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Funeral of Red Blooms

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The forest is in turmoil.

 

Beware, the trees whispered urgently. Actively warning with hushed tones, deep fear was imminent in their sturdy forms as they sway side to side—almost enough to uproot themselves.

 

Beware, they continuously utter the message without fail. Desperation thrummed on the ground as the winds carried the information. Spreading the news to all creatures of the forest, they aim for a way to save themselves from the overwhelming force of destruction and bloodbath.

 

Beware, as the word circulates enough to reach the creatures unnamed, soon enough the howls and cries of agony fill the sky.

 

The message was clear— surviving isn’t possible.

 

Hope collapsing into smithereens. It was enough to render half the entirety of the forest to instantly crumble and shrink. Flowers quivered in fear as petals painted the soil. Plants withered. Fairies and animals immediately hid in their homes as the rivers shut silent.

 

Beyond yonder, a storm set to fall will bleed the lands crimson.


 

There are much more than what meets the naked eyes can see.

 

hear here, we welcome,

oh you, weary and tired heart.

 

Heart on throat as anguish ate the young and disappointed heart, a child no older than fifteen carefully wiped his tear stained and blistered cheeks. Shirt stained with droplets of blood mixed with bile, what was supposed to be a pristine white silk cloth was now tattered and untidy like a rag. Boots filled with dirt, his hurried footsteps made no room for any interruptions.

 

Here in the forest, the teenager eagerly tracks the path to salvation. Unstoppable sobs escaped on trembling lips as the determined eyes furiously searched, he eagerly followed the trail of footprints on the soil— an evident sign he was on the right direction. Pushing the elongated branches to clear the path, a stray leaf cut his skin as if warning him to stop and go back... but he paid no attention. Desperation licked dangerously on the depths of hurt heart, and he willed himself to never let the red signs, haunting howls, and cries of beasts deter him.

 

Fortune favors the bold, so will he.

 

In his early childhood days younger than twelve, he never felt inclined to cross this path; rather, he never needed to. Only those who are in dire need to let their fury be taken care off would ever cross this thorny passage.

 

in the woodlands, tucked away,

 

Dark and deep in the forest, shrouded with seemingly endless fog, covered in padded ferns and home to mischievous creatures— refuge resides.

 

The lad had been very desperate, he thought that there was no other choice left. He wanted a way to let his frustrations out on the world without anyone knowing that a mere existence as young as him could harbor rotten feelings. Like a dirty secret he wanted to keep this unforgivable cruelty hidden, until he could no longer breathe. For now, he just needed a release, an outlet.

 

As if the gods were punishing him, his entire day went with a train of misfortunes and failures as it pushed his will to limits. The day had been very very unwelcoming to him.

 

First— training for almost a month just to qualify for the tryouts in the track and field club, he didn’t get picked. Even after practicing until he passed out, his efforts were fruitless.

 

Second— after stressful and sleepless nights of diligently reviewing his lessons weeks before examinations, he still received a failing mark. Even after putting up with the stress, pressure, and his mother’s ear-splitting nagging just to raise his scores, all of it was futile.

 

Third and the final straw— he knew that with all these messed up plans, he’d receive another round of judging looks and hurtful words, this time by his parents (not that his bullies were already a good example of that). All he ever wanted for a rough day was a pat on his head and a, “You did well, that’s okay” reassurance but he knew for sure that it was possible.

 

Nothing was just going his way.

 

He needed something to vent out this hatred and what better way to have a fix is going to the cabin in the woods. It had always been a tradition to venture the path on the forest whenever malady befalls anyone in their village.

 

If one is desperate enough to seek comfort in any possible form, the path won't be difficult to spot.

 

The elders always preached that the place has the capability to solve every dilemma betiding anyone, regardless of how ridiculous and complicated it is. All of the frustrations, hatred and loneliness would disappear once they visited that place… only with one condition.

 

No matter what happens, be as cruel and violent as you can ever be.

 

Welcome to any age, open to everyone with receiving and cordial arms, it is a paradise awaiting your frustrations to be heard. All a person has to do is liberate their wrath out on the world. Free the wicked desires and vile emotions in the one and only lodge hidden deep in the forest, the only place surrounded by a set of violet-capped mushrooms and crimson blooms.

 

Booted foot crushing dried leaves, the child’s rushed movement immediately came to a stop upon reaching the desired destination.

