Yeosang never claimed to be a smart person.
He never did.
And today was certainly not a day, a moment, a speck of his life he would call his brightest moment either. Not even close. Very far from it actually. So far away just thinking about it hurt.
He was desperate, okay? Desperate humans tended to do things which they would regret later, eventually, with given time and acquired rational thinking - just that Yeosang had stopped to rationally think a bit ago. Others said he lost his mind. Maybe it was a bit of both.
The images were so fresh in his mind there was no way he could stay rational. Not anymore. Probably never again. It was an ability he lost when everything had come tumbling down and crashed at his feet, buried him deep up to his last hair strand, swallowed everything he used to be, and only spat out a Yeosang who was changed. If to the better or worse, who would dare to judge when the man himself was aware of his own changes, the demeanor he had acquired within such a short time frame.
So why was he near a graveyard at the break of dawn when every fiber of his body screamed at him to turn and run away? His friends had called him an idiot for running around in the dark. Why didn’t he listen to them? Exactly, because he was stupid and emotionally drained. He was scared, sure, but after knowing what could lure around in the dark he knew that there was no need to be careful anymore.
Yeosang could die any day and no human could possibly solve his case.
Right, no humans. Yeosang gulped at the thought of who he was, hopefully, going to meet. Someone equally as inhuman as the reason why he was creeping near a graveyard so early in the morning. Walking underneath the sky with no stars since in Soul it was hard to see any and guarded by trees he was sure could move on their own if he believed it enough.
Yeosang had become paranoid and he was aware of it. So what if his friends called him stupid, he was rather expecting the unexpected instead of being surprised.
Though nothing could have steeled him for the house appearing around the corner, just behind the graveyard and hidden among trees making it look beyond eerie and mysterious, only add some fog to it and it would be the perfect setting for a horror movie. Yeosang decided on the spot that he hated it, everything about it, the air surrounding it alone- but he had a mission to complete. With shaky legs, he stumbled towards the house hoping nothing would jump out and eat him alive. Which wasn’t so unlikely but he rather not thought about it. At least not for the moment.
The house, up close, seemed to be very old and well cared for from the outside. Plants had found their way around the house and had begun to grow around it, some finding their way up the walls, covering the dark stones in dark green, looking eerily due to the shadow the early damn created. Yeosang gulped involuntarily,
A wooden door was the only barrier between himself and what he thought would be past it. The red paint on it had begun to fall off a while ago.
He was hesitant to knock now that he was here. Were the rumors true? Would this person really consider helping him? Yeosang didn’t know, could only hope for the best - for their best. He needed the help, very desperately so.
But before he could knock the door opened on its own, revealing nothing but blackness behind it. Yeosang subconsciously stepped back, away from the looming darkness which seemed threatening to him, holding his breath all the same. Maybe he should’ve listened to his friends and never gone there in the first place-
“If you want something you have to come inside, little doll.”
Yeah, no . Yeosang was about to turn on his heel and run back from where he had come from when an invisible hand held him back - or so he thought. Sometimes he thought he could still feel his touch. The fear which had risen inside of him - for a good reason - began to argue that he had to get out of there but his irrational mind, the one who had finally understood so many things after it happened, made him walk ahead instead.
Darkness. Nothing but darkness. It hadn’t changed during his very crucial inner crisis. Heaving a big sigh he stepped inside, hoping he hadn’t just sold his soul off to the next demon when the door swung close behind him. He jerked, held his heart in shock as soon as the darkness began to swallow him wholly, no trace of light left within the room. No up and down, to left or right. Only the darkness swallowing him like a blanket. Yeosang felt himself beginning to panic, frantically moving his head in hope of finding something, anything that would give him something to hold onto.
Yeosang you big idiot-
He scolded himself, wondering when he had become so stupid. Then again, he knew exactly when it had happened. Gulping down his initial fear and after telling himself that he was nothing but a scaredy-cat, he willed himself to stay calm, at least trying to analyze his situation.
However, he didn’t get as far when he felt something touch his face, feather-like and gone as soon as he had felt it. Yeosang shrieked, taken back, wondering what it had been-
They were all around him, getting louder and louder until they all came to a halt- a child’s laugh echoing back from the walls. All his prep-talk and self-encouragement went out the window at the same moment. Yeosang wanted nothing more than to be gone, to out and never come back. Heck, he hadn’t even known something akin to true horror was existing - besides the usual human crimes one sees on one too many TV shows nowadays - yet all of that had happened and there was no way of denying it any longer, not when he stood within the realm of something that shouldn’t exist but did.
His courage wasn’t as great anymore but he also knew he couldn’t turn back. He couldn’t. Yeosang owed it to him .
Then, as if the place knew how much it had scared Yeosang with the darkness he saw lights flickering on. On the walls, one by one, old light bulbs were turned on, barely enough to illuminate the next few meters, the low light made Yeosang shiver involuntarily. If it hadn’t been light bulbs but candles, Yeosang would’ve thought he had entered an old mansion and not the house of the infamous puppeteer . Though, thinking about it, he wasn’t so sure if it was for the better or worse that this was not a mansion.
The footsteps resumed and Yeosang tried to make out where he was, where those sounds came from. However, he halted in doing so when he finally saw what the dim light had begun to illuminate, softly shining on without any evil intention.
Many, many dolls.
Small dolls on shelves, sitting in a row with pretty clothes, mostly dresses.
On the ground larger dolls, staring right ahead with eyes so shiny they looked as if alive.
Others stood at the walls, their clothes prettily draped, hair styled, make-up applied to re-create a human look on them.
Yeosang shivered. Dolls had never been his fort, and being surrounded by so many wasn’t exactly his understanding of fun. Not when he was aware that the man living inside the house was, probably, the puppeteer he heard of.
Could it be-?
He jerked around when he thought to have seen movement in the corner of his eye but all he could see was a doll standing on the other side of the room in front of a wall with fading color, dim light caressing the porcelain white and barely rosy cheeks he could make out from afar. Yeosang gulped, turning back around, hoping that the movement he had seen was only a fraction of his imagination.
Yeosang had to slap a hand onto his mouth to not scream out when his eyes landed back on the dolls he had first seen, seeing how their eyes were now trained on him. Those shiny orbs dancing, piercing, staring at him.
A step back. Then another.
Surely, he had known that someone who was a puppeteer , a supernatural on top of it, wasn’t normal-
But having the dolls staring at him? Yeah, Yeosang was perfectly scared for life.
