you were the shadow to my light - Chapter 1 - styx_stxrs - 방탄소년단 | Bangtan Boys (2024)

Chapter Text

Shadows are quite the topic.

Being the notorious Prince of the Shadow Kingdom, it’s only fitting that Jungkook knows as such.

He hears the whispers, carried by haze and ash across from the other six Kingdoms. He sees the glares, the stares levelled in his direction whenever he travels — even across his own Kingdom. They all hold one question: What exactly can he do?

Normally, he’s grown to deal with them. But today, the stares are especially pronounced, especially arid and harsh; as if trying to provoke a reaction out of him.

Shadows thrive in cold environments. They curl over frozen obsidian, waltz in the glint of ice, flicker in the presence of molten lava.

“Blessed Aether,” the King of the Aether Kingdom says, and Jungkook doesn’t miss the steely gaze held in his eyes. A challenge, he’s been taught. A snake in the bushes, waiting for ambush, for prey to take bait. “We are … honoured to be here.”

He glances, quite obviously, around the Throne Room. The Court of Shadows is draining as always, darkness present in every corner, curling and misting in the air in a way that only magic can.

“Likewise,” the King of the Spiritual Kingdom agrees, somewhat stiffly. “It is a true pleasure to be able to take in your majestic Court with our own eyes.”

Jungkook thinks that if there’s any more unspoken tension in the air, he’ll be able to slice through it with a dagger of shadows.

Slowly, reluctantly, the Kings of the Fire, Light, Water and Earth Kingdoms offer and return their greetings as well. Jungkook’s mother sits proper and rigid, her aura less of the supposed mother and more of a cold, queenly demeanour. She is beautiful in a way nightshade would be; deadly and breathtaking. Jungkook’s father allows the grim semblance of a smirk to twist his lips, as if relishing in the power he holds over all Six other Kingdoms.

All Shadow Sorcerers share the unmistakable appearance traits — pale, almost bloodless skin, blood-red lips, striking and predatory eyes. Dark hair is the commonality among their kind, as is a tendency to be silent and stealthy rather than flashy and flamboyant, dangerous as an agile-footed assassin. No doubt that’s what sets them apart from the rest of the Kingdoms, a mixture of fear and resentment.

Not like the Shadow Kingdom hasn’t given them a reason for fear.

Jungkook can barely remember a life outside of the Seven Kingdoms, but he’s aware that it existed. The Shadow Sorcerers haven’t always been inhabiting their lands that they now rule over; Jungkook is told that when he had still been very young, all of them had been dwelling in a far-off land, until one day — Jungkook’s father had decided to leave their homeland and seek greater lands. Jungkook is taught that their homeland, at that time, could not sustain them any further, and that’s why they moved; but he knows better. He isn’t the most shrewd of people, but he knows that his father, cold-hearted and power-hungry as he is, moved for his own benefit — for his own ideation of power.

After what he’s told is months, even years of travel, they had arrived at their new lands — which had been inhabited at that time by the Six Kingdoms of Aether, Spirit, Fire, Light, Water and Earth. And what happened next is something that still makes bile rise in Jungkook’s throat and a cold curdling shudder in his stomach.

A war — no, more like a massacre, for the side of the Six Kingdoms. The Shadow Sorcerers were outnumbered, but they held the upper hand. Shadows have always been the most diverse of powers, the most versatile and resourceful. And the Shadow Sorcerers put it to use — whether good or bad, Jungkook doesn’t want to know.

Jungkook, trained by his father, had been forced to fight. His father claims it’s for his own good, that it’s because he’ll one day succeed his throne and he wants to make sure he’s prepared to be a good ruler from young.

His fights have roamed from significant charges to small raids or spying missions. Jungkook’s affinity has always been his abilities to travel with shadows and manipulate them to his will. Such a power, he is told, is rare and unmatched, and he can’t let it go to waste — or, at least, he won’t be allowed to.

So, at the young age of eighteen, Jungkook has seen many wars, contributed significantly to many fights. It’s no wonder the other six Princes of the Kingdoms are glaring so belatedly at him.

Jungkook knows that the former King of the Spiritual Kingdom had fallen during one of his battles. That the Shadow Sorcerers had wiped out half of the Light Kingdom’s population before their surrender. That, during their incessant charges against the Fire Kingdom’s core, they had shaken and crumbled structures and volcanoes that had stood for centuries as sacred. That their corrupted essence had crawled into and infected the Aether Kingdom’s pure, untangled spirits, dirtying their sacred atmosphere for years to come.

He knows he’s been the cause of one of the Earth Kingdom’s most significant ruptures in centuries. During one of the raids, in an attempt to dissuade their forces from persuading their successful retreat, Jungkook’s fear had taken control and his shadows had lashed out — wild, unbridled. The ground had opened, rumbling and crackling as rocks that had always stood strong and unmoving broke and a huge chasm had opened up, reeking of shadows and darkness and corruption. All the forces that had fallen in the chasm fell to their deaths in the inky depths, or that’s what Jungkook had been forced to accept, since none of them had responded or given a signal that they had been alive.

He also knows that the clash of elements between Shadow and Water had caused massive tsunamis and corrupted beings to emerge from the depths of dark water. He’s witnessed the horrifying effects of them first-hand; how, during a clash between his father and the King of the Water Kingdom, a terrifying rumble had shaken all their forces, and a massive tsunami had risen and crushed over the Water Kingdom. Jungkook knows how much of a huge disgrace it is for an element of their own control to turn upon them, and he can’t blame them — can’t blame any of the Kingdoms, in fact — for hating them.

He knows the problem has been them, and it’s always been them.

Shadows are dirty, corrupt. They seep their essence into whatever organism they can take hold of and hang on despite everything the other being does, and eventually, shadows are the cause of their imminent demise.

Eventually, the war slowed to a stop. The Six Kingdoms had rallied to fight back, but not before the Shadow Kingdom had established a firm grip on the lands. They carved an area from each of the Six Kingdoms to form their own in the very centre, casting a spell — a curse — over all Six Kingdoms. The power of shadows hung like a gloomy veil over the skies, clouding the light and weaving threads through the clouds. The air grew cold, so unbearably so that the Waters had frozen over and all the plants and herbs withered and died.

The Six Kingdoms managed to pack the curse into one single season, Winter. But Jungkook’s father had sent out a warning to all Six Kingdoms, promising bigger and better curses until they yielded. He promised to lay off siege to all Six Kingdoms, but each Kingdom would have to fulfil his condition.

Which leads Jungkook to today.

The Shadow Kingdom had sent out invitations under a flag of truce, inviting all Six Kingdoms and their Princes to join Jungkook’s parents in a tense meeting to discuss terms of a truce treaty. The demand?

The Prince of the Shadow Kingdom was to be set in an arranged marriage with the Princes of the Aether, Spiritual, Fire, Light, Water and Earth Kingdoms. A seven-way marriage, more sinister plans hidden snugly beneath a guise of truce.

Which meant that Jungkook is to marry all Six other Princes.

His mother has already set him to learning more about the other Kingdoms and their Princes he is betrothed to.

He knows Prince Yoongi of the Aether Kingdom. Yoongi had been a significant part of the stand of the Aether Kingdom, being an Aether Alchemist of unmatched ability. He possessed many talents ranging from warping reality to summoning celestial-like powers from the sky, such as striking with lightning bolts. Jungkook himself had witnessed Yoongi’s presence in battle, and that had been one of the only stands where the Aether Alchemists had been able to push the Shadow Sorcerers back. Yoongi is described to be quiet and straightforward, strategically talented and quick-witted beyond his years. Despite his seemingly cold exterior, he’s well-loved by his people for his rumoured secretly soft heart to those he allows to get close.

Prince Jimin of the Spiritual Kingdom is a more complicated matter. The abilities of a Spiritual Seer are infinitely less defined and more vague, ranging from mind control to short clips of the future. Jimin is rumoured to possess all of their possible abilities. Jimin’s presence in battle is graceful as a hummingbird and quick-footed like a fairy; he’s light on his feet, fights like he is dancing, his form so impressive and silently rallying even Jungkook has to admire his sheer strength. Jimin’s more slender and shorter figure makes him a perfect counterpart for his powers, able to cleanse the power of even Jungkook’s father’s shadows. If Jimin had not been in a faraway battle of distraction, Jungkook’s almost sure his father wouldn’t’ve been able to successfully kill the former King of the Spiritual Kingdom.

Prince Taehyung of the Fire Kingdom is well-known and beloved for his skills and personality. To those closest to him, Taehyung is said to be a playful, mischievous boy. In battle, his presence is intelligent and fiery, as intense as the powers he possesses. Fire Faes are what make up the Fire Kingdom, and Taehyung is said to be the most capable of his generation — maybe even beyond his generation. Besides the obvious pyrokinesis he has a wide range of control over, he’s occasionally even able to summon Fire Familiars of any shape or form and fire-related natural disasters. During a desperate clash for one of the last-standing Volcanic Forges in the Fire Kingdom, Jungkook has witnessed first-hand Taehyung’s destructive power; with a scream, he had unleashed an entire volcanic eruption upon the forces of the Shadow Kingdom, raining lava and molten rock across their Sorcerers until they had been forced to retreat.