 

Scattered fallen trees and leaves, decaying wood against wood and the pungent smell of dirt mixed with iron, here is where the desperate ones seek refuge. Welcome to the infamous place for the hearts of weary and broken. Enter the poor excuse of shelter in the hopes of extinguishing misfortunes and despair clouding the heart.

 

Welcome to the garden of red blooms.

 

Thundering heartbeat paired with ragged breath, beads of sweat painted the smooth skin, finally, the long search of the child met its end.

 

down the beaten path,

peeking among shrubs

and angered blooms,

 

Hesitant hazel orbs trailing on the rundown cabin, his eyes immediately caught sight of the words etched on a bright red ink with the repulsive handwriting. The signboard, as if made on a mere afterthought, was haphazardly placed on top of the wooden door as it swayed side to side, barely hanging itself from falling.

 

[ Here in the forest dark and deep,

we offer your despair eternal sleep.]

 

Heels unconsciously sauntering towards the shack, upon closer inspection he instantly felt the first wave of nausea hit his gut as realization slapped his face. Blood. The haunting notice was written with blood. The familiar filthy and acrid smell he always hated grew stronger and suffocating as he came closer to the residence.

 

[ Before you enter,

look beside the door,

pick a stone or a wood,

then light up that little lantern

and you’re good.]

 

Following the instructions, the teen’s unsteady heartbeat began to accelerate as he tightly held the gleaming lantern and pocketed a few rocks. The whole ordeal screamed disaster, but the teen’s desperate heart won over any alarms— this was it, there was no going back.

 

He opened the door and entered.

 

[ Remember child,

be as cruel as you could. ]

 

Curiosity always killed the cat… but this time, will satisfaction bring it back?

 


 

Logic dictates to fear what the mind cannot understand and hate which cannot be conquered.

 

Young or old, humans have always been selfish. Between fight or flight instincts, they would always choose to fight to save their own lives. When one is faced in an uptight situation, their true colors concealed deep inside the hearts of hearts would emerge— they would let others bleed rather than bleed themselves.

 

Humans, one way or another are inevitably and eventually vile creatures— some are just best at hiding their lengthy and twisted horns.

 

Mortals, as they are also called, will fight for whatever they believe is right. Whether such beliefs are morally or lawfully correct, they’d fight tooth and nail, even in death just to prove it. However, not everything a mere mortal perceives correct will always be the truth.

 

Oh, how humans always liked to play god.

 

Like a moth flying towards a flame despite the danger it entails, it has always been human nature to seek meaning to everything. Humans always seek for the purpose behind anything and everything— why, where, when or how it even happened. However, when humans cannot find the reason behind something, that’s when the dilemma starts. Mortals will find any conceivable way to provide definitions even if it is considered the most absurd thing.

 

If they cannot understand, they won't know how to relate— it threatens their security, their existence and their worth. Let’s face it, people are afraid of the things they cannot fathom and so do you.

 

Today, thirty years ago, a newborn was left in a remote and concealed village. This baby set all of the principles and beliefs of their people upside down.

 

Being peculiar has never been a good thing to narrow minds. The emergence of something strange would result in a feast of wildest assumptions to its origin. Who would trudge the path of our hidden village? Why would they even leave their child in this far-away place? What if it has a curse, it will bring misfortunes on our land!

 

The baby, still struggling to even breathe gulps of air was also seen possessing a detailed birthmark on the heel of his right foot. Painted in crimson and raven, shaped as a sword piercing an apple and resembling the God of War and Death’s symbol, astonished the whole crowd. As if the insignia wasn’t enough to ring all the alarm of red signs, the final straw of it all was the unstoppable cries and howls of the beasts unnamed shook the ground, the ear-splitting sound never stopping until someone picked up the infant.

 

“An abomination!” Nobody cared who uttered such hateful words, all it mattered was the child is deemed evil and therefore must cease to exist.

 

Sharper than any two-edged sword, once a rumor spread by the tongue blew out of proportion, the poison it scattered around will serve as an unfortunate truth. Astonishment and devastation seeping through the villagers’ hearts, from that moment on, the child’s life has been decided.

 

then the cabin,

 

The black sheep among the herd, he was kept hidden.

 

By the grace of gods, it has been pure luck that killing an infant merely a few weeks old is still frowned upon in their ancient village. Hence instead, they gave him a punishment worse than being imprisoned. As if possessing a hideous curse, the child, even barely reaching any sense of thought or awareness is deemed to be locked deep inside the woods.

