She nearly jumped in startled when she heard her brother’s voice, and inwardly gulped when she saw his frowning expression. Even when he didn’t utter a word, she could tell that he was demanding an explanation with his gaze alone. She her lips while her mind tried to come with something – anything – to counter what she voiced earlier.
“Don’t lie to me… please, Jungyoon.”
Whatever excuse she conjured within those seconds evaporated on the tip of her tongue when she saw his expectant yet pleading face. She heaved a deep sigh and slid down in her spot so that she was crouching down.
From the corner of her eyes, she noticed that he wordlessly followed her example as he waited for her explanation.
“It’s as you heard, oppa.” She finally spoke in a low tone without looking at him. She didn’t want to see his expression as she explained, knowing that what he’ll hear would break his heart.
“Those in Project Sigma would be lucky to survive past our 25th birthday. They injected us with a serum that enhanced our reflexes – you witnessed that earlier. How I knew about the oncoming attack, how I was able to get to you and your group within a couple of seconds, and how I was able to deflect those bullets easily. These abilities are a part of what my group and I called Savant Syndrome. The exertion during Savant Syndrome is draining both mentally and physically, if you haven’t guessed. It forced us to process numerous information and react to it within nanoseconds with absolute accuracy. This was the experiment they wanted to conduct… they wanted to see who would survive the change, if only for a few years.”
She paused momentarily to let him process what she said, and to swallow the bitterness in .
She saw the pained look in his eyes when their gaze met, and whispered, “It’s not your fault. Never think it’s your fault, Jungkook. I chose this myself, knowing the consequences.”
“But… if I hadn’t… I…”
“You are born to be a celebrity.” She interrupted whatever he was going to say, and dared to look at his direction. The agonized expression on his face shove down the uneasiness she felt from using Savant Syndrome earlier. “I don’t fault mom for forcing me to participate in Project Sigma either. I chose to fight my way to the top. I could’ve resigned from the Project early on, but I didn’t.”
“Why you? Why 25? Why not longer?” He asked with furrowed brows. “Why is there a limit on your life? It isn’t right! It’s not fair! Why!”
A sullen smile that felt more like a grimace appeared when she heard the question. It was something she and her team asked themselves all the time, but the answer still eluded them. It was something they asked the government at every chance they got; however, none of them received a proper response. The only thing they could do now was to survive.
“We suspect it was because of the serum. The powers we gained in exchange for our lives. Of course, that number is not exact – it could be longer, or it could be shorter. We don’t know.” Jungyoon answered in above whisper. “None of us knows the exact cause, but we think it had to do with Savant Syndrome due to our energy depletion after its use. That handful of minutes in there earlier left me winded… almost like I ran a marathon nonstop.”
“Can’t you just not use it?” He asked in a quiet tone.
“I wish there’s a switch for this, but there isn’t. It’s embedded in our DNA after they injected the serum. It activates whenever we’re in battle like it’s our second nature.” She replied with a sigh as she ran a hand through her hair. “We realized it when we agreed to the experiment.”
“Why did mom agree to this if she knew? We didn’t need the money.” He asked angrily. “I could’ve chosen this path another way without risking your life, Jungyoon.”
“I doubt she knew. They didn’t tell her the details and the risks. I believe the only thing they told her was the rigorous training. I think that’s why she agreed.” She then stood up from her spot and extended a hand towards Jungkook. “I’ve never blame you, so please don’t blame yourself. Promise me.”
She wordlessly grabbed his hands in hers and forced him to look at her, “Promise me, Jungkook.”
Jungyoon watched as he repeatedly opened and closed his mouth, trying to force out the words until he uttered, “I promise…” almost half-heartedly.
It was good enough for now, she supposed.
Jungkook worriedly looked over to his sister, who was busy texting on her phone for the past twenty minutes that she hadn’t uttered a word this whole time. He couldn’t stop mulling over the conversation the two shared earlier – every thought he had since then kept going back to the limit on Jungyoon’s life, and the side effects of that serum.
It left him marveled that she didn’t show any of this during the battle. He supposed it was the same as him and his group members – they strove to show professionalism on stage despite the tiredness they felt.
“Jungyoon-ie, are you ignoring us?” Taehyung questioned with a pout.
