Yunho knew from a very young age he had powers. He was never sure what exactly they were. The best way to label him was maybe as a psych, but he couldn’t predict the future or read your palm, a psych in the sense that he could see what other people couldn’t.
As a kid he would always draw people with a swirl of color surrounding them and the adults would every time act like it was a work of art until someone asked him what were those representing and his younger self was astounded when no one seemed to really understand his response.
He got more vocal about the lights surrounding people when he realised it something that everybody else was seeing. Although worrying the kindergarten teachers the little boy only wanted some validation, maybe he was just explaining it wrong or maybe he was special. The adults would play along, but he could feel the underlying falseness of their words and the worry surrounding him, overwhelming his senses as if he was doing something wrong to them.
Eventually he stopped saying anything and they shrugged it off as kids play. The dazzlingly lights never disappeared, constantly surrounding each and every person sparkling in his vision like sequins in the sunlight popping their rainbow colors everywhere, but the odd bitter taste in his mouth and the concerned looks did go away and that was enough for the child to not let out a single word on the matter again.
Flash forward a few years on, in elementary school. He sees a boy on the corner of the playground by himself and he didn’t even need to check his aura to feel his sadness radiating from a mile away. Being the energetic social butterfly he always was, he approached the kid to play with him and they quickly became friends.
They kept playing together everyday, the other kid didn’t seem to have any other friends nor did he seemed interested to, just happy to play with little Yunho. One day, before they were leaving to go home together a teacher asked him, “Yunho, did you have a fight with the other kids?”
“No, why?” He was confused, he would feel it if the other kids had bad feelings about him, wouldn’t he?
“We were just wondering why have you been playing alone this week, is everything okay? Is there a reason why you’re not playing with everyone?” the lady asked concerned.
“I wasn’t alone I was just playing with my new friend.” Wasn’t it obvious?
“Ah, maybe he’s in that phase where kids start having imaginary friends?” The teacher’s assistant whispered to the older lady that now looked confused. Yunho heard all she said and was getting impatient with them. How could they not see his friend when he was standing right beside him.
“Yunho, sweetie, what is the name of your new friend?” she asked, crouching down to be on eye level with her young student.
“Mingi.” Yunho answered looking at the other boy besides him. The other kept quiet.
He felt like he said something wrong, because the sudden cold and heavy feeling that surround his every sense knocked the air out of him. His teachers’ faces fell in shock, his pressure dropping with it and he just ran from there pulling his new friend with him not knowing what was the problem.
The more he ran the more frustrated he got, he didn’t do anything wrong so why did they reacted like this. Why were they acting like his friend didn’t exist and why were they so scared at his answered. They were meanies that didn’t wanna play with his new friend like everyone else, he thought. Why everyone avoided him? Didn’t they see how fun he was like Yunho did?
“Yunho! Yunho, wait.” His friend that was getting pulled by him called out, trying to get him to slow down.
The two came to a halt in a park, by the side of a river, and he could feel in his bones how Mingi was upset.
“I’m sorry” his friend kept repeating looking like he wanted to cry.
“Why?” It just frustrated Yunho even more that the other felt he had done something wrong, because he didn’t. It didn’t make sense.
“The teachers don’t like me, because they can’t find me.” And as Mingi said that he pointed towards the river and then it made sense. Because at that moment he too did not see Mingi. The only one he saw reflected on the water was himself.
Yunho took that fact in as any young kid would and immediately just ran from there. The next day at school he tried not to look at Mingi. Recess would come up and for a few days he did not want to go outside. He went back to playing with everyone and avoid his former friend like the plague.
He hated how sad the other felt. He hated how he could feel it all around the room and he hated how it was his fault. No one seemed to notice any difference and he hated that too. The year ended, they switched classes and then he didn’t feel it anymore. He could pretend that it never happened like everyone else seemed to.
He learned to keep his mouth shut about whatever he saw and felt, that’s why he would always surprise himself with new aspects to his powers whenever he would say something that suddenly was met with confusion. Many things that he considered normal growing up where not and he often pondered how different other people saw the world compared to him.
Feelings were one of those things that surprised him. He was already ending middle school when he found out maybe people didn’t perceive them like he did as he expressed his concern for the school’s cheerleader captain that one day came into their classroom.
