[ THREE ]

749 21 19

Rin had seen that look before. 

He had seen it on his father's face many times across the years, painted in stark clarity when he spoke of his friendship with His Highness.

He had also seen it etched in friend's eyes, in the clench of his fist, in the actions that painfully colored much of their final interactions in the palace.

He had even seen it reflected on the edge of his blade, late in the night when thoughts of her sought him and clung tight.

But seeing it now--on her--, he hated that most of all. 

Disappointment.

Regret burned an angry trail down to the pit of his stomach. He could not retract the words. It was a necessary reminder that who he had become was no longer the same as who he had once been. The simple fact that she was with him--a wanted criminal-- now, in that very room, endangered her. In what manner could he honor her late father's wish when his very existence was a threat to her safety and well-being? 

Letting go was the only option.

It would be better this way, he reminded himself, determined to repeat the mantra until its words grew roots and took hold in his heart. His heart defiantly ached in response, and he shoved its hurt away for another day. He needed to think of her first.

The deafening silence between them worried him. A number of expressions had wordlessly cycled across her face, but Lady San had since turned away and was focused, instead, on methodically re-bandaging him. He knew she only busied her hands when her mind was anything but still; yet for all his efforts, he could not discern even a hint of her thoughts, and that worried him most of all. 

"It would be difficult for you to stay like this."

She scoffed quietly. "Rin, I lived on a mountain." 

He shook his head. "You would not be safe with me."

She didn't miss a beat. "I can fight. I'll be fine."

He leaned his head back against the wall and stared despondently at the ceiling. "...I'm a traitor to our nation."

She gently nudged at him to lean forward and tucked in the edge of the knot. "I think it would be nice to travel and see the world."

"Agasshi..."

"Rin," she echoed in the same gentle, disapproving tone. "You are so quick and so ready to give. You give often, and you give with no reservations." She turned then, eyes gleaming in the muted lighting of the room, and met his gaze steadily. "Is it always you who must sacrifice?"

His heart clenched. For the first time in a long while, he found that he could not meet her eyes. 

Lady San pulled the lapel of his jeogori up over his shoulder tenderly, voice strengthening as she spoke, "'I will go wherever you go. And I will stay wherever you stay. I will stay with you for a long time.'" She set the soiled bandages down and turned to face him in full. "That is what you had wanted. Did you not hear?" 

------

San was certain he remembered.

Those words he had once spoken so earnestly had settled in her, had planted itself as a treasured memory, and she felt confident they had found a similar home in him. And yet. Even to have his own words repeated back to him, it amazed her that he was able to sit there, stewing in that thoughtful, dignified manner of his while her heart flew through a frenzied series of acrobatics. She was not blind to the sacrifices he had made. She understood the meaning behind his words and his actions. There was little she could have misinterpreted when he had kissed her and later admitted as much to his feelings that night in the cabin. 

The King Loves: RecoveryRead this story for FREE!