It was another usual day in the Underworld. The night sky looked like a whirl pool of red clouds and black stars; very typical of the season. Minghao was going about his usually duty, rowing a black wooden canoe through the murky waters of the Oceanus river.
Minghao was like a personal assistant to the god of the Underworld, Joshua. Though, daemons by nature are never referenced in art or literature, so Minghao scarcely received any credit for his hard work. But that didn’t stop Minghao from trying his hardest every day, he was a loyal employee of Joshua’s, and didn’t mind being in the background. However, that isn’t to say that Minghao never got curious about what life would be like if he were the center of attention. He wanted to know how it would feel for his existence to mean something, instead of just doing mediocre tasks for someone else.
Just as Minghao started to drift out of reality and into his own thoughts, the side of his canoe scraped against the river bank. Hastily rowing back to the center of the river, he pushed through his own boredom, as he was on his way to pick up Joshua and escort him to Mount Olympus.
It wasn’t often that Joshua met with the other gods, but when he had to, Minghao was always his chauffeur. Charon, the gatekeeper of the Underworld, was always the one who got the credit for that job, but as always, Minghao didn’t mind. Charon was the one who knew the rivers of the Underworld best, so Minghao could understand why people made that assumption. But if there was one river Minghao knew like the back of his hand, it was Oceanus.
Oceanus was the river that encircled the Underworld, separating it from the living world. If ever Minghao had a day off, he would aimlessly row down the river and fantasize about the living world. It intrigued him, but he never had the courage to enter it, until that fateful day.
The canoe bumped into the shore once more, and for some reason, it seemed like a cosmic sign to Minghao. He decided that it was finally time to explore the living world.
Abandoning the canoe and its paddle, Minghao took the river bank, starting towards the living world, and not looking back once. The border between the Underworld and the living world was like a warped, clear wall. Souls usually entered through the main gate, so the border wasn’t normally talked about. Minghao was seeing it for the first time. It looked like a window, but on the other side, everything was different. The clouds were white, the sky was blue, the grass was green. Minghao had never seen anything like it.
He took one stride through, and crossed over to the other side. Immediately, his ears were greeted by some kind of ringing sound. It sounded like a high-pitched squeak being repeated over and over again. He turned his head, to see that the sound was coming from a bird in a tree. Though, the bird was a strange red color, at least it was to Minghao, since only ravens and vultures can live in the Underworld.
Studying his surroundings once more, Minghao realized that he must’ve been in some kind of town. But, he’d never seen a town like this before. The buildings were different colors, flowers hung in baskets from the lamp posts, the sun illuminated everything and filled the air with an alien warmth. Minghao strolled around for a bit, admiring the beauty of everything, when all of sudden, he felt something bump into him.
“I’m so sorry.” He heard someone say.
Turning around to face the person he’d collided with, Minghao was immediately mesmerized when he saw your face.
“It’s fine.” He replied.
You sent him a grin, as a response to his acceptance of your apology. Your eyes were sparkling, cheeks plump and full of life. Minghao could only stare in awe.
“Are you okay?” You asked, noticing his blank gaze.
Minghao snapped out of it, to reply with, “Yes. Absolutely. I’m great.”
“That’s good,” You said, “You looked a bit lost there.”
“Actually, I am lost. I don’t know where I am and I don’t have any money.” He stated.
“Oh no. Well, do you know how you got here?” You asked.
“Yeah, I just-” Minghao turned around, to try to show you the border of the Underworld. But, as he saw that the border wasn’t visible, he realized that the only way to the Underworld from the living world is through the main gate. Or, by Joshua’s golden chariot, but no daemon has ever ridden in it.
“You what?” You asked, interrupting Minghao’s thought process.
Minghao scratched the back of his neck, contemplating a way to explain his predicament without confusing you.
“I, uh, I don’t remember. Looks like I’m stuck here now.” He said.
You felt sorry for him. He was lost, confused, broke, and admittedly very cute. You decided that it was the right thing to try and help him.
“What’s your name?” You asked.
“Minghao. And yours?”
“That’s a lovely name.”
“Thank you. So, there’s this really nice cafe down the street, I know this is quite sudden but if you want, I could get you something to eat. I just… Feel bad that you’re all alone here.”
“I’m fine. You really shouldn’t spend anything on me. But, I’d love to see more of this place.”
