Prologue

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The soft light of the stars was the only thing on the otherwise pitch black sky, lighting up the streets of the capital of Silla that night. In the absence of the moon, no one noticed another shadow in the night, moving through the city like a ghost, passing the darkened windows of multiple houses. Not even the guards seemed to have noticed it. It was not until a few minutes later that the silence was shattered by a cry in pain, echoing through the night.

The young princess woke with a start and instinctively put her hand on the small dagger next to her bed. A mix of confusion and fear was engraved into the girls face as she looked though her room, trying to locate the source of the noise. She got up, her small feet making barely any sound on the cold floor. Carefully the little girl sneaked across the room, attempting to open the door while still holding onto the grip of the blade. The sudden grip of a hand on her shoulder made her turn around and within a split second the cold metal of her dagger touched the skin of the intruders throat.

"Princess! It's me!', the other girl whispered. Her voice was fearful. "Hyun-mi", the princess noticed and her muscles relaxed while she lowered her blade. "What happened? The whole palace is alert!" "I don't know. But there seems to be an intruder. We need to get you to safety, my princess", the young maid said, grabbing her hand and pulling the little princess away from the door.

Hyun-mi was only two years older than her and most of the time it seemed like her occupation was to keep her company instead of serving her. It didn't feel like she was her maid, rather her friend. That made moments like this one even stranger. 'get me to safety' 'Princess'...? She never says things like that when we're alone... It felt strange hearing a girl that was like a sister to her addressing her that formally.

Hesitantly the girl nodded. "You're right, we should leave. It's not safe here. Maybe we should-", she stopped abruptly as uproar arose in the corridor. A muffled cry, the sound of two bodies dropping to the flood. Then silence.
Out of the corner of her eye a shadow caught attention, cast of the wall to her room. Whatever caused the turmoil in the castle was now on the other side of this thin wall. And the only guards to protect her just dropped dead to the floor.
Even if we cry for help, we'll be dead before anyone could come even close.. That realization sent a cold shiver down her spine. Hyun-mi must have heard it too because she didn't make a sound as she tried to pull the little princess back in the direction of the other door, leading to the maids chamber. She mouthed "No sudden moves" without taking her eyes off the door for even a second.

The princess' thoughts were raging, going over thousands of possible plans to escape this situation but all her scenarios ended with both of them dead. No very promising odds.
Very slowly she pulled Hyun-mi down under her bed. Hiding was their only chance until she figured out a better plan. The princess heard the sound of the door sliding open and light fell into the room. She didn't dare to peak from underneath the bed but she saw the shadow of their enemy as he seemed to walk around the bed. The two girls held their breath, scared to expose their position. Barely noticeable, Hyun-mi gave her a sign. Scared of what might come next, the little princess held onto the heft of her dagger as if it gave her some kind of security.

The horrible moment of silence was broken by the sound of a sword being drawn. The next moment, the blade cut through the air and hit the bed. With a nasty cracking sound, the wooden slats broke under the blade.
Just in time, the two girls rolled to either side. The princess rolled directly in front of his feet but without wasting a second, she stuck her dagger in his calf, causing the assassin to cry out in pain and surprise, dropping onto one of his knees. For a second she got a glimpse of her attacker's face. With painful clarity she recognized him. A former guard of her fathers. She had known him for years, he had taught her how to defend herself with a dagger... and now he came to kill her.

Unfortunately, that moment of surprise didn't last long and a second later, the sword came flying down on her again. This time there wasn't enough time to escape his strike.

Blinding pain filled her senses and the side of her body felt like it was on fire. Desperately she tired to get up again but her sight was clouded. A part of her was already expecting the next strike, the last strike and she prepared for the pain that awaited her.

But the pain never came. Instead she heard a voice cry out and the next moment a body dropped to the floor next to her.
She tried to cry out for Hyun-mi but her throat felt dry and no sound came out of her mouth as she opened it for a silent scream. No...she can't.. She felt stun, the pain numbed her and tear started dwelling up in her eyes.
But somehow she managed to regain strength and get back on her feet while the blood roaring in her ears silenced any other sounds. The princess leaped forward and drew her dagger, cutting into his throat. Warm blood streamed out, covering her hands and he collapsed in front of her. Just the way he taught me..., was the only bitter thought she was able to form as her legs gave up. The adrenalin faded and her weakness returned.

Only now she realized that her clothes were all red and wet. Was it her own blood or the assassin's? Or Hyun-mi's? Did it matter? "It's not fair... this wasn't about you", she whispered while hot tears streamed down her cheeks. Nothing in her young life has ever caused her so much pain. She tried to overcome her weakness, get closer to her friends body. Look her into the eyes. But now they were empty. No life, no joy. The eyes that had looked over her for such a long time... So this is our end?

Everything around her seemed too far away. She barely heard the voices of the guards storming into the room. Even as she was picked up it barely felt like it was really her body. Don't...I don't want to leave her..please, she thought but she couldn't even open her mouth to say it. The only thing she could do was hold on to the ribbon of Hyun-mi's dress.
Had it been red before?

"...need to get her out of the city..."
"...you go with her and..."
"...the king would have wanted her to..."
"...not return until..."
All words seemed to blur. The world only consisted of pain and the ribbon in her hand. And those voices, far, far away, as everything went black.

Silent night || HwarangWhere stories live. Discover now