Two faces, two lives (both hope to survive)

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A/N I wasn't supposed to stop the update here but if I didn't it'd definitely be more than 60 pages and it'd be an info overload. 

Also: <-- CULT music. lol Read it with the music.

Also, casually kicks L.J out because people begin shipping Bunny and him. Soz, not soz. T_T

Have a great time reading and do comment, subscribe, and upvote! <3

Aether - Ashgate, Kyungoo's Hut

“Down with the gun, Kyungsoo,” Luhan drawled from the side. “If he was dangerous, he wouldn’t be showing himself to us like this. It’s pleasure to meet you, Jeno.”

“Not a pleasure under such circumstances.” The male removed his hood, squinting at the flourescent lights before tugging it back over his head. “L.J, please. The fact that I share a name with another man that is no stranger to all of you might cause confusion.”

“You’ve given yourself a nickname. Cute,” Luhan mused.

“You would too, if your other one wasn’t dead,” Jeno from Umbra snipped, entering the hut.

“Have you seen my brother? Is Mark alive?” Matthew demanded when he realized that L.J was from the other side. “He was switched—”

L.J seemed to have gotten the gist of it, the male raising a hand up into the air like he was saying stop. Out of his pocket, he got a familiar device that Mark always had with him. He squinted at it for a moment before he pressed a button and the voices of two teens echoed through out the hut.

“Hyung, hyung, hyung! This recording is for you—”

“Give it to me,” Jeno’s voice whispered. “Save us.”

“The other Jeno… the one that is staring at us says he’s going to help us. It’s really cold in here….” Mark murmured under his breath. “Anyways, don’t kill him. He’s nice, see you soon. Love ya!”

“Save us!” Jeno’s voice whispered again before the recording went off.

“I directed them to the tunnels towards the basement orphanage…” L.J said, tossing the iPod to the couch. “If they’re good with instructions and aren’t absolute muppets, they would have made it to Na Jaemin alive.”

“Na Jaemin?” Baekhyun asked, L.J nodding.

“He’s helping those from Aether find sanctuary. He’s the sole reason why I’m helping you – My loyalties lie with him.”

“Show me your eyes,” Kyungsoo blurted out, the town outcast striding over to the younger teen before shining his flashlight into L.J’s pupils. He did not flinch, the male staring straight at the light.

“What was that for?” Baekhyun asked, not getting it. Kyungsoo put down the flashlight. “Do their pupils react weirdly to light?”

“They don’t have much receptors, so they don’t flinch.” Kyungsoo pocketed the flashlight. “Doesn’t mean they can handle light—”

“We aren't capable of tolerating even the slightest bit of heat,” L.J corrected. “Try to come from a world that coldness and darkness is all you’re used to. It’s awfully warm in here.”

L.J walked over to the couch, falling back to sit down casually. Baekhyun was already seated scooted closer, narrowing his eyes at him before he reached over to pinch his skin. L.J turned to stare at him, Baekhyun quickly muttering a sorry.

“I was told to befriend you. To see whether you know of people of our world being… replaced.” L.J ran a tongue over his teeth. “I shall be periodically relaying updates to Matthew, tranversing between the realms. You’re the leader of the people, don’t you know?”

Matthew swallowed. He didn’t know that his counter half had such power in Umbra.

“He’s been finding Gloria Ashgate’s body,” L.J began. “Why that is, is unknown.”

“I know Gloria Ashgate is the founder of Ashgate,” Bora said, L.J looking towards her. A look of familiarity flashed through his features as his gaze moved from her head to her toes. Bora tilted her head at him. She wanted to say that she felt uncomfortable at how he was staring at her, but it vanished when his eyes went soft.

“Do you…” L.J paused as if he was contemplating asking her the question. “Do you work for a hospice?”

“Hospice?” Bora echoed. “A clinic. I’m a nurse.”

“Ah. Not very far off.” L.J brought his attention back to Matthew who was deep in thought. “I have a feeling something is brewing. It has something to do with the body of Gloria Ashgate.”

“Can someone update me on what the deal is with Gloria Ashgate?” Baekhyun asked, Kyungsoo speaking up.

