Renjun was bored. The place was pretty, the food was great and the staff was checking one them more than twice the average client—to which Renjun didn’t have an explanation yet—but he was bored out of his mind.
It wasn’t the fault of the weather, a particularly warm and sunny day, not was it of the place they were, a very cozy little café Renjun had never heard about before.
No, if anything he would like to blame it on his very annoying—albeit absolutely handsome but you didn’t hear it from him—best friend who was seated right in front of him.
The man who decided out of the blue to drop assignments and work to “have fun” as he had said it himself, dragged Renjun along with him—even though Jaemin had the entire student body wrapped around his finger and begging for a date—and then proceeded to spend the whole afternoon on his own cellphone.
At first Renjun though it was something important so he gave Jaemin space to deal with it on his own time. But after he showed something to Jaemin for the fifteenth time and all he received was another “mmh that’s great”, he got annoyed.
(“Are you going to get off your phone?”
“In a minute.”)
At this point, to say Renjun was frustrated was probably the understatement of the century. He was beyond pissed. He tried to have fun, he really did, but the fact that his best friend—and the person who he held the closest to his heart—was busy not paying attention to him was a bit too much to handle.
Huffing, he took out his phone and checked if he had received any news. He had an unread message from Lee Jeno from the morning—something about their group project—but decided it could wait. He shook his head before checking if Jaemin was still busy with his phone.
To his surprise, Jaemin was actually looking at him. More than that, he was staring at him so hard that Renjun got a little flustered.
“What? Do I have something on my face?”
“No, I’m just happy you’re here with me.”
Renjun’s heart did a backflip but he tried to keep a straight face. The fact that he had a big crush on his best friend was absolutely not something he was prepared to face today—nor any other day for that matter.
He gave a little chin movement towards Jaemin’s phone on the table. The screen lit up at this exact moment and, with a deep sigh Jaemin turned the phone around.
“Nothing they can’t handle on their own. I was supposed to spend my afternoon with you and instead I got caught up in this. I’m sorry.”
Jaemin gave him a soft smile and it was all it took to have Renjun melt a bit inside—like who allowed Jaemin to be this perfect—but he noticed that Jaemin never explained what this was.
Rationally, Renjun knew this was probably as much information as Jaemin was willing to share, and thinking back, Renjun realised he rarely ever got any snippets of Jaemin’s life outside of University and the moments they shared together.
It never striked him as odd before. Not everyone had a life they were happy to talk about, and they shared enough common interests for the discussions to flow without ever coming to these subjects. No, Renjun never paid too much attention to what Jaemin was not willing to share before.
Now, it was a different story.
“So, any news from your favorite super hero?”
Renjun knew Jaemin was changing subjects—and doing a poor job at that—but he played along. Partly because he wanted to respect Jaemin’s boundaries and partly because he wouldn’t miss an occasion of talking about the other most important person in his life.
Their city’s own super hero : Nightbolt.
It all started as a rumor, a word going around about a man dressed in all white and fighting bad guys on the regular. Then there was this video that spread around where you could clearly see the man using lightning bolts to fight against what looked like a dozen people, then another one. Soon, there was a new video every day. It took quite a longtime until someone got close enough to actually ask his name but it happened and thus, the story of Nightbolt was born.
At first Renjun didn’t care much for the rumor but one night he got caught up watching videos of him on repeat instead of doing his assignments and his obsession was born.
Not exactly an obsession, more like a very deep interest.
He had tried calling Jaemin that night but failed miserably, but that didn’t stop him from getting informations all the time—he even put an alert on his phone so that he could be aware of any new information.
He talked a lot about it with Jaemin who, despite not sharing the same level of interest, was remarkably well informed.
“Not really, it’s quiet recently.”
“Mmmh, I’m sure he’ll find more bad guys to fight soon.”
“Maybe. But I mean it’s interesting how it happens in waves. Do you think it’s because Nightbolt is busy the rest of the time?”
“Didn’t he help an old lady find her cat once? I’m pretty sure he’ll keep doing superhero duties even when there’s no bad guy to fight.”
“So you think it’s the Phantom who’s busy?”
The Phantom was Nightbolt’s nemesis. Nobody knew anything about him and he barely left any traces behind him, leaving every encounter with Nightbolt unscathed and with a very frustrated superhero.
(He had been seen countless times trashing around after an encounter with the Phantom.)
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for the villain to have work days, does it?”
“Well Nightbolt is not a full time superhero, is he?”
“I don’t think so… But he’s around more often than the Phantom.”
Now that Jaemin was mentioning it, it was true that Nightbolt wasn’t there all the time. But at the same time one could hardly expect to live off being a masked vigilante, right?
He didn’t exactly want to discover Nightbolt’s true identity—it didn’t really matter in the end—but the idea of having crossed path with him unknowingly, maybe knowing him personally, it gave him a feeling of worthiness.