 

Away from the eyes of any sign of life and companion, he must spend an eternity of life in isolation.

 

As the words of the elders are law, his life was reduced to nothing but a threat to their village. Like a dirty secret, the young dreamer was deemed to be the rotten apple among others, treated as a harbinger of calamity and bad luck.

 

Just to pretend that he doesn’t exist just as so they could live an ignorant and innocent life, he was hidden deep in the forest, underground. His existence would only be deemed important when their furies needed to be controlled. A punching bag. He was treated as just a hollow piece of shell served to take the wrath of people, he was neither seen as a human nor a living thing— treated worse than livestock. A demon. They think that he wasn’t human and that gives them the right to be cruel. It had been a great mistake for him to be brought into their village.

 

Every malady stumbling on each villager’s path is blamed on him.

 

Everything, every little thing, even to the most absurd ones is his fault. Drought, fruitless harvest and a storm that left their crops destroyed— it was because of him. A dispute between the elders, a man beat up his wife and daughter, and even a child who received a low mark on their test. It was his fault. Everything and anything was because of him. It doesn’t matter if all these misfortunes and accusations threw on him were irrelevant to his existence, all of it would be regarded as his mistake.

 

With just the sign of the God of War and Death embedded on his skin, his life was put through a series of unlucky events.

 

The people needed someone to blame for all their sufferings, and he was the easiest fix to tame all the anguish living inside their hearts. He was the easiest target to unleash all the buried rotten desires. Nobody dared to question if what they were doing was right, they could pretend that they were innocent, that they weren’t vile humans. As long as the creature lives despite all of the torment they had done, questions aren’t needed.

 

Being alive was better.


Being dead was better.

 

The life of someone held captive for almost all his life consisted of only three things— darkness on sight, cold seeping on skin, and pain.

 

Lots and lots of pain.

 

Blinding darkness stained the four corners of cold walls as the stench of pee mixed with human waste, metallic aroma of bleeding wound and decaying food, permeated on the godforsaken place. The constant drops of water leaking from the ceiling was the only music present in the area. Occasionally, the rare sounds of clinking chains of metal clashing against metal echoed in the deafening vicinity as a sign of movement to an existing life.

 

What was supposed to be a habitable area for a living human being became hell personified.

 

Biting cold seeping on his tattered, wounded and pale skin, for as long as he could even remember, the cloth on his body has never been enough to provide the warmth he always yearned to feel. On worse days, the torment of the unfriendly weather becomes too much to bear as he couldn’t even feel his flesh and bones, but he reckons it was still even better than feeling all the stabbing pain his wounds offer.

was a soul who serves,

for your relief.

 

In this cold, cramp and poor excuse of home, lived a creature shunned by the whole village whose purpose only served as an outlet for all their frustrations. Welcome to the ancient dreamer’s humble abode.

 

The creature liked to dream. In his child-like state of mind, there was a voice inside his heart shouting to the silent walls of how he desperately wanted to flee and see the outside world. He dreams of many things— of things that are the opposite of this hell. He uses his imagination to dream of how the world would look beyond this cold and cruel four walls, but most of the time, he has tons of questions. If he were able to escape, would everything still hurt? Will it be warm? Will he be able to see more than just pure darkness? Will he hear more than the dripping sounds of water on the walls and words of profanities? Will he be able to smell more than just the pungent decaying objects and tangy aroma of blood?

 

Will someone be there to hold him?

 

Dreaming was an escape, it was the only thing he had from all the things he was forsaken with. It was all he could ever do whenever momentary peace visited his humbled abode. The silence was his friend but, most of the time it was noisy.

 

On this day, it had been incredibly noisy.

 

Beyond the darkness, the echoing sound of hesitant footsteps filled the vicinity. Sooner than later, a teen holding an ancient lantern came close to the cell and disturbed the brief peace blanketing the area.

 

The closer the sounds echo on his ears, the more the young dreamer felt the usual fear creeping on his tattered skin. He prepared himself for the soon incoming pain that always ravaged his sanity from inside out.

 

“Oh my— shit,” a whisper, the sound could barely be heard in the dead silence but it was enough to send a whimper on the body lying inside the cell to cower in fear. The stranger took a trembling step back until his feet hit a stray rock and fell on his butt, the sight that welcomed the visitor’s eyes shook it’s heart with dread.