“She’s the founder of this town,” Kyungsoo said, grabbing a few books from his bookshelf and throwing it to Baekhyun who caught it. “She migrated to this land with her followers. Her name was actually Gloria Regali, but she married a man named Arthur Ashgate. Hence her name—Gloria Ashgate.”

[Young Gloria and Arthur Ashgate]

“She was known to be cutthroat, built this land on hard work and harvesting crop, sending them off to other towns such as Elderwise as they aren’t able to farm because of the cold. She was a great leader, diligent, and political.” Kyungsoo pointed at a photo of a woman and two other men. “That’s a photo of her and her friends.”

[Older Gloria Ashgate/Theodore Lancaster/Joseph Edelweiss]

“She named the town “Ashgate” because of her husband, didn’t she?” Bora asked, Kyungsoo nodding.

“Gloria was obsessed with Arthur Ashgate. He was the reason why she lived and breathed—there is speculation that he was seeing someone else, however. After a while of settling down in Ashgate, Gloria was blessed with a child. A son.” Kyungsoo cleared this throat.

“Little is known about the son, except that he was… not normal. There are accounts that he did not develop like a normal person. People know she gave birth, but her son had never seen the world outside their mansion which is now the academy. She kept him locked up. Some people say he was born deformed. Some people say that he could not speak. It was never really confirmed.”

“It was speculated that Arthur Ashgate was seeing another women while Gloria was pregnant. It was then one day he disappeared. When he came back, he seemed… different.” Kyungsoo chewed on his lower lip.

“Kyungsoo believes that Gloria killed her husband and child, found a way to open up Umbra, and brought back their fakes to live with her.”

“I believe that because the town went through a massacre six months after her husband returned. Arthur Ashgate and a couple of people went rampant—killing every person in sight with blood lust. It wasn’t long before Arthur committed suicide under the sun, Gloria following soon after. She hung herself from a tree, thinking that death was the only way to cure her broken heart.”

Kyungsoo sighed. “Is the same story told in Umbra?”

L.J was deep in thought before he spoke. “Only the fact that she came from another land and had a husband named Arthur Ashgate. Our founder vanished when her husband disappeared in thin air. We don’t know if she died, or killed herself, or if she went to another town. We do know for a fact that she gambled in the dark arts.”

Bora thought to herself that both Gloria Ashgate, Aether and Umbra, loved their husbands so much they must have both died at the loss of their partner. Aether’s Gloria did everything to get his back resulting to Umbra’s Gloria losing hers.

“Dark arts?” Baekhyun asked, frowning. “Like rituals and cults?”

“Umbra Gloria Ashgate was friends with Edelweiss. He’s known be the founder of a town up in the mountains. Recently, Matthew found a chamber filled with dead people remains underneath the church,” L.J said. “It had runes of Edelweiss’ symbols on the graves. I don’t know what they mean, but Matthew keeps the chambers guarded. I presume it would be black magic.”

“Oh?” Kyungsoo’s frowned. “I think we also found a chamber a couple of years back under the church.”

L.J pressed his lips together. “However, we still haven’t found Umbra’s Gloria’s body. It’s a wonder where she went, or if she even remained in Umbra Ashgate when her husband disappeared—to which I presume is, to be in Aether with the Aether Gloria.”

L.J straightened up, a thought in mind. “Has Aether found Gloria’s body?”

Silence filled the room before Luhan nodded. “Yes, Kyungsoo said they found the body right after she hung herself here in Aether." Luhan paused. "You do know I’m from Umbra?”

L.J did not look surprised. “I know the pathway opened twenty-two years ago. Someone was taken to Aether. Our leader, Matthew, mentions it every single chance he gets. I feel that what he’s doing is not for a better life—more so, revenge.”

Matthew choked on his own spit, Bora glancing over to see him chugging down water. He coughed. “Thirsty.”

“Gloria Ashgate’s body was found hanging from a tree near the church shortly after she died. The townsmen gave her a proper burial.” Kyungsoo said, eyebrows deepening.

“Twenty two years ago, Gloria Ashgate’s grave was robbed.” Kyungsoo lifted up a newspaper article that looked like it was falling apart.

“What if…” Luhan began, his eyes narrowing on the book that was on Baekhyun’s lap, the picture of Gloria Ashgate almost staring at him. “What if my father found a way to open the pathway with Aether Gloria Ashgate’s body? What if you need the body to open the pathway?”

