Chapter 14

With New Years over, the next few days flew by and before anyone knew it, their second term had already begun.

The first thing Yona made sure to do was print off her schedule so she would have the room number for each of her lectures on her.

While she was familiar with most of the buildings on campus, she still hadn't explored everywhere yet or memorized its layout beyond where she'd needed to go for her schedule last semester and the few places that she'd hung out with Lili.

Having packed her bag for the day, gotten dressed and put on a touch of makeup she headed downstairs to the kitchen to grab something to eat before heading out. It was only 9 and her class didn't begin until 9:30 so she had enough time, but she always preferred to be early and have the time to settle into her seat for a bit before her prof began the lesson and she started taking notes.

As she padded her way into the kitchen Hak was already down at the kitchen table, ever the early riser, and munching on a bowl of cereal.

He noticed the map that she'd also printed out and stashed with her schedule.

"Do you know where you're going?" he asked in between mouthfuls.

"I have a pretty good idea, so I'm sure I'll be fine." she said, hoping he sounded convincing.

The answer was apparently not, as he only scoffed and simply got up from the kitchen table and dumped his bowl into the sink before going and putting on his shoes.

Taking the hint, she hurriedly grabbed a muffin from the counter and followed after him.

It Turned out the lecture hall was on the other side of campus, so they ended up taking the bus, Hak letting her have the last seat while he stood in front of her preventing anyone from bumping or falling into her as the bus jerked and swayed around the corner.

Once they got off at their stop, he walked her to class, his hands in his pockets against the cold morning chill.

She smiled to herself and threaded her arm through his, complimenting his gentlemanliness to which he cracked a joke in return even as she saw a bit of colour come to his cheeks though he'd swear it was just the cold.

The rest of her day goes well. After Hak dropped her off at her first class -History - she settles in and ended up enjoying the lecture immensely. Most of the class would cover more localized history, something that really sparked her interest.

When the lecture finished, she met up with Lili on the way to her next class -Criminology -and they got to spend some time chatting about a recent case study that had come up. Unfortunately, that was one of the only lectures they shared that they had at the same time, Lili having managed to leave course selection a bit late and getting stuck with all the crappy time slots.

So, once they finished, they parted ways, already agreeing on where and when they'd meet up the next day. She still had two seminars to get through before she was done for the day and could go home, so she took the time she had to kill before the first one started, by grabbing a drink and looking over the syllabus to set up reminders in her phone for important due dates.

Two and a half hours later she was home again to her great relief.

Hak wouldn't be back until late that evening because he had a few evening lectures that always ran late, and a martial arts meeting at 9pm.

The bus ride home was quite crowded and Yona had found herself missing Hak's large form acting as a barrier between her and everyone who felt the need to push and shove.

When she got through the door to the town house, she found Yun was the only one home and he'd managed to get himself into a complete panic.

As soon as he saw her walk in he began to explain in a rushed tizzy how he'd had to take Ao with him to his own lecture that day because there was no one else in the house to watch her and he had been the last to leave that morning. Not an unusual situation for any of them by not an ideal one either. That wasn't the problem though.

Unfortunately, on his way back home he'd opened his bag a little to make sure she wasn't overheating when the neighbour's cat that had been lounging on a fencepost as he passed by, made a lunge for her and she had leapt from the bag and run off.

He'd managed to scoop up the cat and close it into their neighbours yard so she wouldn't be a threat anymore but by the time he had managed to catch up to Ao she had scampered up the massive white pine that stood just outside of Yona's balcony.

As big as the tree was, though, it didn't have any branches low enough or strong enough for either Yun or her to climb.

Their only option would be to try and reach for her from Yona's balcony rail.

Oh boy.

After running up to her room together as fast as they could, they spent the next hour trying to call the little squirrel over, begging and making little enticing noises to try and catch her attention, all to no avail. They even tried to bribe her with snacks they had from the house, but unfortunately Ao seemed to find the pine nuts way more interesting as she sat on a branch watching them calmly as she gnawed away contentedly.

Just as they were about to give up hope of ever getting Ao to come back inside with them, they saw Jae-ha walking up to sidewalk back home.

"Jae-ha!" Yona shouted, waving her hands frantically to get his attention.

The young man in question simply smiled and gave her a friendly wave back, having not quite heard her as much as seen her jumping about and misinterpreting her desperation for enthusiasm.

she rolled her eyes in frustration, "No! Hurry up, we need your help!"

This time, it seemed he heard her properly and he easily broke into a jog and hurried up the driveway before rushing inside.

Moments later he was making his way into her room just behind them, his brows drawn in worry and confusion, "Hey Yona-dear, what's wrong? Yun why do you look so stressed out?"

Yun was first to reply quickly explaining the whole situation and asking if he had any other ideas on how to get her down.

"Really? She didn't hop over when you guys offered her snacks?" he asked when Yun finished with a sigh and flopped into Yona's camp chair in the corner.

