Fandom: Akatsuki no Yona

The Courage After Dawn

Chapter 2: Unexpected Encounters


Two days later, it was late afternoon when she had arrived at yet another nameless village closest to the Lord's compounds. With what little gold she had left, she quickly negotiated an inn for the night- a place to temporarily store and hide her loose baggage which tended get in her way. From within it, she pulled out an old sack, a roughly drawn map that she had bribed out of someone and a sharp collection of scavenged blades- pocket knives, daggers and others that rattled together. A predatory smirk graced her features as she hid the many blades strategically within her coat for easy access- along the bottom edge, within the inner pockets, and along her makeshift belt, checking the locations of her get-away smoke bombs and making sure that that coat did not rattle as she moved. And finally, after securely strapping her sword just below her waist, her preparations were complete for her latest heist.

It was almost nightfall by the time she made it to the Lord's manor.

From her view point high up on a nearby tree, the manor was just as grand as she thought it would be. It was large and traditional, with three compounds that she could just make out, a tall elaborately decorated gate and high walls with tiled roofs. Guards in red uniforms patrolled the compounds, carrying small oil lamps that lit up like small yellow dots. The security was tight- just as she expected. A group of four guards sat, clapping each other heartily at the main entrance and another group that patrolled the gardens. It was dark, the pathways lit only by moonlight and the infrequent hanging lamps scattered across the compounds.

She must have sat at that tree for ages, hidden within its dense, dark greenery, observing her target's activity, and comparing what she could see with the map in her hands. After all, observation was a key skill that could determine one's success or failure. The guards at the main entrance never moved whilst those patrolling the gardens approached the west side approximately once every half an hour. There was also a rather tall, thin and leafy tree that leant against the west wall, although Yong wasn't sure if it would be able to support her weight.

Sometime later, there was finally movement at the front gate. Two other soldiers had entered, carrying what seemed like alcohol in large ceramic jug. One of the soldiers shook his head and laughed heartily but the other soldiers jumped at it, welcoming the other two to the front as they sat down cross-legged in front of the gate. Yong could hear faintly hear their cheers from her position.

And it was then, she knew this was the perfect opportunity to steal closer towards the compounds. Without hesitation, she stowed away her map. Jumping nimbly down a few branches, she landed softly in a crouch before darting through the darkness. Temporarily distracted, the soldiers at the front gate didn't notice the black shadow, hidden between the shadows of the bushes and trees and statues, rush towards the west side.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Yong climbed deftly up the thin, drooping tree that she had been considering for a while, staying in the centre towards the heart of the tree lest its branches snap. She was glad for the excess of leaves, that hid her from sight as a patrol group came closer and closer to where she was hiding, just slightly above the west wall.

They left, and she could breathe again, her heart pounding in her chest. No matter how many times she did this, she still couldn't get over the initial rush of being found out. And so, she stayed there, uncomfortably clamped onto the tree trunk, the hilt of her sword digging into her waist.

Her next plan, obviously was to climb carefully along one of the branches and leap over that small gap between the tree and the wall and land on top of the tiled roofs of the wall. And from there, she would follow the wall to the back side, jump down and sneak into the first compound where the jade treasure should be kept.

But it really wasn't that easy. Even if the patrol group that circled the gardens didn't see her, the group at the entrance surely would. So what she needed… was a distraction. A diversion. Just… what could she do?

As if a miracle that answered her wishes, a sudden shout drew her out of her thoughts. The faint smell of smoke carried over on the wind.

A fire.

Someone had set off a small fire on the east end of the garden and it was blazing, slowly growing along the neatly trimmed hedges and patterned flowers. And as soon as the guards at the gate turned their attention to that, Yong was off. Clambering with a practiced ease over the thickest branch she could find, her breath hitched when the entire branch made a loud snapping noise. Without hesitation, she jumped from the middle, her fingers gripping just barely onto the top of the wall just as the entire branch fell.

Slowly, she swung herself back and forth until she had enough momentum to swing herself up onto the roof, breathing another sigh of relief as she ran across the top of the wall and sliding down its three metres height with the help of a bit of rope.