Kyungsoo glanced at the newspaper. “Currently, people from Umbra cannot come to Aether if their counterpart is in Aether, correct?”

Everyone nodded. They were confirming that it was what they understood.

“What if that’s what the other Matthew is trying to do? Right now, the pathway is half open, people from Aether can enter Umbra as they please. What if he gets Gloria Ashgate’s body… the Umbra Gloria Ashgate, and uses it to open the pathway from his side—”

“There was no handle,” Luhan blurted out from the couch, everyone turning to look at him. “Umbra’s cabinet—there is no handle. I’ve always drawn the cabinet; it haunts me in my dreams because I remember being in Umbra and staring at it, contemplating if I should go through and leave my parents. I just… I just never realized what was missing. There is no handle.”

“There is a handle,” Baekhyun replied, frowning at Luhan. “If it’s that big cabinet me and Jeno found it in the room. The handle was biiiiig. More like a chu—” He blinked as if his memory had served him right. “More like a chunk of bone.”

“There is a handle,” Kyungsoo added. “On Aether’s side. Luhan was in Umbra then.”

Baekhyun snapped his fingers. “If… If they do find Gloria Ashgate’s body from Umbra. If… If what everyone is saying is true, and they need Gloria Ashgate’s bones to create a handle, it might be a recipe for the pathway to fully open.”

A pause. “Ahah! That would mean that everyone from Umbra would be able to come into Aether! No need to be replaced! Free flow of….” Baekhyun’s eyes widened. “Free flow of people from Umbra coming to Aether….”

“Holy ,” Baekhyun breathed. “That’s what the other Matthew is trying to do. Fully open the door to our world.”

Bora felt sick to her stomach.

Three hours later

Kyungsoo and Matthew were fighting.

L.J was sitting down, scrolling through an iPad with shades on, absolutely taken by the technology that Aether had. Baekhyun had supplied him with earpods and he had hissed when Baekhyun tried to take it back from him, the journalist giving up and just deciding to go to sleep.

“Are people from Aether normally this loud?” L.J asked as he noticed that Bora was awake. “That girl… Bunny was an irritating thing to deal with.”

“People show emotions here,” Bora replied, creeping to the door and pushing it open to hear Kyungsoo and Matthew’s voice rise up.

“We are not friends!” Kyungsoo yelled at Matthew, shaking his fist. “We were never friends! You are nothing but a scam, Matthew!”

“I have tried so hard all these years, Kyungsoo – It hurts me that you can never see the efforts I’ve put in to make amends with you.” Matthew’s voice shook, Bora noticing that his lips were pale and his hands were shaking. “I’ve tried to destroy it, I’ve tried to explain to you why I did what I did. I’ve tried to be a good person—”

“You think a PhD makes you a good person, Matthew? You think pretending to be someone you are not makes you a good person? It took you years… Years! To be honest to me.”

“Because I knew you would react this way!” Matthew pointed at himself. “It would have been my fault one way or another. Whether I told you immediately or after, it would have been my fault!”

Kyungsoo glowered at him, Matthew not allowing him to speak as he continued to ramble.

“Is it my fault I wanted the best for myself? Is it my fault that I chose what was the best for me? Honest or not, you would have hated me anyway. I live everyday with a choice I made 22 years ago but I was a child, Kyungsoo!” Matthew took a breath, Bora seeing his eyes water for a moment. “I was just a child trying to survive.”

Was this about Matthew pushing Luhan’s body back into the lake? Bora watched as Kyungsoo diverted his eyes away from Matthew, the male swallowing hard.

“Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing,” Matthew begged. “Tell me that and I’d be happy to repent my whole life for stealing something that is not mine.”

“I wouldn’t have,” Kyungsoo answered coldly. “Now repent.”

With that, Kyungsoo walked off into the back of the hut, the door slamming shut in Matthew’s face. Bora watched as Matthew looked down on the floor, the female opening the door slightly, the creak making Matthew acknowledge her presence.

“B-Bora…” He tried to act like there wasn’t an argument that just took place. “Did we wake you?”

“That’s an understatement. I couldn’t sleep with the noise,” Bora said back, smiling to ease the tension. “You look exhausted, Matthew.”

