Greeting! Take this as your sole warning that if you don't like:
-Literally every red tag
-Main characters being morally ambiguous
Then I will encourage you to go back and read some of my lighter works instead :)
Just a few other notes -
Litceten is pronounced as Lit-seh-tin
Litce is pronounced as Lit-see
- Updating Weekly -
As always I am able to answer questions via CC or Twitter
Being a Litceten, according to the handful of people who had any experience with them worth talking about, seems like it was something sold as a luxury lifestyle to stupid kids who didn’t know any better. They said it was mostly lounging about and sipping fruit wines and snacking on the finest of Hogun’s cheeses. They said it was easy and that they would be treated like kings and never fear for the future since you never ‘aged out’ of being a Litceten.
Being a Litceten, according to Jimin, is a complete scam. It’s painful and drains you of energy so deeply that it’s hard to even breathe afterwards. And being the son of two other Litcetens means that his ‘power’, if you want to call it that, is magnified, which means that his symptoms are worse. There is no Hogun’s cheese, there is no fruit wine, there is no lazing about except when he begs to be left alone since he’s so goddamn tired. However, Jimin most certainly is treated like a king.
He wakes slowly, tiredness seeping into his very bones and a heated fire surging through his veins. But it’s a cold, uncomfortable fire which tells him it’s already time again. Damn, it’s only been a few days since he last trudged to the seers’ chambers to catch a fleeting vision of some nameless face. It’s not his job to interpret what he sees, only to see it and describe it to a random third party, a ‘scribe’ who never seems to be the same person. Jimin’s not stupid enough to believe that the perverted scum out there won’t apply to be scribes just to watch him get fucked, he knows it happens often.
There’s a new face waiting for him by the seer door once he finally drags himself out of bed and throws on a sheer silken gown, weighted with thin golden chains and hanging gemstones. Jimin rolls his eyes, a new scribe will watch him, a second new face just this week. He probably won’t see this man ever again after he gets what he wants. Long ago, he used to put up a fight about having new scribes watch, had a rule about them being one of the few longstanding true scribes but now he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t have the energy to care. Today he just wants to get this over with so he can go back to sleep.
The painful throbs that echo inside his brain are making it hard to see, trapped energy buzzing inside his bones, crawling beneath his skin. Jimin feels uncomfortable in his own body when he’s like this, when he’s starting to need to see. His connection to the astral plane, the untouchable district between the fabric of time, can only go unused for so long before he must interact with it, before the energy in his body becomes restless and cold, before everything starts to hurt.
It’s the same every time, no matter who is watching. Jimin will go into this room, the curtains blowing around the bed in a slight breeze, a glass roof protecting the fabrics from potential rain and he will lay naked on the bed until it becomes too much, until he begs someone to make him see. He strips off his dress, letting it land on the wooden floor without a care. It smells of flowers in here, orchids and fragrant plants littering the area around the white bed. Beyond the bed is a small hot spring, steam rising from it even in the morning light. It won’t rain today so there are innumerable candles spread around the clay-colored banks, casting the area in a soft, safe glow. It’s pretty here, not even Jimin can deny that.
He lays back on the bed, staring at the glass above him, throwing an arm over his eyes after a moment of silence. His heartbeat is already starting to quicken in his chest, his veins pulsing with blood and fragments of adrenaline. A sudden wave of pain, of a longing so deeply rooted inside his body that it shocks him, sends shivers down Jimin’s spine. It came quickly, this need. Usually, Jimin can go almost a week without needing to see, to interact with the astral plane, since his connection with it is so strong. But this time, today, he’s already back within three moons.
Jimin swallows audibly, growing restless on the bed, rolling onto his side, away from the new scribe. Normally he would ask for music by now, a soft harp melody to help him relax, but he can already hear the astral plane in his ears, the soft tones of it mixing in his mind. God, he wants it, wants to touch that music, wants to see what it will show him, fill him for just the briefest second with so much energy and pure, unfiltered ecstasy that it makes everything seem okay, makes the things he endures to hear the music as it splits into colors and shapes seem worth it.
Fuck, it’s happening so fast today. He’s already shaking, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping one arm around them as his brain starts to fade into the fabric of a place that doesn’t exist. He lets himself go there, to walk away from his body on the bed, to approach the music and watch it shift in the nameless air. Of course, that’s not what’s happening in the seer room. On the white bed by the hot spring, he’s shivering and begging a fluid mantra of ‘please, please, please’
There are two Jimins in this moment; one whimpering on the bed, begging for someone to make him see, and another sitting in a different dimension, watching the music of the astral plane flutter around him. And only when the begging Jimin on the bed reaches a state of near delusional pleasure will the Jimin on the astral plane be allowed to see the music transform into a vision, a prophecy. That’s how it works, being a Litceten.
The dream they sell about being a Litceten is a scam, there is no cheese, no wine because you receive all your nourishment from the astral plane, from touching it for brief seconds. Sure, Jimin can eat, food does taste good but it doesn’t do anything. It’s like a human eating nothing but candy. But touching the astral plane is not easy and it vacuums up your energy the instant you make contact, leaving you gasping for air, completely depleted but sated, full.
The Jimin on the bed begs some more, tears rolling down his cheeks as pain and emptiness and hunger consume him, branding his brain like the press of a hot metal stamp. He can’t see the person who enters the room to get him to the place where he will see, but he doesn’t care. “Please! Please make me see!”
The person, a man judging by the roughness of his hands, brushes a careful touch to his ankle, trailing the contact up to his thighs, which part easily. It’s easy because Jimin is choosing to be the part of himself that isn’t here right now, he doesn’t like this part. It feels good, it always does, it has to, but he wishes that he could skip this, the getting fucked by someone the house pays to keep the Litcetens sated. He’s spent long hours in his room wondering if that makes him almost like a prostitute. A cosmic prostitute - at the time it nearly made him laugh. But he really doesn’t have the energy to think about it much anymore. Thinking takes a lot of energy.
The nameless man slips into him easily and Jimin doesn’t have to look at him to know who he is now, this cock is so familiar to him. He’s been fucked by this particular man so many times now, he’s practically lost count. He’s gentle and his touch is soft, unlike most of the others. Jimin knows his vision will be stronger; the pleasure, the part where he’s actually interested in getting to that blissed-out state, is part of what determines the strength of the vision. This man is his favorite, the one he wishes he could request for every vision, but the house doesn’t work that way. Jimin isn’t allowed to have ‘favorites’.
The first few thrusts don’t do very much other than make him moan because he’s finally getting a taste of what his mind is craving; the touch of the astral plane. It will take him a while to get there, to where he finally cums and sees. It’s always taken Jimin a while to get off. Maybe if he wasn’t a Litceten he would be frigid, in fact, he’s completely confident that he would be. A stone-cold frigid beauty, too pretty to approach but too ethereal to stay away from. He’s been described that way before many times. Jimin doesn’t think they suit him well, those words.
A deep fire burns under Jimin’s skin, consuming everything in its path, setting him alight from the inside out. Fuck, it hurts. The way he can barely even comprehend how much pain he’s in hurts. This, the begging and the suffering and the aftermath where he can’t even breathe, is what they don’t tell you about being a Litceten. This is the part of the dream they carefully leave out, so conveniently.
Jimin whines, more tears sliding down his flushed cheeks and into his hair. But the music, far away in a realm that doesn’t exist, is getting louder, more fluttery, reaching an edge of near frenzied movement. This vision will be strong and the aftermath might kill him. Hell, a normal vision could kill him, could stop his heart for one second too long and he could slip away, not even knowing. Jimin chokes on a sob, coughing on his own spit, one hand fisting into the white sheets so hard his fingers might break. This hurts so bad. It feels good but it hurts, the hunger hurts.
The man, nameless but so familiar, leans down above him, lips brushing his temple. “I’m trying, Litceten.” A pause. “Jimin. I’ll try.”
He doesn’t need to complete that statement, Jimin understands. So, then, it must be obvious how much pure agony he’s withstanding right now, how thin his resolve is against the wall of suffering he must push through to get to the astral plane. This vision might be the strongest one he’s ever had. And that scares Jimin, a lot.
But, as always, the pain doesn’t last forever and when it starts to ebb away into an ocean of pleasure Jimin moans again. He plunges into the water, submerging fast, so quickly that it’s almost nauseating. He can see the depths of this ocean, the untold riches, and lights beckoning him at the very bottom. And when he touches it, when he’s finally crushed under so much pleasure that he breaks, then the music will transform, enveloping him in a soft white light. And then he will see.
The sky is dusted with a light blue color, clouds lazily making their way across in a slight breeze, just enough to feel it on your skin. A slight cooling of the place where the wind touches interrupting the steady warmth of the sun on bare skin. The market stretches vastly under the midday star, scents and colors bleeding into the air, mixing and travelling, beckoning passers-by in sultry voices. The stall in front smells of lemons and is mostly glass, carefully tended vines grow around the door and over a trellis that serves as a patio roof. It won’t do much if it rains, but it looks pretty, all green and accented with yellow from the decor. The glass door, inlaid with a wooden handle, opens quickly, a woman in a sunday dress, skirt billowing around her legs with each step, strolls out. She brings a wooden cup to her face, lips curling upwards a bit with the taste of the lemonade inside. One hand travels up, tucking some loose dark hair behind her ear. She looks up suddenly as a shadow passes widely over her path.
There’s something in the sky. Something huge and black and metal. The slow outline of wings, flat and faintly metallic, appear over the ground, marking the object hanging low in the atmosphere as a ship. It’s quiet, all the noise of the market has stalled and stuttered into a void of sound. The ship continues on its slow course, nearly casting a sense of uneasy acceptance. It wouldn’t be the first time that a large, interstellar trading ship came to Helasa, but this - this isn’t a trading ship. No.
No, this is the Hanabi, the ship of someone so terrible and cruel that people don’t dare speak their name.
The silver, red-tinged flower - so beautiful and so dangerous - shows on the belly of the ship, petals reaching outwards, towards the nose of the ship. It’s funny that the ship is so sleek, so pretty and elegant when the creature it holds couldn’t be farther from such words. The flower shimmers in the light, the reflections of the day star bouncing off the surface of Helasa, near blinding. The red tinges seem to grow as the flower fades out of the patch of light, until the flower is a deep blood red color.
The first missile moves so fast that it would have been impossible to predict, the sound of it echoing only after it has already been set loose. And yet, it doesn’t sound terrible, it does but only in the background. Mostly the air twinkles with nameless notes, floating and twisting and fluttering. The explosion seems blurry, far away, shrapnel raining down from the sky. A black column of smoke now dirtying the white clouds. Another missile, slower, hits the lemonade shop. The woman, in her last moment, looks shocked, her jaw loose and her eyes wide and her bag slowly falling out of her hand. But it never reaches the ground. The explosion is blurred, soft around the edges while whiteness gathers at the horizon, growing with each missile until the market is nothing but fire and rubble and fuzzy colors in strange shapes. Peaceful.
The music fades quickly and for a brief second, Jimin is full, sated, blissed out. His body is weightless and floating, nothing is tense, nothing hurts. His brain is full of fluffy clouds and sunny afternoons and soft melodies. He can taste cold, fruity ices on his tongue and feel the comfortable chill of the afternoon breeze. Right here, this is heaven, this is what all people dream of experiencing. Nothingness, but a good nothing, full of only happy things, unweighted, without the pressure of time. This.
But then it’s ripped away and replaced with a weight so huge and heavy that he can’t breathe. He can’t breathe. He can’t even clutch at this throat because his arms won’t listen to him and even if they did he would be trying to move a mountain because his body has no energy. Everything has been sucked away by the astral plane. He doesn’t even have enough energy to draw breath and inside his chest, his heart has stopped beating. Right now he’s functionally dead, his cells sucked dry of the juice that made them move.
The astral plane is not for touching, but Jimin, as all Litcetens do, manages to get close enough to it that he can barely scrape his fingertips across it, but it’s enough. It’s more than enough, for that one tiny moment afterwards where he’s floating and high and free from pain and tiredness. It’s worth it. Nothing can describe that moment, nothing can even come close. And that’s what makes being a Litceten scary - not that he dies, or something right next door to that, every time he touches the astral plane, or that he’s locked into this lifestyle until he truly does perish - it’s that he’s so willing to suffer, to die for that one fleeting moment. He will be back within a few days, ready to do this all over again, and that moment where he touches the astral plane, where his fingertips make faint contact with the music will make it all worthwhile.
“Tell me again.”
The head Litceten, called the Archelora, cranes her neck, staring up at the detailed mosaic on the ceiling. Her fingers are clenched around the arms of her chair, knuckles white and bulging, a departure from her constant aura of serene calm.
Jimin drags his gaze up from the floor, from the small, square tiles under his feet. He’s standing on the part of the mosaic that is the ocean, so the tiles are blue. Every inch of wall and floor and ceiling is covered in tiny tiles of various colors, displaying a scene too complicated and ethereal for Jimin to puzzle out during his meetings with the Archelora. He shifts his weight to his other leg, the tiles pressing a firm chill to the bottom of his foot.
“I saw the Hanabi. It was here. At the market.” Jimin’s grip on his elbows, folded behind his back, grows tighter.
“What else? I need more.” She waves her hand in a desperate circle, signaling him to keep speaking. Her voice is strained. The thin waterfalls on each side of her chair color the air with sound, but right now Jimin would much prefer silence.
“It was sunny, with just a few clouds. It came from the South in the afternoon. I only saw one ship, no others.”
“Nothing that would signify a date?” The glittering veil over her eyes jingles a bit with her jerky shift to sit forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
Jimin scans through his vision, already stored inside his brain. The visions seem to be locked into a special compartment in his mind, one that time can not access. Jimin can see each vision he’s ever had in crisp and perfect clarity, can relive them at will. He shakes his head, “Nothing.”
She sighs, but it sounds like it carries a weight too great for such a simple noise. “This is…” She turns to look out one of the many windows into the wet garden, hot springs leaking steam into the air, giving the plants so much water just from the humidity that they will never need watering. “Thank you, Jimin. I’m sure this vision took a lot out of you, but if you feel so inclined to see again, please let me know.”
Jimin nods curtly, turning for the exit. He knows that he will not be able to touch the astral plane again for a few days, it will kill him if he tries. But he also knows that they might not have a few days, and the Archelora knows it too. For now, they can do nothing other than pray that the Hanabi doesn’t come, that there is still time. The planet must be evacuated before the Hanabi blots out the light of the day star and rains fire onto them all.
He walks slowly into the wet garden, on the other side of the main meeting room. This is an area that does not see much use, it’s quiet and secluded and far away from normal daily festivities, which is why Jimin often comes here to bathe and soak in the water, easing the tension in his muscles, which never seems to fully dissipate.
He throws his dress down onto the wet ground and carefully dips one foot into the steaming pool of milky, aquamarine water. It’s hot, as expected, and Jimin slowly lowers his leg into the liquid, quickly followed by the other leg then his hips and then his chest and shoulders when he sits on an outcropping of smooth stone beneath the water. He groans at the sudden relaxation, relishing the steam on his face and the gentle massage of the heat in the pool against his skin. There is no glass on this side of the garden, so if it rains, which it won’t, he would be exposed to the pattering drops. But, it’s good, the feeling of cold rain searing against his overheated skin, it’s a sensation you can only know if you experience it.
In the still air, Jimin thinks about things. Not a lot, not deeply, he doesn’t have the energy for that. But he can still wonder lightly about the future. Now that he’s seen the Hanabi, now that he knows what’s coming, there’s no point in being afraid of it. Jimin is a believer in the idea that you can’t be afraid of something you know, it is the unknown that scares him. The Hanabi will come. It is a fact. And honestly, there’s not a lot anybody will be able to do if the Hanabi shows up tomorrow. They’ll all just die. Easy.
Well, it should be easy. It should be but Jimin has a feeling that he only saw enough in his vision to make him feel at ease with the idea that he will die soon. He thinks, suddenly, that maybe he didn’t see enough. What happens after the ship blots out the light of the day star? Jimin saw the Hanabi burning the market, but there is plenty of land to burn around the market, where the ship was coming from. So why start in the market area? Why shops? He shakes his head, clearing the thoughts away. It doesn’t do any good to dwell on it; he doesn’t have the energy for this and he can’t see again for two days at least.
Jimin leans back against the edge of the spring, his ears touch the ground before his hair does, the jewelry along them clinking against the stone. It’s slightly uncomfortable to have his ears squished against the rock like this but whatever, he’s too tired to move. The dappled patterns of sunlight fade over his face as he rests in the pool for hours as the star travels slowly across the sky, where it hangs low in the evening. Jimin can hear footsteps nearby but he pretends he doesn’t.
“Mind if I join you?”
Jimin cracks his eyes open, squinting up at Hyejoon, another Litceten in the house. One that he actually likes. “Sure, I don’t mind company.” His mouth curls up into a near smile.
The soft rustle of fabric tells Jimin that she has disrobed and is currently climbing into the pool. “That can’t be comfortable.” She mutters as she splashes a bit, “Having your ears like that.”
Jimin, now that he’s aware of it, finds that she’s correct. He is most certainly not comfortable like this and he’ll probably be nursing a headache later for his laziness. “It’s not.”
She smirks at him, hair piled messily atop her head, stray strands resting on her narrow, pale shoulders. “So, what’s this rumor I’m hearing about you? Hmm? Something about the end of days?”
Jimin chuckles despite the topic. “I guess so. Probably.” He sighs then, tired as usual. “Why? What is the new gossip of the day surrounding me and my mystical sight ability?” He rolls his eyes so hard it makes him nauseous.
There have always been rumors. Being ‘powerful’ as a Litceten gives you the opportunity to make people bow to you since being ‘in touch with the astral plane’ has a nice ring to it. But if you don’t do it, if you don’t squash the naysayers under your heel then clearly there is something unnatural and generally off about you. Jimin never liked being the center of attention, he could give a fuck less about the popular Litcetens in the house. There is no glory in seeing disaster, no reason to celebrate. And since he never stepped up to the metaphorical plate to be the head honcho of the popular, powerful squadron of squabbling teenagers that like to think themselves as hot shit, he was outcast from the social hierarchy altogether. It’s stupid, the whole thing. And Hyejoon knows it, too.
Hyejoon shrugs, “Nothing you haven’t heard before. Some nonsense about how you’re faking it to get onto the Archelora’s good side.”
Jimin rubs his bottom lip, a habit, before he frowns and scoffs loudly, “That doesn’t even remotely make sense.”
Hyejoon smiles and dips her fingers into the water, playing with the surface of it. “Trust me, I am aware. I didn’t say anything.” She sighs and pulls one knee up to rest on the stone bench below the surface, laying her chin on it. “You know it won’t make a difference.”
Jimin waves away the concern in her eyes, “Saying something will just fuel them more. Let them squabble and screech like rats, I don’t care.” He swallows suddenly in the silence, “Do you want me to tell you what I saw?”
She doesn’t answer right away because Jimin knows that she works with fear the opposite way that he does. Once she knows something, then she finds reason to fear it. After a while, she shakes her head. “I want to sleep soundly tonight. No nightmares, please and thanks.” Hyejoon offers a small smile to try and lighten the mood. “I know you’ve been out here for a while. What say we soak a bit more and then grab some desserts?”
Jimin smiles and closes his eyes, once again resting his head back against the edge of the pool but this time using his arm as a pillow. “Yeah. That sounds nice.”
The eating house, over on the West side of the Litceten area, is lit in the afternoon by several lanterns and giant bioluminescent slugs crawl slowly over the floor. This house is much more open than the others, bleeding into the wet garden outside. It’s humid and warm in here, making Jimin fan lightly at his face while his fruit ice melts in a bowl on the table. His skin shines under the lantern, the gold and purple reflects, sparkling with each flap of his wrist, when he hits the light just right.
“Did you get a new piercing?” Hyejoon asks around a mouthful of fruit ice.
Jimin nods, reaching up to feel his left ear, where his new jewelry sits prettily. Ear piercings are a mark of hierarchy in Litceten culture, the more you have, the more power you command. The pointed tips of Jimin’s ears are studded with diamond and a looping chain dangles all the way down to his lobes, each loop secured with a precious stone. His new piercing is a small silver hoop, snug against his skin. It was painful to have the needle stab through the tough skin at the top of his ear. Even days later it still throbs a bit when he touches it. “For my last vision. The one before this.”
“Ahh.” Hyejoon nods rapidly. “I’m scheduled to get my third loop this weekend.”
Jimin smiles at her, pushing away the idea that she might be dead by the weekend if the Hanabi shows up. “Hurts like a bitch. I can be there to hold your hand if you need.”
“Shut up!” She giggles and collects another spoonful of dessert. “But, you know what, I won’t turn down that offer.”
Jimin reaches out to take her hand, skin cold from holding the bowl of frozen liquid, and plays with her fingers. “So, I’ve noticed that you keep hanging around with Marcus.” He looks up in time to see Hyejoon blushing, “You’ve been keeping secrets from me, huh?”
Hyejoon scoffs, “It’s nothing impressive. I just think he’s nice, that’s all.”
Jimin hums under his breath, not believing her in the slightest. “And you brought him a lily flower because he’s nice, too?”
“What! How did you find out about that?” Hyejoon’s eyes widen and her cheeks color vividly.
Jimin laughs, throwing his head back at the scandalized look on her face. “I am a shadow in the night. I see all.”
“No, really. How did you find out?” Hyejoon gathers another spoonful of her melty dessert.
“You smelled like lilies the other day. And since I saw no lily presents on my bed I assumed it must be for him.” Jimin smiles with a sly glint. “Just be careful, I don’t like the idea of you hanging around a new Litceten, not that I’m your parent.”
“I know. I’ll be careful, I just want to see what it’s like.” She licks her spoon thoughtfully. “To be in love.”
Jimin hums quietly. It’s hard for Litcetens to find love outside of convenience. The lifestyle can prove to be much more involved than outsiders think it is, what with the dying and the pain during sex. Often male Litcetens will just impregnate regular Litces - normal Helasan folk with no gift of foresight - so that they can be relieved of any parental duties. Female Litcetens hardly ever become pregnant since it means they would be forced to continue seeing while heavy with an offspring, which can cause late-term miscarriages. Jimin’s mother said there were several times near the end of her pregnancy where she was sure she would miscarry from the weight of the visions. Jimin is not a miracle child, second-generation Litcetens aren’t that rare, but they are quite uncommon.
Male Litces have wombs like females do, but they aren’t used at all. Technically it can function but you’d need to walk a cursed path to become pregnant from another male. Litcetens, even less than normal Litce citizens, are not allowed to do this. And frankly, the knowledge of how to do it is becoming lost to the ages. Jimin knows how, because a long time ago it happened to one of his ancestors. But, as far as he knows, it isn’t a possibility anymore. Gay Litces can fuck just fine, it just won’t result in a pregnancy, which many find to be unfair.
“It’s getting late. Why don’t we head to bed now?” Jimin gathers up his empty bowl and places it on a wooden tray, waiting for Hyejoon to scoop the last drops of her dessert into her mouth before placing her bowl as well. “I’m sure there will be some announcement or something. My vision won’t stay silent for long.”
Hyejoon follows him silently as they hand in the tray to the kitchen crew and stroll through the wet garden back to the sleeping house. Jimin’s room is on the second floor, bamboo walls keeping out the nightly drafts and tatami mats soft under his feet. Hyejoon’s room is on the first floor, plants decorating every corner and hanging low from the ceiling. Before she pushes open her door, she turns to him, “Tell me what you saw, in case I see it also.”
Jimin frowns, hesitating. “I saw the Hanabi.”
Hyejoon’s eyes get wide and her face pales. She stares down at the floor, swallowing loudly. “Oh.”
Jimin tries to offer her a smile. “Hey, for all we know this could happen years in the future. Try to not worry about it. Maybe the Hanabi will arrive once we’re dead and gone, expired from old age.”
They both know he’s lying. But Hyejoon looks up and smiles, “Yeah. Maybe. Goodnight, Jimin.”
“See you in the morning. I hear they’re preparing a whole Gurrian roast for lunch so don’t be late!” He calls as he heads for the wooden stairs that lead to the second floor.
His room looks the same as ever, even barely lit by the stars outside the window. He goes into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the tub, sighing a huge breath. He’s tired. He always is. And it takes a lot of energy to push off the porcelain and stand in front of the mirror, washing his face and applying some snail oil to his skin. He should cut his hair, it’s getting raggedy and too long. Jimin pulls at some of the strands once he’s done washing up, silky flaxen threads between his fingers.
His skin picks up the light from outside, purple and gold reflects, glinting in the darkness. He’s always been slightly more purple, more powerful, than his fellow Litcetens, who are all heavy on the gold glitter. Jimin raises a hand to trail along his ear, lingering at the place where it throbs. He’s heard that other races don’t have ears like Litce’s do - long and pointed and hard - but rather soft and rounded and squishy. Strange. He can’t imagine what that would be like. Their heads must look huge.
Jimin chuckles to himself, imagining thumb headed races with tiny ears while he changes into a sheer sleeping dress. He doesn’t know why he bothers to wear this. It’s just a tradition and he may as well be naked with how much the thin fabric covers. He snorts and climbs into bed, snuggling against the thick comforter and breathing in the scent of humidity and flora. It always smells of flowers in the Litceten area. Flowers and water. Peaceful. Calming. Sleepy.
The sky is on fire. How did that happen?
It used to be delicate and blue. But now it’s heavy and orange and frothy.
It’s raining. Cold on his skin, stinging against the heat of the flames. The plants are on fire, stems hanging limp and flowers turning black with char. How did this happen?
The water of the spring is too hot, burning, boiling. Bubbles rise angrily from the depths of the pool, now a deep burgundy. It was a milky blue. Just yesterday. It was pretty. The ground is still wet and cold, but it feels rough and unforgiving.
The path to the front gate is open, blazed clear by a wave of flame, still lingering on either side of the stone walkway. The gate is broken, hanging off its hinges and swaying in the harsh wind that carries embers and bits of ash. Earth litters the walkway before the gate, as if some great impact occurred here, a deep crater tunneling into the wet ground.
On the other side is a neat row of glass and bamboo houses, now shattered and broken. Beyond that is the South market, the top of each thatched stall burning bright with orange flames. It’s quiet here. Still. Dead.
The sky is on fire. How did that happen?
Jimin wakes suddenly. He’s sweating and too hot and achy all over. His heart is pounding and his eyes are watering and the air smells terrible. Jimin blinks rapidly to clear the blurry sleep from his vision.
His room is dark with smoke and the acrid scent of burning hair. He hurls himself out of bed, landing painfully on his knees and crawls to the door, suddenly aware of how much his lungs hurt. He spits onto the floor, trying to clear his mouth and throat so he can breathe. The hallway unleashes another wave of smoke into the room and Jimin wonders how he can get out of this. His room is pretty far from the entrance of the house.
It feels like a lifetime that he spends crawling on the floor, spitting and gagging and coughing. His lungs hurt so bad, each breath is like being stabbed inside his chest. The closer he gets to the stairs the hotter the floor becomes and the harder it is to breathe. Sweat rolls down his temples and gathers under his arms as he shuffles forward until he’s staring down the flight of stairs that lead to the door of the house. He scoots to the edge and lets his ass fall painfully onto the next step, repeating this process until he’s crying and bruised. The wood is so hot it burns.
Jimin throws his body weight against the front door and it opens easily, sending him into the dirt outside. Clean air fills his lungs and his brain seems clearer. It’s easier to think, his muscles less consumed with panic. It’s quiet and the rest of the campus doesn’t seem to be affected. The sun rises peacefully over the tops of the buildings, glinting off the glass roofs. Dew sparkles on the leaves of the plants and puddles still rest on the stone from an overnight shower.
Jimin lifts himself off the ground. His body hurts.
Behind him, the sleeping house rages with fire. And finally, it’s not quiet. It sounds like fire; crackling, groaning, roaring, screaming. Part of the roof caves in. It’s loud. Slow.
Where are the others? No one else is coming out of the building though dozens of Litcetens reside here. Screams pierce the air but they don’t sound familiar. They might be miles away. Jimin’s hearing is all fucked up, his ears ringing painfully with a singular, shrill tone. The Litcetens are burning alive inside the sleeping house. Hyejoon is burning alive.
Jimin can’t really process the way his body is moving. He’s on autopilot, just a viewer of what is happening. Hyejoon’s door is burning hot, searing away at the skin of his fingers when he pushes it open. She’s a lump on the floor, crying and coughing and spitting. She’s heavy, so much heavier than Jimin thought she would be. Too heavy. He drags her limp body to the front door, he dislocates her shoulder when he pulls extra hard to get her onto the dirt outside. He hears it pop and crunch. He doesn’t feel bad. Doesn’t even really notice.
He uses his shoulder to break open the first door he sees, grabs hair - anything he can hold on to - and pulls. It’s so loud in here. The screaming in his ears and the deep groan of the building and the ringing in his brain. His head is going to explode. The second Litceten is dragged into the dirt but it’s too late to go back in. The main support beam is falling, the entryway now inaccessible. If anyone is still alive in there, they won’t be for long. And it hurts. Everything hurts.
He’s so tired.
The world is dim. Even as the sun peeks over the edge of the Archelora’s hall, it feels dark and shadowed, as if the brightness has been turned down considerably. The imagery is the same but the colors are all off. Grey. Boring. Nothing.
Jimin’s so tired.
Just as sleep enters his mind he’s being shaken roughly, violently. It takes a minute for his vision to clear and the Archelora to come into focus. “You must wake. I need you.”
Jimin nods, fixated on the Archelora’s sparkly earrings. They’re glimmering in the light. It’s mid-morning now, a golden glow cast over the Litceten area. A look to the left shows the still-burning remnants of the sleeping house. There’s a charred, black shape that seems like it was once a person. Jimin turns away, his stomach twisting into knots. Hyejoon and some other female are laying nearby, dirty with soot and faces red with burns.
“What happened?” It hurts to speak. It feels like glass shards are being rubbed against his throat.
The Archelora frowns, tucking some chin-length black hair behind her ear, which promptly falls down again. “I do not know. But this is not the only place struck by fire in the night. We are under attack.” She looks away and sighs. Her lips are very red, she must wear lipstick. “I fear it may be your vision.”
Jimin just nods. He’s afraid of the pain that will come if he tries to speak again. Two guards flank the Archelora on either side. Jimin is helped to his feet by the armored female, the three others rouse Hyejoon and whoever else that is. Hyejoon’s face is white, eyes too wide. Jimin will see that expression of fear in his nightmares.
“Come, we can not stay here.” The Archelora gestures to the front gate, just past her private residence. The trek is slow, even given how close they are, because Jimin can barely walk and the mystery Litceten is not much better. Her name is Haneun and she’s only been on the campus for a week. Jimin thinks that’s terrible. What a horrible fate for someone so meek and mild. She doesn’t complain though she limps heavily and one of her arms seems a little looser than the other.
Hyejoon cradles her injured shoulder, refusing several offers from the guard to just push the bone back into place. She shuffles over to Jimin as the Archelora helps the guard open the heavy, black gate. “Do you think I’ll see the sunrise tomorrow?”
Jimin’s breath stutters, a shaky exhale. “I don’t know.”
She nods slowly, then looks up and smiles. Tear tracks have cut clean lines through the ash caked onto her cheeks. “So let’s take one last moment to appreciate the sun, then, hmm?”
Her body is warm where she rests her head on Jimin’s shoulder. He feels her exhale slowly, smoothly, face turned towards the sun. It feels good, the rays of golden starlight pressing a gentle heat to his forehead and cheeks. His nose. His chin. His chest. A slight breeze flutters past, interrupting the warmth, but not in a bad way. The slight cooling makes him appreciate the warmth more when it comes back. It’s orange and red behind his eyelids. The ground feels soft and maybe the world isn’t so heavy.
In the background, he can hear music.
“Get back! Go!”
Jimin opens his eyes. Just in time to see the Archelora being lifted off her feet, bits of earth defying gravity. Her eyes are wild and fearful. She flails. And falls. The sound comes later - her scream and the explosion and her body colliding with the dirt. It happens quickly: people in thick black armor storm through the broken gate, they carry guns and beam reflectors and they’re yelling. Jimin is wrestled onto the ground, his chin scraping against a sharp stone causing blood to drip crimson onto the dirt. Hyejoon is screaming.
Jimin tries to struggle with that little strength he has left. He desperately kicks at the person holding him down and is rewarded with a blast of pain in his temple. The world gets hazy and dark, dissolving into nothingness. Hyejoon is still screaming as the world turns black, the sound cutting out abruptly.
Jimin wakes. But he wishes he hadn’t, because immediately he can feel the hard metal cuff around his ankle. He’s been captured. A prisoner.
The room is large and grey. He’s been tossed onto a bed with cream-colored sheets and flat, lifeless pillows. He still wears the sleeping gown he put on before bed. A lot of people have probably seen his nude body by now, not that he isn’t used to it. Still, it feels like he’s been violated. He sits up and hunches over himself, looking around.
The silver cuff around his ankle doesn’t seem like the type of thing he’d be able to break and a thick chain trails from it, disappearing over the edge of the bed. Jimin carefully slides off the bed, the chain clinking with his movements. As he thought, he can’t get very far before the metal leash prohibits him from taking another step. He tries to reach for the drawers of the dresser, just barely out of his range. The room doesn’t have any windows and seems to just be a holding cell, scarcely any furniture and a handle-less door.
Just as he grits his teeth and manages to catch the lip of the tip drawer under his fingernail, there’s rattling at the door. Jimin runs back to the bed, making it seem like he’s been a good little prisoner, not one sneaking around investigating things and trying to open drawers. The door rattles louder and a sharp slam echoes into the room before it jerks open. A pale man is on the other side of it, narrowed black eyes boring holes into the metal door.
“Fucking piece of shit, I’ll throw you out the airlock if you stick on me again.” The man’s withering gaze sweeps over the room and lands on Jimin, who tries not to shudder under the intensity. “So you’re the one.” He smirks. “If you resist, I’ll knock you out and do what I want to that whore body.”
Jimin swallows. He doesn’t mind the threat, he had no intention of running. But being ‘the one’ sounds like it might be something he’s not going to enjoy. He stays perfectly still while the cuff around his ankle is unlatched, a purple bruise blossoming on his skin where the metal dug in. The stranger gestures for him to follow, resting his hand not-so-subtly on a beam reflector tucked into his waistband.
It finally occurs to Jimin that the men who captured him are not from Helasa. Beam reflectors are banned due to their classification as war weapons and no one would be allowed to sport the mark of the Imperial Garden on their breast, over their military-style jacket. A pattern of cracks and black veins shows on the stranger’s neck signaling that he is from the Nether World, from Durutah. He is a Monger, an ancient demon who feeds on pain, both physical and emotional. It would delight this man to no end to torture a being from the astral plane, like Jimin. He would be fed for days, maybe even weeks.
