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Can't Get You Out of My Mind (Perhaps You Feel the Same Way Too)

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Migratory birds; like that of the nightingale. Beautiful creatures that travel the skies in order to find their better place to be. Yet, they never settle. Never stop moving. It is said that the Nightingale has one of the planet’s most beautiful voice, singing during dawn and dusk, bringing anyone who had been granted the pleasure of chancing upon them, joy and serenity.  

A migratory bird—perhaps that had been Yoohyeon her whole life; a nightingale—perhaps it was what Yoohyeon yearned to be.   

Her wandering childhood had brought many wonderful memories and people into her life, but it had also meant that memories of herself in people’s minds—people whom she knew—were never a constant. She had met so many people, but how many have actually seen her?

 

*

 

“Is that the new transfer student?”

The president looked up from the sheet of paper, which had the face of a newcomer plastered on it. 

“Yup! She will be joining the fifth year, aren’t you glad Dongdong? A fellow comrade!” Bora smirked and jokingly poked the chinese student’s side. She turned to address the other figure in the room, “and that is why, my lovely Minji, I hav-”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Minji rolled her eyes, “I’m going now to greet her. Since it’s the first day for our academy’s new member after all.”

It was a tradition—one that Minji thoroughly enjoyed—for the council members to welcome new academy members, especially transfer students, and allow them to feel comfortable after they first step foot into the campus. Minji really appreciated her work as the vice-president; her ability to impart a memorable experience for everyone in the academy was something of value to the girl. It was heart-warming to think that she could find love in a place where she had given her all, her blood and sweat.

 

*

 

The migratory birds are returning. Yoohyeon walked as she gazed upwards, admiring the way the birds extend their wings into the sky. It has been years... looks like this place has changed a lot huh. I don’t even recognise majority of the stores anymore. And there surely wasn’t such an academy back then.

“Dreamcatcher academy.” Looking around, she cannot help but be absolutely blown away by the pristine buildings that surrounded her. “Wow… this is a school? Way too grand…”

“Welcome to Dreamcatcher academy!” A loud voice shook her out of her daze. “Are you Kim Yoohyeon?”

Beautiful may even be an exaggerated understatement when used to describe the person standing before her. As if on cue, the wind started to stir, pulling and tugging on the blonde hair of said girl as she reached out to tuck them behind her ear. And Yoohyeon had never witness a sight—a person; anyone—prettier than this. And Yoohyeon had met many people in her life. She stood rooted, not processing anything else but the blonde, until she registers words coming out from the girl’s mouth again.

“I’m Kim Minji, the academy’s vice-president! I’m here representing the school to welcome you!” Minji curled her lips up into a smile as her voice once again broke the tranquillity. Receiving no response from the silver-haired girl, Minji tilted her head slightly, “Yoohyeon? You are Yoohyeon right?”

“Ah! Y-yes,” Yoohyeon willed herself to speak, smiling apologetically. Finally tearing her gaze away, Yoohyeon scratched her nape in an attempt to hide the blush that she knew was definitely forming on her face.

Cute. “Well, since we will be sharing our school life together, let’s get along well!” Minji held out her hand, hoping for a handshake with the younger girl.

Yoohyeon stared at the outstretched hand in whimsical, initially not registering the intention behind such a gesture. Oh, right. A handshake. She scrambled forward; she would hate for causing a pretty girl to wait. She briefly noted the great disparity between the angel-like features of the girl and her own less than appealing appearance, and felt shame coursing through her body. How could someone like herself afford to stand anywhere near such a gorgeous being? Deep down however, Yoohyeon knew that she wasn’t ugly (far from it even), that there had been many who were smitten by her looks. But she just could not bring herself to fall in love with her own reflection, could not convince herself to see her own beauty.  

Seeing that the vice-president, who was smiling at her encouragingly, was looking genuinely happy of her arrival, Yoohyeon couldn’t but wonder: I have never been welcomed so warmly like this before. Always transferring from place to place, Yoohyeon’s school life had been a mix of faces and events. Over the years, she had learnt to keep to herself to prevent another heart-breaking farewell. Perhaps it was also to prevent herself from being forgotten again, for you can’t be forgotten if no one remembers you. Maybe here... I can finally find those things I have always longed for. Locking eyes with the vice-president, Yoohyeon reached out.

Until Minji roughly yanked her hand back upon contact with Yoohyeon’s hand. Wha-what? Holding her hands close to her chest, Minji rapidly averted eye contact with the younger girl. Desperately, she tried to even her now ragged breath, moving further away from the source that warranted this reaction in the first place. Yoohyeon looked on dumbfounded. Did she really hate shaking my hand that much? A wave of disappointment threatened to overcome her as she briefly recalled the times people from school avoided her. Or maybe it was she who avoided them? (It didn’t matter, not when the angel before her was clearly affected by something. Yoohyeon just hoped that it wasn’t something that she had done.)

“What’s wrong? A-Are you okay?” Yoohyeon moved closer while Minji moved back, still hopelessly trying to calm herself down. Why is this happening all of a sudden? Minji’s mind was going wild as she felt her body heat up at the proximity of the other girl, as if her body was a vessel that she had no control over. This wasn’t within the plans of the older girl; she had predicted a simple greeting followed by the end of their encounter—with her returning to the council and Yoohyeon to her dorm as yet another member of DC. She had not expected to form any bonds with the newcomer.

(But life had never been kind to her. This may just be yet another start of something big—bigger than her and everything she could handle.)

“Vice-pres?”

Minji swiftly turned upon recognising the distinct voice, putting a name to it almost immediately. Silently, she released a sigh. She had been saved; one more second and Minji might have broken. Too close. She eyed the transfer student briefly, noting the subtle hint of disappointment mixed with the profound confusion in her eyes; it would seem that the newcomer was not one to hide her emotions well. And it would also seem that Minji would be remembering the younger’s face for longer than she had anticipated.

Finally meeting the gaze of her saviour, Minji let out a stiff smile.

“Siyeon! Great, I was just welcoming Yoohyeon over here! Since you guys are in the same year anyways, would you mind showing her around the campus? Something came up and I have to go now, bye!” Minji sprinted headfirst towards the students’ council room, not forgetting to mutter a ‘thank you’ as she did.

 

*

 

“So... you kept moving because of your dad’s work?”

“Well, kind of. But since this academy has a boarding school, I can finally settle down without worrying about leaving again. I guess it’s time to make some real friends. I was constantly moving, so making friends was difficult. People tend to forget you after a while but I would still remember them y’know...it’s...yea”

“Hey, don’t worry, you will have fun here! I can be your first friend then. Once again, I’m Lee Siyeon. We will probably be in the same class, our homeroom teach hinted at a transferee.” Yoohyeon was glad that this time the handshake went smoothly without any complications like before. The interaction with Minji was weird, and Yoohyeon can’t help but to wonder if she had somehow left a bad impression—unknowingly, of course—on their first meeting. Although she did not find any of her behaviour to be out of line—well, minus the long silences and less than comfortable stares she gave—their encounter seemed normal to the silver-haired girl.

“Does the vice-president have an obsession with cleanliness or something?” She can’t help but wonder out loud. Siyeon let of a laugh as she slapped her hand across Yoohyeon’s back with such force, it sent her four steps forward.

“Of course not!” She giggled. She kinda looks like a wolf. Yoohyeon can’t help but notice the wolf-like appearance her new friend’s features extruded.

“Minji’s rather stubborn and headstrong, but she is a kind girl. Though I must say... she was kinda weird today.”

“See?!”

“Hmm, did you do anything? Or... maybe she just hates you in some way.” She shrugged and broke into a smirk as Yoohyeon’s ‘Hey!’ was heard. She’s too easy to tease~

Soon enough, they reached a modern-looking building that definitely stood out against the backdrop of the ancient castle-like infrastructures that made up the main campus. Dorm life was the thing Yoohyeon looked forward to the most, as she did spend quite a lot of time working and saving in a bid to move away from that dreaded place. Yoohyeon hated her life back home; if she could even convince herself to call it a home, her home. The word left a bitter taste in her mouth.

(Surely, home is a warm save haven but it could not be further away from the truth for her.)

“P-pardon the trouble.” Yoohyeon cautiously took a step into the establishment.

“Huh? Why do you have to feel troubled coming into your own home? Relax!” Siyeon motioned as she dragged Yoohyeon into the dorm. She made sure to give the latter a warm smile as reassurance, fearing that Yoohyeon might feel uncomfortable in the new environment.

It’s warm... Yoohyeon smiled to herself. I think I’ll like it here. If warmth were a feeling, it would most definitely represent happiness. Neither have been something Yoohyeon got to experience much, sadly.

“Oh my god, look out!” Before she could register what was happening, a figure crashed right into her and she was launched straight to the floor. “Oh shit! I mean- are you alright?!” the same voice rang out, shattering whatever peace that was once present.

“Lee Gahyeon! What are you even doing?!” Siyeon berated as she ran to help the poor fallen girl, only earning an ‘oops’ from her eccentric younger sister. “Yoohyeon, are you okay? Did you hit your head? Can you see me? What’s my name? What’s your name? How many fingers is this? Can you hear me? Please don’t die.” She panicked as she waved three fingers hysterically in the poor girl’s face.

“Ow ow… stop that, Siyeon.” She groaned.

“Wait, did you say Yoohyeon?” Gahyeon let out another yell, “OH, it is Yoohyeon unnie!” The two girls flinched. They can only grimace while their poor eardrums braced through the damage. 

When Yoohyeon finally took a proper look at the loud newcomer, she immediately remembered the younger girl. How could she forget one of the kindest girls she had ever met? She remembered playing with Gahyeon when she lived in this town eleven years ago. She remembered the way the girl had treated her—with kindness, a concept that was relatively foreign and an ever-absent subject in her life; at least under his sole guardianship. She remembered exploring the grand landscape before they were replaced by tall buildings—precious memories Yoohyeon held dearest. Perhaps the time she spent with Gahyeon had been her at her happiest; and it was comforting to know that Gahyeon still remembered her.

“You guys know each other?”

“She’s the girl I told you about, unnie! The one who played with me all the time when we were kids! Look at you now Yoohyeon unnie, you’re even taller than my elder sis!” Gahyeon rambled on, clearly too excited to be reunited with her long-lost friend. 

Yoohyeon smiled and pulled the shorter girl into a hug. “It’s nice to see you again Gahyeon. It really is.”

 

*

 

“So, what the hell happened?”

“I don’t know. It felt weird...I almost couldn’t control myself... It was the first time I’ve experienced something like this.”

“Oh, I mean I’m definitely interested in my dear friend’s feelings... but I was just asking about the newcomer,” Bora chuckled, certainly pleased at herself for teasing Minji.

“Urgh!” Minji shot the president a look before continuing, “She seems really kind and was really polite.” Not to mention really cute too. Her smile... gosh. Minji could easily recall the girl’s smiling face before it was coloured a deep red due to embarrassment. Her smile made her look like a little puppy and definitely made Minji feel something, though she would never admit it; especially not to Bora. Never.

“Well, that’s nice and all but... this queen here wants to know about the princess’ in-depth personal opinion~”    

“Kim Bora! Oh my god, I shouldn’t have talked to you about it!” Minji whined.

Bora’s words made her recall the silver-haired girl again, who had been haunting her thoughts since their meeting earlier today—more specifically the younger’s eyes, which possessed a pretty shade of hazel brown. It remained a wonder to Minji, how mere orbs could seem to enshrine an entire world within. Minji swears she saw a glimpse of the galaxy when she looked into those eyes with her own pair of dark brown ones. But she also swears that she would not want to look into those eyes again, for as long as it was possible; to get lost in the gaze that held the stars. Yea, definitely, most certainly not. (She is also definitely, most certainly, not fooling anyone.) And have I mentioned her silver hair suits her so much it’s like she invented that colour?

“But she may not be as happy as she tries to appear...” Minji mumbled to herself, remembering how those eyes that she has kind of taken a liking to (kind of), seemed to mask a cloud of sadness.

 

*

 

“What’s this?” Yoohyeon raised an eyebrow at the suspicious piece of paper Gahyeon had just handed her. Gahyeon may be kind, but her eccentric nature had brought Yoohyeon more trouble than not in the past, and the girl was hesitant to relive those moments all over again.

“It’s the academy’s map! I figured you might want to explore the school a bit more since lessons only start in the afternoon anyways.”

Yoohyeon eyed the paper, scanning through the list of facilities that were present; and she was certainly impressed. Undoubtedly, much energy and thought were channelled into constructing the architecture of the campus, for the myriad of facilities far surpass those of other campuses she had been to. Hmm? The...royal family? At the heart of the campus, lies a circular building that was labelled in big red words at the courtesy of none other than Gahyeon herself. 

“What’s this?” Yoohyeon pointed to the immaculate handwriting that caught her attention. “Why is there a castle on campus?”

Upon the mention of the royals, Siyeon finally looked up from her food.

“The students’ council president is called the queen, that’s why,” the wolf-like girl spoke as she continued stuffing her face with food, earning a grimace from the other two when bits of rice shot out of her mouth.

“That’s disgusting, unnie! This is why your dear crush, the queen Bora, keeps avoiding you!” Gahyeon made sure to articulate the name of her sister’s secret crush, causing Yoohyeon to smirk. Gossips may not be up her alley, but she found teasing her friends to be one of her favourite hobbies, surely.

“Oh? Didn’t know you are that bold Siyeon-ah! That’s some high standards you got there~” Yoohyeon can’t help but to join in the tease.

Siyeon could feel her face heat up at the mention of the students’ council president, and she was sure her face was now hopelessly coloured a deep shade of red. But can you blame the girl? She had been crushing on Bora ever since the welcome speech last year, which perfectly showcased the latter’s confidence despite her small stature. And a girl with confidence is hot, at least to Siyeon. It also did not help that Bora is downright gorgeous—like seriously, the girl shines. What human being shines? This is not some kind of fairy tail! Siyeon remembered thinking.

“Stop it guys!” Siyeon pushed lightly on Yoohyeon’s shoulders, “just go and explore the campus or whatever! This is embarrassing.”

 

*

 

“A castle, I can see why it’s called that,” Yoohyeon regarded the brick wall building that stood tall in front of her. The laid bricks that made up the exterior of the structure gave it a medieval air, while the refined ambience signalled otherwise.

“You.” Yoohyeon jumped slightly. “What are you doing here? Only council members are allowed in here.”

“I-I’m sorry! I’m a new student-” Yoohyeon began. Oh wow. Are all members of the students’ council pretty or what? The person who broke the silence stared, harbouring no emotions. Her orange hair unequivocally stood out, as that was the first thing Yoohyeon took note of. Next was her eyes; the pair reflected much intensity that Yoohyeon had to look away before they threatened to consume her. (But Yoohyeon understood that was impossible and it was only her overreacting. It would seem that overreaction was part of her (adorable) personality. Tragically.)

“You better get going, before she is here to-”

“OHHH aren’t you the new student?” A voice with a loudness that could rival Gahyeon cut short whatever the orange haired was about to say.

“H-huh?”

“I am your humble president, the one and only Queen Bora!” Another girl, almost half the height of Yoohyeon (sure, it may be exaggerated but it’s not that far from the truth) burst out of the council’s building. “So, you must be Yoohyeon! Come come, let’s get you a drink! Do you like tea? Or maybe coffee?”

Yoohyeon was forcefully dragged into the building. This left the chinese girl standing outside, who was by now pinching the bridge of her nose. Bora was definitely up to something, and the sharp-witted secretary picked it up right away. “See, that’s why I said to leave quickly,” she mumbled to no one in particular. “Minji is not going to like this...” With a sigh, the mysterious student could only follow Bora as she took in Yoohyeon’s exasperated expression.

Err...what the hell is going on? Yoohyeon took in her surroundings carefully, before turning to the person puling on her arm. For one, she definitely did not expect the president to be of such a stature. And she also most likely did not anticipate being attacked by the president questionable hospitality and way too fervent enthusiasm.

“And now, I present to you the student council’s meeting room!” Bora gave the large wooden door a kick, forcing it open in the loudest way possible. “My dearest Minji! We have a guest today!”

“Hmm? Who is it-” Once again, Minji locked eyes with the person she was hoping to never see again. (Yes, very convincing.) Time seemed to stop for a fraction of a second before Minji frantically regained her lost composure and yanked at Bora’s collar.

“Wha-what, what; why is she here!?” She was shaking Bora vigorously by now.

“I don’t know~”

“Bora invited her in.” The last students’ council member strode into the room nonchalantly. “I’m Handong by the way,” she turned to address Yoohyeon, who was resembling a lost puppy with the way she stood awkwardly by the door.  

“I. Thought. So.” Minji launched a glare at the poor dishevelled shorter girl before trudging quickly towards the pantry. “I’ll make some tea,” she said before cursing under her breath.

“So, to properly introduce ourselves, I’m Kim Bora, your humble president. This is Handong, the secretary-treasurer and a fellow fifth year like you. And I’m sure you have already met Minji, the vice-prez,” Bora gestured wildly as she shot down any formality from Yoohyeon.

Bora may be lacking in the height department but she was absolutely not lacking in energy. In fact, her outgoing nature was rubbing off Yoohyeon, making her relax considerably ever since she stepped foot into the room. She has had trouble getting comfortable and focusing, with Minji actively avoiding all contact with her, but Bora was either not registering the princess’ distress or choosing to turn a blind eye to it. Knowing the president, it was undoubtedly the latter; Handong snickered to herself. As much as she was constantly being annoyed by Bora, she loved teaming up with the girl to tease Minji. Seeing Yoohyeon relax more by the minute, Handong smiled. The chinese girl may not show it, but she did care about the people around her. Yoohyeon had really left an impression on her with the way the girl was always smiling. Anyone who has a brain could see how she extruded positivity, even those who had only been acquainted with her for a short period.

“Minji was so disappointed since she cannot be in the same class as you cause she’s a sixth year!” Handong sighed once more as she heard the words that came out of Bora’s mouth. Yup, she is just asking for it at this point.

“Of course not! Are you serious?!” Minji turned. Almost immediately, her eyes turned ridiculously wide, “n-no, I-I mean, it’s nothing! Don’t listen to this dumbass here.” She faked a laugh and smacked Bora repeatedly with whatever she was holding at that moment. (A piece of paper.)

“Did I do something?” Yoohyeon asked softly after Minji fled to the pantry again. She was seriously getting worried that she may have offended Minji without realising it.

“Don’t worry, nothing’s wrong! I mean, it’s hard to understand the princess sometimes... She’s a maiden at heart anyways.” Bora faked a sob as Handong suppressed a laugh.

“Right, but anyways I better get going...” Yoohyeon side-eyed the blonde and did not miss how her face lit up upon hearing her intended departure. Okay, she definitely hates me.

 

*

 

“What’s with that look, Bora?” Handong raised a brow at the brunette. 

“I’m thinking of giving Minji a little gift, maybe she will start appreciating the newcomer more~ Dongdong-ah, you in?”

“I’m scared. Whatever that are you planning, just... don’t overdo it.”

 

*

 

“Hello everyone! I’m Yoohyeon!” She briefly introduced herself with a smile. It was the official first day of classes for Yoohyeon and she was certainly eager—too eager, actually—to get started with school. After the strange encounters with the student council, she couldn’t help but to be relieved that her school life was finally taking a turn for the normal. And she thanked her luck a million times when she found out that she had been assigned the same class as Siyeon. It was reassuring to already have someone she knew; it made entering a class full of already acquainted people less intimidating. Now, she did not have to worry about not having any friends or being unable to fit into any cliques.

“Dami! You are late again. How many times has it been this week?” All attention turned towards the door as it slid close and the girl, Dami, strode in. She continued silently towards her seat by the window, not even sparing a glance at the now less than pleased teacher. Okay, another weird person? I better try my best to avoid her... I can already feel it bringing more issues than anything. Yoohyeon made a little vow before turning back to the teacher.

“Yoohyeon take a seat in front of Dami,” he gestured towards the empty seat in front of the stoic looking female Yoohyeon swore to ignore mere seconds ago. Wow, things are proceeding just as planned. What luck, Kim Yoohyeon. (Who was she kidding anyways? Since when was luck ever on Kim Yoohyeon’s side?) She begrudgingly set herself down, being slightly too conscious of the presence behind her. At least Siyeon is just diagonally in front. As if the girl had heard her cries of despair, Siyeon turned around and flashed the silver-haired girl a smile, for which Yoohyeon returned thankfully.

“How was your first day?” Siyeon questioned as the pair walked back to the dorms after classes.

“Not bad I guess.”

“You seemed to be pretty scared of Dami though.” Siyeon noticed the girl’s constant fidgeting back in class and was surprised to see Dami staring straight at Yoohyeon throughout the lesson. Dami was famous for staring out the window during class; that is, if she even turned up in the first place. A mysterious classmate that got along with no one, yet remaining unbothered and aloof; no better ways to describe Lee Dami. Even if there was, Siyeon would not know for she understood little about her classmate. None does anyways. Well, except for the fact that the girl is a literal genius, topping the cohort while turning up for less than half a term in an entire school year.

“Things have been absurd since you arrived. Lee Dami the infamous I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-anything personality taking an interest in you? While the kind, I-wouldn’t-even-harm-an-ant precious vice-president Kim Minji hates you.” Siyeon stated in a matter-of-fact fashion, earning a groan from the target she meant to tease. She let out a hearty laugh seeing Yoohyeon pouting—it makes her resembles a chick that has its feathers puffed up to combat the cold during winter, Siyeon noted.

“Well, Siyeon look who’s here! It’s the oh-I’m-so-confident-I-made-Siyeon-fall-for-me, the Queen, Bora~” The pout on Yoohyeon’s face was replaced by a lob sided smirk, which made Siyeon very tempted to slap it away.

Whipping her head, Siyeon caught sight of the beautiful brunette, together with Handong, walking towards them. Immediately, she went into panic mode, her eyes reflecting a wave of helplessness that was clearly spreading to other parts of her face. Now, Yoohyeon felt a little bad—only a tiny bit—for teasing her friend. Shit, what do I do? What. Do. I. Do.? Siyeon wanted very much to just turn back and run, as far away as she possibly could but another part of her, the more annoying counterpart, refused. She stood rooted, hoping her crush would be oblivious enough to not notice her presence, as if she was not standing right smack in the middle of the hallway looking like a lost deer (wolf).

Seeing how Siyeon was getting more tensed up by the minute and realising the stare she was giving wasn’t going to be of any help releasing said tension, Yoohyeon took pity on the girl and greeted the two council members. This finally received some attention from Siyeon, who moved for the first time ever since making eye contact with Bora. What the hell Yoohyeon! Why?!

“Hey, relax okay? I got this.” Yoohyeon shot her a reassuring smile that did not do any justice. Siyeon was most definitely not amused and very much not assured.

“Yoohyeon! I was just about to come find you.” Bora called out, for which Yoohyeon replied with a subtle tilt of her head. Confusion was evident on her face. What does she want now? She looked to Handong for help, to which the girl only gave a shrug.

“Minji told me to give you this,” Bora said with a smirk. Minji is so gonna kill her. The inaudible sigh that escaped from Handong’s mouth was enough to tell Yoohyeon something was up. But before she got to voice her reservations, Bora continued, effectively cutting her off.

“Oh? Siyeon!” Bora’s voice is softer now and Yoohyeon swore there was a gentler tone to it, which was of course out of character for the loud personality. Hmm...interesting. She locked eyes with Handong, albeit briefly, but it was sufficient to confirm her suspicions. Both smirked. It seems, Handong had realised, the newcomer is sharper than she portrays.

Receiving no response when her name was mentioned, Bora took hold of the girl’s hand, “hey are you alright?” Concern was deeply laced in her voice and Siyeon might (or might not, but who was she kidding?) have fainted there and then.

“I didn’t know you guys were friends,” Bora looked up to address the silver-haired girl.

“I met Siyeon on my first day and she showed me around. We are in the same class too.” Yoohyeon did Siyeon a favour and replied. “That being said, I kinda need Handong’s help for something, so...bye!”

“Wha-” Siyeon could only watch as Handong was pulled away while she could only curse adamantly at Yoohyeon in her head. I’m definitely getting her back for this. How am I going to survive? And without making a fool of myself in the process? Impossible.

 

*

 

“Stop looking at me like that!” Yoohyeon whined. She had dragged Handong away, but it was not to get judged. “Don’t even deny that you hoped for them to be alone, Dongie. I’m- no, we are like the best of friends they can ever ask for.”

“Didn’t know we are close enough for nicknames already.” Handong raised an eyebrow.

“Well, first of all, you are like the only sane person I have met so far,” Yoohyeon started pointedly, earning a scoff from her partner in crime. “Secondly, I figured since Dong is your name name, it’s better? I guess you wouldn’t want to be called your full name all the time. It must be pretty weird and all. But if thou art uncomfortable, pray tell.” Yoohyeon commented light-heartedly.

Saying that she was surprised was frankly an understatement. Not many knew of the situation surrounding her name, and Handong was impressed by how knowledgeable the girl was with chinese culture.   

“Dongie is fine.”

“Thanks, Yoohyeon,” she added seconds later. It was comforting to say the least, that someone was able to understand her and even thoughtful enough to take note of such as trivial a matter as her name.

 

*

 

“I-I I’m fine Bora.” Siyeon cleared her throat a little too forcefully. Shit. This is not real. She is too pretty. Bora chuckled; amusement edged on her face as she witnessed Siyeon undergoing nothing short of a crisis. She found the way the younger would always wear her emotions, or the fact that she fails to hide them very well, to be really adorable.

Both had met shortly after Bora’s opening speech to the school last year, when she had collided rather forcefully into Siyeon and left both sustaining injuries. But when Siyeon was more invested in Bora’s slight injuries than treating her own more severe one—a deep cut that ran across the skin too close to her lip—it left a sweet taste that was so everlasting, Bora still experiences it whenever Siyeon was nearby. As the student that undeniably holds much power within the school, Bora had met many who would go out of their way to get on her good side. But how many of them truly cared? When the kind stranger took in the injuries on her arm with a concern etched so intensely on her wolf-like features, Bora can’t help but be impressed: there are still people as genuine as her these days.

She remembered being towed to the infirmary by the hand and witnessed how Siyeon was extra gentle when treating her wound despite the fierce aura she emitted. Bora also recalled how Siyeon’s eyes had widened comically all of a sudden when she had offered to help with cleaning the stranger’s wound and did so before getting a response from the latter. The girl's face was completely flushed by the time Bora had finished. When the president finally inched her face away to leave a respectable and socially acceptable distance between the two, Siyeon felt like she could breathe again. Bora, however, pretended to not notice the obvious blush that had arisen on the other girl’s face, saving Siyeon from the embarrassment all together. But Bora would also pretend that she did not move a little too close to the girl on purpose. She had certainly realised their close proximity but had chosen to ignore it. Not that she would admit it. Like ever. (Well, maybe one day if...) 

“You don’t have to be so nervous around me,” Bora offered a laugh and a tender squeeze of the hand she realised she was still holding on to. (And not really wanting to let go of anytime soon.)

“I know. I-It’s just... Yeah.” Siyeon then settled for a sentence that her brain clearly did not process, and it was too late to hold them back as the words exited her mouth involuntarily, “you’re just too pretty.”

She winced. Not surviving this? Check. Making myself fool in the process? Also check. Mom would be so proud of you Lee Siyeon. She resisted the urge to face palm herself. (Mainly and only because her left hand was paralysed due to nervousness and her right hand was still being held by Bora.) Her senses suddenly became hyperaware of every trivial detail around them.

“Thanks, Siyeon. You are not that bad too.” Bora was now laughing but to Siyeon, it looked more like a smirk. As her senses went into overdrive, Siyeon could only focus on the brunette and nothing else.

“I really like you.”

Suddenly, silence. 

Bora whipped her head up and came face to face with Siyeon, who was mirroring the brunette’s shocked expression. I can't believe I said that! You're so dumb, Lee Siyeon!

 

*

 

Yoohyeon opened the envelope gingerly, fearing whatever that was hidden within. The girl came to a conclusion that anything to do with Kim Bora may be bad news, but anything to do with Kim Minji was the worst possible thing that could happen. The vice-president had made it known to her rather evidently that her presence was less than welcome. That, Yoohyeon could not be more confident about. So why was she holding a piece of paper that had ‘Meet me at the tree of language. 4pm today.’ written on it? And above all, why that tree? Yoohyeon may be new to the campus but the famous confession site was not unfamiliar to her. In fact, that was the first place the Lee sisters had brought her to during their little tour around the campus. “They say people who confess their love here will always become a couple!” Gahyeon had mentioned. What the hell?! But the next piece of paper that Yoohyeon came across did more damage than the first.

 

 

‘It seems like my adorable little princess fell in love at first sight~ Take care of her for me, Kim Yoohyeon.

-The Queen.’

 

If Yoohyeon wasn’t blushing earlier (she was but), she was now most definitely redder than said colour. Yeah right, this absolutely cannot be true. To Yoohyeon, Minji did not come across as one who would fall in love upon meeting someone for the first time. In fact, she gave off the image of someone hesitant to experience said emotion. Maybe it was just Yoohyeon trying to deny the possibility of goddess-looking Kim Minji falling for someone like her who just had nothing to offer in return. Or perhaps she was referring more to herself, the one who was truly afraid to fall—in love; and in life.

Despite every cell in her body having reservations about meeting the blonde again and this time alone, Yoohyeon decided that it would be rude not to show up if the letter was indeed by Minji. It would not be nice if she has to wait for no one... The kind hearted girl thought to herself and decided it was best that she be the one who was stood up instead if this was a prank.

Its only three now... One hour to roam around then... Oh? Isn’t that...? Yoohyeon found herself wandering aimlessly in the mountainous area behind the campus. Having the academy located on top of a mountain was indeed fancy but Yoohyeon appreciated the fact that it provided a great view of the city beneath much more. Following a familiar figure, she walked deeper into the secluded area covered by thicker bushes and trees. Didn’t know such a place existed... She scanned the region and was disappointed that the figure had disappeared from trace. Weird.

“What are you doing here?”

Yoohyeon jumped and let out a scream louder than she intended. “You scared the hell out of me!” She turned to find that the figure was indeed who she thought belonged to.

Lee Dami. (What happened to not getting involved?)

“You followed me first, not my problem you got scared by such a little thing.” Yoohyeon watched as Dami approached. All of a sudden, the mysterious girl collapsed onto the ground next to her.

“Hey! Are you alright?” Yoohyeon frantically sat herself down next to the limp body. With firm hands, she shook her, hoping that it would get a response from the unconscious girl. Oh my god, I should call someone! She was panicking now, as Dami laid in her arms. Then, a light snore was heard, which pulled Yoohyeon out of her trance. What? She eyed Dami suspiciously. She’s...asleep?! Yoohyeon huffed in disbelief as the once stoic girl started mumbling incoherently. Still a little worried, she settled next to the asleep girl watching over her in case anything was to happen.   

 

*

 

“You’re still here.” Yoohyeon turned towards the sound. She glanced at the mysterious girl who had just woken up from her deep slumber. She got up and started walking away.

“Where are you going?”

“Home. It’s late. Even the sun has set already.” Now fully awake, she regarded Yoohyeon with peculiar interest, “I know you didn’t have any malice, but it’s better if you don’t get too involved with other people.” Her tone was neutral, but it did contain a hint of warning.

Yoohyeon could only stare as the girl retreated back where they had come from a while ago, before processing what she had said. I better head back too; the sun really has set. The sun... oh shit!

Minji.

Yoohyeon gaped at the piece of paper. She could not figure out which was scarier: the fact that Minji actually showed up or the fact that she left behind a note that read:

 

‘That was very nice of you, Kim Yoohyeon.

- Kim Minji’

 

Shit.

 

*

 

“How did the meeting with Yoohyeon go?” Bora started with mirth.

Upon the mention of that name, Minji’s mood turned sour. She spat out a reply, “she wrote me a note saying to meet and then miraculously decide to not show up? The audacity! I-” She paused. “Wait, how did you know about the meeting? I didn’t tell anyone,” Minji gave Bora an accusatory stare.

“I- Err-” The president led out a nervous laugh.

“She was the one who wrote you the letter,” Handong answered Minji’s suspicion. “She handed one to Yoohyeon as well,” she continued with a monotonous voice, ignoring the piercing glare that came from the president. What can Bora do anyways? She is too small to harm even a strand of hair on the chinese girl’s body if she ever decides to throw hands.

“Oh god, I knew it!” Minji was intensely frustrated—at herself, for not questioning the obviously questionable note which had the words ‘Hey there gorgeous, meet me at the tree of language at 4pm today ;)’ written on it. (Totally not suspicious.) And more so than ever, she was frustrated for feeling somewhat delighted in receiving the note from the younger; for even looking forward to meeting her despite deep felt nervousness. I can’t believe I’m this dumb.

“I mean why would she- Urgh.” Her head met the table with a loud thud.

Loud, obnoxious laughter can be heard from the students’ council room, followed by a piercing scream and then way too chaotic noises. It wasn’t difficult to guess what transpired in the room afterwards, for Kim Minji always win. (But only when she is mad; and she was mad alright.)

 

*

 

For the umpteenth time, Yoohyeon let out a long sigh. Followed by a groan. Then a sigh again. The Lee sisters side eyed each other, bringing their unusual telepathic abilities (or whatever you would call it) to use. What happened to Yoohyeon unnie? Gahyeon raised a questioning brow at Siyeon. As if she had heard her younger sister, Siyeon shook her head as subtle as possible before mouthing “I don’t know.”

It had been going on ever since the trio started breakfast and was gradually getting worse by the minute. Though they have been friends with Yoohyeon for only over a week, it did not take much to realise that there was something inherently wrong with her. The silver-haired girl radiated positivity—she may not be the happiest person alive but she tries; she really does, to be at least optimistic about situations. So, for said girl to be here pulling out her gorgeous hair while looking like a distressed puppy, it was weird and almost unsettling for the sisters. Nudging her sister by the elbow, Gahyeon motioned for Siyeon to check on her by enlarging her eyes and probing up her chin. I’m not going to be the one to bring this shit up! You do it!

“Err... Yoohyeon, you aright? What’s wrong?” Siyeon began hesitantly. Swallowing another sigh, Yoohyeon contemplated on how to narrate her somewhat eventful afternoon yesterday.

“I... kinda... stood Minji up?” Yoohyeon began in a mere whisper, deeply ashamed of her actions.

“You what?" Gahyeon half shouted. Did she hear wrongly or were her ears deceiving her? “Wait you need to tell us what happened. Like right now.”

Yoohyeon recalled the contents of the letter from Minji as well as the incident with Dami, getting increasingly flustered and guilty as she did so. She berated herself for being so careless to the point of forgetting about their meeting. Yoohyeon could not help but think that Minji may have something important that she wanted to convey—the fact that Minji openly hated her guts but still wanted to meet up with her just seemed to confirm this for the latter. The thought made Yoohyeon recoil further with remorse.

“Unnie, you should stop criticising yourself, it’s not going to solve anything. Go and find Minji unnie and apologise,” Gahyeon wanted to knock some sense into her, knowing that Yoohyeon was the type to overly blame herself for things when she had messed up. She had been that way ever since they were young. It was somewhat endearing that the girl had not changed the slightest since then. “Minji unnie would understand if you tell her the reason why you were late.”

Siyeon hummed in agreement. “Despite everything, Minji is not an unreasonable person. She will forgive you if you tell her the truth.”

“Thanks guys,” Yoohyeon was glad to have made friends with the Lee sisters and was not reluctant to show her gratitude. “You guys are the best.”

“Anyways Siyeon, what happened with Bora unnie after me and Dongie left the other day?” Putting her problems aside for now, the transfer student was very interested in the progress of her friend’s relationship with the loud president. Siyeon almost spit out the contents in her mouth upon the mention of the older girl. In fact, she still could not believe the events that had taken place after she had nonsensically confessed her love to the one owning her heart.

 

“I really like you.”

Silence.

Both had lost the ability to utter a single word—one was too busy regretting whatever she had said while the other was too busy calming herself down, given that she had never expected the other to ever admit their feelings.

Siyeon was sure she had messed up. Bora had looked absolutely horrified on hearing her confession and she was sure the silence from the president could not be a good sign. She had screwed up their friendship and had only herself to blame. Siyeon had pretty much accepted the fact that Bora would never return her affection. To her, Bora was perfect; and surely there was no reason for such a perfect being to fall for someone like Lee Siyeon. She was about to take back her words and maybe offer words to salvage her situation. Such as: it’s fine; I was just kidding; I like you but only as a friend. But it proved to be too difficult to admit—especially when those were practically untrue.

“I think I really like you too.” These words of comfort escaped as merely a whisper.

Siyeon could only lift her head abruptly, to take in Bora bashful face and all too self-conscious demeanour. I think I heard wrongly. She must have left out a don’t or something. She was about to ask Bora to repeat herself and maybe also reassure the brunette that it’s totally alright to reject her and that she should not feel pressured to answer to her feelings. (Just dumb lesbian things.) But the next string of words that escaped her crush’s mouth left her perplexed.

