Shinwoo easily leapt over the balcony railing outside his room, landing barefoot in the yard below. The moon was nearly full tonight, and its glow edged everything in silver, casting shadows across the yard and the adjoining street. Checking to make certain the others hadn't followed him, he took off across the yard, easily hopping the surrounding wall, and headed down the street. He could feel the rough pavement beneath his feet, but it didn't bother him in the least.
All around him were the sounds of the city. The low, constant rumble of cars provided an undertone, the occasional horn raising a brief racket. Dogs barked as strays crossed their paths. Lights hummed with the quiet buzz of electricity. The murmur of conversation was a backdrop to it all. Shinwoo kept moving, not really focusing on where he was going, though he knew where he'd end up when he was done.
Shinwoo wasn't sure how long he ran for, slowing only enough to dodge wandering pedestrians that crossed his path. Eventually, he located a building with a fire escape and clambered up it, taking to the roofs of the buildings, rejoicing in the simple strength that allowed him to leap from rooftop to rooftop, the people and cars just tiny blurs of color and sound below him.
When he reached the residential area, he made his way back to the ground, looking around the neighborhood. He didn't see anybody yet, but that didn't mean anything. If Baesook was around, he was well-hidden. Shinwoo was making a gamble here, and he just hoped it paid off. His fingers clenched tighter around the picture he was holding. How the other man had managed to get through Tao's surveillance, he had no idea, but it made Shinwoo more determined than ever to keep him away from that home.
He approached his front door, and as if summoned, the shadows seemed to coalesce and solidify for a brief moment. When they dissipated, Baesook was standing there, grinning at him, his teeth flashing brightly in the light from the moon, even as his eyes were shadowed under his cowl. "I see you got my present," he teased, and Shinwoo scowled.
"A present? Is that what this is?" he demanded, holding up the crumpled picture, M-21's bloodied, proud form peeking through his fingers. It had obviously been taken during a fight, and the determination in M-21's stance, the resolution in his eyes, were obvious as he glared at whoever his opponent was. Shinwoo didn't know which battle this was, nor did he care. Baesook – or somebody else – had obviously been observing them for quite a while. Probably from before Shinwoo had been kidnapped and experimented on. Which meant they were either working for Crombel, or had allowed it to happen for reasons of their own.
Baesook smiled, then gestured. "Shall we take a walk?" he asked. "Your friend can come, too, of course," he added. Shinwoo sighed as M-21 landed softly next to him. He had been aware of the other man trailing him since about halfway here, but had hoped that M-21 wouldn't get involved. He really should have known better.
Baesook turned his back on them, and Shinwoo growled under his breath. M-21 glanced at him, but then followed, his face expressionless. The redhead grinned, walking alongside him; no matter what was happening around him, M-21 took things in stride. It was only when his friends were in danger that he showed any sort of emotion, and the enemy usually ended up regretting it.
They were led to the park, and M-21 glanced around. He obviously recognized this place, because he frowned lightly, his eyes taking in the lights and park benches nearby. There were no people, though, and Shinwoo didn't know whether to feel worried or relieved. They could have just walked into a trap, but at the same time, at least if they had to fight, no innocent civilians would get involved.
Turning, their host slipped his hood off his head and smiled. It was a charming smile, green eyes sparkling with amusement, but Shinwoo tensed, his eyes narrowing. "Don't bother!" he snapped back. Baesook contemplated him for a moment, then nodded, the smile falling away from his face like it had never existed, his eyes growing cold and indifferent as he looked at the two men standing side-by-side.
"Very well," he acknowledged, "then straight down to business." He looked at the two of them steadily, then revealed what he wanted. "I want Crombel taken down. He should never have become an Elder, and would not have, if it weren't for the second journal." Shinwoo didn't know exactly what journal he was talking about, but he could make an educated guess. Dr. Crombel had probably gotten hold of another one of Frankenstein's diaries. And he obviously hadn't shared his newfound knowledge with the rest of the Union. Such blatant defiance could not be tolerated, but since he was now an Elder, nobody could touch him but the other Elders. Or an outsider.
