Author's Note: So there's like nine chapters left. Going to try harder to get them done. Enjoy this one for now.


XXI.


Your voice retains the same melody.

He wanders through the chilly, wide forest, alone and hopeful.

He follows the sound of her voice as though it's the red string out of the labyrinth. Dying leaves litter the pathway in which he treads, until he's out of the ensnarement of the branches and in an open, green field. Behind him is a tall, stone structure, a lookout without any guards.

Jin spots the figure in the distance, below the only tree that retains any leaves. He walks off the path and straight to her, a small smile gracing his lips. But as he approaches her, everything behind warps. He doesn't notice until it spreads to the corners of his eyes, where he sees the grass becoming purple, the branches becoming black, the sun disappearing, and the sounds are of his nightmares.

By the time he reaches Jun, they are alone on the small island of grass, beneath the tree. Jun pays no mind to the situation around her, simply tending to the flowers beneath the tree with a quiet joy. A smile tugs at his mouth, begging to burst through to the surface. He surrenders, just as he surrenders his mind to the sight before him, because it is what he has wanted again for so long, "Mother."

Jun's smile grows slightly as she continues to pick the flowers. Soon enough, she begins to assort them into various colours. The warmer reds, oranges and yellows all stay together in one hand, and the blues in purples are in the other. She looks at the cooler ones fondly, and Jin takes a seat beside her as she places the warmer coloured flowers in his lap and tends to the others.

She picks at the wilting petals, placing them on the grass before her knees. As she does, they dissolve, they melt, they begin to crawl up her knees and spreading all over her body and she's not even noticed. Jin moves to speak, but something is holding his throat and his vision his bleary. He doesn't understand what is going on, even as the world turns cold and as purple takes over not only his Mother, but the environment.

Everything melts. His focus no longer blurry, Jin looks up and finds Jun – Unknown – leaning over him with the smallest of smirks as the world weighs down on her. She's crushing his throat in her hands, and he struggles for air even as the wolf rises from behind her and laughs at him and his failures. And then, the wolf speaks to him as black claws at the edges of his vision, like sight is burning away, "You call yourself a protector? Your Mother and Father would be ashamed."

"Ashamed!" Unknown screeches, tightening her grip to an insane level, "Ashamed!"

White streaks cross his vision. Jin squeezes his eyes shut in the hopes of making them go away. He can hear his blood rushing through his ears, and it feels as though every breath is an effort. He hates that he feels like he's failed Jun, Kazuya, and even Asuka. He hates that he feels so weak –

"You are not weak."

There's the soft sound of feathers and silk swinging by his ears. Calm briefly washes over him and he opens his eyes a crack, seeing that the world is as it was, and that there's no more purple. The person before him, however, is neither his Mother nor Unknown. He opens his eyes wider and finds a woman with blonde hair and bright blue eyes staring back. She is dressed entirely in white and –

"I am Angel," she says, and it suits, "And I have a message for you."

Jin wakes.


"Look how high I am!"

"Can you touch the clouds?"

"...No."

Baek smirks, tightening his grip on his son's legs, "Then you're not very high, are you Hwoarang?"

Hwoarang looks down and glowers at his Father. An idea forms immediately, "Then I guess I'll have to stand on your head."

And so he begins to wriggle out of Baek's grip, his hands woven tightly in the mass of greying brown hair as he moves. Baek does not relent, and his grip remains as tight as ever, much to Hwoarang's annoyance. As he continues trying to get on top of his head, Baek speaks, "You don't have to be any higher than you are now. You can touch the clouds with your will. Always reach for the sky."

Hwoarang looks up at it. He analyses the sky, the clouds, and the sun. He does as Baek stated, his tiny hands reaching upward and trying to grab a piece of its endlessness for himself. He wants to make his Dad proud by actually reaching it, controlling it, taming it in its wonder and ferocity. The oceans of above, much kinder than the one he can actually dig his fingers into.

The clouds become red. They change before him, as does his hands, and he's not on Baek anymore nor a young boy. The ground beneath him moves, flows, bucks and kicks – he's on his ship in the ocean. A memory leads into another memory, and it's not long after Seongnam's been burnt to the ground.

He leans over the side, hands gripping the rails and into the splinters, retching. Pain fills his heart and lungs with the recent memories he seems to have attained. He's weak, pathetic and a shadow of a man – he couldn't even save who was dearest to him. What kind of person does that make him, he wonders.

