“A human,” A lilted voice spoke behind him, “What a tasty little treat.”
Dejun was rooted in place. It was dumb of him to come to the grove as the sunset behind the mountains. The sky was almost the same shade of pink as the cherry blossom that had just bloomed. All Dejun had wanted was to see the beautiful sight, but he hadn’t stopped to think about the consequences. In fact, he didn’t even remember wanting to come here. It had just happened.
“Leave him be,” Another voice sounded slightly deeper, and it resonated in Dejun’s chest.
The voices were still behind him. Dejun didn’t dare turn around since he didn’t know what entities the voices belonged to. Some of the creatures in the stories he heard could steal a soul if looked upon. Dejun liked his soul and didn’t want it to be taken.
“Turn around,” The first voice demanded, and Dejun turned against his will. He didn’t know if it was magic or if the voice was that compelling. “Perfect.”
They looked human, but Dejun knew they weren’t. For one, they were much too pretty to be humans. Dejun didn’t know if their beauty could even be translated into a painting or any other form of art. His breath was locked inside his chest as he studied the beings in front of him. One had long hair that was cherry red; his silk robes consisted of deep reds and oranges that made him look like a flame in the sun’s light. The other’s robes complimented his baby pink hair by clothing him in pastel purples and pinks with specks of shimmering gold. The one with pink hair had dimples as he spoke; his hand was lightly holding his companion back.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” His eyes sparkled in the rose-tinted light, “But it’s dangerous for you to be out.”
“I didn’t mean to be,” Dejun spoke, his gaze never wavered. “I just ended up here.”
The taller man, the one with pink hair, looked shocked as he studied Dejun’s face. He moved his arm to hold it out to Dejun instead, “Come, It’s getting dark; we’ll deal with this in the morning when it’s safe.”
Dejun took the man’s hand and followed him since there wasn’t anything else for him to do. They seemed kind enough, and he figured he’d take his chances with them then brave whatever would appear in the grove when the sun finally set. Magic was a fickle thing, and the creatures that fed upon it would see him as nothing more than a conduit for it.
The village appeared out of nowhere. One moment they were walking out of the grove and the next they were in an ancient-looking village. Everyone was dressed like the two men he was with. Draped in silk robes that didn’t seem to belong to a particular style or fashion. Not that Dejun was an expert in historical clothing so he couldn’t be exactly sure. It just seemed like a conglomerate of many histories and cultures.
“You’ll be staying here,” The pink-haired man spoke as the approached a gold-painted house. The other hadn’t said anything since the grove and Dejun didn’t know if he felt relieved or more on edge. Another man walked out of the house and the first man continued to speak, “Kun will take care of you. Don’t worry about being gone no one will notice you’re missing. Time doesn’t move here in the same way as the human realm.”
Dejun hadn’t thought about the passage of time once he had entered the grove. Sure, he saw it happening by watching the sunset but it didn’t occur to him that time was actually moving. It wasn’t like there was anyone to miss him in the “human realm” as the man had called it.
“You never told me your names,” Dejun said.
“You never said yours either,” The taller man laughed before he introduced himself, “I’m Jaehyun. My companion is called Yuta, and you are?”
“I’m Dejun,” He turned towards the door. An odd feeling settled over him as he walked into the house—something unexplainable in words. Just a spread of warmth in his chest as he looked at the two men one last time.
The sun had risen over the small village and Jaehyun watched as their visitor walked out of Kun’s house. Anger overtook his body as he marched his way to where Yuta sat in the middle of the courtyard that connecter their home to Kun’s.
“You didn’t send him back,” Jaehyun seethed. He brought the human here to protect him, not to play with him.
“He’s intriguing,” Yuta drawled as he sketched something into the book he was holding. “He has magic in his veins.”
“All humans have magic in them, Yuta.”
“His magic is strong,” The pencil scratched against the paper. Human things that Yuta had brought into their realm. “He was meant to find us.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s meant to stay,”
“Let him make the choice, my love, if he wants to go I’ll send him on his way.”
“And what if he doesn’t want to leave?” Jaehyun questioned, “What would you do then? When the human world slowly begins to move and they all forget him?”
“I’ll explain to him what it would mean to stay,” Yuta smirked up at his lover, “You made the same decision all those centuries ago. Is that why you’re so upset, my darling?”
“I’m not jealous,” But it was clear that Jaehyun was lying so Yuta laughed at him, “I’m not!”
“I believe you,” Jaehyun didn’t need to use his magic to know that Yuta did not believe him. He also didn’t need his magic to know that Dejun would stay. Everyone chose freedom when they were given the choice. It’s just that Dejun didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t his time. Yuta wouldn’t understand though if Jaehyun told him that. He just hoped his lover would do what’s right.
