I do, I love you Mary
More than I can say
Cuz if I ever said it
They’d take us both away
They’d lock us up for nothing
And throw away the key
The world don't like us Mary
They’re on to you and me
Staring at the body of the man he came to love, Jungwoo couldn’t help the pang of pain and devastation he felt at the sight of his beloved, for he looked far from how he recalled him. Pale cheeks and baggy eyes stared back into the babe's blue orbs, black pearls diving deep into Jungwoo's soul as if transmitting feelings of hurt and desolation—an exact replica of the babe's hollow state.
If only things had turned out differently for them.
The babe, with all the strength he could muster despite the exhaustion from his journey to the underworld, somehow managed to squeeze himself through the metal bars caging the skotos. He wondered whether the cage had been provided by his brothers, causing his heart to break for the millionth time at the realization of the heartless act love forced upon the creature—a repulsive irony that filled the child with an unstoppable need to cry.
He had never known love could be destructive. And if his brothers were willing to curse someone for the sake of keeping Jungwoo hidden, what else were they willing to put on the line under the name of love? They had already taken from him the only source of happiness he had known in centuries. How could they expect him to smile again and pretend like they weren’t the ones at fault for the heartache he was experiencing?
They hadn’t even given Jaehyun the chance to say goodbye.
Johnny, his favourite brother, had forcefully waken him up in the physical realm, tears rolling down his cheeks as he held Jungwoo in place to stop him from attacking Doyoung and Taeil's unconscious forms—the very same people that were in the process of hunting Jaehyun down in the dream realm.
“We’re doing this because we love you, Woo. He knows of your existence and therefore is putting you at risk. You can’t trust anyone, love. Doyoung, Taeil, and I are the only ones in this world you can rely on. No one else.”
Tears rolled down Jungwoo’s cheeks as he recalled Johnny’s words from the first time they found out about Jaehyun. And to think he had been stupid enough to believe him—to believe them. They weren’t protecting him. He was merely the weakest link who could forever be the downfall of the universal fates. There would be no order. No fear. No authority over the past, the present, and future. And all it’d take would be the abduction of the broken, powerless baby brother.
It had been a pitiful existence. And to think he spent several centuries abiding by their every word and command, trying his best to please them and to keep an inconspicuous existence around every divine deity.
Love was nothing but a painful illusion. It was only a reminder of the heavy sentiments of hurt and betrayal, a lonely path Jungwoo should have chosen to walk alone. The death of the skotos he loved more than anyone else in the world had been his fault, for he had blindly trusted his brothers despite knowing what they were fully capable of. And they had taken advantage of his oblivious nature and pure intentions, taking away the only thing he had wanted to keep to himself.
Love was the reason behind Jaehyun’s current reality, serving Jungwoo as a reminder that he was the one to blame. They couldn’t be together. He had been cursed to break anything he touched—all for the sake of keeping him away from Jungwoo, for they knew he’d never risk hurting the babe.
Cursed to keep himself away from the only person he’s ever loved. Cursed to spend the rest of eternity locked away and tormented in Tartarus, unable to meet up with Jungwoo for as long as the babe was alive. Cursed to live a meaningless life filled with pain, isolation, and eternal devastation.
The babe crawled his way closer to his beloved, hands and knees scraped and bleeding from the harshness of the ground on his flesh. Within every step he managed to take, residual stains of blood and body fluids were left behind—an ironic trail to find his way back above, or that’s what Persephone had implied. He had made her (and Hades) a promise he was about to break.
The skotos, albeit aching and exhausted, forced himself to move away. Eyes wide in fright and heart beating erratically, the creature managed to put distance between himself and Jungwoo. And despite the child’s hurt expression and pearly tears, Jaehyun had to keep himself away.
Because he was far too dangerous for Jungwoo, and one single touch could be the demise of the babe's existence as a whole.
Damn the universe and the gods for putting them through this. Jaehyun had spent centuries trying to understand the concept of love—trying to understand why people suffer from love. The dreams of those who are brokenhearted are the most overwhelming for his kind, so filled with pain, longing, and dread that a slight taste is enough to push a skotos over the line of temporary insanity. The emotions radiating off a bare soul suffering from a broken heart are the ones all skoti avoid the most.
They’re the line between insanity and dissatisfaction, an equal side of a double sided blade that can taint the existence of dream predators in seconds.
But Jaehyun understands it now. He understands the hurt, the dread, the longing, and the desire to be with the person he loves the most. He understands the need to be close and to be touched—embraced and cradled by the hands of love and affection that hold you tight without letting go of you.
And Jungwoo hadn’t let go. He was ripped away from Jaehyun in the cruelest of ways. There hadn’t been a farewell. There was no goodbye kiss or even a mutual exchange of shared sentiments. He had been ripped away from him without mercy, serving him as a reminder that love truly isn’t for everyone. Love isn’t beautiful.
Love hurts. Love destroys. Love can kill.
And that would be the demise of both of them—the destroyer and the destroyed, a tragic love story that would end in pain and tragedy by the merciless claws of love.
Hiding in the shadows of his own illusion, the skotos smirked at the sight of the little mortal trying her best to escape. The fear radiating off of her was like a drug to the elder, causing him to feel high and intoxicated. He wanted more. He needed more. He had tried a physical approach with her, but her guard had been up for days and hadn’t given the creature a chance to ever get close to her.
How can you possibly be so alert around someone in your dreams? Dreams are typically good, especially the physical ones—unless you piss off the skotos trying to lure you in. And that’s exactly what had happened with Naeun. She had kept her guard up and had used her ability of lucid dreaming to jump from scenario to scenario, often leaving the skotos behind on his very own.
So he used every chance he got to infiltrate himself in all her dreams. Much like a predator, he watched her from afar and kept himself hidden in the shadows. Slowly and painfully, for the past two weeks, he’s drained off her energy. Her dreams have progressively become longer and longer, tiring her out in the physical realm and making her crave more sleep. Her ability of lucid dreaming reached a limit, and that was the moment the skotos decided to attack.
And so, the little mortal became a prey.
The nightmares he projected onto her were horrendous and traumatizing, causing the girl to nearly tip over the line of insanity. She couldn’t sleep. She wasn’t resting. She was exhausted and drained. And that was the perfect scenario for the skotos to attack. There was no running away from him and his projections. Her nightmares were becoming longer and longer, a clear indication of her state of restlessness given how hard she tried to wake up.
But Naeun, much like every pitiful mortal creature, was merely suffering the consequences of her own actions. She brought this upon herself, causing the skotos to smirk at the realization of his prey being nearly at the verge of madness. She was at her weakest point and, albeit it being a process, Jaehyun couldn’t help the excitement he felt at the thought of scarring her. Hurting her.
It was a thrill. A need that must be fulfilled. After all, he gave up his life purpose for the sake of a taste of corruption—a slight moment of absolute weakness where he allowed himself to feel. And that’s all it had taken for him to lose himself. It had been a momentary high that hadn’t lasted, one that left him craving for more.
“Wake up! Wake me up! Why can’t I control my dreams anymore?” The skotos snapped his fingers and watched as the scenario changed. The branches of the trees contorted unexpectedly, wrapping themselves around the girl’s appendages to immobilize her completely. With the excruciating pain of all four appendages being pulled in different directions, the girl couldn’t help crying in absolute helplessness. The waves of fear radiating off of her created an invisible ricochet of fulfillment as they reached the skotos over and over again.
Because this—the fear and fright inflicted upon his victim—cannot compare to anything else. He had been waiting for this moment for weeks. He had been slowly preying on the pitiful, little thing until it was time to attack. And it had been worth it. So worth it that he speculated her death within the next few days—or perhaps he’d stop once she reached the absolute point of insanity. It’s truly what she deserved.
From the shadows, another figure approached the skotos and watched in amusement as the human was being tormented. He watched as Jaehyun created more distortions in the dream realm, eventually leaving the girl alone and giving her a few seconds of momentary freedom before he attacked again. And just as the girl found herself stabilized on her feet once more, the skotos snapped his fingers one more time and created yet another illusion—an ogre looking creature with red eyes and blistering skin. It had a pair of black horns that curled up in the air for what seemed to be miles, perhaps long enough to pin its victims to the ground to immobilize them.