Shinwoo's role in all of this suddenly became clear. "What he did to me…was an experiment from the journal?" he intuited. Baesook nodded in confirmation. "And you want us to take out Crombel, because we can do it without arousing suspicion." Again, Baesook nodded, and Shinwoo scowled, shaking his head. "As much as we'd love to take him out, you can forget it. I won't go after him just because somebody in the Union has got a grudge against him, but is too weak, or too afraid, to take care of it himself."
Baesook tilted his head in acknowledgment, then answered steadily. "I see. And is that your final word on the subject?" he asked slowly. Shinwoo saw the trap, but nodded anyhow, then was forced almost immediately to leap backwards as Baesook attacked. He dodged the punch, but not the slash of power that followed, and he grimaced as it bit into his shoulder.
M-21 growled, his hands and arms transforming, swiping at the other man. Baesook just danced out of his reach, his face as expressionless as before. Shinwoo darted to the left, his vision tracking the other man's movements, judging. Following his intended path, Shinwoo leapt forward, his fist aiming straight for Baesook's head, but the other man ducked at the last second, rolling away from M-21's slash, the older man's claws missing him by several inches.
The two enhanced humans circled Baesook, as Shinwoo thought furiously. He still wanted to save the other boy, but he wouldn't risk M-21's life in the process. If it had been just him, he might have tried to talk the other boy down, but it was obvious that Baesook wasn't willing to listen to anything he might say at this point. But then why make sure he was safe? Why keep track of him? Why attack him in the name of the Union, but be plotting the downfall of an Elder? Why now? Why not earlier? There were so many questions, and Shinwoo realized that he just might not get the answers to any of them.
Baesook was suddenly behind him, and Shinwoo felt a small push against his back. Stunned, he looked down, seeing the hand coming out from under his rib cage, having been shoved straight through his back and out. The other boy pulled his hand back, and Shinwoo's hand went to his side, even as he stumbled forward, aware of M-21 rushing past him to attack their opponent furiously.
The redhead turned, watching dazedly as the two men fought. It was obvious that M-21 wasn't a match for his opponent, and Shinwoo braced himself, prepared to rejoin the battle. He really wished that he had claws of his own at this point, but supposed his fists would have to do. M-21 fell back, his left forearm sliced nearly to the bone, and Shinwoo moved, ignoring the itching along his shoulders and spine, and the sudden tugging on the back of his neck.
He clenched his hands into fists, his foot lashing out at Baesook, keeping him from attacking M-21 as the older man tried to hop backwards, out of range. His nails bit into his palms, and Shinwoo relaxed them, darting in close, trying to get inside the other boy's reach. A knife was suddenly heading straight for him, and Shinwoo stopped, throwing himself backwards in an instant, the blade just barely grazing his throat. Shit.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shock of long red hair, and Shinwoo nearly froze. Baesook's approach forced him to keep moving however, and he dodged again, his hand reaching up to block his opponent's attack. Long, black claws – talons – were there at the end of his fingers, and they raked across Baesook's wrist, digging deeply and forcing the other man to jump backwards, out of range. Shinwoo's feet skidded along the ground for a moment, caught in the power of the other man's blow.
Shinwoo managed to stay on his feet, his head hanging down as he watched the other man warily through bangs that were suddenly very much in his way. A long hank of hair slithered over his shoulder, reaching halfway to the ground. Almost curiously, Shinwoo tugged on it, feeling the pull on his scalp. So it was his after all. He looked at his talons, then grimaced as the itching on his back became almost painful, like thousands of pins prickling along his shoulders and down his back.
The near-pain sensation ceased after a moment, and Shinwoo was glad to not feel wings on his back. He could tell that his eyes had changed, as everything looked even sharper than normal, and his ears were picking up sounds from much further away than usual, making him glad that they were in the park, where the noise was somewhat muffled by the trees that surrounded the property.
"Shinwoo?" There was surprise, and something akin to awe, in M-21's voice as he stared at the transformed human. Shinwoo really wished he had a mirror, so he could see if there were any other changes. Feeling a slight change in the wind to his left, Shinwoo shifted, and Baesook's attack blew past him. The other boy reversed his strike, but Shinwoo dodged that one just as easily. His eyes quickly took in his opponent, and his natural fighting instincts helped him to locate openings in the other boy's defense.
