The Prayer of a Sister

He knew the moment she arrived at the palace. He felt it in the air, felt the hush descend, felt the collective inhale so vibrant with tension, hundreds of servants of the kingdom holding their breath, their awe almost palpable. She comes.

It didn't surprise Soo-won that she came to him first. She was a woman of action, and a woman as full of heart as she was of fire. Still, he was not prepared for the sight of her. He never was these days.

It was strange that someone so small could be so striking.

Her stride was quiet. Not that of a general, or sovereign—strong and declarative—but rather the stride of a hunter, skill without fanfare. Her quiver and bow were slung over her shoulder over the cloak, the hood obscuring her face, but her hair, grown long over the years, tumbled over her shoulders, gleaming crimson against her armor in the lamplit dark. A hand, calloused and scarred by years of battle by sword and bow, rested on the pommel of the short-sword at her hip. She was dressed like a humble traveling warrior, but a low huff of laughter left his lips at the thought. No one would mistake her as such. Not with that bearing. Not with those eyes.

Not for the first time, her father's words rang in his mind:

'You know that girl… is the reincarnation of King Hiryuu.'

At the time it was pure nonsense; more evidence that Kouka could not afford him upon the throne. Not until years later did it begin to trickle back to them in haunting whispers, and then in thunderclap declarations—not of her supposed birthright, or of any mystical destiny. No. Far more meaningful than that.

'She is our savior.'

Again and again they had been met with this sentiment. Not said out of duty. Said out of love. She loved them, she saved them… and they loved her, and they moved, and yearned, to save her in return. Soul by soul, village by village, tribe by tribe. She wasn't a good leader…she was a miraculous one.

Not a leader of men. A leader of hearts.

She stopped directly in front of the door to his cell, the tension in her straight shoulders wound tight as she pulled back the hood of her cloak, those amethyst eyes meeting his.

Those eyes always surprised him.

She was angry. Naturally. But it was the wrong kind of anger. He smiled ruefully.

Of course.

It didn't matter that he had killed her father. Didn't matter that he had chased her out of her home and made her live like a fugitive. Didn't matter that she had experienced terror, grief, hunger, sickness, and war because of him… The kind of woman she was now, the creature she had become, was famous for one thing above all else—strength of heart. She lived in the present for the sake of the future, and saw people not for their sins, but for what potential they had for good.

This is why she is so loved. How many have I seen become new men after she had come and gone?

Soo-won stood and carefully cleaned his writing brush, setting it to the side. The remaining work he had to do for the transfer of the throne could wait until her questions were answered. He turned carefully, his eyes drifting to her companion.

He was met with shuttered steely blue.

Hak had changed, too. Perhaps not so drastically, as he'd always been a fierce and loyal warrior, but he'd grown harder, gained new scars. A ragged one stretched down from the left curve of his jaw, and Soo-won could see how it began again at the right side of his neck—it seemed that he had been struck deeply while turning his face to the side. Had he been blocking a blow of some sort? Perhaps one aimed at the princess? The scar was fully healed, though Soo-won could sense his old friend was hiding pain of some sort.

No doubt the one who gave it was long dead. After all, Kouka's Thunder Beast was more famous now than he'd been as a general. There were even whispers of him having some dragon blood of his own.

Still, Su-won felt no bloodlust from him. Hadn't for a while. Distrust, and pain, but not the terrifying malevolence that there once was. Just heavily armored gates that would never open again.

That cut deeper than anything else could.

Yona's ear turned toward her tall shadow, and murmured words were exchanged. Hak's pale blue eyes flickered back to Soo-won briefly, but quickly returned to the princess. Soo-won noted the way they stood, as if they were in a habitual defensive battle stance; Yona on his left, sharp and watchful, Hak at her back and angled to her right, leaving him in profile. Strangely, it left the impression of the two standing back to back, though they didn't.

Hak nodded his approval, and Yona echoed the movement, decided, before lifting her head again.

"Open it."

A guard stepped forward to unlock the door to his furnished cell. Amethyst eyes locked on his, and her head tilted toward the exit. "Walk with me."

