”Do I know you?”
”No. But you will.”
The stranger’s words and no least his voice echoed over and over in Yunho's mind. He still could not make sense of them even though he desperately tried.
“I don't know what that means...” he spoke to the man who had now turned his back to him; sadly hiding that beautiful face from view. “But if you'll let me, I would very much like to accompany you to where ever it is you're headed.”
“I'm strong and quite fast, so I won't slow you down,” he rushed to add when he noticed the stranger looking him over; dark brows frowned as he seemed to search for the truth in Yunho's words.
“I'm sorry, but I always travel alone, and have no need nor desire for a companion.” The answer came out fast; spoken without feeling and hitting Yunho like a physical blow. He couldn't help it as his face fell. And he felt it as the stranger ran passed him; like a sweet-smelling gust of wind slipping away.
And all the while, his soul was screaming; loudly telling him that this was not supposed to happen.
That this was not how it was meant to be.
It took only a moment though, for Yunho to make up his jumbled mind. To ready himself for challenging Fate itself. “I'm sorry, but I cannot let you go like this. Not when I've finally found you.”
He hardly felt it as his feet started moving, but within seconds he was running; running faster than he remembered ever doing before in his life. His heart a deafening drum; beating wildly within his chest.
As it turned out, the stranger's trail was not an easy one to follow. Because of his moment of earlier hesitation, Yunho had unfortunately already lost sight of the other, effectively throwing himself back to square one. But at least now he knew for who and what he was searching all his senses peaked; desperate to catch any sight or sound. Desperate to bring himself back to where he knew he was meant to be.
It was the sound that reached him first. The sound of voices; raspy; rough, laughter; high-pitched and menacing... And completely out of place for this part of the village. More sounds; another voice, this one seeming not a part of the others. Yunho's feet halted as it tickled his ears. The hairs of his neck rising at how painfully familiar it already was....
He ran towards it; suddenly afraid of what sights his eyes would present him with once he arrived.
Inside the courtyard of a house which was no longer anything but a shell, stood a group of men. They were clearly excited about something as they pushed and nudged at each other, pointing and nodding towards a particular spot where one of the house-walls had managed to brave the test of time and remained standing. An ugly bunch they were; their faces leading you to think of animals such as rats and mice. Vermin, to put it simply.
The aura they gave off, anything but good...
“Well, well, look what we got here, boys. The rodent-leader spoke as he took a step forward; towards their focus-point by the wall of the house. Swaying his body slowly side to side, he reached out his hand and beckoned with a finger. “Here, kitty... kitty... kitty...” he sang; voice now high and shrill. “I already told you not to be shy. Come on out and play with us....”
At their leader's words a choir of sickened laughter broke out in the group behind him. The sound sending chills down Yunho's spine and he frowned, body tensing; now ready to move... But before he could, something happened...
“And I thought I already told you, come any closer, and you'll leave here, missing a limb.” The stranger spoke the words as he stepped out of hiding; voice soft and low, flexing the wrist of one hand, now holding a long sword. As he stood there, the sun reflected itself in the sharp blade of the katana. And a sudden breeze gently tousled with the long, black hair flowing down his back.
It was like Nature itself had spoken; clearly voicing who's side it was on.
“Ooh! See that, boys? Seems like our lil' cat has some claws on him.” The rat-leader's small eyes were full of hunger as they focused on the impressive weapon. “Why don't you come here, kitten. Let me cut them down a little for you.”
He reached out his hand again; took one step closer, and-
Yunho barely saw it as the sword came down; the movement so quick as it sliced through the air. But he certainly heard the high-pitched wail from the rat as he watched something which looked unmistakeably like a finger fly through the air and land on the ground a few feet away.
The leader of the group stumbled backwards a few steps; frantically clutching at his injured hand which was now bleeding profusely; colouring the sandy ground beneath him in red. An order then left his tightly clenched lips, and the rest of the vermin spread out; quickly surrounding the beautiful stranger. The group was by now a mass of angry hisses and threatening whispers; all clearly adamant on doing as much possible damage to the one responsible for their leader's disgrace.
Yunho had watched the whole display from his view-post, but as he saw the Beauty now; surrounded and terribly outnumbered, he knew that he could remain a silent audience no more.
Swords came down at him from all sides; they were cheap and badly crafted, but still sharp and deadly if used right. He succeeded in blocking the three blades aimed at him now with the length of his katana; one still managed to graze the fabric of his shirt though, and his arms screamed in protest when he pushed back against his opponents. They fell, but others came and took their places almost immediately. There seemed to be no end to them at all...
Looking through sweat-soaked bangs, Jaejoong took in big gulps of air. His mind racing almost as wildly as his heart. Was this really going to be his end? Killed by a pack of rats?
The answer came as a sudden and surprising presence behind him. He spun around quickly; expecting an ambush, only to be met with the rather familiar sight of the same tall, annoyingly handsome stranger whom he thought he had escaped from just a short while ago. What in the world was he doing here????
He didn't have much time to ponder the question though as new enemies came forward. And Jaejoong straightened; ready to meet them when he was suddenly grabbed and pulled to the side. And just in time too as moments later a sword-tip whistled passed his head; missing it by a hair.
“Don't worry, I got ya.” A voice whispered in his ear, and looking up, Jaejoong was met with a pair gentle brown eyes; smiling down at him from a small face. All surrounded by long, black hair held back in a loose ponytail; quite similar to his own.
