"You look like you've just alighted your broom from Hogwarts."
The hairs on Jimin's arms rise and he pulls the most insulted look he can muster before facing the man beside him.
Jeongguk eyes him amusedly, pointedly motioning for Jimin's outfit as if saying 'where is the lie though'.
"I don't know what did it, Jimin-ah," Jeongguk drawls with a teasing grin. "Might be the cloak, the wand, the striped jumper or, I don't know, the round glasses on your nose. The only thing that's missing is the scar. Want me to help you with that?"
Jimin pushes the other's face away as Jeongguk teasingly reaches for his forehead with his long, sharp nails and a sadistic grin on his face, making the tall man stumble back slightly.
"Shut up, Jeongguk," Jimin grumbles, staring ahead with a pout on his lips. Another group of kids bravely thread the cobblestone path leading to his cabin. Jimin hopes he put enough lights out for them not to trip. That would be horrifying. "J.K. Rowling didn't invent retro glasses. Besides, I've been wearing these for God knows how long. I'll just look like Jimin to them."
"Look guys, it's Harry Potter!"
Jimin just pouts harder as Jeongguk tries to stifle his laugh.
"You were saying?”
"Well, I've never seen a fox at Hogwarts before either, so you must be a cat after all then," Jimin says pettily, reaching down his small booth to grab three cinnamon muffins for the Oh kids. It’s downright offending to be compared to some random fluffed up fantasy character. "Or not my familiar."
"I'm not a fucking cat," Jeongguk grumbles and Jimin smiles triumphantly at himself. "And YOU tricked me into this familiar shit."
Jimin merely throws him a wink and meows at him.
He's pretty sure Jeongguk would have hooked him in the face if there weren't any kids in sight. Would have been worth it anyway.
They both know Jeongguk doesn't mind being bound to him. Not anymore at least. After more than a decade of bonding, Jimin would be surprised if Jeongguk still held a grudge against him. Because you'll know if Jeongguk holds a grudge against you.
Jimin watches fondly as the Oh's youngest toddler waddles over, most excited of them all. The small boy reaches Jimin first, his fingers tightly wrapped around the handle of his pumpkin lantern.
"Trick or treat," Jimin says with his scariest voice, making the kid giggle.
"Treat!" he yells while bouncing excitedly on his feet, followed by another two 'treat's as his older brothers run up the last part of the trail. They're dressed up as crayons, which is fucking adorable. Jimin thinks he's going to burst.
But he cannot let his facade down. He's supposed to be terrifying after all.
"Very well then," he nods dramatically. "Cinnamon Death or Spooky Blueberry?"
As he'd predicted, all three pick the cinnamon muffin, happily thanking Jimin and waving carefully at Jeongguk, who is boredly leaning against the booth.
"Be safe!" Jimin yells after them, smiling when one of the brothers almost trips but gracefully throws himself in a twirl to avoid awkward limb-sprawling.
It's still early in the evening. Jimin has only had a handful of kids so far, most of them yet to come. He'd sent Jeongguk and Taehyung out to scare some of them around the area, allowing Taehyung to venture a bit further into the city, leaving the close by area to Jeongguk. Coming to think of it, what was he even doing here?
"Didn't I send you out to the edge of the woods?" Jimin asks while he looks at the taller man, who plops himself down in the chair Jimin put out for himself. It looks quite comical, such an overgrown man with long whiskers sprouting from his nose.
Jeongguk had thrown a fit when Jimin handed him his costume, yelling something about cats being the doom of his existence. But Jeongguk never refuses Jimin, so now he looks like a cute light-orange tabby cat. Only his murderous expression doesn't really fit the vibe Jimin was going for.
At least his own pointy ears match with the rest of his outfit.
"There's no one out there yet," Jeongguk answers nonchalantly. "Besides, I don't see the point of scaring kids. They'll scare themselves by looking at their own shadows anyway."
