Chapter 1: Preface
"I have seen roses damask'd red and white, But such roses pale in comparison to his summer hazed cheeks, And in no such fragrances is there more delight, Than the fresh chrysanthemum and pomegranate Jeongguk speaks."
Onyx, dun eyes blinked as light wintry kisses peppered the along pale skin. The only sign of life seen in them being the reflection from the cold, hard glass orb in front of them. Light shuffling in the background made their way to red tipped ears with the same colour tinted lips parting. An icy release of air escaped watching on as if entranced. As if the world around them meant nothing to the tight in front of them. He could see him, the object of his obsession playing in the grasslands, warm and hazy. He skipped and he ran and he hid, between orchards, resting in fields of chrysanthemums. And lo' to the eyes watching truly he was a sight to behold.
A small tuft of healthy, shiny black hair. The eyes watching could only imagine that it had taken years of care to produce, each strand more delicate than the other. And when the suns radiance had landed upon it, it seemed like diamonds had been crushed and divided and flaked upon him. A boy of starlight and worth, worth more to the onlooker than he would ever fathom. Doe eyes observing the world, though he would never be able to tell that the world was mocking his innocence and throwing it back into those same very eyes. His skin had been peppered kisses by the sun, a child of stars and moons and life; born with a lust for life and an affinity towards fire. He could have easily been confused for someone who had worked in the fields often, except his stature, the way he walked, the texture of his smooth skin. All of it wasn't as such. His legs were strong from the running he did but soft to the touch and to the observer, he was mystifying. He was rather too beautiful, the way sunshine would leap out to become a blanket for him to wear. Mysterium tremendum et fascinans - mystery before which man both trembles and is fascinated, is both repelled and attracted. Repelling in fear of rejection from those doe eyes and attraction to posses. To seize the wanderlust that made him, himself.
"You've been looking on for quite some time, master."
"Then allow me to look on, I would have never come to feel if I hadn't inhaled the chaos of it all."
Chapter 2: Act I, Scene I
Act I, Scene I
milk and honey
"And let me speak to you, through tongues of milk and honey, deceive you so, you would never know the difference."
Somewhere in between the heart of an Indian summer and a breath of fresh spring, the sound of sweet laughter resonated loudly. Green grass wet with morning dew and trees blew lightly by a slight breeze. Shades of blue painted the horizon and no clouds to hide behind. Above the world only sky.
The essence of youth chased behind them. A man in his early twenties. His glossy blonde hair bounced as he ran. Light brown eyes shut into crescents as melodious glee flowed like rivers at night. He eventually came to a halt, crashing and collapsing to the floor as a tuft of soft black hair brought him down before going to his side.
All that could be heard then was faint heartbeats, going along to the strum of a butterfly’s wings.
Jeongguk could look at him forever, Jimin that was. Have his heart yearn for him forever and have it unreturned - he would still be content with life. Even though he knew his feelings were returned. He still wanted the other to understand though.
His Jimin. Milk and honey. Sweet from tangible lips yet an emotionally unavailable heart. How could it be possible that Jeongguk could one day tell Jimin that he missed him, and make his heart ache as much as his did. His Jimin. Calm before a storm. A man who could crash like gentle waves at the ocean yet set Jeongguks heart ablaze with excitement.
Love was painful, this much was true.
Yet he would do it again and again if it meant he could be together with his lover for this lifetime and the next.
Lying together side by side, Jeongguk could make out a lot. Jimins' shirt, now transparent from its original white from sweat, allowed him to see through the flimsy material. It allowed him to make out the hard plains of Jimins' chest heaving from exhaustion - leading down to his stomach, firm from years upon years of working under his father.
Jeongguk was sure he could move mountains, the metaphorical and literal kind, if he willed. Determination alone was something to get him going.
Just the sight made blood rush to Jeongguks cheeks and areas that "a man of his class" shouldn't speak of.
Soft brown eyes travelled back from the mans navel up to his neck, a trickles of sweat falling down warm sandy skin, veins slightly peaking through showing just the amount of strength the smaller of the two had - turning Jeongguk on even more. Finally returning to the others face. His face was sharp but Jeongguk could still see hints and pockets of baby fat from when they first met, something he clung onto oh so dearly.
He could see light brown eyes that had a certain innocence to them, yet they somehow knew of the world. Like lovelorn fool hurt by love many times yet still kept coming back for more. Like someone who wouldn't allow the cruelty of the world to drag them down - and this? It drew Jeongguk like moth to flame. Jimins whiskey eyes bringing Jeongguk in every time, rendering him drunk and speechless. And as separate strands of blonde hair covered his eyes Jeongguk knew there was nothing more that he wanted in life.
This was the man he loved.