Having successfully infiltrated, she slid around the walls, ducking under the rails when she heard the footsteps of a soldier running past her, presumably to help put out the fire. Green eyes darted before she leapt up the few steps and pressed herself against the paper sliding doors of a room, opening the door a crack to check before slipping inside.

It was empty, to her relief and after rummaging the few cupboards in the room to find nothing of value, she proceeded onto the next shoji door, repeating until she found herself in a dimly lit corridor.

The next room she entered had an occupant, who turned lazily on their mat before stilling. As silently as she can, Yong crept along the room's perimeter, rummaging through drawers and cupboards, nimble fingers feeling for anything potentially of value and ah- a lock.

Smirking slightly, Yong pulled out a thin piece of demented metal that used to be a cheap hairclip from her coat's sleeve and began to work, keeping an ear out the entire time. And after a few terse moments, the lock gave way with a soft click.

Jackpot.

She couldn't make it out well in the darkness but as her fingers dived in, she felt smooth stones and metallic lumps. There was no mistake. It had to be gold. Or maybe some precious stones. The irregular objects glinted in the dim lighting and she pocketed it.

With a practiced ease, she stole into each room in quite the similar manner, slipping her looted goods into a straw sack tied at her waist. True, she was there under the request of a client, but that didn't mean that she couldn't make a little extra gold. At some point, she must have snuck into the treasury because all of a sudden, she was surrounded by large, elegant portraits and glass displays. Using the meagre source of light from her stolen match stick, Yong eyed the pretty polished vases, the fearsome golden statues of mythical creatures, the bronze mirrors, copper shields and finely crafted headdresses. What was she tasked to steal again? Oh right, a jade seal.

It was hard looking through all the treasury with dim matchsticks and it felt like forever that Yong was searching along the perimeter of the room. Just as she was about to give up, she saw it. On the highest shelf, within the glass, situated on a plush embroidered pillow was a cuboidal jade statue like thing with intricate detailing and craftsmanship, the size of her fist, depicting what seemed like a large bird in mid-flight. The quality of the jade was evident through how the yellow light of the flame seemed to shine right through it.

It must be that.

Rising onto her tippy-toes gave her just enough leverage to comfortably work on the lock. It was hard to crack, but it wasn't impossible and after another while, the seal was safely in her pocket.

Backing out of the treasury, she quickly slipped into an adjacent one when the guards weren't looking. The fire had been long cleared out and the guards were back to their usual positions. But things were… decidedly livelier than before.

There was a flurry of steps and Yong slid herself into the first room she found, sliding the door closed behind her. As she sunk into a crouch, she could hear the soldiers who were right outside the door.

"There's an intruder." The first of them told the others. "We've been tasked to find him. Your group will look to the east and my group will look to the west. Try not to disturb the masters' sleep."

"Got it."

And then the flurry of footsteps faded away, leaving Yong frowning in thought. There was an intruder? Has she been found out already? This wasn't good- she had to get out of there. And fast.

But just as she stood up to exit the room, she froze.

"Who's there?"

It was a high-pitched voice, almost incoherent from sleep. And in the dim lighting, Yong could make out a figure getting up in the corner of the room.

"Ms Kayla?"

It was a girl, whose shadow looked as though she was trying to rub the sleep from her eyes. Yong froze before sinking slowly to the ground, determinedly to make as little noise as she can. There was a slight metallic sound, as if the girl was trying to turn on a lamp…

Go back to sleep, go back to sleep. Yong chanted mentally but to no avail. A small lamplight flickered and blazed on, bathing the entre room in yellow light. And the girl's weary eyes met Yong's wide ones. Before Yong could stop the girl from making any noise, the girl screamed, the loud blood-curdling scream blasting the silence before yelling for the guards.