“Insomia etches itself into your soul, Bora,” he replied, Bora moving closer to himself. Matthew raised his eyebrows when Bora lifted up a hand to brush it against his forehead, her cold fingers making him jump.

“You feel cold,” Matthew whispered, a hand going to catch her fingers with his own hand. He watched as the corners of her lips raised up to a smile, the allowing him to squeeze her hands in his. “Why is that?”

“Because you’re running a fever,” Bora told him.

Matthew found himself being forced to lay down on the couch, Bora drawing hot water from the manual heater that Kyungsoo had. She joked that Kyungsoo lived like a cavesman, Matthew agreeing. When she placed the bowl on the table beside them, she looked at him.

“You have to take off your shirt,” Bora said, Matthew blinking twice before he lifted a hand to stop her.

“Oh no, Bora. That sounds wrong coming from a girl,” he teased, but Bora noticed how nervous he looked.

“Or I will do it for you.”

“And that’s supposed to sound better?” Matthew replied, Bora sighing. He tugged on his long sleeves, Matthew flinching away. “You know, maybe it’s best I just… Go home and take a hot bath—”

“You’re running a 40-degree fever,” Bora told him. “It’s not like I’ve never seen a half- man before, Matthew. I’m not a .”

“Bora!” Matthew said hastily, raising his hands to his ears to cover them. “Obviously you’re not! You’re… thirty.” His face turned pink. “And a very beautiful woman. I’m guessing you’ve bedded more people than I did.”

“We can discuss our lives once you remove your shirt so I can sponge you in hot water—”

Matthew squeaked when Bora’s fingers worked his buttons, the male shying away from her touch as her fingers brushed against his skin. His heart was beating so rapidly in his chest he could hear it in his ears when Bora pushed the fabric away, she froze.

Her mind went back to Matthew’s photo with Mark on the beach. He was wearing long sleeves and now Bora knew why – His body was filled with scars. They were faded, stretched out as if they weren’t as prominent as before.

“I got them when I was young. Very young,” Matthew told her, answering the question that was ringing in her head.

“Who did this to you?” She asked, her fingers tracing down his chest.

“Oof,” Matthew pushed his sleeve down, Bora seeing a mark. “An animal. This was from the merchant down the street. This… My father beat me when he caught me stealing food from the pantry. This was from my neighbor.”

Bora’s fingers traced down his body, her breath catching in . Matthew’s hand moved to stop hers, his hand pressing her hand down onto his abdomen.

“Who are you, Matthew?” Bora asked, her eyes flickering up to his face. “Did you really push Luhan’s body back into the lake?”

“That wasn’t me,” Matthew answered, realization settling on Bora’s features. She fought the urge to snatch her hand back. It dawned to her what had happened, Matthew beating her to it.

“When Luhan died in Aether, his parents opened the pathway. They knew that Matthew and Kyungsoo were there, so they were sent to Umbra to “repent” for what they did.”

“They… The other Matthew and this Kyungsoo…” Bora murmured.

“When they came into Umbra, they were bound in chains in the dungeons for days. I met Matthew then. The real Matthew. I only went by Minho then. Luhan’s father entered when he realized they’ve been in the Umbra for far too long. He came looking for both of them and the fake Luhan—the Luhan you know now.”

Bora gulped, knowing where this was going. “Luhan’s father died in there, but Luhan was able to leave because his Aether version was dead. If a version is dead, one may freely move back and forth.”

“I was in the Umbra castle because it was a school for the nobles back then. When a fight broke out, Kyungsoo, was able to leave. He grabbed the wrong Matthew in the process. It wasn’t the Matthew that originally that entered Umbra that came out. It was me.”

Matthew had such pain in his eyes. Bora didn’t know if it was regret or guilt.

“Kyungsoo passed out from the hunger, and I quickly closed the cabinet. Chained the doors in. The Na couple was passing by when they saw me and since Matthew was gone for a couple of days already, they informed his parents and they took me in as the son they knew.”

Matthew’s hand tightened over Bora’s. “I came back a few days after to ask them to get rid of the cabinet. There was one person who I knew tried to help me—His name was Moon Taewoo, Luhan’s family’s gardener. He tried to burn it, tried to break it, but even then, it was impossible. He shoved the cabinet deep in the forest, into a hole, and chained it instead. We left it there and hoped it would never be opened ever again.”

