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we found wonderland (you and i got lost in it)

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"Rachel!"

Bam gasps for breath as he chases after the blonde young woman sprinting ahead of him.  "Rachel, wait! Slow down!"

Rachel doesn't listen, instead running even faster.  Bam - more commonly known as Agent Jyu Viole Grace, 'god' of the police force although he has no idea where that nickname had come from - grits his teeth and chases after her.  They're police officers, field agents, civil servants of the state.  They have been trained to heed their instincts, but beyond that, they must keep a cool head.  What they're doing now is too reckless.  They've been working the White kidnappings case for months now, and Headon, a seemingly ageless criminal nicknamed the 'White Rabbit', is their only lead to finding White's hostages.  Chasing after Headon to White's hideout without backup cannot possibly end with both of them, as well as all of the hostages, alive.

White isn't even a single person they can catch: from evidence, they know that White is a group of five siblings, their leader an infamous serial killer who has evaded police hands for years.  Nobody knows the names of the five siblings, except the last unit of officers who had faced off against White who had barely returned alive - their group leader, Special Agent Sachi Faker, still blames himself for the loss of one of their best officers, a young woman called Roen Yuia.  The rest of the unit were still guilt-ridden by the incident.  Special Agent Boro had switched to another department, Aka Williams had quit the police force entirely, and Special Agent Daniel Hatchid, who had been in love with Roen, had gone missing.

The case is too dangerous for the two of them to work it alone, but Hwaryun, a trustable redhead and the last member of their small task unit, is calling for backup.  When they found Headon, Bam had almost managed to talk him into coming back to the police headquarters with them, be questioned about White, have his jailtime lessened for his assistance.  And then Headon had bolted, so here they are, chasing the White Rabbit to an abandoned warehouse.

"Rachel, we need to wait for the backup officers to get here!" Bam cries out, trying to reason with his partner.  He and Rachel have been partners since they graduated from Quantico - Bam likes to think that they're two parts of a whole, a well-oiled machine.  It seems like their machine is falling apart.  "It's too dangerous!"

"Come on," Headon goads them with a smile through his rabbit-faced mask, "we'll be late to meet the King of Souls!" He dangles his pocket-watch in front of them.  "He's getting impatient, Special Agents."

The 'King of Souls'? Waiting for them? Is that what the leader of White has chosen to address himself as? The only king Bam knows about is King Jahad, the arch-nemesis of the organized crime unit.  He himself had run into King Jahad, once, but surprisingly enough, the syndicate leader had let him go alive and free.  He will never forget the King's aura - dark, oppressive, terrifying.

Bam races past Rachel, tackling Headon to the ground in an attempt to put him in cuffs.  "Rachel, I need some help!"

"Your Rachel isn't going to help you," Headon says with a grin full of sharp, white teeth.  Rachel runs right past them, running into the warehouse.

Shït! What is he supposed to do now? He can't just leave Headon, but he can't let his partner, his best friend, run into danger by herself.  He cuffs Headon to a nearby fence.  "Do not move," he snarls.  "Anything you say or do from now on can and will be used against you."

"Spare me the speech," the White Rabbit says, his smile serene as ever.  "Aren't you going to run after your friend?"

Bam grits his teeth.  "Fück you." He runs after Rachel.

"Viole!" Hwaryun shouts.  "My god, don't be so reckless! The closest SWAT team's only getting here in half an hour!"

"Rachel could be in danger!" Bam shouts back.  "You stay here, wait for backup! I am more than capable of taking care of myself!" What a lie.  White had killed Roen, scarred the rest of her team for life.  What's to say they can't kill him too? "Don't worry!"

"My god!" The redhead screams.  "Watch out!"

"Ugh!" Something hard and heavy slams into the back of Bam's head.  His eyes widen before he slumps to the ground, unconscious.

When Bam's eyes open, he's in another place.  Is he dreaming? He must be dreaming.  When he'd been hit in the head, it had been nighttime.  Here, in his dream, it is day.  He's lying on his back, and up above him is blue sky and sunshine.  He sits up slowly, touching the back of his head.  There's no blood, no wounds.  He must either be dreaming, or dead.

