The bus had been driving for almost half a day, getting closer to their destination: the east side of camp one, about a two hours drive.
The sky was still cloudy. Though without lightning, it didn’t eliminate the tense atmosphere present among the bus passengers, who were all lost in their thoughts.
Everything was so piercing: the cold weather, the awkwardness, the stares from each other, even the sound of the bus engine. It was as if the world was conspiring to raise the level of anxiety in everyone’s heart and mind.
Including Jungkook’s. He was not scared. It was certainly not that. At least, that was what he tried to tell himself—that he had been involved in worse missions before, dozens of times. But he just couldn’t prevent the uneasiness from emerging in the deepest recesses of his heart.
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat for the umpteenth time, his eyes wandering as his leg shook nonstop. The furrows on his forehead and the deep breath he took made it clear that he was nervous.
‘Everything is well planned. Correction, perfectly planned. Nothing will happen beyond calculation,‘ he kept repeating, reassuring himself that everything would be fine.
* * *
“Set the timer on your device, and remind us if our time is running out. Always check the weather. Watch the beast’s movement. Make sure no one’s approaching within enough range. We can’t take risks,” Jimin ordered Hoseok, staring intently at him, his arms folded across his chest.
“Jungkook, Namjoon, Tae! You guys come with me to this area.”Unfolding his arms, he pointed to a certain spot on the screen of the Bevice, zooming in several times. “Then we split up at this point to find the target,” he continued, gliding his finger to another spot on the screen.
“Fifteen minutes.” He lifted his face and locked eyes with his members. “If we still don’t find her within that time, return to the meeting point. Stop all the activities if Hoseok asks us to retreat, especially if the reason is code one.”
“Horde of beasts, or rain disaster!” everyone said out loud in unison.
“Right!” Jimin nodded once sternly. “That’s an order. Got it, Blueties?” He eyed them one by one, making everyone nod without a second thought.
“Hoseok, Heize,” Jimin said, swiveling to his left and moving the Bevice in front of them, “put the car at this point. It has access to all directions. Everything can happen later. This will make it easier for us to run away if we’re all surrounded.”
Resting his weight on one leg, he pulled his fingers away from the screen. “And one more thing. Always be ready with the engine, okay? We’ll listen to your directions, Hoseok. We trust you.” He leaned forward. “You got me?”
“Okay! Joon, bring Betraps number three and five. Prepare all the weapons we’re gonna use later.”
Namjoon nodded as he rose from his seat, heading to the weapon boxes at the back.
“Remember guys, use firearms if needed only. We can’t afford the consequences.” Jimin threw a glance at Namjoon before he set his eyes back on the people in front of him.
“And remember this,” he whispered, “quick, quiet, and no mistake. Any questions?”
Furrowing his eyebrows, Taehyung looked at his best friend. “Betraps, what’s that?”
“You’ll find out later,” Jimin replied, giving his attention back to his whole team. “Guys, we all know the risks. The exact time has been determined. If anyone goes beyond that, whoever the person is, they must be abandoned. If…” He gulped, “I emphasize here once again, only if the safety of other members is in danger of code one.”
His team swallowed hard and shared nervous glances.
“That’s an absolute order! Whoever that person is, we have no other choice but to leave him. Got it?”
* * *
The path they were on wasn’t the main road. It was a little narrow with large holes gaping over its surface. The bus drifted, staggering from side to side to avoid the holes, causing the passengers to bounce back and forth in their seats.
“Damn! This is frustrating!” Hoseok wailed, maneuvering the steering wheel, his nimble foot shifting from the brake to the gas and his eyes fixed on the road ahead.
Their bus went towards the forest, driving even farther into it. The landscape was soon replaced by the dense thickets and a towering cluster of giant coniferous trees. The ominous atmosphere, along with the dense fog and extraordinary silence, made all the passengers look out the windows, aware that something was wrong.
“There’s something off here,” Heize mumbled.
“Not even the sound of crickets or frogs or other forest bugs,” Taehyung added. “It’s too quiet. I don’t like it.” Squinting his eyes, he looked out the window beside him one more time.
‘This territory once belonged to a pack of beasts,’ Jimin thought, his face tense.
“Hey, look at this.” Heize elbowed Hoseok, showing him the red dots scattered across the screen of the Bevice. “It’s just several miles away from here.”
Hoseok gasped, his eyes widening at the sight of the dots gathered in immense numbers.
“What’s that?” Jungkook asked as he rose from his seat, heading towards them.
“Oh, it’s nothing!” Startled, Heize immediately turned off the Bevice, hiding it behind her back. “We just have to stop around here. Right, Hoseok?” Smiling nervously, she elbowed Hoseok’s chest hard.
“Y-yeah…” Hoseok glanced at Jungkook from the rearview mirror, trying his best to flash a smile.
Jungkook narrowed his eyes, watching their awkward gestures. He could sense it, the obvious tension in his teammates, and his prediction was right because, unknown to them, there was also a group of beasts right where the signal of Namjoon’s tracker was located.
