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Fuck my life. Han Sooyoung bemoaned for the fourth time this hour, reaching up a hand to scrub at her crusty face.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING AGAIN YOU WITCH?”

See, this is the pain in the ass twisting the knife of Han Sooyoung’s hangover headache: a giant of a woman chained to Han Sooyoung at the wrist and acting like an angry feral dog. Han Sooyoung can almost hear her barking.

“Could you keep it down? I have a raging headache.” Han Sooyoung groaned.

“As long as you don’t randomly swing your arm around again.” Jung Heewon growled, snapping their chained hands back in place between them with more force than necessary, which meant it sent the unbalanced Han Sooyoung crashing into Jung Heewon’s side. Han Sooyoung hissed as the handcuff dug painfully into her wrist, looking up to see Jung Heewon smirk in satisfaction. Fuck this woman with her yelling tendencies and her overpowered strength. Han Sooyoung just wanted to rub the grit out of her corners of her eyes or, I don’t know, maybe even scratch her ass. Like normal people do!! Apparently you can’t do anything here!

If someone were to explain the situation that the two of them had gotten themselves into, it would come down to a whole lot of alcohol, a little tendency for heroism, and a massively shitty and rigged Star Stream system.

You see, sometimes Han Sooyoung wants to get away from the sappy found family of Kim Dokja’s Company, where she didn’t exactly feel welcome all the time and really felt like a sore thumb that is now glued to a hand with six fingers. Normally she tolerates this, bullies the kids incessantly, and pisses Yoo Jonghyuk off until he inevitably starts trying to murder Kim Dokja (Han Sooyoung’s favorite bonus). But, sometimes, she wants to wallow in her own self-pity, feed her insecurities and generally feel miserable. It seemed to be a hard-earned time stretch of moping, after experiencing so many life or death situations, other assorted traumatic experiences, and so on and so forth. So, Han Sooyoung got a little drunk. A little, meaning a lot, which included raiding an abandoned post-apocalyptic grocery store and getting absolutely shit-faced with lychee soju. No, Han Sooyoung was not going to do anything drastic, like walk off a cliff in her half-drunk state, but that did mean she had a little, just a little trouble getting back to the place where Kim Dokja’s Company had set up camp for the night.

Han Sooyoung had found herself wandering the forest surrounding the area, god those trees all looked the same, and maybe she was lost? Who in their right mind did not leave a trail of bread crumbs to the campsite like in Hansel and Gretel, or… maybe some beast had eaten the trail up in the middle of the night? A horrible miscalculation on Han Sooyoung’s part. Han Sooyoung found herself crouching near the floor, peering in the near darkness and feeling around for bread crumbs to lead her home.

“What are you doing?”

The palpable annoyance cut through the air as Han Sooyoung turned around and fell back on her hands with a yelp. What the hell was Jung Heewon doing here; was she really so drunk that now she was hallucinating? Han Sooyoung slapped herself on hard on both cheeks to wake herself up.

“How’d you find me? Did you put a tracker on my back or something?” Han Sooyoung slurred, putting up a defensive position to fight Jung Heewon.

Jung Heewon raised her eyebrow. “I was on watch at the campsite and saw some suspicious movement in the forest. Turns out it was just you.”

“I’m really suspicious.” Han Sooyoung grinned. Jung Heewon just stared blankly at her.

“Well,” Han Sooyoung continued. “If that’s all, I’ll be on my way back to my tent now-“

“WAIT YOU-“

Ok. So.

So Han Sooyoung had tripped over her own feet while making direct eye contact with Jung Heewon. Big deal. That didn’t mean that she would’ve broken both of her legs or anything (she’s a capable woman) and that DEFINITELY didn’t mean that Jung Heewon’s morally righteous ass had to grab her and send them both careening through the undergrowth till they had landed directly on an array set in the middle of the fucking forest, which summoned some hard as fuck to break chains. See! Han Sooyoung knew that the Star Stream was rigged to provide juicy content to spice up the broadcast! But surely this trap had been left for Kim Dokja and Yoo Jonghyuk? Hm… oh! Maybe those two had been skulking around in the forest at midnight as well? If so, that rat owed her big time and she was going to make sure she milked every second of it.