Dejun knew he should have left by now but no one had said anything. The magical village was fascinating. He met several people and it already felt like home something he hadn’t felt in a while. Days had passed and Dejun took his time to explore and meet the residents of the village. Kun had welcomed him into his home, gifted Dejun midnight blue robes that had gold trim, and continued to show a kindness that Dejun hadn’t had his entire life. Kun’s house was also home to several others but not all of them were currently in the village it seemed. Ten and Sicheng were in another realm but Kun didn’t divulge anything more than that. Yangyang and Hendery looked closer in age to Dejun but he had no way of knowing how old they actually were. They were the ones who took him on a tour around the village and explained more about it.
According to his new friends, the village existed in its own realm, and very rarely did it merge with the human realm. Only Yuta had the power to connect the village to other realms but it was a difficult process that he didn’t do often. Most of the village residents were there because of Yuta. He rescued them from their own realms and gave them a place to stay. Dejun’s heart allowed him a moment of hope that maybe that’s why he found Yuta and Jaehyun a few nights ago. Maybe this was his chance to be free.
“You’re the first human to come here though,” Yangyang said as they walked back to the house.
“None of you are human?” Dejun had known about magic from a very young age. They learned about their own magic in school and how it attracted beings from other realms. However, it was rare for humans to be able to access their own magic. It just lived inside of them.
“We may look human but we all come from different realms,” Hendery spoke. “It’s hard to explain since it would require telling you about thousands of realms and all the beings that live in them. If it’s easier for you just think of us as immortal beings. We're not exactly human but we’re not quite creatures. Beings would be the best word.”
That was another thing they explained to Dejun earlier. They were all able to speak in their own native languages and understand each other. It was another thing he hadn’t questioned when he met Yuta and Jaehyun that they were speaking Cantonese to him. Dejun didn’t know the languages that the others spoke to him in. He figured that even if he was able to hear their native languages his human brain wouldn’t be able to comprehend them.
“It seems that Yuta has taken a liking to you,” Yangyang smirked as they entered the house. Dejun could see Yuta in the courtyard where an even larger house lay behind him. Hendery had told him that the large house was where Yuta and Jaehyun lived. “Normally, people don’t stay this long on a visit.”
“Well, by now Yuta usually gives the person “the speech” and gives them the option to stay or go back home.”
Dejun was confused, “But he hasn’t spoken to me so why would that mean that he likes me?”
“I don’t mean that he like likes you,” Yangyang stressed sounding like a middle schooler but Dejun figured that Yangyang didn’t even know what a middle school was. “He’s taken a liking to you. It’s a little different. He must find you interesting enough to let you stay but something’s holding him back from offering.”
“Do you have anyone back home?” Hendery asked. “Yuta never asks anyone to stay if they have a life in their own realm.”
“No,” Dejun watched as Yuta looked up from his sketchbook and made eye contact with him. Embarrassed, Dejun shifted his gaze back to his companions. “I don’t have anyone.”
“It’s must be Jaehyun then,” Yangyang stated, “He’s the only one who can persuade Yuta to do anything.”
Dejun thought about the pink-haired man for a moment. Jaehyun seemed nice, but he was apprehensive of Dejun. On the other hand, Dejun couldn’t help but be enamored with him. It was hard not to be when Jaehyun smiled at him and his dimples overtook his face. When his deep voice spoke softly to Dejun in a way that Dejun had never been privy to. They hadn’t interacted since Jaehyun brought him to Kun’s house on the first day, and now Dejun seems to know why. Or at least he assumed to know the reason. As much as he had been watching Yuta the older man had been watching him, and Jaehyun for whatever reason did not like that. Anyone would be able to tell that Yuta and Jaehyun were involved in some way. Dejun picked up on that when he ran into them. He just didn’t know the depth of their relationship and how his presence had disrupted it.
“Or maybe I spoke too soon,” Yangyang said as he directed Dejun’s attention to the window. Yuta had left his spot in the courtyard and was dangerously close to entering Kun’s house. “Let us know how it turns out.”
Without another word, Yangyang and Hendery left Dejun alone in the kitchen. Yuta let himself in through the back door and bowed to Dejun.
“Have you enjoyed your stay here?” Yuta asked and Dejun felt his stomach drop. His stay must be coming to an end and he didn’t know how to feel.
“Quite,” He didn’t know what else to say. If he was being asked to leave he didn’t want to let on how much he had truly enjoyed his stay.
“I’m glad,” Yuta smiled at him a stark contrast from his behavior when Dejun met him. “Follow me.”
Yuta’s house was much larger than Kun’s. It seemed odd to Dejun that he would need such a large house when there were only two of them living there. Kun’s house operated as the village Inn it seemed but no one went near Yuta’s house, except for Jaehyun who lived there.