She set off, not waiting for his reply. Four guards entered the cell, bolting cuffs in place, and escorted him out. They found Yona, Hak at her shoulder, waiting at the outer door of the dungeon. Upon their approach, they set out again, walking at a purposeful clip down the stone path. The moon was bright, but the lamps were brighter, a full turnout of public servants and help witnessing their march. Most of the faces he recognized. Good people, their inner conflict visible in their expressions and their silence. No hostility toward either party, only a sense of respect and sadness. Respect for both rulers, and regret at the grievances between them.

He watched Yona, the way the moon and firelight glimmered in her hair, half pulled back to a beautiful braided bun at the base of her skull, little braids decorating the cascade down her back. Simple tasseled earrings swayed as she observed their audience. He could see sorrow in the shape of her shoulders, in the dignified lines of her profile. Was she experiencing their grief, or was this grief a scar of her own?

Up ahead five figures waited. White, green, blue, and gold—the dragons—and the fair-haired young man Soo-won had seen with them so frequently. These, too, had changed, sporting a few raging scars of their own. The blue-haired man's bronze prosthetic hand gleamed in the light, drawing attention to it. The white-haired one, Hakuryuu if he remembered aright, stood at that shoulder, a leather eyepatch slightly marring the pristine visage he once had. The green-haired man's scar was a direct assault on the man's once good looks, a jagged line across his right cheek and nose. A strange haggardness hung about him, a far cry from his once suave, lazy facade. Only the yellow-haired boy remained mysteriously unchanged, all for the slight tightness in his eyes that his cheerful smile couldn't quite kill.

The procession paused in their midst, their crimson-haired leader turning back to him.

"Is there anyone you wish to bring with you?"

Son-won smiled. That was another of their differences, one he envied most. He looked at the way the group flanked her and Hak, the lines of trust and matching scars between them. Drawn tight by battles and sacrifice side-by-side in the name of devotion and brotherly love.

Souls united, moved by devotion and love, family, was a beautiful thing in a sphere all its own. Such a thing could not be bought, could not be demanded, could not even be earned. It was a priceless treasure that few, even among the deserving, truly found...or recovered, once lost.

He shook his head. Comrades for the kingdom, he had. Brothers to share his own burdens, he did not. He met her eyes.

Not anymore.


She nodded, turning again, gaze roving over the paths before them. The path to the main palace. The path to the gardens. The path to the training grounds. She considered them, taking in the somber faces lining them, expression thoughtful. When she moved, it was down a vacant path. One he recognized.

The old temple.

They left behind their audience, the fluttering of their cloaks and the clicking of their boots the only sounds as they approached the ruins of the once grand temple. Soo-won noted that the green dragon seemed to walk with a slight limp, as if one of his feet were heavier than the other.

The temple was in shambles, a haunting vacancy that none approached since his own father ordered it to be destroyed decades ago. She came to a halt at the base of the steps, gazing at the battered and blackened gate before them, and turned to one of her companions—the golden-haired boy.

A look passed between them; question on her side, and a strangely sage acceptance on his. He smiled. "You'll rebuild it, Miss. Zeno will help you."

The princess nodded, leading them up and through the sad gate before coming to a stop once more, surveying the damaged hall before them.

A wooden pillar lay on its side, the rafter it supported splintered and sagging. Ash, dust and cobwebs lying thickly over every surface, the stone and woodwork riddled with black stains, torn and burned tapestries in sad disarray, evidence of fires fueled by mounds of ancient books and scrolls in every corner. A considerable hole in the roof sent a pillar of dancing motes through the center of the destruction. They would need no lamps.

Yona walked slowly forward, stepping over the fallen pillar, and with weary creak and clink of leather and armor, lowered herself to sit upon it.

It was strange. He never used to forget how young she was. Now, she seemed at once too young… and much too old.


The word was weighted, and none doubted who it was said for. He answered.

"The people want you."

She looked over her shoulder at him, expression chiding. "The people already have me, Soo-won."

He hummed, stepping forward to sit on the pillar beside her. None of her companions intervened. They trusted that she would tell them if she needed their support. He could also sense that they felt this was something that began before them, a moment that wasn't theirs to break. Only Hak moved, settling into the seat on the Princess's other side. Soo-won tried not to show that it pleased him. "Kouka cannot have two kings. It will lead to war."

"I have no intention to pit our people against one another," she said quietly.