And so the chase began once again.
“You’re not going to leave her alone, are you?” asked the second figure, watching as the creature spat acid at the human, missing her by a few centimeters only and causing the ground to crumble under the fluid.
Yeah, that’d probably be painful.
“No one has ever rejected my advances before,” the skotos said, crossing his arms against his chest and finding delight in the emotions overflowing through his illusion, almost content, or what he assumed would be content, with the feeling of excitement traveling down his body. It had been a while since he had last experienced this high. He had been working on tormenting Naeun for weeks now, causing him to almost forget what it’s like to feel alive.
But it paid off. And he would do this all over again if he had to.
“And you must be disappointed,” teased the other skotos, causing Jaehyun to smirk in retaliation. He didn’t know disappointment. He only knew excitement, and it often derived from the sexual projections inflicted on his victims—or the terrifying nightmares he created when a sexual approach didn’t work. And unfortunately for Naeun, the nightmares were a retaliation of vengeance from Jaehyun. He was far from obsessed with her. She wasn’t special or mysterious, nor did she fit Jaehyun’s typical standards when choosing his prey.
But she was very hostile and thought highly of herself for being able to control her dreams. And upon that realization (and immediate rejection to any of the skotos' approaches) Jaehyun decided to teach the girl a lesson—one she wouldn’t forget, for she’d always be terrified of sleeping. She’ll always feel anxiety and fright at the thought of losing consciousness. He’ll make sure she’s scarred enough to humble her down, because his projections, compared to Kun's, the second skotos currently watching the nightmare unfolding, are far from terrifying.
Because Jaehyun creates projections only. Kun, however, is a hunter by nature. He plays with your mind and finds every weakness and fear. He doesn’t project—he transforms. He transforms into the thing you fear the most and hunts you down, creating a vivid nightmare in which he takes part of rather than watching from the sidelines.
Kun is merciless. He scars his victims. He creates a traumatizing experience. He feeds off the victim’s fears and enjoys the thrill of hurting them, even if the hurting is nothing but a mere illusion in the dream realm. Kun is a trickster and a master of fright. Naeun should be glad Jaehyun is the one after her. Because Kun doesn’t stop unless the victim is on the verge of insanity.
And all it takes is three sessions. That’s Kun’s only rule—prey on the same human three times and move on.
“It’s been nearly a week since you’ve been tormenting her, Jae. The length of her fear waves are getting stronger, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. The Oneiroi will surely investigate her source of restlessness. They’re already on the move.” Jaehyun smirked as he watched his projections catching up to the girl. Using its horns to pin the girl against the ground, he watched as the pitiful creature screamed one last time in absolute helplessness. The ogre, fed up of the mortal, growled in retaliation and slammed her body on the ground harshly. The screams of pain echoed throughout the realm, filling the skotos with new waves of satisfaction that had Kun also smiling to himself—much like a sadist with an insatiable need to hurt and destroy.
Oh, he’d indulge her in scenarios she wouldn’t ever imagine. He’d play with her mind and convince her to do things against her own will, kindly turning himself into an internal voice that would surely push her over the edge. He’d mess her up so good she’d never sleep properly ever again.
But Naeun was Jaehyun’s prey and he’d surely take care of her. After all, he had heard the endless rants about a petty human whom thought rather highly of herself.
She clearly would never defy another creature in her dreams again. Not unless she wanted a taste of absolute cruelty. And if she still dared to do so, then Kun would step in. But as of now, Naeun belongs to Jaehyun. She is all his to destroy, taint, and scar.
With the ogre's hands around her girl’s neck and at the verge of crushing her breathing pipe, the skotos snapped his fingers and ended the scenario.
He could feel another presence approaching them. The divine energy emanating off of them was strong enough to be sensed through his distorted realm. And whilst it wasn’t weird for other skoti to gather around in the same dream (or nightmare) amongst them, it was definitely the easiest way to get busted by the Oneiroi. Jaehyun has always been careful and has hardly had any confrontations with the higher deities, but that did not mean they weren’t aware of what he was doing.
They always know. It’s merely a matter of time before they find out.
Staring at the disappearing body of the mortal he had been previously torturing—a clear sign of the girl waking up in the human realm—Jaehyun couldn’t help smirking one last time. He had done his job well. He had traumatized the girl enough for now. Maybe, if he felt confrontational again, he’d seek her out and find out if she’s in need of a second round. But for now, after everything he’s put her through, this is enough.
It was time to move on.
Hence why, nodding at this fellow skotos, both creatures opened a dream portal to escape from the deities approaching. A dream portal is a simple opening created through the channeled energy sucked from the victims they prey on—an elaborated escape. A dream portal is the only power skoti possess that the Oneiroi do not. And for a good reason, too, for it requires an enormous amount of energy in the first place.
Energy earned only through the emotions provided by their victims—the life they suck out of them.
And Jaehyun could summon a dream portal so easily and close it without a trace, an undeniable fact that spoke wonders about his power and status as a skotos.
“What do you plan to do now?” asked Kun, impressed by Jaehyun’s choice of scenario now that he was outside of Naeun's consciousness.
The new scene was very Jaehyun-like. The pink ocean and the setting sun in the horizon were the signature scenario for a captivating skotos. It is the perfect place to lay low for a while. The sand they were currently sitting on went on for miles. There was no sign of life around them other than the waves crashing on the shore. It was a place of absolute solitude and quietness, for the Oneiroi wouldn’t think twice about coming in.
There would be no reason to. Without Naeun around, and without Jaehyun making use of the residual channeled energy, this can be considered a domain of calmness and solitude. Meaning that the Oneiroi had no right to barge in without a reason.
It was Jaehyun’s safe heaven. It had been for quite a few centuries.
“I’m going to lay low for a few days. I’ll walk around the dream realm to choose my new victim. I just won’t make a move on anyone yet. It took a lot from me to go unnoticed for nearly the entire week. I can’t risk attacking anyone else,” said the skotos, sitting down on the sand and watching as the waves crashed at his feet. With the sun finally setting, the sky changed patterns and turned into pretty shades of purple, orange, and blue.
Maybe, if he found the right human, he’d manifest this scenery in one of his provocative approaches. After all, his main course of attack was sensuality. But up until this day, there hasn’t been a single prey that has sent him over the edge of obsession. He typically stayed around for a few days and then bounced. He only ever stays around for longer when he tortures his victim, much like Naeun.
So now he was back to square one. He had to find a new victim to repeat the same cycle again.
“Be careful, Jae. You like playing dangerous games,” said Kun, smiling at his fellow skotos and walking away.
Whether Jaehyun heard him or not wasn’t a main concern. At the end, the skotos didn’t bother retaliating. Instead, he enjoyed the sight of the moon peeking from the horizon and lighting up the sky, completely oblivious to the sight of Kun opening up his own dream portal and leaving Jaehyun behind.
“Why won’t you just give him to me? I can’t only be surrounded by maidens all the time. He is a beautiful creature that deserves to be surrounded by other beautiful beings. My nymphs also agree,” said Artemis, genuinely intrigued by the Moirae's (the fates) refusal to give up a certain boy they sheltered under their divine roof.
Where had he come from and how did he end up with the most powerful beings around them was unknown to everyone. The boy was always with them. Ever since she could remember. He spoke and carried himself with full humbleness despite the mysteries surrounding him.
He served no one. Every step he took had to be monitored by one of the divine fates. And it made perfect sense, but it didn’t mean she was happy about it—nor the rest of the Pantheon, as a matter of fact. Everyone wanted something. It was either a chance to figure out what made him so important to the universal fates, or a taste of the divine delicacy whom was as beautiful and tempting as Hedone.
Perhaps that’s why Hedone seems to be so fond of him.
“He’s the son of the maiden who took care of us when we were younger, Artemis. He’s one of us and we will not give him to anyone. We threatened Aphrodite when she verbalize her unnecessary jealousy over his divine beauty. We also threatened to curse your brother and his many bastard descendants if he ever tried laying a hand on him to seduce him. What makes you think you’re deserving of him?”