“So… the Matthew in Umbra right now. He’s the Matthew that pushed Luhan back into the lake? He’s originally from here, isn’t he? That’s why L.J said he seems like he’s seeking revenge?”

“Yes. I was in Umbra till I was eight. But Bora…” Matthew sighed. “I stole a life that isn’t mine. I have come to the realization that it’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I got into psychology and wanted to become a counsellor to understand human emotions. I want to learn how they think, how they act under pressure. I—”

Bora closed her eyes. She had mixed feelings, not knowing if she should pity him.

“Kyungsoo did not find out until years later,” Matthew told her. “He treated me as a friend, exactly like one. I wouldn’t talk because I was afraid to do so the first years when I was in Aether. He’d show up with his grandmother’s homemade soup and ask my parents if I was alright.”

“As years passed, I began to befriend him again.” Matthew smiled at the memory. “That is of course until Kyungsoo noticed I did not flinch under bright light. How I covered my arms even with sunlight outside. He put everything together and confronted me about it. The rest is history.”

Bora chewed on her lip, Matthew releasing her hand just to bring his palm to her face.

“You can hate me,” he said to her, Bora wondering if it was the right to do. “Everyone does.”

But Bora was not everyone.

“Why would I?” She asked back, giving him a small smile. “There is nothing about you that I can hate.”

For the first time in forever, Matthew felt his heart swell.

This was the first time he had opened to someone.

Fully and truly.

[Aether, Ashgate – Kyungsoo’s hut]

“Rise and shine!” Baekhyun called out, stopping on his tracks when he saw that L.J had drawn all the blinds of the hut. “Why is it so dark in here?”

“I haven’t a wink of sleep after I drank that demon drink,” L.J hissed irritably, pulling his hood over his head. “I feel weak.”

“Demon drink?” Baekhyun asked, his eyes going to the mug. He went over to sniff it. “You drank coffee?”

“I thought it was hot chocolate. In powder form.” L.J frowned. “I thought it was meant for sniffing, but apparently not. There is an energy coursing my veins that I’m unable to set free.”

“If you’re anything like the Jeno I know, you have addiction problems,” Matthew called from the room, a thermometer under his armpits. “Sorry, Bora said I don’t have permission to go outside if my fever is still present. Seems like I’m fine now.”

“Addiction problems? I’ve indulged in and crystal meth. However, it’s on a shortage in Umbra. In my free time, it’s opium.” L.J ran a hand through his hair. “What is this thing?”

“Coffee. It has caffeine in it.” Baekhyun glanced at the mug. “How many spoons of powder did you put into this? It’s not even dissolved.”

“A good ten or so?” L.J replied. Baekhyun gawked at him.

“Well, no wonder you haven’t slept! It’s one spoon minimum, no more than three spoons!”

“Too late for that, but I will note that for future purposes,” L.J replied. “I will have to do rounds in town to scout out adults that can be replaced and report back to Matthew soon.”

“We’ll go with you,” Matthew said, Baekhyun nodding. “I need to find Luhan and figure out what to do when the pathways open—if that really is what is going to happen.”

“I sense no urgency here.” L.J motioned to all of them.

“There is,” Matthew emphasized. “But we can base all of this on speculation and worse… stories and guesses.”

L.J pursed his lips. “You wouldn’t be saying that if I hadn’t told you that your brother was safe and sound.”

Going out into the sun was not a good thing for L.J. He was cranky, irritable, and hated the heat. He wanted to stay in Matthew’s car.

“How are you going to “scout out for adults”?” Matthew asked L.J who fumed, turning on the aircon. “We agreed you’d just tell the other Matthew that there aren’t any suitable adults as of yet, correct?”

“Yes, unless Donghyuck beats me to it. He has had time to adjust to this ungodly heat and bright sun,” L.J complained, stepping down the car when he heard a screech.

“Oh my gahd!” The voice said, L.J stopping on his tracks. “Jeno! You’re out from ARA?”

Na Jaemin was back from Hayward University, or to the towns people of Aether- Ashgate, Nana. His entrance exams did not go well. Much to L.J’s surprise, he was tackled into a hug by the best friend of the other Jeno, L.J trying to keep the groan from his lips.