“Do you want to go somewhere together then?” Bora offered, then frantically added, “just the two of us.” She was sure that Siyeon would misunderstand her earlier words and wanted to make sure the younger got absolutely everything that she had wanted to convey. Undeniably, Bora had grew fond of Siyeon and the idea of starting a relationship with the girl was constantly on her mind. However, she also understood the consequences that she must face if she were to ever accept the younger into her life. It was not a pretty price to pay; for herself and even more so, for Siyeon. Minji is so gonna kill me if she knows of this... Maybe Dongdong would too... She shuddered, but chose not to think about the two for now.

Siyeon could only nod in response to the bold suggestion put forward by the president, no longer in a state to be able to clearly think through her actions. “Great! I’ll see you this weekend? At 10 in the morning maybe?” Again, Siyeon could only lower and raise her head briefly.

After what seem like an eternity, Bora finally let go of the hand that she had been holding on for a little too long to be simply considered just friendly.

 

“I-I’m going on a d-date...apparently.”

“You what?!” Gahyeon was heard again. “Can you guys stop dropping all these world-shattering news all at once?! A girl still needs to breathe!”

The entire lunch session consisted of the two childhood friends teasing the hell out of Siyeon, while laughing at the girl’s failed attempts to murder the both of them. (With chopsticks.) 

 

*

 

School just ended for Yoohyeon and she had been walking around the campus ever since then in hopes of bumping into the students’ council vice-president. She wished badly to apologise to the older girl and wanted to do so quickly, before things turned even more sour between them. When she had first met the blonde, Yoohyeon had wanted to befriend her right from the start. (Whipped.) She may not have interacted much with Minji but Yoohyeon was confident that she was a great person with a huge heart. (Very whipped.) Yoohyeon had witnessed far too many with malicious intent, to be able to distinguish easily the good from the bad.

“Yoohyeon unnie!” She heard someone call out and was able to put a name to the voice even without turning her head.

“Gahyeon. What’s wrong?” Worry creeped onto Yoohyeon’s face upon realising the younger’s anxious mannerisms.

“Cherry is missing!” Who?  “He’s one of the dogs that the student welfare committee takes care of! He’s gone and we can’t find it!” Gahyeon continued, arms waving rapidly in mid-air.

The encounter saw Yoohyeon venture through thick bushes in search for the white Pomeranian that had caused an uproar from her friend. Long forgotten was her mission to find Minji and apologise. Instead, it was replaced with a real concern for the missing furry. Scanning her surroundings with utmost care, she ensured to take note of every little detail lest she lose sight of the puppy.

The entire students’ council had been deployed as well to look for the missing pet, at the request of Minji. (Pretty sure she ordered them to look for it rather than ask but-) This place is too huge...looking for a dog here is nearly impossible. Minji was approaching the soccer field as she saw a white shadow emerged from one of the bushes next to the playing field. The soccer team had already begun practice and seemed to be oblivious to the addition of a puppy across the field. Minji watched as a soccer member unknowingly kicked a ball in the direction of the poor puppy. No! Shit, I won’t make it if I sprint across normally. Should I...?

“Look out!” Before Minji could register what was happening, another figure had dived across the field only to rescue Cherry and narrowly dodging the ball together with a nearby goalpost.

“Ow ow ow… That was a little too rash.”

“You got dirt on your shirt,” Yoohyeon turned to find Minji standing beside her with a smile on her face. Both stayed in that position for some time, staring at each other.

“Come on, let me help you up.” Minji broke out of her trance first and reached out her hand.

“Thanks, Min-” Yoohyeon was about to grab hold of the blonde’s outstretched hands. Until (yes, again) Minji quickly withdrew it, once again reminding Yoohyeon of their first encounter. Wow...this actually hurts...

“N-No! I-It’s just-” Minji gestured towards the younger’s hands, making Yoohyeon finally notice the deep gash that ran across the back of it. Oh. OH.

“Oh my god! Unnie you’re hurt!” (A wild Gahyeon has appeared.) Taking Cherry into her arms, Gahyeon who had popped out of nowhere, guided the injured girl rather forcefully by the arm towards the infirmary.

“W-Wait. I have someth-” Yoohyeon could only protest as she was pulled away from Minji.

 

*

 

“I didn’t get to apologise again...”

“Really? You had quite the opportunity there just now.” A hint of playfulness could be found in the voice.

“Oh my-” Yoohyeon jumped and brought her hand to her heart, “You scared the hell out of me!” So cute. Minji let out an airy laugh at her antics, but also in an attempt to suppress the blush that threatened to show itself on her face after yet again thinking that the silver-haired is adorable.

“So?” Minji looked at the other girl curiously.

“R-Right! I wanted to apologise for the other day. F-For missing the meeting and all. I know it’s not really an excuse but something came up and afterwards I was too absorbed I simply forgot. Also, I’m not sure if I did something that made you uncomfortable on our first meeting, if I did, I’m really sorry and I hope that you will forgive me?” She shut her mouth after realising that she had rambled.

“You are such a weird person.” Minji mused. “The letter was actually a prank by Bora, I never wrote it. So technically it’s kind of Bora’s fault anyways. And I’m sure it was me who started acting weird suddenly, so you actually have nothing to apologise for.”

I knew it! The note was just weird! Why am I so dumb? Minji studied the younger’s expression and could see how she was reprimanding herself internally for falling for the president’s tricks. The way her mouth is stretched out into a pout just made her even more adorable, and to Minji, irresistible. 

“Here.” Minji offered her hand for the third time. “I promise I won’t reject your hand shake this time.” 

It took three tries for both to finally shake hands for the first time. The moment Yoohyeon’s hand was within her grasp, Minji felt goosebumps travel up her neck and a sensation she could not wrap her head around started manifesting in her stomach. Then, suddenly, the peculiar feeling was back and she had to will herself thoroughly to keep her body in check and suppress every urge to do what her mind was telling her to. No, she would not become what that person wanted her to be; her conscience would not allow her to. And moreover, not to a kind soul like Yoohyeon.

“Unnie?” Yoohyeon began, unsure. “A-Are you the type to fall in love at first sight?”

“Hmm? I have never tried it...so I guess no?” Minji was taken aback by the question out of the blue.

“Why are you aski-” Then, it clicked. “It's Bora isn't it?!” Minji was fuming and embarrassed (a deadly combination)—especially with how her actions could have indeed signalled that she had feelings for the younger.

(But she was sure it was not the case and it was most likely her instincts that had clouded her rational thoughts—it was the beast within speaking its mind.)

“KIM BORA! I SWEAR I’M GONNA KILL HER!”

“WAIT! CALM DOWN, MINJI UNNIE!”

Chapter Text

Yoohyeon sat up groggily. Urghh my head hurts. We played too much yesterday; I need to start preparing for today too... She reached out to grab the small clock situated next to her bed. It read 10:30. Crap! I’m gonna be late! Hurriedly, she tossed aside her blanket, instantly missing the warmth it had brought. Being her clumsy self, she tripped and fell face first onto the ground.

“Damn it!” she cursed out loud before picking herself up. 

The girls had promised to meet at 11 to hang out, as well as to celebrate Yoohyeon’s new start at a friendship with Minji. Not surprisingly, it was Gahyeon’s idea and being the youngest, everybody just could not refuse her request. Especially so when she had pouted and looked—acted, Siyeon figured—so distraught after the girls had expressed any hint of hesitation. Coming back to the present, Yoohyeon frantically grabbed any piece of clothing her eyes settled upon and rushed out of the dorm.

“Hi guys!” She sped up after spotting Minji, Handong and Gahyeon waiting outside the building. “Where’s Siyeon?”

“You just barely made it! Though it looks like you went through hell.” Minji giggled before moving to tuck loose strands of silver hair behind Yoohyeon’s ear. The action came so naturally that it surprised the both of them. They looked less like newly acquainted strangers than friends who had known each other for millenniums, and something about the ease that came with being around Yoohyeon scared Minji. For she knew, the girl may be better off without knowing her—the closer she got, the more likely for Yoohyeon to get burnt. And Minji definitely didn’t want to hurt Yoohyeon. In fact, she didn’t want to hurt anybody. This is why I’m in this situation now... However, Minji wanted to be selfish just this once—she had been selfless for way too long; surely, it’s alright to listen to herself from time to time. Just this once, she would allow herself to enjoy the other’s presence. 

“Siyeon unnie!” Gahyeon’s voice brought her back to reality. (Like her voice always does.) “You are late!”

“Sorry, couldn’t find the door.” Her lame excuse caused the group to collectively whine aloud.

“Let’s get going. We still have to teach Siyeon how to recognise her door later, there’s not much time.” Handong replied, her sass earning not just laughter from the rest but also a very whiny Siyeon. “Dongie! Stop!” Siyeon had said.

It came as a surprise for everyone when Handong had agreed to hang out with them after Yoohyeon had kindly asked for the former to be included. It would seem that she had really enjoyed Handong’s presence from their little interactions in the past two weeks. Handong was known in the academy to be a quiet and reserved person, always seeking to reduce attention on herself. If one had to, most would definitely describe her as an assassin, or maybe a ninja, with the way she was always in the shadows. But Yoohyeon knew better. She had seen the way Handong reacts to the president’s actions and words. She had also observed the girl’s natural disposition in striking a conversation with people; having the talent to make them feel at ease almost immediately. Only one who was gentle and observant enough can achieve such a feat. Of course, Yoohyeon would know, since she had been a receiver of such tenderness when she first got to know the chinese student.

The entire afternoon was uneventful but all of them enjoyed themselves nonetheless. Indeed, the company one is with is likely more important than the activities one is occupied with—to thoroughly enjoy oneself, one only has to spend it with the people whom one cares about. For once in Yoohyeon’s life, she was at peace. And nothing can surpass the blissfulness of peace.

“Are you having fun?” Yoohyeon turned to find Minji staring at the sea in front of them. They had wandered for the entire afternoon before coming across the pier and deciding to stop by for a while. The wind was blowing and the seagulls were singing. The waves were breaking and the sea was dancing. Everywhere was extruding splendour, yet none could conquer the impeccable beauty that Kim Minji possesses. In times like these—where tranquillity triumphs—Yoohyeon starts having a hope that maybe, just maybe, humanity is not all that bad and life is not all that bleak. Maybe she was just unfortunate enough to be born in laughable circumstance, maybe life would grant her happiness for once and she would reunite with long-lost contentment. She let her gaze settle a while longer before pulling it away, back to facing the sea. 

“I am,” she breathed out.

Minji broke out into a smile, one so big it was contagious. Soon enough, Yoohyeon returned the gesture. Again, Yoohyeon felt an authenticity behind her own smile. It was new. But it wasn’t an unwelcome change. In this academy, I can feel.

“That’s good.” Yoohyeon heard from the blonde. “I hope you will come to love this academy.”

“Don’t worry, I’m already beginning to love it. And I think this time, I can learn to love something for real.” The breeze picked up and Yoohyeon could feel Minji relaxing next to her, any tension had been lost to the calm atmosphere surrounding them.

“Hey...” After a while, Minji broke the silence. “Are you planning on joining any clubs?”

“I guess? Since I’m sure that I would not be transferring... A club would be nice.” 

Minji recalled her conversation with Bora the other day and suppressed a sigh.

 

“I’m thinking of letting Yoohyeon join the student council,” Bora began nonchalantly.

“What?! Why?” Minji inquired unsettled.

“Don’t you think it’s a great idea? We are quite short staffed now; an extra hand would be nice! Dongdong is taking on way too much.”

Minji kept mum. She knew Bora had another motive, one that required putting the newcomer in immense danger. She was not ready to risk anything with Yoohyeon who had been nothing but kind and nice to her.

“Plus Minji, it’s time to take your promise with her seriously. Don’t you think so?” Bora’s tone was low and heavy. She was not joking this time, and Minji knew. She always did. She understood her lack of time and her friends’ worry for her predicament.

 

“I think... you should be careful around Bora.” Minji noticed the quizzical expression from Yoohyeon and continued, “if you want to have a peaceful school life... then I think you should stay away from her, Yoohyeon. Just take it as a warning from me.”

What?

From a corner, Handong had been observing the vice-president. She sighed. Bora... I just hope it goes as planned. Minji has suffered enough. Kim Yoohyeon, will you be the saviour we are hoping for all this time? She turned her attention to Yoohyeon. It was tough for the chinese girl. Her gentle nature contradicts with whatever Bora is planning, and after developing a bond with Yoohyeon, the plan became harder to execute. Now, she can be potentially hurting both Minji and Yoohyeon—the two people she had grown to be very fond of. 

 

“If Minji is not going to do anything, I’ll do it for her.” Bora was determined to save Minji from going back there. She will never be able to forgive herself if history were to repeat itself.

“Yoohyeon is kind. I don’t want to see her get hurt as much as I don’t want to see Minji suffer again. Both are my friends, Bora.” Handong finished in a whisper. But of course, Bora could hear her.

“Don’t worry, Dong. I got a good feeling about this one.”

 

I do hope you are right, Bora.

 

*

 

I really really need a bath right now… Yoohyeon stretched and relished in the way her muscles tensed as she trudged down the hallway to her dorm room.

“Yooh.”

“Dongie! What’s up?” Yoohyeon beamed. Talking with Handong was always a plus with how chill the other constantly is.

“Gahyeon asked me to buy her some fried chicken, could you pass it to her for me? I have some stuff to take care of back at the student council. She should be at the students’ welfare committee meeting right now. The building is just down the road.” Handong handed her a bag that looked way too fancy to be from a fried chicken store before smiling apologetically.

“Sure!” Yoohyeon laughed as Handong moved in for a hug.

 

*

 

Ah! Found it! Yoohyeon pushed open the door that hung a sign: ‘Students’ welfare comm’ in big bold letters. Stepping into the room, she felt goosebumps travel up the back of her neck. The place was dark and showed no sign of life. Strange, did I get the wrong place?

A muffled scream caused Yoohyeon to turn. What was that? Gingerly, she stepped further into the room. Usually, Yoohyeon would have made a dash for the door, leaving whoever—whatever—is around behind. Yoohyeon may be kind, but she also understood—the hard way—the need to put herself above everything at times. And currently, it seemed like one of those rare times. Nonetheless, Yoohyeon trudged forward as her concern for Gahyeon grew. What if Gahyeon is in danger? She had thought.

Then she saw it—saw her. No, not Gahyeon.

Bora.

Eyes red and glowing; skin no longer possessing the characteristic colour of life. Her presence loomed in the darkness that invaded every corner of the room. She clutched onto a girl, someone Yoohyeon had never seen before, who was now unmoving; blood flowed freely down her neck. Yoohyeon kept her sight on the red liquid as it trickled and trickled until it hit the floor—which was, Yoohyeon realised, oddly stone cold beneath her feet.

“Yoohyeon,” her voice was thick but did not seem to bear any malice. In fact, it had the characteristic tone of playfulness that only serve to remind Yoohyeon that it was Bora talking.

She smirked.

Yoohyeon shivered, feeling her stomach flip as she forced down the gagging sensation at the back of her throat. H-Her teeth. The once perfectly-lined canine now protrude downwards, resembling fangs more than anything humanly possible. Blood dripped. It dripped and dripped—never-ending—from the corner of her mouth. A growl escaped from the president as her fangs prodded the skin covering the girl’s neck. Yoohyeon watched in shock as Bora lowered her head, her fangs pierced precisely through the two old puncture wounds that had already been visible on the neck. She tightened her hold on her victim and pushed her head further back until the body in her arms turned limp. B-Bora unnie?! W-Wh- No!

Yoohyeon ran.

She slammed down onto the ground in her room. Her breath ragged; her throat dry. This can’t be real…no this can’t be happening… She staggered weakly into the bathroom. Everything was floating and blur, and the light was so bright it was unbearable. She felt a cold sensation hit her face as she plunged her head under the tap, hoping desperately to remove the stinging pain that had arose. A large part hoped naively for whatever she witnessed today to be a dream. She wanted to feel insane, senseless, numb—whatever—as long as her current observed reality do not materialise. She closed her eyes. A sea of red was burnt into her eyes; herself too impotent to remove it. She felt like a bystander; but she had yet to be aware, she was anything but a bystander in Bora’s game.

Her world turned dark.

Light invaded her murky consciousness as she struggled to fully open her eyes. When she came to, Yoohyeon found herself gripping tightly onto the sheets donning her bed while her body was slummed next to it on the floor. It had an oddly similar temperature that reminded Yoohyeon of yesterday’s events. She shivered—again a way too familiar sensation. She sees the scattered shoes by the door, the open bathroom door together with the tap that was still dripping water. Dripping. Red.

Blood.

 

*

 

“Yoohyeon?... Yoohyeon!”

“W-What?”

Siyeon looked at her friend cautiously, worry already evident on her features. “Are you alright? I have been calling you for quite some time now. You didn’t answer your phone yesterday too.”

“Y-Yea, I fell asleep yesterday. Don’t worry, I’m fine. Just spacing out, that’s all,” Yoohyeon tried to sound as convincing as possible. Siyeon was suspicious but said nothing in return. Instead, she gestured towards the hallway outside their classroom.

Minji.

“I was worried, you just disappeared yesterday! Can’t believe you were just asleep,” her tone was jolly, showing that she was not really mad but was just glad that Yoohyeon was safe. They were heading back to the dorms, walking side by side.

The silver-haired girl mustered her best smile to reassure the vice-president but before she could say anything, she froze. Fear grip onto her and she could feel her heart beating erratically, yet again a way too familiar sensation. “Yoohyeon!” The same voice from yesterday. The very voice that called out to her, only that in the present, it was low no more but was light-hearted. If it was enough of a comfort—for Yoohyeon, it was enough; anything was enough—both tones held no spite.

“Yoohyeon? Are you okay?” She felt a touch on her arm, and flinched. Shit. A bad mistake. Minji frowned. The state Yoohyeon was in did not paint a picture that the girl was alright in her mind. She saw the way Yoohyeon tensed upon hearing Bora’s approach, not to mention the fear that was visible in the girl’s eyes. Where it once held the stars, now it was just... blank. The stars had vanished. 

“I-I need to go.” Yoohyeon managed to spit out.

“Hey hey, don’t be like this! Let’s talk!” Bora taunted, “about yesterday I mean...”

“Bora...” Minji had picked up on the clues. Bora had done something. But what? “What did you do?!”

“Let’s head to the students’ council room~”

 

*

 

Yoohyeon fidgeted in her seat.

Silence.

It held much authority over the room, clenching tirelessly everywhere and exerting a kind of dominance that could make one feel nauseated. The faint ticking of a clock could be heard if Yoohyeon put her focus onto it, but that was the least of her concern at the moment. Yoohyeon shifted her attention back onto the petite girl sitting across the room. Neither was speaking, both merely staring with a challenge to break the status quo lingering unsaid between them.

Silence.

Isn’t it daunting that such an agent, which could signal absolute tranquillity, can also be the cause of gripping anxiety and dread? Surprisingly however, Yoohyeon was feeling like neither—she may have been afraid of what she saw the previous day, but in the current moment, Yoohyeon was unexpectedly fearless. The air in the room was heavy; so heavy that it crushes and devours, pressures and burdens. Perhaps Minji was feeling it too, for Yoohyeon caught her anxious glances at Bora. But unlike Minji, who held no stakes in this turn of events, Yoohyeon was in a different predicament—she was in the middle of it all, unable to escape.

And yet she felt nothing—empty—even though she knows that the consequence of the meeting would not be met with a joyous ending. No one wishes for their deepest secret to be revealed in times when they are not ready for it—not even Bora, the respectable student’s council president. Yoohyeon was just unfortunate enough to be caught up in this whole mess; a poor witness to a criminal committing a crime. She mirrored a bystander who had looked too far and is now paying her price.

But not everything in this world was black or white, Yoohyeon noted. How much of this was actually real? And how much was orchestrated? She was aware that Handong’s request had coincided perfectly with Bora’s location. The fact that Gahyeon was nowhere to be seen that day added to the suspicion. But it pains Yoohyeon to think that Handong would deliberately do something to hurt her. Of course, at the moment she remains unsure of the president’s intentions of showing her such a scene, and there was no denial that she is somewhat curious to hear what Bora has to say. For her to explain herself. To clear her name. To reassure Yoohyeon that what she saw was not real; it cannot be real, and that it was another one of her stupid pranks. (And Yoohyeon would choose to believe her, because that’s just the type of person Yoohyeon is.)

Then she remembered Minji’s warning: ‘stay away from Bora.’

Does Minji know about this too?

“So, why not you tell us how much you saw, Yoohyeon.” Bora’s voice slapped her back and she became conscious of the room and the delicate situation she is stuck in once again. It would seem that Bora no longer had the patience to continue their staring contest.

“Bora unnie was...” she struggled to find her words. It was not easy describing something that only happened in movies and fictional literature—or at least she once thought so. “Sucking a girl’s blood...?” Yoohyeon ended off with a question. (It is rude to jump to conclusions, so Yoohyeon never does that. Though there really should be no contention at all, shouldn’t it?) 

“Bora!” Minji broke. She was pissed. The evitable had happened, and she blamed herself for being too careless with Bora.

“Indeed, are you shocked?” Bora presented her question to Yoohyeon in mockery, conveniently ignoring Minji’s protests. “To put it more bluntly, vampires. We are vampires.”

We? Yoohyeon caught onto it immediately. She turned to face Minji, eyes boring into the girl as if demanding an explanation. Before, her eyes may be blank, but now it was just dark.

“Bora and I are of the same kind. But we are not related though.” Minji answered softly, sweeping away any doubts Yoohyeon had about the former’s identity. “And Handong is not one of us, she is a human and her family just happens to be... friends with ours for a long time.” Minji regarded the younger girl sitting before her. Yoohyeon had taken the news with an air of calm. So calm, in fact, it was trudging on thin line towards terrifying. The ability for the girl to disregard events around her while at the same time being one of the kindest to ever exist in Minji’s lifetime was paradoxical, which signalled a deeper and more tragic back story. One Minji is eager to find out but knows not to probe.

Vampires... Something that could only exist in fiction was manifesting itself in front of Yoohyeon. She is now taking a step towards something uncertain—after all, humans have absolutely no understanding of vampires, other than in literature.

(It is always scary to be venturing into the unknown; everyone, no matter bravery, feels the most at ease surrounded by familiarity. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why most did not question the existence of other beings that could be roaming this earth. No one wants to imagine a horror fiction manifesting itself in reality.) 

“So, now. We would like you to join the student’s council. We are in need of additional manpower, and since you already know of our identity, it would be easier for us to keep an eye on you as well.” Bora’s proposal was more attractive than her speculated outcome, to say the least. Yoohyeon had been afraid she would be forced to leave the campus, which was the last thing she ever wanted.

“Of course,” Bora continued, “if you were to reject this offer, we would have to erase your memories.”

“Erase my mem- You can do that?”

“Yes. But in your case, we would have to remove all your memories of this school. It’s like starting all over again. From day one.”

Starting all over again... That sounded awfully similar to Yoohyeon’s experiences thus far. It had become easier for Yoohyeon to accept the inevitable—a day by which she would have to say her farewell, to just another set of characters in a trivial chapter of her life that she would soon struggle to remember. It was an easy choice, really. She had done this so many times after all.

“Please erase my memories then.” She politely requested; her voice unwavering.

The student’s council members did not seem to mask their shock very well. Granted, it was an unusual request, and the tone from which it was made was oddly calm with no characteristic emotions involved. It then dawns on them: Yoohyeon simply did not find anything in her life meaningful enough to treasure, thus the blatant disregard for her own memories and experiences. Unlike most, who wish fervently to become a protagonist in theirs and other’s lives, Yoohyeon was fully satisfied with her role as an onlooker, even in her own script. It would seem that Bora had failed. Handong shifted her gaze onto Bora, seeing the girl’s balled up fists and furrowed brows. She sensed an outburst of emotions eminent.

“Alright then. Minji, erase her memories. I don’t care anymore.” The outburst came with less impact and volume than Handong had expected it to have. Bora marched out of the room swiftly, closing the door behind her with a force that shook the building. Once again, Handong was reminded of the fact that Bora’s plans had failed; the plan that she had pledged would be fool proof.

It’s likely that Minji did not take the news any better. Handong understood her reservations when it came to erasing another’s memories. Who would want to forcibly take away something that precious and personal from another being? Handong understood; and she knew Bora did too. So why did she push the job to Minji? Perhaps the president herself hates to do it too, and she was just being selfish. Or perhaps she did not want to erase the memories of someone like Yoohyeon; someone whom she clearly did not think was worthy enough, judging by her mannerisms a moment ago. Handong quietly left the room in search for Bora—Minji and Yoohyeon would need some time alone.

 

*

 

The room fell into silence for the second time.

“Min-”

“I’ll be erasing your memories now.” She placed a hand gently onto Yoohyeon’s forehead. Her words had come out harsher than she had wished.

Minji hated the feeling that would consume her whenever she activated this domain of her powers. She hated the fact that she even possesses such a power. To Minji, every experience, every encounter is special—you can never relive a specific event in your life twice. Taking away someone’s memories is like creating a void in one’s timeline, and there would be no way to refill that void. It would be forever locked away, in a treasure box without a key. But ultimately, Minji knows all too well, this was Yoohyeon’s decision to make, not hers; never hers. She had no right to ask the younger to change her mind. Especially not when she had been that resolute in her reply to Bora’s request.

Despite all, Minji trembled.

For the first time, Minji admits that Yoohyeon had grown to be more important to her than she would have liked. She had become an integral part of Minji’s life in a span of two weeks. And erasing Yoohyeon memories would imply erasing herself from the younger’s mind—a situation that clawed at her heart; it clawed and clawed, and her heart bleeds and bleeds. Did these two weeks mean nothing to her? How is she alright with forgetting Gahyeon, Siyeon and Dongie? And me? Minji could not help but wonder.

Despite all, Minji trembled.

And Yoohyeon could feel it in her fingertips. Minji unnie? She returned the vice president’s gaze and was met with orbs which held tremendous emotions. Hesitation. Unease. Fear. Anger.

Sadness.

Despite all the respite directed towards her, Yoohyeon wonders with awe: how selfless must one be in order to feel like this? (To feel for her, when she could not even feel for herself?) 

“Minji unnie?”

“How?”

“U-Unnie?”

“How are you okay with this? How is it this easy to forget the people whom you know, the bonds you have made?” Any attempts at a reply by Yoohyeon was cut short, “and when the deed is done, how am I supposed to act? Am I going to have to ignore you? Do I remove myself from your life after this? Or do I get to know you again, knowing that there would always be a portion of our friendship that we have both experienced but only I would remember?” The pain on Minji’s face was obvious but she willed her tears not to fall. Not today.

“I-” Yoohyeon struggled to find an answer. Never in her life was she required to make such decisions. Every time she left a place, she left parts of her behind. But these parts were never picked up by anyone and was soon left to rot. Eventually, she gave up leaving behind pieces of herself. What’s the point if no one ever finds them? The friends she made would soon forget all about her when she transferred away, and given enough time, she too would forget the faces of those she had once met. Most cried when she had to leave, so Yoohyeon decided to honour the promise of writing letters; a promise to keep in touch. But the frequency of letters gradually decreased and finally one day, it ceased. The subsequent schools were no better. (And Yoohyeon only grew colder.) 

‘Do I remove myself from your life? Or do I get to know you again?’

Minji’s words resounded endlessly. They were the words Yoohyeon had wanted to convey to all her friends who had abandoned her. Although she knew they are not to be blamed, for time is cruel—it thoroughly cleanses the things and people that had left little to no impression in one’s mind—given enough time, most memories fade and only the best ones remain. Even then, were the time spent with me that meaningless to you? Yoohyeon had wanted to ask. No... That’s not right. All I ever wanted was...

“I’m afraid of pre-determined departures. I’m afraid of the pain that comes with trust. I- All I ever wanted was for people to remember who I am, for me to be a permanent mark in someone else’s life. But that’s impossible... so distancing myself became the best option. I did not want to get hurt.” Yoohyeon bites back the stinging sensation in her eyes.

“But coming here, everyone is so warm. I finally feel something, feel happy. But I’m scared, unnie. One day, the warmth is going to disappear and I’ll be left in the cold again. I-”

“I will remember you, Yoohyeon.” Minji reached out to cup Yoohyeon’s face, which was stone-cold in contrast to the humid room. The girl had laid herself bare in front of her, revealing every ounce of vulnerability she had encased within herself. Minji felt the burning need—a strong desire—to comfort the girl and to pull her into her arms. She desperately hopes to shield the younger against the world, and fight in her stead.

“Even if you lose yourself, I will not lose you.”

It came out slightly louder than a whisper, barely audible. But Yoohyeon heard it loud and clear, as if Minji had shouted right into her ears.

(And for once, Yoohyeon found her mark in someone’s life.) 

 

*

 

Minji watched with amusement as Yoohyeon blew her nose into yet another piece of tissue. This had been going on for the last ten minutes and Minji was almost certain that the silver-haired girl would never stop. Her eyes were now swollen and red, cheeks stained wet with tears, but Minji found her more beautiful than ever. Her dishevelled state which was supposed to reflect frailty, was but a testament of the girl’s immense fortitude instead—a courage to present her most vulnerable self when time calls for it, and acknowledge her fragility. Minji admired this side of Yoohyeon. Yet, she felt the need to berate the girl’s situation; Yoohyeon deserves nothing but the very best. She knew there was more to her story but Minji was reluctant to venture further into her life—more than she already had anyways.

“Minji. Thank you.” Yoohyeon’s gaze was now directed at her, and Minji felt peculiarly exposed under her scrutiny. She recalled the times Yoohyeon’s eyes had her spellbound, and in this instant, she was reliving that memory. She could see the literal hope in said girl’s eyes; it was a steady intent stare which held a weight so immeasurable and heavy, Minji did not know how to answer to such expectations.

“Please don’t erase my memories. I think…I want to cherish my time here a little more.” In an instant, her irises had disappeared and her eyes curled into a smile.

And Minji marvels for the umpteenth time: wow… she is breath-taking.

“U-Um, M-Minji?” Yoohyeon’s voice came way too close to her ears.

What? The vice-president snapped back when she realised the position she had unknowingly and mindlessly inserted herself into. Shit. She could feel Yoohyeon’s warm breath caressing the skin on her jaw. She had reached out unknowingly.

“S-Sorry, just felt like hugging you all of a sudden.” Minji pulled back immediately but was stopped by a pair of arms circling around her waist. Perhaps she had unintentionally tensed up, for the other girl gave her a light-hearted squeeze before tugging her even closer than before. Only then did Minji realise, Yoohyeon was ever so slightly taller. She nestled her chin onto the taller girl’s shoulders—surprised at how perfectly they fit—and sensed her entirety melting into the embrace. The proximity itself was enough to make Minji’s heart race, and the fact that Yoohyeon showed no sign of letting go anytime soon gave no opportunity for her to quell its palpitations. She could hear clearly the rapid thumping of her heart, and in contrast, Yoohyeon’s steady heartbeat. She felt the blush rush onto her cheeks as she cursed at her vampire physique that had blessed her with a keen sense of hearing. This is embarrassing... she’s so calm while I’m...

When they finally let go, their faces mirrored each other—roseate cheeks and shy smiles.

 

*

 

“Bora.” Handong began, her tone reposeful. “Are you alright?”

“I can’t believe this! It shouldn’t have failed! This is all her fault!” She was fuming and hysterical. “Why would she give up her memories? She’s a coward!”

“Bora.” Her tone was now laced with warning. “Calm down, let Minji talk to her. Yoohyeon may look carefree, but she is far from that. You just didn’t take that into consideration, that’s all.”

“So, you are saying it’s my fault?” The shorter girl scoffed.

“No, Bora. You were just too focused on helping Minji, to realise Yoohyeon’s plight. There’s nothing wrong with that. We both desperately want to help her, I’m sure she knows too. If we fail this time, we can always wait for the next time, when someone else come along.”

“We don’t have time, Handong.” She spat. “What if there’s no one else? You know how Minji is like! She is so fond of Yoohyeon and that says a lot. We are running out of time, w-what if we are too late? Minji will end up-” The president’s voice has lost its stertorous, it currently resembled a soft, dolorous plea.

“I know, Bora. I know.” Handong held Bora tightly in her arms, rubbing soft strokes into her hair. She felt hands grasping onto the back of her shirt and a tremble that emanated from them.

Just then, the door to the student’s council room creaked open as Handong locked eyes with Minji. Concern lined every corner of her face when she witnessed Bora huddled up against the chinese student. Really, they are both idiots. Handong can’t help but smile.

“Bora? What’s going on?” Bora registered a soft touch on her hands and shook her head wildly.

“Hey, if this is about me joining the student’s council, don’t worry, I changed my mind. I asked Minji not to erase my memories.”

“R-Really?” Her head shot up comically fast. Yoohyeon let out a laugh—her first today—and Handong caught the slight shift of focus of Minji’s eyes onto Yoohyeon’s neck and the subtle gape of her mouth that revealed canines a little too long for a human. She cleared her throat rather forcefully, enough to snap Minji out of her daze.

“Looks like it’s settled then. Minji, walk Bora home?”

.

.

.

“Yoohyeon, can we talk?”

 

*

 

Fresh colours stretch far and wide—the colours of fire and tangerines, of velvets and wine—replacing the piercing blue that was once present; it was a reflection of the imminent dusk. The setting star loomed over the horizon, burning a fury as if desperate to leave its final mark on a canvas where it would, in due course, no longer have a place it belongs. Two silhouettes strode in the foreground, both too occupied in their own thoughts to engage in a conversation. One understood the role she had played that had led to the day’s events while the other was perspicacious enough to perceive the former’s role but understood little about her intent.

“Sorry, Yoohyeon. I think I owe you an apology.” Handong has begun quite uneasily. She was not an idiot; at least not enough to be blind to Yoohyeon’s inherent problem of trusting others. No, in fact, she might be the only one who understood the girl accurately, albeit still superficially—she did not know the reason for such behaviour nor does she know of her history. Handong was adequately sharp to realise Yoohyeon’s reservations in sharing about herself and her reluctance to get to close to anyone. She had retold the story of her constant transfer of schools due to her father’s work, but had never mentioned anything beyond. So, the chinese student took a huge gamble when she agreed to Bora’s plan. She was, after all, the one who led Yoohyeon to Bora. It would be difficult to get her to trust me again.

“I don’t get it. What was the point in showing me all that? Why reveals her identity?” Yoohyeon furrowed her brows.

“Yoohyeon... Can you promise me something?”

“About what?”

“I-I don’t think it’s my position to be saying this... since it concerns Minji, and I think she should choose whether she wants to tell you about... her situation. I’m so sorry for dragging you into something that totally doesn’t involve you; I’m sure Bora is too... But we really want to help Minji, and... we think you are the one who would be able to save her. Minji is very stubborn. You probably know that. Bora has been begging her to just do it, for two years now... so when you came and Minji reacted like that, Bora probably thought Minji finally has a chance to change her fate...” Handong lifted her head. It was already dark out, the only source of light which came from a nearby flickering streetlamp illuminated her ethereal features, etched with shadows of sorrow.

“I met Minji and Bora when I was five.”

 

“Handong, this is Bora. For today on, you will be serving her as a member of the Han family.” A voice resonated from behind the curtains. Five-year-old Handong kneeled in the middle of the room, staring intensely ahead and too afraid to even dare move a muscle. Her family, the Han family, has been serving the Kims for centuries, according to her mother who was the only parental figure present in her life. ‘Our family owe a lot to Lady Kim. We are here today because the Lady had been kind enough to take us in. We may be serving Lady Kim to repay our debt, but remember, we are forever indebted to the Lady.’ Her mother had told her.  

Handong turned to the only visible figure in the large room—Kim Bora as she was called—who was similarly observing her. Bora was not the child of Lady Kim. It was rumoured that the Lady had taken her in after Bora had lost her parents, presumably to increase her status within among the vampires rather than a kind gesture of providing for an orphaned child. As such, she bore no resemblance whatsoever to Lady Kim, with the exception of one—her eyes. The red pair shone; and Handong could only shrink under her gaze. The child had been told that the Kims are a family of vampires—who are different; not human—so she had always been a little scared of every Kim. She shivered, her first moment ever since stepping foot into the room.

“Bora, bring Handong to see Minji. She will be helping the both of you.” The voice lacked the characteristic fondness that Handong thought was a given when guardians are speaking to their beloved children. The five-year-old was still too young to grasp the harsh reality that, sometimes, love is not unconditional and endearment does not always accompany parenthood.

“Yes, godmother.” Bora’s voice, too, lacked any degree of warmth that should have been present when addressing her supposed dearest and closest.

