Chapter 8

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The next days flew by like nothing, the sun running its path over the sky again and again in its changeless cycles. Sun-woo spent most of the time with Ah-ro, learning to read and write and other things that might be helpful once he was a Hwarang. Ah-ro still didn't exactly trust Jia and the fact that she made up another semi-convincing story about why she could read if she grew up in Makmangcheon like Sun-Woo didn't help her credibility in Ah-ro's eyes. But it appeared that she got closer with Sun-woo so Jia tried her best make her like her. A rather complicated task.

Luckily, she didn't need to make any more efforts regarding that mission, now that they were leaving Master Ahn-ji's house again. She didn't expect herself to actually miss this place but it had served as her temporary home for about two weeks and she got used to living here. The smell of the bitter herbs and tinctures that had seemed so strange in the beginning was somewhat calming now. Strange how quickly she got accustomed to this new place she had to leave again.

Yesterday had been the swearing in of the new Hwarang so today was the first day they would spend at the Hwarang house. For reasons Jia still didn't quite understand, they were parading though the whole city on their way of getting there. People were standing in both sides of the road. Young women with blue and peach colored umbrellas to protect them from the sun and common men in un-died woolen clothes stood side by side, everyone curious about the new warrior elite that would protect Silla and its king from now on. The clear blue sky above the capital seemed like a good omen, a reassuring sign form the heavens that this new era of their country would bring peace and prosperity.

Jia let her gaze wander over the other Hwarangs. She recognized some of their faces, boys she watched playing on the soccer field when she was a child. Ban-ryu, Soo-ho and a few others whose names she had forgotten. They all turned out fairly handsome but she still wasn't sure she was going to get along with them. It had been so many years since then, they probably had nothing in common with the lively yet competitive boys she knew back then. Time changes everyone...

Everyone seemed excited and some of the young men even got extra cheers from their female admirers. They must be sad that they won't be able to see them on a daily basis anymore. Looks like they'll have to find a new hobby other than gossiping about them and cheering on their soccer games, Jia though and shook her head in utter incomprehension for their actions. As if it wasn't ridiculous enough that they had to parade through the streets like some kind exotic animal the queen recently acquired, now she even had to listen to the chatter of those young women fighting about which Hwarang was most handsome. Such a waste of time.

The only upside to their focus on certain Hwarang was that barely anyone noticed the only woman among them. Yesterday, her presence had been enough to cause a flood of whispering among all bystanders and the soon-to-be Hwarangs themselves. No one understood how a woman could be wearing the same robe as the Hwarang and how anyone could have permitted her to do so. All of this made her everything but hopeful about what awaited her inside the walls of the Hwarang house but she didn't have much of a choice now.

"Nervous?" Sun-woo asked her without taking his eyes of the crowd, apparently looking for someone.

"We've been through way worse." Jia smirked and shrugged her shoulders.

"True. But how did you persuade them to let you join the Hwarang in the first place?"

"Doesn't matter. All that matters is that it worked and you won't be alone in there."

Sun-woo tried to decipher the expression on her face but it was a hopeless attempt. "You shouldn't keep following me into all those miseries life leads me into."

"You really think I'd let you do this by yourself? We' We need to stick together."

"You're right... Thank you."

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