Fandoms: SS501, Super Junior, U-KISS
Pairings: KyuJong/YoungSaeng, KiBum/Kevin, TBA
Rating: PG-13, some chapters R
Warnings: Violence, angst
Summary: In a world destroyed by plague and war, it’s every man for themselves. To survive, a small caravan of misfits navigate through the remains of a civilization on death's door; where trust must be earned and closely-kept secrets could get them all killed
Back in the main room, conversation was quiet. YoungSaeng was still visibly annoyed, taking care of the smaller repairs that hadn’t been done since the attack like damaged clothing and broken tools. No one had the courage to tell him to relax for the night.
"Who’s on first watch?" Kevin asked JungMin rather than their leader. YoungSaeng was scary when he was in a mood.
"I'll take first watch, you kids find a place to sleep," JungMin said. "Try not to make too much noise?"
"Come on Kev, let's go," KiBum said, his cheeks visibly flushed as he took Kevin's hand to go up the stairs.
JungMin waited until the other two were gone before glancing over towards KyuJong, giving him a look. KyuJong nodded,, thankful YoungSaeng was focused on something else before getting to his feet. "Well I guess we'll turn in," he said, looking down at YoungSaeng.
"I want to get this finished," YoungSaeng said, not looking up as he worked. "I’ll be up in a few."
"Saeng," KyuJong crouched down in front of him, trying to look in his eyes. "We're probably going to be here for a bit, it can wait until the morning," he said before leaning up to whisper into the man's ear. "But I don't want to wait anymore."
YoungSaeng looked up at KyuJong, meeting the younger man’s eyes. After a moment he exhaled slowly and placed his tools aside, standing up. "All right."
"Night," HyungJoon watched them head towards the stairs.
"My same warning applies to you two as well," JungMin said as they started to climb up the stairs. "Keep it down up there."
"He acts like he's our father," KyuJong muttered, finding YoungSaeng's hand and walking with him. When they reached the top of the stairs, he pulled YoungSaeng towards one of the rooms that had its door open. The bed frame inside had long since broken away, and the mattress had seen better days, but it would do for the time being with a blanket over it. "So, RyeoWook didn't come out of the room, did you put the fear of YoungSaeng in him?" he said once the door was closed, resting his hands on YoungSaeng's hips.
"I wouldn’t put it that way," YoungSaeng wrinkled his nose. "I talked him down. I’m his boss, he can’t run away from me while I’m talking." He wrapped his arms loosely around KyuJong’s waist, looking up at him.
"But you have to admit when you're in boss mode, you can be very scary," KyuJong said, lips curling upwards. "I find it a little attractive myself, but I don't like how it affects you. You're running this caravan and all these kids are running you ragged."
"I don’t like having to be the scary boss," YoungSaeng shook his head. "The caravan elders always thought I was too soft for the position, I’d rather let people do their own thing at their own pace. But those two were never going to sit down and talk things out on their own, they’re too stubborn."
"Well that is the danger with people and free will, they can make some very poor decisions," KyuJong said. "For what it's worth, I think you made the right decision in giving RyeoWook a kick in the ass to get him going. I think he needed it."
"If I’d done it sooner, a lot of this mess might have been avoided," YoungSaeng frowned.
"Maybe, or maybe it would have ended worse, you never know," KyuJong said, leaning in to brush his lips over YounSaeng's. "You can't fix their problems for them, but at least you can tell them when they're acting stupid." Pulling back, he took both of YoungSaeng's hands in his own and started to walk backwards towards the mattress. "Now, how about we focus on our problem for once, and not theirs."
YoungSaeng followed after KyuJong, not looking away from the younger man. "Our problem? What would that be?"
"That I haven't had you alone in weeks," KyuJong said with a grin. "And I think you could really use some of my attention right now."
"You’ll distract me?" YoungSaeng’s lips curled as he stepped up to the edge of the bed. "It’s been a rough few weeks, sure you’re up for the challenge?"
