Seulgi knew something in her relationship with Joohyun had changed the second the daughter of Hades woke up.
But it was Tofu’s reaction to her that really cemented this theory. The way he had reacted to her, letting her run her fingers through his fur…she hadn’t thought about it in the moment but remembered Yuri’s words of caution. Obviously the hellhound had sensed something, but Seulgi couldn’t say for certain if it was because of what happened with the Hydra.
That wasn’t the only thing either.
She knew that Joohyun had seen the golden tether linking them together. The older girl had tried to hide it, but that one brief break in her expression had let Seulgi know that she wasn’t the only one seeing things. Whatever magic Seulgi had invoked to bring Joohyun back from the dead clearly had side effects. What those were remained to be seen, however.
It made her head start to hurt if she thought about it too much. At the moment, she was satisfied simply knowing that Joohyun was alive and well.
As for the daughter of Hades, she seemed to be ignoring the whole thing. Seulgi hadn’t even gotten a chance to talk to the older girl about what she assumed was probably a very traumatic experience. Not that Seulgi wanted to push her into opening up. Besides, they had bigger things to worry about. Namely, the giant black citadel that loomed ever closer as the five of them walked towards the center of Hades’ domain.
There would be time to process trauma later. Maybe.
The air had grown even staler, and all around them hovered a strange grey mist, obscuring their vision. Occasionally Seulgi thought she saw the shadow of something at the corner of her vision. Joohyun explained that they were essentially witnessing the passage of souls as they moved through the Underworld. It unnerved everyone but Joohyun, who kept marching forward with purpose. The mist seemed to bend out of her way as she walked, as though the souls recognized the power in her blood.
“I can’t see a thing in this damn fog, how do you know where we’re going?” Seungwan waved a hand in front of her face, trying in vain to dispel the mist.
“Believe me, I wish I could forget,” Joohyun muttered.
“You spent time down here before coming to camp, right unnie?” Yeri asked, sticking closely to the daughter of Hades. Joohyun grunted in acknowledgement.
“I have a few memories of the Underworld, like playing by the River Styx with Tofu and Kimchi and making pomegranate pie with Persephone. Sometimes we’d walk through Elysium together…” She sounded almost wistful, which confused Seulgi. If most of her memories of this place were good, why did she hold a grudge against her father?
Sooyoung brought up the question for her. “So what happened?”
The daughter of Hades snorted. “My father. You’ve heard about the rule preventing the Big Three from having children, right? Obviously my birth ruined his whole track record, but after my mother died I had nowhere else to go. My blood meant monsters would hound me for my entire life, so he brought me down here. I was safe, but he had a domain to run, you know? He couldn’t shirk his duties to do something as meager as taking care of his own daughter.”
Seulgi felt a pang in her heart. She couldn’t imagine what a young Joohyun must have felt, to lose everything only to learn that her father couldn’t care less about her. It probably really pissed her off to learn that Hades considered Persephone worthy enough to neglect his duties for. No wonder the older girl didn’t like to talk about her father.
No one said anything after that, and their party lapsed into silence. There wasn’t much to say. Seungwan and Yeri soon broke away from Joohyun to chat, and Seulgi found herself doing the same, with Sooyoung of all people.
Out of all of them the daughter of Ares seemed to know Joohyun the best. She understood when to tease the older girl and when to call her out on her bull. Their relationship was iffy at times but Seulgi knew that Sooyoung would lay down her life for Joohyun’s in a heartbeat. She hadn’t yet had an opportunity to really talk with Sooyoung and was glad to finally get that chance.
“It occurred to me that I hadn’t yet thanked you for saving Joohyun’s life,” Sooyoung said, dragging her fingertips absentmindedly through Procyon’s fur as they walked. “Without you, she’d be dead.”
“Will you just let me apologize, please? Like Hyun, I was less than pleased when you and Seungwan appeared but now I find myself wondering what would have happened if you hadn’t hijacked our quest. I’m glad Joohyun has someone like you watching her back.”
