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It’s like having his muscles slashed by dozens of serrated blades, scraping his organs constantly and at the same time, forcing them to shiver painfully against his will. The electrical currents come in bursts of three seconds, followed by three seconds of respite, and repeat.

 

Both the boys have their naked bodies crucified against a wooden cross, nails driven through palms, their torsos and limbs restrained by razor sharp wires that dig into their skin. The blood from their wounds have dried out already. And if that isn’t enough to restrain them, their wrists are cuffed and chained to the walls as well. Both the cuffs and the wires are the things serving as conductors for the electricity, which is coming from a source outside.

 

Shu has already lost track of the number of bursts a long time ago. There’s no way to tell time from this place since there are no windows, and only a couple of sunseeds to function as lights for them. Shu’s nose has already grown numb to the smell of charred flesh. If this keeps up for too long, he knows that he’ll go mad from the agony and despair, tormented by thoughts that the torture will never end.

 

“Shu... can you... hear me...” Song whispers, interrupted by the shocks.

 

It takes a while for those words to register in Shu, five bursts worth. Like every part of his body, Shu’s brain only works in intervals of three seconds.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I’m... sorry...”

 

“This again?”

 

Song’s breathing becomes ragged for a moment, but after a couple of bursts, he manages to calm himself down. The electrical torture isn’t just a physical test; it’s a mental one as well. One has to be attuned to the rhythm of the shocks. Panic for a moment and lose your rhythm, then fear seeps in, which will then take a toll on your sanity, so focus is vital. But still, Song is choosing to speak at a time like this. Whatever he’s trying to say, it must mean a lot to him.

 

“After this... we’ll... get out... of here...”

 

Shu takes several bursts to connect his thoughts.

 

“Here?”

 

“The... Blossom...”

 

“This again?”

 

Song remains silent. For a moment, Shu believes that Song is just saying his usual stuff again about running away.

 

“This… time…” Song suddenly says. “I will…” He then hisses as the next shock catches him off guard. “I… mean it…”

 

Shu’s pupils roll towards Song. The boy’s eyes are distant, his thoughts far beyond the wires and chains and voltage intruding his vessel. But it’s not a look of despair. Song doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘weakness’. The fire still burns bright in eyes. Hatred, grudge, but beneath all of those dark emotions, there’s something else as well.

 

“They will… make us… kill Rei…” Song’s features tighten. “I will… not let…”

 

Shu snorts, almost scoffing. How foolish can this boy get? Despite everything, his concern is still on that stupid, bratty wolf boy who’s probably snuggling under the sheets of his warm bed, in the safety of his room at the inn. Why is Song always so short-sighted when it comes to everything, and only long-sighted when the world is burning to ashes around them? What an idiot. A complete moron. Pork buns for brains.

 

And even then, he still loves this part about him, so very much. He’s such an idiot only because he cares.

 

“You… really… are a... fucking idiot…”

 

This time, it’s Song’s turn to snort a laugh. “Yeah.”

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

When the hunger started settling in, he could feel the pain getting stronger. Shu isn’t sure whether it’s his resistance falling, or that they’ve actually increased the voltage. Well, it doesn’t matter at this point.

 

The torture continues for days. Shu knows that four days have passed. Apparently, they’ve given some time to sleep after each day of torture. Shu isn’t sure how long, since he’d lose consciousness the moment the shocks stop. In fact, he wouldn’t have known that they’re actually given sleep time if it hadn’t been for Song telling him. He even said that they were injected with water in the middle of the night by a Purger Apprentice, for hydration. Song’s awareness is much higher than his right now, that’s for sure. After all, in terms of physical ability, Song has him beat in every aspect hands down.

 

By now, Shu is beginning to hallucinate. Memories of his childhood flash by. By the age of one, he was paired with Song. Though he doesn’t remember much of those years, he remembered that Song was one of the quietest boys he knew in the Shadow Palace.

 

At the age of three, they were already forced into training in the Palace. He remembers the days where they’d be whipped if they so much as slowed down during their endurance runs. He remembers the first time he was trained to fight, he failed to learn a technique before the sun had set. Unlike Song, he was no prodigy when it came to killing, or combat in general.

