Fog and Forgiveness

By The Wind in May

They really should have been smarter about how they set up camp.

The fog set in in the evening, cold and damp. Yoon and Yona had thankfully already bothered to put up the tent. They were the only ones who really minded sleeping on dank ground. The Dragons were seemingly impervious to discomfort (though Kija complained of worms seeking shelter from the wet earth), and Yona wondered if maybe they put up with the damp to make sure that she and Yoon would have the warmest bed. Hak, though, most likely wasn't "putting up" with anything. He could probably sleep underwater comfortably, Yona thought.

Before going to bed, Yona and Yoon sat by the campfire together. Yoon was staring anxiously into the flames.

"The fog's getting heavier," Yona said. "It's going to be freezing tonight."

"I'm worried it's going to snuff out the fire," Yoon said. "I'm going to stay here. You can have the tent to yourself." Seeing her concerned look, he added, "If the fire goes out, we'll be screwed for breakfast. All the wood will be too damp to get another one going."

Yona tried to argue that he would turn into a block of ice during the night, but he assured her that he had enough blankets, and in the end she made her way to the tent alone.

Everyone else had already settled in for the night, their various bedrolls spread around the large clearing where they had made their camp. The fog was so thick that Yona could hardly make out their resting forms. The campfire and sliver of moon above provided little clarity in the soupy air.

At least inside the tent there was warmth to be found. Yona burrowed deep into her blankets, twisting and turning until she had wrapped herself in her own little nest. She couldn't have known it at the time, but this comfort was a mistake. Ignorant of her error, she fell into a sweet and deep sleep.

Sounds entered her sleeping mind in a vague and dreamlike way. Shouts, a frightened cry, groaning, the clash of metal on metal. She was finally woken by a sound close by. "What's this?" she heard a gruff voice say, and she opened her eyes blearily to find a small, dirty, and heavily muscled man standing within the mouth of the tent. He had a very unpleasant smile on his face.

Yona sat up, her mind still fuzzy with sleep, and reached about her for weapons. There were none; Yona didn't sleep with weapons, and the reason for that was Hak.

Yona had been accustomed to take her small knife, bow and arrows with her into the tent, and have them in arm's reach while she slept. Knowing they were there made her feel safe. But Hak, watching her move her weapons into the tent one night, had said, "Are you planning to hunt rabbits in your sleep?"

She'd felt foolish, but had said in defense, "Don't be stupid. I want to be prepared if we're attacked in the night."

"You really think we won't be able to protect you?" Hak had asked. He'd said it casually, almost like a joke, but Yona could tell that his pride (over-inflated though it was) had been hurt. Since then she had slept without weapons in the tent. It really had been silly to sleep with a bow and quiver, anyway.

But now, if only, if only Yona had her knife. She could hear the telltale sounds of fighting from all around outside the tent. Everyone must be preoccupied with their own battles; there was no one to come to her aid. She braced and readied herself for a fight as the man moved forward. She prepared to dodge out of his way, but she was still beneath covers and the man was quicker than he seemed. He lunged forward suddenly and grabbed her by the middle of the tops of her arms, yanking her to her feet with a startling amount of strength.

And here was Yona's mistake — in burrowing so deep into the blankets, Yona had twisted them around her feet, and as she was heaved upwards, the blankets, pinned down by the man, refused to untangle and Yona's right foot was given a sudden wrench. Yona screamed as pain engulfed her ankle. If not broken, it was at least sprained.

Yona tried to claw at the man, but just as suddenly as he had grabbed her, he dropped her, sending another wave of pain through her foot.

"I've no use for a kid," the man said, drawing a sword previously concealed in his robes and plunging it down towards her. She rolled to the side, and had her brain been more awake she most likely would have made it unscathed, but the blade grazed her arm and she cried out in pain.

He cry of pain was nothing compared to the man's scream as a glaive slashed through his back. He stumbled forward and then toppled beside Yona, eyes dull and dead. Yona could hear herself gasping in shock.

Hak stood where the man had been. He had that look, the frightening mask his face took on in the fury of battle. Then he turned to her and his expression softened, though he still looked terrifically angry.

"Princess," he said, approaching and bending to help her up from where she lay, "Are you…"

He wasn't aware she was injured; as he pulled her up her foot was wrenched once more and Yona couldn't help but whimper. Hak knelt beside her. "What's wrong?"