Hak snorted. As attention fell on him, Soo-won felt a twinge at the look his once-friend gave her. A openness of pride, of devotion, and a gentle rebuke at her selective ignorance. The look softened the lines of pain in his brow, eased the fierceness about him.

"Whether you lead them to battle or not, they would find a way to fight for you."

"Kouka cannot afford to be so divided," Soo-won confirmed, reaching down to pick up the burnt husk of a scroll, the chains of his cuffs clinking. It was splintery, and broke under its own weight. "Our country is strong now. Our greatest weakness, and our enemy's greatest opportunity, is this division of loyalty. They will feed it, and instigate civil war… it is likely that they have already begun."

Silence reigned.

She knew it was true; she'd seen enough of the world, enough insatiable power-mongers, to know what this uncertainty would look like to their neighbors. A chance.

"…You are a good king, Soo-won. A strong king." she turned toward him, her heavy sadness visible again in the absence of anger. "At times we've fought over methods. At times I feared what you would do… but Kouka is better for having you upon the throne."

Soo-won blinked. Her eyes did not leave his, and the grief was haunting. Of course. She loved her father, just as I loved mine.

If it weren't for the history of their fathers, what might they have become?

He glanced over her shoulder. Hak's eyes were centered on a fixed point on the other end of the temple.

In spite of his lazy mask, his mischief, his fierceness… Hak's pure-hearted devotion matched his strength. It was as straight-forward and unwavering as the mountains. It consumed him.

And when it betrayed him, it left a gaping whole that was both terrifying and harrowing to witness. Hak's pain ran deep. If it weren't for Yona, what would he have become, left to grieve alone?

When Yona spoke again, the words rang loud, though they were just a whisper. "I will not sanction your execution, Soo-won."

He sighed. This would not be easy.

"You don't have a choice, Yona."

He cringed at the look in her eyes. She never did take well to the idea of necessary casualties. The suggestion never failed to kindle that strange light that had cowed many a king across the continent. Even now he felt the hammering of his heart in his ears, the seizing of his limbs, and the terrible dread of the hunted.


He forced his eyes shut. "The most secure way to assure an undisputed transfer of the throne was to call my ascension into question. I confessed to the murder of King Il, and to the attempt on your life that drove you from the palace. The people do not know yet, but it is only a matter of time before word gets out."

She stood abruptly, striding forward. She stopped before the cracked remains of a giant stone tablet, and did not turn back.

It was best this way. It cleared Hak of all lingering suspicion, exposing him for the hero he was… and it eliminated the possibility that their two parties might be forced to join hands.

For he knew this Yona was not the spoiled, faint-hearted child she once was. This Yona battled herself as fiercely as she did her enemies. If she imagined the kingdom needed it, she would make peace, forgive, and fight to forget.

And seeing her do it would break his heart.

He never would have thought that someday tiny little Yona would be stronger than him.

He tossed the sorry remains of the scroll to join its sorry brethren, taking a cleansing breath.

"You'll be rebuilding the temple, then."

It took her a while to answer. He watched her shoulders pull back, forced against a burden he was sorry to see her bear.


He didn't place much weight in matters outside the reach of men, but it did not mean that he did not wonder. She did not seem to grieved by the state of the temple, nor had he heard her make any claims regarding her supposed divine heritage.

"Do the gods speak to you?"

She turned her head slightly, the profile of her cheek visible. There was a ghost of a smile there, though it was too distracted and wry to be genuine mirth.

"No… But I've demanded their cooperation often enough that I ought to play nicely with them now and then."

A rumbling of quiet amusement filled the temple. Her companions did not seem surprised. Though it was tainted by the same burden he saw on Yona's shoulders, the first smile Soo-won had seen on Hak's face in years surfaced. A little taken aback, Soo-won found his brows rising.

"And they've… taken well to these 'demands'?"

"We're not dead yet," Hak answered quietly, shrugging.

But there was something about that 'yet' that wasn't as light as he felt Hak meant it to be. Yona turned away.

"What are they like?" he asked. He didn't really need to know, but the aura of the room was unpleasant.

"The gods?" Yona asked. When he nodded, he heard her turn, looking to one of the warriors.

The golden haired boy answered.

"Expansive. Patient. All-seeing."