“I’m sorry, but I’m quite busy.” She answered distractedly and jumped in startled when her phone rang. She shot us an apologetic smile before she hastily answered the call, “Takuto, are you positive that the information is accurate?” in Japanese.
He never felt this thankful to knowing a foreign language.
“How is Karel?” She asked with worried laced in her tone.
He immediately shoved aside that feeling, and watched as Jungyoon drew her legs closer to her before she plopped her head on her knees. She uttered some nonsensical noises to let her caller know that she was listening, and nodded even though the other party couldn’t see her.
“I see…” She choked out while she hid her face in her knees. “That idiot. It’s just like him to try to be a hero even when he was in Noncombatant Division for a reason. How is Senna fairing? I hope she scolded her boyfriend for being an idiot for all of us.”
He doesn’t know the details of the conversation, but he speculated that she was talking about other members of her team. Furthermore, he had a feeling it wasn’t good news if the slight shaky tone in her voice. He wordlessly rubbed her back, and quietly held her when she leaned into him.
“We need to be proceed with extreme caution if that’s the case.” Jungyoon commented, this time in Korean, in quiet yet solemn tone. “Don’t worry about me, Takuto. I’ll be okay by myself.”
She murmured more nonsensical noises at whatever the other caller said, and replied with a halfhearted chuckle, “Heh, trust America to stick their nose in other people’s business. But I’m glad they’re extending a helpful hand, especially when it's against Italy.” She paused momentarily with her eyes closed before she continued, “Understood. Please keep me updated on Karel’s condition. Hmm… I will. Stay safe yourselves too. Don’t try to be a hero.”
“Jungyoon?” He asked tentatively when she didn’t say anything for a few moments with her head bowed.
Jungkook exchanged worried glances with Namjoon sitting next to him, and was about to prod his sister when she let out a deep sigh with, “I’m fine,” that sounded unconvincing to his ears.
“No, you’re not.” Hoseok interjected pointedly. “You can tell us what’s wrong.”
“And that attack at the venue. I think you know something about it.” Yoongi added as a reminder.
“It was awesome how you managed to stop those bullets with your sword.” Taehyung chimed in with awed laced in his tone. “Where did you hide that sword? I didn’t even know you had that with you.”
Jungyoon remained silent with her head still resting on her knees while she drummed her finger rhythmically on her forearm. It looked like she was in deep thought about whatever her teammate told her.
“Forget the ‘why’, ‘how’ is the main question.” She spoke contemplatively in a low tone, almost as if she was thinking out loud. “How did they get the weapon, and know where I’d be at that time? How have they been keeping an eye on me all these times, if that’s the case? An Uzi controlled remotely with only half cartridge… a test, perhaps? Which means the opposition doesn’t know my full capabilities, meaning an outsider… a hired help, maybe. Now, how were they controlling it if they weren’t in the room? They had to be near for it to work; yet, they weren’t… preprogrammed then? If that’s true, they must’ve been watching through CCTV to know that I’d be in the room. Which would then mean, this person is a hacker… perhaps, a professional hacker. Italian, but knows Korean. Young, but old enough to buy an assault weapon and disguise oneself if needed.”
“What are you talking about?” Hoseok asked the very question that he had after hearing that long ramble.
“Sorry, just trying to organize my thoughts.” His sister replied without giving a proper response.
“You can trust us with whatever you want to share, you know.” Namjoon added with a supportive smile.
“I know… thank you.” Jungyoon simply nodded with a small smile, but she didn’t bother to elaborate.
He supposed he should ask her for the details later when they were alone. He had a feeling that she wasn’t going to reveal anything in the presence of other members.
“Are you targeted or something?” Namjoon questioned seriously with a frown. “It sounds like you are, based on your monologue. What's this about Italy?”
Jungkook nervously gulped when he saw a dangerous glint in his twin’s eyes. The words he was going to say to reassure her evaporated as soon as she lifted her head, and uttered, “Don’t worry. My team and I are already on this – it’ll pass in a few days.”
He sincerely hoped that she wasn’t going to do anything dangerous, and endanger herself. It doesn’t help that the words she told him about her time limit and her abilities constantly echoed in his mind as a consistent reminder. He couldn’t help but ponder if she used her ability again to analyze the situation earlier.
“Don’t do anything reckless… please.” He whispered beseechingly as he held her hands.
Jungyoon, however, remained silent in response.