Authors: black_goose & umberela
Pairing: Baekhyun/Chanyeol, Sehun/Luhan, Tao/Kris, Kai/D.O
Word count: 3,738
Summary: "The Oracle has seen the twelve united. War is coming to the Nations. We must prepare for battle."
A/N: a shorter chapter in which nothing much happens. ooooops. you're all going to have way more questions after you read this omg.
Suho could feel beads of sweat on the back of his neck soaking into his shirt. The heat in Vimera’s house was so unbelievably unbearable, he couldn’t work out how anyone could choose to live in it. He’d have suggested they open a window but it was just as hot outside, although it probably would have done something about how stuffy it was. And something about the odors.
With nine people all crowded into the room, the heat was even worse than usual. Vimera seemed unaffected, sitting in the center of the circle that the other eight had formed around her. Suho shifted, uncomfortable on the rough straw matting he was sitting on.
“What’s taking them so long?” Tao grumbled, wiping at his forehead.
“Kyungsoo is still in bad shape,” Suho replied. “And Yixing is only so fast, and he’s weak as well. A few extra minutes won’t hurt.”
Tao huffed, wiping his sweaty hand off on Kris’s shirt. Kris pinched him irritably.
Finally, when Suho felt likely to melt, Yixing shuffled into the room, being helped along by Chen. He was sporting a bloody nose, and Suho sighed but bit down on the reprimand on the tip of his tongue. Chen looked angry enough for them both. Xiumin scooted off his pallet to make room for the two of them, and Yixing half stumbled as he sat down.
“Where’s Jong— oh.” Luhan broke off, as Kai suddenly appeared in the middle of the room, Kyungsoo in his arms. Kyungsoo looked a lot better than he had done even the day before, but he was still pale, his limbs still splintered. In the state he was in, Yixing could barely do more than take away the pain, never mind start truly healing. Still, he looked lucid enough as Kai gingerly sat down, cradling Kyungsoo in his arms still. He looked ready to teleport Kyungsoo back into bed at a moment's notice. Luhan reached across and squeezed Kyungsoo’s hand. Kyungsoo gave him a weak smile.
“Alright,” said Vimera. She looked very smug, sitting in the middle of them all. “You’re all here to try to get some answers to your questions.”
“Yes,” said Luhan, “I want to know why I’m stealing Shifting energy. And why I exploded. And if I’m going to explode again. And—”
“You have too many questions,” Vimera cut him off, glaring. “One thing at a time, otherwise we’ll never get anywhere.” Luhan grumbled something but slumped down, falling silent. Tao snickered at him.
Chen rolled his eyes. “Do you even have any answers?”
“Of course I do,” Vimera said, quite affronted. “Are you doubting me?”
“Yes,” said Chen shortly. Yixing flapped at him weakly, making a shushing sound.
Vimera cleared her throat. “I told the blond fairy boy he was stealing energy. And he is. That’s why he exploded.”
“We know that,” Kris grit out. “But what we don’t know is why, or how we can stop it.”
“He’s a Seer,” Vimera said.
“There have been plenty of Seers,” Suho pointed out. “None of them ever exploded before.”
“Well,” Vimera said in a knowing tone of voice, “none of them were that important or strong before.”
“What does being important have anything to do with it?” Chen bit out.
“I’m important and strong and I’m not stealing energy,” Tao grumbled.
Vimera waved her stick at him. “You’re not a Seer!”
“He’s not even that strong!”
Suho rubbed at his temples, speaking over Tao’s squawking. “Alright, fine, we have a tentative reason why it happens.” The others all made discontented noises, shooting him scathing glances. “But how do we stop it?”
Vimera bounced happily on her pile of cushions. “We teach him to control the energy of course.”
Suho deflated. He should have known better than to stand up for her.
“Great,” said Kris. “Such a fantastic idea. We would have never thought of that.” Tao flopped over, clearly having lost interest in anything Vimera could say.
“I’m well aware you would never have thought of that, witless boy,” Vimera said, more smugly than ever.