Prince Hoseok of the Light Kingdom is what Jungkook undoubtedly knows that his relationship will be the most strained with. The natural opposition of Shadow is Light — the absence of rays, and the presence of it. Because of their vast magic differences, Light Lucents are among the most of the casualties in the war. The Light Kingdom had had the least population among the Kingdoms even before the war, much less after it. Hoseok is a Light Lucent of undeniable talent, able to manipulate light to his will and for any of his purposes. Jungkook hasn’t faced him off in battle before, but he’s heard stories of Sorcerers stumbling from the battlefield barely hanging on to life of the Prince’s extraordinary abilities and prowess, of how he had been able to conjure a spear of pure light and strike it down upon their forces or turn himself into a glowing manifestation of light burning up any Shadow Sorcerers coming near him.

Prince Seokjin of the Water Kingdom had been renowned for his unparalleled beauty before the war. His Kingdom proudly proclaimed both his looks and his abilities, his fiercely loving and flexible personality matching perfectly with his great water abilities. He’s able to manipulate any liquid containing water to his will, communicate seamlessly with creatures of the deep, and harness both the healing and destructive forces of water for his own wills. In fact, the tsunami caused during one of the Shadow Sorcerers’ clashes with the Water Warlocks had only been stopped by Seokjin’s timely intervention, summoning his own water to combat the tsunami that threatened to crush their own forces. His presence in battle is both calming and unsettling; he’s a force to be reckoned with, uncontainable and deadly just like water itself.

Lastly, Prince Namjoon of the Earth Kingdom had been a born leader and a prodigy from a very young age, and he continues to be and has been through the war. Serving as his father’s key strategist, Namjoon had done a very good job of protecting his Kingdom from the Shadow Sorcerers until Jungkook’s infamous … chasm-causing incident. Even then, Namjoon’s fury had allowed him to manipulate the ground around the chasm to lessen the damage it had caused. Namjoon’s earth-manipulating abilities are widely proclaimed as the best of the Earth Enchanters. He’s able to communicate with animals roaming earth and even summon plants that entangle or trap anyone passing by — and that’s just the beginning of his prowess. Namjoon’s one of the most intelligent of his generation, a born commander on the fields and a prodigious Enchanter. He’s able to brew potions and has memorised all their recipes, even the potions he’s invented his own. The Earth Kingdom had been the quickest to bounce back from the war, and Jungkook has no doubt that Namjoon had been the reason why.

Which brings Jungkook back to his present situation: standing as steady as he can beside his father’s throne, staring right back at the Six Princes who are glaring without any attempt of hiding their scorn at him.

Jungkook is a lot of things, but dumb or naive isn’t any of them.

Shadows are cunning and manipulative. They curl into your mind, invade your defences, whisper conniving plans. No matter; in the end, they work for themselves. They are a selfish force, a force willing to do anything to get what they want, and they’re not afraid to show it.

Jungkook knows, very well, that there are hidden motivations behind the tense meeting and proposals.

Of course, he knows his father’s plans best. He’s heard of his discussions with his mother already, of the hushed whispers when they think he’s either not listening or not there. Because Jungkook’s father had taught him how to manipulate and harness his powers, and he’s going to put them to good use.

He hides in the shadows and listens as they discuss. He knows that his father plans to have the Six Princes killed — a danger to their future plans, he hears him saying. Too powerful and intelligent to let live, and so the guise of an arranged marriage is the perfect time to strike. Killing many birds with one stone, that’s what it’s called.

But Jungkook’s also not stupid, and he knows that if all Six Kingdoms have agreed just like that, they must have an ulterior plan too.

He’s not too bothered by his parents’ plan — he’s far used to the bloody unfairness and fouls happening in a strife or war. He’s not even too affected by the fact that the Six Kingdoms may hold a plan to wipe out the Shadow Sorcerers, whatever it might be. He might just even thank them for doing so.

Jungkook’s just … tired, and he doesn’t want to feel tired any longer.

So, whichever side can offer him the peace he wants, he’ll side with.

He’s snapped out of his thoughts when his father mentions his name. “—and I’m sure you have seen my son in less — less, ah, diplomatic situations,” his father is saying, “but we have not properly introduced him, have we not? Jungkook, step forward, please.”

He’s aware of all the resentful glares on him as he obeys his father, offering a curt bow before stepping back. “Greetings,” he says, albeit stiffly.

His father, apparently satisfied, turns back to the Kings and Princes of the Six Kingdoms. “Is there anything else that needs to be discussed?”

While the Kings continue to interact, Jungkook sees the glares the Six Princes are aiming at him. He meets one of their stares squarely, and he sees Prince Min Yoongi’s unwavering glower in his direction. Beside him, Prince Kim Taehyung and Prince Park Jimin are converging in whispers that carry across in resentful, angry tones. Prince Kim Namjoon is staring just like Min Yoongi — hate, anger, bitterness, but no fear. Prince Jung Hoseok’s gaze is cold, devoid of emotion; his face is stony, a far cry from the ray of sunshine he is said to be. And Prince Kim Seokjin carries himself with a dignified, unveiled disgust, clearly distasteful and distrusting of his surroundings.

“In four days’ time,” his father is saying, “the marriage will be implemented. As a show of our hospitality, we cordially extend an invitation for all Six Princes to stay in the Palace for the marriage. They will be able to contact or visit their own Kingdoms as they please, but it is our tradition for grooms to remain in our place of power.”

His father’s invitation is carefully worded. Jungkook knows him well enough to see that it isn’t a request; more of a demand.

Evidently the rulers of the Six Kingdoms can see as much. “Much gratitude,” the King of the Earth Kingdom says, but there’s a hidden warning in his tone. “We are honoured to be able to witness your traditions and partake in them.”

And, if that’s even possible, the tension in the room grows, until Jungkook can gag on the sickly pretence of politeness.

The days leading up to the arranged marriage are anything but relaxed.

Jungkook’s parents have more of their secret ‘meetings’, where Jungkook overhears or eavesdrops on their plans for the Six Princes. Reports from the other Kingdoms come back about the Six Kingdoms engaging in a private meeting, and Jungkook’s sure it’s to discuss their plan to overthrow the Shadow Kingdom. His father is complacent, perhaps worryingly so; he remains that the Shadow Sorcerers cannot be overthrown, and he isn’t accepting anything otherwise.

And Jungkook is just so, so tired.

He spends the days being trained to harness his powers and the nights eavesdropping on plans. He’s world-weary, and he has no intention of intervening in any of the plans being put into action. He’ll just watch the two sides fight it out. And if he gets struck down in the crossfire, he’ll be all too happy to relinquish his presence on earth.

Shadows are numb, draining. Creeping in and settling like heavy yolks of hopelessness on your bones. They latch onto your skin, feeding off your emotions until you’re a drained husk of what you used to be, until you’re a walking vassal for their free use.

In Jungkook’s free time, he practises summoning his shadow familiar. It’s a bunny, a rabbit he’s named Bam — his father disapproves of his familiar, insisting on something more menacing or intimidating, but frankly, Jungkook doesn’t give a f*ck.

He’s just tired of being used as a weapon. Of being a power utilised by his father in dire situations. He’s tired of being controlled.

Bam is a happy little familiar, looping and frolicking around the Palace until Jungkook calls it to attention. It’s adorable and perhaps the only reason Jungkook hasn’t snapped yet. Bam has a grounding presence, and Jungkook can’t bear the thought of his familiar being even in remote danger.

Everyone knows a familiar is a sorcerer’s best friend. A familiar has an instinctual understanding of the sorcerer’s interests at heart. They are able to sense their sorcerer’s emotions, comfort and keep the sorcerer company, and enhance the sorcerer’s skills during battle.

It’s with a heavy heart and a mind still fresh from playing with Bam that Jungkook wakes up on the morning of the fourth day to the announcement that the Six Princes will be arriving later that day to sign the marriage contract that will bind their fates together.

His father wants Jungkook’s appearance to be perfect, the balance between looking unattainable and looking beautiful. Jungkook’s always taken more after his mother, whose cold beauty had been what caught his father’s eye in the first place, and when he looks in the mirror after a few hours of fuss, he can’t deny their obvious resemblance.

His hair is tousled and midnight black, each little curl styled impeccably. His skin, naturally pale as always, is dusted with just the slightest bit of rouge, and the subtle eyeshadow makes his eyelashes and eyes stand out. His lips, already naturally red, are just a little glossed over with a bit of lipstick, and he’s dressed in a black-and-red suit that accents his slender figure and long legs. The overall effect is what Yugyeom, his best friend and the only noble’s son he can stand, had pronounced as “f*cking tasty”. Although the choice of language would be frowned upon, Yugyeom has never cared for maintaining much of an image, so he doesn’t bat an eye to the disapproving stares sent his way.