He smells flowers.  Around him are flowers of every kind: roses, orange poppies, hydrangeas, dahlias, violets, a green chrysanthemum.  "Do you think he's alright?" One of the flowers whispers.  It's the green chrysanthemum.  It sounds female, young.  Bam frowns faintly.  This may be a dream, but he's pretty sure flowers don't talk.

"I don't know," an orange poppy replies.  The voice is also feminine, but a little older.  When the poppy nudges him with a leaf, he can feel a touch on his thigh.  "He's got nice eyes, but he doesn't look very awake."

A hydrangea hums.  This one is male, his voice smooth.  "I thought we'd be free, now, since he's a cop, but it seems like he's not entirely here." Something prods his cheek, and he instinctively grabs at it.  There's warmth - a wrist? A hand? The hydrangea yelps.  "Good reflexes, but do you mind letting go? You're going to break my arm."

"Sorry," Bam mumbles.

The hydrangea drifts away.  "It's alright."

A crimson hibiscus pokes and prods at him.  "Oi.  Black Turtle.  You're talking and moving, but you're not awake."

'Black Turtle'? Curious and curiouser.  Where is his physical body? There's a sound that sounds like a cackle - where is it coming from? His left? In front of him? "Miss Yuri, no!" The violet shrieks.

Bam's brain short-circuits.  Yuri? As in Ha Yuri, rich, young, heiress to her grandmother Ha Yurin's Snake Head Fashion, who had been kidnapped a month ago?

He doesn't have time to ask, because a boot lands flat on his face and he finds himself unconscious again.

Thankfully, getting knocked out once in real life and once in a dream cancels out.  He's in his original body - not a corporeal form, but solid, although he still feels a little lightheaded.  He can't quite tell if he's awake and asleep. "Welcome back, Viole."

Bam blinks himself back into relative wakefulness, refusing to rub his eyes with his grubby hands.  It's - "Hwaryun? How - Where -"

He looks around.  He's in a dark and dingy cell - part of the warehouse, perhaps? - and Hwaryun is sitting next to him, looking awfully concerned.  He himself would be worried, but the scent of tea - where is it even coming from? - is comforting.  "Take it easy, my god," the redhead murmurs, "deep breaths."

"Ryun, where's Rachel? What are you doing here? Where actually are we?" His face hurts with every breath he takes.  He hopes he'll never get kicked in the face again.  Bam recognizes the people sitting around him as the people White has taken hostage: there's Yuri, who has an unsurprising background in kickboxing, and Bam hopes never to get kicked in the face by her again; Endorsi, head of the team of designers for Snake Head and is known to throw shoes at people; Anaak, Endorsi's niece and witness to her kidnapping, simply there at the wrong place at the wrong time; Phonsekal Lauroe, one of Eurasia Hospital's best surgeons, who is asleep; Olympic fencing silver-medalist Hatz and his tracksuit-wearing manager Shibisu; Khun Corporation's best business strategist Khun Aguero Agnis, who is better known to his colleagues as the 'Treasure Cat' for his cat-like features and his tendency to hoard things; the Treasure Cat's bodyguard Rak Wraithraiser, a giant with a crimson glare fearsome enough to rival Bam's senior Urek Mazino.

Hwaryun sighs.  "My god, what a little heartbreaker you are.  Always asking about Rachel first.  But I can't blame you."

Endorsi raises an eyebrow, batting her colorful eyelashes.  "Who's Rachel? Your girlfriend?"

"She's his partner," the redhead answers for him.  "Partners are trained to have each other's backs.  But she's been acting quite suspicious lately, and yes, Viole, maybe you haven't noticed it but I have.  If she had your back, she wouldn't have charged in there without backup.  Being reckless is your job," she reprimands him.  "I let White take me because I can't trust you in here alone."

"Sorry," Bam mumbles.  Sometimes, he really doesn't understand why Hwaryun still looks after him when he'd accidentally injured and blinded one of her eyes.  "But is Rachel really not here?" He count the heads - eight out of nine.  "I thought there was one more hostage.  Where's the idol singer? Ha Yura?"

