ugly fish

all we need of hell

with no war to prepare for, the demons settle on the next best thing — an impromptu festival.

 

seungwan lets her kings take charge since yerim and vine always have a penchant for festivities. the devil, along with most kings, prefers to hang back, get drunk and end the night with a fistfight or something similar. though, that will probably change with joohyun around.

 

sooyoung begs her sister to let her stay in hell for this, pointing out that it's the least she could do to make up for yongsun trying to kill them both. plus, she got good grades recently, she deserves this. begrudgingly, joohyun agrees. she wonders if anyone on earth will notice they're gone, but seungwan reassures her that it's barely been a day, she can relax.

 

a festival in hell hardly sounds relaxing to her and after witnessing a supposed meeting with the demon kings, joohyun has had her fill with this place. she'll let sooyoung have her fun and then they'll go back to their regular lives.

 

the entirety of hell gathers in what the demons deem the party cave, a massive cavern in the second circle where they always hold their celebrations. stalls are set up by imps within an hour, along with a stage and a few carnival rides. nothing too amazing that rivals their usual festivals but still pretty impressive for the amount of time they have.

 

the turnout usually averages at half of the population of hell, some demons are busy conducting business in the mortal realm whereas others have no interest in parties. it's a little different this time, the party cave is packed with demons and dead mortals vying to catch a glimpse of the one who holds lilith's soul. eyebrows were raised when they heard about seungwan's clash with a seraph, but when word spread that there's mortals in a meeting with the demon kings? it brings about chaos on a whole other level.

 

joohyun gets split from sooyoung when a crowd comes up to her to shake her hand and request for her— no, lilith, to spit on them. mortified, she tries to explain that she's not lilith, but none of them hears her over the clamouring for her attention. 

 

seungwan watches from a distance while she devours two gigantic sticks of cotton candy, might as well enjoy herself while she's back home.

 

it's not the first time this has happened but it's been a while since a reincarnation of lilith has returned. she'll step in if the demons start going overboard but she wants to see how joohyun will get out of this. lilith was a force to be reckoned with, and she thinks joohyun will be too. even though she's a different person entirely, she should be able to handle herself amongst a sea of demons and souls.

 

as she finishes her second stick of cotton candy, one demon tries to get joohyun to step on him by grabbing her foot. she wiggles out of his hold and kicks him in the face instead. one would think she would be afraid of hurting a demon but all this time with seungwan has built up her guts. leaving the crowd stunned, she storms over to seungwan and jabs one of her wounds that have yet to heal. the devil groans in pain as joohyun begins yanking her away by the collar of her shirt.

 

she is not lilith but it's hard to not see fragments of her in joohyun.

 


 

the pair ambles around the cavern with a horde of underworld denizens following them at a respectable distance, seungwan pays no mind to them but joohyun is a little bugged by the whispers and camera shutters clicking away. 

 

"why are they following us?" joohyun hisses lowly when she finally has had enough. 

 

"your soul is a big deal down here," seungwan shrugs as she pops a sugary piece of churro into , "they wanna welcome you home."

 

joohyun pauses in her steps and says quietly, "this isn't home."

 

she has no reason to feel guilty, it's not her fault that she got reincarnated with the soul of a chthonic celebrity, but a part of her thinks she has an obligation to live up to lilith's legacy or something. but how can she compare to a woman who stood as the devil's equal? 

 

seungwan swivels around when she realises joohyun isn't following her anymore. dropping her hands to her side, she approaches her charge.

 

"i know, i didn't mean it like that. i'll get you back to earth in a couple of hours." seungwan softens her voice, "it's just... to them, seeing you is like seeing an old friend. they don't mean any harm, but if you want them gone just say the word."

 

biting her lower lip, the mortal throws a glance at the crowd of people behind her before shaking her head. "i guess it's fine, just do something if they try to get me to step on them again." joohyun grumbles as she continues to walk.

 

the devil releases a chuckle and slings an arm around her shoulders easily, "you handled it pretty well."

 

"shut up."

 

"don't be mad," seungwan pouts as she wiggles a churro in front of joohyun's mouth, "have one."

 

the mortal leans forward to take a bite but seungwan pulls back and leaves her chomping down on air. the devil snorts loudly and does it a few more times until joohyun grabs her wrist in a surprisingly strong hold and bites down on the sugary treat along with her fingers.

 

"yah! what the heck! that's my finger!" seungwan jumps back as her finger throbs with pain but joohyun responds with a smug smile and the sugar off her lips.

 

"serves you right."