She was only there a few minutes for an announcement of a event of some sorts and was much older than them, she wasn’t anyone that Yunho ever interacted with, but he felt such overwhelming sadness about her. He could feel it cold and thick in the air and it suffocated him, his eyes watering as as he put on a coat in the middle of the summer.
He leaned down to comment about it with one his friends sitting besides him, but the only response he got was “What do you mean? She looks fine to me, too happy even. Isn’t her smile kinda creepy? I don’t think I ever saw her not smiling actually.” Yunho let it go after that, confused at what was that he was feeling. Her aura didn’t look great, with dark mute tones to it, but he knew better than to argue that.
The girl killed herself a week later. Yunho didn’t know how to feel about it when he heard the news. After a few more mismatched situations he connected the dots that being an empath was part of his powers.
He could see in himself how that affected him, now that he was self aware. Could see how his need to please and cheer people up was developed as a form of immediate self gratification, feeling good as they felt happy and his avoidance of serious atmospheres were all in self preservation, hating the bad feeling everyone gave when the mood soured and he felt helpless to it. It was hard not to be shaped by other people’s emotions when they were so strong, he supposed.
At the start of high school he thought he had cleared up all he could do. He tried his best to center himself and not be swayed by the things he saw and felt. He became a pro in pretending he was seeing the world the same as everyone else. He just wanted to be normal. That was what every teenager seemed to want anyway, so he went along trying to not get singled out.
One day he was eating with his friends at the cafeteria when a guy almost as tall as him passed by and grabbed an apple from the tray the girl besides him had in front of her.
“Hey! That has an owner, you know.” He let out annoyed at the blatant disregard from the guy, making him stop in his tracks looking back genuinely surprised.
“Wha-, you scared me! Who are you yelling at?” The girl besides him exclaimed as surprised, looking up from her phone.
“Didn’t you see him just grab your apple?” Yunho asked confused.
“Ah, someone grabbed it? Oh my God, did you see who? That’s so rude, I paid for it!” The girl besides him start going on a rant to him, turning her head to look around but ignoring the perpetrator that was right in front of her somehow. He didn’t understand how she didn’t see the boy when he towered over their table like a giant tree in front of them.
“What do you mean who, he’s right h-” Yunho stopped himself as he saw the cocky smile on his face and combined with the overwhelming confusion from his friend he finally got that this was one of those things that he couldn’t just explain.
The boy took a bit of the apple right there in front of him, looking down on them as if it was a challenge and that for whatever reason that made Yunho blood boil. He doesn’t even remember it that well anymore. He might have been having a bad day or he just never dealt well with cocky people from the beginning.
The feeling that arrogance itself passed to Yunho always felt like such an intense personal provocation, to feel it from someone else even when he had nothing to do with the situation, he regularly had trouble staying away from the emotion although he knew he should ignore and move on. The cockiness frustrated him, how it was like he was getting taunted into a game that in the end he could only lose. People that thought they had the upper hand usually were right, that was just how life worked and that pissed him off.
He thought he was past that childish indignation by then but either way, Yunho just gave in to the impulse, got up and pulled on the boy’s forearm holding it as he tried to grab the apple from his other hand quick enough that he didn’t need to explain any of this to his distracted friends.
“Hey! Is that the guy that got my apple?” The girl suddenly could see him, as well as all their friends apparently, as they stood up to help Yunho that were still struggling to hold the other’s arms while he standed awkwardly in-between the table and the bench.
That surprised Yunho into letting him go and he could hear a bunch of surprised gasps and exclamations asking where did the boy disappear to. They couldn’t see him anymore even though he was still there just a few steps back then before, looking around shocked. Yunho was equally shocked. The boy in question took the chance to run off.
So the boy did exist. He wasn’t a ghost that only Yunho could see. His mind raced as the bell rang with his group pulling him away to class, commenting on how weird that all just was.
Yunho had always concluded he could see ghosts. That was the conclusion he got from his ‘imaginary friend’ incident years ago. And until then he had never thought back on it again. He made that conclusion but never tested it, afraid of what he could find. He also remembered about seeing ghosts as part of his repertoire, but he never really gave the kid that brought him to such misguided conclusion a second thought.