Hatz makes a face upon hearing that.  "Ha Yura has no honor.  She didn't want to be trapped here like we are, so she begged Hoaqin to let her be his subordinate." He scoffs.  Bam assumes Hoaqin is the leader of White, the self-proclaimed 'King of Souls'.  "I'd commit seppuku before I'd side with a murderer."

Khun Aguero Agnis sighs, rolling his blue eyes.  "Seppuku this, seppuku that.  Do you really want to die that desperately, Mr Seppuku Swordsman?"

Hatz snarls, lunging for the blue-eyed man.  "Why, you- Ugly Earrings!"

"Hatz!" Shibisu grabs the fencer's arms, trying to hold him back.  The young women watch on in amusement, making no moves to stop the fight.  "We're all in this together, remember? Why do you keep trying to fight Khun?"

Hatz glares at Khun balefully, but Khun just looks back at him, effortlessly smug.  "He irritates me."

"The feeling's mutual."

"And his earrings are ugly."

"Hah?" Now it's Khun's turn to lunge.  "My earrings are expensive! My entire family wears them!"

Hatz's eyebrow twitches as he grins.  "All you Khuns have equally bad taste, then."

"Please stop fighting," Bam begs, "I have a headache.  Mr Khun, I think your earrings are nice.  Mr Hatz, I'm not sure if disembowelment is legal, but it would suck if we got you out of here and you decided to kill yourself anyway.  Please stop fighting each other."

Endorsi reaches forward, smacking the back of Khun's head with her shoe.  He grunts, shooting her a look as dirty as his shirt.  The last time Khun had been seen in public, he was wearing a pristine white dress shirt.  After weeks of being stuck here, dirt and grime has dyed it grey.  "Listen to the cute cop, you insolent pigs!"

"Who are you calling an insolent pig?" Khun yells, shooting to his feet.  "You bi-"

His bodyguard, Rak, grabs him by the arm and yanks him down.  "Stop picking fights, Blue Turtle! You fighting Ghost Eye Turtle would be good entertainment, but we've all been here for at least a month! I want out! Nobody gives me bananas!"

Bam's head rings with the sheer volume of it all.  "Too loud," he groans.  "Can somebody quiet please give me an explanation of what has been happening to you guys so far? We haven't been able to rescue you guys on the outside, but maybe it would work if we snuck out from the inside."

Shibisu - quiet, responsible Shibisu - is kind enough to offer Bam some peace.  His tracksuit is an eyesore, though, with muddy stains on dark purple.  They start off with simple introductions: I'm Special Agent Jyu Viole Grace, but you can call me Bam if you want, that's my colleague Special Agent Hwaryun.  "We know their names.  The youngest one is Anna, she has this giant robot rabbit that fights for her.  Don't underestimate that thing." Shibisu shudders, and Bam feels a shiver race up and down his spine like a rabid motorcyclist.  "David is the next, but we've never seen him fight before.  Vicente and Albelda are the nicest ones.  I swear, we're all alive because Hatz is here.  Vicente used to fence too, and Albelda thinks he's cute, so they've been delaying our imminent death.  But they have to listen to their leader, Hoaqin, he's the oldest and the one who likes chopping off heads.  Let's all say thank you, Hatz."

Nobody thanks Hatz.

"Do they come here?" This feels oddly like an interrogation, with Bam desperate for information and Shibisu all too willing to give it.  "We know it's Hoaqin we need to avoid.  But what about the rest? Is there a way out?" Bam pats himself down.  His gun is gone, his uniform jacket missing along with his badge.  The only thing he can fight with now is his hands, but thankfully, he is very good at fighting with his hands.  "Which one of them would we have a chance against?"

They both turn to the door, where they are locked in.  "It only opens from the outside, trust me, we've tried kicking it down." Shibisu points up, and Bam follows his gaze.  There, in a corner at the very top of the cell, is an air vent big enough to fit a person.  "Khun has a plan of how we might go about leaving through there, but we've never actually gone through with it."

"Why not?"

