Seungcheol unlocked the door, peering into the rain as it fell in a pattern no one could find out. He’d sensed something shifting outside, the house telling him it was scared, and it wasn’t entirely human. If Seungcheol’s instincts were anything to go off of (they were), there would be someone out in the rainstorm that didn’t have somewhere to go. He’d known before the house told him, but getting out of the shifting house was always the problem. He made sure the dial next to the door was on the blue, grabbed his umbrella, and stepped out of the house into the rain.
The umbrella opened without him touching it, and it hovered to just protect Seungcheol from the pelts of cold. Closing his eyes, Seungcheol felt a tug towards the back of the house and began to pad softly before remembering the person wasn’t entirely human and would detect him. So instead he put out a shroud, hiding him from even the most prying of eyes. As he made his way to the back, he saw the person shifting and chuckled a little when he realised they were picking the lock. They wouldn’t be able to, but the house was in a teasing mood tonight, so it was indulging the poor boy. Seungcheol walked up so that he was right next to the boy, and his eyes shot up, searching the surrounding area.
His eyes were a bright green, searching and scared, making something in Seungcheol want to lower his shroud. So he did, making the green-eyed boy yelp. “You know you could have knocked. The house won’t let you in that way,” Seungcheol said casually, waving the umbrella over to the soaked boy in favour of choosing to put a waterproofing spell on himself. The boy, who looked younger than Seungcheol (everyone did in his eyes), seemed terrified as Seungcheol knocked twice on the door. When it swung open easily, the green eyes darted back to Seungcheol, who was standing perfectly dry in a torent. Seungcheol could sense the trepidation, and sighed. “You can come in, or you can stay out here. I don’t have all the time in the world, I’m just saying.”
With that, Seungcheol stepped into the house and heard footsteps behind him as the door closed neatly. When he turned back, he could see the boy shivering behind him. “It looks like you’re in dire need of warming up. Go and take a bath. The room is, well, I’m not quite sure. It’ll shift.”
“Shift?” The boy finally asked, and Seungcheol nodded, noting his voice sounded scratchy from what he could only assume was not being used.
“Let me find it.” Seungcheol closed his eyes for a second, imagining the bathroom he needed, and smiled when it appeared. “Down the hall, second left door. You’ll find the water is already being drawn.”
The boy just nodded, and Seungcheol noted for the first time his guest smelled of a wet dog. Well, that would explain why he wasn’t fully human. “I won’t hurt you. Just go.” Seungcheol watched as he quietly padded into the bathroom, and a few minutes later a small boy slid down the banister.
“Who’s that Master?” He asked, his robes much too big for his small frame.
“A new friend, hopefully. Did the rain wake you up Samuel?”
“Maybe? And the smell. It smells like a dog.”
“I suppose you’ll want tea,” another voice said and Seungcheol looked over at the open hearth with puppy eyes. Hyungwon stared back at him evenly before sighing and opening his mouth. “Feed me.” Seungcheol gladly grabbed a few pieces of wood and fed them to the little flame, who began to eat the pieces and burned brighter.
Samuel got a pot that had obviously seen better days and began to dump water in it from the tap as Seungcheol searched for three presentable mugs. When he found them, he placed them on the stone hearth wall. He’d made it so it was raised, so he could easily reach Hyungwon if he needed to. Samuel hung the pot from the bar as Hyungwon began to beat the pot with flames. Seungcheol was so invested in finding a good, proper tea that he didn’t even realise that the boy with green eyes that smelled like a dog was out of the bathroom with clothes on that weren’t his own.
“What’re you looking for?” He asked, making everyone in the room jump.
“Tea,” Seungcheol replied when his breath came back. “And please take off the towel on your head.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Of course you’d rather not,” Hyungwon drawled as Samuel moved to catch the random things Seungcheol was throwing. The green eyed boy could swear he saw Samuel catch an entire sandwich, but couldn’t be too sure because the fire was talking and he was kind of distracted by that. “After all, your ears dry faster under a towel.”
“Ears?” Seungcheol asked, looking up and gasping. “Of course! What kind of hybrid are you?”
“Um,” the boy whispered, unwrapping the towel cautiously. “Wolf.” Seungcheol let out a soft gasp as he saw the white and grey ears pressed to the boy’s head.
“Choi the water is boiling.” Hyungwon grouched, and Seungcheol just laughed, adding more tap water in carelessly. Hyungwon was quiet, nibbling the wood in front of him as he watched the wolf hybrid with beady eyes of coal.
“So you’re a wolf,” Seungcheol hummed. “And I’m guessing you ran from your old owner?”
“I just ran,” the wolf boy muttered.
“I see. All of us have to run at some point, don’t worry,” Seungcheol hummed as Hyungwon began to whine that the water was boiling again. Seungcheol chuckled, pouring the water into the three mugs that somehow had tea leaves in them before going to the door and locking it. “Never can be too safe.”
There was a drag of silence except for the pops of Hyungwon and the slurps of Samuel drinking tea, until Samuel and Seungcheol looked up.
“There’s people outside,” Samuel sighed, and Seungcheol nodded as the wolf’s ears picked up the sound. Shrinking back a little, his ears flicking at the footfall pattern, he saw Seungcheol’s eyes flash in recognition of the fear he was showing.
“I’ll take care of them. Samuel, show - what’s your name? I don’t think I ever asked.”
