Three hours until midnight, three hours until tomorrow, three hours until the bell rings and the race begins. Ultimately, three hours until things certainly get out of hand. At least, that was what the great majestic Phoenix, and referee, Moon Bong, had already determined. Havoc would be wreaked, beings would be hurt from all categories, humans, demons ... However, it was his job to keep that to a minimum, a fact that the Phoenix wasn't particularly fond of for a multiple of reasons. The biggest one being that he had to remain on the earth, the realm of the humans for nearly a year. The very last time he had stayed so long was to investigate the conditions and activity of, what the humans would call, the supernatural. Needless to say, he did not enjoy it, nor would he enjoy it now.
For the past few years, the population of evil spirits and demons had increased considerably. Instead of staying quiet, the malevolent creatures did the exact opposite, 'causing harm, too much of and it only continued to increase as the days passed by. It had become too heavy and dangerous to ignore, something needed to be done about it. That was when the Jade Emporer came up with his brilliant idea and put Moon Bong in charge of it, much to his dismay. The second Great Race. While the race was particularly set for the Emporer's precious Zodiacs, it was open to all. Strange as it was, he requested that the Cat who had lost its chance to be specifically invited as the Zodiacs were.
The message had been sent only a week ago, as long as Moon Bong had been on earth. They were given just a week to prepare for the challenge ahead of them. The rules had been explained in the letters, it had spread through the recipients. Presently, there was only one thing left to be done before the bell rings and the race starts.
The last task to take place was to gather the Zodiacs as they were the main participants, the highlights. The reason to meet with them all at once was simple enough. One reason was that the Emporer wanted them to personally meet with the cat, why he was so determined to bunch her with the Moon Bong wasn't even sure why. Secondly, there were certain cases at hand that he wanted them to care of in particular. Lastly, it was to verbally in force the rules, knowing the Zodiacs they probably wouldn't take it as seriously as it was required, and set them up straight for the race.
The meeting place was the Lotus Room. A room not seen by the human eye or even demon eyes, it was only shown to few special individuals.The appearance and interior were like that of a tea house. It was a common workplace of the Phoenix when he was on earth for tasks. And now it would be a spot for them all to meet with him during the time of the race, to ask questions and et cetera.
As Moon Bong sat at a table next to the window wall, he sipped on his tea watching the humans, who could not see him nor the room, pass by in the rain. That was until the bell of the door rang, announcing the first guest. The first person to arrive, ironically was the Pig, shaking the rain from his pink hair like a wet dog.
"Moon Bong! Long time no see!" Hwan greeted him cheerfully.
As a response, he only nodded his head once, fully intending to ignore the twelfth Zodiac. One after another, they came, though, he paid them little attention. While the atmosphere was peaceful, Moon Bong couldn't help but feel apprehensive and it wasn't because he felt nervous for meeting the Zodiacs all at once after so many years and under the circumstances that they were. It was something else entirely, something he couldn't put his finger on.
Hoodie pulled over her head and jacket held tightly closed with her hand, Min Jee was looking at the letter she had received not one week after she had moved back to Korea. Having lived most of her mortal life away from here, travelling with adopted parents whose work took them around the world, she had easily slacked in reading and writing, since most of the world needed English instead. Thankfully she could understand and speak a hundred percent, otherwise it would have been a pain to be back.
Finding her way to the Lotus Room had been rather painful for someone like her, unfamiliar with the city as well as its street names. Thankfully the cat had managed to find a reasonable cab driver, an elderly grandfather sort who was more than happy to help a young lady find her way during the cloudy, rainy night.
"Be careful young lady!" he had called out when she exited the cab. "It's late and slippery... are you sure I can't escort you?"
"It's fine, thank you Ahjussi," she had replied, putting on a cheerful face and waving her hand. "I should be fine!"
It had taken a little more convincing before the old man drove off, leaving Min Jee to look over the letter for a good few moments before folding it and stowing if away in an inside pocket of her jacket. Letting out a sigh, she finally made her way to the tea house and opened the door, filled with both anticipating and dread.
How many years since she had seen any of them? Did any of them even remember her? And what about the Rat? Surely she did... they had been best friends before Min Jee had been betrayed. Or at least she had thought they were friends...
Hands curling loosely around edge of her jacket's soft and fluffy cuffs, she looked around, spotting Moon Bong and then Hwan, the Pig. Taking an inward breath, half wishing to run back outside into the rain, the Cat headed in their direction, determined to look more confident than she felt.
Nobody knew how Dae-Jyung’s brain worked, not even Dae-Jyung himself. Some days he had laser focus and his mind was sharp, though admittedly a little dull in comparison to others. If he set his mind to a task he wouldn’t give up until it was completed or the task was removed from him. But other days, this day included, he was easily distracted, and it drove people nuts sometimes, especially when his original task was as important as it was today.
Dae-Jyung meant to be at the Lotus Room by now, but you see…a black cat walked in front of him, and he could have sworn he heard from someone that should a black cat cross your path, that’s 7 years bad luck, unless you capture the cat and make force it to relieve you of your curse or something like that. The specifics were a bit fuzzy but he couldn’t start the race with bad luck!
So that was how Dae-Jyung found himself running out of time as he chased a black cat through an alleyway. “C’mere you…!” He tried to grab it by its body but the darn fuzzball swerved to the right, unfortunately backing itself into a corner packed with boxes and trash cans. “Ahah…haha…haha…” He began to snicker as he slowly approached the cornered creature, ignoring its warning hisses. “No escape for you this time, little one. I shall have my luck back!” And with that he took a leap of faith, diving after the feline with both arms outstretched and ready for the capture.
Unfortunately for him, the cat was smarter than it appeared. You see, cats are quite intelligent and devious creatures. They have no morals and their only goal is survival, as such they have evolved in a way that allows them to outsmart all manner of predator and prey, even those who would, under normal circumstances, be superior to them. It knew Dae-Jyung would never give up chasing it, so it lured him into this exact alleyway where it had an ally, a friend that owed him a favor you see.
So, while Dae-Jyung’s attempt to capture this cat could have worked, had he not underestimated this creature, it did not work today, for out from the can sprung a cat that was quite the big beastie, at least three times the size of the luck-stealing black cat! “Oh sna-“ Dae-Jyung was able to start but never finish as the big cat attached itself to his arm, scratching and biting at the skin. Dae-Jyung hit the ground with a cry of pain, swinging his arm around while the Luck-thieving cat escaped down the alley and into the street.
Only once he saw his comrade had escaped did the big cat let go and make a break for it himself, stopping to look back at the Zodiac. And then…the craziest thing happened. “Enjoy the next 7 years…punk.” The cat snickered and then ran for it, following after his ally.
It took Dae-Jyung a few moments to realize what had happened. He had been played…! “Hey wait!” Now he was angry! He booked it after the cat, exiting the alleyway, only to realize that they were long gone. “No…no…!” He could almost cry as he pictured the next agonizing 7 years. How could he even be a god of fortune if he had no fortune himself?! He raised his arms up to the sky and, and the top of his lungs (and to the chagrin of the people around him) screamed “NOOOOO-!” But he paused midway.
“Hey is that…?” He thought he saw a familiar face sitting in the backseat of a cab. His despair having been slaughtered by curiosity, he stepped into the street (after checking for the red light of course) and headed over towards the cab window. Without much care for sanitization or the weirdness of it all, he pressed his face against the glass of the cab to have a better look inside. His face was smooshed against the window, looking like a pancake almost as his eyes darted around, focusing on the person in the back. Once he made out who it was, he couldn’t help but gasp and grin, fogging up the window in the process.
“JUNHO! IT’S ME! IT’S DAE-JYUNG!” He cried out excitedly.
He’d obviously forgotten his whole original goal in the first place. There was too much excitement for him to stay focused, but at least with the discovery of an old friend he would hopefully be put back on track.
Striding confidently over puddles with the grace of a lotus skimming delicately over water, was Iseul, a clear umbrella in one hand and Ppo PPo snuggled up in a soft white baby blanket in the other. Her cute little nose twitched apprehensively, mirroring Iseul's emotions. Taking cover every now and then to avoid getting struck by a stray bolt of lightning, he slowly made his way towards his destination; The Lotus Room. Not wanting to give his idol a bad impression, Iseul left home five hours prior to the meeting. He lacked a sense of direction and this time there was no way to ask for directions for a place few could even see.
Luckily it seemed that his luck was not bad tonight. The bright lights from the store lights and passing cars combined with the rain gave the street a hazy ethereal feel to it. As usual his idol had refined tastes. Thinking back to the letter in his blazer's pocket, Iseul's eyes filled with mirth. A second chance was more than he could ever ask for, it'd be a waste to squander it. With that in mind, he closed his umbrella, shaking off stray water droplets onto the porch outside before heading in. After taking care to hang his blazer to dry in the foyer, he placed his shoes aside to dry as well. Conveniently enough, his black socks morphed into cloth slippers, allowing him to leave the floor towards the inner portion of the tea house unsullied.