Soo-won snorted. It was better to keep his focus on what was under his hands, not over his head, after all. Still, he found himself reluctant to let the conversation die. It had been too long since he had been near them without hostilities souring it.

"Tell me… King Hiryuu—did he truly become human because he loved them?"

"Yes." The boy's words rang with a quiet sort of conviction that made Soo-won turn toward him.

"Couldn't he do more good as a god?" Soo-won pressed, curious as to why he felt like this boy might actually know the answer. That was absurd… unless the dragon's avatars shared memories? "Wouldn't it have been easier for him to keep his distance, interfering as he pleased?"

The boy shook his head, a fringed medallion at his ear swinging with the motion.

"The gods cannot interfere as they please—the strength of their power is too vast… their hearts bear the scars of its cruelty, as do the human souls they touched with it. Zeno knows they do not commit such acts lightly."

Soo-won's brows lifted. An interesting theory. Strangely, though, he didn't feel like this was a matter of theory to this 'Zeno.' He looked almost… haunted.

"So Hiryuu became human so that he could act freely for humanity's sake?"

"You are also his descendant—do you not find that the strength of earnest human hearts united is power enough for even gods to find beautiful?"

Soo-won blinked. This boy, no, man, looked at him as if he knew him. What was more disconcerting still, the words rang true.

He cleared his throat. "And he never regretted it?"

At this, the dragon looked to Yona. "Miss?"

Soo-won turned to find Yona watching them. The look in her eyes was distant, thoughtful. The lines of grief in her face… were they permanent?

"I… I remember very little. If it weren't for the nostalgia, for the affection I felt when I met each of the four dragons," she smiled at the men behind him, her eyes softening "I would still doubt whether I was Hiryuu's reincarnation at all."

"It was unmistakable to us, Princess," Hakuryuu, the silver-clawed dragon, spoke in earnest. "Unmistakable for all of us."

"Certainly a feeling that's very difficult to forget, Yona dear," the green one agreed, something about his smile making Soo-won suspect that it wasn't all pleasant. Perhaps painful, even, though a fond memory now.

Yona's gaze lowered. Her smile fading back into that distant, thoughtful expression.

"I've often wished for more strength…" her eyes narrowed, and she turned back away, her gloved hands wiping away at the layer of dust on the large dragon carving on the tablet's face. "At times, I've felt a terrible sense of clarity… almost as if I remembered having that strength. Almost as if I could reach out and touch it if I truly wanted to…"

Her hand stopped, lingering on the head of the dragon.

"It is better to be human, Young Miss," the golden-haired boy said softly, his tone strangely cautious. "Hiryuu suffered greatly to become human. Zeno thinks it is a gift that Young Miss isn't burdened by such struggles."

There was something about the sliver of her profile as her ear flinched toward him as he said those words, something bitter. After a moment she spoke so softly that he almost didn't hear it.

"…Heaven forbid that I should be burdened."

Something was off, wrong. He turned his head quietly, taking in the expressions of the dragons. They all bore the same look, directed at the back of the princess. Worry. Sadness. A feeling of sorrow for her situation, and a heavy resignedness.

She's losing them, he realized. He'd seen those looks before on the faces of his own men as they realized that he would soon be bearing his burdens without them. He'd seen that look on Joo-do.

He thought there was a heaviness about them, a sort of fatigue… they were dying.

They were going to leave Yona behind.

His eyes shot to Hak. The warrior was looking down, a disturbing lifelessness in his gaze.

King Il. Soo-won. General Mundok. Now the dragon warriors that he had come to trust as brothers. How many more could Hak bear to lose?

Yona's hand had begun to move again, smoothing dust and ash out the lines of the dragon's mane. A slight gasp sounded to his right, and Soo-won turned to see the fringed golden medallion fall from the yellow dragon's headband, rolling a few feet away. It seemed to pulse strangely.

"I'd like to think that I'd use it solely for the people," Yona murmured quietly, almost as if she spoke to the dragon carving, not having heard the boy's intake of breath. Her voice was so quiet it sounded as if she hadn't meant to be overheard. Soo-won wondered if she might be crying. "But in all truth… if I had that power, I'd use it to give us all a second chance… a better chance. Is that too selfish a thing to wish for?"