"More than up for it," KyuJong chuckled, pulling YoungSaeng down onto the bed with him and immediately attacking him with kisses. KyuJong did his very best to distract YoungSaeng, and was rewarded with soft sounds and eager lips. Even when clothes came off, KyuJong didn't let the older man focus on the red spider veins crisscrossing his chest, not wanting to ruin the perfect moment.
It was nearing midnight, well after they should gone to sleep, and KyuJong lazily pressed kisses to YoungSaeng's neck and shoulder as they curled up together. "Well, I think I'm sufficiently exhausted now," he murmured softly against YoungSaeng's soft skin.
YoungSaeng hummed in agreement, wrapping the blanket tighter around them to ward off the chill. "I remember the first time we did this, you didn’t want to stay in the same bed after in case the others found out," he said, hand running slowly along KyuJong’s back. KyuJong’s soft hair tickled his nose. "You were so nervous about getting too close. Now we spend every night together."
"I was right about getting too close," KyuJong replied, looking up at him. "I fell so hard for you, so quickly. I wasn't expecting that at all."
"Does it still scare you?" YoungSaeng asked, hand lifting to brush locks of hair out of KyuJong’s eyes.
"A little," KyuJong said, leaning a little into the hand. "Zhou Mi may have saved me, but it's not forever. A couple years at most. I'll always have these scars to remind us of that. As happy as I am right now, knowing that I'll be putting you through that pain all over again, it's hard to bear."
"That’s still a couple years more of being happy with you than I would have had otherwise," YoungSaeng smiled down at him, thumb brushing KyuJong’s cheek. "And you make me very happy, Kyu yah."
"You make me happy too Saeng," KyuJong smiled, nipping at the thumb. "Are you thoroughly calm and distracted now?"
"Thanks to you, yes," YoungSaeng chuckled. "And ready to fall asleep. Are you warm enough?"
"Very warm, you're like my own personal fire to curl up against," KyuJong hummed, nuzzling into YoungSaeng's neck. "I love you Saeng."
"I love you too, Kyu," YoungSaeng closed his eyes, arms wrapping tighter around his boyfriend. He drifted to sleep with a smile on his lips.
JungMin hated being told what to do. Considering how often he took orders from YoungSaeng, he should be used to the idea and not kick up a fuss, but JungMin only liked taking orders if they were in agreement with his assessment of the situation. So when faced with an order he didn't like, he made it known he didn't like it. Usually in the most childish way possible.
"No," JungMin frowned at YoungSaeng, crossing his arms. "I don't care what you say, I'm not doing it."
"Yes you are," YoungSaeng stared the younger man down, one hand on his hip. "You have taken watch every single night for a week. Tonight, you are going to get a full night’s sleep and let the kids pick up some of the slack."
"But I'm fine, I get plenty of sleep," JungMin said, avoiding meeting YoungSaeng's eyes. "You really trust the kids will be able to do it? They'll probably pass out half hour in. Oh you will too you and know it," he countered KiBum who was voicing protest.
"The black circles around your eyes tell a different story," KyuJong said. "You look like you're dead on your feet."
"Says the half dead guy," JungMin rolled his eyes.
That was the wrong thing to say if JungMin had hoped to avoid YoungSaeng’s wrath. The caravan leader’s eyes narrowed and he reached down to forcefully haul the taller man to his feet by his shirt. Despite being shorter than all of them except for RyeoWook, he was plenty strong. "Park JungMin, either you go upstairs in the next five seconds and don’t come back down till dawn, or I will drag you up the steps myself," he said lowly.
Hands up, JungMin blinked a few times down at YoungSaeng, his eyes wide. "... Yes boss," he nodded dumbly. "Um... I'm sorry?"
"Go," YoungSaeng released the man’s shirt and pointed towards the stairs.
JungMin didn't even hesitate, grabbing his bedroll off the floor and walking quickly towards the stairs.
"He doesn't really think before he speaks, does he?" KyuJong said once JungMin was gone.