Or so he thought
Iseul paused the moment he took a step towards the inner room to find that his cloth slippers slightly damp. It seemed not everyone was as concerned over the state of the room as he was. Truly a sin. The mirth that previously shone in his eyes immediately dissipated into sheer disgust. "Seriously..." While muttering away curses to whoever was careless enough to dirty the floor, Iseul resisted the urge to clean up the mess as he looked up to find three familiar figures. One was his idol, the other two, pests. Bowing in greeting to Moon Bong, Iseul's mood temporarily turned for the better.
Without waiting to be offered a seat, he took his place at the table, beside Moon Bong. He then placed Ppo Ppo beside him. Reluctantly, he decided to greet the other two as well. "It really has been a while. Didn't think I'd be seeing either of you any time soon." As he spoke, he kept his ambiguous gaze locked on Min Jee, the cat. As the one who didn't attend the previous race, he didn't think she had the right to stand before the rest. His stare didn't linger long as he felt that she was a stain in his eyes. Instead, he set a loving stare down at Ppo Ppo who was much more pleasing to the eyes. Making sure she was still covered in her little blanket, Iseul moved on to ignoring the others in the room.
The day had seem a bit too long for the rabbit, staring out the window that held a scenery all too familiar. In all honest, Junho found it morbid that his hospital room had a view of the church, wondering if building a hospital so close to one was someone's idea of a prank. Brown eyes gazed at the stone building, moving over to the frosty grass that looked almost like snow, fantasing for only a moment how it would feel to jump through that. This entire day was going to feel somewhat melancholy for the rabbit, he hadn't met all of the zodiacs after disobeying the gods, and for a good reason too. What would they think when the rabbit, the one who jumped his way to fourth place, arrived in a wheelchair? Another sigh escaped him, pushing the steam from the tea cup away, before he took a quick sip. Chai tea, it was nice and hot and it did wonders for Junho's decreasing health, especially during the winter. Even if he was a snowshoe rabbit, where his fur would change color to match the snow, unfortunately his health was always bad during the colder seasons. He was wrapped in a blanket and had a thick sweater on, and still he felt a little bit cold.
Eyes shifted over to glance at the letter, sighing as he knew he needed to go even if he didn't want to. Hopefully, the reactions wouldn't be strong, and their eyes wouldn't be laced with pity the moment it got revealed to them. A rabbit who can't jump, the mere sound of it was so pitiful. "At the very least, it won't be so bad after the race began. Perhaps then, everyone will go their separate ways to try and win. I'd love to win, but. . . If I'm this selfish, I probably already have negative points," he chuckled a little bit before the door to his room opened. In the door frame stood a white-clothed young woman, smiling at him and giving him a polite bow which Junho returned.
"Your cab is here Junho, would you like some help to get into your wheelchair? And please, dress well. It is freezing outside. The doctor and I aren't sure if you should be out this late, but since you said it is important, there is no helping it. Don't get sick, okay?" She was a sweet nurse. A very young and caring individual, she liked her job and had some genuine care for her patients. Junho felt a bit bad for making her worry about him, but there was no helping the meeting being today and at night no less.
"I'll be fine," Junho smiled, in an attempt to ease her concerns, before finishing his cup of tea and then easing himself into the wheelchair. At the very least his arms got a little bit stronger, though not by much since he still needed a lot of help. "I'm surrounded by friends too, so I doubt that if anything goes wrong, I won't get help," Junho added before pushing himself forwards with the wheelchair, grabbing a jacket and a scarf on the way out of his room to add even more protection against the cold. If only he could go out like a rabbit, his fur coat did wonders, but with the added rain, maybe not. Water was deadly for rabbits after all, since if his fur coat got wet, then the heat isolation wouldn't work, freezing him to death. Another sigh escaped him, whether it be his ill health as human or bad luck as a rabbit, it seemed like this day was out to get him.
The nurse escorted him down to the lobby, kind enough to hold the umbrella for him, as the cab driver help lift Junho into the vehicle before loading up his wheelchair along with him. The human wouldn't see the place Junho was going to, but at the very least he could drive to a building nearby, and then Junho would make his way from there.
"Take care Junho, return safely," the nurse wished him with a smile before closing the door and handing the umbrella to the cab driver with, more than likely, information about Junho's ill health.
The cold, the rain, the overall world, today didn't feel like a good day. Junho took a quick glance at his wristwatch, sighing to see that the cab arrived a little late. It was no surprise, they always did, but today he didn't want to be late. "Oh well, hopefully, I will not be late or the last to arrive," Junho sighed as the driver got into the cab and gave him a smile before driving. The nurse probably told him where to go, especially since Junho had to tell her first. It was annoying to ask for permission to go out when he was nineteen, or in their eyes he was, and that the doctor also needed to approve of it.
Junho stared out of the window for most of the car ride, watching as the harsh droplets smashed themselves against the thick glass, listening to the methodical sound it made, which almost made him drowsy. They stopped at a nearby crossroad, waiting for the light to turn green when suddenly--
“JUNHO! IT’S ME! IT’S DAE-JYUNG!”
His entire body jumped as he must have closed his eyes for some mere seconds, but the first sight that met him was a giant looming shadow and a face that was presumably Dae-Jyung's, but it was so deformed, with the way that the older was pressing his face against the glass. "Dae-Jyung!" He called out in return, vary to open up the car window due to the poor puppy getting drenched in the rain. He must have been wandering around for a while, and to no one's surprise, he must have gotten lost, because this was nowhere near the Lotus Tea House. "Heol, are you lost again?" He asked, but didn't need a reply as he peeked over to look at the cab driver. "He's a friend, and he's going to the same place. Would it be alright if he joined us?" Junho politely asked, and the cab driver gave him the okay to do so, thankfully, since he doubted Dae-Jyung would make it to the meeting in time, or this year, on his own. "The cab driver says we can give you a lift, get inside so maybe we'll make it on time," Junho invited the puppy with a smile, watching as he bounced happily around to step into the warmth of the cab.
Now that Dae-Jyung was inside of the cab, it was easier to see that he must have had a rough adventure on his way to the tea house. He was covered in scratches, dirt a little bit of blood and water. Junho apologized to the cab driver for the state his seats were in, but he didn't seem to mind too much, as Dae-Jyung pounced into the cab to give Junho a big bear hug before they continued on their way.
Dae-Jyung didn't waste a second to start talking about his great "adventure" with the black cat that had stolen seven years of his luck. In other words, he got distracted on his way to the tea house. Apparently, he had also heard of tall tales of catching the cat would bring his luck back, so the foolish puppy had begun chasing after the poor feline until he had cornered it, only to be ambushed by its more significant friend. Junho had tried to hold his laughter in, but there was no way around it. That was, perhaps, one of Dae-Jyung's biggest talents, wherever he went there would always be laughter and smile. It was the main reason why their friendship was so strong, because the clumsy puppy's company was always a welcomed wave of positivity, especially on such a day. Junho didn't even mind the fact that Dae-Jyung was dripping all over his side, making him a bit wet and cold in the process, though the laughter warmed him up nicely from the inside.
"I'm glad you didn't get hurt too much, try not to chase cats too much, okay?" Junho chuckled as he rummaged around in the cab a bit to find the first aid kit and began tending to Dae-Jyung's "battle scars" and to remove the dirt. "Be good and stay still, it's going to sting a tiny bit," Junho warned as he continued to cleanse the scratches and bite marks that the cat had left, which earned him loud whines from Dae-Jyung until his attention seemed to be caught by something else.
Junho turned around as well, seeing the white male that stuck out from everyone else like a sore thumb. Baek Ho was a fan of wearing his old clothes as if he was a character from a historical drama, and it didn't help that the man had an affinity for wearing white. "Baekkie!" Junho called out as he opened the window, now that he was wet there was no helping it and smiled as he gestured the man over to the vehicle.
"Why are you both sopping wet?" The look of surprise on his face was, close to, priceless, especially since it should be no surprise when Dae-Jyung was in the cab with him. "Were you so excited about today you were out dancing in the rain? That isn't usually my type of activity, but I agree with your excitement."
"Not exactly, Dae-Jyung got lost on the way, and I ended up finding him like this. He'll tell you all about his "adventure" in great detail, so please, come and join us. It is better than walking in the rain," Junho smiled as the tiger made his way around the car and ended up joining the two drenched zodiacs, though only after pushing his robes away so they wouldn't get sullied by the somewhat still dirty puppy in the middle.