“Do you think I’ve seen him around?”
“I’m sure you have.”
The look Jaemin gave Renjun was enigmatic enough to have all his senses tingling. Renjun stared at him, trying to uncover what was said between the lines. He knew Jaemin well enough to know the boy wouldn’t hint at something without meaning to.
Jaemin just kept on smiling.
A waitress came to their table but Renjun was too caught up in his head to notice. If Jaemin was implying something that meant he knew. But what exactly did he know? There was the possibility that he was a fan too—that would certainly explain how he knew everything all the time—but Renjun had a hard time imagining Jaemin caught up in news every night.
“What can I get you two?”
But there was also the possibility that he knew more than Renjun because he was personally in contact with Nightbolt. Once again, the lack of informations about Jaemin came as another frustrating point for Renjun. That left so many options! Too many for his rational mind to try and test them one by one.
“I don’t know, what do you recommend for a date?”
And as if it wasn’t enough, there was one last possibility : could Jaemin be Nightbolt? That would explain a lot of things too. That would explain everything, actually.
“Oh I’d recommend the Red Passion Cake, it’s perfect for young couples.”
“Perfect, we’ll take that, then.”
The question left his lips on its own. Jaemin simply cocked his head to the side.
“I didn’t know this was a date.”
“It doesn’t have to be, if you don’t want to.”
“No! I mean, yes! I mean, I don’t mind!!”
Embarrassment was not something Renjun liked to feel, and Jaemin clearly didn’t help at all, looking at him with a confused look—and looking absolutely dashing while doing so.
“Do you want it to be a date?”
Renjun thought long and hard. Maybe he did. No actually, he definitely did. That would imply a lot of things about his relationship with Jaemin that he was probably not prepared to face yet but the idea—oh! the idea—seemed just beautiful.
He was about to reply when he got cut off by a loud noise outside, as though a meteor had landed right in front of the café.
Then, it was chaos.
Renjun was thrown to the ground by someone—maybe Jaemin, he couldn’t be sure. He barely had the time to get back up before he got dragged by some other people. He tried to look around but there was smoke everywhere, it made it impossible to see past where he stepped. Actually, he couldn’t even see his feet. He could feel smoke getting into his lungs, making it hard to breathe.
Getting outside was not easy—there were a lot of tables and chairs and broken glass in the way—but he managed somehow. Only to notice Jaemin was nowhere to be seen. For a second he was ready to get back into the café to drag him out.
A scream behind him stopped him.
He turned around, searching frantically for the person who had screamed. The smoke was slowly clearing up, though not enough for him to see well around. He coughed dryly, as though his lungs were giving out
A gust of wind blew the smoke away quickly enough that Renjun didn’t even see what was the cause of it. He didn’t have time to think, however, as a loud noise came crashing the second after the smoke had been blown away. His feet moved on their own towards the source of the noise.
“Did you do this?”
The voice was familiar, but Renjun couldn’t pinpoint it exactly. He got closer and finally had a view of the scene.
The street was in ruins, fragments of the road and fragments of concrete laid around, stores had their front missing when the buildings weren’t only remnants of what they used to be. It felt like a bomb had just exploded.
At the center of it all : Nightbolt.
He was holding another man by his collar but he let go to turn towards Renjun. The man fell to the ground in a pained groan. For a second Renjun thought he got caught but Nightbolt was only looking in his general direction. He was so focused that Renjun got had managed to hide properly behind a pillar before someone else came into view.
Renjun held his breath when the Phantom appeared.
“I said : did you do this?”
The Phantom seemed surprisingly angry for a villain. Weren’t they supposed to enjoy destroying things?
“It got you out, so I’d count that as a win.” replied Nightbolt.
“Interesting point of view.”
“What?” he laughed, “I’m here to stop villains and I intend to do so.”
“Even if it destroys the entire city?”
“It’s a means to an end.”
Without warning Nightbolt sent an electricity dart in the Phantom’s direction but he was quick enough to avoid it. His counter attack was just as fast and took Nightbolt by surprise. He barely had time to block it that the Phantom threw him off balance and sent them both tumbling to the ground. Renjun gasped. H didn’t know if he was on supporting Nightbolt or the Phantom here.
“Don’t you care about this town? These people?”
Renjun got closer, choosing to hide in the shadow of a building to hear them better as they clashed against each other.
Nightbolt used his powers again to create a ball of electricity around him and the Phantom quickly dashed away. He looked over to where Renjun had somewhat been hiding, and their eyes met for a fraction of second—the warning it held was enough to have Renjun frozen in place.
“You said it yourself : I’m a villain. I have no obligation to these people.”
“My only obligation is stopping villains.”