“I thought I told you not to follow me,” Jaejoong hissed as they stood up together.
“'Not following you, just happens to be going the same way...” The still smiling stranger cut off his sentence just as he cut off the strike from an enemy who otherwise would have taken Jaejoong down from behind. “And besides, it seemed like you needed the help. Would have been quite the hassle having to bury you on my own after these guys were done with you...”
Jaejoong kept silent after that; quite impressed with the other's skill and (even though he would never admit it) also somewhat grateful for the unexpected help.
So back to back they stood; fighting; covering each other. Their movements fluent and perfectly in sync.
Like two halves of something, always meant to be whole....
It wasn't long before the wounded rat-leader called for retreat; clearly not wanting to loose anymore of his already decreased flock. And as quickly as they had come, the thugs scattered; several members and limbs shorter than when they came.
Yunho watched them run; a huge grin spreading on his face as an all-powering feeling of happiness took over his soul. Happiness at being reunited with the stranger once again, and happiness that they were both standing; unharmed and alive still.
He turned; eager to see that beautiful face again, and this time he meant to ask for the other's name; anything that would explain the wild flutter in his chest. But before he could utter a word, he was met with the sound of moving feet and could only watch as the Beauty ran from him again; so fast as if carried on the wind.
But this time the wind also carried something else with it. Words. Words that reached and touched Yunho like a physical caress:
“I still don't need a travelling partner... but if we're going the same way, I guess I can't stop you...”
And with that, Yunho was hot on his heels, (or should that be: “tail...?”^^)
They soon left the village completely behind in favour of the woodland. The forest looking beautiful and inviting in its lush greens; clad as it was now, in Spring.
Yunho was elated now that he had been allowed to tag along, but even with his long legs, he still had to struggle to keep up with the stranger. The Beauty was fast on his paws, that was for sure. They hadn't been travelling long through the forest though before Yunho noticed something... Every time he would fall behind a certain distance; normally at the point where they could barely see each other anymore, the Beauty would stop or at least slow down his pace somewhat, and then become particularly interested in his surroundings.
Suddenly a formation of clouds would catch his interest, and he would stop just to gaze up at them. He would pause to brush his palms against a large tree-trunk or crouch down to inspect a certain kind of flower on the forest-floor. Something he did for exactly the amount of time it took for Yunho to come within clear eyesight again.
Wasn't he just waiting for him, you might ask?
“Of course not!” would be Jaejoong's answer; should you ever get a chance to ask.
But we know better, don't we? ^^
Yunho found it hard to hide his joy; a smile now permanently plastered on his face as he watched the other's cute actions. And soon, he decided to play a little prank on the Beauty. Slowing down, he pretended to fall far behind on purpose and from his hiding-place behind a tree, he watched as first surprise and then actual worry was painted across the other's face. His big eyes wide open as they scanned the area, and he even ran back quite a long way; clearly in search of Yunho.
His mouth opened a few times, but then, as if he remembered not actually knowing the other's name, he would close it again, and instead caught his bottom-lip between his teeth.
Yunho could only stand to watch for a short while before he took pity on the Beauty and decided to come out. He peeked out from behind the tree-trunk; waving at the other and giving him his cutest smile. “Hey, missed me?” he tried.
But what he got for his efforts, was a glare so fierce it nearly burned, and then, without even wasting a word on him, the Beauty turned and walked away; his pace, if possible, now even faster than before.
“Now, that didn't go so well...” Yunho thought; smile now replaced by a pout. “But you're not getting rid of me that easy, Kitten. I'm not going anywhere.”
In the end, evening caught up with them, and when the sun finally lost its grip on the horizon, Jaejoong found and settled down by the foot of a giant, old oak. It had large branches while its canopy still gave a clear, beautiful view of the ocean of stars above. Yunho couldn't have chosen a better place to lay down for the night, and while he wisely chose the other side of the trunk to make a bed; keeping just that little bit of distance between them, he still made sure to stay within clear view of the other.
He might be a Man with his mind a bit in the clouds these days; (read: clearly he was smitten) but he wasn't a complete fool, and he had certainly learned his lesson from earlier....
A little while later when they both lay rolled up in furs, only a tree's width apart, a voice suddenly sounded in the dark. “Uhm... I-I should probably thank you... for helping me today, I mean. You have really great sword-skills...And... So...ah... Thank you...”
At the moment the other started speaking to him, Yunho had sat straight up; actually for a moment afraid that he was still asleep and it was all just a dream. “Ah! No problem, I was happy to help you,” he answered; hoping his voice didn't come out, sounding too loud; too excited. “You're quite the fighter yourself,” he continued; wanting to keep their conversation going for as long as possible. “I don't think I ever got to ask, what's your name? I'm Yunho. Jung Yunho.”
What followed was a long silence. So long that Yunho was quite sure he had messed up again somehow. “Pabo. Pabo. Yunho, you FOOL!” he was scolding himself when an answer finally came...
“I'm Jaejoong. Kim Jaejoong...”
“Jaejoong.” Yunho caught the name like a piece of gold, immediately trying the feel of it in his mouth. “Jaejoong... Jaejoong-ah... Jaejoongie....” His lips curled around it in a smile. So sweet. So very sweet. And the smile was still on his lips as he lay back down to sleep, his thoughts on the beautiful stranger.
A stranger who right from the start hadn't felt like a stranger at all. And now he had a name...