"Thank you for the ride. I would not have liked walking all the way there."
"Don't mention it. We're all going to the same place anyway," Junho smiled as he proudly showed off his earrings to the tiger, the very silver ones that the tiger had given him. "I felt it was a special day, so I wore them," he smiled before letting out a few coughs and then closing the car window.
The rest of the car ride was mostly filled with a repeat of Dae-Jyung's story, though the second time was almost better than the first, as Junho ended up laughing at the puppy's easily distracted nature. It even drew a small chuckle out of Baek Ho, who shook his head and pointed out how dog-like it was of Dae-Jyung, which made Junho laugh a bit louder.
Junho didn't think they had been in the cab for so long, but with the sudden stop, it seemed that they had arrived. The rabbit could see the building and so could the other two zodiacs, but the human must think they were going to the building next to it. "Thank you for driving us," Junho bowed from his seat as the cab driver smiled and shook his head, giving him a quick "no problem" before going out to take the wheelchair out of the back. Dae-Jyung was kind enough to grab the umbrella and hold it over him and Baek Ho, as the tiger lifted Junho out of his car seat and into the wheelchair. It was cold stepping into the air, colder now that he was also wet, but he tried his best to ignore it along with the few coughs that managed to escape the sickly rabbit as the cab driver left and the trio entered the tea house, barely on time.
"We somehow made it," Junho sighed with light relief as they stepped into the warm tea house, relishing in the warmth from the room a little bit, though still cold and shivering slightly from being wet. Junho tried his best to hide it, but he was unsure how successful he was with his persisting cough. He took off his jacket and scarf, which didn't make matters better, before entering the tea shop with help from the tiger pushing his wheelchair. Moon Bong and Hwan, the Phoenix and the pig, were facing he was familiar with so he gave them a smile and a bow to greet them politely before turning over to Iseul. "I see you brought Ppo Ppo; I hope she stays warm. It's cold outside, and with the rain, it's dangerous," he said, though he knew that Iseul took well care of her, he couldn't help it, but to state it as a fellow rabbit was always lovely to see, and Ppo Ppo since they shared some fun conversations.
Next, Junho turned to the unfamiliar face, though he felt as if he should know, he didn't. "Ah, you must be the cat?" Junho asked and then bowed formally to her. "I'm Park Junho, I'm the rabbit. It's a pleasure to meet you," Junho introduced himself with a smile. A lot of the zodiacs were still missing, so it did make him feel a bit better about their late arrival. However, right now he just wanted to get the entire meeting done with and then enjoy a cup of hot tea, warm himself up a little bit, and then start the race.
The Lotus Room | Interactions: Dae-jyung, Junho, Min Jee
The letter he had received had contained something that was extremely important to the compassionate tiger, but he had tossed it aside and lounged in his house for the following few weeks as if nothing in particular was going to happen on this one wet, rainy night.
What he had not considered was the fact that he was going to have to walk quite a some ways from his house - and he did not like that idea at all. Nevertheless, he didn't complain when he pulled on something more presentable, something that wasn't covered in crumbs and mysterious stains from his lack of changing over the past days. It was as white as his hair, and if he were to walk down in the streets many would have stared at him. That is, if he were a mere mortal. Baek could only guess that those around him merely gazed past him because there wasn't much to see in this godless world. It didn't bother the past-doctor at all, since he was used to it. Shopping was a bit of a pain though, since he had to do it himself.
Luckily he had his parasol with him, and he was slowly making his way towards his destination when a voice called out to him from a cab.
Seeing Dae-jyung's face smashed against a car window would have scared any other person, but Baek knew he had a quite the... eccentric personality. He approached it with a faint smile.
And soon he found himself sitting in a cab with three others, including the driver, moving altogether to their meeting place. Baek preferred to be alone most of the time, but being with these two weren't so bad. He could say he was definitely much closer to Junho than the other boy, but he did not see them as enemies either. He felt a little spark of joy seeing that the one he viewed as his little brother was wearing a gift he had given him a long time ago. It sparkled under the city lights as the car moved.
He smiled at him, "I hope that will serve as a good luck charm for the times to come. May Gwaneum look after you, Junho."
The car ride was quite something. It was interesting to tell amusing stories to someone who barely took a step outside the house if it wasn't necessary. He was a little envious that they had the freedom to go out as they pleased. Junho not so much, but he could still go outside if he wanted, outside the hospital to see the blue skies and the nice hospital gardens.
His time was running out, bit by bit. But now that he had this opportunity he was not going to let go of it.
"Greetings, all." He stepped into the Lotus Room pushing Junho along with, acknowledging those who had already made it there. Moon Bong, the one who might as well be air considering the fact he was ignoring everyone, the cat, the pig and the rooster.
His eyes immediately fell upon the one whom he supposed was the cat of the zodiac. Quite an unfortunate backstory that had his sympathy. After Junho's greeting, he bowed a little. "An honor to meet my little sibling, I am Baek Ho, the tiger. Seong bul haseyo*."
Location: The Lotus Room Interactions: Hyunki, Joon, Geon, anyone
Breathing into her cupped hands, Seoyeon temporarily watched her misty breath hit her half-frozen hands. Before the heat could disperse, she pressed her hands against her cheeks, hoping to warm her face. Seoyeon didn't do well in the col, at all. The snake Zodiac had only been standing outside for less than ten minutes underneath her umbrella before she was already half frozen. No matter what she did to stay warm, the was always cold and the rain did not help whatsoever. She felt weak and helpless, which she would be if anything or anyone decided to attack her in that exact moment. They would have a complete opening as she was surrounded by her weakness and shivering down to the bone.
No, this snake did not do well in cold weather at all.
Yet, she was there, standing out in the horrid weather, trying not to freeze to death as she waited patiently for her little friend. Cursing underneath her breath, she decided to distract herself from the cold by rereading her letter of invitation. She held already read over it three times in a row, but it was something she couldn't help. To think that such an opportunity was presented to them all. Seoyeon had never imagined all the years and suffering she lived that such a chance would be given to her, unfortunately to all of them. Still, she would fight tooth and nail for the power. She wanted it, she needed it.
"Sseoyeon," whispered a black snake slithering its way to her on the wet ground. Immediately, she picked it up and allowed it to wrap its body around her arm. The creature had easily been able to blend in the shadows of the alleyway and go unnoticed. She was sure it was as cold as she was. Honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that she absolutely needed to meet the little guy, she would still be at home, buried underneath blankets and shutting out the cold outside world.
"You must be freezing," that was the obvious as he rubbed against her pale skin gently for any warmth. The best way to get it was basking in the sunlight, obvious, there was none of them both. So, she skipped straight to business. "Did you find her, Ki?" Her voice took a hopeful lilt.
"No." Seoyeon's face fell at the given answer from the snake known as Ki. Releasing an annoyed sigh, she used her free hand to brush back damp strands of her hair. "Ssshouldn't you be at the meeting? You're not far."
Rolling her eyes, Seoyeon shook her head softly. "No, I'm going home, it's too cold out here." She would go home and she would sleep. Sleep until the bell rang and the race began. Then she would get to work. Meeting up with the other Zodiacs would only be beneficial to sum up the strong and the weak, who'd be best to avoid who'd best to team up with. Making connections. However, she had a jello heart and she wanted to feel sympathy for no one. While it wouldn't change her resolve, it would make her feel bad about going after it.
"Here," Seoyeon held Ki to her purse and watched as he slipped in. Her business was done for the day, despite it leaving her agitated. Rounding the corner of the alleyway, she watched as two cats, one large and one small, run past her. She only raised a brow before the next people ran into was the Ox, Horse, and Monkey. A peculiar group of Zodiacs. However, she was like a deer caught in headlights as she was heading in the opposite direction. She barely had time to explain or protest before Ox hooked his arm with her and the horse with her left, making her dop her umbrella."You don't have to hold me, hostage, I was going." she hissed when the rainwater quickly covered her. Unlike the rest of them, she wasn't wearing a raincoat.
"Yeah right," the horse, Joon, rolled his eyes.
Hyunki glanced at her and sighed, "you're cold, do you want - "
"I'm fine." She was dying.
Geon quickly knabbed her umbrella and held it over his own head before remembering her and doing so, she was already nearly drenched. "Hyunki and Joon found me, I was lost. Seoul has really changed since I've last been here." He smirked slightly before going on. "To think we're all gathering again after all these years. Oh! Is it true Junho can't walk? Should make things easier." He murmured before going silent when hearing the Ox growl. Whenever he was upset, the second Zodiac was more like a bull ready to charge and destroy.