He both heard and saw M-21 moving in behind Baesook, and Shinwoo grinned, bracing himself. When the green-eyed man dodged M-21's attack, he moved towards Shinwoo. Rather than trying to attack him right away, the redheaded teen simply stuck his foot out, causing Baesook to stumble. His fist connected solidly with his opponent's side, and he could feel the ribs cracking. Baesook grunted at the impact, his feet touching ground for only a moment before he was flying. He crashed into – and through – a tree that lined the path they had been fighting on.
Shinwoo watched as the other man stood up, unhurt. The hairs on the back of his neck tingled as he felt the power Baesook was summoning. "Hmm…looks like you still don't get it," Baesook murmured. "I might have a bit of a soft spot for you," he told Shinwoo, "but the same doesn't go for any of your companions. Especially not this one," he said, green eyes glaring mutinously at M-21, who seemed unimpressed with the other man's anger, far more concerned about the power that was pressing down around them. Shinwoo belatedly remembered that this guy could fight on par with Frankenstein.
Realizing what Baesook intended to do, Shinwoo snarled, launching himself forward. He saw M-21 brace himself, starting to leap backwards, but he wasn't quick enough. Bolts of dark energy pierced his legs and shoulder, and he cried out, the sound caught somewhere between a howl and a snarl. Shinwoo kept moving, not focusing on anything except getting to the other man. He saw the weapon coming towards him, and instinctively moved to block it, his transformed hands catching the spear-like weapon. Power crackled and snapped along his body, sending waves of agony through his nerves, but Shinwoo ignored the pain, his hand clenching around the blade, even as it tore into his flesh.
His foot snapped out, trying to dislocate the other man's knees. With a wrench, Baesook pulled away from him, quite obviously pleased with himself. He now had Shinwoo's undivided attention. The redhead, for his part, was still confused. Part of him wanted to help Baesook, couldn't believe that he would actually do anything to intentionally hurt him. The other part was screaming that even if he didn't attack Shinwoo, he obviously had no such compunctions about inflicting injuries on Shinwoo's friends. And that was unacceptable.
Despite his confusion, Shinwoo was absolutely certain about one thing. M-21 meant more to him than Baesook. He met the other man's gaze steadily, letting Baesook see his decision. The other man's face contorted momentarily with rage, then smoothed out into apparent complacency. "Very well, then," Baesook murmured, his weapon dispersing as he ended the fight. "If that's how things are, then so be it. Just be careful that he doesn't end up dead because of your carelessness."
Shinwoo visibly flinched, his words scraping like glass across his nerves. Like Sung-tae, the voice in his head whispered. There was a low snarl close to him, and M-21 was standing there, covered in blood but standing tall and proud, as if he wasn't injured at all. "I hardly think I need Shinwoo to look after me," he sniped back. "If I die, it will be nobody's fault but my own. Don't tell me you actually believe that Shinwoo killed his brother?"
Baesook's lips tightened just a fraction, but Shinwoo had already known. He remembered Baesook trying to get him to talk, to pull him out of his grief. But he hadn't wanted to let the guilt go, and so he had chased the older boy away with harsh words. "I killed him!" he had screamed. "You lost him because I killed him!" He hadn't been able to interpret the look in Baesook's eyes, and even thinking about it now, he still wasn't sure what he saw.
"Shinwoo," Baesook said, deciding to ignore M-21, who stayed close to the redhead, obviously ready to go on the offensive at a split second's notice. "I was serious earlier, you know. When I said I was glad you were alive, and that Crombel was out of your head. Nobody deserves to have that man in their head." Shinwoo glanced at him sharply, and he smiled, but it wasn't happy. "No, I don't have a mind connection with him. I work under someone else. But I had a friend who did. She's dead now."
The way he said friend intimated that there had probably been much more between Baesook and the girl he was referring to. Still, just because he had lost a friend – or lover, or both – it didn't give him the right to try and kill M-21 for the sole purpose of making Shinwoo miserable. Baesook gave him a knowing smile, then glanced sharply up and into the distance. Shinwoo didn't bother to follow his gaze; he had felt his friends approaching some time ago.
Baesook bowed. "I believe this is where I take my leave," he murmured. And with no further explanations, he was gone, disappearing into the shadows as quickly as he had come. Rai was the first one to touch down beside him, Frankenstein only a step behind him. Shinwoo smiled up at the dark-haired Noble, glad that he was feeling well enough to wake up. Unless he had woken up because he felt that Shinwoo and M-21 were in danger. That made him frown instead.