Artemis, not backing out from an argument, stood her ground and challenged the fates. After all, placing a curse on another god is well unheard of. Whatever the reason is, no god has ever tried challenging their authority. And with a good reason, too. The Moirae not only rule the length of everyone’s golden thread, as well as the past and future stored for them, but they also hold the power of shortening it at will. And really, all they need to do is place a curse and the universe takes care of it. A curse by the fates is the absolute equivalent of pain and misery—it’s the open door for universal circumstances to unfold with the purpose of making life harder to live.
The thread shortens in length when the victim is decided to take their own life.
The fates are powerful and merciless. No god dares overstepping their authority. No god dares to challenge their authority. Because up until this day, no god wishes to find out whether the fates are willing to seize the existence of any divine being.
Because only a few entities are powerful enough to strip a god’s immortality away. And the fates are at the top of the list.
“Someone as beautiful as him deserves to be under the care of someone like me. That bitch Aphrodite is simply jealous that there’s someone that can rival her beauty. Just look at the way she punished Psyche when Eros fell in love with her. Apollo, my imbecile brother, isn’t deserving of him because he collects pretty things. And then moves on to the next available delicacy he wants for his personal collection. I, on the other hand, am devoted to cherishing, protecting, and nurturing those in need. I’m the best fitted for the role.”
The eldest brother amongst the three, smirked at the goddess in retaliation.
Yeah, she was definitely that and many other things. She was nurturing by nature given her status as the goddess of childbirth. She was also devoted to nature and therefore carried the title of Goddess of the hunt quite proudly. Her symbol was the moon, one that derived passion and seduction. She played a vital role in order for life itself to exist. What is the world without a moon? The death of Artemis would bring calamities to the world, and all life would come to an end.
But despite all this, she was far from being perfect. She was the goddess of chastity—she took an oath to remain pure for all eternity. And yet, despite the weight of her actions and the potential consequences inflicted upon her, she kept an intimate relationship with an unknown deity no one knew of.
Except for him and his brothers, of course. They knew everything.
“And you’ll also devote yourself to teach him the art of sneaking away to sleep around with another deity?”
The goddess in question raised a questioning eyebrow at the eldest fate, crossing her arms against her chest and glaring in retaliation to his comment. It was almost as if she was offended to be confronted about her secret.
“I’d be careful if I were you. Rather than demanding to be given a new pet to entertain your maidens, I’d recommend you to worry about your own secrets. If your daddy finds out you’re not pure anymore, what do you think he’ll do to you?”
Clenching her teeth in anger, the beautiful goddess took a deep breath to compose herself. These little bastards were probably just trying to get under her skin. She wasn’t surprised they knew about her secret, but that didn’t give them the right to get involved. It felt as if they were mocking her, serving as a reminder that they could destroy her whenever they felt like it—because tainting her image in front of the whole Pantheon was just another way of ruining her life.
She was not going to put everything on the line for a mere flower boy of no real divine status. She had far too much to lose.
“Akra, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Akri Zeus has requested your presence and your brother’s in his temple. Two of your maidens are waiting outside to escort you, much like akri requested.” The babe in question walked into the room unannounced carrying a message from Zeus himself. At the mention of her father, Artemis broke eye contact with Taeil and focused on the catalyst of her current dilemma.
Jungwoo, in all his glory, was dressed up in white. His brunet strands were held in place by two feathery pins, a gift given to him by Hedone. The goddess, much like Persephone, seemed to have quite a soft spot for the little creature, often pampering him with lovely gifts blessed with their protective essence. His white, silky gown flew with the wind within every step he took, giving the illusion he was performing a rather delicate dance whenever he moved. Much like Persephone, the child walked barefoot. If it was anyone else, the fates would have stopped them at the entrance of their temple and demanded from them to get cleaned up before stepping in.
But not Jungwoo. The babe was allowed to walk in despite the dirt covering his little feet, causing the youngest fate, Doyoung, to smile in adoration at the lovely state of the babe's appearance.
He had been helping Persephone and Demeter (mostly Demeter) with their private garden—a greenhouse located in Demeter’s domain within Olympus consisting of a fort made out of impenetrable glass. There were tiny patches of dust on the babe’s cheeks and nose, and some of his fingers held marks of the already dried blood from pricking himself with the thorns of the roses. And yet, despite his state, the child looked radiant and beautiful. His natural glow was mesmerizing and alluring, almost giving the illusion of him being the sun’s favourite child. And to a certain extent, he probably was.
She could understand why Aphrodite was so jealous of his beauty. She hated herself for also understanding her brother’s obsession with desiring a taste of the babe standing before her. She could understand Hedone and Persephone's decision to share their divine essence with the child, for he radiated purity and innocence.
He had all the perfect attributes to be considered a divine deity. Unfortunately, despite the endless divine attributes to his lovely appearance, Jungwoo was not a god. Perhaps just another divine entity whom seemed to be fully protected by the essence of other gods, thus giving the illusion of him being the descendant of someone with divine status.
But he wasn’t. He was merely a lucky individual under the full protection of the three divine entities no one wanted to challenge. And to a certain extent, the protection of the god of the underworld as well. After all, whomever Persephone was fond of already earned them brownie points with Hades.
“Daddy’s calling. You should go,” mocked Taeil, watching as the goddess sent Jungwoo one last glare before walking away. Much like the babe said, two of his maidens were waiting outside for her. At her sight, both girls bowed respectfully and walked right behind her.
Back inside the Moirae's temple, the babe stood by the entrance still filled with confusion. The moon goddess had stormed out angrily, a clear indication that a conversation had taken place prior to his arrival. Whatever the reason was behind the sudden mood shift, Jungwoo couldn’t bring himself to care much. Not when Artemis was known to throw unnecessary tantrums whenever she doesn’t get away with what she wants—much like her brother, Apollo. Speaking of him, the sun god had made quite an indecent move on the babe today, one Jungwoo was planning to keep to himself unless he wanted his brothers to kill Apollo.
“Woo, come here. Let’s get you all cleaned up,” said Johnny, the middle brother, stretching his arm out for the babe to take. And Jungwoo complied, fingers curling around Johnny's own as the elder guided him to their private bathroom.
Much like the other gods, the three fates had maidens that served them and tended to their every need. All it took was Johnny's presence in the bathroom for the maidens to get to work, moving quickly around the place to prepare a warm bath for the little darling they all adored. It was quite a sweet contradiction everyone was willing to overlook except for one person—Artemis.
She couldn’t understand why Jungwoo was the only male allowed to serve the Moirae—or the only male within close proximity to the entire Pantheon. Zeus had made sure only maidens were designated to serve other gods, claiming that some of the goddesses, especially the much younger ones, were at risk of being seduced by opportunistic men. So what made Jungwoo so different? He was still a man. A beautiful one, yes. So why were the fates allowed to have a boy around them? And for that boy to move around Olympus as he pleased without anyone else batting an eyelash.
He was of age. Why wasn’t he married? Why did they keep rejecting Apollo's approaches? Yes, Apollo is a deceiving bastard who likes collecting pretty things, she’s aware. But he treats all his “treasures” quite nicely. A few millennia ago, he put a curse on his people after one of them murdered his human mistress in cold blood, leading to cosmic explosions that nearly ended the world back then.
Apollo, the God of the sun, had caused such explosions in a moment of anger and grief.
He’d treat the boy well. So why were they rejecting him? Why were they set on keeping him? It made absolutely no sense. And the Moirae knew she was pushing the agenda for the sake of revenge. After all, when she requested Zeus for permission to keep a Daeva demon as her servant, the god denied her request and warned her to never ask for such a stupid request ever again.
I wonder what will Zeus say if he finds out her secret, thought Johnny to himself, smiling wickedly at the possibilities of Artemis being locked in eternal confinement.