Then, as if they had heard his hesitant thoughts, they stood up, cranky and stiff but getting up nonetheless without any help. Yeosang shrieked when one after one made their way towards him while his feet were rooted to the ground, his fear making him unable to move a single muscle. Everything within him screamed to run, to turn around and never come back, to make himself believe that this was nothing more than a nightmare he would awake from soon. Their laughter made it clear that this was no dream .
Until all the laughter died down. Frantically, he looked around, trying to make sense out of the dolls, of what they want from him.
Does the puppeteer want to scare me?
“Maybe I do, little doll.”
His head whipped around as soon as the voice from earlier met his ears. Suddenly, his heart threatened to leap out of his chest upon seeing someone, something , who his mind automatically supplied must be the puppeteer in question.
A man, not much high difference from himself, had stepped up to Yeosang, equally surrounded by dolls. The puppeteer’s puppets. Playthings. And they all stared at Yeosang.
“W-why?” Was all he could question, feeling sweat running down his temples, hands becoming sweaty, chest uncomfortably tight.
He mentally scolded himself for being so scared now despite him knowing what he would probably encounter. Or maybe not. Yeosang had never believed the supernatural was real but after Seonghwa’s death, he should’ve been prepared for the worst. And dolls staring at him was most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
The puppeteer pulled his hat into his face which seemed to mimic the gesture of a slight bow, gloved fingers pushing it back into its place, orange curls peeking out from underneath, the dim light making it look like his hair had caught fire. The other smiled lightly, in a way which signed no danger yet Yeosang didn’t seem to find it in himself to reciprocate the gesture, too worked up to fully comprehend what or who he had just encountered.
“Why not? It’s rare to have a living human within my comfy home.”
“Dolls aren’t exactly the comfiest thing.” Yeosang blurted it out, his filter not working, and he slaps a hand over his mouth in horror as he sees the dolls beginning to crack up, their laughter once more filling the room. “I-”
“My dolls, my puppets, my children, know of their reputation within the human society.” The puppeteer cracks a smirk. “And we love to use that for our amusement.”
“So… you scared me on purpose.” Still scaring , his mind supplemented not so helpfully.
“Yes, how could I pass up on a little fun?”
“That’s a pretty twisted idea of fun…” Again, he slaps a hand over his mouth, cursing himself. If he kept going he would never gain the puppeteer’s help-
A laugh, at first warm enough to make Yeosang’s heart skip a beat, slowly becoming dark and sinister - his heart dropping - before it returned to the sweetest laugh to ever crease his ears. Yeosang, confused with what was happening, stood still, unable to look away from the puppeteer’s laughing figure.
“I like you, human.” The puppeteer laughs out before slowly composing himself, the crinkle of his eyes not yet gone. A slight flush on pale skin. “I will help you, little doll.”
Taken back by his words Yeosang took a step back, jerking when the puppeteer leaned his head sideways at his words.
“I just said I would help you,” words tripping in false sweetness, Yeosang knew not to trust him but something within told him he should. “Why are you running away from me? We can have lots of fun together.”
Fun . Not ominous at all. No.
“I… I didn’t come here to have- to have fun with dolls-”
“Oh, really? That’s sad, they are very lovely companions.”
Shit. His mouth will cause trouble if he can’t stop himself from blurting out every single thought he had.
“Maybe you just have to learn a bit more about them, my little doll.” The puppeteer snickered, sending him a wink. Yeosang shuddered, wondering what the gesture was supposed to mean. “But let’s get to business, shall we? I bet someone knows that you came here and with every passing minute they become more anxious… wondering what I would do with such a pretty thing.”
Yeosang’s eyes widened, brain running a mile and more at the implication, whatever this implication meant if said by a supernatural. He didn’t want to know. Instead, his sweaty fingers find his jeans and claw into them in an attempt to find something which would ground him.
“Come, let’s sit and chat-”
“I’d rather not.”
He’s so going to get killed by running his mouth.
Yeosang was about to apologize when the puppeteer gestured with his hand that it was fine. He gulped. Would he leave this place alive? And with help? A glance to the side revealed that the dolls had stopped moving altogether, some not even looking at him any longer.
“That’s fine. You will when you come next time, for now, let’s chat like this.” Once again the puppeteer touched his hat but actually took it off this time. In an old gentleman gesture did he put it over his chest while slightly bowing, eyes cast up to him, in them a glimmer Yeosang found frightening. “I haven’t introduced myself yet, so I shall start with that. I have gone by many names over the years but please, call me Hongjoong, I’m a famous local puppeteer. Though you certainly have heard me due some regrettable incident, haven’t you? What’s your name, little doll?”
He hesitated. Should he tell him his name? Was there not some unspoken rule to not tell strangers your name? Wouldn't that apply to the supernatural as well? Even more so?
“Such a pretty name for such a pretty boy.”
“So, doll, what brought you here? What do you need from me?”
“Why would I necessarily need something from you?” Yeosang asks back, wary eyes looking at the puppeteer. Hongjoong. Should someone like him even have a name?
“No one comes here without a reason, sweetheart.” Hongjoong puts his hat back on, the smile still on his lips.
That was probably true. Who would meet someone like him willingly? Someone who surrounded themselves with dolls, his puppets, while leaving next to a graveyard? Yeosang would’ve never even considered coming if it weren’t for Seonghwa.
“And you really help me?” Yeosang asks cautious.
“Probably. Very likely. But I still need to know where my help is needed.”
In awe and fear, Yeosang watched how the dolls one after another turned and went their ways, a few staying in the dim-lit room while others disappeared through doors and down hallways. And all Hongjoong had done was wave his hand a little. Yeosang shuddered once more, heart beating heavily in his chest, the fear of the unknown still present in his mind.
And could he really tell this… man what had happened to Seonghwa? What if he knew the killer? Or someone who might have done it and wants to silence Yeosang for knowing too much? That’s-
“I can hear the gears working in your head, sweetheart. It is quite alright if you decide my help is not actually what you need, one of my dolls would gladly accompany you back outside. But my offer to help only stands now, if you leave, it’s off the table.”
Trapped. Yeosang felt trapped at the puppeteer’s words. But he was right. Yeosang couldn’t leave, not when he had come so far, had fought off his initial fear of the supernatural, the unknown, the danger, and had finally come to ask for help. When someone was finally willed to listen to his words and help , a person which did not call him insane for believing that Seonghwa’s murder wasn’t as easy as a human ending his life.
“I… need your help. Please help me.” He says quietly, suddenly feeling the weight of the whole situation on his shoulders again. Feeling the missing warmth, the gentle hand on his back, the whispers that everything would be okay. “My friend… he was murdered.”