Seulgi felt her cheeks beginning to turn red with embarrassment. She never was one to take compliments with grace, they always made her blush.
Sooyoung’s cheeks were a similar color, and they turned away from each other at the same time, Seulgi letting out an awkward huff, “So about that whole thing with the Hydra and me foolishly admitting that I might be in love with Joohyun—"
“Look, you and I both know that Joohyun isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to confronting her feelings. Now maybe that’s a family trait but give her time. I’ve seen the way you look at her and I’d bet a hundred drachma that she’s noticed it too.”
Seulgi was comforted by Sooyoung’s words and was about to thank the younger girl when Joohyun interrupted their moment.
Hades’ throne room looked exactly like Seulgi thought it would based off the aesthetic she’d seen so far in the Underworld. She felt tiny as she walked past the giant black doors and into the room proper. The walls glittered with precious metals, sconces placed every few feet that bathed the room in an eerie green light. A single obsidian throne stood sentinel in the center of the room.
Yeri was the last one to cross the threshold and as she did so the doors slammed shut behind her, locking them in.
“Joohyun,” a voice called from the center of the throne room. A puff of dark energy that reminded Seulgi of the shadow magic she’d seen Joohyun wield wound its way past them, lingering for a brief moment next to the daughter of Hades before coalescing into a dark portal in front of the throne. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
A tall pale-skinned man appeared from the portal, dressed in a black hanbok. The fabric seemed to be made from the very shadows itself, swirling around the man’s figure. His very aura made Seulgi want to sink to her knees in submission, a feeling not unlike the one she experienced when she met Dionysus and Hermes. Which could only mean one thing.
Joohyun stared defiantly up at the man before them.
“Nice to see you too, Dad.”
“Why have you come here?” Hades asked, retreating to his throne and sitting down.
“Obviously I missed you so much and I felt like it was time for a reunion,” Joohyun replied sarcastically. Seulgi shivered unconsciously, the older girl’s tone had become cold as ice, like back when they had first met. She was glad Joohyun’s anger was directed at someone else for once. Taking his silence as permission to continue, Joohyun all but growled, “Or maybe I just wanted to come down here and make your job of murdering me that much easier.”
Seulgi watched for Hades’ reaction with bated breath. If he was angry about his daughter blatantly calling him out, he didn’t show it. As if he was used to it, Hades let out a small sigh.
“You know I would never harm you, Joohyun. You are my daughter.”
“I’m your disappointment, you mean,” Joohyun let out a bark of laughter. “What, did you finally get tired of my existence marring your otherwise perfect track record with the other gods? Thought that taking me out while I was on a quest would be the best way to cover your tracks?”
Hades opened his mouth as if to interrupt her, but Joohyun barreled on. “No, that wouldn’t be enough for you. You have to sic your lackeys on my friends too. They are not a part of this and don’t deserve to be collateral damage in whatever sick game you play with demigod lives.”
“BAE JOOHYUN!” Hades’ voice boomed throughout the throne room, stunning his daughter into silence. Yeri yelped and hid behind Sooyoung. He fixed Joohyun with an almost pleading gaze and Seulgi was suddenly seized by the feeling that something was very wrong with the god of the Underworld.
“Joohyun, please,” he all but whispered. “You touch on subjects I cannot answer. The machinations of the gods are far beyond what you can understand as a mortal.”
Joohyun stomped up to her father, “Then make me understand. You say you would never harm me, but the scars I’ve collected so far on this quest tell a different story.”
Hades stood up and floated past Joohyun in a cloud of shadow to stand in front of the giant glass window at the opposite end of the throne room. Placing his hands behind his back he turned around to address them. “You know Tartarus is home to some of this planet’s greatest evildoers? I’ve judged countless souls as they crossed the divide between life and death. I’ll do the same for you when your time comes. Tell me Joohyun, do the choices one makes determine whether or not they are a good person?”
Joohyun rolled her eyes. Of course he would be cryptic with her. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Joohyun exhaled loudly, running a