In the end, if someone were to direct the blame, everyone would agree that it fell upon Han Sooyoung, as usual. But, in Han Sooyoung’s defense, she hadn’t trusted that Jung Heewon would like her enough to save her from a moderate amount of doom. Or maybe it was a one-time thing, who knows. Well the first thing to clarify would be that Han Sooyoung didn’t predict that she would trip; actually she didn’t think that she would meet Jung Heewon on her midnight excursion anyways. Han Sooyoung is a perfectly capable woman, thank you, and would have been able to get back to the camp no problem. Or, at least, she would have woken up in the middle of a pile of leaves feeling very sore and hungover, but made it back in one piece anyways. Heck, even if Han Sooyoung had somehow fallen directly into the array by some horrible stroke of luck, she wouldn’t be chained to Jung Heewon. The array needed two or more people to be present to even activate so it’s harmless for a lone wolf like Han Sooyoung. So, based on Han Sooyoung’s reasoning, the entire problem of being chained to Jung Heewon was, in fact, all Jung Heewon’s fault. Which is exactly what Han Sooyoung told her after listening to Jung Heewon whine non-stop about their situation. The only good thing was that listening to Jung Heewon rage was very sobering because it reminded Han Sooyoung of how badly she wished she wasn’t in this situation.

It was early morning when Han Sooyoung had been rudely awoken by Jung Heewon’s face close to hers (woke her up quicker than anything) and then rudely explained the situation that they had gotten themselves into. They were still sitting in the array that had caused the whole disastrous situation to occur, the main reason for this being that after tumbling down a hill with Jung Heewon in tow, past Han Sooyoung had decided that was enough excitement for the day and promptly fell asleep and snored through the process of the array lighting up and the chains snapping in place, waking up briefly in the middle to slur out a compliment for how shiny and gaudy the device was before promptly falling asleep again. Jung Heewon had been unwilling to haul her ass back to camp and deal with questions from the rest of the company, so Han Sooyoung snoozed on, face buried in a pile of mulch while Jung Heewon had sat next to her and kept watch responsibly, letting her anger crescendo into a wildfire.

The other reason that Jung Heewon brought up was that there might be clues for how to break the hard as fuck to break chains in the array’s vicinity. Jung Heewon had already tried hacking the chains off to no avail, but could not activate the Judgement Time ability or contact her sponsor for help. That alone did not bode well for Han Sooyoung and her nagging unease was proven right when she attempted and failed to activate her avatar skill. So much for an easy way out, at least for Han Sooyoung. Tch. Stupid array. When Han Sooyoung asked Jung Heewon more questions about what she had done while Han Sooyoung had been unconscious, she answered in short, clipped barks, growing more irritated with each passing answer. In the end she growled at Han Sooyoung unreasonably to “stop prying and go figure it out herself, scheming bitch”. Not suspicious at all of course. Prickly as usual. But Han Sooyoung was not stupid enough to incur Jung Heewon’s wrath for no reason so instead she got up and pulled an unwilling Jung Heewon up with her to scour the premise.

The array was covered by a light scattering of leaves which, when pushed aside, revealed a circle about 20 meters in diameter filled with intricate carvings. Most of the carvings were focused around the outer edge while the rest of the circle mainly included lines trailing out from the center like an exploding star. The engravings along the outside were, of course, unreadable, besides being a different language, some parts of the array had eroded with time, making it impossible to decipher even if Han Sooyoung could understand it. According to Jung Heewon, the array had glowed brightly when they had landed in the middle of it, but right now the array was eerily silent. Well… that probably meant that poking around the array itself wouldn’t do anything other than possibly spawn another pair of chains for their effort. Not the goal. As Han Sooyoung dragged Jung Heewon further from the array, looking for anything out of the ordinary, she saw a large stone tablet, jutting out unnaturally from the ground. Huh. Han Sooyoung half walked, half dragged Jung Heewon to go look at it with her; it felt like Jung Heewon was deliberately being difficult and digging her feet into the ground. Didn’t this woman want this horrible situation to be solved too? Couldn’t she do what Han Sooyoung said for once?

