Even now, she was still hiding something.
They were sitting on the grass, her body against his and her intoxicating scent filling his nose. Hak wasn't sure what prompted the princess to kiss him but he was not going to complain. He still wanted an explanation but for now, was satisfied with the peaceful moment. However, it didn't last very long. He heard the princess let out a long sigh.
"I need to disappear Hak." She murmured.
He stayed silent but his mere presence seemed to ease the red haired girl and she continued to speak, "I must… fake my death."
This caused Hak to start a bit. He maneuvered himself to stare into Yona's eyes, in case she was joking. But when he was met with dead seriousness, he exhaled.
"Must everything be so dramatic with you?"
"It's not dramatic. It's what needs to be done. Tomorrow… after my birthday celebrations… assassins will infiltrate the castle."
Hak gripped the poor practice spear.
"On the night of my sixteenth birthday, my father will die… and I shall as well. They came in swiftly, hoping to end the royal family but Soo Won managed to fight off his enemy. But the king and princess, who were not able to defend themselves; they perished." Her voice was so hollow, it momentarily frightened Hak.
"And nothing can be done to prevent this?" Hak felt his heart twist as he thought of King Il.
The king, although he hadn't been terribly close to him, had been a fixed presence in his life. Though some accused him of being cowardly, Hak always thought his majesty's strength had not been in his battle prowess or fighting skills, but in his kindness and compassion.
To answer his question, Yona shook her head. She stood up and brushed a little grass off of her robes. Hak watched her. She was still Yona yet, she was so different now.
"I need to go back to my chambers… as much as I would like to spend the rest of the night here-"
Hak felt his face flush tremendously.
"It would not be appropriate in the castle." She took a few steps and Hak managed to get his butt off the ground.
In a moment of fragile vulnerability, she gazed back at him, her fist clenching her skirt. "You… you'll stay with me to the end… won't you."
Hak didn't know how else to respond but with a firm nod. He would never leave her side, no matter what.
"I know that." She cast her eyes to the ground. "I don't suppose I could ask you to be selfish now? You don't… you don't have to come with me. You could stay here and be safe. Just now I asked you to be mine... but that was so self-centered. I forgot that you won't ever abandon me even if… even if you end up dying." A couple of tears appeared in the corners of her eyes.
Hak took a step forward to embrace her but she stopped him with her hand.
"It's okay. I'm fine." She took in a few haggard breaths and Hak could only watch as she inwardly battled with herself.
"Princess… You don't have to ask. I'm yours." Inwardly, he felt himself cringe a bit. It was such a stupid and cheesy line really.
She met his stare with watery eyes. "I know."
With those two words left hanging in the air, she began quick strides from the training grounds back to the center of the castle.
Soo Won had done it.
Finally after all these years, he had avenged his father. As he watched the red liquid leak from the still body on the floor, somehow, the victory felt hollow. Wiping his sword down, he heard Kye Sook enter along with a few guards.
"It is done, then?" His adviser questioned needlessly.
"Of course it is." Soo Won answered.
There was a crack of lightening in the sky. Suddenly, there was a whistle in the air. Soo Won jumped back as an arrow embedded itself into the ground at his feet. The men were instantly on alert.
"Go check the perimeter!" Kye Sook barked at the still stunned soldiers.
Soo Won knelt down. Tied around the arrow was a little package with dark red stains. He gently opened it, not sure what to expect. He dropped it.
There, lying in the pooling blood of the dead king was a tuft of red hair.
"Your majesty, what is it?"
Immediately, Soo Won stood up. "Send soldiers to the princess's room. Guard any way in or out of the castle and send for Hak! There are assassins in the palace."
Kye Sook's already pale face drained of what little color it had left. "But- but-"
"Now!" Soo Won was already out the door.
He had to make sure Yona was alright. But a cold feeling was spreading through his chest. He wondered if heaven was mocking him. Once he was close enough to see the princess's room, his heart nearly stopped. The heavy door had been ripped open. The intricately carved wood was torn and shredded in some areas. Soo Won could smell the blood from outside the room.