Shifting himself, getting up and swivelling on his kneecap Jeongguk had placed himself onto the others thighs before shuffling a bit higher. He pressed the palms of hands flat onto the others chest - gaining the others attention as they locked eyes with each other.
Jeongguks dark brown eyes mixing with Jimins whiskey coloured eyes. He lent forward, slowly but surely until their bodies were pressed together before leaving a light lingering kiss on Jimins lips, feathery kisses leaving his lips. Kisses trailing down with more force: cheeks, jaw and neck. Jeongguk could taste the salt of Jimins sweat, the heat of the others body and could feel the thumping of his heart against his rib cage before rising up once again to straddle the other. Palms once again flat on the others chest. Eyes locked in unresolved tension - thick and consuming in the air despite the light breeze.
"I want you."
"We can't" the other choked from below.
“I’m to be an adult soon - two summers away.”
“We can’t, my little prince.”
"I know, this will have to make do." he murmured.
And as if it came naturally Jeongguk began to rock his hips on top of the other. Jeongguk could feel the heat grow in his cock and the pressure increase between him and the linen of his pants. He could feel the Jimin grown thick and hard underneath him as he continued him pace, both of them rubbing against each other - close but not close enough for where he wanted the other.
Bouncing, he could feel himself grown wanton with lust as his mind made up all the scenarios he wanted.
Himself, under Jimin on actual sheets being pounded into, the other going into him hard and fast and strong - hand on his throat with the veins that he loved so much showing. All of it, all together leaving him floating and light headed.
It was something he wanted, he wanted it so bad as if it wasn't evident from the way he switched between rocking on the other to bouncing. He had tears in his eyes as he felt the others hand trail up under his shirt from his soft stomach to his hardened nipple, rubbing his thumb over before pinching and twisting in a way Jeongguk loved - in a way that made him whine and moan and had him scratching the others chest in an attempt to ground himself.
"Ahhh, Jimin more more please" he whined, increasing his pace allowing his member to rub more harshly against Jimins.
The hand that wasn't teasing Jeongguks hardened teat went to his waist and gripped tightly in a way that Jeongguk knew would bruise and loved. He loved when his tanned skin had dark bruises from his lover and would hate it when it would fade in the next couple of days.
Jeongguk cried as he felt his cock throb against the others, the flimsy material of their trousers not allowing for much coverage. Cheeks burning as precum began to leak and wet the surface between the two. He could slowly feel himself get close, close enough.
Jimin moved his hand from the youngers' waist to his to his neck to crash their lips as he sat up. Tongue entering the youngers' mouth as the kiss become more passionate. Moving the other hand away from Jeongguks swollen bud to wrap around his waist to add more force into each thrust upwards, both of them rubbing furiously against the other.
"Ji- Jimin, I want you. I want you so bad. I- inside me" the younger panted, coming closer to release.
"A-are you close my little prince?" The younger nodded, back of his hand coming up to his mouth shyly.
It was all too much, having Jimin so close to him. Having his nipples rub against the hardness of Jimins chest, having the other swivelling his hips to rub their members against one another through thin fabric. His forehead resting between Jimins neck and shoulder with his eyes squeezed shut. Hot pants hitting both of their chests before a particular thrust sent Jeongguk to where he wanted to be. Head thrown back, mouth hung open with the blush around his face. He felt electric course through his veins as his hips stuttered again the others, ropes of white leaving him as he painted heavily.
As they were cooling down Jeongguk could barely make out what Jimin was saying, still coming down from his high. It seemed like Jimin noticed this too when he stopped speaking and simply smiled at his little prince.
“Your parents would kill us.”
“That’s why we’re here” Jeongguk giggled, rubbing the tip of his nose onto Jimins.
“In the grasslands your parents forbade you to coming into?”
“Precisely, they don’t look here - no one does for some reason, it’s perfect.”
Jimin shook his head before lifting the younger off of his lap before standing up himself. He smiled at the younger before planting a softer kiss at his lips before walking ahead, before breaking into a sprint and continuing their game from before with a giggling Jeongguk behind him.
“Well you better hurry up before your parents realise the forbidden forest isn’t as protected as they thought it was!” he yelled to the back of him, not paying mind of what was ahead of him.
“Jimminie wait!” he heard, Jeongguks’ laughing continuing.
Until it wasn’t. It wasn’t until a bit after the younger stopped that Jimin had looked around.
He saw it all. He saw darkness surround, he saw the souls of the undead circle and he saw hands. All of them surrounding, holding on tightly to his lover. Dragging him down and kicking and screaming until he was gone. And he could do nothing. He stood, in plain silence.
And by then, his lover was gone.
Act I, Scene II
"And I beg for mercy at your feet, follow your path, let the burning rings of humiliation bring me sweet clemency."
