Author Notes: Hello, everyone! A huge Thank You once again to my wonderful reviewers! To those who fav and alerted, your feedback would be most welcome too. Enjoy this next chapter :)
- Chapter Start -
It was Princess Kouren who took charge of the battle after the other Generals were distracted. She rallied the troops with an impressive battle cry of "For Kouka!", rousing them into action as her own soldiers roared their support.
Li Hazara and Ying Kuelbo surrendered soon after, and the vast Kai Empire looked very likely to become Kouka's newest vassal state in the near future.
When Gobi and his remaining men were rounded up by Xing's Stars, Kouka's Generals turned a deaf ear to Gobi's desperate pleas for mercy. Advisor Kye-Sook took his attention from Soo-Won just long enough to agree that it was an internal matter Kouren should handle, and thanked her for her quick action on the battlefield.
Kouren nodded, her pensive gaze going to the unconscious King, surrounded by Hak, Yona, Joo-Doh and Geun-Tae. A Sky Tribe healer was giving him emergency medical treatment while Yoon attended to the Green Dragon.
"Long live King Soo-Won!" Kouren declared before turning to her three Stars.
"Well done, Yotaka, Vold, Algira. I want an account of the losses and injuries we sustained and then we'll head back to Kyuu Castle. We have a gift for Neguro and Mizari, don't we?"
The evil smirk she gave the trussed up Gobi made him gibber with fright, as did the equally evil chuckles from her Stars.
"Neguro and Mizari will be well pleased with their gift, Your Highness," Yotaka agreed. "I will guide their arms myself if they still lack the strength to skewer Gobi."
"Pretty sure they'll be up for this," Vold said.
"Well, I want a piece of Gobi while he's still alive," Algira declared.
Meanwhile, the other Generals handled the aftermath of the battle. The dead were moved to one side of the battlefield to await burial while the injured were treated in the Fire Tribe's medical tents.
Soo-Won was carefully transported to Saika Castle, accompanied by Kye-Sook and Joo-Doh. They were met by Kye-Sook's medical team from Hiryuu Castle with Min-Soo as their assistant. Kye-Sook ordered Joo-Doh to stand guard outside the opulent VIP guestroom and insisted that under no circumstances were Hak, Yona or the Dragon Warriors to enter the room, or anyone else for that matter.
As Joo-Doh both expected and dreaded, the first visitors not half an hour later were Hak and Yona. He folded his arms across his chest, steeling himself for a confrontation as they hurried up to him.
"General Joo-Doh! Is Soo-Won in there?" Yona asked.
"May we see-"
"No," he interrupted her. "I am under orders to let no one in."
"How is he doing?" Hak demanded.
"I cannot say."
"Why not? Then can we-"
"My apologies, Princess Yona. No one is allowed inside except for Advisor Kye-Sook and his healers."
Hak raised an eyebrow.
"That order has Kye-Sook's name written all over it."
"And there's nothing we can say or do to change your mind?" Yona asked.
Joo-Doh shook his head.
"Please, at least tell us how he's doing."
"I do not know. But Advisor Kye-Sook's healers are Kouka's best."
"I know," Yona replied softly. "If anyone can save him, it's them."
She swayed a bit then and Hak placed an arm around her shoulders.
"Come on, Princess. You need to clean up and rest."
"Did Kuel-bo even give you anything to eat?"
"Yes. His wife Yoo-Lan looked after me. She was nice."
Hak steered Yona away and Joo-Doh wasn't surprised when he looked over his shoulder at him.
"We'll be back."
"You still won't be allowed in," Joo-Doh warned.
"I know. But we'll be back."
- o -
A few hours later, Joo-Doh was in an even fouler mood than before.
For one thing, he was deeply worried; there had been no update about Soo-Won's condition save for Min-Soo opening the door a couple of times to take delivery of clean cloths, hot water and bandages from the Fire Tribe servants. For another, he had had to field a hundred questions from Geun-Tae, Kyo-Ga and Tae-Jun, and stop them from barging into the room. To top it off, he was dirty and tired, and the few injuries he had sustained from the battle were still untreated.