Hoseok parked the bus at the planned location that was hidden behind the towering bushes and shrubs.
“Guys, we’re here!” he announced, taking his hand off the handbrake and turning his body to the passenger rows behind him. He then looked at Heize before glancing at the Bevice in her hand, his face full of concern. Catching the hint, Heize nodded.
Taking the Bevice from Heize, he cleared his throat. “So you all will head in the direction at two o’clock, to this right side.” He rose from his seat, pointing at the exact directions through the window. “I’ll let you know when you get to the meeting point,” he added, turning to Jimin.
Jimin rose from his seat, too, turning to face his team. “Checking time!” he yelled, stretching out one of his hands in front of his chest to form a certain code.
“Yes, Serge!” Everyone rose from their seat, stamping their feet against the floor. They stood upright, their chests puffed out. Their eyes were sharp with burning zeal, staring straight ahead, and their faces were firm, full of conviction. Jimin eyed everyone one by one.
“I know I can count on you, Blueties!” Inhaling deeply, he took one step to the back and yelled, “Earset!”
“Check!” everyone answered in unison, checking their respective devices on their ears.
* * *
They had been fast-walking for around fifteen minutes when Hoseok called them from across the line.
“Attention! Base is speaking!”
Jimin abruptly stopped and raised his fist, ordering everyone behind him to follow.
“It will rain soon. Get ready!” Hoseok warned.
Jimin looked at Namjoon and Taehyung with concern. He knew it would be a bit hard for them considering they just recovered from their injuries, but they replied with a steady nod.
Jungkook looked at Jimin with his arm on Namjoon’s shoulder. “I’ll back them up!”
Smiling, Jimin joined and put his arms on Taehyung’s and Namjoon’s shoulders. “We’ll back them up.”
“On the count of ten, guys!” Heize’s voice rang from across the line. And sure enough, ten seconds later, it rained. Hard.
They continued the walk, traveling further into the forest. The trees were getting dense, so it took more effort and agility to get on the path ahead. With the heavy rain beating them down, it was harder for them to walk fast.
They paused for a moment, adjusting themselves to the rain. Jungkook, who looked nervous from the beginning, felt even more uncomfortable. He wiped his wet face over and over again as his eyes darted around.
“Kook, calm down. You have to focus. We’ll be just fine,” Namjoon said, putting his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder and rubbing it gently to ease him.
Jungkook patted Namjoon’s knuckles lightly. “I’ll manage, Hyung. Don’t worry.” He smiled, swirling the machete in his hand and brushing the tip of his nose with his knuckle. He grinned mischievously. “I’m more than ready.”
“You better be, big boy!” Taehyung snorted from behind, walking past him to the front line near Jimin.
Hoseok’s voice rang in their ears. “Guys, you’ve reached the meeting point. Find a hidden spot there to take shelter. The pack is at four o’clock, about fifteen meters away.”
Jimin grabbed his machete that was hidden beneath his shirt and hinted his members to gather in a circle. “Ready?”
He looked at them, his eyes sharp. His face was full of readiness, determination, and an immense strength that made everyone’s faces light up as adrenaline shot through their veins.
With that, they split up to enter the beast’s territory from various directions as planned. Namjoon and Taehyung to the left, Jungkook to the right, and Jimin straight ahead.
Jimin walked carefully. After a few meters, he could spot an old and quite large building with a rusty iron fence. The roof was caved in with columns that were about to collapse. All the paint was peeling off the sides with thick dust covering the surface.
He slowly approached it. Any sound he made was covered by the roar of the rain. When he was finally in front of the door, he could sense it—his nemesis.
The familiar feeling sent shivers down his spine, making the hair on his nape stand. His heart was thumping like crazy, pumping his blood all over his body. Swallowing hard, he slowly put his palm on the doorknob, turning it soundlessly. He was about to poke his head in when two large arms flew at him, almost knocking him down.
He dodged them, jumping over the two creatures that blocked the doorway. He faced the beasts as he took a machete from his back and prepared to attack.
‘They’re low-class beasts. I’ll easily beat them,’ he thought.
The beasts growled.
They concurrently attacked him from both sides, flinging their powerful claws and kicks. Letting them take the lead, Jimin took several steps back as he dodged the powerful attacks. When he was cornered, his back touching the wall, he smirked. “Enjoying the fun, beasts?”
Both of the beasts snarled with their mouths wide open, showing their sharp teeth. In a split second, Jimin’s countenance turned intimidating like a raging assassin’s, his eyes shooting daggers.
“Sorry kids, but your time’s over. I’m in a hurry!” In a flash of lightning speed, he zigzagged between the beasts, slashing their necks with his machete and causing them to fall with a loud thud.
“Go to hell, you, morons!” he mumbled between his heavy breaths before he left the room, not even sparing a glance at the creatures soaked in black blood.
He traveled deeper into the building and found another large room with a few random things lying on the ground. There, he could hear from behind him—the sound of heavy breaths and quiet moans from the beasts.