"Well, for starters, pretty much nobody here knows how to fight." Bam isn't going to lie and say he didn't jump when Khun slings an arm over his shoulders, propping his chin up on Bam's shoulder.  "Yuri over there only knows the basics of kickboxing, and Endorsi's only good at throwing shoes.  Anaak throws a mean uppercut, though.  You know what they say about short people and anger, there's gotta be a trend there somewhere." Bam disguises his laugh as a cop at Khun's nonchalant insults.  "Seppuku swordsman only knows how to fight with a sword.  He might be able to fence with a stick, though.  Pity we don't have any.  I'd like to see him fight with a stick."

Bam can't help the giggle that slips out when Khun makes a few exaggerated stabbing motions, forcefully poking Hatz in the side with a finger.  Hatz whips around instantly, ready to scowl and start another fight.  Shibisu coaxes him away from Khun into a civil conversation, where Lauroe, already lulled to sleep, rolls over and continues to sleep on Hatz's lap.

"What about you? And Mr Rak?" Khun doesn't look like much of a fighter, all skinny limbs and sharp angles.  It would probably take two of Khun's legs to make up one of Bam's, the latter's more muscular thanks to hours spent running on a treadmill, ready to sprint after crooks at any moment's notice.  After years of grueling mixed martial arts training, Bam is more than capable of subduing criminals by choking them with his thighs.  He could probably snap Khun's legs like a twig.  "Mr Rak is your bodyguard, I assume he knows how to fight?"

"Of course I know how to fight, Black Turtle!" Rak bellows.  Hwaryun subtly lifts her hands over her ears, mumbling about Rak's inability to speak with an inside voice.  "I've never fought a cop turtle before! Fight me!"

Khun shoots his bodyguard an icy glare.  "Stop challenging people to fights you'll probably lose, gator!"

"That's a lot of confidence you have in me," Bam whispers.  Something about the bodyguard is quite frightening.  Is it his sheer size? "And what's with the whole gator thing?"

The blue-haired man wrinkles his nose.  "He just kind of looks like one.  Also, if you touch his skin it feels like those overpriced crocodile handbags.  Anaak's the same way.  Endorsi calls her 'Lizard' because her skin's so dry.  Man, does nobody know skincare around here?" He sighs, touching his hair.  "And hair-care.  My hair's a damn mess." He lets it out of his ponytail, where it tumbles down to his shoulder-blades.  "It's so long now.  If you weren't here, I'd have the longest hair."

Now Bam really can't stop himself from laughing.  "You've been hostage here for months, and you're worried about your hair? What about the plan to get out?"

Khun ties his hair back with a ribbon that's blue like his eyes.  "Well, now that you and Special Agent Hwaryun are here, we can finally put the plan in motion!" Khun rubs his hands together, a Cheshire Cat smile stretching across his lips.  Bam really fears the day Khun and Hwaryun become friends.  Having two plotters instead of just one will end with world domination.  "Yuri, give me your clip.  Rak, stand up.  Give me a boost."

"So bossy," Yuri grumbles.  She passes her red hairclip to Bam instead.  "I don't want to touch him." She winks at him, red eyes flashing as she squeezes his bicep.  "I'm fine with you, though.  Most cops are total hotties." Hwaryun clears her throat, red eye narrowed at Yuri.  Bam recognizes the look on Yuri face as the 'I'm probably going to fail but I'll still try to snag a date with you' face.  He doesn't understand.  Why are women so eager to trip over their own feet just to get close to him? He's nothing special.

"Thanks, Miss Yuri" Bam mumbles.  He tosses the clip to Khun like he's touching a hot potato.  "What are you planning to do?"

Khun, precariously balanced on Rak's shoulders, grunts as he hooks the clip into a gap between the vent in the wall.  Shibisu catches the falling metal grate with a magnificent swan dive before it clatters onto the ground.  "I've thought about this before." He crawls into the gap.  "Rak, boost Bam up too.  If what Shibisu remembers is correct, this will lead to the nearest exit.  I've been here for months, I know they'll change guards in around ten minutes.  We'll have to move fast.  We can take advantage of the movement to leave.  As long as Hatz is here and Vicente and Albelda are there to talk Hoaqin out of killing everyone, our goal is to get you out of here, so you can call for backup."