He is alone on the deck. Everyone else is below. Nobody comes up and asks the new boy, the stranger what is wrong or what his story is. He takes comfort in this, choosing to cry, mourn, howl at the salty winds that whirr around him.

Everything around him changes again, but it is so unfamiliar – it can't be a memory. He is knee high in water, and behind him is a beach that he doesn't recognise. Hwoarang turns his attention back to the sea, his beautiful sea, and breathes in, watching the waves crash and reform in the distance. A seagull screeches somewhere up above him and a white feather drips down into his vision.

He catches it. It shines in his hand and then vanishes, reappearing as a woman with wings in front of him. He furrows his eyebrows, but before he can speak, the woman, an angel, speaks to him, her voice firm and clear, "I have a message for you."

Hwoarang wakes.


It's a warm night, much like the one she is accustomed to far across the sea, where coyotes roam and plants are uncommon.

Julia is ascending a cliff. She knows it's dangerous, especially with nobody there to help her or anything of the sort, but it is the best way in which she can feel free, empowered and true to herself. It is the best way in which she can let go of unwanted feelings and unpleasant memories.

But now she can only be here in her dreams.

Her arms and legs ache, and the wind is cold, bitter and unforgiving. She climbs and climbs and climbs, the rocks breaking in some places but not others. There is a burning in her chest, for air and from the memories of losing her Mother, Michelle Chang.

Michelle had been a kind woman, very gentle yet stern. She remembers the animal-skinned clothing and the days where she would teach her how to fight, because she believed, and rightly so, that women should be able to defend themselves. That they need not rely on men for every single little thing in their lives.

Nobody knows how she died, still. She remembers her Mother becoming raving mad, deranged, frightened at the smallest jolt – this wasn't the woman that she knew. The healers took her away and tried all they could, but she watched her become more and more unlike herself, until one day, she simply died. It was a horrible experience and memory, but Julia, ever the curious one, still wants to know why.

Her Mother kept saying something about keys, and how she had to find them before Armageddon arrived. It's the last thing she said to her before the healers took her away. She vowed to do so, and now, she was travelling with two people who are as far away from home as she is, trying to gather keys to prevent Armageddon and whatever else would come.

One of her feet slips. She clambers against the rock and just stays there, breathing and shaking. Her eyes become watery as her gaze hardens. She looks up to the sky and hears a howl in the distance. Exhaling, she starts climbing again, trying to leave her doubts about herself and her ability to achieve this task behind. She doesn't really want to do it, especially now that she knows there are others who know and are trying to stop it – but she doesn't want to let her Mother down, either.

There's something shifting in the pit of her stomach as she climbs higher and higher. She ignores it until she is at the very top and throws herself onto the flat ground, heaving, trembling and overall frustrated. Even here she cannot shake her guilt.

A woman's feet appear before her. She jumps up and glares, reaching for an axe – but when she sees and feels the general calm demeanour of the winged-woman, she relaxes, but only a little, "Who are you?"

She smiles, "I am Angel. And I have a message for you."

Julia wakes.


Nothing has changed.

Morning is approaching on the horizon as the three all glance at each other, having woken simultaneously. They are exactly where Devil Kazuya left them. They quickly check their packs, noticing that nothing's been stolen or taken – they are fortunate. Even bandits left them alone and untouched. They wonder how long they've been unconscious for. Their wounds look dry.

They're all silent for several long moments as they take in their separate dreams. Their throats close at the memories of loves lost, at the fear and the pain that they summoned. Angel's presence in their dreams did confuse them, but they chose not to speak of it – the others would probably find it weird anyway. Who has an intruder in their dreams, right?

They put away their weapons – katana, dao, axes. They stand and begin to wander down the path again, arms folded or stuffed into pockets. They ignore their wounds and the dizziness they feel in their heads, and they ignore the joy they feel when they find their steeds in the next town not so far away. They ignore the concern of the villagers, practically remaining mute for the duration of their stay.

On each of their horses, they finally look at each other. Jin is shaken, his shoulders rolling forward. Hwoarang is hurt, trying to shield his pain from his eyes. Julia's usually stern demeanour has given way to uncertainty. They say nothing and continue to ride, heading further into Europe.

"You are loved dearly, and you will succeed. Fear not."