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“What does the red string of fate look like, Yoongi hyung?”



“Like its name suggests,” 11-year-old Min Yoongi replied, “red.”



“But there are so many shades of red!” A smaller voice insisted, “Which red is it, hyung? Which red?”



“I dunno, kiddo,” Yoongi said with a shrug. “Bright, I guess?”



“Like strawberry flavored lollipop?”



Yoongi chuckled quietly at that. He looked down at the boy’s big, curious, doe eyes and replied with his most gentle voice, “No, not that dark.”



“So like, a pinkish red? Like starbursts?”



Yoongi laughed again. He was absolutely endeared.


“Here, come on.” He grabbed the boy’s little hands and walked them over to the mirror by the entrance of his house. “More like this,” Yoongi said, lifting the boy from underneath his arms and holding him up by the waist, “like the blush on your cheeks whenever you get frustrated. Which is now.”



The younger boy gasped once, dark brown eyes widening at his reflection in the mirror. The frown between his eyebrows slowly melted away as his thin lips parted to welcome a bright, bunny-toothed smile. “I can imagine it now!” he exclaimed, grabbing excitedly at his own, chubby cheeks.


Adorable, Yoongi thought.

 

“Thank you, Yoongi hyung.”

 


“For what?”



The boy looked up at the elder, grinning widely from ear to ear. He threw his small arms around Yoongi’s neck and held him tightly. “For showing me what it looks like.”



Yoongi frowned, confused, “What do you mean, Jeonggukkie?”



“True love, hyung.” Jeongguk replied with a smile,



“Thank you for showing me what true love looks like.”





For as long as he could remember, Yoongi always saw the color red.



He saw it between his two classmates who had grown up together since birth, and he saw it in the business man who frequented their local cafe just to have a chat with the pretty barista. He saw it in the park jogger who never let his Golden Retriever out of sight, and he saw it between the two teenage boys who always spent their weekends together, cycling along the banks of the Geumho River.

 

And once upon a time, Yoongi even saw red between his own mother and father.


The string is translucent and thin. A humble line of fine silk that doesn’t call for attention, and intangible, to the majority of the world. Yoongi was three years old when he first saw it, too young to understand what it meant to have The Sight, but not too young to see what was standing right in front of him.

 

He had been sitting obediently at the kitchen table, watching as his mother’s slender hands worked quickly to prepare their family’s usual Sunday dinner. The string was tied around her left ring finger, back then, with a neat bow tied on top like a gift, or a present. And as she reached for the top cabinet, arms outstretched, the string fell unceremoniously onto her clavicle and dropped behind her shoulder towards the kitchen floor.

 

Yoongi remembers how curious he felt in that moment. How he pointed a finger at the string and traced along its length until it reached the living room, where the line of red curled up their leather sofa—like poison ivy—and rested comfortably on top of his father’s thigh. And there it was, another bow, tied neatly onto the fourth finger of his father’s left hand.

 

The strings he saw were tangled and tied, with little knots here, there, and everywhere. It curled into itself, under, over, and away, and in every direction possible. But the string was also strong. It was stubborn, and unless someone deliberately tried to destory it, it was unwilling to break.

 

Unless someone tried to destroy it, the red string of fate was the closest thing on Earth to invincible.

 

 

“Burgundy!” Jeongguk declared as he bursted through the doors of Seoul National High School’s music room with a gigantic plastic bag clutched between his small hands.

 

“Jesus, Guk!” Yoongi exclaimed, dropping his pencil onto the piano in front of him. “Scared me half to death.”

 

Ignoring the elder’s words, Jeongguk said, “Check it out, hyung, I got new paints!”

 

Yoongi wanted to let out a loud and exasperated groan. He settled for a huff instead, because he didn’t want his best friend to feel bad.

 

“Show me.” He mumbled.

 

Jeongguk giddily dumps the contents of the bag onto the table, tubes of paint tumbling down one after the other. “I got all kinds of red, refills mostly, but I found this new shade at the store today!” The younger announced. “Number 504. It’s called Burgundy. What do you think, Yoongi hyung? Is this the one?”