 

Heart on throat and a sob escaping on the teen’s lips, he took a closer look at the laying creature, or whatever it was supposed to be. Ghost-like complexion, skin marred with countless fresh and scabbing wounds, mangled limbs twisted in different directions and possessing an incredibly unkempt, greasy, and long hair was illuminated on the lantern. It is a miracle the person is still alive from all of the evident persecution of the village.

 

“M-monster,” Lips unconsciously moving on its own, he barely processed how the creature came out to be like that, he knew for sure there was no way a human could look something that hideous.

 

It barely looked anything human, anymore.

 

For a brief moment, the gears on his head started working. Ah, this is why— this monstrosity was the reason, this monster is the reason for all misfortunes.

 

He visited this place for the first time in the hopes of extinguishing the onslaught of anger and fear in his heart. It was not fair, just because he couldn’t accomplish what his parents wanted for him, he had to face the consequences. He didn’t want to be nagged, grounded and suspended from playing video games. He could not accept it, it wasn’t fair. It was this creatures’ fault, it was it’s fault why it happened.

 

Palms scrambling on the cold floor, the teen picked a stone, hastily threw the object and brutally landed directly at the creature’s head. “D—Demon!” As soon as the teen did the first hit, the rain of stones became unstoppable and all of his hesitation dissipated into thin air. Blinded by beliefs and the truth, the teen threw stones over and over until the creature’s skin bleed.

 

“It’s your fault!” Unbeknownst to the teen’s display of cruelty, the dreamer never knew what the words meant. Having no one to teach him anything, he just deduced that everything coming out of anyone visiting this place always meant bad. The tone and emotion lacing the voices were enough to communicate what his mind cannot understand.

 

It was painful.

 

He could not understand why he had to be hit and be subjected to this cruelty. Tears always streamed down his cheeks, he didn’t need to stop them as they seemed to never cease to flow like a dam. He knew it was no use to argue, all he could do was endure and let them stop on their own. Words were something he could never understand and say, being hit like this was better than other things. He could take this, he could endure the pain from the stones— this was the least of all the list of things he’d already experienced.

 

Being hit was hundred times better than being forced.

 

There were many many things to get scared of, many times he wanted to beg them to stop. Times where he wanted to use words and his voice to utter his pleas. If he refused or showed any sign of resistance they’d hurt him even more, they’d break his jaw when he refused to open it, force his legs open when he rejects it. In his disheveled state, he always tried to escape from their clutches. At times, there were many of them using his body. It doesn’t matter if he looked hideous or distorted, desperate ones would always do what it takes to satiate the need burning deep inside.

 

The root of the problem doesn’t lie on him nor his body, it was on their evil mind.

 

Barely alive nor breathing, once they’ve gotten what they came for, they’d leave him to die. Being dead was a lot better but, it just seemed to never come. Immortality or his inability to die was a tragedy he could not escape, and this fueled the villager’s assumption that he was truly a monster— a spawn of the devil by the God of War and Death.

 

It was normal to treat him as a punching bag and they never needed to ask questions if they were the right thing to do. Questions would lead to another unknown, and they never needed something like that.

 

However, heed the chaos,

trees have voices,

flowers have eyes.

 

The life of ignorance continued, until a group of travelers came.

 

Visitors were very rare. The village was far away from any form of civilization, hence the reason for superstitious belief. Everybody knew everyone in the village and the people who left were very few, but never came back. The last time another human being came through their village was put into an unfortunate fate of isolation, so it had been a great commotion when a group of six women, three men and a pair of teens came stumbling on their small town.

 

The group looked like a peculiar set of family, nothing in them screamed being blood-related and yet anyone could see that the bonds they held were stronger than life and death. Accompanied with a dragon, they looked worn and weary from a long drawn out battle, their cloaks were beaten and tattered, weapons hung loose on their bodies, hands filled with various scars and yet… they looked hopeful of something. They are a family, a group of strangers brought together by a single person and underneath it all— a palpable dangerous aura surrounds them.

 

The group was in search of a person.

 

“Where is he?” The acting leader of the group interrogated, cutting through the chase as soon as he stepped foot on the village. He asked no one in particular, but his voice screamed for attention with how loud and composed it was. The trees shook momentarily for a brief moment, almost mistaken as a gust of wind blowing on the village. The man was tall, looked incredibly impatient and despite the calm tone of his voice, it was laced with urgency and need.

 

The man looked incredibly handsome, enough to rival the gods.

