The GumihoFox Bread
I knew Joohyun was going to be fishy as soon as I gave the customer a name, but I hope I distracted most of you enough with all the fluffy jmj that came with Joohyun in the previous chapters. Sorry for the wait. Here we go!
Jimin believed that old shamanism practices had died out long ago.
While these humans act as an intermediary between the supernatural and mortal realms, their practice had drastically changed over the centuries. While it was common in the past for shamans to also hunt evil spirits, over time, the importance of their religion shifted focus towards more positive applications instead, like connecting with spirits who granted auspicious blessings.
And with the evolution of the practice, the gumiho had naturally assumed that the old shaman hunters were extinct.
Jimin never expected to find one still active and so powerful in this day and age.
“Shh, shh, shh,” Joohyun gently hushes as she reaches forward.
She uses one hand to grab Jimin by the collar of her shirt while her other hand finds the belt loop of the fox’s jeans. Before Jimin can collapse to the ground, the shaman gently guides the fox to the floor, onto her knees, careful not to make any sudden sounds to alert the shop owner, who’s in the back or upstairs somewhere. Joohyun then moves to go lock the front door and draw the blinds closed, vigilant not to let anyone on the outside see what’s going on inside the bakery.
It’s practically insulting to the fox that Joohyun, a powerful demon slaying shaman, is so tiny and pretty—an appearance that is so deceitful that it rivals the gumiho’s masquerade herself. The shaman is at least half a head shorter than Jimin, and yet, Joohyun feels incredibly intimidating as she looms over the mortified fox, who’s seated on her knees and at the mercy of the petite human.
Joohyun crouches to the ground and pulls out another bujeok from her jacket pocket. The paper is sunshine yellow and the spirit writing painted onto it is a vibrant red, such bright and happy colors in contrast to the effect that they’re having on the gumiho. Joohyun effortlessly applies the second talisman onto Jimin’s other forearm, ensuring that the fox is completely paralyzed and not a threat.
“Let’s see what we have here,” Joohyun whispers.
She grabs Jimin under her jaw and forces the fox’s bowed head up. The shaman then goes on to peel each eye open to get a better look at the woman’s bright red irises—an effect of the bujeok that’s forcing the gumiho to expose her nature.
“Good things those charms are on you otherwise you’d be able to compel me, huh?” Joohyun shoves her thumb into Jimin’s mouth and pulls on the fox’s bottom teeth to get her jaw to open up. “No fangs. So definitely a gumiho, as I expected.”
Not strong enough to withstand the bujeok’s sealing powers, the fox tries to scream for help, but nothing except tiny, pathetic whimpers come out.
“Why aren’t your tails showing though?” the slayer questions before grabbing Jimin’s chin to maneuver her head around. “Or your ears?—Oh I get it. You must be pretty old, huh? Strong too if you’re able to resist these bujeok to some degree.”
Jimin’s not sure if it’s strength or just sheer stubbornness that her insides are still intact and are enough to keep her human disguise from crumbling off of her otherwise very gumiho looking form. She wants so much to lash out at Joohyun, scream at her, compel her, fight her— anything to protect herself! But all Jimin can muster is a pitiful grunt.
Joohyun keeps her voice low, barely above a whisper. “You know, the day that I met you, my amulet was going crazy,” she explains, pulling a pendant out from under the collar of her shirt. “It was practically burning a hole on my chest. So I had to come back and double check that there actually was a demon here. And when I touched your hand that day, I just knew it. I can’t believe you were hiding in a bakery of all places.”
Jimin sniffles. How could she be so careless?! She knew that it was unwise to stay in one location for so long. She knows this. She’s known this for centuries! How could she be so—?
“So here’s what’s going to happen,” Joohyun says, preparing to, ironically, lay out commands for the gumiho. “You’re going to cough up your yeowoo guseul, and then this will all be over, okay?”
Jimin takes a sharp inhale through her nostrils. If she coughs up her life force, Joohyun will for sure stomp on it, shatter it, and kill her by doing so. She can’t meet her demise like that. She can’t. She just simply cannot. She won’t allow for it! The fox can’t shake her head, but she softly whimpers in protest instead.
With a deep sigh, the woman moves to pull out a tactical pocket knife from the inside of her boot. “Okay, come on. Cough up the marble of yours, fox.”
When Jimin sees the terrifying length of the blade that Joohyun flips out from the handle, the fox feels her chest heave a little faster. She feels nauseated. She hasn’t felt scared in a long, long time.
“Hey, don’t make me cut it out of you,” Joohyun threatens. “I don’t want to make a mess on the nice baker’s floor.”