“I’m serious, Jungkookie,” Yugyeom says to him. “You look like a whole-ass meal. They sure knew what they were doing when they dressed you up.”

The first to arrive is Prince Hoseok. By then, Jungkook is already dressed and ready in the Court of Shadows, and Hoseok’s eyes narrow just a slight bit when he catches sight of Jungkook. Hoseok is dressed impeccably, strawberry-blonde hair styled to perfection, clad in a suit tailored specially for him. Jungkook would be lying if he said Hoseok didn’t look beautiful, even if said man is still glaring at him.

The next to arrive is Prince Namjoon, followed closely by Prince Seokjin. Both are dressed in suits — Namjoon’s an emerald green, Seokjin’s a glimmering blue. Namjoon’s dark hair complements his suit and colour set perfectly, and Seokjin’s is much the same.

Prince Taehyung and Prince Yoongi arrive together. Prince Taehyung’s dark curls and fiery suit make for a beautifully intimidating image, and Prince Yoongi’s beautifully designed suit and perfect hair adds to his ethereal aura.

Seven different Princes, seven different powers. The aura is almost overwhelming.

Shadows are fierce and unyielding. They do not give, even in the face of light. They chase, and chase, and chase, and they never stop. They are relentless. They are beasts, weapons, antagonists. Anything but a hero.

The marriage ceremony itself is already awkward enough. They step up one by one, sign the contract, recite ancient lines. All of them opt to stay quiet and they make little to no attempt at conversations, casual or otherwise.

Finally, the officiants are over; servants escort the Six Princes to the section of the Palace built for them with Jungkook leading.

“You will reside in this section of the Palace,” says one of the servants, “as instructed by the King. Prince Jungkook will stay in his chambers, but he is free to visit any time he wants. We shall take our leave now, by order of the King, for further bonding to take place. You will be notified when it is time for meals or events. Should you need any assistance, call and we shall answer. The shadows are always listening.”

With that, the servants bow and usher the Seven Princes into the uninhibited section. Then the great doors rattle shut and Jungkook turns to face six stone-faced Princes whom he’s now supposed to call husbands.

For a long time, no one bothers to speak.

Jungkook can confidently call it the most awkward moment he’s ever been involved in.

His heart has started to beat faster, much to his chagrin. Why is he so afraid? He tries his best to keep his expression indifferent.

Shadows are cold, ruthless, uncaring. So long they get what they come for, they don’t care who lives or who dies. They take and take and never give.

“I’m sorry,” he eventually offers up, breaking the thick silence that has settled on all of them. “I know all of you probably hate me, seeing as we didn’t meet on the best of terms.”

He ignores the audible scoffs that greet his words; distinctively he can hear Taehyung mutter mutinously, “Yeah, right.”

“I don’t want you all to have to get along with me,” Jungkook continues. He’s surprised his voice is as steady as it is, given how much his heart is twisting in his chest. “You can all continue to hate me if that’s what you want. I won’t stop you. I can’t blame you, after all.”

“Damn right you can’t,” Hoseok says, loud enough for everyone to catch it distinctively this time.

Ah. It’s not going worse than Jungkook has anticipated, but it isn’t going particularly well, either.

“Well,” he says after a brief pause. “The only good thing about the Shadow Palace you’ll find is its facilities. You’re free to use all of them. Maybe…” Jungkook shrugs listlessly, his heart dropping lower and lower into his chest. “I can even persuade my father to stop tailing you every time.”

“Your father tails us?” Yoongi asks, quite suddenly and sharply. Jungkook flinches a little at his tone, and he can tell that they’ve noticed.

Damn their sharp eyesight.

“Shadows,” Jungkook opts to answer, waving a vague hand in the air. “We are one with the shadows. Where shadows dwell and fester, where we can be also. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen excessive amounts of shadows around … around everywhere, really.”

He can tell it’s new information, if the way Namjoon’s eyes narrow is something to go by. “And your father is okay with you telling us this information?”

“He doesn’t know,” Jungkook shrugs. “It’s not like he’ll give a damn, in any situation. He’s got it in his head that he’s controlling all the situations around here, so it’s quite difficult to get information past his ego.”

He sees eyes widen and jaws slacken at his rather bold declaration. Instantly, he can feel a prickle at the back of his neck.

Behave, a voice whispers in his head. Don’t say any more.

The shadows curl a little where they’re spread out across the chambers.

His heart, if possible, drops even more. There’s a little tightening in his chest, just discreet enough for him to notice.

And bless Bam’s little heart, his shadow familiar notices his distress and manifests out of nowhere, bounding up to him and nuzzling against his knee in an unmistakably affectionate way. He can feel the gazes sharpening, the way their unfaltering eyes burn into his body.

“I’ll just … go now,” Jungkook says awkwardly. He scoops Bam up and the doors automatically open for him. He can feel the unwavering stares on the back of his neck even as the doors rumble shut and Bam nuzzles happily into his arms.

The next few days are … interesting.

The discussions held by his parents in secret intensify. He spends as little time as he can around his husbands and parents, instead opting to hang out with Yugyeom or Bam instead. Still, he observes his husbands from a distance — how much more at ease they seem with each other than they do with him.

It’s on the fifth day when Jungkook is present in the shadows of their chambers when Taehyung flashes his first smile.

It’s in response to a dad joke that Seokjin is making which is so hilariously bad Jungkook’s lips quirk up a little before it fades away. Taehyung’s boxy grin is bright, infectious, intense; the qualities of a burning flame.

It’s everything that Jungkook isn’t.

And, slowly but surely, Taehyung’s smile morphs into a fit of giggles that in turn sends off everyone else.

“That,” Taehyung chokes out rather dramatically, “is the worst — dad joke — I’ve ever heard.”

Before long, Jimin’s laughing together with him. Even Yoongi cracks a smile — a gummy-like smile, soft and fond and loving.

Seokjin’s grin is wide and pleased, holding his head up high. Namjoon’s smile is genuine and dimpled, his eyes shining. And Hoseok’s smile is like sunshine, and Jungkook can see why he has the title of a ray of sunshine.

“You know,” Namjoon says softly after the giggles die down, “I know we’ve been forced into this and everything, but I’m actually really happy to get to know you all more.”

“Me too,” Jimin chimes in.

And they look so happy together — so whole — that Jungkook can’t stand it any longer. He ducks back down into the shadows, dropping to his knees and curling into a ball as their laughter echoes in his ears.

They don’t want him.

It’s clear as day, and they haven’t made it any less. They don’t sugarcoat their resentment for him, which he appreciates. Maybe it will make the fall less painful.

Bam snuffles softly next to him, nuzzling his head into Jungkook’s chest. He knows his familiar can feel just as he does, the small splintering of his heart, breaking into a thousand pieces.

But I really want to get to know them, too.

After that day, smiles come easier.

They still act aloof when Jungkook comes. But as soon as he leaves, he knows they’re engaging back into their conversations, and though he can’t bear to watch them again, he knows they’re smiling and laughing together.

And he finds himself gradually visiting them less and less.

Curse him and his soft heart. He really hasn’t learnt, has he? His father had told him long ago to never leave his heart out, exposed and vulnerable for vultures to feast upon.

“It’s akin to a bloody slaughter,” he’d said.

And Jungkook can see why.

He prefers to watch the six of them from a distance, gazing at their smiles and grins and wishing so greatly with all his heart that he’d be blessed with one of them, too. Wishful thinking, he knows it’s called. Foolhardy. Delusional, even.

Shadows are deceitful and untrustworthy. They stab in the back as easily as a knife cleaves through butter. They operate smoothly, slide like a criminal undercover. Every move they make is part of their plan, and their plan is something that can never be trusted.

He’s grateful to Yugyeom and Bam, who keep him company and soothe his heart. Without them, he’s nothing; a crumbled empty vessel for power, a puppet with cut strings. Sometimes they’re the only glue keeping his fragile heart from shattering again.

So instead, he trains. He throws himself into a gruelling routine, serving to improve and improve on his powers despite his inability to understand why.

Is he just that useless already? He doesn’t even know what his own body wants.

Stupid. So, so stupid.

He’s already mastered everything he’s been taught. So instead he tries out new abilities that he invents himself, and eventually, he finds something he deems decent enough.

He calls it his shadow domain.

It’s a domain woven with tight-knitted shadows, called and summoned by Jungkook’s will. Its form is flexible, intangible; it can be small or large, appearing as a bedroom or shrine. He finds his powers oddly amplified in his domain, so that he can summon hordes of shadows and shape or manifest them to his will. He’s able to train with shadows without taxing himself too badly until he snaps out of his domain.

Creating his domain is draining, it’s exhausting, but it’s worth it.

Because, at long last, he’s able to just be himself. No façade, no formalities. He can curl up in the depths of his domains, and if he cries or screams or sobs only the shadows are there to listen and they can’t judge because he is their master. He retreats into his domain daily, as much as he can, and it’s so draining, but he never wants to leave it.

No one notices his disappearances. No one questions his absences. Because no one has cared about him, no one but Yugyeom and Bam, and Yugyeom’s busy with noble duties anyway.