Another stranger passes by them as they turn into a hallway lined with metal and Jimin wants to laugh when he sees ebony cracks on her neck, too. Captured by a ship full of Mongers, what a terrible fate to befall him. The only thing that can help him now is a swift death but these monsters will never give that to him. Jimin starts to feel panic growing in his chest, constricting around his heart.
His eyes catch on a glittering red flower on the wall, petals pointed upwards, reaching towards the sky. This is almost funny; he’s been taken hostage on the fucking Hanabi. He should have just died in the fire. Should have left Hyejoon to burn, rather than be taken here. Jimin hopes she’s already dead, that they killed her on sight. Quick. Painless.
Jimin follows quietly behind the Monger, praying that each step he takes might be his last, that the man will round on him and press the beam reflector into his temple and pull the trigger. He dreams of death. He never imagined that the Hanabi would be run by Mongers, but now he can’t imagine that anything else would make sense. Only the most depraved demons could be responsible for all the horrors of the Hanabi, its legacy is written in blood and flame. It is feared in more galaxies than it has visited.
The hall they travel down is large but claustrophobic, too many metal doors, too many glittering red flowers, too many Mongers passing by with a slight inclination of the head. Jimin hardly processes that they have emerged into something a little different - a large bay area filled with ships and crews and missiles packed onto rolling carts covered with warning tape. It looks like they are preparing for war, dressed in piloting gear and running diagnostic tests on stationary jets. Jimin catches sight of some other forms of demon, Urthrals and Jukaytas, monsters of the Nether World gifted with strength and stamina and glowing yellow eyes.
Curious eyes follow Jimin as he tails close behind the Monger, appraising him. He is in enemy territory. Litces and, to a far greater extent, Litcetens are creatures of the astral plane which are direct and equal opposites of beings from the Nether World. But people from the Nether World don’t usually use the name as it is a bit cliché in many galaxies, rather they call themselves after the specific layer of the Nether World they are from such as Ahmmoda or Durutah or Kjugae. Or they just call themselves demons, which implies where they are from.
Astral beings are not from different layers since the astral plane is flat, but they do resonate with different frequencies of the plane, that’s what causes the music Jimin can hear in his visions. Lopsis Fugas are the beings that can resonate with the highest frequencies of the plane, making them the most powerful of astral beings. Litcetens are a couple ranks below them and Jimin often forgets that he’s one of the most powerful races in the known universe. But, he must not forget, there is a whole flip side to the world, a dark side full of equally as powerful demons. A Monger is technically below a Litceten in terms of raw power, but Litcetens are not gifted with physical attributes, so it doesn’t really matter who ‘ranks’ higher. A Monger could easily kill him. Easily.
“Keep up,” the Monger growls, pulling out the beam reflector from his waistband and inspecting it. Jimin is surprised to see that he’s actually turning it off, the pulsing red glow on the inside of the barrel fading into nothing.
Jimin closes the gap forming between their bodies, trying to push away the idea that all of these demons can see his basically bare ass as he walks by. He should have put on real clothes before bed. Fuck traditional robes. He folds his hands in front of himself to cover his penis as they weave through the jet bay, eventually arriving at a metal door marked with the symbol of the Hanabi, the glittering red flower. Beyond this door is a maze of metal hallways, crowded with demons of various denominations.
It seems like they walk down more hallways decorated with red flowers than could be possible. Maybe this is purgatory, walking naked down endless corridors while demons stare at him, eyes traveling his body up and down like predators knowing they’ve cornered prey. This is a fucking nightmare. Jimin tries to stick close to the Monger but not close enough to touch him.
Eventually, they reach an elevator made of glass, a circular tunnel cut through the floors of the ship. Jimin doesn’t like how close he has to stand to the Monger while they whizz past levels upon levels of the ship. The floor they end up on must be very near the top of the Hanabi, near the navigation and central command. It seems less metal up here. More glass and chrome and glittery red accents. Less industrial and more luxurious.
The Monger leads him a short way to a great red door inlaid with a relief of the flower symbol. He turns to face Jimin, grinning widely, leaning forward into his personal space just a bit too much. The door opens as the Monger pushes his body weight against it, still grinning. He gestures for Jimin to enter.
Jimin hesitates, peeking around the Monger to see into the cavernous space. This is an observation deck, windows allowing an expansive view of the surface of Helasa just below them. The Hanabi is still circling the planet in a low orbit, under the edge of the atmosphere. From this close, Jimin can see the marshlands and the dotted houses of the farmers that tend to the mushrooms and algae plots. He stumbles forward, eyes landing on a farmer he knows. His name is Juuro and he’s often at the market selling choice algae and water flowers. Jimin has talked with him before, laughed with him and made casual conversation about the weather. Juuro stands in the middle of a green plot, up to his waist in water, arm up to shade his eyes from the sun as he tracks the Hanabi slowly across the sky. He doesn’t move, doesn’t scream, doesn’t run. He just stands there.
The smooth wooden floor meets him quickly as he’s tackled from behind. The cut on his chin opens up again, red dripping down his neck and soaking into his thin sleeping dress. Jimin grunts and tries to bite the arm around his throat to no avail. A choked sound leaves his mouth as the arm tightens so much that his air is completely cut off. “Stop struggling,” an amused voice growls into his ear.
Jimin still tries to scratch and kick but his strength is leaving him fast as he’s deprived of oxygen. The arm relaxes and Jimin sucks in a ragged breath, spit dripping down to mix with the blood on his chin. He can only watch as he’s jerked into a kneeling position and forced to look to the right, where all of the other Litcetens are kneeling, hands tied behind their backs. Hyejoon looks gaunt and pale and lifeless. Her eyes are devoid of emotion, while the Archelora’s are full of rage. Jimin struggles, making a pathetic attempt to free himself.
This is his fault. If he had just died in that fucking fire then Hyejoon and Haneun would be at peace, would be dancing in the astral plane with their ancestors. Tears well in his eyes as he stares at them, bound and bruised. When something brushes his cheek he jerks away - tries to.
“Don’t cry, pretty thing.”
Jimin snarls and struggles, glaring murderously up at a new figure; tall and dark-haired and cold looking. This new man strolls over to the edge of the balcony and gestures widely at the horizon. “This planet is so pretty, home to such pretty things, it surprises me that this is the first I’m hearing about it. But now I know why.” He turns abruptly, addressing a line of smartly outfitted militants, probably a council of some kind. “Helasa harbors astral filth.”
The man paces back and forth along the edge of the balcony, arms crossed behind his back. Silver buttons and decorations glint against his black uniform when his figure is caught in the light of the daystar reflecting against the glass roofs of a town far below. The town is Remis, a settlement just south of the main market. The main market. With the lemonade shop.
“If there’s one thing I can’t allow, it’s for the astrals to have this little rock to reproduce on.” The man stops pacing and turns about-face, gazing down at the surface of Helasa. “Blow it up.”
The ship doesn’t move when the cannons are launched. There is no noise, no rattling, no impact. Only red missiles trailing thick grey smoke and orange blasts. In his mind, Jimin can see his vision replaying in slow motion. The Hanabi is at the market near noon on a nameless weekday, blotting out the light of the sun, raining fire down from the sky. The lemonade stand explodes.
It’s Jimin screaming, thrashing in the Monger’s unrelenting hold.
The carnage is something they can’t truly see from up here. But Jimin has already seen it. Charred bodies laying on bits of burnt earth will haunt his daydreams and nightmares, the glittering red flower forever imprinting itself inside his brain. Helasa is burning. Dying. Jimin’s home is on fire, his people, his friends, his parents choking on smoke and being crushed under burning buildings, shredded by falling glass. This is the legacy of the Hanabi.
Jimin can see the smile on the man’s face when he finally tears his gaze away from the orange planet, can see the glow of the wreckage against his skin, the glee in his eyes. The other Litcetens are quiet, tears glittering with the reflection of flames. The Archelora’s face is hard and cold. Empty. Maybe there’s nothing left for her to feel. Maybe she’s tired, just like Jimin.
“That’s enough.” The man at the balcony says, almost under his breath, halting the steady flow of missiles instantly. He turns and eyes the kneeling line of Litcetens, his back to Jimin. He squats down and grabs the Archelora’s chin. “Tell me, which of you is the most powerful?”
The Archelora’s face screws up and she spits at him.
A tense silence spreads in the air. The man stands up and wipes the saliva off his cheek aggressively. “Fine, then. I’ll see for myself.” He goes to the end of the line and towers over Haneun for a moment, before moving on to the next Litcenten as if he’s picking produce from a display. He hums when he reaches the end of the line.
“Hanabi, don’t forget about this one.” The Monger holding Jimin jerks him around, grabbing his hair and forcing his head up.
Hanabi. The man is named after his ship. This is the captain.
“Ahh, yes, I could never forget about you, pretty thing.” Hanabi looks over at him predatorily. He rubs at his chin, shoes clacking against the wooden floor as he approaches. He licks his lips. “This one is the most powerful.” He turns back to the balcony, resting his hands against the metal railing, leaning his weight against it. “That one can live. The rest will burn.”
Jimin hadn’t noticed the ship was moving away from Helasa, too busy watching Hanabi evaluate his fellow Litcetens. They’re quite a distance from the burning planet now, a grey splotch of smoke marking the middle of the otherwise pastel orb. This is the farthest Jimin’s ever been away from home.
Below, under the windows of the control deck, the vividly red glow of a beam cannon begins to grow. It swells quickly, frothing and lashing out with purple electricity, like a strike of lightning. The cannon itself rotates with increasing speed until it’s just a blur. A deep hum fills the air while the energy of the cannon crackles around them. A cannon of this size has only one purpose; it’s a planet-cracker.
Jimin can see the Hanabi’s lips move and see the white of his teeth, glinting red as he smiles, can see his fingers tighten on the railing and his shoulders shift as he leans forward excitedly. He can hear the suffocating silence as the cannon stops spinning and the sizzle of energy across his skin. He can feel the heat of the beam releasing, can see the angry red ball zipping through space like the stream of a comet. He can feel the impact, even from here, as it collides with Helasa.
And it all seems perfectly still and silent, for just a split second. Time is frozen, iced over, and lifeless. But, as with all things, it does not last.
Helasa groans - screams - as she dies. The planet bulges obscenely and shatters, bits of it shooting off in all directions. There is no gravity, no fall, no slow decrease of speed. Bits of buildings and plants and bodies - fucking bodies - blue and twisted and frozen fly casually past the observation windows. Somebody’s little white fucking cat bumps against the glass, collar tag glinting in the sunlight, and gently changes course. Its leg breaks off on impact and goes in a different direction.
“What of the survivors?” One of the officers against the wall asks into the silence.
Hanabi doesn’t even bother to turn around. “There are no survivors.”
Jimin’s breath hitches as the guards holding all the others pull beam reflectors from their waistbands and flick them on in scarily organized synchrony. “No!” He struggles in his Monger prison. “No! Kill me instead! I’m the one you want!”
Hanabi looks over at him and spends a questionably long time staring him down with eyes that are way too black to be anything but Ahmmodan in origin. Ahmmoda is one of the highest levels of the Nether World. The Hanabi is powerful, full of quiet authority, though his species seems to be a mystery.
“Please.” Jimin swallows around a lump in his throat - it might be the arm of the Monger. “Please don’t hurt them. I’ll do whatever you want. Anything.”
Again the Hanabi just stares. There’s something in his cold gaze, something extremely unsettling, something rogue and volatile. It’s soft. Longing.
“Jimin, don’t.” Hyejoon chokes out. She looks tired. She always does. Somehow she wears it well, unlike the others on campus. They always looked closer to asleep than awake but Hyejoon always looked like she owned being tired, looked like a bored queen. It was a trait she shared with the Archelora. Now, though, she just seems exhausted, like she’s spent and drained and a husk of what she used to be. She looks tired of living.
“There are no survivors.”
Jimin can’t react. He can only watch. Hyejoon’s body jerks as they lock eyes, her own filling with blood. A ghost of a smile stretches her lips before her eyes roll back and crimson fluid pours down her cheeks because her brain is cooked, juice pouring out of every orifice. The beam reflector has boiled the liquid inside her skull. Blood flows from her nose and mouth like a faucet, staining her clothes. Her head falls back and what’s left of her brain falls out of the hole in the bone, plopping onto the floor.
It’s so loud. Too loud. Too much pressure pushing in from all sides. A screaming buzz inside his ears. Skull rattling. Skin too tight. Blood in his mouth. Pain in his temple. Rage in his veins. The Hanabi in his mind’s eye.
“Why are you saving one?”
Jimin can’t look anywhere else but Hyejoon’s limp, dead body. His breath is shallow and fast, the world is growing dim.
“Because I said so.”
“Would it not be more prudent to exterminate them all? We can’t have any loose ends here.”
“I do not fear loose ends, that is why I am captain.”
“He could lead others to us. They may be able to locate him.”
“If someone comes for him then we can use him as a bargaining chip.”
“Sir, I really must insist. If you will not exterminate him, then I will do it for you.” A rustle and the gentle hum of a beam reflector powering up.
“If you dare to defy me, then you sign your own death warrant. I will not have disloyalty amongst my council.” A sharp clang. “In fact, I’ve had enough of you already.” There’s a click followed by a soft thud, a murmur of gasps, and tense silence. “Does anyone else have something to say?” Hanabi scoffs, “Set a course for Morm Acra and take that Litceten to the upper rooms, I don’t care which one.”
Morm Acra is a supply outpost floating in space somewhere near Oliste, the capital planet of the Gharr galaxy. Gharr is a neighboring galaxy not too far away from the one Helasa was in, Kurgist. The only reason Jimin knows this is because Helasa was a rest stop for some larger ships headed there.
Helasa is gone. Jimin’s parents are gone. His friends are gone. His home is gone. The wet garden pool he used to soak in, the bioluminescent slugs, the algae plots, the twisting pale trees with delicate white flowers that bloom in the chilly winter month, all of it gone.
The Hanabi has taken everything from Jimin.
Jimin wakes with a throbbing pain in his temple. The Monger in charge of keeping him still knocked him out after he tried to lunge at Hanabi in a fit of rage. It hurts where the butt of the beam reflector was bashed against his skull but it did end up giving him some time to sleep without being plagued by nightmares. Hyejoon’s dead body is probably the only thing he’ll ever see now when he closes his eyes. He can kiss sleeping soundly goodbye.
The room they’ve dumped him in is large and luxurious, decorated with shiny steel and dark lacquered wooden furniture. Jimin doesn’t like this industrial design style, he misses the soft clay color of the wet garden contrasting with the vivid green of the plants and gentle pastel of flowers. The floor is polished concrete, cold under his feet when he stands. He takes a step and then looks down in response to the abrasive clinking sound. Once again, a thick metal cuff is secured around his ankle but this time the inside is coated with padding to protect his skin.
Jimin tests how far he can stray from the bed and finds that his new leash is much longer, allowing him to press himself fully against each wall without resistance. There’s a gap under the door in the bathroom so his chain doesn’t get caught. How fucking thoughtful.
A small porthole window shows him the deep blackness of space populated with sparkling stars. No planets or galaxies in sight, just empty space. And that reminds him again that the universe is one planet fewer now. Helasa is gone, destroyed. Things seem less bright, heavier, harder - Jimin’s motivation has vanished. He feels hollow inside. A shell. Helasa will never come back, not even a Lopsis Fuga could help him now, not that he knows any anyways. And it finally dawns on him that he’s homeless, there is nowhere for him to go. He has no possessions, no clothes, no family pictures. Just a sleeping dress.
He should have died in the fire.
The sound of the door opening makes him jump, every move he makes causes the chain to drag across the floor, clinking and scraping. The Monger from before stands ominously in the entryway, staring him down. A chunk of bread is thrown onto the thin white sheets of the bed and the door is slammed closed. Jimin scoffs and eyes the food with disgust, turning back to the window.
The room, Jimin discovers quickly, is really not as interesting as it had seemed. The furniture is all empty and the bathroom holds nothing of value, only a dried out bar of soap that could be an antique judging by the deep cracks in the surface. The ship never seems to sail past anything other than stars and, even then, they seem to repeat every few hours. Jimin spends his time meditating and trying to sleep. He has deposited the bread into one of the dresser drawers so he doesn’t get into trouble for wasting it.
The first day seems to last a lifetime and Jimin’s attempts at sleep are short-lived until he’s simply so exhausted he passes out. In his nightmare he watches Hyejoon die over and over again, her brain plopping onto the floorboards and then into Jimin’s hands and then into his mouth. He wakes suddenly, runs to the bathroom, and throws up in the toilet, quiet tears streaming down his cheeks. He gags, stomach empty, for a long while as the images repeat without mercy.
A long stretch of time exists where Jimin is alone in the room with just himself and his thoughts. He can’t sleep, can’t sit still, can’t meditate. It’s almost a welcome development when the Monger comes back with another chunk of bread, staring beadily at him for too long. This becomes his daily routine, hiding bread chunks in the dresser and wasting away on the bed, watching the same pattern of stars for hours on end. The fire of the astral plane is starting to bleed into his veins. Soon he will need to see and will be forced to beg for pleasure so that he can connect with the astral plane. However, a Monger would never give that to him. It’s likely that he’ll suffer until he dies, drained of energy and starved of the nourishment he gets from the plane.
Jimin’s carefully crafted meditation silence is broken by the door banging open, the usual Monger standing in stark contrast to the brightly lit hallway. He carries a bread chunk in one hand and a beam reflector in the other, a departure from its normal place in his waistband. Maybe they found out about all the rotting bread in the dresser and have come to punish him.
This time, instead of tossing the bread onto the sheets, the Monger hesitantly steps into the room and closes the door behind himself. He flicks on the reflector, the red light starting to pulse inside the barrel. “Lay down.”
Jimin scowls. A flash of black eyes fill his mind completely, as if they’re appearing right in front of his face. “No.”
The Monger bears his teeth, “Lay down or I take this bread back to the kitchen.”
Jimin snorts. “Take it back, then. I’m busy.”
It only takes a second for the Monger to be across the room, pressing the warm barrel of the reflector against his temple, face too close. He smells like steel and chemicals. A fist is wrapped around a chunk of the thin fabric of his sleeping dress, keeping him in place. “Don’t argue with me. I won’t hesitate to get rid of you.”
Still, Jimin keeps pushing the Monger’s buttons, hoping that if he keeps it up this demon will lose his cool and pull the trigger. “I’m not scared of you.”
The Monger leans even closer. His breath is laced with meat and spices from a recent meal. “I know you’re hungry, Litceten. But so am I.” He pinches hard at Jimin’s thigh, enough to draw blood instantly. A smile blooms on his mouth when Jimin screams, trying to fight him off. “Delicious.”
“Get off me!” Jimin turns as far away from the Monger as he can, pushing at his chest.
“Cooperate and I won’t hurt you.” The hand pinching his thigh moves up and cups his soft cock through the sleeping dress. It feels wrong. A frustrated pressure builds inside Jimin’s brain, fear slithering into his heart, tears spilling over his lash line. “Your fear tastes so good, Litceten. No wonder Hanabi was so set on keeping you. Maybe he could taste this, too.”
Jimin sobs when the hand on his cock starts to knead at the flesh. There’s nothing he can do other than take it. He should have died in the fire. The door is blasted open, the metal screaming with impact, bulging and warping. Hanabi seems taller when framed by smouldering silver, his eyes seem blacker.
He crosses the room and takes an animalistic swipe at the confused Monger’s head. Jimin is sure he sees pale claws instead of fingernails but then it’s just a flurry of movement on the floor, blood spurting into the air and gargled cries. The Hanabi has both hands wrapped around the throat of the struggling Monger. Both of the crew member’s eyes have been gouged out and cuts circle his bleeding sockets. Hanabi’s thumbs puncture the front of the Monger’s jugular and he pulls it apart viciously, spraying blood everywhere and nearly decapitating his crew. He’s smiling, all teeth and hard, emotionless eyes.
Hanabi looks up, chin splattered with red. “Are you okay?”
Jimin’s gaze flickers back to the mess of a Monger on the floor and then back to Hanabi. He huffs a laugh, “I’m just fuckin’ peachy. When can I go home?” Hanabi’s eyes seem to widen. “Oh, wait, you blew it up.”
Hanabi swallows audibly and looks at the floor. Wavy black hair hangs in his face - it was tied back before, on the observation deck. “My intention was not to hurt you.”
“Go fuck yourself. You blew up my home planet and then dare to have the audacity to tell me you didn’t intend to hurt me after your Monger pet molests me?” Jimin feels a wave of saliva flood into his mouth and he spits at Hanabi. He’s playing a dangerous game, almost begging the captain to kill him. Jimin wants to be dead.
“I am not a Monger. I do not feed on pain like those animals do.” Hanabi narrows his eyes. “I will never hurt you.”
“Just leave me alone! Kill me or go away!” Jimin clenches his fists. He doesn’t want mercy from the man who stole everything from him, killed his friends while he watched helplessly, smiled when he gave the order to shoot.
Hanabi licks his lips, a quick flick of his tongue. “At least allow me to escort you to a different room. Then I will leave you alone.”
Jimin wants to argue, wants to say no, and be petulant just because he can. But he indeed would prefer not to continue being in the same room as the body of the Monger who tried to rape him. “Take me to another room and then leave me alone. I don’t want to see you ever again.”
Hanabi just nods, producing a key from his inner breast pocket to unlock the chain around Jimin’s ankle. The metal clatters onto the concrete and Jimin rubs at the tender skin, looking up when Hanabi offers him the black uniform jacket he was wearing. “My crew has seen more than enough of your body in that dress.”
Jimin wants to take the jacket and rip all the seams out, toss it into an open airlock, just to give some small suffering to Hanabi. But, instead, he takes the jacket and slips it over his nearly nude frame. It’s still warm from Hanabi’s body heat and smells of crisp water, mint, and moss. The fabric is rough and heavy in true military fashion, hanging all the way to Jimin’s knees. At least he’s sufficiently covered up now.
The hallway outside the room is steel, punctuated by sections of glass that reveal offices, people with headsets peering closely at multi-screen displays. Mongers and other denominations of demon bow deeply to Hanabi as they pass by. One of them, after his bow, joins the captain in step. “Rage rolls off you in waves, Sir. Anything to know?”
Hanabi grunts, “Clean up the fucking mess in room 2A. I want it put on record that anyone who touches the Litceten will be dinner for the crew.” The captain rubs at the back of his neck, flexing his shoulders.
“Noted. Anything else?” The Monger gives a quick glance at Jimin but says nothing to him.
“The Herald room is to be sealed immediately.” Hanabi lets out a huff of frustration, “How close are we to Morm Acra?”
“About two days out, Sir.”
“Make it one.” Hanabi waves his hand at the Monger, shooing him away. The man bows again and turns away down a skinny corridor between glass offices.
Jimin scowls when they arrive at a set of doors inlaid with motifs of the red flower. Hanabi opens the doors and gestures from him to come inside. The interior appears to be a sitting room with plush red couches and poufs framing the narrow hall, at the end is a towering painting of the Hanabi, glaring down at anyone who dares to sit on the benches. An ethnic style carpet hushes their steps and dark wooden walls mark a sudden departure from the industrial style of the previous rooms.
The end of the hall has twin doors facing each other, one on either side. Hanabi takes him to the door on the right, a unique carving of a nameless day star decorating the wood. Beyond the door is a luxe room in shades of black, silver, and red. A wide window at the far end shows the deep expanse of space with the pale blue orb of Oliste hanging in the middle. They’re quite far from where Helasa used to be - in an entirely different galaxy to be exact. Gharr is a Nether galaxy, which is surely why the Hanabi is speeding towards it after blowing up an astral planet. Here, the Hanabi will not be actively hunted or turned in. The UNNO - Universal Network Neutrality Organization - the intergalactic police force, has been after the Hanabi for longer than Jimin can remember.
“I hope this room is to your liking. You’ll find clothes in the dresser and the bathroom fully stocked. I know you don’t eat, but if you would like food, let me know. I’ll come check on you in a few hours, then I will leave you alone.” Hanabi hesitates by the door, licking his lips, perhaps waiting for Jimin to say something. The air is tense and awkward until Hanabi exists, leaving Jimin in silence.
After he stands there, alone in the middle of the room, Jimin finally realizes how tired he is. He mindlessly climbs onto the bed and is asleep in seconds, not even able to get under the sheets. And, instead of dreaming about Hyejoon’s death or the explosion of his home, Jimin dreams of water. It’s deep and dark but familiar - warm and strong and perfect, pushing at him from all sides. The water turns hot quickly, turns red, and starts frothing around him.
Jimin sits up fast, breathing shallowly, sweat dripping down his temples. Someone is knocking at the door. The carpet is soft under his feet when he slides off the bed and treads lightly up to it. He presses his palms against the wood, trying to determine who it might be.
“I’m just checking on you. You don’t have to open the door.” Hanabi’s smooth voice carries from the other side.
Jimin’s knees feel weak. He’s tired. “I’m fine. Now leave me alone.”
The Hanabi takes a breath, as if he’s preparing to respond, but doesn’t. His quiet footfalls fade down the hallway into nothingness. Jimin drags himself back to the bed. He still hasn’t taken off the black jacket Hanabi gave him and he doesn’t plan to. Instead he sleeps, because it’s the only thing he has the energy left to do.
A Litceten can go into a hibernation state if deprived of astral energy for long enough - or if they actively force themselves to - and Jimin is rapidly approaching that point. He tries to scrape his last shreds of sanity together to formulate a plan to get off the ship. When it docks at Morm Acra, a cable line will likely be attached to the nose of the ship, to keep it from bumping into others. Jimin could reasonably sneak out of here and crawl through the vent to get to the cable clip, using the thick wire as a rope to freedom. Easier said than done, but worth a shot. So he goes into hibernation, hoping that some miracle will wake him up in time.
Contrary to a lot of other species, Litcetens can dream when they hibernate. And Jimin’s dream is of a deep lake framed by black rocks and scaly-looking trees. He dives under the surface and sees a thick width of smooth, teal skin - poreless and slimy. Bits of fins and claws, bubbles rise from the depths. A creature lives here but Jimin does not fear it, no, instead he fears the net and the needle and the void. Jimin floats peacefully with the sea monster at the bottom of the lake. Sometimes it moves, sometimes it shifts, sometimes it sighs with a great rush of current. It’s peaceful and warm here. Perfect.
The water rumbles and shakes. The sea monster sinks down into the abyss, away from him. A great hand plunges into the lake and grabs Jimin, pulling and pulling until he breaks the surface of the water. Jimin blinks and sputters, peering at the dark surroundings. He’s on his knees on the floor of the room he was given on the Hanabi, the warship that destroyed his home and all he holds dear. The window shows the nothingness of space, not the inside of a supply outpost. Fuck, he missed his chance. The ship is probably stocked for months now.
Jimin gags so hard that tears well in his eyes. It’s his body telling him that he must see, he must connect with the astral plane or he will die. He feels hollow, like all his insides have been forcefully scooped out. Very briefly, Jimin considers tapping into his emergency reserves - the part of his brain that holds on to all the excess energy he gets from a vision. He makes himself forget about this part of himself because the reserve is finite and once he runs it dry, that part of his brain will close forever. Now is not the time.
Jimin crawls over to the bay window and presses his hands against it. The glass is cold against his skin. Somewhere far away, he can hear music - the astral plane has something to show him, offers him a gift for his suffering. Jimin closes his eyes and focuses his mind to the frequency of the plane that he can read and interact with. It’s all around him, always, he just needs a little help making contact. A distinct energy signature approaches, a void of pale blue, something from the Nether World, something powerful and ancient.
A soft knock at the door disrupts Jimin’s careful focus. “Litceten, do you need anything?”
Hanabi's voice seems measured and careful. And it occurs to him finally that the captain is likely the only one who can help. Jimin must turn to the man who destroyed his home if he wants to survive. Selfishly, Jimin wants to keep living, wants to be the only Litceten left. Wants to be a legacy for his fallen brethren. “Come in.”
The door opens slowly and Hanabi steps cautiously inside. He lingers by the door, “What can I help you with?”
Hanabi is wearing a thin white shirt and some slouchy black pants, a notable departure from his crisp uniform. It may be the middle of the night according to the ship’s clock. Jimin realizes he’s still wearing the black jacket. “You know my kind. I must see soon.”
Hanabi sighs heavily and rubs his face in his hands. There’s a mark of black ink on his arm, but he’s too far away to make it out clearly. His hair is tied back again, strong brows on display. “I’m not sure you want me to help with that.”
Jimin huffs a laugh. “I don’t. But I have no other choice.”
“One of my staff could -”
“A Monger will not touch me. Ever.”
Hanabi nods quickly. “There are other species on the ship. A couple Jukyatas work in the kitchens and, if you prefer a female form, there’s a dorm of Reewts on the lower decks. I can give you a list to choose from if you need.” Hanabi wrings his hands, twisting them into the hem of his shirt and flashing a strip of tanned skin. He’s nervous.
“And what species are you?” Jimin watches intently as Hanabi freezes and starts twisting his shirt with renewed vigor. It’s quiet until he sighs and drops his arms.
“Can’t you tell?” Hanabi steps closer and closer until Jimin can smell him. Water and moss and mint. Pale blue energy.
Jimin reaches out to touch Hanabi’s bare arm, reeling the moment he makes contact. The captain of the Hanabi warship is a Leviathan, a long-dead species shrouded in mystery and blessed with ancient power. And Jimin knows now why it seems like no one knows the captain’s species. Leviathans are considered traitors to the Nether World. If anyone did find out, Hanabi would be crucified instantly, hunted down and tortured by the Mongers. But that’s not the part that has tears pouring down Jimin’s cheeks.
Hanabi saved him. Leviathans mate for life. They are the destined partner of a Litceten, capable of shouldering the pain of a vision so that their partner only feels pleasure. Jimin could never get pregnant, except by a Leviathan. Out of all the Litcetens, Hanabi chose him because he intends to mate. But -
Jimin narrows his eyes. “Why did you kill the others?”
Hanabi clenches his fists and swallows thickly. “The council of the Imperial Garden asked me to. No one can know what I am. I had to.”
“You enjoyed it.”
Hanabi looks down, shifting his weight. “It is my nature to destroy. I take pleasure in destruction.” He licks his lips.
Jimin shakes his head. He wouldn’t mind jumping naked out of an airlock right now. “You killed my family, my friends, made me fucking watch.”
Hanabi lets out a rough exhale, “I know what I did to you! I stay up at night plagued by wonderings of what I could have done differently! I looked for Lopsis Fugas but the ship would never reach one in time to fix the damage!” He starts pacing in front of the window. “I tried to fix it. There’s nothing I can do. I’m sorry.”
Jimin watches him pace, frustration rolling off him in thick waves. “I’ll never forgive you.”
Hanabi’s breath hitches, “I know.”
“I’ll never mate with you.”
“Make me see. Then drop me off at the next planet. I’d rather take my chances than stay here with my family’s killer.” Jimin watches Hanabi lick his lips and swallow. His eyes seem glassy and wet.
Jimin stands on shaky legs, using the window for support. He shrugs off the jacket and pulls the sleeping dress over his head. He’s naked in front of Hanabi, who looks stunned. Slowly, the captain sheds his shirt and steps out of the loose pants. He’s surprisingly muscular, tattoos decorating the left side of his body, typical of older demons. They show the solar system where he was born, stretching around his ribcage and down his arm. The constellation of Kilse, the Leviathan, is a zig-zag of empty points set in a splash of ink over his left breast.
Hanabi slowly reaches out and trails his fingertips over Jimin’s shoulder. A daystar peeks around the edge of the window as the ship slowly travels through space. The illumination means that Jimin’s purple glitters are showing, probably enticing Hanabi more than he cares to let on. The Leviathan’s touch is warm and gentle and feels like bits of electricity. A stab of pleasure makes Jimin gasp, opening his eyes to see Hanabi’s bottom lip caught between his teeth and the light of the nameless star dappling across his face. Only now can Jimin see the scar on his cheek.
Hanabi pulls him close, skin on skin. Somehow Jimin is surprised at how warm and soft the Leviathan is, expecting him to be hard and cold. His touch feels good, feels like they’re already having sex. Jimin moans before he realizes what he’s doing, rushing forward to connect their mouths. An intense craving zips down Jimin’s spine, making him arch forward into Hanabi’s body, desperate for touch. This feels so good. There’s music in the distance.
Hanabi tastes like crisp water and mint. The air seems especially humid right now, clinging to their skin. Jimin makes a noise of surprise when Hanabi picks him up with ease and dumps him on the bed, immediately caging him from above, licking up the column of his throat. Jimin spreads his legs on instinct but Hanabi doesn’t take the bait. He continues to lick and nuzzle at Jimin’s skin, nipping his shoulders and sucking bruises onto his chest. This must be what normal, non-Litceten sex is like.
“Make me see.” Jimin’s breath is fast. It’s going to be so easy for Hanabi to push him over the edge. “Please.”
Hanabi’s cock twitches against Jimin’s thigh and he finally lines himself up, pumping his length a few times for good measure. The initial stretch has Jimin scrabbling for a hold on the sheets, his muscles contracting without his permission. Fuck it feels so good, slippery and wet. Hanabi was bigger than he appeared to be. He doesn’t feel like a Litce, that’s for sure. When the Leviathan bottoms out he makes a noise that he likely didn’t intend to make - a high, keening whine, a plea. “Oh, Jimin.”
Hanabi finds his mouth again and all Jimin can do is hang on tight. He’s never been fucked like this and probably won’t ever be again. A Leviathan is designed to give him the most pleasure but the breed is dead, matched now by Litcetens. That’s what Jimin still doesn’t understand; as a Leviathan, Hanabi should have been vehemently against destroying the home planet of his species’ destined partners. It makes no sense.
A Leviathan desires astral energy above all else, will kill without hesitation for just a taste. But for this, for the desire to mate with astral beings and feed on energy rather than pain or flesh, the Leviathan was considered a traitor to the Nether World, and the species was hunted into extinction. On Helasa, the eradication movement against Leviathans brought a lot of unwanted visitors searching for traitors so Leviathans were banned and marked as a cursed species. Long ago Jimin’s ancestors were involved with the last remaining Leviathans on Helasa, a secret passed down all the way to him, which is the only reason he knows about them at all, the only reason he knows he could get pregnant from one.
Right now, Hanabi is finally tasting the thing he’s been craving since the moment he was born, which might explain his wild thrusts and the presence of teeth at Jimin’s shoulder. It’s quiet. Slow. Jimin walks away, towards the music, watches it dance around him in fluttering shapes and colors. He sits down and hums along with the tune. The notes get brighter until they’re blending together, basking Jimin in a soft white light.
There’s a face so familiar. Pale, milky skin and large, round black eyes. Lips that turn up at the corners but turn down in general. Long black hair tied with red ribbons and flowers. White fur. Red fur. Gold paint. Regal. Powerful. Ancient.