 

For that failure, he was denied of dinner for the night. He walked back to his room and huddled alone in silence, hoping that by hugging his knees against his stomach, he could stop it from growling. The door to their room slid open, and to his surprise, it was the strange silver-haired boy, holding a small wooden box meant to contain soy sauce. Song must’ve stolen it from the kitchen. He offers the box to him, and within it is rice, filled to the brim.

 

Shu cried. On that day, it was the first time in his life where he felt truly cared for by someone in this cruel world. On that day, he fell in love with the silver-haired boy.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

The shocking stops. Shu can feel the soreness clamping down on his muscles again. As the sharp pains begin to dull, hunger blooms in his stomach, followed by an overwhelming sense of fatigue like before.

 

Divine Qhelios... protect us...

 

Shu doesn’t even have the strength to whisper a curse anymore. It’s ironic but he wishes the shocks would continue. Right now, the starvation and the fatigue is even more torturous than the shocks.

 

“Shu.”

 

He hears it, but already his eyelids are drooping.

 

“Please… are you there?”

 

He’s not sure whether it’s his consciousness slipping, or that Song’s voice is sounding a lot weaker, a lot more hushed than it was yesterday. Perhaps it’s both.

 

“What?” Shu manages weakly, that single word robbing him of perhaps half his reserves.

 

“I just… wanted to hear your voice, that’s all.” Song coughs. Then, he rattles the chains slightly. Shu is impressed that he still has the strength to even move his impaled hands. “We’re almost there.”

 

Shu can only muster a soft “mmh” to answer his partner. Despite his exhaustion, hearing Song’s voice is equivalent to an angel speaking to him. It’s the voice of hope.

 

“Please…” Shu whispers, his voice strained. “Don’t stop… talking…”

 

Song snorts a laugh. “Still hanging on, huh? That’s my partner for you.”

 

Shu grunts to acknowledge his remark.

 

“You know, I saw us again,” Song says. “Our childhood days.”

 

Huh. What a coincidence.

 

“I was honestly really scared when I first came to the Palace. The only thing I remembered before our training as Initiates… was you.”

 

Shu swallows hard, his saliva struggling to roll down his parched throat. “Same here.”

 

“That’s good.” The silver-haired boy smiles softly. “You were everything to me. I was scared, and lost, but I knew I had you at least. Even as Initiates, no matter how hard the training was, knowing I had you by my side was enough to keep me going.”

 

Being this mushy is quite uncharacteristic of him. It’s not as if Song is a dispassionate person, but he’s not usually this sentimental. Something must’ve gotten into him.

 

“I wasn’t good with words, but you understood how I felt anyway. You knew what I wanted even when I was too shy to ask for it, and you gave it to me. How you held me close during cold winter nights… how you gave me the best parts of the pigeons we caught… you cared for me like how a mother would. You’re the most beautiful person I know, inside and out.”

 

“Shut… up…” Even in this wretched state, Shu can tell that the blood is rushing to his cheeks. He never knew Song was such a sweet talker.

 

“The hell is this? You were the one who told me to keep talking.” Song chuckles softly. “Seriously… it’s so hard to tell what you want sometimes. Then again, you were always like this. It’s like… I’m already used to being the selfish one, and you the selfless one.”

 

“Sounds about right.”

 

Silence befalls the chamber again. It’s as quiet as a tomb- a fitting simile considering the circumstances. Shu isn’t quite ready to die yet though. There’s still so much that he wants to see, so much that he still wants to do with his beloved partner. If only he had more strength…

 

“You make hell worth going through. You’re more than just a partner to me, Shu,” Song says, the strength waning from his voice already. “So please hang on for a little more. I can’t lose you yet.”

 

Fatigue, once more, clenches Shu in its inescapable fist. He’s at his limit. But even then, he continues to fight. He has to, in order to deliver Song that last bit of precious breath left in him.

 

“I will.”

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About the author

Miuu

Bio: Pen name: Han Sung Chul

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