Seoyeon almost laughed as Geon decided to change the subject of his gossip."The cat is going to be there. I'm pretty sure Eun Byul and she are going to dish it out. Should be fun!"
Hyuki grunted and the rest of the walk was a silent one.
The two larger and taller Zodiacs did not release her until they walked through the door of the tea house and the bell rang, announcing their arrival to all. Now that she was there, there was no going back. Besides, she was already wet and freezing, her skin pale and her teeth chattering. The tea house was warm, so, you would imagine she was in no way in a rush to go back outside. Yet, she still managed to cross her arms tightly over her chest to stop the shivering that racks through her body and clenched her teeth so they were no longer chattering. And so, the ones already inside included Moon Bong, ignoring everyone's existence, Hwan looking through his phone but glancing up at the others every so often, Baekho, looking as unique as always, Daejyung a complete mess, Iseul(weirdo) with his bunny and lastly Junho. Geon had been right with his rumors.
Her eyes locked on the unfamiliar face who she quickly figured was the cat. With a shake of her head, she moved on and sat at the table. The fragrance of tea was strong in the air as she tried her hardest not to shiver. "How much longer do we have to wait before this starts, whose left?" she grunted through clenched teeth, speaking to no one and anyone.
To say she hadn't expected a cold reaction to being there was silly. Min Jee had expected from the beginning that there would be those who would look her way with disgust or discontent, and perhaps even both.
Iseul was a rather good example of that, and for a small moment her confidence shook the slightest bit. It had been a long time since they had met after all, a lot time since people had ever talked of the cat. Truth and legends and now fairy tales would always see the zodiac as twelve, forgetting she had been invited as well... she just hadn't been able to make it there.
Still, she didn't want pity, and she didn't want to use her sad story as a way to earn points... although if she did see a certain rat, she wasn't going to let it go. She deserved to know why.
"Nice to see you too." It wasn't the truth, but it wasn't like she would lose anything by being polite. Thankfully it wasn't long before others began to arrive. Her eyes immediately landed on the one in the wheelchair, widening as she watched him greet Iseul.
"Min Jee Sung," she replied. The rabbit? She had known him from far, a pleasant one, adorable even, always one with a smile and kind word. It was surprising- no, shocking- to see him in a wheelchair. It seemed staying away from the zodiacs and travelling the world had her knowledge of their current situations rather limited.
The next to greet her was someone she had very much admired before her fall. The tiger had always been awe inspiring and beautiful in her eyes and he remained so. "It's- it's very much an honour to meet you," she replied, managing to recover after her first stutter. Her hands fidgeted with her sleeves, trying not to look too awkward.
She was grateful when the latest newcomer simply walked past her without saying a word. Was it disapproval? It didn't matter, and she didn't bother to pay attention to her question, glancing over at Dae-Jyung... the dog. For the first time since she entered the Lotus Room there was a hit of a smile on her face. She didn't know if he recalled her, but she certainly did; some of the few good memories she liked to think of featured him.
"Dae-Jyung," she said after a moment of deliberation, "it's certainly nice to see you."
The Lotus Room | Interactions: Seo Yeon, Min Jee, Junho
"No, no." He shook his head, though there was a smile in his eyes. Baek ignored the stutter as if she had not stumbled at all, "It is mine entirely. It was very unbecoming of me to not have sought you out, even though I feel a kinship between us as... ah, felines." That was not all, of course. During the race, he had been the one right behind the sturdy and kind Ox, who had given both the Rat and the Cat a ride upon it's back. Even now when he reflected upon what had happened, he felt a twinge of guilt that he had not gone to save her as she was washed downstream. It was a regret that stung, as he wanted to be a god who would have - in that situation - sacrificed his position to save them.
"If there is anything you require, please feel free to inquire my help. I would be very willing to assist you."
Ah, speak of the devil. The Ox, the Horse and the Monkey stepped through the door, with the Snake in tow. Baek nodded his head at them as they entered, murmuring his greetings.
She looked like she was freezing, which wasn't surprising since her kind did not fare well in this type of weather. Baek's expression softened. He would have offered her a coat... except he didn't have one, and nor did he think it was a good idea for him to take off anymore layers of clothing. It would be bad if he caught a cold now.
He wondered if it was selfish to think this way.
"Ah," he hummed in response to Seo Yeon's question. "Hanuel-ssi, Min Soo-ssi, and ah... Eun Byul-ssi are not present yet. Let's give them some time, it is a horrible night today to meet up, after all."
The silence in the room was deafening. Annoyingly enough, Iseul could make out the sound of people breathing. When the thought of all of them polluting the air around him came to mind, he shivered with disgust and was tempted to leave. It's not like meeting here was all that important. Though, he'd be lying if he said that he wasn't happy to see Moon Bong. Sitting next to his idol, Iseul was so nervous that his palms started to sweat. Thoughts of striking up a conversation with his idol came to mind but he could only blush at the thought and turn his head away to focus on Ppo Ppo instead. She remained obedient and simply sat there cutely, looking around at the other members as if to say, 'Who the fuck are these people?'
'They're not important. Don't pay them any attention.' Iseul responded mentally, making up a conversation with her in his mind. He couldn't understand her one bit but it was a delightful time waster. As he played around with her, the sound of the door opening came from the front. Turning his head, he spotted Baek Ho pushing Junho forward with a disheveled Dae-jyung taking up the rear. It was clear that the fool had been rescued by the other two.
Feeling unwell by the sight of him, Iseul set his gaze on Junho instead. Unlike the rest, Junho was precious. As the rabbit, he was the most sacred member in Iseul's eyes. "She's perfect, thank you for asking.." Looking Junho over, Iseul's slender brows creased as he noticed Junho's poor state. Knowledgeable enough to know that he usually took good care of himself, Iseul's worry was set aside as he glared at Dae-jyung who seemed completely guilt-free. Unfortunately, with Junho around, he couldn't kick the stupid dog back into the rain. With a sigh, he reigned in his temper and poured a cup of tea for Junho, promptly abandoning Ppo Ppo to bring it over to the poor rabbit.
"You can't look after him forever. This is why he's so irresponsible.." Iseul grumbled away as he handed the cup over and placed his hand onto Junho's shoulder, using his internal energy to try to transfer some of his warmth to the rabbit. As he focused on his task, he hardly noticed the next three to enter. If he had, he would have definitely taken his flask out and offered Geon a drink. After he finished transferring a good portion of the energy that he had stored, Iseul finally felt the chill. Recalling Ppo Ppo, he quickly made his way over and cuddled her, feeling sorry for not addressing the chill better than he already had. He completely forgot that she had a good amount of fur and felt very little discomfort herself.
As he took his seat again, he caught onto the tiger mentioning the missing members. "For all we know, they might not even make it in." Glancing over at the cat, Iseul recalled rumors of the rat's actions in that last race. Although it was one part the cat's fault for being too trusting, Eun Byul was a pretty tricky character and this was a very important race. He wouldn't blame her for trying to take out some of the competition. It'd just make it easier for him in the end.
Eun-Byul wasn't exactly the most fond of the human world with its filth and smells, so unlike heaven. Nor was she at all fond of the rest of the zodiacs. They were so tiring and judgmental. But the chance to become a god? There was no way she was passing that up. She looked around the dirty streets, carrying her umbrella loosely in her hand, the expanse of clear plastic perfectly shielding her from all of the rain. It hadn't been difficult to find her way here, not to mention, she'd had a little help from the rats she'd been talking with about the area, but she saw no reason to go in first. Better to take a nice long look at the people she was up against. It had been a while, after all.
So, she'd stayed in the corner of an alleyway and watched. Min-Jee was one of the first ones in, and she surprised herself with how well she recognized all of the faces, though some things had changed. The rabbit's sickly form was perhaps the strangest thing of all. She'd known he hadn't been well, but it was odd actually seeing it with her own eyes, and she decided it really had been the right decision for her to wait and watch. Acting too unpleasantly surprised when she met him would have left an... unfortunate impression.
At last, she realized that only she and the sheep had yet to arrive and she let out a soft puff of breath. Time to go in. The rat zodiac gave her hair a little pat to make sure it was alright, adjusted her posture, and moved towards the tea shop purposefully, as if she hadn't been waiting in the alleyway at all. She strode through the door, and paused momentarily on the doorway carpet to dry her shoes so she wouldn't leave wet track marks. Her umbrella closed with a precise snap as she looked around the room, a mild smile on her face, unabashedly making eye contact with everyone in the room.
She didn't address Min-Jee, but she didn't ignore her either, using the same friendly smile as she'd glanced over her. "It looks like most everyone else is here already! I'm sorry if I'm late." She said, innocently, before seeming to catch sight of something. "Oh my, Iseul-ah. That bunny is so cute! It's been such a long time since I've seen you all! How have you been?" Eun-Byul wasn't sure how much each of them knew about how well up to date she'd kept herself on each of their lives, but it was an innocent question. Normally.