The unknown figure glides towards a larger than life blue crystal with white veins teetering on the edge of a tower. The tower is made of crystal. Hands raise in the air, long black nails tapering into needle points. A third eye opens on the figure’s forehead, black with a galaxy in the middle. A Lopsis Fuga.
“I see all and all see me. You are not alone. Seek me. Bring me the shattered pieces of your species.”
Faces fly by, unknown and random in their features. Long ears punctuated with jewels and silver. Purple flash. Litcetens.
Jimin gasps, struggling for breath. He needs to get off the ship. There are other Litcetens out there, the Lopsis Fuga showed him as much. Their face was so familiar - Jimin could swear he had seen it before. It must have been on Helasa or some intergalaxy broadcast, they must be important. All Lopsis Fugas are important since they directly control the passage of time but the older ones are regarded as deities or gods in many cultures.
The air is heavy with sweat and sex and faded music. Jimin’s slow heartbeat thuds lethargically in his chest. It didn’t stop this time. He didn’t die like he normally does.
“Litceten.” Hanabi trails his lips over Jimin’s shoulder. His body is hot and slick with sweat. “I’ve been so hungry.” He presses his hips forward and Jimin feels the cock inside him pulse, slippery cum flooding into him. “So fucking hungry.”
Jimin realizes quickly that he just gave the person who destroyed his home a free meal complete with a side of sex. He feels like vomiting. “Get off.”
Hanabi raises his head and scowls down at Jimin, slowly disentangling their bodies. He winces when the Leviathan pulls out, hating how empty he feels. Hanabi stands awkwardly at the side of the bed, licking his lips. “Do you want me to bring you anything?”
“I want you to bring me to the next planet and leave me there.” Jimin takes a few gulps of air. “I don’t ever want to see you again.”
Hanabi looks at the floor and swallows loudly. “I understand.” He grabs his clothes off the carpet and hastily exits the room, leaving Jimin exhausted on the bed. At least the astral fire in his veins is gone now.
He slips easily into a deep sleep, full and sated, surrounded by water and the smooth green skin of the creature in the lake. Bubbles wiggle through the water towards the surface and only a hint of sunlight illuminates the green waterscape around him. He can’t see the depths but he doesn’t need to. This water is a safety net, a guardian encircling his small, nude body.
Litcetens have long had a love for water and humidity. Heated pools are how they relax and swimming is a natural talent, Litcetens are born instinctively knowing how to do it. A large portion of Helasa was covered in marshlands and swamps which led to water crops and flowers being the majority of their exports. Water is extremely comforting to Jimin.
The lake shifts and the giant hand pulls him out of the liquid once more. Jimin gasps and looks around, scowling in response to a strange scraping noise on the far wall, across from the bed. Jimin creeps over to the dresser to gather some clothes, which he discovers to be items very similar to what he would wear on Helasa. The red fabric of a flowy dress glides over his skin, pooling around his feet. He grabs a fistful of the skirt to hold it out of the way while he tip-toes to the door and presses his ear against it. The scraping is louder, just to the left. Someone is grumbling but it doesn’t sound like Hanabi.
Jimin turns the door handle carefully and cracks it open just enough to see out. A Monger is currently scrubbing at the wall with a bristle brush, a pail sitting on the wood by his shoes. The man has curly black hair that seems too long for him to see clearly. He grumbles again, muttering under his breath. Jimin’s eyes wander away from the Monger to a red lump on the floor, and another and another and another. A leg, a bone, sinue, mush. The hallway is a massacre.
“Fuck me, honestly. Always has me doing the stupidest jobs. Fuckin’ clean up your own crime scene.” The Monger kneels down and swirls the brush around in the pail. The bristles are red. “Dumb bullshit.” The Monger’s eyes suddenly cut to the left and he glares directly at Jimin before breaking into a predatory smile. “Sorry. Was I bothering you?”
Jimin shakes his head, unsure of how to respond. “Not really. I was sleeping.”
The Monger nods rapidly. “I’m almost done. Captain wanted this cleaned as soon as possible.”
Jimin thinks about closing the door but he hesitates. “Hanabi did this?”
“He must have been really pissed off. Usually, he does his business down in the pit.” The Monger stops scrubbing for a moment, pursing his lips before he speaks. “He can be very scary sometimes.” The brush is dropped into the bucket and the Monger leans against the now clean wall, crossing his arms over his chest. “Are you a prisoner or something?”
Jimin feels his face turn into a scowl. “None of your business.” He makes to close the door but the Monger speaks again.
“I can get you off of here.” He points to the various chunks of flesh on the floor. “It’s only so long before he does this to you, too. I wouldn’t want the blood of the last Litceten on my hands, I do have some conscience, you know.”
“I don’t trust Mongers.”
“Well, you can trust me. I’m Hanabi’s right-hand man.” He raises an eyebrow as if daring Jimin to disagree. “My name is Taehyung.”
“How would you do it? Get me off here?” Jimin narrows his eyes, still not trusting the Monger’s words.
“Easy. I have a pod clearance pass. I could jettison you to any planet within range.” He smirks.
“What planet are we closest to right now?” Truthfully Jimin has no idea where they are and he would prefer to be dropped off on a planet with some communicative life.
“Mmm, probably Yreu. We won’t be stopping there but we will pass by in a few day cycles if you’re interested.” Yreu is a desolate hunk of rock once used to mine precious metals. Nothing at all lives there. Only the relics of the mining heyday populate the surface. The Monger knows this for sure.
“No. Not there.”
Taehyung’s predatory smile is back. “Then you’ll have to stay on the ship for a while as we navigate the asteroid sector.” A roar shatters the air, a livid scream from a great beast. “Hanabi’s still pissed. I wouldn’t mention that we talked.” He turns and goes back to his work, dragging the bucket to the other side of the hall and wetting the brush again.
Jimin closes the door and leans his weight against it. Hanabi’s going to dump him on Yreu, a chunk of rock with no open communication channels. He’ll die down there, slowly starve to death. A pitiful way to go.
Just as he’s resigning himself to a painful death, the main doors to the hall bang open. “Sir, I am almost done in here. I was-”
“Get out of my sight before I kill you.” Hanabi’s rough growl saturates the air. There’s silence until a soft knock makes Jimin gasp. “Litceten, can I talk to you for a second?”
Jimin’s heartbeat is fast and his breath shallow and he’ll blame the light scare for that. “Talk.”
Hanabi sighs on the other side of the door. “I took a look at our navigation and the only planet before the asteroid sector is Yreu and I’m not sure, no matter how much you hate me, that you want to be dropped off there.”
Jimin hugs his knees to his chest, resting his chin atop them. “I don’t.”
“Well, we can’t turn the ship around this close to the asteroids. I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait until we’ve passed through it.” Hanabi sounds frustrated. His tone is clipped.
“Take me to the Lopsis Fugas.”
“Okay.” The Leviathan sounds like he’s breathing a sigh of relief. “I’ll let the navigator know.”
Jimin looks at his hands, watches his fingers curl into fists. “Did you really kill someone in the hallway?”
“Umm.” Jimin can hear how Hanabi is shifting his weight. “I told you before that destruction is in my nature. I didn’t really mean to.”
Hanabi gasps. “I didn’t-” He huffs and walks away, “Fuck!” A sharp slam reverberates as he closes the hallway doors.
Jimin sits in silence for a while until he hears Taehyung come back and start scrubbing the walls again. The sound of the brush against the wood irritates him so he crawls over to the window and lays down in front of it, using Hanabi’s jacket as a blanket. It smells nice.
In Litce culture, giving gifts is how you celebrate, give thanks, and express love. The gift is usually small and useful, like a vial of bath salts or spices, flowers or glasses of lemonade. Big gifts are reserved for birthdays and larger celebrations such as unions - often called marriage in other galaxies. Trading ships were a hot commodity for such occasions as they often carried rare trinkets or crystals, ideal for gifting. Jimin’s favorite ships were the ones from fire galaxies, where a day star burns much hotter than the one that warmed Helasa. They had collections of colored flame in glass orbs and chunks of raw metals in sparkling colors, not to mention the rare fire flower seed or two. He once gave a seed to Hyejoon, who planted it in the wet garden, but - maybe they should have predicted - it did not survive well in the cool, misty environment.
In the lake with the creature, Jimin sees the fire flower blooming beautifully, reaching up from the depths, petals pointed towards the surface of the water. The flower is so familiar, thin red petals like needles, thick green stem. The creature in the abyss moves around him, like a smooth, scale-less snake. Jimin sees a flash of snout below him, reminiscent of a lizard or crocodile, between giant coils of body. The creature doesn’t seem to have gills of any kind but then again Jimin hasn’t been able to see very much of it, hiding down in the darkness. Maybe it’s shy, taking comfort in Jimin’s presence, just as he does with it. They share this watery space, parallel, never quite interacting. Just existing together.
The fire flower starts to leak redness into the water as if it’s bleeding, mist slowly drifting to Jimin’s body with the current. He doesn’t like the flower anymore. It seems predatory and false, riddled with pretend smiles, hiding teeth behind thin petals. Jimin tries to swim away from the flower, down to the depths where the creature’s coils are tighter around him. But he doesn’t make it far before the great hand is plunging down to grab him and pull him out of the water.
Jimin sits up suddenly. Someone is knocking at the door. “Hello?” Jimin’s voice comes out pitchy and rushed.
“Litceten, are you okay?” Hanabi’s voice is scratchy and slow, as if he’s been sleeping.
“I’m fine.” Jimin doesn’t even believe himself.
“You’re upset.” Jimin can see the shadow of Hanabi’s feet in the crack beneath the door.
Anger floods his veins and he feels more awake than he has in months, “Yeah, I’m fucking upset! You blew up my home! You’ve kept me prisoner on your stupid warship for I don’t even know how long!”
“I am letting you go.” Hanabi sounds like he’s speaking through clenched teeth. “Do you have any idea how difficult that will be? I would have my ship circle the Lopsis Fugas for all eternity if it means I can be close to you.”
“You don’t deserve to be close to me.” Jimin hisses back. “I will never, ever mate with you.”
Hanabi doesn’t say anything, he just walks away. And just when Jimin is starting to come down from his momentary high, the ship rattles with the sound of a beastly scream - a shriek that could easily paralyze someone with fear. The sound is heavy with bass, signalling the size of the creature that created it. A Leviathan is a monster with a human skin, true to their demonic nature.
In the moments after the piercing sound, the ship seems a lot more alive. If Jimin concentrates, he can see the energy voids, called auras, of workers rushing by the outside hall. A red signature is from a Monger and a yellow one is from a Jukyata. An occasional flash of tan or dark green speaks of other species but Jimin doesn’t recognize them. He hasn’t had a lot of experience with the outside world, mostly his knowledge comes from books or broadcasts. A darker color of energy usually means a more powerful demon and a lighter one shows a more powerful astral being.
Overall, the ship seems like it’s mostly run by Mongers with a Jukyata or two mainly for manual labor. Hanabi mentioned there being Reewts here, probably for ‘comforting’ the crew, since they feast on dreams and can easily put people to sleep. Other than those species, Jimin hasn’t seen or sensed anything very powerful - other than Hanabi. Then again, he’s been reeling from the destruction of his entire world so he may have missed something.
Mongers usually have an ego problem, it just goes with the species. They are probably so busy squabbling amongst themselves that they haven’t looked much into Hanabi. After all, there are only so many species - eventually, they would figure it out. However, the good thing about the Nether World, for Hanabi at least, is the existence of extants and precursors. The deeper realms of the demons are a genetic cesspit, prone to mixing and mutating, creating new abominations every few years. Hanabi could be a crossbreed for all they know, which is a lie he probably hides behind as it is.
It is a bit ‘on the nose’ for Hanabi to have the Leviathan constellation on his breast, though. That was a decision he made, demons are not born with tattoos or forced to have X, Y, or Z inked onto them because of their species or home world. Yes, it is very typical to have your home system on your body but constellations are considered to be decorations. Jimin never got a good look at Hanabi’s back but he imagines there are all kinds of interesting items for him to look at across the expanse of skin. Jimin shakes himself, disgusted with his perverse train of thought.
Afraid to continue on such a path, he makes a choice to go into hibernation and float in the lake with the creature. The flower is gone and the smooth coils of flesh seem larger, closer. Jimin swims up to one and reaches out to touch it. It’s slimy and slippery under his fingertips. The creature seems to shudder, a ripple flowing through its flesh from where Jimin touched. It shifts, swirling around him, constricting comfortingly. This creature makes him feel safe.
Jimin tries to swim away from the pale hand that breaches the water, it wants to take him away from his place of safety. But he’s slow in the water, caught easily and pulled quickly into the cold air. He coughs and wheezes, peering around in the darkness. Outside the window, an asteroid hurtles towards him, red tail aflame with speed. A beam shatters it instantly before it gets too close.
Even a warship has to go slow in the asteroid sector so the guns can be turned for movement to catch the rocks whizzing through space. Missing just one could be deadly and the temptation to just zoom through it has cost many crews their lives. Space may have been conquered but it is still extremely dangerous.
A soft knock has Jimin gasping. “Litceten, can I bother you for a moment?”
Jimin narrows his eyes at the door. “You just talked to me yesterday. What is it now?”
Hanabi pauses for a moment, “Yesterday? The last time I spoke with you was almost a week ago. Anyways, I just wanted to give you an update that we’ll arrive at Tas Undae in two days.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks.” Jimin relaxes his body. Tas Undae is a Lopsis Fuga domain, their capital to be exact. It seems Hanabi was actually being serious about letting him off the warship, which he didn’t expect.
Tas Undae is not a planet, rather a pulsing chunk of ancient crystallized energy floating in space modified to produce a low oxygen field. It’ll be difficult for Jimin to breathe but he will still be able to. Lopsis Fugas don’t breathe oxygen, rather they survive off of pure energy, from both sides. They are about as close to true neutral as you can get in terms of birth origins. Jimin’s never met a Lopsis Fuga apart from bowing as one walked by on Helasa some centuries ago. He was young back then, didn’t really understand what he was looking at. The time controller gazed at him quickly and then looked away, the eye on their forehead closed and partially hidden by the hood of a ceremonial robe. He knows now that it was a big affair having to do with the end of the previous Imperial Emperor.
The Imperial Emperor is the technical ‘leader’ of the Nether World - a similar title does not exist for beings of the astral plane - and her court of advisers and ambassadors is known as the Imperial Garden. Some of the Mongers on the Hanabi wear pins of their loyalty to the garden because the Emperor will protect the warship like her own child. It is, after all, her most dangerous and effective asset. According to Hanabi, the order to shoot Helasa was given by resident advisors of the garden, which is why he didn’t resist. Surely the Emperor must know of Hanabi’s species. Would she protect him if his breed was revealed given Hanabi’s long-standing status as captain? Perhaps not - the Emperor is nothing if not ruthless.
Jimin goes back to the creature in the lake. Well, tries to. Just as he starts to drift off into the water, a knocking pulls him away. He scowls, annoyed, “What do you want now?!”
“Forgive me, Litceten, I just wanted to let you know that we will be passing by Tas Undae soon. I could get you out of here, if you wanted me to. Where better to end up than the Lopsis rock, eh?” Taehyung’s voice drifts in from the other side of the door.
“Hanabi already promised to bring me there. But thank you for the offer.” Jimin feels hot all over, his wrists starting to itch.
“Ahh, so he intends to personally deliver you to them. How interesting.”
“What?” Jimin scratches intently over his wrists and forearms. It’s so hot in here.
“Captain alerted me that we will be stopping there since he wants to speak with the Fugas, which is a notable departure from his previous feelings about them. I just find it odd, that’s all.” Taehyung is quiet for a moment. “Hey, you wouldn’t mind letting me in for a moment, would you?”
Jimin’s pulse quickens and he pulls Hanabi’s jacket tighter around himself as if it will protect him. “No.”
“Even just for a second? I have a secret that I want to share with you.” He seems to press against the door, applying some light force to it. “You’ll be leaving the ship soon so you’re the only one I can tell it to. Hurry, before the captain comes back.”
“Just tell me through the door.” Jimin cowers on the bed, hating the way that Taehyung is rattling the door handle. “I’ll scream if you keep doing that.”
“Yes and then Hanabi will hear it. We both know I’m more of a prize to him than you. How expendable do you think you are on a ship full of other Mongers?” Jimin narrows his eyes. He didn’t forget Hanabi’s words about using him as a bargaining chip on the observation deck.
“Excuse me? I’m his best friend! I’m trying to fucking help you because I know what he’s like to breakable little things like Litcetens.” Taehyung hisses. “He won’t take you off the ship. He’ll just kill you in the lander jet like he does all the time. He feeds on fear and what better way to get a meal than to strip away your last hope and chance of escape, hmm?”
He’s lying, Jimin tries to remind himself. Taehyung doesn’t know Hanabi is a Leviathan. But he’s so afraid and so desperate to get off the ship. The distance between the bed and the door closes faster than Jimin thought it would. Taehyung is on the other side of the door, mostly just a head of unruly curly hair and a wide smile. Jimin can’t see his eyes. “If you do anything, I’ll scream. We both know he’ll hear me.”
Taehyung smiles a little wider, “Of course. Your safety is my top priority.” He doesn’t move after that and Jimin scowls at him.
“What are you doing in here?” Hanabi’s voice is more a growl than words. “I told you the Herald room is off-limits.”
Taehyung turns to bow deeply at Hanabi, “Forgive me, sir. The Litceten had asked if we were truly past the asteroid sector.”
Jimin scowls, confused. Taehyung clearly is not supposed to be in this little hallway and Jimin most certainly did not ask him about the asteroid sector. He watches the Monger head briskly to the double doors and disappear beyond them.
“Was he bothering you?” Hanabi’s chest is rising and falling rapidly.
Jimin hesitates. “No. I was just wondering since the ship is going so fast now. I’ve never been out here before.”
The Leviathan visibly relaxes, his shoulders drooping and his face smoothing. “Yes, we are well outside the asteroid sector. And there isn’t much over in this area, just the Lopsis Fugas.” He licks his lips, “Do you need anything?”
The cold fire in his veins means he does need something. He’s overdue for another vision. “How long until we reach Tas Undae?”
“A little under two days.”
Jimin pulls the jacket on his shoulders tighter again. That’s too long. He’d never be able to make it without begging. “I…”
Hanabi raises his eyebrows. He licks his lips again and immediately frowns. “Oh. Well, are you asking me or did you want someone else?”
“It’s bad enough that it’s you. No one else on your fucking warship will touch me.” Jimin sneers. He moves to sit on the bed, angrily yanking the jacket tighter around his shoulders and then hastily shedding it. He throws it with much more force than necessary at the dresser, where it lands in a heap on the floor.
Hanabi quietly enters the room and shuts the door. “Just like last time?”
Jimin nods stiffly. He doesn’t plan to enjoy this. He knows he would like to enjoy it, but it’s Hanabi so he can’t. It’s the principle of the matter, not the reasoning. Still, he can’t seem to stop the sigh of relief when the Leviathan reaches out to touch his shoulder. Even just the gentle trace of his fingertips cools the astral fire bubbling under Jimin’s skin.
Hanabi slowly moves closer until there is no space between them. His hands circle Jimin’s waist and push him back against the sheets. Soft touches trail over his hips and thighs and the hem of the red dress is inched higher and higher until Hanabi stops altogether. “You aren’t enjoying this. Are you sure you don’t want anyone else?”
Jimin scowls and pushes himself up on his elbows. “Listen, shitfuck, I’m not going to like this. Even when I’m moaning and begging it’s only because I want it to be over as soon as possible. Why you would think anyone would get pleasure and enjoyment out of being forced to fuck their family’s killer is beyond me. Now shut up and get on with it.”
Hanabi blinks at him a few times, eyes wide, before he finally seems to snap out of his daze. He keeps an odd look on his face, the corner of his mouth tight and his brow furrowed. But he doesn’t waste time pulling off the dress and shedding his own clothes. Jimin doesn’t watch so he gasps when he feels Hanabi rubbing the head of his cock against his entrance, stimulating his body to produce elganin - Litceten lube.
Despite his clear desire to take no pleasure from this, Jimin is already grabbing fistfuls of the sheets when Hanabi starts to push into him. His cock is just - “Fuck, Leviathan.” Jimin reaches up to cover his mouth so he doesn’t say anything else stupid during this necessary evil. Hanabi’s dick is so big and there’s something strangely slimy about it. Normally slimy is not a word Jimin likes to have anywhere near the bedroom but this is different. He feels like a fish, like touching a fish in water. Slippery and wet and warm. So good.
“Since you’re not going to enjoy it, you don’t need to cover your mouth.” Hanabi’s voice is a hot whisper in his ear that Jimin wants to jerk away from but doesn’t.
“Fuck you.” Jimin hisses, tilting his head back to allow the Leviathan more access to his neck. He knots his fingers into Hanabi’s hair, made difficult by the fact that it’s currently pulled back.
Hanabi moans when he finally bottoms out, just like he did last time. He nips at Jimin’s neck, trailing a line of open-mouthed kisses down to his shoulder. His thrusts are quick and deep, rubbing Jimin all the right ways, pulling whimpers and pleas from him easily. But the vision is still far away; Jimin is still floating in the ocean he needs to reach the bottom of.
“C’mon, Leviathan, fuck me like you mean it.” The fingers Jimin has in Hanabi’s hair tighten significantly and he sinks his teeth into Jimin’s shoulder in response.
The captain pulls away, pushing Jimin’s thighs apart and grabbing him by the ankles before sinking back into him. The angle makes his cock rub incessantly against some sensitive part of Jimin’s insides that has his muscles locking up and his voice breaking. Hanabi leans forward, folding Jimin in half, which just pushes him in even deeper. “Better?” He smirks when Jimin chokes on a moan beneath him.
“I fucking - ah! - hate this.” Jimin grits out, only managing to get so far before a hard thrust makes him cry out. Hanabi is so deep inside him, unnaturally so. But, damn, it feels good. The other Jimin sinks rapidly in the water, the abyss beginning to form in the distance. “More. I need more. Please!”
Hanabi brings one hand up to his mouth and spits into it. Saliva doesn’t make for good lubricant but, honestly, it kinda feels better with the slight tug against his cock. Jimin arches under the dual stimulation of the Leviathan pounding away at his hole and also stroking his cock at the same pace. Precum drools out of his slit when Hanabi rubs his thumb over the head roughly. He bites into his bottom lip, rapt attention on Jimin’s dick, repeating the action over and over again until Jimin is squirming and fighting against the sensation. It’s too rough and it feels so fucking good.
He reaches out at the bottom of the ocean, fingertips eager to make contact with the music, see it explode around him and twinkle like stars, swirling in colors and shapes foreign to Jimin’s mind. A final burst of pleasure - the Jimin on the bed cumming hard - is enough to touch the white, foaming depths, bubbling with gold and silver. The music envelops him like a lover, filling him completely and carrying him away to someplace beyond existence.
Bubbles wiggling toward the surface.
The bassy hollow sound of being underwater.
Fleshy slits in green skin.
The Imperial Emperor, sitting on her throne, leaning forward. Her eyes are hard and her crown glitters in the bright lights. She smiles, laced with malice. Her mouth, framed by red lipstick, forms words.
The clank of metal on metal.
Jimin gasps, struggling for breath. Exhaustion, pure and unfiltered, floods his body. He can’t move at all, but he does know that once again his heart did not stop beating as it usually does. This vision was much more like his normal ones, just scraps of things thrown together with no context. He did see the Imperial Emperor but he doesn’t know if she was the one talking about Leviathans, he just knows that somewhere it was said in relation to the things he saw. The visions are usually not very specific but enough for Jimin to recognize when his vision will come to pass.
His heartbeat thuds slowly, lethargically. Another faster beat echoes against his chest, warmth against his skin, lips on his neck. Hanabi is still here, muttering while he slowly traces patterns over Jimin’s heart, on his breast.
“So fucking hungry.” He whispers, “Always so hungry.” He presses his hips forward and Jimin is too tired to grimace when more cum shoots into him. It’s so deep, so warm. It feels so good.
Suddenly he feels less tired. He scowls, “Do that again.”
Hanabi raises his head quickly. “What?”
“Cum. Again.” Jimin resists the urge to gag. But he wants to see something.
The Leviathan hesitates before pressing his hips harshly against Jimin’s. He must be able to cum on command because Jimin is being flooded with sperm again after one thrust. He waits, expectant, gasping when he feels the tiredness being lifted, as if it’s being sucked out of him. “Are you kidding me?” He laughs breathlessly. “Of course, you would.”
Hanabi opens his mouth, hesitates, and then closes it again. Several strands of his black hair have come loose from the band holding the rest back, hanging in his eyes. Black ink trails over his shoulder and down his arm, shining in the passing light of a bright star. The muscle in his bicep bulges because of the way he’s holding himself up. A thin sheen of sweat glitters across his forehead. He’s gorgeous.
“Do you want me to leave now?”
Jimin swallows audibly and nods. When Hanabi pulls out he feels empty and cold. It’s not a pleasant sensation. For a split second, he almost reaches out to pull Hanabi close once more, if only to banish the aching chill currently running rampant through his body. He shivers on the bed, feeling around for his dress.
“Litceten.” Hanabi’s voice sounds strained. When Jimin looks up at him he’s standing awkwardly by the side of the bed, fully nude. “Do you want anything else?”
Jimin narrows his eyes. “I want you to fucking leave me alone until it’s time to go to Tas Undae.”
Hanabi swallows, licking his lips. He starts to gather up his clothes and put them hastily back on. Anyone who saw his disheveled state could guess what happened inside the room but Hanabi doesn’t seem to care, already reaching for the door handle.
The Monger’s words from earlier echo in Jimin’s mind, saying that Hanabi is just waiting to eviscerate him until they’re alone in the lander shuttle, ripping away any last shreds of hope he would have. But that doesn’t make sense. Well, not entirely, since Hanabi had told him he does take pleasure in destruction, in death. However, the claim leaves a gaping hole in the logic of why Hanabi would go as far as giving him a comfortable, protected room and drive to the middle of fucking nowhere to see the Lopsis Fugas if he could have just slit the Liteceten’s throat on the observation deck weeks ago. A Leviathan doesn’t feed on fear or pain - they feed on astral energy, of which Jimin is the only source of that for lightyears in any direction.
“Wait,” Jimin calls, watching Hanabi freeze instantly. “Are you planning to kill me?”
Hanabi scoffs aloud. “What kind of foolish question is that? No, I’m not planning to kill you.”
“How do I know you’re not lying?” Jimin narrows his eyes, measuring the Leviathan’s expression carefully.
“Do you honestly think I would even be able to kill my chosen mate? Don’t be ridiculous, I’ll be protecting you from afar until the universe fades into nothingness. I have chosen you, even if you have not chosen me. Which is fine. Seeing you just once would have been enough.” Hanabi’s jaw tenses and his posture becomes aggressive. “Who planted that idea in your head, huh?”
“No one. I just figured it would be a nice way for you to atone for what you have done. Y’know, by not forcing me to live the rest of my life tortured by your actions.” Jimin sneers, pulling his lips back over his teeth.
Hanabi steps back into the room, closing the door behind himself and leaning against it. “Do you want me to kill you?” He stares at the ceiling, licking his lips again. It seems to be a habit of his.
“No. I want you to take me to the Lopsis Fugas. I want to hurt you, but I wasn’t gifted with strength, so I can only do the next best thing and turn you in to the UNNO.” Jimin raises an eyebrow, for once truly curious about how Hanabi will react to that statement.
He doesn’t expect for the man to cross the room and get down on his knees at the side of the bed without a word. “You want to hurt me? Go ahead. Do whatever you want to make yourself feel better. I won’t stop you.”
Jimin blinks owlishly. He’s still naked on the bed, with a disheveled Leviathan kneeling before him with his head hanging low. He laughs, expecting the man to get up. He doesn’t. And the longer Jimin stares at him, the quicker his anger builds until he’s pulling back his hand and striking Hanabi across the cheek. The captain grimaces but remains passive. Jimin hits him again, not holding back. The sharp sound of the slap reverberates through the silent room.
This man took everything. He stole the lazy fruit ice desserts with Hyejoon, he stole the field of lily flowers, he stole stargazing on clear nights, clouds drifting across a pale blue sky, pink petals raining down in the grove of trees by the shrine, stole the joy of seeing a new stock of trade goods aboard a giant ship, stole the crisp coolness of rain against heated hot spring skin, stole the wet squish of clay ground between toes, stole the lemonade stand, the sleeping house, the Archelora’s mural, the wilting fire flower in the garden. Everything.
Tears spring up in Jimin’s eyes as he continues to beat Hanabi, wanting to have some reaction, some clarity, some relief, some fucking catharsis. Something. Anything. But he still just feels empty. A shell, broken and cast aside. He sobs since not even this can make him feel better. His eyes are so blurry with tears that he misses his slap and falls to the floor. Warm, strong arms circle his shaking shoulders.
“I wish I could take it back, Jimin. I would do anything to erase what I did to you.” Hanabi’s voice is wobbly and thin, as if he might cry.
“Is that why you’re going to see the Fugas?” Jimin is almost surprised that he managed to get out a full sentence with how hard he’s crying.
“Who told you about that?” Immediately, the Leviathan’s body tenses up.
“I saw it in a vision,” Jimin lies, “A while ago.”
Hanabi sighs, “Yes, that’s why I’m going to see them. I already know it’s too late but I’m still going to try.”
Jimin hiccups so hard he thinks he might throw up. His insides feel like they’re being forcefully ripped apart. “I hate you so much.”
“I know.” Hanabi holds him tighter, burying his face in Jimin’s shoulder. “I fucking know.”
Jimin feels so much rage in his veins, so much raw hatred, blistering heat beneath his skin. How could he not hate Hanabi for what he’s done? And yet, he doesn’t push the man away, just continues crying in his arms. Because, the truth is, the Leviathan’s touch feels good. He feels like comfort, a cool breeze on a hot day, home, protection, safety. In his moment of weakness, Jimin doesn’t have the strength to cry alone in a random bedroom on the warship. He cries, naked, in the arms of his destroyer who holds him like a fragile diamond. How ironic.
The Leviathan that Jimin has such a desperate hate for is still there when he wakes up some hours later. His body is sore and his eyes hurt from how hard he’d been crying. Currently, Hanabi seems to be asleep, holding Jimin tightly, shielding his body from the doorway of the room. One of the sheets from the bed has been dragged down to cover Jimin’s nudity. From where he’s caged in Hanabi’s thick arms, Jimin can see the top of his tattoo, the one on his shoulder. A single star shows at the corner of his shoulder and neck and even though all stars basically look the same, this one seems familiar to Jimin. Maybe since he’s seen this tattoo before it feels less strange than the other ones, but he can’t be sure. Jimin carefully disentangles one of his arms and reaches up to carefully trace over the spot. Hanabi moans in his sleep as soon as Jimin’s fingers make contact with the ink.
He retracts his hand quickly, not wanting to wake the Leviathan. He’s not ready to face the consequences of beating up the captain of the Hanabi warship and sleeping with him, both ways, in the span of a few hours. What is he even doing? And why is he lying to cover up Taehyung’s words? If he really wanted to destroy the Hanabi, he would just reveal to Taehyung the species of its captain. So why doesn’t he? Is he afraid that he will be caught in the crossfire when he’s so close to reaching the Lopsis Fugas? Thinking is so hard. It’s always hard.
Some species think Litcetens are stupid, which Jimin can’t really blame them for. Knowledge about Litceten’s not having advanced capacities of deeper thought is fairly common. But that’s where Jimin starts to make his argument because Litcetens can think and can think deeply about higher-minded topics, it’s just tiring. The energy required to think critically about issues comes after the energy needed to perform basic bodily functions and upkeep, of which, Litcetens don’t have a lot in excess. The first few hours after the exhaustion of a vision has worn away is when Litcetens have the most energy, a steep and short bell curve, before it goes back down to essentially zero and thinking becomes too taxing again. So it’s not that Litcetens are stupid but rather that they’re just chronically exhausted.
Hanabi shifts and licks his lips. He bolts upright a few seconds later. “Litceten, what-”
“Don’t. I don’t want to talk.” Jimin looks away. Hanabi’s black eyes seem to be sparkling with stars today. “Just go.”
Hanabi nods quickly, starting to get up. “We’ll be at Tas Undae soon. I will stop back only when it is time to go down.”
“Thank you,” Jimin mutters quietly. He ignores Hanabi’s stare, concentrating on wrapping the bed sheet around himself.
As he approaches the door, Hanabi brings up a hand to feel at the ink on his neck, the star that Jimin touched. He turns around, frowning, mouth open like he wants to say something. He doesn’t. Jimin is grateful, he doesn’t feel like answering any questions about why he did that because truthfully, he has no idea. Something about Hanabi has sparked his interest and Jimin hates himself a bit for that. There should be no room in his heart for anything other than rage for the man who stole his entire world. Still, he’s curious.
A Leviathan - a ghost, driven off the face of the map by their own brothers. Someone who had picked Jimin as a mate by only looking at him. Had stars painted across his back and even more in his eyes. Jimin shakes his head, ridding himself of those thoughts. Hanabi is the face of evil for so many. But even the devil can make you curious, tempt you to want more. Which is exactly why Jimin has to resist the strange pull of Hanabi. He’s just a monster with a human skin.
True to his word, Hanabi doesn’t come back to the room for several hours. Jimin paws around in the dresser for a suitable garment for wearing in front of the Lopsis Fugas, eventually choosing a pale green dress that trails behind him when he walks, decorated with gold chains and white jewels. Where did Hanabi get Litceten clothes from?
“Jimin, it’s time.” A soft knock accompanies the words.
He sighs, squaring his shoulders. Hanabi stands on the other side of the door in a crisp uniform. He looks a little more dressed up than usual, then again, so does Jimin. The Leviathan actually bows to Jimin before turning and leading him out of the hall. Outside, the ship is alive with activity. The energy level is tense and restless, nerves weighing in the air. Likely because here, under the domain of the time controllers, the Hanabi warship is basically a useless hunk of metal.
Taehyung joins them in step after a moment, bowing deeply to his captain. “The guns are down now. Shields are off. Are there any further preparations?”
“No. That’s all. Thank you for working on such short notice.” Hanabi offers him a thin smile.
“It’s a pleasure, Sir. When can we expect you back?” Taehyung’s eyes cut over to Jimin briefly.
“I’m not sure. If they have the answers I’m looking for then I’ll be back fairly quickly, if not, it may be longer.” Hanabi waves his crew away with a scowl. “So fucking annoying,” he mutters.
“Isn’t he your second in command?” Jimin twists his neck to catch a fleeting glimpse of Taehyung behind them in the corridor.
