The beginning of a story is always hard. You wonder where to begin- how far back should you start from? For me, my story had begun when I was 16. Driven from my home by the one I had wanted to give my heart to- the one who killed my father.
It has been two years since I was forced to flee my home…I almost can't remember it. Did I want to remember? Even now I begin to wonder if it was all a dream. As I gaze in the mirror at the half starved girl- unkempt and wild looking from her travels, I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm no longer a princess- or at least what you would expect from one.
The biggest change I see however, as I look deep into my own reflection, is the look in my eyes. I remember being a young maiden in love, staring wide eyed in the mirror applying high quality products meant for preserving my beauty. But my innocent wide eyes are gone now and what I see instead are tired and weary eyes- pain sharpened eyes that have seen more than that small maiden of 16 could ever comprehend!
My journey has brought me freedom. Despite living a life of luxury- never had I imagined that my carefree life was that of a caged bird. Once I had been forced to escape, I realized that a princess was expected to only ever be free to roam inside her cage- only to be gazed upon for beauty…but never meant to rise up with enough strength to break free.
For a long time I had craved to relinquish my freedom once again; for the pain that awaited me on my journey was, at times, too unbearable. But gradually, I embraced it. I owed the people of my father's kingdom that much! I refused to turn away from their pain because I had to come to terms with it and feel it for myself, so that I could become strong enough to fight against the pain for them!
That had been my role for a long time. I had acquired the strength of the dragons so that I could fight for the people- my cage was long forgotten and never again would I return. The heart that had loved the man who killed my father and stole his throne, I had also hidden away deep inside so that it could also be forgotten and one day I would have the strength to discard it all together!
My two years of travelling had brought me full circle, we were near the lands that would lead to my cage. I would travel dangerously close to the edge but I would maintain my distance and eventually leave this place once again. Hak and I were here alone, we had left the others with Ik-su so we could draw less attention while we accomplished what we had set out to do here and then swiftly return to begin our rounds of the kingdom once more- self-appointed protectors.
"How far did they say it was Hak?" He shrugs at my question and looks around nervously as some soldiers pass by, only just far enough for us to avoid detection. Once they were out of sight he sighs in relief "apparently they are laying low in an Inn around here, remember we are just trying to investigate if the rumours are true and not to…" I but in with exasperation "not to start trouble, draw attention…or kill anyone. I Know, I know!"
He chuckles at me in amusement but stops abruptly as he spots a suspicious group eyeing us with great interest. Instinctively, I pull my hood up and lower my head before hurrying to Hak's side to leave hastily.
"Are they still looking Hak?" He nods quietly and grabs my hand to lead me through the crowd ahead "the Inn isn't far, lets hurry up and get out of here!" I nod in agreement.
Despite my hood, eyes follow us wherever we go and I know it's because of my unusually red hair- even my hood can't hide every inch of the crimson that flows from my head! I sense Hak's unease and pray that we can leave soon.
It's busy inside the Inn and I only hope it's busy enough to avoid drawing attention to ourselves- after all, we are only here to observe any suspicious behaviour to help find the culprit behind the recent attacks. Hak orders us some drinks and we sit silently in the furthest corner watching the rowdy behaviour of those around us…all rowdy, but seemingly not the one we are looking for.
The door opens and new customers enter, I raise my head expectantly hoping to catch our culprit however the man that enters isn't who we are looking for- more like someone we wanted to avoid at all costs! I feel the colour drain from my face as the general of the Sky army sits down with us, smiling somewhat unpleasantly "I can't believe it's true. We had received word that you were in town but I hadn't imagined we would actually find you here!"
Hak stands defensively but speaks quiet enough to avoid a scene "what do you want?!" I wanted to believe that I was in no danger- after all Su-won had his chance to kill me and yet he didn't. I had managed to live for two years away from the palace without any pursuers- we simply maintained our distance to avoid changing that fact.
"You can relax! We don't wish for any trouble. King Su-won heard that you were nearby and has issued an invitation for you both- rather he wishes to see Princess Yona but he understands that she would be unwilling without you…" Hak quickly thuds his hands against the table- his eyes burning with deep anger "she isn't going!"
I didn't fear Su-won- I feared returning to my cage. I feared having to face my past once more when I had thought I had found my way forward and had finally moved on from those painful memories. I sigh deeply whilst considering my options.
"I will go!" I try to ignore the outraged disbelief on Hak's face as I stand and approach the Sky general but before I could step any closer I'm pulled protectively to Hak's side. I see It in his eyes- his very soul begging me to not put myself in harm's way... however this wasn't the first time I had met such a look from him and I knew that I needed to meet him with equal intensity.
"Let me go Hak. If Su-won wanted me dead he wouldn't have extended an invitation, he could have killed me many times before. I don't know what he wants from me but I realise that in order to truly live my life and have a future I need to make peace with the past…I need to do this. You can either come with me or stay here!"
Irritation plain on his face, Hak begrudgingly agrees to accompany me with a small nod of his head but there was no mistaking the tension in the air as we made our way back to the place where it all began.
I had never wanted to return to my cage…I was too afraid that the door would close once again and never reopen!