In the years between kindergarten and high school he never saw anything like it again. Although You’d expect him to be especially sensitive to the supernatural from his powers, everything he saw and felt was very humane and alive.
People die everyday with unfinished businesses, surely if he saw actual ghosts it would be more frequent than this. His friends had see him, even if for only a brief moment, so it wasn’t like he didn’t exist. He had to be alive. Why Yunho’s touch made him visible?
The only two incidents like this were about two boys around his age. What were the chances that it was the same boy? What were the chances that it were different boys? Both made equal sense, which was none at all, and it left him wondering for years until he got an answer.
Yunho discovered the possible answer to his years of doubt as he finally understood the last characteristic of his power. It wasn’t an instant epiphany, but a whole process. Up until then he was working under the assumption that he was the only one with powers. He was the one that was different, the odd one out of the bunch.
He knew about people that claimed they could read the future or see your past life from the media and sometimes he wondered if he was someone like that, since auras and empathic feelings were occasionally mentioned. However he didn’t have any cool party trick up his sleeve to show for it, he couldn’t tell you anything beyond of what people were feeling right at that moment and people tend to already figure that out on their own.
He felt alone in his struggle. He moved to Seoul for college and living in a bigger city was making things way harder than ever before. It wasn’t sufficient that he had to live choking among the crowd of other people’s emotions assaulting his every sense, he also had to act like it didn’t affect him at all.
A few months into his first semester the first big “villain” incident happened though. It wasn’t the first time they attacked, but it was the first time that the media and government acknowledged it and Yunho had been there to witness it happen.
He was on the train making his way back to his tiny apartment in the outskirts of town. The rent was cheap and he got the privacy he needed, but it was far, really really far and the several long train rides he went through to get there from classes or his part time job was quick to take a toll on him.
Being trapped with so many people for so long was exhausting for him. In the morning people felt for the news they saw before going out and at night everyone was adding up to his end of the day exhaustion with their own. Most of his classes were in the very early morning or a little into the early evening, like the one he had been coming back from that night. When the train stopped in its tracks with a halt Yunho barely reacted, sighing with the sudden worry from everyone around dawning over him.
It wasn’t completely crowded, every seat was taken but only a few people were standing. He pulled his backpack to his chest in case they needed to come out and closed his eyes in hope that next time he opened them again they would be moving again. Suddenly a huge metallic impact noise was heard though, and he was sure they wouldn’t.
He felt the rush of fear before he heard the screams. He was in the very end of the train and the situation took its time to reach the passengers there, but once it did it only escalated as he saw people panic and he made his escape towards the tiny bathroom there at the very end of the wagon with a few others lucky enough to fit in with him.
At first everyone thought it was a simple robbery, and maybe if they waited it out no one would notice the hiding spot. Yunho soon noticed it wasn’t the case as he saw something he had never seen before approaching.
Even through the wall separating him from the rest of the boxed space he could see a strong golden aura that shone so strong it hurt his eyes and he felt like he had to be wearing sunglasses to see it properly.
He then heard that voice. It told everyone to stop and the people around him suddenly weren’t trembling in fear anymore, their eyes frozen in place and Yunho held his breath knowing something bad was coming from this.
“Everyone inside the bathroom come out.” It commanded. And they did it in a calm and orderly fashion that felt ridiculous compared to moments before when they were all scrambling to fit in there.
Yunho didn’t come out. He later would say it was a strategically thought out move to stay hidden, but honestly he was just scared. Something was wrong with everyone, and it was obvious it wasn’t affecting him. He didn’t wanna find out what would happen if he got caught.
He heard the footsteps as the aura he saw started distancing itself from his hiding spot and he finally let out the breath he was holding. The door was wide open and he could see everyone with their backs turned to him, a lot more people there than before everything happened. He grabbed the door to make a shield as he peeked from there, they didn’t move an inch staring at the path the golden person had come from.
He had the luck to notice someone he knew. Well, he didn’t know the man, but he saw him before. Kim Hongjoong was in at least three of his classes and always seemed to take the lead in most heated debates in them so it was hard not to notice him.
The short man was staring zombie like as everyone else, but his aura was weakly swaying. Yunho took that as a chance and tried holding his wrist to pull him his way. The moment their skin touched though it seemed like Hongjoong immediately woke up from whatever spell was cast on him. He looked around confused and Yunho silently pulled him forward with a finger lifted to his lips.
