title: the art of war
rating: pg (for mild language)
summary: kyungsoo has always had a competitive streak but the tall boy with the silver hair brings everything to a whole other level.
warnings: bodies flying through the air? and kyungsoo dislikes tall people on principle
notes: My love and thanks to carpesoo for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful project! This fic is a gift to you and I hope you’ll like it at least a little <3 A victorious fistbump to my collab partner, waffletopkai for creating the truly precious fan art that inspired this fic! Also, thanks to thesockmonster and teatimetaemint for the companionship during the writing of this fic ^^
social media platforms: lotuslatte and lotuskai
fanart collaboration partner: Waffletopkai (click here for fanart)
the art of war
It's cold and Kyungsoo is walking at a brisk pace. He curses his university for having 8.30 am lectures. Then he curses his faculty a hundred times over for deciding that all second year students should attend 8.30 am lectures. Every fricking day of the 5-day lecture week. It’s the most dastardly form of cruelty, especially in the middle of winter.
In the corner of his eye, he sees the long-legged boy who's always three steps ahead of him when they leave the train station. The stranger, who’s way over six feet, is always in front of Kyungsoo. Without fail. Kyungsoo has nicknamed him Namsan after the famous tower because he's tall in a way that Kyungsoo can only dream of.
He always manages to cross the road just before the light turns red, while Kyungsoo has to stand there, trapped, watching as the young man’s jean-clad legs take him and his artfully tousled silver hair further and further away. It annoys the hell out of him that he has to wait two minutes for the light to change just because he's cursed with short legs. He hates tall people. Ugh.
Why didn’t I drink more milk as a kid?
And that’s when he starts having unpleasant flashbacks. Hours spent in the toilet attempting to juggle both diarrhea and excessive farting. Yeah. That’s right. He can’t do milk.
Thanks a lot, Harapoji, for the lactose intolerance. You could have skipped a generation and let me be tall. Damnit.
There’s no sign of the silver-haired boy by the time Kyungsoo gets to the other side of the road. So annoying. A sharp breeze whips at his face and he can feel the bite despite all the layers of winter clothing. Kyungsoo gathers his scarf closer to his neck, takes a deep breath and starts walking towards the college campus, the heels of his boots tapping out a steady rhythm.
“It's that dude.” Kyungsoo takes a bite out of his organic sandwich. It's a rather aggressive bite and the look Junmyeon gives him is a combination of curious and apprehensive.
“What dude?” Junmyeon glances around and Kyungsoo points discreetly in the boy’s direction.
“The one from the train station. I didn't know he went here.”
“There's a dude from the train station?”
“Yes. The one who's. . .tall.” Kyungsoo says it like it's a dirty word.
Junmyeon shakes his head. “I'm sure there's an explanation for all this prejudice.”
“I just don't like tall people.” He continues to glare at the silver-haired boy, chewing on his alfalfa sprouts and corned beef with far more violence than necessary.
“Okay—” The look Junmyeon gives him is one that you might give a potentially dangerous animal.
“Shut up and eat your food,” Kyungsoo grumbles and Junmyeon gives a long suffering sigh before taking a dutiful bite of his cheeseburger.
In the distance, the silver-haired boy is laughing at something one of his friends has just said. Kyungsoo squints through his glasses at Namsan’s friend. He tries to be as inconspicuous as possible as he strains to make out the other boy’s features. Oh. It’s Kim Jongin from his Applied Vector Calculus tutorial group. He’s nice enough, Kyungsoo supposes. Even if he’s tall.
His eyes move across the table to the third person. Park Chanyeol from his Thermo-Fluid Engineering tutorial group. Park is nice enough too, but he’s even taller than Namsan, for the love of fuck. Okay so Namsan has nice friends. But that doesn't make him nice by association, does it?
Kyungsoo’s gaze eventually falls on the silver-haired boy again—taking in his broad shoulders, long neck and small, pink mouth. He turns away sharply and takes an impatient sip of his hand-squeezed orange juice.
He rolls his eyes. God save the world from tall people.
“Meet me outside the lecture hall at 8.15, okay? I’ll pass you the notes then. But move your ass, Soo. I’ve got Applied Linear Algebra at 8.30. At Hackett. Which is across the quad, as you well know. I do not want to be late. You know what a hardass Professor Shim can be about shit like that. I already got locked out once this semester. Do. Not. Want. A. Repeat. Performance.” It was too early in the morning for Baekhyun’s nagging but Kyungsoo and everyone in the Engineering Faculty knows Professor Shim Changmin is a fearsome beast you poke at your own peril.