“What are you smiling at?” asked Jungwoo, waving his hand in the air as if trying to get his brother’s attention again. And it worked, for Johnny smiled at his younger brother and kissed his forehead in affection. The maidens fixing the bathroom were already gone. The bathroom was held in place by several golden pillars. The roof was enchanted, as Jungwoo referred to it, to resemble the sky. Johnny often used his powers to change the colors from sky blue to pastel pink and purple, summoning fake clouds to give the babe the illusion of a quiet lake in the open air. The walls, much like the roof, gave the illusion of an open forest. Doyoung, much like Johnny, used his powers to strip the walls off the boring pastel colors and replaced them with natural illusions of the open fields Jungwoo wasn’t allowed to visit on his own.
The babe, to his dismay, had a leash around his neck. Because whilst the other three tried protecting him, everyone else tried taking advantage of him. He was only ever allowed to wander off whenever accompanied by Persephone or Hedone, and the occasional nymphs at their service. So the pretty Olympian lake every god and goddess had bathed in at some point in life, Jungwoo was only allowed to see it from afar.
This—the illusion of such place within the bathroom of his brothers' temple—is the closest thing he gets to the real thing. It has been this way for the past few centuries, causing the babe to experience constant disappointment at the confinement of his own existence. There was so much he wanted to do. So much he wanted to experience. He had asked his brothers in several occasions to bless him with permission to go to the mortal realm. Taeil and Johnny, however, denied him the request every time he brought it up.
At least, amongst mortals, he’d have the chance of having a sense of limited freedom. It’d be much better than whatever he has now.
“Don’t go near Artemis from now on. We’ll make sure she doesn’t seek you out,” said Doyoung, entering the bathroom and watching as Johnny removed the gown from Jungwoo’s body. The silky fabric fell at their feet, and Johnny, in a moment of laziness, kicked it away to the side for the maidens to pick it up after they were done. Doyoung stepped closer to the tub—an open space so big that might as well be considered a pool—and dipped his hand in the clear water. The color changed immediately from transparent to crystal blue, shifting the water temperature in the process to ensure it was warm enough for the babe.
And so, Jungwoo got in.
Johnny materialized a tray with a foam pad and natural oils, some of which served as cleansers for the babe’s skin whilst others were for afterwards.
“Taeil is angry, isn’t he?” Doyoung nodded, summoning a bottle of strawberry scented shampoo for the younger boy's brunet strands. As if on cue, the babe stretched his hands out for the elder to pour a fair amount. Doyoung shook his head however, pouring the creamy liquid on his hands instead and instructing Jungwoo to turn out. “He is furious. It took a lot of me to convince him to not expose her secret to Zeus. But he is planning to take extreme measures against her and Apollo.”
At the mention of his name, Jungwoo's attitude visibly changed. He curled his body inwards as if attempting to make himself smaller. He crossed his arms against his chest for a moment, trying his best to use the foam on his body to hide the three finger prints on his upper abdomen where the god had harshly pushed him against a pillar on his way back home from Zeus' temple. He had been caged by the elder, making it a point to remind Jungwoo that, sooner or later, he’d become his.
And that’s exactly what Jungwoo didn’t want. Yes, his brothers were powerful and no one dared to defy them, but that did not mean he was untouchable. Because much like Apollo had done today, anyone could cage him and exploit him behind the Moirae’s back. It was just a matter of time before the three elders found out, and then things would get ugly. Doyoung had killed several deer from Artemis' forest in an outburst of anger when he found out the moon goddess had slapped Jungwoo in a moment of anger.
Doyoung made her vow to never touch Jungwoo again, not if she wanted her sacred animals to pay the price of her careless mistakes. It had been quite a few centuries since she had last laid a hand upon the babe. Apollo, however, was a different case. He was still persistent and refused to give up on staking a claim on him. Johnny had warned him to think carefully before he did anything to piss him (and Doyoung and Taeil) off. The message hadn’t been clear enough, however.
The bruise was fresh, meaning that it’d take a few days before it darkened. One of the cons of bearing no powers is the inability of healing oneself. And unfortunately for the babe, since he didn’t want to provoke another confrontation with Apollo, he’d have to hide himself from his brothers. It’d definitely be a difficult task since he never bathed alone. Ever since he could remember, one of his brothers was always with him. They called it precaution. Jungwoo called it invasion of privacy, but he was so used to this routine that he didn’t mind their presence with him anymore.
“What did you do today, love?” asked Johnny, mixing up different scent oils and pouring them into a crystal bowl. The floral fragrance filling up the bathroom was soothing and relaxing, causing the babe to smile as he finished washing up himself.
“I helped akra to perform her rounds in her mother’s garden. She wore a new set of gloves akri Hades gifted her just before she came back. The essence of the power embedded in them is strong enough to sustain the life of the flora she touches. I think her mother will be pleased,” said the babe, earning himself a nod from Doyoung.
“Finally we’ll stop hearing Demeter complain about Persephone’s inability to create life,” said Johnny, mocking the young goddess and earning himself a head shake from Doyoung.
Yeah, Persephone wasn’t your typical goddess. Whilst her mother was the goddess of harvest and agriculture, Persephone was the complete opposite—she was the goddess of destruction. She could suck the life out of anything she touched. Unfortunately, flora and fauna were the most susceptible to her powers. And whilst other divine entities and human beings weren’t limited to such powers, it took a lot of effort on her part to cause such level of harm.
Imagine Demeter’s reaction when she found out her daughter was far from being a goddess of life.
“When did she get her powers?” asked Jungwoo, allowing Doyoung to help him dry himself up with a towel. Johnny, still busy with the oils, manifested into his hand a small, pink lotus flower. He then removed the petals and dropped them into the mix, smiling to himself as the petals dissolved and left behind a much sweeter fragrance.
“She’s had them all along. They were just dormant. It’s unusual, yes. But not impossible.” Johnny stirred the mix while listening. “Maybe your powers are also waiting to be awakened. You just need the right trigger. But don’t worry, Woo. There’s plenty of time left.”
How long exactly? Because Jungwoo had been alive for quite a few centuries now. And nothing had happened yet. He was just powerless. He was also a divine being, but a powerless one—much like a human. He wasn’t a god. He had a divine essence but that didn’t mean he was a god. A god has a source—a link that connects them directly to their powers. And Jungwoo didn’t have that.
He was just the weak link that would be the demise of the Moirae if his relationship to them was ever exposed.
“Woo, come here. Let me put this on you,” said Johnny, sensing the babe’s change of demeanor and trying his best to divert his attention to something else. The babe, still in his naked glory, approached his older brother and did as he said. Doyoung stepped out momentarily and called for one of maidens to bring one of Jungwoo’s sleeping gowns.
“What is this? It smells different from the different oil mixes you’ve made for me in the past.” Johnny smiled at the younger boy and proceeded to pour the watery liquid onto his sensitive flesh—his arms, neck, back, and thighs. “It’s specifically for sleeping only. I added a pink lotus for better effect.”
The mighty lotus flower. It was sacred. It’s Jungwoo’s favourite flower, for it goes through an entire process of persevering in order to survive. And yet, despite the harshness of the environment it lives in, it still blooms beautifully every morning. The babe can’t help but associate himself to the flower, for he also must persevere in order to survive. Because outside these doors, he’s a mere property that belongs to the fates. But behind them, he’s treated with endless love and affection.
The lotus flower is Jungwoo’s symbol.
“With this, you’ll have a great night of sleep. If you like it, I’ll make some for you everyday from now on.”
Doyoung walked back into the bathroom holding the sleeping gown he requested. And just like every other night, his older brothers took him to his room and tucked him into his bed, each one placing a chaste kiss to the babe’s forehead and wishing him a good night. And much like every night, the babe smiled at them and turned himself away from the door, arms wrapping up around one of his pillows and pressing it against his chest.
The word was stuck in his head like a mantra, playing with his mind as he imagined what’d be like to have powers like his older brothers. But the babe didn’t get a chance to dwell on it too much, for the soothing oil served its purpose and lured him to dreamland within seconds.
It was the beginning of the end for him and a certain skotos he’d meet soon.
If only he had known back then.
The skotos found himself lurking around the dreams of the divine entities. Apollo, much like the horndog he’s known to be, dreamt about women and power. It was quite amusing, for the scene kept continuously changing. And the best part of it all? The subject of his dreams also changed, from his several mortal mistresses to the goddesses he seduced and managed to take to bed.