 

shaking the pain away, seungwan ushers her to a nearby food stall for the perfect revenge. if there's one thing that makes hell stand out from the rest of the realms is the various species of fish, most of them look alien and straight-up inedible.

 

"can i interest you in some grilled fish? a hellion delicacy."

 

seeing joohyun's face twist in disgust makes the pain in her fingers negligible and seungwan nudges her charge closer. whole fishes and squid are skewered and grilled by a little imp chef who greets the two with a gurgle in an unfamiliar tongue.

 

"how are these fishes?" joohyun points out as she stares at the monstrous things cooking on the grill, most of them still writhing and twitching away and she almost feels sympathetic.

 

"they look ugly as hell but they're delicious, wanna try?"

 

"they're still alive, seungwan."

 

"okay, and? humans eat sashimi all the time?" seungwan arches a brow, "you don't wanna eat ugly fish, is that it?"

 

as if insulted, one of the fishes threatens to escape death by jumping up and joohyun shrieks in horror as she runs to safety behind seungwan. gripping her shirt tightly, joohyun chances a peep. the imp chef quickly catches the escapee and smacks it aggressively with a wooden paddle before returning it to its place on the grill.

 

seungwan releases a breathy laugh as she reaches a hand backwards to charge, "if you're not going to eat them, they're going to eat you."

 

"i hope they eat you," she mutters.

 

the imp chef ends up giving them a moderately sized squid caught from the rivers of lethe. after much convincing, joohyun takes a bite and finds that it is tastier than any squid she's ever eaten on earth. she lets seungwan keep her haughty smile when she goes for a second bite.

 

joohyun parts from seungwan's side to check out the rest of the stalls while the devil queues for another cone of ice cream — two wasn't enough, a third one will hit the spot, is what she says when she jumps back into line. the crowd following them have mostly dissipated and the ones that linger seem too shy to approach her, which is a good thing.

 

the area she finds herself in is much quieter compared to the rest of the carnival, instead of food and games, they sell merchandise and trinkets of all sorts. she spots the glowing ring hairband that many locals have been wearing alongside a blinking sign that reads get your angel halo here! — so that's what it was.

 

a few stalls down and she finds what she's been looking for. the imp salesman waves her over excitedly and joohyun makes her way over with a nervous smile. he gurgles something and the mortal shakes her head and tries to explain that she can't speak imp, or whatever language he speaks. luckily, he understands her vague gestures and words.

 

seungwan is almost to the front of the queue when joohyun returns with a gift in hand, her eyes light up in surprise when her charge hands it over to her.

 

"for me?" she gasps, soft and disbelieving. her gaze flits from the red dog balloon that looks like burger to joohyun and she accepts it with a wide grin.

 

"i didn't forget that i owe you balloons." joohyun nods, "i'll get you more when we get back to earth, but this is the best i can do now."

 

tying the string around her wrist, seungwan doesn't hide her smile. though she prefers to have joohyun be mean to her because it's so much easier than trying to suppress the urge to kiss her when she does anything that whispers look, i care about you!

 

"thank you," she beams, "but how'd you pay for it?"

 

"the imp was nice about it, he wanted me to draw him but i think i botched it."

 

seungwan snorts and finally arrives at the front of the queue, "you probably made him a millionaire, that drawing is going to be worth lots." she informs before ordering another cone of ice cream.

 

happiness is hardly tangible but with a cone of ice cream in her hand, a burger balloon floating above her head, and joohyun by her side? seungwan thinks this is a good substitute. with cheeks lifted in a grin, she offers a bite to joohyun who has no qualms about eating a quarter of her ice cream in one bite.

 

"yah! if you wanted one, you could've just said so!"

 

joohyun lets a sheepish smile slip and shakes her head, "i just wanted a bite. besides, you offered."

 

"yes i offered, but unlike a polite human that i assumed you were, you took a monster-size chomp out of my ice cream." seungwan deadpans.

 

the mortal grabs seungwan's wrist and leans in to take another bite. "mhm, i think you should get another one."

 

out of spite, the devil shoves the rest of the cone into , causing her cheeks to swell up as she struggles to chew. not to mention, brain freeze. definitely not how she pictured enjoying her third cone of ice cream. joohyun purses her lips momentarily before she bursts out laughing and clapping at seungwan's misery.

 

"let's go get another one..." she offers as she wipes away tears from her eyes.

 

seungwan shakes her head adamantly while she swallows with difficulty, she points a finger towards the colossal swing boat ride just ahead of them. joohyun feels her heart sinking to the depths of her stomach as the devil clamps a hand on her shoulder.

 

"i'm not taking you home until you get on it."