Just as he said that, Nightbolt darted towards the Phantom, gathering energy in his left fist. Renjun held his breath.
“You’re a villain, therefore I must stop you.”
The punch he threw sent the Phantom flying into a wall. Renjun gasped loudly. He didn’t know how he was supposed to feel about the fight. The Phantom didn’t seem like a bad guy after all.
Nightbolt waited in the middle of the former road, arms crossed. The Phantom slowly rose up from where he had landed.
“This suit cost quite a bit, I hope you’re ready to pay for it.”
“That’s what you’re worried about?”
He got cut off mid laugh by a kick to his chin, sending him flying into a half destroyed car. But Nightbolt was tough and got back up—albeit with some scratches—before dusting off his arms.
“Ah, I see you’re no longer playing.”
“I don’t have time to play.”
“Why? You got someone waiting for you back home?”
Nightbolt’s fist crackled with electricity. The Phantom merely took a fighting stance.
“Not answering, huh? I guess no one would like a villain anyway.”
Renjun didn’t see the lightning bolt until the building next to him began to crack loudly. Renjun didn’t think twice before running away from it as fast as he could. He also didn’t think that would lead him straight towards Nightbolt and the Phantom.
When realisation dawned upon him, it was too late to turn back.
Both fighters looked at him—Nightbolt surprised, the Phantom angry—and the next thing happened so fast Renjun didn’t even have time to react.
The Phantom moved. Nightbolt sent another lightning bolt. Renjun’s life flashed before his eyes.
He was so sure it was the end—how are you supposed to survive such an attack?—that he just chose to close his eyes. Not that he could have escaped it anyway.
The pain never came.
Renjun slowly opened his eyes. Right in front of him, the Phantom stood, arms outstretched, hiding him from Nightbolt—and most likely having taken the full blow of Nightbolt’s attack.
Renjun didn’t have time to end his sentence that the Phantom’s legs gave out from under him. Without thinking, Renjun came to support him but the Phantom was much heavier than he had though and he could only manage to have them slowly sinking to the ground.
“Didn’t I warn you…?”
The Phantom coughed badly. Bloody.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry, I didn’t think that… The building was falling down and I—”
“I… know. Sometimes… you forget to think.”
The Phantom just smiled. It was bloody and grim, but Renjun could see a hint of sadness in there.
“I don’t understand. Why would you be sorry? You just saved me! I should be the one who is sorry.”
The Phantom coughed again, breath coming in shallow pained gasps.
“It’s a pretty… shitty date.”
“Do you… still want it to be… a date?”
That was when realisation hit Renjun.
A nod was his only response.
Renjun didn’t understand but it somehow made sense. How Jaemin could be knowing so many things when Renjun didn’t. He was there. How Jaemin wouldn’t talk about his life outside of University. He had a secret identity. How Jaemin was often so busy he went radio silent. He was fighting or overlooking operations or something. It all made sense.
One thing didn’t add up : Jaemin as villain. He was nice, polite, kind. Sure, he didn’t have a lot of friends—Renjun couldn’t even name one outside of himself—and some people said he was scary sometimes. But that wouldn’t make someone a villain.
He didn’t have time to ponder it, as Jaemin coughed again, this time covering Renjun’s shirt in red.
“I guess… No one wants to… have someone dying… on their date.”
Panic rose in Renjun.
“You’re not going to die here!”
He looked around to see if someone—anyone—could help. Nightbolt was still there, inspecting the destruction he caused. Renjun didn’t think twice.
Nightbolt turned towards him, assessed the situation and cocked his head to the side.
Renjun didn’t understand. Wasn’t a superhero supposed to help? Jaemin was dying right now! He could feel the situation escaping him completely—as if he ever controlled it. Tears gathered in his eyes.
“He’s dying! You have to help him!”
“He’s a villain.”
The reply came as self-evident. Renjun only found it frustrating.
“You’re a hero, you’re supposed to help!”
“I don’t help villains.”
Just as he said that, Nightbolt came crouching beside Renjun and Jaemin. In one swift movement he sent Jaemin rolling on the ground away from Renjun’s arms. Renjun tried to reach out to Jaemin but his body wasn’t responding and he could only watch as Nightbolt prepared one final blow. Jaemin looked at Renjun and smiled.
“I stop villains.”
Renjun screamed. It was an ugly, soul-wrenching scream. One filled with anger, pain and bitterness. It held everything Renjun couldn’t express and more. It held all the promises, all the future he imagined with Jaemin.
It held the feelings he never got to say out loud.
Renjun looked at Jaemin through watery eyes, he hadn’t realized he was crying. Sobs racked through him as he tried desperately to hold on to reality, his mind was trying to shut down. The only thing he could focus on was the one responsible for his pain.
His former idol, the one he held in so high regards.
"I'll never forgive you."