"Never did, never will," YoungSaeng sighed heavily. "KiBum, Kevin, you’re on watch tonight. No falling asleep." He saw HyungJoon quietly getting to his feet and picking up his bedroll out of the corner of his eyes. "Good night, HyungJoon."
Giving a start when he was caught, HyungJoon nodded. "…Night." He glanced at KiBum, more out of habit than out of concern, before turning to follow JungMin up the stairs.
Instead of having actually found a room, JungMin was waiting at the top of the stairs, arms crossed. "Figured I'd wait here before you stumble your way into the wrong room," he said, eyeing HyungJoon. "Unless you want to spend the cold night all by your lonesome?"
HyungJoon stopped when he reached the landing, adjusting his grip on his bedroll. "…Figured you’d want some company to gripe at," he countered. "After being scolded like a ten-year-old and all."
Wrinkling his nose at him, JungMin turned and headed down the hall to an empty room. "Maybe I'll just go find Zhou Mi, I don't think he'd make fun of me for getting yelled at."
"I wouldn’t know about that," HyungJoon followed after him. "The expression on your face was pretty funny."
"I'll remember that next time you get yelled at," JungMin muttered, dropping his bedroll on the ground. "Can't believe you're laughing at me."
"Not laughing. Do you hear any laughing?" HyungJoon stopped next to him, unrolling his own bedroll. "Why do you argue with him all the time?"
"You thought about laughing," JungMin said, kicking at his bedroll to unroll it. "I'll argue with anyone, you should know that by now. I argue with Saeng because someone needs to. Though honestly with the way RyeoWook was arguing with him yesterday, I have a bit of competition."
HyungJoon sat down on his bedroll, shivering a little at the chill now that they were away from the fireplace. "What happened with that, did you find out?"
"No, I'm not a gossip monger," JungMin said, going towards the window to look out. There was nothing but swirling snow and blackness. "Whatever it was, it was bad enough that Zhou Mi hasn't come out of the room he went and hid in."
"Must have been bad." HyungJoon watched JungMin, eyes lingering on his profile.
"Yeah, seems like it, but that's there business," JungMin shrugged, turning away from the window. "Long as no one gets pissy with Saeng again, or me, I don't care. And as long as they're doing their jobs. I wouldn't have cared about whatever was going on with RyeoWook and KyuHyun if Wook was doing what he was supposed to be doing. Wasn't fair to leave it all on Zhou Mi. You know, maybe it's just me, but it seems really weird that Zhou Mi reacted so badly. What's it to him? Unless KyuHyun like... hit him or something..."
"…Last I saw him, he couldn’t even hold a spoon straight," HyungJoon frowned. "I don’t think he’d have the energy to hit anyone, that injury is going to take a long time to heal. And we’re missing one of our best huntsmen until then." HyungJoon considered himself a great hunter, but KyuHyun with a bow in his hand put his hunting skills to shame.
"Honestly I doubt he'll be doing any hunting from now on," JungMin said. "We'll have to get the kids better trained so they can help." JungMin began to pace a little around the room, arms crossed. "I don't know how Saeng can expect me to just sleep like that. Those kids aren't ready to take on watch all by themselves."
"They’ve been on watch before," HyungJoon watched him pace. "Just usually balancing off one of us. The boss is right though, you need to get some solid sleep."
"And since when did you agree with YoungSaeng so much?" JungMin said, stopping in front of him. "I can't sleep. I'm too anxious. Sitting here like this, not moving for days at a time makes me really anxious."
"I’m not any happier about it than you are, but what choice do we have? Sit down," HyungJoon pointed at the space beside him.
"Everyone's so bossy lately," JungMin huffed, but sat down as instructed. "I'm the only one who's allowed to be bossy."
"I’d say YoungSaeng has more of a right than you." HyungJoon rolled his eyes. His gaze searched the room, not looking at JungMin. "It’s going to be freezing, you picked the room at the farthest side of the house and that window’s drafty. It…might…be warmer if we shared a bedroll."