The fox wheezes again, chest now aching at the thought of Minjeong finding her bloody corpse in the front of the store. Still unable to speak, she whimpers in response to the shaman.
Joohyun deeply sighs. “Listen to me. You cough it up, I crush it, and then you peacefully go. There will be no trace of you. Your little blonde girlfriend won’t even know.” Joohyun’s face now turns stern. “But, if you make me do this the hard way, things are going to get very, very messy, fox. Don’t make me do that. You wouldn’t be the first gumiho that I’ve had to gut.”
The fox whines. She wants to shake her head or beg Joohyun for mercy while explaining her circumstance. But her jaw feels like it’s wired shut.
Frustrated, the slayer quickly rises to her feet, and the next thing Jimin knows, the human’s boot is slamming into her stomach. Even with her body paralyzed, the impact of Joohyun’s kick forces air to rush out of Jimin’s stomach and chest, making the fox involuntarily yelp out of pain.
And Joohyun quickly realizes her error when the loud sound booms through the quiet storefront.
Panicking and rushed now, the shaman quickly winds her hand around the thick black locks of Jimin’s hair so that she can pull the fox’s face to look up. She draws the blade close to the gumiho’s throat. “Cough up that ing marble of yours,” Joohyun hisses. “I don’t want to make a mess.”
“Jimin?” Minjeong calls out in the distance.
The blonde baker is somewhere beyond the kitchen curtain and Jimin tries to fight through the charms suppressing her so that she can scream for help. But she can’t. She feels so goddamn weak.
“Jimin?” Passing through the kitchen curtains, Minjeong immediately freezes in her brisk pace when her eyes take in the absurd event that’s unfolding in front of her. “Oh my god,” Minjeong gasps, body turning cold as the shock strikes her. “Jimin, are you okay?!”
“Don’t move!” the shaman immediately warns, making a quick show of her knife before returning to press it against the pale skin of Jimin’s neck. “I’m not here to hurt you, okay?”
Minjeong can’t see much from her angle. Jimin’s on her knees, but her back is turned to the baker while Joohyun is facing the blonde. The baker’s visibly shaking, absolutely terrified and confused about what to make of the situation. “L-look, lady, if you want money, we don’t carry cash on premise after hours,” she tries to reason, looking at how Jimin’s long black hair is wound tight in Joohyun’s hand. If Minjeong didn’t hate this customer before, she certainly does now. “I-I might have some in my wallet though. Just let her go—”
“I don’t want your dumb money, girl!”
“Jimin! Are you okay?!” the baker shouts, treading forward with cautious steps.
“DON’T MOVE! I’LL CUT HER IF YOU DO!” Joohyun shouts, scaring Minjeong back to stillness. “Listen to me! This woman here, she’s not what you think she is! She’s a demon! A gumiho!”
“M-ma’am, please! Please don’t hurt her. C-can I call someone for you?” Minjeong suddenly asks.
“I’m not crazy!!” Joohyun shouts, frustration evident in her voice. “This woman here,” she says, shaking Jimin’s head, “She came out of nowhere a few weeks ago right?! About a month ago?!”
Jimin can’t see Minjeong from the angle that she’s sitting at, but the way that the baker has grown silent, the fox knows what the grave realization is slowly dawning on Minjeong.
This isn’t how she wanted a baker to find out. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
“Twenty-seven days ago,” Joohyun continues to explain, “That was the night of a lunar eclipse, when some demons can cross from the spirit to the human world! The woman came out of nowhere, right? I heard your employees say it. You know I’m not lying!”
Even though Jimin is so numbed down that her sense of smell isn’t working properly anymore, the air still feels unbelievably thick and heavy. The usually loquacious baker is absolutely speechless. And Jimin knows that the human has probably realized the truth. After all, Minjeong has said it herself a handful of times before:
‘It’s like you fell out of the sky.’
Minjeong’s voice is so soft, so sweet, and so lovely that the fox musters enough strength through the talismans to squeeze her eyes shut. She doesn’t want the baker to see who she really is.
“Go on, look at her!” Joohyun commands the gumiho. She pulls on long, dark hair and stomps her boot against Jimin’s thigh to spin the fox’s kneeled body around. Pulling on Jimin’s hair again, she forces her head up. “Look at her! Open your eyes! Show her what you are!”
N-no…please no. With as much force as she can conjure, Jimin continues to squeeze her eyes shut, feeling far too cowardly to show her true self.
“J-jimin…look at me.”
How can the fox deny anything that Minjeong asks of her though? Feeling like she’s being pulled by invisible puppe