venus as the woman spins once more, only one leg holding her secure and in place.

It is kind of embarrassing when she is too far into the performance that she doesn’t even remember to clap. She gets out of her state when Solar disappears backstage and Heeyeon pulls at her arm, trying to get her up and make her dance with the rest of them. Now that the performances are over, they can dance drunkenly.

Byulyi dodges her friends by excusing herself to the bathroom, she feels too shaken to just return to partying. As she washes her face, thanking Heeyeon for the water-proof make-up, reality fades back in. She is in her friend’s bachelorette party. She is in Seoul. She is a vampire hunter. She is Moon Byulyi.

Maybe she shouldn’t drink anymore.

After a few minutes of serenity, Byulyi feels like her head is a bit less dizzy. She doesn’t know what made her feel like this, it’s not like she never had more than a couple of drinks in the past, but she needs to snap out of it.

She takes a deep breath and decides to enjoy the rest of the evening by dancing with her equally drunk friends and the couple that brought them here. But her plan is cut short when she steps back onto the dance floor.

She’s about to walk back to the dumb and the dumber’s side when she feels a hand on her shoulder. Before she can even turn back to find out about the identity of the said hand’s owner, a whisper sends shivers down her spine. “Hello there.”

Solar has descended from the stage to walk amongst the mortals apparently but Byulyi doesn’t know what made her talk to her. “Hi?” She answers nervously, her heartbeat gets even faster when the dancer grabs her hand and tugs it gently towards the private rooms. With panic rising inside her, Byulyi is about to protest, saying that she doesn’t have that kind of money, but then she locks eyes with her two evil friends smirking at her.

“Congratulations on popping your cherry!” Yells Heeyeon, which makes Jaehwan absolutely lose it, as if it is the funniest thing he has ever heard. They are both pretty much out of it, as it seems.

Byulyi either wants to die or kill her friends but the only thing she actually does is to follow the dancer with a bewitched expression on her face.