"Oh?" JungMin's eyebrows went up at that and he looked at HyungJoon with a smirk. "You think so hm? Well I don't know, maybe I like being a little cold."
"You’ll complain all night, even more than you already are," HyungJoon refused to meet JungMin’s eyes. "But if you want to catch hypothermia, have fun." He shifted to get into his bedroll.
"But it's so cold Joon," JungMin pouted. "You wouldn't really let me freeze right?"
"…I offered, didn’t I?" HyungJoon pointed out, faint red appearing around the scarf he had taken to wearing even indoors.
"You did, I was just a little surprised," JungMin said, scooting closer. "It's not like you to offer to be close to me. It wasn't that long ago you would have punched me for being this close."
"You sound disappointed." HyungJoon looked up at him, rubbing his hands together a little to warm them up.
"Not at all," JungMin shook his head, folding his hand over HyungJoon's and tugging on him a little. "What could I possibly be disappointed about?"
"Half your fun seemed to be tormenting me," the younger man murmured, leaning in to brush his lips against JungMin’s lightly.
"Just trying to get you to smile," JungMin replied against his lips, leaning in for more. "Is it working?"
"I’ll tell you in a minute." HyungJoon kissed JungMin more firmly, eyes closing. His free hand rested against JungMin’s knee, helping him balance.
JungMin hummed a little into the kiss, sliding a supportive arm around HyungJoon's back. He had to admit he liked this more forward side of HyungJoon, it wasn't something he had seen from the younger man before. When he broke away to breathe, panting a little against HyungJoon's lips before trailing away to mouth against his jaw, he spoke softly into his ear. "Guess I'm not the only one who isn't ready to sleep?"
HyungJoon’s lips parted at the mouth against his skin, and he had to swallow before replying. "Couldn’t…sleep with you pacing around anyways." He tugged JungMin closer, seeming at a loss for what to do as his fingers ghosted over the folds and seams of JungMin’s jacket.
"Guess not," JungMin chuckled, nudging the man's scarf to the side to press his lips at a point on HyungJoon's neck. Shifting slightly, he dared enough to lay HyungJoon back on the blankets. "I think I know a way to tire us out enough for sleep," he whispered as his hand worked at the buttons on the bottom of HyungJoon's coat. "And warm us up as well."
"By taking off my coat?" HyungJoon asked, voice hitching a little. "Seems counterintuitive." There was a darkness in the younger man’s eyes that had never been there before though as he pulled JungMin back down into a deep kiss, fingers curling into his soft hair.
Not given much of a chance to reply, JngMin tilted his head slightly as he leaned more over HyungJoon. When he had all the buttons on the man's coat undone, he slid a hand down HyungJoon's torso to dip slightly under his shirt and curl round his side.
HyungJoon jerked slightly at the first touch of cool fingers against bare skin, more thanks to the sudden difference in temperature than anything. "Your hand’s cold," he mumbled when they broke the kiss to breathe, panting a little and face red as his fingers fumbled with JungMin’s jacket, pulling the zipper down.
"Good thing you're warm," JungMin said, pulling back enough to help remove the coat and tossing it to the side. His shirt also joined his coat in a pile on the floor before he leaned back down over HyungJoon. "I bet your hands are pretty cold too," he murmured, his eyes wandering up and down HyungJoon's face before he leaned in to kiss him again.
HyungJoon kissed him back but the action was more hesitant than before, the older Kim brother distracted. He pulled back after a moment, looking to where his hands had settled on JungMin’s bare shoulders. His gaze slowly lowered to the faded, black spider mark over JungMin’s heart. HyungJoon’s brow furrowed, fingers lightly ghosting over the damaged skin, unable to speak.
JungMin wasn't sure what was going through HyungJoon's head at that moment, but he had a pretty good idea. "Hey," he murmured, tucking his finger under HyungJoon's chin to draw his attention back up. "You can ignore it, I try to. It's easier that way."
