What’s Important To You
“I want to go to school.”
Kevin blinked and slowly looked up from the book in his lap. He opened and closed his mouth several times, turned his face to the light streaming in from the window for a moment, and then looked back at the boy who’d spoken. Slowly, he closed his book.
“Sunny, we talked about this,” he began. Sunwoo rolled his eyes. “It’s too dangerous because you can’t pass yet. Your magic needs to be stronger so you can disguise yourself.”
Sunwoo reached a hand up to brush his fingers over his pointed ears. “I’ll wear a hat,” he sniffed.
“It’s not that simple, though.” Kevin’s deep eyes were fixed on Sunwoo with that pitying look he should have known would come. “You can ask me all you want, but you know Sangyeon won’t say yes.”
“Yes, yes, everything’s for the good of the clan,” Sunwoo snapped as he tossed himself into the other leather chair in the small reading room, spreading his legs obnoxiously wide. The fire in the pit between the bookshelves was making his long dark coat even stuffier than it was already. “But I’m stuck being holed up in here, literally. What are we, hobbits? Why are we living in a hole in the ground?”
Kevin lunged forward to shut the door to the room. He turned around slowly. “It’s a magically protected hideout, and don’t you dare let anyone else hear you say that.”
“What? That I’m stuck living in a place that runs by a communist society? Everyone has to do their share of the work so we don’t get discovered by the humans, oh no, blah blah blah….”
A knock on the reading room door made Sunwoo jump. Kevin snorted and the younger boy pointedly rested his chin on his fist and looked away.
The door opened and a fair-skinned, pink-haired boy popped his head in, wide innocent eyes searching for his target. “Sangyeon’s called a clan meeting. He wants you guys in the common room as soon as possible.”
Kevin grimaced. “Thanks, Chanhee. We’ll be there in a sec, ok?”
Chanhee shrugged as if to say, It’s your funeral, and left without closing the door behind him.
Sunwoo stood to leave, and Kevin grabbed his wrist. “Why come to me about this?” He asked, puzzlement clear in his eyes.
Sunwoo paused, then shrugged carelessly. “You annoy me the least.” He turned and left Kevin behind, sliding into the narrow hallway outside the reading room and following the dirt packed walls as they wound through the earth.
The common room was the largest room in their hideout, and it was where they held meetings, took their meals, and spent time together when they weren’t desperately trying to get away from each other.
Sunwoo loitered outside the door so he could arrive last, a difficult feat considering the hallway was only wide enough for one person. Kevin was coming behind him from the reading room, and coming down the hallway from the other direction was his mate. Great. Just Sunwoo’s luck.
Kevin’s face turned to one of coy flirtiness, and Sunwoo ducked out of his way before he could get in the crossfire of Kevin trying out his daily pickup line on the faithfully loyal Jacob. “Sunwoo’s confiding things in me. I told you, I’m a reliable adult figure to him. Look at me go!”
“That’s nice, dear,” Jacob assured him. He dropped Sunwoo a wink, who responded with a thumbs up. He’d lied to Kevin, of course. Jacob had always been his favorite.
Inside the common room, Sunwoo faced an even worse dilemma. He still refused to remove his coat because he enjoyed the feeling of stalking along like the Grim Reaper himself, but the common room’s fire was blazing almost as hot as the one in the reading room. Six chairs had been dragged forward into a circle for them. Sunwoo surveyed the seating arrangement.
Sitting next to Kevin and Jacob meant being exposed to PDA the whole time. Changmin was a chatterbox, and Sunwoo wasn’t one for small talk. Sangyeon would nag paternally and manage to pull Sunwoo’s secrets from him however he protested. Sunwoo safely selected Chanhee and dragged his chair back so he wasn’t sitting directly next to anyone else.
“Sunwoo!” Chanhee turned to him with a bright smile. Okay, so maybe not as safe as he’d hoped. “How are you?”
Sunwoo stood up again and dragged his chair outside of the circle. Didn’t have to worry about who to sit next to if he sat next to no one at all.
Chanhee turned back around, and Sunwoo’s stomach unclenched. It was nearly impossible to hurt the older boy’s feelings, he reminded himself.
Once the six faeries had all settled down, Sangyeon cleared his throat. His tawny brown hair was swept back from his forehead in a typical faerie style. Sunwoo knew wearing his hair with bangs almost to his eyes was viewed as more humanlike, but maybe that was why he did it. And why he didn’t brush his cheekbones with faerie dust to assist his magic like Sangyeon and Jacob did.