 

*

 

“Hey, loosen up! Don’t worry, I don’t bite! Well... I won’t at least.” Bora gave the younger an encouraging smile. Her eyes no longer shining blood-red but instead had settled to a shade of black. Her tone was light-hearted and bore no malice. If Handong had known any better, it even contained a tinge of playfulness that was never present when the girl is around other people. Handong felt herself relaxing in Bora’s presence, but where she was brought to next would remain eternally rooted in her memories.

Kim Minji. The legitimate daughter of Lady Kim. The vampire who acted nothing like one. The poor child.

She was found curled up in a corner of a room, the stench of festering sewage as her only companion. It was near freezing, but Handong thought she might have been too sensitive; a vampire surely would find nothing wrong with the temperature. Yet, Minji was trembling.

It was unusually dark too, Handong recalls, even when the only lamp in the vicinity was somehow piercing and shining too bright. The room, which resembled more of a hollow cube made of concrete—one way in with no windows—was barren; and spent sufficient time in there, Handong suppose one would even forget their own name. The four walls were painted a dirty grey but ironically looked cleaner than the dust covered ground made from cement. The hallway that led to the room was narrow and short, and could only be accessed via a steel door opposite the room’s entrance.

It was eerily quiet, and the only sound came from the inhabitant of the room, wheezing uncontrollably and each breath she took sounded more painful than the last. The poor child remained hurdled at the corner, hands hugging tightly onto her knees, sharp nails pierced the thin layer of her skin. Fangs fully baring; eyes red with no focus—bloodlust. Handong had heard all about it, bloodlust, and how it could drive vampires insane quite literally. Subject a vampire to long periods of non-consumption, and see it break mentally and physically. The more they yearn for blood, the less they could control their body. Soon enough, they lose command over their brain too.

Minji was now clawing and clawing at her skin, and Handong wonders and wonders: how long has Minji been in there? When was the last time she fed?

“B-Bo... ra.” Her voice was weak, barely audible. “H-Help.”

And Handong swore, she would devote her whole being to get Minji out of there; to make sure she would never end up like that ever again. Handong would fight for Minji to have a life, even if it means sacrificing her own.

The three soon became inseparable and Handong was glad both vampires treated her like an equal—not as someone from the Han family, but as a friend; a treasured company.    

 

“When she was finally released from the cell, Minji made a promise to her mother. If she fails, s-she would end up going back.” Yoohyeon was at a loss for words. How do one respond to such a story? What do one say, when there could absolute be no words strong enough to be of comfort?

“Yoohyeon, can you promise me that when the time comes, you would do whatever you can to help Minji?” Handong was hopeful, but maybe it was because that was all she was capable of at the moment.

“H-How?”

“If you stay by her side, you would eventually understand.” And maybe Minji would too...

Chapter Text

Yoohyeon took in the lively atmosphere that had engulfed the entire campus with deepfelt pride. It was DC academy’s 100th anniversary and the students’ council had been relatively busy for the past month preparing for this special celebratory carnival. Yoohyeon had been absolutely mortified upon knowing that she was put in charge of this big event. It was massive, and allowed no room for screw ups; something that Yoohyeon was positive she lacked confidence in. (Of course, this was yet another one of Bora’s spontaneous idea. She just loves to see Yoohyeon suffer, doesn’t she?) However, it had turned out better than she had expected. The past month allowed her to build really special bonds with many of the club leaders who were involved in various events of the carnival—it was an experience she had no honour of being a part of in any schools previously.  

The campus was roaring with life, faint music that proved too obtrusive to Yoohyeon’s ears could be heard originating from the main gate. Voices that played out in the background, coupled with the occasional screams and laughter as accompaniment, presented themselves to a better piece of music in her opinion. She looked down on the clipboard that was clutched in her arms, ticking off another bullet point from the list of things she had to inspect—that was the last for the day. Her duties as the overall in-charge had ended; a little way too quickly to her dismay—she had enjoyed the responsibilities that came with the job more than she had anticipated.

Yoohyeon had adjusted to her new life as a member of the students’ council pretty quickly. It was so natural to her—as if she was truly meant to be there from the beginning—that to some degree, it was terrifying. To think that she would be able to find her place so easily in this academy despite not having been able to do so for her whole life, it was both comforting and ludicrous, she reckoned. The girl had trudged down the busy hallway habitually one day after her classes. While taking in the way students were shuffling about to get to their next destination of the day, she could not help then but to wonder how many actually knew about the true identity of the two most influential figures in the academy? Probably none. Except Handong of course. She felt a peculiar sense of superiority—like she knew a secret no one else does. And it was true.

For once, she felt special.

 

*

 

Ever since joining the council, Yoohyeon had visited the students’ council room after school almost every day and had learnt much more about her new vampire friends. It would appear that her faithful ‘encounter’ with Bora had secured her fate, and time would begin to tick once more; for both Yoohyeon and Minji.

 

“Now that you are going to be a permanent member, you should really understand more about our species.” Bora announced abruptly one afternoon, like she always does. “We vampires are just like you humans; except we have way longer lifespans and faster healing speeds,” she explained.

“And this!” Bora held up a glass of red liquid which Yoohyeon immediately recognised as blood.

“Blood?” She started warily. It was still unnerving to think that the very liquid flowing in her veins and keeping her alive, was to be another’s meal—a sustenance that ensured another’s survival.

“Yes, and it came from this,” she waved around a packet of medical blood bag. “Being from an influential family, let’s just say… we have our ways of obtaining them from hospitals?”

“Wait, then what about the time Bora unnie sucked blood from that girl’s neck?”

“That was just Bora playing with you,” Minji shot the president a look before snatching the bag from her hands, “nowadays, we don’t suck blood directly anymore.” She sucked lightly on the corner of the bag, cringing ever so slightly between each sip. “Plus, this shit doesn't exactly taste very pleasant, so I only drink it when I absolutely have to.”

It’s the bloodlust thing that Dongie was talking about, right? Yoohyeon gave Handong a cursory glance, deciding to keep mum about the situation. It would not be right to corner Minji about her past. No, not when she had not come clean about her own. (Not like she was planning to in the first place.)

 

“Yoohyeon!” She snapped out of her daze.

“Are you busy? Wanna get lunch together?” It was Siyeon; she beckoned towards a nearby bench. “The students’ council members have already began eating, come on let’s go!”

The students’ council and the Lee sisters had grown closer after Yoohyeon had entered the council. The six had become a group of tight-knitted friends. Yoohyeon would have never imagined herself to be in this position just a year ago. She studied the animated expressions of her friends, responding with laughter whenever Bora and Siyeon acted crazily only to earn a sassy remark from Handong and occasionally, Gahyeon; pouting and whining to Minji whenever the rest would gang up to tease her, only to see Minji laughing along, which caused her to pout even more. To say that she was happy may be an insulting understatement. She was not feeling happiness—not just that; it was something greater than that. She was feeling contentment—a feeling that underpinned joy; it was the foundation to true blissfulness. It is said that being happy because of certain circumstances and events in one’s life is usually short-lived, while being happy simply because one is satisfied with one’s circumstance lasts a lifetime. And Yoohyeon understood now. She had found her save-haven—here; in the people she met in Dreamcatcher academy.

(Previously, she thought hell was other people, but hell was herself; always had been. It only took her 23 years to realise.) 

“Yooh…Yooh? Yoohyeon!”

“Eh?”

“I was asking whether you want to walk around the carnival together?” She met Minji’s worried gaze but returned it with a genuine smile. “Sure.”

Minji seemed pleased enough with her answer, for she tucked excitedly at her arm, effectively pulling the taller away from the bench. It was then that Yoohyeon noticed the absence of the rest of the group. She was really daydreaming away. Staring at the Minji’s back, Yoohyeon felt a wave of recollections rush over her. Perhaps she was just being pretentious, or perhaps she was trying to justify her growing affection for the vice-president, but she felt the immense support and care that had radiated from Minji—and she wants to think that it was only for her; only she was special. She wanted to be special.

 

Yoohyeon slumped in her chair. The planning for the carnival had started, and Yoohyeon had been busy preparing for the various briefings with club leaders and the meetings with teachers in charge. She sighed. It was stressful, and she could feel the immense pressure from everyone; or maybe it was from herself. She wanted people to feel proud of the end result and for that, she had precisely no room for screw ups. She sighed again. Suddenly, a cold sensation was felt at the base of her neck.

“Wha-” Minji’s light chuckle resonated throughout the room; the puppy-like girl never fails to amuse her.

“Here.” She handed Yoohyeon a packet of strawberry milk. The silver-haired looked at her suspiciously.

“You got me your favourite drink?” Her teasing tone did not go unnoticed by the elder, who smirked immediately.

“Well… I can take it back…” She reached out to grab the drink from the younger’s grasp, but Yoohyeon was faster. (How? Minji is deadass a vampire?) She chugged half the packet immediately, relishing the feeling of the cold liquid gliding down her throat.

The evening consisted of Minji keeping Yoohyeon company while the younger finished up her report for the next day, with difficulty. They talked about everything, from the carnival to small talk to Minji’s love for food and Yoohyeon’s love for puppies and gaming. Soon, conversation faded to usher in quietude. Clicks from the keyboard was the only sound that emanated from the room. Minji watched Yoohyeon’s hunched shoulders as her slender fingers tab on the keys with agility and familiarity. She shifted on her seat. How do I bring this up? This is embarrassing…

Yoohyeon sensed a sudden tension in the room—a kind of feeling she was well accustomed to—the kind of tension whereby repressed unspoken words threatened to tear apart the peace. She expected the worst. “What is it, unnie?” She gave Minji a prompt; some form of courage.

“I-I…was thinking maybe… I can call you Yooh?” Yoohyeon blinked. That’s it?

“That’s all you want to say?” She blurted out. Minji was taken aback.

“How did you kno- Never mind. I-I also want you to d-drop the honorifics. Just call me Minji?” She averted all forms of eye contact, not knowing how well Yoohyeon was going to react. She had presented the idea that they were close—or at the very least, that she hoped for them to be—a concept foreign to both Yoohyeon and Minji, and one cautiously avoided by the former. Unbeknownst to Minji, Yoohyeon had changed in the past month; she now yearns to be closer to people, to make a mark in another’s timeline—one so distinct, she would never be forgotten again. (Or perhaps, she had simply learnt to treasure memories just as much as the older does.)

“Wow,” Yoohyeon giggled, “I expected something way more serious.” Minji lifted her head to find Yoohyeon smiling at her—the kind of smile Minji had grew very fond of. It was an unfeigned smile that shone together with the galaxies within her eyes, where once again, Minji found that she was losing herself to something greater than her whole being. She had noticed that the girl’s face was most suited to an expression of happiness—one that displayed an unrestrained expression of ecstasy; an earnest embodiment of heartfelt euphoria.

“You can call me whatever you want, Minji.”

 

*

 

“Where are we going?”

“To the library. I figured it would help you with writing your report if we looked through past years’ council reflections for various events.” Minji had dragged her abruptly during break towards the least used part of the campus on that day, with weirdly displaced conviction that Yoohyeon had found to be adorable.

The library was vacant as usual; it would seem that students of DC academy were not avid readers. The huge room smelled of rotten paper and stale air. Dust collected as far as they could see, while rows of books with their thick binders faced outwards, set neatly—too neatly; as if they were never moved once settled in their place—on the massive shelves that seemed to line every square metre of the vicinity. The receptionist was an old lady (that stereotypical story character) who seemed to be all too engrossed in the gossip magazine in her hands to even notice the fresh presence of the two girls.

Yoohyeon followed as Minji led her by the hands towards the back, where even more disgusting dust mites and spiders would most probably reside. “Here! Take these,” six files propped themselves into her lean arms.

“Urgh, the dust is disgusting!” Yoohyeon made a face, earning a light-hearted laugh from Minji. She reached out to ruffle the younger’s bangs before slowly tucking her sliver hair behind her ears. Her hands stayed in place for longer than she should have permitted herself to.

“Are you okay?” It was a soft whisper, barely audible.

“Y-Yeah. Thanks.” Yoohyeon inched her face far away, hoping dearly that the weird feeling dominating her heart would go away fast enough, and that any background noise was sufficient to mask her rapid heartbeat. One thing that she had learnt while being in students’ council, was that Minji’s—or any vampire’s—hearing was better than ordinary humans. Though not remarkable, Minji would still be able to hear her nervousness. And she was right. The blonde led out an awkward cough—too forced; too abrupt—and shifted uncomfortably on the balls of her feet. Shit, she heard me, Yoohyeon took the hint. The vampire dropped her head slightly and hoped that the lighting was dim enough to hide the red climbing onto her face. It must be Yoohyeon’s nervousness rubbing off onto her, Minji figured.

Then, the feeling was back. That domineering force and that annoying voice in her head that tells her to just ‘let herself go’, to just cling onto Yoohyeon and ‘let instincts take over’.

Stop. Stop it, stop it! Get out of my head! Minji had to physically restrain herself; to contain that being inside her. But who was she kidding? That part of her was still her—every thought in regards to Yoohyeon was very much her own. She understood perfectly, but had never been proud of her vampire instincts and its love—need—for blood. She absolutely wanted nothing to do with it, but for whatever reasons, was unable to fully give it up. Her fangs prodded and throbbed. Her resolve started to crumble—down, down, down it goes, vanishing into the abyss that was her thoughts.

“Minji?”

She took a step back. “I-I’ll see if I can find more of these.” Yoohyeon watched as Minji disappeared behind the shelf. Shit, I screwed up.  

The two spent the rest of the afternoon cooped up in the aisle scuffing through documents after documents, and photographs after photographs of past school events—effectively forgetting about their afternoon classes in the process. Yoohyeon studied the elder who had her face pushed deep into the folder she was holding, focusing impeccably on the text with scrunched up eyebrows. She studied the way her blonde hair always seems to flow as if it was constantly windy; how her touch was always delicate, as if everything would break apart otherwise. She was not dumb. She knew how much effort Minji was putting in to help her despite having many responsibilities herself within the students’ council. The girl was going out of her way to look out for her unreliable self.  

“Thank you, Minji.” Yoohyeon had to let her appreciation known. Minji could pick up sincerity in her voice. It is said that these things are always felt; communicated non-verbally through actions, visual cues and tone. But there was also something quite foreign laced deep, hidden behind the sincerity, which Minji failed to wrap her head around. It could have been admiration. It could have been respect. It could have been both. (In reality, it was neither.)

But Minji knew better than that—she too, was not dumb.

 

“Oh, look!” Minji pointed at a crowd of people not too far away eagerly. “Yooh, faster! It’s starting!” Yoohyeon focused her attention back to the present; her mind had wandered yet again. The students were talking among themselves, anticipation evident in their voices. It was the dunking station. A makeshift platform was perched flimsily on a huge tank of water while being attached to a weird looking device. A target painted in thick red paint encircled a large red button in the middle, the uneven lines and mismatched sizes of the circles made it look absolutely hideous to Yoohyeon’s artistic eye. The duo watched on with awe as Ms Park, everyone’s beloved English language tutor—Yoohyeon’s included—inched slowly onto the platform. She gave the students a cautious smile before settling rather uncomfortably onto the hard, wooden surface.

“Okay! I’m going to throw the ball now!” An all-too-familiar voice rung out.

“Oh god, its Gahyeon isn’t it?” Yoohyeon craned her neck, catching a glimpse of pink hue which confirmed her suspicion. She could only give Ms Park a sympathetic smile while praying to all the gods being worshipped by people around the world that she knew of. Please protect her from the evil that is Gahyeon… Evil child be gone! She could hear Minji laughing next to her.

“Don’t worry Yooh, I’m sure her aim’s not that goo-”

“Yes!” The crowd emerged in screams and laughter as poor Ms Park entered the water. Gahyeon was seen enjoying every moment of it, doing a celebratory dance just next to the soaking mess of the English teacher. Yoohyeon’s prayers had failed.

“…”

“You were saying?”

“… Right.”

 

*

 

“Yooh, they are selling fried chicken!”

“You are eating again?!” This girl’s appetite… seriously. “Do all vampires have your love for food?”

“No, cause I’m special, so you’re treating today.” Minji gave her the best smile and pleading eyes she could muster and saw the other girl’s resolve slowly slipping away as she fished out her wallet. Minji smirked victoriously; Yoohyeon had never been able to resist this side of her

(But she knew all too well that she, herself, would likely be in a similar situation if their roles were to be reversed. They were both each other’s demise, apparently.)

When Yoohyeon returned with the largest plate of chicken one could buy from that stall, the vice-president was once again reminded of Yoohyeon’s caring and kind nature. For someone who had never been a recipient of warmth the entirety of her life, she was not lacking when it comes to being the giver—resembling an abandoned puppy that continues to bring joy to whoever it meets; a songbird that continues its melody despite being the target whereby hunters’ bullets land. 

Minji was busy stuffing a drumstick into her mouth while Yoohyeon watched on, evidently intrigued. She never has that kind of expression while drinking blood.

“What’s going on between Bora and Siyeon?”

“What?”

Minji pointed to the two walking not far away in front of them, “since when did they get that close?”

“Oh. Well well well, believe me, they are very close.” This time it was Yoohyeon pulling Minji along, “let’s follow them!” She would never in her life pass off the chance of witnessing Siyeon embarrassing herself and being a total mess. (In front of Bora no less.) Siyeon had recounted her date with her eccentric crush in such great a detail that Yoohyeon swore they acted more couple-ly than a couple, if it was even possible.

 

“So how was the date?” Gahyeon, being the nosy younger sister that she was, brought up the conversation one day at lunch.

“It was great.” Siyeon had tried her best to sound as nonchalant as possible, fearing another wave of teasing from the duo in front of her, who were by now staring very intensely at her. “What?” She rebutted.

“Come on, we all know you have more to say,” Yoohyeon threw the bait. “You have been having a crush on her for how long now?”

“Just less than two years.”

“Exactly! Isn’t it a dream come true to go on a date with your crush of two years?” Yoohyeon continued to wait. Anytime now.

“And I can’t believe Bora also felt the same way. She’s the queen, the president of the students’ council!” Gahyeon dramatically waved her hands, giving her partner-in-crime a knowing glance.

 “I know! I can’t believe it too, okay?!” Bingo. Siyeon was taking the bait.

“The date was fun huh.” An enthusiastic nod from the prey, who was now swimming too closely to the hook. “What did you guys do?” Yoohyeon started reeling in the fishing line, simultaneously giving Gahyeon a high-five below the table.

Lunch was spent listening to Siyeon recount her date with Bora, but both were glad that Siyeon had finally asked her crush out, even if it was not intentional. Siyeon was happy, and that made the girls evermore so happier.

 

*

[The Recount.]

Siyeon moved her feet in a bid to calm her nerves, but to no avail. She had arrived an hour earlier than the intended meeting time to prepare herself for the day ahead. She was wide awake anyways, might as well. She glided her hands down her cargo pants before checking her outfit for the umpteenth time. Bora had left her in the dark about their activities for the day, to which she had been curious about but lacked the courage to ask her via text. She exhaled strongly—a tell-tale sign of her nervousness.

She checked her watch; still 40 minutes before Bora would arrive. Or so she thought.

“Siyeon?” The voice she had expected to hear came way too soon. “What are you doing here? There’s still 40 minutes before our meeting time.”

“Y-You are here early too.” She cursed under her breath for stuttering. Turning around, she thanked the gods for allowing herself to speak first before she had come face to face with the shorter girl. If she had made eye contact with Bora first, she was most certain that she would have been unable to utter a single word.

“Y-Yeah, you’re right,” Bora laughed. “Looks like we are both too excited for today.”

Siyeon fidgeted. What should I do? This is going to be so awkward. Siyeon was rarely alone with Bora, and the last time she was, she had unfortunately and distastefully blurted out a less-than-elegant confession. Somehow, she could foresee the disastrous outcome that was to play out—she is either going to stop functioning and stare, hence making Bora uncomfortable or say something out of line that would undeniably turn Bora away.

(But make no mistake, Siyeon was by no means lacking in confidence. In fact, she had great trust in her own abilities and would not hesitate to display them. However, when it comes to the near perfect girl of her dreams, who not only look like the reincarnation of Aphrodite but also one who can turn everything into gold just from her beauty alone, Siyeon had no choice but to surrender everything to her.)

“Hey, you don’t have to be so nervous around me,” Bora started. She could sense the thoughts whisking through Siyeon’s mind, almost see them floating around the younger’s head. “And trust me, Siyeon. I won’t leave just because you are an awkward dork.” She laughed heartily, a playful smirk resting on her face.

Believe it or not, that did make Siyeon feel a little better. She led out a shy grin, then pouted slightly after realising what Bora said at the end, “I’m not a dork though.”

The shorter girl chuckled and started pulling her along, “but you are a dork!” She turned to face the front before whispering in the smallest voice, “an adorable one.”

(Bless Siyeon and her excellent hearing.)

Both girls blushed the brightest pink—Bora refusing to look back and Siyeon choosing to hide behind her free hand. Perhaps, Siyeon lamented, she should have bought some insurance before exiting the house today. With the rate that her heart was beating, would she even last an hour before it collapses due to sheer exhaustion? (But to be fair, would Siyeon even care if it did break down? Probably not anyways.)

“So, where are we going?”

“Nowhere,” Bora answered casually. “We are going everywhere. But first, you hungry?”

Siyeon nodded, holding onto her stomach and giving the brunette a pout. They ended up sitting beside the road that led to the mountain top behind town. The brunette had fished out a huge picnic mat and, subsequently, boxes and boxes of Tupperware from her tote bag. Apparently, Bora’s idea of a perfect meal was one she had created her own.

Homemade. (And Siyeon felt like fainting. From happiness.)

Getting to taste Bora’s cooking from the first date alone? One more reason not to care if her heart were to stop at the end of today. Siyeon also can’t help but to wonder how many people would die to be in her position right now. (Well, a lot.) She watched as the girl opened up the lunchboxes to reveal a massive spread of traditional Korean food—all of which are to Siyeon’s liking.

They basked under the sun, where each other’s presence was probably more important than anything in the world right then.

 

*

 

“Yes!” The pins at the end of the lane fell down one after another. The smaller girl ran up to give her partner for today a crushing hug, but was surprised by the sudden tug on her waist that lifted her off the ground. She naturally wrapped her legs around Siyeon’s hip, all the while laughing into the girl’s shoulders in that unique high-pitched laugh of hers.

They stayed in that position for some time, each catching their breaths; both not exactly very willing to let go.  

They had proceeded to a bowling alley after lunch, only to find out that both sucked at the game. (In a weird way, it didn’t matter, for as long as they had fun, they were more than contented. No one cared if they were to embarrass themselves in front of the other—not anymore.) To Siyeon, screwing up may even be more delightful, since Bora would always break out into her loud laughter. (It must be a blessing, really, if one was to be able to hear that every day, Siyeon noted.) To Bora, it wasn’t the fact that Siyeon sucked which she found funny, but rather the way she would break out into the most adorable of faces after failing to hit any of the pins. The way that her expressions are the bedrock of everything encompassing who Lee Siyeon is; something about the way she shows emotions was so precious to Bora. (Maybe it was because Bora expresses her emotions outwardly too, and it was captivating to find someone so similar to herself in that aspect.)

 

*

 

The girls continued to explore the town, as if on an adventure. (They went to the karaoke and sang their hearts out, screaming into mics and headbanging to rock songs. They visited the arcade, and Bora absolutely destroyed the dance machine together with every single player before her to rank first on the scoreboard. Siyeon was found off to the side, cheering at the top of her lungs while laughing away—at how Bora seemed to tiny compared to the machine, at how the girl beamed with pride knowing how well she had performed. They did so much more, but everything was not enough—nothing was when time would pass by in a single blink of the eye.)

No matter what they did, they realised that there was a spark, a chemistry, one that allowed them to talk for hours without the conversation ever dying. One would share and share, while the other would listen and smile, then they would switch roles and repeat it all over again, this time with a different story. (And both had endless stories to tell.) 

That was their first date. (Just their first one—they had many more to come.) On their first date they fell in love—but it may have already occurred even before that. (They’d not want to admit it.) It would be a while before they'd give in to their emotions, before they admitted to themselves and to each other that the inevitable had already happened.

 

“Wait, they went on a date?!” Minji huffed. Bora didn’t mention anything.

The duo trailed behind Bora and Siyeon, who were walking hand in hand. Siyeon was laughing with zest while Bora moved to entertain the younger, with her every move causing some kind of reaction from the other. And when Bora would go on to smile at her victory—it being successfully bringing laughter onto Siyeon’s mouth—the world has never looked brighter.

When the two finally parted ways, Yoohyeon had ran off after the wolf, leaving Minji by herself to deal with many of her budding emotions—most of them less than diverting. She trailed behind the brunette, noting the hum of a soft tune that was out of character for her friend. The blonde didn’t need to speak up, for Bora had turned the moment she had pick up on familiar footsteps and found a rather displeased looking Minji staring down at her. Bora’s heart sank.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Minji did not give the president any chance of a reply, “why are you going out with Siyeon?” There was venom in her voice as she threw an accusatory finger at the brunette.

“It’s none of your business who I go out with, Minji,” Bora was calm, like the peaceful wind that blows before the arrival of a torrent. “And there’s nothing wrong with me spending time with Siyeon.”

“No, there isn’t,” Minji scoffed, venom still fully baring and strong. “If you are a human. But you are not!”

The outburst came expectedly, her words like a slap that landed harshly on Bora’s cheeks. It hurt. But Bora wasn’t angry; Minji was right—her actions were fundamentally wrong. Not that there was anything wrong with a vampire and a human falling in love—no in fact, it’s beautiful, to be able to accept that your partner is… different. (The president could only hope that she will be one of those lucky ones.) But both girls did not come from a normal family—in their house, love is only an emotional burden, one that causes weaknesses. A vampire not tough enough can’t survive in a society that will only devour those who deviate from the norm—the world is that cruel and people are that vicious. (One day, the people will chant ‘Vampires! Vampires!’ and watch them burn and suffer, and even drive a stick through their hearts.)

Minji’s mother would always tell them, when Bora and Minji were still kids, that humans are only as useful as a source of blood—treat them like food, before they treat you like monsters. (Thus, Minji and Bora were buried under the expectations of being heartless as they grew up in a loveless place, yearning for love.)

But Minji and Bora didn’t want to see humans as that—wanted to live alongside them, wanted to share happiness and sorrow—for they saw how Handong had treated them like they were sane, as if they were one of her own. Maybe it was her job, maybe she was forced. But the girl was so genuine in her actions, Minji and Bora wanted to believe that they were all true. (They wanted to believe that not all humans are bad. And it’s true.)

“If people find out, we are dead!” Minji continued to shout, “If mother finds out, you are dead!”

Bora understood the rage, and so she said nothing, simply ducked her head and accept the brunt of the attack. She didn’t really need Minji to remind her of the repercussions in the first place; those were all words she had told herself. But love wasn’t an emotion easy to hide and repress. (It’s somewhat similar to hatred—the more you stifle it, the more it eats you alive, until you finally burst and go insane. Love and hate are much more indistinguishable than one would think.)

“You’re stupid to have fallen in love,” Bora looked up, horrified. It hurt. Everything did.

But then, Minji looked more disappointed than Bora did, looked more afraid than anything in the world—like she had seen a monster right in front of her eyes.

“I don’t regret it, Minji; because I'm not a coward. Like you are.” She spat; tone more spiteful that she thought herself to be capable of. With that she turned and disappeared into the mountains, where her and Minji’s home laid. (Minji would never follow her there, because Minji would never want to return to that place voluntarily, where she was.)

Bora needed a moment alone. Maybe after she had cried it all out, things would go back to normal and they would again be two vampires navigating their way in a school full of humans. Bora supposes that things are never black and white—there are many grey areas that the heart doesn’t know how to handle, doesn’t want to handle—so for now, she doesn’t feel; she perched atop a tree and let her mind wander, let it bring her to places it wanted to be. (The first thing that came to mind was her time with Siyeon, then Handong, then… Minji.)

 

*

 

Bora took small steps up the flight of stairs leading to her dorm room. It was way past curfew and the building was dimly lit with only lights peaking out from under the doors of a few rooms. A figure was crotched down beside her door, shrinking into herself to make her seem smaller than she actually was. The girl glanced up the moment Bora had reached the top of the stairs, pausing at the end of the hallway.

The shorter girl stared down at the figure once she had reached her door, waiting for her to speak. But then she doesn’t, merely darted her eyes around, as though trying to capture her words floating about in the air.

“Sorry,” when she finally spoke, that was all she could muster. Perhaps, to her, that was enough. (In essence, an apology was the only thing she could say at this point.)

“For what, Minji?” Bora was growing frustrated, reasonably so she thought.

“I’m scared,” the blonde forced it out. There was a slight tremble—so faint, it could’ve been missed altogether. (But not Bora; and it wasn’t just because she had exceptional hearing.)  

I know, Bora wanted to say. How long have they known each other? Of course, Bora would know what the blonde was thinking.

“I’m scared,” Minji stared down at the floor, didn’t dare to make eye contact. “I-”

“You’re afraid that if your mother were to find out about this, she will force me inside that room and prevent me from drinking. And then I’ll become just like you back then. That I’ll suffer what you did.”

“H-How-” Minji lifted her head, the panic still there, persistent like a flea.

Bora doesn’t reply; she scooped Minji into her arms—it was a hug given by strong arms that told Minji she was there with her in very possible way, from the body to the soul; but it was also a hug by gentle arms, giving Minji the space to breathe. In a way, Minji had been selfish: ‘do things my way, because I don’t want to see you get hurt.’ (Even selfishness can be an indication of love sometimes.)

It was because Minji cared, that she had screamed and lost her mind at the possibility of Bora being in danger, being away from her. It was because Minji cared, that Bora would stand there holding the blonde in her arms and rocking her side to side to reassure her. Bora had learnt, over the years, that love can be expressed in a lot of ways such that it was impossible to accurately detect ‘love’. But the reverse was easy—since apathy is all one needs in order to realise that they are not loved—it was easier to know when someone doesn’t care about you.

“You know, it’s not like I'm not scared. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to tell her about all this, but I still want to be with her, to spend time with her.” Bora whispered; voice muffled from how her head was resting against the blonde’s shoulder. “And if mother ever finds out, it doesn’t really matter, since I know you and Dongie will be there, camping outside the cell anyways.”

Chapter Text

“Lee Dami! How many times have it been this week that you were late?” Reproach was evident in the math teacher’s voice.  

Lee Dami, the school’s infamous math genius, had strolled into class on yet another normal day totally nonchalant. Her demeanour possesses none of one who was in fact half an hour late to class. She continued her stroll towards the seat behind Yoohyeon, sparing not a single glance at anyone. It was almost as if she had filtered the tutor’s voice in the background.

“Ms Lee, I would have you watch your attitude! Answer the question on the board!”

The stoic female finally looked away from the window; her gaze now fixated on the problem scribbled on the board in a less than pleasant handwriting. The room fell silent. Her unmoving stance seemed to be a direct challenge to the only authoritative figure in the room. Since that incident with the aloof girl on the hill, Yoohyeon had grown more confused about her own feelings towards said girl. The stifling feeling that she had felt upon learning of Dami’s existence weeks ago, when she had strolled into class in the middle of Yoohyeon’s introductory speech, was out of place—Yoohyeon has never been one to prematurely place a label on somebody she had just met. Now, seeing Dami in her defiant glory, she was finally able to put an explanation behind that feeling. She was not merely wary, but perhaps there was a hint of envy etched deep within her. Yoohyeon had found Dami to be the complete opposite of herself—with an attitude so unlike herself, but would very much like to possess.

“y=x-3” Dami voice was deep with a peculiar timbre one could not put a name to—it masks dutifully the emotions hidden within. Her voice came out light and, to the ear, almost silent, but it held the authority to command a room. She turned her attention back to the window, and with it, her hold of the room faded as the rest of the afternoon elapsed with predictable monotony.

She had answered the question correctly without batting an eyelid. The math teacher had lost.

*

“Has Dami always been like this?” Yoohyeon’s interest in the girl had undoubtedly risen after her afternoon skirmish-like exchange with the teacher.

“Like what?”

Yoohyeon thought for a moment. What would be the right word to describe her? “Like… aloof?”

“She had been distant right from the start. Actually, she was a transfer student, came here in the middle of the semester. Probably why she’s always alone.” Siyeon had enrolled in the six-year academy from the very beginning, though it was not unusual for people to join them at the start of different years—Yoohyeon being one of them; she had entered directly as a fifth-year student. But to enrol into the school in the middle of the year was weird, and only done so under special circumstances. “She’s actually younger than us. Apparently, she was supposed to be a fourth-year, a year older than Gahyeon.”

“So… let me guess, she’s too smart, so DC promoted her by a year?”

Siyeon nodded, “she ranks first every single time, but her attendance is probably the first from the bottom.”

“Talking about Dami?” Both turned to find Handong walking towards them. “Actually, the student council is planning on doing something about her. Minji’s idea of course.”

“Dongie!” Yoohyeon ran up to give the girl a tight squeeze—she was always happy to see the latter. Just like how she had gotten considerably closer to the vice-president, her friendship with the chinese student had been bolstered since their talk that faithful evening.

“Right, I heard Minji was hella mad at Dami for her tardiness recently.”

The embrace was cut short. Both stared at Siyeon suspiciously. “How did you know?” Yoohyeon had not heard anything from Minji herself; she may have been a little disappointed to think that Siyeon had gotten the news first. 

“Bora.”

The two student council members collectively raised their eyebrows. They sure have gotten close, Yoohyeon smirked knowingly. “Oh,” the remark came with a tinge of tease; an expression of surprise with a feign of ignorance which would be the furthest from the truth. Yoohyeon knows, obviously—too much, in fact—about their bubbling relationship. But does Siyeon know about Bora unnie being… She took one look at Handong and came to the conclusion that the secretary knew about them as well. Yoohyeon commended herself for always having a talent at reading people. Bora would have told Dongie and not Minji. I’ll ask her about it later.

The two council members headed towards the students’ council room shortly after. Both were silent, which reminded them of the eventful evening many weeks ago. Unlike the heavy atmosphere that had bestridden the previous exchange, in the present, there was an unsaid air of calmness and peace—there were no raging emotions; no hasty words desiring to be unveiled; and no tragic backstory that had to be announced. But Yoohyeon remained wary. Siyeon was a friend, and in the few months of interaction, came to resemble family. Yoohyeon wanted the best for her, even if it meant severing Siyeon’s relationship—or whatever unknown, murky definition they preferred—with Bora.

“It seems; Bora is anxious.”

“What does tha-”

“She doesn’t want Siyeon to know.” Handong managed a smile. She had figured Yoohyeon was worried for her dear friend but also knew that she would be too hesitant to ask about it.

“Why?” Yoohyeon asked. Suddenly, she felt the immense need to help Siyeon justify herself; to tell people that Siyeon is a good person, someone who would never judge people and poke fun of other’s plight. But above all else, Yoohyeon had thought, Bora should know better. “Siyeon is not someone who would-”

“Because she is different.” Handong cut her off. She had purposely given a vague and short response, believing that the other girl would understand what she meant, for she herself had experienced being different. Yoohyeon’s abrupt silence had proven Handong’s point. It doesn’t matter whether the receiver of a confession—regardless of its nature—is open-minded, whoever is revealing themselves must first be confident enough to do so. The paranoia of being judged, side-lined and discriminated against is a hurdle not easy to surmount. And even more so, no one wishes to give their beloved a reason to hate them. Bora isn’t worried. She’s scared. In an instant, her misplaced rage against the elder had vanished.

“No one wishes to deviate from the norm. Those who actively encourages others to do so probably have never been different before in their lives.” Yoohyeon muttered. She wants to blend in, be as human as possible, at least in front of Siyeon. And to Yoohyeon, it was totally understandable.

“Hey, don’t worry. Bora would never hurt Siyeon.” Handong placed a reassuring squeeze onto Yoohyeon’s shoulders, “she would never hurt anyone.” This time, it was Handong’s turn to justify her friend’s actions.

“Of course I know.”

*

“We need to do something about her!” Minji’s voice can be distinctly differentiated from the chatter in the room. Granted, she was speaking in a volume that had resembled a certain students’ council president. (A very very rare occurrence.)

“Err... w-what’s going on?” The silver-haired girl stood by the door together with Handong.

“Yoohyeon! Dongie!” A shrill voice manifested itself near Yoohyeon’s ears. (Yes, its Gahyeon.) In the background, Bora’s laughter was as clear as day. (It was another peaceful day in the students’ council, whereby Yoohyeon suffers and Handong judges wordlessly, all while pitying the former’s slipping sanity.)

“Are you okay?” Minji angel-like entrance appeared to restore Yoohyeon’s faith in the council, albeit by an excruciatingly small margin. She eyed Minji carefully as the latter slowly rubbed circles into the back of her hand. (The one that had been holding onto her right ear for its dear life.)

“So! As we were saying, the students’ welfare committee had discussed and decided to bring the matter to the students’ council. We received complaints from a certain teacher that student Dami’s tardiness has become, and I quote, ‘too frequent to ignore’.” Gahyeon read off the tiny notebook clutched in her hands. Must be because of this afternoon’s incident. Yoohyeon grimaced as she thought of the embarrassment that he had suffered at the hands of the solidary math genius.