At first, he’s barely able to hold a domain for five minutes before he collapses and wakes up a few hours later with muscles aching and feeling as if he could sleep for a hundred years. But as time goes on, as his abilities grow, he’s able to hold up a domain for a full day if he has to.

Not without dangers, of course. Jungkook has already noticed the creeping numbness and cold trickles down his spine the longer he holds a domain, his limbs being sapped of energy as if his magic is being drained. He doesn’t even feel scared anymore.

Every time he snaps out of a domain, he’s completely drained. His magic reserves deplete each time, and they take a longer and longer time to recover. The longer he cries and screams his grievances to the curdling darkness, the heavier his limbs become, the harder it is to harness his magic.

It’s as if his domain is actively absorbing his magic and emotions, leaving him hollow both magically and emotionally.

And Jungkook, in all honesty, doesn’t care. Never cared and never will.

So that’s how his days pass: hours spent practising his sorcery, lamenting on his failed life. If he ignores the slow rotting of his heart, the pinpricks of his chest that morph into stabs, it’s not a bad routine, actually.

It’s a month later when his heart can’t take it anymore.

He’s noticed the signs already: increased tension, snapping at him, the rude, brusque words they throw his way. And the glares haven’t faded. He’s guessing that whatever plan they’re trying out is coming along fast.

He doesn’t know when his mental descent started. Maybe it’s all the way at the beginning, when the Shadow Sorcerers invaded. Maybe it’s when Taehyung laughed for the first time.

Maybe it’s the way even his domain feels cold to him now.

He can’t feel anything. His spells in his domain start to last longer and longer, and he spends more time just curled in a foetal position, Bam roaming around him sadly as his eyes stare blankly at the curling shadows.

He doesn’t notice when he begins to skip meals entirely, when he declines his spot by his father’s side. When his already brief interactions with his husbands grow even more snappy, visiting turned into short passings in the hallways.

Shadows are unpredictable and wild. They lash out at moments of weakness, curl around and snap at your limbs. They are impossible to escape.

He knows his parents’ plan is coming along quickly. The impending stress of it all is snapping at his heels, following him everywhere.

He can guess in the way their eyes harden when they fall upon the Six Princes — with killing intent.

And god damn his weak heart, but he can’t allow that.

He’s such a mess. Is he even loyal to his parents anymore? What does he want? Why is he still existing at all?

Somewhere along the lines his parents’ plans have failed. Somewhere along the lines he’s fallen in love with the people his parents swore to destroy. Somewhere along the lines, he’s certain everything he’s known, his foundation and very reason for existence, will crumble into pieces.

So one day, when he’s ordered by his mother to take his husbands out to the royal gardens for a “bonding moment”, his instincts are screaming danger in a second.

The royal gardens of the Shadow Palace resembles less of a happy-go-lucky, typical garden and more of what the Greek Underworld gardens would look like.

Shadows are, of course, everywhere. The trees line the ground, growing along the riverbank of a gloomy river, flowing sluggishly over pebbles and rocks. The fruit and flowers are real and edible, and they taste surprisingly good, but that’s about all Jungkook bothers to know.

Servants escort him and his husbands to the garden, and Jungkook tags along at the back this time, staying quietly out of their conversation. Once or twice, he thinks he can see the fleeting glances on his back.

Is it just his imagination, or are they less hostile than before?

No. Hoping is dangerous. He can’t let himself fall further again.

He leaves his husbands in a particularly peaceful meadow, venturing off without a word. He feels awful. He’s spent a lot of time the previous day burying himself in his domain to practise his already flawless skills, and when he finally couldn’t find a fault to jab at himself anymore he just fell to the floor and cried. When his domain finally dissipated around him, he had lain on his bed for hours, staring at the ceiling as his sore limbs ached and his throat begged for relief.

That’s when he notices the servants not-so-subtly creeping up to where his husbands’ meadows reside.

He melts quickly into the shadows when he sees the glint of bow and arrows in their hands. Every servant is a capable Shadow Sorcerer, and he knows from looking at the design of the bow and arrows that they’re the most elite of the Shadow Arsenals — a special design created by the most ingenious of their ancestors.

Shot at a fellow Shadow Sorcerer, it has no effect beyond a normal arrow wound. But shot at anyone outside that category?

Deadly, a voice whispers in his head. And he knows, he’s studied this weapon before. The shadowy essence corrupts their spirits, strangling their hearts, literally feeding off their souls and draining their life forces out of them. When the effects have fully set in, there’s nothing left of the affected person but shadows.

And he’ll be damned if he’s ever going to let that happen.

Jungkook appears before the group of four servants, gathering the shadowy essence around his limbs until he’s surrounded with a dark, pulsing aura. He knows he radiates death and misery from the way the servants stumble back, nearly falling onto the ground from how fast they back away.

“P-Prince Jungkook,” one of them manages, voice no more than a feeble squeak. “Uh…”

“My parents put you up to it,” Jungkook states. His tone is steely cold, frozen calm. It’s not a question. It’s a statement.

“Uh, y-yes—”

“Leave.” His voice leaves no room for doubt. He hasn’t felt such cold anger in — ever, really. Hasn’t felt this alive. Cold flames are licking in his chest, roaring to life. No chance, his heart chants. It’s beating fast, faster than in a long time, and in that moment, he feels rejuvenated. Truly alive — something beyond numbness and sorrow and endless heartbreak. His heavy limbs feel lighter, a rush of strength and power surging through his body.


“Leave.” His voice is a hiss of venom, a growl of warning.

“We cannot, Prince Jungkook,” another servant interjects. His eyes glint with something like excitement. Jungkook feels sick to his stomach.

“We must eliminate the Princes. This is on your parents’ orders. I’m sure you don’t want to—”

The servant’s words are cut off by a blood-curdling shriek.

And Jungkook’s power surges.

His domain expands around him as he slams his palms together, shadows expanding from his body and twisting around the four servants. Their bodies writhe and struggle, but they’re powerless against his hold, the sudden upsurge of abilities and emotion stoking the flame of Jungkook’s domain.

A cold, solid weapon manifests in his right hand — a dagger. Jungkook clenches his fists, and another appears in his left hand. Before his fevered, racing mind can think it through, he’s running along the surprisingly solid walls of his domain, speeding towards the servants—

And his daggers strike flesh. Blood spurts up in the air as the servant who had spoken first wails, body slumping down and dissolving into shadow the way Shadow Sorcerers do when they’re truly gone. One, two, three more quick slices, and the other three servants are gone, dead before Jungkook can even blink.

He drops the daggers, his hands now stained with blood.

He feels sick.

He’s killed plenty of people, murdered most of them in cold blood. Of course he’d felt crushing regret and guilt at first, but it was part of war. He’d gotten used to it a long time ago.

But never, never ever had he dreamed of laying hands on one of his own. Not even once. Not even in his nightmares.

Oh, god.

What has he done?

As the domain starts to dissolve around him, Jungkook hunches over the floor and vomits. As he retches and gags, sour bile dripping from his lips, he feels his heart splinter and shatter, clinking away like reflective glass shards on the floor.

The following days aren’t any less painful.

He thinks they’re suspecting something, the way he returned from his ‘stroll’ with unfocused, slackened eyes, his clothes splattered with something suspiciously like blood. He senses his parents’ reactions, too, the grim confusion settling over their nightly meetings.

Over the next week, his parents’ attempts to kill the Princes continue to surge. They’re getting more daring, Jungkook thinks, more direct. He deters them each time, his limbs spurred on by an unknown force.

And then, one day, it all reaches a boiling point.

Jungkook’s mother calls him to her chambers one day, hands him a tray with six cups of a traditional Shadow tea in them, and sends him off to deliver that to their chambers for them to drink.

And Jungkook will die before he lets anything happen to them.

He’s not stupid. Of course not. Despite all his unpredictability, despite his traitorous intentions, he knows that the tea contains — most likely — poison.

And, as he’s said, Jungkook will die a hundred times over before he lets anyone lay a hand on them.

Happiness is precious. Happiness is rare. And despite it all, Jungkook can’t find it in himself to hate his husbands for finding it in each other, and not in him.

Because they shine like six beautiful suns, and he — he is the moon.

He makes sure servants see him heading towards his husbands’ chambers with the tray. But then he swiftly hides himself in an empty room with a few tables and chairs placed sparingly around, setting the tray down in front of him.

He knows he can’t let this tray of tea remain. It’s too dangerous, too risky.

He isn’t a poison expert. He doesn’t know which herb does what, unlike how Namjoon does. But he does know that it’s probably a strong poison, a strong dose for such a little cup to be able to kill off one Prince.

Maybe this way, he’ll finally be of some use.

He doesn’t plan on letting anyone know how he died. Maybe his parents will realise — but then he wouldn’t be able to face their disappointment or rage, because he’ll be dead to the world, gone from the surface of the earth forever.

Jeon Jungkook may be a coward, he may be too messed up for anything to save, but he refuses, refuses to let his husbands get hurt.