Of course, a few cuts wouldn't kill him. He was a battle hardened warrior who knew where his priorities lay. Still, he cursed under his breath when Hak and Yona appeared again, looking cleaner and more well rested if just as worried. This time, they were accompanied by the Blue and Yellow Dragons.
"Do not ask me to let you in," Joo-Doh growled before they could say anything.
Hak glared at him and looked like he was about to protest, but Yona grabbed his arm and shook her head. Then she turned to Joo-Doh, her eyes more open and compelling than he had ever seen them.
"General Joo-Doh, you heard our conversation with him earlier, didn't you? Do you still believe we mean him harm?"
Joo-Doh looked away. He had feared for Soo-Won's life after seeing how enraged Hak was at Fort Kushibi after they saved Lili. But the fear and panic in their voices when they spoke with Soo-Won earlier had been genuine.
It reminded him of the many times he had looked after Soo-Won and Yona when they were little, and how they had spent hours running around with Hak.
It seemed a lifetime ago.
And during his and Soo-Won's visit to Awa Port not long after the coronation ceremony, he had caught Soo-Won with a woman whose identity was hidden under his cloak, but was just about Princess Yona's height and build.
Joo-Doh was used to Soo-Won donning his cheerful, unassuming personality to put people at ease, or to appear less threatening. But the irrepressible cheer in his voice and smiles as they traveled to Chi'Shin after that incident, spoke of a deep and profound relief, even though it had annoyed Joo-Doh as well as Geun-Tae to no end at that time.
Joo-Doh turned back to her, his expression bleak.
"What I believe is irrelevant. I am under orders to let no one in," he stated. This time though, he allowed a bit of the regret he felt to colour his voice.
- o -
More than twenty four hours had passed since the battle ended.
It was the evening of the second day and Joo-Doh was on guard duty again. He had been relieved for a few hours last night by one of Kye-Sook's trusted Captains to get himself cleaned up, have dinner and some sleep, and only had short breaks today for meals.
When Min-Soo emerged from the room, almost stumbling in exhaustion, Joo-Doh stepped forward.
"How is His Majesty?"
Min-Soo's gaze darted around the quiet corridor before he sighed.
"The sword was poisoned as you know, General. We have given him an antidote, but he is battling a high fever and is delirious. He..."
"Yes?" Joo-Doh took a step closer as Min-Soo glanced around again.
"He keeps saying the same two names over and over again."
"Names," Joo-Doh repeated, eyes narrowing. "Hak and Princess Yona?"
Min-Soo nodded, looking miserable.
"I tried suggesting to Advisor Kye-Sook to let them see him, just for a bit, but..."
"He told you to mind your own business?"
Min-Soo's shrug was answer enough.
"His Majesty is severely weakened. I am worried."
"I'm sure he will pull through," Joo-Doh told him. "He's... stronger than he looks."
Min-Soo nodded, but didn't look reassured at all.
It was Joo-Doh who glanced around the corridor now.
"I have an idea," he began.
Min-Soo's gaze sharpened at once and he stood up straighter.
"What can I do?"
He returned a few minutes later, carrying clean bandages and a promise from Kan Tae-Jun that he would help.
- o -
Joo-Doh's plan was simple enough. An enthusiastic Tae-Jun had brought Hak and Yona to one of the nearby guest rooms earlier. The three of them waited there until Kye-Sook left the VIP room to have his dinner and bath, both of which lasted no longer than thirty minutes.
When Joo-Doh saw them peering around the corridor, he motioned them forward and ushered Hak and Yona into the room. He overrode the startled Healers' objections and stated that he would take full responsibility for his actions. Meanwhile, Tae-Jun who was given the task of keeping a lookout for Kye-Sook's return, looked noticeably less excited.