Dae-Jyung of course has to pause before entering the room and shaking some of the water from his hair. He was a little miffed that Baek-Ho had beat him to helping Junho in but as long as the job got done it didn’t matter, right? Maybe, why couldn’t he do it?! However upset he was however was quickly washed away by the scent of tea in the air. A pleased and somewhat even dreamy look graced Dae-Jyung’s face as he entered the Tea shop.
He was prepared to greet everyone with a really big hello at first, but to his shock, he was greeted by someone first. He always got the greeting first! Those cats truly did steal his luck, his thunder his…his everything! His mind was already drifting away but the face of the person who greeted him brought him back. “Ah…Min Jee!” He exclaimed, opening his arms to give the cat a hug. But he paused halfway through. Ah, that’s right…I probably shouldn’t hug her, she’s not a huggy person. Besides I’m soaking wet. Well, I already initiated the hug so I’m not walking away with nothing.
Dae-Jyung pulled his arms back to his side and instead held his fist out towards her, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s good to see you! Gimme a fist bump!” That was close enough right? Oh, wait…! Oh, how he wanted to tell her about the great theft he was just a victim of, but maybe he shouldn't. It was done by cats after all and he didn't want her to think he was...well...a cat hater. But first things first, greetings!
“Hey!” He announced to the room, his non-fist-bumping hand giving a mass wave to the other zodiacs as well as Moon Bong. Man he needed to learn more manners.
Hanuel thought about not entering the tea shop at all. He was late and the thought of being the last one to enter the room made his cheeks tinge red with embarrassment. But he couldn’t skip out on today of all days, nor did he have an excuse as to why he was late. He just was, plain and simple. At least the rain was good enough to help him to get over his silly sense of embarrassment, the water always helped him maintain some sense of cool. He couldn’t enter the room without composure, he was dragon after all.
Running a hand through his wet hair before fixing the glasses on his face, Hanuel entered the Teashop, stopping at the door once he was out of the rain. He didn’t wish to bring water in with him, he’d been standing in the rain without an umbrella simply because he enjoyed it, and as such was completely soaked. With a bit of focus, the water in his clothes began to flow out of the fabric and towards the palm of his hand, accumulating at an increasing rate until his clothes were dry and a large ball of water floated above his palm.
It almost pained him to throw it outside but better out than in as they say. He just hoped it didn’t splash some poor soul trying to stay dry. Once the liquid was disposed of he headed into the Lotus room, a timid smile on his face. “Hello everyone.” He greeted, giving a small bow of his head to Min Jee, Dae-Jyung, Moon Bong and all the other Zodiacs as he entered, mostly to avoid making eye contact. “Sorry, I’m late. Time got away from me.” The dragon settled into a seat, letting out a small sigh as he did so, eyes focused on the table for the time being
Location: The Lotus Room Interactions: Izzie, Eun Byul, Haneul
Seo Yeon considered herself a particularly patient person. However, in the wet and cold state she was in, she was not feeling very patient nor forgiving. During the Goryeo era, she was rarely ever made to wait in the conditions she was in now. If anyone got on her bad side, she'd simply have her old friend and giant snake familiar swallow them whole. Unfortunately, they were in the twenty-first century and the Jade Emporer would no longer let those things fly, not that he ever did. Sadly, she had to adapt to the times, yet, she was just as tough as she was in Goryeo.
Rubbing her arms, she continued to at her attempt to warm herself as her feet bounced on the marble floor. Listening to the Tiger and his sympathy for the others gave her little comfort. But it silenced her, there was nothing more she could do but wait. Even if the wait was agonizing in her wet clothes. her eyes wandered to Moon Bong, watching as he sipped on his steaming hot tea and watched the window.
Seeing him so obviously ignoring them made her roll her eyes. It was no secret to her that he didn't like some of them, but he could at least greet them, the rude bird. She glared at him almost immediately after, he glanced at them. She looked the other way, hoping he didn't catch her look. Would he consider their bad actions against him in his point giving? Seyeon surely hoped not.
"For all we know, they might not even make it in."
"I'm sure if Dae Jyung made it, so will the others." Seo Yeon replied to Iseul's comment with a slight smirk. "Eun Byul wouldn't miss this for the world." In some ways, Eun Byul and Seo Yeon were alike. In others, they were not.
Speaking of the devil, the rat just crawled in. "Well, well, look what the cat dragged in." The pun was inteneded and was her simple greeting before watching as she started a conversation with Iseul. Nothing that caught Seo Yeon's interest. She remained quiet until Haneul entered. They were both cold-blooded creatures, but opposites in element, yet they got along more than just a little fine. He was one of the few people she openly liked, basically a brother.
"Hey Hanuel, I'm glad this weather is doing wonders for someone."
Location: The Lotus Room Interactions: Dae Jyung, Junho, Min Jee, Baekho
She was late.
If there was one thing she knew about the referee, Moon Bong, the great Phoenix, he hated tardiness. While she was aware he wouldn't yell at her, he would no doubt be upset with her. Which, she totally deserved. Soo hated having anyone feel negative feelings toward her. Especially when she could stop it from happening. Her own tardiness was due to the nature of helping others, though, she doubted her excuse would fly with him enough to get off the hook. Either way, she didn't regret it, besides they all knew she had a tendency to be ... forgetful, to say the least. She wasn't the same in mind since her awakening.
It had barely been two years since Soo had awoken from her long sleep(coma). And she was still getting used to how the current world worked again all on her own. There was just so much to see and explore and even still, so much pain was seeping out of the cracks of the earth. The exact reason she could not have ignored the elderly lady waking home with heavy bags. The late night was dangerous and she already looked entirely tired when Soo came across her. Obviously, she had to take the bags, despite carrying a heavy bag herself and walk the woman back to her home. Naturally, the woman offered her a cup of tea to warm up, Soo had half the mind to accept before tea clicked in her mind with "The Lotus Tea House".
After declining kindly, the sheep rushed as much as possible on her short legs to the Lotus Room. Luckily, she was able to catch a cab, riding it just long enough before having to get out and run the rest of the way there. The traffic was too thick for it nearly being midnight, in her opinion. Soo nearly forgot to pay the cab driver in her hurry. The rain hit her face, dampening her clothes as she ran with her umbrella overhead, but it wasn't too much.
Soo was too happy to have arrived at the Lotus Room, though out of breath, Soo grinned. Haneul was just in front of the door. To say it had been ages since she had seen the dragon, or any of them for that matter, was an enormous understatement. Seeing him gave her a new surge of energy, as soon as she caught her breath she raised her hand and began to call out to him, "Han - "
Splash! Gurgle ...
That, she had not seen coming. The water ball he made of the rain the soaked his clothing directly hit her face and ran down the rest of her, soaking her clothing. With that, he had already walked inside. Soo had to take a moment to spit the water out of her mouth and check her bag. Luckily it was waterproof, and she was smart to bring it with her. Surely, she wasn't the only one wet, right?
As late as Soo was, she stood outside, waiting at least five minutes before heading in. Obviously, it was cold out and the rain didn't help, but she didn't mind the cold too much. Besides, heading in immediately after Haneul would be bad, he'd feel guilty for hitting her. He was one of the more sensitive ones, after all. This way it would seem as if it was the rain and not his water ball. Just to be sure, she had even removed the umbrella from her head and let the rain soak her even more, then she closed her small white and pink umbrella and placing it back in her purse.
Lastly, she checked that the fingerless gloves on her hands were secure. The Sheep was never seen without them since she left the heavens, and she planned on keeping it that way.
"Sorry, I'm late everyone!" Soo greeted them apologetically when entering through the door, the bell rang above her head and she bowed her head slightly. "I got caught up in something else." And it was that she would leave it as. Because her excuses varied but were always the same. Some act of forgetfulness and or helping another.
Scanning the room she gasped at the state of a few others. The snake was nearly frozen, trying so hard to be tough, and the rabbit as well and Dae-Jyung were wet. However, seeing the dog in that state was less surprising, but not any less upsetting. Soo made a beeline toward the Seo Yeon, unzipping her bag as she did so and hand the snake a towel, quietly and subtly. She was aware that the Snake didn't want her weakness notice, no matter how obvious it was. Soo had only wished she brought two blankets instead of one, but the towels would have to do.
"Hey, Dae Jyung, I can only imagine what you're story must have been." She chuckled softly before placing a towel over his head and ruffling his hair with it slightly. Staying and speaking to him would have been more than fun if she wasn't in such a rush to get the blanket she made to a certain rabbit. "Here, Junho!" Grinned the blond, taking out the cream-colored, chunky knitted wool blanket and setting it across Junho's legs. "It suits you perfectly."
