Chapter 2

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The general hum of the room was full of excited chatter, all eyes on the beautiful princess settled upon the top of a stage and looking like a porcelain doll. Her red curls were shaped to perfection, eyelashes stained and cheeks dusted with expensive makeup. Her violet orbs shone, her natural pink shade skin complimented by the different shades of pink she was wearing in her robes, all made of fine silk and other soft materials.

And beside her was Azumi.

Azumi was wearing nothing extravagant. She didn't want to draw attention to herself after all. This was the princess's day, and all attention was to be on her, as it was. So, Azumi settled herself beside the princess, watching people from all across the kingdom come up and wish the princess a happy birthday.

Azumi watched the practised smiles, the polite exchanges, the bows of respect, the distance kept to an unfamiliar pace. Azumi found all of this a drag, to put it bluntly. She was always a free spirit and travelled the very depths of the castle on every occasion available. This meant that these parties full of fake smiles and expensive food left her feeling awkward and as stiff as a statue, half asleep and numb to the words full of fake respect towards the beloved princess of Kouka kingdom.

However, Azumi could not settle down. The tension she had noticed the previous couple days was now undeniable, and incredibly thick. However, all party-goers were ignorant of the tension building in the air. Azumi's eyes flickered across every person present multiple times, so busy studying the people that she almost missed Yona rushing over to her cousin and the two disappearing outside. Azumi watched them go, before sending a glance over the room to her trusted friend. Hak nodded, swaying through the crowd with a perfected grace, before disappearing after the two not even seconds later. He shared her concerns, and would not leave the princess alone, even if it was with their trusted friend. It just did not feel right to him.

Azumi was once again broken out of her thoughts by another close friend, Min-soo, offering a small goblet of thick red wine. Azumi sent him a small smile, taking the goblet out of curtesy.

"You seem on edge, Azumi" Min-soo spoke quietly, sending a guest a charismatic smile and offering more alcohol. The party-goer took this alcohol, and once again became a distant face in the crowd as they walked away from the pair.

"Nonsense, it's just my concern for the princess's safety. These events always leave me on edge after all. Just keep an eye on the king for me, would you?" Azumi dismissed quickly, sending him a warm smile. Min-soo smiled back, even though he didn't believe her in the slightest, and glided towards the king to offer more alcohol.

Azumi watched him disappear into the crowd before departing her self, keeping that calm smile on her lips as she moved through the crowd. They swayed around her, like a wave separating for her to pass, which meant Azumi was quickly out the door.

Azumi stopped on the foot of the steps, eyes narrowing as she scanned the courtyard below her. There was a minimal number of guards present, and all of them were twitching, as if mentally preparing themselves for something large. Azumi watched these soldiers, even as Hak slid up to her side, his expression also contorted in confusion and concern.

The two stood in silence, scanning the castle grounds with growing concern. Eventually, their gazes settled on each other, and a silent conversation seemed to happen in their eyes. After a long and silent couple of minutes, Azumi sighed quietly and nodded stoically. She turned on her heel, heading back towards the room she had come from, leaving Hak out by the entrance to the castle.

Sauntering through the hallways, Azumi's eyebrows slowly tugged further downwards with each step. Eventually, the tensions got so thick that her hand had settled onto the dagger attached to her hip without even realising it herself. She shifted to a stop, gaze flickering back and forth in a dangerous game to catch the eyes staring at her with such a drilling gaze.

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