Across the street, he saw Donghyuck turning to him and give him a coy smile. Donghyuck seemed to have been given instructions as well. Except L.J’s instructions would be to keep up appearances, and L.J was not happy with that.

“It was horrible, Jeno!” Nana wailed. “I took the written test and passed that with flying colors—”

“Flying colors?” L.J asked, not understanding what that meant.

“Yes! And then I had to do the reporters practical,” Nana chattered on, hands on his waist, mimicking what he had to do for his entrance exam. “Ellen Moore died in her home in West Woodwork after she ate a bowl of SOAP! I said SOAP! Instead of SOUP!”

“Right…” L.J nodded, Nana locking his head in his arms. “That sounds disastrous.”

“Jeno!” Nana yelled barbarically. “Let’s do the thing that you do when I get sad!”

“And what, exactly, is the thing I do when you get sad?”

“Let’s climb the trees and you throw me down some apples!”

L.J did not know how it had come to this, but he was forcefully (to be fair, a hyper pink haired man was not something Matthew had prepared him for), made to climb trees and throw down the apples. The heat, the light, the loud yelling was making L.J second guess if Aether was really a place he wanted to live in.

“That’s right, Jeno!” Nana cheered.

L.J was only rescued by Matthew and Bora who decided to step in when they noticed that he was beginning to sweat all the coffee out. L.J was drenched in his sweat, the male thinking of removing the hood but he knew it’d burn his skin.

“L—I mean, Jeno? Let’s… let’s have breakfast,” Bora told him, Nana agreeing immediately with a “food!” in the background. “Are you okay?” Bora asked L.J who tiredly reached the ground.

“I am not okay,” L.J replied, Nana once more attacking him with handsy hugs and demands for life updates. L.J did not like Nana’s hair, the male asking with disgust. “What is that horrid color?”

Nana reached up to touch his pink bubble gum hair, making a face. “Horrid? Is it because the roots are growing out?” Nana paused before he gasped. He whispered. “Is it because I did not condition?”

The walk to café was short and L.J entered the café, everyone greeted by a very cheerful Aera.

“Morning everyone. Jeno, you’re back out! How was ARA?”

“Greetings, my lady,” L.J said, Aera’s eyes widening before the coffee she was pouring overflowed the mug.

“Oh my god!” Aera sputtered, her eyes going to Bora before she whispered. “ARA works!”

L.J blinked, realizing that his reaction to being greeted wasn’t the best. He cleared his throat, experimentally saying the thing he had been taught.

“Yo?” He asked, Aera relaxing.

“Now that’s more like it!” Aera reached over to ruffle L.J’s hair. “How’ve you been, kiddo? How’s you and your little girlfriend?”

“Girlfriend?” L.J asked, Aera nodding.

“Kim Bunny? The one you’re always with? Hello?”

“Ah.” L.J nodded, understanding what she was trying to say. “My lover.”

“Lover?” Aera screeched, her hands going to cover her lips. “Oh wow, Jeno. They really did change you!”

Matthew wanted to step in, but he was distracted by the bell above the door that rang, Sally walking in for a cup of coffee to start her day. When she saw Matthew, she hurried over, the female hitting his arm.

“Ow! What is it?” Matthew asked.

“Look.” Sally took a deep breath. “I’m sorry about what happened. Mark Lee’s a good kid and I’m ready to go to apologize. Please…” She sniffed. “Please do not sue me.”

“Sue you?” Matthew asked, frowning. “Why would… Why I sue you?”

Sally whipped out her phone scrolling for a moment to show Matthew a text from Mark:

Mark: My brother will sue you if you don’t say sorry to me
Mark: u will regret this
Mark: sue under the grounds of
Mark: calling me a dip ig

“Sally, I will not sue you!” Matthew exclaimed, Sally frowning at the text. “Were you drunk when he texted you that?”

“Well… I was kinda day drinking so… I knew it!” The highschool teacher yelled out. “That little dip! I thought you’d sue me!”

“Sew…” L.J pondered the word, not understanding what they were saying as he sipped the free cup of coffee from Aera. “Why would you sew someone?”

“Uh…” Matthew whispered to L.J. “She means by the law.”