“It’s a good idea,” Suho jumped in, before Kris could make any sort of retort. “I, uh, I think a few of us thought of it, actually. But how would we do that? It’s unmanifested Shifting energy.”
“You can’t control unmanifested energy,” Chen said scathingly. “That’s why it’s unmanifested.”
“You control it every time you Shift,” Vimera said.
“Yes, but,” Suho said a tad desperately, “not like that.”
“The energy needs to be channeled through something,” Xiumin said. Suho knew he’d read up on this a lot, in the hope that book smarts would help him in practice. “That’s why we use water, or fire. You can’t just summon up the energy on its own.” They were all nodding along.
“You used to be able to,” Vimera said. “Before the Split. Before our magic got watered down.”
“That was thousands of years ago.” They were all a bit surprised to hear Baekhyun talking. “And it never worked quite like that anyway, you still had to channel it, through spells or— something.”
“Actually,” Yixing said, “Healers kind of do that, I suppose. Our energy doesn’t have to pass through an element, to Heal. We send our energy in as-is.”
“Yes but you send it in to do something, you’re still manipulating something physical. You aren’t just sending it in to stay there.” Suho felt like he had a thought half formed, but he couldn’t grasp it just yet.
Yixing gave a weak shrug. “True. But the point still stands that— that maybe Luhan can be taught to manipulate it somehow. It can be done, like Vimera and Baekhyun said. We’ve just lost the art.”
“But if we lost the art,” Luhan said, “then how are am I supposed to do it?” He looked and sounded completely downcast.
Kyungsoo perked up. “But you did do it,” he said, voice rasping a little from disuse. Hearing him speak was like a balm to Suho. Until that moment he hadn’t truly realized how worried he’d been about him. “When you were sick. And Yixing tried to Heal you.”
Everyone blinked at him. He looked like he was half out of it, his face turned more towards Kai than out to the group, but his eyes were as focused as they could be. “What do you mean?” Luhan asked.
Kyungsoo took a deep, shuddery breath. “When you were sick — sick with energy, we know now — you had that fit, and you fainted. And Yixing tried to Heal you, and he—”
“He lit up like a firefly,” Tao yelped, pointing at Kyungsoo in astonishment.
“Somewhat more violently than that, if I recall correctly,” Yixing sniffed.
“It was like he’d been hit by lightning,” Chen mumbled. “But that wasn’t what it was, obviously.”
“No, it was, what?” Suho asked. “Yixing sending his energy into Luhan and getting shocked in return?”
“Healing is very direct,” Yixing said slowly. “It involves channeling our energy directly into someone else’s living body. It’s possible that in doing so I, er, touched my dust to Luhan’s dust, and maybe once the connection was made, he was so overfull of energy, that it simply poured into me?”
“We have to assume he’d been fit to burst ever since he’d gotten ill,” Kris pointed out. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have been sick.”
“But I don’t want to have to wait until I am sick and overflowing to be able to do this,” Luhan wailed. “And I was unconscious when this happened! I don’t even remember it!”
“And I don’t want to do it again, to be honest,” Yixing said with a shudder.”I felt so sick for so long after, probably from the excess energy—” A thought seemed to occur to him, and he fell silent, thinking.
“I wonder how much energy the two of you had,” Kai mused, “to be able to make you sick like that. Shifters can, theoretically, hold a lot of energy?” The question was directed at Luhan. Kyungsoo reached up and patted Kai’s cheek, like he was proud he’d thought of that.
Luhan gulped. “Chanyeol seems to have a lot of dust?” He looked to Chanyeol. “Do you feel sick?”
“Uhm,” Chanyeol paused, thinking, “No.”
Luhan shuddered, and Suho could only wonder exactly how much energy Luhan had possessed at the end. Thinking about the magnitude of the explosion, and if that energy had been manipulable, made Suho almost feel ill. They were delving into levels of energy potentially never seen before, not even prior to the Split.
“So,” Vimera said, breaking them all out of their reveries, “it can be done, like I said.” She shook her stick for emphasis.