The interior was worse.
The sheets were slashed and everything was stained crimson. The window was torn off its hinges and a cold wind blew through the room, carrying the smell of iron. Soo Won dropped to his knees. Tentatively, he placed a drop of the blood in his mouth to verify that it was human.
Soo Won closed his eyes. It must have been a terrible death, full of pain and anguish. He almost prayed that she wasn't alive. If she was, that meant she had been dragged out, broken and bleeding to some unknown, horrible end. But how could this have happened? Especially with Hak around; Soo Won knew that his best friend would have died a thousand times over before letting Yona succumb to such fate.
He got his answer when another lightning strike lit up the room.
The white light glinted off of two things. Soo Won stumbled to the window sill where he found the hairpin he had gifted Yona earlier and Hak's ceremonial wind tribe band. Outside, he saw the makings of a great battle.
He could tell where Hak's glaive had cut into the dirt. He observed the trail of blood which led past the walls which was slowly being washed away by the rain. Soo Won quickly tucked the hairpin and band into his shirt before leaping out of the window, his sword gripped tightly. Every second spent running felt like a second wasted. He ducked out of the castle walls by one of the small entrances. It wasn't long before he found the trail again. Following it, he didn't know what he would find at the end.
The track stopped at what Soo Won could only describe as a grave.
There in the mountain forest, Hak's glaive was standing upright, with its blade nailed into the ground. Thunder rolled and Soo Won saw more red hair at the base of the weapon.
Soo Won took a few shaky steps forward. On the ground was the box in which the hairpin had been kept. His hands vibrated as they opened the container. Inside, there was a piece of parchment with ink writing. As the rain completely decimated the paper and made the ink run, Soo Won committed the message to memory.
"You spilled the blood of the king so now; we spill the blood of your friends."
This was supposed to be his victory. After killing King Il, he would have vindicated his conscience. Avenging his father, Soo Won had only imagined this night as being filled with complete relief. Instead, he now found himself living a nightmare.
A memory then flashed in his mind.
"On the eve of the princess's birthday celebration, wait outside of the west gate of the castle. I will come to you then. There are still a few things which I must do."
Four men had been waiting for her. Either they had turned on her and decided to kill her, or they were still waiting for her… or… something else. There was no body, so he couldn't be sure that she was dead. All Soo Won knew for certain at the moment was that those four men held the answers… and he would find them.
The four dragons who had been waiting outside of the castle just like the reincarnated king Hiryuu had told them… sneezed. The rain was still pouring down and the group had huddled under a grove a thick trees which mostly shielded them.
"Zeno is cold," The yellow dragon moaned.
Both Ryukyu and Hakuryuu sighed. Having to endure Zeno's childish nature for the past day had been a bit much for the two older dragons. The blue dragon glanced at Zeno for a moment before shifting a bit so that the yellow dragon could lean into Seiryuu's fluff.
"Aw, Seiryuu is so nice!" Zeno exclaimed, snuggling as far into the fur as physically possible.
"I can't believe that we have to wait outside in the cold… and rain…" Hakuryuu moaned.
"... Is that a bug?" the green dragon grinned.
The white dragon instantly started and began shaking himself violently. Ryukyu just smirked; glad to have some form of entertainment.
There was a rustle of leaves off to the left which caught the dragon's attention. Appearing from the darkness, king Hiryuu was holding up a beast of a man. The man's dark attire blended in perfectly with their surroundings except for a bandage around his arm that was bloody.
Hiryuu was also dressed in a dark cloak. She had a bow in hand and a quiver slung over her shoulder. She was also breathing heavily.
"Zeno!" the red haired king called.
At once, he was at his feet, throwing the other arm of the wounded individual over his shoulder. The other dragons were up too.
"My king, who is this-" The white dragon began.