“Come ON Jung Heewon.” Han Sooyoung gritted out, dragging the unmoving block of muscle. “The tablet says how to fix this so let me read it.

Jung Heewon decided to stop being an asshole (was that so hard to do?) and finally let Han Sooyoung walk her over to the tablet.

Han Sooyoung cleared her throat and read the tablet’s crumbling writing out loud.

“Unbreakable Chains of Aphrodite’s Devotion.

© Aphrodite and the Olympus Nebula

Upon the activation of this celestial array, the unbreakable chains shalt remaineth until the bound incarnations, of their own volition, join together in blessed communion and unify their souls. Recommended use: on bickering couples, divorcing parents, eternal rivals. Olympus Inc. is not responsible for any damages or side effects past the release of the chains, up to and including death, disease, and dismemberment.”

Han Sooyoung was POSITIVE that this was meant for that rat and the protagonist. So it was all their fault that Han Sooyoung was in this situation and that meant when Han Sooyoung was done solving this stupid chain problem she was going to strangle Kim Dokja with them no matter how many times he’d already died. This time it would be greatly deserved and cathartic. Han Sooyoung looked over at Jung Heewon, ready to make a snarky comment about how Kim Dokja created problems for everyone by existing, only to see her looking away uncomfortably with a flush creeping up her face. All of a sudden Han Sooyoung understood.

“YOU KNEW!” Han Sooyoung screeched, ignoring her pounding head in favor of repeatedly punching Jung Heewon in all the painful places that she could reach, which would be more if Jung Heewon was kneeling. “You knew and you didn’t tell me!” But something didn’t add up. “…How?”

Jung Heewon shuffled awkwardly under Han Sooyoung’s gaze.

“I asked Kim Dokja.” She muttered.

“YOU DID WHAT?”

“It’s not like I had a choice.” Jung Heewon snapped.

“What do you MEAN you didn’t have a choice? Any choice would have been better than that. Why was that the first thing you thought of anyways?”

Jung Heewon snorted. “While you were out gallivanting to who knows where-“

Han Sooyoung puffed up. “I was doing no such thi-“

“Kim Dokja had gathered the rest of the company that was on camp. Which meant everyone but you and Yoo Jonghyuk by the way.”

Han Sooyoung seethed. How dare she lump the two of them together like a pair of disobedient children!

Jung Heewon continued on. “He told us to be careful around this area because of the many relics of constellations, left behind from the war. Since this is a historically important area, the stories about the artifacts may have gained power through repetition. Although they might’ve been harmless tourist attractions before the Star Stream, there’s no telling what these relics could do now that stories flow freely.”

So that was his explanation for why there was a GIANT ARRAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOREST? This didn’t add up. That stupid bastard, withholding important information again like this; the next time Han Sooyoung saw him she was going to shake out every bit of information that man had been hiding in his pockets.

“So,” Jung Heewon paused. “When we fell into this array, I messaged him and explained the situation to him. He seemed to know of this specific relic and, apologetically, wished me good luck.”

“See?” Han Sooyoung waved her unchained hand around for emphasis. “Messaging him was useless!”

“No… h-he told me how to break the chains too.” Jung Heewon looked hesitantly at Han Sooyoung, growing redder by the minute. What was wrong with her, cat caught the one brain cell left roaming in her head?

“Yeah? I know the solution too! It’s not like he’s the only one with a brain.”

“Well…” Jung Heewon seemed to make up her mind. “that doesn’t change anything!”

“What?”

“Because either way I’m not going to have sex with you!”

What?

Han Sooyoung spluttered and jumped away from Jung Heewon, pulling her with her in her haste to get away. They jostled each other awkwardly before they stood still again, standing as far apart as they could and looking in opposite directions.

“First times are really important! And I’m not going to waste mine on someone like you!” Jung Heewon yelled into the forest, the sound ringing in Han Sooyoung’s ears.

Han Sooyoung was still trying to process what happened.

“I didn’t even offer!” Han Sooyoung yelled back. “And you’re still a virgin?” Han Sooyoung smirked.

