Numbly, helplessly, Jonghyuk watched as the party members attacked Kim Dokja, one by one.
Jung Heewon, tearing up as she poured flames over Kim Dokja’s pale skin, leaving it crackling and burnt and broken. Kim Dokja breathed, and it looked like it was tearing him apart. Even still, he smiled.
The children, Shin Yoosung and Lee Gilyoung, shaking as they grit their teeth and stood up, pointing their weapons and skills at the “evil” demon king. Kim Dokja whispered, “Con… tinue,” and he was falling to pieces as he did it. Even still, he smiled.
Peripherally, Jonghyuk could feel himself being healed by Lee Seolhwa. He dug his nails so hard into his palm that it bled. These attacks… the formation that Kim Dokja had set up ahead of time… he was always planning… planning to…
[Remaining time: 5 minutes]
Jonghyuk rose to his feet.
“Kim Dokja.” Jonghyuk had never been good with words, never been good enough at identifying the complicated twist of emotion that was gripping his soul. His name was the only thing Jonghyuk could say.
Kim Dokja looked back at him, and his bloodied wounded face softened, despite everything. Crushing grief for a person still breathing in front of him sent a chill down his spine.
Is this the kind of emotion that makes people cry? He wondered. Jonghyuk couldn’t remember the last time he cried, didn’t think that, at this point, there was any stimulation strong enough to break him to the point of sobs.
But somehow, sobbing felt like a poor expression of the devastation he was feeling. Not because it was too much, but because it wasn’t enough.
“Kim Dokja,” Jonghyuk repeated, his vocabulary reduced to two words.
“Oh, c’mon.” Kim Dokja tilted his head. “Don’t make that kind of face. You can’t change what’s already happened. Shouldn’t you know that better than anyone?”
Jonghyuk wiped the back of his callused hand over his lips, smudging a drop of blood over his thumb.
“It should’ve been me who died here.” You deserved life more than I did, went unsaid, but the way Kim Dokja’s eyes softened past the pain told Jonghyuk he’d heard it anyway.
“You really are a good companion,” Kim Dokja whispered as if the words had escaped him without his permission.
Jonghyuk’s hands didn’t shake as he gripped the Heaven Shaking Sword. They didn’t. He didn’t look into Kim Dokja’s face each time he struck him, grieving as if every glance would be the last. That would be foolish.
That would be painful.
And Yoo Jonghyuk wasn’t the one in pain right now, as much as he wanted to be.
[Remaining time: 4 minutes]
“Let’s end it now. Bring ‘that’ out.” A familiar, all-knowing gaze pierced straight through his heart.
Yoo Jonghyuk swallowed. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t mess around.” Kim Dokja had the audacity to roll his eyes, even now. That strange soft look came back on his face immediately after. “...I know you avoided using it on purpose.”
It was strange of him to act this way, strange of him to hold onto hope that he could, that he could keep Kim Dokja. He should be grateful to get past this scenario with a guaranteed casualty count of one. He should be reliable, carrying out his solemn task with stable hands and a stable heart. He should be a lot of things.
“...If I use it, you can’t be resurrected,” He said instead, his voice trembling.
“I know. That’s why you have to.” Kim Dokja’s smile never left his face. He placed an injured, bleeding hand over Jonghyuk gently, and his voice took a teasing edge. “Wouldn’t it be a pain in the ass for you guys if I came back as a demon king?”
It wouldn’t, Jonghyuk wanted to scream. It wouldn’t, so long as it meant that Kim Dokja would come back to him. He gritted his teeth so tightly he thought they would shatter.
“What if the scenario ends up being ruined, Jonghyuk-ah?” Kim Dokja scolded lightly. “Stop thinking about it so much. Just use it.”
Jonghyuk glared at him, sending a silent message through Midday Tryst.
[Do you have a plan?]
Text wouldn’t betray his emotions the same way his tone would. Kim Dokja wouldn’t hear the desperation, the poorly concealed fear in his hastily scrawled question.
Kim Dokja only laughed in response, and Jonghyuk’s traitorous heart wept as he pulled out The Heavenly Sword from his inventory.