"That was him?" Frankenstein asked politely. It was a rhetorical question, but Shinwoo nodded anyhow. "Did he seem inclined to be rescued?" the blond asked next, and this time, his tone was genuinely curious.
Shinwoo shook his head. "Not really," he shrugged. "He seemed more interested in getting me alone than anything. Then M-21 showed up, and all hell broke loose." He looked around the park, noting that in addition to the damaged, broken trees, there were long stretches of the path itself that had been torn up, where they had dug their feet in to avoid leaving the ground. "Ah, we made a mess again," he said, embarrassed.
"Yes, and you're leaving a trail of blood all over the place, as well," Frankenstein said dryly, and Shinwoo suddenly remembered that he'd had a hole punched in his side. It hadn't hit anything vital, and the adrenaline rush had taken care of the rest. His hands were almost healed, too, from where they had been sliced by Baesook's weapon. Shinwoo rather suspected that his transformation might have sped up the healing process just slightly, as well.
He held out his hands accusingly, showing them the claws, shaking his head so that his hair settled around his shoulders, trailing all the way down past his hips. "I thought you said I wouldn't transform," he muttered in Frankenstein's direction, but he was watching Rai. The Noblesse was staring back at him, but didn't seem inclined to speak, and Shinwoo sighed. "My back was itching, too," he added, downplaying the burning, stabbing sensation he'd felt as wings had threatened to burst from his back. They didn't need to know about that.
Frankenstein looked over at Rai. "Master, did you make a contract with Shinwoo?" he asked. Rai turned to look at him for a moment before shaking his head in the negative.
"I only awoke what was already there. He learns quickly," Rai answered at last. Shinwoo didn't understand what was going on, but Frankenstein did. And so did M-21, apparently. He looked like he couldn't decide whether to be angry or amused. He finally just shook his head, his fist coming up to clip Shinwoo on the back of his head. The redhead took the jab with a smirk, completely unhurt.
Rai was looking at him, and Shinwoo smiled back at the Noblesse. "I'm fine, Rai," he reassured the other man. "I don't know what his game is, but he really seems to have no interest in killing me. Unfortunately," he added grimly, "that doesn't seem to hold true for anybody else."
"Anybody else?" Frankenstein asked, his gaze sharp as he looked between the two of them. "Or M-21 in particular?" Shinwoo frowned, opened his mouth, then closed it again, thinking. What was it that Baesook had said? I might have a bit of a soft spot for you, but the same doesn't go for any of your companions. Especially not this one.
He shrugged. "Well, he indicated that he'd attack any of us, but he seemed particularly pissed off at Ahjussi. I'm not sure why, unless it's just because he followed me," he admitted, curious now. Rescuing Baesook was turning out to be more complicated than he'd thought it would be.
Frankenstein just shot M-21 a knowing look, and the silver-haired man shrugged back at him. Even Rai seemed to know what was going on, and Shinwoo growled under his breath. Were they going to let him in on the secret or not?
"Let's return," Frankenstein said abruptly, and his tone brooked no argument. Rai led the way, with Frankenstein two steps behind him. Shinwoo and M-21 brought up the rear, the redhead ready to support the other man should he stumble. M-21 just gave him a pointed look, his eyes traveling down to Shinwoo's side, where his own injury was still bleeding sluggishly. Shinwoo shrugged, grinning, ignoring the pull and burn of torn muscles and flesh. He could practically feel his body repairing itself, and figured it must be the same for M-21, because with every step he took, he was walking steadier. At some point, his hair returned to normal, his scalp itching as it shortened. The talons shrunk back into nails, and Shinwoo was more or less back to normal.
They made it back to the house, where Takeo and Tao were waiting for them. Takeo grabbed Shinwoo's shoulder lightly, and the younger man grinned back at him, realizing that he probably looked a bit rough. Tao just held out his hands to M-21, who handed him an earpiece. Shinwoo realized that not only had M-21 been trailing him to make sure he didn't get himself killed, but also to get information. Which meant that he had less explaining to do than he'd thought.
