23: Reunion

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You've been walking for at least an hour and a half through the dark forest.

An hour and a half of trudging over sticks and rocks and dragging your feet through untraveled underbrush. You have to admit that there's some sweat beading on your forehead as you go, cooling quickly in the chilled air.

The silence of the night and of the woods, and the soft chittering of insects and animals are the only things that keep you company as you travel.

It's cold without your heavy coat. The biting air hisses in through the gaps of your torn clothing and creeps against your skin, tightening and raising the hair all over your body.

You keep yourself entertained by blowing out your clouded breaths in long, misty streams in front of you and then bulleting directly through the middle of them.

You never relax.

Even as the blood dries up and your feet trot along, your shoulders don't flinch from the tightened position you keep them locked in. Constantly, the sounds of sly footsteps or faint voices are things you look out for.

It's an itching pressure in the back of your mind, a tiny voice screaming out that you have to watch your back, and your front, and your sides, because they're professionals at this.

They're professionals and you're lost in the forest, so you're obviously in the underdog position.

You wonder if Jungkook didn't bleed out on the forest floor.

Biting your lip so the pain brings you back into focus, you quit dwelling on those thoughts and continue your trek. It's isn't much longer until the trees begin the thin, and a faint light shines through the gaps.

You emerge from the woods onto a paved road, the smooth and even surface giving your weary feet some relief. A street light shines brightly somewhere far above, illuminating the stretch that you're on.

A ways in the distance, you can see another one, then another, forming a trail of lights that leads off to a faint glow beyond. A town, you hope, and one that isn't too far away,

Hope and anticipation occupy the worried cavity of your chest.

If there's a town, you can get food. Clothes. Maybe even a bus.

And the place where you can get in a bus is the place of your salvation.

You can get away from here, and from Seoul, and from everywhere and everyone that's after you.

This time, you're going to the country instead of a city, and you're changing your name again. It's easy to imagine yourself in the summer, clad in a pair of overalls and a sun visor as you toil in the fields of a farm in the countryside.

Being a farmer for the rest of your life sounds peaceful to you, and so normal. You should've gone there to begin with.

This walk passes faster due to your excitement, which puts a bounce in your stride. You almost dance when small buildings begin to pop up on your left and right, and the sweet stillness of a small roadside community embraces you.

There's a little store that has a lit-up Open 24 Hours sign hanging in the window, which you're insanely grateful for. The inside is quiet and warm, lit by fluorescent lights that buzz slightly, like a swarm of flies hovering around the upper-air zone of the store.

A middle-aged woman sits behind the checkout counter, smacking bubble gum and fighting to keep her eyes open. She murmurs a sleepy greeting to you as you enter, not paying too much mind to you.

You bow in response to her hello and keep your back to her, trying to shield the worst of the rips and tears in your clothing, and the cuts in your skin.

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