Finally, it dawned on her that there was an unfamiliar face nearby. "Oh my! You're Min Jee, the kitty, I mean cat! I'm so glad to see you!" She all but hopped on her feet. There were too many things she wanted to talk about with the cat, so many questions she wanted to ask. How had she been all these years? Was she excited to be with them for the race? Did she remember Soo? How did she keep her hair so silky and smooth looking? Did she like dancing? If so, they had so much in common already!
Before she could ask any more, her forgetful mind remembered the Tiger also nearby. However, she wasn't as enthusiastic to see him. Even though, she was usually always happy to see just about everyone. Her smile was replaced with a slight frown and puff of her cheeks. The look was wiped off her face not soon after before she gave a slight bow and greeted him, "anyoung hashimnikka," it was a mock, though, it would have looked like the real deal to the eyes of strangers, with the smile wiped off her face. "I hope you've been well."
It was a bit weird to ask for the cat's name after so long. They may not be sharing the title of "zodiac" but he did remember the Cat being there at the beginning at the race, but not the end. He hadn't much contact with the feline, she would usually keep for herself and Junho was always on the run back then, jumping and running from one end over to the other. That was how he had ended up crossing the river, jumping across it. It was after the race had finished that the news of the Cat almost drowning in the water reached him, she must have either drifted down the river or been underwater by the time he passed her. Apparently, her and the Rat had been on top of the Ox' back until the rat pushed the other off. Hopefully, whatever had happened back then stayed in the past, but with them all gathering under one roof like this, Junho didn't hold his hopes up. Min Jee, it was a pretty name. He felt a bit bad for never getting to know her better, but thankfully, this entire ordeal of chasing godhood would give him the opportunity to do so.
His gaze traveled over to the Ox, the Snake, the Horse and the Monkey that entered the tea house, offering them all a bow and a quick greeting with a smile. He had heard of Geon's ban from drinking, which in his opinion, was a very mild punishment given by the Gods. Honestly, it was a good thing to keep him away from the sinful alcoholic beverage; the Monkey was big enough of a handful being sober, a drunk Monkey was impossible to control. Junho suspected that he wouldn't learn anything at the end of his punishment either. He would, without a doubt, throw himself over a large bottle of alcohol the second his ban got lifted. Some people never learn, and the Monkey was undoubtedly among them.
A few more coughs had Junho hunched over in his wheelchair, gasping a bit for his breath as they gave his body a short rest. The winter was horrible, not to mention the rain that he had to travel through today. If he hadn't known better, Junho would have suspected the God's planned for him to stay home instead of going to the reunion. The cold would have been less of a problem if he wasn't soaking wet, but Dae-Jyung couldn't help his little encounter with the "luck-stealing" feline. Thankfully, he had managed to clean most of the "battle-scars" from the thief, and Dae-Jyung seemed to have plenty of energy to spare. Who knows where the puppy would have gone if Junho hadn't driven by him? They should invest in a collar or a GPS tracking chip because one day, they were going to lose him in a crowd or Dae-Jyung would just wander off on his own.
"I have a sneaking suspicion that wouldn't change much, even if I didn't look after him," Junho chuckled at Iseul's comment, happily receiving the warm cup of tea. The Rooster, or Iseul, was always so kind to him. Perhaps, because Junho represented his favorite animal, the Rabbit, but overall, Iseul's company had always been pleasant, even before he ended up in the wheelchair. As proud and, some would say, self-centered he could be, Junho found that there was more to be explored beneath the surface. One had to dig a little bit, but there was so much more to the Rooster than most bothered to find out. The warmth of the hand on his shoulder made Junho sigh over his cup of tea, both the soothing liquid and energy that Iseul had provided did an excellent job of keeping him warm. His hair turned white before a pair of long ears appeared with matching fur, twitching at the much more comfortable warmth that surrounded Junho.
He was much like a snowshoe rabbit, changing fur color during the seasons. His fur was currently white, so whenever his long ears decided to make an appearance, his hair color would change to match it. Usually, he wouldn't be so quick to show it off, but he lowered his guard for just a few moments, and they popped out on their own. Iseul rushed over to Ppo Ppo when he realized that the poor bunny had to be cold, though Junho knew otherwise, he heard nothing but happy noises coming from the bunny as her master returned to her side. Ppo Ppo was a lucky rabbit, and she knew it so well, though it was endless entertainment to listen to her talk ever-so-sweetly about Iseul. They gossiped a lot among one another, and it was even better when most didn't understand what they were sharing.
The next to make their appearance was the Rat. Eun-Byul, if he recalled her name correctly. Her reputation had skydived after the whole incident with the Cat, but Junho always liked to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It was an unpopular opinion, which he knew, so he usually kept it to himself. He saw no reason to be rude to her though, so he gave her a polite bow and a smile to greet her into the tea house. "We are still missing the dragon and the sheep, so you're not late yet," Junho informed Eun-Byul with a smile before taking another sip of his teacup.
Hanuel, the Dragon, made his appearance shortly after the Rat. It was, somewhat, unusual for him to be so late, he must have lost track of time helping someone. The Dragon was too compassionate for his good, most knew that as the Dragon could have won the race if he didn't stop and help the village on his way to the finish line. "Welcome Haneul hyung," he greeted him with a bow. "We are still missing Soo-"
As if on cue, the sheep came in through the door, soaking wet. "Welcome Soo noona," he brightly smiled to the sheep before watching her rummage through the bag she brought. Towels, of course, she would have brought towels to the meeting. Always prepared and so considerate, no wonder the Gods had blessed her with healing abilities, though Junho was aware that they were not all good. She had never told him what was so bad about them, but he knew they were not as great as they sounded. Long ears twitched as the soft hand-knitted blanket draped over his legs, undoubtedly made by Soo herself, which made the smile grow even wider. "Thank you noona, it is wonderful," he complimented it as he let his fingers dance over the soft material. It was so warm and not to mention dry; she must have brought a waterproof bag with her.
However, even with the blanket, Junho had an uneasy feeling settling in his stomach. Ears twitched, and eyes traveled around the tea house. The rabbit barely caught the sarcasm Soo gave Baek Ho, as he glanced over at the Tiger to see if he was feeling something as well. His intuition was, usually, correct, but they were never accurate. A bad feeling could be the atmosphere now that they were all gathered, and it was no secret that everyone didn't get along with one another, or it could just be that they were just about to become competitors in a race for godhood, where there would only be one winner and twelve losers. There was bound to be some bad energy, which was what he had to be feeling, right?
Gently, Moon Bong set down his teacup down, back onto it's matching porcelain saucer. The room buzzed with chatter here and there and his previous uninterest in them and quiet nature left him nearly invisible to the rest of them. The Phoenix was nearly fairly certain none of them noticed as he rose from his seat. Standing at the head of his table, he pulled the sleeve of his suit up slightly to check the time on the watch hidden underneath it. It wouldn't be long until the clock struck midnight, there was no more time to waste now that there was no one else to wait for.
Still, the apprehensive feeling tugged at him constantly. While the great bird wanted nothing more to investigate it for safety measures, he wasn't quite sure what to investigate. Not to mention, he had a job to do, and that was to set up before the bell rang, and it wouldn't be long until it did.
With a soft sigh, Moon Bong made his way to the front of the room where Dae-Jyung stood in front of the group. He couldn't help but shake his head slightly at the dog, whether it was out of amusement or annoyance it would be unknown to them all, as Moon Bong kept his face unreadable. "Thank you, Dae-Jyung-ssi, it is a nice to see you again after so long." Something he couldn't say about all of them. But there was a selective few he was genuinely fond of, though, he tried not to make his bias obvious as he was a referee and he would have to cast aside his feelings to judge fairly.
"In fact, I am pleased to see you've all arrived safely in this weather and not a moment too soon." He said just as he removed his hat from his head and set it on the table he sat at not too long ago. "Let's not waste any more time, shall we. Please have a seat, Dae-Jyung." He gestured toward an empty seat, not waiting before going on to talk.
"One hour and thirty minutes from now, the bell signaling the start of the race will ring. But before then, I would like to clarify the meaning of this race, why you're here, stress a few rules and add in a few more details." Moon Bong stood straight, his hands folded behind his back, he looked each in one of them in the face briefly. "As some of you may have noticed the activity of evil supernatural activity have escalated in the past few years, so much so, it can no longer be ignored or overlooked. That is where you all come in. While you are all participating in this race, you are not the only one's for it is an open race, allowing anyone and everyone who can face the issues of these demons and spirits."