The puppeteer hums, slowly rocking back and forth on heels as if he was impatiently waiting for Yeosang’s next words.
“No one believes me when I say that his death wasn’t caused by a human’s hand.”
That made the puppeteer halt.
“You think someone of my kind has murdered one of the yours?”
“Your kind…?” Yeosang must’ve looked bewildered at the puppeteer’s words as he laughed airly, gloves things gesturing that Yeosang didn’t understand his words.
“With that I mean the once you see as unnatural, made out of fantastic dreams and wonders, jumped out of the latest novel. The ones humans have forgotten exist yet are obsessed with. You believe one of those is at fault.”
He can only nod at that, feeling bare under the other’s intense gaze. Yeosang gulped heavily when a wicked grin spread over his face.
“You came to the right person. You wish for me to gift your friend another life, is it not?”
Shocked over the puppeteer’s words he gasped, fingers getting clam again, shaking ever so slightly. Are his intentions so obvious?
“I- Yes! How-?”
“I’m a puppeteer, my dear, my reputation is known to many. I can grant your wish.” He says but Yeosang notices the glint in his eyes, the smirk with another intention behind, a meaning hidden in his words.
“But?” Yeosang asks carefully.
“But, like any other, I do not do my profession without any kind of payment.”
Ah. Yeosang hadn’t thought about that. The thought of seeing Seonghwa again , alive and well, had been so overpowering that he hadn’t thought about what the puppeteer could eventually want from him in return.
Money? Or maybe… his life?
“I haven’t brought any money…”
“Oh silly little doll, what could I potentially do with human money?” He snickers. “What I want in return for helping your friend coming alive once more is very simple. Let me help you find the murderer of your precious friend, let me stay with you. Together we can find out what happened to your friend.”
Taken back, Yeosang send him a wary glance, unsure why that was a reward of any kind. What does a puppeteer gain from trailing along and potentially find the culprit?
“What do you gain from that…?”
One day, his mouth will bring him six feet under.
“Nothing much. I just want to spend some time with you. That’s all.”
Then again, why should Yeosang say no ? He would not only get Seonghwa back but also potentially know who killed his friend in the first place. It might be crazy to think he would get out of this unscraped and healthy, but at this point, he would do everything to get Seonghwa back.
To avenge Seonghwa.
“Spend time with me?”
The puppeteer laughs and steps forward. Yeosang instinctively took steps backward until his back met a wall and the puppeteer crowded him against the cold wall. There was a playful glint in his eyes as Yeosang saw, holding his breath when gloved fingers hold his chin gently, caressing his skin and he felt himself flush at the sudden, unexpected touch, a shiver running down his spine.
He was scared, very much so with a man suddenly so close from which he had heard could bring back the dead , yet he didn’t find it in himself to shake him off. Something told him it was fine when it wasn’t.
“Oh my, yes. Just with you. Won’t we be a quite nice detective duo?” The puppeteer chuckles. “So, what do you say? Do we have a deal?”
Yeosang gulped. Deep down he had already decided he wouldn’t go without having the puppeteer agree and now he had him where he had wanted him. But should he really? Wasn’t it dangerous? Then again, Seonghwa’s dead body flashing into his mind, how pale he had looked, how cold-
“Wonderful.” Hongjoong stepped back with light steps almost as if he could fly a bit and smiled widely, a bit wicked, though his eyes were twinkling. “Now let’s get you home, I have a lot to prepare.”
“To prepare..?” He asks breathlessly, wondering what that meant.
“Yes, of course, doll. Creating a doll, a puppet for my play isn’t just done within a second but with much care and lots of preparations. But fear not it will only take a few days, in the meanwhile, like we play detectives.”
Yeosang was about to ask more when a doll appeared next to Hongjoong. A small doll, barely reaching the puppeteer’s hips, short hair hidden underneath a cap and clothes seemingly from another century. But what caught Yeosang off-guard was the life within the boy’s eyes, how rosy-tinted his cheeks were, how a little smile creased his lips. It was almost as if the boy was still alive and not one of Hongjoong’s many puppets.
“He will bring you home, he’s a very good boy and agreed to accompany you. I will await you tomorrow, doll.”
What followed after, Yeosang wasn’t sure. The boy, a doll , had held Yeosang’s hand all the way back to his apartment, even talked to him a couple of times which freaked Yeosang out more than it should’ve. The boy only laughed at his reactions before proceeding onwards and waving when Yeosang was about to slip into his apartment complex.
Only when the door closed behind him did Yeosang let the whole situation crash down on him, his back hitting the wall, legs giving out underneath him.
It was then when his friend Wooyoung, who was also his roommate, came scrambling to the entranceway, his eyes widened and scared, not softening a second when they fell onto Yeosang. Within seconds the younger man had fallen into Yeosang’s chest, shaking him, searching his body for any wounds but Yeosang had none.
For minutes he tried to tell his friend that he was fine, that the puppeteer and his dolls hadn’t hurt him but Wooyoung wasn’t convinced until they cuddled on the couch later.
Yeosang was still shaken up by the experience when he told Wooyoung about his encounter and after he promised to tell their other friends what he had done, what the puppeteer had agreed on. His mind was still processing, trying to wrap around the possibility of everything being real when Wooyoung fell asleep against him, his nerves getting the best of him. Yeosang let him, needed time to sort his thoughts, steady his fast-paced heart, and steel himself for yet another encounter with the puppeteer. With someone who, despite his apparent reputation, wasn’t out to hurt Yeosang in the slightest. For now. Even though he had heard different rumors.
He cast away his scared thoughts. Seonghwa. Yeosang only thought of seeing his friend again and that fueled him. He had the puppeteer’s words and for now, he believes the weird supernatural man to hold it.
Yeosang will see Seonghwa again and find out who had murdered him.
He came back. Finding his way was easier this time, especially since the little boy, the doll, had greeted him by the graveyard and asked for his hand. Reluctantly but not appalled he held the doll’s cold hand, walking with him back to the house he had only left hours ago.
Yeosang was - for lack of a better word - stunned with how much the boy talked to him. How good he spoke besides not being alive anymore then again, the boy had been alive before so maybe they kept their abilities from before. A part of him was intrigued to find out, to explore the supernatural he had no idea about a bit deeper and unravel mysteries such as the doll holding gently onto his hand as he guided Yeosang back inside.
The dolls which were kept everywhere didn’t haunt him as much this time but he still doesn’t feel comfortable with their eyes on him. Goosebumps all over his skin.
