Yayyy double update!! Make sure you've read the previous chapter before reading this one.
Hope you enjoy!
The door to Boss’ office towered over Lara, overpowering as those who know how worthless the world really is. Indeed, before the delicately hand-carved designs of flowers and curvy abstract drawings, Lara felt small. Its varnished surface seemed to shine brighter than her own life, and most likely her future too.
And when thinking about what waited for her after the thick wooden doors, Lara could only hope Earth would swallow her tiny self. A magnificent crystal dome that allowed the view of the wide starry night. Walls made out from shelves, curved by the effects of time and the weight of the books they held. Stories and stories, a treasure of the great Knowledge humanity has acquired throughout the ages. And behind the walnut bureau, sitting on a Fancy cushioned chair, the devil.
Kai had told her that Boss had called her. The question was: which of them?
Would it be the terrible Byun Jinhyuk? The ruthless man with a honey smile and the icy glare, with his expensive liquor, his erratic fury and his shiny gun. Or would it be Baekhyun? An unknown monster that had taken his best friend’s voice and face and talked in a confusing way. The stranger with a maze of dark thoughts Lara couldn’t fully comprehend.
If Lara would have been offered to choose, she would have chosen hiding in a darker corner – even if she didn’t read the letters on her book – so that the cold woman couldn’t find her. Definitely, neither of the Byun were a good option.
She didn’t even get to knock the door. A woman with wild curls and fully black clothes sized her up scornfully and told her that Boss was waiting for her before disappearing among the shadowy hallway. The seat behind the chestnut bureau was turned backwards to Lara: Boss was contemplating the little light of the stars dotting the black night sky.
Lara didn’t need to see his face to know who he was. The smell that filled the room and suffocated the soft scent of old paper was one she was familiar – too familiar – with. She felt his presence wrapping itself around her shoulder like a warm blanket. Lara took a deep breath, pleasantly intoxicated by the warmth of his scent.
It had been two weeks and four days since the last time she had seen Baekhyun. Honestly, she had no idea how to confront him now.
“Lara”, luckily, he spoke first, “I talked to your doctor yesterday. He told me you still feel pain in your ribs”
She nodded silently. Baekhyun had turned the chair around to admire her, but she wouldn’t dare look him in the eyes. She refused to aknowledge that they had lost their light and warmth that had once made her feel home, safe. The briskness she had fallen in love with.
“Does it hurt too much?”
For a single second, Lara fled to a fantasy world where Baekhyun had never left. That was his voice, the real one. Soft and with a slight tinge of worry at the ends of his words that let out just how much he really cared. Always with that subtle warmth that made everything he said feel more real, as if his words were alive.
Instead of planting herself as a strong woman, she ended up saying in a little voice that she was fine. It sounded too weak to convince Baekhyun, but he preferred not to ask. Deep down, he knew her bruised ribs were Lara’s least important problem.
It had been less than three weeks, but Lara saw the change. Baekhyun’s Golden hair was now darker than the sky above them. He had lost the light in his eyes. No star could dispel the dense gloom emanating from his being.
He was wearing a silver earring that moved when he moved and a white dress shirt with the first buttons undone. He had lost weight. Under his open shirt Lara could see prominent collarbones too visible under a thin layer of skin. His cheekbones were too defined and his broad shoulders didn’t seem so inviting anymore.
Reality slapped her hard: Baek – her Baek – was gone.
“Have you lost weight?”, she asked on instinct. She regretted it on the spot when his steps approached her. She disliked the sound his expensive shoes made.
“Is there any problem?”
The tips of his Italian shoes brushed against her sneakers. She could feel the heat coming off his body and a faint smell of tobacco. Lara hated tobacco, and so did Baekhyun. This isn’t Baekhyun – she kept on telling herself.
In his mind, Baekhyun yearned to touch her hair, but then he remembered the last night he had seen her. Behind his glazed eyes he could see Lara trembling below his fingers, begging him not to touch her. If she had looked into his eyes, she could have seen his sad eyes before he turned back to the chestnut bureau.
Lara stared carefully at his retreating figure, reflected in the crystal dome. He looked smaller and every movement let out how tired he was. Exhausted, in fact. She jolted when Baekhyun suddenly turned around. He was staring right into her eyes.