"Little Mis—!" the yellow dragon stumbled forward, but his warning didn't leave his lips in time. A terrible roaring filled the temple. The foundation beneath them trembled, dust shaking free from the rafters. Hak lurched forward as ceiling tiles began to fall from the hole in the roof.


The chaos ceased as abruptly as it began. The three of them had ended up on the temple floor, Soo-won on his knees, and the other two sitting on their backsides beside him, having scrambled away from the giant tablet. Yona was pulled tightly into Hak's chest as the two of them watching the teetering mass of cracked stone warily, a scrape he was certain would bruise bleeding at the corner of Hak's right eyebrow. The air was full of dust, their breath making it swirl. Somewhere behind them the fair-haired young man coughed.

"Is everyone okay? Did anyone get hit by those ceiling ti—"

When he went quiet, Yona turned in Hak's hold to look toward the temple entrance, a fistful of cloak held to her face to prevent dust inhalation. "Yoon? Is Jae-ha..."

She trailed off, her eyes following something upward, something close. Soo-won turned, sensing Hak doing the same.

The four dragons stood immediately behind them, making both parties start. Hak growled.

"You trying to give us a heart attack? The Princess is fine."

None of the dragons answered. They weren't looking at him, but had their eyes fixed tightly on Yona, a strange light in them.

In fact, Soo-won was almost certain their eyes were glowing.

Something in Yona's eyes darkened. Something in her voice made Soo-won shiver to the very core of his bones.

"Whoever you are, I want my friends back, now."

When the dragons spoke, they spoke in unison, their separate voices reverberating as one, filling the crumbling temple hall and pressing on the ears painfully.


Soo-won covered his ears tightly, a warm stickiness meeting his hands. By the sight of what was trailing from Hak's ears, he imagined it was blood. His old friend held Yona's head tightly to his chest, covering her ears as his remaining palm pressed against his own ear closest to the four strangers before them. Yona's gaze had not left the four, the ones that had called her 'Sister,' a title that rang strangely from their lips, almost as if it were a title that meant many things at once.

Bizarrely, he thought one of those meanings might also have been 'Brother.'

When Yona spoke, his ears were still ringing too loudly to hear the words, but by the severity of her expression, and the movement of her lips, he imagined it was a command to declare their purpose. All four dragons lowered to sit on their haunches, their eyes almost reverent in their affection.


When the four extended their hands toward her, the reaction was immediate. Before Soo-won was even aware of what he had done, he was crouching at the side of his childhood friends, braced in a formation that felt as old as breathing—him and Hak, between their littlest member and a threat. It felt so much like long-forsaken home that he might have cried if he weren't petrified.

Now he had an inkling of who it was before them. The stories of his youth, inhaled while hidden away in the library, flared to brilliant life in his mind. These were The Four Dragons, themselves. King Hiryuu's godly brothers.

Standing head-to-head with Heaven was a terrifying thing.

Their eyes, bright and cutting, zeroed in on the mortals in their attempt to interfere. Though their expressions were not vicious or cruel, Soo-won knew, with certainty, that he would not survive their gazes for long. It was as if they peeled back his flesh, layer by layer, exposing his heart, examining it with such clinical detachment that he wasn't sure his death would be intentional or completely by accident. It would be deadly whether it was predatory or not.


This time it was not the dragons that spoke. Though his ears could hear nothing in the wake of their voices, he heard the cry tremble in the fibers of his heart in the same way, almost as if another dragon had joined them. Small hands slid over their eyes as Yona stood, stepping between them. A strange red light seemed to glow through his eyelids at her touch.


Suffocating, rending sadness filled the temple, making Soo-won's sore eyes water, tears streaming from beneath Yona's hand. He felt as if his heart was being crushed. He couldn't breathe for the grief—it was agonizing.


Yona stood, unwavering. The silence stretched.

He could feel it, their love for her. It ached, it yearned, like some unbearable, wretched vacancy in the soul. He thought he heard a stuttering gasp akin to pain tear from Hak's throat. The sounds of four sets of knees hitting stone sounded, and Yona's hand lowered, revealing that the dragons cried, also. Their eyes had closed.

"Sister," the voices were gentler now, though they still rumbled in the bones. "Are you certain?"

"Yes," Yona answered, her voice still sounding eerily akin to theirs, but had quieted as well. Soo-won hazarded a look at her, and found that there was a strange flaming light in her eyes, that same light that he had seen in her on the battlefield, bleeding into her irises, a mesmerizing purple and red dawn.