“Kind of. There is no second in command on my ship. There is me and there is everyone else. But he is the official emissary of the Emperor for the ship itself. He is the manager, I am the captain.” Hanabi responds a bit absently, looking around for something in his pockets.
“Huh.” Jimin narrows his eyes at the explanation because that’s not what the Monger told him. He doesn’t know which one to believe; the man who is promising to take him safely off the ship who feeds on fear and pain, or the man who gave him a safe room but killed his family. At this point, Jimin’s opinion on them is even, they deserve no trust. Lying is on-brand for both of them and so is murder. Hanabi has a vested interest in Jimin’s safety due to his breed but Taehyung represents the good of the warship, which honestly isn’t in very high standing right now. “Is he your friend?”
Hanabi laughs suddenly, “Not really. I’ve known him for a while but we’re just coworkers. Why are you so curious about him?” He finds what he’s looking for in his pocket, a tiny locket on a thin chain.
“He gives off a weird vibe.”
The path they take changes suddenly from a claustrophobic hallway to a large room full of bay doors, each labeled with a number. This is undoubtedly where the lander jets are parked, all prepped and ready for launch in case of emergency.
“I don’t doubt it. He was specially chosen by the Emperor so I have doubts about his motives when he suggests things out of left field. He does technically work for me, but we both work for the Emperor. Her word overrules mine.” Hanabi marches up to the door labeled twelve and punches in a code to get the door open. “Taehyung is a mystery, even to me.”
“What about you? Were you chosen by the Emperor?” Jimin hesitates, eyeing the opening that leads to the tiny interior of the lander suspiciously. There will be no way out once he goes in there.
“I’m… complicated. As I’m sure you can imagine.” Hanabi stares at the floor, a furrow between his brows.
“Are you sure you’re not going to kill me?” Jimin narrows his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest.
Hanabi actually rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to kill you. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to.”
Jimin doesn’t break eye contact with Hanabi as he steps into the small, white interior of the lander. He sits lightly on one of the benches lining the octagonal edge of the vehicle, watching the Leviathan closely as he shuts the door and pressurizes the chamber. “Why are you being nice to me?”
“You know why.” Hanabi doesn’t look at him, just continues to punch things into the control terminal.
“Because you feel pity for destroying my life?” Jimin pokes at the wound, knowing it will elicit some reaction from the captain. He’s not wrong.
“Jimin-” Hanabi pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a deep breath. “It’s because you’re my mate.”
“No, I’m not! We haven’t shared blood. All I am to you is a crush, a dream that will never be realized.” He spits back.
“I know.” Hanabi isn’t fighting like Jimin expected him to. He just resigns and sits down across from the Litceten.
“Damnit, why don’t you have any fucking emotions?! Why won’t you let me fucking hate you?!” Jimin screams, the sound of it bouncing off the metal walls.
Hanabi raises his eyebrows. “I am letting you hate me. Trust me, Jimin, I am well aware of how you feel about me.” He licks his lips.
“No! You aren’t! You’re-” Jimin throws his hands in the air.
Hanabi leans forward, raising one brow even more. “I’m…?”
“Fuck you! Fuck you!!” He screams, closing his eyes tight as if that will somehow allow him to scream even louder. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!! I fucking hate you!!”
“Do you want to hit me some more?” Hanabi asks calmly.
“NO!!” Jimin bellows, glaring at the man with rage in his veins.
“Then what do you want?”
“I want my family back! I want my home back! I want my life back! Everything that you stole from me!” Jimin stabs a finger at him. There’s so much saliva in his mouth, he’s spitting with each word, but he doesn’t care.
“That’s why we’re going to see the Fugas.”
Jimin gets up and pulls back a fist, wanting so badly to strike Hanabi across the face again, hoping that this time it brings him some closure. The Leviathan doesn’t move, just braces himself for the blow that doesn’t come. Jimin suddenly drops to the floor, all of his energy leaving him at once. Hanabi catches him easily, pulling him close and nuzzling against his hair. “Why won’t you let me hate you?”
“I am letting you hate me, Jimin. I’ll accept whatever you give me.” It’s quiet for a moment apart from the rattling of the lander as it moves through space. “I’m sorry for what I did to you. I am searching for a way to atone even if it just means letting you hit me, even if it means never seeing you again. You’re my mate, there is no one else for me, so you know how much it will hurt me if you choose never to see me again after this. But I’ll do it gladly, if it makes you feel even a little bit better. Whatever it takes, Jimin, that’s what I’ll do to fix this. I don’t care how much it hurts.”
“I’ll never forgive you,” Jimin mutters, tears welling in his eyes. “Never.”
“I know. I’m not asking for forgiveness, I know that’s too much. I’m just asking for you to feel a tiny bit better. You already know how to hurt me most, so if you want to hurt me, then do it.” Hanabi whispers into his hair.
Jimin doesn’t say anything else. He just lays there in Hanabi’s arms, confused. He does want to hurt Hanabi, wants him to suffer. But he also kind of doesn’t. Mate is a very attractive word, one with a lot of power behind it. It would mean more if Jimin didn’t hate Hanabi with every fiber of his being. Then maybe he would consider giving the man a chance to atone. “I don’t ever want to see you again after this. Once these doors open, you are going to stay away from me forever.”
Hanabi gasps and clutches him tighter. Jimin can hear his heartbeat nearly triple in pace, his skin growing hot. “I understand,” he says quietly, voice stained with tears. A deep rumble is sounding in his chest. Jimin wonders if that’s what a heartbroken Leviathan sounds like. Probably. And knowing how much Hanabi is hurting internally right now is making him feel smug and powerful.
For the rest of the journey, Jimin lets Hanabi hold him close because he’ll never get to again. Jimin is going to make sure this fucking hurts. So once the lander starts to shake and jerk, he pulls away, backing against the far wall. It’s strange to see Hanabi’s strong face so weakened by emotion. Tears freefall down his cheeks and his skin seems a bit green in places. His chest stutters when the lander makes contact with the crystal surface of Tas Undae. He bites into his bottom lip, unmoving when Jimin punches the button to make the doors open.
“I fucking hate you,” he says firmly into the silence. “I will always fucking hate you.” He doesn’t stay to watch Hanabi’s reaction, but he can hear it as he marches away from the lander. Deep, bassy groans start to saturate the air. The monster inside Hanabi is crying. Good. Jimin hopes it hurts and that the pain never fades.
The surface of Tas Undae is both very bright and very dark. There is no sky, only the blackness of space in all directions, but the crystal glows under his feet brightly. Jimin can feel the energy of it seeping into his toes as he takes quick steps towards the main tower of the crystal that he saw in his vision. He doesn’t quite know where he’s going but he does have some hints. The crystal tower glows vibrantly blue, a large landmark on the crystalline surface of the domain. Larger than life points and terminations shoot out in all directions, but none are as tall as the blue tower.
“Who are you?” A voice calls, somewhat mechanized.
Jimin turns to see a very large Lopsis Fuga floating towards him, easily twice his size. Their third eye is closed, as it normally would be. A pale face framed by dark hair tied with yellow ribbons. This is not the Fuga he’s looking for. “My name is Jimin. I’m a Litceten. I had a vision of meeting with one of you at the tower.”
“Hmm.” The Fuga’s voice almost seems to crackle with electricity. “Only Min lives in the tower. The oldest of us.”
“There were red ribbons in their hair and flowers and-” Jimin points to his own shoulders- “white fur with gold painted onto their skin.”
The Fuga turns their head to look over at the tower, energy sparking around them when they move. “Well, you do seem to have seen Min. I will take you to them.”
Jimin nods rapidly. “Thank you.” He tails behind the Fuga, struggling to keep up since they don’t walk like other species. Instead, Lopsis Fugas float on an unseen energy field that exists around Tas Undae. Jimin thinks back to his last encounter with a Lopsis but can’t seem to remember if they were walking or floating on Helasa.
It’s apparently much farther to get to the crystal tower than Jimin thought because they’re still on their way, not appearing any closer after several minutes. It’s getting difficult for Jimin to breathe since the air is so thin here. Litcetens have a rather high oxygen requirement while Lopsis Fugas don’t breathe at all.
“Here.” The Fuga stops moving and points a wickedly clawed hand towards a circular device sticking out of the crystal below his feet. “Touching this will take you to the tower. Min will be waiting.”
Jimin nods and thanks the Fuga once more, remembering that they all operate on a type of hive mind. He reaches out to touch the metal ball, his entire body stiffening when he’s zapped with enough energy to make him blackout. He coughs and clutches at his throat, slowly picking himself up off the ground.
“Litceten.” A voice much less mechanized sounds above him. “I have been waiting.”
This Fuga has red ribbons in their hair and white flowers tied into small braids. A thick ring of white fur circles their shoulders with a smaller ring of red fur above it, around their neck. Golden symbols are painted on the rest of the exposed skin, a flowing white garment covering the vast majority of their body. A hand is offered to Jimin, nails coming to long needle points. Jimin takes it and tries not to sway on his feet.
“I’m sorry for coming to you so late.” Jimin bows deeply to the Fuga, trying to ignore how dizzy the motion makes him.
“Nonsense. I have all the time in the universe at my disposal. You, however, do not.” The Fuga turns away from him to face an extremely large moon, with several smaller moons circling it very fast. How did he not see this from down below? It would have been impossible to miss. The two objects can’t be more than a hundred kilometers apart. But to Jimin’s knowledge, Tas Undae does not circle anything else, it’s actually stationary in space. “Things are speeding up, lifelines that were never meant to cross have become perpendicular. A war grows on the horizon, one that will have catastrophic consequences, one that should never have come to fruition.” The Fuga raises their arms in the air and the small moons surrounding the large one stop completely.
Jimin’s jaw drops open. This is the first time he’s seeing the time control ability of a Lopsis Fuga used in front of him. “Why did you want to see me?”
“Because something has happened that we never intended.” The Fuga’s arms lower back down and the moons start moving again. “When controlling time, one must look at all the possible outcomes, not just the favorable lines. We do not interfere with time very often, but we did recently, to circumvent an event you need not worry about. This decision was not taken lightly and the consequence was one we did not predict.”
“What was it?” Jimin watches the moons spin and revolve, making himself slightly nauseous.
“The Hanabi warship was not destroyed as it should have been. It should have been hit by a rogue asteroid months ago, but when we changed time, the asteroid changed course. The warship was never supposed to reach Helasa.”
Jimin drops to his knees with the revelation. Helasa was never supposed to be hit, it was not part of the Lopsis Fugas plan to ensure universal order. Universal order doesn’t mean not having hate or war or bloodshed, it means not having the scales tip too far in one direction. And, officially, they have. This was never supposed to happen. The destruction of Jimin’s life was an accident, a mistake made - not by Hanabi - by the Lopsis Fugas.
“Of course, that would have meant your mate dying in the explosion, but you would have never known. We must act for the good of the order of everything, which does not always mean it is best for one individual, or even many.” The Fuga faces him again.
“Wait, what are you talking about, my mate? What mate? The Leviathan?” Jimin feels rage start to boil under his skin.
“The Leviathan is your mate. He would have been your mate even if you had never met. That is beyond our control.” The Fuga’s third eye blinks a bit but remains closed.
Now, normally when talking to a Lopsis Fuga you use the utmost respect in addressing them. It’s rude not to and being in bad standing with the Fugas is essentially a death sentence. But the rational, logical part of Jimin is rapidly being burned away by the hatred and confusion and hurt that are free-falling inside his brain. “Are you fucking kidding me? That monster is meant to be with me? A fucking murderer?!”
“We do not have control over the fate links of individuals. The universe fated you together, so you were inevitably drawn to an event where you would meet him. But this is not what I wished to talk to you about. I care not for the inconvenience of his past. My concern lies with the eradication of the Litcetens as a result of our decision. At this point, time has moved too far forward for us to turn it back.”
Jimin chokes. Those were the words he was praying not to hear, that it was too late to change things. Everything was set in stone now, the past was final. Only the future can be changed. And that fucking sucks. Jimin sobs, letting out a wail of pain and frustration. It’s gone. All of it. It’s really gone now. All this time he’d been clinging to the hope that the Fugas would be able to help, would take pity on him and strike the Hanabi down before it reached Helasa. It was supposed to. The Hanabi was supposed to be nothing more than space dust by now. Fuck. Fuck! This was all so fucking unfair. Jimin almost wished that it wasn’t an accident so he could hate the Fugas, too.
“You are the most powerful Litceten left, but not the last. Nor is your mate the last Leviathan. As an effort to try to alter the catastrophe of this mistake, this unseen consequence, we ask that you search for the remaining Litcetens and Leviathans and bring them here. With their DNA we can create a pool to work from to prevent the ultimate downfall of both species. And while this should have been easy, I'm afraid that war is on the horizon. We do not know the exact locations of the remaining Litcetens or Leviathans but we have an estimation. I humbly ask this of you, Jimin.”
“I - I can’t… I need a minute. Please.” Jimin gasps for breath, crushed by the weight of saving his entire species. Hanabi is his mate, would have been his mate no matter what, even if they never met. Fuck that, he should be dead anyways. The Litcetens were never supposed to die, Helasa was supposed to survive. This was all some fucked up astral plan garbage that he can’t even blame anyone for. It was an accident. A stupid motherfucking accident. His planet died and he was forced to watch, see the brains of his friends boiled in their skulls on accident. He chokes again, gagging so hard he sees stars. A swift rush of bile spurts out of his mouth onto the crystal below. He spits the residue into the existing puddle.
What else is there? He can’t deny the Fuga’s request, it’s just not possible. If the situation is truly this dire that a Lopsis Fuga, in fact the Lopsis Fuga, the most powerful one, is asking him for a favor, then he has no choice but to accept. To deny it would be to seal the fates of more people than he can count. He can continue to sit in the bedroom on the Hanabi warship and feel sorry for himself or he can help try to fix it. He’ll have a legacy, which is more than he would have had back on Helasa. So, once again, for a selfish reason, Jimin decides to accept the offer.
“What do I need to do?” He asks into his puddle of yellow vomit.
“You’ll need the Hanabi. It is the fastest ship capable of such a feat, the only one that can help you. The Leviathan will know where his brothers are if he bathes in the pools of Haddol, to the far west. Right now he is speaking with my sister, learning of the same chain of events, you need not explain it to him. You will be the only one who can reach the hearts of the Litcetens, and the Leviathan with his own brothers. Seek them quickly, bring them to me. I will help them repopulate from the safety of Tas Undae.” The Fuga turns and makes the moons stop again.
“Okay. But… where are they? I know nothing of the world outside Helasa.” Jimin raises himself onto his feet, hating the smell of his vomit.
“I will guide you to their approximate location. You will be able to sense them once you are close enough. Some will not want to come with you, but this is not an option. I’m afraid we will need all that remain if the Litcetens have a chance at survival. Taking them against their will is a necessary evil and one I wish I could spare you from. Alas, I can not. You must take all of them back here. Even just their bodies. I will work with whatever I can get.”
“How will you bring them back? A Fuga can only control time, not decisions.” Jimin watches the moons start to spin when the Fuga lowers their arms.
“I can do nothing. But we stand upon the greatest energy source in all the universe. Can you not feel its power?” Jimin nods and wiggles his toes. “The crystal will create what I can not. All it needs are the raw materials.”
Jimin doesn’t question that. Not much is actually known about the crystal of Tas Undae so it’s power remains a mystery to all except the Fugas that live on it. Despite all this information and thinking and emotion, Jimin is not tired. He can probably thank the raw energy flowing into his feet for that. He nods to himself, accepting the mission he’s been given. Saving the future of the Litcetens, huh? That has a nice ring to it.
“What of the war you mentioned earlier?” Jimin sees the Fuga’s third eye flutter again.
“It will draw the Hanabi off course. The Emperor controls it as a puppet master. This will make the gathering of the Litcetens slower and allow for more chances at losing one, which can not happen. If you see anything related to this in a vision, you must tell me.”
“I will give you this.” The Fuga produces a glowing shard of blue crystal, pulsing with energy. “Hold it to where a third eye would be on yourself, this will connect your mind to the crystal and, in turn, myself.”
“I don’t know if it will help, but I saw the Emperor and I think she might have been talking about Leviathans.” Jimin gasps when his fingers touch the crystal, instantly filling his body with energy and calm and warmth.
“Hmm.” The Fuga turns to the giant moon but instead of stopping the movement, the moons start to move in reverse. “I will keep this in mind. For now, I do not see how this would affect your mission. The Emperor has no interest in Leviathans but this may change in the future.”
“I understand. If I see anything else, you will be the first to know.”
The Fuga nods, “You may call me Min, if you need to. Go now, before more time passes. If you should have additional questions, you may contact me anytime through the crystal.”
Jimin bows deeply, “Thank you. I know you’re just doing your duty, but thank you for giving us a chance. The Litcetens, I mean.”
The Fuga, Min, smiles. “I am not heartless, Jimin. But you’re right, I am just doing my duty. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize your gratitude. You are welcome, though you need not thank me.” Their catlike eyes squish into crescents over their pale cheeks.
“I will go now. Apparently, there are some things I need to clear up with my… with the Leviathan.” Jimin bows again for good measure, reaching for the metal ball that he assumes will take him back down to where the lander is.
“He is already waiting for you. He has also accepted the mission. I wish you luck. We will help you as much as we can.” Min offers him a small smile and turns back to their moons.
Jimin takes that as his cue to leave. He touches the metal and is again almost knocked unconscious by the energy sizzling through his body. On the other side, Jimin looks back at the tower. The moons are gone. He shakes his head; the Lopsis Fugas are full of mysteries. It isn’t hard to find the lander from here but the closer he gets, the more Jimin wants to turn back. Hanabi will be waiting for him, renewed by the knowledge that they are indeed mates and it’s not just Jimin being an asshole. But Jimin can still deny him and plans to do so. Hanabi isn’t going to get off that easy.
sorry for late update i literally got rufied at a party lol
The Leviathan looks tired when Jimin finally gathers enough courage to peek over an outcropping of crystal into the vehicle. He rubs his face in his hands, strands of black hair having escaped the band as usual. His clothes are wrinkled and ripped in places. Perhaps Hanabi’s introduction to the mission of saving their respective species didn’t go as well as Jimin’s did.
He makes his presence known, holding a handful of his dress to keep from tripping on it. Hanabi sits up straight comically fast, brushing his unruly hair back and smoothing down the front of his jacket. He offers a small smile that Jimin doesn’t return. Fuck Hanabi. Meeting with the Lopsis Fugas doesn’t negate the fact that the Leviathan gladly gave the order to kill. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but Hanabi still got away with it. Jimin steps lightly into the lander and closes the door, taking a seat across from the other man while he fiddles with the control terminal.
Once the doors have sealed and there’s no going back outside, Jimin leans forward. “I want to make one thing clear to you, Hanabi.”
Hanabi frowns just a bit, licking his lips. He nods.
“I will not ever forgive you for what you did to me. It was you who gave the order to shoot and for that, I will always hate you. Do not touch me unless I ask you to. Do not enter my room unless I ask you to. Do not ‘check on me’ unless I ask you to. I don’t want to even know you exist on that fucking ship. I agreed to this for the good of my species, the one you destroyed, not for you or the other Leviathans.” Jimin glares into Hanabi’s Ahmmodian black eyes. “Are we clear?”
It takes a few moments of silence for Hanabi to respond, “I understand.”
Jimin glares at him a little more, just to emphasize his point. He pulls the crystal Min gave him from the folds of his dress and stares at it. His own small piece of Tas Undae, right here in his hands. It still glows, pulsing with warmth and energy. With this, Jimin might be able to overcome some of his chronic exhaustion. He wonders if there is a time limit before the crystal runs out of power or if he has a new, unlimited energy source, like a battery for his body. Perhaps that was something he should have thought to ask earlier.
“Did Min give that to you?” Hanabi’s smooth voice cuts into Jimin’s wonderings.
“Excuse me?” Jimin hides the crystal in the folds of his skirt but it glows so brightly that they can both still see it clearly.
“What? Is not talking to you another rule you failed to mention?” Hanabi raises an eyebrow and crosses one leg, leaning back against the side of the lander.
“Are you smug because you got confirmation on your fucking little fantasy about us being mates?” He sneers. “You disgust me.”
“You didn’t answer my question.” Hanabi keeps that stupid smirk on his face. It makes Jimin’s blood run hot in his veins.
“Neither did you.” He spits back. “But the difference is that I don’t fucking care.”
“You care. I can taste that you care. Don’t try to lie to me.” Hanabi levels him with a challenging stare, not laced with hatred but rather with intrigue.
“Fuck you!” Jimin hisses without missing a beat. “I hate this universe for making me the mate of a murderer! I would rather die than fuck you again so just remember that next time I’m forced to lay with you.”
The Leviathan rolls his eyes, “Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Jimin.”
“Do not speak my name!” Jimin stands abruptly, the crystal clattering to the floor. “Shut up! Words do not exist to express how much pain I want you to feel. You should feel the wrath of every Litceten that you killed. My fucking friends!” He chokes on a sudden sob. “You killed all my friends!!” The strike is fast, faster than Jimin can even process. He only knows he slapped Hanabi because of the shock written across the man’s face and the red blooming on his cheek.
A deep rumble sounds from Hanabi’s chest and parts of him seem to swell unnaturally. His skin takes on a greenish tinge and his jaw does something so obscene and grotesque that Jimin is sure he’s going to throw up again. It stops quickly and he looks normal again, except his eyes are swimming like inky black pools. “Knock it off.”
Stunned, it takes him a minute to shake off the confusion and slip back into being a bastard. He laughs, “Don’t tell me what I -”
Hanabi lunges at him, holding him by the throat a few inches off the ground. “I said knock it off. I am well aware of what I did.” His eyes go wide and he sets Jimin down quickly, retreating to his previous seat while Jimin catches his breath. “Sorry. I don’t… I would never hurt you. I’m just upset.” Hanabi blinks owlishly, seeming to still be processing his own actions. “Fuck.”
Carefully, the crystal is picked up and cradled like a child in Jimin’s arms. His only possession. He stares at it for a while and then raises it to his forehead. Instantly, Min is in his mind’s eye.
“Did you think of something to ask me?” Their third eye flutters. From this position, it almost seems like Jimin is looking down at them from inside the moon.
“No. I… I’m sorry. Nevermind.” Jimin shakes his head, wanting to turn away but it seems like he’s actually unable to right now.
“Are you sure? I can read your energy through the crystal, you know. You are quite agitated.” Min raises their arms, needle-pointed nails tracing intricate patterns in the air.
“It’s not important. I’ve been with the Leviathan for five minutes and we’re already at each other’s throats. Literally. Why was he chosen for this as well? Why not just the Litcetens?”
“Because what good is it to be the last of your kind without someone to share your burden. Then you are not truly alone anymore. The Leviathan can not go extinct, the role they play in universal neutrality is too great. To exterminate Leviathans would exterminate Litcetens as well. The two are linked quite deeply.” Min seems to think for a moment, cocking their head to the side. “You know… the more you push him away, the more he’s going to latch on. It’s in his blood.”
Jimin knows it’s not his place to ask Min about his stupid, meaningless issues with Hanabi. They’re busy with much more important things than what goes on inside Jimin’s heart whenever he looks at the other man - the mix of hate and intrigue. “Okay. Thank you. I’ll come back if I have questions.”
Min nods and the sight of them fades into blackness. Jimin opens his eyes, lowering the crystal into his lap. He doesn’t move for a while. It’s easiest to think when he isn’t moving.
Hanabi already has his claws latched into the idea of them being perfect mates in some fairy tale and Min has revealed that the more he pulls away, the more Hanabi is going to chase after it. So maybe he should stop poking the bear since he’s now seen what the Leviathan is really hiding. Well, some of what he’s hiding. They have another skin. A final form, if you will, of an unchained monster on the rampage. And considering how hard Jimin has been pushing him in the lander, it’s honestly no surprise. He’s not exactly afraid of Hanabi, just annoyed by the idea of him. He should tone it down just for the sake of making it easier. But, still, fuck Hanabi.
“I’m sorry. For hitting you,” he says quietly.
Hanabi’s head snaps up immediately. He opens his mouth several times without actually saying anything before he finally settles on, “Oh.”
Jimin peers over at him in his periphery. He looks normal, if not a little stiff and irritated. “I’m not sorry for causing you pain. I’m sorry for the action of hitting you.”
“I understand.” Hanabi nods, avoiding Jimin’s gaze. “Thank you.”
They don’t say anything else for the rest of the journey. It’s notably awkward and it’s not made any better when Taehyung is waiting with that same wide smile back on the warship. He bows to the captain, bouncing on his toes, waiting for an update.
“We’re going to Haddol. I have something I want to do there.” Hanabi says with a voice full of authority. Jimin doesn’t miss the way Taehyung’s smile falters.
“I thought we might be headed somewhere with a more… astral population.” He starts walking in stride with Hanabi. “Cerba, for example. Or Nannoi. Those two are notably overdue for a cleansing.”
That word - cleansing - strikes Jimin as an odd choice. A cleansing is something to do with cleaning or erasing, be it stains in your shirt or people on a planet. Is that what Taehyung said when they were on their way to Helasa? That it was ‘due for a cleansing’? Jimin’s blood heats up a few degrees.
“No. We’re going to Haddol first. Then we can do that bullshit or whatever.” Hanabi scrubs his face in his hands and sighs.
“Anything interesting happen with the Fugas?” He stops in his tracks. “Oh. You brought the Litceten back. I thought he was to be dropped off there and used as bait.”
Hanabi’s chest rumbles with that deep sound. Like a tiger prowling directly next to Jimin’s ear. It makes him want to flinch instinctively. “Did you do something?”
“Negative, Sir. That was just my understanding of the situation.” He smiles extra wide. Jimin can’t see his eyes so he jumps when Taehyung points to the crystal in his arms. “That’s an interesting item you have there.”
Jimin turns away from him, hiding the crystal from view. “It’s mine.” He really doesn’t like the feeling he gets in the pit of his stomach when Taehyung speaks to him as if they know each other. They don’t.
“I’m sure it is.” He addresses the captain again, “Anyways, when does this ‘using him as bait’ plan go into effect?”
“What? We’re not using him as bait.” Hanabi’s brow hardens.
“Oh? That’s what you said on the obs deck back when we first took him in. You only wanted to keep him alive as bait, you told me yourself.” He cocks his head, “Did you forget?”
Hanabi gets very close to Taehyung, staring him down, almost nose to nose. “I will talk to you later, Monger. Get out of my sight.” He watches Taehyung bow and walk away, unmoving until they’re alone in the hallway. Then he deflates with another huge sigh. “Come with me.”
Jimin follows him after a moment of hesitation, confused, and not sure what to ask to clear the air. “So… I’m just a prop to you? Or, at least, I was.”
Hanabi stops suddenly, causing Jimin to slam into his back with a grunt. “Litceten, I don’t know how many times I need to say this; you are my mate. I just had to say something to stop him from killing you.”
Jimin shifts his weight uncomfortably. He had almost trusted Taehyung to jettison him off the ship. “But he said - “
Hanabi turns around. He’s extremely close. “Has he been talking to you?” The Leviathan’s black eyes narrow considerably.
Jimin swallows audibly. Hanabi’s mouth is inches away from his own. He can smell the crisp water of his scent that reminds Jimin so much of safety and protection. For some reason, Jimin really doesn’t want to answer this question, “Well, no, not really. I just asked him about his position on the ship and -”
Hanabi exhales harshly and his eyes seem to adopt that inky wetness, as if an abyssal ocean lies in their depths. “I will deal with him later. He is not authorized to speak to you about anything.”
“Are you going to kill him?” Jimin raises an eyebrow.
Hanabi shakes his head, starting to lead them further down the corridor again, “Unfortunately I can not kill him without dire repercussions from the Emperor. If I felt like getting ripped a new asshole the next time I show up at Xerganda, I would slit his fucking throat with my bare hands. But I don’t want to have that conversation, so he gets to stay alive.”
They fall into silence as they pass through endless hallways and passageways, devoid of other crew. Perhaps it is nighttime on the ship and all the Mongers are asleep, dreaming of mutilations and tears of terror. No one likes Mongers except other Mongers, for obvious reasons.
“Why are you being so honest? Aren’t you afraid I might turn you in?” Jimin jogs a bit to keep up with Hanabi’s long stride.
He hums in response, rounding a sharp corner. “I am honest because you’re my mate. I can’t be dishonest with you, it would feel wrong. And while I would certainly hope that you don’t turn me in, I won’t stop you from doing so.”
Jimin purses his lips, considering that answer carefully. He understands that the point of having a mate, one like a Leviathan, a grunt for lack of a better word, is for protection. Hanabi’s job as a mate is to protect Jimin from anything and everything so Jimin can imagine that his failure to protect Jimin from the pain of watching his family die wears on him greatly. It must be unimaginable to live with the guilt of that - almost like what Hanabi forced Jimin to go through. He scowls.
“You should.” Hanabi looks at him over his shoulder. “If you didn’t stop me from turning you in then you wouldn’t be able to save me from things in the future.”
At this Hanabi smiles softly. He has a pretty smile, it makes him look younger and more innocent. “I have assets in place already to protect you if I am not able to. You will never be without protection.”
Jimin blinks at him. “What kind of assets?”
The Leviathan laughs, leading Jimin towards a now-familiar set of doors that will lead to the little hall and his room. “I will always be truthful with you, Jimin, but that is something I would like to remain a secret.” He pushes the door open and stands aside, gesturing for the Litceten to enter first. “One day, if I need to tell you, I will.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jimin pushes open the wooden door carved with a nameless daystar, heading right for the bed and collapsing on it, the crystal rolling onto the sheets beside him. Now that he’s not holding it, Jimin can feel his tiredness already starting to come back.
“Nothing you need to worry about.” Hanabi lingers by the door, licking his lips.
Jimin huffs loudly and pushes himself up on his elbows, “What? I’m sorry for hitting you today, okay? Are you looking for another apology? Because that’s the only one you’re gonna get.”
“No, I was-” Hanabi shakes his head, avoiding Jimin’s gaze. He chews on his bottom lip for a while. “Can I-” he laughs and drops his head- “Fuck it. Nevermind. Let me know if you need anything.” He closes the door and walks away down the hall.
Jimin lays there, puzzled by that interaction. Truly, he can’t figure the fucking Leviathan out at all. While he does understand the nature of Hanabi’s actions as they relate to mates, Hanabi as a person is an odd one, that’s for sure. He’s timid but bold, intimidating yet victimized, sexy while being absolutely abhorrent to Jimin, hot and cold, black and white. Hanabi seems like he’s working both sides of the coin. He is the coin. Jimin snorts at himself almost thinking that Hanabi is a shiny piece of treasure that he should be proud to have. He would never let himself let go of all the hurt that the Leviathan caused him, even though it’s probably true that Jimin is hurting him just as much.
Still, Hanabi is true to his promise of not bothering Jimin at all over the next several days on the ship. Even with the distance and the silence, Jimin still knows that he lingers around the door at night because he can see Hanabi’s pale blue energy signature when he meditates. He doesn’t do much, just pacing back and forth in front of the door. As the days continue to pass, Jimin grows weary, drained of astral energy and in need of more. But he’s not ready to talk to Hanabi yet, so he goes into hibernation instead.
In the water with the creature, Jimin decides to be brave and swim down to the murky depths, reaching out to touch it. The flesh is warm under his palm. Sticky and slimy, like a fish, but smooth like human skin. The creature shifts around him, drawing closer as his touch lingers. A ray of light passes over the back of his hand causing him to turn and investigate an object that has been dropped into the water. It’s a crown, floating down lazily, turning over and over in the current of the creature’s breath. Jimin reaches out to grab it, the jewels shining in the light from the surface. It’s mostly made of black gemstones and some others that glitter with red color that Jimin recognizes as a rare trade item from the fire belt. In the very center is a silver flower with petals that point upwards, complete with a bloody sheen. The Hanabi flower.
Jimin looks up at the sound of splashing. Another crown drops into the lake. Then another and another and another until crowns are raining down into the depths. So many that Jimin can’t move, can’t see the creature. Only crowns. The sharp spikes cut his arms and legs as he tries desperately to find some semblance of smooth green skin. His guardian is lost behind a wall of glittering crowns with jagged points, slicing deeply into his flesh, coloring the water red. The great hand plunges into the liquid, unhindered by the jewelry in the lake, and grabs him. Jimin screams in pain since the hand has also grabbed quite a number of crowns and pressed them against his skin with so much force that it feels like he’s being skewered alive.
Jimin sits up so fast that he immediately feels dizzy, spots appearing on his field of vision. His skin is bubbling with astral fire, hot and cold. He’s weak - barely able to drag himself to the edge of the bed - and sweating so much that it’s running in rivulets down his temples. Somewhere, the astral plane has something important to show him. His symptoms are always so much worse when the vision is stronger. He would curse but he doesn’t have the strength, he can’t wait anymore. He must see now.
He tries to call out for Hanabi only his throat is so dry that a mere squeaky rasp tumbles from his lips. Okay, maybe telling the Leviathan not to check on him was a stupid idea because now what the fuck was he going to do. Jimin hauls himself onto his knees on the floor, arms almost immediately giving out under his weight. He’s too weak to meditate and too tired to crawl to the door. And he can feel his energy levels dropping, sapping him of the strength to puzzle his way out of this. Fuck, why is he so goddamn helpless?!
Jimin reaches out and grabs a fistful of the bed sheets because the crystal is still up there and it might help. He doesn’t know how he’s going to get it down, though, since it’s laying in the dead center of the large bed and Jimin is undoubtedly too weak to climb back up there. He pulls on the sheet, hoping maybe he can cause the crystal to fall down. He manages to get a few good tugs before he collapses again, not even able to sit upright.
When this happens, the crippling need to see, it happens fast - often much quicker than Jimin can adequately react to it. The good thing about the Litceten campus was the number of people wandering around and the lack of locking doors. Usually, it would only take a few minutes for Jimin to be found and carried to the seer chambers for his vision. It was a curse of favor ever since he was old enough to have his first vision. The second one he ever had was one of these, where he can’t even make it ten feet before he’s on the ground, screaming for help. Except this time he can’t seem to really draw breath, let alone speak.
Black eyes pulse in front of his face, the sight so visceral in Jimin’s brain that he flinches. Flashing images of black inked stars and tan skin fill his mind, black hair and rosy lips and… and - Fuck. A stray tear rolls down Jimin’s cheek because he can’t fathom why his own brain would proceed to torture him with perverted images of the man he hates most in his hour of need.
The door bangs open and Jimin doesn’t have the strength to see who’s in here with him. But apparently he doesn’t need to if the smell of crisp water and moss is anything to go by. “Shit.” Hanabi’s voice is soft and scratchy, as if he’s been sleeping.
Jimin sucks in a gasp, it feels like his lungs are collapsing. Adrenaline floods into his veins and panic constricts around his heart. Right now he’s minutes from death. But, Hanabi is here and he’s going to make it all better. Somehow Jimin doesn’t doubt that.