"No," Yona said dejectedly, "She's too obsessed with the pine nuts to want any of her usual favourites."

Jae-ha hummed in understanding for a moment before walking over and patting each of them on the head with an easy smile.

"Not to worry, I'll get her back no problem," he said casually before hopping up on the railing of her balcony and began to carefully walk over towards the edge nearest the tree.

Both she and Yun immediately jumped to their feet with worry at this, Yun looking like he was about to pass out every time Jae-ha wobbled even a bit.

"Jae-ha! Are you mad?! You'll fall!" she yelped one hand half covering her eyes as she couldn't quite bare to look.

"Relax, Dear and trust me. I won't fall. Besides, I'm rather good with heights," he said casually, even throwing her a wink over his shoulder as he reached the edge. Then, without a second thought he lined himself up with the tree branch across from him and leapt gracefully through the air and landed in a crouch perfectly balanced and unruffled.

She and Yun were gobsmacked.

Jae-ha simply broke into a fit of laughter when he looked back and saw their faces, "did I never mention that I do parkour and free-running in my free time?" he said with a grin.

Needless to say, once he got his bearings in the tree he easily found and picked up Ao, sitting her in his shirt pocket and jumped back into the balcony with ease. And after Yun and Yona had given him a fiem berating for nearly giving them both heart attacks they thanked him profusely and he happily took their awe in praise, preening like a peacock the entire time.

It seemed life was never dull in the apartment.

And yet, a few weeks later, her class schedule now a memorised and easy routine, Yona now found herself up in her room in a state of utter despair.

Papers were strewn about the room, covering nearly every surface available, some still intact while most were slightly crumpled by now. She'd knocked her pencil case over by mistake so now there were also pens scattered everywhere, with a few pencils now down the side of her bed or nearly out the door.

Clad in a pair of soft black PJ shorts with white drawstrings that were way too long along with an oversized grey Uni hoodie with the sleeves shoved up to her elbows, she had her hair wrangled up into a messy bun. Stray bits now coming out all over the place from scrubbing her hands over it one too many times in frustration and hopelessness.

The day hadn't started out this bad.

She'd only had one class that morning and it had gone easily enough. She'd finally finished her report for her criminology class the night before and so she figured now was a good time to catch up on the readings she hadn't yet done from the last few weeks or so.

Big mistake.

What she thought might take her maybe two hours had now stretched way past four and she still had plenty to go. The problem was that each of the daily readings were around 20 pages of textbook boredom each. She wouldn't have bothered if they didn't cover content that wasn't touched on in class that her prof mentioned would still be on the midterm.

So, she spent ages trying to make good notes as she went along. This meant a lot of starting and stopping and losing her place every two minutes. Never mind how mind-numbingly dull the actual textbook was.

And so there she was; wallowing in self pity as she rotated around her bed for the 7th time in the last twenty minutes, hoping a new position might suddenly wake her up and make the historical content less bland. Well to be fair. It wasn't necessarily all the content. It was how it was presented with about a million citations in every sentence making it near unreadable.

She was actually very interested in Kouka's history on it's own, as it helped paint a clearer picture of how the people here had changed over time. What systems worked and what didn't. She wanted to learn from history what changes she might help to make, to make things better than they were now instead of repeating old mistakes from centuries past.

After another thirty minutes of groaning and grumbling, Yona finally decided to take a break from her drudgery and go downstairs to grab a motivational snack and something to drink. Every step she could feel another one of her joints pop as she stretched her stiff and aching muscles.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, her discomfort was quickly forgotten in favor of hunger, so she immediately started rummaging through the cupboards. Just as she managed to scrounge together a bowl of cereal however, she heard the front door open and close with a squeak as Hak walked in looking as though he'd just had a shower and with his sports equipment bag thrown over his shoulder.

He must have just finished practice at the dojo then.

Typically, it only took him a moment to look her up and down, taking in her messy and bedraggled appearance before a knowing look and a slight smirk came to his face.

She waited for the snarky comment that was sure to come next, yet he took his sweet time dumping his bag on the floor and kicking off his shoes before leaning against the doorframe to the kitchen.

"So," he said, lifting an eyebrow at her, "how was your day then? Judging by your very fashionable current look I'd say not too great then?"

she glared daggers at him and he chuckled, walking over and ruffling her already messy hair and making it worse as he made his way passed her to grab a snack for himself off the top shelf she couldn't reach.

He smirked again when he noticed her looking at him jealousy when he came back with a pack of Oreos in hand.

After flicking her nose though he just turned around and plunked them on the table for her to which she happily scurried over and grabbed one. . . Or five.

Once she had he mouth crammed full of cookies, he finally sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and let out a sigh before asking, "alright, you got your cookies, now tell me what's up and why you look so miserable."

Grabbing a glass of milk to help wash down the cookies she sat across from him and explained her self imposed plight as he simply listened and nodded along sagely.

"I've been there, and it sucks, but balancing the work gets both easier and harder the longer you're in Uni for but you'll get the hang of it."