"…I’ve never seen it before," HyungJoon said, looking up at him. "Not this close. How do you live with it?"
"We're all born with it, it's just a part of who we are," JungMin shrugged. "But we don't let it define us. Then it just makes life not worth living."
"I don’t think I understand," the other man replied quietly. "My whole life has revolved around who has it and who doesn’t."
"Joon, do you see me as JungMin, or just another person with the virus?" JungMin asked quietly.
HyungJoon frowned up at him. "I see you as JungMin."
"Then that's all that matters," JungMin said. "I don't care if you have a spot or not, all I've ever cared about is you. I know it's hard for you to believe that after everything you've been through. But being with you, right here, is all that matters."
"…I wish more people thought like you," HyungJoon murmured, leaning up to kiss him. "I still don’t understand why you decided to like me of all people, but I’m not going to question it."
"Don't sell yourself short," JungMin chuckled. "Once you stop glaring at people, you're kind of fun to be around."
That earned a small laugh against JungMin’s lips as HyungJoon pulled back. "I think you’re the only one who’d ever say that." He hesitated before his hands slid off of JungMin’s shoulders, going to his scarf and pulling it off his neck before squirming out of his coat. "We’re going to freeze."
"Nah, we'll keep each other warm," JungMin said, pulling back enough to rest his hands at the hem of HyungJoon's shirt. "Is this okay?" he asked, slowly pushing up on the fabric. "You can say if it's not."
There was an instinctive reaction to his shirt being pulled off, years of hiding their secret impossible to erase as HyungJoon drew back slightly from the older man’s hands. But he took a deep breath and nodded, gaze somewhere around JungMin’s shoulder rather than look him in the eyes. "…Yeah, it’s…it’s fine. It’s not like you haven’t already seen."
"There's a difference here though," JungMin said quietly, moving his head enough to look into HyungJoon's eyes. "If it gets to be not fine, tell me," he said as he pushed HyungJoon's shirt up a little more.
HyungJoon didn’t tell JungMin to stop though. It was probably a mark of how much he’d come to trust JungMin, even if he rarely voiced it, helping get his shirt over his head and off completely. Shivering at the chill, HyungJoon didn’t let JungMin focus on his chest and instead pulled him into another kiss.
For all his bravado and cheesy flirting, JungMin knew this was important enough to take his time and let HyungJoon be as comfortable as possible. He focused his attention on pretty much anywhere bt the empty space over HyungJoon's heart. There was no way to know how HyungJoon would react and JungMin was not about to fuck this up.
As cold as it was, JungMin barely felt it once the rest of their clothes had been tossed to the side, too engrossed in the feeling of HyungJoon's skin against his to care about the chill. He loved the little noises he managed to coax out of HyungJoon, smiling softly whenever their eyes met and pressing kisses to pieces of skin.
Of course, once the had wrapped themselves into the blankets as their heart slowed and their breathing evened out did the cold start to set in. "Whoever said the best way to stay warm is skin to skin contact was completely wrong," he murmured, attempting to burrow into HyungJoon's side as he shivered.
"I told you," HyungJoon replied, though there was no annoyance to his voice and instead a faint amusement. His hand slowly ran up and down JungMin’s side, nose buried against JungMin’s neck. "We should put our clothes back on, before one of us catches sick." He slowly shifted to sit up, trying to hide a wince as he pulled their discarded clothes closer.
"Since when did you get all logical," JungMin complained, whining at the loss of warmth. He begrudgingly sat up as well, pulling on his clothes as quickly as possible without having to get up. "Wanna know the real reason I didn't want the kids to take up watch tonight? Cause they get the fire downstairs while we freeze up here."
"We could have slept in the main room," HyungJoon pointed out, dressing just as quickly. Once he was done he scooted down into the bedroll and pulled JungMin down with him, settling against the older man.
"No, YoungSaeng sent me to my room like I was a little kid," JungMin complained. "Besides... don't think we would have done that down there."