So he takes a breath to steel his nerves. And when he picks up the first cup and starts to drain it down, his life doesn’t flash before his eyes like they always said it would when he’s about to die. Instead, it’s the faces of each of his husbands in his favourite expression of theirs that sends him off.

He’s halfway down his third cup, already feeling an odd tingling sensation shoot through his legs, when the door to the room opens and Taehyung comes in, laughing and pulling Jimin by the hand, closely followed by all four of his other husbands.

Jungkook would’ve choked if his throat had allowed him to. Instead, he freezes, the cup still pointing to his lips.

“Uh—” Taehyung is already backing out, eyes wide, but Namjoon is starting forward, his eyes alarmingly wide, his mouth open in a silent warning.

At the same time, Yoongi stiffens. Only then does Jungkook realise the strong pungent scent of something distinctive in the air.

Of course. Of f*cking course Jungkook can’t even die without messing something up.

“STOP!” Namjoon’s yell is enough for Jungkook to flinch so violently that his hand slips and the cup cradled in it smashes to pieces on the floor.

“Are you f*cking insane?” Namjoon is all over him in a moment, hands darting from one cup to the next, grabbing hold of Jungkook’s face with wide, shaken eyes and trembling fingers. Yoongi is approaching too, something wild and unexpected on his face, bending down and shoving two fingers on Jungkook’s wrist, right above where his pulse is beating.

Jungkook is still nonplussed, his hands shaking as he’s manhandled by the two of them. Taehyung and Jimin are staring wide-eyed and horrified from the doorway, seemingly realising the severity of the situation.

sh*t,” Namjoon growls, his hands resting shakily on Jungkook’s neck. “Hyung, I — I’ll go get the kit in our room, just — just take care of him, okay, don’t—”

He cuts himself off with a furious growl, turning on his heel and sprinting out of the room. Yoongi moves to take his place, Seokjin not far behind him.

“f*ck,” Yoongi breathes, his pupils wide and dilated. “Just stay awake, okay, f*ck—”

Jungkook remains frozen on the chair, the situation not quite computing in his head yet. His mind is racing and completely still at the same time, his breathing erratic and fingers still shaking.

The numbness is working its way up his legs now, settling into his abdomen and stomach. It’s overwhelming, all of it, his senses spill over alongside his involuntary tears.

“No,” he cries, and Yoongi freezes in front of him. “No, no, no, no, why—”

He doesn’t have time to say anything else because then Namjoon is barreling into the room, a kit marked emergencies only grasped tight in his fingers. Namjoon is flinging open the lid to the kit and rushing over with something in hand — something round and middle-sized. Then he’s producing a glass of water from god knows where, pushing the pill into Jungkook’s palm and shoving the glass into his fingers.

“Swallow,” Namjoon hisses, and he sounds so venomous that Jungkook’s muscles are working on autopilot as if Namjoon holds some kind of power over him. He’s doing exactly as Namjoon says, even as his body shudders with sobs and the numbness reaches his chest.

Only then is he aware of a feather-light touch on his shoulder which turns out to be Jimin. As soon as they make eye contact, Jimin freezes and then backs away, and Jungkook’s limbs fall heavily to the side, boneless and a burden once more.

As soon as the pill is swallowed, Jungkook feels its effects taking place. Tears brim over in his eyes as the numbness starts to retreat, hissing in protest but slithering away and dissipating into nothing.

Hoseok speaks first.


Jungkook has been expecting anger. Maybe even resentment, or confusion. What he doesn’t expect is how genuinely distraught Hoseok sounds, how utterly lost and broken.

Why? What did he ever do to be deserving of such a feeling?

“f*ck,” Jungkook curses, breathing heavily as the last of the numbness retreats from his legs. His voice is quiet, scratchy, dry; broken. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”

“See what?” It’s Taehyung now, and anger is creeping into his voice despite Seokjin’s warning grip on his arm. “See you trying to kill yourself? Are you just so f*cking selfish that you’re just — you’re just going to die and leave us here? Are you f*cking kidding me?”

Taehyung’s voice is loud, it’s too loud, and everything is spinning around him. Jungkook sobs, his hands shaking uselessly as tears stream down his face.

“Taehyung-ah,” Hoseok warns. Taehyung falls silent, his gaze sharp and burning with emotions as he looks at Jungkook’s trembling form.

“Did you want to kill yourself?” And it’s Yoongi asking, in a soft tone that sounds so foreign to Jungkook’s ears.

“I — I didn’t want to,” and f*ck, he’s already messing it up, “but it was just there and my parents would notice if I did anything else and—”

“You’re not making any sense,” Jimin points out, a harsh edge in his voice.

Maybe that’s what sets them off.

“I—” Jungkook is gasping for air, scrambling for the right words that just won’t come out of his mouth. And he doesn’t know why, or how, but that ticks them all off.

“f*cking hell,” Taehyung snarls. “We’re worried about you for a change, stressing our heads off for your sake and here you are not even trying to help us? Do you just never care about anyone other than yourself? Do you even know how much you’ve put us all through?”

“Taehyung!” Namjoon snaps. But it’s too late.

“Maybe it would have been better if you succeeded.”

And the air freezes. Time seems to slow to a stop, and the silence is louder than ever.

The cracking of Jungkook’s already shattered heart echoes in his ears clear as day.

“Maybe you’re right,” he whispers. His hands come up to tug at the locks of his hair, a searing pain in his chest cutting his vision off from the horrified looks in front of him. “Maybe it would have been better if I had died.”

His legs are too shaky to carry him far. Jungkook supports himself up from the table and walks to the far corner of the area, where the shadows are gathering the strongest.

“Jungkook—” And he doesn’t know who is calling his name, what made them decide to use his name for the first time ever. But he does know that he can’t take it anymore.

He steps into the shadows and dissolves into the numbingly cold darkness.

Jungkook spends the next few days holed up in his domain.

He honestly doesn’t know how his magic reserves haven’t run dry yet, how his shadows are still going strong. He feels truly lost, empty, useless.

Not even the tears come anymore. His body doesn’t respond to his remonstrations, refuses to cry no matter how much his chest hurts and his throat scrapes at it raw.

His heartbeat is achingly slow. Jungkook wonders if it’s possible to die from a broken heart. If it isn’t, he’s going to be the first one.

Bam hasn’t appeared at all to comfort him. His familiar had been the last thing grounding him and his feelings, but he doesn’t know where it is now — just knows that even it has abandoned him.

At this point, he’s truly beyond saving.

It’s on the eve of the fourth day when he comes to a conclusion.

I’m dying, he thinks. No emotions bleed out at that thought; not even a little bit.

He can feel it. Feel the way his domain saps his magic, the way unfeeling sets into his bones. The way his joints never function like they’re supposed to, the way his limbs are too heavy to even lift up anymore.

Is he dying of heartbreak? An overuse of his shadowy powers?

With shadows, he’ll never be certain.

He can’t even break out of his domain anymore. He’s too weak, too uncaring to do so.

So this is how he’ll die — abandoned by everything, even his own shadows. Alone, able to feel every last inch of his heart cracking before it stops. The longer he dwells in his shadowy domain, the more it saps him of his magic, his energy, his memories — everything that makes up his identity.

Jungkook almost wants to laugh at himself.

On the fifth day, very much to his surprise, he breaks out.

He’s curled up on the floor of his chambers. He’d just closed his eyes for a second, and when he blinks them back open again, the familiar hardness of solid, polished ivory greets his heavy bones.

With an effort, he pulls himself onto his knees. His brow furrows, his joints creaking like ill-oiled gate hinges. It sounds like … screaming?

Memories flood back into his mind: cries of pain, shouts of challenge. The clanging of blades. The tang of metal.

A war.

With effort that seems to come from nowhere, Jungkook pushes himself to his feet and stumbles into a run, ricocheting from wall to wall, following the screams without a second thought. He’s led into the courtyard, and oh…


A full frontal assault. An insult to the Shadow Sorcerers’ name, if you will.

A familiar figure catches his eye. Yugyeom, bloodied and slumped over and unmoving.

Jungkook knows the sinking feeling in the pit of stomach all too well.

Forces from all Six other Kingdoms are storming their gates. He thinks he vaguely recognises some familiar figures leaping from place to place, shouting out commands and dealing massive damage. For a minute, he stands shocked and paralysed, in the carnage of battle once more.

But this time, he isn’t spurred on to fight any longer.

He’s snapped out of his trace when a figure hurls by him — a familiar figure. His father. “Jungkook!” his father yells, and everyone who can hear his (admittedly loud) voice turns to stare at him. “Where the hell have you been? Come and slaughter them, you useless excuse of a son!”

His father looks awful. Jungkook almost laughs in disbelief when he sets his eyes upon him.

His shadowy robes, edbodried with shimmering faces of the agony and tortured, are rumpled and dirty. Blood stains every part of his body, his face streaked with dirt and other unidentifiable substances.

As if summoned, his mother barrels into him only a second later. “Do something, Jungkook!” she screams, her hands clawing at his clothes. “We trained you better for this!”