Bam gapes.  That is one hell of an intricate plan.  "But how would we call for help? They took my phone, I guess they took yours too?"

Khun's eyes glitter.  "Now, why would I let the cat out of the bag? Just trust me."

Endorsi huffs.  "Selfish prick.  He's probably going to ditch you at the first sign of trouble, and we're all going to die."

Khun glares at her balefully.  "You and Anaak have only been here for... How long? Less time than me. You have no right to complain. Besides, I'm not going to just leave.  I have morals, you know."

"Dubious ones," Anaak grumbles.  "Just get us out.  I'm going mad here."

Bam turns to Hwaryun.  "Are you going to look after them?"

Hwaryun smiles at him, one visible red eye kind.  "We're cops, remember? It's our job to keep civilians out of trouble.  You can trust him.  He's a Khun.  He's got intelligence in spades."

"Okay." Bam takes a deep breath, tightening his ponytail.  "Let's go."

Rak lifts him up into the vent, and Bam crawls forward.  It's dark and cramped, but Bam trusts Khun to get them both out.  If they walk into trouble, Bam could just fight his way out, right? He'd taken down crooks pointing all sorts of weapons at him before.  There were things he fears more than his own death.  He can hear the sound of Hwaryun explaining a back-up plan to the remaining people in the cell, Lauroe's snoring echoing.  He doesn't know how long they crawl in the dark for - all he knows is Khun's steady movements, the faint luminescence of Khun's hair.  Bam grunts when Khun stops abruptly and Bam ends up with his face in Khun's ass.  He backs up immediately, apologies shushed by a blue-eyed stare.

"We're there," Khun whispers.  "Be as quiet as you can." He carefully twists the vent aside, jumping out and landing on all fours, all cat-like grace and silence.  Bam follows, footsteps almost nonexistent.  They sneak behind various boxes and crates, until - 

"Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in!" A young woman grins down at them, a silver-haired queen perched on her throne of boxes.  "I didn't realize you would actually try to escape, Khun Aguero Agnis."

Khun freezes.  "Hello, Albelda."

No, no, no! Bam wants to shout.  What are you doing? You're going to get hurt! I'm not going to let anyone get hurt on my account.

He raises his hands in surrender, stepping out of the shadows.  "I'm here.  I'm alone."

Albelda hops down.  "No you're not." She disappears from Bam's line of sight, and Bam tries to sneak back, sneak Khun out of here somewhere. Albelda pops up in front of him.  "Hello there."

"Ah!" Bam stumbles back, crawling away from the woman.  She looks barely older than he is, and he's twenty-seven and stuck with a permanent baby face.  He swallows, standing to his feet, knees bent, arms crooked and ready to throw a punch at any moment's notice.  Rachel told him that girls should never get hurt, but Bam thinks that can be changed - girls can hurt boys too.  Stay calm, his martial arts trainer Ha Jinsung used to tell him, you might be in dangerous situations, but you must stay calm.  You cannot be in tune with your body if you aren't in tune with your mind too.  "Stay back!"

Albelda has the gall to laugh.  "You know, you're pretty cute, Agent Jyu Viole Grace.  I wasn't here to hurt you anyway."

"It's Special Agent Jyu Viole Grace," Bam snaps.  "What do you want?"

"Well, it's simple! I want out of White."

Bam blinks.  "What.  You've been killing with your siblings for years, and you've only decided you want out now?"

She pouts.  "Well, now that you put it that way, I sound like the villain.  But yes, I want out, and I want out now.  I'll help you guys get out, and in exchange, you arrest my siblings.  I want Hoaqin to rot."

"What did you say you want, sister dearest?" Albelda goes stock-still at the sound of the new voice.  It sounds slimy.  Bam hears the shink! of a sword - White's signature murder weapon - being drawn, and a feminine scream that sounds like Endorsi.  Anaak cries out for her aunt.  "Repeat it, or I'll slit this bïtch's throat."