"…No, I don’t think so." HyungJoon pinked, resting his head against JungMin’s shoulder. "See? Much warmer now that we’re not being idiots with no clothes on."
"Hey now, you don't to call me an idiot for wanting to be with you," JungMin grumbled, nudging at him. "We were plenty warm at first."
"At first." The younger man wrinkled his nose, leaning up to kiss JungMin and hopefully stop him from talking.
JungMin hummed in approval at the kiss, securing an arm around HyungJoon's waist. "I think I can sleep now, but if you keep doing that I'm not going to be able to," he murmured against the man's lips.
"If I’d let you keep talking you wouldn’t be able to either," HyungJoon replied softly. His free hand pulled the blanket up tighter around them, making sure JungMin wouldn’t be cold.
"It's my undeniable charm," JungMin said, closing his eyes. "No one can resist."
Lips quirking slightly, HyungJoon closed his eyes as well. It had probably been said in jest, part of JungMin’s constant flirting that he’d finally gotten used to, but there was more truth to that statement than he’d admit. He had been pulled in by JungMin’s personality and charm, coaxed into trusting when he’d sworn never to get close to anyone. Maybe it had been a mistake, but for once HyungJoon couldn’t bring himself to care.
The storm eased up the day after, and the caravan could finally get back on the road to the border. The short stop had done them well, but the group was itching to move on. Their goal of reaching China was within sight, though their journey was far from over. They still had to make it to Zhou Mi’s hometown.
They reached the river dividing China and Korea five days after, traveling alongside it until they found one of the few bridges still standing. After what happened last time they tried to cross a river, YoungSaeng was more than worried about this one.
"None of us are crossing if it doesn’t look stable," he said, drawing the caravan to a stop by the bridge’s edge. "We’ll find another bridge, no one’s ending up in the river."
"I'll test it first, and if it's sound then we'll go across single file," JungMin said. "That sound good to you boss?"
"…Just don’t fall in," YoungSaeng frowned, eyeing the bridge warily.
"I'm not going to fall in," JungMin said, nudging his horse in a walk towards the bridge. The bridge was definitely more sound than the first one they had crossed, and though it groaned and creaked, JungMin didn't think it was going to give way any time soon. He walked his worse down the full length of it before turning back towards the other side. "It's pretty sturdy boss, though I'm going to suggest some people double up on horses so there's not so much weight in the caravan."
YoungSaeng nodded, looking back into the caravan. There was no way to move KyuHyun to a horse yet. "Kyu yah, Wook, share horses with Joon and Zhou Mi."
"Yes sir," KyuJong said, hopping down off the bench. Of the two, HyungJoon was closer so KyuJong climbed up into the saddle behind him before RyeoWook had even emerged from the caravan. Once RyeoWook was out he blinked a bit, looking around until his eyes landed on Zhou Mi.
"Uh... can I just ride with JungMin?" he asked, looking up at YoungSaeng with hopeful eyes.
"If it's all the same, I'd rather just walk," Zhou Mi said, dismounting and leading the horse over. "He can have this one... I don't think she and I are getting along very well."
"... KiBum, go first while we get this sorted," JungMin sighed, waving KiBum towards the bridge. KiBum nodded, glancing at Kevin behind him as he started his horse across the bridge.
Kevin’s arms tightened around KiBum’s waist as they crossed, clearly remembering the close call last time. If the bridge collapsed now, would they be able to get across quickly enough? He listened to the structure creak and croak, but it wasn’t as intense and alarming as the last bridge. Glancing behind them as they reached halfway across the bridge, he could see HyungJoon had started to cross with KyuJong.
"Go on Wook," YoungSaeng wrapped the reins tighter around his hands, lips pressed together thinly as he tried not to focus too much on the drop between the bridge and the river. "We’ll be right behind you."
"Is it really a good idea to put him on a horse by himself, last time HyungJoon had to go chasing after him when he gave up," JungMin said.