“Well, Jihoon, welcome to my castle.” Seungcheol smiled amicably. “Don’t let the rooms confuse you, Samuel don’t let him get lost, and Hyungwon, eat a bit more yeah? I may not be back tonight.” And with that, Seungcheol checked the coloured wheel, grabbed the same umbrella, stepping into the rain without shoes on.
Jihoon sent a look at Samuel, who finished his tea with a loud smacking noise, and Jihoon realised that he’d hardly touched his own tea. It was lukewarm now, but when he took a sip, the taste of berries and smoke lingered from the liquid. “Don’t worry, it’s not drugged. Seungcheol wouldn’t do that.” Samuel seemed to be listening for something, but then again Jihoon was too. He couldn’t hear the boots making noises in the mud, however it didn’t mean the hunters weren’t out there.
He shuddered at the thought, but something in his stomach told him that he would be safe if he stayed inside the house. “Isn’t your tail uncomfortable?” Samuel asked, and Jihoon started a little. How had he known? “You can cut a hole in the pants. Those clothes are probably from the boxes in the basements, so no one wears them anymore.”
Jihoon nodded, a frown tugging at his lips as Samuel muttered something. The locks on the doors clicked closed, and Jihoon felt the house shifting as Samuel led him up the stairs. The rain had blanketed any noises, but Jihoon was quickly distracted by the smells. Samuel smelled like bread and baby powder, probably because he looked no older than ten. The house smelled like wood, must, a little like mothballs, smoke, and something that almost seemed to be a tangible smell. Seungcheol’s smell, of cherry blossoms and something that Jihoon couldn’t describe, seemed to have settled through the entire house. There were other scents too, some more sweet, some more bitter. They were all loving scents though, without malice or anger. Jihoon could only assume that Seungcheol must have friends who came through, or that he’d had others stay with him.
It was almost comforting as Samuel opened a door that didn’t have a strong scent. “Now, this will be your room. Do whatever you need to, alright? I’m not sure how wolf hybrids work but just please don’t pee on stuff.”
“I won’t,” Jihoon snickered.
“Anyways, the room will move and shift. Sometimes floorboards fall, sometimes the bed shakes a little, and other times you’ll wake up to breakfast maybe. It depends. The house has moods too, so don’t try to be mean. Plus your wardrobe has clothes in it already for you, and most are hybrid clothes Seungcheol bought somewhere on the way. He always has the idea that if he makes the castle the most accessible and comfortable place, maybe people won’t be so scared of him.”
“Scared?” Jihoon asked, raising an eyebrow. He hadn’t gotten any scents or feelings that Seungcheol was dangerous, so why would people be scared?
“Have you heard of the Moving Castle?” Jihoon blinked a few times, trying to recall what he’d heard about it. He’d lived trapped in a facility, so news of the outside was sparse.
“Really?” Samuel looked surprised as Jihoon began to run his hands over the furniture. None of it had a strong smell of someone else, but it all smelled of age and something deeper. “Were you under a rock?”
“A breeding facility. Practically the same thing.”
“Oh.” Jihoon didn’t know why he’d just said that to a ten year old, but Samuel seemed to pick up on that. “Don’t worry, you’re not scarring a child by talking to me. Me and Master just don’t often travel into your kingdom, Master hates the sight of abuse. Thus, even with my years, I’m not entirely sure about your kind.”
“Even with your years?” Jihoon echoed dumbly.
“I’m close to three hundred I believe. I lost track.”
“Three hundred?” Jihoon managed, sounding shocked to his own ears. Samuel let out a giggle and nodded.
“Three hundred. I do believe Master hoped for you to wind down, but should you have more questions, they’ll be more than welcome in the morning with both me, Master, and Hyungwon. We’ll begin to move tomorrow as well, so I hope you don’t get movement sick.”
“I - I don’t think so?” Jihoon had never been on anything that moved - his life had been in the facility until he saw an opportunity to run and took it. Samuel seemed to understand and nodded, his eyes thoughtful in the lights of the room.
“Should you be, we’ll give you a treatment. Sleep well Jihoon.” Samuel left at that, the lights not dimming but Jihoon feeling the space grow darker anyways. The walls were wooden, warm and smooth like a million hands had done the same thing Jihoon was doing when he ran his fingers over it.
The colours were consistent, all the shade of brown that one gets when they’ve worn wood until it was nothing more than perfect. But Jihoon could feel the way people had loved and lived in here - call it a wolf’s instincts, but he knew this was a room where someone had once been.
Curiously, he opened the closet to find there were indeed clothes for him with holes in the pants for his tail, and a pair of sheers hanging from a nail on the inside of the door. Jihoon picked them up, raising an eyebrow before realising Samuel had been serious about cutting clothes.
Something about that made him feel warm inside.
The facility had been grey, stifling, and more like a prison than a home. Jihoon knew home from stories he’d read, that it was welcoming and charming, with people you could trust inside. This castle as Samuel had called it, definitely seemed like it could be a sort of home.
Jihoon didn’t have any family he knew of either. During heats, they hardly used him due to the fact he wasn’t genetically perfect in their eyes. Usually he waited them through sedated, not that he truly minded. He’d been born in a different facility and had moved into the one he’d escaped from. His mother and father, he had no idea if they were even alive anymore. So no family to go to either, no one to seek out like the others before him may have.
He traded the pants he had on for a looser pair with a hole in the back for his tail, sleep suddenly hitting him like a tsunami wave. Sighing with weariness, Jihoon slunk under the covers of the bed, inhaling the scent of smoke and vanilla as the lights snuffed themselves out before closing his eyes to sink into darkness.