Once upon a time, I chase after Time. She is always in a hurry, and would glance behind her to look at me, stop, wait, then runs again.

Now it seems as if she has stopped all at once, paused in her tracks, glanced back at me, and stopped. And we stare at each other, and I wait for her to come to me.

The lamp in the table keeps on burning, and it makes my soul more quiet. As I look at it I am reminded that hope is never lost, it's just sitting there somewhere, behind the shadows, would come out sometime, somehow. Or so I tell myself.

I have no idea what time it is now, or what day it is. Whether it's night or day. It's a bit scary sometimes, to not know what's happening outside that door. To be plundered of the truth.

I stare at the flicker of the flames, and I am back to my old room. In the mirror, I see my old self, young and untroubled. And my hair, it burns brighter than the sun...

"There's nothing wrong with your hair."

He is leaning against the wall, with his arms folded across his chest. Eyes half-closed. Hak, my faithful friend ... how I want to run into his arms right now.

My body ignores him, goes back to eyeing my hair in a critical manner. Today is my sixteenth birthday, and I want to look perfect, the best I can be. Because he is coming, my first love. Suwon. I haven't seen him in years.

"It's your head that needs to be fixed," Hak comments, then yawns. "Princess, I don't get paid to watch you fuss over your hair. I want to take a nap."

A sigh escapes my lips. "I get it, Hak! Please, just a moment. I want to be beautiful." The last words come out shyly.

"Lord Suwon already thinks you're beautiful," he says.

Instantly, my cheeks turn cherry red. "Hak!" I grab my hair comb, throw it his way. Stupid!

He catches it without ease, smirking. He always does that to annoy me. He tosses the hair comb precisely back to where I picked it from.

"I'm leaving now."

That's the last time I saw him that day. That night, he was supposed to be at my room, guarding me. But instead, I found Suwon.

I don't know what happened to Hak afterwards, and I don't want to think about it anymore. I don't want to think about anything anymore. I just want to go home.

There is a sound of footsteps again outside. Then a clatter of metal, and the protest of an opening door. I cover both of my ears. I don't want them near me. I don't want them here.


I want to go home. Home.

Suwon enters. I watch as he walks over to the table, examines the tray's contents. "I'm glad you ate," he says, after a moment. He is looking at me with a solemn face. For a moment I thought I saw sadness in them, but then I remember he is the reason for my misery.

"You're such a hypocrite," I say sourly. Why would he even bother send me food, after he left me to starve for three days? Why not just let me starve to death altogether? "How do you even sleep at night?"

He lets out a sigh, then sits at the foot of the bed. At least, he won't come near me. He must've learned I wouldn't think twice on hitting him again.

"Yona," he says. "Listen. I never wanted to hurt you."

This is where my patience ends. With all my hatred and bitterness, I spring forward, grab his robes, claws all out, punch him, hit him, shout at him, with all my hatred and bitterness.

"You're a monster. Go to hell!"

He doesn't fight back, nor shield himself. It makes me angrier. Can I never hurt him? Can I never drag him into the misery that I am in?

"You're a coward! A hypocrite, you bastard!"

And I cry harder, and more tears come out, and as my wails become louder my fists become weaker, and they stop, and grab on to his robes for support instead. Because I am falling, falling so hard.

He embraces me. He embraces me, while I scream in agony, while I continue to curse him.

And when I return to myself and realize the situation I am in, I push him in a rush, and retreat back to the headboard, hugging myself.

He sits there, very still. His robes are in a mess, as is his hair, and red marks are beginning to show on his face, and neck, and arms, and blood in some places where my nails dug.

"Please go away," I tell him. "Please."

He inhales deeply, fixes his robes, and hair. "This isn't my intention," he says as he stands up. "I didn't mean to put you here."

"Killing my father," I say, "locking me up here. How much joy does it give you to prey on the weak?"

"You don't understand anything, Yona." His voice turns sharp. "Your father is a murderer. He killed his own brother."

How many times has he told me those words? Will he never grow tired of lying? My father isn't a murderer.

"You should kill me as well," I say. "If my father's guilty, that makes me guilty. I stand with him. Kill me."

My heart is now racing fast. With my words, I might meet my end this very hour. But I'm not afraid of death, I'm not.

I am expecting him to strike me any moment. But instead, a lone tear falls from his eye. "You're different, Yona," he says softly, and more tears fall to his cheeks. It is the first time he ever shed his tears in front of me. "I tried to hate you, shut you out of my life. But I couldn't. I couldn't hate you. I love you, Yona. Can't you see? I would never harm you. Why won't you believe me?" He sounds almost pleading.

I divert my eyes. My head is aching, and it feels like I'm drowning.

"Please, I don't want you to hate me," he says. "I will do anything, anything for you. Just don't shut me out, Yona. Because I need you. You're the only one I have left."

I can't think of anything. I close my eyes and try to think of the outside world, of the colorful bird I once saw on the woods, of the beautiful voice it had...

I flinch the moment his hand touches my cheek. "Please don't shut me out," he says, as his hands cup my face. "I need you. You're the only one I have left." His hands are warm, like the outside world, while mine are so cold, dead cold.

It's been a long time, since someone held me like this. It feels peaceful, to have someone touch you so warmly, so lovingly. It feels like home.

He leans down and kisses my forehead.

I don't want to open my eyes. I want to pretend this is the old Suwon I knew, the one whom I love. I still love the old him, somewhere in the back of my heart.

I begin to cry, again. I want to go back ... go back in time. If only he hadn't killed my father, if only...

He kisses me, on my lips. Lightly, and again, and again. He's warm. As he entangles his fingers in my hair, I am reminded of that night, when he told me he loved my hair. When he told me they're beautiful, like the blush of dawn.

What am I doing? Why am I not resisting him? Why am I letting him do as he pleases? With my shaking hands, I push him away.

"Suwon, please stop."

He tries to reach again, but his hand stops midway. "I'm sorry if I -"

"Please leave me alone," I say, hugging my knees. I don't want to hear any more. "Please."

I shut my eyes tight, and pretend I am back in time.

"Princess!" A young Hak calls after me from afar, as I hide behind an oak tree. In a split second he shows up behind me, with that bored face of him. "You don't hide so well," he says.

"Yona!" a young Suwon is running in our direction, with a giggle across his face.

By the time Suwon reaches us, Hak announces, "Game over. We got you, Princess."

It's so fun, I want to play with both of them forever, with my two best friends. "Let's play one more round, please," I say to both of them.

"No more," Hak says, fumbling in his pocket. He takes out an apple and takes a bite. "See, the sun is setting. My gramps is gonna look for me."

The sun is indeed setting, casting a pink-orange glow along the sky. But I really, really want to play more.

I turn to Suwon, who never refuses me. "Suwon," I say, almost begging, "Won't you play with me for longer, please?"

Suwon smiles at me, and reaches for my hands. "We'll play again tomorrow, okay? Come, let us return to your room."