"My ankle," Yona said, pushing the covers away. "It's stuck in the blankets and when the man pulled me up…"

Hak understood. He put down his glaive and turned her this way and that, freeing her from the tangle of cloth.

"It's already swelling," he said, and she looked down to see that he was right. The ankle was red and puffy.

"Give me your hand," Yona said. He proffered a large, callused palm and she attempted to stand. Immediately the pain in her ankle was too great; she collapsed against Hak's side. He picked up his glaive and scooped her up, one arm beneath her knees, the other supporting her back. "Stay quiet," he told her, and ducked out of the tent.

It was still nighttime. The sounds of heated battle, formerly muffled, were now all Yona could hear. The fog had indeed thickened over the course of the night; Yona couldn't see her hand in front of her when she held it out. From somewhere in the darkness she heard Kija grunt. She could feel the tension in Hak's arms. He must be expecting attackers to appear from the fog at any second. Where were the Dragons? Was everyone all right? And more importantly…

"Yoon!" Yona whispered to Hak. "Is he okay?"

Hak's brow was furrowed. Yona knew he was probably deciding whether to leave with her or to try to find the others in the fog.

"We can't leave them behind," Yona said.

"Shh. We'll do what we have to do."

From somewhere within the nearby billows of grey fog, they could make out Jae-ha's voice. "Hak? Is that you?"

"Yona's injured," Hak said in the direction of Jae-ha's voice. His body was taught. Yona could feel his need to move, to take action.

"I've got Yoon," Jae-ha said. "Get Yona out of here."

For a moment Hak was silent, his frown deepening. "Got it," he finally said, and then he was running, around the tent and away from the clearing, holding Yona tightly to his chest to make sure she didn't bounce.

"Hak," Yona said, teeth chattering, "what about the Dragons?"

"They'll be fine," Hak said. "They're the Dragons. Nowhold still and don't make any noise. We don't know if we're being followed."

Yona had no idea how Hak was moving forward; she could barely see in the murky darkness. And it was just as cold as she had predicted it would be. She wrapped her arms around Hak's neck and pressed her face into his shoulder, trying to take some of his warmth for her own.

He must have noticed her arm because he asked in a low voice, "That man cut you?"

Yona nodded and closed her eyes. Though Hak held her as steady as he could, she was rocked side to side with his every step. She tried to ignore the throbbing pain in her ankle, instead focusing on Hak's chest contracting and expanding, his breath coming out in even puffs.

Hak ran and ran. Yona worried that he was hurting himself, though he didn't seem to have any wounds. She also worried that the farther they were from the camp, the more difficult it would be to find their friends in the morning. Still he barreled on into the night. The fog started to clear and she could make out the trees around them. A few stars became visible in the night sky.

Hak finally began to slow, and Yona loosened her hold on him a little. She looked around and caught sight of the rippling reflection of the moon. "Over there," she said, pointing to the small pond she could see between the trees. Hak carried her over to it and gently set her down on a moss-covered rock by the water's edge. The rock's surface was moist; Yona shivered.

Hak put down his glaive and knelt by the water, cupping his hands and taking a nice long drink.

"Who were those men who attacked us?" Yona asked him.

"They certainly weren't Fire Tribe soldiers," he said, water dripping down his chin. "I think they were bandits. And there were a lot of them."

Hak wiped off his mouth and went over to Yona, saying, "Let me see that cut."

"It's nothing," Yona said, but Hak seated himself next to her and firmly took her arm, pushing up her sleeve to examine it.

"There's nothing I can do about this," he said. "I'm not sure the water here is clean enough to wash it… Yoon would know."

"It's okay," she said, a little afraid; Hak still looked terribly angry.

"Damnit, Yona," he said. "You…"

He didn't finish his sentence, instead going back to the pond and filling his hands with more water. He came over to Yona and bent down in front of her right foot. "The water's ice cold," he said. "It's going to hurt."

"Do it," she said. He let the water fall over her ankle, and she flinched. Her ankle wasn't cold; it was burning. She gritted her teeth. Hak went back for another round of water and again poured it over her ankle. Then he wrapped his hands around it, still cold from being submerged in the pond. It was agony, but it worked. Some of the ankle's redness faded. But when the fire finally disappeared from her foot, it left her whole body feeling frozen. She couldn't help but shiver.