“We’ve encountered a problem,” Sangyeon spoke up.
“We’re gonna need more details than that,” Sunwoo informed him.
“Thanks for letting me know.” Sangyeon glanced at Jacob, maybe hoping for someone to back him up, but Jacob was paying more attention to the way Kevin’s eyes sparkled in the sunlight than whatever their leader was saying. “We need to leave.”
That managed to capture everyone’s attention, and tear Kevin and Jacobs’ eyes off each other. “Leave and go where?” Kevin questioned, eyeing the room uncertainly.
“And for how long?” Changmin chirped.
“We’re leaving here and not coming back.” Sangyeon sighed and leaned back. “I’m sorry to make this decision without gathering your opinions first, but it was very sudden. We have to go, as soon as possible.”
Sangyeon glanced out the only window in the room, a small square supported by packed dirt that let in the unfiltered sunlight of the forest above them. Sunwoo followed his gaze. It had begun to drizzle outside, and soon the trees would be drenched in fresh rainwater, the forest floor thick with growth. Sunwoo itched to flee the cramped, overheated room and escape to where he could run in the rain. “There are hunters closing in on the forest,” Sangyeon continued. “I know this has been our home for a very long time—”
“Yeah, only, like, a hundred and seventy nine years,” Kevin muttered in exaggeration.
Sangyeon rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. But I’ve been keeping an eye on them. They won’t just take a look around and leave. They mean to excavate the whole place. They’ll find us, and there are many of them. So we’re leaving here, tomorrow.”
“But you have a place for us to go, right?” Chanhee asked with a raised eyebrow. He seemed amazingly together amidst the clan’s chaos.
“We’re going into the city.” Sangyeon went so far as to scoot his chair back the moment he said the words, predicting the reaction they’d bring. The rest of the clan exploded in chaos.
“But you’ve always said that’s the last place we should be!” Sunwoo was on his feet, frustration racing through him at the unfairness of having to move so close to where he wanted to be. The life he wished was his would be right there, in front of him, impossible for him to have. “The forest is safe for us. Nature is where magic is, and the city is filled with the pollution of humans. Our faerie dust won’t work as well there, and not all of us can blend in.”
Sunwoo sat back down like he’d made his point. He knew it was fruitless, though. Sangyeon had made up his mind, and it wouldn’t be changed.
“I’ve found us a place to stay in the city. It won’t be easy, but maybe the busyness of the city will help us get by.” Sangyeon forced a tone of confidence into his voice. He straightened up and met their eyes, backing the faeries down until they could see his side of things.
“Won’t we have to pay rent, though?” Jacob asked in a small voice.
Sangyeon smiled. “I’ve got that covered. A faerie friend of mine rents out apartments to faeries in need, so it’ll be free of charge. We won’t have to worry about taking human jobs.”
Chanhee shifted. “What about the ingredients I sell for our tea and cake recipes? Normal humans won’t want things like juniper leaves or raw forest berries in their macarons….”
“There are a lot of underground faerie businesses in the city,” Sangyeon promised. “Once we’re there, we’ll have time to figure something out for each of us.”
“How far is the city?” Changmin wondered.
“Far,” Sangyeon said. “It’ll be a day and a half of running.”
“Ugh.” Sunwoo sank down in his chair. “Do we have to?”
Sangyeon’s eyes narrowed. “If you practiced your magic more, you could use faerie dust for extra strength. You’re the one who decided Animal Crossing was more important.”
“It seemed like it was at the time,” Sunwoo protested to deaf ears.
“I know we have a lot of memories and belongings here. But you’ll have to pack only what’s important to you. We can only take what we can carry or charm into a smaller form. Try not to spend too much time on sentimentality. Our lives are far more important.” Sangyeon interlocked his fingers and squeezed them together. He looked up from his lap. Every other faerie was staring at him. “Come on, let’s get moving!”
Sunwoo rose to his feet, coat flapping around him as he shouldered his way out of the room. He shared a bedroom with Chanhee and Changmin, and the other three faeries shared the second bedroom. He wondered what the sleeping arrangement would be like at their new apartment. Would they be in the same building as humans? He shuddered at the thought. How were they supposed to sleep with that stench? Surrounded by buildings instead of trees. No branches to flee to when he needed to hide.
Sunwoo stood over his bed and stared down at his belongings.
Pack only what’s important to you.
He grabbed a backpack and suddenly realized he had no idea what to reach for first.