“I’ll try my best not to throw you in his path.”
“That’s not funny, Do Kyungsoo! Don’t be late, you dick. If you don’t show up by 8.15, I’m outta there. You’ll just have to get the notes from me at lunch.”
“I need them before lunch,” Kyungsoo protests.
“8.15 and not a moment later.” Then there’s nothing but a glaring silence.
It’s a good thing they’ve been friends since middle school or Kyungsoo would probably throttle Byun Baekhyun for hanging up on him. But then again, he hangs up on Baekhyun with great regularity so it’s not like he’s got any right to complain.
Seriously. God save him from old friends who are in possession of items he’s in dire need of.
There’s no time for walking today so Kyungsoo bursts out of the train station exit at a light jog. His boots are resisting the unexpected workout as they make loud, crunching noises on the pavement. After a few seconds, he realizes that Namsan is nowhere in front of him. Kyungsoo gives a satisfied smirk. If there’s one thing he can thank Baekhyun for, it’s helping him get ahead of Namsan. For fucking once.
He can’t believe he’s actually celebrating his lead like it’s some kind of victory. The silver-haired boy has probably never even noticed him along the journey to their university campus. He’s being an idiot but Kyungsoo can’t help feeling SMUG that he’s going to beat Namsan for the first time this semester, what the hell!
He’s so stoked.
Kyungsoo’s almost at the crossing. The light is blessedly green, of course, as Kyungsoo’s reached this stage of his everyday journey in record time. For him, anyway. He’s halfway across the road when a mop of familiar silver hair bobs into his line of vision.
Namsan breaks into a grin that could only be described as a combination of cheeky and gloating. Kyungsoo hates how his lips are the exact shade of the pale pink ranunculus that grow in pots on his mom’s porch. Then the boy’s mouth is opening and he's saying things. In a voice that's obnoxiously deep.
“I’ve been winning for two months now. Can’t stop now! Do try to have a good day!”
Kyungsoo blurts out, “EXCUSE ME?” To say that he's outraged is putting things mildly.
“See you tomorrow!” Namsan yells as he speeds up his pace, his much longer legs widening the distance between himself and Kyungsoo. His pale pink scarf flaps elegantly in the wind as he deftly dodges pedestrians. Kyungsoo is convinced the pink scarf is taunting him.
“Ugh. I hate tall people!” Kyungsoo growls, and he hopes the boy hears every single word.
The time for polite civility is over. He can’t let the boy win again. It’s time to plan a strategy. A real one. A foolproof one.
One that will reduce the boy’s triumphant grin to ashes.
”Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
. . .Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Kyungsoo readjusts the velco strap and presses it down one last time. The soles of his shoes make muted little thuds as they make contact with the floor. No boots today. He’s taken out the heavy artillery:
- soft jacket and track pants that won’t restrict movement
- the best pair of running shoes he owns, and
- a ball of burning determination in his gut.
Just try and win today, Namsan, he mutters under his breath as the train slides to a halt. He hasn’t seen any trace of the silver-haired boy, today. But then he never does. Not till they’ve exited the train station, anyway. Kyungsoo has to work really hard to ensure that he does not have to see the boy at all today.
He doesn’t even register the crowds of people whooshing by. All his senses are focused on reaching the foot of the towering escalator that takes him out of the station and onto the street. He adjusts his backpack more securely over his shoulders, places his right foot on the escalator and begins to jog up the moving stairs. He ignores the disgruntled noises and annoyed shouts of “watch it, kid!” and “no running on the escalator, you ass!” as he makes his steady ascent to the mouth of the tunnel.
He’s at the apex and there’s still no sign of Namsan. He grins and begins to run. He can practically smell victory. He’s almost at the crossing and still not a peek of the pink scarf or the silver hair or the army surplus jacket. Kyungsoo can’t believe it. Victory is in his grasp.
His feet pound across thick white stripes, the traffic light a defiant green. Almost th—
Then Kyungsoo sees a flash of pale pink, olive and silver. “Have a nice day!” The boy waves cheerfully as he overtakes him three steps from the lip of the pavement.
Fuelled by rage and adrenaline, Kyungsoo starts to sprint and sprint and sprint, never taking his eyes off his quarry.
”Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood.
Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”
. . .Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If the boy had been more cautious, if he had been less confident of his triumph, Kyungsoo might never have gotten within stalking distance of his prey. The boy must have decided that Kyungsoo would stick to the same pattern of behavior he’d been keeping to these past two months. He must have decided that Kyungsoo would let him win as he had always let him win. He’s not even jogging, let alone running, when Kyungsoo turns the first street corner. The boy is just strolling along the pavement now. Limbs, relaxed. Pace, easy.
Kyungsoo grins. His foe’s overconfidence will be the cause of his downfall. He will take his quarry down. He hasn’t figured out how he’s going to do it, but he will beat the boy to the campus today if it kills him.
Kyungsoo has almost caught up with Namsan. Just two more steps and he’ll have overtaken him. But the boy suddenly starts to accelerate. Why is he speeding up? He can’t possibly know that Kyungsoo is right behind him because he’s been looking straight ahead the whole time.
Kyungsoo puts more speed into his stride but he knows he can’t keep up with the boy for long. Thanks to sheer height advantage, his opponent will win. The time for immobilizing his enemy has come. Kyungsoo will win today. No matter what.
Then, all logical thought leaks out his brain and out his ears as Kyungsoo flings his body forward. He grabs the boy around the waist and tackles him to the ground. Instinctively, his hands grip the boy’s shoulders while his thighs clamp around the other boy’s hips and legs, pinning him in place. There’s no way he’s letting Namsan go so he can maintain his winning streak.
“WHAT THE HELL,” the boy yells in shock. They’re both sitting on the pavement now and people are gawking openly—some of them stopping to ask the boy if he needs help, some of them stopping to ask if he’s just been assaulted. And plenty of passersby are giving Kyungsoo judging looks and asking him if he’s a lunatic.
Kyungsoo’s commonsense and logic, both of which had deserted him earlier, return to him now with a very abrupt vengeance. He releases his grip on the lanky form he’d tumbled to the ground. He closes his eyes, angry at himself for doing this insane thing. Who did that? Who went around tackling people to the ground just because they wanted to get to the college first?
He is clearly going insane. Biting his bottom lip, he prays that the boy won’t report him to the police for assault.
“Who are you and why did you attack me,” the boy asks as he turns around to face Kyungsoo. “Oh. It’s you.”
Kyungsoo tries to force out an apology. He tries. He really does. But the words of remorse just won’t come out. Instead, he gives the boy a mulish look.
“Do Kyungsoo, right?” He’s got a wry smile on his face like he finds this all very amusing. Never mind that he’s currently sitting on a crowded pavement, surrounded by nosey bystanders.
Kyungsoo hates being at a disadvantage, hates the fact that the boy knows his name when Kyungsoo doesn’t know his or anything about him for that matter. His mulish look turns into an outright glare.
“It’s okay. I’m okay. He’s a friend,” the boy assures the anxious pedestrians who eventually wander off, now that there’s apparently no drama to be had.
“You got my name from your friends, didn’t you? Kim Jongin and Park Chanyeol? What I can’t understand is WHY.”
“Well.” The boy grins, his eyes crinkling into crescents that are not in the least bit endearing. Not at all. “You were taking the longest time to get round to telling me so--”
“What?” Kyungsoo can’t believe what he’s hearing. What is this boy saying? He is not making any sense at all and Kyungsoo has always prided himself on having a highly proficient mastery of the Korean Language.
“Never mind that. You know, if you wanted to know my name or ask me out, you could just have said hi. You didn’t have to take me down on a busy street.”
“Who says I want to know your name,” Kyungsoo protests indignantly.
“It’s Sehun, anyway. Since you’re asking.”
“I’M NOT ASKING, WHAT THE HELL?”
“Are you going to help me up? We should get to campus and you can buy me a cup of coffee this evening. I mean, to make up for giving me bruises on my ass.”
“I’m not buying you coffee!”
“Fine, I’ll buy you coffee then. Stop twisting my arm, already.”
What is going on? Kyungsoo has no idea and he's so shocked and confused he lets the boy Sehun help him up from the pavement.
“Let’s go then,” he smiles as he grabs Kyungsoo’s hand and pulls him up.
This morning, Kyungsoo had set out to obliterate an enemy. Now, he’s walking to campus beside his tall, silver-haired nemesis like it's the most normal thing to do. He'd set out to win a war but all of a sudden, Kyungsoo is beginning to feel like he’s lost it—