 

The villagers couldn’t notice how the man's voice was tinged with yearning as if every passing moment was dreadful. However, instead of providing help and answers, silence was all that welcomed him and the villagers seemed to be lost with this request. The individuals then ask among themselves, wondering who it was they needed.

 

“Who?” A person from the crowd eventually asked.

 

He holds the soul of a god,

who brings blood on its wake.

 

First warning. The nonchalant reply set the man off and anger painted his face, “Where is he?!” He repeated instead and didn’t elaborate. He answered a question with another question he previously spoke, uttering it even louder and this time, it was unmistakable how the trees swayed with the sheer force as some of them were uprooted and fell.

 

The incident shocked the people and yet none of them could still comprehend what was happening. As the man’s demeanor grew to be irritating and forceful, it annoyed few of the people and some tried to remove him from their town only to drop dead like a ragdoll before they could even touch him.

 

Seeing the way one person died didn’t deter the foolish hearts of the villagers, it even ignited a fire from another round of pursuers as they tried to contain the man— only to split into half with just a simple eye contact. “D-Demon!” Screams echoed the same time the pool of blood stained the soil and yet the man hadn’t had enough, his eyes trailed on the men trying to run away and all at once their bodies exploded and died.

 

Heart on throat as anger slowly seeped through his heart, his patience was on the verge of reaching its limit. The villagers grew agitated as they saw the scene unfold and soon enough a mob of men tried to harm him. Realization dawned on the man that this confrontation was going to take long, the companions that used to stand by and watch everything unfold now stood next to him and defended their leader from measly humans.

 

Second warning. “Where is he!?” In the middle of the commotion, he uttered the words as a sign of the second to the last warning right before he reached the bounds of his patience— only to have futile answers. “You won’t find them here”

 

Finale. He was furious now, the lack of decent answers and futile fight were tearing his heart apart, he just needed to see him. No, he was desperate to hold his other half. “WHERE IS HE!?“ He roared and knew he had no time to dilly dally anymore, it had been so long. He had been far apart from his other half for three decades, it’s a short time for a God but he’s had enough of it.

 

He just wanted to see him again, why would they do this?

 

Shedding the cloak concealing his armor and sword, insanity crept on his veins as desperation licked on his will. If they would not let him see his beloved then they’d rather all die. Mortals should know when not to stoop low and anger someone greater than them. He’d let their blood be the payment for this disrespect to the God of War and Death.

 

“Joonghyuk, do what you must”

 

Easily nodding from the suggestion of his companion, he unceremoniously started to unsheathe his sword. The man was just about to wield his rapier when his eyes caught sight of the eldest among the elders and thought of something even better to taunt the entirety of the mortals. Letting go of his sword, he strode near the old man in the hopes of finally having his desired answers. Human bodies fell dead on each step. When the elder was within his grasp, his hand immediately reached for the neck and suspended the older with a stranglehold, letting it pathetically chase for air.

 

“BRING ME TO HIM!”

 

Putting up a brave act, the elder refused to show any weakness but soon enough found his old body betraying him. The wrinkly old man couldn’t help but heave for gulps of air. “Take me to him!” he furiously demands, a few moments passes before a staggering nod comes out from the other. Joonghyuk let the elder down but did not release the hand holding the other’s neck with a constant pressure, just an enough warning to not do anything funny.

 

Hesitant and conflicted, the older man complies and leads him to the deepest part of the town, then to the forest. Boots stained with soil, the apparent impatience runs on the God’s veins with his grunts and sighs echoing as they walk. Eating his pride, the God dares not voice his unease and desperation to know if they were anywhere near. The older man used his old body to his benefit, purposely waddling and taking short breaks just to postpone the impending result of his three decade cruelty and sin. He could not even remember how the creature on the cell looked like, or if it was even alive.

 

The old man’s decision to leave the God to his devices was as clear as day, he needed to escape as soon as possible to save his life.

 

Encircled in crimson blooms, the lone cabin in shambles soon welcomes their sight. The elder dares not say a word but instead, leads him closer to the door of the unchained cellar. The elder held the door that has seen more cruelty rather than chains or locks— such devices used to detain a prisoner were not needed for the creature inside isn’t even capable of escaping.

 

Crippled, blind and mute— this was a known fact that all of the villagers knew by heart. The village never needed to provide a guard, he wouldn’t even be able to crawl by himself.