“Yes,” said Suho, exasperated, “but how?”
Vimera stroked her chin. “Well, I don’t think you can stop him taking the energy, to be honest. It seems to be something that just happens, and it might not even be that he’s taking the energy, so much as he is just attracting your energies.”
“So we’d all have to learn to control it?” Xiumin wailed. “I can’t even move a cupful of water.”
Vimera tossed a pillow at Xiumin’s face. “No. That is not the solution.” She cleared her throat, Suho rather thought it was simply for dramatic effect. “If he can’t be taught to stop the energy from coming to him, he must be taught how to give the energy away. We already know he can do that.”
“You only just figured that out with the rest of us,” Tao accused. She leaned over to prod him roughly with her stick, and he yelped.
“That still leaves us with the how,” Suho cried over Tao’s dramatic yelping.
“Aha!” Vimera bounced up, running over to her cupboard.
“Oh no,” Luhan mumbled as she pulled down a jar filled with a sickly colored liquid. “Oh no.”
“Is that a — no,” Tao said, horrified. “That’s a frog. Luhan was right, there’s a frog in her tea.”
Vimera placed the jar on the floor between them all. Then she hopped into her kitchen and began rummaging around for cups. “Is she going to make us drink that,” Xiumin said in a stage whisper. “I don’t want to drink the frog tea.”
“I refuse to drink the frog tea,” Chen said flatly, not bothering to keep his voice down. Beside him, Yixing looked interested.
“We all saw how crazy Luhan got after he drank that,” Kris said to Suho. “There’s no way we can drink it.”
Suho stared at him helplessly. What was he supposed to? If this helped Luhan from being rended apart in the future, how could they say no.
Vimera busied herself arranging the cups, all in different shapes and colors, around the jar. As she unscrewed the lid she said, “It’ll be easier to understand when we can all see the energy. And it’ll be easier for him to control it if he can see it as well.”
“You’re going to make him channel it into one of us, aren’t you?” Suho asked warily. Once the lid of the jar was off, they all leaned away. Suho fought down the urge to gag.
“She’s going to get one of us killed,” Kris said. He sounded strangely resigned.
“Hush now,” Vimera snapped. “He hasn’t got enough energy collected right now to kill any of you. You’re all being dramatic.”
“We’re being dramatic?” Chen cried, and Yixing elbowed him. “No,” Chen said, turning to face him, “she’s going to make us drink crazy tea and we’re all going to be like Luhan was. You didn’t see him.”
“I want to drink the tea,” Yixing said. “I want to see what Shifting energy looks like.”
Vimera ignored them all. She’d been dipping the cups into the jar, filling them up, and then placing them on the floor. She’d reached the twelfth cup, and the tea was nearly gone, and so she had to scrape the bottom. The cup came up with the frog in it. She picked it out and flicked it back into the jar, and then stood to dole the cups out. She gave the one with all the sediment to Tao.
Tao held the cup away from himself with the tips of his fingers. “I refuse,” he said simply.
Vimera continued to remain silent as she handed everyone a cup. Yixing tentatively sniffed at his, Sehun turned green, and Luhan simply looked like he wanted to cry. When Vimera reached Kyungsoo, Kai shifted, and said, “No, he can’t, he’s hurt.”
Kyungsoo reached out and took the cup from Vimera. “I want to, and it’s not going to make my injuries worse.” Kai’s lips pressed together unhappily but he didn’t argue, taking his own cup from Vimera’s hands in silence.
Suho’s own cup was chipped, and the fumes alone were enough to make him feel a little foggy. Distantly he heard Tao urging Kris to trade cups with him. Suho thought he would probably have better luck getting blood from a stone. Vimera sat down in the middle of them again, looking serene.
“Seriously,” Tao said desperately, “someone please trade with me.” Everyone avoided his eyes, even Yixing. Apparently his interest didn’t stretch to drinking something which contained bits of old, pickled frog flesh.