"The point is to create a spooky vibe, Gguk. Pretend that scary magical beings are real and could jump you at any time of the day. Remember the verse? Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, voices whisper in the trees-"
"Tonight is Halloween. Yeah yeah, I know how it works." Jeongguk lets out a deep sigh, getting back to his feet. There's another group of kids coming up and he eyes them warily. They're giggling as they tell spooky stories, trying to frighten each other. "What do you even want me to do? Meow at them? Because I fucking refuse."
Jimin rolls his eyes, reaching up to pull on Jeongguk's ear, causing him to snarl. "You don't have to meow, you big baby. Just jump scare them, that should be enough to get them in the mood."
Jeongguk grumbles but slithers off anyway. Jimin watches as he creeps up on the kids, hiding behind one of the hay bales Jimin had strategically placed between the path and his tiny booth. He smiles to himself when he sees Jeongguk's tail flick from side to side in anticipation. His thick, luscious fox tail now looked like a long sleek one that fits the cat he's supposed to be. He refused to wear the clip-on tail Jimin bought for him, so transforming his own tail was the only solution.
A collective scream echoes through the garden and Jimin tries to keep a straight face as the kids rush towards his booth, away from Jeongguk. Jimin sends them a glance from underneath his hat.
"Trick or treat?"
The night proceeds slowly. Jeongguk stays close to Jimin, hiding behind the hay bale, while Jimin hands the kids their treats. Even though Jimin had initially sent Jeongguk to the edge of the forest, he doesn't really mind that he lingers around, knowing Jeongguk likes to stick close on days like these. After so many years of living in the village, the fox still isn't too fond of humans. Especially nosy kids. He hates having to pretend that he is a mortal being, mainly because he has to hide his tail and ears. Luckily for him, this year is not too much of a hassle. Being a cat is quite convenient for him, though that's not entirely the reason Jimin had picked out this costume.
Mrs Lee has been hanging around for a while, babbling away while Jimin hands out his muffins. It's become quite crowded around the booth, bigger groups arriving quickly after each other. Jeongguk's given up on scaring them, now loitering around behind him.
"Is that Gillian?“ he hears the fox ask him softly, after Mrs Lee has run off to grab her youngest son before he'd go face first into the mud. Jimin looks up at his familiar, following his gaze.
One of his plants is slithering closer to a group of teenagers, one of the vines extending to reach their feet. Jimin watches as it curls around a bony ankle, before retreating again. Following the action comes a bloodcurdling scream. The poor victim trips over her own feet as she rushes to hide behind a taller boy, who is eyeing her amusedly.
“No Jeonggukkie, Gillian is the cactus on the bedroom’s windowsill," Jimin says, pointing at his mischievous campsis radicans that is shrinking back in on herself to make sure she stays unseen. "That’s Peonie.”
Jeongguk doesn't even look impressed, just huffs and hisses at this one kid who tries to sneak in another muffin while they're not paying attention. “I still don’t get why you have to name all your fucking plants.”
"Every being is deserving of a name," Jimin says, like he's said so many times, watching Jeongguk roll his eyes. Yet he feels the temporary slim tail of the fox curl around his right calve, tickling the inside of his knee.
They stay like that for a while, side by side, as they watch the kids scurry away to raid the rest of the town.
"How much longer?" Jeongguk asks a few minutes later, glaring down at the now empty path that curves through the fields ahead.
"Probably another two hours or so," Jimin answers, reaching up to scratch behind one of Jeongguk's ears while no one is around to see it twitch. "Want me to get you some hot chocolate?"
Jeongguk hums, loosening his grip on Jimin's leg, stroking past his ankle before letting go. He might not want to admit it, but Jimin knows Jeongguk is a sucker for hot chocolate, especially Jimin's. He'd once in a drunken stupor confessed that 'Jimin's hot chocolate cured more than a Lifelong flower ever could', and that meant something if the flower was meant to cure fatal diseases. Even if it had been a metaphorical utterance.
"I'll be right back," Jimin whispers before he slips away.
As soon as Jimin closes the back door behind him, he shivers. It's cold in the kitchen. Jeongguk had put the fire out before they went outside, so Jimin is pretty sure the rest of the house should be about the same temperature. He'll just have to coax both Jeongguk and Tae into bed tonight to keep him warm.