They stayed there until everything was over which took roughly an hour but felt like an eternity. They kept silent waiting for something, monitoring the noises, but the man didn’t come back their way. After a while their door was forced open and the two of them almost had a heart attack, Yunho falling downwards cowering behind his tiny companion, but it was only the police informing them to evacuate the train.
They were separated to take statements. Yunho didn’t have much to say. That didn’t stop him from getting held up till dawn in the midst of the whole thing though. He sent his request to live in the college dorm as soon as he got home.
The other day Hongjoong sought him out, still looking pretty shook from the events, a bit jumpy and fidgeting, a stark comparison to his usual confident exterior.
“What did you do yesterday?” he asked Yunho with a serious look on his face, foregoing any greeting.
“You made it stop.” He said as if it that would make Yunho understand, but it didn’t.
The older man seemed displeased with the confusion he got as an answer walking away before Yunho could say anything. The feeling he gave off was one Yunho didn’t like feeling. It was frustration, but the type that came off insecurity. The feeling of helplessness left a bad taste in his mouth. He hoped it wouldn’t become a trauma for the other.
Yunho couldn’t imagine the type of person that would have that type of aura until he saw them on tv later that day. There was footage of the inside of the train when it all happened. The golden person was a man not much older than himself, wearing a long black coat with red detailing and a red mask, he was followed by a tall man dressed in a similar fashion. The second guy in contrast had no aura whatsoever and Yunho gawked at that.
They showed how everyone went towards the end of the train in a synchronised way reminding him of a more casual version of marching soldiers and how the two invaders kept walking around the front wagons going through people’s purses.
The footage had no audio and was cut in small pieces as it didn’t show the part the golden person went through to the end of the train. It felt like important pieces were missing as they didn’t seem to be finding what they wanted, not seeming to take anything, but what really took his attention was the news anchor words when he reported about the perpetrators. ‘he appeared to be working alone...’
That second guy’s presence was painfully obvious for him. No aura, not being seen… It kept happening to Yunho. He again wondered if there was any chance that it was the same person.
It took a few more incidents with that same person piled up for Yunho to start to understand the full implications of his powers since the information was never very accurate, lots of he says she says and probably some form of censor considering how serious the police was taking it. They tried to downplay everything but it was obvious it was a huge issue.
One day the golden person came onto the news himself. He appeared in a bright red suit, a bright red mask matching and Yunho couldn’t help laugh at the flashy tackiness of it. The man ordered the anchor off his seat and replaced him, his companion there as well sitting on the counter by the side of the screen.
“Every adult that is watching this right now in *** area will head to the park in front of *** station immediately. If you have kids at home put them to bed before you leave.” The man finished with a smirk.
He couldn’t be serious, Yunho thought. Yet the memories of the train came to him, how he ordered people like that as well. The tone of his voice, it made Yunho feel light.
Yunho lived in the area he mentioned and couldn’t stop himself from think maybe going to the park right now sounded good. Even though it was way too late to be in a park in such a shady area, he felt compelled to do it. He didn’t though. He wondered if people were indeed being brainwashed to do it. Yunho felt glad for being different for the first time in his life.
He thought back to Hongjoong in the train. He wasn’t different, he didn’t have a way to escape it, if this guy really was controlling people. Which should be impossible, but technically his own powers should be impossible as well.
Hongjoong was in the same train as his that time. It was the last train he took, which maybe meant he lived around the same area? It was a longshot, but there wasn’t much else to do around there. Would he be going to the park right now? There were a lot of people that would be going if this man’s power worked over the screen, could he even find Hongjoong in the crowd if that was the case?
He wasn’t gonna go out there just because he was worried about this random guy he doesn’t even know that well, would he?
Turns out he would. Hongjoong’s aura and emotional the day following the first incident was enough to push Yunho over the edge with worry. And luck must be part of his powers because he found Hongjoong ridiculously easy. Lots of people were indeed going to the park and when Yunho got to the entrance he spot the person he was looking for right away only a few meters away, walking that weird march everyone else seemed to be doing.