“I hoped that I would never need to use this.” Jonghyuk gripped the intricate hilt. I didn’t want to need to use this.
“So did I.”
“I’m not certain this’ll even work. My skills are reaching their limit. I’m not confident in my current attack power.” Jonghyuk rambled, a desperate litany with no hope of salvation.
“Don’t worry so much, Jonghyuk-ah. You’ll get wrinkles.” Kim Dokja breathed out a quiet laugh before placing his hand on Jonghyuk’s tightly gripped fingers. Additional strength and mana rushed through his body, but it only made him feel miserable instead of powerful.
Kim Dokja placed his forehead into the crook of Jonghyuk’s neck. Jonghyuk faltered.
“Thank you,” Kim Dokja whispered into his ear, his voice painfully sincere. “For everything. ”
“Everything?” Jonghyuk murmured back. “I haven’t given you anything. Why…?”
[Incarnation Kim Dokja will be killed by the person he loves most.]
“Why someone like me?” Jonghyuk finished.
Kim Dokja pulled back to cradle Jonghyuk’s face in his hands. His next words were choked up, his eyes shining with unshed tears as his bleeding face stretched into a wide smile.
“Who else could it possibly be?”
He leaned back, opening his arms and relaxing his wings as he fell from the sky. Jonghyuk chased him, unsheathing his sword as he followed his only companion in his descent.
Kim Dokja laughed as the sword pierced his heart. White-clothed arms tightly brought Jonghyuk to his chest as the pair fell from heaven, intertwined.
Kim Dokja said something, but Jonghyuk couldn’t hear him through the wind in his ears. He saw his mouth move, though, saw Kim Dokja’s pink lips wrap around one final confession.
Kim Dokja’s body sank down on Jonghyuk’s sword. Jonghyuk grabbed at the lapels of his white jacket, holding them with a vice-like grip.
“Kim Dokja.” Jonghyuk’s voice was quiet, gentle. “Kim Dokja.”
“Isn’t this a great story? Isn’t it amazing?” Kim Dokja pressed his chin into Jonghyuk’s shoulder and whispered into his ear.
How could it be , Jonghyuk thought. How could this story possibly be good, when you’re disappearing? Jonghyuk wanted to say.
“Will I see you again?”
“Of course you will. I’ll survive just to find you.”
[Activate Lie Detection? (yes/no)]
[Activate Lie Detection? (yes/NO)]
[Skill Lie Detection was canceled.]
Jonghyuk let go of the sword and clutched Kim Dokja’s bleeding body closer to his own. His hands got lost in the swathes of black feathers on Kim Dokja’s back, and his black coat was being covered with blood and death, but it was the warmest he’d ever felt.
“This is nice.” Kim Dokja commented weakly. He sighed into Jonghyuk’s neck. “I wish we’d done this before.”
Jonghyuk squeezed him tighter, before whispering, “I would’ve if you’d asked.”
“Same.” Kim Dokja coughed out a wet laugh, trembling in Jonghyuk’s arms. “Fuck, we’re really bad at this, huh?”
Jonghyuk could feel his shoulder becoming damp.
He pushed Kim Dokja off of him, holding his pale burnt cheeks in both hands as he leaned in.
The kiss tasted like blood and tears, but it was Kim Dokja, so Jonghyuk pulled him closer and ran a comforting hand through his hair.
Kim Dokja smiled against Jonghyuk’s lips, breathed once into the kiss, and never breathed again.
His body turned into ash in Jonghyuk’s arms. The dust gathered and flew away, sucked into a void beyond.
“Kim Dokja! No! No, no, no.” Jonghyuk desperately tried to grab any piece of his companion he could, but fate was cruel and the constellations crueler, and every shred he managed to hold was ripped away from him.
[Incarnation Kim Dokja will be killed by the person he loves most.]
Jonghyuk bit his lip so hard that his blood intermingled with his dead companion’s, a single red drop on a canvas quickly drying and turning brown with time.
He collapsed in the center of the room, bloody but not bleeding, and alone.
[Kim Dokja’s fate has been realized.]
[The scenario has been cleared.]