While he lets the milk boil, Jimin slowly starts cleaning up the kitchen. He and Taehyung had made a huge mess while baking the muffins earlier today. Jimin had tripped over a fallen pot, sprawling face down over the wooden floor. And while that had given them a great laugh, they'd had to start over again, because Jimin had spilled their batter all over the cupboards in his not so graceful downfall. After a few tries, they had finally gotten the batter right, and Taehyung had just sent Jimin off for a bath, because his powder white face wasn't going well with his outfit, hence Taehyung.
While the process was a big adventure, the muffins turned out fine. So far he'd heard no complains. Even had a few kids ask for another one, and that's enough for Jimin. As long as the kids are happy, he is happy.
Now that he looks at his demolished kitchen however, he might have a few regrets.
Jimin softly mutters a spell under his breath, flicking his fingers sideways, then up, and watches as his duster appears from one of the higher cupboards.
While the duster takes care of the flour explosion, Jimin starts to gather his utensils and the remaining ingredients that are still sprawled around the kitchen. Most of the little pots are empty, so he just gathers them with the utensils in the sink. The greater part of them are easy to find, scattered over the counter, yet some have rolled off into tiny nooks that are harder to reach. Luckily, he'd counted all the flasks beforehand, so he'll know if he is missing one. Knowing some of the materials he'd used, he doesn't want them lying around.
One of the smaller tubes has rolled underneath the lower cupboards and when Jimin finally manages to grab it after a lot of cursing and belly shovelling, he's faced with a surprise. Risus it says, in his own chaotic handwriting.
Jimin frowns confusedly at the bottle. It's completely full, clearly unused. Which surprises him, because it was supposed to be the main ingredient...
The rattling of a pan catches his attention. While the wooden spoon keeps swirling through the milk, he sees that the liquid has almost risen to the top. Quickly, he dashes over and removes the pan from the stove.
Jimin leaves the milk to settle as he prepares the mugs. He eyeballs three scoops of cacao powder, a little bit of salt and adds three marshmallows before pouring the steaming liquid on top of it. The marshmallows bop a few times until settling on top of the darkened milk, slowly melting into the drink.
Thanking the duster for cleaning up his mess, Jimin sends it back into the cupboard before lifting the mugs and threading outside. He rushes through the garden, not wanting to leave Jeongguk alone for too long. Sometimes he feels bad for loving Halloween so much, since Jeongguk would bury it if he could.
When he reaches the small clearing in front of the garden, however, he finds the place completely abandoned. There are no kids running around and Jeongguk is nowhere to be seen.
That is... odd.
A weird feeling boils in his chest, but Jimin decides to shrug it off. Maybe something had come up in the spirit world. He'll be back later.
Jimin places the mugs on top of the booth and casts a simple heating spell over Jeongguk's mug. God knows how long he'll take.
After checking how many muffins he's got left Jimin settles down into his chair with the mug cradled between his palms. He takes a sip, cursing when he burns his tongue.
The silence is a bit unsettling. Usually, the city bursts with supernatural power during Halloween, the spirits and dark beings getting a huge boost due to the extra dash of fear that lies over the townspeople. Fear is what they feed on, and Jimin isn't an exception. He can feel the power surging through his veins, wanting to get out.
They aren't allowed to use their magic though. The risk of triggering each other into magical outbursts is very high, and while half of the supernatural population dislikes humanity, they still need a place to stay. Burning half of the city down isn't going to be beneficial to them. Therefore, everyone just loiters around and feeds as much as they can, bottling it up for after Halloween. It's a basic rule. After ten pm, no magic in the den.
Jimin eyes his watch. It a little past nine. He's glad he got the kitchen sorted out before being forced into powerlessness. Having to sweep up the flour would have been a huge hassle otherwise.
He's suddenly reminded of the little bottle he'd found under the cupboards earlier. It's still odd to him that the vial hadn't been used. Especially because he had specifically told Taehyung to add the potion to the muffins before retreating into the bathroom, and Tae wasn't one to either disobey or forget.