Yunho remembered Hongjoong as the poster boy for fashion majors, his hair a show stopper and always well dressed, but now he only wore sweatpants and a oversized shirt making Yunho think that he really was forced come here rather than planned to go out. When he touched his shoulder he had a reaction similar to the last time, looking around frantically and confused as if he just woke up from a dream.
“You!” he exclaimed seeing Yunho holding onto him.
“Yeah, me, I can’t explain right now, but we gotta get out here.” The taller answered hoping they could leave the eerie zombie crowd before he had to answer any questions. He really didn’t think through the aftermatch of his actions, his intended plan only going up to that action of waking him up.
“Why? What is happening? How aren’t you affected by him?” The questions spilled from the other’s lips a bit too fast for Yunho to keep up, laced with suspicion.
“Look, I know as much as you do okay and I don’t really wanna stay to see what happens, so how about we get out of here first and talk later.” He hoped that was enough to convince him, a bad presentiment at the back of his head.
The other seemed reluctant, but they went back towards the entrance again. Yunho stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the bright red suit standing directly in their way, Hongjoong bumping into his back.
“What?” The shorter asked.
“Nothing, let’s just leave through the other side.” Yunho tried sounding nonchalant about it, in contrast to the panic he truly was feeling. He didn’t have time to explain this now when they were in immediate danger. All he could do was pull the other another way and hope he followed, but of course Hongjoong didn’t make things easy.
“Why, the entrance is right there.” He had now stopped. “What did you see there?” Hongjoong tried looking back and going the opposite way Yunho was pushing them towards.
Honestly saving this tiny man’s stubborn ass was presenting much more trouble than he originally expected, and he wasn’t sure it was worth the effort. The last thing he wanted was to stop and catch up with his supposed childhood imaginary friend right now.
“Ugh, just… Trust me okay, I’ll tell everything after I swear.” Yunho tried to express how desperate he was with his eyes.
“You better tell me everything later.” The other reluctantly agreed and stopped resisting to being pulled forward again. Yunho looked over his shoulder. The tall man seemed to have noticed them and was walking their way. He did look a bit familiar, but Yunho doubt that would save them if they were caught, even if they really did meet before.
“We gotta get out of here now. ” Yunho started full on sprinting, Hongjoong following his pace without protest this time.
They ran for what felt like ages that night until they got to the other side. It managed to exhaust Hongjoong enough for him to let Yunho off the hook till the next day. They both worried overnight about what was happening in that park, but it turns out it wasn’t anything as serious as they expected.
It was a demonstration of power. Everyone there was ordered to take a picture of the golden person and post it online with the caption “You can’t escape the Cardinal”. The Cardinal, seemed to be name the public enemy was going by right now, like a villain out of a comic book. Yunho wondered what was the story with the name, but he guessed he would find out soon enough if the guy was campaigning his evil deeds on the internet.
His musings were interrupted as Hongjoong entered the coffee shop they arranged to meet at, being introduced by the little bell at the door ringing. He made a beeline toward his table, not stopping to order anything and Yunho already felt tired just by feeling his determination. He was hoping this didn’t turn into a full on interrogation, but his situation wasn’t looking good.
“Start speaking.” He said sitting down.
“Not even a hello or anything?” The younger tried.
“Oh where are my manners, hello, how are you, I’m fine thank you. Now talk.” He had the nerve to roll his eyes just to frustrate him more.
A waitress came by to see if Hongjoong wanted anything to drink and Yunho took the chance to gather his thoughts. He was preparing his excuses all morning training answers to any questions he could come up with, but being put on the spot to explain himself like this wasn’t what he was expecting.
The other must have noticed his sour expression because once they were left alone he started apologizing with a sigh.
“Sorry, I’ve just been having a bad day.” And didn’t Yunho know that, he again had that heavy insecure feeling around him in every class they met and sometimes Yunho swore he could feel it from several classrooms away. “Just tell me what you know about the Cardinal, please.” His eyes and tone now pleading rather than demanding.
“I don’t know anything about that dude, only what I see on the news, in fact I’m sure you must know more than me since you saw him in person and I didn’t.” And that was true. The only new information he had was about his little sidekick help, that wasn’t really little at all, but Yunho decided to leave that out. “What happened that time anyway?”