"No time to explain." She huffed. "We need to get as far away as possible. We are too close to the castle."
Hakuryuu quickly changed places with Hiryuu. He helped the man along a bit before proceeding to throw him over his shoulder.
There was grunt of protest from the dark haired man. "Princess… who are these people?"
"Shut up Hak! I'm not talking to you until you apologize for being an idiot." She growled.
"Just where are we going?" The green dragon inquired.
"The outskirts of Fuuga," Came her short reply.
"The wind tribe capital?"
"It's the closest place right now and I know some people there who can help." She explained.
They began trekking through the rough mountain terrain. Eventually, the storm let up. Every now and then, Hiryuu would muss their trail and Zeno would help. The yellow dragon was surprised at the young king's knowledge and ability. When he found out the Hiryuu was being reborn within the royal line, he had expected a pampered, physically weak individual with a strong heart.
But the person before him was cold and calculative. He saw the signs of love and compassion within her, but they were buried beneath an icy, war torn exterior. Zeno wasn't sure what was going on but he would be here for his king, every step of the way.
"We can stop here," she announced after a couple of hours.
Hakuryuu set down the large man against a tree. His eyes were half closed and he was very pale.
"If you die, I'm going to kill you." The red headed king stated.
There was a pained laugh before the man replied, "What I wouldn't give to be killed by you."
She huffed while Hakuryuu took immediate offense. "How dare you speak to the king that way!"
"... I don't see any king. Just an idiot princess and four strangers… who are these people anyway."
The white dragon bristled and opened his mouth to argue when Zeno interrupted. "We are the four dragons!"
"... I totally believe you."
"Wow, thanks mister!" Zeno chirped before getting smacked on the head by the white dragon.
"Can't you see that he is lying? He is suspicious!"
"Hak is a friend." Hiryuu gathered her cloak around herself and rested against a tree. "He's large, mean, and like's bullying people so just ignore him."
"Just a friend?" Hak raised his eyebrow. "To my knowledge, friends don't kiss other friends."
The scandalized looks on Hakuryuu's face made the Ryukyu want to get a snack and watch the whole scene unfold.
"The nerve of you cretin!" The white dragon started to shake Hak but quickly stopped when he noticed the man was in quite a bit of pain.
"Don't touch him!" She rebuked. "The idiot went and bled everywhere."
"Why did he-"
"I don't know, ask him." the princess remarked grumpily.
"I told you, it was to make sure Soo Won believed we were dead." Hak grumbled.
"I still think we could have gotten away using animal blood- or at least, I could have cut myself too!" Hiryuu insisted.
"No way in hell would I let you hurt yourself," Hak narrowed his eyes.
The sentiment was shared by the rest of the dragons who all nodded their heads. If they could help it, not a scratch would come to their king.
"Yona," the princess gently corrected the white dragon. "Just call me Yona."
"... Yona... what happened?" Hakuryuu asked.
The princess exhaled before beginning her explanation. "I think its best I started from the beginning. First of all… I want to apologize to everyone." Yona knelt down, with her face to the dirt, astonishing them all.
"You don't have to-"
Zeno noticed her shaking shoulders before the rest started to hear her sniffles. No one knew what to do at the moment.
"I'm- I'm sorry that I- that I killed you all." Her voice broke. "Please… please forgive me- because I- I can't forgive myself…"
Zeno knelt down and gently raised Yona's head. Tears leaked out of her crystal purple eyes. For moment, he saw King Hiryuu in her stead. The yellow dragon gently pulled her into an embrace. She continued to cry into his shoulder.
The others were stunned.
Hak wished he could move, but his useless body was completely worn out. He could barely lift a finger thanks to blood loss.
Finally, Yona pulled away. She wiped her eyes before saying, "You always know what to do, don't you Zeno."
"Anything for the miss," Zeno smiled.
The white dragon, after a moment, pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Yona. She accepted it with a watery smile before calming herself.