When Jeongguk originally opened his eyes he expected the pitfalls of nothingness, dark nostalgia and perpetually cold loneliness from the Underworld. He expected the sin of man – the sin of himself – to claw at his throat until he was raw from screaming.
Instead he was met with pitch black sky.
Instead he was met with the man before him.
Jeongguk thought that he was beautiful, for the lack of a better word because he was also sure that no other word could be used to describe the beauty of this man. His light grey hair fell lightly before his eyes and his azure blue eyes pierced Jeongguks’ very being. He was truly a sight to behold, and it was by this that he knew that the male before him was an agent of the Underworld. Sinfully beautiful.
Feeling himself tremble his fingertips clutched and grasped at the rock beneath him, not minding the aching sharpness cutting his fingertips and palms. At first he tried to speak, tried to form coherent sentences. Something, perhaps anything that would get him out of the situation that he was in. He knew that in this situation it was black or white, either he would live to speak of a tale so grandiose that no one would believe him, or he would sink in forgotten memories of those who went before him. He wanted to negotiate, perhaps talk his way through freedom.
He could feel the weight of judgement course through him as guilt flooded his system.
He found himself wanting to get on his knees and beg for clemency.
But his reflex to survive ran faster than his brain and he found himself peering towards what seemed to be the entrance before making a run for it.
“I wouldn’t continue down that path if I were you.” A deep fleeting voice left behind spoke.
Of course Jeongguk was never one to listen. He never headed his parents words about what he was and what he wasn’t to do, he never listened to Jimin himself and ended things whilst he had the chance. He certainly wasn’t going to listen to some inhabitant of the Underworld telling him what to do and what not to. After all, it was his father who had instilled into his young head that agents of darkness are not to be trusted. And after passing through a lit tunnel and mazes beyond comprehension Jeongguk was sure he could see light, he could see hope. He thought that as soon as he was done with this predicament he would run straight into his parents arms and tell them how sorry he was. He would tell Jimin how sorry he was. How he wouldn’t let anyone down again.
What Jeongguk saw at the end of the tunnel wasn’t glittery hope and the smell of the land above. Jeongguk was greeted by what he could only describe as the most foul creature he’d seen. A creature, a three-headed dog with a serpent's tail, a mane of snakes, and lion's claws. Jeongguk fell straight down onto his hands and knees. He became deadly silent as the creature… beast looked towards Jeongguk with dead red eyes.
Eyes that were no strangers to violence. Eyes that were no strangers to blood. He heard a low rumbling come from the beast before him, slowly and slowly getting louder and louder. Saliva dripping from the beasts mouth as it snarled and growled at Jeongguks’ direction. Upon further inspection Jeongguk was sure that the beasts sharp canines could rip him apart in one bite. So the boy did what the boy could only think of doing. He remained in his position, deathly still. Not ready so see what fate had awaited him.
He closed his eyes tightly as the beast approached, slowly and slowly.
Feeling the hot breath upon the nape of his neck, Jeongguk prepared himself for death. Quickly got used to the idea that he wasn’t going to see his loved ones anymore. And though he was left speechless from the beginning, all the air encased in his lungs seemed to escape when the creature bit into the collar of his clothes and tossed the boy, almost as if he were a ragdoll, onto its’ back before travelling at what Jeongguk describe as the fastest speed he had ever encountered, back down the way they came.
All until he was once again tossed over the shoulder of the canine and onto the floor where he first started.
“I see you’ve met Kerberos.” The man stated with a smug grin.
“If you’re going to seize my soul then you should do so now.” Jeongguk said, trying to show a braver front than his mind actually possessed.
“Perhaps I would have, if I was the lord of this domain” the man chuckled.
Jeongguk raised his eyebrows at that.
“I’m simply here to take you across the Styx – your fate awaits you there young Lord Jeongguk.”
“So then what be you? Some kind of boatman?” Jeongguk asked, confusion lacing his voice as the man before him step foot onto the small wooden boat on top of the river of green, laced with souls and despair. The man held out his hand for Jeongguk to take, which he did so cautiously – still not trusting the other man.
Anyone in Jeongguks’ situation would be kicking perhaps or maybe screaming. Trying to find one way or another out of their predicament. Yes he was young and he was energetic and he was foolish. But he wasn’t naïve enough to try twice when he was in someone else’s domain. Here Jeongguks’ parents couldn’t protect him. The rulers of the sky could not enter the Underworld after all. They were not sovereign here.
“Well, I must say that I do prefer Taehyung” the man commented, finally giving name to face.
Jeongguk was surprised by it all really. The way this man spoke with charm and grace, the way he was dressed like any other human noble man or prince yet Jeongguk was sure that though he may look like the innocent flower he could very well be the serpent under it. That what all the agents of the Underworld were, Jeongguks’ father told him. Snakes, serpents – out for blood, flesh and souls.