Now that he thinks of it, he hasn't seen many of the children eat the muffin, or they hadn't stayed around long enough for the potion to kick in. It takes about five to ten minutes for it to start working and usually, by then, the kids had already moved along. There had only been this one kid who had stayed around long enough, but he'd just looked seriously spooked. Though the Kim kids aren't too bright to begin with, so Jimin wasn't really alarmed when it happened.
The rustling of leaves pulls Jimin from his thoughts. When he sees Jeongguk emerge from the bushes in his spirit form he immediately straightens, highly alert.
"Jeonggukkie? What are you-"
"Jimin you need to see this," Jeongguk interrupts him while changing back to his human form. With a few long strides he reaches the smaller man, discarding Jimin's mug next to his own and pulling Jimin out of his chair.
"What-" Jimin asks bewilderedly as he lets Jeongguk manhandle him. "What's wrong?"
Jeongguk doesn't waste any time and crouches down in front of him, motioning for Jimin to get on.
"I'll show you, c'mon."
They rush through the silent fields, towards the edge of the city. Jeongguk runs fast, like a foal in the Northern Wind. Jimin just clamps onto him like he always does, trusting Jeongguk not to drop him.
Within minutes the outer block of houses appear into sight and Jeongguk instructs Jimin to hold onto him properly, letting go of his legs. Jimin tightens his limbs around Jeongguk's frame just before the fox takes a leap. Jeongguk easily scales the wall of a taller building, getting them to a higher level.
The city lights up beautifully with all the Halloween decoration scattered over the houses, but what Jimin sees doesn't quite match the artistry of it all.
Countless of ghosts are chasing after the kids. Now that might not have been a big issue, if said kids weren't running away from them.
"They can see them?" he asks, unconsciously tightening his grip around Jeongguk's shoulders. He feels the latter's hands curl back around his thighs, hoisting Jimin up a bit higher.
"Seems like it," Jeongguk answers warily. "I noticed when Dorothea creeped up on that Park kid in the backyard and he screamed and tumbled backwards into the turnips."
Dorothea is their garden ghost. She tried to haunt Jimin when he first moved into the cottage, but soon found out that he wasn't human and didn't get scared by a mere spirit. He'd seen far worse than that. They bonded over hydrangeas and became friends. Now she scares the mice away and keeps Jimin company while he gardens.
Kids weren't supposed to see Dorothea.
In fact, kids weren't supposed to see ghosts at all. And the weird part was that it wasn't just one kid. About half of them were screaming bloody murder, causing a huge ruckus in town.
"This is bad," Jimin murmurs, staring down at the mess on lower grounds. This wasn't normal. He has never seen something like this before, not even during Halloween. The ghosts liked to mess around, sure, but they'd never shown themselves to humans before. They shouldn't even be able to.
"It's not even the ghosts I'm worried about," Jeongguk says as he stares ahead at the mountain behind the village. "It's the evil spirits that can cause serious problems. If they lure the children to a secluded spot and suck their souls out it won't be easy to cover."
Jimin stiffens, feeling the panic prickle through his system. Evil spirits live off of souls, especially pure and young souls like those of kids. They need the core energy to stay alive, without them they can't exist. Children are difficult to lure though, since they are guarded by their parents and easily distracted. This is why, usually, evil spirits feed off of old people, alone and on the brink of death, just before Grim arrives to escort them to The Ports. It's just enough to keep them living, but not enough to satisfy the hunger. Jeongguk keeps an eye on them though, and only lets them withdraw of people meant for the Underlord.
But now that the children can actually see them it's much easier to lure them out, and with Jimin and Jeongguk on a magic stamp, it's almost kids play for them.
"How many are there?" Jimin asks Jeongguk, already reaching for his phone. They need backup. Fast.
"Three that I know of, but there might be more considering it's Halloween."
"I'm calling Namjoon," Jimin says while Jeongguk starts moving again, dashing to the other side of the rooftop. "He'll know what to do."