"Why can't I just ride with JungMin?" RyeoWook frowned, eyeing the horse as he took the reigns and hauled himself up onto it. Not the best of riders, it took him a moment to get the mare to go the way he wanted it to, but got across the bridge without incident.
"I was hoping we were past his shit," JungMin said, looking at YoungSaeng.
YoungSaeng just sighed, shaking his head. "Not dealing with this on the middle of a creaky bridge. Are you leading us across, Min?"
"If that's what you want boss," JungMin said, taking the caravan horses lead line. "You'd better be able to keep up Zhou Mi, we're not waiting around once we're on the other side."
"I would think you'd wait for me, since I'm the whole reason for this venture into China," Zhou Mi said simply.
"We’re not going anywhere without you, just try not to fall in," YoungSaeng said, holding onto the reins tightly as they started across the bridge.
Thankfully they made it to the other side without problems. YoungSaeng drew the caravan to a stop to wait for Zhou Mi. "Continuing on this road will bring us to the next compound, Mi?" The caravan leader asked, looking down at the Chinese man.
"Yes, but it's quite far," Zhou Mi said, climbing up onto the bench of the caravan for a moment to rest. He wiped at the sweat that was forming on his brow. "Most of the towns this far were closed and the people brought to the larger cities by the army. The closest city from here is Shenan."
"Until KyuHyun has recovered enough to leave the caravan, we’re going to be relying on you when interacting with others," YoungSaeng frowned. "Unless by some miracle they speak Korean. Maybe some of us should learn Mandarin."
"I can teach some basic phrases, those that want to learn anyway," Zhou Mi said. "It's not as easy of a language as Korean is, so I will do my best to help translate."
"Wook, give him back his horse so we can go," JungMin said, seeing KyuJong was sliding down off the back of HyungJoon's horse.
"Gladly," RyeoWook said, hopping down and handing the reins off to JungMin who rolled his eyes.
"I just... need a moment to catch my breath if that's okay," Zhou Mi said, closing his eyes.
"That’s fine," YoungSaeng smiled. "Kevin, take the spare horse so we can keep moving," he called. "You do remember how to ride, right?" Kevin rarely had his own horse, choosing instead to stick with KiBum.
"Yes boss," Kevin flushed, climbing down off KiBum’s horse. "KiBum and I can learn Mandarin, could be fun!"
"Who said anything about me learning mandarin?" KiBum blinked at him.
"Like Zhou Mi said, we should all learn some phrases," KyuJong said, climbing up into the caravan. He took a seat behind the bench, avoiding disturbing Zhou Mi who looked a bit unwell. "Are you alright Mi? You look like you've got a bit of sunstroke."
"Hm? No, I'm fine," Zhou Mi shook his head as he opened his eyes. "Are we ready to go?"
"I am," JungMin said, releasing the spare horse reins to Kevin. "Joon, scout a bit ahead for us, I don't want to surprised out here."
"Aye," HyungJoon glanced back at them before setting out down the road. YoungSaeng waited for him to be far enough ahead, RyeoWook to get back in the caravan and Kevin to be settled on his horse before flicking the reins lightly, setting them moving.
"We’re across?" He heard KyuHyun’s voice back in the caravan; the archer had been asleep while they crossed the bridge but now that they were in China he was trying to sit up again, wincing.
"What are you doing? Stop that," RyeoWook pointed a finger at him. "Yes, we're in China. No, you can't get up."
"I can’t lie down any longer, I need to sit up for a bit," KyuHyun winced, one arm wrapped around his waist as he propped himself up with his other hand. "That bridge was bumpy as hell."
"Probably better in here than on the horse," RyeoWook said, moving to KyuHyun's side to help him. "You never want to listen to me. If you pull a stitch I'm not repairing you."
"You will, because you won’t want blood all over the blankets," KyuHyun exhaled shakily when he was helped to a proper sitting position, leaning back. "I always had these elaborate plans for what we’d do if you and I ended up in China one day. See the sights, try the food, stop you from stepping on any snakes…you know, fun stuff. And I can’t even get out of bed."
