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Ashes to Ashes
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Hana came to slowly, her mind gradually waking up from its hazy state. She must have fallen unconscious, but she didn’t remember anything but the pain that had overpowered her. Now, however, it was gone. There was no trace of it left. She felt warm and comfortable. Was this heaven? Had she died? The thought was followed by fear. If she was dead, then she would never see Kāi again. The darkness that surrounded her was impenetrable. This wasn’t how she imagined heaven to be… perhaps she was in hell? She quickly concluded that this couldn’t be true either.

An unfamiliar but strangely soothing tingling drew her attention. It originated from her wrist. She couldn’t explain the sensation, but she didn’t dislike it. A low sigh left her lips.

“Are you awake?” a familiar voice asked. It was close, coming from right next to her. Someone touched her arm and sparked a flame that woke her from her hazy state. She opened her eyes abruptly and gasped, staring into Kāi’s worried face. Blinded by the sunlight, she blinked, realizing that they were still on the tropical island where he’d brought her. She lay on the soft sand, heard the sounds of the ocean waves and the distant chatter of parrots.

“Kāi?” she whispered. Her voice was a little off, so she cleared . She tried to move her limbs, and while they felt heavy and a bit numb, she was able to sit up without any problems. “I-It worked… It worked!” she said disbelievingly, her eyes wide and wondrous. Tears welled up in them as her relief washed over her like a tidal wave. Hana couldn’t contain herself. She cried in happiness, not yet able to grasp the full magnitude of what had happened to her.

Through her blurry vision, she didn’t see Kāi’s blinding smile when he hugged her. His actions were exuberant as he embraced her, cradling her to his body.

“Is my illness… gone?” she asked hopefully.

“It seems like it. You’re not in pain anymore,” Kāi said. “I would feel it, now that we are bonded.”

He took her wrist and turned it, revealing a symbol similar to a tattoo. It looked like a triangle with an eye in the middle. Exuding swirling black shadows, it appeared fascinating to her.

“It’s so pretty,” she whispered in awe. “What is this?”

“That’s the mark that connects us. It represents our bond,” he explained.

“It… connects us?” she breathed, her heart fluttering in her chest. That sounded rather personal… and hadn’t he mentioned that only couples shared bonds? They were meant to prolong the human’s life so they could stay with the demon. It made sense that people who were in love would… Her train of thoughts halted suddenly and her cheeks became warm. Only now did she finally comprehend what this meant. She’d been so relieved to be alive that she had disregarded this very important detail until now.

What exactly did this bond mean for their relationship? The question burned on her tongue, and she didn’t hesitate to verbalize it. “Am I your girlfriend now?” she asked.

She wouldn’t have believed it, but a hint of red appeared on his cheeks. “If you want to be…” he answered. The look in his eyes could only be described as hopeful.

“Yes,” she grinned and hugged him, locking her arms behind his neck. Her immeasurable happiness made her shout the words she had kept to herself for too long. “I love you!”

His eyes widened a fraction, and then he suddenly looked sulky. “Hey, I wanted to say it first!”

“Sorry, next time you have to be faster,” she giggled.

“Fine,” he said. A wide smirk curved his lips up. “I love you too, sweetheart. And I’m very relieved that my plan worked. It was a shot in the dark.”

“You took such a big risk for me,” she mumbled.

“Some things are worth the gamble,” he said unconcernedly and shrugged. His nonchalance had always astounded her.

“Thank you,” she said. Her heart was overflowing with emotions, all of them positive and vibrant like a rainbow. “I’m alive because of you, and I still can’t believe it… I’ve counted down the days to the end and suddenly, that’s not necessary anymore. I can do whatever I want, I can finally relax without the fear to miss out on something.”

“You have all the time in the world now,” he grinned.

He’d really turned her life around—she was facing a different direction now, one that led up instead of down. The burdens were gone, and she felt as light as a feather. He had taken a huge risk just for her, and that proved that she meant everything to him. Just thinking about it caused her to blush in happiness. She had come a long way since she had met him; from wanting to throw her life away, to cherishing it with all her heart. From isolating herself to craving his company.

A tear ran over her cheek, dripping down her chin. He cupped her face and brushed it away. When she met his light-green eyes, she was stunned. They were brimming with adoration and relief, a perfect mirror image of her own orbs.

“I love you,” Hana said with a smile on her lips.

“Your smile is so pretty,” he breathed, and then he closed the distance between them to kiss her. She s her arms around his neck to pull him in and buried her hands in his dark green strands. The warm sea breeze played with her long brown hair as they basked in the sun’s pleasant light.

 

 

Even days after her miraculous recovery, Hana was glowing with happiness and vitality. She didn’t have to worry about anything anymore—other than Kāi’s shenanigans, of course. With him being her boyfriend now, they had quickly decided that he would move in with her. And that proved to be a rather chaotic endeavor.

He’d brought his belongings over from his residence in hell, and she was shocked at how much stuff he owned. Most of it were souvenirs from his visits to different places of the world. They had needed to buy a new wardrobe and a shelf just to have space for everything. He’d told her some funny anecdotes about certain items, and they’d spent the whole afternoon just putting his things away.