 

Beware the man,

you thought you knew.

 

The elder opened the door but right before they both could enter, the traveler stopped just right in front of the door as his gaze became fixed on the words written on the blood of the person held captive, underground. The aura that surrounded the stranger instantly became horrifying and for a moment, the elder thought he was seeing a glimpse of his death— his neck snapped, head immediately thrown on the floor. A few seconds passed before the elder’s sanity was pulled back, the traveler slapped the hand encasing the door and went inside on its own.

 

As soon as he’s out of sight, the God’s companions unceremoniously guards the cabin and effectively shuts off any unnecessary foul play plotted by the villagers. Although still desperate, inevitable whispers erupt among the villagers as they find a way to save their lives. A few ignorant minds suggested they flee while they could, some even ridiculously went as far ahead of wanting to fight the guards. However, before any of them could even think of a better way to leave, the traveler returns and in his arms was an existence to behold.

 

Poor soul of cruelty, the creature wasn’t even anywhere near being a person. For the first time in their lives, they could now witness the result of their twisted minds and actions. The creature or whatever it was supposed to be, had a body so small for its age and yet its limbs were a jagged long pieces of mess— twisted in an inhumane way, its long hair was matted and stained with grime and carcass of its own excretes, its face were swollen and unrecognizable, wounds and blisters pestered on the skin, and occasionally there were prevalent burns so heart wrenching to imagine the pain.

 

Silence echoed in the vicinity, a few of the villagers gasp, recoil and some even immediately break into tears but this was all the evidence of their ruthlessness. Thirty years, an entire three decades of mistreatment and they still wouldn’t have enough, if it weren’t for the group of travelers stumbling in their village they wouldn’t be stopped. A few of them kneel in silent pleas of forgiveness, while the others fainted from the sight.

 

The companions, upon seeing their family member reduced to nothing but a tangled set of limbs, felt anger bloom inside their chest, they tried to rationalize that maybe what they’re seeing wasn’t the truth or just a usual illusion of despair. They couldn’t believe their eyes, after a long pilgrimage with only one thing in mind, this was all what happened to the person they chose to protect. What used to be their core, their souland heart was treated like garbage.

 

Unforgivable.

 

One of the two teens couldn’t bear the sight anymore, she immediately ran towards their missing member and carefully held what was supposed to be a hand. “My star, what have they done to you?” She whimpers as she brings the skin close to her lips, tears streaming down her cheeks like a waterfall.

 

All it took were those words to finally let everything sink in.

 

“Ungrateful mortals, unforgivable. Unforgivable!” One of the women screamed as she seethed with anger, her eyes were blinded with both fury and sadness as she swiftly wielded her sword once and the grounds immediately split apart. Cloak tearing apart, her long silvery hair came into full view, drawing the humans’ attention from the sudden display of prowess.

 

It was the Goddess of Justice.

 

With the display of anger, the other silent companions were now finally awake from stupor. All at once, their conviction to teach a lesson has been ignited. These mortals deserved to die a miserable death. Nothing could ever serve as payment for all the pain and misfortunes they put their dreamer through. He was just a baby when they left him, but they couldn’t even spare an inch of sympathy for life.

 

Hell’s about to break loose and blood will be shed.

 


 

The dreamer suddenly felt warm.

 

He didn’t know what was happening, the commotion outside rang loud in the underground. The next thing he realized was the sounds of the door opening paired with an unfamiliar footsteps, and then the slow descent of warmth. He couldn’t pinpoint to whom the scent and footsteps belonged to, all he knew from instincts was this is another threat.

 

Another one of them is here to hurt him.

 

Carefully moving his body to shield the fresh wounds from getting hit, he prepared for the worst to come. Curling up, he tried to make his body as small as possible. Deep inside, he knew that doing such actions were useless but he was going to do anything he could to gather less damage.

 

Heart on throat, his first instinct was to fight the stranger despite his sorry state but as soon as he heard a strangled whimper from the other, he felt warm arms reaching for his lithe body. Despite the unfamiliarity, a sense of comfort and safety immediately blanketed him for the first time.

 

“My love” A sob then a sniffle, the stranger released a shuddering sigh. It was odd how beautiful those words sounded in the dreamer’s ears and made his heartstrings move. He felt something soft press on his temple and soon found himself on the arms of the man. He tried to resist again, in fear of everything as a mere ploy to deceive him but the moment his head rested on strong shoulders, he instantly felt like coming home.