Albelda turns around slowly, no fear on her face although her body is tense, stiff, showing signs of fear that Bam is accustomed to seeing.  Everybody is there - Hwaryun, Rak, Yuri, Shibisu, Hatz, a sleeping Lauroe slung over Hatz's back like a backpack.  Maybe they aren't Hoaqin's only hostages.  "I said fück you, Hoaqin."

Hoaqin grins, white teeth flashing.  There's red painted around his eyes - is it bright red eyeshadow, or is it blood? "Good girl, Albelda."

Albelda grits her teeth, insults trapped in her mouth.

Hoaqin drops Endorsi, who stumbles towards Bam, gasping for breath.  Bam gladly allows her to hide behind him.  "What do you want, Hoaqin?" It seems like Khun has assumed the role of leader for their little group of hostages.  "If you want me to beg for you to spare my life, I won't do it."

"Oh, my pretty, prideful little kitten." Hoaqin slices a thin cut across Khun's cheekbone, lapping up the dripping blood with his tongue.  Khun flinches.  His fists are clenched, his eyes a stormy ocean.  "What a pity.  It doesn't taste good when you're not scared."

"Step the fück away from him," Bam snarls.  His voice doesn't even sound like his own.  "Backup should almost be here by now.  You're under arrest, and I'll do everything in my power to make sure you rot in jail."

"Oh? What power do you have?" Hoaqin waves his sword experimentally, but Bam refuses to back down.  Hoaqin reaches out towards him, but Bam grabs him by the wrist before he can come any closer, golden eyes burning like hellfire.  "Such a cute face.  What a waste it would be if I had to damage it, hmm?" He snaps his fingers.  "David, bring me Cullinan.  I want his head."

Nobody responds.

"David, my sharp sword! Now!"

Still, David does not respond.  Hoaqin finally turns around, and spots David lying on the floor, unconscious.  Yuri is rubbing her thigh.  "Ah, I haven't done any kickboxing training in so long," she says with a grin sharp as shark teeth.  "I'm a little rusty.  Say, Special Agent Grace, would you like to go kickboxing with me some time?"

Bam shrugs.  "Sure! I haven't done much kickboxing."

"Anna!" Hoaqin barks.  "Off with her head! Shut her up!"

The apparent Anna is little more than a child, probably around Anaak's age.  The look in her grey eyes is dull.  "No."

Hoaqin's eyes widen.  "No?"

Anna shakes her head vehemently, clutching her massive pink toy rabbit in a vice grip.  She ambles towards Yuri, hiding behind the woman's long legs.  "Miss Yuri fixed my bunny's clothes.  Miss Yuri is nice.  Not like you."

Hoaqin growls.  He grabs Khun, forcing him down to his knees.  "If none of you will help me, I'll do it myself!" He swings the blade down.

"No!" Bam tackles him to the ground, wrangling the knife out of Hoaqin's hands.  "Hatz, catch!" The fencer swipes the sword out of the air, his grip firm and experienced.  "Hands behind your head," Bam growls.  He forcefully flips Hoaqin over, pinning him against the ground.  "You're under a-"

"Black Turtle, duck!" Rak roars.

BANG.

Bam stumbles back.  Is that a bullet? Embedded in his chest, mere inches away from his heart? "Oh," he mumbles faintly, watching dark crimson spread across his black shirt, "I'm bleeding out."

"Oh my god," Endorsi frets, kneeling beside him.  "You got shot!"

"No shït," Khun snaps.  "What do we do? Isu, wake Lauroe up.  He's going to bleed out."

"That backstabbing bïtch," Hwaryun mutters.  "Agent Light! Put the gun down, now!"

Bam coughs, and his hand comes away sticky with blood.  He can't feel the pain, only numbness.  "Rachel...?"

"Yura's there too," Khun says grimly.  "Don't focus on her.  Focus on you.  Deep breaths."

"Plug up the wound," Lauroe orders with a tone of a man who's good at his job but would much rather be doing something else.  "Don't want to risk a collapsed lung."

Khun rips the sleeve off his shirt without hesitation, tearing it with his teeth and pressing it against the wound.  "What else?" His hands are covered with Bam's blood, and he swears violently.  "I can't believe I never saw this coming."