Since Kāi didn’t like to stay in one place for too long, they had used the weekend to teleport to several different tourist destinations. Without her illness holding her back, Hana had no trouble walking around from dusk till dawn. She had fun exploring Shanghai one day, and Havana the next. When the weekend was over, her camera was filled with pictures she yet had to save on her computer.

On Monday morning, Hana returned to university for the first time in a whole month. She had a lot to catch up on, and she wanted to start by attending her lectures regularly. As usual, Kāi was glued to her, dead set on attending all lectures with her. She’d warned him that it would most likely bore him to death, but his mind couldn’t be changed.

The stubborn demon always got what he wanted, one way or another. And ever since they had been bonded, he had become more protective than before, always looking out for her. Sometimes he treated her like she was made of porcelain. In a way, his behavior was heartwarming, and it showed her how much he treasured her. Not to mention, he made a fuss whenever she injured herself by accident. Since the bond made him feel her pain, she couldn’t hide anything from him. Not that time she cut herself when making dinner, not the embarrassing accident when a book fell from her hands and hit her foot. He’d actually laughed at that because it had been so stupid.

It was new to see Kāi dressed in regular clothes. He typically didn’t bother with human clothes, but it seemed he’d changed his mind to blend in. She had to say that the black jeans and the dark green hoodie looked good on him. His piercing eyes made him stand out nonetheless and he received a few looks when they walked through the hallways of her university.

“So this is where you normally spend your days, huh?” he muttered and glanced around curiously.

“Yes,” she smiled. “I used to come here every day to study before my illness got worse. It’s relieving to be back.”

“I don’t see why you would want to be here… looks boring to me.”

“Didn’t I warn you, Kāi?” she grinned. “You could have done something more interesting in the meantime.”

“No, I’d rather stay with you, sweetheart,” he smirked. “Even if this place is boring, as long as you’re here I certainly won’t run out of entertainment any time soon.”

Hana knew exactly that he was up to something yet again. Her new boyfriend was something else… always surprising her with his shenanigans that ranged from silly and annoying to adorable. Only a few days ago, he’d tried to make coffee for her, but being a demon, he hadn’t known how the coffee machine worked and spilled everything on the kitchen floor. It had been a huge mess. He had looked proud of himself for causing it, grinning and cackling. She hadn’t stayed mad for even five minutes because his laughter had been contagious.

“Whatever you’re planning, Nini, I’ll keep an eye on you.”

He sighed, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “What’s with the weird name? I told you I don’t like it,” he grumbled. His piercing eyes made a group of students stare when they passed the couple, but he disregarded them.

The lecture hall was just around the corner. They entered it and sat down somewhere in the middle in an empty row of seats. Other students were already here, waiting for the lecture to start.

“But I need a cute pet name for you,” Hana insisted. “You’re my boyfriend… and you call me sweetheart all the time. This can’t be a one-sided thing!”

Kāi put his elbows on the table and leaned his chin in his palm, lazily staring at her. “I am a terrifying demon. I don’t need a cute pet name,” he growled, hissing the last words as if they were poisonous. He looked pretty much offended, and Hana found it funny how worked up he got over a pet name.

“Okay, you terrifying demon. Do you want me to scream and run away to prove your point?” she teased. “I could add a little drama and pretend to faint. Would you like that?”

“What are you talking about, Hana?” he asked and snorted.

“I just want to call you Nini, okay?” she returned to their earlier topic. He puffed his cheeks and rolled his eyes.

“You’re going to make everyone in hell laugh at me,” he growled. “My friends won’t ever let me hear the end of it if we’re starting this.”

“Please, Kāi? Please let me,” Hana said persistently and laid her hand on his arm to get him to look at her, but Kāi decidedly avoided her pleading gaze. She put extra effort into her pouty lips and big doe eyes, letting her hand trail over his jawline to get him to turn his head.

The lecture hadn’t started yet, so she had some more time for her little plan. Smirking inwardly, she breathed a kiss on his cheek. “Please!”

Next, she kissed the corner of his lips, and just when she was about to give him another sweet peck, he finally gave in and glanced at her. Presenting her best pouty look, she batted her lashes.

“Please let me! I’ll be very sad if I can’t call you Nini.”

“Alright, fine,” he said lowly. “It’s okay. But only as long as we’re alone.”

The smile that broke out on her face couldn’t have been any brighter, and its radiance caught him off guard. “Thank you, Nini,” she whispered and kissed him on his lips. “You’re the best.”

And that actually flustered the otherwise flirty demon. He bit his lip and scowled, or at least he tried to, but the red hue on his cheeks ruined it. She smiled.

“Of course I am the best,” he mumbled. “Who else?”

The professor entered the hall just seconds after, and the chattering students fell silent, getting ready for the following hour and a half. Hana opened her notebook, booting it up, and clicking on her writing application. Kāi on the other hand simply leaned back and watched the human start a PowerPoint presentation. He zoned out after two minutes and let his thoughts wander somewhere else. They mainly revolved around a new tactic to annoy Chën and most importantly Baëkhyun.

He didn’t know how much time had passed when suddenly Hana touched hi

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