Thus, it was decided that Yoohyeon were to be placed in charge of ensuring Dami comes to class. Being the only council member from the genius delinquent’s—a nickname accredited to Bora—class, Yoohyeon seemed to be the most sensible choice. Or so the president had claimed. Though Yoohyeon would much rather believe it was yet another one of Bora’s methods to drive the poor girl insane. (It was.) Truth be told; however, she was actually looking forward to getting to know the mysterious girl—Dami resembled Yoohyeon so much, yet at the same time, not at all. It was simply intriguing that two individuals can be so similar yet remain as people of separate worlds—to Yoohyeon, both of them were people who preferred solitude; the only difference being Dami was a willing participant while Yoohyeon was but a reluctant peasant who yielded under its promise of a better life.

“Yoohyeon-ah, make sure Dami goes to class, okay? Drag her there if you must!” Minji had spoken with such conviction that somehow comically reminded Yoohyeon of Bora whenever the latter would announce another one of her dreaded plans. (She would later learn from Handong that Minji hates the way Dami could secure her top position despite putting in little to no effort—which, according to Minji, is unacceptable. Hard work is the driver of success, isn’t it?) 

*

“So, any progress?” Siyeon began and Yoohyeon could only huff in annoyance. The past two days had been futile. Dami had been missing and despite attempts by Yoohyeon, she was nowhere to be found. In fact, Yoohyeon was close to giving up by now. She could only hope Minji’s patience and good-tempered nature would save her from her impending doom. 

“I literally can’t find her! At this point, I'm convinced she doesn’t really exist!” Yoohyeon whined.

“Err isn’t that… Dami?” Siyeon pointed to a figure squatting down in the courtyard. Her usual dark blue hair shone brighter under the sunlight, giving it a more distinct colour. Her eyes remain fixed on the ground and with her back facing the classroom window, it was hard discerning the identity of the person. Yoohyeon stood up in a sudden motion, excitement reflected off her soft features. Finally! “I'm going over, tell Mrs Park I’m sick or something!” (So… she’s skipping class to get Dami not to skip class. I’m afraid even in fiction, Yoohyeon acts too much like Yoohyeon.)

Yoohyeon dashed down the flight of stairs, taking two steps at a time, and hoped with all her might that her clumsiness would not choose this moment to torment her. As she ran, her thoughts brought her back to the classroom—where she witnessed Dami’s figure in the courtyard, looking considerably smaller than she did days ago; her little tilt of the head which allowed Yoohyeon a glimpse of her face grazed with a faint smile. It was slight and short-lived, but nonetheless transformed the Dami that existed in Yoohyeon’s mind. She had never seen Dami smile; not even a frown—she had always been emotionless, rigid.

Panting, she surveyed the empty area. Disappointment apparent as Dami was no longer in sight—all that’s left was but a barren field of concrete.

What’s that? Yoohyeon squinted. A cat…? The cat was petite; its eyes gold, and its fur black. It stared at Yoohyeon, unmoving. I have never seen this cat before; another one of the students’ welfare committee’s pets? The cat started to call out, getting onto its paws and approaching Yoohyeon with a human-like quality. The sliver-haired could suddenly feel the temperature of the hot concrete burning her feet but the air around her was chilly. It eerily reminded her of the time she locked eyes with Bora’s—the pair of orbs burning a fury red. Now, the eyes had turned golden. Bora’s gaze had been playful, taunting even. But the golden pair she was now staring into contained a malice that Yoohyeon desperately hoped she hallucinated. In a swift motion, it turned its body and started walking away—almost as if Yoohyeon was no longer important.

Almost.

It called out once more, beckoning the girl to follow. But she stood rooted—her gut had called; and it was telling her to stop. Yoohyeon hesitated, then began in the direction from which the cat had disappeared.

“This is…” Yoohyeon recognised the steep slope with relative ease. She had been here. She had spent her entire afternoon watching over the mysterious stranger with mirth and worry, only to be greeted with a (kind?) warning. ‘It’s better if you don’t get too involved with other people.’ The old Yoohyeon may have surrendered, acceded to such a statement. After all, wasn’t that the line she had recited to herself her whole life? Like a broken recorder, she repeated it over and over—as though it was an orison—even when it had already lost all its divinity. Yoohyeon can’t help but to note the similarities between the two of them.

She followed closely behind the small creature, taking in the way its tail bend and twist but never touching the ground. It was agile, nimble—almost like walking on air rather than the dirt road. Then, seated behind a bush was Lee Dami. Her blue hair had regained its dark shade, falling elegantly on her shoulders. Her bangs had covered half her eyes. Among the greenery, she appeared to be one with the nature around her. Yoohyeon stood observing the girl. Her eyes are pretty. That was the initial observation she could gather after studying the girl properly for the first time. Despite staring into the nothingness most of the time, they were not dead, not unfocused. They were alive, burning—as if searching for something, someone.    

“It’s you again.” Her tone was still characteristically cold. Unmoving, like her entire being.

“I have to thank the black cat for bringing me here then,” Yoohyeon joked. Wait. It’s gone… wasn’t it here just a second ago?

“Minji must be pretty mad at you.”

Yoohyeon shot her head up, “you knew?”

“What are you going to do?” Dami turned to face the newcomer. “Now that you have found me; report me to the students’ council?”

It was phrased with neutrality but laced with challenge. ‘What are you going to do? What can you do?’ It did not sit well with Yoohyeon. “If I report this, they may close off this area. Are you okay with that?!”

“I don’t care.”

 “You-” Words materialised but dissolved once they reached the tip of her tongue. What do you care about then? Why do you choose to be alone? Are we even alike at all?

“Look.” Dami’s attention was fixated on the horizon far away, where the campus ground melts beneath, and became one with the sky. The darker stage of twilight would soon arrive, but for now, the disappearing azure at mercy of the soft glowing orange hue commanded attention from all whom set sight upon it. “It’s the best version of twilight.”

Was it the quality of the resplendent light that had casted Dami’s face in a better light? Or was it the faintly blowing breeze that had given her a newfound aura? Whatever the reason, Yoohyeon discerned a tinge of loneliness on her classmate’s face. The emanation of any expression on Lee Dami’s face was a novelty—one so foreign, it was the ultimate proof to Yoohyeon that Dami is but human, capable of the most basic of emotions. And the sight of one’s loneliness was, to Yoohyeon—a girl whose childhood was never autonomous from its company—a tragedy that rivalled no other. A math genius, a lone wolf, a tardy delinquent, but even someone like that has something she cherished. (Who was Yoohyeon, then, to take that away from her?)

“Remember to get back to the dorms before nightfall. I’ll excuse everything that happened.” They locked eyes and, in the moment, soft gazes mirrored each other.

Yoohyeon did not know why, but she felt relieved.  

*

“Kim Yoohyeon!” The math teacher was once again in a bad mood. (a/n: This author shall bring interruption to the story to announce her deep seated hatred for said subject.) “Wake up and answer the fifth question!”

Yoohyeon scrambled for her notebook, only to find it blank. Shit! I was caught up in council work yesterday! Minji is really brutal when she’s annoyed… “Um… The a-answer is…”

“y = x2 – 7” Her saviour came in the form of a whisper.

“Yoohyeon? What’s the answer?”

“A-Ah, its y = x2 – 7.” I almost turned around…

Behind her, Dami wore a faint light smile, akin to the one she had worn the day before while squatting in the corner, on that concrete ground.

*

“Tteokbokki again?” Yoohyeon commented light-heartedly, laughing as Siyeon pouted. The plate of red and white had become an accustomed sight.

The cafeteria was more deserted than usual, and the students that were present paid no attention to the bickering duo that had just entered. In her peripheral vision, Siyeon recognised a familiar classmate—conversations with Yoohyeon had piqued her interest in the ever so silent acquaintance. She would have to ask Bora for more details. “Hey, it’s Dami,” she gestured towards a faraway table.

The girl in question was holding a bowl of ramen. She had fished out a pair of over-ear headphones and fixed it snugly on her head—the pinnacle expression of her will to be unbothered for the rest of lunch. Both girls watched on as she reached over to the bottle of chili flakes on the table and started emptying its contents into the bowl of ramen. She’s eating that?! Yoohyeon watched with reverence as she began indulging in her lunch, which by now was as red as Siyeon’s plate of Tteokbokki.

After lunch, Siyeon had snugged off somewhere after giving excuses to explain her hurried disappearance. Yoohyeon, however, knew that she was meeting up with Bora. Minji had unknowingly brought up how Bora and her had been spending less time together during lunch. Using her self-proclaimed brilliant deduction skills, Yoohyeon had connected the dots.

She strolled along the central courtyard, mindlessly following wherever her legs brought her. There’s still some time before the next class. Hmm? Is that…? “Dami!”

“What do you want?” Her reply was as sharp as usual but the silver-haired remained unfazed—she had gotten used to it somehow.

“Ah! It’s the black cat,” ignoring her piercing question, Yoohyeon knelt down in front of the same creature that had somewhat frightened her the day before. She regarded its eyes cautiously. The malice was gone and the golden had faded and dulled to a yellowish-brown. She reached out gingerly, feeling its soft fur and noting the contrast between what she felt in her fingertips and the grippling fear in her heart yesterday. “Am I bothering you?” She asked after a minute of silence.

“It’s unpleasant.” Yoohyeon stood up, patting her skirt and was prepared to leave—she didn’t need to be told twice about her undesirable presence for her to take the hint.

“But not unwelcomed,” Dami finished.

Yoohyeon beamed. Once more, she felt an immense wave of relief. “So, I don’t bother you,” she can’t help but to point out. (Just imagine her wriggling her brows and smirking.) She took the silence from the other girl as a confirmation of her words.

“Not really.”

The reply had come delayed. Very much so. But it was nonetheless a reply to which Yoohyeon was more than proud of. Dami was now stroking intricate patterns onto the back of the black cat with a practiced hand. The cat had seemed to recognise her for it was very relaxed under her touch.

“It’s attached to you. What’s its name?”

“Cat.” She said, nonchalant but her eyes had grown fond.

“That’s it!?” Yoohyeon laughed out, her characteristic unrestrained laugh where her eyes would morph into crescents. Losing to a cat, that’s kind of frustrating.

“Oh crap!” She eyed her watch. “English lessons with Ms Park! I have to go; I’ll talk to you later Dami!”

“Whatever, just go.” Dami gestured for her to leave. Staring at the retreating figure of the student council member, the mysterious girl had to let out a sigh. Kim Yoohyeon... This is too risky. I can’t involve myself with too many people. If that was found out, things would turn troublesome.

*

“Thanks, Minji unnie! The students’ welfare committee is really short-staffed right now, we need all the help that we can get.”

“No problem Gahyeon,” Minji was exiting the classroom while Yoohyeon yanked the door opened. “Yooh! What are you doing here?”

“Gahyeonie wanted someone to accompany her while she finishes up her work,” she gave Gahyeon a playful wink. “What were you guys talking about?”

“I agreed to help the students’ welfare committee clean the pool for the upcoming swimming contest next week”

“Alone? Need help?” Yoohyeon kindly offered. Minji lit up upon hearing the younger’s proposal. It had been long since Minji had the chance to spend time alone with the silver-haired and the last thing she would do was to let this opportunity pass. With the blooming relationship between her best friend and a certain wolf-like girl, she envisioned something similar happen, with herself and Yoohyeon as the leading characters. But the girl was well aware that the possibility of such a story—one so fairy tale like—playing out was slim. Should she be a part of any story, it would only be one burdened with calamity.

“Thanks, Yooh. I’ll be looking forward to it,” her hand lingered on the younger’s arm for a while longer than she would have liked. She left the classroom after waving goodbye to Gahyeon.

Gahyeon watched the exchange in absolute disgust. “Okay, you guys need to tone it down,” she said after Yoohyeon had settled down on a seat in front of her.

“Tone what down?” Yoohyeon feigned ignorance—of course she had noticed how the elder seemed a little too elated, and had wondered if Bora or Handong would have amassed an identical reaction.

“You know what!” Gahyeon replied, exasperated. “The heart eyes, the little touches that you guys think we peasants can’t see and—oh damn god—those stupid- Grins? Smiles? Smirks? Whatever. Like seriously, when are you guys going to hook up?” Her expressions grew more comical with each passing moment. (That classic Gahyeon expression when clowning her members.)

“We are not!” Yoohyeon blushed. “I-It’s complicated…?”

“Classic mutual pinning phrase,” the younger rolled her eyes. “‘It’s complicated.’ What, like Minji unnie is secretly a serial killer? Her parents hate you cause, I don’t know, you did something dumb? Which is actually very likely, honestly. Wait, holy shit- Don’t tell me she has a kid.”

“Oh god, no!” Yoohyeon laughed, pushing Gahyeon by the shoulders before rocking her vigorously.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with the childhood friends bickering and tensing each other. (And also, Gahyeon flaming Yoohyeon like the evil maknae that she is.) By late afternoon, the sky had turned dark and the clouds roared menacingly—it had been pouring for almost an hour. Lucky that I brought an umbrella with me today. Yoohyeon stood by the windows, observing the rainwater fall from the grey clouds and bounce off the ground after every contact. She loved rainy days, for they always seemed to wash away everything; and it was liberating.

“I didn’t know you were close to Minji,” Yoohyeon began after silence had persisted for quite some time.

“Hmm?” Gahyeon looked up from the documents she was working on. “Well, I wouldn’t say we are close…” She considered deeply on how to vocalise her thoughts. “It’s just that… I always have this weird, inkling feeling that I know her; like I’ve known her before.” Maybe it’s because of…

Yoohyeon was puzzled, but did not probe as Gahyeon seemed to be confused herself as well. She returned her gaze to the view outside the classroom windows. Huh? Isn’t that? “Why is it in the rain?” She frowned.  

“Oh! That’s the black cat that I always see wandering around the campus.” Gahyeon popped up beside her.

“It’s not one of the students’ welfare committee’s pets?” Gahyeon shook her head. Suddenly, the image of Dami came to mind—the only constant that had appeared alongside the black cat. In Yoohyeon’s memories, the cat and Dami were always one, never separated. Could it be!?

“I’ll go check it out!” She dashed out of the classroom. No, it couldn’t be.

Yoohyeon ran. Her mind was blank. She repeated the phrase: it couldn’t be, over and over again. She willed herself to extinguish all doubt in her mind. Dami would never do something so stupid!

The cat’s eyes were golden and shining brighter than ever before, but its steps had somehow changed—they had become more urgent. It ran along the pathway that Yoohyeon had by now memorised by heart. The same dirt road, the same greenery, the same hilltop. Except, it was now pouring—as though the skies were weeping and mourning the passing of a loved one. The inkling feeling in Yoohyeon’s stomach materialised into a prickling sensation at the bottom of her gut—jabbing, jabbing, jabbing. Then, the stabbing stopped. And what come into being was the reality of finding Dami lying—so free from turbulence, so peaceful—on the highest point of the hilltop, being rained upon.

“Dami!” Yoohyeon called out, pulling the girl into her arms. Her delicate but stone-cold frame fitted perfectly in her embrace. How long has she been here? “Dami! Are you alright?” She shook the body nestled in her arms. Yoohyeon could only stare, observing any minute movements, if any, that were to emerge on her features.

Silently, she started to pray. 

“You…” Dami’s voice came out coarser than usual. “What are you doing here?”

“Dami! Thank god! Are you okay? What happened; why are you in the rain?” The silver-haired girl interrogated, her tone indubitably imbued with concern and worry.

“I was just taking a nap, no big deal.”

“What?!” Yoohyeon could hardly believe the girl in front of her. For an instant, she had thought Dami was purely joking—a joke that was lacking in taste. But nothing on her face signalled a sign of jest—she was serious, like Lee Dami always was.

“It was raining so heavily and you wouldn’t wake up! This isn’t-” She paused. This isn’t normal. “I really thought you were dead or something! At least go to the infirmary and-”

“No need.” The rejection was curt. And cruel.

She began walking away. “I told you before to not get too involved. It’s fine to be kind, or maybe even curious. But I shall warn you again: kindness may not always beget kindness and curiosity almost always kills the cat.”

Not far behind her, the cat’s eyes glistered in brown and gold.

*

Yoohyeon peered up into the sky. The storm had long departed, but her heart remained in disturbance. She had watched on helplessly as Dami left the hilltop, leaving her behind. She had failed to bring herself to question the girl about her words. Surely, she had berated herself for her lack of courage. But a deeper, more sensible part of her knew—screamed—that Dami was certainly not normal and it was part of the boundaries that she should never venture into. After all, wasn’t that the nature of Dami’s warning? But she had caught herself asking: is she a vampire too? She had never seen Minji or Bora nap under the rain. Neither did they mentioned anything about knowing any other vampire in DC, nor did they speak of a family of Lees. Granted, Yoohyeon did not expect them to reveal everything regarding their species to an outsider, but she was sure she would have known if Dami was indeed a vampire. At the very least, Minji would have given it away whenever she mentioned the girl in question, with how well Yoohyeon can read her. So, she’s not a vampire, Yoohyeon concluded. Then the question remains: what is she? Yoohyeon set her sight on the growing vermillion and amber among the horizon, as if looking for a definitive answer, hoping to hear some sort of hint—a direction. Then, she stood up and descended the hill.

She had received nothing but silence.

The walk back to the dorms was a long and arduous one. Thoughts invaded her mind, keeping her unsettled throughout her little journey home. In a room not far above, Dami perched by the window, observing the figure that had just entered the building. She sighed. Looks like I have shown something unnecessary. That was… most definitely a miscalculation on my part. This is going to be a hindrance if she spreads the rumour everywhere. Kim Yoohyeon… will you by an enemy… or an ally?

“Master, where are you?” Dami whispered. She could almost taste the bitterness in her mouth, the spite that was threatening to overcome her. She could recall fussy images of a certain blonde hair, mouth twisted into an unsightly smirk that seemed to have been permanently ingrained into her face. She imagined herself clawing out, ripping away the ugly smile with her nails and hearing the woman screeching with her horrid voice; it’s timber Dami had come to detest. But then, another image appeared and all her hatred melted away. She pictured herself laughing alongside the blonde-haired woman, whose laughter was no longer unbearable to listen to. She could see herself chasing after her on a vast green field, when the sun was at its brightest and highest.

“Come and find me, Yubin.” The owner of the voice reached out—it was the same scene Dami had recalled since forever: a hand hovering in front of her own face, effectively masking the identity of whoever was speaking to her. She could only see the unsightly smirk on her master’s face. Then, she felt a jolt of electricity coursing through her body. And everything turned black.

As such, yet another round of tag has once again begun.

No matter the resolution, Dami was determined to see this to an end. After all, she had to do so—it wasn’t a matter of choice. For her, choice had been relinquished ever since she had surrendered herself to her. In the present, all that she was capable of, was to protect her end of the promise that had been made years ago.

*

Minji side-eyed Yoohyeon after she had sneezed for the umpteenth time for the day. “Yooh, are you okay?” She finally voiced her concern, unable to keep quiet about it any longer. Yoohyeon presented a lopsided smile, followed by a nonchalant nod; she mustered her will to act as natural as possible.

“Yeah, I got caught in the rain yesterday.” She had decided not to announce suspicions about her classmate to the two vampires, for fear that there would be consequences for Dami. However, she was nonetheless curious about the possible presence of another non-human entity on the island. She recalled the conversation with Handong about a woman as addressed by the name of Lady Kim—Minji’s mother and Bora’s godmother. But that was it—she was the only other vampire on the island. Handong had not mentioned otherwise. So, where does Lee Dami fit into in the whole picture?

“You have been absent-minded for the whole day, are you sure you don’t want to go back to the dorms and rest?” It was Handong’s turn to be concerned, but Yoohyeon simply waved her off.

“I’m fine! Everything’s normal.” Normal. She cringed.

Minji pointed to the computer screen in front of the younger girl, “You have been staring at that same screen for the past 20 minutes, Yooh. And you just added sugar to a cup of water.” The younger observed the cup of liquid in her hands—it was indeed water, instead of the coffee she had thought it contained. She flushed and quickly place the cup of humiliation aside, hoping that it would be soon forgotten. But Minji being Minji, would never let the matter rest as easily as she had wished. The elder continued to stare, and Yoohyeon being Yoohyeon, had but to capitulate to the former’s demands.

“It’s nothing, really. I was just wondering why are you and Bora unnie the only vampires on the island? Don’t they say that people become vampires after getting bitten?” Yoohyeon could feel Handong’s gaze digging through her skull from her peripheral vision. She could not return her gaze.

Minji shifted in her seat. She’s nervous, Yoohyeon concluded. They had grown close, enough for her to pick up on the non-verbal cues, which hinted that something beset the older.

“Who says that there are only the two of us?” Bora was amused, and it showed, in her tone. “This island is basically the residing place of the Kim family—Minji’s family. Minji’s mother has been living on this island for gods know how long now. And besides, people don’t turn after getting bitten… However, we can turn a human, just not into a full-fledged vampire."

“Bora.”

“We call them cronies—humans who have ‘turned’.”

“Bora!” Minji snapped. “There’s no need to tell Yoohyeon all this!” She spat; accusation coated every syllabus she had uttered, as if to say: you pulled her into this—something unnecessary, which she isn’t required to know—and now she knows, and it’s all your fault.

“She deserves to know, Minji. Stop being stubborn!” Bora addressed the vice-president in annoyance. She no longer had the patience to put up with Minji’s persistence, which was growing more and more childish in Bora’s view.

“Cronies?” Yoohyeon questioned. Finally, she looked over at Handong. What are you doing? Her eyes seemed to convey that stream of confusion. It was something Yoohyeon wished she had an answer to as well. What am I doing, really?

They are companions, Bora had explained, whose life on earth mirrored the lifespan of a vampire. In a bid to escape the unavoidable loneliness that comes with a long life, vampires made use of their blood to find human ‘partners’ who are willing to accompany them for eternity. To be ‘turned’, one would have to drink eleven milligrams—exact—of vampire blood. A crony’s life is inherently tied to their master’s—the vampire who had turned them—and as such, perish when their master does.

“Wait, how long can a vampire live?”

“Who knows? The average lifespan is about… eight to nine centuries?” Bora shrugged, “since neither Minji nor I have even passed the first century mark—in fact, vampires that are in their twenties, like us, are very, very young.”

“Aging halts once we reach our twenties and our appearance stays like this for centuries. Up until our final moment, we would look like we do now. But just before death, we would age suddenly and our appearance will shift to reflect old age.” Minji explained.

“And then, boom, we die.” Bora concluded. “For cronies, its simpler. They just vanish when their masters die. Some say they will turn to dust, others say they decompose; even their bones do, until nothing is left.”

“Then-”

“Yooh, I think that’s enough for today,” Minji patted her on the back. Yoohyeon understood the implications behind the sentence, no matter how gentle the elder had ensured her tone was. Don’t ask anymore.

*

“What was that?” Handong questioned after they left for their dorms. “Why are you suddenly curious about other vampires?”

“I just thought it was weird that they have never mentioned Lady Kim, that’s all.” Yoohyeon replied with feigned apathy. “But who would ever reject the offer to attain a longer lifespan by turning? It seems too good to be true…”

“It’s not that simple Yoohyeon,” Handong paused. “There is always a price to pay for everything—one can never expect to gain without sacrificing. ‘Turning’ can increase one’s strength and speed, and the vampire’s ability to heal faster than normal will also be transferred. But, in return, their taste will degrade and they have to undergo periods of short-term hibernation.”

“Hibernation?”

“Sleeping, essentially. But they cannot control the moment it occurs or the duration of it.” Yoohyeon chewed on her lower lips. It fits. The description fits.

*

Dami observed her classmates’ aimless chatter. Everyone was absorbed in their conversation, paying no attention whatsoever to her. No one is mentioning anything about me… It seems, she had been quiet about that day’s events. Kim Yoohyeon… I don’t understand, who are you? Perhaps Dami had been like that for too long, so much so that she couldn’t even understand the human heart—her supposed own kind—anymore.

“Tag! You're it!” Two children ran, laughing and laughing, like the whole world had only them and them alone. But that was all right, for they only needed each other, and none else—not even the universe—mattered. They chased each other down the meadows, along the lake and into the forest.

They chased each other for an eternity.

Dami jolted up. She found herself back in the uncomfortable setting of a classroom. A dream. Haven’t had one since ages. In the dream, she had found her. In the dream, they were happy. But in the dream, they were only kids; so young that being carefree was almost a given.

“Dozed off again?” Siyeon commented lightly. The wolf-like girl had started to interact more with Dami after witnessing Yoohyeon’s attempts to do so. She had always been in awe of her stoic classmate, but had been at a loss on how to approach her.  

“Right. I’m-”

“Hey, are you alright?” Siyeon rushed forward as Dami buckled under her own weight. “I’ll walk with you to find the nurse.”

“I’m fine, don’t need to worry. I can walk by myself.” Dami pushed herself off, staggering as she approached the back door of the classroom. I need to hurry. Her vision became pixelated, the hibernation had come too rapidly and she had failed to predict its arrival. Another miscalculation… I’m too careless these days. As she neared the hilltop, her body slacken and grew limp. Did I… make it… there?

“Yubin! What are you doing? Come and catch me, quick!”

Yubin. It was a familiar name—one that she knew too well. It was given to her when she had no name to call herself by. It was a name only one person was allowed to utter. She could still remember their time together, even their conversations, but why can’t she remember her face? Or her name?

“Where are you?” Young Yubin cried out, desperate.

“Here, Yubin.” The silhouette started to fade, until finally, only its voice remained. The same sentence resounded, again and again.

No, wait. Please wait. Don’t go. Yubin cried, yet it had become Dami who was running. All she could see was an empty field. All she could hear was laughter—the laughter of her master was all that was left. Slowly, it morphed into a sinister cackle. In this version of her dream, one of the two children had grown up while the other stayed a child, as though forever stuck in time. The child was demanding to continue their little game, and she knew that her companion would never reject her—she couldn’t.

In this version of Dami’s dream, they are no longer laughing together and there was no more us against the world—only me against you.

But despite all, she hoped for their time together to never end. She just wished to return to the time when they were all happy; to the time when they were merely children, playing in the fields that had held their entire world. Yet, it was Dami who understood they could never return to that moment, for Yubin had grown up. Yubin had become Dami.

If so, then possibly it’s time for the other child to grow up too. Maybe then, would they finally be together once more—and this time, they would not be chasing each other but would walk side by side; hand in hand.

And even then, it would be for an eternity.

“… Dami?” She jolted up a second time that day. Yoohyeon’s face came into view.

“Where am I? What are you-”

“Hey, don’t worry, calm down.” Yoohyeon reassured the girl. She pointed to her sleeve, “I found you on the way up to the hill, but you wouldn’t let go after I carried you here, so…” Dami had been holding onto her sleeve and muttering uncoherent words throughout her sleep.

“Sorry about that,” she quickly released her grip and brought herself to her feet. “I’ve caused you inconvenience.”

“No worries.” Her lips curled itself upwards, and soon after she broke into a full smile. “I don’t really understand you and your problems, and you may find me a bother. But I don’t think I can just watch while you land yourself in trouble. Bora unnie said that we are very alike, maybe it’s because I avoided people once too.” She paused to collect her thoughts. The setting sun painted another similar picture—she had been here too many times.

“Anyways, I want to help you, and it’s not because I’m kind or curious—I just want to. Maybe I’m just a little selfish.” Yoohyeon laughed.

“So, you are just a weird, meddlesome but benevolent person.” Dami said, deadpanned. 

“Hey! Don’t be so mean~” the girl pouted jokingly.

“Well, looks like you might be a little dense as well,” Dami lips curved into a smile.

 

 

“Thank you, Kim Yoohyeon.”  

*

“A human who accepts even cronies, huh? Minji, you found yourself a very interesting one. Kim Yoohyeon… you have exceeded all expectations.” The woman snickered as she stroked the fur of a cat with eyes that glowed the colour of the golden sun.  

Chapter Text

Minji fished out a set of silver keys from her pocket. She tried the first one, inserting it into the keyhole of the rusty old lock, which creaked as she fiddled with the key. It wouldn’t budge. She clicked her tongue and pulled out the key in frustration. It was a hot day, and she was definitely not in the mood to do anything, let alone open a door that granted access to a room used a meagre once per year. But she had promised Gahyeon to help out with the cleaning of the academy’s pool after the younger had kindly requested for her help. And Kim Minji wasn’t one to break promises. After three unsuccessful attempts, she finally matched the correct key to the persistent lock and pushed open the glass doors. The swimming complex smelt of mould and stale water. Not good. This is going to be long day. She hustled towards the storage room and returned with buckets and brushes.

Thus, the cleaning began. For an hour, she scrubbed the moss ridden floor of the pool, under the torturing heat of summer.

Minji hated the sun. Not only did the bright light emanating from the gigantic star hurt her eyes, the heat that radiated from it was also unbearable. Literature had often portrayed vampires to be rulers of the night—vile creatures that burnt under the radiance of the sun and were salvaged by darkness made possible by the moon. But these writings were almost never accurate, and any representation of her kind in human literature bordered the line of fantasy beyond imaginable reality—plots that only existed as far as the human mind would allow, to soothe their innate need for interesting stories and everlasting tales. Despite her absolute detest towards these stereotypical made-up characteristics, Minji imagined herself as one of the characters during this hot afternoon, incinerating as sunlight touches her skin.  

“Minji! I’m so sorry you had to start on your own. I came down as fast as I could,” a voice was suddenly heard. The owner of the voice rushed to take the mop from Minji’s hands. “Here, I’ll do it. Go and take a rest, you look like you may need it.”

“Thanks, Yooh.” She gave the newcomer a weak smile. Spending hours under the sun had drained her considerably. It was then that she realised, she might share more similarities with those baseless vampire stereotypes than she would have liked.

Minji had been so focused on her task that she had failed to even notice when Yoohyeon had burst through the door. Now that she was adequately rested, she took time to observe the younger carefully, taking in the way her bangs moved together with her entire body as she glided the mop effortlessly across the floor. She mused at the way Yoohyeon would frown and stick out her tongue like a troubled puppy whenever the mop was unable to fully remove stubborn stains from the crevices between tiles. She could not help but to laugh when the girl had clumsily sent water in the direction of her face by holding the hose the wrong way, too close to herself. Yoohyeon shot the vice-president a look, before yielding and joining her in laughing at her own silly mishap.

“Stop laughing!” She may have whined, but was as immersed in laughter herself as Minji did. Yoohyeon now resembled a drenched puppy that had either just got out of the shower in bliss or was caught in the rain in misery. Either ways, her hair was stuck to her face like glue while the ends were dripping droplets of water like a leaky tap. Minji grabbed the towel that was lying on a nearby bench and started to help the girl dry off.

“Minji.”

“Hmm?” The vampire replied absentmindedly, but soon enough made eye contact with a pair of eyes that held a mischievous glint. “Wha-?” She felt water gliding down her face before registering the extra weight of her T-shirt, now fully soaked. The culprit in question was still holding the evidence in her hands—the green coloured hose that was now aimed in the blonde’s direction.

“Yah! Yoohyeon!” A high-pitched scream filled the air and laughter followed as a reply. Then, Minji’s can be heard joining in—two girls laughing, each singing a different tune but both in perfect harmony with each other, producing a melody that could bring even a deaf man to tears.

The rest of the afternoon was wasted as Minji chased after the other girl, determined to get her revenge.

*

“I'm filling in the water!” Yoohyeon shouted from the other end of the pool. She pulled on the fancy looking knob attached to one part of the fence. The drains at the bottom of the rectangular-shaped hole opened and water rushed in to fill up the empty pool. The smell of chlorine invaded the air, which ironically came as a relief for both after being stuck with sniffling musty air for hours.

Minji silently regarded the blue water that was so still, not even a single ripple could be seen. It had a refined quality to it; light bounced off its surface, transforming it from a body of water to an oversized sapphire, so wondrous and precious. Contrary to her opinions about the sun, Minji loved the water. It was both the most flexible entity that is able to take the shape of any vessel and the strongest weapon that could pierce through the hardest rock—if given enough time, that is. Coincidentally, time was once all Minji had and thought about. She shivered; wretched images of that room appeared—something she wished never existed in her life. She focused on the water. A beautiful resource with qualities that she had strived to achieve, but had always missed the mark—she was never as elegant nor as tough.       

“What are you thinking about?” Yoohyeon asked with genuine curiosity. She clocked her head to the left, seemingly to emphasis her inquisitiveness. Minji saw a familiarity in her eyes—it was the mini galaxies again; the intricate pattern of constellations that was contained in her gaze. They had Minji hooked. The longer she held her gaze, the more emotions she could ascertain from them. Curiosity occupied and had the most depth. Underneath that layer, a tinge of excitement was present, perhaps an eagerness to learn what she had to say. And of course, the everlasting affection that laid deep—so deep, Minji sometimes wonders if she had imagined it, whether she was just too blinded by her own cloud of adoration that she had unknowingly concluded the presence of something that wasn’t there. Maybe what she saw in the younger’s eyes was just a reflection of her own emotions.

“Minji?” Yoohyeon said after realising that the blonde had lost herself in her own thoughts.

“Not much,” Minji shrugged, but she could tell that Yoohyeon was not satisfied with such an answer. She continued, “I love the water. It calms me.”

“Water reminds me of you,” the response received a chuckle from the blonde.

“And here I thought I’m bear no qualities to that of water. Care to enlighten me why you would think that?”

“Well, for one, water always looks so beautiful.” The comment received a blush from the elder. Seeing the red rush onto her face, Yoohyeon continued, “but it is also very contradictory. When it’s still, it grants tranquillity, but when it is raging, it dances with such force that it destroys without mercy. It can be accommodating, following whatever shape its container wants it to take, or it can be stubborn like ice, staying in its cubed-shape stupor. And that’s you, aren’t it?”

“How so?”

“You are always headstrong, but in reality, you can be very sensitive and vulnerable. You are one of the kindest people I’ve ever met—so selfless—but you can also be very stubborn and hence at times a little selfish. You are full of contradictions, Minji.”

The blonde raised her brows, she was not convinced.

Yoohyeon narrated their first meeting, at the grand stairway, which had made Minji look so confident, so bright and blinding, Yoohyeon had yet to come across one like that. But, the day Minji had to erase Yoohyeon’s memories revealed a girl who was like every other—one with unease and vulnerabilities. The turbulence within showed itself—she had faltered—and the younger learnt of how important her friends were to the vampire. It helped Yoohyeon realise how much she, too, yearned for people like that to be around her.

When it comes to selflessness, the younger knew Minji had plenty. She recited the way Minji had helped her when she started on her first project, going the extra mile to ensure she ate properly, and even aiding her in writing her report. She smiled at the memory of the library. Yoohyeon had been the recipient of kindness so raw, it brought immense warmth and joy. Then, she remembered the moment Minji had lashed out at Bora for keeping her blooming relationship with Siyeon a secret—she can’t help but laugh. Minji had been so angry, spitting out venom that had sentenced the president with so much heartache, it pained Yoohyeon. Minji had apologised so many times afterwards, Bora couldn’t not forgive her princess. Yoohyeon saw a glimpse of Minji’s selfishness that time—the gnawing desire to protect her friend from getting hurt had enabled herself to be the bringer of such harm instead. It was the belief that her position is right, without even considering Bora’s feelings, that have hurt Bora the most—more than the possibility of Siyeon’s rejection.

The younger also considered all the times Minji had been so hardworking, staying longer than anyone in the council’s room, completing every project with perfection and holding herself to the utmost standard—this was the pinnacle evidence of how much DC meant to Minji.

“You love the academy with all your heart; you love it with all the love that you can possibly give, until you could give no more.”  

Minji was speechless. How do one respond to words like these? It is in these precious moments that one wonders: what have one done to deserve somebody like that in one’s life—someone who sees you for who you are, sees you for a being with flaws but nonetheless a being with beauty.

“T-Thanks, god... I-I don’t know what to say,” she cursed at herself for stuttering and sounding like a complete moron. The younger blushed; she’d said too much. Yoohyeon knew very well how words have depth; the same sentence could be interpreted vastly differently by two parties, and this was only possible because words are alive. They are like people, with different faces that don different masks. Perhaps, she thought, they pick up these traits from the very people who utter them. She gave the vice-president a cursory glance, and tried her utmost to maintain her composure, which was rapidly slipping away. Her words could have only come from someone who had observed the vice-president thoroughly. It could’ve been one who merely sees Minji as an important person, or it could have also come from someone seeking something more. And she knew—Minji may very well do too—that hers were of the latter. (She was seeking so much more.)

“Urghh!” She groaned. “I’m going to swim!”

“Yooh!” Minji watched in horror as Yoohyeon threw herself into the pool. The latter’s laugher sounded, louder than before, and it was the kind that Minji adored—the free and non-constricted kind. “What are you doing?!”  