“Why would someone sew someone to a law? Is that a form of physical punishment?”

Matthew wanted to explain, but he also was kind of frustrated, so he resorted to just giving up.

“Shush,” he said to the newly turned caffeine addict.

“Shush?” L.J asked, narrowing his eyes on the older male. “Don’t shush me, I will speak if I want to. I have a mouth for that utter reason.” He slammed the empty coffee cup onto the table and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Matthew demanded. “L.J—Jeno Lee!”

“To climb a couple of trees, goddamnit.”

“Can I come?” Nana asked, running after his friend.

“I told you not to give the children coffee, Aera. They become hyper, cranky, and irritable!” Sally scolded the bartender, the female giving her a shrug.

“I don’t know!” Aera frowned. “He just stared at me, and I thought to myself… well, one coffee can’t hurt!”

Umbra – Ashgate, Under Na Estate

“Oh my god, it’s Na Jaemin and Lee Jeno,” Ahyoung whispered as the two males came through the tunnels after they had followed instructions on their own—knocking on the tunnel door in the same rhythm that the Umbra Jeno had instructed them. “Oh my god!”

“Jeno!” Bunny whisper-yelled (learning from her past mistakes), the female running towards her boyfriend to throw her arms around him tightly. “Jeno!”




“Alright, knock it out,” Wilbur said irritably from the side. “What is it with young uns and romance?”

But Wilbur did not know anything about what Jeno felt when he saw Bunny. He was young, but he knew what love was. His heart felt full, and it was a feeling that he did not feel at all since he had parted with her. The seventeen-year-old held her against his chest, laying his head on hers as she sobbed.

“Everything is going to be fine, Bunny. I promise.” Jeno closed his eyes, thanking the gods that nothing happened to her. “No one is going to hurt you; I’ll make sure of that.”

Na Jaemin was watching from the sides as the two teen lovers reunited. He wondered if he’d have something of his own too, the male stepping forward to bow lowly to Jeno who looked struck with shock.

Sure, the other Jeno had mentioned a ‘Na Jaemin’—he just didn’t expect Jaemin to look exactly like the Jaemin he knew. Minus the bright pink hair and the smile that made him look like he came fresh out of an asylum.

“Jaemin?” Jeno said experimentally as Mark stepped forward, narrowing his eyes at Jaemin’s face.

“You look exactly like Jaemin!” Mark announced. “What happened to your hair?”

The next hour was filled with Jeno and Mark being filled in by Jaemin and the rest. When they found out that Haechan had passed, Jaemin took note how Jeno and Mark took it harder than the rest. Maybe they really were friends as Bunny used to say. Mark didn’t hesitate to shed a tear.

“The other Jeno took my iPod,” Mark complained softly. “I was recording a diss track about my highschool teacher on there.”

“Ms. Sally?” Jeno asked, Mark nodding. “Aw man, I miss Ms. Sally.”

“Man, shouldn’t have dissed her,” Mark murmured under his breath. “Things are good where we came from. What is this? The basement smells like shietttt.”

It wasn’t long before the two were introduced to the fact that cats, dogs, and bunnies were cooked as stew and grilled as food. Jaemin noticed how Jeno placed a comforting hand on Bunny as if to ask her if she was okay hearing what she heard.

She replied with: I’m used to it now.

Strong girl, Jeno complimented. Such a strong girl.

As dinner passed uneventful, Jaemin took his seat at the corner of the basement, sewing clothes in case someone else new would be switched out. Jeno was washing his hair by the side, the male moving through the strands of his hair when rapid footsteps began.

Jaemin shot up from where he was at, the male looking towards the stairs when he whispered to the rest.

“Into the barrels—quick!”

Like they had practiced, they ran towards the barrels and climbed in. Ahyoung was fast enough to tell Mark Lee was what happening, the male following them but Jeno… Jeno was not fast enough. In fact, he had his head dunked under water so deep all the sounds he heard were muffled.

When he straightened himself up, boy, was he surprised to see Na Jaemin’s parents walking down the staircase and staring straight at him. Where were the others? Jeno noticed that they were gone. That was when he knew he ed up.

“Jeno!” Lord Na said, frowning when he noticed Jeno’s outfit and wet hair. Jen

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