There was one person in particular who caught Jaehyun's attention, for it seemed to be a male rather than a female. And based on the rather explicit scene the sun god seemed to be manifesting, the subject of his attention was rather beautiful. Golden brown strands that seemed softer than the most expensive silk. He had a pair of sky blue orbs filled with indecipherable emotions, and long, dark eyelashes that curled at the tips. His plump, rosy lips were parted almost sinfully, emitting captivating sounds that could only be described as angelic.
He was definitely an ethereal creature—one that was far too beautiful to be one of Apollo's playtoys. But what truly caught the skotos’ attention was the desperation emanating off the god, for he had the pretty darling pined to the ground as he allowed himself the pleasure of devouring his body. Apollo, despite it being a mere dream, was completely desperate. Clearly, the pretty babe he was dreaming about wasn’t part of his collection. And from the looks of it, he was desperate to get a taste of the babe.
And by God—quite literally—Jaehyun found himself understanding the deity's desire to have a taste of him. Because if the creature was as beautiful as Apollo's subconscious was manifesting him, then the skotos would love to defile that little darling as well. His milky skin was unmarked, much like an empty canvas waiting for the right moment in which it’d be covered in pretty colors. His body was thin and frail, and it’d be so easy for Jaehyun to bend him over and stake a claim over him.
He could almost imagine what it’d feel like to indulge himself inside the babe. He wondered how his lips would feel around his own shaft, causing the creature to smirk in satisfaction at the thought of abusing the babe's body until he was screaming from overstimulation.
Unfortunately, Apollo’s dream changed again. And so did his subject of interest, for he was now kissing someone completely different.
A certified horndog indeed.
He had enough of Apollo. Jaehyun found himself infiltrating Artemis' dreams next, raising a questioning eyebrow at the random scene unfolding before his eyes. Because the chaste goddess was running around her forest with someone at her tail—an unknown entity whose face was completely blurred, almost as if she was trying to protect its identity even in her dreams.
Jaehyun rarely tried anything with any of the gods. Messing around with the dreams of divine deities was considered suicide amongst the skoti. And for a good reason, too. Zeus, in all his mighty glory, had warned the Oneiroi he’d come for their necks if any skoti tried indulging him in another seductive dream. It had been quite a few centuries since that had occurred, and Jaehyun didn’t have the title of a skotos at the time. He was an honorary member of the Oneiroi and guarded the dreams of mortals and divine deities alike. He wasn’t a predator yet.
At the time, he didn’t understand the rationale behind Wendy's dumb decision of trying to seduce Zeus. He didn’t even get to ask her. Junmyeon, Minho, and Changmin had taken it upon themselves to punish Wendy with her life. After all, Zeus had demanded for her soul to be sent to Hades. And that’s exactly what happened.
Changmin, the head of the Oneiroi, had taken the girl’s life and had trapped her soul in a crystal vase, which had been delivered to Hades by Persephone herself.
Now, however, he could somewhat understand her desire to mess with their dreams. Most of the gods were horndogs whose dreams revolved around their endless affairs. Jaehyun would refer to it as amusing if he didn’t find it annoying. It was repetitive and uncomfortable to watch.
Hence why, stepping out of Artemis' dreams (and her far-from-romantic scenario with the unknown entity she was trying to protect) altogether, the skotos found himself navigating through the dreams of the maidens who served in Olympus.
He wasn’t looking for anyone in particular. After tormenting Naeun for so long, he needed to lay low for a while. At least for a few days until the Oneiroi felt like the skoti weren’t out of line.
He jumped from person to person, smiling to himself in several occasions as he watched in amusement the dreams of the maidens whom were forbidden from engaging in any romantic relationships. If Jaehyun could feel, he’d probably describe their dreams as sad. Because a few of the maidens who served the gods dreamed of finding love. Unfortunately, Zeus wasn’t known for sharing his maidens, especially the ones whom served him.
Others dreamed of seducing certain deities within the Pantheon without any potential repercussions—such as Hades. The man was quite handsome despite his age. He was tall and broad with a physique any mortal (or god) would kill for. And, contrary to popular belief, he was relatively nicer than half the Pantheon. He was just severely misunderstood. Perhaps that’s one of the attributes his wife had fallen for.
Yeah, Jaehyun had a feeling Persephone would kill her personal maiden if she found out the girl fantasized with her husband at night.
And then it happened.
He stumbled upon a certain someone whose dream revolved completely around the most mundane scenario he had ever stumbled upon. The scene was somewhere he recalled from other previous dreams—the sacred Olympian lake. He recalled feeding off a pretty maiden once, indulging her in a seductive dream in which her choice of scenario had been this precise lake. The water was crystal blue surrounded by rocks of every known color. The trees and bushes surrounding it were always in full bloom, aiding the maidens and goddesses to hide themselves from the prying eyes of those around them.
It was definitely a beautiful place. It smelled flowery and sweet, luring the skotos out of his hiding place for a moment until he was standing behind the owner of the dream. And when the babe turned around, Jaehyun could have sworn he had forgotten completely how to breathe.
It was the little darling from Apollo’s dream. The very same divine creature that had Apollo wrapped around his oblivious little fingers. And when the babe tilted his head to side and stared at the skotos in curiosity with a hint of confusion, Jaehyun decided that he would be his next victim. Dressed up in what seemed to be a silky sleeping gown that was almost too short to be referred to as such, Jaehyun couldn’t help the smirk that found its way to his lips.
The babe's knees were pressed against his chest, causing the smooth flesh of his thighs to be exposed to the prying eyes of the skotos. His gown was loose enough for his collarbone to also be exposed, causing an immediate body reaction on the creature as he licked his lips in anticipation. The babe’s rosy lips were small and plump, and they’d probably feel amazing around his shaft.
Just the thought of it was doing things to Jaehyun’s body.
He’s waking sin, thought the skotos to himself, finding it in him to somehow smile innocently at the babe before making his first move.
The babe blinked at the man as if trying to come into terms with his presence, momentarily debating on whether he should run away or interact with him. Where there any chances of the stranger knowing about his real divine status and relationship to the Moirae?
“You don’t need to worry. I don’t bite,” said Jaehyun, smiling playfully at the babe.
But my brothers do, thought Jungwoo to himself, looking back momentarily as if to make sure no one was watching them. But luckily for him, the place was empty and quiet. The atmosphere was almost too serene for his liking, making him realize that his brothers, or one of the maidens that served them, could potentially appear out of nowhere unannounced.
“I don’t think you realize what’s going on,” the skotos took the liberty of sitting besides the babe, leaving a small gap between them to not make the little darling uncomfortable. He joined him in admiring the scenery, genuinely surprised to see so many details in the child’s projection—from the positioning of every individual rock around the lake, to the slow movements of the clouds in the sky. He could feel the breeze of the wind hitting his face and even the freshness of air entrapped within the small space.
The little darling probably visits this place quite often, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many details in this dream.
“What do you mean?” Jungwoo, momentarily self-conscious about his appearance, pulled his legs closer to him and lowered his head in shame. His cheeks turned into a pretty shade of red, causing Jaehyun to smile at the rather beautiful sight of the tempting creature sitting by his side.
He wondered what it’d be like pining him to the ground and kissing him fervently, swallowing the captivating moans released by his pretty pair of plump lips. It’d probably be a divine experience.
“I mean that you’re probably unaware that this is a dream,” said the skotos, turning his head around and staring at the confused babe in amusement. The child's head was fully tilted to the side, blinking rapidly at the new information as if trying to come into terms with it.
It sounded like absolute bullshit.
“I don’t believe that. Who are you? Why are you—”
“I can prove it,” said the skotos. He pointed at the lake in front of them, catching the babe’s full attention as he followed the creature’s index finger. It wasn’t until the babe was staring at the lake in anticipation that Jaehyun broke eye contact with him, focusing on the scenery before changing it completely.
The sudden distortion in the dream realm, or rather on Jungwoo’s manifestation of choice, caused the babe to let out a sudden gasp. He watched as the lake he loved so much distorted completely until, little by little, it turned into a beach, replacing the stillness of the crystal blue water for pastel pink waves that crashed peacefully on the shore. The grass they were sitting on was replaced by thin, non-stick sand that fell off the babe’s hand without any leftover residue. The sky reminded him of the enchanted sky in his brothers' bathroom, pretty shades of pastel colors varying from blues to pinks.