“Litceten, why didn’t you call for me?” The Leviathan’s hands hesitate before wrapping around Jimin’s limp body. “Goddamn it.” He picks Jimin up with ease and lays him gently on the bed, cradling his head and neck like a newborn. His touch brings a calm rhythm to Jimin’s heart and a sedative to his feverish sweating and it feels so good.
Hanabi steps back to peel off his thin white shirt and grey slouchy pants. “I have to touch you, Jimin.” He reaches out to trail his fingertips over Jimin’s ankle, following the line of his leg up to his waist, bringing the fabric of his dress along with them. And for all the hate in Jimin’s heart, his body doesn’t seem to care about anything other than Hanabi’s touch, bringing comfort and relief to his entire being.
Hanabi is already on top of him, warm skin and black ink and… and... “Please,” Jimin begs, voice breaking. “Please touch me.”
“Anything for you, Litceten,” Hanabi whispers into his ear, hot breath ghosting across his skin. His fingers trail up the inside of Jimin’s thigh, gently prompting him to spread his legs, Hanabi’s hard length already notable against Jimin’s flesh.
Jimin wishes he had more time to fully dissect the emotions currently running in circles in his mind before having sex with the captain again but his body seems to be operating independent of his own brain. Jimin’s arms are around his broad shoulders, pulling him closer, wrapping his legs around Hanabi’s waist to keep as much skin on skin contact as possible. He needs this, even if he doesn’t know why.
Hanabi moans into the junction between Jimin’s neck and shoulder, catching the skin between his teeth. The subtle pain makes Jimin’s eyes flutter closed, gasping and arcing under the Leviathan. The intense astral flame has left him, searing away everything except pure arousal. Jimin bucks his hips up against Hanabi’s, groaning as their erections rub together dry, the painful friction so confusingly good. It doesn’t stay dry for long - Hanabi continues to rut against him until things are wet and slippery and each thrust sends a shockwave of pleasure through Jimin’s body. Fuck, why is Hanabi’s cock so slimy? Why does it feel so good?
Curiosity tells Jimin to lift his head to see the Leviathan’s hard cock for the first time. He’s never really paid attention to it when they were moments before or after sex since the guilt and trauma of seeing Helasa destroyed would always come back to hit him, full force. Then again, even though Jimin wants to see the visual side of why Hanabi is so… wet, he also doesn’t. He doesn’t want to be grossed out or distracted and besides, he’s busy licking into the Leviathan’s mouth, swallowing down his bassy groans.
“Fuck!” Jimin screams when Hanabi lowers his hips a bit, rubbing his cock against his entrance. The blunt head of his dick barely breaches him before Hanabi pulls back again, teasing. “Give it to me, please.”
Hanabi chuckles into his ear, “Cute.” He presses harder against Jimin’s entrance, both of them gasping when he slips past the ring of muscle. Fuck, he’s so big, filling Jimin just right. When he bottoms out he groans loudly, resting his forehead on Jimin’s shoulder, breathing fast. He stays frozen like that for a moment, letting both of them calm down a bit, and then he’s pounding into Jimin so hard that he sees stars.
And Jimin is drowning under the weight of all the pleasure, sinking rapidly in the ocean, already seeing the frothing abyss before his eyes. He dives for it, getting lost in the feeling given to him by Hanabi. The Leviathan is so deep inside him, serpentine coils coming closer as Jimin’s fingertips brush the astral plane.
There’s yelling somewhere off to the left. The hallway is desolate and thin, the air seems brittle yet heavy with pressure. Something unsavory is lurking close by. Metal walls enclose everything tightly, seeming to stretch farther and farther the longer you look at them. The yelling gets louder. A black-haired man with black cracks on his neck stumbles into the T section of the corridor, looking behind himself quickly. He creeps closer to the corner, peering hesitantly around it before he slides along the edge of the passage.
A deep, bassy groan rattles the metal and the Monger freezes. His chest is rising and falling rapidly, sweat dripping down his temples. He pushes back against the wall as if trying to force his body into the steel. Something is coming closer, sliding wetly along the floor. It sounds large and fast, slippery, and slimy. The Monger curses quietly, eyes latching on to a giant creature at the end of the hall.
The sound is so loud, rattling everything. Blood seeps from the Monger’s ears and he starts to run, stumbling but managing to keep himself going. The yelling from before reveals itself as a group of other Mongers, all tripping over themselves, beam reflectors pointed at the floor. The one from the hallway pushes them forward, screaming. The symbol of the Hanabi flower is on the wall. The double doors that lead to the room with the daystar carving.
The last Monger trips and lands on the floor with a thud. The others don’t seem to notice. The man turns on the floor, staring up into the jaws of a serpent. The mandibles open too wide, lined with needle teeth, and snap down onto his leg, breaking it right off. The Monger screams and tries to crawl away with his remaining leg, but he doesn’t get far. The creature bites again, severing off his head, which rolls a few feet down the hallway, coloring the steel red. His face is frozen in horror, whale eyes and blown pupils.
The air is cold, wet, heavy. Jimin’s breath comes slowly, his heart thudding as if he’s just run a mile. He shivers.
The vision was strong, showing a full scene in front of his eyes, like he was standing right there, watching the Monger die. But he has no idea when this event will come to pass since he couldn’t see out any windows to determine the location of the ship. It’s a bit odd to think that a creature so large would be able to sneak onto the ship. It looked a bit like a Leviathan’s true form, but it was too big, too fast, too sleek. Besides, Leviathans don’t eat people, at least Jimin doesn’t think they do. He might be wrong about that.
Warmth floods through him, comfort, safety. He gasps, tilting his head back against the sheets. Immediately, there’s kisses being pressed against his throat, a tongue lapping at his collarbones, collecting the sweat across his chest. A deep groan rumbles through his bones. “So full. You feed me so well.” Hanabi is muttering to himself like he always does, “Always hungry.”
Jimin frowns, blinking as he finally comes back to his body. “Get off me.”
The Leviathan freezes, caught up in his… whatever he’s doing. He nods against Jimin’s throat, pulling away from him. “Sorry.”
A sharp gasp tumbles from Jimin’s mouth when he realizes what he’s asked for. He doesn’t want Hanabi to stop touching him, not yet. He grabs blindly for his wrist, stopping his movements. “No. Ignore me.”
Hanabi stares at him, confused. “You want me to stay?”
“Just- I don’t-” Jimin huffs, “Only for a few minutes.”
Hanabi drops back down, pressing his body against Jimin’s again, eliciting a sigh from both of them. “Whatever you want, Litceten.”
While Jimin doesn’t necessarily want to fall asleep caged in Hanabi’s arms, he does it anyways, the exhaustion of a vision setting in. In his dream, he dives into the water of the lake, searching for the creature that usually populates the depths, but for some reason the beast is gone. He swims around, looking for it, sifting through patches of slow-moving seaweed. It’s nowhere to be found. The lake is empty. Jimin suddenly finds that the water is cold and uninviting. This is not the same safe body of water he had grown used to.
The blinding light of a passing daystar is what wakes Jimin up, not the great hand from above. It’s a bit strange to wake up naturally, without the aid of the faceless giant. He rolls over on the sheets, noting that he’s nude and sticky with dried sweat. A blanket covers his lower half and his crystal is right next to his head, pulsing with energy. He reaches out to touch it, exhaling harshly from the rush of endorphins.
He gets up, wobbling for a second before he finds his footing, heading to the bathroom for a soak in some hot water. His body feels tense and strained in a way that doesn’t match how he usually feels after a vision. While the tap runs, he looks around his room, finding no sign that Hanabi was even there before. Good, Jimin says to himself, ignoring the slight pang of disappointment that rings in his gut.
The Leviathan helped him with yet another vision, saving Jimin from death once more. His body doesn’t react the same way to the aftermath of seeing when he’s with Hanabi. And while he can understand that, technically, that’s what’s supposed to happen, he still can’t quite wrap his brain around it. Probably because of all the hatred he still holds for the man. It seems impossible that he would be able to be associated with anything positive as far as Jimin is concerned, he stands for nothing except death and despair.
Jimin shakes his head, stepping into the steaming water in the tub, relaxing against the edges of the basin. Maybe he needs to meditate to clear his head, tapping into that steady, crystal clear part of his psyche. Around him are various aura signatures, but none of them are the pale blue of Hanabi. For some reason, Jimin finds himself searching for the telltale color, but he doesn’t find it. It makes him nervous.
Just when he’s about to call it quits on the meditating, Hanabi’s signature flickers at the very edge of the map. Flickers? No, that can’t be right. Auras don’t flicker, they’re steady, representing the breed of each individual. Even Lopsis Fugas have auras. Jimin concentrates a bit harder, draining his mental strength trying to get a closer look at Hanabi. He flickers again and then starts moving, traveling quite a ways until he stops and stays in one place that Jimin assumes must be his room or something.
His breath leaves in a groan, all his extra energy depleted. Jimin hauls himself out of the tub and goes back to the bed, flopping onto the sheets and curling into a ball around his crystal. He dives back into the lake, relieved to see the thick coils of the creature back again. He swims up to them and places his hand on the smooth skin, watching the way the creature responds to his touch. Nothing falls into the lake today, it’s just Jimin and his guardian, coexisting.
The days on the ship seem to pass in a blur, mostly because Jimin chooses to float in the depths of the lake, unaware of the passage of time. He’s been undisturbed for days, only knowing what day it is by the growing fire under his skin. It’s been about a week since his last vision and he’ll only be able to hold off this next one for so long before he turns into that desperate, nonfunctional mess again and he’d rather not let it get to that.
There’s a soft knock on the door. It’s Hanabi, Jimin can tell. “Litceten, we are arriving at Haddol. Would you like to accompany me down to the surface?”
Jimin narrows his eyes, fresh from a dip in the lake. “Why?”
“I must bathe in the lake in order to be reconnected with my brothers. Yura never mentioned needing you to do anything but I’d rather not take the chance of missing a step.”
Jimin would love to say no, would love to crush Hanabi’s careful optimism but he’s right. It would be catastrophic for either of them to miss a step somewhere and be unable to complete the request of the Fugas. Jimin rolls his eyes, “I will accompany you, but you are not to touch me. Understand?”
“Yes, I understand. I will come back once it is time to leave.”
Jimin pushes himself into a sitting position, rubbing his eyes and stretching. He’s never been to Haddol, obviously, but from what he’s heard it’s a rather unappetizing planet mostly covered in black rock and deep pools. Nothing lives there.
The drawer full of Litceten clothes proves to be deeper than Jimin initially thought. He lays out all of the garments on the bed, then moving to the floor when he runs out of space. The question of where Hanabi got all of this still remains, but it seems an inappropriate time to ask him. Jimin puzzles over the clothes for a while, feeling the fabric between his fingers and examining the chains and jewels hung from delicate waistbands. Eventually, he settles on something sheer and blue.
Litceten clothes are mostly designed for appearance purposes and not functionality. After all, it’s really not the easiest to fold up dresses weighted with gemstones and precious metals, and even harder to wash them. Back home, Jimin’s favorite dress was yellow, decorated with sunstones and silver pieces. He would always get compliments when he wore it, blushing under the praise. He looked good in yellow, a hard color for Litcetens to pull off given their multi-colored hue. Green was the other difficult color, not even Jimin looked good in darker shades of green. Then again, it was hard to find clothes in dark colors anyways. Pastel was the ruling palette of Helasa.
Hanabi doesn’t speak to him when he comes back to the door, leading Jimin to the same lander jet as before, when they went to Tas Undae. It’s awkward and tense but this is what Jimin asked for so he bites his tongue all the way until the doors open on Haddol. He gasps upon seeing the pure black landscape. Dark clouds cover every inch of the sky and the water seems black, too. Dark green foliage is sprinkled between the rocks, but that’s the full extent of the planet, it seems.
Hanabi leads him to the edge of a nearby pool. He squats down and sticks his fingers into the water. He shakes his head silently and leads them to another pool, helping Jimin cross difficult terrain along the way. Hanabi dismisses several pools before he finally nods at the edge of one that Jimin almost thinks he recognizes. Dark, scaly trees and black rocks framing an ebony lake.
Hanabi strips off his shirt, tossing it onto the dark grass. “You can sit there.” he points to a flat rock by the edge of the water. “I’ll just be a minute.”
Jimin nods, trying not to stare at him. He averts his gaze when the captain strips down completely, only peeking up when he’s sure Hanabi has turned away towards the water. Finally, Jimin can see the full extent of the black ink on him, curling around his thigh and stretching across his back - stars and planets and nebulas. It’s a system that Jimin doesn’t recognize, holding two day stars and a centralized ring of planets. Hanabi was born in a fire system, which Jimin didn’t expect. On the back of his calf, Jimin sees the mark of the Imperial Garden, which makes his stomach clench. He should have expected it, but it kind of hurts to see the formal association of Hanabi with the Emperor.
Just when Jimin is about to turn his gaze elsewhere he sees the stand-out constellation of Kubbra, the Litceten, between Hanabi’s shoulder blades. Below the jagged line, like a heartbeat, is the icon of Sin. When Hanabi said he was mobilizing assets to keep Jimin safe, he didn’t quite take the Leviathan seriously, much less expect his secret guardians to be members of Sin - a notorious inter-galaxy gang. Sin is hard to describe by the type of people who are in it, rather, it’s best to say that you can only join Sin if you have a mate and if you’re an endangered breed. It’s a protective agency, but the word protection includes all of the things necessary to protect people; murder, torture, destruction. Needless to say, they are not viewed well by the UNNO. Damn, no wonder Hanabi is priority number one for the police, he’s part of Sin and the captain of the warship destroyer.
But that raises another question in Jimin’s mind. To be part of Sin, to request their protection, you must have a mate. Unless the mark is very, very new, Hanabi would have to have known Jimin was his mate. They must have met before, even for a mere second. It’s possible that Hanabi could have lied to them but somehow Jimin doubts that. Sin must have some type of checking system, otherwise, anyone would be able to get in. Jimin scowls, scouring his memories to find some place where his life and Hanabi’s intersected, however briefly, but finds nothing.
When he looks up, expecting to see Hanabi standing in the water, he’s alone. The surface of the lake is smooth as glass, undisturbed. Jimin rushes to the edge of the water, thinking perhaps Hanabi slipped into the liquid. The pool is deep and dark and Jimin can only see a few inches under the surface. Something moves through the water, large and pale, reaching up towards him.
Jimin stumbles back when he sees a snout, smooth and green, pierce the surface of the water. There’s so many teeth, large nostrils and lizard-like eyes. The head of this mystery monster is about as large as Jimin is tall, could swallow him whole. Easily. The head is followed by neck and more neck and more neck. It’s a serpent that crashes down onto the dark bank of the pool, spraying water everywhere.
Jimin screams, the air forming into the name of the captain, scrambling backwards away from the monster. The great beast slithers toward him with frightening speed, shaking like a dog to rid itself of the water. An amalgamous quality starts to overtake the creature, stretching the skin into strange, grotesque points and shapes, shrinking rapidly until it’s a bag of green skin wrapped around an assemblage of gruesome points. The bag of bones starts to become familiar as it wiggles around, black hair sprouting from one end, and limbs beginning to form. Black patches erupt over parts of now peachy skin, outlining stars and constellations. Arms and legs. It’s Hanabi.
He coughs and wheezes on the ground. “Fuck, sorry. I… I forgot about that part.”
Jimin stays frozen in his spot, gaping at Hanabi as he slowly gets onto his hands and knees, spitting mouthfuls of water onto the black grass. “You’re…”
“A Leviathan. You already know this.” Hanabi gets up, stumbling for a moment before he regains his balance, reaching for his discarded clothes.
“But you’re…” There’s a lot of things Jimin could say here. That Hanabi is, by far, exponentially larger than he predicted, that he’s part of Sin, that he’s capable of shifting back to himself at will, that he’s a source of comfort in the nothingness of space.
Something inside Jimin knows he can’t hold off the tsunami wave that is Hanabi in all his sleek, sexy, seductive, sadistic glory for much longer. If Min, the strongest Lopsis Fuga, told him that he and Hanabi were fated to be together then Jimin himself can do little to protest against the will of the universe. It’s a foolish endeavor but one Jimin feels like he must push against out of principle. How wrong would it be for him to fall into the arms of the man who destroyed his home without even a fight? No, it’s better this way. He can’t give in so easily, as if the lives of all the Litcetens mean nothing. After all, it was supposed to be Hanabi versus Helasa, and Hanabi was supposed to lose. Jimin was never supposed to have a mate, never supposed to meet him, and Helasa was never supposed to have been destroyed. So it feels like Jimin is choosing between honoring his home, his people, or honoring the innate bond he has with the Leviathan. It’s fucked on all fronts.
“I’m older than you think,” Hanabi says as he pulls his shirt back over his head. “That’s why.”
Jimin scowls, remembering the image of teeth nestled into pale green flesh. He’s seen this before. From somewhere foggy and far away the memory calls to him, somewhere beyond - the astral plane. He’s seen Hanabi in a vision, when he ate the Monger in the hallway. Or maybe it was a different Leviathan. Min told him that just like there are other Litcetens out there, so are more Leviathans, hiding in far corners of the galaxies, away from prying eyes.
Jimin stares at him, hating the desire bubbling up in his core. He wants things to go back to the way they were before - with Hyejoon and the wet garden and the stupid gossip on campus - because this is much more confusing. Out here in the real world, things have consequences, dire ones. And Jimin doesn’t know what to say, where to go from here. So he stays quiet, following meekly behind Hanabi as they head back to the lander jet.
The vehicle rattles around them, producing quite a lot of sound but the silence between the two men sitting on either side seems way louder. Jimin swallows and stares at the floor, trying to keep his gaze away from the Leviathan. The astral fire under his skin is building by the minute but he doesn’t want to ask for help. Right now seems like a rather inopportune time; Hanabi is frowning and his eyes are locked on the porthole window where stars race past them. Now that he’s been reconnected with his brothers, the other Leviathans, he’ll know where they need to go. It’s important for him to direct where the ship should set a course to but… But…
“Leviathan.” Jimin doesn’t look up, even when he can feel Hanabi’s attention shift, “Visit me when you are done with your captain’s duties. Please.”
“If you need me now I can-”
“No.” Jimin is quick to cut him off. “I’ll be fine.”
Hanabi nods and leans back in his seat. It’s silent except for the rush of the galaxy outside and the rattle of the lander. Jimin is led back to his room and left alone for a while. The crystal given by Min is sitting where he left it on the bed. It’s warm in his hands and the press of electricity against his forehead is like an orgasm of the mind.
“You called?” Min asks, waving their needle nails through the air in seemingly random patterns.
“Hanabi is not the last Leviathan, correct?” Jimin tries to look around but his vision is locked on Min.
“Correct. He is not the last, but - like you - he is the most powerful of his kind that remains.” Min’s nails stop moving suddenly, in a way that makes Jimin gasp.
“So that makes him the most important Leviathan? Is he a leader of sorts? Will the others be drawn to him?”
“No. Leviathans have a culture very different from the one passed down as traditional fact. The family unit is the mate and offspring, though only until mating themselves. Though your mate is arguably the most important Leviathan, he is not in any position of power over the others, nor will he be able to win them over by virtue of species.” Speaking plainly, that means that Hanabi will not be able to use his own Leviathan-ness as a means to recruit the others. However, for Jimin that will probably be something he resorts to often since Litcetens flock to each other. “He is the most powerful but his position as the most important Leviathan for the future of the species rests on his position with the Emperor.”
“Will he kill the Emperor?”
“There are some futures where he does kill the Emperor but many where he does not. The outcome of that act is one still too far off in the distance for us to make out clearly, but if we determine one course of action to be more favorable, I will let you know.”
Jimin nods, “Hanabi has bathed in the waters of Haddol, so that’s done.”
“Yes, he has. The future changes with each new step you take. And now that the Leviathan has reconnected with his brothers, you are heading for your first target. A Litceten will be nearby, on the same planet. Seek them out.” Min’s third eye flutters.
“I just had one more question about the crystal you gave me. Do I need to charge it or use it sparingly? Will it run out of energy?”
Min smiles, “No, the crystal will not run out of energy. Use it to charge yourself as often as you need to. I did not give it to you for the sole purpose of contacting me. This request, that we Lopsis Fugas have tasked you with, will not be easy; of this, we are completely aware. So we have decided to offer you some assistance in the form of an energy conduit. Do not let the crystal fall into the wrong hands.”
Jimin nods as much as his place inside the moon will let him, “I won’t. Thank you.” His vision fades to blackness and then recolors with the deep palette of the Hanabi warship bedroom. The crystal pulses brilliantly in Jimin’s hands and he makes himself busy searching for places to hide it. Easier said than done as the object itself is quite large and the luminous qualities overrule being covered by pillows or stuffed in a dresser drawer. He still hasn’t found someplace suitable by the time Hanabi comes knocking.
“Did you need me, Litceten?”
“Yes, come in.” Jimin places his singular possession on the bed and sits next to it, watching Hanabi step into the room, lingering by the door. He breaks the silence since it’s clear the Leviathan isn’t going to. “We both know I’ll have to see again. I’d rather just get it over with.”
Hanabi nods stiffly, licking his lips. “Understood.” He stays frozen on the edge of the room, staring at the floor. “Just like last time?”
“Actually,” Jimin swallows thickly, there’s been something he’s been meaning to try. He understands by now that Hanabi’s presence deeply affects the aftermath of a vision so if he can tap into the full potential of that, he can recover faster. “I want you to stay until I wake up, if possible.”
Hanabi’s brow furrows deeply, “Oh. Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Jimin picks up the crystal and moves it onto the bedside table, stroking the smooth sides lovingly, like a pet. “Don’t make me say it again.”
The Leviathan licks his lips. He lets out a strange little huff through his nose before running a stressed hand through his hair. “Okay, sure. I’ll try to stay as long as possible.”
Jimin nods and doesn’t know what else to say, how to initiate them having sex again, so he stands up and strips off his dress, casting it onto the floor. Thankfully it’s enough for Hanabi to understand his silent request. The other man crosses over to the bed, clothes falling to the floor in his hurried rush to undress.
Hanabi always touches his shoulder first, trails his fingertips across Jimin’s collarbones, skims up his neck to cup his jaw. He’s asking for permission to touch him and fuck him and make him see the future. But Jimin’s brain is stuck on that, on the fact that he’s asking for this. Hanabi never asked if it would be okay to kill Jimin’s friends in front of him or blow up his home or ruin his entire life or jeopardize the future of his breed. But this - having sex - is what Hanabi chooses to ask for.
Jimin is stiff when Hanabi traces his fingertips down his chest, brushing lightly past his cock. His mouth drops open when the Leviathan speaks in a whisper, “I can taste how much you hate me.” He huffs a quiet laugh, “Fuck, you hate me so much, Litceten.”
“I hate you with every fiber of my being,” Jimin whispers back. His blood pulses hotly when he thinks about Hanabi being able to taste his hatred, that he’ll always know how much Jimin despises him. The heat in his body starts to pool between his legs. Maybe he gets off on hating Hanabi, on making him suffer.
“Hate me, then. Hate me as much as you want. Fuck,” Hanabi pushes him back against the bed, a hot fist wrapping around his cock, which makes him cry out pitifully, “Hate me, Jimin!”
It’s so easy for Jimin to listen to him. He unleashes all the hatred in his heart and grabs a harsh fistful of Hanabi’s black hair, yanking their faces close so he can bite down into the Leviathan’s lip. The blood that spreads over his tongue tastes like copper and the sweet tang of unripe Seeg berries. He spits the red liquid back into Hanabi’s open mouth, watching rogue droplets splatter across his cheeks and chin. Jimin reaches up to push his thumb roughly against the gushing cut on Hanabi’s bottom lip. The man bares his teeth - stained crimson - at the pain but doesn’t pull away. Jimin bites into the gash once more, enjoying Hanabi’s muted grunt of pain. All the while, the hand on his cock doesn’t stop working up and down his shaft, sending shockwaves of pleasure through his body.
Hanabi shifts his weight, moving his arm over Jimin’s shoulder for better leverage. Jimin wastes no time in turning his head and biting viciously into the expanse of skin. The sweet sound of Hanabi’s whine fills him with pride and satisfaction. His brain is pushing him to hurt the Leviathan more, make him feel one ounce of the pain he has caused not only to Jimin but to all Litcetens. More bitter blood floods his mouth, seeping past his lips and dripping onto the bed. Still, the Leviathan doesn’t move away, just keeps pleasuring him at a steady pace.
Jimin is breaking inside, something shattering and stabbing his heart with shards of glass. His whole body just feels… wrong. His hands worm themselves up over Hanabi’s shoulders and wrap around his throat. A brilliant thrill skates down his spine when he feels the man swallow under his fingertips. He squeezes. Tightly. Harder and harder, pain bursting under his skin, at his knuckles as they try to contract around an ungiving object. More. Make him suffer. This is wrong.
Jimin releases his jaw from Hanabi’s forearm and shakes his head violently, tears forming at the corners of his eyes. His shoulders are locked and his palms hurt and he can’t stop. He can hear Hanabi struggling for breath, feel him swallowing uselessly, and all the while the Leviathan keeps stroking his cock. Jimin’s breath hitches suddenly and then he’s crying and pushing Hanabi away with a rough shove to his chest. “Fuck you! I h-hate you so f-fucking much!”
“I know you do.” Hanabi’s ragged voice is close, somewhere just beyond Jimin’s heavily tear-blurred vision. “But that will not drive me away. Nothing will. I will bleed for you, suffocate for you, die for you. I will do anything for you, Jimin.”
Jimin sobs, grabbing fistfuls of the sheets. He feels like an idiot. He knows nothing will truly deter Hanabi from chasing after his vision of a perfect future, not even biting a hole into his arm. It’s not that he feels bad for doing it, just that it feels like he has officially stooped to a low he wouldn’t normally dream of going to. Hanabi brings out the worst in him. Or maybe it’s just Jimin, forcing himself to be a piece of shit to stop himself from falling in love with the Leviathan. The words sound repulsive and disgusting even in his own head but the sweet craving of them doesn’t go unnoticed. It would be nice to be in love… with anyone other than Hanabi.
The idea of loving Hanabi wouldn’t be half bad if Jimin was able to look past everything the man had done. But he can’t. No, it would be selfish of him to let it all slide just for the sake of his own happiness. So if being an asshole to his ma- the Leviathan is what it takes to keep the distance between them then that’s what he’ll keep doing, even if it ends up hurting both of them. Maybe after this whole business of tipping the scales back into balance is over he’ll consider it. Currently, it is an option that is not on the table.
Jimin cries while Hanabi fucks him and his vision is nothing more than shreds of pictures that make no sense. When it’s over he lays there, limp and out of breath, still crying. The Leviathan shushes him gently, whispering soft nothings into his ear and rubbing his thumb over Jimin’s hip in soothing circles. In the near silence of the room, Jimin can clearly hear Hanabi’s mutterings this time. He’s obsessively talking to himself about being hungry, always hungry but so well fed. Jimin frowns.
Hanabi pushes slow, sensual kisses to the side of his neck, the tip of his tongue peeking out to skate lightly over the skin. Silky black hair tickles Jimin’s face but he’s too weak to brush the strands away. Hanabi’s hair is actually quite long which is probably why he keeps it tied back so often. He does look a bit disheveled when it’s curling wildly around his face - sexy and tousled. His heartbeat is a strong thump against Jimin’s chest and his skin is pleasantly warm, comforting enough to have Jimin drifting off faster than he can truly process. He’s a bit surprised when he wakes up still caged in Hanabi’s arms since he’s not certain of when he actually fell asleep or how long they’ve been laying like this.
Hanabi smells like mint and moss, the crispness of clean water. He’s still sleeping deeply, his face hidden by a curtain of wavy black hair. Each of his slow breaths ghost over Jimin’s nose and lips, humid enough that he can almost taste Hanabi in the air. It seems odd that this moment is so peaceful when just hours ago Jimin bit a hole into Hanabi’s arm, tore his lip open, and flat out choked him until spit was dripping down his chin. And Hanabi never fought back. He takes whatever Jimin gives him.
Something deep inside Jimin suggests that he’s punished the Leviathan enough by now. The idea is quickly stamped out by the burning hatred that still exists inside his heart. Nothing would ever justify the pain of watching Hyejoon’s brain boil in her skull and plop onto the polished wooden floor in pink splotches. Blood pours from her mouth, nose, and eyes. She smiles, just a little bit. Plop, plop… plop goes her brain onto the floor, a thin string of steam rising from the hole in the back of her skull. The images replay over and over again with vicious precision.
“Jimin!” Hanabi finally manages to get his attention. His ears are throbbing with pressure. He’s been screaming. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”
Jimin wants to punch the concerned look off Hanabi’s face. “This is your fault!” He screeches, turning to bury his face into the Leviathan’s bare chest. Strong arms wrap around him and kisses are pushed into his unwashed hair. “Why did you make me watch?!”
“I’m so sorry, Jimin.” Hanabi pulls him even closer. “Knowing all the pain I have caused you will haunt my dreams forever.”
There’s nothing for Jimin to say and his throat is so full of tears that speaking is impossible anyways. The universe seems small and bleak, reduced to little more than the Hanabi warship and the man he so desperately hates and the lake with the creature. Today the beast is restless, coils squirming, twisting with serpentine grace. Between thick stretches of green flesh, Jimin can see flashes of needle teeth, wicked and pale.
Jimin swims up to his guardian and lays a land on the closest stretch of slimy skin. The shudder that ripples through the creature is familiar by now, but the shake that vibrates the water is not. Jimin retracts his palm and looks around for the source of the disturbance, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. He peers down at the poorly lit depths, seeing his own shadow darkening the thick weeds. A small white spark is nestled amongst the vegetation, giving off a faint source of light that upon closer inspection is a sparkling trinket, Litceten in nature. Kids are given these hairpins once they have their first vision. Jimin lost his own some years ago when he was running around in the wet garden. No doubt they were swallowed by the clay, and now the blackness of space.
The hairpins sparkle brilliantly, inlaid with yellow jewels and carved silver. These are not Jimin’s nor do they belong to anyone he knows of. His own pins were decorated with purple and gold, like his skin shift. Litcetens are always some form of gold and purple, some edging more towards blue or yellow. The glitter itself is only visible in the light of a daystar or some other similar source of luminosity. Less of a blinding reflection and more of a soft, sparkly tint to the skin. Actually, there are many species of astral beings that have light-activated color shifts but only Litcetens have the shift across their entire body, including their palms, lips, and the bottoms of their feet. In high octane daystar light, Jimin’s skin is more purple, and in a low octane light, he’s more gold. It depends. Regardless, these pins are unfamiliar to him.
The water shakes around him once more and he looks up towards the rippling surface of the lake, watching the great hand plunge into the depths and grab him. He tries to hold onto the hairpins, the sharp point of the comb teeth cutting deeply into the meat of his palm, but somehow they slip away, disappearing into an abyssal blackness far below. The creature in the lake is gone, only empty water surrounds him as he’s dragged against his will to the surface, breaching it with a gasp.
The room is largely unchanged from the last time Jimin remembers looking at it, minus Hanabi, who is gone. The crystal has been moved to a spot next to his head, far from the bedside table where he thought he put it. He reaches out for it, appreciating the warmth and the surge of energy that floods through him. Jimin’s heart seizes up when he finds the strength to lift himself onto his elbows and sees spots of crimson all over the sheets. Oh.
Jimin scowls and gets out of bed. A white dress is tossed over his nude form and he takes the crystal with him, carrying it like an infant. Jimin doesn’t know why or how he knows exactly where Hanabi is right now but he does. Blank, endless hallways seem to blend together and Jimin fails to understand how anyone could reasonably navigate the warship without a map. His steps quicken as he gets closer, heading down yet another flight of stairs - Hanabi seems to be in the lowest section of the ship.
“Litceten?” A voice calls from behind him as he makes to round a corner. “What are you doing down here?” Taehyung asks far too casually, “And all alone, too.”
“The captain is expecting me.” Jimin lies easily. His hardened scowl falters when Taehyung laughs and steps closer, into Jimin’s personal space.
“I don’t think so.” He reaches out to trail a faint touch over Jimin’s cheek that he flinches away from.
“Don’t touch me.” Jimin grips the crystal tighter, the edge digging into his chest. “I’m leaving.”
“No.” Taehyung grins, eyes hidden behind curly hair. “You aren’t.”
“Excuse me? Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” Jimin hisses angrily. He’s tired of being cooped up in that fucking room and he wants to find Hanabi, ask where they’re going.
“Litceten, frail little creature, do allow me to escort you back to your room before you get into trouble.” Taehyung offers one pretty hand. There’s a thin black bracelet around his wrist.
“No. I’m going to see the captain.” Jimin turns away and starts marching down the hallway.
“Hanabi is busy right now. Come with me.” Taehyung’s voice has lost its sing-song lilt. It’s cold and hard and demanding.
Jimin feels the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He turns and peers around the corner to see Hanabi himself, soaked from head to toe, dripping wet and leaving a trail of liquid behind him. He looks angry, black eyes swimming with ink. Jimin feels a sick sort of satisfaction unfurl in his chest, a ‘fuck you’ to Taehyung. Jimin watches the captain march up to them, a smug smile directed at the Monger as he shifts his weight onto one hip.
“Taehyung, I do believe I gave you a specific order not to talk to the Litceten.” Hanabi grits through his teeth. Jimin sees a splash of crimson on the side of his chest now that he’s standing right beside the Leviathan. Why is he all wet? It looks like he just took a dive into a pool with clothes on. “I will escort this one back to his room. You are dismissed.”
Jimin looks up at Hanabi, not expecting to be addressed so viscerally, as if Hanabi is well and truly annoyed that Jimin is here. He waits until Taehyung has bowed and turned down a far hallway to scoff, “I’m a fucking captive in that room.”
“You are safe there. No one can get in unless you let them in.” Hanabi starts walking, gesturing for Jimin to follow. “I did not make your presence on the ship known to everyone. Only a select few know you are here.”
“Don’t you think that might backfire once they find out?” Jimin hurries along after Hanabi’s long stride.
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I? Eventually, someone is going to figure out why I am harboring Leviathans and Litcetens.” Hanabi runs a hand through his wet hair, “How did you even manage to get down here?”
Jimin bites into his bottom lip. “I don’t know. I just knew where you were.” Hanabi snickers loudly at that but doesn’t respond. “So what were you doing? Why are you soaked?”
“It’s nothing you need to worry about and you certainly are not permitted to ever come down here again.” Hanabi turns to glare at Jimin over his shoulder. “I mean it.”
“Why?” Jimin presses, nearly tripping over his feet in his haste to keep up with the Leviathan.