Vimera ignored Tao’s distress. “Drink it all at once,” she instructed, “otherwise you’ll be sorry. Try not to let it touch your tongue.”
“Are we really doing this?” Chen asked.
“Yes,” Suho said with a sigh. “Just this once, for Luhan.”
“I don’t think I like Luhan well enough to do this,” Kai said.
Luhan huffed, plugging his nose with one hand, and shooting the drink with the other. “Blegh,” he said, eyes watering. After a pause and a heavy sigh, Sehun did the same. He gagged afterwards, which did not fill Suho with confidence.
Kyungsoo bravely tossed his back, his expression afterwards conveying deep regret. After that none of them had an excuse not to drink it. Kris counted backwards, so he and Tao could drink theirs at the same time, but at the last minute he didn’t do it, watching as Tao downed his drink and then choked, coughing.
“I’m going to die,” Tao gasped, the empty cup falling to the floor. “I’m going to— DRINK IT YOU JERK!”
Kris did so, the smile on his face falling away as he gagged. Yixing managed to down it with barely more than a wince, and Chen made the mistake of sipping it.
“This is worse than that time I drank too much ale,” Xiumin said, placing his empty cup on the floor. “It feels like I am going to heave my stomach up.”
They all managed to keep it down though, surprisingly. Sehun seemed like he had a close call but he managed to keep it in. Suho was surprised by how quickly it started to work.
“Wow,” Baekhyun said, eyes wide. “Dust.”
“Dust,” they all echoed.
Suho lifted his arm, transfixed by the cloud of shimmering dust that trailed after it. The room had been dark, but the dust caught what light there was and magnified it. They were seated so close together that it took a few minutes before Suho began to see the boundaries between them, enough to distinguish where one cloud of dust ended and another began.
Luhan had not been kidding; Chanyeol really did have a lot of dust. Suho could see him distinctly but the light around him seemed much brighter than anyone else, and larger besides. Suho glanced between Chanyeol and Luhan and said, “A lot.” It seemed to be the only way to express it.
“So much,” Luhan said in agreement, eyes going wide.
“You,” Tao said, slurring a little. Suho wondered if maybe because Tao had gotten the bottom of the jar, if his tea hadn’t been a bit more concentrated. He pointed in the general direction of Luhan. “Are taking my dust!”
“Not on purpose,” Luhan said, slapping his hand on the floor for emphasis. “Ow.”
Tao swiped at the thin line of dust floating in the air between him and Luhan. “My dust,” he mumbled, breaking the line. It formed up again most immediately and Tao frowned.
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do,” Yixing said, sympathetically. He was staring at the trail of dust floating away from his own cloud. He made ushering motions with his hands, trying to hurry it up, since trying to stop it didn’t do anything. All that happened was it scattered slightly, and then reformed slowly, continuing on its way.
Suho looked to his own trail. It moved so slowly. Luhan didn’t seem to be taking much from them, definitely not enough for them to notice the difference, and energy regenerated anyway. But he could also see how it could build up the way it did. Especially since, with the stronger Shifters, like Chanyeol, the dust trails were thicker.
He frowned, something occurring to him, but his eyes were moving faster than his brain could keep up with. He held himself still, trying to will his head to stop spinning all of a sudden, and tried to think. Carefully, very carefully, he counted the number of threads that he could see flowing into Luhan.
“There’s only ten,” he whispered. Xiumin turned to give him a confused, foggy look. Suho shook his head and swept his eyes back around the room, trying to note who each of the threads was coming from. He got to Kai and Kyungsoo and stopped. There was only one thread flowing from them, one cloud hanging around them.
Kyungsoo was poking Kai’s chest and face with a furrowed brow. Kai was staring at him like he’d lost it. “Your energies are one!” Suho said, and then instantly regretted it.
Chen said dryly, “Maybe it’s because they’re fu—”
“Mine and Sehun’s energies aren’t one!” Luhan cried, thankfully cutting Chen off. He glared at Kai. “That’s not fair! How do we do that?” Sehun, even though he was pale, still managed to summon enough blood to his face to blush.