 


 

the rides in a regular, human carnival are bad enough but in hell? it's ten times worse because there are no safety precautions. seungwan says part of the fun is staying on till the end, so they did away with belts and all that boring stuff — except, seungwan neglected to tell her that until the ride begins to move.

 

joohyun tries to wish some sort of safety equipment into existence and seungwan decides that a ing life vest is appropriate since they're technically on a boat. she ends up clinging to seungwan for dear life while releasing a string of high-pitched curses directed at the devil.

 

her legs wobble as joohyun clambers out of the ride and seungwan makes it easier for her by throwing her over her shoulder. the mortal barely protests, only muttering an i ing hate you as she hangs limply over the devil's shoulder.

 

they find a spot at one of the many picnic tables a distance away from the stage where an amateur demonic band is having the concert of their lives, not the best music but joohyun is still reeling from the thrills to comment on it. she rests her head on seungwan's shoulder while the latter snacks on an assortment of gummies and sweets.

 

"wasn't so bad, was it?" she hums softly.

 

joohyun scoffs and mutters, "i've had enough near-death experiences for one life."

 

"me too."

 

"but you can't die." she retorts.

 

"yongsun almost made my soul go poof, that counts as a near-death experience."

 

joohyun tilts her head to look at seungwan, "what kind of punishment do you think they got?"

 

the devil thinks hard and shrugs, "something like taking on a hundred charges maybe, or they're temporarily stripped of their ranks. the seraphim would never force them out of heaven because another fallen seraph on our side is always bad for then."

 

joohyun hums softly in acknowledgement and turns her attention to the stage. she mindlessly slips a hand into seungwan's bag of sweets and pops one into .

 

"yah... i asked if you wanted your own and you said no..." seungwan gripes with gritted teeth.

 

"i only want one."

 

"if i catch your grubby hands in my bag again..."

 

"what are you doing to do?" joohyun challenges as she leans in, staring the devil intently in the eyes.

 

swallowing nervously, seungwan tries to glare at her but fails miserably when her cheeks begin to heat up. she scoots a little to the side and surrenders her gummies while turning away. despite the cavern having terrible lighting, it's easy to tell from her actions that she's flustered.

 

before joohyun can get a jibe in, someone calls out for seungwan from behind them. the two split apart quickly and seungwan snaps her head towards the voice. a quick introduction is made as joohyun recognises him as the loud one from the meeting earlier. a muscular demon named paimon towers over them, he guffaws while bowing his head and shakes joohyun's hand a little too aggressively. the mortal thinks he could lift her up with a finger and probably fling her across the entire cavern if he wanted to.

 

"what's up, pai?" seungwan asks.

 

"just thought i'd swing by to invite you guys for a couple of drinks," paimon replies while he points towards a tiny bar just to the side, squished between two food stalls.

 

a group of demon kings wave enthusiastically at them and seungwan turns to joohyun, "interested?"

 

the mortal presses her lips into a thin line and shakes her head, "i'll pass, you can go."

 

"really?" seungwan sounds a little apprehensive about leaving joohyun all alone but she waves her away. even if it's in hell, it's still a festival, the least she could do is not be a boring mortal here.

 

"go on." she nods, "no promises about your gummies remaining intact though."

 

"careful, haven't you heard about the tale of persephone and hades? you wanna be stuck down here with me so bad?" seungwan jokes as she gets up from her seat.

 

for a split second, joohyun's blood runs cold when she believes the devil's words, but then seungwan laughs and ruffles her hair.

 

"i'll be back soon."

 


 

resting her head on the table, joohyun wonders where sooyoung is. the sisters have been apart lately, sooyoung is making the most of her time in hell by making seulgi take her around while joohyun has spent most of her time with seungwan, though most of her time is spent on catching up on sleep.

 

she stares at seungwan's bag of gummies and eats one that's shaped like a burger bun before she notices the entire bag is made of deconstructed pieces of a burger. what's up with seungwan and burgers?

 

"hi."

 

a demon suddenly appearing before her makes her jolt in surprise and she straightens up with widened eyes. joohyun stares at the demon while she shifts uncomfortably, waiting for the red-eyed figure to say something.

 

"can we take a picture together?" the demon asks but without giving joohyun a chance to reply, she snaps a quick selfie and leaves without so much as uttering a single word of thanks. 

 

dazed from the flash of a camera, joohyun blinks multiple times to reorientate herself only to see another demon in front of her. it takes no more than a few seconds before she's surrounded by hellion fanatics scrambling to get a shot with her. oh, how she wishes she hadn't let seungwan go, joohyun offers up weak smiles as incessant flashes threaten to blind her.

