The Lights Will Guide You Home


Seoul, South Korea
December 4, 1949

“You said your grandfather used to hang these, then?” Seunghyun asked, tentatively coiling the lantern string around the nail to adjust them a bit more.

“Mm,” Jiyong mumbled through a closed smile. His hands worked so swiftly, but so gently, tacking up the lights in unnoticeable patterns. “I used to help him, when I was really little. He showed me how to make them.” There was a peak in his voice, a certain sense of fondness within the words. “He loved it, the way he could make the paper take any shape he wanted.”

“You do this every day… Why not just leave them?”

Jiyong’s fingers paused their odd dance for a moment, and his face took on a look of simple understanding. “It’s art, Seunghyun.” His voice was low and sweet, inviting. “This window is my canvas,” he explained. “The lights are my paints. Every morning, I get to create a new masterpiece – a new memory. And I guess that’s all I need,” he smiled.

“I could never create something like this, something so… beautiful,” Seunghyun marveled.

“But you just did.” Jiyong gently pulled on the other man’s arm, tugging him a few steps backward to admire the work. “See?”

Seunghyun didn’t reply, eyes glues to the colors before him. The younger man’s eyes were fixed on his companion’s smile – the true work of art, in his opinion.

“You should go, Seunghyun.” The words passed from his lips slowly, dripping with the sadness behind them.

Seunghyun’s eyes flickered to Jiyong, searching his face for the reasoning. “Are you going to stare at my lanterns all day?” Jiyong caught himself, and fixed a softer expression on his wary features.

“I… No, I should get going. Sorry.”

“No.” Jiyong’s voice rose, cutting off the elder’s last word. “No. Don’t be sorry,” he steadied his emotions, but turned away all the same.

Seunghyun moved to the splintering door, placing his hand on the frame. “Jiyong.”

Jiyong turned instantly at his name, caught the smile on Seunghyun’s shadowed face.

“Thank you, for the lanterns,” he said, stepping out into the white light of the morning.

Jiyong smiled to himself. “You’re welcome, Seunghyun.”

December 13, 1949

He stood outside the shack, hands in his pockets, shifting on the balls of his feet. Lanterns adorned its broken features, candles flickering weakly in the wind. As he watched, the cold icy breath took hold of one of the paper beings, threw it to the left, snuffed out its light source. It dangled there helplessly before his hard gaze.

Nine days. It had been nine days since Jiyong had told him to go. He’d come every morning since, not sure what for anymore. The first day had come as a shock. He’d walked inside the building, expecting to see that smile. But it wasn’t there. There was only coldness to greet him. He didn’t think a lot of it, though; figured the scrawny brunette would be there the next day.

But he wasn’t.

And, nine days later, Seunghyun didn’t know why he was standing here. He kept telling himself it was for the lanterns, and a small part of him believed it. But mostly, he just wanted to see that face again – the artist behind the window masterpieces.

Thunder rolled out across the sky, and he shook his head, forcing his gaze away from the sight before him. Step by step, he left the window behind him, making half-hearted promises to not come back tomorrow.

He looked over his shoulder, like a lost puppy, hoping that just maybe…


His head snapped back around to face forward, and he pulled to a stop a few feet short of the man in front of him.

“Hey,” Jiyong smiled weakly, cheeks pinking in the cold. His face was apologetic, as if he could read the other man’s thoughts. A few raindrops dotted their skin, their surroundings, and another peel of thunder echoed off the buildings.

“One of your lanterns blew out,” Seunghyun deadpanned, indicating the path behind him with a flick of his wrist.

Jiyong’s expression softened, and he nodded slightly. “The wind doesn’t much like my lanterns. They tell me it picks on them,” he joked, catching Seunghyun’s gaze, hoping to lighten his mood.

“No, I guess they wouldn’t really get along, then.”

They exchanged a knowing look, and Jiyong sighed, motioning for Seunghyun to follow him.

“Come on, we should get out of the rain.”