“You should come into the pool, its cooling!” The puppy-like girl replied excitedly, choosing to ignore the elder’s question. “Come,” she reached out her hand. It gave her a sense of déjà vu—she had seen this imagery before: their first meeting. Except, this time, she was the one initiating the handhold. (And she was certain she would not let go of the hand that was going to grasp her own.)

Minji watched as the light from the sun settled on the crown of Yoohyeon’s head, together with the glistering water, it gave the illusion of an angel that had descended upon humanity, upon her. This angel was ethereal—Minji supposed all angels do, but the one in front of her was so breath-taking, she might have really stopped breathing. She had always known Yoohyeon to be pretty and very very cute. But today may be the very first she had actually taken a good look at her features, taken a good look at her in all of her glory. Minji felt the need to do so, especially after the other had shown her how much she had been observing and really viewing the vampire with the clearest lens possible. And it was only when she had returned the favour, in this current moment, had she realised how much Yoohyeon shone—it was surely more radiant than the Kim Minji whom Kim Yoohyeon adores.

(But then again, both were not grading the other using an objective lens, so both of them could be wrong. Maybe, they were not all that gallant after all.

Maybe they were just two lonely individuals who were broken, sufficiently to see the good in another’s imperfections—for what imperfection could possibly rival their very own?)

Yoohyeon pulled Minji down, causing the blonde-haired to fall head first into the water. Unfortunately, their intertwined hands caused Yoohyeon to be pulled along as well, and both dived into the water. “First to reach the other side wins!” Minji shouted and took off in her vampiric speed, giggling when she heard the indigent ‘Hey! That’s not fair!’ far away on the other end. She looked on amused as Yoohyeon swam towards her in a speed that could very well have rivalled most. In other circumstances, had her opponent not been one with supernatural speed, she may have won and with a huge margin to boot. Minji felt lean arms wrap around her neck and soon after, a body pressed up against her own. The younger was breathing faster than usual and remained latched onto the blonde for support.

“That wasn’t fair, Minji-ah!” She whined between her breaths. She held onto the other tightly, almost believing that she would disappear and run off again otherwise. The sliver-haired girl rested her chin onto the other’s shoulder, causing the blonde’s head to be wedged into the crook of her neck. “I can’t believe you actually used your vampire speed here.”

But she did not receive a reply. “Minji?” She casted her line of sight downwards.

“Y-Yooh,” Minji weakly led out. No, why now?! I have to get away. Minji panicked. No! No, no, no! Her face was hot, and she already knew how her eyes were changing—they were transforming into orbs like hers; it disgusted her. Her senses went into overdrive. Suddenly, everywhere consisted of Yoohyeon. Her long canines started aching; the closer she got to the younger, the longer it grew. Minji wondered if they will ever stop. She could smell the girl’s scent and pick up on the strong metallic fragrance, which to Minji’s more human-like counterpart, resembled more of a stench. It was a burden, one that she did not want to carry—for the ramifications may prove too much for her to handle. She likened this desire to a bag of weed—an object that was a bringer of ecstasy and pleasure, but was also a shameful remembrance of a despicable mistake. And it was laughable how fitting this description was, for Minji did not know the taste of weed, like she did not know the taste of Yoohyeon’s blood. 

Her body yearned, profoundly, for the one currently in her arms. Her head was buried in the crook of the girl’s neck. Throb, throb, throb. Everywhere was red, but the liquid flowing beneath the thin layer of skin of her neck was the reddest. It stood out, like it was wearing a completely different shade. Throb, throb, throb. Her breathing became shallow, faster. They were short, hurried breaths taken by someone who was held captive, and Minji was precisely that—she was being held by the beast within herself; a monster that she had limited control over, woefully.   

“Minji! Are you okay?” The blonde heard a voice among all the red. It was muddled, but in spite all, was a voice she knew too well to mistake for someone else’s. She turned slowly, trying everything in her power to not sink her fangs in. The beast within was about to break free and once so, Minji would no longer have any restrain over it. It would reign free; and Yoohyeon would be the only victim, with Minji guilty of the crime—the beast, however, remains concealed behind the mask that is Kim Minji.

However, the instance she peered into Yoohyeon’s eyes; it was in her knowledge that she would yet again be salvaged. Those orbs had the power to relieve the greatest sinners from their wrongdoing and appease the most violent rages of tempests. It was then that Kim Minji had won, and perhaps Kim Minji would always win, as long as Kim Yoohyeon was by her side.

She snapped out of her reverie-like nightmare—the red in her eyes were no more, the prodding in her fangs dissipated. From her came a strong push.

“S-Sorry, I-I need s-space,” she managed to say. Her breath started to slow as she gradually regained control. It finally felt like Minji had returned and reclaimed her throne—her rule over her desires and emotions. But Yoohyeon could still discern that the vice-president was shaken up, and she had no idea what had prompted such a turn of events.                  

“I-I need to go, w-would you mind locking up?” The weakness in her voice persisted. 

“Sure,” Yoohyeon returned, uneasy.

*

“Our vice-president is acting very strange lately!” Yoohyeon had announced one afternoon while Minji had gone to settle some stuff with Gahyeon.

“Was it a slip of the tongue? I think you meant the president?” Handong quipped.

“I mean its normal for Bora unnie to act weirdly. Y’know, like the trees are always green.”

“That’s true,” Handong nodded.

“Hey! You guys are getting along too well! Who are you calling weird?!” Bora huffed. “So? How is Minji acting strange?”

“Well,” Yoohyeon started.

They had bumped into each other in the hallway.

“Minji! Heading to the council room? Let’s go together,” Yoohyeon waved wildly at the vice-president.

“H-Hi, Yooh. I have something to do now. G-Go on without me.” The blonde replied in a hurry before striding away.

“And then, the other day,”

“Oh, Minji you have something in your hair,” Yoohyeon reached out, but Minji had flinched and backed away before she could touch her.

“It’s fine, I can get it myself. T-Thanks, Yooh.” She forced a smile, blindly feeling her head in an attempt to remove the foreign object from her hair. Yoohyeon had offered again to help, but was swiftly rejected by the blonde.

“Plus, recently, every time I had proposed we check on how the clubs are doing together, she had dragged Gahyeon along. The welfare committee is not even required to do checks with the council, and they have more important things like the upcoming swimming event to deal with.” Yoohyeon frowned, it was definitely weird.

“Well, I guess she hates you then!” Bora teased. She cackled even harder after seeing Yoohyeon visibly deflate upon her comment. “I’m just kidding! Don’t take it so seriously!” She gave the younger a slap in the back, and made eye contact with Handong. Both already had a sense of what could have happened, and it had occurred sooner than they had expected. “Did anything happen between you two recently? Like… close contact?”

“Hmm… when we were cleaning the pool?” Close contact? Minji’s reaction that day after their race came to mind. “I guess it was when-”

“Well, well, here comes the princess,” Handong cut her off upon seeing the vice-president return. Minji walked into the room only to find the entire council staring as she approached.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing. Just Yoohyeon complaining about how you are not giving her attention lately. Your puppy’s sad that you are ignoring her~” Bora smirked.

“I-I’m not!”

Minji softened upon witnessing the banter between the silver-haired girl and her childhood friend. She felt a wave of regret for having avoided Yoohyeon the past week. The day at the pool had been too close, and she was determined not to repeat that encounter with her arch nemesis living in her ever again. The best way was to keep her distance from the one who was capable of causing the beast within her to go astray—and with it, drive Minji herself to insanity.

“Sorry, Yooh. I’m just a little overwhelmed with everything lately. Don’t worry; it’s not your fault, okay?” She softened even further.

*

Was it too obvious? I didn’t wish for her to notice… I need to be more careful… Minji lifted the blood pack in her hands to stare at its contents. Red. She brought it up to her lips and sucked on the opening in one of the corners. This thing tastes disgusting. Her face scrunched up in repugnance.

“But it looks like I can’t run forever, huh.” She mumbled. Memories of her talk with her returned.

“Minji.” Her voice was still as revolting as Minji had remembered and it left a bitter taste in her mouth. “You have found an intriguing human; why haven’t you done it yet?” She had meant it as an insult. Why are you this useless?

“N-No,” Minji mustered her strength to keep the conversation going. “… I wanted to be cautious. Just in case.”

“There is no need.” The reply was domineering, and alas, the destination of the conversation had been decided. “It is just a human after all. To us, that is nothing.”

Minji could only lower her head and hope to disappear, to extinguish every last trace of herself in the room, and perhaps never again return. But, to cut her out of her life, would be to cut her own veins open and drain out her own blood. To sever such a relationship, was to reject the very notion of who—or what—she is. It was to let go of the monster that she fundamentally was, and Minji could not do it, for Kim Minji without the beast within is but a shell—an illusion of a human that she never was and could never hope to become.

“Remember your promise, Minji.”

To Minji, there had never been a choice. Ever.

The familiar ringtone of her phone sounded, disrupting the suffocating air that had unintentionally built up. Minji jumped. Oh gosh, that scared me… Who? Oh.

“Hey Yooh,” she spoke into the mic. The girl had always appeared when she needed it the most, and Minji was almost convinced that Yoohyeon was monitoring her every second. But, strangely, it did not bother her at all.

“Minji,” her name sounded dramatically different coming from Yoohyeon than it did coming from her. The affection that should have been present in her voice was consistently vacant, and Minji could only reason that it was because all of the fondness had been stolen by Yoohyeon. And again, strangely, it didn’t bother her at the very least.

“Sorry for calling this late. Hope I’m not a bother,” the younger continued.

“Yooh, it’s fine, you are not bothering me.” Minji reassured the younger. “You will never be a bother to me,” she added in a lower volume, but it was picked up by the other on the line.

“R-Right. I was just wondering, d-do you… want to… urm…” 

Minji laughed; a sincere, carefree one in a long time. “Calm down, don’t need to be this nervous.”

“S-Sorry,” she cleared her throat. “Do you want to go somewhere this weekend? You said you were stressed and stuff, so I thought... y-you know, why not?” The blonde could hear the smile in the girl’s voice. Such kindness… but it’s exactly because she is kind that I don’t want her to know.

“I’ll see you tomorrow at ten then?” Minji’s voice was overly sweet; so much so for staying far, far away, she chided.

“Okay. Goodnight, Minji-ah. Sleep well.”

And she did.

That night, Minji slept better than she did all her life.

*

Yoohyeon fidgeted with her hair, curling it on her index finger repeatedly until it became a tangled mess. Last night was nerve wrecking as she was sure her offer would be rejected by the older girl. But when Minji had promised her an entire day of her time, Yoohyeon made it her mission to cheer the depressed vice-president up. Siyeon had kindly revealed that in a certain corner of the town, laid a cozy café that served an impressive array of desserts. She was confident that the vice-president would not be disappointed. (She may or may not have let slip that she had found said place during a date with a certain brunette.) Gahyeon being Gahyeon, helped in her eccentric manner, by introducing Yoohyeon to many places that even her elder sister didn’t knew existed despite living here all her life. ‘This one has her ways,’ she had spoken in a covert but dramatic manner.  

‘Make sure to enjoy yourself too,’ Handong words surfaced. Yoohyeon was glad that the orange head had been looking out for her wellbeing, though she must admit it was on the elusive side, but that did not make it any less significant to the sliver-haired.

“Yoohyeon-ah!” Her silver hair slipped from her fingers as she regarded the vice-president properly for the first in a long time.

“Let’s go,” Yoohyeon tugged Minji along, sprinting down the stairwell where they had their first encounter. “Siyeonie said there’s this place that sells amazing desserts. We have to try it out!”

“Funny that Bora said the same thing about a café as well…” Minji trailed off.

“Wanna bet? I say it’s probably the same one,” Yoohyeon smirked.

“We can’t bet if we both agree on the same thing,” this time, it was Minji that broke out into a smirk. “We should really tease them more.”

The duo arrived at an elegantly decorated establishment, one covered in flowers of every kind. The petite wooden door that sat in the middle of the small hut-like building hanged a cute sign that read: ‘Welcome! We’re open!’. Inside, more flowers sit at various points throughout the café. Yoohyeon had always loved flowers. Flowers are intricate entities that possesses an attractive uniqueness to them. They spoke a language with so much grandeur, even a flower that was meant to insult could feel so elegant.

They settled on a table next to the window that faced the streets. Minji was beyond excited to try out the desserts the shop had to offer—she was a sucker for good food. What good would life be, without enjoying good food and eating to one’s heart’s content? She directed the waiter to various fancy-looking pastries that Yoohyeon had never once saw, let alone know the names of.

“Pink roses,” Minji looked up to find the girl staring at a vase rested next to the window. “They symbolise happiness… And those,” Yoohyeon pointed to the other vases nearby, “are lavender. They mean peace, calmness and harmony. Quite fitting for a café like this, huh?”

“I didn’t know you were into flowers,” Minji was impressed, the girl’s knowledge consisted of many of the most random yet fascinating facts. “What’s your favourite flower?”

“Hmm… a daffodil, maybe.”

“What does it mean?”

“New beginnings. A single daffodil indicate misfortune but a bunch means joy.” Daffodils can also mean unrequited love. Yoohyeon smiled, “quite fitting, isn’t it? But I think red and pink dahlia flowers would suit you better. Red ones mean ‘I’ll give you strength’ while pink ones mean kindness and grace.”

Minji blushed, “are you going to give me some?”

“Maybe?” Yoohyeon wrapped up the conversation as the waiter arrived with their food.

Minji squealed as she took a bite of the apple strudel. She would be returning very soon, and she had to thank Bora and Siyeon for it. Yoohyeon grinned. I'm glad, she’s enjoying it. At length, Minji was doing better.   

The two spent their remaining time exploring the town’s various shops and services, choosing the most unique establishments to spend their afternoon together. ‘Yooh, you should try this on! Come’ on!’ Minji had exclaimed, holding a white floral dress for the younger to wear. ‘This is so cool! How do I look?’ She had asked after trying on a pair of star-shaped sunglasses. ‘You look like an emoji now!’ Yoohyeon had replied with zest upon seeing the funny get up the elder wounded up in.  

*

“Here, there's one more place I want to bring you to,” Yoohyeon took Minji hands in hers. She walked along the edge of the cliff they were on and trudged down a narrow path that stretched far below the rocky platform. They arrived at the base of the cliff, overlooking a lake that was invisible when viewed from the top.

“Wow… I didn’t know such a place existed…”

“As expected of Gahyeonie!” The lake was vast, so wide that it could even be mistaken for the sea if witnessed in the afternoon, when the blue-sky fuses perfectly with the edge of the water. In that small space beneath the massive overhang of the cliff, it felt like they were the only ones left in the entire world.

“Minji,” Yoohyeon began, gaze holding onto the girl with a peculiar care that was characteristic of all the times she had stared.

“Are you going to confess?” It was out of character for Minji to give such a reply, but the question slipped before she could reel them back and lock them up. 

Yoohyeon’s eyes widen in a comical relief. “Wha- N-No!” She cleared her throat rather abruptly. “Remember when you asked whether I will be giving you dahlia flowers just now? Well, I changed my mind.” Minji looked on, visibly confused.

“I'm going to give you a viscaria flower instead.” The younger bowed and held out her hand, “it means, literally: ‘will you dance with me?’.” She glanced up and smiled, but could not look into Minji’s eyes; she settled on the distant sky behind the girl. Minji stood, stupefied. It was entrancing how the girl could make her heart skip a thousand different patterns by simply doing the most mundane of things. Her features glowed as she placed a delicate hand in the one that was outstretched in her direction.

“Of course, Yooh. I’d love to.”

The two girls danced to the melody of the wind, under the backdrop of the lake where there was only them and them alone, enjoying the comfort the other brought into their lives. They swayed and twirled on the sandy floor as their surroundings transformed into a ballroom of royalty; they danced among the silver and gold, on a stage that belonged to none other. Yoohyeon started humming, adding to the symphony of notes that nature was playing in the background. Minji thought she was hallucinating, for no human is ever capable of sounding this perfect—she might truly be an angel.

Lady I love you.

I just wanna show you.

From the way you touch me

and kiss me

to the sparkle in your eye.

Minji recognised the song. The younger belted out the notes with her silk-like voice; and along with the steady heartbeat emanating from her that Minji could faintly pick up on, they resounded in a homogenous euphony. Her voice wielded power; it was emotion in its purest form. It was beautiful—Minji did not know how else to describe it. She only knew that she had hoped it would never stop. 

Oh, how I love you.

I just feel so lost without you.

With my love and intuition

you’ll never have to say goodbye.

Yoohyeon paused, closing her eyes as if there really was an accompaniment playing along with her voice. Minji took the moment to continue with the song. She sang the next few lines, reminiscing how her heart had reacted when she saw Yoohyeon in person—the lyrics reflected just that. Yoohyeon opened her eyes in wonder; Minji sounded perfect—like she always does, in her flawless magnificence. 

Yesterday my heart was in a rush

because you were so pretty.

I didn't even know your name;

it wasn't important.

It felt a bit weird

when our eyes met.

Really it was like you were mine;

your tangled-up hair, that tender breath.

What is this feeling?

My heart.

The two broke apart. Their performance had ended and it was so grand, nature may have even applauded for them. It was like the sun had teared so passionately; the lake had formed under it as evidence. Both girls blushed; perhaps that small display of their affection was too much for two individuals who were yet unready to face the music of their own feelings.

“Do you recall what Bora unnie said?” Yoohyeon started, her voice had lost the volume it had possessed mere minutes ago.

“Well, now that you have joined the council, Minji can finally have a partner. Like me and Dongdong! I hope you will be a great support for my dear princess~ Be a knight in shining armour!”

“She said that?” Minji didn’t recall.

“Hmm.” Yoohyeon hummed. “Dongie said something similar too,”

“Yoohyeon, can you promise me that when the time comes, you would do whatever you can to help Minji?”

“But… you know, I'm not confident I can live up to their expectations. You always do things so perfectly, and I'm, well, a clumsy person to say the least. But even I know that you are not immune to sadness and stress. You regarded me as a friend—someone important to you—at that time,”

“I’ll remember you, Yoohyeon… Even if you lose yourself, I will not lose you.”

“I might not be a knight in shining armour like what Bora unnie said, but it would be nice if I can carry some of your burden, no matter how little.”

“A friend…” Minji bit down on her jaw with force, she felt the painful sensation coursing through her nerves. It is precisely because… “If you ever find out the truth about me, will you still be able to call yourself my friend?” She was certain of the answer; she pictured herself standing behind the girl, only capable of staring at her back as she retreats, walking further and further away to a place Minji would never be able to reach, no matter where it was. If the truth is out, then anywhere Yoohyeon chooses to be, Minji would not have a place in it. 

“My heart always beats so fast whenever you are near. You make me feel so much. But I know… I know that is just the bloodlust! The urge to… drink is so strong sometimes-” Minji managed to choke out. “I’m just attracted to your blood! Will you be willing to be my friend after knowing that you are just seen as food? My vampire side see you as nothing but a walking source of blood!”

Her eyes were hot, burning. Everywhere started to blur until she could only distinguish colour apart—even Yoohyeon’s face had faded till unrecognisable. Perhaps this was better, so that she would not have to deal with the pain that comes after seeing the younger’s terrified expression. She wondered at what point would her expression morph into disgust?  She shut her eyes tightly, feeling the tears flowing down. When she opened her eyes again, the world had become clearer. She allowed silence to take over control of the space between them. Under the thick air of uncertainty, Minji’s sobs carried on.

Yoohyeon likened her cries to that of a child wailing for help; one so broken and so helpless. She looked so small under the weight of Yoohyeon’s gaze—her slightly bent back, her slender fingers that moved quickly to wipe away any tears that had fallen, her downturned lips—and suddenly, the girl shifted to resemble a forlorn figure. It was the little girl; the five or six years old Minji curled up in that cell-like room. The little girl was shaking uncontrollably. Yoohyeon blinked; and standing before her was again present time Minji, but not much had changed, she was still shaking. Was this the burden Minji had been carrying all this while? Bloodlust. She had heard of the word before. A vampire’s inherent need for blood. If this was to be the tribulation that so much agonised the elder; if so, Yoohyeon wanted to relieve her of some of the pain.

“Does Minji want to treat me as food?” She asks softly, delicately. But she knew the answer even before receiving one. The elder shook her head; it was slight but there nonetheless. “Bloodlust, huh? If you don’t want to treat me as food, then it means you can’t help it right? Isn't that painful?” She traced her hands from the elder’s fingertips to her wrist. Her fingers lingered, with her thumb caressing the palms she held, repeatedly drawing small circles.

“I know how painful it is to be forced to leave, unwillingly especially. I will never do that to you Minji,” she lifted the elder’s face by tapping lightly on her chin. “You said you will remember me if no one would. Then I will stay by your side; I don’t mind being treated like food. And I will never tell you to leave if you don’t want to.”

The dam stopping her tears broke, and water fell freely down her face. She wept. Crying was hard to hide; the proof was splattered across her face in its entirety—it was the mark of the inner self begging for help. And when it is over, the soul is cleansed and the inner self is yet again bonded to the person others see—the outer façade. It is during moments whereby the most vulnerable self is revealed, that presents a chance for someone to dedicate themselves to console the grieving soul and impact their life.

Yoohyeon fished out the handkerchief she always kept in her pocket and passed it to the weeping vice-president, “here.”  

All her life, Minji had been searching, for a saviour and for a hero. One so powerful, that even those bearing her own blood had but to retreat. Someone strong enough to protect her against herself. Yoohyeon was neither physically strong nor powerful, yet, she felt like the saviour Minji had been searching for her entire life. Yoohyeon felt like sanctuary.

“I feel like I'm always saying this to you…” she received the handkerchief from the girl. “Thank you, Yoohyeon.” Minji reached out to cup the younger’s face using her free hand. She felt something in her heart—it was growing too familiar too quick—when Yoohyeon’s shoulders lifted slightly as her eyes formed crescents with the smile that grazed her lips. Her shy demeanour gave Minji both a rush of confidence and new-found bashfulness. She retracted her hands and stepped back; she reasoned that both would need some time to settle down their pulsating hearts.

“Oh no! It’s almost curfew time, we should run!” Minji read the time on her phone. She took off, leaving the younger far, far behind again, but stopped after seeing her struggle to keep up.

“Min- wait!” Yoohyeon groaned. It was going to be a long way home. Then, she felt someone pulling on the sleeves of her sweatshirt.

“Come on, Yooh. Faster!” Minji began running towards the dorms, with Yoohyeon in toll, at a speed that was surely faster than anything the younger had ever experience with her feet. The girls’ silhouettes stood out among the dull surroundings and an orange-ridden sky.

In the trees not far away, a pair of golden eyes shone with accustomed familiarity.

*

The academy was busting with life as usual, students hustling about to reach their supposed destination. Handong navigated her way around the campus with ease. The garden behind the students’ council room has been forever out of bounce to the regular student body—it was a deep-seated tradition that every generation of council members wordlessly agreed to follow. But today, she reasoned it was alright to allow a certain wolf-like girl to enter. Given the fact that Siyeon had a particular ‘connection’ with a certain brunette; obviously, the president would not mind breaking such a tradition for her beloved—or so Handong hoped. Bora could still be terrifying, even for Handong herself to deal with, when she was mad. She hurried through the large building, she was late and did not want Siyeon to wait.         

“My poor Gahyeonie is so busy these days, I don’t even see her around the dorms nowadays!” She could hear Siyeon’s voice. Looks like she brought company.

“Seems like Minji and Bora unnie are both tied up as well,” Handong sympathised with the wolf-like girl, conveniently announcing her presence. “Oh, Yoohyeon? I thought you can’t make it for lunch today.”

“I decided to screw work for today,” the youngest replied sheepishly, her puppy eyes were out in full display. Who would be able to get mad at her? At least not Handong. 

“I’m so lonely these days Dongie~” The wolf pouted, resting her head onto Handong’s shoulders.

“I bet its difficult not seeing your sister. Oh! And your girlfriend too, right?” She gave the girl a light-hearted shove, her remark earning a squeal from Yoohyeon.

“S-Stop! We are not!”

“Yet.” Yoohyeon pointed at the girl, giving her a signature smirk. “Plus, the café that you recommended was fantastic. Apparently, Bora recommended a very similar one to Minji… I guess you guys somehow ended up in the same café and both of you somehow found it amazing.”

Siyeon could only bury her face deeper into Handong’s neck. But it was not enough to hide the incoming smile upon thinking about hers and Bora’s weekly journeys around town. They have certainly become closer and more affectionate with each other as their meetings grew. Still, Siyeon did not want to rush things between them, as she understood from the elder’s disposition that she was not comfortable in becoming a couple just yet. They were close but not too close, both physically and emotionally—Bora was careful to ensure that. Siyeon could tell that the president was keeping something from her, and that it was something that terrified the latter. She did not probe, but rather, preferred to give Bora some space to sort out her thoughts and emotions—she wanted to respect the elder and her decision. After all, isn’t a relationship supposed to be a two-man effort? She was perfectly comfortable with maintaining the status quo, as long as it was the conclusion Bora favoured. No matter the outcome, she knew Bora cared, deeply, about their relationship—and it was enough. She could only hope that whatever she was doing showed that, she too, cared about what they have between them. (Because to Siyeon, Bora is enough; she is more than enough.)

“What about you and the vice-prez?” Siyeon shot back and was contented with the obvious effect the mention of Minji had on Yoohyeon.

“W-What about us?” The blush on her face was getting difficult to obscure, let alone erase.

“When you knew Minji’s been stressed out lately, you brought her out to have fun. And even have the whole day of events planned.” Handong said, pointedly. “Come on, when are you going to tell her?” Though that might become a big problem later on… if Minji continues to be stubborn.

Yoohyeon managed a light chuckle, “I don’t know. Someday?” It was no use hiding, and she was sure Minji knows; because really, Yoohyeon was not the best liar—even though she was good at hiding her own emotions, it was an arduous task to hide something so strong.

“Oh?” Yoohyeon broke out of her thoughts to see Handong laughing silently. “I must say, Minji’s hearing is still very sharp,” the chinese girl gestured towards the blonde not far away, who was walking past the council’s building towards a more secluded portion of the campus. She had failed to notice the three friends who were perched on the stone stools in the little garden nearby.

“Min-” Yoohyeon began, but was held back by her wolf-like friend. “What?”

“Yooh, seriously? Think about it; it’s lunch now, and she’s walking towards that part of the school.” Siyeon searched her friend’s eyes for an indication of understanding but found none. “Really? Nothing is coming to mind? She was holding something that looked like a note.” Again, Yoohyeon looked like a lost puppy.

“What Siyeon is saying,” Handong offered, “is that Minji is walking towards the tree of language, probably meeting someone.” It was still fascinating how the younger can be quite dense at times, while being one of most perceptive people she knew.

Oh. OH. The light of realisation found its way onto Yoohyeon’s eyes. The tree of language—a place said to bless couples with the promise of an everlasting relationship; a very famous confession site within the campus. “Someone is asking her out.”

“Minji is very popular among the student body, so it’s not surprising. Which is why you should make your move, before she gets taken away,” Handong pointed her fork at the girl, before turning her attention to Siyeon to get her approval.

Siyeon hummed. “Just confess to her, Yooh. The vice-prez won’t reject you. Have you seen the way she looks at you?”

I know, but it’s precisely because I know… Minji will reject me. Yoohyeon’s understanding of the vice-president was everything but limited—sometimes, she may even know too much. Minji resembled an open book, one that was too easy to read. Yoohyeon realised that whatever Minji did was always deliberate—every move and every word, no matter how subtle, had a meaning. It was up to Yoohyeon to decipher them and evaluate their significance. She was aware of the repercussions if she were to confess—Minji would reject her and she shall have to live with the disappointment that is to graze every corner of the elder’s features. 

Yoohyeon remained deep in thought for the rest of lunch—thinking about Minji, about them and about her life thus far. Suddenly, she yearned the warmth of a particular figure in her life. It was out of place, Yoohyeon concluded. She had buried the time spent with her in a trench so bottomless, she had thought it was irretrievable.

(But calling back her memories was child’s play.)

She pictured herself wrapped in the safety of her arms, which were so sturdy and secure she had refused to part ways with the embrace. She remembered the little pat on her head, the light pinching of her cheeks, the skilled braiding of her long locks; everything from their striking resemblance to the finest of lines on her face. She remembered everything. But every vision that Yoohyeon saw of her had but one ending—her arching back getting smaller and smaller until it was no more. And remembrance brought back more than just memories of her; it brought back images of him—his towering build swallowing her entirely and a charming lob-sided smile morphing into a hideous featureless face.

(A crack appeared; and suddenly she could make out a faint image of a jaw, it opens and closes, opens and closes. She looked down; her legs were gone and her torso floated in the black coloured space. She chose to ignore the blood dripping from where her limp had been torn off.)

When she finally returned her attention to the conversation happening between Siyeon and Handong, Yoohyeon realised it had ended long ago. Both were preparing to leave. She bid goodbye to the both of them and headed quickly out of the building. She forced down the remnants of the fragments of their faces—the two people whom she inherited her features from. She also made a mental note to tone down the teasing the next time she sees Siyeon. The wolf-like girl was very much capable of enacting her revenge. She walked back to the dorms, lamenting the slope she had to overcome before the comfort of home was available to relish in. As she neared her destination, she could see two profiles blocking the only entrance to the dorms.

“Gave another rejection?” The voice was familiar. Bora stood in front of the glass door that granted access to the dorms. From afar, Yoohyeon could see the president talking to her best friend. 

Minji shrugged, her back facing the tall girl.  

“Waiting for a confession from a certain puppy?” Bora teased.

“Stop joking around, Bora.” Minji’s voice sounded strange. It lacked the warmth that Yoohyeon was used to.

“Those kinds of things are for humans.”

It was cold. Minji’s response had proven that Yoohyeon was right—the elder would reject her if she were to ever confess. She likened that Minji would continue being friends with her as long as she did not verbalise her feelings—perhaps it felt less real without the words, perhaps her attachment was easier to ignore that way.

Yoohyeon watched as Minji retreated back into the dorms. Bora did not move, she simply stood watching Minji’s diminishing figure.

“Minji hates receiving confessions. She feels bad for rejecting them, you see. Or maybe it’s just too painful since she thinks vampires are incapable of being in a loving relationship. Especially not with a human.” Bora spoke, her tone too gentle to be coming from the otherwise loud president.

Yoohyeon looked around, confused. Who is she talking to? There was no one in sight near the brunette. “I'm talking to you, dumbass.” Bora turned to face the silver-haired girl.

“How do you know that I’m here?”

Really? I'm a vampire, Yoohyeonie,” Bora huffed. “Anyways, I think it’s important for you to know that Minji did not grow up in a particularly… great environment. It’s clear that you care, Yoohyeon. And I'm just so glad.” She lowered her head. Her relationship with Siyeon had affected Minji more than she would have liked. She took a leap of faith when she responded favourably to the younger’s confession. She took a gamble and she may have won, but it was at the expense of her friend. Bora had expected this sort of reaction from her, but she had underestimated Minji’s feelings for Yoohyeon. The younger girl was too important to Minji, and Minji would never risk putting Yoohyeon in danger—and danger, to Minji, was being in a relationship with Yoohyeon.

Minji’s contempt towards her own kind had definitely stemmed from that person—it had been a miracle that Minji did not become like the very being that gave rise to her existence. It was a blessing, but also a curse, for it meant that Minji would come to hate the very being that she was today. And this hatred was the bedrock of her distaste for relationships.

Bora understood her. At the end of the day, Minji is just a girl with too much love to give, but had received none in return—at least not from the one person she had craved fondness from.

“Bora, oh my god.” Yoohyeon moved swiftly to engulf the shorter girl with her arms. “It’s okay. It’s okay, I'm sure Minji knows you care.” She tightened her grip around the girl’s shoulders and felt the fabric of her own shirt being pulled. The girl shook and Yoohyeon didn’t dare to hug her closer, for it felt like she was so fragile that any additional touch could shatter her. (But that thought seemed to be, Yoohyeon reasoned, an unnecessary concern as Bora may have already imploded the moment Minji had walked away.) The brunette appeared so tiny, so powerless standing there. She had lost the dashing armour that belonged to the students’ council president. In the present, she was but Kim Bora, shedding tears for a friend who was so so dear to her; she was weeping for someone who had lost the ability to weep for herself.

Yoohyeon guided the older girl to sit. They hunched in front of the glass door, sitting side by side in silence. Under the moonlight, they were two girls who found comfort in each other. This was the first time Yoohyeon had conversed with a Bora who was not the students’ council president, not the loud and spontaneous girl who always spoke with a smile on her face. Yoohyeon was speaking to Bora—Minji’s and Handong’s childhood friend, a vampire adopted under the Kim family’s name, and ultimately a girl as alive as Yoohyeon herself is.

“Dongie told me about Minji’s past. The part when she first met you guys.” Yoohyeon spoke after Bora had calmed down.

“What?!”

“Dongie knows that you care, too much. Just like how you are sure Dongie cares too, right?”

“Of course, I love her. I love Minji too. They are both too important to me.” Bora whispered.

“What about Siyeon?” She can’t help but to poke fun at the shorter girl.

“Singnie is… different?” She struggled to find the right words. “It’s like… the love you give to your family is not the same as the love you give to someone whom you want become your family. Its slight, but it’s still different. The former is wholesome and warm. But the latter is… passionate and exciting, but warm nonetheless. And sometimes, it can be scary. It’s like fireworks, y’know? Whenever Singnie is around.”

“Fireworks? Love? Wow… you’re whipped. And Singnie?” Yoohyeon laughed as she braced herself for impact that was inevitable.

“Yah! Kim Yoohyeon!” Bora shoved her playfully and let silence refill the space between them.

“But you know,” she continued, “the fireworks I feel every time I'm with Singnie is not love.” She felt Yoohyeon’s questioning gaze, which was piercing and almost deadly. Silently, she was thankful that Siyeon had such a friend—Yoohyeon may just fight the most violent of storms for Siyeon. Silently, she was envious that Siyeon had such a friend—but she did not know that Yoohyeon would fight the storm for her as well, if it meant that she was safe. Then, she remembered Minji and Handong, and Siyeon; now, she has Yoohyeon too. She was glad to have met Yoohyeon and she could only hope that the girl felt the same. (She did. Of course, she did.)

“Love is the thing that comes after the fireworks and all. Love is calm, peaceful and quiet—it is what you feel after the initial excitement had subsided. When your heart continues to dance fiercely to a rapid rhythm but you no longer feel the nervousness in your gut, instead you see the one whom you love shines—that’s love. When you are with someone you love, it feels right and there’s no reason for it. Why should there be a reason anyways?”

“I get it. It’s the feeling that makes you go: I want to stay here, by your side forever, because it just seems right.”

“Hm. It’s a feeling that soothes the soul,” the elder smiled, but it disappeared quickly.

“But love can also be messy. Very messy. I guess we are all just complicated beings—vampires and humans, both. We all like to complicate things.” For the second time, silence engulfed the place and brought both some time to think. The silence was comfortable and seemed perfect for the moment.

“By the way, today’s Minji birthday.”

“I see,” Yoohyeon replied, absentmindedly. Wait. “What?! Today?!” She glanced at her watch. 11:35. If I run, I might still make it. 

“Vampires don’t really celebrate their birthdays. Or rather, Minji’s family don’t.” Bora explained.

“… Oh.”

“But I guess it’s not too bad to celebrate once in a while.” She pulled the taller girl to her feet and pushed lightly on her shoulders. Yoohyeon took off into the night, she had a place in mind but would have to race time itself if she wanted to make it back before 12am.

Bora chuckled to herself. She stared at the road that Yoohyeon had taken; the girl was no longer in sight but Bora felt the sense of calm the girl had brought her. The starry night somehow gave Bora hope. ‘It’s a shooting star! Quick, make a wish, they say it will definitely come true!’ She smiled at the memory of little Handong grabbing their hands and lacing them together. Later, when she had asked Handong what she had wished for, the girl was stubborn not to budge: ‘It doesn’t come true if you tell people your wish, Bora!’

Bora didn’t see a shooting star, but she laced her fingers together anyways and closed her eyes.

I hope Minji will always be happy.

*

Minji settled into her bed. The day had been too long to bare, she had to turn down yet another confession and it had left her in a sour mood for the rest of the day. Not to be mistaken, she was flattered that people liked her, but these people were in the dark about her true nature. She sighed and pinched softly on the bridge of her nose; she felt a headache approaching.  

“Minji?” the voice was muffled. She heard soft knocks on her door and the voice continued, “are you asleep?”

She unlocked the wooden door slightly, peaking through the small crevice that was formed. “Yooh?” She was surprised to find the younger at her doorstep almost five minutes to midnight. She yanked the door open frantically, ushering the girl to enter but the silver-haired shook her head.

“For you.” Yoohyeon held out a small bouquet of flowers, wrapped in light pink paper. Minji recognised the sunflower that was sandwiched in the middle instantly. She observed the other flowers to be a tulip and a daisy. However, she wasn’t able to recognise the last one.