Jungwoo was mesmerized. His confusion was replaced by admiration as he watched the new scenery before him. He stood up on his feet clumsily, head moving in every direction to take in the sight properly. Jaehyun, from the sand, watched the little darling in amusement instead. A tiny smile found its way to his lips after getting an accidental peek under his gown unbeknownst to the babe.
It was impossible. He was dreaming? Then who was the man with him?
“Who are you?” asked Jungwoo, turning around and finding the stranger still sitting on the sand. He smiled genuinely this time, dimples forming on both cheeks and causing a blush to spread over the babe’s face.
“Do you believe me now, sweetheart?”
The blush on his face intensified, giving the creature a sense of satisfaction. Jungwoo's trail of thoughts were suddenly interrupted, turning around momentarily at the sound of water splashing further into the sea. And what a sight indeed, for he found himself staring at two spinner dolphins passing by. The breeze didn’t smell salty, but rather sweet and cool on his milky skin.
It was beautiful. Even more so than the Olympian lake.
“Where is this place?” asked the babe, watching as the dolphins span in the air several times before diving in the water again. And just as they appeared out of nowhere, the little creatures were gone again.
It was mesmerizing.
“It’s my comfort zone. Only I get to come here. And whomever I choose to take with me, of course,” said the skotos, internally cussing out the two dolphins for swimming away without reporting themselves at the very least. It had been days since he had last seen them. And in all honesty, he was concerned.
But that was a story for another day. He had other matters to worry about.
“And why did you bring me here? Who are you exactly?”
The skotos smiled at the babe and stepped closer to him. He invaded Jungwoo’s personal space and took in his scent—sweetness and softness blended perfectly with the sleeping oil his brother rubbed on his body before going to sleep. The babe took a step back, momentarily intimidated by the proximity between them.
“Let’s leave the small talk for next time we meet. It’s time to wake up, sweetheart.”
Jungwoo stared at the man in confusion, blue eyes staring into a pair of swirling gray pearls. It wasn’t until that very moment that Jungwoo took in the sight of the man in front of him.
With black strands that heavily contrasted with his pale skin, the mysterious man had a broad, sturdy physique anyone would kill for. He was handsome, more handsome than anyone he’s ever seen before. With the exception of Hades, whom happens to be akra Persephone’s husband, Jungwoo had never seen anyone more handsome. His swirling eyes were mesmerizing and penetrating, almost enough to make the babe feel intimidated whenever he made eye contact with him. His presence alone sent a wave of frisson down his body, causing the babe to feel momentarily flushed by his own body reaction.
This guy, whomever he is, was so unlike anyone he’s ever met before. He had definitely left an impression on the babe despite being a complete stranger.
“I don’t under—”
“How did you get here, love?”
The babe was taken aback, mind already trying to answer the question despite the confusion and the many other questions he had for the man. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember. How had he gotten here? What was he doing prior to finding himself at the lake? And most importantly, how had this man found him in the first place?
Before he could come up with a proper answer, the babe found himself lying down on his own bed. The sunshine coming through his balcony window illuminated his room, making Jungwoo realize that everything had been a dream. He turned to his side and hugged a pillow to his chest, staring longingly at the window through the canopy covering his bed.
He rarely had dreams. And whenever he did dream, he could hardly remember them. But this dream, he recalled every single detail about it. He recalled the man whom had proven that he had been sleeping all along. He remembered his face and voice, causing the babe to flush at the memories of his swirling eyes and sturdy physique. And by God, he couldn’t recall ever meeting anyone as handsome. Whether the man was a product of his imagination or not, he was glad he had a slightly pleasant dream for once.
And Jaehyun, well, he could find Jungwoo whenever he pleased now. After all, he had seen the babe’s face and had engraved every detail in his mind. He had a taste of his essence and had managed to take a peek at his choice of scenery. It’d be easy to find him in the dream realm from now on.
And he’d take advantage of it.
Taeil was furious.
It had been a few days since the incident with Artemis, planting the seed of doubt in his mind as he weighted the pros and cons of ruining the goddess’ image. At the end, he settled for holding back. She wasn’t worth it. Instead, he promised himself he’d find the Daeva demon she’s messing with for the sake of giving her a wake-up call.
No one, absolutely nobody, will ever touch his baby brother. Regardless of power or divine status, no one will have Jungwoo—Apollo included.
This afternoon, after Jungwoo arrived to the temple from spending the afternoon with the pretty nymphs from the Olympian lake, Doyoung and Johnny noticed a bruise whilst bathing him. This, the possibility of someone hurting Jungwoo when they aren’t around, is the reason why they exploit their privileges with the babe—those of him not fighting them whenever they join him in the bathroom as a daily occurrence. And what a surprise they had when they found the ugly marking of three fingerprints on the babe’s upper abdomen.
Johnny was beyond angry. The mark had been done with so much strength that the silhouette of the fingerprints had been left behind for days. The surrounding areas had turned into ugly shades of green and purple, probably causing the babe unnecessary discomfort and pain whenever he moved. It was a reminder that someone hurt their brother whenever they weren’t around. And that knowledge was enough for Taeil to be beyond furious.
Hence why, after the bath, Doyoung met Taeil outside the bathroom in the hallway. They both walked towards the elder brother’s chambers, both of them equally quiet and thinking about the next course of action. The answer was clear—they had to deal with Apollo for once and for all. Unfortunately, killing the god wouldn’t work. His symbol was the sun, meaning that much like Artemis, ceasing his existence would lead to endless calamities to the world. Not to mention Zeus would probably kill the entire Pantheon if his beloved son died.
The whole world dying for one idiot whose death wish is stronger than his ability to rationalize isn’t worth it. Not to mention Jungwoo also had the right to live. Compared to every idiot god and goddess who’s part of this shitty Pantheon, Jungwoo hasn’t had the chance of experiencing living. His existence has been limited and secluded for centuries, always hiding behind the shadows of his brothers for the sake of not exposing his true identity—for the sake of not becoming his brothers’ weakness.
This life hasn’t been fair to Jungwoo at all.
So here they were, trying to come up with a potential way of dealing with Apollo without killing him and without destroying whatever chances Jungwoo had left at living his own life at some point.
Meanwhile, in the babe’s chambers, Johnny had locked the window to his balcony and had made sure to seal it with his powers—no one would be able to go in and, likewise, Jungwoo wouldn’t be able to go out. After the babe was confronted about the bruise on his body, Doyoung had used his powers to heal him. He had also pressed a kiss to the younger boy's forehead, leaving some of his essence on him so it could serve as a protective shield. That way, if something were to happen to the babe over the course of the night, especially after the upcoming confrontation with Apollo, he’d know.
Johnny tucked in his younger brother, sitting on the edge of the bed for a moment and stroking the babe’s golden brown locks. Jungwoo’s blue eyes were filled with unknown emotions, his orbs filling up with unshed tears momentarily whilst the elder caressed his cheeks in affection.
“Why didn’t you say anything, Woo? What are you afraid of?” asked Johnny, wiping away the two tears that rolled down the babe’s cheeks.
Where did he start? He didn’t want to end up as Apollo's plaything. He also didn’t want his brothers to fight with anyone. Not to mention the possibilities of the Pantheon finding out the truth and punishing his brothers for keeping Jungwoo’s existence a secret. And worst case scenario, the possibilities of Zeus locking him up in eternal confinement. Because unlike Persephone, Detemer had never kept her a secret from the Pantheon. Jungwoo, however, had been a secret since the day he was born and dumped onto the fates to raise and care for.
At the end, the babe merely settled for a simple “I’m okay,” causing Johnny to stare at him with concern and a hint of empathy. The elder summoned a crystal bottle filled with the pink oil mix from days ago, watching as Jungwoo stretched out his arms and bared his neck in expectancy. And thus, with a sad smile decorating his lips, the elder poured a fair amount into his hands and rubbed it on the babe's skin. He ran his hands delicately on Jungwoo’s flesh, lovingly leaving traces of his divine essence within his skin as an extra layer of protection.