Joo-Doh stood a few feet from the large bed, watching as Hak and Yona bent over Soo-Won, each taking hold of one of his hands. They spoke to him in low voices while the Healers hovered anxiously behind them.
It seemed like only minutes had passed before two rapid thumps were heard on the door - Tae-Jun's signal that Kye-Sook had been spotted on his way back here.
"Advisor Kye-Sook is coming back!" Joo-Doh hissed to Hak and Yona. "You two have to leave immediately!"
Hak and Yona got up reluctantly only to freeze at the voices coming from outside.
"Ad-Advisor Kye-Sook! Good evening to you!"
"Lord Kan Tae-Jun, what are you doing here? Where is General Joo-Doh?"
Joo-Doh started when a hand touched his arm.
"You have my grateful thanks, General Joo-Doh," Yona said, smiling up at him with her eyes moist.
"Princess Yona." There were a million words tripping on the tip of Joo-Doh's tongue, but Hak swung her up in his arms and strode to the window, handing her to someone Joo-Doh couldn't see.
Meanwhile, the voices outside the room were growing louder.
"Eh? But I just wanted to see how His Majesty is doing."
"No visitors allowed!"
"Oh, but my brother is so worried! You know, General Kan Kyo-Ga? He's the General of the-"
"I know who he is!"
Joo-Doh went to the window and closed it as soon as Hak climbed out, his lips twitching just the tiniest bit.
"Well, my m-mother is worried too! You know, Lady Iguni? She's the-"
"I know who she is! And I regret that no one, NO ONE can get in! And where is General Joo-Doh?!"
"Eh? Oh, I think he's, uh..."
Joo-Doh strode to the door and pulled it open, stepping deftly to one side as an irate Kye-Sook almost fell in with a panicked looking Tae-Jun behind him.
"You two are disturbing His Majesty's rest," Joo-Doh said in a mild tone.
"Why did you leave your post?" Kye-Sook hissed.
"I just wanted to take a quick look at him," Joo-Doh replied.
"Well, Kan Tae-Jun was hovering outside!"
"Hey, I'm still here. Is His Majesty awake? Can I-"
"Get out! Now!"
- o -
Soo-Won hovered between life and death. His bouts of consciousness were brief and fleeting, marked by the awful pain in his gut, and how his body seemed to be freezing one minute and burning up the next. He was fed bitter medicines that made him choke and struggle weakly as firm hands held him down and disjointed words exhorted him to lie still.
Death seemed a welcome alternative to this torture, but before he died, he wanted to see Hak and Yona one last time. He wasn't sure if he had just imagined them talking to him and holding his hands, and miraculously forgiving him. He called for them, over and over again, pleading to see them again.
Finally, he heard their voices and felt their hands holding his own. Forcing his eyes open, he saw their blurry faces above his, smiling down at him with shining eyes of purple and blue.
"Please live, Soo-Won," Yona said.
"Don't leave us. Promise you won't leave us," Hak said.
"I'll try," Soo-Won whispered.
They said more things to him after that, but their words slipped in and out of his hearing, and he lost their meaning. It didn't matter, as long as they were there. When they whispered goodbye and let go of his hands, he closed his eyes, content and soothed in spirit.
Purple and blue were such pretty colours together, he mused sleepily. Not so much like the sky of a dawning new day, but more like dusk when the day was drawing to a close. He didn't know if the colour aqua fitted in there, but... he would like it to.
Soo-Won drifted off to sleep and didn't hear Joo-Doh and Kye-Sook arguing about something, or someone who sounded suspiciously like Kan Tae-Jun.
- Chapter End -
A/N: I'd already written Chapter 2 last week with Soo-Won taken to Capital Fuuga, but after chapter 176 of the manga came out, I had to rewrite the whole thing thanks to just one sentence from Kan Tae-Jun. Can you guess which one that is?
Anyway, thank you for reading and please leave a review before you go :)