"That's all well and good for the future but doesn't help me much right now." she grumbled morosely to herself as she slumped forward and to rest her chin on the table and pout.

There was a moment of quiet where neither of them said anything and her mind began to wander into daydreams of when this self-imposed hell would be over before the sound of Hak's chair scraping the ground brought her back to the present and she looked up at him in question.

"Come on," was all he said as he began dragging her own chair backwards across the tiles leaving her chin to abruptly fall off the edge of the table.

"Whaaaaat?" she moaned, "where are we going?"

"Up to your room where we are going to power through these readings and then you're going straight to bed." he said matter-of-factly.

She perked up a bit at this, "You mean you're going to help me!" she exclaimed, suddenly feeling as though the herculean task ahead of her were now a little more possible.

He just rolled his eyes and picked her up under the arms and hauled her to her feet, "I can't do the reading for you, but I can keep you company while you work and try to help keep you focused."

She'd take it.

Making their way up the stairs together to her room, Hak made a brief stop into his own room to grab his laptop so he could get some work of his own done, before they settled down on top of her bed together and began the grind once again.

Another two hours later, Hak had finished his own paper that was due the following Friday for one of his classes and had quickly become bored himself, as he lay sprawled on her bed covered with various notes of hers which seemed to pile up more and more by the minute.

If she were being honest, the company was nice, but having him there just staring at her as she worked was more distracting than helpful. What was worse is when he sits up to lean against the headboard and begins lazily playing with a lock of her hair that had fallen astray.

Not helpful. She was so close to finishing everything too.

"Hak,"

"Yeah?"

"Quit doing that would you?"

"Doing what?"

She sighed loudly and put her textbook down on her lap, "playing with my hair. I can't focus!"

"Why not?" he replied.

She turned her head to level an irritated look his way, "It's distracting."

At that a grin began to spread its way across his lips, "Oh?" He sat up properly and leaned closer, giving one of her curls an experimental tug. "And why is that?"

She felt her face grow hot and she looked away, promptly picking up her textbook again and shoving her nose in it. He laughed but instead of leaving her be he snuck his arm around her waist and hauled her into his lap, book and all.

"Hak! Not funny!" she yelped, squirming this way and that to try and escape his grasp, but it was no use as his other arm banded around her, effectively holding her to him.

"What? I figured if you're that determined to stay focused now this part of the textbook must be pretty interesting." he said behind her and she could feel the cheeky grin he had on his face as he tucked his head into the crook of her neck.

"Why don't you read the last bit to me? I finished ages ago and I'm so bored right now since apparently playing with your hair is not allowed so there's nothing to do."

She pinched his arms a few times and tried to pry his grip from around her, but it was no use. With all the practice he did at the dojo and with his guan-dao it was like trying to pry open a steel cage with just your fingers.

"Hak!" she whined, "come on, I'm so close to getting this done."

"I know, that's why I'm asking you to read me the last bit. Wouldn't want to miss out on what a riveting experience this whole thing has been." he teased before he pressed a kiss to the back of her neck, and she giggled despite herself.

"Come on, if you don't start reading, I'll tickle you."

She stopped squirming for a moment and craned her neck to look him in the eye, "You. Wouldn't. Dare." she said, slowly enunciating each word.

His grin turned feral, "Oh, but I would." and without giving her a second more to try and bargain with him, he pinched her sides and she let out a gasp.

He was relentless, and with moments she was squealing and kicking about trying to wriggling out of his lap but he held firm until she finally gave in and called uncle, gasping for air as she flopped against him when he finally stopped.

"You. . . *huff* Are. . . *Puff* Terrible!" she eventually managed to wheeze out.

he leaned face down to hers, whispering lightly in her ear, "Maybe, but you still love me."

And maybe it was the slight stiffness to the words, or how they felt as if they were almost a question. As if despite everything there was still a part of him left unsure if it were really true.

Slowly, getting her breathing back under control, she began to shift in his arms so that they were face to face, her legs thrown over the side of his own as she gently took his face into her hands. "I do love you. More than you will ever seem to understand," she watched as his eyes guttered, the truth and confirmation of it all seeming to mend some broken part of him that he did everything to never let show.

She stroked her thumb over his cheek, and he leaned into the touch closing his eyes. She smiled, warm and true before, leaning in herself, and whispering softly in his ear, "You'll have to remind me why again though." And with that, his eyes shot open again and he looked at her, from the quirk of her lips to the look of challenge in her eyes before he gave her a lazy grin and pulled them both over until they were flopped out onto the bed, papers and all.

"It would be my pleasure."

{*****}

Yo, it's been forever and I am so sorry. No excuse. That was so long overdue it is ridiculous. Hope you enjoyed and thank you for sticking with this so far. I have no idea where it's going next but I guess we'll all find out in time. Your reviews warm my heart and really motivate me so thank you all for each and every one no matter how short or long. I hope you all are ok during this time of crazy world changing hell. Love you!