"You're not psychic, Khun," Hwaryun tells them calmly.  "We have a plan.  We'll go through with it."

"He's injured!" Khun snaps.  "There's no way-"

"He has been injured worse," the redhead says, still calm as ever.  "He is not our god without reason."

Bam has no idea what they're talking about.  He has no idea what's going on, actually.  Rachel is ranting and raving about him being a monster, screaming about him being better than her, being more loved than her despite how hard she tries to beat him.  Saving lives and catching criminals isn't a competition, isn't it? Bam can feel his vision growing fuzzy, despite Endorsi patting his cheeks and begging him to stay awake.  Even Yuri is crouching beside him, assisting Khun.

"Awaken, my god," Hwaryun whispers.

Hwaryun's words repeat in his mind like a mantra, a voice in his head whispering words of death, betrayal, slay them all

Bam feels his vision go black.

Hello, boy.  The voice in his head sounds like omnipotence, like the possibility of power thrumming in his veins, the ability to save everyone.  Who does it belong to? I am you, the voice whispers, I am the monster you hide inside you. With me, you can save everyone.  I know a way.  Is there really a way? Bam refuses to put everybody in danger.  Do not worry.  You are the ace hiding up the Guide's sleeve.  A secret hiding in the Treasure Cat's bag.  Together, we can be the Joker.  Unpredictable.  Slay the Queen of your heart, and everything will be alright.  Is the voice telling him to kill Rachel? She betrayed you! She tried to shoot you, boy! Are you still loyal to her? The voice sounds angrier, a hissing growl.  Is this why Hwaryun calls him her god? Because of this strange power that lurks and speaks to him?  Use your instincts, boy.  I will take care of your body, take care of your friends, if you let me take over your mind.

Bam takes a deep breath.  There are things he fears more than his own death.  "Alright." His voice is a whisper, drowned out by the rush of blood and power in his veins.  "Let's do it." Jyu Viole Grace opens his eyes, gold replaced with inky black.  

The voice in his head calls for death.

Viole moves seamlessly, limbs moving in tandem with each other.  When Hoaqin charges with his blade, Viole dodges, fleet-footed but steady.  His body does not belong to himself.  He fights like a dance, a tango with death itself.  Hoaqin slashes with his sword, but Viole grabs the blade and snaps it in half.  Where does that inhuman strength come from? A single punch to the gut sends the serial killer flying.

"Don't come any closer!" Rachel shouts.  The hand in which she holds her gun shakes and trembles like Yura, who is hiding behind her.  "Or I'll shoot!"

"Spare me your bullshït," Viole hisses.  His words are not his own.  Bam feels trapped in his own mind.  But he'd done it out of his own free will, hadn't he? He set the beast free to save people.  "You and your jealousy.  He has embraced me.  You will only hinder our progress!"

"You're mad!" Rachel shrieks.  "You monster! The power of the Thorn should've been mine!"

Viole reaches forward and wraps a hand around Rachel's throat.  His eyes are blank.  "Don't you know?" Rachel gasps for breath as Viole begins to squeeze, a dark smile on his face.  "We're all mad here."

Bam wants to scream.  The Thorn - is that the name of his secret power? Rachel is - was - his friend! He can't become a killer.  If he kills, he's no better than Hoaqin.

Viole lets go, but not before wrenching the gun out of Rachel's hand.  She screams as her fingers snap.  "Be grateful that Bam is merciful.  If I were him, I'd have killed you long ago."

The power of the Thorn bleeds out of his veins, retreating into his head.  Bam stumbles back.  The wound on his chest doesn't hurt.  Is he even bleeding? He glances down.  The bullet is trapped under a layer of skin, red and angry but fixed.  "What the- I'm healed."

Rachel looks terrified of him, as does Yura.  Hoaqin has been knocked out - did he do that? Hatz and Vicente are standing next to each other, kinship blooming between them in the two swordsmen's wariness of the golden-eyed cop.  Even Anaak and Endorsi look scared of him, Hwaryun the same although there is awe and pride in her eyes.  "Whoa," Shibisu whispers, "what the fück, dude."