“I thought I was the one getting answers here.” Hongjoong pouted at that, but continued to answer anyway. “He just barged in and we got told to move to the end of the train, I think he was looking for something, but my mind went blank when spoke. Like blank as if I got a full body anesthesia blank. I only came to when you pulled me to hide with you. I heard other people didn’t till the cops showed up. Like a full hour got robbed of them, how can you not notice that. And then last night again.” He finished looking down.
Yunho could tell what type of person Hongjoong was from those few times they meet alone. He brimmed with fire and determination, that was usually his default mode and when something negative happened that he had no control over, he would get frustrated at his own helplessness as if he himself was in the wrong for not stopping it from happening.
There was more depth to a human being than this, but he felt those two recurring emotions already spoke great deals of who Kim Hongjoong was.
“I don’t really know anything, I was just a guy that was hiding in the bathroom.” Yunho started trying to clear his side. “I went to the park thinking maybe you’d be in trouble. Cuz, you know, we were in the same train and stuff… So like, I assumed… maybe you lived around there?” It sounded dumb and he wished he’d thought before he spoke, now it sounded like he either had a crush or was a creepy stalker when he honestly didn’t even really know the guy. Yay. Go Yunho. “Look, I just felt bad not doing anything when I saw the news and thought of the people in the train, so I went there to help in any tiny safe way I could.”
“There’s not many convenient trains at that hour that would get there fast enough, you must live close, right?” He kept his interrogation going, thankfully ignoring Yunho’s embarrassing words, but Yunho knew what he was implying.
“Yeah, I live a few blocks away from the station.” He didn’t know how to avoid this train of thought. It was impossible to ignore it.
“You came there out of your own free will.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes” Yunho answered anyway. He already had made his mind the former night while he couldn’t sleep. If he couldn’t think of an excuse he might as well own up to it.
“How?” Hongjoong eyes squinted at him in suspicion, as if that made Yunho a threat like the golden guy. The Cardinal. Yunho was still having trouble with the lame new name.
The defensive stare piercing through him hurt, but it wasn’t wrong of Hongjoong to be careful, he told himself. In fact the best thing you could be with everything unexplainable in life was to be cautious, right. He was the weird one, he couldn’t complain. He just wanted to get this over with and go back to his normal life, where all this serious heavy feelings had no place to weight down on him and he wasn’t reminded that he was an abnormality.
“Just I’m not really what you’d call normal and it paid off against this guy, I guess.” He started saying, but didn’t know how to continue to describe his situation to other people without seeming crazy. He never had to put anything related to his power into words before.
“What do you mean not normal?” Hongjoong pressed and Yunho’s face scrunched in thought.
The words that came to his mind felt wrong. He didn’t get affected because he saw his aura? That didn’t feel right. Why didn’t he get affected? Because he was different. Then why his touch also made Hongjoong wake up from it? He wasn’t different. Yunho didn’t do anything.
The incident with the invisible boy in high school came to his mind suddenly. His touch made him visible. His touch made The Cardinal’s command stop working. He always felt alone in his struggles with his powers, so he never considered other people having them. Now it made sense, he could stop other powers. That’s why he saw that boy, because his power didn’t work on him.
So it should be the same boy, right? How many invisible boys were there running around in the world? He moved to a different and bigger city now though, so maybe there were many that he wasn’t aware of.
“Yunho?” the man in front of him called him back to earth, before he got too lost in his own head.
“You saw The Cardinal, right? How he commanded people with his voice, you felt that.” Yunho started again, finally settling on an approach to explain himself.
“Yes.” The other responded him seriously.
“So you believe me when I say he has some type of power. I mean, you know, like a superpower from a comic book, something that a superhero would have.” His thoughts left his mouth like scrambled words as soon as he said the word ‘power’ out loud. It just felt silly to say that, much more to elaborate on it even after the notion lived in his head for so long.
“More like a villain, but yes, I believe it.”
“I have one too. Something I can do is neutralize other powers. That’s why his doesn’t affect me.” Yunho finally said with his eyes cast down, scared of the reaction he would get. He was half ready to turn it into a joke if the other didn’t believe him, a recurring coping mechanism for him already at the tip of his tongue, but deep inside he knew it’d hurt even he saved himself the embarrassment.