Moon Bong raised his fist. "While the rules have all been clearly written in your letter, there are three rules that are not to be taken lightly. " Lifting his first finger. "Absolutely no committing evil actions yourself. Then again, I suppose it only counts if you get caught, right?" His narrowed eyes landed on certain few of them. "Trust me when I have my way of knowing."
"Secondly, limit the damage that you do on this world. It will affect your points if you've caused too much damage, how much is too much, you ask? Just try to cause none, and I'll be the judge of that, just as I am the judge of everything in this race." Third finger raised. "Last, but not least, for if you break this rule your point tray can be wiped clean, you could be eliminated and even punished. Absolutely, noharming and killing humans under any circumstances. As for your fellow contestants, killing them is also prohibited, harming them, not so much."
A smile quirked at his lips, but it did not become. "You should know, just because others are allowed into the race, you thirteen will be mainly watched, not only by me but the gods. As you know, the winner's prize is the position of a whatever god they wish to be."
"Now that is out of the way," The Phoenix snapped his fingers and directed their attention to a bulletin board, covered in pinned papers, across the room. "That board contains a multitude of dangerous and disorderly cases, wanted demons and spirits of the sort. Cases we know about and need to be handled. You can come to the Lotus Room whenever you please, I will be here most days and hours. So, if you have any questions too, please come here to ask me."
There was more, a lot more Moon Bong could go into detail explaining to them. But it wasn't at the top of his mind or his priotiry list. His face crinkled up slightly, frowning as the nagging failing only grew stronger, he added. "Actually, the Jade Emporer and I reason to suspect that the increase of supernatural activity isn't a coincidence, but someone or someone is causing. Therefore if -" he paused, not struggling to finish but his senses all taking over. Senses of panic, of danger, and he knew he couldn't have been the only one to feel it now. Not when it was so strong. However, he could not pinpoint its source.
"I fear that -"
Moon Bong wasn't able to finish that sentence before the ceiling collapsed around them with a deafening boom and the room went alit with flames.
Junho was barely listening to what Moon Bong was telling them. The Phoenix was going over the rules and whatnot, but the uncomfortable feeling that had settled in the Rabbit's stomach did not cease. Ears were perked, twitching and listening for any sound. His whiskers even made an appearance, feeling for any unusual vibrations in the air. Something was wrong, very wrong, but he wasn't sure what caused his instincts tick off as much as they did. Like the Rabbit, Junho knew better than to go against his instincts. They were, most of the time, correct, especially when it came to danger. They were survival instincts, as rabbits had all too many predators that they needed to watch out for and their instincts were what kept them one step ahead of predators. He sighed and took another sip of his tea, trying to calm his nerves down and listen to what Moon Bong, the judge, and overseer of this entire race, had to say before an ominous feeling ran over his entire body.
This time, he could not have been alone feeling that. A shiver running down his spine before he felt the growing heat around them and a roaring sound from above. This situation was bad. The invitation letter had described an alarming rise in evil supernatural activity, demons, and spirits the like, had been acting up and causing trouble in the human world. As Zodiacs, it was their duty to protect the powerless humans against such forces, but the Jade Emperor and the Gods had now made a point system and even a race as if to keep up with the supernatural activity. The idea of gathering them all in a place like this, it was like inviting the demons to attack them, wiping them all out in one attack. Smoke began to fill the room, and the roof started falling above their heads. They needed to act fast. Otherwise, the race would end before it had the chance to begin.
Junho raised his hand before gathering the air in the room, focusing on the pure one as he let the flames die down due to the lack of oxygen. He could not take away the air entirely, that would leave the rest to choke, but there was a good compromise. The air that he gathered surrounded his friends' head, giving them a reliable supply of oxygen in the room that was quickly filling up with smoke.
"Haneul-hyung!" Junho called out, unable to see the Dragon, but hoped he could hear him. "We need a lot of water to extinguish this fire, I can dim it down, but I cannot take it out. If it is still raining outside, then that should be plenty of water for you to work with!" The rabbit continued to shout, coughing at the end of the sentence as the oxygen in the room was being burnt out by the flames. He had given most of the air to the others', leaving little to himself and the fire. His ears caught the sound of Ppo Ppo; she was calling out for Iseul and for someone to help her. Out of all the days to bring her out, this was proving to be one of the worst ones.
The rabbit followed the sound of her voice. He used the air to push his wheelchair, the wheels too hot to touch with his hands and it was beginning to melt from the intense heat. "I'm here," he called out gently to her, reaching out to her carefully so that she could recognize it and not run away from it in fear. "Come on Ppo Ppo, I am going to get you out of here," he smiled, and the rabbit abandoned her blanket and jumped into his lap, still shivering in fear. "You will feel a bit disoriented, but it will bring you to safety. You are going to be in my apartment. Stay safe, okay?" Junho said before using his air to teleport the rabbit out to safety. Unfortunately, the skill only worked on smaller beings and objects. A person, not to mention multiple ones, would be far too hard for the Rabbit to transport safely.
"Iseul-hyung! Ppo Ppo is safe! I got her out--!" Junho called out before hearing the roof from above him starting to give in. It was only his quick reaction that kept the burning wood from falling on top of him. Unfortunately, his wheelchair ended up crushed underneath the burning rubble. "Dammit," he cursed underneath his breath, coughing a bit more before covering his nose and mouth with the woolen blanket Soo had given him. It would do to block out some of the smoke, for now, he needed to find the others and ensure their safety!
Seeing that Seo Yeon failed to catch his meaning, Izzie decided to pretend she simply did not exist. It would be pointless to explain his profound way of thinking to a dumb snake. It seemed that these years didn't allow her to grow whatsoever. Just as he was thinking such, Eun-Byul strode in with confidence, restoring his faith in the lot. Although she made him a little uneasy, Iseul had always liked how she carried herself. Even when others judged her for shoving the cat off of the ox, he could only admit that he would do the same. Whether her reasons for doing so were as petty as his own for bullying others remained a mystery. One he had no intention of solving. He shuddered at he mere thought of getting lost in that maze and turned away from her, choosing to check up on Ppo Ppo. Her greeting however brought his attention back to her. It turned out she wasn't blind. His family's Ppo Ppo was indeed cute. The cutest.
Just as he was about to boast for his little rabbit, the dragon and sheep made their way into the lotus room, the latter soaking wet. Every time a water drop dripped from Soo's clothing and onto the floor, he died a little inside. What is with all of these people and making a mess wherever they go? Wanting to go home but unable to go without hearing his idol speak, Iseul could only bear with it until he released them. However, he was still bothered by the sheep. Her every action dripped more and more water on the floor. As she began to pull out towels and blankets from her bag, he grew more confused. It was puzzling how could she bring a blanket but not an umbrella. When she placed the blanket on Junho, he couldn't help but worry a little. Did she clean it properly? It didn't get damp from the moisture? He just wasted a lot of energy to warm him, if she ruined it now, wouldn't it make it pointless?
Angered by the thought, he placed Ppo Ppo aside once more and got to his feet. prepared to kick that woolly troublemaker out where she belonged. However, it seemed that his every action was to be interrupted today as a familiar voice grabbed his attention away before he could even take a step. Even if it wasn't directed towards him, Moon Bong's voice never failed to turn heads. It was smooth yet demanded attention that Iseul was all too willing to give. With his anger unexpectedly diffused, he suddenly felt too exhausted to care about that little sheep and focused on the phoenix speak instead, every word spoken etching themselves into his heart.
It could be said that he was completely entranced. One moment he was in heaven, the next, Moon Bong's expression changed and they were hurled into an inferno. Izzie was caught completely off guard and, with a shrill girly cry, barely managed to dodge a flaming lantern that was previously hanging above his head. How could he not panic? Sprawled on the ground, it had seemed he lost control of his legs as they kept buckling when he tried to get to his feet. Frozen on the spot, he didn't even notice that Ppo Ppo was in an even worse state. While he was fully focused on Moon Bong, she was anxiously burying into her blanket as if to hide away from whatever was coming. After the loud boom sounded, how could she stand still? Deaf to her cries, Iseul had no time to look after as he held his hand over his racing heart, making sure it wouldn't pop out of his chest.
It wasn't until he heard Junho coughing that the recalled the others. There were two rabbits that needed help and he was just sitting there? Iseul was overcome with worry. "Ppo Ppo? Ppo Ppo!!" He finally got to his feet and began searching for her when Junho called out her status to him. Relieved but disappointed to not have cared for her properly, he could only focus on Junho now. Knowing he wouldn't be able to protect Junho AND himself after wasting so much of his chi to warm him, Isuel could only trust someone else. The person in question was none other than Hyun Ki, the ox. "Wake up you dumb cow! Get Junho out of here!"