It felt like a hurricane of fire and pure darkness caused havoc beneath her skin and onto the deepest crevices of her soul. It hurt as hell.
“I’ve got something for you”. He handed her a yellowish envelop that smelled like old paper. Lara tried hard to ignore the burn when their fingers touched. His skin still felt soft. It wasn’t the first time she was touching Baekhyun, but she felt like it had been years since the last time. And that Baekhyun was a stranger.
“A couple of days ago someone broke into our database and took some…” he trailed off and made a gesture with his slender hand, waiting for inspiration to come his way, “crucial information, if you get what I mean. The name of the file is Elyxion. Find it and bring it back. You are not allowed to open the file.”
“How am I going to do that?”
Baekhyun shrugged. “You are the one who knows about strategy. You will be given everything you need to know about our suspect. The rest is all technical stuff, you make the plan.”
“How many men do I have?”
“You can use Kai. If you need more men let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Make it discrete. And quick. I trust you, don’t fail me. You are dismissed.”
He sat back on his chair, pretending to read the mountain of documents he had scattered over his table and ignoring her presence. Lara couldn’t tell, though, that his eyes weren’t watching the little black letters but her retreating figure once she turned around.
Lara looked at him once last time before closing the door. She locked her eyes with his and felt the air knocked out of her lungs. She could only imagine how lonely he felt. The Baekhyun she had seen today smelled like sadness.
Baekhyun had intoxicated Lara’s wits to the point where she didn’t realize there was one more person in the room, staring at them with a glass of cognac from one of the couches in a corner of the huge office. When she had abandoned the room, the man got u from his chair and put a pale hand on Baekhyun’s shoulder.
“You did good, son.”
* * *
Lara had over her bed, messily scattered, countless scraps of cheap paper with faded ink. The diaries went back two years, all of them with the name of the same man highlighted in orange. She had his medical records, copy of his university titles and even his birth certificate.
For Lara, though, the most interesting document was his agenda. He was going to attend a gala Saturday night. That left her three days. Three days to learn how to shoot with high heels and decide which of the dresses that Baekhyun had given her for their suppers was the most comfortable one.
Sighing, she fell onto the soft mattress. It was then that she saw there was one more document in the envelope. She reached for it. It was a small piece of thick paper covered with a glossy layer. Photography paper.
She sat up in order to look at it closely. She felt her heart skip a beat. The man was wearing a dark turtleneck under a lighter-color coat which fell over his shoulders as if tailored. Lara knew he was tall, very tall, from the newspapers’ blurry pictures. If the coat was long, it would look great on him.
But what caught her eye was his face, which she hadn’t had the chance to see earlier. He had dark brown hair, fluffy and messy most likely because of the wind. His almond eyes shone with a youthful spark she hadn’t seen in a while. And his lips… Lara swore she could die happily if she got to touch theme. The look soft, enticing. Park Chanyeol had the smile of an angel.
* * *
The yellowish light that lit the gray hallways of the last floor of the Catacombs made the air taste bitter and a dry feeling on the throat. It was the fourth time Lara was there, waiting outside Boss’ office with her heart in .
Only this time she knew it was Byun Baekhyun who was waiting for her. That wasn’t reassuring, though.
Less than a whole day had passed since the last time she had seen Baekhyun. The day before, he had given her her first mission; today, he had summoned her to know about her progress regarding the plan. She guessed it was because he had removed her from duty as an instructor assistant and he supposed that Lara had been working wholly on her mission.
But even when she, indeed, had been working on it with the information she had been given, Lara cursed Baekhyun. Last night she had arrived late to her classes. It was all his fault – and Kai’s – it had been hard to sneak out then. Today she would probably be late again. She should already be on her way to the train station. Yet there she was, waiting for the Boss to welcome her with a glare and pursed lips.
Lara’s rational self told her it was perfectly normal and totally fine that her boss wanted to know about the progress on the mission he himself had given her. Afterall, Byun Baekhyun was her boss.
Her other self, the one who cried at night and still dared to feel human, pouted pettily with her arms crossed over her chest and huffed, telling her Baekhyun had turned into a whimsical brat with too much power to think straight. He didn’t have any right to mess up her schedule as if he owned her nor to meddle in the life – her life – she had begun to build for herself, apart from him and the friends he had stolen from her.