It was when he was lead into a room that seemed to be a dining room with a long table, an old chandelier with slightly burned down candles, and an old wooden interior that Yeosang felt the slap of the unknown in his face. The whole room felt unreal as if taken from a European movie that portrayed aristocracy in a worn-down shape. The candles flooded the room in dim orange hues, only intensified by red fabrics on top of dark wood. Surreal, mysterious yet intriguing.
The boy laughed when Yeosang had stopped in his tracks to admire and - for obvious purpose - watch for an escape route if he needed one. There was none. Was the house endless? The inside was definitely bigger than what it looks like from the outside.
He let himself be guided to one of the chairs, the boy smiling at him when he carefully sat down, impressed by how comfortable it actually was.
However, his slightly calmer nerves became wrecked again when minutes after doll after doll comes into the room, from doors and hallways which were seemingly connected to the room. Some acknowledged him by laughing or snickering, others waved, then some showed no emotions at all.
It was scary, definitely, and Yeosang was once more struck by the knowledge that they all were alive before, which didn’t help to calm his nerves at all.
Would Seonghwa be this way? Just a puppet for Hongjoong to have control over? Or would he be able to speak like the little boy?
Yeosang’s gaze fell to the side but the boy had vanished. The room became a tad scarier at that, the boys’ presence had somewhat helped him stay level-headed maybe because he was, in fact, still a child. Then again, there were way more child look-alikes in the room than adult ones.
His eyes hushed over the many dolls, gulping down the fear as he crossed gazes with some of them. And silently, just for himself, he wondered how many of them had died naturally and how many had found a similar end as Seonghwa.
“They’re pretty, aren’t they?” Yeosang jerks in his seat as the puppeteer slides into the chair across from him, successfully hiding the doll Yeosang just stared at. “They are my pride and joy, each one of them.”
He hummed, not sure if he could ever understand how someone could find joy and pride in having dolls of once alive people.
“I can see your mind is burning, sweet little doll. What’s your question?”
Yeosang felt himself flush at being so easily read, so he tried to compose himself but was unable to when the dolls began to chuckle around them as if they enjoyed Yeosang’s struggling.
“I was just wondering… do they all speak?”
That has the puppeteer shake his head, a finger pressed to his temple as if he had to think about his answer. The smirk on his lips gave him away. Yeosang pretended he didn’t saw it.
“Not all, no. It depends on many factors. Some of them are able to remember and some don’t.”
“Ah, yes. There is no guarantee that a doll would remember what their life once was like.”
That made Yeosang stand up, hands slammed onto the table. “So there’s no guarantee that Seonghwa will remember me? Or anything at all?!”
He felt played. Maybe he shouldn’t have trusted him-
“I didn’t say that.” Hongjoong waved his hand in a disapproving way. Yeosang, gulping down his initial outburst, sat down again but kept his eyes on the puppeteer while he began to question if he had done the right thing. “I said there is no guarantee, not that I don’t try. Most of my dolls can remember and kept some of their personality aspects. Not all of them can speak but that has nothing to do with their memory.” The puppeteer leaned forward, placing his hand on his hands, the hat he was wearing sending a shadow of his eyes yet Yeosang thought he saw them glimmering. “The major factor is if they have their own free will or if they are controlled by me. Some are, some don’t. But that’s my secret to keep.”
Shuddering he thought back to the boy. Had he talked to him on his own free will or had the puppeteer forced him to? Had Hongjoong spied on him like this? Tried to get more information on him?
The doll had brought him home . Yeosang’s heart clenched fearfully. He had led the puppeteer to his home, what if he would follow him home? Or one of his dolls?
Wooyoung. Did he endanger Wooyoung with his reckless action?
“Let’s not talk about me or my dolls, for now, Yeosang. You came quite early, I’m still in the middle of preparing the resurrection so I sadly have to leave you for now, however, I got something for you in the meantime.” The puppeteer waved his hand shortly. A doll came up to him and gave him a brown envelope. “Careful with these, they aren’t easy to look at. I had a look at them earlier but please view them alone for now and we talk about it later.” Hongjoong stood up, sliding the envelope over the table before snickering. “It feels like a sweet detective play, ah~ so exciting.”
And with that he was alone, the puppeteer was gone within a blink.
Unsure of what just happened, Yeosang sat back in his chair, eyes glued to the envelope, wondering what could be in there. Gaze going past the now empty seat he sees the dolls slightly moving yet not vanishing, staying put as they wait for their master to return.
A sigh left his mouth as he put a hand over his heart, willing his heart to calm down. He was already in too deep to back out. And the puppeteer seemed to not harm him. For now.
He pulls the envelope closer and dives into what Hongjoong had left him behind, his stomach soon tightening in discomfort.
Yeosang jerked heavily when a hand lifted his chin, only then noticing the movement all around him. Staring up wide-eyed he needed to hold in his scream, knowing the dolls would laugh at him. Probably.
“Where is your head, little doll? Up in the clouds?”
A wicked smile greeted him, tearing him out of his daydreaming. His ears turn red at the touch of the gloved fingers, slapping the hand away in an attempt to regain his posture. He had been so focused on the police photos the puppeteer had successfully stolen, probably, that he hadn’t noticed the arrival of said man after his errand.
“I was focused,” he muttered, pointing at a photo he had stared at for the longest time.
“I could tell. For a moment I thought you were one of mine.”
Hongjoong chuckled at his reaction before settling down in front of him, smiling widely when one of his dolls, Lischen , as Yeosang had found out, brought him a tea and took his hat from him before disappearing down the dark hallway.
“Tea?” Hongjoong asked, offering Yeosang his cup but he declined, not wanting to drink something a doll has made. Then again-
“Isn’t this wound weird?”
Yeosang tried to shake off the unsettling feeling in his chest, never getting used to so many eyes on him. Unmoving but somewhat alive eyes. Creepy.
The puppeteer sips on his tea before putting the cup down and leaning over the table, eyes cast down to follow Yeosang’s finger. Yeosang’s own eyes however stayed on the other for a moment longer. He couldn’t explain why but seeing the deep v-neck the man wore gave him some weird shivers, needing to unglue his eyes from the exposed skin.
Yeosang’s heart would never feel any more at ease with seeing photos of the crime scene, the horrifying picture burned into the back of his mind for all eternity.
The way Seonghwa laid on the ground with open yet dimmed eyes staring right ahead, black hair sticking to his head, open mouth ready to scream; or maybe he had screamed but no one had heard them.
And then the wound. Large, red, disgustingly open - someone or something had ripped out a good chunk of Seonghwa’s shoulder and left him to die.