She wouldn't stop yelling. Already, Yong could hear the footsteps that were thundering closer and closer towards where she was. With her hood secured over her head and face cast in shadow, Yong kicked over the doors and bolted. There were shouts behind her as she was spotted by other guards and she continued to run, a dagger in hand as she was cornered by two guards in front of her. She jumped, dodging the closest one's slice of their spear and slashed him across the chest whilst using the same momentum to kick the other hard across the face. Both fell. Then just as easily, she threw it behind her as she ran, and heard the grunt of a soldier caught in its trajectory.

Two more blades came out of their hiding places to deal with another pair of guards. Blood spurted. Whilst distracted, another opponent snuck up behind her and knocked them clean out of her hands when they clashed. Before she knew it, she was surrounded, blades pointing at her from all directions.

"Hold up your hands. Or we'll kill you on the spot." The soldier immediately to her left barked out.

Heart pounding, Yong didn't think she's ever had this much trouble stealing into a compound before. Mostly because she's never screwed up this badly in the stealth aspect. But really, there was no way she'll come this far only to get caught. And why were they so confident- they haven't even landed a single hit on her yet.

She went along with it, slowly placing her hands in the air, eyes glancing warily at the sharp weapons about her. One wrong move and she'll be skewered eight ways. Then just as easily, she ducked.

"Guards-!"

For the first time that night, the sword secured at her waist sash slid out of its sheath, the metal flashing once in the moonlight before drawing blood. The soldier was down before he had even finished his warning.

"Y-you! Get him!"

The soldiers had regrouped, and before she knew it, she was fighting for her life. Adrenaline coursed through her veins and she grinned. The already narrow area became a flurry of movement and yells as metal clashed on metal and in the middle of it all, was Yong and her fiery footwork and the sharp cutting swings of her weapon, a blade that was notably shorter than the average katana- a wakizashi, used best for close quarters combat. What Yong lacked in range, she made up with speed and with the wakizashi as almost an extension of her right arm, she made short work of her opponents. Crimson liquid sprayed following the uneven slices made by the short sword, its owner darting through the openings of their opponents with ease. She was heaving as she stood there, momentarily surrounded by bodies before bolting, having remembered that these weren't the only guards in the place.

Her feet pounded across the wooden boards as she ran, looking wildly for an escape. The footsteps that followed her drew closer. There were shouts from ahead of her. Skidding to a stop, she ducked into the nearest room, slamming the door just before the two forces clashed.

"Where is he?! Quick! Go look for him."

The footsteps scattered, leaving her breathing heavily but trying to control her breath. But it wasn't over yet. Her breath hitched all of a sudden, posture stiffening as her hearing became alert.

A sharp inhale.

There was someone else in the room.

Yong sheathed her sword quickly and tightened her grip on the handle of a small knife, taken from the inner lining of her coat. Slowly and warily, she began to inch in the direction the noise had come from. Whoever it was, she had to silence them immediately or it'll cause problems for her. Her steps echoed across the room.

Without warning, a glint of a blade flew at her and she countered with her own in surprise. It was hard to see in the darkness but the blades reflected what little light there was as they clashed, a flurry of metallic noises as each blade matched the others. She could make out the darting shadow of the other person and within a few slashes of her wrist, her blade stuck something soft, coupled by small groan of pain. And the sickly metallic scent made itself known.

Something wet was sliding down her blade but she ignored it as the shadow darted towards her again as if crazed. It flew at her and she pulled back at the last second to dodge the glint of their knife.

The pouch at her waist tore in a split second, the heavy objects dropping like lead to the wooden floors and rolling audibly away. Instinctively, she clasped onto the rip in the fabric in her attempt to save her loot.

There was a moment of silence.

"Well lookie here, lookie here." It was a low silky drawl, one that made Yong's hair stand on end. "It seems like we have a little thief on our hands." Slowly, the figure stepped out from the shadows and into what dim lighting that filtered through the paper doors. He was tall and lanky, with fair hair that was long enough to cover his eyes, leaving only the sharp of his nose visible and lips curled in a sneer. His clothes were dark.

Yong ignored him, and instead shot him a completely different question. Somewhere between their exchange she had somehow figured out that there must have been another intruder. Surely, she couldn't have been found out that easily. "I suppose you were the one behind that fire?"