“Something you can do? Is there more to it?” Hongjoong asked. Was that really the part the other wanted to focused on? Yunho cringed just thinking on what to answer, he wasn’t expecting to be believed so easy to start with.
“Yes, but that’s the only important part.” He said hoping the other wouldn’t push it.
To his surprise Hongjoong really didn’t push it. He hummed at his answer and grew quiet deep in thought sipping on his coffee that was already cold by then. It felt surreal to talk about this with someone else like this, specially the way the older was taking it.
“I get it. Then do you think you have the power to stop that guy?”
“What?” That question caught Yunho completely by surprise.
“You said you can neutralize powers, can’t you just touch that guy and make his powers stop working?” Hongjoong explained his thoughts as if that was the simplest possible answer to the problem that was The Cardinal.
“It’s not that simple, first of all I don’t think I can do it permanently, so I’d need to be touching him forever if you want him to never give out an order again. Also, how would I even approach him? Not to mention the people already under his control to start with.” Yunho started babbling the innumerable flaws with that thinking, really eager for a chance to steer away from the topic and not wanting to give the impression that he was powerful like that in any way.
“You don’t think?” the other raised an eyebrow at his choice of words, not impressed by his excuses.
“It’s not like there’s many powerful people around volunteering themselves for me to try to erase their powers. I’m not even sure how I really do it, it’s more of a passive skill.”
Hongjoong also didn’t seem impressed with the simplified explanation.
“I also don’t think he’s hard to approach, he works alone and acts all cocky. I’m sure we can surprise hi-” the older started, but Yunho quickly cut him off.
“We? Dude, I don’t know about you, but I want nothing to do with this.” He was the one scaring Yunho now.
“Look, right now you’re the only one that has any known form of counter to his power, don’t you feel like you need to do something? Controlling innocent people like puppets, doesn’t that disgust you even a little bit?” Hongjoong stared at him exasperated, but the fear in his words shone through by the end of his sentence.
And Yunho hadn’t thought about it like that yet. Wording it like that he understood the other’s fear and his latest mood swings. The fact that you could be controlled without any consent like this at any time on someone’s whim could really make anyone feel helpless.
Still he wouldn’t budge, not only he was scared as hell and adamant on maintaining the normal power-free life he worked so hard to upkeep till now, he was also sure they couldn’t get past the big guy to start with. Yunho wasn’t a fighter at all. He was at best a support character. And as a game expert he could say for sure the stupidest thing you could do was to go headfirst against the boss alone while playing support.
“It doesn’t matter anyway, I know for a fact that we can’t reach him.” he started, already expecting Hongjoong to start questioning him.
“And what makes you say that?” the vexed expression on Hongjoong’s face upset him the slightest bit, as if Yunho was the one being difficult.
“He has a second person working with him.” he let out finally.
“What? How do you even know that?” the other asked suspicion coming back to his tone.
“It’s obvious, but no one sees it. He has this invisible giant bodyguard working with him. Only I can see him because, like The Cardinal, his power doesn’t affect me.” he answered knowing how ridiculous it sounded, but a bit too tired to word it more convincingly.
Hongjoong looked at him for the first time like he was crazy. It almost felt satisfying to finally receive the reaction Yunho had been expecting the whole conversation. Almost, but not really. Just a way to cope with the pent up hurt of seeing things no one else saw.
But then Hongjoong’s eyes sparked with realisation.
“Yesterday, that was what you were seeing when you kept looking back? This guy was there?”
“Yeah, he noticed that we stopped and was coming to check. Seriously he’s as tall as I am and kinda intimidating, he scares me more than the Cardinal does for sure.” Yunho answered letting out a relieved sigh that the older was smart enough to connect the dots by himself.
“I kept seeing an empty space where you were looking behind us, I would never imagine we were being chased.”
“Yeah, can’t relate. So, can you just let go of this vigilante fantasy you’re thinking about and just try to stay out of this like any normal citizen? Cuz that’s what I’m gonna do.” he just wanted to escape this whole conversation at that point. The other’s aura that flaid with determination, the bright tones of red not only shone too brightly, they indicated that Hongjoong had no intent of backing down and he didn’t want to get caught up in it.