“Because my least controllable crew members are stationed down here. Honestly, I am immensely surprised that you did not get caught and tortured by one of them.” Hanabi shakes his head, “They are loyal but rogue, so I keep them away from the others. And since they do not know of your position, they will assume you are a stowaway. A stowaway on my ship does not have a merciful end.”
“How comforting.” Jimin rolls his eyes.
“I run a well-oiled machine here, Jimin. If I am lax in my rules, I will be seen as a lax captain. Considering what I am doing now, I can’t afford to have anyone get off the hook.” Hanabi rubs the back of his neck. “You’re very interested in this all of the sudden. Did you see something?”
“Nothing I can confidently say has anything to do with the crew. I’m just still wondering what you were doing.” Jimin looks down at the crystal in his arms, getting lost in the shining blue color.
“Well, I’m not going to tell you.” He pauses for a second, “It will just make you upset, and I think I’ve done quite enough of that already.”
Jimin purses his lips, remaining silent as they travel back to the wooden doors and the nameless daystar. He steps inside once Hanabi opens the door, settling down on the bed. He traces his fingertips over the crystal, considering things. “Where are we going?”
Hanabi chuckles a bit, “You’ll be just as surprised as I was when you hear we’re going to Haag Ter Af.”
Haag Ter Af is a centrally aligned planet in the middle of the UNNO network - usually called Hata for short. It’s known for its rich forests and rolling green hills and there’s rumors of trees being bigger than Helasa itself. However, for all its beauty it is a notorious training ground for members of the Order Yachiga - a specialized cult focusing on anti-astral combat. In spite of this, the land is home to a very large population of astrals.
“That’s….” Jimin starts to shake his head but Hanabi seems to read his unspoken concerns.
“The story is that I’m going to meet with my contact in the Order to target an old enemy I’ve heard a rumor about when we stopped at Morm Acra - the supply outpost. Getting you off the ship is going to be a bit more difficult but I’ll think of something.” The Leviathan licks his lips. “Your safety is assured. I can promise that, easily.”
“A bold claim.” Jimin doesn’t look at him. He already knows what the man will say; a Leviathan will die for their mate, kill for their mate, destroy worlds for their mate. They were hunted down for a reason - they got too powerful, too well-fed, on astral energy. Leviathans became a threat because their bloodlust was not limited to their enemies but also their brothers. A mated Leviathan was someone gruesome and feared, so they were wiped out to keep the demons free of consequence, raping and pillaging without a care in the world. Demons don’t work things out the way most others do; if it annoys you, kill it, and if it limits you - destroy it.
Jimin is acutely aware that each time he and Hanabi have sex, the Leviathan becomes more powerful, more “well-fed”. That’s what he’s muttering about afterwards, consumed with the pleasure of his own expanding potential. They’re codependent, Leviathans and Litcetens were made for each other. Hanabi keeps Jimin alive during his feedings on the astral plane and Jimin gives Hanabi the energy, the power he so desperately craves. The benefit is mutual, whether Jimin chooses to appreciate that or not.
“We will reach the edge of the Kveig sector in about two weeks. We have to go back through the asteroid belt and I can only ask for cruising speed before my crew gets curious. I can’t have them asking questions. It’s business as usual as far as they know.” Hanabi shifts his weight, licking his lips. “So… just to cover my bases, we will be stopping at an astral trade node.”
Jimin already knows where this is going. The Hanabi warship really has only one functional purpose - destruction. He glares up at the Leviathan, daring him to say it.
“I’m going to blow it up.” He swallows audibly. “I have to. This was not my choice but a direct order from the Emperor.”
It’s surprisingly easy to forget that Hanabi is essentially the Emperor’s lapdog, her errand-boy, tasked with doing all the dirty work while she sits on a golden throne on Xerganda. According to Min, this relationship is extremely important to the grand scheme of things so it would be wise for Hanabi to keep playing the part. But that certainly doesn’t mean Jimin is just going to roll over and let him blow up something else, stealing thousands of lives and disrupting a carefully constructed trade network.
“Fuck you,” Jimin mutters. He reaches for the crystal, his energy levels dropping dangerously, “I can’t let you do that.”
Hanabi nods, “I understand. Do you want to hit me or hurt me or…?”
Jimin scoffs, “I don’t want to do any of that. I just want you to not do it. But I know you have to. And I know, eventually, I have to let you.” He laughs humorlessly. “I have to sacrifice more of my kind to rescue my species. Bullshit.”
The Leviathan licks his lips rather pointedly. “I’ll let you rest for a while. I’ll stop by every few days in case you need me.” And, with that, he leaves.
Jimin stares at the wooden door of the room. He’s tired and the waters of the lake are a calming comfort, a sea of warmth and protection, surrounded by his serpentine guardian. For a long time, nothing happens, it’s just the two of them coexisting. The peace doesn’t last forever and soon there’s a cold chill that carries on the gentle current. Jimin shivers in the water, eyes blinking open. He uncurls from his fetal position, enclosed on all sides by thick green coils. The creature seems much closer to him than usual, moving rapidly through the water, bubbles skating off green skin. Jimin reaches out to touch the slimy body of the creature and discovers that it’s cold under his fingertips.
Jimin looks up at the sound of splashing, not expecting the water above to color with cloudy red splotches around a strangely familiar shape. The object is shadowed by the light from beyond the water’s surface until it sinks a bit closer, becoming clearer and more detailed. The blur at the end is a series of thin protrusions and the red color is streaming out from the opposite end. It’s a hand, severed halfway up the forearm, white bones nestled in marbled meat, rigor mortis fingers framed by bruised, broken nails. Jimin tries to swim away from it but all his movements just seem to bring it closer. The fingers jerk, reaching for him. Bubbles spill out of Jimin’s mouth as he tries to scream.
Teeth appear around the edges of the twitching hand, white needle points nestled into green flesh and pink gums. Jaws, elongated like an alligator, snap closed so quickly that Jimin almost doesn’t see it, the jaws already retreating between coils of slimy skin, and then it’s gone along with the severed hand. Jimin pauses, absorbing that he’s finally seen the face of the creature in his dream lake. Not all of it, but at least the mouth was shown to him. Sleek and elegant and wicked. Familiar.
Jimin doesn’t resist the great hand that plunges into the water to drag him away, going willingly because he wants to talk to Hanabi again. Something about this creature in the lake is too familiar now, too important. It must mean something.
A daystar is passing by the window, illuminating the room almost too brightly. Jimin takes a moment to rouse himself and change into a fresh dress. He thinks about taking a bath to soothe his nerves and wash his oily hair but decides against it. Asking Hanabi about this creature in the lake must come first, then he can relax. And he wants to talk to the captain before bothering Min if it turns out to be nothing. The Lopsis Fuga doesn’t seem like an entity he can ask petty questions of.
Jimin picks up the crystal, nestling it into his elbow like an infant. He approaches the door and then hesitates. Hanabi had told him that the crew doesn’t know he’s here and will assume he has snuck onto the ship. At this point, with things so up in the air, Jimin shouldn’t risk the crew’s suspicion. Jimin doesn’t even know where the captain is right now, let alone how to approach him if he’s in the middle of something. He deflates bodily, sulking back to the bed to rethink his plan. This would be a lot easier if he had some way to call the Leviathan - to which his brain unhelpfully supplies that if they mate, Hanabi will always know when he’s needed.
The bath is a welcome distraction for Jimin, who easily dives into the glittering world of the auras that surround him. He seeks out Hanabi’s pale blue and eventually finds it flickering on the far corners of his map shortly before it disappears completely. It doesn’t reappear and even with the help of the crystal nearby, Jimin’s energy runs low after searching the aural plane for a while. The creature in the lake is missing when he returns to the comfort of the water. Time seems to slow down for a while, days passing in mere moments under the peaceful blanket of liquid. The giant hand that plucks him out of the water is armed with pointed red nails, manicured cuticles, and a thick golden ring.
Jimin gasps, his brain feels fuzzy and slow, veins rushing with astral fire. He needs to see, he needs Hanabi. Faint specks of light from the stars beyond the window brighten the room and cast light over the deep colors of the bedroom, passing gently over an armchair Jimin’s never noticed in the corner.
And in the chair is the sleeping figure of the Leviathan himself, his head bowed forward and hair hanging in his face. He wears his loose sleeping clothes in shades of grey. Jimin’s brain glosses over the fact that Hanabi has entered the room without his permission and while he was sleeping, vulnerable. He supposes it’s a small comfort that the captain has relegated himself to a chair in the corner and not next to him on the bed, which would have resulted in a somewhat different atmosphere and a serious dip in Jimin’s already low level of trust for the demon. His heart clenches just slightly at the peaceful, young aura that Hanabi has when he’s sleeping - so much different from his normal, awake state.
Jimin’s body pulses with a heated wave of need, bordering on pain, and he groans high in his throat. The sound, though quiet, is enough to rouse the Leviathan who blinks blearily a few times and then bolts into a standing position faster than Jimin can process. “Litceten,” He rumbles in a gravelly sleep voice, “Sorry, I wanted to be close when you awoke.” He slowly tiptoes over to the edge of the bed while Jimin clenches his teeth from the pain starting to radiate across his chest. This type of pain comes when he’s been ignoring his visions. But he’s only been sleeping for a few hours….right?
It’s too late, too far along in the process to ask Hanabi when they last spoke. Instead, Jimin’s voice cracks on his plea for sight. “Help me. I need t-to see.”
Hanabi comes even closer but doesn’t make contact with the bed where Jimin so desperately needs him to be. “Can I touch you?” Jimin just nods since his throat is closing up, clogged with tears of agony. He’s dissolving quickly. “Just like last time?” Hanabi’s brows furrow and he licks his lips, still not even making to climb onto the sheets.
“P-please!” Jimin coughs, parched. His body is shutting down rapidly, fire searing across his skin, burning him alive. The first sob is expected, the cry of Hanabi’s name is not. Jimin falls back against the pillows, spine no longer functional. His heart thunders in his chest, the idea of death so close, whispering in his ear.
His skin burns so hot that Hanabi’s touch is hardly noticeable. He doesn’t really even respond to having his sweat-soaked dress removed or his legs spread. The Leviathan’s cock is like a glass of cold water being splashed over the inferno covering his body, welcome but short-lived. The pain occupies his brain, spreads barbed tentacles across his consciousness until it’s all he can think about. The ocean is around him, drowning him, and yet he feels too light. Sinking to the bottom of the abyss seems impossible. He’s going to die, his heart galloping so hard it feels like his ribs are shattering.
Music surrounds him, frothing in the distance, beckoning him through the water towards the edge of the astral plane, shoots of hot color zipping through it at random. Lightning in fuschia and pastel blue, blasts of gold and silver, framed with white veins. He’s so close now, reaching out as far as he can, desperate fingertips scraping along the warmth of the thing they call heaven. Notes and sounds and colors swirl around him, frenzying in a way he’s not used to, agitated and loud. The astral plane shatters into shards of glass and beyond it is a window, fractured with grey.
A stained glass window depicting a skyward sword and a red flower. Light pours through it, casting the room in a golden, ruby glow. The cold cement floors are waxed and polished to within an inch of their lives, perfectly reflective, mirror-like. The only sound is the steady, sharp tap, tap, tap of an irritated shoe against the ground. The air is cold and filled with static energy.
The Emperor adjusts her black crown, leaning forward to glare down at an approaching figure. A large, wicked sword lies in her lap like a warning and she taps her red fingernails against it restlessly. “Well?”
Her voice is smooth and honey-like, melodic against the tinny, thin atmosphere. A set of piercing black eyes rest in her sockets and silver hair cascades over her shoulders in thick curls. The figure she’s addressing bows and lowers down to one knee, remaining decidedly far from the three steps leading to the circular platform where a great throne sits, the gravity center of the whole room.
“I did not find him. We are looking.” The voice is heavy and slow.
The Emperor lets out a huff and sits back in her throne. Her nails tap faster against the sword. Her eyes cut to one corner of the cavernous room and her lips pull into a thin line. “He’ll turn up. My little pet will always come when called. It’s just a matter of time.”
“The Fuga will not give us answers. It does not speak.”
“I don’t fucking need a Fuga’s help. They’re outdated freaks.” The Emperor rolls her eyes, “Astrals,” She spits venomously, “bunch of needy twats. Exterminate any that you find.”
The air is quiet, only motes of dust float in random patterns. “Are you sure that is wise?”
“The Leviathan doesn’t like this type of thing. It will draw him out from his little pussy hiding spot.” Her teeth clash under a frame of red lipstick. “Him and his.... whatever it is.” She waves a hand in the air, thick golden rings flashing in the light. The Emperor leans forward again, steepling her fingers under her chin. She hums under her breath, “A Leviathan. Who would have thought one would give me so much trouble.”
“And if it doesn’t work?”
“Ha! It’ll work. He’ll come to me in the end.” She tilts her head back to laugh, grabbing the black crown so it doesn’t slip off her head. She laughs and laughs and laughs, fingers still tapping away against the sword, red metal slicing down the length of the weapon, blood dripping from the end.
Jimin groans, slowly coming back to himself. His body is soaked with sweat and… and some other form of liquid that feels slicker, thinner than sweat. Hot air is blasting against his throat, blunt force digging into his skin. A smooth voice is muttering in his ear. He’s so turned on, moving against the warm palm that’s caressing his hip. Jimin bites into his bottom lip, moaning quietly.
It feels like he just woke up from a dream. Things are slow and blurry and soft around the edges. He’s a bit out of breath but that doesn’t stop him from turning his head and meeting the mouth of his lover. Jimin licks over a plush set of lips that open to capture his tongue and suck on it obscenely.
“Litceten,” Hanabi whispers, dipping down to kiss his throat, “‘m so well fed.”
Jimin’s eyes shoot open. He shouldn’t be doing this, engaging with the captain like this. “Get off me.”
Hanabi’s body stills for a moment before he’s moving away, taking his delicious body heat and pulsing cock with him. Jimin scowls and digs his teeth into his bottom lip to stop himself from protesting against the loss. He just wants to be comfortable and warm, that’s the only reason he would want Hanabi close again. That’s all.
“We’re getting close to Haag Ter Af.” Hanabi backs away from the bed like a wounded animal. “I’ll come gather you once everything’s ready.” He slinks away and if Jimin knew his behavior patterns well enough already he’d say the Leviathan is hurt and embarrassed. But he doesn’t. He knows nothing of Hanabi, nor does he care to learn.
Jimin snorts and shakes his head, trying to knock away all the rogue bits of guilt and concern for the captain. He sits up and reaches for the crystal, bringing it to his forehead. He suspects this vision will be of some importance to Min - especially since the Fugas were mentioned in it. A rush of pleasure fills his brain as his consciousness is connected to the ancient crystal tower. Min is there, waving their needle nails through the air in random patterns. Their third eye is open, a black sclera surrounding a golden iris and red pupil.
“Ah, there you are.” Min mutters, “Things in the distance have changed. I assume you’ve had a vision.”
“I saw the Emperor. She was talking about… I don’t really know. Something about luring a Leviathan to her, that ‘he always comes when called’.” Jimin chews on his lip, “It’s Hanabi, right?”
“What else did she say?” Min’s fingernails spasm, something out of a nightmare.
“Well she was holding a bloody sword and she was talking to someone. She gave a command to exterminate all the astrals. And there was something about how the Fugas weren’t helping them.”
“Ahh. So that’s why.” Min hums quietly, their third eye open and unblinking. “The future shows that the Emperor will come to us and ask for help in locating a certain Leviathan. I do not know what she will ask, only that she will come. This is still quite far in the distance so you do not need to worry yet. We Lopsis Fugas do not entertain audiences with the entity that calls herself Emperor.”
“Will you be in danger?” Jimin asks quietly, not sure if that’s offensive or not.
Min throws their head back to laugh, crackling with electricity, “No, dear Litceten. The Emperor and all her armies combined would not be enough to even scratch a Lopsis Fuga.”
“But you won’t go directly against her.” Jimin already knows the answer. The Fugas are strictly neutral, painfully so. They do not intervene unless the fate of the balanced future is at stake. But the astral-demonic scale is something only they can see, so Jimin, or anyone else for that matter, has no knowledge of where it stands. Maybe the balance is off, maybe it’s fine.
“No. We do not use our power for such purposes. We must act through you and the Leviathan as we can not act directly in the thin-spun fate of the future.” Min’s third eye starts to flutter closed.
“But why? I know you don’t do that kind of thing but it seems like you should be able to make an exception.” Jimin frowns and then immediately tries to smooth out the furrow in his brow so he doesn’t seem disrespectful.
“That’s not how it works. I apologize, Litceten, but I can not bend the rules for you. Yours is not the only fate-balancing emergency we’ve had to work on and it certainly will not be the last. Our concept of time and the nature of things dire is far removed from your own. It may seem cruel, but, for us, it is a needed barrier.” Min’s third eye is closed, their normal eyes flitting back and forth between Jimin’s, as if to convey some sense of seriousness. “Power is addictive, Jimin. We have these rules for a reason.”
Not much is known about Lopsis Fugas and they like to keep it that way. And though it seems like a special ‘in’, having direct contact with the leader of the Fugas is unlikely to provide Jimin with any information that he wouldn’t be able to find in an old textbook. The time controllers are exceptionally powerful, maybe limitlessly so. No one really knows the true extent of how deeply they can interact with and change the passage of time. Changing the passage of time changes the outcome of the future, changes how people view the inherent value of time. It’s a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. The Fugas, if they really wanted to, could royally fuck the entire universe, spin it so fast it simply evaporates into nothing. In a way, they single-handedly determine the fate of every living being, including themselves.
Jimin swallows thickly. He dares not push for answers right now. “Do you need any further details? I didn’t see very much, only a minute or two.”
“For now, we have all we need. I shall spread this news to my brothers and sisters. You are soon approaching the first couplet, correct?” Min’s nails spasm again, making Jimin’s pulse quicken.
“The first Leviathan is mated. He will not do anything without the consent of his mate, so you will need to first convince the Litce, but this may be difficult, given a new development.” Min starts to turn away, the very movement sizzling with electric energy.
Jimin’s taking up a lot of their time, he can tell Min wants to be done with the meeting. “Wait, what development?”
Min laughs heartily, “You’ll notice when you see them. For now, I must go and tend to some things. Feel free to call if you see anything.”
Jimin wants to ask again what this ‘development’ is but he doesn’t want to upset Min. He nods curtly and lets the connection in his mind dissipate. Too soon, he’s cold and alone and sore, sitting on the bed in the Hanabi warship. He seems to completely separate from his body when he talks to the Fugas so it’s a shock when he feels his own skin again. He’s nude and dirty, semen sticking to his thighs.
Jimin flicks his eyes over to the carved wooden door, noting that it is closed. He deposits the crystal onto the bedside table gently and double-checks to make sure he’s alone. This is stupid but he’s morbidly curious. He drags his fingertips through the mess coating his thighs. Hanabi’s cum is thick and very sticky, creating strands between Jimin’s fingers when he spreads them apart. Some component of it is vaguely shiny, catching in the light of a passing day star. Jimin hesitates before shoving his fingers into his mouth with more vigor than he meant to. Hanabi’s cum tastes like seawater and vanilla. It doesn’t taste particularly good but it doesn’t taste bad either. In fact… Jimin captures a thin string of it laced between his digits on his tongue. Actually, it is good; heady and warm and… and flashes of ink on tan skin full his mind, sweat sparkling in starlight, black hair tickling over Jimin’s sensitive neck, the press of teeth on his shoulder, slurred words whispered into his ear, a large palm stroking his length.
Jimin forces both hands to his knees. His cock throbs angrily between his legs. He snorts, disgusted with himself and disgusted with exactly how close to an orgasm he is right now. Jimin bites into his bottom lip in an effort to keep his hands away from his aching cock. It takes all his remaining energy to remind himself that he just had sex with Hanabi and force his legs over the edge of the bed. He’s going to take a bath - yes, that sounds good. Take a bath and dive into the aural world. Of course, his body has other plans.
As soon as Jimin tries to put his weight onto his feet he collapses. The carpet, though soft, doesn’t dull the pain of falling flat on his fucking face. He reaches for his screaming nose, seeing bright blood when he pulls his hand away. Awesome. He probably just broke his goddamn nose being too horny for his own good. Horny for the man that destroyed his home, no less. He sits and seethes on the floor, cradling his broken face and trying to wipe away the blood that won’t stop.
Just when he’s about to finally collect the shreds of his sanity and get a towel from the bathroom, the door slams open. Jimin recoils, momentarily terrified into silence, scooting away from the looming figure in the doorway. It’s Hanabi, soaking wet again, Ahmmodan black eyes swimming with ink and a strange greenish coloring to his skin. He opens his mouth to speak but it’s so full of needle teeth that he can only growl like an animal.
Jimin rolls his eyes at the dramatic entrance. “Are you kidding me?! Do you want me to have a heart attack?”
Hanabi’s black eyes sweep the room before he responds, “Are you alone?”
“What the fuck does it look like? Get away from me. I don’t even want to think about you right now.” Jimin brings his hands up to his nose again, now gushing from his increase in blood pressure.
“You’re injured.” Hanabi doesn’t seem to be listening to him, still rigid in the doorway. His body seems to get bigger, frame stretching into a mutation. A deep rumble shakes the floor, shaking the entire ship. “You’re injured!” Hanabi repeats. And then he roars, the sound of the scream would be enough to shatter windows if it wasn’t at such a low pitch. It occurs to Jimin that this is the beastly howl he sometimes hears from the depths of the warship.
“Yes,” Jimin snaps back, annoyed at all the theatrics when his fucking nose will not stop bleeding and it’s really starting to hurt now. “I’m injured. Either help me or get the fuck away from me, murderer!”
Jimin was kind of expecting Hanabi to scream or throw something or lunge at him but actually he deflates from his puffed-up shroud of anger immediately. His shoulders droop and his head is held low, like a kicked puppy. “S-sorry.” He skirts around the edge of the room, presumably going to get some supplies from the bathroom.
Jimin watches him walk on eggshells all the way to the bathroom in the corner, trying not to sniffle because it will just make blood go into his lungs, and wouldn’t that just make his day. He pinches the bridge of his nose and tilts his head back like his mother taught him. ‘Tilt further, silly boy’ she would say, ‘tilt more than you think you need to’. Jimin’s eyes fill with tears both from the memory of his mother and the pain throbbing through his face.
Hanabi makes his presence known with a light cough, dragging Jimin out of a bone-deep memory of his mother teaching him how to make fruit ice. Snipes berries and geeny melons, chopped fine, mushed into a cup of ice, served with a sprig of timie for style points. ‘That’s right, my little flower, show those fruits who’s boss. Father loves your version better than mine, you know.’
“I’ll never forgive you,” Jimin doesn’t realize that he’s crying. “Never.”
“I know.” Hanabi gets down onto his knees, armed with an overabundance of medical supplies and towels. He carefully examines Jimin’s face after gently peeling his hands away. A soft swipe of a towel cleans most of the external blood off. Jimin can tell that Hanabi is trying to be as gentle as possible but he really did break his nose so every little touch is accompanied by a twinge of pain. “I’m not going to ask you for forgiveness. In fact, I don’t even want forgiveness nor do I deserve it.”
Jimin wants to spit at him, maybe punch him again. But he’s been doing a lot of that and frankly, he’s tired. “What do you want then?” The words are soft between them. Hanabi is extremely close to him, tending to his nose with small strips of tape and antiseptic spray. He’s trying to be nice, Jimin knows that. But this gesture is hardly a candle held to the amount of hurt Hanabi has inflicted on him.
The captain hums under his breath, “What I want is something I don’t deserve.” One corner of his mouth turns up in a sort of sad half-smile. “You don’t need to worry though, I’ll never get what I really want.”
“Y’know,” Jimin winces when some of the tape is pressed against his nose. “If you didn’t blow up everything that I held dear, I wouldn’t hate you. And if you didn’t smile while doing it, I wouldn’t want you to suffer. But you did, so I hate you. I want you to suffer.”
“I know,” Hanabi whispers. “I hate me, too.”
“And the worst part is it wasn’t even your fault.” A harsh laugh forces its way out of Jimin’s lungs, “The Fugas told me you were supposed to die, that we never should have met.”
The Leviathan’s eyes are still swirling with ink, his irises reflecting no light, only absorbing it. “They told me the same thing. I asked if they could go back and have the asteroid hit me, to save you. I tried everything to go back and undo it, Jimin. I didn’t know.” A violent shudder rips through him. “I knew but I didn’t. I knew it was the Litce stronghold. But I didn’t know it was still so populated. She lied to me.”
“Shit!” Jimin recoils when Hanabi’s touch starts to get hard and rough. “Who lied to you?”
“The Emperor.” Hanabi’s black eyes are starting to change again, sucking away at the lights in the room. Jimin can see streaks of light from the dim lantern on the ceiling pointed directly at his pupils. “She lied to me, told me it was desolate, that I wouldn’t even need to go to the surface since there would only be a few left. So I didn’t. I trusted her.” The light overhead shatters and the room seems to creak. Hanabi’s skin is slowly turning green.
“Stop it.” Jimin whispers, now realizing that he’s actually seeing a portion of the Leviathan’s power. He can swallow light. He could swallow stars if he wanted to. “You’re scaring me.”
Hanabi levels him with a gaze so intense Jimin’s breath freezes in his chest. It’s like he’s seeing into the bottom of the ocean, black and desolate but also full of beauty and mystery, just like Jimin’s path to the astral plane. No light escapes Hanabi’s gaze, he consumes it, feeds on it. But in the pitch dark depths, Jimin can see all the stars he’s swallowed with his anger, entire galaxies rotate serenely, sparkling like summer fireworks. “Do not fear my power, Jimin. It is yours to command.”
Jimin tries to look anywhere else but he’s too enthralled by the murky depths of Hanabi’s ocean eyes. This man is his mate, led astray by the lines of fate, crashing into Jimin’s life in the form of a reflector beam. Jimin hates Hanabi and everything that Hanabi stands for. But this is what destiny said is his perfect other half, the person who can bring him joy and contentment, comfort and safety. And Hanabi was something Jimin was never supposed to have, he was never supposed to feel perfect comfort or safety or joy - and to be fair, he still doesn’t. Fate doesn’t fuck up except when it does and Hanabi’s life is a fuck up. The Leviathan should be dead and Jimin should still be living his stupid, pointless life on Helasa telling his visions to random perverts who couldn’t give less of a shit.
“Are you lying?” Jimin’s breath is gone, his voice reduced to little more than a whisper.
“About the Emperor? No.” The Leviathan shakes his head, “I trusted her word that it would be a quick job. She knows what I am, she knew I would resist if I really knew the details. If I had known, Jimin, if I had bothered to go to the surface, I would have called the whole thing off. I didn’t even know you were there, which makes it so much worse.” Hanabi’s breath starts to get shallow and his eyes are murky again. “Jimin, I’m not asking for sympathy but I haven’t slept in months. Every time I try I’m tortured by your face when I pulled the trigger. You’re my mate and I know you don’t see me that way, but I have accepted you so the idea of you hurting is just… too much. I can’t sleep. I probably never will. For however much you want me to suffer, trust me, I’m already doing half of that by myself.”
Jimin doesn’t know what to say. It would be easy to dig his heels in and add insult to injury. Hurting Hanabi does feel good, it makes Jimin feel powerful but he also knows that in the end, when all the dust settles, he’s only hurting himself. He’s supposed to lean on Hanabi for protection and comfort. In some spaces of silence he can see it, can see a future for himself where he’s happy and content with a mate to fulfill all his worldly desires. However, the mental block he’s got on Hanabi is just too strong. He can’t betray the memory of his parents, his friends, the Archelora, the couple that runs the lemonade stand. He can’t just fall in love with their killer.
Even if it wasn’t Hanabi’s intention.
Even if it wasn’t Hanabi’s intention.
Jimin looks away, unable to match the captain’s intensity. “Thank you for fixing my nose.”
Hanabi seems surprised by the words. His mouth drops open and his eyebrows shoot into his curly fringe before he quickly schools his expression back into neutrality. “You’re welcome.” Slowly, the remnants of his anger start to fade as Hanabi cleans up. The Leviathan helps Jimin back into bed, pulling the comforter up to his chin. He hesitates, squirming on the spot, before leaning down to kiss Jimin’s forehead softly. And then he nearly runs to the door, disappearing behind the carved wood.
Jimin stares at the ceiling and laughs quietly. “What the fuck just happened?”
Haag Ter Af is a huge planet, Jimin thinks to himself as he stares at it through the bedroom window. The surface is covered with varying hues of green and streaks of deep blue. His palms make contact with the glass and he shivers, the chill of empty space beyond the window cools his skin quickly and he pulls away. White fabric trails behind him as he moves to the bed to scoop up the crystal, cradling it in his arms like a newborn. Nerves start to grow in his stomach as he waits for Hanabi to come get him. They’ve rehearsed all the details but now it’s going to be real and Jimin doesn’t know how to feel about it.
Pretending to be pushed around and leered at by Hanabi and his crew is going to be difficult, especially since Jimin can’t put up a fight, no matter what is said to him. Hanabi assured him he would deal with anyone who stepped too far across the line at a later date and Jimin certainly believes him but that doesn’t make it less infuriating.
A quiet knock tells him it’s time to put on his best actor face. He lets the captain inside, sighing heavily. “I can’t believe I agreed to this bullshit.”
“It’s the only way.” Hanabi stands awkwardly by the door.
In the days after their little truth session when Jimin smashed his nose on the floor - currently still a bit painful if he touches it but at least the bruises are fading fast - Hanabi hasn’t really been as open. Rather he’s been avoidant and closed off, keeping his mouth shut unless directly spoken to. Jimin thought he would like the distance. He doesn’t.
“Whatever, let’s just get it over with.” Jimin offers his wrists to the Leviathan for cuffing. The metal is cold and uncomfortable against his skin.
Jimin assumes his position in front of the door, schooling his expression into a dejected sadness. He can feel Hanabi’s approach behind him, not expecting the soft touch to his hip or the lingering kiss to the side of his throat. And then he’s being pushed roughly through the hallways, not slowing or stopping for anything. Crew members bustle about, turning to stare as they pass. A few ignore the procession but a very vast majority start to squabble and keep pace beside them, reaching out to touch Jimin’s arms or grab at the fabric of the dress.
“Captain, I did not know we had a cocksleeve on board. Can I use him afterwards?” A particular Monger with auburn hair asks with a predatory smile.
Hanabi laughs, cold and hard and heartless. He sounds just like the monster that blew up Helasa. “I don’t think this thing is good enough for using. Besides, you know you can’t play with our toys too much. The Emperor wants this one.” Hanabi pushes Jimin forward so hard he stumbles. “Isn’t that right, pretty?”
“Fuck you!” The lash flows off Jimin’s tongue with ease. “They’ll come for me if you hurt me.”
The Mongers crowding around him all laugh, exchanging knowing looks amongst themselves. “Oh, yeah? All your little dead friends?” Hanabi doesn’t let up in his shoving. Jimin’s eyes well with tears. He knows every word of this exchange. Certain things must be said to displace suspicion on Jimin’s presence on the ship. But it still hurts. “No one’s coming for you.”
“The F-fugas will come for me. Even you can’t stop a Fuga.” Jimin tries not to stutter.
Hanabi grunts and the crew seem to draw back a bit at the mention of the time controllers. “Shut up.”
“Captain, is that true?” This crew member is not a Monger. Instead, the vibrantly blue skin tells of Jukyata origins. “The shields are cycling right now, if the Fugas come…”
“Well, like he said, they’ll come if we hurt him. So let’s keep our little pretty thing on the side.” Hanabi chuckles darkly, “For now.”
That seems to boost the morale of the Mongers, who whoop and holler like children running through the marshlands on a clear morning. Hanabi continues to push at Jimin’s shoulders until he eventually loses his balance, tumbling onto the hard floor. Hanabi hisses at him, wrenching him up by one arm but the touch is light and careful. “Useless.” He spits.
Jimin tries to fight weakly against the grip Hanabi has on his arm until he’s literally tossed into a lander jet. Hanabi gives instructions to the crew and then slams the door shut. He doesn’t break character until the jet is hurtling through space. Then he’s on the floor, hurriedly unlocking the metal cuffs and soothing the red marks with warm kisses. “You were so good. That should throw them off the scent for a while.”
Jimin, through his own shock, can feel the way the Leviathan is shaking. For whatever reason, he decides to bury his face in Hanabi’s chest, humming with contentment at the strong arms that encircle him. “I almost believed your acting.”
“Are you hurt? I pushed you really hard at the end.” Hanabi kisses the top of his head, rubbing tenderly over his spine.
“No, I’m okay. Just a bit shaken.” Jimin pulls away from him. His moment of weakness, seeking comfort in Hanabi, is over and he’s already back to hating the ground he walks on. He sits primly down on the circular bench, fixing his purposely disheveled hair.
Hanabi dips into his kicked puppy expression for only a second. “Good. Now we just have to find the couplet.”
“I’ll be able to read the Litceten’s energy signature. Min said I’ll have to do most of the talking on this one. Something about a ‘development’.” Jimin runs his fingers through his hair, ruffling it so there’s some volume. Now that he’s without all of his usual personal care products his skin and hair have been suffering. “Might I ask a favor?”
“Of course.” Hanabi almost seems to perk up, strangely hopeful.
“I really could do with some lotion or serum. I don’t have any money.” Jimin lets the impact of why he doesn’t have any money sink into the silence. Hanabi looks away, swallowing loudly.
He licks his lips, “Just show me what you want and I’ll take care of it.”
Jimin narrows his eyes, “Why do you always do that?”
“Lick your lips. They’re going to be chapped as fuck.” Jimin rolls his eyes and continues with his hair fluffing, doubting that he’s having any visible effect on the drab, lifeless quality of the strands.
Hanabi raises his eyebrows. “Didn’t I tell you before? I can taste emotion in the air.”
“You most certainly never told me you could taste my fucking emotions.” Jimin drops his hands into his lap, wishing he could have brought the crystal with him. He’s already starting to feel drained.
“I’m sure I did.” Hanabi taps his chin, seemingly lost in thought, “No need to worry, ninety-nine percent of the time you just taste like hatred.”
Jimin’s not dumb enough to gloss over this, “And the other one percent?”
It takes a while for the Leviathan to answer, “I can’t really tell. It’s a mix of things; anger, curiosity, lust, fear. The only time you don’t taste like you want to carve my skin off is when you taste like a panic attack.”
Jimin stares at him. His black uniform is crisp and clean and decorated with silver pins. Today his hair is pulled back into the ponytail he has when he’s working. Jimin likes it down better. “What do I taste like right now?”
Hanabi licks his lips, more slowly than usual. “Curiosity.”