Yeosang would never forget the amount of blood he had seen as he had arrived at the scene first, the stench of blood mixed with fear, despair, and death . He had thrown up at the sight. His friend, the one he treasured the most, had been brutally killed and the police had done nothing. ‘We search for the culprit but this might’ve been an animal after all’. The thought alone made Yeosang’s blood boil.
Only then, after his friend was mauled to death and someone came up to him with an idea did he understand that there was much more than he could’ve seen before. What he as a human had never witnessed before.
Seonghwa had fallen victim to someone a normal human police officer could never find.
That was the very reason why Yeosang had come here. To revive his friend and find the culprit, to get him convicted, put behind bars. Or so he hoped.
The image which laid on the table between them was still the same as it was before he had fallen into his thoughts though Hongjoong had pulled it over, eyeing the area Yeosang had pointed out. His orange hair was falling into his eyes due to the curls but Yeosang thought he saw the other’s eyes moving quite a bit. He hated how much he anticipated the man’s answer as he was nothing but a plaything for the puppeteer and would most likely not leave the whole ordeal unharmed yet something drew him in, the mysterious aura evoking feelings he didn’t know he possessed beforehand.
“In which way are these wounds weird, my little doll?”
Hongjoong’s eyes flickered up to him, in them a shining Yeosang couldn’t pinpoint. The dim light was not helpful either.
“I might be wrong,” Yeosang started, repositioning his finger on the photograph. “But doesn’t this look like teeth wounds? As if someone, or something, had bitten him?”
“The police said it could’ve been an animal.”
“An animal as big as this one in Seoul?” Yeosang snorted, thinking back at the time he and his friends had gone to a zoo only to find out that most of the animals there weren’t even from their own country. “Roaming free on top of it? Unlikely, you know that as much as I do.”
He was proud of himself that he hadn’t stuttered with the puppeteer’s eyes on him. The shiver was still there nonetheless.
“What could've been it then? What is your idea?”
The man leaned back in his seat and took another sip of his tea, eyes never leaving Yeosang’s. He held the gaze but knew deep down that his ears must’ve gotten red at the staring. How could they not when such an intense gaze was thrown his way.
Yeosang almost lost his focus were it not for the feeling of a hand on his shoulder as if Seonghwa was behind him, telling him to not drift away.
“You’re the supernatural between the two of us, you tell me.” Yeosang countered, mirroring the other and leaning back in his seat. He was startled when a doll appeared next to him, Rin-chan , and brought him a cup of coffee instead of tea. Her milky white skin looked like porcelain but Yeosang knew better and saw the human within the puppet. Rin-chan paid him no mind and disappeared as fast as she had appeared, her footsteps slowly fading away. “Don’t tell me this was a werewolf because I’m not believing the Twilight stuff one bit.”
That had the man smirking, his hand in the air, gloved fingers moving in a weird but hypnotizing way. A finger against lips, a little hush . Hongjoong hadn’t even touched Yeosang’s lips but he felt it nonetheless, warmth creeping up his cheeks at the gesture.
“Werewolves are very much real, my dearest doll,” a finger making a ‘come here’ gesture.
Loud footsteps were the answer. Yeosang was about to jump out of his seat when a handheld him back, stiff fingers holding him down. Another doll had crept up on him, her long black hair falling into her face. Nope, nope, nope. Yeosang was by no means a coward but he could admit to his fears - and this doll would certainly haunt his dreams more often than not, he was sure of it.
Then, as if on cue, someone or something appeared behind Hongjoong which made Yeosang shakily breathe out, forgetting what he wanted to say, eyes widened.
A werewolf. Very much not walking like a puppet even though it was clear that he belonged to the puppeteer.
"This, my dear doll, is Don, a nice young werewolf man who joined me not too long ago. Isn't he a handsome fella?"
Yeosang couldn’t quite pinpoint what was handsome about a man looking like a wolf, body over and over covered in fur and hands definitely too big for any gentle use. No, Yeosang’s heart was rather stressed out at the fact that something he had thought was only a thing in fiction was standing right there, piercing yellow eyes ready to strike, to pounce, maybe to kill him-
"He won’t do you any harm, angel." A flick of Hongjoong’s wrist and the werewolf went his way as if he was dismissed, not even sparing them another glance. "He’s a good boy, listening very well. Not that my priced possession would dare to touch you.”
The words, with a deep underlying meaning Yeosang, wasn’t ready to explore, send a shiver down his body. The hand on his shoulder disappearing at the puppeteer’s words and it made Yeosang all the more aware that the dolls are fully under the man’s influence. That their strings connect back to him and he’s ready to play.
“If,” Yeosang begins, trying to regain control. “ If this wasn’t a werewolf, what was it then?”
“You know, have you thought about their long life enemies-”
“Don’t you dare say vampire, this is not Twilight.”
“We could make it become-”
“We’re here to solve my friend’s murder and not play little fantasy novel plays.”
He huffs. Yeosang hadn’t come here to get flirted with and especially not discussing a book plot he surely did not enjoy. No. Never, not even when Seonghwa had made him watch it countless times because he thought the movies were lovely. When they had laughed about Bella’s problem of choosing the right guy when Seonghwa had told him countless times that the books were better and he had to read them.
Seonghwa. It couldn’t be. He had been intrigued by fantasy novels about the unthinkable, of creatures lurking in the dark and dark arts, spells, craftmanship. An escape from reality.
So, what Seonghwa had loved quietly and with utmost care had been the reason for his death…
His eyes snap up when gloved fingers lift his face. Yeosang’s breath hitched at their close proximity.
“Go home for today, yeah? I’ll further prepare the resurrection of your friend in the meanwhile, it will take a couple of days in total. I already started so just wait a bit more.” The puppeteer, much to Yeosang’s surprise, smiles at him which almost looks soft , border lining worried . He had to stop himself from smiling back. “We will meet tomorrow. You will know where, just keep your eyes open for any sign.”
“Are you… sure?”
“Absolutely. How can I claim my price if my doll breaks before I can get it?”
“I’m not your doll.” Yeosang tries to argue back but can’t help the slight flush on his cheeks even though he looks annoyed. No one had ever given him such pet names before. He wasn’t used to it.
“Maybe…” Hongjoong’s words trail off. The ‘but one day’ better left unsaid.
The moment he steps through his small apartment door is he pulled inside by hands checking if he got hurt. Multiple pairs of eyes looking at him with deep-rooted worry. His chest blooms a little at that, lets himself be checked up without a single complaint, rather leans into the familiar touches.
“Are you okay?”
“Did he do something to you?”