"Ah." He froze, fingers touching each other daintily. "Smart cookie arentcha? Well since we're rather more or less on the same side, how bout we call it a truce for now?" To Yong's wariness, he bent down to gather the loot that had been dropped earlier, a mocking smile on his lips as he presented them to her almost innocently with both hands. "Whaddaya say, hm?"

With no reason to disagree, Yong nodded her head somewhat reluctantly. "Truce then."

"By the way, if I were you, I'd be getting out of here as soon as I can." His smile widened. "Things are about to get even uglier."

A high-pitched scream echoed in the distance.

"And that's my cue." The tall male sang before darting towards the doors, throwing them open and blinding them momentarily.

"Wha-" Confused, Yong darted after him, trailing his footsteps on the wooden boards and jumping after him in the bushes below. They lurked there silently until sounds of chaos faded away before darting out again, swift as lightning. She knew where they were heading. They were going to break out of this compound by sheer strength, through the front gate.

And then it was in the moonlight that Yong realised that the clothing that she had thought the male to be wearing hadn't been dark robes after all. Rather, the front had been splattered with thick crusting blood, a crimson that glowed prettily under the white light.

But now wasn't the time to be contemplating this.

"There they are! Aim for them!"

The guards had caught up. She vaguely heard the male in front of her curse before he veered in such a sharp turn that she had trouble following. In the distance, she could hear the thick metal front gates lock themselves in and the whistling of arrows as they fell around her. Drawing her sword out, she deflected the couple that came her way as she ran. Turning yet another corner of the compound, they immediately stumbled upon a group of guards who looked surprised at first but got over it quickly enough to start engaging them in battle.

Blood spurted and bodies dropped dead to the floor as they ran through them, the tall fair-haired male doing quite the graceful blade-work in front of her, leaving little for her to immobilise.

When they had finally broken through the formation of waiting soldiers, both of them were breathing hard. Yong's green eyes darted about, looking for an opening- any opening amongst the red-clad guards and falling, deadly arrows, and realised they were heading towards the east side gardens. And gardens meant tall, thick trees that most likely towered over the walls.

As soon as their feet touched the grass, the stranger she was following ripped a bottle from his belt, and shattered its contents behind them. Following that was a flick of his fingers, a burst of yellow flame and then they were surrounded by an inferno that spread rapidly across the dark greenery, consuming everything in its path.

"The tree!" Yong tried to shout over the noise and the crackling and the smoke. But he didn't hear her. Coughing, she veered from him, darted towards the tree closest to the east wall and began to clamber with a practiced ease up its trunk and branches. An unintentional tug of her long coat told her the stranger was right behind her, darting up the branches at his own pace.

"There they are!"

Somehow the guards had found them through the smoke and yellow haze. An arrow dug just inches from where she had just been about to place her hand. Gritting her teeth, she used it as leverage and continued to climb up, her worn fingerless gloves protecting her hands from the worst of the scratching.

In the midst of all the smoke and haze and arrows and frantic race to clamber up the tree, Yong almost missed the cry of pain that sounded from behind her. Eyes stinging, she looked back only to see the fair-haired man rip a bloody arrow from his left leg. Their eyes met, the burning gaze of the older man through his bangs looking almost crazed in the yellow flickering flames.

"Whaddaya doing!? Move!"

Yong made an unimpressed noise, not looking back as she continued to dart up, branch after the branch until she found a steady perch between the forks of wood. She grinned. She was almost there, level with the height of the wall. Now if only she could spring herself off the adjacent branch and onto the top of the wall.

But then she looked back.

Still a metre or so behind her was the stranger, struggling to climb with his bloodied left leg. There was a gash in his shoulder where the blood had not yet begun to crust over- her doing, she supposed. But even with a crippled leg, the male kept looking upwards, slowly inching his way up with such a determined expression that had Yong turning away again, reaching out to tiptoe across the branch.

After all, she only needed to worry about herself.