Jimin makes a small noise in the back of his throat. The answer was more accurate than he was expecting. It feels kind of like an invasion of privacy that Hanabi can constantly tell what he’s feeling. On the other hand, it drives home the idea that Jimin well and truly hates him. All those times that Hanabi was standing by the door to the bedroom licking his lips, he was reading Jimin’s emotions and judging how to proceed. It’s almost an unfair advantage as Jimin has no way of reading Hanabi at all other than small changes in his body language.
“Now you’re frustrated,” Hanabi mutters with a hint of a smile on his lips.
Jimin glares at him, “Stop tasting me. It’s weird.”
The Leviathan holds his hands up in surrender, actually bothering to grace Jimin with a smile and a tiny laugh. “I can’t help it. And besides, I don’t really think about it unless I try to.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Means I just process the emotions quickly, like you seeing what color something is. I have to actually stop and think ‘this tastes like happiness’ to truly acknowledge it.” Hanabi shrugs.
“Can you taste yourself?” Jimin fixes the front of his dress, trying to seem uninterested. Then again, why bother since Hanabi can see right through his acting.
“No. I can only taste others. Each person has a specific fingerprint to their taste, it’s how I can tell your hatred away from someone else’s.” The captain leans back in his seat, closing his eyes. It’s a sign of trust; Jimin could attack right now but Hanabi is trusting that he won’t. A smile curls on Hanabi’s lips, no doubt tasting the air once more.
Jimin chooses to say nothing in favor of looking out the windows. The surface of Haag Ter Af is all green and vivid outside. Treetops are already above them, taller than Helasa itself. Jimin smiles to himself - so the rumors were true. The larger than life flora looks almost too alive and once the lander starts to slow down, Jimin sees that he’s right. There’s houses and bridges and spiraling staircases decorating some of the trees. “Holy fuck, we’re never going to find them.”
Hanabi hums, “I can sense the Leviathan nearby, but I won’t be able to pinpoint him exactly.”
“Can you taste him? Is that how it works?” Jimin presses his hand against the glass in some vain attempt to make the vehicle stop shaking so he can see clearly.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jimin can see Hanabi giving another of those pretty smiles, “Yes, I can taste that he’s nearby. Taste for us gets stronger by proximity, but only to a fault. I can taste you from thirty feet away the same way I could taste you if I was standing right beside you.”
Jimin frowns, processing. It’s taking up a lot of his energy to mentally piece together the fact that Hanabi can taste raw emotions in the air around him, and from quite a distance away at that. “Sure, whatever. You get us close, then guard me while I meditate. I won’t be able to do it for very long.”
Hanabi nods with an odd smirk, as if he has some really good one-liner ready and waiting. “Keep close to me. The Order is walking in plain sight.”
The lander jet rattles to a stop, jerking as it makes contact with the surface. “Wait,” Jimin calls, watching Hanabi’s hand stop in midair on the way to the door mechanism, “Is the other Leviathan part of Yachiga?”
“I highly doubt it. ‘Anti-astral’ isn’t a phrase that we’re drawn to the way other demons are.” Hanabi shrugs, “It’s a possibility but a very small one.”
Jimin nods, standing and stretching. He never really gets the opportunity to stretch on the warship. The lander door opens with a sharp hiss, the warm humidity of Haag Ter Af blowing into Jimin’s face. He takes a deep breath in, noting the rich notes of cedar and earth and flowers. It’s close to what Helasa smelled like on a hot summer day, at least closer than the metal interior of the ship. He exhales and his knees buckle suddenly, his head too light and his arms too heavy.
“Jimin!” Hanabi scoops him off the ground and lays him down on the bench inside the lander.
“I’m okay… just lemme sit down… for a minute.” Jimin wiggles his hand in the air, trying to wave off the Leviathan’s worry. He shouldn’t have taken a huge lungful of heavily oxygen saturated air like that. His own oxygen intake requirements are quite high already so breathing something higher than his normal tolerance will make him lightheaded. Most other species can get away with it, Litcetens not so much.
It takes longer than Jimin would have liked before he feels confident in his ability to sit up and even longer for him to be okay walking without Hanabi as a safety net. They don’t have time for menial setbacks like this. Hanabi keeps telling him not to rush his recovery and each repetition of the phrase makes Jimin want to knock his teeth out just a little more. He’s stewing with anger when they step onto the unruly grass outside.
“You didn’t take us to a port?” Jimin scans the area, looking for the telltale shimmer of purple and gold.
Hanabi shakes his head, “I didn’t want to draw attention and the ship is barred from port entry.” He licks his lips.
“Oh, gee, I wonder why,” Jimin mutters under his breath. The captain doesn’t respond, taking off in the direction of a great tree in the distance. The area they landed in is relatively undisturbed, framed by tall, thin stalks of something in the bamboo family. A path of smooth stones leads towards a garden of sorts, violently neon flowers offer soft scents to Jimin’s bruised nose. He doesn’t have a lot of time to appreciate the surroundings because Hanabi is almost running to the far end of the green, where Jimin can see more people congregating.
Out in the clearing is a small wooden stand with a long line of people loitering and chatting. Jimin tries to peer into the bowls they carry as he breezes by but he can’t make anything out except that it’s orange. The individuals here are a particular type of astral called a Vizero, a pale, gangly bipedal creature with four beady eyes and a lip-less mouth full of tiny, sharp teeth. They look much more intimidating than they are, at least according to what Jimin’s read in books.
Down here, view unhindered by people or plants, Jimin can see the real magnitude of the trees all around them, branches and greenery creating a canopy miles above them. The trunks of the greatest trees have to be about as big as Helasa, nearly too big for Jimin to even comprehend. He stumbles along after Hanabi, eyes darting from one thing to another, mouth dropped open in awe. The landscape here is so beautiful, shimmering shades of green with golden sunlight dappling the ground in front of them. The sounds of birds and buzzing insects and wind rustling through leaves is like a constant music.
High above, the trailing wings of Eigans create fluttering shapes and patterns as they dive and twist. Butterflies dance around colorful flowers and all manner of small fauna zips past their feet. Everything is so alive.
Jimin continues to be amazed the whole time they’re walking, not noticing the passage of time. He crashes into Hanabi’s back, peering over his shoulder, annoyed to have been interrupted. The Leviathan is stiff and unmoving, inky black eyes locked onto a heavily armored person sitting on a bench at the edge of a more popular road leading up to a wall of bark where shops and homes are nestled into the tree itself.
The person, a male according to his aural signature, is gazing with loving eyes up at a figure in a white Helasan dress. Their skin is awash with golden shimmer and blue shift. Long ears fitted with delicate jewelry. It’s a Litce.
Jimin gasps and starts to rush forward to meet one of his kind but Hanabi’s arm blocks his path. He looks up at Hanabi, protesting loudly until he sees the captain’s expression. Hanabi looks horrified, fear stealing away the color in his face. And it makes Jimin afraid, too. He cowers close to the Leviathan’s form, pressing against his side, trying to make himself as small as possible.
“Ahh. So my senses were not deceiving me.” The man on the bench flicks his black gaze over to them, appraising with an intense curiosity. The Litce is pulled into his lap and then Jimin sees it - the pregnant belly sticking out under his dress. “To what do we owe the pleasure, brother?”
Hanabi licks his lips, shifting his weight from foot to foot, carefully choosing an answer. Jimin studies the Litce, a faint trace of familiarity tugging at his mind. He’s seen this man before, somewhere. It was black in the background and his face stood out clearly, only his face, before it morphed into the… the man sitting under him. The vision. He’s seen this Litce in a vision.
“It really is you.” Jimin bursts out before he can stop himself, the rest turning to stare at him. He covers his mouth with both hands, ducking behind Hanabi’s back.
A moment of silence passes where the captain and the man on the bench seem to be communicating wordlessly. Finally the stranger Litce speaks into the tension, “Come here, Litceten. Let me touch you.”
Jimin understands the implication of the words, sharing astral energy through touch as Helasan folk often do. Hanabi, however, reads the invitation of friendship as a threat, puffing up and growling deeply. The man on the bench immediately assumes a similar defensive posture and the tension is suffocating. “Hanabi, stop it. It’s an olive branch.”
The Leviathan licks his lips, “You stay by me.”
Jimin scoffs suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention. “Fuck you.” He marches purposely up to the Litce and touches the back of his hand, gasping at the sudden influx of energy. It feels good, a nostalgic comfort flooding his veins. Images of the wet garden and bowls of colorful fruit ice, the lemonade stand and the bustle of crowds at the trade ship fill his mind. The Litce reaches out to touch his cheek and Jimin knows that he’s crying. Sobbing, actually.
They draw close on instinct, breathing each other's air. A desperate plea rings in the air, clinging to them as they tremble, energy exchanging. “Tell me. Tell me the fate of the future.”
The Litce has pale eyes and smooth skin, sculpted bone structure and plush pillow lips. Jimin thinks he looks a bit like Hyejoon. “I…”
The stranger knows already that Jimin has been looking for him, and, from the energy exchange, knows he’s a Litceten. But what does Jimin tell him? He’s rehearsed this moment in the quiet of the warship bedroom, debating about the truth versus the pretty lie. Jimin didn’t think the very first person they found would be not only in love but also pregnant. Which means…the other one is also a Leviathan. It’s a very fragile situation between the volatile nature of the captain of the warship destroyer that ended Helasa and the lover of someone Min wants as an agent of repopulace. The unknown Levithan will lose his mind if he learns that Hanabi has been the direct cause of Helasa’s demise. They can’t afford that. Not now.
“I saw you in a vision. The Lopsis Fugas want to speak with you.” Jimin hesitates, reaching out to trail gentle fingers over the swollen abdomen of the Litce, “What you carry is special.”
The Litce’s breath hitches, a pause in the breeze blowing against Jimin’s lips. “Special? Do they know?”
“Yes, they know. I’ve been instructed to take you to them. You and some others.” The Litce’s cheeks are warm and smooth when Jimin cups them. “You’re the first I’ve found.”
“And what do they want with me?” Their lips brush together.
“They are not forthcoming with the details but you know they would only ask if it was important.” Jimin’s energy is sated, his heartbeat slowing, and the feverish nature of his intimacy with the Litce fading. He draws back, observing their reaction. “I may have seen your face in a vision but I do not know your name.”
“Seokjin. And my mate,” He gestures to the strange Leviathan standing guard off to the side. “Namjoon.”
Hanabi stiffens visibly in Jimin’s periphery. The name must mean something to him. “I’m Jimin. The walking danger sign over there is… well he’s-”
“Hanabi.” Namjoon finishes, regarding the other with a mix of emotions. “How could he be anyone but the infamous astral destroyer?”
“And?” Hanabi challenges, clenching his jaw. A vein pops in his neck. “Do you have an issue with that? I’m in league with the Fugas. Do not question my motives in this matter. You’ll be surprised to find nothing of Ahmmodian origin.”
“He’s right.” Jimin interjects, “In this, he is acting in the best interest of the universe. I am not the only one who has been contracted by the Fugas.”
It’s silent, the two Leviathans having some sort of stand-off, until Namjoon backs down. “This is rather abrupt. Seokjin needs to rest and we need to discuss this. Flying off to Tas Undae was not in our plan.”
“Join us at our residence for the night while we make a decision.” The Litce stands and steps into the automatic embrace of Namjoon. Jimin notes that Seokjin is quite tall for a Litce, almost head to head with his mate. “It’s not far and I’m sure you’re tired.” The last part is directed at Jimin, who nods meekly. He’s been without a steady energy source for hours now.
The happy couple gesture for them to follow but Jimin is the one who hesitates. He turns to Hanabi, who licks his lips to read Jimin’s feelings on the new development. He scowls, “When I said your safety was assured, I meant that.”
“I know. But doesn’t this seem a little sudden?” Jimin wrings his hands, unsure of what to do. They can’t fuck this up. Seokjin and Namjoon might say no and resist coming aboard the warship - which Jimin can’t blame anyone for - and then it’s going to get ugly.
“It’s a sign of respect. He’s offering me his trust, only because of you. If you did not come, I would be shoving both of their unconscious bodies into the lander.” Hanabi rolls his eyes.
“Your less than favorable reputation is nobody’s fault but your own.” Jimin turns his nose up, huffing a little.
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m a threat to his mate just by existing. There’s a lot about my kind that modern textbooks never bother to mention.” Hanabi shifts his weight, tasting the air.
“Okay well, if it’s not a security thing, then let’s go.” Jimin turns on his heel, tailing after the couplet. Honestly, he’s so fucking tired. His energy levels, while having been temporarily boosted by the Litce, are draining quickly. Pieces of astral fire are starting to tickle at his wrists; he’ll need to see soon. A bed in a place that is anywhere except the warship is a welcome change.
The group, separated into pairs, trudges along the path towards the mega tree towering far overhead, shading the ground and blocking out the light. It’s starting to edge towards afternoon, causing an orange hue to tinge things and spread shadows onto the dirt. It seems like forever that they’re walking, during which Jimin’s energy is seriously starting to become a problem. He didn’t realize how much he was relying on the crystal to keep him going and out of hibernation. Helasa was its own energy source along with the inhabitants Jimin was surrounded by and it’s one of the reasons that Litces hardly ever move to non-astral planets. Of course, there’s an energy conduit standing right next to him in the form of Hanabi but Jimin is grouchy and refuses to get close to him. Seokjin can only survive here because of Namjoon and the fact that he doesn’t need as much energy since he’s a Litce - someone without the gift of foresight.
Jimin’s sandaled feet scrape across the ground with each step. He never wears shoes. They’re very uncomfortable. His shoulders hurt, his head hurts, astral fire licks at his insides. So he’s already in a pissy mood when the couplet stops in front of a strange series of wooden buildings painted with nature murals. They hand over some form of payment and gesture to the first building on the right. Inside is a cavernous area with a metal rail attached to the roof. And hanging from that rail are domesticated Ringel bats, a form of transportation that Jimin has read about and never had any interest in trying out. He doesn’t like the idea of being bucked off by one of these chittering, beady-eyed animals when they’re miles above the ground.
Namjoon fishes a pink piece of paper out of his pocket and holds it up to the nearest twitching snout. The animal flaps its wings rapidly, moving with shivers and jerks. He repeats this process with four of the bats. Seokjin has already strapped himself into a hanging halter that dangles from each bat’s fuzzy chest.
Jimin shakes his head. “Nope. No, I’m not doing this.”
“It’s the only reasonable method to reach the canopy,” Namjoon says gently. “It only takes a few seconds.”
Hanabi steps into his personal space, maintaining a careful distance. “Close your eyes. It really is over in a flash, these things are fast.” He seems to pick up on Jimin’s continued refusal before he even opens his mouth, “As soon as this is done you can go to sleep. I’ll help you.”
“Can’t you just… I don’t know, teleport me up there?” Jimin hisses, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I wish. C’mon, arms up.” Hanabi motions for Jimin to come to the calmest of the bats, threading his unhelpful noodle arms into the straps. The Leviathan takes his time making sure Jimin is appropriately secured to the bat, thick leather circling under his armpits and squeezing his ribcage like a corset. While he’s restrained, Hanabi seizes an opportunity to kiss Jimin’s forehead with a snicker when he starts to pout and squirm.
A second later, since apparently, Hanabi’s a pro at getting himself into the harness, they’re swooping forward and into the air, rapidly gaining altitude. The rush of evening air past Jimin’s ears is very loud and the Litceten bites harshly into his bottom lip to keep his mental state from dissolving. He’s fucking dangling off the body of a flying animal by a couple straps, nothing but a thick buckle keeping him from falling to his death. And they’re so high up, the ground nothing but a distant carpet of green threaded with dirt roads and streams.
Just when Jimin’s about to break and start screaming bloody murder, the animals swoop into a thicket of huge leaves that hide another barn-like setup. A slight jostle and stutter signals that they’ve ‘landed’, the bats using their clawed feet to sidle forward on the railing. Hanabi is already on the ground, rushing over to unstrap Jimin from the chest of his transport.
As soon as he’s freed, Jimin surprises himself by burying his face into Hanabi’s broad chest, inhaling his moss and water scent. Warm arms surround him and hold him close, kisses pushed into his hair. And he’s out of energy, knees no longer functioning. “Easy there. I’ve got you.”
“Everything okay?” Seokjin’s gentle voice cuts into the moment. “The residence is very close.”
Jimin tries to nod, letting the captain lift him up into a bridal hold, not that he can even think about protesting. “Very tired.”
Namjoon nods, one hand finding the small of his mate’s back. “You can have the spare bedroom. It’s the first door on the left. No need to stay up discussing things with us. We can sort it out ourselves.”
Jimin is grateful for the offer but too exhausted to verbalize it. The interior of the barn is traded for bark underfoot and tiny wooden railings separating them from imminent death by tumbling off the edge of the tree branch. Petite cottages framed by the tree’s flowers and leaves are scattered everywhere, many with mossy paths leading up to painted doors, toadstools acting like mini trees on the surface of a giant one. Namjoon walks to a picturesque cottage dotted with floral accents. Tree leaves act as a roof and the house itself is nestled in the junction of an offshoot branch and its tertiary arms. It’s more elevated than most of the other homes, led to by a spiral staircase winding around the offshoot. Jimin closes his eyes once they start to get close to the edge.
He can feel the movement of Hanabi’s steps and hear some brief parting words between the Leviathans. The softness of sheets coaxes a satisfied sigh from Jimin’s lips. Hanabi’s warmth is against his back and the creature in the lake welcomes him with a brush of heated current. Slimy green skin curls around him. He’s safe and comforted and perfectly at ease, suspended in the water.
When Jimin wakes, he’s pleasantly surprised at the softness of sheets surrounding his body, the scent of flowers and earth in his nose. Spots of heat make themselves noticeable on the back of his neck though the skin feels normal under his fingertips. The room he’s in is small and kitschy, knick-knacks and doilies populating every flat surface.
A quick slip into meditation shows two pale blue signatures, one that he can innately connect to Hanabi, and one golden aura between them. Oh, right, he’s in the Litce’s house while they decide whether to come quietly or force Hanabi to get violent by refusing. Jimin rubs at his face, wishing he didn’t feel so empty and dead.
Hanabi’s silky voice floats into the room from beyond, “We’re not mated.”
Someone else, probably Namjoon responds, “I could tell that just by looking at you. You’re not exactly subtle.”
“I usually don’t have to be.”
A sharp laugh, “Yeah because anyone that gets too close is a meal for your band of Mongers or an outlet for yourself.”
“Don’t talk as if you aren’t exactly the same as me.”
“Trust me, captain, we are nothing alike.” The words are a hiss, quickly matched by Hanabi’s deep growl.
“Joon, stop it. We already talked about this.” Seokjin’s voice seems to command some level of authority. Jimin can tell he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Jimin hauls himself out of bed, energy levels still dangerously low. Sleeping stabilizes his energy intake, making it easier for him to figure out how much time he has left before a vision. He pads over to the door and cracks it open, finding that everyone is looking directly at him. “So… What’s the plan?”
“We will come with you to see the Fugas. The details have already been arranged.” Seokjin nods towards Hanabi. “The longer we linger here, the later we will arrive at Tas Undae.”
Jimin nods, “Thank you for letting us stay the night. It was lovely.”
Seokjin claps his hands together with a blinding smile, “Ha! I told you my style wasn’t ugly.” He shoots daggers at his mate. “You had the audacity to tell me to put the doilies in storage. I bet you feel dumb now.”
Namjoon laughs quietly, coming close to wrap the Litce in a bear hug, pushing kisses all over his face while Seokjin giggles madly. “Maybe.”
Hanabi and Jimin stand awkwardly off to the side, avoiding the display of affection. Hanabi clears his throat roughly, “Not to spoil your fun but Jimin needs rest. Hurry up.”
Jimin appreciates the sentiment because he knows he’s going to be exhausted after riding those Ringel bats again to get to the base of the great tree. Even after that, the lander is sitting an hour’s walk away. Honestly, they’ll be cutting it close; Jimin might end up in a state of hibernation once they make it to the jet. If he collapses like that it’s going to put Namjoon and Seokjin on high alert thinking that Hanabi is purposely depriving him of energy when in reality Jimin’s doing it to himself.
The Litceten trails behind Hanabi once the final call has been made, not paying much attention to his surroundings. He allows himself to be strapped to a bat and closes his eyes until the flight is over, stomach turning uncomfortably. The whole time they’re walking, Namjoon and Seokjin chat animatedly, stealing kisses and daring touches and loving gazes. It’s both annoying and entrancing to Jimin.
He drops the train of his dress, letting it flow behind him and get dirty because it’s simply too heavy for him to keep holding. His free hand is quickly captured by Hanabi’s larger one and Jimin tries to hate the instant flow of energy between them. He keeps stumbling and tripping, his balance held steady by the Leviathan’s grip. Eventually, Hanabi slows his pace, “Do you need me to carry you?”
“Fuck off,” Jimin responds but it doesn’t have his usual bite. “I’m fine.”
Hanabi makes a noise in the back of his throat, wisely choosing to stay silent. Only when they’re all crowded into the lander does he speak again. “I have already made preparations for your arrival. I hope the room will be to your liking.” He stabs the door control harder than necessary and his tone is clipped. The couplet doesn’t seem to notice, not like Jimin, who can almost see the annoyance ebbing out of him.
The rattle of the lander is like a lullaby to Jimin. Seconds after takeoff his eyes start to flutter closed and his body feels immensely heavy. He keeps reminding himself that he must stay awake until Seokjin and Namjoon are situated in their room. That’s news to him - that Hanabi already prepared the ship/crew for some passengers. Maybe he’s lying.
“Is he okay?” Namjoon asks.
Jimin jerks his head up, unaware that the others have all been staring at him. He scowls, “I am perfectly fine. Just a little tired.”
“You taste like fear.” The Leviathan says with a twitch of his lips.
The words make a cold dread fill Jimin’s stomach. He quickly fires off a rehearsed half-truth. “I know. I happen to be concerned that you will consider me a bad host if I go drifting off to sleep already.”
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that!” Seokjin smiles gently, “I completely understand the need for sleep.” His hands rub absently at the rise in his abdomen, “Especially now.”
Jimin nods, not fully trusting his voice. He wonders if Seokin knows that a pregnant male would never be welcomed on Helasa. The Litce would be seen as a tainted individual, marked by sin, and the child would fare no better. His mate, Namjoon, would be barred from entry to the planet. Leviathans are not allowed, which was an order passed by the previous Emperor, something Jimin understands now was a move to limit Litceten population growth and keep the Leviathans under the thumb of the other demons. Modern education on Helasa doesn’t even mention Leviathans at all. Asking questions earns you dirty looks and a practiced answer of ‘they died out’.
Jimin only knows any of this because his ancestors harbored an illegal Leviathan, one of the last remaining of their kind, as the eradication movement was fully underway. Mongers and Bahath Sentinels would storm through the market every few days, burning and pillaging. It was a classic war effort that lasted for years and the Helasan leadership decided it was best to ban Leviathans altogether, for the good of the people. Jimin never knew the name of his ancestor’s big secret but he certainly does know that something in his bloodline is remarkably different from most other Litcetens. In all likelihood, it has to do with his ability to connect with the astral plane.
Hyejoon often asked him, as they soaked in the hot springs of the wet garden, how he could tell when the vision would be stronger. For her, each vision was the same - a series of nondescript image flashes that may or may not have anything to do with each other. For Jimin, there was always something that would tell him if his vision would be a video of a person or event, much stronger than the average sight. Hyejoon also used to mention that the astral plane was grey, as if she could see it but without any color, frowning when Jimin would recount scenes of neon lightning and music in unnamed hues. He never really acknowledged that his Leviathan ancestors had anything to do with it but it was truly the only explanation.
Jimin’s drooping eyes find Hanabi, sitting rigid beside him on the lander bench. The captain looks young, though the years certainly have not been especially kind to him. He’s handsome and tall and perfectly muscular, an ideal image of what Jimin would have wanted in a partner. He would have been inevitably forced to give a child to a female as per protocol for male Litcetens but that wasn’t really something he was interested in. Hanabi, supposing he was a Litce, would have been fuel for Jimin’s lustful campus appetite. Still, a lot of Hanabi’s general appearance has to do with his breed so perhaps Jimin would feel less inclined to his looks if he was Helasan. Perhaps Jimin actually likes that Hanabi is Leviathan.
No. No, he doesn’t. He hates Hanabi.
Jimin shakes his head, noticing the small smile curling at the corners of the captain’s mouth. “Litceten,” He mutters, “Go to sleep. I will tend to settling our guests in their room.”
Our guests. Jimin wants to scoff and say something mean but he’s simply too tired. The lake welcomes him quickly, the creature in the water wrapping close around him like a cocoon of slimy green skin.
The water is calm and cool against Jimin’s skin. His heartbeat feels slow - but in a good way - relaxed and unhurried. Jimin swims up to the guardian of the lake, resting his entire front against the smooth skin. The creature seems to shudder under him and a sound, like a great sigh, rumbles through the area. It’s a nice sound, low and silky. Familiar.
The stars outside the window seem dim, Jimin thinks silently to himself, and the longer he sits on the thick rug he dragged into the corner, the dimmer they seem to become. The stars seem lonely and far away. Jimin shivers, pulling Hanabi’s military jacket closer around his shoulders.
After he’d woken up, he’d sniffed it out under the dresser, bringing it up to his face to inhale the moss and water still clinging to the fabric. It made him calm, but at the same time, it made him feel like something deep inside of his chest had been instantly ripped away. A dull ache throbs up near his throat as he sits by the window, cradling the blue crystal. Hours pass as minutes, starscapes coming and going. Sometimes Jimin can feel Hanabi’s presence close by, even without meditating.
He sighs, bringing the crystal up to his forehead. Min appears in seconds, in usual form, waving needle nails through the air. The Fuga makes a low noise, “What ails you, child?”
“I…” Jimin hesitates. He’d been asking himself that question for hours, but upon being asked, suddenly he has no answer. “Nothing. I just wanted to give you an update. The couplet is on the ship. They came willingly.”
“Yes, I have seen the futures change greatly. Perhaps it would benefit you to know that you have done them a great service. There are currently no futures in which they are in danger. Of course, this is always subject to change.” Min offers a tiny almost-smile.
“I guess… that does make me feel better.” Jimin shifts his gaze. His insides feel like they’ve been scooped out, a void left in their place. “Well, that’s all. I just wanted to let you know.”
“Mmm.” Min’s third eye flutters, slivers of the red pupil flashing. “The Gyetang moon draws close once more. The Leviathan grows restless and hungry. Rest now, child. Shelter for the days ahead.”
“What do you mean?” Jimin can already feel Min pulling away, severing their connection.
“He will tell you when the moon is gone. Apologies, Jimin, but the subject is broad and I have other matters I must attend to.” Min turns away swiftly, a hurriedness to their movements.
Jimin gasps when the warmth of the Tas Undae crystal recedes, leaving him cold and alone once more. He’s so cold. Hanabi’s jacket keeps the frigid air at bay but only so much. The biting chill lingers just beyond the edges of the fabric.
The air is soft, delicate, carrying a thin trace of seeg berry and marsh flowers. It’s summer, day star blazing high overhead. Jimin tilts his head back, ears resting uncomfortably on the edge of the hot spring pool. Sweat sticks to his face and neck, steam billowing up from the milky water. A passing breeze presses cool comfort to his cheeks for just a moment. Today is the day the Lopsis Fuga will arrive to talk to the Archelora and the other ruling bodies of Helasa. Some big happenings are in process across the universe, a change of power. Jimin doesn’t know the details.
He sighs, letting all the air out of his lungs. He’s ready to get dressed in his finest garment and let Hyejoon put flowers and jewels into his hair. Water cascades off his naked skin as he climbs out of the spring, reaching for a light dress suitable after bathing. He hums as he steps slowly along the stone pathway leading back to the Litceten house. Flowers frame the path and vivid greenery hangs in all directions. The bioluminescent slugs that light the garden at night are decidedly less glowy during daylight hours, but no less beautiful in shades of pastel and patterns of butterfly wings. Jimin trails gentle fingers over his favorite blue one, the slimy skin vibrating with energy under his fingertips.
The bamboo sides of the Litceten house appear between thickets of lush, tropical greenery. Up in his room, Jimin chooses his most luxurious dress, weighted with precious stones in a rainbow of colors. The garment is white and pristinely clean since he never wears it, hem free from garden dirt. Flower oil and snail slime are rubbed into his skin to give it a soft, pleasant scent and a healthy glow.
Hyejoon knocks softly, entering with a smile. She says he looks lovely and he scoffs, pointing out her glorious mint green dress. Not many Helasan folk look good in green, even though it is one of the planet's ruling colors. They giggle as she starts to ruffle his hair and pin gemstones into the strands. She’s good at this, making a pretty pattern around his head. Jimin arranges some flowers behind her ear and kisses her cheek. He’s been chosen as the representative of the house, will see the Fuga as they walk by. He doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. So much preparation for two minutes of standing in a long line of faces as the Fuga walks with the Archelora to the ruling house, where all interplanetary meetings are held. It’s not like he’s going to be the only one there; hundreds of other Litces and resident species will be dressed in their finest garb to watch the procession.
Jimin holds tight to Hyejoon’s hand as all the Litcetens herd to the appropriate area. He’s never seen so many people in one place before, as if all of Helasa has come to see the visitor from far across the universe. In the distance, the glittering outline of the transport ship is visible against the sea of smaller, less flashy vehicles. A few floating cameras are broadcasting the crowds and festivities to the rest of the universe. Jimin’s never been outside of Helasa, in fact, he hasn’t even seen all of his home planet so the idea of people watching this from the opposite side of the known universe is nearly unfathomable. One of the cameras passes right in front of him and he smiles politely at it before it zooms away on a little propeller. Hyejoon squeezes his hand.
Looking back on it, Jimin knows now the significance of the Lopsis Fuga’s visit. He doesn’t remember if it was Min or someone else that came to Helasa, but it was big news either way. As he rouses himself from his slumber, he wipes away a few stray tears. He misses Hyejoon. So fucking much. He grew extremely close to her after his parents were moved into the governance house, off the Litceten campus. They were promoted. He was happy for them, but he didn’t get to see them as often. So he found comfort and familiarity in Hyejoon. The two of them did everything together. Losing her was like losing a sister.
A wave of intense hatred rips through Jimin’s cavernous chest. He still feels empty, hollow. At least the hate fills the void somewhat. His heart stutters when a pair of black eyes pulse viscerally in front of his face. Seconds later there’s a light knock at the door and Jimin already knows who it is.
Hanabi enters quietly, coming close to kneel on the floor beside him. The Leviathan reaches out, achingly slow, to pull Jimin against his chest. “Please, tell me how to help you.”
“I don’t want your help.” Jimin spits back, tears making his voice thick. He doesn’t try to pull away.
“Do you want to talk to Seokjin?” Hanabi’s chest rumbles when he speaks. It calms the headache Jimin didn’t even realize he had.
“And what would talking to him do for me?” Jimin mutters.
“Well, Litcetens don’t like to be alone, right? Maybe it would make you feel better.” Hanabi offers, stroking along Jimin’s shoulder with his thumb.
“Hanabi, why did you do it? Why did you look at me and give the order?” Jimin stays crumpled against the captain’s chest.
Hanabi sighs heavily, “I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t have an answer. At least, not a good one.” It’s silent for a moment, “I really think you should talk to Seokjin.”
“About what?” Jimin scoffs, “The weather?”
Hanabi changes the subject, “Do you need to see? I have something I have to do so I won’t be around to help you for a few days.”
“Since when do you ever have something to do?”
Hanabi shifts, pulling away, “I have a lot to do, Jimin. I am the captain. Everything except cleaning your room is something I have to schedule and regulate or do myself. Don’t act like I’m not busy.”
Jimin blinks. It’s been a while since he’s seen Hanabi have a backbone with him. He’s grown used to the idea that the Leviathan is a bit spineless when it comes to Jimin, will let him do anything without repercussions. The shock makes him gape like a fish. “What are you doing here, then? Since you’re so fucking busy.”
“I’m trying to be nice. I really don’t have time for this as it is, but for you, I’m making an exception.” Hanabi stands abruptly and rolls his eyes. “Do you need to see? Actually, let me rephrase that; do you want me to help you see? I can taste that you need to.”
“Don’t bother asking. Who else is there?”
Jimin huddles closer to the window, not expecting a response. “Namjoon. In fact, I’d rather you go to him this time.”
Jimin’s head snaps up, appraising Hanabi’s rigid form. Even though he would love to tell himself that he would be fine going back to having anyone at all help with the visions, it has been nice to be committed to one person. And Hanabi is... “So you don’t want me?”
“I never said that. I said ‘this time’ you should go to Namjoon.” Hanabi shifts his weight and spares a glance down at his wrist. Jimin’s never noticed the watch before. “Hurry up, please. I need a decision from you.”
Jimin allows himself a moment to process. After all this time, he’s been offered another outlet, someone who is well in tune with how Helasans operate. Someone who didn’t murder his family. Someone who isn’t under the thumb of the Emperor. But even with all that, it feels wrong. Namjoon is happily involved with Seokjin, has a baby on the way, has no idea what’s really at stake here. Who is Jimin to step into their bubble and ruin it? He should keep all his misery to himself. “You.”
The captain grunts and starts to fumble with the front buttons of his jacket. There’s a roughness to his movements that makes Jimin hesitate to approach the bed, stripping off his thin dress on the way. It finally occurs to Jimin that he’s seen Hanabi this way before, a few weeks ago. He was this same type of cold, standoffish arrogance back then, too. Maybe this has something to do with the Gyetang moon that Min brought up.
Hanabi steps out of his black trousers and Jimin frowns, noting all the places where blood is dripping down his inked skin. It’s not gushing, per say, but he’s definitely actively bleeding, bright red contrasting against muted black and pale peach. Most of the injuries seem to be concentrated around the Leviathan's hips. Hanabi seems to read his mind, “I’m fine.”
“Don’t get a lot of blood on me.” Jimin scowls, then adds, “Please.”
Hanabi scoffs, “Noted.” He climbs onto the bed and Jimin finally decides to look. The Leviathan’s cock is depressingly normal, nothing like the slimy, ecstasy inducing tool he’s come to know. Jimin tears his gaze away, refocusing on the ceiling. He bites into his bottom lip when Hanabi gets right down to business, lining up with his hole. A high pitched whine rings into the air once he starts to push in. Hanabi always does that.
For the most part, Jimin never really touches Hanabi when they have sex, he just lays there and takes it like an unwilling participant. And he’s never had the drive to touch the captain anyways, preferring for there to be as little contact between them as possible. So it’s a surprise when he gets a sudden and intense urge to wrap his arms around Hanabi’s back, feeling warm skin beneath his fingers. The Leviathan reacts instantly, throwing his head back with a harsh gasp and a rough thrust. Still, his obvious enjoyment doesn’t last long before he’s grabbing Jimin’s wrists and pinning them to the sheets with a scowl.