"Namjoon is out of the city," Jeongguk responds, jumping onto the two-story building up ahead. "He won't answer. Call Hoseok. And tell Taehyung to get his ass back home."
Jimin does just that, clamping onto Jeongguk with one arm as he speed dials his fellow witch. They agree to meet at Hoseok's place, since Jeongguk is already halfway there.
"Tae is not picking up," Jimin yells as Jeongguk bolts through the night, hopping from one rooftop to the other. "He's not responding to my signal either."
Jeongguk grumbles something to himself and jumps down the last building, landing fluidly on his feet. He sets off towards the villa on the other side of the street, sinking through his knees and diving towards the balcony on the first floor. With practiced ease he heaves the both of them onto the balcony, not giving Jimin the time to hop down and going straight for the door.
"You could've just used the front door, you know," Hoseok says, unimpressed, as they stumble into the living room.
"Too old fashioned," Jeongguk waves him off. "Not all of us are like Yoongi."
"Watch your words kid," a voice comes threateningly from the adjourning suite.
"I'm older than you."
"Please leave this for later," Jimin whines while he taps Jeongguk's hands to let him down. He uncrosses his ankles and hops off, scurrying over to Hoseok.
"Have you found anything yet?" he asks, leaning over Hoseok's shoulder while he's scrolling down the eleventh page of Google.
"Nothing, but everything has a first." Jimin wrecks his brain for any similar occurrences. He's seen ghostery first hand, but this mostly happens to one person at the time, not an entire village at once. What scares him the most, is that it's specifically the children that seem bewitched. Like someone is out for them.
"Do you have any idea what could have caused this?" Hoseok asks as he twirls around to face Jimin. "Smelled anything weird, seen anything out of place? Except for the children obviously.”
"I haven't," Jimin answers, looking over at Jeongguk, who is leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. He also shakes his head.
"It's not even all of the kids, just a few hands full. But so far, I haven't found any connections yet. There's boys and girls, different races, different families, different wealth," Jimin sums up on his fingers. "Nothing is adding up."
Hoseok taps his fingers aimlessly against his desk, deep in thought. While he thinks, Jimin calls out for Taehyung again, hitting a wall once again. He really must've wandered off far to be out of reach.
"It almost looks like they got cursed," Yoongi speaks up from where he's peering out of the window, having wandered into the room a while ago. "And the spirits just know who can see and who can't."
"That's even more worrying," Hoseok says. "Where are the evil spirits hanging out?"
"Trying to find that out as we speak," Jeongguk answers.
Jimin glances over towards the fox. His eyes are closed and there is a soft glow coming from underneath his lids. It's a way to travel through the spirit world, Jimin knows. Jeongguk can find out about spirits their whereabouts by travelling through the second layer of the world, but it's very tiring.
Jimin quickly rushes over to physically support him, ducking underneath Jeongguk's arm to hold him up. Taehyung blocks him again.
"Maybe someone put a spell on their candies, but that would be a really low blow," Hoseok ponders. "Besides, that shit is prohibited on holidays like these."
Something in Jimin screams at him, but he can't quite gather what it is. Beside him, Jeongguk returns from the spirit world.
"They are just at the edge of the forest. If we're fast, we can still catch them," he says, trying to lift most of his weight from Jimin, who is struggling to keep the both of them upright.
"How many?" Yoongi asks, shrugging on a long, black coat.
Just as Jimin wants to suggest splitting up, Taehyung comes through. The connection is weak and Jimin cannot make sense of what he's saying. After a few tries Taehyung starts sending a mental image. It's a tiny glass bottle, with the edges on top spiralling into themselves. The words on the label curl into ‘praevisionis’, the emptiness of the bottle burning into Jimin's eyelids.
"The muffins," he chokes out as he opens his eyes again, grabbing onto Jeongguk's arm. Their eyes meet and the frown knotted between Jeongguk's brows tells him he'd already put one and two together. "The muffins are poisoned."
Risus = laughter
Praevisionis = clairvoyance