 

despite all the clamouring, she vividly hears someone clear their throat, but it's quickly drowned out by the squabbling demons pushing around her. camera shutters continue to click away until one demon who has made himself comfortable near her is lifted up and tossed to the side. 

 

"get out of here." a voice orders lowly and the demons scatter in all directions, leaving one single demon king to take their place. yerim sits in front of joohyun with a tight-lipped smile and slides her a suspicious cup of black liquid.

 

"hope you don't mind, i have no intention of leaving." the pink-haired demon states, "and it's soda."

 

"thank you," joohyun accepts it with a grateful nod, "and thank you for chasing them away, i didn't know what to do."

 

the demon waves her off easily, as a friend of seungwan, she considers it part of her duty to watch out for her charge. "i don't think we've been formally introduced," she says while extending a hand, "yerim."

 

"joohyun." the mortal clasps her hand tightly in a firm handshake.

 

"i'm surprised seungwan would leave you alone here." yerim muses after taking a sip of her own drink.

 

joohyun smiles slightly, "paimon invited her for drinks and i told her to go, it's been ten minutes, i think."

 

yerim snorts, turning to scan the stalls for seungwan and the other kings and joohyun follows her gaze. it's easy to spot the devil with the burger balloon acting as a landmark. the dog balloon bobs up and down as seungwan pours shot after shot into , the kings cheer loudly around her, egging her on.

 

"is this what she's like in hell?" joohyun asks when she turns her attention back to yerim.

 

"pretty much, she spent a lot of time working on hell, nowadays there's nothing much for her to do except to drink and fish. it's a good thing you came along, spiced things up for everyone." yerim mumbles, "it's funny how you're the best and worst thing to happen to her."

 

she stiffens upon hearing those words but she doesn't know what to make of it — yongsun isn't the only one who thinks they're not a good fit. swallowing the lump in , joohyun chances a question.

 

"are we bad for each other?"

 

yerim takes another sip from her drink and furrows her brows, "yes and no. you have a tendency to hurt her, but that's on her. without you two, hell wouldn't exist. there's a reason why demons rush to worship you."

 

"they're worshipping lilith, i could never be her." the mortal mutters quietly.

 

"yet, you hold the most vital piece of her, her essence." yerim hums softly in response, "as much as you do look like her, you are ultimately a different person. though, it's hard to deny that some of her qualities still shine through your actions."

 

joohyun processes her words as she takes a sip from the strange soda. the sweet, cooling liquid runs down and she focuses on a crevice on the wooden table. she reminds herself that she'll be going back to earth, back to her regular life after this, she doesn't need to get involved in the past that has nothing to do with her current life.

 

but she's curious, she wants to know why demons flock to see her. seungwan only told her lilith's impact on herself and nothing about her relationship with the other demons, surely she must have done something for the entirety of hell to adore her.

 

"what was she like?" joohyun asks before adding, "to the demons?"

 

yerim lifts her cheeks to reveal a small smile, her tone gentle yet tinted with sorrow. "well... she was our queen, our voice of reason who kept us all in line. she taught us what it means to be human and to be flawed. she encouraged us to look for whatever we were denied in heaven, happiness and freedom were two of the most notable ones. things changed when she died, when seungwan fell apart, so did the rest of us."

 

"what do you mean?" joohyun presses softly.

 

"lilith was everything to seungwan, along with the first generation of fallen angels. we felt the heartbreak of her departure as one realm." the demon tightens her jaw, "the mortal realm took the brunt of our grief when we realised that she wasn't going to be reincarnated."

 

joohyun blinks, "then how am i here?"

 

yerim clamps shut when she notices the confusion on joohyun's face. "seungwan didn't tell you." she says, it's more of a statement than a question. uh oh, she might have messed up.

 

"tell me what?"

 

the demon puckers her lips and discreetly tries to back away from joohyun who narrows her eyes sharply.

 

"she made a deal with the fates is all i will say, you can get the rest of the details from her, okay?" yerim sighs, hoping that this information is enough to satiate joohyun's curiosity, "it's not my place to say more."

 

the mortal backs off with a slow nod, seungwan would probably tell her if she asked. instead, she asks yerim about things that she wants to avoid asking seungwan. 

 

"what happened after lilith died?"

 

the demon quirks her brows and exhales loudly. it's not the easiest question to answer considering how anarchy reigned over hell for the years that followed the absence of their queen, but she supposes it's easier for her to answer than for seungwan to relive that period of time.