Jimin wants to be upset and confused, but he doesn’t have time. The ocean abyss where the astral plane awaits is coming closer, desperately frothing under his gaze. When he trails his fingertips across the surface he dives into a series of nondescript images that don’t seem to have any common thread. A dark room, an unfamiliar face, a shiny knife, a rainbow in a strange shape, wildflowers, a caved-in skull, a bottle of snail oil, telescopes.
The room is cold and Jimin’s heart is slow and lethargic inside his chest, stuttering with each beat. He can’t breathe - it feels like the weight of the universe is crushing down on him, flattening him into a pancake. He’s dying, an all too familiar feeling that he’d nearly forgotten. It’s been a long time since he’s been at death’s door like this, his life hanging by a frayed thread. And it’s so long - years maybe - before he recovers enough to blink open his eyes.
He’s covered - covered - in slowly drying semen, splatters of thick white liquid reaching all the way up to his chin. Hanabi didn’t cum in him; the Leviathan pulled out. He’s never done that before and it’s probably why Jimin didn’t recover immediately. It was easy to make that connection after their second coupling. Jimin reaches a shaking hand up to trail through the viscous pool on his stomach, collecting some on his fingers. As soon as he presses those messy fingers inside himself, the effect is instant. His breath returns and the crushing weight of dying is lifted away. He’s still exhausted and drained but at least he can sit up and look around. Hanabi is gone. Only a few red stains and the discarded gallon of cum signal that he was there at all.
A deep, air-shattering groan shakes the ship. It’s different from the growl of anger that Jimin sometimes hears from the depths but it’s unmistakably Hanabi. Jimin drags himself to the bathroom and is shocked to see that the tub is already full of steaming water. Well, it’s not like some big feat. The tub is controlled by a panel on the wall, all Hanabi had to do was hit a damn button. Jimin scoffs aloud and almost reconsiders his bath before he remembers that jumping back into bed is a non-option.
The heat melts away the hardening sperm covering Jimin’s skin, easing the tension in his muscles. Under the crystal surface of the lake, the pale green-blue water is empty and devoid of slick skin framed by a lizard snout and tiny fins. This place is empty, only a landscape of distant rocky shores and thick vegetation along the lakebed. It’s peaceful but the loneliness drives Jimin away.
Jimin is on auto-pilot while he dresses in the first thing his hand makes contact with. Hanabi is absent from the aural radius that Jimin can detect. He’s definitely still here because the ship rattles with deep roars every few hours, but his aura is gone and so is the creature in the lake. And Jimin can certainly feel the distance he’s being kept at.
Seokjin’s golden aura is moving behind a wooden door, much less decorated than the twin daystar doors in the carpeted hallway Jimin has come to know quite well. He knocks quietly, almost hoping they don’t hear him. What did he even come over here for? To vent about Hanabi?
“Oh! Hey, Jimin. We were starting to get worried.” Namjoon is the one who opens the door, smiling down at him kindly. He looks a lot less severe than Hanabi does, complete with a warm aura and dimples in his cheeks.
“I’m okay. I was talking to the Fugas and then recovering from a vision.” Jimin allows himself inside at the request of Namjoon’s frantic hand movements.
The interior of the room is cozy and dim, carrying the same earthy undercurrent that the house on Haag Ter Af had. There’s even a few plants crowded around the window, kept alive by passing starlight. A table in the middle of the room is laden with food and kitschy place settings. It has Seokjin written all over it. A bed in the corner, pushed up against the wall, is messy and unmade. Both of them look like they’ve only woken up recently. Jimin starts to feel slightly sheepish for interrupting their intimate breakfast setting.
“Recovering? Where was Hanabi?” Seokjin turns around from his place at the tiny stove unit, spoon in hand.
“He was there.” Jimin chews on his bottom lip and stares at the ornate carpet. “He…”
“Ahh,” Namjoon offers him a knowing smile, “I think I know what happened. This is about the Gyetang moon, right?”
“Everyone keeps talking about it but I don’t know what it is.” Jimin frowns, hating this feeling of being the odd man out.
“Well,” Now it’s the Leviathan’s turn to look sheepish, “It’s a really sensitive subject. It’s not my place to say anything. But don’t worry, he’ll probably tell you once it’s passed.”
“Enough about that. Join us for some brunch!” Seokjin turns off the stove and transfers some delicious-looking root vegetables onto a plate. “Conveniently, I’ve made too much, so it will be a big help if you can eat a serving or two.”
Jimin tips his head back and laughs. “If you insist.”
He’s guided into a chair at the table and served a heaping portion of the seasoned vegetables, a Helasan staple. Jimin didn’t often have this dish in particular since it was considered ‘Litce food’. The campus mostly ate luxury items like fruit ice and cheese since their energy levels were constantly maintained and carefully attended to. Litces have lower energy requirements but also tend to eat foods higher in protein and calories, ‘heavier’ meals, if you will.
It’s been so long since he’s done anything Helasan. He hasn’t eaten or tended to his skin or bathed in a hot spring or shopped at an open market. All the things that were quintessentially familiar to him were now out of reach. His hand shakes a bit as he spears a carrot on a wooden fork. The taste is exquisite and the texture is superb, perfectly cooked. Jimin masks his tears behind a napkin while the couplet gossips about friends back home.
His heart clenches in his chest as he virtually inhales the meal. “How have you been enjoying the ship?”
Namjoon swallows loudly, “It’s nice. A lot different than I was expecting, if we’re being honest.”
“Ha!” Seokjin barks a laugh, “He means that he was expecting to hate it. Then again, so was I.”
Jimin nods slowly, “I’ve never been in this room before.”
“Hanabi said we can have this section of the ship to ourselves for now. As I understand it, the Mongers weren’t too happy about us.” Namjoon grabs his mug and tips it back. “But I wasn’t too happy about them, either. So there.”
Seokjin pats his hand affectionately, “Yes, all your growling really intimidated them, dear.”
Jimin feels his cheeks pull into a smile at their dynamic. It’s refreshing to see a natural, loving interaction after so long. His and Hanabi’s time together is often forced and full of awkward silence and clipped remarks. The couple across the table are so… normal. Jimin’s not used to normal anymore.
“Say, Jimin.” Namjoon nods in his direction, “Have you tried yush-fried berries? My mate is famous for his recipe.”
“Mmm, it sounds familiar. I think I had some at the market several years ago, but I don’t remember what it tasted like. It’s from the fire belt, right?” Jimin rubs at his chin as he recalls the scents and sounds of the open market on Helasa. When the big trade ships came, it was always busy there.
“Yes, it’s one of their few sweet dishes. Want me to make you some?” Seokjin leans forward in his chair, excitement sparkling in his features. “It doesn’t take long.”
After some heavy deliberation, Jimin nods, shocked when Namjoon lets out an excited whooping noise. “He’s the best at making this but he only ever makes it for guests.” He jerks his thumb over his shoulder at his eye-rolling mate, dimples on full display.
“Don’t listen to him, he’s lying.” Seokjin stands and starts to collect the plates, quickly shooed out of the chore by the Leviathan. “He’s practically addicted to sweet foods.”
“No, Jimin, you taste it first and then tell me it’s not the best thing you’ve ever eaten.” The Leviathan calls from the counter.
“Don’t try to win him over with your sugary propaganda!” Seokjin glares over at his mate, hands absently running over his swollen abdomen.
Jimin watches from the table while the two of them start to argue, stealing kisses and touches as they work in tandem - Namjoon does the dishes and Seokjin starts the cooking. Something inside Jimin craves the normalcy of what they have, the easy comfort. It’s not like he has time to sit around and search for a mate anyways, not with the urgency of the Fugas’ request.
His brain promptly reminds him that he already has a mate: Hanabi. Technically he can continue to reject his mate for as long as he chooses to, but it’s only going to get harder with time. And now that they’ve spent considerable time together, separating from the Leviathan will be next to impossible. Jimin is stuck in his constant loop of hating the man, then becoming mildly curious about him, and then immediately hating him again. He flatly refuses to cave to his own stupid desires. A beastly howl shakes the warship and Jimin squeezes his eyes shut. The captain always seems to choose the moments where Jimin is at his lowest to step out of the shadows.
The howling continues for several days in which Jimin starts to lean heavily on Seokjin and Namjoon to fill that empty void in his chest. He takes part in traditional Helasan bathing with Seokjin, both of them sitting in a steaming tub of water while Namjoon flings towels at them from the doorway with his eyes closed. The Leviathan takes Jimin through a detailed explanation of all the plants surrounding the window along with their names while Seokjin prepares a feast of vegetables and cured meats. Jimin finds himself laughing more often than not in their presence, conversation easy and light. He could really get used to this.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. Hanabi corners him on his way to the couplet’s room nearly a week later. He looks a little tired and worn down but his eyes are full of energy. “There you are.”
Jimin frowns, leaning away from him. “Yes, here I am. Now, if you’ll excuse me-” He starts to walk away but Hanabi cuts in front of him.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Namjoon, hmm?” He raises an eyebrow and leans against the metal wall with a cocky pose.
“Umm, wasn’t it you that wanted me to have sex with him?” Jimin crosses his arms over his chest, “While you’ve been occupied with your noisy business, I’ve been hanging out with them, like you suggested. Something wrong with that?”
Hanabi’s eyes darken considerably, “No. I suppose not.” He straightens up. “We are heading to Kvfestika to go pick up a Litceten. Ask Min if there are any special instructions for this one, my kind is not allowed there. I imagine you’ll have to do it by yourself.” The captain holds his gaze for a second and then stomps away, his casual demeanor long gone.
Jimin jumps when the floor beneath him vibrates with a bass-filled scream. He huffs aloud and clenches his fists at his sides, annoyed that Hanabi has decided to merge back into his life and immediately demand things of him. He knocks a little harder than necessary on the couplet’s door. Namjoon answers after a questionably long time.
“Hey, Jimin. Seokjin’s sleeping. Did you still want to come in?” His dimples appear alongside his soft smile. Jimin’s just about to respond that he’ll come back later when Namjoon licks his lips, “He’s a heavy sleeper, come on in. Let’s chat.”
Jimin follows him into the room, trying not to look at the sleeping form of Seokjin on the bed in the corner. There’s a lot of skin on display. The Litceten makes himself busy by the window, observing Namjoon’s plants while the sheets are pulled over Seokjin’s form. One of the tiny trees is starting to bear fruit, small orange berries held in thick clusters.
Namjoon offers him a glass of juice and pulls two chairs over to the window. “So, what’s on your mind?”
Jimin stares down into the pastel pink liquid, “What do I taste like?”
The Leviathan leans back in his chair, pursing his lips. He seems to think it over for a while, “Desperation. Fear. Loneliness. Depression. A combination of things that I would never want to taste on my mate.”
“Is that why you let me in?”
“Yes.” Namjoon takes a sip of juice, smacking his lips together. “I would have let you in anyways, but I figured that Seokjin might be a better person for you to talk to.”
“Why?” Jimin rests his elbows on his knees, hunching forward since he feels a bit like he might throw up.
“I thought it might have been something more to do with needing Helasan company and conversation. But this is about Hanabi, isn’t it?” He chuckles at Jimin’s silence, “What did he do?”
“Nothing. He’s just being pissy and jealous that I’ve spent time with you guys like he suggested.” Jimin rolls his eyes. “And how dare he demand things of me after all he’s done. I should have fucking backed out of this when I had the chance.” He realizes what he’s said and looks up at Namjoon’s passive expression with huge, wet eyes.
“Don’t be so terrified. You’re not the only one who’s been in contact with the Fugas.” He reaches into the front of his shirt and produces a thin chunk of blue crystal on a silver chain. A piece of Tas Undae, just like the one Jimin has. “Min has been in contact with me for years. I’m on a special contract with them regarding Order Yachiga. I was aware of what happened to Helasa within hours after the event. You don’t need to censor yourself with me, but Seokjin does not know. I would prefer to keep it that way.”
“But… that’s his home.” Jimin gapes.
“And he’s hated it ever since his assignment, that’s why he left.” Namjoon stares him down. “I will tell him eventually, once things have settled.”
There’s silence for a while. Namjoon has known everything since the beginning, perhaps knows the full details of Jimin and Hanabi’s repopulation mission. “So, then, you know who was responsible?”
“Technically, no one was responsible. Helasa’s destruction was a freak accident due to Min’s intervention with Yachiga. In destroying the ship full of genocide supplies, they sent a far distant asteroid off course. Helasa was an unexpected casualty in an effort to stop an inter-galaxy war. No one wanted that to happen, not even Hanabi.”
Jimin hisses through his teeth, “Don’t tell me he didn’t want that after he looked me in the eye and gave the order to shoot, after he had my friends killed in front of me.”
Namjoon looks over his shoulder to make sure Seokjin is still sleeping. “Ahh, so that’s why you dislike him so much. I figured it had something to do with Helasa.”
“He destroyed my home. I have nothing left except memories. I do not ‘dislike’ Hanabi, I hate him.” Jimin tries to resist the urge to fucking chuck the glass of juice across the room. “I will never mate with him. Ever.”
Namjoon raises an eyebrow. “You have no idea how much that kind of rejection is hurting both of you.”
Jimin feels his pulse quicken in his wrists, “Good.”
“Jimin,” Namjoon’s tone is different now, like a concerned parent, “It’s really counterproductive to keep pushing him away. We don’t take kindly to being separated from our mates, especially if we can taste distress on them.”
“I don’t care if he’s concerned. I would push him out of the airlock if I had the chance.” Jimin grits his teeth, honing in on the crawling hatred that claws at his chest. He looks up at the sound made by Namjoon.
“Damn, if Seokjin ever felt that way about me… I don’t know what I would do. I…” He shakes his head and rubs a hand over his face. A thick swallow is audible in the room. “I don’t like Hanabi either, but I sympathize with him over wanting to mate. It is our final, most important goal, even more important than having kids.”
Jimin lets that sink in. Perhaps he really is hurting Hanabi more than he thought. A memory of the captain confessing that he doesn’t sleep for fear of nightmares breezes into Jimin’s brain. So not only is Hanabi suffering from a lack of sleep but now he’s found the thing he’s been after his entire life, the dangling carrot that he finally caught up with and Jimin won’t let him have it.
“How long have you known Hanabi?” Jimin can’t help but feel a bit betrayed by Namjoon’s defence of the captain’s wish to mate.
“Oh, a long time now. He’s actually quite a bit older than me and we met at his first yhure - that’s when a Leviathan officially transforms for the first time in public - when I was just a kid. It’s a big to-do for Ahmmodians. Well, it used to be.” Namjoon stares out the window and takes an absent sip of his juice. “He was scrawny back then and he used to be very sweet. When we met on Haag Ter Af was the first time I’d seen him in centuries.” He pauses, “The Emperor changed him.”
“What do you mean?” Jimin scowls.
“It’s not a secret that he’s on bad terms with almost everyone. And I know he’s heavily invested in the old ways, which is why I don’t like him.” Namjoon changes his grip on the glass and starts to wave his free hand around. “I understand being an inflammatory figure but doing all that other shit? It’s a step too far. And it’s not like he has to - I never did.” The glass is pushed against Namjoon’s bottom lip, muffling his words. “He indulges in his destructive tendencies way too much, he was never like that before. Hanabi used to be so sweet and shy and timid.”
Jimin figures that Namjoon is probably talking about the consistent pattern of blowing things up that the captain seems to have. Just last week another trade node was hit with the beam cannon. Hanabi never stopped by to ask Jimin’s opinion on the subject, not that it would have mattered in the end. “Huh.”
“He was so nice, Jimin. He was a softie, poked fun at by our kind for his lack of teeth. I don’t know what happened to him, but it wasn’t good. I have some theories but it’s not my place to spread rumors about him.” Namjoon gets up and puts the now empty glass on the table.
“There are plenty of rumors about him already. One more won’t make a difference.” Jimin snorts and then covers his mouth since it was pretty loud.
“It might. Because you’ll ask him about it and he’ll get mad.” Namjoon’s gaze is cold and hard, so far departed from his normal aura. Jimin blinks in surprise. “Jimin, I have yet to clear you as someone who is not working for Hanabi, for the Emperor.”
“No, I’m not fucking working for the man that destroyed my home. In fact, I was barely convinced of Min’s request because Hanabi would be included. You can taste how much I fucking hate him. And I hate the Emperor, too, because she put him up to it.” Jimin tries to keep his voice calm. Namjoon is just trying to protect Seokjin, after all.
Namjoon licks his lips pointedly. The air becomes saturated with moisture and Namjoon’s eyes start to swim with that same inky wetness Jimin has seen in Hanabi when he gets upset. His skin starts to turn a deep shade of green, spikes splitting the front of his throat from inside but no blood comes out. Eventually, the slowly building tension in the room evaporates, leaving Jimin breathless. “Okay, you’re clear,” Namjoon says with a dimpled smile, all traces of the beast within him gone.
Jimin exhales shakily, his heart racing in his chest. He opens his mouth to ask if Leviathans can taste truthfulness or honesty but Seokjin is starting to stir. The Litce grunts and slowly pushes himself into a sitting position. His eyes land on Jimin, narrowing considerably. “Were you two talking?”
“Yes, we were discussing Hanabi’s jealous tendencies.” Namjoon helps him out of bed, shielding his body from Jimin, not that he cares at all about a mated Litce’s nudity.
“He’s being an asshole.” Jimin rolls his eyes, quickly catching onto the change of subject. “Being huffy and puffy about me spending time with you guys when he isn’t even around.”
“That’s normal. This one gets possessive if I look too long at my morning breakfast.” Seokjin teases with a smile, letting Namjoon dress him. They kiss deeply, a moment that seems too intimate for Jimin to watch, so he looks away, finishing his barely touched cup of juice.
Jimin hasn’t kissed anyone in years. Well, he has, but he refuses to acknowledge kissing Hanabi during their first round of intercourse. Honestly, he doesn’t even remember what it felt like and would prefer to keep it that way. Helasan folk tend to keep kisses between only the closest of relations. It would be typical of a couple to not kiss until mating since it is considered to be far more intimate than sex. Individuals who visited the worlds beyond Helasa usually reported that it’s the opposite, so the recent cultural trend had started to shift. Litcetens, however, had always been held to the most ancient of traditional behavior patterns, closely enforced by the Archelora.
The last person Jimin kissed was actually Hyejoon. One sunny afternoon when they were prancing through the wet garden without a care in the world. He caught up to her and pressed their lips together, giggling madly. It was a sweet thing, laced with fruit ice and the scent of summer. Hyejoon leaned down and picked a flower, slotting it behind Jimin’s ear with a big smile before running off again. Jimin sniffles, becoming aware that he’s sitting in a chair in Seokjin and Namjoon’s room crying at a memory.
Jimin stands abruptly, clearing his throat. “I think I’ll go take a nap, all this moping around has made me tired.” He offers up a smile he already knows won’t be convincing. “Sorry to have disturbed you.”
“You’re always welcome here, Jimin.” Seokjin gives him a soft look.
He mutters back a thanks and slinks out of the room, utterly dejected. The walk to his room seems to take forever, empty hallways and desolate offices. It seems like a waste to have this whole section of the ship deactivated just for Jimin to have a peaceful journey to Seokjin and Namjoon’s place. The Litce let slip that Hanabi had cleared the area so they could walk around without being stared at, after which Namjoon had glared at him and announced that he ‘ruined the surprise’. The Leviathan was probably going to try to butter him up with that special fact.
Jimin slips into the warm comfort of the lake and sighs heavily, bubbles rushing out of his mouth. The creature tightens its protective loops around him. But the comfort doesn’t last long before he’s restless in the water, the great hand diving down from above to grab him with so much force that it feels like he’ll die.
Jimin bolts upright, panting and out of breath, sensing a presence nearby. He draws his knees up to his chest, scooting back until his spine hits the headboard. There are no nearby stars here, the room is dark. Still, even in the dim light, Jimin can see the handle of the door turn slightly. A light growl slithers in from the crack under the thick wood, notably un-Hanabi in tone. Soft footfalls fade into the distance. Jimin checks the aural plane to make sure no one is around before carefully slipping out of bed and opening the door. The hallway with the ornate carpet and the towering painting of Hanabi’s profile is empty.
Black eyes with a visceral, raw flood of rage pulse through Jimin’s mind. The main door, the one at the end of the hall with the red flowers, bangs open without warning. Hanabi’s black eyes are absorbing light, eating away at the lamp on the wall until it shatters with a muted twinkle. “Are you okay?”
Jimin takes a moment to find his voice, “Y-yes. I’m fine.”
Hanabi narrows his eyes, licks his lips, and then promptly slams the door shut. Apparently, his jealousy-fueled attitude problem from earlier is still active. Jimin scoffs and returns to the bed, reaching for the crystal. Seeing the Leviathan again has reminded him that he’s supposed to talk to Min about the next Litceten. The Fuga is there in all their vividly furred glory. Jimin belatedly realizes that Min looks very much like a fox with their narrow eyes and the upturned corners of their small mouth. He’s read about some cultures in far-off galaxies that worship animal gods - perhaps the Fuga was an origin for those stories.
“Ahh, there you are.” Min’s velvet voice, a contrast with their more mechanized brothers and sisters, is warm and comforting. “How do you fare, dear Litceten?”
“I’m… okay. Normal bullshit with Hanabi. But I wanted to confirm with you that the next Litceten will be receptive to me. Hanabi mentioned that his kind is not welcome where we are headed.” Jimin wants to roll his eyes but thinks better of it.
“He is correct. Leviathans are banned on Kvfestika, as it was once a stronghold for astral beings. The futures where Hanabi accompanies you to the planet do not have a productive long-term thread. They end rather abruptly, in fact, too abruptly for me to really see what happens, though I would imagine he is overwhelmed by the locals and killed. This can not happen. You must go to Kvfestika alone.”
Jimin is quiet for a moment, processing. He’s barely ever been to the market on Helasa without an entourage so going to a whole new planet by himself seems like an impossible feat. What would he do if things got heated? What if he needed help? Where would he stay? Where would he go if his energy ran out? Hanabi has become a sort of safety blanket for Jimin since the Leviathan usually takes charge on the whole ‘saving their population’ mission. He’s a source of energy and protection, the two things Jimin needs most in his life. Without him, Jimin feels lost, like a dinghy caught in a raging storm.
“Is there anything important I should know?” Jimin is expecting Min to say no or have some basic, factual comment about the planet.
Min hums, the air around them crackling with energy, “Be careful. I am not at liberty to disclose futures that have not come to pass but I will advise you to keep yourself under control. A Leviathan such as Hanabi can not be contained under his own willpower, he must have something to sate his destructive tendencies. Those outlets will grow scarce.”
“I will take this into consideration.” Jimin mutters after a moment of silence where he ponders what ‘outlets’ Min might be talking about. For now, he knows that Hanabi is destroying astral trade nodes as a means of staying in the Emperor’s good books. Still, this is probably also spurred by his own desire to watch things burn and rot. Min is certainly not the first person to tell him that Leviathans are destructive creatures. “Thank you.”
“Go now. Your energy levels are quite low. Rest before going to Kvfestika.” Min starts to fade, quickly replaced by the deep color palette of the warship bedroom.
Jimin takes Min’s words to heart and quickly lays down on the bed, slipping into a dream state where he walks between the feverishly blooming trees in the south district, growing between cracked white stones, remnants of their ancient ancestors. Helasa has always been the home of the Litceten, time skipping over them so their beginnings seemed like they were just yesterday. Jimin would visit the ruins of the seer temple every summer, as all Litcetens do, the stones still shiny and unworn by the ages. The temple is where the Archelora is crowned and consummated, Helasan folk gathering from far and wide to welcome the new head visionary. When Jimin was young he visited the temple with his parents, holding both of their hands as they guided him towards the peaceful, white structure decorated with flowers and wreaths. He was too young to know back then that it was the ceremony for the current Archelora, the one that died in front of him on the observation deck.
The dream twists suddenly, eyes and boiled brains bubbling up from the cracks within the stone, covering Jimin’s bare feet, organs squishing between his toes. Some of the Archelora’s black hair catches on his leg like a piece of cut seaweed in the ocean. He screams and tries to run, reaching out for his parents, melting beside him like overused candles. Red slime drips down from the sky, slowly burying him until he can’t breathe, swallowing down mouthfuls of flesh jelly in some desperate attempt to get oxygen. The white trees groan above him as they move, creating a cage of roots and branches to prevent him from escaping. In the distance, just above the pool of red sickness currently drowning him is Hanabi, the Leviathan reaches a hand out, but he’s too far away. Jimin can’t reach him. He thrashes as his last dregs of oxygen die out inside his lungs, brain too starved to do much more than spasm violently.
Jimin sits up too fast, gasping for air, clutching at his throat with clawed hands. Fuck, it felt so real. He could taste the bitter copper of the red water full of guts and gore, feel his lungs being stabbed a million times by the cold bite of liquid where it shouldn't be. He could feel the white tree bark under his fingers as he tried to reach out for Hanabi, legs kicking uselessly behind him. Fuck.
He steadies himself, desperately holding onto the blue crystal for some semblance of calm. Jimin just wants to go home, but here, on the ship, is as close to home as he’s going to get. A sharp tickle converges on the back of his throat, forcing him to gasp, all of his air exhaled as a choked sob. The first painful release of tears and clogged emotions is a broken floodgate for a torrent of tears and snot and lonely grimaces. And it’s not even worth it. Crying won’t help him one bit, in fact, Hanabi will probably come running if he doesn’t stop with his waterworks. He angrily wipes at his eyes and sniffles a little too hard, coughing when some phlegm hits the back of his throat.
He’s miserable and depressed and lonely. And he really can’t see a way out of this one besides the obvious answer that he refuses to acknowledge. He will never cave to the easy comfort of Hanabi, no matter how desperate he gets, no matter how much better he knows he’ll feel. He just can’t do it. Even though it would make everything so much easier.
Jimin sits by the window, cradling the blue crystal in his lap like a newborn, watching the stars pass by lethargically. For as large as it is, the warship tends to move rather slowly, though Jimin knows it can speed through space on par with a jet lander. Hanabi mentioned before that asking for faster speeds means the crew will be on high alert. It’s kind of fucked up that their normal pace is this relaxed jaunt through the cosmos, casually stopping to destroy hopes and dreams. The warship is the dominant predator, planets shuddering beneath its looming shadow, it has no reason to go fast, unless it's chasing something.
The planet that strolls past the window and looms like a great ornament is unmistakably Kvfestika, the realm of purple air and dancing lights. As he stares, the blue flame tail of a lander jet whizzes towards the surface and disappears under the indigo clouds. Jimin tries to peer at the ship on the opposite side of the giant orb but it’s too far away. A rushing urge of panic floods into his veins and he’s tempted to bang on the window in some desperate hope that the ship will send someone to rescue him. But it’s no use. The warship is a big, glowing red warning sign in space. No one would ever be able to get close enough to see Jimin’s tiny body behind the glass and live to tell the tale.
Jimin’s tired of being trapped in his room. He’s grateful for the new single hallway he’s allowed to walk down to reach the couplet’s room but it’s not enough. He feels like a caged animal, ready to lash out at the hand that feeds him. He can’t even go anywhere; the cold, dead nothingness of space surrounds them in all directions, and just past his protected hallway is the world of the Mongers that would jump at the chance to drink down his tortured screams. Jimin releases a hard breath through his nose, growing more agitated by the second.
A soft knock on the door is enough for Jimin to get up and fling it open. He glares up at Hanabi, who scowls and licks his lips. “We’re here. I’ll escort you to the lander.”
Jimin tosses the crystal onto the bed, brushing roughly past Hanabi on his way out. The Leviathan says nothing in response to this. “The ship will stay in distant orbit while you’re working. When you’re ready to come back, use this beacon.” The captain offers him a small tube of metal. Jimin’s had experience with these when he was helping to set up docking points for a big festival, guiding a small ship into place beside the market. He stashes the item in the pocket of his dress but Hanabi is quick to fish it back out with nimble fingers. “No, wear it around your neck.”
Jimin finally looks at him as they walk, scoffing when Hanabi threads a thin chain into the loop atop the beacon. He snatches the item and fixes the clasp at the back of his neck, instantly denying Hanabi’s obvious attempt to put the accessory on him. “I’ll probably be down there for a few days.”
Hanabi grunts in understanding. Jimin can tell he wants to say something and when they reach the lander, he finally breaks. “If you need anything, if you’re in danger, use the beacon and I will come.” He hesitates, hovering over the control panel.
“What?” Jimin spits with a little more venom than he meant.
“I just wanted to know if I could hug you.” Hanabi’s voice is a lot softer than before. He looks at Jimin with a hopeful, vulnerable expression, hands fidgeting with the hem of his jacket. This side of Hanabi is usually so deeply hidden under his rough, bloody exterior that it actually surprises Jimin for a moment, stunned into silence, a nasty retort dying on his tongue.
It takes some time before Jimin collects himself enough to respond, “Okay.”
Hanabi smiles brightly, something other than indifference or manic joy overtaking his features. He slowly draws a rigid Jimin into his arms, sighing deeply. The tension that seems ever-present in his shoulders finally evaporates. They stay like that for a silent moment before Hanabi re-tenses and steps away. “Thank you. I await your return.” His fist smashes into the panel so hard Jimin’s sure he’ll break it. The lander doors slam shut and the engine rumbles to life beneath him. He buckles himself into the bench for safety and lets his head fall back against the metal wall.
He takes a slow breath, trying to calm his racing mind. And then it hits - the fire surging through his veins, eating away at his insides. He can’t turn the lander around, it doesn’t have a complex steering system nor does he even know how to do it if he could. His chest rises and falls with shallow gasps. Fuck, he didn’t think this through, so wrapped up in his hatred of Hanabi that he completely ignored the tugging at the back of his brain. It’s been over a week since his last vision. He’ll be fucking crippled in five damn minutes if he doesn’t get some energy. He clutches at his thighs, nails digging into the skin painfully, trying to keep his sanity intact.
The lander shudders around him, vibrating under his thin sandals. He tries to hone in on how much he hates shoes, how uncomfortable they are, the feeling of clay squishing between his toes at the edge of a hot spring, anything to distract from the inferno in his bloodstream. It helps but not much and it’s no substitute for the energy he needs. He grits his teeth and bursts out of the lander as soon as the doors are clear for opening. The grass under him is almost too green, a violent shade of dark heather. The air in front of his face is vaguely colored with a neon purple tint, a haze of smoky clouds obscuring his vision. Jimin dips into the aural world, sucking up the last dregs of his energy as he stumbles forward, fighting the demise of his legs. There’s so much noise, so much sound and bass and chatter. Jimin can’t see. He can’t fucking breathe. A golden aura is like a beacon for him, the dinghy lost at sea.
Something sharp stabs into the bottom of his foot, slicing through the flimsy sandal sole. The ground meets him quickly and a pained cry falls from his lips. He reaches for the necklace Hanabi gave him, hating that it’s been all of ten minutes and he’s already about to swallow his damn pride and ask for help. Dark green and neon purple swirl around him like being in a strange dream state. A voice is calling out to him but he can’t respond. His throat has closed up. He wants to cry but can’t.
“Hey, hey, hey!” A bright and clear voice rings in Jimin’s hollow ears. “Fuck, we gotta get him inside. Grab his legs.”
Jimin can’t feel his own body anymore but he’s still slightly conscious, alive inside his skull. The music of the astral plane starts to surround him on all sides, beckoning him home, to the realm of his ancestors. He can see his parents, the smile he got from his mother, and the nose and cheeks of his father. He can see Hyejoon laughing in the wet garden. The Archelora’s short black bob is covered by her net of hanging crystals that twinkle and chime whenever she moves. A large, glowing blue slug slimes its way over a broad green leaf between the wet garden and the open-air entrance of the eating hall. It seems like it’s probably full of jelly or maybe just water. They were as large as Jimin’s forearm at maturity and came in a myriad of colors and patterns. The slugs also had favorites - people they would allow to touch them and those they would shrivel up near. Jimin was popular with the yellow slugs, Hyejoon the blue ones, but neither of them were much appreciated by the patterned pink slugs which was a shame since they were arguably the most beautiful of the bunch.
Jimin’s eyes land on the splat-patterned back of the friendliest yellow slug and he slips into it, diving into a web of splotches and nebulae, stars and constellations, and off in the distance is a wall of grey, silver, and gold clouds, zipping with neon lightning and fragments of music. The astral plane is a gorgeous thing to see, foaming and frothing, seemingly violent but too beautiful to really comprehend. What lies beyond the wall of waves and clouds? Jimin reaches out to touch it, begging for even a minute fraction of its supreme power and grace. Just one millisecond of the highest level of pleasure, ecstasy, bliss. Jimin’s fingertips strain, his body held back by some invisible force, but if he reaches just a tiny… bit… farther.
Yellow eyes with a diamond-shaped pupil. Blinking slowly. Sallow skin. Thin lips.
A figure stands shadowed at the edge of a lively market, hidden in plain sight between two tall buildings made of wood and mud and sand. The reddened, breezy sky does not reach the alley, the local daystar focuses on the festivities of fresh fruits and bushels of cut flowers. Well-constructed wooden stalls each sell an item, patrons milling about admiring the displays and arrangements available for purchase. The ground is flagstone, overlaid with a dusty coating of sand. Ceramic pottery decorated in primary color paints in tribal patterns is a well-known commodity from this area. The decor is mostly flowers in greens and light pinks, cactuses in clay pots with painted stones, garlands of yellow gourds, and chunks of natural glass. Most people wear the traditional clothing of breezy, summer skirts in dotted patterns and flowy blouses to combat the proximity of the daystar.
One individual stands out from the crowd of primary colors and white accents, dressed in a pressed black uniform with golden military buttons and trim. The figure is male and has chin-length black hair, wavy and thin from recent contact with water. He surveys the closest stands and reaches up to pull the wet hair off his brow, now secured in a band at the back of his head. Strong brows and nose, a dominant presence amidst the masses. The abyssal black eyes finally come to rest on a heaping layout of small bottles in various colors and shapes. Fluorescent snails travel the decorated wood of the stall and one rests on the seller’s bald head as he bows deeply to the dark figure.
The alley is closeby, only a few paces from the dark figure. The yellow eyes blink languidly. A sallow, unhealthy hand snakes into a green jacket and withdraws a brutally thin, sharp blade. A small bottle is opened and several thick drops of a clear fluid drench the weapon. The bottle is cast aside, thunking distantly into a buildup of sand. The yellow eyes blink. Once more. Twice. The blade is thrown with calculation after a few practice movements, zipping through the air like a bullet. It lands with a thud that seems to echo. Blood spurts out of the wound in the dark, black-eyed figure’s throat and he drops to the ground like a rock, coughing and vomiting red all over the flagstone. The liquid drips into the natural cracks and spreads like a crimson spiderweb. The alleyway is empty. The daystar still shines, the clouds still dot the sky in flimsy patches of white. But the normal bustle of the market is over, screams fill the air.