 

“Nope.” Yoongi replied in an instant, shaking his head, “too dark.”

 

“Still no?” Jeongguk groaned, shoulders slumping in defeat. “Welp. Guess I gotta keep searching for it, then.”

 

Yoongi chuckled dryly, slightly amused by the boy’s perseverance. “Let me ask you this again, Guk. Why do you care so much about the whole red string of fate thing, anyway? What’s so great about finding your—air quote—‘soulmate’, huh?”

 

“Yoongi hyung!” Jeongguk cried, clicking of his tongue loudly. He crossed his arms over his chest and stomped his foot in annoyance.

 

He’s adorable when he’s frustrated, Yoongi thought.

 

“The red string of fate is meant to bring two people together, two people who are destined to be by each other’s side, no matter what.” Jeongguk explained, eyes wide and porcelain-like. “I just want to find someone who will play games with me, and eat good food with me, and have long, late night walks with me in the park.”

 

“But I alrea—”

 

“I want someone who will never make me feel sad or lonely.” Jeongguk said, smiling softly to himself, “I want someone who will stay with me forever.”

 

Forever.

 

What a hauntingly beautiful word.

 

Silence hung between them for a moment as Yoongi allowed the other’s words to sink in.

 

“All those things you just said,” Yoongi sighed, “I already do them with you, Guk. I play games with you, and I eat good food with you, and not once did I ever say no to you when you asked me to sneak out of my house late at night.”

 

“I know you do!” Jeongguk chirped, completely unaware of the sorrow in Yoongi’s voice.

 

“So?”

 

“So, what?”

 

Am I not enough for you?

 

Am I not the one you’re looking for?

 

Yoongi bit down on his tongue, trying to swallow the feelings that were threatening to escape from his lips. “Forget it, it’s nothing,” was all he said.

 

“You’re gonna be in college soon, hyung. You’re leaving me.” Jeongguk said, emphasis on the word ‘leaving’.

 

“I—” Yoongi stumbled on his words. He really was leaving, he couldn’t argue with Jeongguk on that part. “But I’ll come home every winter and summer break, Guk. We can still hangout then, right?”

 

“It won’t be the same, hyung.” Jeongguk’s eyes fell to the floor, “Don’t you see? The person who’s tied to me won’t ever leave. That’s what soulmates are for, right? Someone who will always stay by my side. Forever.”

 

There’s that word again. Forever.

 

“Right?” Jeongguk asked again.

 

Yoongi turned towards the piano, hiding from his best friend the doubtful look in his eyes as he replied,

 

“Maybe.”

 

But my father didn’t seem to think so.

 

 

Like his son, Min Byungwoo was one of the few people who were born with The Sight. Throughout his life, he had always seen the color red. And luckily, it didn’t take him long to find the person who was destined to be with him for the rest of eternity. Byungwoo married his high school sweetheart, Kim Areum, a woman who filled his monochromatic life with happiness and wondrous technicolor. Soon after, she gave birth to a beautiful, baby boy who they named ‘Yoongi’, and it was then that Byungwoo realized he could learn to love someone with all of his being despite the absence of the red string.

 

Yoongi had a lovely childhood. His mother cherished him more than anything in her life, and his father, despite being a busy businessman, never failed to come home just in time for dinner everyday. Yoongi grew up seeing red between his parents’ ring fingers, and he grew up surrounded by the very best that love had to offer.

 

When Yoongi turned 9, however, he saw something that changed his life forever.

 

It was late at night, around 3 o’clock in the morning, when Yoongi was awoken by the sounds of muffled screaming coming from the floor below. He crept out of bed and tiptoed his way down the stairs, the voices gradually getting louder and louder as he approached the kitchen.

 

Yoongi hid behind the sofa and watched, completely puzzled by the sight in front of him. He had never seen his parents speak to each other like that before. His mother, who was always so soft-spoken and calm, was now screaming at her husband at the top of her lungs. She threw herself onto his much larger body, grabbing tightly onto his arms as broken cries escaped from her lips, begging him to stop.