“They’re not one,” Kyungsoo grumbled, a slight blush on his cheeks as well. “Look.” Kyungsoo pointed at the threads, and upon closer inspection Suho could see there were actually two, it’s just one was significantly smaller than the other, and they were so close together they’d been indistinguishable from one another.
“Oops,” Suho said sheepishly, “sorry. It looked like there was only one thread, and from here it seems like—”
“Like there’s only one dust cloud between you two,” Kris finished, squinting in their direction.
“There is,” Kyungsoo said, “Kai hasn’t got any dust.” Everyone turned to stare at Kai and Kyungsoo with unnerving intensity, making Kai shift uncomfortably. “Put me down, so they can see,” Kyungsoo said, adding in a soft undertone, “I’ll be fine.”
Kai heaved a sigh, and did as Kyungsoo bid, carefully placing Kyungsoo on one of the straw mats like he was made of glass. Kyungsoo hissed, wincing, but it appeared Yixing had managed to dull his pain considerably.
When Kai stood, walking away from the rest of them, it became clear that Kyungsoo was right. Kai had no dust. Not even a thin layer. Even Vimera had a bit, clinging to her skin, making it shimmer, and she wasn’t even a Shifter, but Kai had nothing at all. It was remarkably disconcerting to see.
“I’m really confused,” Tao said, summing up how everyone felt, Suho thought, judging by the way they were looking at Kai.
“How can there be a trail?” Suho asked. “It’s not even coming from anything. There’s no dust to take.”
“Maybe Luhan took all of Kai’s dust already,” Yixing suggested.
Kai frowned. “I don’t think so. I can still teleport.”
Luhan let out a wail. “I don’t want to take all of Jongin’s energy!”
“You haven’t,” Kai snapped. He teleported the few feet he was away from Luhan, towering over him. “See?”
Luhan reached out, peeking under Kai’s shirt. “Then where is your dust?”
“I don’t know but— it’s not in my pants, Luhan!” Kai stumbled away from him.
“Why is there a trail of energy between you two if Kai hasn’t got any?” Baekhyun mused aloud. The tea seemed to have made him a bit more unreserved. Suho didn’t think he’d ever seen Baekhyun’s expression so open.
“Maybe because he’s a Shadow Walker, his energy isn’t visible until it’s a certain distance away from him?” Suho said tentatively. It didn’t make sense, in his mind, but nothing much about their recent adventures were making much sense.
“No,” Luhan gasped, climbing up onto his knees to look at Kai’s trail closer. “It’s going the wrong way. All the other trails are coming towards me, but his is— it’s floating away.” Luhan paused to gape. “You’re taking my dust!”
“Now you know how it feels!” Tao yelled.
“You can’t take my dust!” Luhan cried. He turned to Vimera. “How come you accused me of stealing energy but not him!”
Vimera actually seemed a bit surprised by this turn of events. “He hasn’t taken anyone’s but yours, and I only just noticed it, because there’s only one trail between you two.”
Luhan plopped back down. Suho rather felt they had more questions than answers now. Sehun rubbed Luhan’s shoulders comfortingly. Kai pulled Kyungsoo back into his arms, looking discomforted. “I don’t feel too great,” Kyungsoo mumbled.
Suho didn’t either. It was probably more from the tea than from the energy stealing and all the more questions he had though. His stomach churned sickly. “Uhm,” he said, getting shakily to his feet. “I think I need to get some air.”
“Me too,” Tao said. He got to his feet much more quickly than Suho had managed and stumbled out of the door. A few seconds later they heard him retching.
“Don’t vomit in my garden!” Vimera yelled, waving her stick angrily. “Or on my floor,” she added, grabbing a pot and thrusting it beneath Xiumin’s nose. As he gagged into it, she began ushering them all out. “Away! Away! If you’re going to cast up the tea then away!” It was too little too late.
Suho threw up in her garden, feeling somewhat justified considering what he’d just had to put up with at her hands.