25 autumns



18. Surprised kiss




The first time Woohyun saw him, he was under the sea.


Woohyun had a habit of diving underwater longer than usual. He never suffocated, floating for minutes, even hours, rising only when he felt better. The other fishermen in the village were already talking enough behind his back, insinuating that he was the result of the monsters in those waters, but Woohyun never let that matter shake him.


It was then that he found him in one of his rituals. He had a wide, sky-blue tail. He was swimming slowly, watching the fisherman curiously. Woohyun was sure he had never seen something so beautiful in his entire life.


His brown hair moved with the current. Woohyun was so mesmerized that he got scared when a net was thrown next to his body. When he turned his gaze towards that being, Woohyun noticed that he was gone, wagging his tail so hard that the water flow became even stronger.


Woohyun climbed up again, taking a deep breath of the sky air, receiving wary glances from the fishermen.


“Swimming again, boy?” one of them asked, his gray beards contrasting with his sun-tanned skin. The man pulled the net hard, which made Woohyun climb over the harbor to try to help.


“Just a little,” he commented, with a wry smile, though he pulled the net as hard as he could.


“Careful, ok? That's how your father…” Another fisherman began, but one of them made a silent sound, silencing him instantly.


Woohyun was still smiling even though he knew exactly what his co-worker had suggested. The rumors that circulated through the conversations of fishermen and fair ladies were that Woohyun's father fell in love with a mermaid, before he was born.


Every day his father climbed into his boat, sailing on the high seas. On one of these trips, he returned with a very small, crying baby, claiming he was his son. He took care of Woohyun until he was 8 years old, but remained looking for something under the sea. One night he was seen diving again and never came back.


Woohyun didn't believe that story. He hated his father who abandoned him with his fishing uncles and he hated that village with all its superstitions. Even so, Woohyun knew he was different. As different as the man with the fish's tail who disappeared from his sight within seconds.


“What do you think about fishing tonight?” asked one of the fishermen.


They were awkward, shooting glances at each other, making Woohyun uncomfortable. Still, he accepted. He always accepted, hoping they would leave him alone.


At 4 am he climbed aboard, frowning as he saw the sky closing in.


“Sir, I think it's going to rain,” Woohyun said, noticing the fishermen looking at each other again. They looked uncertain about what they were doing.


“So what? We've fished several times in the rain,” commented one of them, pulling on the ropes to untie the knot and let the boat be guided by the current.


Woohyun realized too late. The men behind him jumped into another boat tied up just as this one began to be dragged through the sea. He held on to the mast, pressing his lips together so he wouldn't vomit from the rocking boat.


“What…? Why?” Woohyun asked in disbelief. The fishermen looked at him with pity and relief at the same time.


“You bring bad luck to this town, boy,” shouted one of the fishermen, as the rain increased and brought a strong wind. “That will be better for all of us!”


Not that he was afraid of falling into the water, but Woohyun had never felt so rejected in his entire life. He held on to the mast and for a long time withstood that storm, doing his best not to fall. Still, it didn't take long for the boat to be capsized by the strong waves.


The impact of the water hit his body hard, making him squirm in the cold. He tried to calm down, trying to surface, but something made him stop completely.


He… Woohyun held his breath, noticing the tail move slowly until he was close to the fisherman. That being held Woohyun by his shoulders and his hands felt as cold as the storm. His face was more beautiful up close, leaving Woohyun mesmerized for long seconds.


He joined his lips to Woohyun's, in a soft kiss that completely paralyzed him. His lips tasted like the sea and yet they looked like the best thing Woohyun had ever tasted.


Woohyun tried to speak as soon as he walked away, but only choked on the water. He felt him grip his shoulders and pull him to the surface.


When they emerged, Woohyun managed to hold on to a rock, climbing over it. His company just held on to the edge, not trying to climb with him. As much as the fisherman was shaken and confused, he didn't move away. On the contrary, Woohyun tried to hold the cold hands in fear that he would disappear again.


“Thanks for saving me,” Woohyun said, panting and shaky. The being cocked his head to the side, as if he didn't know what to say. “Can you understand me?”


Woohyun watched him shake his head with the most serene expression possible. He also didn't seem bothered by Woohyun holding him so tightly. He remained by his side until Woohyun regained his energy.


“My name is Woohyun,” he said, nervous by the long silence, where that handsome being continued to watch him. “I was chased out of my village, so I was sailing aimlessly.”


It was even more embarrassing to speak without receiving any response. Even so, Woohyun didn't totally get discouraged. He felt safer there, sitting on a rock with some mystical being in front of him, than he had in more than 30 years in that village.


“Sunggyu,” Woohyun blinked, surprised to hear him speak in a soft, engaging voice. So is it true that mermaids have such lovely voices?


“What?” he asked, confused. “What did you say?”


“Sunggyu,” he repeated, without changing his expression.


“This is your name?” he asked, seeing Sunggyu nod again.


Sunggyu held his hand affectionately, pulling him to try to lead him back to the water. Woohyun didn't feel scared this time, but he hesitated as he didn't know what to expect about it.


“Come,” Sunggyu asked, which made Woohyun almost give in right away.


“Where?” Woohyun asked, smiling sadly. “I was banished from my village. I have nowhere else to go.”


“Come,” Sunggyu insisted, holding him more firmly. His eyes were intense and his voice sounded even more eloquent. “You don't belong here.”


The way he stared at him made Woohyun stop resisting. He dove into the water, holding Sunggyu's cold hands more confidently. He felt no fear as he submerged, being guided by Sunggyu to a destination he did not know. He no longer felt alone.


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