“I can’t believe Yeosangie really went to him…”
“Guys, guys.” Yeosang tries to calm them down, gestures them to take a few steps back from him. “I’m fine, no parts ripped away, no hair hurt.”
San looks weary, refuses to let go of his hand as he guides Yeosang into the living room, sitting down and pulling Yeosang into his frame. Not surprised by the younger’s action he falls limbless into the embrace and lets his friend worry for a little while longer-
They were all on edge after what happened to Seonghwa, none of them previously aware of the world outside of their own.
“Let him rest for tonight.” Yunho butted in, trying to smile reassuringly but it wasn’t conveyed.
“But… we need the information?” Jongho questioned, sitting down on Yeosang’s other side.
“How about you guys let Sangie decide for himself if he’s ready to share it or not?”
All eyes cast over towards the door frame where Wooyoung stood, a slightly annoyed look on his face. Mingi, who stood behind him, only stared in shock at the sudden outburst.
Yeosang sighs at the sudden tension, falling deeper into San’s embrace, wishing to fall asleep and wake up to the knowledge that everything had been a nightmare all along. That none of it was real. But he couldn’t. He had promised revenge, a murder case solved, and his friends deserved to know.
“I… the puppeteer was able to find photos of the crime and we analyzed them together. After he very obviously demonstrated that werewolves are in fact real, he said that Seonghwa’s wounds… couldn’t have been from one… something else has murdered him.” Pausing, he inhales deeply, not trying to visualize the photos again, the blood… San pats his head comfortingly. Jongho squeezed his thigh. “He… he said he will prepare Seonghwa’s resurrection soon… and meet me tomorrow for further investigations…”
He hears it rather than sees it when Mingi yelps and feet shuffle away, out of the apartment said pair of feet lived in as well. Yeosang understood though. Wooyoung had never been good with blood, or any bloody image, so Yeosang understood that his younger friend needed time for himself.
“Thank you for sharing this with us… Just promise us to not do anything dangerous yeah?”
We don’t want to lose you too.
Yeosang knew, he was aware of how dangerous his whole idea had been but now that he had started, he wanted to commit to it. No backing out anymore. But was it the right decision to not tell them?
Tell them that he basically sold himself off? In some kind of way? Hongjoong could do whatever he wanted with him and he was aware of that fact just as much as the puppeteer was as well. The implications earlier that day were enough. No matter how this would end, Hongjoong had planned something with him and Yeosang wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
They walked down the street, Yeosang, Yunho, and Jongho, when he sees it. Or her . Porcelain white skin, bluish shoulder long hair, her dress a petticoat, standing out from within the crowd. Everyone else would’ve taken her as a tourist, maybe, but Yeosang knew better when her freezing cold blue eyes stared into his. Her head falls sideways, just barely but easily that it sends a shiver down his spine.
As fast as she had appeared she disappeared within the crowd again and Yeosang cursed under his breath. That was Hongjoong’s sign.
“Guys, I’m sorry but I have to go.”
His friend’s answers were lost within the crowd as Yeosang went after the puppet, just barely taking glimpses of her as she walked past people, not even once turning back around if Yeosang was following her. His gut told him to stay away, the obvious danger of following a puppet, a doll, someone who had been alive once, was flashing in front of his eyes but he kept going, another hard to describe tingling right next to the feeling.
Yeosang tried his best to follow her around corners and down the streets not minding the weird stares he earned, embarrassed by his action yet straight-faced.
Everything for Seonghwa . He tried to tell himself, to justify his blind belief in a doll that moved due to magic. A doll controlled by a man more mysterious than not, one who hides emotion yet seems to have a high interest in Yeosang. No human ever survived meeting him, Yeosang knew as much, heard the doll's whispers down the hallways, hushed, dared. He dreaded the end of this… adventure.
All too sudden he came to a halt when Yeosang was suddenly faced with a dark alley and a brick wall closing it off. It was a dead-end yet Hongjoong’s puppet had walked right in. And if Yeosang squinted his eyes enough, he thought he saw a shiny glimmering blue flickering through shadows.
He looks around, tries to see where the doll had gone but sees nothing but shadows above shadows, a shady corner to be in.
Then, something crashes into him, throws Yeosang to the ground, his head meeting the ground painfully. For a moment he’s disorientated when he feels hands holding him down and a foul smell overtaking everything else, he tries to pry his eyes open and fight back but whatever has him pinned to the ground is too strong to fight against.
Yeosang tries to open his eyes once more but one of the hands switches from his shoulder to his face, robbing his view while fingernails dig deeply into his head, the pressure increasing as he gets pushed deeper into the ground. He whimpers when the foul smell becomes stronger, feeling something wet hitting his neck.
He’s afraid, too afraid to fight back or attempt to call for help, something in the back of his mind telling him that no one would help him even if he called for it.
However, the moment he gave up on himself did the figure above vanish, the digging claws from both his hand and shoulder have gone as well as the knee which had dug into his stomach uncomfortably. For a moment he lays there disorientated and scared, wondering what or who he would see if he opened his eyes but decided ultimately against it, the shock still too deep, his limbs feeling like jelly while his heart was beating out of his ribcage.
“Yeosang? Are you okay?”
A voice that had become way too familiar was suddenly next to him and made him whimpered in surprise. Fingers carefully tracing his wounded skin, nudging him to open his eyes so follows, carefully letting his eyes slip open.
“Hongjoong…?” Yeosang’s voice is raspy and shaking when his eyes fall onto the worried face of the puppeteer.
“Hey, I can’t let my eyes off of you for a second, can I?” The puppeteer jokes but even in his shaken-up state does he hear the worry dripping out. Why though , did he question in his head as Hongjoong carefully makes him sit up, why would he be so worried . “Look at your beautiful face, how could they…”
For some reason has this Yeosang snort, unsure why the misplaced worry made the situation lighter.
“I could’ve died and all you’re thinking about is my face?”
He looks away, wincing a little at the pain spreading through his body but he sees from the corner of his eye that the puppeteer sends him a scandalized gaze.
“I would have never let it kill you, my pretty doll.” Hongjoong’s gloved hand is yet again on his face as he gets guided back. Yeosang inhales sharply at the seriousness in the man’s eyes. “We have a contract, Yeosang and I never step down nor break it. For as long as we work together you are safe and I will make sure of it. The moment my doll said you vanished I came looking for you.”
Only then does Yeosang truly realize how close he had been to dying. Whatever had attacked him there would’ve killed him if it hadn’t been for the puppeteer. One of his hands slowly feels the skin on his neck which had been hit by something wet just moments earlier and begins to understand that the mouth of the creature must have hovered over his neck-
“That… thing… did it kill…?”