“The purple flower is a hydrangea,” Yoohyeon notes her questioning gaze.

“What’s this for?”

“Happy birthday, Minji.” She read the time off her watch, “less than a minute to midnight. Looks like I made it.”

It was then that Minji noticed the sweat lining the younger’s forehead. Her shirt was partly soaked. She was breathing heavily. How fast and how far must she have run? And for what? For me?   

Why? The bouquet of colour and fragrance was brought close to her heart, the textured pink paper crumpled under her strong grip. She had hated her very existence ever since she had made sense of what she must do in order to gain the freedom she so ever desire. She wanted to break free from her. But at what cost? If her gaining freedom meant the loss of a freedom of an innocent, then Minji wants nothing to do with it.

Minji hated herself. Or perhaps, she just hated who she was forced to be.

But when Yoohyeon had appeared in front of her door, looking more precious than the bouquet she had in her hands, Minji had hoped that maybe, just maybe, she could learn to love herself. For, if someone like Yoohyeon could love even someone like her, then who was she to deny herself of love?

She buried her face into Yoohyeon’s chest, listening actively to her beating heart and feeling how alive the girl was. “Thank you so, so much Yoohyeon-ah.”

Chapter Text

The campus was noisier than usual. A being allegedly of supernatural origin had been spotted around the academy at night—its hair was long, almost as long as the cape that it dawned; the figure travelled along the roofs, moving with speed and agility. Like all rumours, this particular tale travelled far and fast, and soon became the talk among the student body. Surely something like this would dissipate given time, but Minji grew apprehensive. (A rumour is most often but a made-up lie; the degree of truth one could hope to extract from such sensational-based news is likely going to be unrewarding. But the repercussions of a rumour are not simply the scandal it brings, but the greater underlying turmoil it befalls upon the people.) Those who are skeptical, made fun of the very possibility of such an absurd entity being real, while those who place too much faith in stories like these grew scared of what lurked in the dark at night.

Minji made her way to the council room in distress. She had long realised the impact it would bring to the academy should hers and Bora’s identity ever be exposed, but to experience the unwelcomed consequence first-hand was a novelty. We have to do something about this… Could it be that she came to the campus? No… she is not this careless.

“Minji!” The girl in question opened the large wooden door to find the rest of the council already gathered before her arrival. “Have you heard?” Bora questioned right off the bat.

“Yes, unfortunately. We have to do something; I think we should investigate this stranger’s identity.”

“I agree, but I wouldn’t put too much faith in the truth of such rumours,” Handong said. “It’s almost like, this person is trying to deliberately reveal themselves… why?” She frowned. It was not every day that you hear of a vampire trying to expose themselves willingly.

“But there shouldn’t be any other vampires on this island, right?” Yoohyeon walked out of the pantry, balancing four cups of liquid meticulously on a metal tray. “Here,” she passed the drinks to their respective owners before settling down next to Minji. “Do you think it might be...” the youngest began hesitantly. The topic of Lady Kim was still very much taboo within the council as far as Yoohyeon could tell. She waited, testing the waters.

Minji sipped on her iced mocha calmly, although it still bothered her to hear Yoohyeon talk about the person she so loathed, she did not show it. “Could be. I’ll ask her about it.” It was certainly rare for her to appear in school, let alone pull off a stunt like that. But Minji could never expect to read into the actions of that person—she could very well do so just to screw with herself and Bora.

Too deep in thought, Minji had neglected to realise the whiff of fresh iron which should have been obvious to a vampire’s nose. Bora, however, detected its smell. She traced it to the back of Yoohyeon’s hand. “Hmm? Yoohyeon-ah, what happened to your hand?”

The oblivious girl studied her hands and was surprised to find a relatively thin laceration lining the back of her left hand. The wound had mostly dried, but she could still descry some blood left in the middle where the cut was the deepest. It had probably bled quite profusely when she had scratched it, but weirdly it did not hurt. When did I get something like this?

The apparent odour of blood was picked up immediately by Minji once mentioned, as if the smell had only permeated the air just then. She held her breath—a sharp inhale was heard. The urge to drink was back, but this time, Minji had a better hold onto the monster attempting to break free—Minji fought and she was winning. The desire was overwhelming and she was thankful that the cut wasn’t freshly made. This way, the scent is milder, and Minji could pull her attention away, to something more tangible at hand—like her growing skin temperature and the dying urge to throw up. The contents of her lunch were burning inside her stomach and only the intake of blood—her blood—may be able to satiate her and curb the puke riling to surface.

“I’ll help you patch up that wound, Yoohyeon.” Handong offered kindly, to which Minji was immensely thankful for. The secretary ushered the injured girl out of the room hastily.

“Minji…” It was a tired plea from Bora, some sort of desperate call to action.

“I know.”

Bora sighed. She had heard that phrase one too many times. Time was tight; it was Minji’s final year. But time is that cruel—it doesn’t wait, not even for the sake of those who struggle to keep up with the passing of the seasons. Yet, in a sense, Bora knew that time wasn’t what Minji needed, for no amount of time could change the girl’s plight. Maybe a prayer would fare much better; and by better it meant not at all—Bora’s prayers had never once taken effect after all. She had clung onto the hope that with Yoohyeon in the council, coupled with time for the two to bond, it would lead to the blonde changing her mind. Yet, she should have predicted this outcome from the start—Minji wasn’t one to change her mind, especially not when it concerned more than just making a decision—but Bora was so blinded by the desire to save Minji, to save her friend. She had been naive. Now, she is just tasting the brunt of her nativity.   

“At least… tell her about it. She deserves this at least, Minji-ah.” The president begged. “You know that she would never reject you! If you tell her, she will let you turn her-”

“I know! But that’s not the point, Bora! I don’t want to turn her into my crony.” Minji grew exasperated.

“Dongie can’t hide it from that woman any longer, you know? She is trying her best to buy time for you. Minji, I can’t—we can’t—let you go back there! Me and Dongie would rather die than to see you suffer again…” Bora grew quiet at the end. The tears were already making their way out of her eyes and she shut them tightly, feeling the stinging sensation in her nose.

“B-But I also k-know you. You would rather live like shit than hurt those you care about. And you care; about Yoohyeon.” But what about us? She opened her eyes; they were still wet, shutting them had done nothing to erase the traces of her tears. She locked eyes with Minji; if words won’t do, maybe her eyes and demeanour could finally get through to Minji.

“I care about you, Bora. I care about you, I care about Dongie. Without you guys, I-I would h-have-” She sucked in a deep breath. Her resolution was crumbling. Bora never cried, not in front of her; not even when her parents died in the hands of hunters, not even when she was forcefully pulled away from their bodies and adopted into the Kim family. Today, Bora was shedding tears for her sake. Ah, I have been blessed, she thought, truly blessed.

“But I can’t turn her; I just can’t do it. Sh-She will suffer, and putting someone I lov-… If that’s the only kind of relationship I can have with Yoohyeon, if that’s it… then I’m happy remaining as we are now.”

She hoped Bora understood; she hoped Bora could relate to her and see Siyeon in the predicament that she saw Yoohyeon in. And Bora could comprehend—it was always at the back of her mind—for no sane being would willingly put their beloved through agony, be it vampires or humans. But then the question remained: would that mean Lady Kim was insane? Or was it just that Kim Minji wasn’t loved?

*

“Lady Kim, the young Miss is here.” Handong spoke through the door. It was forbidden for anyone from the Han family to address the Kims by their given name. It was a tradition that had been followed for centuries, but the unspoken truce broke whenever Handong was alone with Bora and Minji. The two vampires have never treated her like a servant, and had denounced the need for Handong to address them as ‘Miss’ right from the start. (In Bora’s words: ‘What kind of friends call each other Miss?’)

“Enter,” the Lady had spoken with authority.

Handong glanced down at Minji. Meetings with Lady Kim had always left Minji feeling bitter, and the chinese girl predicted today to be like usual. Minji kneeled in front of the room and casted a glance at Handong, who could only give her a curt nod. After sliding open the thin bamboo door, she stepped lightly into the dimly lit room and got on her knees again. As she closed the bamboo door, which resembled more like a partition than an actual door, she could hear an impatient exhale from the woman sitting behind her.

The air smelt of tobacco—it was a smell she had grew up with. At some point, tobacco smell meant that she was home. She continued deeper into the room, finally ending up in front of a red satin curtain. The only light source in the room came from four oil lamps, each sitting in one corner of the rectangular room, which did little but illuminate an outline of the woman sitting behind the curtain. But Minji could recognise her profile right away—she loathed it on sight; it wasn’t one that the girl wanted to see. The smoke from the woman’s pipe rose; it was the only thing that had motion in the dark room. Minji eyed it as it twirled and danced, and then disappeared. 

“You are here.” The blonde knelt down in front of the curtain immediately.

“Y-Yes,” she began, her voice came out feeble; she blamed it on the vivid smell of nicotine invading her nostrils. “There have been some… complications at school. Some students reported that they saw a vampire around the campus at night.”

“I’ve heard, Handong has reported to me like she should. Do whatever you see fit to resolve the issue. This is none of my concern.” 

“I’ll make sure to discuss it with Bora.” I guess it is not her after all. Silence befell the room, and Minji could only wait—she had not yet given her the permission to leave. Her agenda for today was settled, but it would seem that the Lady had more to say. The smoke was still rising, the only indicator of the passage of time.

“More importantly, the human you are considering… Her name is Kim Yoohyeon, is it not?”

“… It is,” Minji swallowed. She had expected the topic to be brought up.

“Good. You have chosen well, Minji. Even the taste is delightful.”

Minji flinched. The cut on her hand! “You went to the school?” She questioned; it came out monotonous, how Minji had preferred it to be. Any emotion present would ruin the position she had established for herself till now—she had learnt to return apathy with the like.

“Is it wrong of me to visit the hunting ground that I have built, hmm?” Minji remained silent; she knew better than to further question her. “In any case, such a fine human being… you should turn her into your crony with haste. Don’t let her run away, understand?”

“… Y-Yes.” She responded like how a puny child would.

“Good.” Minji detected a faint smile from the other side of the curtain. It bore semblance to someone glad to have received compliance from another. But then again, in the dimly lit environment, it was easy to mistake a sneer or anything the like for something else—something more genuine. “It’s time for you to get serious, it had been five years since you started school. To think that you had returned empty handed each time… I do hope you still remember the promise; you don’t want to end up back in that place now, do you? You are a vampire, Minji; start acting like one.” Minji picked up something more vicious: ‘You are a vampire of the Kim family, stop being a disgrace and a humiliation.’

Again, both settled into silence.

“You may leave, Minji.”

“Yes… mother.” She spat out the final spoken word of the day, stood up and left.

*

The council gathered outside the dorms to commence operation ‘catch the vampire wannabe!’ as Bora had termed it. They had been making rounds around the campus but still no sign of the mysterious creature. Nothing seemed out of place, and the two humans were close to giving up on the investigation.

“Looks like it’s not coming out tonight,” Handong mused. She refused to believe that there was another vampire living on the island. “Plus, I'm pretty sure the rumours are fake and we are all wasting our time,” she yawned. Vampire hunting was not part of her job as a member of the students’ council as far as she was concerned; it wasn’t even required as a member of the Han family. But Minji was determined to catch the culprit and anything the princess wished, was the responsibility of poor Handong and Bora to fulfil. (They just love her too much. Certainly, they have as much love to give as Minji does.)

“Shhh,” Bora placed her hand over the chinese girl’s mouth, earning a frown and an eyeroll from the latter. “Do you hear that? I think its nearby.”

“No, I didn’t hear anything, Bora.” Handong pried the president’s hands off her mouth.

“I mean… we are humans, Dongdong,” Yoohyeon deadpanned. “Don’t you just hate our mediocre sense of hearing sometimes?”

“It’s there!” Minji spoke in her normal volume, brushing aside the bickering going on next to her. The members followed her line of sight to the rooftop of the academy’s clock tower. There, standing atop the lean building was the conundrum that had stumped the council. It dawned a black cape, which reached all the way to the person’s ankles. The hood over its head masked more than half of its face—the culprit definitely did not want to be recognised. Yoohyeon could only conclude that he or she was a student of DC academy, probably. The figure remained settled on the tall building with no hurry to escape.

“So… what now?” Handong looked towards her two childhood friends. She still could not believe whoever spread the rumour was actually telling the truth.

“We chase after it, duh.” Minji took off into the night sky, releasing the limit she had been subjecting herself to as a means to control her speed—it would be dangerous to let loose her actual physical abilities on campus. She chased after the phantom, which had started to move away upon seeing Minji’s effortless jump onto the rooftop nearby. The two continued their race across the campus, with Minji chasing and the phantom escaping her relentless pursuit. It was fast, and Minji was losing. The figure pulled away and merged with the dark night. Minji cursed. Her eyes glowed fully red—she could always see better with those eyes as opposed to the ones she always relied on during the day—it scanned the surrounding meticulously to find the long-lost figure. There was nothing. Tsk. It’s fast. The vampire cranked down her speed, restoring the speed limit to her legs. She felt herself descending as her body became heavier. She landed strongly onto the hard surface, eyes retaining its lurid carmine hue.

Heavy breathing of a person was heard, but Minji likened it was her own. When she turned, however, Minji realised how wrong she had been.

A human stood dumbfounded beside her; fear enveloped her features. It was clear that she had seen Minji in all of her glory. As the red in her eyes left to make way for the dark brown to return, Minji took a step towards the girl. Her heart ached when the human’s legs buckled and gave up supporting her weight. The blonde took in her features, this time picking up confusion among the dominant fear present. This was the second time she had ever witnessed this kind of expression on her face. Of all people, why did it have to be you?

“Gahyeonie.”   

Chapter Text

Minji squatted down beside the frightened girl, not knowing what else to say and how to even began saying anything. She could tell that the younger wanted answers; who wouldn’t after witnessing someone jump down from literally the sky, and with red eyes to boot? In the distance, her sharp hearing picked up on footsteps that were growing nearer.

“Minji! What happen- Gahyeon?” Yoohyeon was puzzled. What is Gahyeon doing here? The rest of the council had caught up behind her. The brunette took one look at the scene and had a rough idea what might have transpired.

“Did she see?” Bora asked urgently to which she received a nod from the other vampire. “You know what to do,” she whispered, not wanting to face Gahyeon. She felt a sense of déjà vu—this had occurred before somehow.

Minji did not move. Yoohyeon stared at the older girl sprawled on the dirt ground, she had understood briefly what had happened. Minji must now do something that she would regret. If a vampire’s identity is revealed then that person must be rid of all memories in regards to the event. That was what happened to herself; Yoohyeon likened that Gahyeon would receive a similar treatment. But Bora’s disclosure had been deliberately performed for her—Yoohyeon wasn’t a surprise eye-witness who had walked into the wrong place at the wrong time; she was carefully placed there as a spectator summoned to view a performance. In this case, however, Gahyeon was an actual unsuspecting bystander who had seen something she was ever meant to lay eyes on; she wasn’t meant to be there.

“Gahyeon-ah, what did you see?” Yoohyeon’s tone was gentle, like she was cooing a baby to sleep. She patted the younger’s back encouragingly, hoping that her touch could soothe whatever raging emotions she was battling at that moment.

“M-Minji unnie… s-she,” the pink haired girl began unconfidently. “F-flew down? No, jumped? R-Red eyes… F-From the sky… very fast.” Her eyes remained wide opened; she tugged on the helm of Yoohyeon’s shirt frantically as she narrated whatever her eyes were able to pick up on in that moment. Minji closed her eyes. There was no other way.

“Gahyeon-ah, we’ll bring you back to your room first, okay? Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.” Yoohyeon searched Bora’s eyes for approval, she did not want to step out of line as this wasn’t supposed to be something that she should step a foot in.

The elder let out a stifled sigh, “me and Dongdong will bring her back. You stay here with Minji.” She held out her hand for the youngest to take—which the younger was eager to do so—not missing the slight shake of the hand that flimsily found hers. “It’s alright Gahyeonie, you’re safe,” Bora lulled, pulling the girl into a hug and softly caressing her hair, “you’re safe.”

The three walked down the road leading back home. Yoohyeon sat down beside the blonde, who was still staring at the ground. She gave her space, something she reckoned Minji needed. Yoohyeon did not have much to offer, only her time and her presence. And she prayed that it was sufficient for Minji to open up. She would wait, until the elder is ready to confide in her. And if she refuses, then Yoohyeon reckoned she would just accompany her until she wanted to return to the dorms.

Now, only time could tell.

The two sat, shoulder to shoulder, talking with their presence instead of words. They were like old friends meeting after years of solitude and enjoying more than just the reunion; neither spoke a word. The wind blew, ruffling up Yoohyeon’s bangs, which pricked her eyes with every flutter. How long have they been sitting there? She side eyed the blonde, who was hugging her knees and staring into a sky so dark, Yoohyeon was convinced there was nothing beyond the mass of black. 

“I’m scared, Yooh." Minji began, "if the school finds out about us, then… I-I mean, it’s fine for me to leave. But Bora, god, she-” Minji took a moment to compose herself. She had lost herself too many times in front of the younger, and swore today would be different—she would have an iron grip over her emotions. She rested her chin on her bent knees and let out the slightest sound, “Bora… she has Siyeon. If she is forced to leave-”

Yoohyeon smiled; it seems that Bora had worried for nothing. Her relationship with Siyeon may be unconventional; it may even be something close to a sin in Minji’s eyes. But the vice-presodent's love for Bora had preceded and it had won. Minji wanted Bora to be happy, even if it signified the acceptance of a relationship that should have been unacceptable and disastrous. Or perhaps Minji was just more perceptive than they had given her credit for—the problem had been her all along; her detest for being in love was not because they would only end badly, but because she thought that they would. And she thought it with absolute conviction. Both vampires loved each other so much, sadly they were inept when it came to expressing those thoughts.

“Minji, do you believe in Gahyeon?”

“What?”

“You think Gahyeon is someone who will expose you and Bora to the entire school? That she will spread rumours and talk behind your back.”

“What? No!” Minji raged. “What the hell, Yoohyeon?!”

“Then why are you so afraid?” Yoohyeon turned to face her, eyes in search for the soul deep within. Piercing and piercing through the layers until they find what they had been scouting for this entire time—a truth stripped naked, one so raw it could not have been from anywhere else but the depths of the psyche. Because Yoohyeon refused to believe that her trust in Gahyeon was so superficial and so evanescent that it could be shaken with a touch of vulnerability.  

“I-”

Minji did not have a reply that was satisfactory. Indeed, exactly what was she so scared about? Minji had never—and would never have—expected Gahyeon to spew her secret and ruin her life. In fact, Gahyeon was the kind of girl who radiated sunshine and who viewed the world through a rose-coloured lens. But she was never naïve—she sees the good in everything but still accepted that the world is full of evil; she looks the devil in his eyes, but remain uncorrupted. So strong, yet so powerless at times—Minji thinks the ability to appear weak may just be an attestation of strength in itself, ironically so. Then what was she afraid of? Maybe it wasn’t fear, maybe it was thoughtfulness. Maybe she just wanted to rid Gahyeon of the fearsome memory of today. But how convinced of that argument was she, really?

Not at all.

“I don’t want her to think of me as a monster.”

*

Handong handed the younger a cup of water, who graciously accepted it without a word. The chinese girl chose a seat next to the girl, while Bora preferred to stay further away. Gahyeon fidgeted with her mug. The stares in her direction were intense and unnatural, making her very uncomfortable.   

“D-Did you guys know about this? That Minji unnie is not-” she hitched. Normal. She is not normal.

“Gahyeon-ah, I promise we will talk about this tomorrow, okay? But before that can you promise me not to tell anyone about what you saw today?” Bora moved forward and grasped her hands gently, “not even to Siyeon.” It was a plea more so than a request, honestly. The brunette was determined to keep this away from Siyeon for as long as it was possible.

The pink haired nodded, but she was hesitant. Her sister was her closest person—one who had accompanied her through life’s ups and downs, one who had stood by her in triumphs and tribulations—and she had kept nothing from the older girl. She doubted even her ability to lie successfully, considering the level of understanding her sister had of her. But Bora looked like she was begging, and the president never begged. It wasn’t required, for others come running at her bidding, and it was funny how even herself had fallen prey to the woman’s charms, or—Gahyeon dare say—vulnerability at the moment.

“Why were you out so late at night?” Handong asked.

“To investigate the rumours about the mysterious person. Everyone was talking about it.”

We have been careless to not take into consideration that there might be people drawn to the rumours too. Handong stifled another curse. It would be her job to confront Minji about her behaviour today—for she could never trust Bora to do a good job—and she was dreading it. The vice-president was normally never one to be impulsive—that was more often the president’s job—but when circumstances involved her own kind, things could be, well, on the contrary.

Handong reassured the younger girl again, ensuring that she would be fine on her own before suggesting that herself and Bora retreat to their respective rooms, and leave Gahyeon to the rest that she very much deserves. After the two had left, Gahyeon settled into her bed with an unsettled heart. From the earlier events, she concluded that Minji may be the figure everyone was talking about. The fact that she practically landed from the sky was a clear testament. The girl figured that the students’ council knew about Minji’s identity, hence their appearance shortly after Minji had shown herself.

Was this what Yoohyeon was talking about when she said it was complicated? The girl had thought it was another one of those excuses people make when they lack the courage to make known their feelings for another. But now, it seems Yoohyeon was, in fact, stuck in a difficult position. What Gahyeon could not wrap her mind around was the reason that Minji would go out of her way to reveal her true identity to the school.

Her blonde hair reminded Gahyeon of a certain older girl, but the one standing not far away from her was shorter and very young. Gahyeon observed her hands, they were smaller than she had remembered. Then, she studied her figure; she felt much smaller too. She was in the body of her younger self. Her surroundings were familiar, it was a place that she was certain existed in her childhood but for some reason it had been forsaken.

“Gahyeonie! Will you play with me today too?” She turned when her name was called. It was the little girl, waving at her enthusiastically. Gahyeon noted her dressing, which was weird—the girl was wearing a hanbok, a piece of clothing that people from her era no longer donned. Gahyeon had never seen her before.

“Who are you?” Somehow, she felt slightly guilty for asking.

“Y-You don’t remember.” Now, Gahyeon was definitely guilty, but the girl continued, “of course you won’t remember…”

“H-Hey, it’s fine. We can-”

“People seem to never remember me.”

Gahyeon jolted up. It was clear that she was in her dorm room. A dream. It was so real… She shut her eyes and attempted to draw a picture of the girl’s face, but a thick fog covered her features. Only her voice was distinct and it rung with a timbre that mirrored someone she knew. It could be a coincidence, she reasoned, but she wanted answers nonetheless. Now, all she had was more questions with little respite. I hope Minji will tell me everything I want to know soon. She washed up as quickly as possible and headed straight to the students’ council room. Her lessons did not start until the afternoon and she wanted to secure every chance of meeting with the vice-president.

When she reached the building, the reality of the situation weighted down on her. Inside the room could lay a person who had essentially became a stranger overnight. The Minji unnie that she knew was not the Minji unnie that was behind the wooden door. Usually, she would have busted into the room like it was her second home—which it was—but today, she felt compelled to knock. Once she enters the room, the unnie that she knew would be forever gone.

The door creaked open to reveal Handong as the only occupant of the room. Gahyeon led out a breath that she did not know she was holding onto. The older girl gestured for the other to enter. She walked into the room awkwardly—in a span of hours, she had forgotten how she used to act in her second home.

“Minji will be coming soon,” Handong started. “Relax, Gahyeon-ah.”

Gahyeon nodded, her lips forced into a tight smile. She too wanted to loosen up and wondered if the appearance of Minji would grant her just that or simply aggravate the fraught silence further.

*

Minji stood in front of the wooden door that guarded the entrance way to a show that must play out today. She had been given two scripts and she held the power to choose her act, like an actress who decides the storyline of the play—it was an honour, just not one she wanted possession of. She could hear two voices coming from behind the door. Gahyeon was already here, and the other was probably Handong.

“Minji.”

The girl being addressed smiled. She put a name to the voice coming from her back without even turning around. She hummed; it was her way of telling Yoohyeon: I know. Minji knew what she wanted to do. “Let’s go in,” she said.

“Are you ready?”

“No.”

With that, she pushed open the door. She made eye contact first with Handong, then with Gahyeon. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions; don’t worry I’ll answer all of them. But before that, can I do something?”

The pink-haired girl held her gaze surprisingly. The fright in her eyes was gone, and now only confusion and perhaps a little frustration remained. They stayed unmoving until the younger nodded. Her line of sight did not once flatter away from Minji as she made her way across the room, until she was standing in front of her. Red made its way back into her eyes, and the more Gahyeon stared, the more she was unsure what made her so afraid of the colour back then. It was beautiful; a colour that complimented Minji well—she was the embodiment of red’s passion and intensity. The blonde put a hand on top of Gahyeon’s head, causing her to close her eyes. The feeling of Minji’s soft palm against the base of her scalp was soothing—she felt that the old Minji, the Minji unnie that she was acquainted with was back. The older girl felt relieved that the younger did not flinch upon her contact; it was a good start. 

“You are not a monster, Minji!” Yoohyeon hissed.

The blonde flinched at the sudden increase in volume. It was out of character for the younger to raise her voice. There was a tinge of annoyance in her tone, which was novel as well. “Sorry,” Minji felt the need to say, “I must be pretty annoying.”

“No,” the volume was gone, “I’m not annoyed. Just… sad, and at a loss maybe. No one sees you as a monster—not me, not Dongie, not Bora unnie, and I’m sure Gahyeon wouldn’t as well.”

“You can’t be sure.”

“Only you see yourself as one, Minji-ah.” It sounded too tired to even be considered a cry, too strained to be considered an accusation; it was just a statement with immeasurable truth.

She closed her eyes and concentrated on the sensation she felt on her fingertips. She was given a choice, and she had made her decision. Her younger self had been forced to partake in an action against her will, but nine-year-old Minji was gullible. Her present self would not allow such a mistake to befall upon herself ever again. She was no longer the child who wished for a futile warmth from her only parent, no longer one who cowered under the pressure of a life full of suffering. For her loved ones, she was willing to bear the pain. Gahyeon deserved to know the truth—it would be too cruel if she was again scraped of her memories. Memories are the vessels that houses one’s identity, hence to lose them would be to lose a part of oneself. For Gahyeon’s sake, Minji is going to trust. She shall believe in Bora, in Handong, in Yoohyeon; she was not a monster. She shall believe in Gahyeon; she would not see her as a monster.   

Today, the Minji unnie whom Gahyeon knew would be gone forever, but she would not become a stranger to the girl. She felt electricity course through her and exited through her fingers. She concentrated the voltage onto the younger’s head after muttering a silent apology. This would hurt a little. As she released her hold, the girl fell back into her seat, eyes still shut.

Then, Minji waited. For the first sign of recognition to surface.

Gahyeon shook her head incessantly, there was a stinging pain on the right side of her skull. The world was dark for a moment and as colours returned gradually, she saw a face that she had missed. “Unnie? W-Wait, you’re her- You’re Minji!” She was shocked to find a long-lost childhood friend standing before her. “I-I remember.”

“Minji, you-” Handong gasped. She had braced herself for the moment where Gahyeon’s memories would be wiped, but she had never imagined Minji would do the opposite. Minji had went against the Lady, a first for the blonde. By returning Gahyeon her memories, it was going against the value that Lady Kim believed in: once a memory has been wiped, it should never be returned.

Somewhere in her heart, Handong was glad. Minji was changing—evolving, rather—into a braver version of herself. Maybe one day, Minji would no longer look at herself in detest. Maybe one day, Minji would finally be free.

“What do you remember? What is happening?” Yoohyeon asked in puzzlement.

“I met Minji unnie when I was six,” Gahyeon replied.

Gahyeon sprinted down the street. She clutched the long rod tightly, careful not to trip over it as she ran. The top of the rod was attached to a small net by unskilled hands—it was a tool Gahyeon had built to catch insects, more specifically butterflies. The resourceful child had made used of forgotten materials lying around in the house to aid her in her bug catching hobby when her parents had refused to purchase proper equipment for her. This had came much to Siyeon’s dismay; Gahyeon wasn’t one to easily give up—a trait she was proud of, but had inevitably tore her head apart with the number of headaches her younger sister constantly gave her.

Gahyeon was six when she first met Minji, who was nine then. As she made her way up towards hill that led to the little forest behind town, she eyed a girl walking from the direction that she was heading in. She halted in her tracks, standing in the middle of the street where shophouses laid all around her. Little Gahyeon approached the blonde carefully. She had been taught never to speak to strangers, especially when she was alone. But she reasoned that the blonde girl who was a tad bit shorter than herself posed little threat.

“Are you lost?” She finally asked when the girl failed to notice her presence. This caused the girl to turn around abruptly. Her eyes looked weird, Gahyeon thought, for no one could possibly have eyes that are red. But Gahyeon also thought they looked pretty, like the blonde was. They shone with such vehemence, Gahyeon finally found someone whom radiated an intensity stronger than her sister.

“A little I guess,” the girl returned, “I’ve never been in this part of town.” She looked around in awe. The tall buildings in the vicinity were a stark contrast to the ones which she called home. The blonde studied the young girl that had started the conversation with interest—she wasn’t in a Hanbok, which was all that they wore in her household and it was a rare sight to see someone not wearing one. But as she observed the crowd striding past them, she realised none wore clothing that she was familiar with. They donned weird looking pieces that were tighter and looked uncomfortable—some were even wearing only one layer of clothing, and it intrigued the blonde.

“Where are you from?” Gahyeon asked. She had never seen the girl around and thought perhaps she was from elsewhere. 

“I'm from the Kim family.” She stopped, as if that alone was enough to hint at who she was. But she found no recognition of that name in the other girl, so she continued, “we live up in the mountains actually. I'm Minji, what’s your name?”

“Hi Minji! I'm Gahyeon!” She took the blonde’s hands and shook them vigorously. “The mountains are so cool! I’ve always wanted to go up there, but it’s too dangerous, they all say.”

The two children met for the first time in town, and they would continue to spend a precious year of their childhood together. Minji accompanied Gahyeon when she chased down butterflies and beetles, and Gahyeon followed after Minji as she explored every part of town.

Minji would tell stories of her two friends back home. Sometimes she would scoff at them but it would naturally end with a fond smile on her face. She narrated her life at home, how everywhere was dark and how there was no trace of the outside world once she steps into the parameters. The two friends would sit by a cliff that oversaw the sea, and talk until time became arbitrary and the scenery became commonplace.

*

“Let’s go up the mountains today!” Although Gahyeon proposed it out of the blue, the subject had been on her mind for quite some time.

“I don’t think we should Gahyeonie.” Minji looked conflicted. The mountains were too close to home, too close to her. She was not prepared to lead her dear friend straight into danger’s jaws. But knowing Gahyeon, she was not going to budge until she was satisfied.

“Come on Minji, I want to see your home!” Little Gahyeon took off before the other could express her reservation.

She chased after the younger but she was slow. Her vampire side had been greatly repressed; the development of her instincts had been halted the day she had refused to take blood directly from the neck of a human from the Han family. The little blood that she was given was insufficient to effectively ensure proper development of her vampire instincts and physique. Young vampires require a large volume of blood in order to ensure the beast within does not go berserk during the coming of age. Without the ideal volume, bloodlust can become too strong and very difficult to control in adulthood. But the more dire of consequence is the toll it places on the vampire, who would undoubtedly suffer physically and mentally.

“Gahyeon! Stop!” She trailed the girl into the mountain ranges, but her cries fell on deaf ears as she received only laughter as a response.

Gahyeon trampled around the mountain top in excitement, it was the first time she had climb a top of something this high. But every foreign task would inevitably be met with a lack of skill. Navigating herself on unsteady ground was awkward and dangerous—a deadly combination for a mishap to happen. And that was exactly what transpired. The rocks beneath her feet gave way, and before she could realise, her body was already descending thanks to gravity’s work.

“Gahyeon!” Minji dived after the girl in desperation. As she caught hold of the younger’s outstretched hand, she commanded for her instincts to take over.

Jump! She yelled at herself in frustration; they were still falling and her canines were still brunt. The height of the fall was deadly and both would not survive if Minji were to fail. She tried again. Stretching out her legs, she aimed to land on the side of the mountain, but her physique was that of a human’s—it could not bear the impact. She heard a cackling in her bones and felt a sharp pain in her shin, like fire that coursed through every pore—the crack widened with her every movement; it was like some torturer pressing hot, scalding slaps of iron onto her skin. She looked down; there was no blood—it was an internal fracture—but her leg was twisted into a hideous shape that no longer resembled a functioning limb.

Her face contorted and she bit back a scream. She told herself that the pain would dull, she just had to wait. Right now, she had more pressing issues to consider. They were still falling. Worse, they were nearing the ground but with increasing speed. She held the girl tighter and yelled. It was a cry for the beast within her to awaken, to bring her and her friend out of death’s grip.

Finally, she could feel her senses starting to heighten and likened that her red eyes were shining.

“M-Minji!”

“Everything’s going to be fine, Gahyeonie,” she reassured while biting down her jaw. Her canines were turning, and the sharper they got, the lighter Gahyeon felt in her arms.

She planted her intact leg onto the side of the rocky surface of the mountain. This time, her bone was robust enough to support both of their weight and velocity. Using her arms on the same side of her body, she dug her nails into the surface to slow down their descend. As they neared the ground, Minji took a leap of faith and landed safely at the base of the rocky landscape. She glanced down at her leg injury; they were already showing signs of healing. She reckoned that in a few minutes, her leg would be restored to its former glory.

“Minji! That was awesome! How did you do that?” Gahyeon shouted.

“I-” She tried to hide the obvious canine but the younger caught sight of it either way. Confusion laced her eyes; she was now aware of the odd appearance of her friend—sharp teeth, and eyes that was very red. The identity of her friend was not what it had seem to be. At the very least, it was clear she wasn’t human. If so, then what was she? 

“You’re not human,” she whispered as if afraid that others might overhear their conversation, and that it would have been a bad thing. Gahyeon wasn’t scared of Minji. It was difficult to, after the days they had shared. But she felt a little betrayed. Minji had kept such a secret from her—it was an essential part of her that she did not share with the younger. But everyone has secrets, right? Right, and it wasn’t Gahyeon’s right to pry if Minji didn’t want to share. Yet, it felt like Minji did not trust her enough.

“I-I’m sorry, Gahyeon-ah.” It was an apology for keeping something this major from her. But it was also an apology for what she was about to do next. ‘If you have no intention of turning a human into your crony, then they must never know your true identity.’ They were the words of a parent; who was Minji to deny their legitimacy and wisdom?

For the first time, she erased the memory of a human being. It was comical, for she might just be the first vampire ever to do so without the experience of feeding directly from a human. ‘Humans are beings of betrayal; vile creatures that would turn against you for their own benefit. That is why Minji, the only relationship that can exist between vampires and humans are that of a master and crony.’

Minji placed Gahyeon delicately onto her back. The girl was unconscious—the jolt that altered her memory was too strong for a child to take. She had waited till nightfall, where people had retreated back into their residences, to bring Gahyeon home. The walk back to the girl’s place was short, too short to Minji’s dismay—beyond everything, the walk home was the last of her time that she could spend with Gahyeon. She placed the girl down in her front porch and shook her awake. As Gahyeon stirred, Minji knocked lightly on the door. She could hear hurried steps before the door was yanked opened. By then, she was already perched atop a nearby tree, overlooking the entire house. The girl who had emerged from the other side of the door rushed forward immediately when she had recognised the figure laying on the ground.

“Gahyeon! Where have you been? Are you alright?” Worry was heavy in her voice. Minji could tell that the black-haired girl was Siyeon. From the intense gaze to the sharp features, she suited Gahyeon’s description to a T.

The blonde turned and headed back home. She would have a lot to share with Bora and Handong for today. But before the stories and adventures, she needed time and space.

Suddenly, she was like a hurricane, crying with more violence than any gale that had trudged the earth. She broke right under the mountains, when Gahyeon was asleep, and she had broken quietly. But in the dark night as she was returning home, there was nothing quiet about her sobs. It was like every atom that had made her, her, screamed in unison—it was a desolate cry that none could've bare to listen to for long.

That would be the last time the vampire left the parameters of her home as a child. The next time she sat foot outside would be the start of her first year in DC academy. Gahyeon would go on to lose almost every trace of memory from when she was six. Later on, she would meet a certain girl who resembled a puppy and find another friend dear to her heart. But the puppy-like girl would soon move away and exit her life like her forgotten blonde friend did.

But who knows what fate has in stall for us? For they would soon be reunited, all three of them.

One would eventually find her home, another would find herself, and the last would find her lost memories.

“Unnie found me lying in front of the house that day. I could not remember what had happened at all when she asked. She said that I was gone for the whole day.” Gahyeon said, her voice still weak from the effects of the memories that had returned. “But I soon realised I could not remember anything that happened when I was six. It was like there's a huge black hole in my brain.”