She had heard somewhere that Eunhee was the head for the whole weaponry business. Lara hadn’t talked to her since the last time Eunhee had been to the hospital. Not that she could contact her, anyway. She suspected Baekhyun had something to do. At least she knew that, despite being so young, Eunhee had climbed to the top using her skills. She was a fearsome woman, highly respected by her underlings and equally admired.
Yixing was different. Instead of listening about his feats, Lara knew Yixing was an enemy. He had been assigned to an underground unit in China, therefore Byun Jinhyuk and his son had lost control over him. Yixing worked as a hitman – a professional assassin – and truth to be told it fit him like a glove. Lara knew how much Yixing loved to assess the different ways to break someone.
Bad news – for the higher ups at least – were that his exceptional skills as a fighter and an assassin had escaped the Business’ control. Yixing had rebelled. A certain morning in the mansion his unit hid in had welcomed the sun tainted red and filled with lifeless corpses. The man who mas missing, the only one who could have taken seventeen trained men down, was Yixing.
Lara, who was aware of every whisper, had heard all kind of rumors. Some said that money had bought his loyalty and he had decided to betray the Byun for a great sum. Others said that he just couldn’t be tamed.
Some said Yixing was a monster for attacking his whole squad on his own. Others that it was impossible for a single man to take down seventeen trained men. But they were all rumors. No one really knew why he did it or where he was now. Yixing had turned into a shadow.
Lara knew that Yixing was totally capable of taking down a whole unit without letting his smile down. When he fought, his smile sent chills down Lara’s spine: his lips curved sweetly and his angelic dimples showed, but his eyes dripped with bloodlust. But she also knew that if she had to describe Yixing with a single word it would be loyal. There was something more behind his friend’s treason, and she would find out.
As the day before, Baekhyun looked carefully at her, from her shoes to her eyes. She was wearing street wear, a high ponytail and fake glasses perked over her nose. He decided they already had a fair lot of problems and stopped himself from asking about her life.
“Well?” He asked after noting how good she looked in glasses. “What’s the plan?”
“Park Chanyeol has a gala this Saturday night” she tried to be as professional as she could. “His phone records show he has been calling the same number twice a day – at the same hour – for the past four days. Did they break in four days ago?”
“I couldn’t get the phone calls back. The other phone number belongs to Kim Minseok, CEO to the technology corporation Exodus. He will be attending the gala too. If Park Chanyeol has the information, it’s very likely he will try to sell it.”
“Well done. I didn’t expect less from you. Have you told Kai yet?”
“Not yet. I would like to have another agent with me. A woman who can sneak in the gala too. Just as a reinforcement in case something goes wrong.”
“Done. Anything else?”
“I’m guessing they will search me in the gates. I want a gun.”
“I’ll get somebody to plant one in the venue. Is that all?”
“You may leave. Inform Kai about the plan.”
Without another word, Lara headed for the door. The wooden clock in the wall seemed to mock her. She would obviously not make it in time for her first lesson. That professor hated her. If she didn’t hurry, she would be late for her second lesson. She had twenty minutes to escape the Catacombs and get to the train station. If she missed that train, she would get to university towards the end of the third period.
But when she had her hand wrapped around the cold door knob and Baekhyun called her name she couldn’t get herself to move. His voice had that much power over her. When her name slid from his lips Lara felt her knees trembling. There was a tight knot in that made breathing nearly impossible. The awl stuck between her ribs didn’t help either.
She turned slowly, feeling the world around them stopped spinning. Not even the clocked seemed to move. Every other sound was drowned by her heartbeat and Baekhyun’s slow breathing. The wind had stopped moving the flowers around the dome. The clouds had stopped hiding the stars. The cold air from the grey hallways of the Catacombs had stopped creeping in her veins.
Only they were left. Her, Baekhyun, a comforting warmth and the smell of old paper.
Baekhyun sighed wearily and smiled at her. He looked tired, but from the first time since she had been discharged from the hospital, Lara knew this was a heartfelt smile. For the way his small eyes crinkled and sparkled and the way his mouth would form an adorable rectangle face.
That was the Baekhyun she knew.
Lara wouldn’t have minded skipping her classes that night if Baekhyun had kept on smiling like that, only for her.
Yayyyy! Double update, Baekhyun and a tiny introduction to Chanyeol