Hak shrugged out of his outer robe and wrapped it around her shoulders, kneeling in front of her and holding the edges of the dark blue cloth so that she was fully encircled. She still shivered, but the cold was now bearable. "You need your robe," Yona said, though she didn't want to relinquish the heat it gave her.

"It's fine," he said, looking down at her foot.

"What's wrong, Hak?" Yona asked.

"Nothing's wrong," he said, looking up at her and smiling with one corner of his mouth. It was a false smile.

"Hak," Yona said, and this time it was a warning. "Don't lie to me."

"Do you remember when I pushed you into the fountain?" he asked.

That had come out of nowhere. "What?" she said.

"The fountain. In your father's garden."

She did remember. It was hard to forget. She had been seven and Hak had been nine. She'd dragged Hak into the garden to play with her, and she had admired the flowers while he complained. "Look," she had said. "This orchid has a caterpillar on it."

"This is boring," Hak had said.

Yona had pouted. "Soo-Won would never call nature boring," Yona said. "Nature is important. And that's what father says, too."

"Whatever."

"Hak, you're no fun."

"You're no fun."

"I am, too, fun!"

"Really?"

"Yeah!"

"Prove it."

"Prove it?" She had sat back, confused. "How?"

"Can you walk along the edge of that fountain?" He had pointed to a fountain near the bed of orchids. An extremely narrow stone rim encircled the shallow pool, which fed into a small river of water that flowed through the garden. In the middle of the pool was an ornamental statue of a crane, one leg tucked up and it's head cocked at an inquisitive angle.

"Yes," Yona had said, though she thought no. She had approached the fountain and carefully stepped onto the rim. Though it was difficult and she swayed, she managed to keep her balance. She looked back to find an impressed Hak. "I'm doing it!" she had said triumphantly, looking down at her feet and taking small, slow steps forward. "Hak, I'm doing it! See? I'm…"

He had snuck up behind her and shoved her and she had fallen into the pool. But what Hak could not have foreseen was how Yona would hit her head on the crane on her way down.

She came to still in the fountain, Hak crouched beside her and holding her head above water. She felt a sharp pain near her ear. She began to cry. There were tears in Hak's eyes as well. He wrapped his arms around her. "I'm sorry," he had said.

"Are you sorry because Mundok is going to be angry?" she had asked.

"No," he had said, quietly. "I'm sorry because I hurt you."

She had hugged him then, until they were both soaked. "I forgive you," she had whispered in his ear.

Now, wrapped in his robe, with his face so close to hers, Yona understood that Hak wasn't angry at her. He was angry at himself.

"Hak," she said, "this isn't your fault."

"I was the one who made fun of you when you slept with weapons," he said, meeting her gaze. "And then, tonight, I wasn't there to protect you."

"What are you talking about?" she said. "You were there. That's why I'm not dead."

"You might have been," Hak said. "I was almost too late."

"Hak," Yona said. She took his face between her hands and his eyes widened in surprise. "I know how hard you must have fought to get to my side. And you weren't too late. You made it. You protected me. We all made mistakes this night. It wasn't just you."

Hak stared at her, and she felt that if he had been a different man, a softer man, he might have the cried the way he had when he was a little boy. Instead he clenched his robe tighter, drawing her closer.

He tried so hard to be there for her. She was filled with gratitude and, more than that, respect.

"I forgive you," she said.

"Yona," he said. He pressed her against his chest and wrapped his arms around her, his legs spread carefully to avoid injuring her foot.

"I forgive you," she said again. "And," she whispered in his ear, "I'm still not sleeping with weapons. Because I have faith in you."

"How do you do this to me?" he asked her. She didn't know what he meant; she wished she could see his face. The question sounded rhetorical.

Yona breathed him in and sighed, placing her hands flat between them to warm them up. His breath ruffled her hair. She closed her eyes. She could hear a breeze rattling the reeds and grass around them, and the soft hum of insects. She grew drowsy.

"Are you falling asleep?" Hak asked her.

"No," she said. But she was.

He shifted; she felt herself lifted and then laid in his lap, his arms and robe around her. She was wonderfully warm. "Go ahead and sleep," he said. "I'll be right here."