 

"we wreaked havoc in lilith's name to protest against the fates, and it went on for so long until it became our new norm. i think most of us forgot why we even started." yerim swirls the liquid in her cup as she speaks, "seungwan got herself together when angels started murdering us, heaven was getting back on its feet while hell was crumbling. i guess she refused to watch what she built with lilith warp into something she no longer recognises." 

 

to say she can comprehend the extent of seungwan's heartbreak would be a lie, joohyun allows her gaze to drift to seungwan who's chugging some blazing concoction. a triumphant fist shoots up to the sky as she slams the glass on the countertop. their eyes lock on each other and seungwan blows her a kiss, forcing a grimace out of joohyun who winds her head back to yerim.

 

"it was around then the hellfire barrier came up, but that wasn't enough to stop us. heaven built its own system for punishment, but there's no way hell could be as levelheaded without lilith. seungwan was aware of that, so she established a new system of rules with the fates, allowing them to destroy our souls if we broke them. the rules were serious at first until demons started to calm down, then it became more of a joke. hence, the pact with you."

 

"her heart is in the right place but she really shot herself in the foot with that rule." joohyun snickers softly and yerim laughs along in agreement.

 

"for the record, seulgi and i did tell her that it was a bad idea."

 

the mortal hums as her laughs die down to silence, her gaze runs over the pink-haired demon and she asks, "how did you guys become friends in the first place?"

 

"seulgi was already friends with her before i was created. she was the angel of dawn, and i was the angel of annihilation. mortals loved to start their wars at the crack of dawn." yerim shrugs, she recalls dreary mornings on a bloodstained battlefield where they would steel their hearts for another day of destruction. "she'd talk about emotions and all that crap and i'd listen to her rambles, but gradually, i grew to enjoy her company."

 

"was that how she got you to rebel too?"

 

the demon shakes her head, "partly, but we had our own reasons too. seulgi never fully agreed with god being all black and white but i did it because the other orders of angels blamed my existence for the wars. i had no beef with god, but if seungwan wanted to wage a war, then i had to be there."

 

joohyun whistles softly, "woah."

 

"for a group of beings that betrayed god, we're actually more loyal than you'd think." yerim waggles her eyebrows with a slight grin hanging off her lips, but it disappears quickly as her expression hardens. "that being said, while it's usually never your fault that seungwan is hurt by your soul, the next time you hurt her, demons won't be flocking to take selfies with you."

 

the threat unnerves the mortal, but she has been in yerim's shoes. the demon only wants to protect her friend, and that is something she can understand. swallowing, she whispers an apology.

 

"i'm sorry, truly."

 

she could say more, profess that it was said before she even knew a shred of the truth, or hide behind the lie that she said things she didn't mean in a fit of anger, but that would make her apology meaningless.

 

"that's good enough for me," the demon nods, "didn't mean to get so serious but with you, or your soul rather, she goes through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. i just need to know that you won't knowingly break her again."

 

joohyun bites her lower lip and exhales quietly, "i won't."

 

yerim lifts her cup and motions for joohyun to do the same, bumping their paper cups together, the two toast to better days ahead. as they drink, joohyun catches a familiar figure sauntering onto the stage from the corner of her eye. dread fills her veins as she prays that nothing bad will happen.

 

naturally, the worst thing imaginable happens. probably the work of the fates, this is their fault.

 

sooyoung stumbles a little, punches the currently performing demon in the face, grabs their mic and yells.

 

"i want a magical wish-granting demon, who wants my soul?"

 

burying her face in her hands, she sees seulgi scrambling to tackle her but sooyoung dodges her with ease. they're both drunk as far as she can tell. she snaps her head to seungwan, who along with the other drunken demon kings are chanting in favour of seulgi. the interruption and commotion have garnered the attention of the rest and many of them are offering themselves up to sooyoung.

 

thankfully, she has one, somewhat sober demon king sitting in front of her. yerim is more than glad to watch this situation unfold but joohyun casts her a pleading look and she gives in with a sigh. disappearing with a flash of pink, yerim mutters under her breath.

 

"ing idiots."

 


end notes:

yuhhhhh. it's been a few days, a long chapter to make up for it i guess. idk if this counts as fluff but they're being stewpid ur honor!!!!
some things have been weighing on me recently so i've just been chilling. couldn't get this chapter to sound right and i've been noticing a lot of inconsistencies/potential questions in my worldbuilding so i was a little unmotivated to continue. i'll probably go through the whole fic from start to end and edit it soon, nothing that'll with the plot but i just wanna fix some minor deets.

anyway, some good news, i learnt how to set up t spins in tetris!
that is all, thank you for reading.

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ILJIDO
it's been 30 chapters and they haven't kissed, is this counted as slowburn?
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