 

Stop? Stop what? Yoongi didn’t understand.

 

And his father, the man who had always looked at his wife with nothing but love and adoration in his eyes now glared down at her with enough hatred to light a fire.

 

“Let go, Areum.” He demanded, voice stern. “I’ve made my decision.”

 

“No, Byung! This is madness!” Areum screamed as she charged forward and wrestled some kind of silver object from her husband’s hands.

 

The object skidded across the hardwood floors and stopped right in front of Yoongi’s hiding place. The 9-year-old craned his neck further to see, and gasped when he recognized the object as a kitchen knife.

 

Yoongi couldn’t stop shaking. He had never felt so scared before in his entire life. That night, Yoongi decided to sneak out of his house and run down the street to the only other place that he ever felt safe in:

 

Jeongguk’s house.

 

The next morning, when Yoongi’s mother found him curled up on the Jeons’ front porch, something about her had changed.

 

Her eyes were dark and tired, with dried tears smeared on the sides of her colorless cheeks. Yoongi broke into a cry at the sight of his mother’s face. For one, he was relieved that she had found him, but for another, because Yoongi was completely grieve-struck by the realization that she would never be the same again.

 

And as she wiped his tears away with a gentle flick of her thumb, Yoongi noticed that her red string had turned into a ghastly shade of grey. The bow was still there, tied neatly around her ring finger. But the ends of the string hung short and broken, dead beneath her hand. It wasn’t a neat cut either, for the string looked as if it had been completely ripped apart by brute force.

 

It wasn’t until a few months later, when Yoongi and Areum ran into Byungwoo at a mall, that Yoongi finally understood what had happened on that one, horrifying night of his childhood. He spotted his father from across the second floor, standing on an escalator, hand in hand with a young woman that he had never seen before in his life. And when they emerged from behind the railing, Yoongi saw red between them. There was a messy bow tied in the middle of their strings, not nearly as beautiful as the ones on their ring fingers, but nonetheless, still effective in its powers.

 

And that was when it dawned upon Yoongi, that the red string of fate was no match for the terrible people of the world.

 

People born with The Sight had the power to manipulate the strings. Cut them, tear them, or even tie them with someone else’s string to create the illusion of ‘true love’; one that hadn’t existed there before.

 

From that day on, Yoongi promised himself that he would never manipulate the strings. He promised to never stoop as low as his father did, and to never ruin other people’s lives with this great, unwanted power that he had been appointed since birth.

 

And so, Yoongi tried his best to continue on as if the strings had never existed.

 

Quite impossible, however, because Yoongi just oh-so-happened to end up with a best friend who’s absolutely obsessed with the idea of destiny, soulmates, and red strings of fate.

 



“Rhubarb Red!”

 

“Crimson!”

 

“Mahogany!”

 

It’s been years since Jeongguk started asking about the color of the strings, and despite never getting it right, the boy was just too full of hope to ever give up.

 

Jeongguk is 16 years old now, a sophomore in high school and Busan’s number one aspiring artist. He picked up painting right off the bat, and since then, he’s been making art nonstop. Everytime Yoongi came back home to visit, he’d always find Jeongguk hunched over a large drawing table in his parents’ garage with paint stains all over his hands and face.


“This one’s a little too pink.” Yoongi said as he carefully wiped a dab of red paint from Jeongguk’s cheek, right above the scar that he got when he was younger.

 

“What should I add? Green? Blue?”

 

After years of searching, (not to mention burning all his parents’ money on countless tubes of red paint), Jeongguk finally decided to try and mix the colors by himself. Honestly, Yoongi was relieved for his bank account. 

 

“I dunno.” Yoongi replied, “I’m not good with this stuff.”

 

Jeongguk clicked his tongue, a habit that he’s picked up ever since he was young. He always did it whenever he’s beginning to feel frustrated about something. It’s endearing though, especially to Min Yoongi. He’s always adored Jeongguk for all his little quirks and mannerisms.