Jung Heewon immediately moved to unsheathe her sword and Han Sooyoung put her hands up in surrender.

“It was a joke.” Han Sooyoung muttered. The sword slid back into Jung Heewon’s sheath with a clean shing. Sheesh…

Han Sooyoung changed the topic. “Is that what Kim Dokja told you about the array?” She raised her eyebrow at Jung Heewon. Surely Kim Dokja wouldn’t lie to Jung Heewon and face her wrath. Lying to Han Sooyoung though? That was fair game; hm. Maybe he lied to Jung Heewon to get at Han Sooyoung, but that was improbable.

“He said something about matrimony.” Jung Heewon huffed. “And the tablet said stuff about becoming one too, so isn’t it c-consummation?”

Han Sooyoung moved to face palm but ended up just pulling on the chained arm, causing Jung Heewon to look quizzically at her. Surely Kim Dokja is smart enough to know from the tablet that consummation isn’t the only way to break the chains; there’s always a loophole in these sorts of things especially when they’re worded in such a roundabout way. Unless… he didn’t know about the tablet? Wait, was this something that happened in the original book past the part that Han Sooyoung read? So, Kim Dokja thought sex was the option because the original book didn’t even include the tablet’s contents, or maybe the Yoo Jonghyuk in the book didn’t even bother to read it. Which means…

Nope! Ew! Ew! Fuck Kim Dokja x3 for making Han Sooyoung think about Yoo Jonghyuk doing [redacted]; absolutely not! And to think that Kim Dokja still remembered that part of the book with that much detail… Voyeur?

Han Sooyoung shook her head vigorously to shake those disgusting images out of her head. Focus. She had to break these chains so she could throttle Kim Dokja with them. Important things first.

Jung Heewon was looking at Han Sooyoung like she was insane, but it wasn’t the first time. Han Sooyoung was starting to get used to it.

“I think Kim Dokja’s information is a little misguided.” Han Sooyoung started. Jung Heewon looked like she was going to cut Han Sooyoung off but Han Sooyoung continued. “Let’s take a look at the tablet shall we?”

Han Sooyoung pointed at the crumbling text. “Here, see? ‘Join together in blessed communion and unify their souls’ but it doesn’t say how. It’s not like the chains are sentient (probably) so they’re not going to know if you’re suddenly all happy and “unified” together. So you’re right in that it has to be something physical, but it’s not that complicated. A kiss would suffice.” Jung Heewon made a face at that. How old is she, two? “But, what it’s really talking about is exchanging bodily fluids. If we both licked each other’s elbows, it would still work. Heck, you could’ve even licked my hand and shoved a hair in my mouth while I was asleep and walked away scot free.”

“I wouldn’t do that. You slept on the ground all night. It’s unsanitary.” Jung Heewon pointed out.

Really. That was what she cared about. In this basically post-apocalyptic game world the one thing that Jung Heewon would not stoop as low to do was lick slightly dirty skin. Han Sooyoung had probably done worse things when dared to in college.

“Additionally,” Han Sooyoung drawled. “Here it says it’s meant for “bickering couples, divorcing parents”. Suppose it was active in some past time period; do you think kids would bring their parents here and watch them go at it like bunnies?” Jung Heewon looked horrified. “No; they wouldn’t. Which is why I mentioned the kiss part.” Han Sooyoung sighed. Her headache was coming back again. “Not to mention this array is pretty old. With all the carvings crumbling away like that, it means the stories are not strong enough to sustain the array. It’s possible that if we let the chains be for long enough, it’ll just disappear by itself.”

Jung Heewon sighed with relief. “That sounds like the easiest option. How long would it take?”

“A couple hours? A day? As long as a week?” Han Sooyoung guessed. “How the fuck am I supposed to know. Do you think there’s a calculator for this?” Han Sooyoung snarked.

“A week?” Jung Heewon repeated. Han Sooyoung was having major doubts about this woman’s brain capacity. “That’s way too long! How would we ever fight off monsters while chained together?”