"I'm sorry it's just," She started. "Seeing you all together again…"
"I don't think I've met you before; I think I would remember a girl so beautiful." The green dragon said smoothly.
Yona laughed. "Of course you would say that Jae Ha."
"So how do you know us?" The green dragon continued.
"... It was only a few years ago… but it feels like centuries. I myself am not even sure what happened," Yona began. "I was in the castle… so young and naive. But on the eve of my sixteenth birthday, everything changed."
Hak listened with rapt attention, finally getting all the answers he wanted. But as Yona continued to speak, Hak found himself with more questions.
"My father was killed and Hak and I left the palace. We went to seek refuge in the Wind tribe but… even then, we couldn't escape. We ended up getting cornered by Fire tribe soldiers and we fell down a long… long… way. But we survived. And we met Ik Soo, a priest and Yun… I then learned of my heritage and the prophecy."
"Princess, what are you talking about?" Hak questioned.
She fiddled with her fingers, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. It was strange for her to be so timid. "I am the reincarnated King Hiryuu of old… or at least, that's what everyone told me. I never really believed them. I never felt special. I just wanted to live. And if using the dragons meant that I would survive, then I would ask for their power… but we became so much more."
Yona gained the courage to face them. "We were family. I loved- I still love you all so dearly. But… but everything went to hell. War raged in Kouka and you stupid, self-sacrificing Dragons kept… kept dying."
Yona started to tear again. "I had to watch… my family taken away from me. Everyone," Her eyes landed on Hak. "And I was alone… until…"
"Until I woke up and found myself back in time. It was during that dinner Hak… the one where I passed out."
Hak recalled the event in which everything had changed. He could pin-point the origin of Yona's strange behavior instantly.
"I don't know how but I managed to travel back in time. But even then… I haven't been able to change much. I don't know why the heavens have sent me back but… I can only hope to change our fates. I won't let what happened… happen again." The fire in her eyes said it all.
Zeno nodded. He now understood the strange feeling he had been receiving from the heavens. All of a sudden, Seiryuu moved close to Yona and patted her head.
"We won't let it happen either."
She leaned slightly against his shoulder. "Thank you Seiryuu."
With Jae Ha, the group was able to get to Ik Soo's residence without the terrible fall. Everyone was as quiet as the blue dragon. They were all still processing her revelation. Yona herself didn't know exactly how to feel. A part of her had misplaced hopes that the dragons would have acted like… her dragons. But these weren't her dragons. They were different. They hadn't experienced the horrors that her dragons had; the experiences that had made them into family.
But she couldn't blame them. She could only hope that one day; they would be as close to her as her dragons used to be. Even if they weren't her dragons, she would still love them and treat them as if they were.
No, the real problem was Hak.
He hadn't spoken a word since she told them her story. It was very uncharacteristic of Hak. Every now and then, she would catch him staring at her but he wouldn't say anything. He had been getting better, but Yona still wanted Yun to look him over before she even let him hold a weapon.
She had protested when he had left his glaive. He had insisted that it would ensure Soo Won's belief that they had perished. Hak loved his glaive and Yona felt like he was giving a part of himself up for her.
It always seemed that no matter how strong she became, no matter what she accomplished, Hak would always be sacrificing something for her. Sometimes she wished she would finally let go of him and send him away. But she was so selfish. She knew that her life would be hard, difficult, filled with danger at every turn. But she had still asked him to follow her.
It had just happened.
She had meant to leave without him. She wanted him to have a chance at a normal life. She wanted him to be free of her. And yet… when presented with the opportunity, she hadn't hesitated to ask him. So here she was, across from the waterfall, listening to the relaxing sounds of the water, wondering what she was going to do.
Her face heated slightly when she thought of her spontaneous decision to kiss him. She clearly hadn't been thinking. She had let her heart take control of her head for one moment and she had managed to screw herself over so badly.
"Princess Yona," Ik Soo found her there.
"Please, just call me Yona. I'm not a princess anymore." She mumbled.
