When I was staying in that dark room, I do everything to please him, appease him. I would kiss him as if I'd really meant it, as if he were my lover, whom I love with all my being.

I'd embrace him when I feel the urge, the tug. I'd shower him with affection. With my hands and my lips, not with my words. For my tongue would betray me, and he would always know when I'm lying.

Now we're out of that den, myself and I, and Hak too, we're all out of those cages now. But we're not entirely free. We remain in his clutches, his hands holding the strings that make the puppet out of us. Broken puppets, compliant puppets, docile.

Or so he thinks.

I continue the game, play house, play the lover. I do my part, faithfully faithful. A lover, that's what he wanted out of me. So I play one.

I'll play until I could find a way out of his grip. He's had me trapped in my own web when he'd made me promise to never leave his side. I know I'll find one, a way out. I can, I will.

I despise the idea of owing him something, so when he offered to teach me archery, I refuse in my head. It's not really an offer; it's more of a command. He didn't ask me if I'd wanted it, he laid down the gold and expected me to get lost in the glint and bite. Tomorrow morning, I'd tell him I refuse.

What is he thinking in the first place, wanting to teach me archery?

My guess is that he was trying to reconcile with me. What else would he think? For as far as I could see, it would never benefit him more than the prospect of me owing him something.

Or he was simply trying to reconnect with me, fix the broken bond between us.

Because I've been ignoring him most of the time, these days. Whenever he would arrive at night he would find me already asleep, drunk in the sleeping medicine, and by morning I'm still asleep. We only see each other during the meal; he insists on having each one with me. But even then I don't talk to him, nod my head when he asks me a question, utter a word or two, just like what they'd done to me when I was in that dark room.

So that must be the only reason, him wanting to reconnect with me, like a brother offering a sweet piece of cake to his pouting sister.

If that's what he want, then I'll give to him, the intimacy between lovers. Not because of his own labor but because of my own mercy. Because I wanted to. That way I can give whenever I want, and take whenever I want.

This is my power.

Night has fallen. I watch from the window, wait like a faithful wife for her husband to come home. He arrives early, a bit surprised when he finds me still awake. I watch as he nears me, a serpent slithering his way to his prey.

"You're still awake," he says. "Why?"

"I was waiting for you," I say flatly.

"That's quite a change. You need something?"

"I don't." I pause, stare straight into his eyes. "What about you? Do you need something?"

He steps closer. "I do." He catches me in between his arms, a docile prey, a willing sacrifice. I don't fight as his mouth slides to meet mine, dance richly, his hands climbing their way through. "You know I need you so badly," he says breathless against my ear. "Yona..."

In the next moment I'm trapped in between the wall and his looming figure, and the next moment we're stumbling in the bed, our clothes discarded. He wants all of me, he says. So I give him what I could give.

And as he locks his gaze with mine I tell him in my head, Remember, I'm doing this because of my grace, and not by the power that you hold over me. I can give and I can take.

By morning, I'm sore all over. He went too far. He doesn't leave my side all morning. He insists on cuddling with me, cradling me, like a newlywed couple.

On that night when he first made love to me he left right away; or at least when I awoke he's gone to murder my father. How I wish he would leave now too. So that I may cleanse myself. Oh gods, I think, forgive me for being unclean.

We're not married, so it's a sin, what we're doing. That makes me an unclean woman. Or at the very least, that's what I'd been told. Your body is sacred, they said. It belongs to your husband. Let no one touch you until the night of your wedding.

I'm bound to marry him, that's what they were all thinking. I don't think so. Maybe I will, if I don't find a way out soon. And where there's a will, there's a way. As they also say.

"I love you," he says.

I don't reply. For as far as I could remember, the very last time I ever uttered those words was the night when I'd been fool enough to believe I really did love him. Either he never notices, or he hardly cares. Or perhaps I've been saying them unaware last night.

Maybe I should say "thank you" or "I know" or "I love you too." But the last one, it's a lie. And we both know that. The first ones, they don't matter. Actions speak louder than words. So I let my fingers caress his chest. Run my fingers through the lines of the marks I'd made.

Now they're even more apparent, in the light. During the nights when we would indulge in the pleasures of the flesh, does he notice the way I would rake my fingernails so hard over his every skin? Does he notice the way I would bite his shoulder painfully, or the way I would grip his hair so tight ... or he doesn't. Perhaps he doesn't mind them anyway.