The room itself was protected against any potential intruders—gods and unknown entities alike. But given the recent events and Taeil’s state of fury, Johnny feared that leaving Jungwoo unprotected would only make things worse. And if there was one thing he felt guilty about, then it was definitely the upcoming restrictions in the babe’s life. Because Apollo’s boldness was bound to have consequences, and the most affected one by them would be Jungwoo.
“I sleep better when you rub your oil mix on me,” said the babe, clearly intoxicated by the sweet scent of the pink lotus. His eyes closed on instinct, breaths evening out little by little as he started to lose consciousness. Johnny smiled at his brother and didn’t bother answering, for he was already more asleep than awake. Instead, he made sure he was well tucked in prior to leaving his chambers. Much like Doyoung, he pressed a kiss to the babe’s forehead and then walked way.
Once outside, he walked down the hall until he reached Taeil's chambers. The eldest amongst the three paced up and down, far too indulged in his own thoughts to pay any attention to Johnny’s arrival. There were so many things that needed to be considered—so many measures that were about to be taken against Apollo and his sister. It’d definitely be overwhelming for Jungwoo.
“Taeil, whatever you’re thinking, you need to—”
Doyoung was cut off by the eldest almost immediately, not giving him a chance to even finish his passing thought.
“No, I will not sit back and consider everyone else when the people in question are willing to hurt Jungwoo. Apollo laid his dirty hand upon him and we all know why. So what are our choices now? If we can’t directly hurt him without Zeus throwing a tantrum, what exactly are we supposed to do to protect him?”
The answer was at the tip of Doyoung’s tongue. And to a certain extent, Johnny also knew the answer to this. But verbalizing it meant that they all agreed. Because reaching an agreement amongst them sets a path for the universal course of actions for the subject in question. And in Jungwoo’s case, they had to be extra careful.
Because whilst divine isolation isn’t as restricting and terrible as its mortal equivalent, it is also a step way from eternal confinement. Eternal confinement is served either locked away somewhere in Olympus, or sent away to the underworld for Hades to decide on a punishment.
Both options are equally bad. One is meant to strip away all the freedom you have, whilst the other one is meant to serve as a punishment.
Why does Jungwoo need to be punished over everyone else’s inability to keep themselves away? No one understood it. Perhaps this is what Themis meant when she dumped him onto them and warned them about the harshness of the future stored for him.
“We need to keep him away for a while. At least until everyone around him forgets about his presence. Until Apollo gives up on him and vows to never lay a hand on him again. Because if he breaks an eternal oath, Zeus will have no choice but to punish him. And let Artemis learn from that as well—if one us speaks about her secret, she’ll suffer the same demise.”
Johnny let out a sigh of disappointment.
Yeah, that was the exact same thing as divine isolation. Jungwoo would reach a point of uneasiness and insanity for being locked away from the world he’s known. He’ll be restricted to moving around the temple only, unable to see or speak to anyone else that wasn’t his brothers.
Doyoung, much like Johnny, looked just as defeated.
It could take centuries. Zeus would also grow impatient when he learned about the loss of his favourite errand babe, eventually calling in the fates to demand for an explanation. On the bright side, however, Zeus' impatience could be used in their favour—they could arrange terms and conditions to keep the two evil siblings away from the babe.
The only problem was the time factor and the emotional consequences Jungwoo would suffer from this decision.
And really, Johnny wasn’t ready to see the babe suffering once again over his inability to fend for himself. Jungwoo already hated himself enough, so he feared this decision would further fuel ill feelings towards himself.
“So you’re back.”
Jungwoo turned around and found himself staring into the same swirling gray orbs from days ago. The stranger, in all his glory, was walking around shirtless. The babe wondered how was it possible for him to remember the man so vividly. Does his presence here mean that he’s dreaming again?
The stranger approached him and stopped when he was standing in front of him. For a moment, Jungwoo forgot how to breathe completely. Because this man, in all his glory, was so unnaturally attractive. It truly made Jungwoo wonder whether he was real or merely a projection of his own subconscious. And whatever the case may be, he was decided to just accept it.
“You look comfy,” said the skotos, a smile forming on his lips as he took in the sight of the babe. Jungwoo wore a pair of white, silky shorts with a long sleeved crop of the same color. With his tummy exposed, and the knowledge of the man staring at him with what seemed to be amusement with a hint of lust, he felt the need to cover himself. And he was in the process of doing so when he felt an extra pair of hands stopping his own from covering the exposed flesh.
The touch itself sent a wave of electricity down the babe’s body, igniting a source of unknown heat in his core—one he had never felt before.
“There’s no need to get shy. I’m hardly wearing anything myself,” said the skotos, smirking at the sight of the babe blushing.
Well, there may be no sense of relation between the two of them, but there’s definitely an undoubted attraction in both sides. And despite it being minimal, the creature would take his chances and keep on pushing until he had the little babe where he wanted him. The progress would probably be slow, but slow was always his favourite pace.
Especially with someone as desirable as Jungwoo.
“No beach today?” asked Jungwoo, earning himself a smile from the stranger as he distorted the illusion of the Olympian lake for his own creation. The babe watched mesmerized again, unable to understand how easily a dream could be manipulated.
Once the scenery had been altered, the stranger sat on the shore and waited for the babe to join him. He didn’t need to wait long, for Jungwoo followed soon after and sat right besides the man.
It was beautiful. He wondered whether a place like this existed somewhere in the world. He’s known about crystal blue waters in the mortal realm, but pink waters? Not even Olympus has something as beautiful.
“Jaehyun,” said the man, looking away from the pastel pink water and staring directly at the babe.
Once again, Jungwoo felt himself forgetting how to breathe. The swirling gray of the stranger’s eyes was penetrating, making Jungwoo feel bare and exposed. He remembered Persephone told him once that she fell for Hades through the sincerity of his eyes, for they were the window that allowed her to see through him for his true self. Did the same thing apply to this scenario?
He took in every single detail of the man's face. From the irregular pattern and hollowness of his swirling eyes, to the shape and color or his plump lips. His face was void of any marks, not a single flaw could be found on his complexion. He was virtually perfect in every possible aspect.
His body, on the other hand, could only be described as being sculptured by the gods. He was toned, sturdy, and broad. A set of perfect abs ran down the man’s abdomen—and mind you, they were a little distracting. But what Jungwoo found the most appealing was his exposed collarbone and neck. He wondered what it’d feel like to bite, suck, and mark his milky skin.
And when the babe didn’t respond, Jaehyun couldn’t help the chuckle that got past his lips. With the little darling staring at him in what seemed to be attraction with a hint of lust, the creature found himself delighted with the way things were going for him. The babe seemed to be reacting to him, and those were great news and amazing progress. And this was hardly their second meeting.
“You asked me who I am, remember?”
Jungwoo, realizing that the man was talking to him, blinked several times in momentary confusion. As if pulled out from his own thoughts, he turned away from Jaehyun and blushed at the realization of having gotten caught while staring.
Way to go, Jungwoo. Nothing like making it obvious that you were fantasizing with him.
Jaehyun’s smirk further intensified.
“And you? I don’t think I’ve seen a pretty thing such as yourself around in centuries.”
Centuries? So he is not a product of my own imagination?
“I’m Jungwoo. And I don’t dream often,” said the babe, genuinely confused by the man's choice of words.
If he wasn’t a product of his imagination, did that mean that Jaehyun was alive? What exactly is he? How can he infiltrate, navigate, and control the dreams of others? Was he a god? How come Jungwoo has never seen him before? Could it be he belonged to a different Pantheon? If that was the case, then did it mean he was dangerous?
Jaehyun, sensing the babe’s sudden distress, rubbed his hand on Jungwoo's left thigh almost soothingly. It pulled the babe out of his thoughts again, reminding him that he wasn’t alone. And most importantly, if Jaehyun were to be part of another Pantheon, he should collect information to figure out his true motives.
However, the hand currently resting rather possessively on this thigh was doing things to him, sending a wave of heat down his body again. And just like that, the babe was indulged in a sudden trail of thoughts involving the man sitting next to him.