 

“Come on, Yoongi hyung!” Jeongguk whined. “You’re the only person I know who can help me with this!”



Yoongi sighed deeply, “Guk, please, just—” a pause, then another sigh, “forget it, okay? I told you, the whole red string of fate thing is bullshit.”

 

“How can you say that?” Jeongguk asked, dropping his paintbrush into its bin and turning around to face Yoongi, “The concept of soulmates, and destiny? Don’t you think that’s beautiful, hyung?”

 

Yoongi snickered, “I think it’s a lie.”

 

Jeongguk clicked his tongue again, then proceeded to mimic the elder’s snicker, “I think you should elaborate.”

 

Yoongi exhaled once, loudly. He sat himself on a chair directly opposite Jeongguk’s and scooted up close to the other.

 

“Two people don’t have to be soulmates to experience love,” Yoongi explained. “There are so many kinds of love in this world, and so many types of soulmates that even the string—in all of its power—cannot encapsulate them all.” He reached forward and placed a firm hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder, “Think about it, Guk. How many people, or things, do you love deeply despite knowing that they can’t possibly be your so-called ‘red string soulmate’.”

 

Jeongguk frowned, “I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

 

“Think about your family, Guk. Think about the love that you feel for them. Or your brother’s dog, Gureumie! You’ve loved that little fleaball ever since you were a kid.” Yoongi found himself smiling softly as he added, “How can you be so sure that those kinds of love are immeasurable compared to whoever you think you’re going to find in the future?”

 

“But hyung,” Jeongguk replied, unsmiling, “if the love between two soulmates isn’t as special as they say, and if it isn’t the single, greatest kind of love in the world, then why would the red strings of fate even exist in the first place? It has to be—”

 

“Jeon Jeongguk, listen to me,” Yoongi interrupted, “I’ve known you my entire life, and I know how much these stupid strings mean to you.” This time, Yoongi leaned forward and took both of Jeongguk’s hands between his, “You cannot, and I’m not just saying this lightly, you cannot, allow the strings to control who you choose to love.”

 

“But why not?”

 

“Because!”

 

“Because what, Yoongi hyung?” Jeongguk demanded, “Tell me.”

 

Yoongi ran his fingers through his hair and let out an exasperated groan, “Because the world isn’t kind, Jeongguk. People lie, and cheat, and they will use your weaknesses to trick you into something that you wouldn’t want.”

 

Jeongguk scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief, “And by ‘people’, you mean people who can see the strings.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“People who have The Sight.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“People like you.”

 

“No, Guk!” Yoongi inhaled sharply, trying to calm his racing heartbeat before he said anything that he shouldn’t say.

 

Jeongguk is still young, Yoongi thought to himself. He’s so full of hope, and wonder, and curiosity for the world outside of this small, small town. Like Yoongi when he was younger, the boy grew up with the best that love had to offer. He didn’t deserve to learn about the worst of the world just yet.

 

Especially, not if Yoongi could help it.

 

“I would never trick you, Guk.” Yoongi whispered, eyes low. “Hurting you would ruin me.”

 

“I know, hyung. You’re a good person, and I trust that you would never intentionally hurt me,” This time, Jeongguk was the one to reach for Yoongi’s hands.

 

Yoongi felt his face heat up at the sudden touch of skin from the other. Weird, he thought, they’ve held hands so many times before. Why was this time any different?

 

“And I believe that other people out there can be good too!” Jeongguk stated, his bunny teeth peeking timidly through the folds of his lips. “I know that you’re just worried about me, hyung. But I’ll be careful, okay? I promise.”

 

“Mm.” Yoongi nodded. Maybe his efforts aren't at a complete lost after all.

 

“Also, I’m just a couple years away from leaving this small town for good.” Jeongguk said, grinning. “And if talking to you about the red string of fate makes you feel uncomfortable, I’ll just find someone else to talk to.”