There was also compassion there, a sense of their disappointment wounding her as well. She spoke their names hesitantly.

"Hakuryuu, Seiryuu, Ryokuryuu, Ouryuu…You have indeed been patient—but I cannot leave them."

The silence stretched long, the grief slowly steeping into resignation mixed with traces of affectionate exasperation. Almost as if they had expected this answer all along. Low chuckles trembled in the stonework.

"Indeed. We hoped that a new birth, growing up among mortal faithlessness, might have tempered your openness to them… but it was in vain. You remain ever our Hiryuu."

Yona lowered slowly, coming to rest on her knees, her eyes searching, a question on the tip of her tongue. Soo-won wondered the same thing.

If they knew what her answer would be, why did they come?

Four brows lifted, wry amusement in their multi-colored eyes, eyes they fixed on Yona alone, as if Hak and Soo-won had ceased to exist. Soo-won wondered how she could bear those all-seeing eyes as she did.

"Why have you come?" she finally asked, her voice once more sounding like the Yona he was familiar with. The dragons exchanged glances.

"You finally prayed for something only We could grant," they said simply.

Yona blinked, confusion in her softened gaze.

"A second, better chance—the opportunity to use time lost, time before the seed of the strife was planted," at this, the four pinned Hak and Soo-won with that terrifying gaze once more. It was brief, but harrowing. A shadow of hostility flashed briefly when they turned to him, a flash that made his heart seize in pain. A warning. "Time before the start of ends—a time of beginnings."

Soo-won felt his eyes slowly widen as terrible comprehension sank roots into his mind. He thought he might fall over, it caught him so blind.

These were Gods. This was the Heavens kneeling before her.

This was Time they were offering.

This was Everything they were offering.

All of creation, turned back at the call of one soul.

Yona's reply broke the silence, spoken with such a heavy heart that Soo-won's reeling consciousness slowed. The lines in her face looked so pronounced, so weary. Careworn. Burdened.

"But would it truly be a better chance?"

He recognized this. It wasn't grief alone that had carved those lines in her once smooth features.

It was responsibility.

How often had she intervened when war was on the horizon? How many of the sovereigns on the continent knew her by sight, if not by name? How often had he arrived to investigate rumors of injustice and pain, to find that she had arrived before him? Yona carried Kouka as if the weight was hers to bear… as if she had picked it up along with her sword all those years ago. As if it was the price of that sword—the price of her life.

Because of this nature of hers, she knew the same hesitation Soo-won felt. One did not gamble with the fate of nations so lightly…

"Thousands more will be saved."

Yona's gaze sharpened, blazing with intensity, and the pressure in the room came to an abrupt hold. Hak's eyes darkened in contrast, his scowl fierce as he shifted, grasping Yona by the belt, pulling her back.

"And the price?" he growled, his distrust palpable. Soo-won saw his objection—they had stabbed right at the heart of her nature without mercy or remorse.

The Dragons eyed Hak briefly, but it was not a look of anger…rather, a look of veiled approval.

"Our Sister, alone, will remember all…"

They fixed Yona with those eyes, the aching vacancy in their hearts tangible in the air once more

"…And She will remember Us, Her Brothers, once more."

When they spoke their next words, it had a strange echo within it. He could almost swear he was hearing Yona's own voice speaking the words again, just as she had before:

"'Is that too selfish a thing to wish for?'"

A strange expression seized the features of the Yellow Dragon. Confusion. Pain. The brightness left his eyes suddenly, Ouryuu's vessel gasping as fists balled in pain struck the temple floor.

"Have mercy, Heavens," a human voice choked, gasping in desperation. "The Little Miss is Mortal—she will not last under such a burden!"

The other three Dragons watched the vessel's plea, exchanging glances.

"Hiryuu bore it," they reasoned, their expressions strangely childlike.

The vessel, Zeno, remained bent in his submissive stance, his forehead pressed against the stone. "Hiryuu died young, and the Little Miss will be only a child. Children are fragile, O Lords of Heaven, far more so than men. Please, have mercy."

The gods considered him quietly, their gazes seeming to burn through him. They blinked in unison, gazing at one another, then at Yona, where she knelt, shielded partially behind Hak's shoulder. When they approached, Hak stiffened, moving to shield her completely.