Darting over the branch, she jumped off just before her footing dipped, landing solidly on that small space between the tiled roofs of the wall, ducking instantly as the arrows aimed in her direction. Finally, the male behind her had caught up, following her steps in staggering across the stiff branch.

A loud snap.

Yong saw the branch break before she heard it- saw the man's attempts to jump with all the strength he had in his one leg; saw him reach the height of his trajectory before the plummet, one arm stretched out. His long bangs had blown backwards, revealing startled, brilliantly yellow eyes that Yong realised were not simply the reflection of the rising flames around them.

He was going to miss. He was going to fall.

As if someone had paused that exact moment, she felt herself lunge at those yellow- not quite golden eyes, eyes which locked instantly onto hers with a kind of intensity she couldn't explain. Like a lock that simply clicked together, their hands latched and all of a sudden Yong plummeted for a fraction of a second before the male slammed into the side of the wall.

The male wasn't light either. Yong grunted in frustration as she braced herself, using all her strength to pull him. His legs scrabbled for purchase on the smooth surface, his other hand drawing out a small blade which he stabbed into the wall with surprising strength and using it as leverage to help himself up.

In time that was probably a lot shorter than it felt, they were over the wall and under the hail of arrows that followed them, the momentum of their combined forces pushing them over and crashing to the dirt ground on the other side. Yong's head reeled and she shook it to clear her impending headache, pushing the other off her to stand abruptly. Thankfully there weren't any broken bones- only some scrapes and one fat bruise that probably spanned her lower back. But they weren't out of the fire completely yet. The gates were opening, the soldiers pouring out in an attempt to secure the two intruders.

She scrambled up and began racing towards the trees where there was most coverage, only to look back at her impromptu accomplice who was gritting his teeth, both hands on the ground and resting his weight heavily on his unwounded leg. She looked forward towards the trees, looked back again at the male, then glanced to the first of the soldiers who had spotted them.

I didn't spend that effort helping you only to have you fall back here. She thought in frustration, skidding back to latch onto the male's arms and pulling him along as she ran. An arrow whizzed dangerously close to her as they fled and before she knew it, the other person ripped their arms out of her grip only to shatter another ceramic jar of contents onto the grass and everything went up in flames. This time, Yong didn't stop to stare.

The searing heat seemed to chase them as they ran until the fire and the shouts seemed to have died down behind them as they escaped deep into the woods. They slowed to a stop, both breathing heavily over the rustling of the woods and the crunching under their feet. In this moment, Yong took the chance to observe this strange person, the mystery of their blood-ridden robes and their purpose tonight at this particular compound. Now that they were out in the open, she could see his outline all the more clearly. He was lanky and tall. A loose tattered tunic and what seemed like muffler covered his neck. His hair crept down to the back of his neck with long fair bangs that completely covering the brilliant orange eyes she had glimpsed earlier. She blinked once, when he too turned around abruptly to face her, wondering how he could even see out of them.

"Completely unnecessary." Came the first words of the strange tall male, lips curved into a sneer.

Yong twitched subtly. This little..

"But." He paused, fingers to his chin as if contemplating something. "I will remember this, little thief."

"No need." Yong shot back, no small amount of irritation rushing through her as she got up and dusted herself off, securing her pouch of looted goods around her waist.

"Oho, are you sure about that? I'll have you know that people would kill to have me in their debt."

Her eye twitched. She turned to give him her full attention, the green of her eyes catching what little moonlight and flashing dangerously. "I've never been more sure in my life." Vaguely, she noticed the massive difference in their heights. Yong had considered herself pretty tall, but this guy towered over her by almost a head and a bit.

"Quite the prideful little thing aren't you?"

Yong snapped. "I'm not little! You're just ridiculously tall!"

At this, he threw his head back and laughed. "Grow up a bit more, kiddo. Your voice is cracking."

Yong shut up in an instant, and instead settled for glowering darkly under her hood at the lanky male who all of a sudden seemed to be muttering to himself and rummaging through his pockets before settling on the muffler tied around his neck.