"Well apparently we're pretty far from the nearest town, so maybe by the time we get there, you'll be okay to walk around," RyeoWook. "But if you're going to be stubborn and do things you're not supposed to, you're going to take longer to heal. The sights can wait."
"I suppose." KyuHyun frowned a little, looking down at his legs. After a moment he shook his head a little and closed his good eye, leaning back. "What was the city’s name?"
"Um.. Shen... Shenyang? I think that's what he said?" RyeoWook frowned. "I've never heard of it before. Where did you and your family live?"
"We traveled, didn’t usually stay in a place for more than a couple months," KyuHyun replied, voice quiet. "Mostly around the coastline…there were some places we visited often though. Qingdao, Hangzhou… You would have liked Wuzhen, it’s a small water town in Hangzhou. Canals and boats right beside streets and caravans."
"Sounds neat," RyeoWook said. "Do you ever wish you'd never left? The way you talk about it sometimes... it never seemed like you were happy in Korea."
"I wasn’t happy in the compound," KyuHyun shook his head. "Been traveling my whole life. There’s beautiful things to see in Korea too, but you can never see them behind stone walls and iron gates."
"Yeah... but there's safety behind walls and gates," RyeoWook said, drawing his knees up to his chin. "Is it true that cities in China don't even have walls, they don't have to worry about bandits or thieves or anything?"
"There’s bandits and thieves everywhere," the younger man replied. "The difference is that where Korean compounds will watch each other burn and not lift a finger to help a stranger…the Chinese banded together. Cities support each other, when one’s low on food or dealing with pirates. Bandits would be mad to go after any of the cities."
"It's weird to think about," RyeoWook said. "When we're done here, no matter how it goes... are you going to come with us back to Korea?"
"I told you, I go where you go." KyuHyun opened his eyes when he heard a horse approaching the caravan. "What’s happening?"
HyungJoon had returned to them and was waving JungMin over, stopping by YoungSaeng. "There’s people up ahead," he said, eyes wide. "Don’t ask me how many, I stopped counting at fifty. They’re camping uproad a ways, tents as far as I could see."
"That many? What could they be doing?" JungMin frowned, glancing back down the road HyungJoon had come from. "Can we avoid them?"
"What were they wearing?" Zhou Mi asked, leaning forward slightly with his brow furrowed.
"All the same thing, camouflage," HyungJoon said, looking between Zhou Mi and YoungSaeng. "Full camouflage suits and caps. I don’t know if we can avoid them, there’s so many. I’ll have to scout a way around."
"It's the army," Zhou Mi said, sitting back. "I don't know why they would be this close to the border. I don't think we should have any problems with them, they don't usually harass travelers."
"Even travelers coming from Korea?" JungMin said. "Hold tight here Saeng, Joon I'm coming with you."
"Min, we’re moving off the road," YoungSaeng’s lips thinned as he glanced around, pointing towards a more covered area. "We’ll be waiting for you over there."
"What do we do?" Kevin asked, his horse prancing nervously.
"Stay close to the caravan and don’t do anything to attract attention, you’re far enough back from them but still." HyungJoon looked at KiBum as he said that before turning and heading back down the road.
"Be careful," KiBum called after them.
"You think we'll be able to get around them?" JungMin asked, glancing at HyungJoon when he caught up. "If Mi says it's an army... I can deal with bandits, but an army?"
"They took up a lot of space, we’re going to have to make a large detour," HyungJoon replied, frowning. "Maybe there’s a side road we could take on the other side of this wooded area."
"Let's hope any side road is good enough to take the caravan down," JungMin said. "Last thing we need right now is to break a wheel because the path is too uneven. I'm hating this whole trip more and more every day."
"We made it this far, can’t turn back now," HyungJoon glanced at JungMin before leading the way into the woods, finding a small path. "I’ve never seen an army before."