 

“No, I—”

 

“It’s a big world out there right?” Jeongguk giggled, “I’m sure I’ll find someone in college who’s just as obsessed with the strings as I am. Or better yet, maybe I’ll find someone who was born with The Sight, just like you!”

 

Yoongi found himself staring blankly back at Jeongguk, the heat in his eyes threatening to turn into wet, hot tears in any moment.

 

Am I not enough for you?

 

Am I not the one you’re looking for?

 

And despite the wave of emotions that are crashing inside the hollow caverns of Yoongi’s chest, all he managed to say in that moment, was one, single word:

 

“Maybe.”



 

College, just as Yoongi expected, was nothing more than an open stage for the world to showcase the very worst that humanity had to offer.

 

From the very first day of school, Yoongi had already identified five other people who were born with The Sight, just like him. But unlike Yoongi, these people didn’t choose to keep their ‘gifts’ a secret from the rest of the world. Instead, they preferred to be loud and rowdy about it, spreading word as freely as an airborne disease, all for the purpose of gaining popularity amongst others.

 

They were social elites, campus royalty, and the very top of the college food chain. Other students from all around the city absolutely worshipped the Sighters, and treated them as if they were any different than the typical college student who pretended to be someone else that they’re not.

 

Throughout college, Yoongi saw what people were capable of with that much power on their hands. He saw Sighters and their inner circles using these gifts to mess with innocent lives—manipulate people, and trick others into becoming pawns for their unlawful schemes.

 

It was a win-win situation. With people in high demand for instant gratification and willing to pay actual money for it, and Sighters being equipped with the ability to make their greatest wishes come true. Some wanted to know who their soulmates were, and others, asked about the soulmates of their crushes. Some even went as far as paying Sighters to cut other people’s strings for their personal benefit, while others cashed themselves out for the favor of being re-tied to the person of their choosing.

 

All of this, without a single care whether their actions would affect other people’s lives or not. Anyone who happened to fall victim to these crimes was nothing more than collateral damage.

 

These were the shitty things that people did for love.

 

And they were no different than the lying and cheating that Yoongi had experienced from his own father ever since he was a little boy.

 

Yoongi despised it all so much, and his hatred for this culture of fake, fabricated love grew even deeper when it affected the one person that he cared for most in the entire world.

 

“H-hyung,” Jeongguk’s voice broke through the receiving end of the phone one night, “I n-need to see you, hyung. I need you to come home, now.”

 

 

It’s been six long months since Yoongi last saw Jeongguk in person.

 

The boy had grown taller by now, more muscular, and standing just a little bit above Yoongi’s height. His hair was grown out longer than before, dyed pitch-black, with untrimmed bangs resting like a dark veil in front of his red, swollen eyes.

 

“You look tired” was the first thing Yoongi said when Jeongguk opened the door to his house.

 

Tears brimmed in the younger’s eyes as he rushed forward and pulled Yoongi in for a tight hug. And just like a reflex, Yoongi immediately threw his arms out and wrapped them around Jeongguk’s waist as well. Yoongi held him gently, like he’d always done, and breathed in the overwhelming smell of Jeongguk’s vanilla shampoo that he had grown accustomed to after all these years.

 

Yoongi closed his eyes for a second as he allowed himself to dwell in the feeling of having Jeongguk back in his arms.

 

This is home , Yoongi thought to himself, I’m finally home.

 

“Hey, it’s okay.” Yoongi whispered to the other, drawing circles on the small of his back, “It’s going to be okay.”

 

Jeongguk dug his face deeper into the crook of Yoongi’s neck. He wrapped his arms tighter around the elder’s thin frame and began to sob uncontrollably.

 

In this proximity, Yoongi was able to feel how skinny the boy had become underneath all his oversized clothes. “Guk, have you been eating?” Yoongi asked.

 

“Mm.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Mm.” Jeongguk mumbled again, then, “A little.”

 

“Come on, look,” Yoongi said, pulling himself away from the other and swinging his backpack to the front, “I brought back all of these snacks for you, see? Tempura seaweed, fried rice cake, banana chips, all your faves, yeah?”