"Here, take this will ya?" He decided, offering it to her. She could make out the blood stains upon it, dark against the otherwise lighter material.

"I don't want it."

He tossed it and she caught it by instinct. It was still warm. "Keep it. I've heard that the winters around here can get really cold."

"Hey-"

But he was already off, limping surprisingly fast for someone with a wounded leg, the red of his robes gleaming sickly under the pale moonlight.

Yong had thought about it since.

After all this was what people tended to do when they had all the freedom in the world. Think. Go back over the past. It wasn't like there was anything interesting in the future for them. It wasn't like she had anything to look forward at the moment. All she had was her work. Just living, was starting to become a bit of a chore. What was there to accomplish in this life of hers?

The muffler sat innocently in her palm as she turned it over and over. The material was second rate, scratchy against her roughened palms. What had looked like bloodstains at first was actually a simple design dyed into the brown fabric. Though admittedly, there really were dried bloodstains splattered subtly along it, some faded as if been washed and some newly crusted but they blended in with the redness of the design. Probably why he had it in the first place. Lengthwise, it probably was just enough to wrap around her own neck once. Listlessly she balled it up and drew her arm back to chuck it over the next branch she found along the rocky trail.

"I've heard that the winters around here can get really cold."

A foreigner. Yong decided as she relaxed her arm and shoved the thing back into her chunky bag. She shook her head as if to clear up her muddled thoughts. After all, in her profession, it wasn't uncommon to come across these strange, psychotic figures- other thieves or bandits perhaps, or even assassins at times. And Yong wondered briefly at what exactly he had been doing there that night, just what his motives were. Was he sent by someone, like her? What did he steal? What did he kill? For someone to be drenched in that much blood…

But regardless, it was none of her business. She doubted they would ever meet again- the world was huge after all, with endless possibilities.

"Hey, did you hear?"

She was currently sitting on the stone benches of the local restaurant- the only restaurant in the village which was a source of gossip for the townspeople. With her hood down and her large bag stowed safely underneath her feet, she pretended to be interested in her simple meal.

"I heard that a fire broke out at the Lord's compounds."

"A fire? In this cold that we've been having?"

"Shhh not so loud! They say it was caused by intruders and those are the people who they're looking for at the moment."

And indeed Yong had seen the wanted posters. Two ink drawn posters sitting side by side hammered onto the brick walls. One depicted a thin man with bangs that covered his eyes and the other displayed a generic face that looked nothing like her and a hood. Of course. She had never even shown her face- she had absolutely nothing to worry about.

She stood up, paid in looted gold, and left.

Four days later, Yong found herself travelling the forests- a short cut to Fuuga where she intended to stock up on weaponry and sharpen her sword. Fuuga, after all, had some of the better swordsmiths. But ultimately, she was going to have to trek back to the land of Fire to confer with the man who had hired her. Still relatively well-off from her looted items, she had sold most of the heavy trinkets and kept the gold she traded it for in pouches.

Yong sighed as she climbed over the large tree roots and avoided the vines on the ground that tended to trip her up. The forest's scent calmed her as she wandered through, ducking under the leaves of a particularly weird branch that sprouted out at a particularly weird angle, making it look like the tree had wings, the branches being the structure, the drooping leaves being the feathers.

She sighed deeply, feeling distinctly bored. Now that the escapade that she had been planning for the past week was over and done with, she felt vaguely empty. What was she going to do next? It's not like she had a home to return to. No. She already had a home. The forests were her home, the countryside, the villages the rocky trails- wherever she went- that was her home. After all, she was a wanderer wasn't she. A wanderer free from the confines of society.

Yong sighed again and continued forward, her bag clunking after her on every odd step. Life was hard indeed.

Night fell quickly and she still found herself still stuck in the middle of the woods, frowning at a particular tree whose branch extended as if unfurling a wing. She kicked it in annoyance.

But no matter. She had all the time in the world. She had no priorities. No duties. Nothing she had to accomplish within a time limit. After all. She was free.