 

“My love… I’m so sorry” He heard the man utter more. He couldn’t understand words but his heart ached with an unfamiliar emotion and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

 

Every fiber of his being sung with glee. He felt very safe.

 


 

For a very long time, he had fought a war.

 

He had slayed, killed, bled and let bleed. It was an endless tunnel of blood. For almost three decades, he had fought a fight not even remembering the reason anymore. As the God of War and Death, he used to enjoy the bloodshed but once he found his soulmate— everything changed. He never needed to kill to feel alive. His soulmate was more than enough to light his heart and thoughts aflame.

 

As a God he was prideful and never liked to admit a mistake.

 

But he knew, he knew for sure that what he did was a mistake. A grave mistake that he never knew was possible. Despite his bloodlust for prowess, he always had a soft spot for the mortals. He had frequently helped and fought for them in spite of their greed and injustice. He pitied their small existence and thought that not all of the mortals can be cruel. He had trusted the humans to protect his heart, he gave his mark as a sign for respect. He let the beasts flock around his mate’s baby form as a sign that he was someone to be treasured.

 

And yet, his mate wasn’t treated just.

 

His beloved dreamer was treated worse than an insect. They had burned, bleed and left him to die. He could not imagine how scared and lost his mate felt. His heart ached with sadness and guilt, he shouldn’t have left his lover in the first place. He should’ve just let his beloved stay by his side, by their family where they could assure that he was safe.

 

He knew that humans were capable of something evil but never imagined to this extent.

 

“My love,” he sighed in pure agony as his lips unconsciously found the other’s forehead. He held his mate close to his arms, so desperate for his touch. He had craved to see this home for almost an eternity and he would never let go again.

 

Every fiber of his being screamed of death and chaos. “Dokja…” He called out as he carefully inspected his lover’s body. His heart immediately seethed in fury. He wanted to let the mortals see the result of their brutality and make them realize how rotten they were. He wanted them to remember what his mate looked before they died a gruesome death.

 

He carried his lover and soon they emerge from the tunnel, taking the pungent smell of decay along with them. He holds his lover tight, the dreamer has been whimpering in pain and he could no longer bear his tragic state.

 

Disgust, pity and then regret. He carefully observed the way the villagers’ expressions changed in just a small amount of time. He wanted to laugh hysterically, wanted to retort a sarcastic remark but his companions did it for him.

 

He silently watched how his companions displayed their anger and prowess. He lets them have their fun in persecuting their core’s abusers. He knows that the sight they saw was something no one could’ve expected. They would not let the villagers die that easily and he would have his own way of revenge, too.

 

The dreamer whimpers in pain and his attention immediately gets stolen. Dokja’s instincts had always been to curl whenever in pain and the sight hurt his heart. Now that their bond has been rekindled, he could feel a minimal amount of the excruciating wounds on his own skin.

 

“My love…” He lamented and found himself closing the gap between his lips to the other’s forehead. All at once, the torturous memories of his lover flowed. All the pain, nightmare and fear filled his thoughts to the brim. Heart filling with regret then shame, tears unconsciously flowed in his eyes.

 

Lips quivering and heart-wrenching, he held Dokja tighter. Words weren’t enough, nothing was enough to amend for this mistake. He learned his lesson and he’d make sure to never forget in all eternity.

 

Sighing in anguish, he breathes in and presses a tender kiss on the other’s lips. He lets his power flow to heal and remove the wounds— every burn, blemish and scars to a mere memory. He repairs the dislocated and elongated bones to its normal form. He fills him with their shared memories of the past in hopes of erasing the devastating ones. He helps him remember the times where they met and how their family came out to be. He doesn’t stop until the evident trace of cruelty is gone.

 

He only stops when his soulmate finally regained his original form.

 

Pulling away, his sight was blessed with the beauty of his lover. Tear-stricken starry blue eyes, small smile painting its lips and long silky golden locks. It was a beauty enough to set the whole world in ashes.

 

“You sure took your time” The beauty remarked as its tears flowed, Joonghyuk felt immediate shame only to be surprised when his cheeks got pinched. “It's unfair how even after 30 years you’re still a handsome bastard”

 

Eyes widening in disbelief, as if on cue the couple breaks into a feat of laughter. Joonghyuk had a lot of things to say. He wanted to retort an apology but like always, Dokja suddenly silenced his lips with a mere finger as if he knew what he was just about to do. “You better have a lot of stories to tell me when we get back”

 

And there it was, his lover was still as witty and feisty as it used to be.