And now everyone’s turning to stare at him. The rattling of weapons cease. The siege of the Palace stops for just a moment.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jungkook sees six familiar figures.

“No,” he says quietly, his voice hoarse and scratchy. “We’ve had it coming for a long time now.”

His father’s steadfast expression falters. His mother is seemingly thunderstruck, as if connecting the dots.

“You,” she breathes, leveraging a shaky finger to his face. “They aren’t dead. We told you to bring the tea to them.”

“No,” Jungkook says. “They’re not dead. I drank the tea instead. You will not touch them on my watch.”

“I told you never to trust him!” his father bellows at his mother. They’re seemingly unaware how all the Six other Kingdoms are watching, half-awestruck, half-wary. “He’s always been a weak, useless piece of scum! You can’t trust him with his heart, I told you so, and you kept insisting on it!”

“Goodbye, Mother, Father,” Jungkook says, just as quietly as before. “If this is karma for all that we’ve done, I will gladly accept my fate.”

Something compels him to step forward and raise his arms. His parents stiffen, and then—

And then it’s as if their shadows, their very essence, is being forcefully extracted from them. An animalistic scream tears from his mother’s throat, her eyes wild with panic. His father just gapes as their shadows rise from their lips, hovering mid-air.

And then, like marionettes with cut strings, they collapse to the ground. They twitch — once, twice, three times.


His father’s voice is less of a voice, more of a gurgle. Somehow, he musters up enough strength to grab onto Jungkook’s wrist, his hold as firm as they have ever been.

“I trained you. I spared you with my mercy so many times. This is how you repay me.”

“This is how the world repays your tyranny, Father,” Jungkook counters him. “And you will not lay a finger on anyone ever again.”

“Traitor,” his father growls, and his grip tightens. Blood leaks from the side of his mouth — black blood. “I’ll see you in the depths of hell. You are no son of mine.”

And the bruising grip on his wrist is released. His father’s hand thuds to the blood-soaked ground, and Jungkook’s parents move no more.

Jungkook watches through heavily lidded eyes as their shadows rise and start to curl towards him. His body is suddenly too heavy for his legs to support, and he falls to his knees.

A weak image appears next to him. Bam. His beloved familiar, now reduced to a mere imprint of the glorious shadow he once had been.

Bam looks as distraught as Jungkook feels, and his image keeps flickering at the edges. The outlines of its shadows are fuzzy. So are the edges of Jungkook’s vision.

Jungkook eyes the shadows of his parents — the one remnant left of his cage on earth. Watches as they curl onto his wrist, bumping gently against his arms, right where his pulse is.

Jungkook can’t.

He can’t ingest stolen magic, always couldn’t since his birth. His body refuses to welcome the shadows in.

And Jungkook knows, in that second, that he’s well past his limit.

He’s exhausted the pitiful remnants of his magic reserves.

Beside him, Bam flickers and yelps before dissolving into shadow. These curl, too, onto his wrists, only to be met with the same fate.

He’s lost everything — his sense of belonging, his loyalty, his parents, Bam.

And for what?

Something in him tells him that Bam is gone for good. Just like his parents are, and just like he will be — very, very soon.

Jungkook’s body hits the ground with a thud, and then he’s spiraling, falling into unconsciousness. This time, he’s not sure if he’ll ever wake again.

To Jungkook’s surprise, he wakes.

He feels something soft and warm beneath him, which is a stark contrast to the numb cold he’s known for a long time.

He’s not sure if it’s just a dream, maybe a last attempt at an artificial ending his fevered body and mind has conjured up. But then his hands are gripping onto the sheets beneath him, and it feels soft, it feels solid, it feels real.

Immediately after that, he regrets waking up at all.

A flurry of pain jolts through his limbs, so sudden and intense that tears prick at the corners of his eyes.

Unable to help himself, he lets out a whimper, his arms and legs stiff as if they’re seizing up.

“Ssh,” a voice beside him murmurs, and Jungkook almost jumps out of his skin.

A warm hand comes to rest on Jungkook’s forehead, and despite himself, he lets out a happy little shiver, absolutely melting in the touch.

“You’re okay, Jungkook,” the voice whispers. “We — you’re going to be fine, Jungkook.”

And Jungkook knows it’s a lie. Because whatever he is, he’s not okay, and his body can tell him so every day of the week. But he wants to lose himself in the moment, melt in the person’s touch, lull himself into a foolish sense of security.

Selfish, a voice echoes in his head. The voice isn’t the snide one in the back of his mind, shooting out sarcastic remarks or reminding him of his worthlessness at times; no, this voice is deeper, almost baritone, trembling with confusion and hurt and frustration.

It’s the exact voice of the person who had just spoken to him.

Jungkook jolts up at the realisation, his body protesting immediately to the sudden movement. He winces as his sore limbs scream for him to stop, his skin stretching over like a thin sheet about to break, but—

But he has to see for himself.

With a great effort, he forces his closed eyelids open. They take more energy and time than he’d like to admit, but when he does, there’s a blinding light and he shuts them close with a whine of protest almost instantaneously.

“Sorry, bun,” the voice says immediately, then there’s hurried footsteps and the sound of binds drawing. When Jungkook tentatively opens his eyes again, the light is gone, the room bathed in a comfortable, dim darkness, and there’s a figure in front of him.

A figure he’s seen before, many times; a figure he’s risked so much for, given so much for, shed so much tears for knowing he could never be the cause of his charming smile.

The name comes to him immediately.


And that’s the last straw before the memory dam in his mind is broken. Taehyung, the poison, his domain, the siege, the war, Winter, his parents, and — and the Princes.


“I know you’re probably really confused, Jungkookie,” Taehyung is saying, his tone soft, so unlike the rash, harsh exclamations the last time they’d talked. “But you’re okay, baby, you’re okay, you’re safe.”


Jungkook has never been called anything other than ‘Prince’ or his own name before in his life. Except Yugyeom — who calls him a routine of nicknames, all agreed upon platonically between them.

But Yugyeom is dead now, and he is not.

He knows he shouldn’t immediately let down his guard, but somehow the way Taehyung says his name just melts him.

And then all the thoughts wash over in his mind at once, and his eyes fill with tears.

Taehyung is on him in a moment, wrapping arms around him and gently manoeuvring his body so that Jungkook is tucked up to his chest. His hold is firm yet loose, as if he’s waiting for Jungkook to pull free, but instead Jungkook lets out a sob and clutches tight to his body, entire form shaking with his cries.

“I’ve got you, Jungkookie,” Taehyung whispers, a comforting hand rubbing his back, and god, how much Jungkook wishes it’s true. He wants to believe he can stay this way for eternity, sheltered by Taehyung’s arms, wrapped in the comforting embrace of a familiar, non-jarring darkness.

He doesn’t notice when he falls asleep again.

The next time he wakes, it’s to voices outside the door to the room he’s in.

“Are you sure there’s no way to help him anymore?” The voice is vaguely familiar, and with a bit of brain-racking Jungkook is able to identify it as Hoseok.

What is Hoseok talking about?

“I’m sorry,” and oh, that’s Namjoon’s voice, “I’ve done all I can. Even my potions can’t help much anymore. I’ve … never seen a case like this before.”

“Hyung,” and that’s Taehyung speaking with a desperation Jungkook has never known before, “hyung…”

And suddenly there’s crying, and sniffling. Jungkook listens, half-perplexed, half-alarmed, as Namjoon’s voice speaks again, wobbly and broken.

“I know,” he cries, and there’s sounds of more sobs. “We really f*cked up, didn’t we?”

“We were wrong,” Yoongi’s voice says, and it sounds wet. “He just … he never was…”

“It’s our fault,” Jimin whispers. “Everything is our fault, I can sense it, hyung. His shadows — I can’t even see them anymore, they’re so faint. But they’re the only things keeping him alive.”

“I’ve never seen—” Seokjin. “I … I saw it. I don’t know how, but I saw … and his shadows aren’t fading because he’s dying. He’s dying because his shadows are fading. His magic reserves … they’re not even there anymore. Something’s been draining him of all his magic and energy.”

“All those days we never saw him…” Namjoon murmurs. “I should’ve known something was wrong. I — when we saw him drinking that tea…”

“I’m sorry, hyung,” Taehyung cries, suddenly much louder than before. “I didn’t think — I-I’m sorry—

“It’s not your fault, Tae-ah,” Seokjin soothes, but he doesn’t sound less broken than Taehyung does. “It’s all of ours.”

“Do you think…” and it’s Jimin speaks again. “Do you think he’s dying … because of heartbreak?”

“f*ck!” There’s a sound of a fist slamming into something solid — a wall, maybe. Yoongi, Jungkook thinks almost in a daze. “We just — we just abandoned him! I knew there was something wrong, my powers — they could sense it, that’s why I kept feeling something drawing me to it…”

In a trance, Jungkook thinks back to what he knows about Aether magic. Just like Spiritual magic, it’s pure and unblemished, unsightly and unnatural if it were to be corrupted. And pure magic — they influence the wielder’s soul. When the magic senses another’s, regardless of dark intent, it can detect any sort of issue with it.