And with that thought in mind, she clambered up the tree opposite the offending branch- an old but sturdy tree that bore edible fruits, chose the thickest ledge and decided to rest there for the night, back leaning against the trunk. Not the most comfortable of positions but it was decidedly safer than sleeping unguarded on the ground. From within her rattling backpack she brought forth her thin blanket and covered herself, draping the leaves and debris around her to camouflage.

Sleep didn't come quickly, but eventually the sounds of the forest faded into the background.

It was still pitch dark when her eyes fluttered open. Rustling. There was rustling down below her.

Brushing off the leaves that had fallen on her whilst she had slept, she straightened up a bit as to squint into the darkness. Streaks of moonlight peeked behind clouds, to reveal two masses moving towards her tree. Quickly, she ducked.

It was a man and a girl.

She couldn't see their facial features clearly enough but it was obvious from their body shapes and clothes. The man was tall with a long spear-like weapon that she had never seen before. The girl on the other hand had donned some beautiful robes that shimmered in the moonlight and her long hair was… red? No, it couldn't be. Immediately, Yong shook off the reminders of heavy crimson stains on white clothing.

Yong rubbed her eyes and as silently as possible, crept down the tree to follow on foot behind them, drawing her hood up to ward herself from the cold.

No, her eyes hadn't been playing tricks on her. The girl's hair really was red. Scarlet, even in the moonlight. It was really… beautiful. Momentarily gaping, Yong quickly sobered up when the glints of jewellery and metal reflected light her way. Shiny things. She smiled. Shiny things meant wealth and wealth meant more food and supplies… which she didn't need at the moment, she admitted mentally after looking at her bag.

The duo must have come from somewhere high class if they could afford those sorts of clothes. That or they're eloping and running away because their fathers couldn't approve their marriage or something stupid like that. What a waste. Yong frowned, slowly drawing out a small dagger from the depths of her coat. Those two looked like they had been living in high class. A nice home, probably grew up with food that they had taken for granted just because their fathers had a good standing. They probably never had to fight for food scraps in their life, or steal or beg or watch as everything they had was taken away from them. They had probably never walked bare feet across the scorching, cracked plains that was the Land of Fire in the summer or sat huddled like penguins on the streets during winter, deciding who should have the last bite of stale bread.

She'll teach them a little lesson, she thought. She'll do them a little favour and let them know how unfair this outside world could be. Yong tensed up in concentration as she advanced stealthily on the two people. Well to start off with, the shiny floral pin on the girl's hair was nice. Oh, and the jewelled necklace around her neck. Perhaps she'll keep them as a souvenir.

And within a split decision she sprinted towards them while the man's back was momentarily turned. The girl was slow and unsteady as she tried to step over a small tree root. And within a few seconds, Yong was already there, dagger glinting in the moonlight to make a slice at the girl's head. Not to take her life, but to snag that pretty hairclip out of her hair.

She could see it play out already. She was going to snag that hairclip from the girl's hair, follow up with a knife to her pretty neck if her lover tried to defend her- that huge blade couldn't surely be only for show- and demand them to drop their valuables. It was fool-proof. Yong was confident in her skills. It was how she survived up to now after all.

The next few seconds however, seemed to be in slow motion. Yong's heart almost stopped. Before the girl even noticed her, the man was already there to defend her, pulling her towards himself. Yong's green eyes widened as his long-ranged blade became seemingly massive all of a sudden, sweeping down between them in one great thrust, just inches away from tearing off her arm had she not drew it back. She had not touched even a strand of that girl's hair.

"Run, Princess!"

The force of the wind that came with such a sweep that was enough to knock Yong crashing to the ground, her hood blown off her head and throwing her features into relief. And for a long split second, dark green eyes clashed with large violet eyes as the red-haired girl turned back to look at her.

The girl really was beautiful, Yong found herself thinking. Long scarlet hair framed her tired face and her violet eyes large and reflecting light. Then the moment broke as the dark-haired man grabbed her hand and they both sprinted away, leaving Yong dazed on the dirt and forest floor.

What… what was that?