“I never said we should wait for it.” Han Sooyoung groaned. “You think I want to be stuck with your ugly mug for that long? All you have to do is lick my finger.” Han Sooyoung grinned and waggled her finger in the air. Jung Heewon was not amused. “Or are you just sad that you don’t get to have sex with me?”

“How did you get to that conclusion?” Jung Heewon snorted. “I don’t even want to kiss you.”

“Touché.” Han Sooyoung said. She started off again and this time Jung Heewon easily followed her, keeping pace.

“Where are we going?”

“Back to camp.” Han Sooyoung replied.

“What?” Jung Heewon dug her feet into the ground and Han Sooyoung bounced back into her like a slingshot, dragged by the chain. “Why would you do that?”

Han Sooyoung was really losing her patience. She was really not appreciating getting thrown around like a rag doll. There wasn’t much of it to begin with so why does Jung Heewon keep testing her like this?

“You complain about my skin being dirty, so why shouldn’t I go back to camp and get a bottle of water, wash down a patch of my skin and shove it in your mouth?” Han Sooyoung retorted.

“I don’t want to walk into camp chained with you.” Jung Heewon said firmly.

Han Sooyoung threw her hands up in the air. “Why are you so butthurt about that? You hate me so much you don’t want to be associated with me? Is your boyfriend going to start beating you because you spent the night with a girl?”

Jung Heewon wrinkled her brow. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Fine! Whatever! Your relationship isn’t the problem Ms. Sword of Moral Goodness Stuck Up My Ass. The problem is you making this Operation: Take Chain Off Right Fucking Now as hard as possible!”

“I didn’t even know we were part of this secret operation together. Were we in cahoots all along?” Jung Heewon smirked.

“I cannot deal with you right now.” Han Sooyoung gritted. “I am this close to throwing myself at you and dragging you through the ground.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“You’re so short that you couldn’t even reach my neck to strangle me if you tri-“

Han Sooyoung lunged at Jung Heewon before she could finish that sentence, using the full force of her body weight to send both of them crashing into the ground. Although Jung Heewon had been goading her into this, she obviously had not expected Han Sooyoung to actually go through with her threats. Probably since Han Sooyoung had been stupid levels of drunk last night but Han Sooyoung was no quitter, and scrambled ontop of Jung Heewon, grappling with her even though it made her vision spin. She knew she couldn’t win, of course. Han Sooyong could not fairly beat Jung Heewon while in top form, so it only took an instant for Jung Heewon to turn things around, quite literally. Jung Heewon tussled with Han Sooyoung on the floor, getting leaves stuck in both of their hair before she confidently switched their positions and straddled Han Sooyoung, breathing heavily over her. She held both of Han Sooyoung’s hands down to keep her from thrashing around. Han Sooyoung snapped her teeth at Jung Heewon’s nose, just to be a bitch about losing.

“Woah there.” Jung Heewon huffed out a barely perceptible laugh, eyes twinkling, and Han Sooyoung suddenly realized that Jung Heewon had enjoyed that. There were leaves in her hair, dirt on her face, but Jung Heewon still had a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips, that battle-minded freak. This, overall, was absolutely infuriating since that was the completely opposite of what Han Sooyoung had intended to do and in no point in her life did Han Sooyoung want to be bested by one of Eden’s cows, so she heaved herself off the

forest floor and instead of bucking Jung Heewon off, like the other was

expecting, kissed Jung Heewon messily on the mouth. That for sure would piss Jung Heewon off.

The effort was there, but Han Sooyoung didn’t exactly hit the mark, and ended up kissing the right corner of Jung Heewon’s mouth. However, that itself was shocking enough to Jung Heewon, causing her to loosen her grip on Han Sooyoung’s hands. Bingo. Han Sooyoung wrenched her arms free from Jung Heewon’s grasp and tangled both of them in Jung Heewon’s hair, pulling her down for round two. And if Han Sooyoung put her tongue in Jung Heewon’s mouth, it was only to be completely sure the chains would open, Han Sooyoung reasoned with herself hysterically. Not to see how pliant the swordswoman could become under her caress or to feel her breath against her cheek. And surely not to see when the swordswoman would flip things around, cause she always hated to lose, with a punishing glare in her molten eyes.