“You’re a boatman” Jeongguk deadpanned before stepping foot onto the boat but not before hearing the loud guffaw of the man in front of him.
“You truly are a treasure” he murmured, though loud enough for Jeongguk to make it out and be confused by it.
And with that Taehyung undid the tether that tied the boat to the dock before making their way down the river Styx. The boat seemed to steer itself with magic as Taehyung simply sat at the front, whistling as they went down the river. Hardly boatman work Jeongguk would say.
The river Styx itself was rather haunting. It showed itself as a green colour which contrasted against the black and grey rocks of the Underworld. The water was still, deadly still yet Jeongguk had been told from above that once a soul would fall into the Styx it would be doomed there for all eternity. The boy shuddered at the thought of it. Eternal damnation into a limbo of pain. It was nothing like where Jeongguk was raised. He himself raised with sunlight and goodness intertwined and woven for him.
“The lord of this realm, I suppose he’s as cruel as the rumours make him out to be” Jeongguk spoke.
He was trying to make small talk with Taehyung but at the same time he was also trying to gather as much information as he could. Jeongguk was known to always have a tongue that was faster than his brain.
“He can be, should you cross him. I’ve seen him, pitiless and unmoved by prayers or pleas for mercy. Scornful and hateful. But I’ve also seen him. He who is justice, he who is the giver to mortals on the Earth.”
“Justice wouldn’t take an innocent and drag them from their home to the Underworld.” Jeongguk retorted before he was surprised by the loud beckoning laughter let out from the elder of the two.
“Perhaps you should re-evaluate your innocence, Lord Jeongguk”.
To this Jeongguk blushed furiously before looking down at his lap. There was no way that the boatman could have known about Jimin. After all, not even his own parents knew about them two – he was sure that maybe it was something. But he still couldn’t stop the whisper war floating in his head from the words spoken from the man before him as he slowly steered the boat.
Jeongguk never noticed how hauntingly loud silence was. He never knew that one day without all the noise that came with daily life he could hear the blood pulsate in his ears. He felt a tingling sensation within his fingertips as a lump formed in his throat and choked all of his words down. He knew that he would be getting nothing of the boatman in front of him, nothing of any importance anyway. From the way Taehyung carried himself Jeongguk could tell that he was loyally faithful to the lord of this domain.
But of course there were other sights to keep Jeongguk busy; strange, grotesque and unnatural – Jeongguk was sure that if somehow he were allowed to go back home, he would tell everyone the journey of hell and back. He would tell everyone of the otherworldly horrors he had seen down here.
At the sides of the Styx was actual life. Not life as in living, breathing, flourishing with rosy colour cheeks and hope for tomorrow. No. This was the type of life where beings with dark, sunken faces of their former selves, corpses and ghouls would lay to rest. To spend the rest of their days stuck down here permanently. He remembers once being told that any man on Earth or laid to rest in the Underworld would rather be alive and the slave of a landless man than king of all the dead in the Underworld.
It was through that saying, that Jeongguk understood that if the king certainly was deemed an unwanted position, he couldn’t begin to fathom what most of the inhabitants down here were feeling all the time. Jeongguk could only imagine the loneliness and death-like feeling that seemed to both transgress time and seep through his very lively pores. Jeongguk was sure that if there was no life after death, it would truly be better than having being cast down in the underworld. His young mind couldn’t take in the partially decaying bodies, the ghouls that seemed to screech and haunt. The inhabitants trying to concoct what would seem like a daily life but their expressions read more than one thousand words on a book.
What got to him the most though, was again the Styx. Jeongguk could hear a low whistling from the very still lake. Faint whispers beguiling him into a false sense of security on the still lake. The Styx didn’t claim souls from heavy currents and arms and legs to drag people in, not in the same way that Jeongguk was taken into the Underworld. Rather, the Styx lulled people in, gained the trust in the stillness of chaotic madness. It had Jeongguk coming closer and closer, peering at his own reflection and seeing the boy on the other side. The boy didn’t feel the boat tip slightly as he lent down to peer closer and he wasn’t going to anytime soon.
As he got closer the whisperings became louder.
The songs sounded through the dark.
The promise of eternal darkness looked good.
The darkness looked nice from Jeongguk was.
And he was going to let himself fall, bit by bit.
Until he felt a sharp sting by his neck as his head was pulled away from the water. Peering at his sides he finally noticed Taehyungs’ large hands wrapped around his neck in a vice grip. Holding him firmly, long nails sinking into his neck.
The boy winced as Taehyung glared at him.
“If you’re looking to become fodder towards immortality for others, be my guest. If not, follow me. Your fate awaits Lord Jeongguk.”
And with that Jeongguk is left in a still rowing boat. No waves to row ceaselessly against. No tide to pull him in or out. It was Jeongguk alone in the underworld.
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