He began to shake as those eyes bore into his, but he held fast. If Yona had not intervened, he might have fallen—as it was, he collapsed against her back as she blocked him from view, sweat bleeding through his robes. Yona's look of rebuke upon the Dragon's would have made anyone cower, but the foremost Dragon, the silver-haired man, only smiled, the love in his eyes pure and proud. He wondered briefly if he shared his nature with his vessel. His regard seemed especially earnest.

He raised his hand, the one without claws, and touched two fingers to Yona's brow, his brothers clasping his shoulders. Rather than adding to the power of the touch, it seemed as if their assistance was to draw power out of him, perhaps weakening his blessing as it was spoken. He wondered what the full power of the blessing, undiluted, would have done to his childhood friend.

"Our Sister, Beloved Heart of the Noblest Realms,"the thrum of his voice trembled with restraint and an aching desire to give."This blessing We extend to Thee—Let Thy Remembrance be Proportionate to Thy Strength's Finding, and Let Solace, Peace, and Courage be Found in the Loyalties of the Hearts Pledged Thee."

Hak caught Yona with trembling arms as she fell unconscious. The Dragons turned on the golden-haired boy as Hak checked her breathing and heartbeat.

"Our Brother's lonely warrior," the blue one approached, his brothers clasping his shoulder as they had before giving their blessing to Yona. Again, fingers were pressed to brow as the words were spoken. "Long have you wandered. We have seen your griefs, and know your heart. This blessing we give to you—That a Portion of Thy Gift be Shared, By Thy Hand's Touch, to Thy Fellow Dragon-Blessed."

The golden-haired boy blinked, the light returning as the human fell away, the godly glow all that remained.

The Yellow Dragon, returned, smiled sadly.

"Thank you, Brother."

The Blue Dragon smiled likewise, speaking quietly. "Long have I seen you grieve for this one, Ouryuu. You are not alone in seeing his sacrifice."

The green-haired vessel, Ryokuryuu, turned away from the two as they spoke, extending his hand toward the empty dark of the temple wall. A strange draft stirred the dusty temple floor as ash, moth-eaten threads, and dust swirled, rising up, weaving together and leaping to his command in the form of a tattered, fragile expanse of cloth.

Yet, when the Dragon's hand closed around it and pulled, the cloth shed its state of mortal decay, a gorgeous array of gleaming silken colors rippling through it in a fluttering blast of power, brightening the moon and dragon-lit hall.

The Dragon turned, beautiful silken sheen in hand, toward where Hak knelt, Yona in arm.

Hak drew back, distrust in his eyes. The Green Dragon only smiled, a strange knowing in his gaze as he held out the shimmering cloth. "It will be winter where Our Sister is going."

Glaring at him for a few moments longer, Hak reached out, snatching the cloth, and examined it suspiciously. It shimmered strangely, slightly too bright, but the glow around it did look warm… He tucked it around her carefully, anger in every line of his face. "You gods don't give much a damn for the idea of free will, do you?"

The Dragon glanced toward his brothers, a slightly wry smile on his face, before sitting on his haunches before the two. His amusement seemed to only irritate Hak further as his brothers clasped their hands upon Ryokuryuu's shoulders.


"We know Our Sister—as do You." Ryokuryuu interrupted, eyes daring Hak to challenge it. By the way Hak faltered, Soo-won knew that Hak couldn't deny that given the chance to save thousands of her people, Yona's nature would compel her to take any thorny path required, whatever the cost to herself. By the grief it seemed to cause him, Hak wished it weren't true… though he loved her for it.

Seeing this, the Dragon's expression softened in compassion, two fingers lifting to touch the warrior's brow.

"Fear not, Champion of Hiryuu, your heart, also, have We seen," the Dragon's eyes flickered as his brothers drew back his power, but his voice was steady, the pulse of power evident. "Burdened will Our Sister be, as alone She bears that which childhood cannot withstand. To you, whose nature compels to defend, We give this blessing and privilege—That When Safely Guarded In Thy Grasp, Our Sister Might Know A Child's Spirit Again."