"Ah, so you guys know?" he asked, slipping into slippers before wandering into the house. If he messed up Frankenstein's carpet now, the blond just might kill him. They all watched as Rai seated himself on a chair, and Frankenstein handed him a cup of tea. It was all so very domestic, and you'd never know, looking at them, that they were strong enough to take on both Noble Clan Leaders and Union Elders and walk away victorious.
Tao was the one who answered him. "Of course we do! You didn't actually think that my surveillance would miss you leaving, did you? We sent M-21 because he's the strongest of the three of us. Takeo might've been faster, though," he said thoughtfully. Shinwoo just shrugged; it didn't really matter to him which one came after him. He'd fought against and alongside all three of them at some point or other, and would trust any one of them at his back.
Shinwoo wasn't surprised that nobody outright scolded him. Rai firmly believed in letting people make their own choices, though he'd protect them if those choices led to lethal consequences. It was an odd sort of belief system, but Shinwoo knew that there was a lot about the dark-haired Noble that he didn't know. Even Frankenstein was secretive for the most part. Shinwoo only knew that he had served Rai for years before the man disappeared, forced into sleep for more than eight centuries. Of course, he wondered what that made Frankenstein, to have lived that long, but supposed that it really didn't matter. If Frankenstein wanted to explain, he would. If he didn't, he wouldn't. It was as simple as that. Takeo and Tao were more easy-going than the other two, and M-21 had followed him to make sure he didn't get killed or kidnapped or something.
"Was that the Dark Spear look-a-like you were talking about?" Tao asked Takeo, who nodded. That's right, Tao hadn't been there when Baesook had attacked Frankenstein on the island. Tao frowned thoughtfully. "He didn't seem particularly inclined to attack with it," he murmured.
M-21 was the one who answered. "Probably because Shinwoo was there, and he just wanted to make a point," he theorized. Everybody's attention was suddenly focused on him, and he ducked his head a little. He had never liked being the center of attention, since that usually meant he'd soon become the focus of some experiment or other. Despite his obvious discomfort, he continued. "He wants our help to take out Crombel. For whatever reason, his hands are tied. But he also wanted to make it clear that while he might be asking for our help, it was only Shinwoo that he really wanted. He has no qualms about killing the rest of us to try and force his hand."
Takeo nodded thoughtfully. "That makes sense, if he believes that Shinwoo will comply with his demands if we're threatened directly." Which is exactly what Shinwoo would do, if putting himself in harm's way could save the others. "But we've already decided that Crombel has to be taken down, haven't we?" he asked the other two. Tao and M-21 nodded, confirming his statement. "So what is he really after?" he wondered. "He's hiding something."
Shinwoo realized that all eyes were focused on him, and he blinked. "Umm…I don't know," he said honestly. "I only know what he told us, that he wants Crombel taken out, but that he can't do it because he serves a different Elder, and they don't interfere with each other. Ever." He turned to look at Frankenstein. "I think maybe he found one of your journals and kept it to himself," he told the other man bluntly.
M-21's expression didn't change, but both Tao and Takeo's expressions darkened. Rai just ignored the proceedings, his silence speaking quite well enough of his own opinion on the matter. Frankenstein just laughed, completely unselfconscious. It seemed that the blond man caused more trouble than all the rest of them combined. Did he enjoy wreaking havoc?
"So what now?" Takeo asked, always the practical one. "Do we agree to help them? Or do we continue as we have been? Either way, the Union's attention has focused itself on this country. We cannot escape their notice forever. Whatever Crombel is up to, he has his own agenda, and we are left as a distraction, scapegoats to keep the Union's attention away from him."
Shinwoo sighed. "Ah, about that," he admitted, "I sort of told Baesook that there was no way in hell we'd help him. Internal problems within the Union aren't our concern, and if we try and fail, not only will Crombel come after us directly, he'll no doubt inform the Union of our whereabouts, as well as reveal our identities. There's a risk if we leave them alone, too, but I can't see how aiding one enemy against another is going to help us at all."
Frankenstein chuckled. "And I thought M-21 had a nasty personality," he said, quite obviously amused. "Well done, Shinwoo. I trust you were as direct as ever in your refusal?" Next to him, M-21 nodded in response. "Very good," the blond hummed appreciatively. "We will deal with the Union if they try to interfere with our lives here, but there is no need to invite trouble. Perhaps this unknown Elder will grow weary of waiting and will simply attack Crombel directly. Even if he were to lose, that would be one less Elder to contend with."