 

Jeongguk kept his eyes low as he mumbled a quiet “don’t feel like eating.”

 

Yoongi clicked his tongue, feigning annoyance, “Then I’ll have to force feed you,” he said, “can’t have you starving yourself like this. Gotta nurse you back to health.”

 

“But what’s the point.” Jeongguk sighed. He slumped his shoulders defeatedly and turned away from Yoongi, heading back into the house.

 

As Yoongi followed the younger inside, he thought that the house must’ve been turned over by a robber. The room was a complete mess, with bundles of used tissues overflowing from more than one trash bin and empty takeout boxes scattered all across the living room floor.

 

Jeongguk collapsed onto the couch, pulled his hoodie over his hair, and proceeded to stare blankly into his own hands.

 

“Hey,” Yoongi called, taking a seat beside the other. This was much more serious than he initially thought. “Do you wanna tell me what happened?” He asked.

 

Jeongguk shook his head, but as he did, Yoongi noticed a mistiness glistening in his tired eyes once again.

 

“Jeongguk,” Yoongi called, voice gentle and sympathetic. He touched a finger to Jeongguk’s chin and lifted his face up as gently as he could. “Jeongguk,” he whispered again.

 

Their eyes met for a quick second, before Jeongguk turned to look away. But in that moment, Yoongi was able to catch within those dark-brown orbs a glimmer of something that he had seen in many, other pairs of eyes before:

 

Heartbreak.

 

Please, Yoongi thought to himself, anyone but Jeongguk, please.

 

“Who did this to you, Guk? Who hurt you?” Yoongi asked, “I’ll beat them to pulp. You know I’m not kidding.”

 

Tears fell from Jeongguk’s eyes as he spoke, “He called me a tease…” he said, so quiet that his voice was almost inaudible.

 

“What?” Yoongi asked.

 

“He told everyone that I led him on just to make myself feel more d-desirable,” Jeongguk explained through quiet sobs, “he said— he said, that it’s because I’m ugly and weird.”

 

Yoongi squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head frantically, “That idiot doesn’t know what he’s fucking saying,” he scoffed.

 

“Many people believed him, hyung. Some people at school wouldn’t even talk to me anymore.”

 

“God,” Yoongi murmured, “high school kids are such assholes.”

 

Jeongguk smiled sadly. He wiped his tears with the back of his sleeves and said, “I really thought he loved me, hyung.”

 

Yoongi felt himself pause for a moment. “Was this someone that you dated?”

 

Jeongguk nodded, “He broke up with me, a week ago, because I wasn’t ready to d-do it, you know, g-go all the way.”

 

It was as if a switch had flipped inside of Yoongi’s mind. He was frozen in his seat, a deep sense of rage and anger simmering up in his chest. He felt heat behind his eyes. It was red, hot, and ready to explode.

 

“No,” was all Yoongi managed to say. “No.”

 

Jeongguk, his Jeongguk, the sweetest, kindest, most good-hearted person on this whole entire fucked up planet. And how did the world repay him? By sending some asshole his way who couldn’t care less about ruining someone else’s reputation and only cared about getting himself laid?

 

Love is bullshit .

 

“This is why I need to know, Yoongi hyung.” Jeongguk spoke, interrupting Yoongi’s thoughts. “If I knew who my soulmate was, then I wouldn’t have to go through random assholes like this.”

 

“No, Guk—”

 

“If I knew who my soulmate was, then I wouldn’t have to be hurt like this!” Jeongguk yelled, crying into the palm of his hand.

 

Yoongi bit down on his lower lip, trying to stop himself from breaking into tears. Seeing Jeongguk cry was probably the most painful thing that he had ever had to endure in his entire life.

 

“Jeongguk, listen.” Yoongi began, “Love is shit. It’s shit and it bites and it leaves you more broken and scarred than before, but that’s how you learn. It’s how you learn that true love isn’t easy to find, Guk. And if you’d known who your soulmate was from the beginning, then maybe you wouldn’t cherish all the time it took for you to finally find them.”