The puppeteer nods. With the back of his hand, he caresses Yeosang’s cheek before distancing himself, looking past him for a split second. Yeosang doesn’t have to turn around to know that the doll he had followed must be standing somewhere behind him.
“I’m pretty sure it did.”
“Let’s get you back to my home for now. The resurrection progress is close to being finished, we should focus on this for now until your wounds are healed.”
“That will take days, if not weeks-”
Hongjoong smiles softly as he stands up, extending his hand for Yeosang to take. His heart was still beating too fast and his mind on the highest alarm yet he let his hand slide into the other’s without a second thought, knowing that for now, he was safe with him. He stumbled a little when he was back on his feet, legs still unsteady so Hongjoong secured him by a hand on his waist. Yeosang stuttered a bit at the close proximity which made the puppeteer laugh a little.
“Don’t worry, I have many tricks up my sleeve. It would be a shame if your face got damaged in the long run as well as your shoulder.”
The hand on his waist guides him further into the darkness of the alley. Yeosang was almost sure that they would soon meet the wall he had seen before but the alleyway only got longer and when he turned around, the street he had come from had completely disappeared.
His head was spinning. So much in such a short amount of time. Maybe he’ll lose his head one day if everything stayed as fast-paced-
“But Hongjoong, the thing that attacked- attacked me- are we sure it was the same?”
Hongjoong stayed silent for a long time as they followed the blue-haired doll silently. The puppeteer refused to acknowledge his question and Yeosang was already about to drop it, for now, dwelling on the fact of being attacked silently when Hongjoong does answer, his voice not giving away what he truly thought.
“I’m sure it was the same. There’s only one creature of the night which I was assuming could’ve bitten such a large chunk out of the body of your friend. I didn’t expect that it would… attack you in broad daylight and neither that it knew which way I would guide you. That was my mistake, I should’ve known.”
“Which way…” He mumbles, only then realizing that the dolls which had accompanied him must’ve been for his protection instead of spying on him. “You had expected it would hunt me?”
“I had a hunch since,” the puppeteer stopped in his tracks. Yeosang looks back at him, feeling nervous all of the sudden. “I have a guess who the culprit could be but… your friend Seonghwa should be the one to confirm or deny it. I don’t think it will attack you again as it knows you are under my protection now.”
Yeosang isn’t sure if that makes him feel better at all. Seonghwa’s murderer knows Yeosang’s identity, attacked him even, was ready to strike-
He could’ve been dead just minutes ago.
And Hongjoong had saved him from such a fate.
Shakingly, he took a step towards the puppeteer who was still rooted a bit behind, and smiled, though it might not have been a comforting nor happy smile, it was one who melted the frozen state of the other. It was only meant as a way of showing gratitude but maybe it was something deeper, stronger rooted, not that he would be able to think about such a thing when he had just barely survived an attack. Future Yeosang - hopefully - would sit down and thoroughly think it through.
For now, he was glad that he was safe and that Hongjoong was very obviously protecting him from a danger he hadn’t known about.
“Okay then… let’s meet Seonghwa soon?”
Yeosang had been with Hongjoong until the sun had set, letting the dolls smear a bad-smelling cream onto his wounds. They snickered and laughed at his disgusted noises though he wasn’t as scared of them anymore as none tried to harm him in any way. At first, he had thought Hongjoong would use them for evil doings but knowing more and more of them made Yeosang realizes that he was doing everything but that.
Obviously, the dolls, or puppets, weren’t alive and not granted a second life but something which came close to it. And Hongjoong cared for them, even if he didn’t show it as much when Yeosang was around or he flittered around him while preparing for sundown.
The boy, whose name was Changmin, stayed with him throughout the rest of the day, retelling countless little stories to make the time fly by faster.
When the sun finally went down did Yeosang follow Hongjoong and a group of strong-looking dolls towards the graveyard where they began to dig up Seonghwa’s previously buried body. It felt wrong, bone achingly so. But it was needed. How could Hongjoong resurrect him if the body stayed underground? It was sickening to see the coffin again, to know who laid inside, who he had to let go a while ago, whose voice he missed so much. The tears he had shed that day were as real as they were currently, the pain of losing someone so close still deeply rooted within. Changmin never left his side, only asking him why are you crying mister to which Yeosang had no good reply besides whipping his tears.
He followed them back to the puppeteer’s house quietly, casting a glance back as he saw two dolls remaining and filling the grave up again.
Yeosang felt as if he was in a trance all along. Breathing, walking, talking. It all seemed to be done automatically, his eyes never leaving the coffin nor Seonghwa. The man was still very much dressed up even though he had been underneath for a bit. Not too long for him to start rotting away but enough for Yeosang’s stomach to decide that it wasn’t all that nice .
The puppeteer excused himself with the coffin inside a room Yeosang was not allowed it. The door tightly shut behind him.
Doll after doll they came and stood near the door, some trying to look through the keyhole while others quietly hummed a song.
May you bring love and may you bring happiness
Be loved in return to the end of your days
Now fall off to sleep, I'm not meaning to keep you
I'll just sit for a while and sing
He shivered at the quiet singing, even more so when Changmin sang with them, his tiny hand still within Yeosang’s. It was eerie, it might be forever eerie to him, yet he found himself losing his fear and discomfort, hoping just as much as the dolls that Seonghwa would join their rows.
It took a while. The exhaustion had made Yeosang sleepy, made him doze off a couple of times until he ultimately fell asleep to the dolls singing and Changmin’s cold little hand-holding securely onto his.
The next time he woke up, he found himself alone within a bedroom, carefully bedded and seemingly alone.
Yeosang was once more disorientated, wondering for a moment where he was until he remembered, scooting over to the edge of the bed and wanting to stand up when he froze in his movement, eyes widening in shock.
Tears began to cloud his eyes, blurry colors were all he could see, lips trembling as a sob tore through the silence.
Arms, stiff and cold, held him tightly only moments after. Yeosang cried onto his shoulder, fingers tearing at the shirt the other was wearing, desperate and heartbreakingly so as he was afraid it was all just a dream, a joke, a mere daydream which would slip out of his palms as soon as he acknowledged it.
Heart aching he held onto what he had thought he had lost.
“Shh, don’t cry darling.”
It only made him cry more, his heart hurting too much to bear.
“I’m okay, I’m here. I won’t leave you again.”
Yeosang doubted that, deeply so, but for now it was all he could hold onto, wanted this little glimmer of hope to be real.
“-Hwa-” Hiccup. “Seonghwa-”
“Yes, I’m here.”