Because he's lost too. Because he understands that I would never forgive him, never forget what he's done. Because those are the only times I can truly hurt him with my own hands. Because in the morning those marks would leave bruises and cuts and make him uncomfortable if not wince for the whole day.

"Does it hurt?" I ask, tracing the bite mark on his shoulder, deep and raw. I meet his soft gaze.

"I like them," is what he says.

"Your love might destroy you," I say, out of the box. "Kill you sooner." This is a warning.

He chuckles then. "I don't intend to live long. It doesn't matter."

"Why not?" I say. "You only live once. Why not live longer?" He doesn't answer. "You're leaving your loved ones early," I state.

"No," he says, and his face turns serious. "Because I'm taking them with me."

"You intend to kill them too?" I say, resisting the shiver of fear.

"Likely," he says. "Better to take her while she's mine, than to see her in another man's arms."

"You're selfish," I say. "You live for yourself."

"I am selfish," he agrees. "But I don't live for myself. I live for the country. And for the woman I love."

"Which is more important then?" I ask.

"Both," he says.

"That can't be," I reason. "You can't serve two masters and be faithful to both."

"Yes you can. If the two masters agree with each other."

I bury my face in his chest. No one speaks for a long time. We relish in each other's warmth, two lovers locked in a firm embrace. Except that we're not lovers. Because I don't hold any more love to him, while he never loved me in the first place; what he feels isn't love.

"It's really good to hear you talk to me again," he says. "To hear your voice. I thought you'd keep on ignoring me for months."

"What if I shut you out again?" I ask.

"I'd be patient, like what I just did," he says. "But not for long. Life is short, for instance."

My mother died when I was no more than six. My father died when I was six and ten. His father died when he was nine. And his mother. Life is short, he's right.

You can die while simply visiting a friend; as did my mother. You can die while hunting for prey; as did his father. You can die on the hands of your own kin; as did my father. And you can die of an illness; as did his mother.

I wonder how he would die. Or how I would die.

"How do you think you would die?" I ask.

Now I'm asking him questions I couldn't ask on a daily basis. He's vulnerable, I sense. As always after we make love. He's telling me things I've never heard before. Like a child opening up to his mother. This is the power of intimacy.

"Maybe die of an illness," he says. "Or on the hands of rebels..." He means Hak. "Who knows? Maybe through your own hands." He laughs lightly. He's insane. "I'd like that. It would be an honor to die on the hands of the person you love. But not now. I still have important things to do."

"I'm not a murderer," I say. Unlike you. He only hums. "You're not afraid of death, are you?"

"There's nothing scary in it," he says. "What's more scary is being left alone. Losing the person you love. It can drive one insane." He runs his thumb on my arm. "So like I said, we die together, Yona. You can't go before me, and I can't go before you."

Instead of trembling in fear at the obvious threat, I smile in astonishment. In the challenge. I can't wait to tear down his poor dreams. I feel no fear, and it's dangerous. This lack of fear is dangerous.

"I did promise to stay by your side," I say. "But you didn't promise me anything in return. It's unfair."

A moment of silence. "Meet me tonight by the cherry tree," he says. "I'd give you my promise too."

As if we were lovers exchanging love letters, meeting in a forbidden hour, secret meetings. Under the cherry tree, a symbol of romance.

"Your promise should not be the same as mine," I say. "You can promise to love me, make me happy, cherish me all the days of your life. Like a wedding vow. Something like that."

"I'll think about it," he says.

In reality, I'm looking for a way to trap him too. He's had me trapped in a promise; therefore I'd have him trapped in the same way. If I could make him promise one thing, and do everything in my power to make him break it, then I'd be free.

"By the way," I say. I almost forgot. "I refuse."

"Refuse what?"

"Your offer. Yesterday when you said you'd teach me archery."

"Oh that. Why so?"

"I find it insignificant," I say. "Unnecessary."

"It's a good pastime," he says. "Like I said."

"My favorite pastime is sleeping in the library," I say. "It's only annoying that Minsu always comes to wake me."

He giggles. "I'll let you sleep in my study room. I won't disturb you, ever."

"Really?" I say like a child in wonder. I haven't been to his study room before. If I go there, would I find something I could use to my advantage?

"Why not?" he says. He pauses. "If you change your mind you can come to me, to teach you archery. Anytime."