Jungkook’s magic is shadows. Yoongi and Jimin would’ve thought they were just being drawn to him because of the naturally draining, unnatural state of his powers, but if—

But if—

“If he was dying of heartbreak,” Hoseok whispers, “you two would have been drawn to him because your magic wanted to fix, to heal or soothe. Pure magic is drawn to death the way dark magic is drawn to sunlight.”

“I should’ve done more research back then,” Namjoon mutters wretchedly. “That book — it said something about the unnatural state of shadow magic, how it literally drains the wielder…

“If he had been using it excessively, or straining it in any way,” Taehyung catches on, “the shadow magic absorbs its energy from his body, not his magic reserves. And when there’s so much negativity in his body already…”

“He can’t stop it,” Jimin says. “We… f*ck. We thought wrong. We were so, so wrong.”

And Jungkook is moving before his body even knows it, ignoring the way his muscles scream in protest. He’s on the floor, bare feet against cold ground, and he’s stumbling to the door. Before he can think this through, he’s reached for the handle and pulled it open.

Six faces face him, tear-stained and startled. It’s Yoongi who reacts first, fighting his way through Namjoon and Hoseok to hesitantly hover over him, as if aching to reach for him and pull him close but not quite knowing if he could.

“It’s not your fault,” Jungkook whispers, and he watches as Taehyung and Jimin’s faces crumble into tears. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.”

And he watches, in a daze, as Yoongi pulls him close to his chest, the other’s smaller frame somehow still shielding him perfectly as tears stream down his face.

Namjoon gives him at most a month to live.

Jungkook has been expecting less, honestly. The way his shadows seem to have abandoned him forever, the hollow feel in his chest as his lungs flail and his bones rattle; if he were more poetic, he may have described himself as literally rotting away.

He’s had it coming, after all. He laughs bitterly at the thought. They all had been.

Shadows are unnatural, an insult to the name of magic. They crawl and hiss and cloud. You never know what they really want.

Jungkook’s only allowed to walk beyond the bedroom he’s in after a week. He learns that he’s in Namjoon’s palace, and that he had managed to convince his father to let him stay.

One day, when Jungkook’s sitting staring listlessly at the opposite wall, there’s a soft knock on the door and Hoseok slides in.

“Hey, Kookie,” Hoseok says softly. “How are you doing today? Does it hurt anywhere?”

Jungkook gives him the best smile he can muster. “Not much, Hoseok-ssi. It’s not that bad today.”

His heart hurts when he sees the subtle falling of Hoseok’s expression when Jungkook doesn’t call him with hyung. But Jungkook’s told himself, and them, many times that he doesn’t deserve to do so. Of course he’s met with vehement protestations, all about how much they weren’t the ones deserving of him, but Jungkook holds his ground.

“Were you bored?” Hoseok pulls him into a hesitant hug, and when Jungkook doesn’t pull away, Hoseok tucks the younger boy beside him. “I … wanted to show you something, if you’d like to see.”

Jungkook is bored, and he still has much to see. So he nods and watches with a childlike wonder as Hoseok holds up a hand, a bright light blinking to life in the middle of his palm. It’s like a miniature sun, bright and warm and feeling like home.

Before he realises what he’s doing, Jungkook’s hand is opening too, hesitantly, like a child taking his first steps. The sphere of darkness is a stark contrast to Hoseok’s sun, but as they watch, Jungkook’s shadows float towards Hoseok’s light, and they merge — slow, gradual, but when they’ve fully mixed, all that’s left is an eclipse.

Jungkook doesn’t realise his mouth is open until Hoseok lets out a soft chuckle and gentle fingers are reaching out to close it for him.

“Thank you,” Jungkook hesitates before making a decision. “Thank you, Hobi-hyung.”

He’s heard Taehyung call Hoseok that, and it seems to make the elder very happy. All traces of apprehension drain away when Hoseok’s face lights up almost just as bright as his sun, a wide, genuine smile spreading across his heart-shaped lips as he flies to envelop Jungkook in a hug.

“Thank you, Kookie,” Hoseok whispers against his neck. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Jungkook doesn’t know when hugs become kisses, when shoulder slinging becomes hand holding.

It’s Seokjin who gives him the first peck on his cheek, then Taehyung who starts back-hugging him or wrapping a hand around his waist. It’s (funnily enough) Namjoon who gives him his first real kiss on the lips, and Jungkook can’t be happier.

Elation never fails to flare in his body and his heart to flutter in his chest whenever he receives affectionate contact from his hyungs. They’re treating him like their husband — like their marriage had been anything but arranged, like they do love him.

He ignores the hollow ache that immediately follows after each kiss, the voice reminding him to enjoy it while it lasts.

Perhaps it would be less painful to leave if he didn’t have any attachments. A few weeks ago, he would have happily jumped at the chance to leave the world forever. A few weeks ago, they hated him.

But now, he can’t bear to see them grieve over him. He almost wants to laugh at the irony of it all.

Why is it that the world never aligns with his desires, just for a moment?

Their kisses linger on his skin, their touch blowing over his body even hours after they had left it.

And Jungkook can’t contain the bittersweet smile that rises to his lips.

Maybe he should’ve just died earlier. Maybe if he had never been so soft in the first place, he wouldn’t end up hurting so many people.

He knows that, despite everything, there will be people calling for his death, seeing as he’s likely the only Shadow Sorcerer left. He can’t blame them. The world would be a better place without him, they say, and they’re not wrong.

The world had been a better place without him, and he hopes his death will make it right again.

(Though, just for a moment, he thinks to the fleeting memories of kisses and hugs and laughter, and he’s willing to give anything just to find a cure, make his hyungs happy, preserve their bright smiles — even if he won’t be here to see it.)

A few days after that, Yoongi and Jimin take him outside for private times in a sunny meadow.

Being in the Earth Kingdom, there are many choices of meadows, and the one they pick is filled with memories of sweet times. The bright green grass stretches for miles around, dotted with honeysuckles and roses and lilacs and lavenders. The air is a sweet mix of flowery scents, and as soon as they step in Jungkook feels a heavy blanket of warm air settle on his body.

“Here, bun,” Yoongi murmurs as he takes Jungkook’s hand, guiding him to where Jimin is laying out a picnic blanket. “Don’t overexert yourself, okay?”

“I won’t, hyung,” Jungkook smiles, watching the way Yoongi’s features light up at the address. “I’ll be careful, I promise.”

“Stop scaring our Jungkookie before we eat,” Jimin whines theatrically with a pout, causing Yoongi to scowl at him and for Jungkook to giggle. He doesn’t notice how both their eyes turn almost gooey soft at the sound.

The picnic is delicious. There’s about any food Jungkook can think of, all freshly made and he thinks it might be the most filling meal he’s ever had. He’s enjoying a freshly baked bread roll when, without thinking, he drops his head and lays it down on Yoongi’s shoulder. A full stomach always makes him sleepy, and his ears are suddenly buzzing.

“Kid?” Yoongi murmurs, reaching a hand out to lay on Jungkook’s forehead. “You’re feeling a little cold today. You sure you’re fine?”

“’S okay, hyung,” he slurs. His head suddenly feels very heavy. “Sleepy.”

“Hyung,” Jimin says, and there’s worry in his voice. “Maybe we should go back, get Jungkook checked up…”

“No,” Jungkook insists, struggling to clear his head. Trying to speak and think is like swimming through molasses, but he does it anyway. “Want to spend time with you.”

“Jungkook,” Yoongi says. “There’s no shame in admitting—”

“I won’t be able to do this,” Jungkook swallows at the way the atmosphere suddenly turns sharper, “I won’t be able to do this in a few weeks’ time, hyung. I want to enjoy it.”

And then there’s silence, and the meadow suddenly doesn’t seem that warm anymore.

“Kookie,” Jimin whispers, and he sounds choked up. Jungkook reaches out and takes both of their hands, squeezing them in his own.

“It’s okay, hyungs,” Jungkook smiles sadly. His own heart is aching again, but he doesn’t want his hyungs to fool themselves any longer. They talk to him as if they have an eternity left, advert their eyes or change the topic whenever any mention of shadows comes up.

Jungkook doesn’t want to be the cause of their misery. Not now, not ever.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in bright smiles and butterfly kisses, but only a fool would miss out on the stifling underlying tension simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to be released.

Jungkook can’t pinpoint the exact moment when he falls into the final stages of his life. Maybe it’s when he doesn’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning, when the day seems dreary and bleak and hopeless. Maybe it’s how much Yoongi and Jimin start to stick to him, fussing and taking care of him every minute. Maybe it’s when the ‘secret’ hallway talks Jungkook’s six hyungs have been having that start up again.

“It’s our fault,” Seokjin says for the countless time that night. “It’s our fault and the sweet angel doesn’t even blame us, oh god—”

“I know, hyung,” Namjoon chokes out. “But all we can do is make him happy now, in his last moments. There isn’t anything I can do.”