“I had to erase every trace of me in your memories. I’m so sorry, Gahyeon.” The elder trembled.

“Hey,” she held Minji’s hands tightly. “All that matters is that now I remember. Plus, I met Yoohyeon shortly after the incident and we clicked right away. I guess you two are very similar.” She giggled, “she always reminded me of someone, but I thought I was just crazy!”

Yoohyeon laughed; it was still bizarre to think that Minji was acquainted with Gahyeon even before she herself did. Perhaps her memories may be erased but human instincts are often more accurate than one give credit to—there was no other explanation as to why Gahyeon felt a sense of nostalgia whenever she was with Minji. 

“So,” Gahyeon began suddenly, “what exactly are you, unnie?” She was a little timid, seeing that Minji had once erased her memories and that Bora had been adamant that she does not tell anyone about the incident the day before.

“I’m a vampire.” The confession came out with more confidence than expected. It was a line so full of conviction, one may have mistaken it for some sort of pride in being a creature of the supernatural. But it more so an attempt to seem bigger than she was—a not futile one it would seem—rather than sheer glory.

“Wow… I thought they are just fiction. Honestly, I won’t even believe this if I didn’t see Minji unnie flying with red eyes and fangs.”

“I know how you feel; used to think that too,” Yoohyeon shrugged.

“Wait. You knew?! Oh, right. Of course you would know. It that why you joined the students’ council suddenly?”

Yoohyeon chuckled at the youngest expression. She had now gotten used to her vampire friends’ antics—she no longer flinched whenever Bora would ‘drink’ during meetings or when Minji’s eyes would shine or when their canines would be longer than what should be deemed acceptable to be humans.

Handong and Minji spent their time talking about vampires while Gahyeon and Yoohyeon listened. It was refreshing hearing Minji talk about herself without filter and any care for consequences. In that morning, they learnt more about the two seniors’ past, their life and struggles within a family that was formal and rigid, one that lacked love and laughter. Yoohyeon knew about Handong’s role in the Kim family, but did not know the extent of formality they had adhered to. Lady Kim was one who commanded rules while those under her followed—such wasn’t the description of a family.

But who was Yoohyeon to comment on others’ families? She didn’t have the right to, not when hers was equally broken, equally ugly.

“Thank you for telling me all these, Minji unnie.” The youngest pulled Minji into a hug, one that the elder immediately relished in. It was like a save heaven, a place that washed away every bit of insecurity and denial that her mind had envisioned. She felt a sting at the back of her eyes and a sourness in her nose. She bit down harshly and scrunched her nose to drive the sensation away.

When they pulled apart, Minji saw a glimpse of the girl who had reached out to her in the middle of the street years ago. Gahyeon did not change, at all. But Minji did. And she could only hope, that from now onwards it would only be a change for the better.

“And thank you for saving me back then.” The youngest smiled a smile so pure, Minji was sure it harboured the ability to uplift the whole world, to turn everything from rags to gold.

*

The three girls left for their lessons, leaving Minji alone in the council room to ponder. She sat unmoving, listening and counting the soft ticking from the nearby grandfather’s clock that signalled time’s passing. The clock’s hand movement was slow, very unlike the passage of time. But as a vampire who had years ahead of her, the brevity of life was a concept so foreign, that time was not a concern. She reckoned it never would be, for she had more time available than the things she wanted to do could fill. As she sat in the comfortable leather chair that faced the grand wooden doors, she was reminded of the person whom the seat belonged to.

She had yet to talk to Bora. She wondered what the brunette’s reaction would be. Anger probably. Then, disappointment.

Minji blew out an air of frustration. It must be done, might as well get it over with quickly. She fished out her phone and quick dialled 1. The repetitive ringing served little to calm down her palpitating heart, but she likened that it was better than nothing. The wait wasn’t long, for Bora picked up the phone in a flash—a habit Minji thought was really endearing somehow. ‘What’s up? How did the talk with Gahyeon go?’ She could pick up lots of noise from the other line. 

“Come to the council room?” She decided that the matter surrounding Gahyeon could wait till Bora gets here. A light hum was heard and Minji could imagine the girl nodding her head absentmindedly in the middle of the hallway.

“I’ll see you then,” she ended the call frantically, giving the brunette no chance of a reply. She regretted her actions instantly upon pressing the red button—it must have raised Bora's suspicions. 

The wait for the president wasn’t a long one; she could hear rushed footsteps and laboured breathing before the door was violently yanked opened. Bora strode in with perfectly rehearsed insouciance, one that Minji could easily see through. The shorter casted a quick look around the room, and settled her focus on the only other being inside. A slight tilt of the head was given, to signify Minji should get the ball rolling by starting the conversation. The blonde wetted her lips, but she wasn’t nervous, surprisingly, only the hesitance to begin. 

“Well… Gahyeon’s memories are- I mean, I returned them. Um, her memories… to her.” She began uttering her lines awkwardly.

A vampire simply does not the describe process of returning a human’s memories, at least it was not a practice in her family. It was a subject so foreign, Minji did not know how to begin her story telling. Things had been different years ago—she had returned home with a tear-stained face and newly healed leg, but her coarse voice illustrated the day’s events with proficiency, like an actress, a veteran reciting her lines for a play. Bora looked on, clearly already gotten the message Minji was trying to convey. But she had not spoken; Minji thought it may just be Bora’s way of denying the realities of the situation. In desperation, time becomes a saving grace, even for vampires who seemingly hold onto eternity.

“What I meant to say, was that I returned Gahyeon’s memories,” Minji tried again, this time the sentence came out in a crisp line. “She remembers me again,” she looked down, a contented smile plastered on her face. When she regarded the shorter girl again, what she saw wasn’t the anger or the disappointment she had anticipated.

She saw only fear and more fear in the depths of her eyes.

“Oh no. No, no, no,” the fear quickly shifted into desperation. Despair often accompanies terror—irrational fear always boasts the power to make one lose hope.

“W-What if Gahyeon she- What if she tells S-Siyeon?! I-I can’t let that happen-”

“Bora.” Minji coos, trying to bring back her friend whom had lost to the voices in her head.

“You d-don’t know how scared I am- I’m-”

“Bora.” Her tone was stronger, more hardened. That effectively reduced Bora’s hysteric cries to heavy breathing.

“Hey. Hey,” Minji placed gentle taps affectionately onto the girl’s chin. “Listen to me. Siyeon deserves to know, and you know that. Didn’t you say the same thing to me when I chose to hide the stuff about cronies from Yoohyeon? We are all scared, but don’t you trust her?”

The brunette was silent. It was a childish and illogical outburst after all. Bora knew that more than anyone. There was little evidence to suggest that Siyeon would be disgusted to find out about Bora’s identity, but there was always a possibility—insignificant, but there nonetheless. It wasn’t so much the fear of Siyeon spreading a rumour and Bora needing to leave the academy, it was more so the look of judgement that may find its way into her wolf-like eyes that riled Bora.

“I trust her. But I'm scared of probabilities.” The brunette led out a short pitiable laugh, and it came to mirror a scorn instead. She regretted the times she had pushed Minji to talk to Yoohyeon, against her will even. Now that she was in the other's shoes, she realised the terror that must have seeped into Minji's veins, like a poison that could contaminate one's senses and drive one to insanity.

“Guess that’s kinda dumb, huh?” She scoff at herself once again.

“No, not really. Just crazy.” The blonde whispered; voice rasped yet tender. “Love makes everyone crazy.”

“I’m- I don’t-” She jerked her body back, eyes wide and regarded her friend in shock. The colour that was rising onto her skin did not stop at her cheeks but stretched beyond to end at her ears.

Minji laughed, loud and unrestrained. “You don’t what?” she asked, indulging in the way Bora’s eyes widened even more from her light-hearted chaff.   

“I don’t think I don’t… lo-love her.”

*

Minji settled herself down onto the wooden floor, feeling out of place among the weird and quirky pieces of decoration Gahyeon had lying around in her room. The younger had always been eccentric, and the unorthodox design of the small apartment seemed to concur with Minji’s impressions. Soft knocks were heard from the door and the guest in the room tensed immediately.

“Coming!” Gahyeon shouted from a corner of the room but was still busy rummaging through her stash of snacks that amounted to an entire shelf dedicated to showcasing her bags of chips, cookies, sweets and god knows what other foodstuffs there existed.

“I’ll get the door for you,” Minji kindly offered, earning a “Thanks, unnie!” from her junior.

She gripped the steel lock tightly, but it was only when another wave of impatient knocks was heard, did she begrudgingly turn it clockwise and pulled open the door. The visitor was about to send another round of incessant knocking but had stopped short, her arms still dangling in mid-air. She led out a chuckle and led down her arm gracefully, though embarrassment accompanied her actions.

“Hey vice-prez!” Siyeon greeted, any form of shame had already dissolved into oblivion.

“H-Hi, Siyeon.”

The girl grinned, her wolf-like features ironically making her seem less intimidating. Siyeon understood Minji’s nervousness, and hoped that her little prepared speech later would be able to reassure the girl and put her heart to ease. 

“Unnie, come! What snacks should we eat today?” Her little sister gestured for her to enter from somewhere behind the blonde, completely blind to both the obvious jitters that Minji was experiencing and the resulting tension that had arisen due to the blonde’s condition. Siyeon made her way into the room, striding through it with natural familiarity—she had visited her sister’s room more than she had her own. She scanned through the pile, which had been systematically arranged by the colour of their packaging, searching for a certain brown box that she knew was ever-present on Gahyeon’s snacks shelf.

“Here,” she handed Minji the box.

Minji took over the box of ‘Binch’ in surprise. “T-Thanks,” she mumbled, studying the box of chocolate flavoured biscuits in awe; she had never heard of the snack before.

“Yoohyeon’s favourite. For future reference maybe?” The black-haired girl gave the elder a playful wink, seeing it take effect from the way Minji returned a shy laugh.

“Need me to tell you Bora’s favourite? Or do you already know?” The vampire commented wittily while ripping open the paper packaging in her hands.

“W-Well…” Siyeon cleared her throat rather hastily. It was indeed a peculiar sight to witness colour supplementing the girl’s sharp features. Her pronounced eyes and jaw had most likely call forth various assumptions and false impressions—being fierce and unfriendly among a few of them, certainly. As yet, speculation from mere appearance don’t usually yield the best results—a concept humans just can’t particularly grapple with, to which Minji finds quite lamentable. The girl’s disposition had made her conclude that Siyeon was one of the softest individuals she had ever set her eyes on, the other being none other than Yoohyeon. It is no wonder the two had become such great friends.

The heavy atmosphere that had infested the room just then was no longer a threat; Minji felt her nerves alleviate by the minute. At the very least, Siyeon did not seem to mind her presence or act any differently than she did before. She was persuaded of the worst when she had received Gahyeon’s invitation to spent the afternoon together with her elder sister as their sole company, but perhaps Gahyeon had not divulge their shared childhood memories just yet. Though very quickly, Minji would be proven otherwise.

“So,” Siyeon began, mentally recalling the speech that she had prepared for today. She could never entrust her communication skills with the onerous task of generating a speech on the spot, much less a comforting one laced with the right words and expressions.

“Gahyeon told me about the whole incident, and the fact that you are… you know, a vampire. And that you are the cause of her memory loss. I'm still trying to process all of it, honestly. But what I really wanted to say was thank you. I was so scared of losing her, losing my sister that day, but you brought her home safe and sound. And I'm very, very grateful; thank you for saving my sister, Minji.” Her gaze did not leave Minji throughout the speech—it was her own way of conveying her gratitude, as a means of repaying the earnestly of the older girl when she decided to risk everything for the return of her sister’s memories.

“I-” The ability to render Minji speechless doesn’t come effortlessly; rather, it wouldn’t be absurd to pronounce it as a gift considering the rarity of it all. Kim Minji simply wasn’t one to be at a loss for words. Yet, in a span of months, she had met two people—one whom bore resemblance to a puppy, and another to a wolf—both who could leave her mute from the sheer sincerity they embodied. If Yoohyeon’s eyes contained the galaxies, then Siyeon’s must carry a black hole. With a gaze so intense, what being would be capable of escaping?

“I’m still a little skeptical of the whole vampire idea, though; I wouldn’t even have believed Gahyeon if not for her sudden memory lost. To think that vampires are actually real… damn that’s insane.” Her face moved animatedly, granting her face a child-like demeanour that casted her usually intimidating features in a new light—one that made her look absolutely innocent and adorable. “It must’ve been difficult for you right? I'm sorry you had to go through all of that.” The girl moved to engulf Minji in a smothering hug, but her slightly thicker build made her looked like a wolf pouncing on its prey.

“It really means a lot, Siyeon-ah.” Minji melted in the latter’s embrace. “You have no idea how nervous I was today. Heck, even Bora freaked out when I told her-”

“Wait- Bora? What has she got to do with this?” Siyeon pulled away abruptly, causing the elder to feel oddly cold in the lack of her warmth.

“U-Um,” Shit.

The intensity in the girl’s eyes was back; maybe it didn’t even leave, Minji wasn’t certain. But it was clear the intensity had changed, somehow—it was not the gentle force that commanded attention; rather, there was a strong hint of accusation in her stare. Why did you bring Bora into this? She should have had nothing to do with all this! Then, suddenly, the intensity was gone—this time Minji was certain it had disappeared for good—and was replaced with a cloud of realisation.

“So, she’s a vampire too?” It was phrased as a question, but lacked an expression that signalled an implicit desire to elicit information. There was no such need anyways.

Minji physically recoiled. There was a burning desire to vanish, to remove her heinous mark from this earth; and she could only curse at her vampire self for being deficient, that in spite bearing many brill qualities that humans could never fathom, would never bear any truly useful traits. For what use would the ability of removing others memories be in truth? She found herself mute for a second time as her body visibly shrunk under Siyeon’s presence, but her conscience prevented her from uttering that single word which would signal a grand betrayal. But inevitably she would buckle; give in to the pressing inquisition-like atmosphere because no suspect can be capable of escaping the interrogation room.

“Yes,” she said with bated breath, anger directed solely at herself.

“Minji, do you know where I can find Bora now?” Siyeon did not say much else, simply awaiting—expecting—a reply.

She strode off in her black turtle neck and long trench coat, baggy cargo pants and heavy-duty boots—Minji realised just then that it was already autumn; she had met Yoohyeon in spring, in a season where the warmth returned. But now the heat was gone and the cold lingered. Siyeon left with an answer from the blonde that guaranteed—or so she hoped—a talk with a certain girl whom held her heart. And Siyeon could only wish that she, too, wielded the pleasure to own the girl’s heart.

“Everything will be fine, unnie. They’ll be fine.” Gahyeon hugged Minji from the back, and the vampire could taste the bitterness of her pitiful self; one that seemed to demand nothing but comfort from her friends.

*

The knocks that she subjected the door to wasn’t particularly gentle and nice, like how she had hoped. But Siyeon likened that much more would only go astray from here on. She did not wait for a reply before pushing the door open, only to come eye to eye with the girl she was yearning to see. Siyeon could never get bored of meeting Bora, it’s like she had too much love and its overflowing, so she could only give and give; offer her love as a payment for the time the brunette invested on her. But Siyeon was receiving so much more than just the brunette’s time, for she could feel the love—see it bloom and spring from the windows that were Bora’s eyes—and she refused to believe that she it was all a lie her brain had made up.

“Singnie!” If Bora was surprised, she had definitely shown it from the way her brows lifted and mouth parted, but it was replaced very quickly with a fond smile—the same smile that had Siyeon hooked, and she just kept coming back for more. “What are you doing here?”

“Minji said I will find you here.” She entered the council’s room cautiously. It was the first time she was stepping foot in the building. Bora clocked her head to the side, astonishment giving way to puzzlement. Siyeon found it incredibly cute how the older girl seemed to talk with her actions and convey feelings with her mien, it was like words meant nothing to the her. Perhaps this was why Siyeon had never felt the need to express her love verbally, or had Bora express hers. Everything was in the way they look at each other and the way their smiles would shine brighter than any star in the universe as long as they were side by side.

“I missed you,” she admitted with that unique husky voice of hers—rasped but erotic; deep but gentle.

Bora picked up a tinge of anxiety as well, subtle but there nonetheless. It was not a norm, that much she was confident. She walked up to the girl who was now perched on her table top, and slung her arms around her neck. But her shorter than average stature caused her to awkwardly hang beside the younger, who had her head slightly lowered at the mercy of her weight. “What’s wrong?” She could feel Siyeon nuzzling her nose in the crook of her neck while her own eyes flutter shut to bask in the comfort Siyeon’s warmth had brought.

“Hmm… you’re warm,” the wolf breathed out. Bora let out a soft giggle that was out of character. “Gahyeon told me what happened.” It was short in words yet endless in its implications. The neck in which Siyeon had her face buried in was lost in an instant, for the arms encircled around her neck tensed.

“I-I see.”

“Bora.” The brunette flinched, which was weird considering the forbearing tone in which Siyeon had spoken her name—it was soft, quiet and loving, like how she always spoke of her name. Siyeon knows. She knows. And that was all Bora could think about. How Siyeon would react, how their dynamic was going to change; but maybe it was for the better, as all lasting relationship evolves. But Bora wants it to last; wants them to mean something. The question was: how ready was she to take on a changed Siyeon? How ready was she, to come face to face with a human whom knows her heart and knows her all?

“Bora, look at me.” The voice now harboured more dominance. It was a command that Bora stubbornly refused to oblige. “Bora-ah, look at me please,” and for that Bora yielded. She must, because Kim Bora would never be capable of refusing Lee Siyeon’s plea; because when Lee Siyeon begs her like this, like a small child asking for a favour, there was no way out, none but to relent.

“You know, I always knew you were not telling me something about yourself. There was just this feeling, I guess?” Siyeon shrugged, “maybe you’re not a very good actor, or maybe I'm just excellent at reading you.” She placed her hand over the brunette’s, registering the way Bora’s fingertips had turned cold from the sweat of her palms.    

“I’m sorr-”

“No,” Siyeon shook her head. “You have nothing to apologise for. Everyone has secrets they don’t want others to know, you shouldn’t feel pressured to tell me. I don’t want that.”

“But-”

“I want you to feel comfortable around me, because that’s what I feel when I'm with you. Because you are important to me. And because I think I love you. I really do.” Her voice was still raspy and deep, but it was also soothing and tender. If Bora didn’t believe her at first (which she did), she definitely would have after locking eyes with Siyeon. One look was enough to reassure Bora, one look was all it took to tear apart the insecurities and keep them locked up in her mind, hopefully forever. It wasn’t the intensity nor was it the love in Siyeon’s eyes, but it was the courage to look Bora straight on, to keep cradling Bora despite facing the unknown. Bora was sure they would last, and that they meant everything.

And when Siyeon presses a light kiss to the crown of her head, Bora smiles her best one yet. One so bright, perhaps the sun would even willingly step aside for her to take its place, and Siyeon would never say no to that. For Bora was her sun—had been—and she reckoned it shall stay that way till she was no more.

“You know, I have always wanted to drink…” Bora trailed off. Her gaze had hardened, albeit only ever so slightly.

“Drink? Like blood?” Siyeon was visibly puzzled.

“No- I mean- Yes. Your blood to be specific.”

“O-Oh.” It was sill new to hear that someone was yearning for the fluid in her veins. “To be honest, it’s a little scary thinking about it… but I don’t mind if you really want to-”

“No, no.” Bora cut her off frantically. “The desire isn’t strong. At least not compared to Minji’s.”

“Why?” The girl frowned.

“That doesn’t mean my love for you pales in comparison to Minji’s feelings for Yoohyeon. It’s way easier for me since I have done it before, but Minji hasn’t. It’s harder for her to control I guess.” Bloodlust, Bora had learnt over the years and upon meeting Siyeon, would never go away no matter how much blood a vampire drinks during childhood. It was a permanent part of her, one that she may not necessarily want to claim credence for.

Siyeon was still confused. “Minji has never drank blood? Why?”

Bora shook her head, “no, not that.” She looked away, it was difficult admitting the next part and she wasn’t as prepared as she had prided herself to be seconds ago. “She has not drunk it directly from a human,” she left out the next part of the sentence, the ‘but I have’ that lingered on the edge of her mouth refused to vanish. It wasn’t supposed to be a sin, for she is a vampire, a creature that requires the red liquid to keep herself sane. But it still felt like a sin, like she was an impurity treading on flawless white silk and leaving behind not only creases but patches of grey too.

“Hey, can you show me?” Siyeon rubbed her thumb softly on the shorter girl’s cheeks, drawing little patterns that brought soft laughter to her ears.

“What?”

“C-Can you show me… you?” She was feeling less confident, less assured that the brunette was fully ready to show her something so raw. “It’s fine if you aren’t comfortable, I get it,” she was about to wrap Bora once again in another hug when she felt a small nudge on her chest.

“I- No- I want to show you.” It wasn’t spoken with conviction, but Siyeon could feel the sincerity behind her words. She remained mum, giving Bora the silence that she may need.

The air in the room turned and there was a ghastly feel to it, like the torrid wind that had arrived was only there to witness the transformation. Siyeon shivered, but it wasn’t cold. There wasn’t even wind, she realised. The brunette’s eyes gradually changed; the red filled up her orbs exactly like how red wine was poured into a glass. It swivelled and churned, as if the colour was dancing to a rhythm. Maybe it was the beat of her own heart, which was by now a mess. Unlike her cool exterior, there was nothing calm inside. She wasn’t so much scared, just nervous and even a tiny bit excited. As the red completely took over her eyes, it shone with a brilliance that could finally be a rival to Bora’s smile. Siyeon did not know how to react. It was difficult to blame her when Bora looked so different, and so so pretty. Not that Siyeon didn’t think she looked pretty without those eyes. (No one would believe Lee Siyeon thinks Kim Bora wasn’t pretty, not when her eyes literally shoot out hearts and affection for the shorter girl.) And it wasn’t that Siyeon needed a reminder of how flawless Bora was, since she never really forgets. Still, Siyeon couldn’t move.

“S-Siyeon?” Bora was scared—the lack of reaction from the girl was more terrifying than a negative one. But then, the girl moved closer and closer and closer, until she could feel her breath on the tip of her nose.

“It’s beautiful… you’re beautiful.”

If Bora was a genius for being able to control the red in her eyes, then she must be a fool with how little influence she had over the red on her cheeks. “T-Thank you.” She managed to choke out in an oddly formal and polite manner—a clear indication of her nerves. She still feels the butterflies in her stomach when Siyeon is near, even without the fireworks and without the merciless heartbeat.

“Wow… your fangs,” Siyeon squeaked when long canine exposed themselves while Bora talked. It was the first definitive evidence that Bora was indeed who—or what—she claimed to be. Granted, Siyeon had trust in Bora’s words; really, she does, but who was to blame her? How often does one receive the news of real vampires being among people whom one knew?

She took a step further, bumping toes with the president and staring curiously at the sharp teeth that protruded out of her lips. But it was a task to focus solely on the president’s fangs, especially when her lips look so inviting—even with fangs and all, even when Siyeon knows it would inevitably leave cuts in her mouth if she were to move less than an inch forward and crush their mouths together. And Siyeon did not miss the way Bora’s lips had parted ever so slightly, which had worsened the desire to taste them, to relish in the taste that was her.

But she found herself unable to do so; maybe it was an inherent fear that Bora wasn’t ready even though that could not be further away from the truth. Siyeon just did not want to admit she lacked the courage to realise her desire, despite being brave enough to accept Bora in all her supernatural grandeur. Humans have always been creatures of contradictions, so that was exactly what Siyeon blamed it on.

She shifted her gaze, at long last, from the brunette’s mouth to her eyes a little too suggestively. Again, contradictions, she mused. Her playfulness prompted shy punches from Bora. Siyeon responded to her cute antics with a light touch on the girl’s cheeks and a soft look in her eyes. And when Bora returned her gaze with one that was equally soft, everything had never been more complete. She had never felt more belonged, like her whole being screams that she was finally home, where she rightfully should be and ever shall be. Siyeon thinks, she could conquer the world and look past all evil, as long as Bora was there to welcome her back home into her embrace.

*

“I don’t think I appreciate you enough,” Bora broke the silence. She was sitting on Siyeon’s lap and grabbing onto the arm that snaked around her waist securely. “I think, I might just love you too. Too much actually.” It was a quiet confession, but under the hushed room, had multiplied tenfold. It was all Siyeon could hear and ever wanted to hear.

“But I don’t mind it, not one bit.”

Chapter Text

“We are catching that person today, no matter what!” Minji huffed; whoever he or she was, they had brought too much trouble for the council and she would not idle any longer. Not like she did, but Minji liked to be dramatic at times.

“We should interrogate them before they cause more problems,” Handong spat, her patience was running thin and that said a lot. Handong had the patience of a saint; really, she does and most would likely agree. But now, in face of an unknown entity who had gave her more headaches than she would have liked to experience, she wanted nothing more than to eradicate their unbidden existence, vampire or not. Maybe then would she finally be rewarded with the respite she so deserved. And judging by the people whom she had to take care of every day, she deserved very ounce of peace ever existed.

“I think we should wait by the clock tower again,” Minji suggested.

“I agree. Now that everything with Gahyeon is settled, and things with Siyeon is running smoothly, we can get back on track.” Bora spoke in her work voice, professional and formal, an indicator that she was now serious. Very serious.

“You mean things with Singnie?” Yoohyeon commented, feigning innocence. The smirk that she was fighting hard to suppress was not treating her very kindly with the way the edge of her mouth tugged upwards.

“Who?” Handong asked, looking between Yoohyeon and the president, who was staring daggers into the former’s head.

“Wait- Singnie as in… Siyeon?! You call her Singnie?” Minji screeched which only led to an indignant groan from Bora and a scandalous gasp from Handong. When Yoohyeon presented her infamous high-pitched yelp followed by her nefarious laugh, Bora knew she would have to receive the punishment of revealing something so intimate, to none other than the puppy, for a long time to come. Oh, the insolence of her former self.

“Aw… that’s so cute!” Handong teased.

“Yah! Focus!” She chased after the taller girl, who immediately found refuge behind the vice-president. Minji laughed as the two circled around her like predator and prey, but one who didn’t know better would have mistaken her as the prey stuck in between two creatures that had her trapped. Handong looked on, judgement evident in her every pore. It was just another typical day in the students’ council.

“We’ll never catch the culprit at this rate,” she signed.  

“Looks like we don’t have to.” Bora spoke, eyeing the figure that was slowly approaching them. In the dark after the sun has fallen, the stranger trudged with confidence—she had found whom she had been looking for. Alas, she was now a step closer to ending this horrid task.

From the shadows of the night, the figure emerged, cloak-less and mask-less, bare under the moonlight.

Lee Dami.

There was a collective understanding among the council, like something at last clicked and the clockworks that were once stuck, were now turning after long-lasting period of immobility. No one seemed to question the identity of the stranger—all silently agreed that Dami somehow fits. She just did.

“Not wearing your cloak today?” Minji derided.

“No need.” She waved off the hostility in the vice-president’s statement. “I have been looking for you vampires for a long time.”

“Don’t act as if you are not one yourself,” Minji chided. “What do you want?”

“I’m not a vampire. I’m a crony.” She replied in her usual aloof manner.

While the rest of the council responded in shock, Yoohyeon simply was. She bit down; she had thought so. It was not so much a surprise, merely a confirmation that was arbitrary. She found the recognition in Dami’s eyes, but maintained her eye contact.

“As suspected, you look very calm, Kim Yoohyeon.” Yoohyeon averted her eyes from the rest. She felt a deep-seated impulse to apologise, but bit it back—she did not want to beg pardon for doing something that warranted no such regret. She did not keep her suspicions from the council due to anything but respect for Dami and Dami’s right to her identity. It simply wasn’t Yoohyeon’s story to tell.

“Yooh, you-”

“Can that wait?” Dami cut whatever the vice-president was about to say. “It took me a while to find you, I have something I want to achieve.”

“So, you baited us by causing the rumour to spread.” Minji grew increasingly belligerent. What would a crony need with vampires? Or rather, what does her master want? 

“Alright, let’s not get this aggressive.” Bora stood between the two, trying her best to subdue the souring mood, “we will talk in the council room. It’s too dangerous to be talking here anyways.”

*

Dami sat in the centre of the room, regarding the council members with an unreadable expression. Some may say it was jest—a misplaced one—to see people squirm under the detachment which was out of place and borderline uncanny. But Yoohyeon perceived a layer of tiredness among the plains of coldness, like an exhausted farmer who had called upon the skies to bring forth rain during a drought, but had given up and was now simply waiting—for his prayer to be fulfilled or for his existence to end.

“Now, where do we begin?” Bora mused. The atmosphere in the room wasn’t particularly to her liking, yet she was enjoying the show if she was being brutally honest. Now that she had realised Dami wasn’t there to hurt them or anyone for that matter, Bora felt immensely relieved. “Why not first do some introductions?”

“No need,” Minji shot back. “What do you want?”

“I want to find my master.” That was a reply Minji would never be expecting among the endless possibilities of demands Lee Dami could’ve made. 

“Minji and I don’t have cronies yet,” Bora said. “But we can help you ask around. What’s your master’s name?”

Dami paused.

“I don’t know.” Her voice sounded a little desperate, a break in the well-rehearsed act she had always put up. “My memories of her had been erased. She gave me a command: ‘find me’. And that’s all I have actually, other than the fact that this isn’t the first time I’m finding her.”

Her answer brought a frown to every member of the council. Even Yoohyeon who wasn’t as well versed with the practices of the vampire world could tell the absolute cruelty behind those actions. Why would one submit another to such torture? Why go out of one’s way to cause harm for another? It seems, even vampires possess such vile qualities that Yoohyeon thought only existed in the human population. But one could find negative traits everywhere, in every species, as long as one took the time to search for them. Positive ones, however, were rare—such was the twisted fate of the world.

“In that case why force yourself to look for her?” Yoohyeon asked. It was a valid question, why would one subject oneself to such torment? Surely, Dami wouldn’t feel particularly fond of such a master, at least not enough to keep entertaining her games.

“You… don’t know?” Dami was taken aback surely. “I see. Perhaps that’s why it was easy for you to accept my existence. And theirs too.”

“What do you mean?”

Bora spoke when Dami showed no sign of giving a further explanation. “Cronies are called cronies not just because they are companions who stay by a vampire’s side, but also because they can never betray their masters. They cannot defy what their master wishes. If it’s a command, they would’ve to obey, there is no other choice. Like a puppet basically.”

Yoohyeon looked around the room, meeting the eyes of everyone briefly except for one. The vice-president had ducked her head the moment Yoohyeon had lifted her own—the blonde was reminded of her conversation with the Lady less than a week prior, and now that an actual crony was standing before her, the entire situation had become realer that she would have liked it to be. “T-Then are there any ways to return Dami’s memories?” Yoohyeon stuttered, news too sudden and out of the world to digest imediately.    

“Unfortunately, only the vampire who had sealed her memory can undo it,” said Bora, finally lowering her head to mirror Minji's position. 

Yoohyeon now understood Dami’s words and her demeanour. They were never alike. Unlike Yoohyeon who had stayed alone for her own sake, like a mantra to save herself from the heartbreak of goodbyes, Dami’s reason was less desperate and self-serving. She simply did not find the point in spending her time with other people, for what good would company do if it wasn’t the one that would rid her body of its torment? There was no reason to include others in the time that she was given to fulfil yet another mission, one that had lost its meaning eons ago.

Perhaps time smooth out the edges of everything, from wounds and pain, to memories and love. Now Yoohyeon was sure, time can erase humanity as well; but perhaps a vampire is hardly humane. (Or would the word benevolence be a better fit in this case?) She then wonders, was it really time that was to blame? Was time this cruel that no one could be spared, that not even an angel—someone like Minji, for instance—could withstand the ravage of time? If that so, Yoohyeon chooses to believe in its power, believe in the chaos that would befall, for something that could remove the halo from Minji’s head shall be fitting to bear that title.

How unfortunate, Yoohyeon thought, but then again nothing lasts forever—at the very least, humanity definitely doesn’t.

“However, there is someone.” Bora started. “Minji’s mother. She is the only other vampire living on this island as of now.”

“Bora,” surprisingly, it was Handong who had voiced her displeasure. She would have to be the bringer of said news to the Lady—something she wasn’t particularly keen of doing, rightfully so.

“I would like to meet her; I must make sure. Every lead is crucial for me.” Dami was ready to risk all, as long as this burning sting inside her would finally dissipate. She must find her, and the sooner it was done, the sooner she could rid her body of the agony.

“I can talk to her,” Handong signed. “But it would be under your request, Bora. Not mine.”

“Sure, but before that I have a condition, Lee Dami.” Bora expression remained taut. “You must join the students’ council.”

“Huh?!” Minji yelled. “What the hell, Bora?!”

“It would be easier to keep an eye on you this way. Plus, the council could always appreciate help.”

“… Fine. But I will leave immediately if I cannot meet with your mother.”

*

“Lady Kim,” Handong began while helping the Lady to trim her nails. Inside the room, only the two of them were present. In fact, in the large compound that was Minji’s house, only the Lady resides. Handong was there only to report on academy matters and to keep tabs on the Lady’s daughters.

“Speak.” The Lady hollered, nibbling on her nails irritably.

“Please stop biting your nails, Lady Kim. What could possibly be plaguing your mind this instance?”

“…” She regarded Handong with repulse. Yet it may not have been directed at her, rather it was a disapproval of her only daughter who had proven time and time again to be a humiliation. “That foolish child, not only did she fail to make a crony, she returned someone’s memories.”

Handong silently smoothened out the rough edges of her nails, listening to the Lady’s complaints in submission. It was not her place to be standing up for Minji, not when she still regarded her own life as something of value.

“She is useless. Why can’t she listen to my words? Never acting like a vampire, never once acted like how she should, that piece of disappointment.” She spat; her daughter reduced to nothing but garbage. Handong presumed that the Lady had never seen Minji as a daughter, in fact not even seen Minji as Minji—she had not seen her at all.

“Boring, an absolute bore.”

“In that case, Lady Kim, I have some news to report that may be of interest.” Handong spoke after she was sure the Lady was done with whatever she wanted to say.

“What is it?”

“Is Lady Kim perhaps aware of a crony by the name of Lee Dami?” She asked in a neutral tone, something she had learnt from Minji herself. It was easier to get information out of the Lady this way—by asking questions that neither incriminate her nor propose her innocence. Lady Kim halted in her movements, and silence filled up the space between them—a presence that Handong was used to. Judging by her reaction, she had concluded that Dami’s master was indeed the Lady. There was no doubt, for Handong had served by the Lady’s side for a long time, sufficient to read her with pinpoint accuracy.

“Hmm…” she smiled—one that looked like she was mocking, like everything was simply a game. And Handong thinks all could very well be so for the Lady. She flinched when the hand she had held onto suddenly clenched into a fist, tearing the paper-thin skin of her palm with ease in the process. Blood oozed out from the fresh wound. They resembled a lot like the one she had helped Yoohyeon clean just a week before.

“She is looking for her master. Miss Bora promised her a meeting with Lady Kim.” Handong continued, as if the scratch did nothing to faze her, and truthfully speaking, it did not.

“Tsk. That girl always does unwanted things. How troublesome.” She brought her fingers to her mouth, tasting the blood of the chinese girl on her tongue. “I have no recollections of such a name.”

“…” Handong expected just as much, for Dami had spoken with her prior to this meeting.

“Handong,” Dami had called out to the chinese girl in a hushed voice. “Before you meet with Minji’s mother, you may want to know my name.”

“Lee Dami is it not?” Handong raised an eyebrow.

Dami hesitated. It was a name she retained memories of, meaning her master had placed value on that name more than anything. And surely, Dami knew the reason behind such sentimentality—it was a name given to her by her master. “Yubin; Lee Yubin. She might remember this name better.”

Though, Dami was also willing to bet that her obsession with that memory was merely due to the pride of a misguided person stuck in time. It wasn’t such a glorious reason, wasn’t a commemoration of their shared joyful history.

“Dami said perhaps the name Yubin might ring a bell.”

“Hm,” the Lady had lost her smirk. “… Then perhaps I do know of her.”

“Do you plan on meeting her?”

“Now,” she lifted Handong’s head forcefully by the chin, “who would voluntarily run to the front of ‘it’ during tag? Tell me, would you do that Handong?”

“No,” she breathed out a reply as the grip on her face tightened, nails digging into her skin again.

“That is right. It would be foolish, and you are not a foolish person, Handong. It is her job to come find me. Otherwise, the game would lose its fun, don’t you think? Hmm?” The Lady laughed, void of emotions, just laughter that felt like she was mocking the world. And she was. When one had lived for as long as the Lady, Handong concludes that there was little able to retain a value in one’s heart. (But perhaps some emotions do not lose their lustre even while withstanding the trial that is time—like that of hatred and disgust. For the Lady had ample of those emotions, to the point where she busks in their traces without shame.)