Bam could not sum that up any better.

Rak laughs.  "Ha! Black Turtle is indeed good prey! Fight me, Black Turtle!"

"He just got shot!" Khun yells.  He rushes over to Bam, a trail of blood leaking from his cheekbone.  "Oh my god, you got shot.  How are you still standing? Does it hurt?" He frets.  Bam shakes his head faintly.  "Your hands-" Bam looks down.  There's a stripe of blood where he'd grabbed Hoaqin's blade.  Bam gives it a shake.  "Holy shït, what are you doing? You're going to make it bleed more- It's not bleeding.  Can I- Uh-" 

"He wants to check your chest wound," Lauroe mumbles.  "But if you unbutton your shirt he might faint.  Endorsi most definitely will.  Less possibility for Yuri."

Bam blinks.  "Oh! Okay.  Uh." He rips his shirt off, wiping the remainders of blood off.  "I can still see the bullet." It's right there, under the surface of his skin.  "Poking it is probably a bad idea, right?"

"Very bad," Hwaryun agrees.  "SWAT's finally here.  Took them forty-five minutes.  I'm going to file a complaint."

Bam yawns so widely his jaw nearly unhinges.  "I'm tired.  Gonna take a nap."

He's out like a light before he even hits the ground.


"He's going to be okay, right?" Is that Master Jinsung? He sounds so worried.

"I don't think my god knows how to die.  Even if he were going to, I wouldn't let him.  You know that." Hwaryun sounds too amused.

Light filters through Bam's eyelids, and he groans, fingers twitching in a pathetic attempt to shield himself from the brightness.  "Switch the light off," he groans.  Where is he?

"This is a hospital," Hwaryun deadpans.  "Dr Phonsekal just did surgery on you to take out the bullet.  Free of charge, considering the fact that you saved him and the rest of the hostages."

"That's nice," Bam mumbles.  "Where's Rachel?"

He whines when a hand smacks into his forehead.  "She shot you, and you're still asking where she is?"

"Yes?" Bam slowly sits up, his bangs a brown curtain shielding him from the light.

His master ruffles Bam's hair.  "We're just glad you're alive, kiddo.  But you've got more stuff to worry about than Rachel."

"Like what? I mean, she tried to shoot me."

Master Jinsung's eyebrow twitches.  "Where'd you get all that sass from, Viole?" Bam eyes Hwaryun, who looks away, whistling innocently.

Bam winces upon hearing loud screeching from outside.  "What do you mean I can't go in and see him?" Hwaryun rolls her eyes.  Endorsi, she mouths with a wrinkled nose.  Bam chokes on his laughter.  "He saved my life, and you're not even going to let me thank him? What kind of monster are you?"

The brunette winces.  Maybe the monster is the one who saved her life.  "I want to check on him too," another voice protests.  Is it Yuri? "He said he'd go kickboxing with me, and then he got hospitalized!"

"You asked him out on a date?" Endorsi shrieks.  "Does he even like you?"

"You should be asking yourself the same question," a sly male voice replies.  Khun! "I just want to ask if he's planning on a change in career.  Rak's a useless bodyguard.  He let us both get kidnapped."

"Oi! Blue Turtle!" Rak protests.  "You played a part in that too! You never blame yourself, Selfish Turtle!"

"I'm going to fire you, stupid gator!" Khun threatens.  "He's cute, and he knows how to fight! Give me a reason why I shouldn't replace you!"

"Hah? You can't hire him as a bodyguard if I hire him first!" Endorsi retorts, jumping into the fray.

"Why do you even need a bodyguard?" A familiar swordsman asks calmly.  "Getting kidnapped is a once in a lifetime thing.  You can just throw your shoes at people if they try to grab you and run.  Do I need to teach you how to stab people?"

"Hatz," Shibisu begs, "stop picking fights."

Bam slides back under the blankets.  He peers out at Hwaryun and Master Jinsung with wide golden eyes.  He tucks himself away from sight, away from the chaos.  "Just pretend I was never awake."