Not bothering to worry about whether the ox would pummel him later, Iseul sprang into action to help the others so Junho couldn't call him out for it later. With both hands out in the air, his thick blazer sprang to life, undoing itself from the hanger joining his collared dress shirt and vest that came undone. Each thread paired up into groups, entangling together to make a large net that hovered over their heads to protect them from falling debris. However it would all be for naught if a certain dragon didn't put out the flames soon. Although the metal in the thread had a high melting point, the cloth itself was a different story. Was he going to have to wear a full suit of armor on the way home today? Iseul cringed at the thought as he tried to focus on the task at hand.
Min Jee had been quite embarrassed but also pleased with Baek Ho's reply to her greeting as well as his polite words. She should have expected that, truly; perhaps she had been judging him as well with how she expected the others to greet her. Of course, Junho had been kind and Dae Jyung- well, she was pleased to see he was pretty much the same way she remembered him to be. It was a relief and brought a smile to her face.
He was also a tremendous distraction from the anger that had started to build in her when Eun Byol smiled in her direction, along with the comment from Seo Yeon. Every part in her mind had been indignant, wanting to retort, but Dae Jyung's enthusiastic greeting, grin and fist bump cured her sour mood for the time being, enough for her to return the fist bump before looking in the direction of Haneul. She had never really spoken to the dragon, and what little she remembered of him was that he was a rather calm and quiet person. He seemed pleasant enough, though unlike with Dae Jyung and Junho, she was still wary.
The last one to enter then had to be the sheep. Min Jee could only stare as this... adorable girl came in like a lovely breeze after a passing storm. Her sharp eyes took in the way she interacted with the others. She had expected a small greeting or perhaps just a wave, or even just a nod or glance. Instead she received an enthusiastic greeting to rival Dae Jyung's. Min Jee couldn't help but stare in surprise, though that was quickly replaced with a smile that would have probably changed into a grin if Moon Bong hadn't started to speak.
She looked his way, her expression reverting to its previous neutrality. This was the whole reason she was here after all. The rules didn't surprise her too much... well, aside from the bit about others besides herself and the zodiac joining in the race. Well, if she thought about it from a completely unbiased point of view, why shouldn't they? She was being along, and what of the others? What made them more special than others? She did know her chances of winning her lessening even more, but as long as she did what she had to, she would be fine... at least that's what she was convincing herself.
The latter part of his talk was concerning, however. Min Jee had barely arrived in Korea, so she wasn't too aware of how things were going on here. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she watched Moon Bong's expression change. Her sharp eyes also caught the sight of Junho's whiskers. Something wasn't quite right, and if she was in her cat form, her ears would be flat, tail puffed up.
And then it happened. With Min Jee's reflexes, she easily jumped away from the falling above her. However, there was no way she could escape the fire. Thankfully whatever Iseul had done was keeping more debris from falling on them. Min Jee paused only for a moment before she shrunk to the ground, now a rather fluffy black and white cat.
She raced through the rubble, table legs and chairs, heading for the door. She shifted back to her human form once she reached her destination. The handle of the door was hot, but Min Jee had both her hoodie and sweater as protection. She grabbed onto the handle and forced the door open.
Like an animal confronted by a vacuum, Dae-Jyung jumped five feet into the air the moment the explosion sounded off. "We're under attack! We're under attack!" He cried out, but it wasn't from panic, no. The dog zodiac was just making sure everyone knew that they were in trouble, despite it being oh-so obvous they already were. His eyes looked left and right, scanning the room for anyone who might have been injured.
Ah, Junho needs help! Oh thank heavens, Min-Jee found a way out! Hyun Ki better not end up as roast beef..! Ah, should save that one for later! That's a good one! Even Moon Bong will find himself dying of laughter, and he's immortal! As usual, while Dae-Jyung's mind moved a thousand meters a second in every direction at the same time, his body began to act on its own (perhaps the only reason he'd done well for himself so far). Wait...The door is open for Haneul! Hooray for Min-Jee! Dae-Jyung decided it was in his best interest to try escape, so he followed the Cat zodiac's path, screaming out, "THIS WAY EVERYONE! THIS WAY! HANEUL, MIN-JEE OPENED THE DOOR!"
The sudden explosion did frighten the dragon, but it was the blazing inferno he found himself in that caused him to panic the most. The immense heat was more than just uncomfortable for him, it was painful. As the flames burned brighter, it seemed to him that they were purposefully growing in his direction, licking at his arm. "Gah..!" The dragon cried out, throwing himself from the chair and onto the floor, away from the flames. He cluched his arm tightly, his skin blistering just from the brief contact with the flames.
He could feel the panic start to settle in, but Junho's call to him, Min-Jee's call out and Dae-Jyung's howling was enough for him to snap out of it. He couldn't afford to freak out now, he had to save not only himself but everyone else, the best way he could. He just hoped that the flames hadn't eaten through the structural integrity of the building. He could put out the flames but preventing the building from falling on everyone was a different story completely.
Wincing as he let go of his wounded arm, he raised both his hands, pointing them in opposite directions as he drew in a breath. Focus Haneul, focus! He didn't have to try hard, the connection with the water brought him comfort, erasing most of his fear of the flames. The water that had puddled about outside began to lift itself, flying through the door and past Min-Jee. The falling rain in the immediate area no longer hit the ground, instead of finding itself seeping into the building anyway that it could get inside. The water began collecting and attacking the flames, starting with the flames that threatened everyone first as well as the bigger, more threatening ones.
Eun-byul hadn't been able to make much of a conversation before the Phoenix began to speak. The rules seemed pretty simple to her, and honestly were as much as she had expected considering the letter they had received guiding them to this race in the first place. Other animals had been allowed in the first Race, it was no surprise that they would be allowed in this one, but she sincerely doubted they had a chance compared to the rest of them. Only one would become a god, and the thirteen of them were being watched the most carefully. Unless one stood out in some special way, it was a 1 in a million chance, versus their 1 in 13 chance. As he spoke, however, she could feel the hair on her neck standing up. The unease grew so distracting that she barely felt the sting of the "you're not allowed to kill anyone" rule that had probably been made just in her honor, along with maybe the rooster and rabbit's.
Her eyes darted to the side. Rats had started crawling into the establishment, sticking to the shadows, making no real noise. They weren't saying anything, but it almost felt as though they were whispering something in warning. In the 16th century, sailors used to believe that rats abandoned a ship doomed to sink. Eun-byul knew better. Rats just had good sense and good senses. A slight creaking noise caused her to look up and Eun-Byul swung her umbrella upwards, snapping it open just as the ceiling crumbled down on top of them. The umbrella was just a thin sheet, but it deflected some of the wood of the ceiling, leaving her unscathed from above at least. The fire, on the other hand, was not exactly making her day.
More importantly it was obscuring her vision. "Where is everybody?" She asked loudly, but she wasn't talking to the other zodiacs. As soon as the roof had collapsed, the rats had zipped into the room in a little swarm. Most were doing their best to avoid the fire, the debris, and the feet of the other zodiacs, but she knew some were starting to move the debris that had already fallen. The Rat Zodiac had to applaud the Rooster's quick thinking. His little makeshift net was proving effective in keeping the part of the roof that hadn't fallen from making it even more difficult to escape, but it wouldn't last forever. Her rats updated her on what was going on with everyone else, what she couldn't see.
Min-Jee had gotten the door open, at least, and the Dragon was working on something now. "Clear the way to the door of as much rubble and fire as possible." Not everyone was quite so nimble as her old friend, they weren't all going to be able to make it out without some help. "But stay out of the way of the ox if he transforms." Since this was a clear attack on the Zodiacs, it wouldn't have surprised Eun-Byul very much if whoever it was had some contingencies for them getting out as well. "Protect the dragon from the flames." If he was using his power, he wouldn't have a lot of brain space to protect himself more, and he was weak to fire. If it got to him before he could put the flames out, he'd come away with serious burns, though she supposed it didn't have anything to do with her. She didn't have to say anything for them to know it meant even at the cost of smothering the flames around him with their bodies. "If any of the rest of you can be spared, come with me."
Following Min-Jee's example, Eun-Byul transformed into a large, grey rat. She raced for the door and was transforming again by Min-Jee's side, outside the door. The rain wasn't hitting either of them, though, or the ground. It was drawn to the building, as if attracted magnetically. As she had suspected, there hadn't been enough rats to form a protective swarm around the dragon, clear the debris AND also come with her. It was just her and the cat. She drew her only protective weapon, a small decorative knife with a gold handle, as she scanned the buildings for signs of mischief, keeping clear of the door. "Have you seen anyone?" She asked Min-Jee, too busy looking out for signs of demons or other trouble to look at the Cat.