“Does it hurt?” Jimin’s voice wobbles, so uncertain, so fearful. “Does … does Jungkookie feel pain?”

There’s a pause. Jungkook wants to lunge out of the doorway, do all he can to reassure them that he’s fine, he’s completely okay, that it doesn’t hurt him at all—

But the gnawing ache at his bones remind him that everything is not okay.

Jungkook may be a coward, he may be too twisted and messed up for the world, but he’s not going to let him fool himself or his hyungs again.

He knows from experience, the fall will just be harder that way.

By the time his breath comes in wheezing gasps and it takes way too much effort to even open his eyes, he knows he’s wasting away.

He wakes up one morning to greying skin, his veins a pure black that snakes through his body. He already looks dead — like some sort of undead that had been resurrected with improper rituals.

And the next day, Jimin absolutely refuses to stop clinging to his side, spending every moment possible with Jungkook in his arms despite his royal duties Jungkook’s sure he has. In fact, he’s pretty sure that all Six Princes have already completely neglected their supposed duties. Yoongi pops in every ten minutes with freshly brewed tea or arms open for cuddling, Hoseok conjures a miniature sun that hums contentedly by Jungkook’s side and warms his cold body, and Seokjin is coming and going with new ways of pampering Jungkook. Namjoon is still giving as much pain-relieving potions as he can, but as time passes the potions wear off quicker and the pain comes back sharper. Taehyung entertains Jungkook with stories, trying his best to distract the younger from his pain, and Jungkook appreciates that.

And approximately at noon three days later, Jungkook has, somehow, found enough strength to crawl closer to the windows with their curtains drawn close. He’s staring, almost in a trance, at the closed windows when Yoongi comes barging into the room, his eyes wide and panicked and distraught.

“Kookie, honey, baby bun,” Yoongi breathes, his voice cracking as he reaches to support Jungkook back on the bed. “Just stay awake for a few moments, okay? Stay awake for hyungie?”

Jungkook blinks lethargically at him, his words not quite registering in his head. It feels like all of a sudden a wave of heaviness has swept over him, numbing his nerves and blanketing his bones. He’s aware of how slow his heart is beating, and he finds that he can’t feel his limbs any more.

If he had a mirror, he’s sure he’d look into it and find the black veins spreading through his entire body.

But he doesn’t feel scared, or alarmed, or sad. It’s as if a heavy warmth is wrapping him around in its embrace, and over so much time of biting cold and fighting to stay alive, he finds that all he feels is … relief.

“Curtains,” Jungkook croaks out, causing Yoongi to jolt up in surprise. “Open the … curtains, please, hyung?”

“Curtains,” Yoongi breathes, scrambling up to obey Jungkook’s request. “Of course, Jungkookie, I’ll open the curtains. Just focus on the view, yeah? It’ll be alright, bunny. It’ll be fine.”

But it won’t be, Jungkook wants to say, but the words don’t come out of his mouth. Instead he just nods, watching Yoongi’s figure fuss over the curtains before returning to his side, and when the door slams open again, it’s Jimin who’s the first to reach him. Vaguely Jungkook realises he’s brought all five other hyungs with him, and he smiles — a dopey, tired, sleepy smile.

“Hyungs,” Jungkook slurs, and they’re there in an instant, fussing over him in every way imaginable.

And the picture is one of heartbreak. Jungkook has seen and felt it many times, but never has it been of anyone other than himself. But as Yoongi cradles his head, Jimin clinging on to one side and Taehyung to another, with Seokjin’s hand resting on his chest right above his heart, and Namjoon and Hoseok holding both his hands, Jungkook can’t deny it. He can feel their hearts shattering in time with his, feels it with every thrum of movement, every second that passes.

“It’s gonna be okay, bun,” Taehyung whispers, and his voice is wet with tears. “We — we’ll make it up to you, okay? In another life, I swear we’ll love you and never leave you. We won’t let you hurt like this again, we won’t let you ever be alone.”

Jungkook’s smile starts to droop at the corners. “’S fine, hyungies. I believe you. I know you’re all sorry, so be happy, okay?”

“We’ll find you, honey,” Seokjin says, his voice shaking and choked but filled with unwavering determination. “No matter how long it takes, how many universes we’ll have to traverse. And we’ll make it up to you, alright?”

“Seokjinnie-hyung,” Jungkook gets out. His breathing comes in wheezing rattles, his lungs feeling as if a heavy weight is pressing against them. He knows his time is above him, and he has to let them know before his death.

Seokjin jolts at the mention of his name.

“Keep being happy, okay?” Jungkook tries his best to keep his smile up. “Keep making those awful dad jokes. You act more like the maknae than I do, and don’t stop doing that. Keep smiling, hyung. I want you to keep being who you are for everyone. For yourself, for me.”


But Jungkook has to finish.

“Yoongi-hyung. Don’t … don’t isolate yourself from anyone, okay? It’s not your fault. It never was and it never will be. I love your smiles, hyungie. Don’t let them fade.”

Yoongi nods frantically, pressing kisses over Jungkook’s face, and a warm, fuzzy feeling rises in his chest. He can’t feel his own body, but his mouth is still talking, saying the words he needs to let them know.

“Hobi-hyung. Your smiles are the most radiant rays of sunlight I’ve ever seen. Thank you for … for warming me up every day. Don’t stop smiling, or being the sunshine for everyone. You’re their hope, and my hope too.”

Hoseok is silently sobbing, his shoulders shaking as he clutches on to Jungkook’s hand tightly.

“Namjoonie-hyung. I love … all aspects of you. I admired you, you know?” Jungkook smiles dopily. “From day one. And I still do. You’re amazing, hyung, never doubt that. Thank you for always being there to ease my pain. Don’t take this too hard, okay?”

“Jungkook,” Namjoon is repeating, over and over again. Jungkook takes a shuddering breath of air, finding it harder and harder to stay awake.

“Jiminie-hyung. Don’t blame yourself for this, okay? Promise me. Just … just like Yoongi-hyung, none of this is your fault. Thank you for always taking care of me, never leaving me.”

Jimin is openly crying, and he can barely grasp control of his own body to give Jungkook a series of shuddering nods.

“And Taetae-hyung.” Jungkook’s eyelids get heavier, and he fights to keep himself awake as he hears Seokjin start to loudly sob.

“Always be your happy mischievous self, okay?” Jungkook manages a feeble squeeze of Taehyung’s hand. “Never stop being yourself. I know you’re still mad at yourself for saying those words about me. I forgive you, hyung. I’ve never hated you in my life. Be kind to yourself, okay? For me.”

“J-Jungkookie,” Taehyung gulps between shaking sobs, “we…”

“’S okay, hyungs,” Jungkook murmurs. His consciousness is drifting away. In his mind’s eye, he conjures a picture of himself — hanging by one hand from a cliff, caught in a silent struggle of gravity and will as he’s been for longer than he knows. But this time, he can let go.

It’s getting almost unbearable to breathe, and he can feel himself fading away alongside the remains of his shadows. His parents are gone. Yugyeom is gone. Bam is gone. But his hyungs will be there for him for as long as he likes, and he knows they’ll never truly leave him, nor him them.

Warm, sweeping, glorious relief washes over him.

He’s not a saint. He’s lived far from an innocent life. But if he has to go through all the pain just to end up here again, dying but so, so loved, he’ll do it in a heartbeat.

“I love you all. Don’t be … too sad without me, okay?” He tries for a faint smile, which quickly fades away as his muscles grow numb. Speaking is like trying to move his numb tongue through thick honey.

He can see their faces, blurred and anguished but still them. He tries to imprint their looks in his mind, combining it with his favourite memories of them: laughing with Taehyung as they play pranks together, giggling with Jimin at a disgruntled Yoongi with a flower crown on his head, drifting off to sleep with Namjoon’s voice lulling him into slumber as he reads a story, spending afternoons in the sun with Hoseok never having to worry about growing cold, tasting Seokjin’s personal recipes and grinning at his bad puns.

It feels like coming home.

“Live happily. Always be … be there for each other.”

Their cries and sobs grow oddly muted.

“Thank you for loving me.”

The image flares up again in his muddled brain. His fingers are slipping on the rocky edge, his arm shaking and sore from holding on too long.

But it’s okay. He’s clung on for as long as he could. He’s suffered enough, and he knows he can let himself rest now.

He feels no pain, no regrets. His heart has stopped hurting. His mind is at peace.

He lifts his head up to the glorious midday sun, the rays caressing his face.

His fingers twitch. It’s time to let go.

Loved. Safe. Warm.

Jungkook falls with the sun’s gentle rays shed on his body.

Shadows are anything you want them to be. Your darkest worries, fears, and nightmares. But for the light at the end of the tunnel to exist, there must be darkness suffocating you every step of the way.

Shadows bleed, shadows corrupt, shadows fade. But shadows also contrast, showing you the way.

Being the shadow to the light is the hardest part of it all. But when you see the light, your shadows fade, and it’s a new beginning.

you were the shadow to my light - Chapter 1 - styx_stxrs - 방탄소년단 | Bangtan Boys (2024)
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