"I know. I saw." The priest sat beside her.
Yona couldn't stop the emotions from bubbling up. "Then—then you know what happened… and how much I failed."
Ik Soo just smiled, with tears streaming down his face, like he always did. "It wasn't your fault."
"Yes it was. If you saw everything then you would know that I'm the one who wrecked everything. …They all died for a worthless princess who couldn't even accomplish her goal." Yona admitted angrily.
"They died believing in you," Ik Soo corrected. "They believed in you so much, the heavens sent you back. They still believe in you."
Yona looked away, "Well they shouldn't."
There was a brief moment of silence before Yona exhaled. "I don't know what I'm doing Ik-Soo. I had some sort of grand plan to change everything; to do better… and I couldn't even stop my father's death. I was determined that this time, I wouldn't rely on the dragons. I didn't want their deaths on my hands again. But as soon as they showed up… I knew I couldn't go on without them.
Then I promised myself that I wouldn't drag Hak into this mess. And I made the same mistake. I've been trying so hard to let go but… I find myself holding on tighter than ever before. I'm a mess."
"… You're a beautiful mess, Yona," Ik Soo told her earnestly. "I think that's what Hiryuu saw in humanity in the first place. Wandering lost people who in their own way were beautiful. They were not perfect but unique in their own right. It's fine to be a mess."
Yona inhaled shakily. "I want to do better. I want to be better but I have no idea where to start."
"Start with the people who love you. Don't push them away," Ik Soo advised. "King Hiryuu was always at his strongest with the people he loved at his side… in fact, there is someone in the woods who I think would like a few words with you right now."
Ik Soo got up and Yona turned her head. She caught sight of familiar dark hair. Yona steeled herself, ready for whatever would happen next. She watched as Ik Soo placed his hand on Hak's shoulder and said something to quiet for her to hear before leaving. A moment later, it was Hak by her side. There was just something so right about it.
She couldn't comprehend a life without her dark dragon.
"So what did he say to you?" Yona idly inquired.
"I think I'll keep it a secret." Hak replied.
Yona leaned against his side. She missed this. Her greatest regret was never marrying her stupid thunder beast. Her country had always come first and time had slipped away. They never were able to develop a proper relationship. All they had were stolen moments. There always seemed to be something else to worry about, some new threat which got in the way.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Hak asked, breaking Yona out of her thoughts.
"I was going to leave… without you." She admitted.
She felt his whole body stiffen. "Really? You were just going to leave?"
Yona heard the bitterness in his tone. "Yeah… but… when I saw you that night… my resolve broke." The princess spoke softly. "I just can't leave you, you know?"
Hak laughed mirthlessly. "I know. Just how I never wanted to protect an idiot princess but somehow got roped into doing it anyway."
"Beast," Yona slapped him lightly on the shoulder.
"Wait Wha- Stop it Hak!"
Yona suddenly found herself being assaulted by the tickle monster known as Hak. Laughing uncontrollably, the princess writhed, trying to push Hak away. What started as an innocent tickle fight quickly turned serious when both of them realized their position.
The princess was pinned beneath Hak and he was staring very hard into her eyes. The tension was so thick; you could cut it with a knife.
"What were we?" Hak asked breathlessly, his face only a few inches from Yona's.
"I never knew," Yona whispered.
"Did you know… did you know how much I loved you?" their noses were almost touching.
Yona closed the distance, kissing Hak again.
So I originally wasn't going to write any more of Different. But due to popular demand and some inspiration, I ended up continuing it a bit farther and have reached "the end" so to speak.
I'm not particularly proud of some moments in this chapter, some scenes and dialogue feel a bit forced and the logic is very... "because the plot said so" but I did enjoy it and I hope the rest of you avid followers of Different like it as well.
I do have one more short scene which I will post as a "third" chapter which is more of a "what if" chapter. So you guys can look forward to that.
Stay safe and remember,
"God made you special and he loves you very much" -VeggieTales