 

“But true love is easy to find, hyung. The strings—”

 

“The strings are like a shortcut, yes. And yes, they make things easier for some people. But the consequence of relying on them is that all of your love becomes taken for granted.”

 

“Because it’s...too easy?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“Yes,” Yoongi answered eagerly. “You must experience the bad in order to appreciate the good. Because sometimes, it’s the broken pieces of your heart that eventually guide you towards finding your one, true love,” he explained.

 

Jeongguk inhaled deeply, and let out a long and audible sigh. “You sure know a lot about love for someone who’s been single his whole life.” He grumbled.

 

“Side effects of having The Sight, kiddo.” Yoongi chuckled dryly, “I’ve seen all kinds of love, experienced it in my own way.”

 

Jeongguk eyed him suspiciously, “And?” He asked.

 

“It ain’t pretty.”

 

Jeongguk’s eyes fell to the floor. He didn’t look too convinced just yet, but it’s enough for him to stop crying. And tonight, that was all that Yoongi needed to achieve.

 

“Can I sleep on your lap?” Jeongguk suddenly asked, “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes widened, “O-of course,” he stammered, scooting backwards to make room for Jeongguk to lay down.

 

As the younger placed his head onto the elder’s thigh, Yoongi couldn’t help but reach his fingers out to card through Jeongguk’s soft, silky, black hair.

 

“Don’t worry about those idiots at school, yeah?” Yoongi said, voice comforting, “You got what, only two months left?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk mumbled, shutting his eyes. His wet lashes glistened in the living room light like broken butterfly wings, “getting out of here soon.”

 

“It’ll be scary. But it’ll be good.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“Would be nice to have you close by again.”

 

“Just say you miss me and go, Yoongi hyung.” Jeongguk teased, giggling softly, “Can’t live without your favorite dongsaeng, I see.”

 

Yoongi felt his face heat up, the burning sensation traveling all the way to his ears. Rolling his eyes, he muttered, “Shut up, I never said that.”

 

Jeongguk giggled again, and then, another sigh. “You know what, hyung? When I go to college, I won’t even think about dating anyone. I’ll study hard and I’ll focus on my art and someday, I’ll save up enough money to open my own gallery. How’s that sound?”

 

“Sounds like a plan.” Yoongi smiled.

 

Jeongguk looked up at him with big, determined eyes, “From this day on, I promise to swear off love until further notice!”

 

“Yeah?” Yoongi chuckled nervously, “No more love?”

 

“No more love.” Jeongguk answered,

 

“Love is nothing but a stupid distraction.”



 

The next time Yoongi saw Jeongguk was in a small, artsy cafe in the heart of downtown Seoul.

 

Jeongguk had moved to the city about four months ago, left all his pain and heartbreak back in small town Busan, and was ready for a brand new beginning. For Yoongi, he was just happy to have Jeongguk close by again.

 

But unfortunately, the two hadn’t had the chance to meet each other much, not even for a quick meal. Like any other college freshman, Jeongguk spent his days and nights slaving away in the art studio while Yoongi, trapped on the opposite side of campus, found himself drowning in thesis papers and senior projects. Neither barely had any time to breathe at all.

 

On lucky occasions, they would run into each other in random places around campus, in which Jeongguk would make sure to never part ways without giving Yoongi one of his bone-crushing hugs.

 

It was enough for Yoongi, more than enough. All he ever wanted was to be by Jeongguk’s side, protect him, keep him safe from the world. Even from a distance, and even if the circumstances of Yoongi’s feelings were unclear, he would make sure that nobody dared to hurt his Jeongguk.

 

It was late in the afternoon when Yoongi broke free from the torturous clutch of final exams week. His head felt heavy, and his body felt tired. He saw an empty coffee cup on the ground and almost hallucinated that it spoke to him, asking for his thoughts on the current crisis of Korean Education.