That brought up another question. "How many Elders are there?" he asked. "I mean, I know that Crombel is the Thirteenth, but some of them have been destroyed, right? So how many are left?"
Tao was the one who answered him. "There are still seven Elders remaining that we know of. The twelfth was defeated by the boss and him, as were the tenth and eleventh. The sixth, seventh, and eighth Elders have also been destroyed. So One through Five, Nine, and of course Crombel. We know that at least one of the remaining Elders is Roctis, one of the traitor Clan Leaders, and there may be more that we are unaware of."
Shinwoo nodded as he absorbed the information, wondering who Baesook worked for. Then again, considering what the other guy knew, he had a pretty good guess. "Baesook is probably working for a former Clan Leader then," he suggested. "Or at least has access to one. I mean, is it just me, or does he know way too much about you and Rai?" he asked Frankenstein.
The blond smiled at him. "Never let anyone tell you you're dumb, Shinwoo," he said, patting the younger man on the shoulder. "Tao!" he called, and the computer hacker followed him readily. "We have work to do. You two," he said, gesturing at M-21 and Shinwoo, "get cleaned up. I don't want blood all over my house." The two modified humans looked at each other, gulping. If they got bloodstains on the carpet, Frankenstein would probably make them replace every piece of carpeting and flooring in the entire house out of spite.
They left Takeo in the living room with Rai and headed for the bedroom. Shinwoo chuckled to himself, tugging at his torn shirt. "At the rate my clothes are being destroyed, it looks like I might catch up to you soon," he murmured to M-21. The older man just rolled his eyes, but otherwise ignored the jab.
Shinwoo stripped out of his shirt as soon as he crossed the doorway, M-21 only a step behind him. Grabbing a shirt out of the dresser, Shinwoo turned to look at M-21, freezing as his eyes trailed down the other man's slender back. Muscles shifted easily under pale, taut skin as M-21 dropped his button-down shirt to the floor. The pants came next, M-21 completely unselfconscious as he stripped down to his boxers.
M-21 finally realized that Shinwoo had stopped moving and turned to glance at him questioningly. Shinwoo blushed and turned hurriedly away, slipping on his shirt. There was a surprised sound behind him, and suddenly warm hands were touching his back, high up between his shoulder blades. Shinwoo's breath caught, but with his shirt halfway on, he couldn't turn around and look back at the other man. Wriggling until his head came through the collar, Shinwoo asked, "Ahjussi? What's wrong? I should be healed by now." He admitted, if only to himself, that M-21's look of intense concentration was starting to worry him.
Silver eyes looked up at him, and M-21 frowned. "You haven't gotten a tattoo recently," he stated, and Shinwoo shook his head. A tattoo? What was he talking about? M-21 touched his back again, tracing along something that Shinwoo couldn't see. "You have wings tattooed into your skin," M-21 told him matter-of-factly, as accepting of this new oddity as he was with everything else. It seemed that nothing surprised the other man for very long.
M-21 moved his hand, and Shinwoo slipped his shirt down his back, frowning. Now that it had been brought to his attention, he had to admit that he was rather curious about whatever it was that M-21 had been staring so intently at. That would explain the sensation he'd felt earlier, though, when he had done a partial transformation while fighting Baesook. He had been certain in that moment that he was about to grow wings. Perhaps they simply hadn't manifested completely yet? Shinwoo hoped that they didn't become a permanent part of his transformation. Maybe they'd just stay as tattoos on his back, something easily hidden away. Come to think of it, while he had felt his hair and nails shrinking, he hadn't felt anything more against his back that would indicate that it was returning to normal.
M-21 finally shook himself out of it and hurriedly finished dressing. Shinwoo very careful did not look at him, his thoughts skittering around, focusing on M-21 and then darting away. He had to save Baesook; he didn't have time for this. Still, he had to admit that M-21 had a quiet sort of charm about him, almost hesitant, though Shinwoo had seen him snipe with the best of them, and he thrived in battle situations. But when surrounded by people he liked and trusted, he was…softer, somehow. More boyish, perhaps?
Shinwoo suddenly realized that while he knew little of M-21's life as an experiment, the other man didn't even know his own name. How long had he been an experiment? He seemed very mature, no doubt thanks to the Union's harsh training, but he sometimes acted with a rash impulsiveness that belied his older age.
