The earth holds its breath, hesitant to exhale into this new reality. Crimson rivers barely hours old seep into its soil to rest at last and become the new life of the future. The earth mourns, weeping over the broken bodies that are blind to the shimmering tears of the stars above.
Hyunwoo, on battered knees, stares blankly at the horizon. Shaking rays of pale gold stretch their fingertips over the hilltops, muting their brilliance in solemnity. The air waits to be broken, but until then, it sits heavy and silent on Hyunwoo’s shoulders and thick in his throat.
Light fingertips press into the tense muscle of his arm and he flinches, spinning around to fight off the surprise presence. He halts mid-swing when his eyes connect to yours. You kneel beside him, both arms raised in surrender.
He does not miss the puffy red rings around your eyes, or the semi-dried flakes smeared across your entirety. But you were spared, and that is all he can think of.
“The others are fine,” your voice is hoarse and exhausted.
Hyunwoo nods and he reaches up to swipe away a patch of dried mud from your cheek. A useless gesture, but he cannot stop himself.
You touch his fingers, keeping his hand against your cheek. He closes his eyes to feel your warmth—to reassure himself that you are real. He can allow himself this one comfort.
He does not want to open his eyes. Please, do not make him.
The earth exhales and shatters the suspended peace. The ground beneath his knees vibrates and the magnificent rays of a red sunrise lurch into the heavens.
Hyunwoo pushes to his feet, inhaling deeply the air of the uncertain future. No, it was certain—he would make sure of it.
He faces the encroaching enemy in the distance and states, resolutely, “Once more.”