He couldn’t believe it, had wished for him to be alive again, searched in his dreams for a person who had died, and now, he was back. He was there, alive again, not the same but it didn’t matter, all he needed was the knowledge of Seonghwa being back. Yeosang had thought he had lost him forever-
The puppeteer had fulfilled his promise.
They stay like this for a long time. Yeosang’s saved up tears running free whenever they think he’s done and Seonghwa, his Seonghwa, is patient with him like always, clumsily drying his tears as he had always done.
It takes even longer before they find words, too comfortable within their embrace to dampen the mood. Quiet words were exchanged after everything that had happened.
Only when Hongjoong comes in later and squints his eyes at them do they part, Seonghwa sitting down next to Yeosang on the bed while Hongjoong prefers to lean against the wall, hat hiding his eyes. Yeosang doesn’t question it - for now.
Seonghwa is the first to break the silence, gently patting Yeosang’s back.
“Hongjoong did all the work,” Yeosang replies, knowing full well that nothing would’ve happened without the puppeteer.
“Yeah, and I already told him how grateful I am for this chance but were it not for your wish, he would have never known about me or my circumstances.”
The puppeteer hums, not looking at them.
“He has to stay here, little doll. He can’t leave with you. What once was dead cannot be resurrected and live with the living again but you can… visit whenever my dolls will let you in.”
Yeosang looked over to the puppeteer who kept his face hidden and wondered what he thought about. Truly, Yeosang was still too overwhelmed with happiness to form coherent thoughts but he understood the offer.
“I will come whenever I can.” For the both of you . He rather left that unsaid, knowing that Seonghwa would only tease him for it. And, should he really say it out loud that he’s rather intrigued with the puppeteer and his many dolls? That a part of him wishes to know more about the supernatural? Especially since Seonghwa was now one of them? No, Yeosang kept that to himself, for now, there was always the next time.
“Really?” Both of them say at the same time and Yeosang snorts at that.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“You were scared of the dolls before…” The puppeteer gestures, finally meeting Yeosang’s eyes.
“Yeah, but now I know that they might be brats and enjoy my suffering but they mean no harm.” He hums, leaning his head on Seonghwa’s shoulder. “Especially Changmin, he’s a good boy.”
“Oh? He told you his name?” Hongjoong is obviously surprised at that.
“Yes…? Is that uncommon…?”
“A bit yes, my little doll.” Yeosang laughs silently as the puppeteer emphasizes a certain word, knowing all too well what he was implying. He’s pretty sure Seonghwa was already planning the interrogation.
A comfortable silence fell on them for a moment before Seonghwa said something which made Yeosang jerk up.
“I know you want to know who killed me… but can you forget it? For me?”
Yeosang doesn’t know what to feel, to think when Seonghwa suggests forgetting the whole incident. How could he even suggest that? The person had also tried to kill Yeosang! And now his friend wanted to forget all about it? Were his tears, his despair, his worry for nothing in the end? Hongjoong had promised to help him find it-
“Yeosang-ah, I know you want to avenge me and make the other pay for his crime, but please, forget it, yeah? I’m not mad or disappointed, I could never be. I have forgiven them and I hope so can you.”
“Forgive them… Hyung, do you know what you’re asking of me?”
He felt positively frustrated, angry even at the words but felt himself deflate the moment he crosses his eyes with Seonghwa, a glimmer in them which seemed to be final . And what he really didn’t want right now was fighting with the one he had lost before, or fighting with him in general. All Yeosang wanted right now was to lay down with the knowledge that Seonghwa was there and would be there the next time he woke up, the exhaustion which had piled up since Seonghwa’s death finally crashing down on him.
“Okay but… one day, you have to tell me.”
“When the time is right…” Seonghwa smiles, patting his back.
Hongjoong brings him back a while later, personally too not just one of his dolls. At first, Yeosang feels weird being alone with the puppeteer, especially since the man follows him up until his doorstep but he can’t deny the little flutter in his heart. He invited the man in despite not knowing how Wooyoung would react.
“Are you sure, little doll? Didn’t you say you have a roommate?”
“I do but he will understand if I explain-”
Though, Yeosang wouldn’t get to the explaining any time soon as he sees the emptiness he’s greeted with. Shocked, he looked around, not believing what he’s seeing.
“Wooyoung?” He asks in utter disbelieve but his friend doesn’t respond. Seems to not be home at all-
Hongjoong, who kept quiet, steps up behind him, his searching gaze taking in the state of the small apartment. Yeosang looks to him in shock, wondering if he had an answer but the puppeteer just shakes his head, gesturing that he didn’t know. Shaking, he searches every room and every corner for Wooyoung but nothing-
It was as if he had never lived there in the first place as if he had completely disappeared off of Yeosang’s radar.
Only a little note stuck to his fridge gave him a little clue but not mending his pained heart at all.
‘ It all became too much. I’m out of town, might not come back. Too many bad memories. I’m sorry. Love you. xoxo
P.S.: Please don’t search for me….’
Seonghwa stood in Hongjoong’s weathered garden when he heard bushes rustle close by. Unafraid of many things now, he barely turned to the sound, a small smile on his lips as he got a glimpse of who it was, needing to hold back from saying his name out loud.
“Yeosang is inside, you know. It would be bad if he saw you around, wouldn’t it?”
He questioned softly, knowing full well who he was talking to.
More rustling, a head peeking around a tree with eyes widened, scarred. If he would’ve still possessed a heart it might have jumped at the sight, wanting to smooth out the worries and keep the other safe, just as much as he cares for Yeosang as well. Maybe a bit more, differently so.
“But… I ran away.”
That made Seonghwa smile widely, shaking his head.
“I understood why you did, and he would as well but I understand if you decide to not tell him. We can keep this a secret.”
“You.. didn’t… tell him?”
“I don’t think that it’s something he should know. He found someone with Hongjoong. It might have been not the ideal way and I certainly didn’t expect to die in such a way, but I’m not mad at you, Woo-ah. I could never be mad at you.”
Arms slung around his frame and he let them, carefully lifting his hand to pat the man’s head. His movement was still a bit stiff but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
“It’s okay, really.” He rubs their heads together in a soothing way. “Start anew, okay? Don’t lie to yourself anymore and get help. Hongjoong said many organizations help hiding ghouls with their needs.”
For a moment the shaking within his arms stops then-
“I’m sorry for everything-”
And the ghoul is gone, back into the woods. All he can do is watch the man who murdered him go and not feel a drop of hatred for him. With him leaves a part of Seonghwa as well, a part he wouldn’t need anymore.
It might have never been meant to be.