Realizing that while he'd been lost in thought, M-21 had finished dressing and fled the room, Shinwoo shook his head, grinning. Where was the other man planning on going? Not even the lab was off-limits to Shinwoo anymore. Stalking lightly down the hall, Shinwoo paused at the door to the bathroom. Flipping on the switch, he turned around so that his back was facing the mirror, and lifted his shirt up over his head, leaving his arms in the sleeves as he peered over his shoulder at his back.
Sure enough, there were two wings spanning down his shoulder blades, curving across his shoulders to just below his ribcage. The markings were faint, but they were rather obvious to Shinwoo's sharp eyes. He wondered, not for the first time, if his Awakening by Rai, combined with the experiments performed on him by Crombel's associates, had been the cause of this. He vaguely remembered brilliant red wings cascading down either side of his body, heavy and warm. They had disappeared quickly, and Frankenstein had seemed to think that it was a one-time occurrence, but looking at his back now, Shinwoo wasn't so certain he agreed.
Realizing that there was nothing he could do about it right now, anyhow, except let Frankenstein take a look, Shinwoo pulled his shirt back on and wandered down the hallway. Glancing out a window as he passed, the redhead found himself grateful that it was still summer vacation, since these late nights and early mornings were a pain. There was no way he'd be able to manage a full day of school in addition to everything else. Which meant that he had just under a month to resolve things with Baesook, to put things back to normal as much as possible, before classes started up again.
"There you are, Shinwoo." Frankenstein's voice startled him out of his thoughts, and Shinwoo turned to face the blond scientist. "Please come with me," he gestured. Shinwoo just shrugged, realizing that M-21 must've told him what he'd seen, and followed the other man down the hallway. He saw Rai rise as well, and they both paused. "Master?" Frankenstein asked, seeming surprised. The dark-haired Noble glanced at Shinwoo as he passed him, then continued on his way. The three enhanced humans who were still in the room looked at each, shrugged, and moved to follow as well. Frankenstein took them all in with a sweeping glance, then turned and continued on his way, following Rai down to the lab.
Shinwoo took his shirt off again as soon as he entered the lab. At this rate, he might as well just leave it off. Hopping up onto a table, he held still while Frankenstein examined his back, occasionally touching the tattoo or running a small machine over it. Shinwoo yelped when he felt the small, sharp bite of a needle, more surprised than anything. "What was that for?" he demanded. Blue eyes stared blankly up at him for a moment before refocusing, and Shinwoo sighed. Frankenstein was in researcher mode. "Never mind," he muttered, watching Frankenstein deposit the tube of blood into another machine that clicked and whirred as it processed.
"Whoa! So that's what M-21 meant!" Tao exclaimed, having caught a glimpse of the wings when Shinwoo had twisted around. "Very cool," he approved, staying out of the blond's way. Takeo nodded in agreement, seated on another table as he watched Frankenstein work. M-21 was seated next to him. Rai sat in a chair that was reserved especially for him, sipping on tea and nibbling on cookies.
Shinwoo shook his head, feeling his slightly longer hair brush against his shoulders. He really needed to get it cut. At least it wasn't as long as it had been during the transformation, he grimaced. M-21 noticed his agitation and guessed correctly about what was bothering him. "I can trim your hair later," he offered. Shinwoo blinked at him; M-21 could cut hair? Then again, he didn't know much about him, so if he was offering, then he probably could.
He smiled. "Thanks. I'd like that," he agreed. He turned to face Frankenstein as the blond came around again.
"I need to run some more tests," he said. "But they'll take a while, and you can't move during them. He held up a needle filled with some sort of liquid. "I'm going to sedate you. It should wear off in a few hours, after the machine is finished with its testing."
Shinwoo wondered if he really had a choice. With a sigh, he turned and settled onto his stomach on the table, holding out an arm so Frankenstein could slip the needle under his skin. The drug worked quickly, and Shinwoo's eyes drooped. He heard Frankenstein talking, but only managed a nonsensical mumble before he couldn't respond anymore. His finger gave one last twitch, and a warm hand took his own, squeezing lightly in reassurance. Shinwoo gave in to the drug and let sleep claim him.