 

Yoongi shook his head, and pressed his fingers deep into the hollows of his eyes. Those weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation must be catching up on him, he thought. Either that, or college might actually be stripping Yoongi of his very last bits of sanity.

 

“I need coffee,” Yoongi muttered under his breath.

 

Coffee, he thought, and maybe the company of his best friend.

 

Yoongi arrived at the cafe a little earlier than meeting time; a habit that he picked up to help reduce the anxiety of troubling other people if he ever were to arrive late. Which of course, was never.

 

He ordered himself a black coffee, large, and walked around the cafe to inspect its’ interior decor.

 

There was a bulletin board by the windows with countless flyers and job listings posted onto it. Campus work, language tutors, psychology experiments, all the good stuff. And smack in the center of it all, was a bright red flyer with the words “EXPERIENCE THE SIGHT!” printed on it in big, bold letters.

 

Yoongi squinted his eyes and ripped the flyer off to take a better look at the information listed.

 

‘Find your soulmate!’ it said.

 

‘Create your destiny!’

 

‘Cheapest price on campus in exchange for a lifetime of TRUE LOVE!!!’

 

“Asshats.” Yoongi scoffed, mouth wet with disgust. “Don’t they have anything better to fucking do?”

 

By Yoongi’s fourth year of college, Sighters—or those who pretended to be Sighters—have grown so quickly in population that it was getting hard to keep track of them all. It seemed like these idiots were every-fucking-where now, sneaking around campus like pests or cockroaches, or what Yoongi would describe as the world’s very own postmodern plague.

 

Worst of all, most of them were scammers too, Yoongi could easily tell. These treacherous little bastards preyed on the young, hopeless romantics of college, and granted them the worst kind of punishment that anyone could ever receive,

 

False hope.

 

Yoongi teared down a couple of similar flyers, crumpled them all up, and tossed them carelessly into the trash. He exhaled loudly as he shouldered through a bunch of freshmen and found himself a table by the corner. The space was quite small, but it was big enough to fit two people just fine.

 

Yoongi took a careful sip of his coffee and grunted deeply in content. He glanced towards his watch to check the time. 3:28, Jeongguk should be here soon. And seemingly out of nowhere, Yoongi began to feel his heartbeat pacing faster and faster inside of his chest.

 

Was he that excited to see Jeongguk again? Yoongi wondered in silence. Or was the coffee simply quick in its caffeinated magic?

 

It was the latter, Yoongi decided, not trying to convince anyone but himself. The tingling sensation in his hands, the nervous sweating, and those damn butterflies fluttering around in his stomach? It was probably just the coffee.

 

And as he brought the mug towards his lips to take another sip, Yoongi’s ears picked up on the sound of ringing bells in the distance, signaling the arrival of a new customer.

 

Looking up, he saw his best friend skipping through the doors of the cafe with a bright smile on his face and a laugh that seemed to have escaped from his lips just moments sooner.

 

Yoongi suddenly felt a strange, dull ache, sinking deep within his stomach. The sight of Jeongguk’s distinctive, bunny-toothed smile reminded him of their childhood, and how they grew up taking care of each other. It brought to Yoongi’s heart a bittersweet pang of nostalgia that he just couldn’t seem to shake off.

 

Why did it hurt so much to see Jeongguk smile?

 

Yoongi stood himself up, and was about to wave the younger over when he spotted another boy walking into the cafe just behind him. Tall, sharp features, and legs that went on for days—the other boy looked like he had just walked straight out of a manhwa.

 

Jeongguk gestured the boy towards the counter, calling out a name that Yoongi couldn’t catch, and whispered something to him that made his lips part into a unique, boxy-shaped smile.

 

“We’ll have two hot chocolates, please.” The boy said to the barista, bowing politely as she handed him back his change.

 

“Thanks, babe.” Jeongguk muttered, before leaning in to plant a soft kiss on the other boy’s cheek.

 

No, Yoongi thought to himself, please, God no.

 

And in that moment, every color in the world immediately drained from Yoongi’s eyes.

 

All that was left, was the color red.

 

[to be continued...]