"Is it really just for my pastime?" I wonder but say out loud enough to reach his ears.

"What else?" he muses. "Anyway, I thought you wanted to learn so I suggested it. Nothing more." He caresses my back. "If you need anything just come to me. And if I can, I'll give it to you. You know you can depend on me."

I only want one thing, but he can never give it to me. So I purse my lips and stay quiet.

Right after he leaves I take a bath. To cleanse myself. But only on the outside, scrubbing myself until they're overdone. My inside, it remains tainted. Oh gods, I think again, please forgive me for being dirty.

In the mirror, I see a different person. A woman with a bleeding hair. A woman, not a girl. How did I become like this, age in years within just months? I barely recognize myself now. What's looking in front of me is a different person. My hair is bleeding, a waterfall of blood. I want to cut it.

...

Q&A thingy

Okay so I posted this to answer some questions bugging all of us. I know this story is all in Yona's POV so it's really hard to understand what's going on outside her head (and she's also an unreliable narrator) so I will try to explain the characters' behaviors.

SUWON

Suwon's obsession: Suwon is obsessed with Yona, the same way he is obsessed with fixing the country. The root of Suwon's obsession stems from many years ago. He developed feelings for her when they were still children but because her father murdered his father he harbored unpleasant feelings, plotting to kill her father, while shutting out his feelings for her. But in a turn of events his feelings never went away and instead only became stronger and twisted, until it's between love and obsession.

I'd like to point out that Suwon's mind is a bit complicated, remember he's nine when he examined his own father's corpse himself (in the manga) and he's really smart and really, you won't know what's going on inside his head.

Marriage: He doesn't force her with marriage because he wants to show her and his allies that he has complete control over her and the throne; discarding the fact that marrying Yona would better establish his seat.

Pregnancy: He won't let her get pregnant because it would force her to marry him and he wants to give her a few more years to move on because he just killed her father right? Besides he wants to protect her dignity, and he respects Yona's decision.

Sexual matters: IF YOU'RE A MINOR SKIP Okay so believe me they don't have sex too often *don't punch me* remember Suwon isn't a rapist so he only makes love with her when she's giving him consent. The first sex they had was on her 16th bday, the next ones are when they were in that dark room (if you read carefully I mentioned that they had sex only for like in the span of 2 weeks but they don't do that every night) and the next one is on chapter 10 (the 1st since Yona got out of that dark room).

But SuMmEr hOw cOme ShE nOt geTtiNg pRegNanT? AGAIN IF YOU'RE A MINOR PLS GO AWAY. First, the pull out method (now I'm not saying this is very effective because it isn't 100% effective but hey can we just leave on our imagination that she won't get pregnant?) Besides sex doesn't always require penetration (believe me there are other ways ahem or l s*x). I don't write explicit sexual contents because I find them absurd like it kinda ruins everything imo and just maybe there are some minors reading this.

Why Suwon made love to her on her 16th bday when he would kill her father anyway: Suwon did it because as he'd mentioned, he simply lost control that night. They hadn't seen each other in years and that moment when he saw her, Suwon's desire for her really reached its peak. Also, he never expected for Yona to really witness him killing her father.

Why Suwon freed Hak: Part of the reason why he freed Hak is because locking Hak for long would push him further to escape and take Yona away. I also want you to know that Hak is still important to him, but he's obsessed with his goals to the point that he would trample over his friends.

YONA

Why Yona gave herself to him on her 16th bday: She's so in love with Suwon and with her father against the two of them, she figured that giving her virginity to Suwon that night would lock them together like to preserve their dignity King Il would've had no choice but to let his daughter marry Suwon. Remember Yona was so, so naive that time (:

Why Yona is giving herself to Suwon even now: Yona is giving herself to him to gain his trust and somehow learn things from him. Remember had she kept on acting cold towards him he wouldn't have let her get out of that dark room, told her the whole truth, and freed Hak.

I also want you to know that Yona is a fighter here. She may be saying sorry and constantly apologizing and lowering her pride in front of Suwon but no no no she's fighting.

Lastly I'm really sorry but there's no healthy romance here. I mean the scope of romance is really wide but I can say that the kind of romance that you would find here (if it's even under the scope of romance) is very twisted and complicated. I really enjoy writing this story tbh because I so love dark themes.

If you have other questions pls don't hesitate asking mwaahh xoxo