Yuta leads him up the large ornate staircase into the large master bedroom. Dejun followed him, albeit confused, and stood awkwardly before the large bed. Yuta smiled at him and motioned to the spot on the bed next to him. Dejun hesitantly sat down and tried to keep his limbs to himself as much as possible. This was the bed that Yuta shared with Jaehyun and Dejun didn’t know why he was sitting upon it. Why Yuta would share such a place with him when there was a perfectly good sitting room on the floor below them.
“Would you like to stay?” Yuta asked his smile bright and inviting but Dejun was still cautious about it.
“I would,” Dejun dropped his gaze to his hands. “This feels more like home than anything I’ve experienced before.”
“And you wouldn’t miss anyone back home?”
“I didn’t have anyone back “home” I was alone.”
“Staying would mean becoming immortal,” Yuta reached over and tilted Dejun’s chin up so the younger was looking at him. “You’d lose your human mortality which is a lot for some people to handle. Most of the others here were already immortal so it wasn’t something they had to consider.”
Dejun halted—Immortality was a lot to consider and it hadn’t crossed his mind until that moment. “Can I have a few days to consider?”
“Absolutely,” Yuta wiped an eyelash off Dejun’s cheek and blew it off his thumb, “I’d be surprised if you had an immediate answer for me.”
“I want to stay,” Dejun whispered mostly to himself, “I just don’t know if I want to stay forever. Like Kun told me people travel between realms all the time but I’m not sure if that could satisfy me for an eternity.”
“Why don’t you sleep on it and you can ask me any questions you have tomorrow.”
Dejun stood from the bed and felt like he was already making the wrong decision. Everything told him to stay. Not just with the village but with Yuta—and maybe that was a warning to leave. He didn’t understand the burning that spread inside of his chest. It ached as he walked back to his room in Kun’s house. A premonition it seemed, one that Dejun wouldn’t be able to decipher for a while.
“He needs to go home, Yuta,” Jaehyun urged. “You tried to rush things and it’ll only make things worse in the end.”
“Dejun should make that decision, love, not us.”
“The timing isn’t right,” Jaehyun pressed further, “He shouldn’t have stayed. It’ll only cause issues for him in the future. Send him home and wipe his memory. If he finds us again, and it’s the right time, then he can stay. For now, it isn’t time.”
“How do you know that?” Yuta pushed himself off of their bed. Dejun’s scent still clung to the sheets and it caused Jaehyun’s magic to go haywire. It just screamed at Jaehyun that it wasn’t the right time. He didn’t know how to put it into words for Yuta. His magic just felt things and Jaehyun listened. Yuta sighed, “I know your magic is always right but he’s meant to be here with us.”
Jaehyun leaned in to cup Yuta’s face, “He has things he has to do in his realm before he can stay. We both know he won’t choose to leave so you have to do it for him. If he stays he’ll become miserable when his magic calls out to him.”
“But he’ll come back?”
“I’m sure of it.” Jaehyun pressed a kiss to Yuta’s lips sealing his promise.
Yuta pulled away and shut his eyes. His breathing steadied as Jaehyun watched his lips move in a silent spell. They would all remember Dejun, but the human would forget about them. It would be painful but it had to be done. He’d find his way back and it would all be okay. Jaehyun could feel it.
Dejun gasped awake as if his body just caught up with breathing normally. His apartment was far too warm and he felt like he was melting to death. Every part of his body burned. The feeling didn’t come from the outside though but deep within him. As if it was originating from underneath his skin. He scratched at his arms to relieve the feeling but it only intensified. When it became unbearable he stumbled out of bed and crashed into the bathroom. In a haze, he turned the shower on and didn’t bother to undress before he stepped underneath the cold spray. His breathing caught in his chest from the cold but his skin did become numb.
He peeled his wet clothes off and grabbed his towel. Dejun only bothered to dry off before he walked back into his room. He didn’t want to put new clothes on to only take them off if the sensation came back.
He flicked his bedside lamp so he could see in the pitch-black room. Scattered all around the floor were cherry blossom petals. As if the wind had blown them in through the window, but the window was shut and there weren’t any cherry blossom trees nearby. A sharp pain sparked in Dejun’s temple as memories flooded back to him. His heart seized when he realized what had happened. They made him feel loved and then threw him away. Like he meant nothing.
Pink petals floated through the air like tiny fairies out for a dance. The grove was littered with them, infested, and Dejun didn’t know how to feel about it. The cherry blossom petals only brought remembrance of what he couldn’t have—of the home he thought he stumbled upon last year. His magic had grown since then, and now he was ready.