Joohyun woke up with her fingers entwined with Seulgi’s. She inhaled hesitantly as her memory slowly came back to her. Launching herself in-between Seulgi and the Hydra, holding the head at bay with her axe. The last thing she remembered was being lifted up into the air and tossed against a tree.
Opening her eyes, she turned her head to look at the daughter of Apollo, who had fallen asleep sitting vigil beside her bed. The other girl’s clothing was scorched and caked with dried Hydra blood. Her hand felt warm in Seulgi’s grip and something about it just seemed right. She gently squeezed Seulgi’s hand and the other girl shot to her feet, eyes darting left and right almost as if she was making sure they weren’t being attacked.
Her deer-in-the-headlights expression quickly faded when she laid eyes on Joohyun and all of a sudden the daughter of Hades felt her entire body being crushed in an enthusiastic bear-hug. “Seulgi, please. I can’t breathe.”
Seulgi let her go, her eyes crinkling up into those cute half-moons that always made Joohyun’s heart flutter a little bit. “Joohyun thank the gods, I didn’t know when you were going to wake up!”
“What exactly happened? The last thing I remember was the fight in the swamp and—” Joohyun blinked, remembering a heavy weight of crushing darkness. “—did something happen to me?”
She had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she already knew what Seulgi was about to say. The other girl hesitated for a moment, almost as if she was unsure whether to tell Joohyun about what transpired.
It made sense. Logically it made sense. It explained the strange sensations she felt upon making contact with the tree, how her entire world suddenly became enveloped in an inky void. But if she had died then how was she here with Seulgi? Unless…
“Di immortales did you die too? And the others, Seungwan, Sooyoung and Yeri, what happened to them? Are we all in the Underworld or—” Joohyun began to panic, sitting up in her bed and ignoring the twinge of pain that radiated down her back. She could only hope that her rash actions hadn’t gotten the rest of the girls killed.
“Whoa there, calm down.” Seulgi crawled next to Joohyun and took her hands, placing one on Joohyun’s chest and the other on her own. The blind panic Joohyun was experiencing calmed a little at the action as Joohyun felt their hearts beating almost in sync. Heartbeats. They were alive. She was alive. “There you go Hyun, you’re okay. We’re all okay.”
Joohyun sank back onto the bed, now thoroughly exhausted even though she had only just woken up. “The others?”
“Outside keeping watch,” Seulgi replied calmly. “We brought you back to the medical cabin at the campsite to wait for you to wake up.”
“Good. I’m glad they’re safe,” Joohyun mumbled, slowly closing her eyes again. She hummed under her breath as her body fought the urge to go back to sleep. It was good that the other three girls were safe, Joohyun didn’t know if she’d be able to live with herself if the Hydra had killed anyone else.
Seulgi gave her a small smile as she witnessed the older girl struggling to stay awake. She wasn’t exactly familiar with previously dead people coming back to life but she imagined that it must have been an exhausting affair. And even though she wanted Joohyun to stay awake the other girl looked like she could benefit from some more sleep. “Shh, you can rest for a bit longer if you want, Joohyun.”
“I can?” Joohyun’s response was slurred. “Okay, just five more minutes then.” Her head drooped and Seulgi chuckled under her breath. The daughter of Apollo made sure Joohyun was properly tucked in before tiptoeing out of the cabin as quietly as she could.
As Seulgi left to inform the others that Joohyun had woken, she passed by the girl’s faithful hellhounds who stood sentinel on both sides of the door. Without thinking she reached forward and scratched behind Tofu’s left ear, the massive dog huffing in contentment. “Watch over her please? The others need to know she woke up.”
Tofu blinked impassively, which Seulgi took as an affirmative. Giving Tofu one last pet, she headed for the other unused cabin on the far side of the campsite to tell Seungwan and the others about Joohyun. As she walked, a thought suddenly struck her and she remembered the first time she’d seen Joohyun’s hellhounds.
“They’re called hellhounds and I wouldn’t get too close to them If I were you, they’re only friendly to Joohyun. Anyone else who goes near them risks getting bitten.”
Yuri had steadfastly warned her not to touch Joohyun’s companions and here she was running her fingers through Tofu’s admittedly very soft black fur. Well, that’s a new development.
The second time Joohyun woke up she was greeted with a long, pink tongue as it a stripe from her chin to her forehead. She let out a rather undignified yelp and nearly fell off the bed. The commotion attracted the other girls, who barged into the cabin with weapons aloft only to see Joohyun glaring petulantly at Procyon, whose tail thumped happily against her legs.
“Sooyoung,” Joohyun said tiredly, “Please get your dog.”
In any other situation Sooyoung would have argued that since Joohyun was the one who woke him up, Procyon was technically hers, but she bit back the remark and gently grabbed the Labrador by his harness and led him outside. When did she become the team’s unofficial animal handler?
“Did you at least get a little bit more rest?” Seulgi asked, sheathing her weapons and sitting down in the spot Procyon had vacated. As she got closer to Joohyun the daughter of Hades noticed a strange golden tether begin to form between the two of them. It was faint, so faint in fact that if Joohyun averted her gaze for even a split second it disappeared. She thought it strange but decided not to think too much about it.
“Yeah, thanks for letting sleep for while longer before we continued. I hope I didn’t hold us up for too long.”
Seungwan shook her head vehemently. “Take all the time you need Joohyun. Now that the Hydra’s dead this is actually the first solid bit of quality rest we’ve gotten since we left camp.”
That reminded Joohyun that she really needed to talk to Seulgi more about the end of the last fight. Seulgi had told her she died but remained very tight-lipped about how Joohyun was brought back. She had a strange feeling in her gut that the golden tether had something to do with it.
Sooyoung returned and pulled out one of the nearby chairs. “We can’t stay here forever. It’s only a matter of time before the next monster gets sent after us.”
Yeri nodded. “That’s why Sooyoung-unnie suggested we put the ball back in Hades’ field. We go to the Underworld and confront him ourselves.”
Joohyun’s eyes widened in surprise. It was a bold plan, to be sure. She didn’t quite know how she felt about potentially reuniting with her father, but they needed answers. And Hades definitely wouldn’t anticipate this move. “Okay.”
“Okay? No argument, no ‘Sooyoung that’s an awful plan what are you thinking?’” Seungwan tilted her head in confusion. “That’s it? We’re going to the Underworld?”
“What were you expecting me to say?” Joohyun replied, genuinely curious. “It’s a solid plan and it’s definitely something my father wouldn’t see coming.”
“Then it’s settled,” Seulgi cut in. “We leave as soon as Joohyun feels ready.”
Her tone left no room for arguing.
A few hours later saw the five girls standing