“Even if you say that is not like I have a choice whether I get controlled on not. And it can’t just keep happening. I don’t know what I can do, but it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Yunho didn’t need to understand the feeling of being controlled to be able to literally taste the bitter feeling of utter defeat in his mouth from Hongjoong’s feelings. He pulled a napkin from the side and a pen out of his pocket and start writing something down.
“Here’s my number. If you get caught in something like this again try to call me before anything happens. I’d feel bad if you weren’t there anymore to yell about how my side of the debate team was wrong in every damn philosophy class we have. I gotta go already or else I’ll be late.” he joked, handing the paper ready to finally get out of the suffocating atmosphere.
“Okay.” Yunho was already getting up when Hongjoong grabbed his wrist for a second. "Thank you really.”
“Don’t mention it.” The grateful look he was receiving was not something he knew how to deal with. Not when he spent the whole time expecting to be shunned away. The whole proactive heroic streak on the other caught him by surprise, but he’d be lying if he wasn’t a least touched at how his power wasn’t meet with disgust.
After that the two of them unexpectedly became really good friends. It was obvious to Hongjoong that Yunho was a pretty great guy, offering his help when he really didn’t have to. And Hongjoong himself was pretty outgoing and popular among students, he was already on his second year and was always pretty vocal in and outside of class, so he knew most people in his own major at the very least compared to Yunho that was still getting a feel for the college life.
Soon one was inviting the other to parties, doing their class projects together and taking coffee breaks and library overnights alone was unthinkable now. Hongjoong followed suit on requesting for a place at the school dorms and entered the waiting list as Yunho had earlier.
They didn't get any updates till the next semester, but it gave them time to enjoy frequent train rides together and bonding over the problems they had with such a long commute and shady neighborhood. To their surprise, and Yunho’s recurring luck, they became roommates when they got accepted into the college dorms, and helped each other move during the break.
Since he started his first year he was having a hard time. Yunho was a very social guy, loved to party and hang out with friends as often as he could. He thrived when surrounded by good emotions, so he always did his best to incite the best of feelings on whoever he was around and avoided awkward and serious situation meticulously.
When he moved it got tough. Everything started piling up almost immediately, the school work, the part time job he got, the long commutes and the fact that he didn't know anyone nor felt like he had the time to try and have a social life. It was all suffocating his extroverted self that suddenly only had the negativity surrounding him to focus on.
However the events that lead to them getting closer, while borderline traumatic, started a chain of overall positive events for both them. Yunho mused if luck really was part of his power, something he considered often.
It was hard to prove luck though, so he could only wonder. It seemed that every time his life was starting to dip down into a low phase it suddenly did a one eighty with a seemingly random event causing everything to magically work out in his favor.
If it wasn't a superpower then at the very least fate had taken a liking to him and for that he was grateful.
The Cardinal's attack didn't stop, if anything they got even more frequent. The news was mostly filled with his big displays of power. It was very clear that his first focus was to affect public moral and he was succeeding.
His second order of business seemed to be to punish criminals that escaped their trials unscathed. He had the power to make them confess and their crimes were usually enough to make the people completely unsympathetic.
With that he started gaining a small following online, again planting the discourse of morality into modern society as they know. Was he a solution to the inefficient system that left those monsters free? Can you even consider a forced confession as a fact? Yunho was sure that it was as unconstitutional as it could get, but in his worse cases he could see the merit in his actions.
Hongjoong couldn't. The whole attitude of the vigilante sparked anger in him, so much that Yunho avoided watching the news with him in the room and stored painkillers for the headache he'd get from the intense emotional push.
The villain was building an reign based on fear and he hated everyone's attention on that. But Yunho could see past it most of the time. He had the feeling the news were censoring a big part of what he must be doing, with lots of cuts and edits over any footage. What was posted online was biased towards The Cardinal's grandiose acts, usually promoted by the man himself.
However you can't edit out what you don't even know is there. Yunho's eyes always followed the big guy running around these incidents. The camera never followed him so the focus always sucked, and most of the time he was mainly orbiting around The Cardinal himself and exits like a bodyguard watching over for any trouble.
So it stood out the times he was moving. He was always looking for something. Yunho never got a glimpse of what it was, but they had an end goal and it worried him how he was the only one seeing it.