He imagined what it’d feel like to be held in his arms. Would the rest of his body fit perfectly as well? Because instead of releasing his hold on the babe as Jungwoo thought he would, Jaehyun did the exact opposite. He further increased his hold around the babe's flesh possessively, chuckling to himself when he noticed the blush covering Jungwoo’s pretty cheeks again.
And the babe, albeit embarrassed, couldn’t help wanting a taste of him.
“Nice meeting you, Jungwoo. Welcome to my realm.” He let go of Jungwoo and stood up. He took a few seconds to inspect the pink waters ahead of him and, after smiling to himself at the presence of the two little creatures swimming from afar, he ventured towards them. From afar, Jungwoo could see the silhouette of the two dolphins from his previous dream. This time, however, they were swimming towards the shore—coming towards Jaehyun, for he also seemed to be heading towards them. It was almost as if he wanted to meet them halfway through.
But despite how much Jaehyun walked, the waters were far too shallow. The water level never made it past the man’s knees, and it was that knowledge alone what pushed Jungwoo to follow after the man.
By the time he reached him, the two dolphins were already with him. Jaehyun’s hands were lovingly caressing them, causing both creatures to emit sounds of delight at the sudden act of affection.
Not that Jungwoo was judging him, but Jaehyun didn’t seem like the type to be overly affectionate. Especially not to the two adorable creatures.
“Are they your pets?”
The two dolphins, almost as if offended by the babe’s question, turned their bodies away from Jungwoo and basked in the skotos' attention. Jaehyun, sensing the dolphins' sudden mood shift, chuckled at their childish tactic and continued petting them.
“They’re not pets, sweetheart. You could say they’re my kids. I created them and gave them life. They exist because of my essence in this realm,” said the skotos, earning himself a nod from the babe.
Jungwoo could understand it. After all, akra Artemis also owned several “pets" of her own, some of which she treated kindlier than she did her maidens. Because of Doyoung, however, she kept her sacred animals protected. She also marked them with her essence so she’d know if someone tried hurting them. This turned into an extra measurement to keep them safe after Doyoung went behind her back to murder all the deer from her sacred forest—an unforgettable event that took place after she slapped Jungwoo in an outburst of anger.
He wondered if Jaehyun was as protective of his dolphins. He referred to them as his kids, so he expected nothing less from him.
“Would you like to pet them?” The babe, sensing that the creatures didn’t want to be near him—courtesy of the distance placed between them after Jungwoo referred to them as pets—smiled at the skotos and shook his head. He loved and respected nature, and if the dolphins wanted to keep their distance from him, he’d accept their decision and wait until they felt comfortable around him.
“Jeno and Lele, this is Jungwoo. He’s a guest so be kind to him from now on,” said Jaehyun, earning himself a handful of telepathic whines from the two little creatures, causing him to smile at the bratty display of attention.
“What are you smiling at?” asked Jungwoo, smile lingering on hips lips at the sight of the man with his dolphins.
“Because they’re not very happy with you. They’re complaining about your presence here, especially Lele.”
Jungwoo tilted his head to the side and stared at the man (and the dolphins) with momentary confusion. The dolphins were talking to him? Jaehyun, sensing that the babe wanted to speak up, cut him off and explained the situation before his dolphins swam away upset again—a futile attempt however, for both creatures turned around and left.
There was no need to stay around. They had reported to Jaehyun and were now free to go again.
“They have names just like you and I. Their names are Lele and Jeno. And if you develop an emotional connection with them, you can have conversations with them. They’re not verbal, of course. But if you develop an emotional bond with them, they’ll speak and communicate with you through it. You just need to be careful with the things you say. They get offended easily and it’s hard to get them to open up to you. As of now, you’re standing in a bad position with Lele,” said Jaehyun, chuckling as he watched his two dolphins swimming away.
Yeah, Jungwoo could tell her had offended the two little creatures. If the sudden distance placed between wasn’t the biggest giveaway, then the sudden need to escape and swim away unexpectedly without Jaehyun dismissing them took the crown.
He wondered whether they’d want to come near him again. But to be fair, he had no idea sacred animals could be considered kids. Akra Artemis loves her deer, but not enough to refer to them as her kids. Then again, he can’t sit here comparing Artemis to Jaehyun—the moon goddess took the crown when it came to arrogance and insensitivity. She didn’t love her deer the way Jaehyun loved his dolphins, and that was an undeniable fact to anyone who paid attention to their interaction.
“How do I make them like me?” asked Jungwoo, following the skotos back to the shore.
There were so many questions he wanted to ask. Questions revolving around him and his ability to navigate through dreams. And yet, despite the endless pool of potential questions he could have asked, the babe found himself trying to figure out ways to bond with the two dolphins.
“There will be plenty of time for you to get to know them. Don’t worry your pretty, little head over their petty tantrum. They’ll come around again.”
Jungwoo chuckled in retaliation but agreed. This definitely wouldn’t be the last time he’d see them.
“What are you?”
Jaehyun stopped walking to stare at the babe in amusement.
“Why am I the only one answering questions? It seems somewhat unfair, don’t you think?”
“You’re the one who keeps invading my dreams. I have the right to get some answers,” said Jungwoo, earning himself a dimpled smile from the man.
Once out of the water and back on the shore, the elder stopped walking and faced the subject in question. Jungwoo was staring at him in expectation—almost hoping for him to agree.
Unfortunately, Jaehyun had other plans.
“Come up with a game we can play together next time we meet. We’ll both answer each other’s questions then. Do you agree with me?”
A game? Jungwoo was an expert at playing games. His whole life was basically a game—a game of hide and seek. He’d hide from everyone that wasn’t Persephone and Hedone, and even they were potential threats to his existence. His true divine status had to remain a secret from everyone in Olympus. How is he supposed to explain that he’s related to the fates when he has no powers?
Along with games, Jungwoo was also a pro at cheating—running to his brothers for protection so they would take care of whomever is making him miserable.
Artemis and Apollo are the perfect examples. Taeil had requested for Persephone to become Jungwoo’s shadow whenever Artemis was around. And like the amazing friend she is to Jungwoo, she had kept her word. She did everything in her power to keep the babe occupied with her—if spending the day away in Detemer's precious greenhouse even counted as such—just so the moon goddess wouldn’t seek him out. As for Apollo, Jungwoo didn’t know the details yet, but he knew for sure a confrontation was happening at this very instant.
Otherwise, Johnny wouldn’t have put him to sleep so unexpectedly. Not that Jungwoo was complaining given the pleasant company of the man whose name he just learned.
So yes, games were Jungwoo’s specialty. He’d definitely come up with something to make things more interesting between them.
“It’s time to wake up now. You’ve been with me for quite some time, don’t you think?”
I wouldn’t mind staying here forever, thought Jungwoo to himself. However, the words were left unsaid.
“Answer one question only.”
Jaehyun gave him a questioning look but nodded nonetheless.
“Why are you always lingering around my dreams?”
The skotos smirked at the babe and closed the pathetic gap between them, invading Jungwoo’s personal space and causing him to stop breathing momentarily. He pressed a hand to the babe's exposed waist, slightly (albeit delicately) pulling the little darling closer to whisper in his ear seductively.
And by God, his breath sent a wave of frisson down Jungwoo's spine, once again igniting a flame of passion within his core he did not know he possessed.
“Because you’ll be mine soon.”
Jungwoo didn’t get the chance to question the man’s response, for he suddenly woke up in the comfort of his own bed. The canopy served as a barrier between himself and the rest of the room, serving as a symbolic reference of the conflict of interest taking place in his life—a division between reality and fantasy that was far too complex for him to understand just yet.
The only thing he knew for sure was his irrevocable attraction for a man whose whereabouts were unknown. And really, his existence itself was a questionable subject. But Jungwoo couldn’t bring himself to care. Not when his touches seemed to linger on the physical realm, reminding him of the overwhelming presence he couldn’t shake off.
And may the gods help him overcome this, for he found himself diving deeper into a pool of darkness he knew nothing of—wanting a taste of darkness that came in the form of an unknown man by the name of Jaehyun.