Soo-won watched numbly as his childhood friend fell, anger seeping through him. What business had Gods to thrust their interests upon mortals? Why now, after so much had been fought for, so much gained at the end of such sacrifice? Why not earlier, before so much suffering had taken place?

Because Yona hadn't asked for it? Hadn't asked for the impossible, until she stood at the end of it all, grief and burden carved into every line?

This is why his father had despised the gods.

Yona's fair-haired young physician, Yoon if Soo-won caught right, had finally summoned his courage, breaking the silence as he stumbled forward, false bravado covering the shaking of his knees as he rounded the dragons at a fair distance and knelt by his friends' sides, seeking their pulses. His hands shook, and from the chagrinned look on his face, he couldn't get an accurate read. "Gods…Ik-soo better not have foreseen this…W-what did you do to them? Why are they asleep?"

He stiffened, clearly regretting his stuttered questions as he looked up to find the studious eyes of four dragons upon him.

But Ouryuu smiled, looking to his brothers meaningfully. Their hands reached out to him, and Soo-won knew another of their 'blessings' was about to happen.

Apparently, so did Yoon, if his hasty scramble backwards was any indication.

"No, no-no-no-no… not me. I'm just a humble handsome genius—no need for any extra greatness, or burdens, or any of that business!"

Ouryuu beckoned expectantly. "Our Sister's work will change much—surely you still wish to find the Oracle, and be thrown in with these whom your heart calls family?"

The young man swallowed visibly, hands gripping his medicine satchel, his face so constricted by constipated reluctance that Soo-won winced. Still, in the end, he stepped forward, his eyes squeezed shut as the fingers touched his forehead.

"To clever, faithful and diligent Yoon, We give this blessing—That Fate Bind Thee Once More With These Thy Heart's Kin."

The young man fell, crumpling next to Yona and Hak. The Dragons looked at the three for some moments, before turning to their brother, Ouryuu.

In a motion that seemed no different from breathing, the Yellow Dragon, Ouryuu, opened his hand—and the golden medallion, lain forgotten in the dust, leapt into the air, falling into his hand in a graceful arch. Once contact was made with his faintly-glowing palm, the dust was blasted away, and a long string of golden beads, creating a necklace, grew from the short chain.

"Too long has your warrior kept Our Sister's gift from her, Brother."

Ouryuu looked down at the medallion, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Indeed. Yet, in his heart, he only intended to protect Our Sister from ancient griefs."

Hakuryuu frowned. "But—"

"Seems to me that he was trying to protect her from you," Soo-won interrupted quietly.

The four Dragons turned.

"Forgive this mortal for his impudence," Soo-won continued, folding his legs into a proper kneel, one he used when speaking to Masters at training. He did not feel this degree of respect, but it was useful for helping him maintain his composure. "But if you intended to undo all that has been done, could you not have interfered earlier? Why burden us with decades of suffering for naught?"

Did they find it amusing? Or were they just impulsive and careless, treating mortal lives as insects?

Four sets of eyes narrowed. The white dragon, Hakuryuu, stepped forward, squatting to eye level, and Soo-won felt the terror grip his soul as his heart was inspected closely, as if each fiber were a page turned by taloned fingers. Three hands settled on the White Dragon's shoulders.

"For you too, Child of Hiryuu's Line, We have a gift…"

Soo-won felt the temple hall spin as fingers met his brow.

"…That Thou Be Not Deceived."

[Oh, goodness, that prologue was a beast to get on the page …but I did it! Huzzah! Okay—I'mma be real for a moment: I have other stories I'm supposed to be working on, but I'm really trying to develop a writing habit. If one story isn't coming, I've decided to give myself permission to take a break and write what I can write. Even if I'm not sure I'll be able to finish, or that it will go anywhere… for the sake of learning to write more, I'm writing what I can in the moment.]

[That said, I really hope you guys have fun with this—I've been having tons of fun storystorming for it. I've been secretly dying to write a fanfic for Akatsuki no Yona for so long, and I really love good time-travel fanfiction (speaking of which, have you guys read thursdayplaid's Sherlock fanfiction 'The Wee Doctor'? The human dynamics are so delightful that I have wept before her genius. No joke.) I really wanted to try it once, so... here goes?]

[As always, I welcome writing tips and pointers. Please share. All reviews are welcome, and make a big difference for motivation levels. Review liberally!]