There were times, no, many many times, when Hak would get on Jaeha's nerves so much he wanted to punch him full on the face.
"Idiot," he muttered, mentally kicking Hak with his foot.
And there were also times, when he wished he was omnipresent. He's been searching for an hour now, teleporting from place to place, looking for Yona and her companions' tracks. They sure hid their tracks so well.
The last time he saw them, was when he made sure they make it out the castle alive. Then he had left them in the middle of a forest, far enough from the castle, which was now the enemy's base.
Starting from that spot, Jaeha headed south and east, but he couldn't find them. Maybe they had hidden on one of the caves, travel at night, hide at day? Or maybe they had changed their route.
A dreadful thought occured to him. Perhaps they had been captured. Perhaps Yona...no. He hoped not.
Just to make sure, he told himself, he headed to the castle. When he reached the main gate, a gruesome sight welcomed him. Three heads were mounted on spikes, just above the main gate. Hideous, almost unrecognizable. Jaeha pitied them. Humans do have very evil habits of displaying power, inciting fear upon the people.
Outside the castle grounds, soldiers from Kai were buzzling about, carrying swords and spears and all kinds of weapons. Some were training, sparring. Some were practicing with their arrows. Tents were raised from the ground, scattered everywhere near the wall. With campfires and banners from South Kai, the place was unrecognizable.
Inside the castle, servants were running errands here and there. Wagons were entering the castle, and more soldiers still. They were obviously gathering more men, and more provisions.
In the great hall sat the most intimidating man Jaeha had ever encountered. Huge build, sharp black eyes, long black hair in a braid, in black cape and black armor, formidable.
Li Zahara, Jaeha knew in an instant. Lord of the Sen Province, so he was the one behind the attack. But why leave his own territory? He sure was confident, staying in the enemy's land, as if this castle is not the only one he holds, as if he's holding another tribe's general at his neck.
Two soldiers entered the hall, holding someone, a young woman. "My lord," the soldiers bowed, before shoving the woman on the floor. "This woman pleaded for her life."
"Mercy my lord," the young woman said, on her knees. "I was one of Lady Yona's maidservants. If it would please my lord, I could be of any help. I could help find the lady. Please...anything. Just spare my life."
So they haven't found her yet. Jaeha sighed in relief. Now I'm out of this horrible place.
The young woman was shaking. Perhaps they had killed the others. The personal attendants, the guards, the ones who were close to their masters, they pose danger. They were loyal, and could be a spy, whatsoever.
Li Zahara sat in his chair in the dais, playing with his beard. "So you're saying my men won't be able to find the girl without you?"
"No, my lord," the young woman shrieked. "Perhaps..."
"Take off her head," Li Zahara said without waiting for her to finish speaking.
The woman shrieked even louder as she was dragged across the floor, out into the open, where she would meet the sword.
How cruel. Jaeha went out of that place as fast as he can. The more he stayed there, the more he wanted to help all the innocent ones. But no, one more use of his power, and he's done. No more.
He had been summoned last night, for saving Yona. They shouldn't concern themselves in human matters, the gods had told them a million times. They could only watch.
Last chance, the gods had told him. One more use of his power, and he's done.
The sun was setting when he spotted a cave, about five miles from the spot where he had last seen them, and in that moment, he claimed himself he's a genius. Inside the cave, Yona was sitting in the corner hugging her knees, staring blankly at some unseen thing. She was crying.
Around them the soldiers were preparing to leave. Asleep by day, travel at night, Jaeha was right. Minsoo, if that's his name, Jaeha couldn't remember well, approached Yona.
"You should eat some, my lady," Minsoo said softly, holding a piece of bread to her.
Yona shook her head. Her eyes only gave even more tears. Her wailing was so low, hushed, yet they echoed through the whole cave.
Minsoo embraced her, with her head in his shoulder. All around them the soldiers minded their own business, one man putting on his armor, the other wiping his sword, another eating a piece of stale bread.
Another soldier headed out of the cave, perhaps to survey the surrounding area, whether the coast was clear.
Jaeha's eyes were focused on Yona. She's weak, he thought ruefully. Will she be able to survive?
After a minute the soldier who went outside came back. "We can go now," he announced.
It's getting darker. The sun was setting. Jaeha knew he should go back. Hak said he should be back before nightfall.
But he wanted to stay longer. He wanted to stay.
He watched as they climbed their horses, faces sullen. Yona weakly, clinging to a young soldier whose face was full of scars, whose face was very serious.
Jaeha stayed with them for a few more moments, as they made their way into the thicket.
But not even more than half an hour has passed, dread filled the whole company. They stopped in their tracks. They weren't alone.
Twenty, no ... more than that, soldiers on horseback, a mile away. The ground was shaking.
"They're here. They've found us," one of the soldiers said. "Kalgan, take the lady and flee," he said, drawing his sword. "Minsoo, you go with the lady. The rest of us will buy them time."
Yona was crying, again. "Please don't die," she was saying. "Please..."
Kalgan, who was the young man whose face was full of scars, kicked the side of their horse and broke into a bolt, Yona sobbing behind him. Minsoo followed.
No, they won't make it, Jaeha realized, his head swimming, his heart racing.
The first thing that came to his mind was to return to Hak right away, but that might mean Yona's death, if he doesn't help them now.
He gripped his hair tightly with both hands.
Looking at Yona and her company's retreating figures, he thought, they won't make it.
The moment he help them, there's a very high chance that he won't be able to return to Hak anymore. He thought of his left arm. Bother, he said to himself. Yona needs his help.
He sent a bird to Hak as swift as he could, while the soldiers took their positions. A raven, with his message. That should inform Hak what happened. Along with the message, was the assurance, that Yona would make it safely. Jaeha would make sure of that.
He readied himself. For the battle, for the punishment that's coming, for whatever's coming.