‘One, two, three, four, five,’ he counted. ‘Let’s party!‘
Without a word, he hastily ran forward before the beasts realized anything. Using the wall as a foothold, he stepped on it and twirled his body, flying through the air and slashing the back of the two beasts behind him.
Shocked, the other three beasts froze, their black eyes bulging and looking at each other in disbelief. They were a bit taken aback by the fact that their friends fell to the floor without even having a chance to fight. Furious, they attacked Jimin, pushing him against the wall.
The beast in the middle grabbed Jimin by the neck, choking him. Gasping for some air, Jimin tried to break away, jerking his body. His face reddened and his eyes started to water. He was still struggling to free himself when the other two attacked him from both sides. Using his free feet, he kicked the beast on the right, causing it to fall far to the back.
Gathering his remaining strength, he screamed and lifted his machete in his left hand, chopping the back of the beast that strangled him. “Aaaaarghhh! Take this, you idiot!”
And surely, the beast collapsed. As soon as his neck slipped from the tight grasp, he stabbed the remaining beast through its chest, making black blood spurt out all over his face and body.
He was still gasping for air when he walked over to the final beast still slightly moving and crushed his head with his foot. “You’re not strong enough to mess with me, beast. Go to your friends in hell and tell them I said hi!” Raising both of his arms, he stuck a dagger into its forehead, ending its life.
He was wiping the black blood from his face when he heard howls and growls from the left side of the room. Wasting no time, Jimin rose from his squat to run there right away. He entered a brighter room, light pouring in from the cracks on the walls.
He shifted his eyes to the back corner. There, he could see Taehyung covered in sweat and blood, kneeling and spreading his arms out. His arms and thighs were badly injured with wide, gaping wounds. Jimin realized that his best friend was protecting a female figure behind him with his trembling body.
Meanwhile, Namjoon was in front of him, looking as injured as him. The left side of his face was bleeding profusely. His body was shaking violently. He had to support his slightly bent body with something that resembled a spear that had a jagged iron point. Even so, he managed to point a weapon that resembled a big gun at the group of beasts at his left side.
‘Their energy is low,’ Jimin thought.
The biggest beast among them shifted its piercing eyes from Namjoon to Jimin.
“Wow, look who’s here!” It left the group and walked over to Jimin. It snickered, clapping its big hands excitedly. “The beloved hero of the universe has come!”
Brown hair covered its body and face almost completely, hiding its pale skin that was barely visible.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Sergeant Park Jimin, the famous leader of the Blueties, the most hunted human being in this universe.” It grinned, showing its long and sharp teeth. “So, Serge. You are here to rescue that girl, huh? Another disgusting kind on the planet, a Sapphire Blueties.”
Smirking, Jimin took a few steps towards the beast while swirling his bloody machete in his hand. “Hi, alpha! Not nice to meet you and your minions here.”
The alpha’s black eyes turned red, indicating it was in its killing mode. “It’s so sad that I have to kill you in our first meeting, Park. Your blood and flesh will taste so sweet, soft, and chewy,” it said, licking its drooling mouth.
Shrugging, Jimin took one step closer. “Try me then! Come and get me, alpha. You know I can effortlessly kill you with my third move before you know it, right?”
He flipped his hair as he winked at the wild creature in front of him, not showing the slightest fear. The alpha seemed shaken, unsure of itself. A low groan left its mouth, and its arrogant tone disappeared.
“I will make sure that you and your stupid people won’t be able to run away from here, you son of a bitch!” it screamed, stomping its foot furiously. “You killed almost all of my men with your stupid grenade! How dare you!”
“Yes, and you should have died with them. Wouldn’t it be more fun if your men could stay with their leader even after death?”
“You, human…!” The alpha gritted its teeth, its sharp stare piercing Jimin. It growled loudly, positioning its body to attack, but Namjoon automatically shifted his weapon from the group of beasts at his left to the alpha instead.
Sneering, the alpha turned its body to Namjoon, walking over to him. “Are you sure you’ll use firearms here, kid?”
Shrugging, Namjoon answered in his weak voice, “Just… you… see…”
With one quick move, the alpha grabbed Namjoon by the neck and lifted him. “Don’t try me, human. You ain’t nothing but a meal for me!” It tightened its grip, lifting Namjoon even higher. Jimin ran to him, but the group of beasts blocked him.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” Jimin roared, the crowd of beasts getting closer.
Taehyung rose to his feet, charging towards the alpha, but a powerful kick to his stomach sent him flying and tumbling against the ground. He tried to lift himself again but failed miserably, coughing fresh blood.
Glancing maliciously at Taehyung, the alpha mocked him. “Weakling!”
“Now, Park, bid your farewell to your dying member here!” It opened its mouth, bringing it closer to Namjoon’s neck.
Namjoon’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. His feet kicked the air as his hands vigorously beat the alpha, but the alpha was too strong. Jimin was surrounded, and Taehyung was nearly knocked out. But the most bitter thing was that Namjoon was dying.
They were cornered. In that despair, Jimin shouted in his mind, ‘Jungkook!’