“Would you unseal her memories then?” Handong enquired softly, she was feeling pity for the crony and it was beginning to show in her tone. She reasoned that she must soon leave the room, before her sympathy for the girl leads to damaging consequences for herself.

“There is no need. The seal is weak, if she cannot remember upon her visit then she is unfit to bear the title of my crony.” Lady Kim waved off her servant’s concern without a thought. “This is interesting… precisely how a mere puppet should be.” Once again, laughter was heard. But now, a malevolence was there and anyone could pick up on it.  

Chapter Text

“Yoohyeon will teach you what to do. Here’s all the paperwork that has to be done by next week.” Minji fished out a stack of papers and placed them atop the table, the heavy stack causing a loud thud. Dami led out a disgusted grunt at the amount of work before staring at the laptop placed exquisitely before her without any mercy. Technology, she cursed under her breath.

“Hey relax, data entry is pretty easy. Just tedious I would say,” Yoohyeon started as soon as the vampire had exited the room.

“I have never used something like this before.” Dami regarded the device with a peculiar interest now.

“Huh,” the girl raised her brows in an incredulous manner, clearly not buying it.

“Society in the past had no use for machines like this. They are inventions of more recent decades, definitely not part of the majority of my experienced time.” Dami went off with a mix of aggressiveness and grandeur.   

Dami’s humour was weird, but nonetheless, her words were able to put a smile on Yoohyeon’s lips; perhaps she was simply easy to please. The sliver-haired led out a laugh. “Come on, you’re talking as if you are hundreds of years old!”

“311 years to be exact.”

Yoohyeon’s jaw went slacked, “you’re not serious.” But seeing the unchanging landscape that was the crony’s face, she led out a gasp, “oh wow...”

It had never occurred to her that Dami could have first made her mark on this earth more than three centuries ago—she looked like them and acted like someone of their time. The concept of such a long lifespan was novel and something Yoohyeon couldn’t particularly grapple with. (Granted, with the passing of seasons indicate the passage of time, but as one experiences more cycles of seasons, one treads closer to the finality of their existence. A human would probably dread the coming of the end as they near the edge of their timeline; what would it be like then, to dismiss years as yet nothing precious, nothing but a fraction of one’s drawn-out existence? Perhaps a mortal being with only at most a little more than a century can never really comprehend, like how a sprinter will never understand how a marathon runner can complete his race—the only difference being, the sprinter can always try.)

But Yoohyeon was glad that Dami was able to cope with the changes in eras—from the reign of monarchs to the dominance of governance, from walking to carriages to cars. She didn’t have to force herself to understand, for the crony had never demanded that from her. She supressed a laugh watching the crony struggling with her tasks. Who would have thought technology to be her greatest demise? As if on cue, the phone lying on the table vibrated; Yoohyeon picked it up and groaned.  

“I have to go,” Yoohyeon tapped furiously on her phone screen, “Siyeon is getting impatient waiting for me.”

The crony waved her off dismissively, she had more pressing issues to be taking care of. Dami navigated the small arrow on screen by moving her index finger excruciatingly slow on the trackpad; tapping on the surface did nothing but colour part of her text blue—not what she had wanted, unfortunately. She sighed. This was going to take as long as she thought it would; she had hoped that it would not. She had deadlines to meet and a whole council to impress before her meeting with a certain vampire could even be decided; things were not looking bright right now. (And being the genius that she was, things had always been bright for her. This was definitely a novel experience.)

She heard the door click open and someone walking into the room. The puppy must have returned from whatever business she had with Siyeon, or maybe she forgot something again—anything was possible with Yoohyeon.  

“How do you operate this system?” Dami led out yet another indignant yelp—first complaint to another and the umpteenth one to herself. (This was probably the most emotions she had shown ever since enrolling into the academy.) She tapped on the keys violently and frowned.

“Yoohyeon?” She called out when there wasn’t a reply to her obvious plea for help.

She glanced up and was partly surprised to find, instead, the vice-president standing at the door, rather than an oversized and far too cheery puppy. “Oh. Well. Nice to see you, Minji.” Dami started, unsure. The crony had never been alone with the vampire, and the last time they had exchanged words, things were… heated to say the least.

“Hey Dami,” Minji’s reply came late. “How’s everything going?”

“It’s the worst in my entire life,” the crony deadpanned, “and I’ve lived for more than three centuries by now.”

Minji simply led out a small smile, and took a seat opposite her. Dami reckoned that the vice-president and a certain Kim Yoohyeon shared very different sense of humour. The puppy would have most certainly produced a less than elegant chuckle with her somewhat low threshold for jokes. (The supposed jokes that she makes turns Dami, more often than not, into a cringing mess and are more than capable of bestowing embarrassment unto even the most shameless of beings.)

So, Lee Dami returned to her work silently, choosing to wipe clean the vampire’s existence from the room. Where others might have died of shame and regret, Lee Dami was not one to be deterred by petty things like keeping her image or it being ruined.

The two supernatural beings operated in dead quiet, each combating a different demon whilst basking in each other’s presence—Dami was busy wrestling with technological prowess while Minji was debating on the timing at which she would give her well-rehearsed speech.

The vampire cleared her throat—perhaps the only way she knew how to get the stoic crony’s attention. “Urm… Dami?”

The girl addressed looked up; she doesn’t say anything, doesn’t quite ask ‘Yes?’ or ‘What’s wrong?’. (There clearly was something not exactly right with the vice-president.)

“Well, I just thought we should talk about that night when we found out you were a crony… You know, my attitude and all,” she traced off, hopeful that Dami could get what she was trying to imply.

“What about it?” Minji’s heart could only sink. What did she expect from the girl who was capable of ending a conversation with so much as a stare?

“I should apologize. I-I was very rude the other day, so… I’m really sorry about that, Dami-ah.”

“Don’t worry about it,” it was a short reply, phrased rather curtly. Minji sighed and glance up. To her surprise, Dami was looking straight at her with no hints of diverting her attention anytime soon. Under normal circumstance, one would have yielded and collapsed under the sheer discomfort of such a gesture. Yet, the vampire felt brave enough to hold the gaze and perhaps even bathe in its warmth. Yes, it was warm. A soothing stare, embodying neither the harshness of Dami’s words nor the coldness of her personality. (Strangely enough, there wasn’t anything stoic about Dami in that moment. Perhaps, Minji thinks, there wasn’t anything stoic about Dami at all in fact.)

“Are you going to turn her?” the crony spoke finally. Dami wasn’t a curious person, neither was she one to poke her head in another’s business. But she felt compelled to ask, felt the desire to find out Yoohyeon’s eventual fate—it was then a perfect testament of Yoohyeon’s hard earned and well-deserved significance in Dami’s reality. She had come to build a home in Dami’s heart without even her knowing, like a camper who had set up a tent in a forbidden mountain top, admiring the scenery that for centuries, none had been able to witness or conquer—somehow Yoohyeon had achieved both.

Dami saw Minji contemplating a response, thinking hard on an appropriate answer to an absurd question. No vampire could answer this question correctly—a yes would imply selfishness despite stemming from a place of love, while a no would imply a lack of care and regard for the potential crony.

The action of seeking a crony battles the loneliness that creatures of near eternity have to bear; it would then be no surprise that only those deemed worthy enough shall be considered as potential cronies—after all, they are going to be spending forever together, they are going to be linked from the body to the essence of the soul. (It was, essentially, the grandest and most avid profession of love from a vampire.) Granting a loved one immortality as a pact to spend the rest of their lives together may seem like a romantic gesture—well to some degree, it is—one priceless enough to be plastered on Hollywood screens. But it becomes a little cruel and gruesome when the realities hit and the rosy drama-like fever dream slip away—it was no different than forcing someone to stay past their expiry date, as company and an eternal flowing source of blood, even.

So no, Kim Minji would not turn Kim Yoohyeon into her personal puppet and fountain of youth.

“No, of course I'm not doing that,” she led out a face of disgust, but realised quickly and went, “oh god, I'm not trying to imply that you-”

“What if she doesn’t mind being turned?”

The vampire frowned, “doesn’t matter,” she muttered.

Dami observed the way she forced her face muscles to contract into a smile but her tight knitted brows gave all her feelings away. “You don’t have to turn her if you don’t want to. Nothing is going to happen to vampires without a crony anyways.”

Minji managed the smile better this time—it was easier smiling when her heart sank; Minji had experienced that frequent enough at home to grow numb to it. “Not everyone has a choice,” she looked up from her clenched fit with the smile still present—small and faint, but bitter and pained.

Dami did what she does best—she merely stared, then went back to her work. It was not her power to comfort others; she could not even comfort herself. Minji stood up to leave, silently retreating away like a feather floating about in the air before being whisked away by the wind.

“I had a choice,” she said as Minji moved towards the door. The blonde stopped but didn’t turn back, her hold of the door knob tightened and the metal heated up slowly against the touch of her palm.

“And I chose to be turned. We always have a choice—just that not all choices are easy to make, that’s all.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” and then the door closed with the softest thud.

*

Gahyeon hummed a lively tune as she whisked around her small little dorm room, preparing all that was needed for the day. She was beyond elated; the council had promised her an entire afternoon of their time, and she may or may not have sacrificed a little of her sleep thinking about today. Gahyeon enjoyed spending time with the people she loves, sharing moments together with those who are important to her is like creating a piece of art on a canvas. The result would be an artwork that was priceless. It was bliss.

She walked with basket full of food in hand, with a bounce in every step she took. The secluded space behind the council room was not difficult to find; Gahyeon had basically explored every inch of the campus at this point.  

“Gahyeonie!” Yoohyeon beamed at the arrival of the girl. “You’re early.” The taller girl was setting up the table and meddling with the stove for the hotpot.

Having hotpot out in the open was definitely not something Yoohyeon thought she would ever experience in her life, but here she was, setting up everything in the space behind the council room. No one could say no, especially not when it came to Gahyeon and even more so when Bora had wholeheartedly started supporting the younger’s suggestion.

“Where’s the rest of the crew?” Gahyeon scanned the place for the other council members, obviously taken aback by the lack of noise.

“Handong and Siyeon went to buy drinks. Minji is probably gonna arrive soon, after first making a detour to Dami’s place. And, well… Bora is… Bora, I guess. She’ll show up.”

Whenever it was, they would be informed of Bora’s arrival as soon as she steps foot near the venue—her volume travels faster than her presence after all. Gahyeon placed the bags of food she had in her hands on the table, finally granting her arms the rest they very much desire. The two worked in silence, enjoying the tranquillity as far as possible, before the delicate balance was to be demolished by the arrival of more people. The peace was very much appreciated; the past week had been insane for the younger—with the return of her memories, brought the return of a part of her that she didn’t even knew existed. It was all so surreal. Though there was another matter on plaguing the girl’s mind altogether.

“So…” Gahyeon began, pausing until she was certain the taller girl was looking at her. “It’s complicated, huh?”

“What is?” The other feigned ignorance.

“Your relationship with Minji unnie?” She returned, equally light-hearted and innocent. (Yoohyeon could swear she saw eyes blink rapidly and eyelashes fluttering from her peripheral vision.) “Want to talk about it? You look like you need it,” Gahyeon commented truthfully but softly; it wasn’t in her agenda to pressure the other. No, Gahyeon would never do that to Yoohyeon, but the elder had looked stressed out recently and the younger was perceptive enough to link it to the vice-president.

Yoohyeon placed the plates she held gently onto the table, wishing to stall the conversation for as long as it was possible. Gahyeon was right: she needed to talk—not so much about the vampire, but rather of her own insecurities and the effect that it was going to have on their relationship. She struggled to find the right words, a starting point. But Gahyeon was looking at her kindly, patiently, and it made Yoohyeon feel a little better at being such an indecisive soul.

“I’m… scared, I guess,” she finally settled on something reasonable. “Like- There’s just so much going on in Minji’s life… I’m not sure whether I can really be of help. I mean I seriously want to be.”

She looked up and found understanding within the younger’s eyes, “but what can I actually do? I’m afraid that… I can’t help her.” She sighed and shrunk into her own skin, feeling smaller than she actually was. Gahyeon’s gaze was piercing and left her very exposed. There was an inkling to pull her clothes closer to her skin and wrap herself up in the layers of cloth.

“I can’t really tell you with confidence that you will definitely be able to help since I don’t even understand much even now,” the pink-haired girl played with her fingers, trying to choose the best words as carefully as possible. “But, did Minji unnie ever said, or show you that you aren’t helping? Or that you are making things worse?”

Yoohyeon shook her head, smiling at the meaning behind those words. Of course, Minji had never—it was always cloud of affection and appreciation in her eyes. Sometimes they were so thick, Yoohyeon had felt overwhelmed by it all, felt the suffocation returning the moment she found confidence to hold her stare. But she didn’t mind the feeling of breathlessness, didn’t mind feeling like she could faint anytime, because Minji was staring with those eyes of hers—so bright and so clear that even behind all the affection and gratefulness, Yoohyeon sees a girl whose strength rivalled no other.

“Then you have nothing to worry about, right?” She circled her arms around the elder’s waist, “just be yourself, Yoohyeon unnie. I think that’s what Minji unnie needs the most.”

“Hm, you might be right,” she hummed against Gahyeon’s temple, contented with the way the younger fitted into her own taller frame.

“Are you doing okay, Gahyeon-ah?” She wriggled out of the girl’s arms a while later and gave her a look. Instantly, Gahyeon felt a lot safer—it was amusing how Yoohyeon could be so easy to tease, so free and so light, but at times when she was needed, can be as secure as a rock and as anchoring as gravity.

She breathed out a yes, an honest embodiment of her feelings. She was more than alright, she was more than happy—she was finally reunited with the two people from her childhood, whom had promised her they were staying for good. So who cares if one of them was a vampire? Not Gahyeon.

“I love you, unnie.” She pouted cutely, prideful at the way Yoohyeon lit up.

“Oh look, someone is stealing Yoohyeon from you.” The two girls perked up at the newcomer. Dami strolled in casually, paying no mind to the fuming vice-president following behind her.

“She’s not!” Minji huffed indignantly, embarrassed by the extent Dami’s words had affected her.

“A confident one, aren’t you?”

“Lee Dami!”

“So, you’re Dami? We can totally be good friends.” Gahyeon smirked at the red specks on her childhood friends’ cheeks. Dami had certainly made an impression, and Gahyeon was sure she would definitely live up to it.

Minji busied herself with setting the table, choosing to ignore the burning red on her face. If she were being honest, Minji had never hated Lee Dami—not when she had a history of skipping classes and bringing problems to the council, not when it was revealed that she was a crony looking for her master. In fact, she empathised with the crony. They were both trapped by a promise they had made, but while Minji could forget about it whenever she felt like it, no matter how short the burden-free moment shall last, Dami couldn’t. The crony was forever tormented by the gnawing need to find her master—physically and mentally.

“Do you regret being turned?” Minji asked in her soft tune, threading carefully as if walking on ice.

Both were walking towards the council building. Being a temporary member of the students’ council meant that Dami had to be present for every council activity, no matter how trivial. And Minji would like to argue that making Gahyeon happy was not a trivial matter. And Minji being Minji, had personally showed up outside Dami’s dorm room early in the morning to ensure the crony would not try to skip out on such an important mission. And Dami being Dami, had allowed herself to be dragged by the vice-president—begrudgingly of course—to partake in whatever mess that was to unfold eventually.   

Dami remained mum, walking slightly faster than the vampire and not even turning to spare her a glance. “Sorry,” the blonde breathed out, sure that she had overstep boundaries that she couldn’t even see. The notion of being turned can be a sensitive topic for some cronies, even for those turned with permission.

“I don’t know,” came the reply, short and curt like how Dami always was. Surprisingly, she continued after a short while. “My memories of my master are limited. And as much as this is a burden, I don’t feel hatred whenever I dream of her or recall a small part of my memories.”

‘What’s your name?’ ‘I don’t have one.’ ‘Everyone should have a name!’ ‘…’ ‘How about Yubin?’ ‘Yubin?’ ‘Yes, Yubin!’

Dami smiled at the memory. She still could not see her master’s face clearly, and she refused to believe that such a child would torment her by starting this endless and cruel game of tag. “When you are alive for this long, many things change. Maybe even my feelings towards my master had changed. I’m sure we were once very close… at least I would like to believe that.” 

The vampire nodded in understanding. Emotions are difficult to discern most of the time; most don’t even know what they are feeling and why they are feeling. (Just like how Minji realises she doesn’t actually hate her mother—perhaps all she ever wanted was just to be loved by the person she so dearly cares for. It’s just a pity that all Minji was capable of feeling when near her was anger and frustration.)

“I think she is very important to me,” there was a tad bit of vulnerability in her tone, one filled with nostalgia, loss and grief. “I may be wrong though,” the hardness was back, and all emotions raw were gone with the wind just like that.

“I think we both know you’re not,” Minji breathed out, the silence she received proved more than words ever could.

The crony took a glance over her shoulders, staring down at the vampire with an intensity that simply wasn’t Lee Dami—Dami never was intense; she just was, her presence light and fleeting, and almost non-existent.

“Maybe you’re right.”

Minji side-eyed the crony, watching her move alongside Yoohyeon like some sort of routine, like they have been so for a long time that it had become second nature—like decades old friends, like soulmates. And surprisingly, the vampire found it so endearing to see. She searched herself for some sort of ugly emotion to surface—those that clawed at you and made you sick to the stomach; feelings that one would feel when seeing someone else beside the person one is fond of. But no such emotions existed—Dami had unknowingly became a part of her school life and had made a mark that probably could be erased no longer. (Minji smiled to herself; she was delighted—Dami was welcomed and she would have it no other way around.)

“Oh god…” Dami was exasperated. “How did you even- never mind. That clumsiness seriously got to go away somehow.”

“Sorry,” a sheepish laugh escaped Yoohyeon’s lips. She latched onto the other’s arm, only for the crony to crane her neck in the opposite direction, far far away from her. Dami let out a disgruntle complaint, but made no effort to wedge herself out of the puppy’s grip.

“Don’t have to stare, unnie.”

Minji peeled her eyes away from the duo and regarded Gahyeon with a curious gaze. “Hmm?” She led out absentmindedly.

“I said, you don’t need to stare at them like this. Yoohyeon is very loyal.” Gahyeon lifted her brows, and brought her hands to her chin, “I mean, I hope she is.”

The vampire blushed, “I’m not- It’s not what you think. I was just… looking.”

Gahyeon did not return anything, but Minji could tell she did not take her words seriously. She cleared her throat multiple times to compose herself. (She had not expected Gahyeon to tease her about her ambiguous relationship with Yoohyeon. Maybe she should have held back on the memory returning part for a little longer.)

“Are you doing well, Gahyeonie?” She decided to ask after a while. She had been meaning to check up on her childhood friend since forever, but council duty always got in the way. Minji was a worrywart when it came to her friends, that part was obvious to everyone, even Minji herself.

“Of course, I am!” Gahyeon allowed her features to settle into a huge grin, eyes crinkling into a beautiful eye smile. “Actually, Yoohyeon unnie asked me the same thing just now,” she giggled, realising how similar both had looked when checking up on her. Their eyes shone with a passion so fiercely strong and a concern so blinding, Gahyeon had almost shed tears at their sincerity and kindness. She realised that it didn’t matter how awful she was feeling; as long as her two friends were there at the end to ask her about her day, Gahyeon could wield her emotions like weapons. (Weapons that made Gahyeon feel powerful—for she is, when they were around—and she could defeat the entire world if she wanted to.)

She circled her arms around the blonde, frowning at her small frame. Her steady arms tightened themselves, holding the vampire in a rather awkward position—hands to the side, with her left arm pressed against Gahyeon’s front. They stayed in said position, Minji resting her head atop of the younger’s while Gahyeon closing her eyes and nuzzling the former.

“Ahem,” it was Dami. She shifted uncomfortably and eyed the two girls weirdly. (Physical intimacy, unfortunately, did not bring her much joy. Rather, it was the harbinger of dread and the start of a painstakingly long journey of irritation and endurance, to which she would gladly pass on anytime.)

“Yoohyeon needs help setting up the stove despite being the one who brought it. And I’m not much of a help when it comes to these things,” she turned to stare at Gahyeon, “and yes, Yoohyeon asked you to help. Too bad, I would assume.”

Gahyeon rolled her eyes playfully and detached herself from the eldest, running Naruto style towards the struggling girl in the distance. “Unnie, is the stove even plugged in?” Her voice rung out loud and clear. “What?” Came the distraught reply. (Yoohyeon could be seen untangling herself from the mess of wires that sat in the background, dragging her long limbs through the endless gaps between them but ending up more stuck than she was previously.)

“They are cute, aren’t they?” Minji offered fondly, like a mother overlooking her two children. (Although one of them, in this case, was a love interest who Minji would die to finally move things along. Their little cliché drama series had gone on for far too many episodes, and it would seem that the audience are now bored of the underwhelming development in plotline.)

“No more questions about me being a crony?”

“… No, I think sometimes, memories and relationships are best when stayed unuttered. They can lose their beauty otherwise,” Minji whispered. Dami studied the vampire’s face, finding no hint of tease nor chaff. In a way, she was relieved—but she did not know why.

‘Yubin-ah, will you be my friend?’

‘I don’t have friends.’

‘Then I’ll be your first friend! From now on, we will always be together, the two of us!’

Dami smiled.

Perhaps it was true; some memories should stay as memories—that was the only way to retain their warmth, probably. Once spoken aloud, it would then be clear: the warmth had since vanished, and was not likely to ever return.

*

Handong mused at how the girl was laughing again, so open and honest. She laughed at the smallest of things, feeling happiness in everything from which euphoria could be milked. In the less than an hour that she had spent with Siyeon, Handong found the girl to be more easy-going than appearances would have otherwise suggested. It wasn’t an unwelcomed knowledge. Siyeon was easy to be with; she had made it so easy. Handong was more than anything glad that Bora now had someone more than just her and Minji. The chinese girl was simply relieved to see that their budding relationship was not cut short after Bora’s identity had been revealed.

“I’m so glad that you are here,” Handong felt compelled to say. “Actually, I’m so glad everyone’s here. For Bora and Minji.”

Siyeon side-eyed the other, noting the relief in her expression. “I’m happy to be here too. Guess we need to thank Yoohyeon for deciding to come back,” she smiled at the memory of her first meeting with the puppy. “She somehow brought us all together huh?”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

The two settled into a comfortable silence—one that was surprising, given that the two girls had not have much chance to interact before. But Handong’s calming presence and Siyeon’s truly soft personally was like two puzzle piece that fitted with each other naturally.

“You know what?” Siyeon started again. “I was actually glad I found out about… the vampire and everything.” Handong gave the girl an encouraging glance, probing her to continue.

“I don’t know, I think it would feel awful if I have to keep such a thing from my friends. I’m just glad they were able to get it off their chest?”

“Friends?” Handong raised a brow. “I thought you and Bora are past that stage. Don’t you guys go by nicknames already, Singnie-ah?”

“H-How?” Siyeon flushed red.

“Courtesy of Yoohyeon,” Handong smirked, feeling the immense pride of retaining her savage badge.

(Teasing her friends may just be her favourite pastime, and even more so if they were to have reactions as dramatic as those of Siyeon’s.)

“You’re right, I would definitely have to thank Yoohyeon after this.”

Siyeon groaned, face buried into her hands and the bag of drinks once laying tightly in her grip now hanging mercilessly over her bent elbow. She hated to show affection outwardly, it simply wasn’t her style. Unlike her sister who was like a burst of emotions contained within the small frame of a girl (who didn’t mind professing her feelings in the most dramatic of ways), Siyeon preferred to show her feelings in a more subtle of manner—which was funny, considering how emotional she really is. Nicknames just weren’t to her liking; but the way Bora had pronounced her newfound name, coupled with the affection that laced every corner of said name, Siyeon just couldn’t bring herself to reject it. And now, she must admit to liking Singnie more than her actual name. 

“Don’t worry too much,” Handong chuckled. “I think it’s cute. Plus… Bora rarely acts like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like… soft,” the chinese girl finished. “Bora was always the toughest one among us three, always the one protecting me from Lady Kim and standing up to her whenever Minji was involved. It’s refreshing, honestly, to see this side of her.”

It wasn’t difficult to imagine Bora being the protector of the three. The girl radiated energy of a gallant knight. It was the energy that pulled Siyeon in, and trapped her permanently within the elder’s grasp, like some sort of enchantment spell. Yet, Siyeon felt that being soft suited Bora more. It could be that she got used to it, seeing as how frequent the elder acted like so when they were alone. (Or it could be that Siyeon liked the soft side of Bora more than her confident, flirty one. Just that she would rather disappear from the face of the earth than to admit it.)                       

“But I’ll say this: choosing to stay with Bora… it’s a… dangerous choice.” Siyeon turned to see Handong looking very serious, unlike someone who had just teased the hell out of their friend mere moments ago. Handong did not want to be the devil’s advocate, but no one knew what Lady Kim would do if she ever were to find out about their relationship. And only Handong would know of what the Lady was capable of. 

“Is it that difficult to control bloodlust?” Siyeon asked in a whisper. She figured that might be the thing vampires were most concerned of. (And it was. But Bora and Minji weren’t just ordinary vampires—not when Lady Kim was around.)

“That will be fine actually. Bora can control her bloodlust,” the girl paused. “Her stepmother is going to be more of a problem.” Siyeon waited for her to continue, but she didn’t. She figured that it was a sensitive topic and she may not be as ready as she would have liked to venture into yet another unknown. The abyss was growing in size and Siyeon had no proper way of navigating her way through it.

Bora’s bloodlust would be the least of Handong’s concern for now as she was sure the girl would be able to keep her own hunger in check—Bora was stronger than people make her out to be. Lady Kim, on the other hand, was a different story. ‘The only relationship that can exist between a vampire and a human is that of a master and crony.’ Those were the very words of the Lady, and in the Kim family, her words were the law. And no one breaks the law. (But of course, Kim Bora would. The girl had never been one to care much for rules and consequences.) One day, Siyeon would have to know about their household, but for now, Handong figured she wanted to preserve the girl’s innocence a little longer. She was not yet ready to plunge Siyeon into their world—a world Handong would be incredibly glad not being a part of. (Her love for her friends and the value of her own life had prevented her from doing anything rash all these years. But everything has a breaking point and everyone has a limit before insanity takes over.)

As they walked, Handong could pick up on voices coming from behind the council building. It was definitely livelier than the moment they had left to buy drinks. The two stepped into the vicinity to find Bora and Yoohyeon bickering next to a boiling hotpot while Gahyeon and Dami were perched under a tree behind the duo, too engrossed in a deep conversation to care about the chaos around them. Minji was found standing helplessly to the side of the table, looking on in desperation as Bora started chasing poor Yoohyeon, a pair of chopsticks in hand and a toy gun in the other. (No one could fathom why the president would bring a toy gun to a lunch gathering of friends. But then again, no one had ever been able to understand the workings of the girl’s brain anyways.)

“Take good care of Bora for me?” Handong gave Siyeon’s hand a tight squeeze.

“I will. I promise,” she responded by wrapping her fingers around the hand in hers. Siyeon was serious. She would gladly be beside Bora as long as Bora wanted her to.

“No,” Handong gave her a look. “I mean literally. Like now.” She pointed to the president, deadpanned.

That prompted a heartfelt laugh from the wolf, the same unrestrained and free one that she led out just moments ago. (Seeing that, Handong may have felt a tinge of relief, for she would never want the people she cared about be sad.) Siyeon ran up to wrap Bora in a tight back hug, still giggling uncontrollably while the shorter girl regarded her (soon-to-be) girlfriend in puzzlement. Yoohyeon took the opportunity to latch onto Minji’s arm as Bora was distracted, whining to the blonde about the absolute misery her nemesis had put her through. (Yet, weirdly, Yoohyeon did not want Bora to stop bothering her, did not want to lose this unique bond of hers with the vampire.)

“I’m just going to join you guys,” the chinese girl sat down next to the only two people not involved in the mess unfolding beyond her control—that is, if she still wanted to stay sane. Controlling the kids had never been her job, for Handong would prefer to retain her functioning brain cells, instead of losing them to dealing with the council’s mess.

(She figured that it was Minji’s job since vampires should have more brain cells to spare than humans. At least that’s what the chinese girl would want to think.)

“I guess you must be normal and wise, just like us.”

“Wow,” Handong raised a brow at the crony who had just spoken. “I think we might get along better than I have expected.”

“I said that too, now look at us.” Gahyeon commented as she grabbed a bottle of coke from the bag in the chinese girl’s hands. “It’s not difficult being brilliant when all your friends are like… that,” the pink haired gestured to the duo who were by now sparring with a ladle and bowl, and then to her sister who stood next to Minji, howling randomly at a moon that had not yet appear in the afternoon sky. (In truth, Minji’s place should have probably been with them, sitting and relaxing under the tree. But Gahyeon thinks the girl was too kind to deem herself normal and leave the other three unholy creatures be. But Gahyeon also thinks Minji has had her weird and questionable moments, so maybe she was in the right place after all.)

The seven spent the afternoon in one another’s presence—they may not show it, but all enjoyed their time together. They were seven individuals with different backstories, but all their script would eventually converge at some point—it wasn’t a matter of if, but when—and as their scripts merged into one, they found more than just fellow actresses. They had found friends, those that would walk together through life. They had found family.

(Somehow, sometime, it had become the seven of them, and they would remain as seven for as long as they can be.)     

All of them were huddled around the hotpot, sending food into one another’s mouth as if it was the most natural thing to do. They talked about any and everything, forgetting for an afternoon the divide that existed between them. (Perhaps all along, the divide had not been there. And even if it was, it didn’t cost them anything for there was no difference between supernatural and humans—they were all them, and no one could (or should) tell them otherwise.)

*

Minji poked at her food, then arranged the pieces in a line neatly before messing them up again.

“Hey,” said Yoohyeon. She looked at the plate of food almost untouched by the vampire and frowned. Everyone knew that Minji would never set aside food, would never leave them on the plate like that. (Perhaps she would admire them for a while if they were plated nicely and elegantly enough, but she would then without fail mercilessly destroy the canvas no matter how pretty it was.)

“Hey,” she heard Minji returned. “Want some?”

Yoohyeon raised a perfect brow, “not hungry? Something wrong?” She took a piece of fried chicken from the plate nonetheless and bit into it. Minji watched as she savoured the meat happily.

“So?” The younger gave her a look, jaw moving non-stop in a regular rhythm.

“Not much,” she shrugged with feigned insouciance, “just not really hungry.” But all it took was one look at Yoohyeon to know that she was not buying such a flimsy reason. “Well,” she started then. (It was difficult lying to the younger, for she seemingly is able to see through people like they were made of glass. Minji would like to think she was the strongest kind—the bulletproof kind.) “Feeling a little… like I'm in a bad mood? No… not a bad mood. I think moody would be better?” she mumbled while Yoohyeon watched.

“Dami?” she inquired softly, and saw the sparkle of realisation sprung from the vampire’s eyes. She supressed a chuckle. It was adorable how Minji sometimes lacked the mental gymnastics to navigate her own emotions—could not as to compartmentalise them into distinct feelings—how she wields them awkwardly as if they weren’t hers, when it couldn’t have been anyone else’s. (Yoohyeon would argue for the sake of Minji that emotions are never very much straightforward, never a discreet shape but more so a muddle of foggy patterns.)

Minji had been distraught at the sudden weird dread in her heart, feeling even more perplexed and vexed when she could not put a reason to it. But upon hearing the crony's name roll out from Yoohyeon's mouth, it was like a door had opened and from it sprang all the answers she had been searching for. Meeting a crony—a living, breathing crony—brought about certain things Minji would not like to think about. (About herself as a vampire, Lady Kim as her mother, and Yoohyeon. Yoohyeon. The girl and herself, their relationship and how it would change all too quickly and too drastically.) It made her promise with the Lady real, almost touchable. It weigh down on her, like a giant boulder pressing against her and leaving her no space for breathing. It made her scared, made her fear the future when she would have failed to turn her beloved into her puppet; what Lady Kim would do was beyond Minji, but it made her see the horrid images of the past and the future looked nothing but grim.    

“Well,” Minji heard the younger say after some time, “if you are in a bad mood, then I am too.”

Yoohyeon moved behind the slightly shorter girl and captured her in a back hug. She rested her chin on her shoulder, feeling the bone pressed up against her. Her hands laid flat against her stomach, and she can’t help but to stroke her thumb to a silent rhythm and beat, tracing random circles on the fabric of Minji’s shirt. It folded and creased as her thumb moved. “This always seemed to make people feel better, don’t you think?”

Minji did not answer. She sank back against the taller girl, feeling the heat from her body. It was quite different from Siyeon’s—where the wolf’s had been comforting and gentle, Yoohyeon’s was one of passion; it was ferocious, rushing onto Minji head on and making her face colour. (From the heat? Or something more?) She felt fire burning her back, and it stung. But it made Minji feel safe, the safest that she had ever felt before. (All things on earth are both beneficial and detrimental together, Minji observes. And like all things, the puppy’s embrace, too, is like so—it can anchor Minji steadily onto the ground but it can also throw Minji into a whirlwind of conflicting emotions where she could only battle with herself and try her hardest to escape.)

She couldn’t help but to smile a little. It was often the best indicator of gratitude, especially so if one had none else to give.

Both heard a collective groan rising in an uproar around them, and tried their hardest not to blush—Yoohyeon thought she would constrict her neck muscles so tight that blood flow became limited, if she had to. She had conveniently forgotten the place they were at and the merciless ways her friends would go, to tease the life out of her. But Yoohyeon didn’t let go, not even when Minji was twisting about in her arms, not even when Bora was whistling so loud in the background, not even when her face was already scorching. She wished to stay in that embrace for a little longer—somehow, somewhere along the way, she had become the receiver of comfort when she had meant to provide it in the first place.

“Oh? Look, it’s Ms Park!” the youngest pointed to a young teacher who was standing nearby. Yoohyeon secretly let out a sigh, eternally grateful for the brief intermission the youngest had granted them. (Though she was sure Gahyeon didn’t do that on purpose; the evil devil spawn would never sacrifice seeing her embarrass for anything.)

Ms Park, the resident English teacher in the academy, was popular among the student body. In fact, her kind deposition had made her resemble a mother more so than a teacher. She was Yoohyeon’s favourite teacher, and the fact that she teaches one of the girl’s stronger subject only made her look forward to English lessons even more. She reminded the girl of her own mother, a figure that ceased to be of influence at some point in her life.

The group looked on with curiosity. Ms Park was clearly waiting for someone, and all—with the exception of Dami—was eager to find out who the teacher had an appointment with. Even Handong who didn’t normally poke her nose in other’s affairs was interested. Despite her passion for teaching, Ms Park wasn’t one to share a lot about herself. But the mystery only served to pull students towards her.

“Someone’s coming!” Siyeon gestured to the man in the distance who was jogging towards their teacher. As he neared, the group caught a better look at his features.

To put it bluntly, he was attractive, especially so for someone his age. It was evident that he was older than Ms Park, but the extra years did not him cost his charm or whatsoever—he was handsome from the depth of his eyes to his chiselled built. There was an air of gentleness surrounding him despite his rugged features; it was probably the eyes and maybe even the playful smile.    

“Is that Ms Park’s...” Gahyeon was excited. It was not every day that a student gets to witness the partner of their tutor.

Yoohyeon stuffed her face with another piece of meat before making her way towards her friends, pinkie entwined around the vampire’s, pulling her along. She hated gossip, but a little insight to the mysterious English teacher’s life wouldn’t hurt, would it? She squinted at the tall figure standing in front of the teacher. He now had his back towards the group, speaking softly to the lady who looked absolutely smitten with him. His built was familiar. But then, he turned and Yoohyeon could make out his face from the side profile alone.

She tensed. What is he doing here?! He was the last person she had ever wanted to see. Her hands clenched, forming fists with knuckles so white, her entire body shook. The pinkie wrapped around Minji’s finger curled tighter and tighter. Then, it let go. The blonde turned to stare at her, probably in concern. Yoohyeon did not return her gaze. She wanted to turn away and ignore whatever that was gnawing at her and eating her alive. But she couldn’t; not when the man was now seemingly dating her teacher—one so kind and pure, Yoohyeon wished her nothing but the best. (It was times like this she hoped to be wrapped around her friends and forget that the world existed. She wanted to be salvaged, even when she knew she had to return to reality eventually—there was just something about running away that was so tempting.)  

Yoohyeon strode up to him, ignoring the protests emerging from her friends. Their voices seemed to have dampened, sounding distant and empty. They echoed her name, and the reverberations were loud and painful—she imagined herself drowning in a pool of water with each step, sinking into the bottom where light wouldn’t dare reach. (She could pick up on his scent the nearer she was to the man, like she could see the smell physically as coloured smoke.)

“Dad.” The name rolled out of her mouth, leaving a distasteful burn on the tip of her tongue.

She hated that name. And she hated that man.