 

Joonghyuk felt tears springing on his eyes. The man felt warmth blooming in his heart from relief but couldn’t shake his unease. He wasn’t the best for words and always chose to show his affections through actions. But right now, he wanted to speak but didn’t know what words were the right ones to use. Heart hammering and lips quivering, he felt a lump form on his throat. He couldn't even stop the onslaught of negative thoughts. He needed to say something but as always his lover took his breath away, “It wasn’t your fault, Joonghyuk” He hears him speak again and just for a little while, the train of his thoughts were immediately shut silent.

 

Dokja wiped his cheeks and kissed his eyes, he looks straight at him and smiles. He didn't even realize that he was already crying. Uncharacteristically, Dokja loops his slender arms to Joonghyuk’s neck and clung to him tighter “I want to go home, Joonghyukie”

 

Understanding painting Joonghyuk’s face, “Yes, my love”

 

A scream breaks their little bubble and the magic is broken. The companions briefly saw the exchange of the couple and set the finale for the entrance of their leader.

 

He wants them to experience punishment worse than death.

 

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” He starts as the companions realize what he is aiming for. They immediately huddle up to encircle the couple as if a protective barrier. The villagers were left dumbfounded for a brief peace.

 

He wants them to bleed.

 

“For your insolence to the soulmate of God of War and Death, this village shall receive punishment worse than death. Like a funeral of red blooms, I curse all of you and your descendants to bleed in eternity.” He uttered the words loud and menacingly. Screams rang deafeningly in the sky as the people waited for their inevitable cruel fate to come. Some tried to run, only to immediately get swallowed by the ground.

 

As if nature can foresee the impending danger, howls and cries of beasts filled the blackened sky.

 

“I strip all of you the freedom of mobility, your bones shall never function the same way again.” All at once, the people lost their capability to even stand up as they laid on the ground helplessly, moaning and writhing in pain.

 

“I bestow all of you scabbing deep wounds all over your bodies. All of your skins shall never heal, insects will always pester on your blisters as they chew on your flesh for food” Wails and cries of pain sprung on the villagers as they beg for help.

 

“Stripped of sight and voice, all of you shall never die and forever grieve in silence. Here in the forest dark and deep, I offer you eternal suffering.” He threw the words etched on the cabin back at the impudent lads.

 

He wants them to suffer in eternity.

 

The forest becomes a distant view in the sky, when they rode the dragon to voyage back home. In all his fierce glory, Joonghyuk couldn’t help but spare an unforgiving set of eyes on the ocean of red below. What was supposed to be a place for blooms of thousands of flowers were now filled with crimson, he had made sure to blanket the vicinity with a potent curse to never be seen nor crossed. The muffled cries that reverberated were heart-wrenching and the sight was intolerable, he knew it was cruel but they deserved every bit of the punishment. They've never spared an ounce of mercy to his mate, then so will he. Too preoccupied with his anger, he barely notices the person that reached out to embrace him. Flinching for a moment, he immediately relaxes as he feels the familiar weight and presence holding him.

 

“Joonghyuk” gentle blue eyes stared straight at him as a hand reached out to cup his cheeks. Emotions overflow inside his chest as butterflies danced on his stomach, he couldn’t help but envelope his hands to the other’s. He wanted to say many things but all he could ever muster were simple words. “I missed you… my love”

 

Dokja immediately graced him with a beautiful smile and then before he knew it, his cheeks were cupped as a pair of lips pressed against his own. “Welcome back, my love. You are my greatest gift.”

 

“Happy birthday”

 

“I’m home”

 


 

The forest is in turmoil.

 

Rejoice, the trees whispered urgently as they aimed to spread the news far and beyond. Filled with apparent glee, they sway side to side and actively paint the soil with petals from the sprouts on their branches.

 

Rejoice, they continue to utter as the flowers and shrubs sing in tandem. The buds that have yet to show its beauty, bloomed in grace as they painted the lands a beautiful hue. Cubs and baby animals came out of their homes to play. It was a day of great celebration.

 

Rejoice, as the news continue to spread among the creatures of the forest, the beasts unnamed hummed in happiness.

 

Beyond yonder, the prince of spring, lover of stories and eternal dreamer finally came home.

 

For he either shall bring,

a garden of blossoms or,

funeral of red blooms.