You happily obliged and began taking Minghao on a quick tour of the town, walking by all the major landmarks and interesting destinations. Along the way, the both of you talked quite a bit. Minghao was very endearing and genuinely fascinated by the town, and by you as it seemed. But, as he told you bits and pieces of his own life story, some of it didn’t seem to add up. Every few details he’d explain would just sound completely out of this world. Although, as the two of you finally sat together in the cafe, he revealed that it was because he truly was from another world.
“You’re what?” You asked in disbelief.
“A daemon.” He answered, chuckling slightly, as he didn’t anticipate such a strong response from you.
“What is that?”
“I’m basically like an assistant to the god of the Underworld. I take him places, tidy his palace, and arrange meetings with his council.”
“No offense, but that seems very mundane for someone living in the most eventful place in the universe.”
“None taken, because it is, but someone has to do it.”
“Well, do you still have time to do other cool stuff?”
“Not really, since I’m always busy. But even if I do have a day off, the Underworld is kind of boring. Sure there are people there who torture lost souls or practice witchcraft, but I’ve never really been in on that excitement.”
“But why? Don’t you want to do some of that?”
“I do, but, daemons aren’t really… What’s the right word for this… Important enough to do any of that stuff. I mostly just do my regular duties and keep to myself.”
“Hmm, well, I think your job sounds very important. Without you, council meetings would never happen, the palace would be a wreck, and no one would be able to get anywhere. You should give yourself more credit.”
Minghao paused for a moment, just smiling at what you said. It was the first time anyone had ever told him that he was important. And he could tell that you meant it too. The both of you became silent, but luckily, a waiter delivered two coffees to the table before the atmosphere became awkward.
“Try it,” You said, taking a sip of your own coffee, “I guarantee they don’t have anything like this in the Underworld.”
Obeying your order, Minghao picked up the drink before sniffing it a bit, then taking a gulp. His eyes widened at the strange, new taste.
“Woah,” He marveled, “This is great.”
“I knew you would like it.”
“You know, (Y/N), everything in the living world is so much nicer. And for the first time, I feel like I have a friend.”
“Aw, well, I’m glad I could be your first. But, your personality is so kind and humble, I’m also kind of shocked.”
Minghao tried not to get flustered. As he felt a blush coming on, he simply let out an airy chuckle. You blushed as well, wondering where the surge of confidence that led you to say that came from.
“(Y/N), I’m really thankful for you, and this whole experience. No matter if I’m stuck here forever or I somehow manage to get back to the Underworld, I’ll never forget today.” He said.
You smiled at his sincerity, feeling touched that he had so much thanks to give you. And as a result, Minghao felt a surge of confidence too, and reached for your hand across the table. You couldn’t tell if it was romantic or platonic, but Minghao was genuinely the sweetest, most enchanting person you’d ever met, either outcome would’ve been equally pleasant.
For the next couple of hours, you sat with Minghao, having no shortage of deep discussions. The level of interest between the both of you seemed to grow with every story, every joke, every exchange. There was no denying you were attracted to him by that point, and it was safe to say that the feeling was mutual.
As things began to wind down and the cafe started closing, the two of you took to the streets once more, and talked even more as you walked. Minghao was so intrigued by you, this time he hardly ever stopped to see his surroundings. But once he did, it was outside a shop that had reflective windows. He expected to see his own reflection, but when he looked into the glass, he saw none other than Joshua, gesturing for Minghao to come to him. In that moment, your phone rang, and paused to answer it. Minghao took the opportunity to go a little closer to the image of Joshua.
“Long story short,” Minghao whispered sharply, “I met this human that I really like. And I know you’re going to make me come back to the Underworld, but, let me just say goodbye first.”
“Listen, Minghao,” Said Joshua, “I was almost late for the council meeting today and Seungcheol nearly beheaded me in front of everyone. I can’t have this problem again. Plus,”
Joshua’s hand came out from the glass, to plant itself on Minghao’s shoulder, perhaps in an attempt to comfort him,
“Humans can never sustain romantic relationships with any being other than humans. It’s simply too complex for them. Besides, you can see this human again once they die, so their soul can live with us in the Underworld.”
Minghao took one last glance at you, relishing your beauty for a moment before turning back to the window. You were still on the phone, and Minghao didn’t want to disturb you, so Minghao scratched a small message to you in the corner of the window, before Joshua opened up the border and Minghao stepped through it for the last time.
Once he was back in the Underworld, Minghao could only reflect on what had happened, and tried to honor you by taking your advice. He gave himself more credit for the seemingly mundane but completely necessary work he did, and began feeling more important overall. He felt bad for leaving so hastily, but the message he left you really summed up everything he wanted to say: