Author's Note: Take place near the end of chapter 32. This story ended up leaving me with an "iffy" feeling...
Disclaimer: The Bride of the Water God belongs to Yun Mi-Kyung.
By Tsuki no Tennyo
From a distance, Hoo-Ye could hear and sense her pain, anger, and confusion. He watched the Water God standing silently outside her room, listening to that human girl's upset cries. He was waiting for the other man to go and comfort her, but he only stood there, taking in her abuse and threats.
He could not stand watching this spectacle any longer.
Moving slowly and gracefully, Hoo-Ye made his way over to Mui. The only sound to indicate his arrival was his robe rustling with each step he took. He spoke from behind Mui, alerting the quiet Water God, "Aren't you going to comfort her?"
Mui turned around to face the Water Kingdom commander.
Hoo-Ye continued, "The person who brought her back was you, Master Mui. She's not as strong as she looks."
Mui stayed quiet, seemingly absorbing in Hoo-Ye's words. His visage did not even disclose any new emotions.
"I need to keep that promise I made with her," Hoo-Ye started, his voice was almost a faint whisper. "To help her whenever she's having a hard time…" He looked straight into Mui's eyes, seeing a flicker of enmity in them.
"Is it okay for me to keep that promise?" He finished, his voice carrying a certain subtle harshness in it.
Mui lowered his eyes; his icy façade never once wavered. Hoo-Ye watched the other man silently, patiently waiting for his response.
"Do what you want," Mui finally said, trying very hard to keep his voice neutral, but his eyes betrayed his true feelings. He walked away from Hoo-Ye, his composure trembling ever so slightly.
Hoo-Ye stood still for a moment, waiting for the figure to disappear from view, and then he slowly slid the wooden door open, making his way inside the room. He stopped in his track when he noticed Soah asleep on the floor, all curled up in a defensive position, almost as if she hoped that alone would protect her from further pain.
He bent down, brushing her hair away from her tear-stained face. As he was preparing to lift her up, he heard her mumbling quietly in her sleep. He leaned in over her, trying to decipher her mumbled words, and quickly he wished he had not done that.
For a moment, he could feel his heart stopping.
"I'm telling…the truth…" Fresh new tears fell from her closed eyes. "…nobody's replacement…"
For a moment, he could feel it chipping.
For someone so close, why was she still so far beyond his reach? He reached his hand out to stroke her face again, but he was startled when she suddenly grabbed the hand and pulled it closed to her body. In the midst of the nightmare she was surely having, she held the hand earnestly close to her, perhaps thinking that it belonged to him.
"Don't go, don't leave me again," she whimpered softly, tightening her hold on the hand.
He could feel anger boiling up inside him as he watched her suffer. He made a promise to help her when she needed it, but he felt completely powerless and worthless. He was not the one she needed or wanted then. He should be the one here holding her hand and reassuring her that everything will be alright.
"Oh, Soah," Hoo-Ye whispered softly, stroking her face gently with his free hand. He gently removed his hand from her grasp, ignoring her frustrated whimpers, and he stood up, towering over her sleeping form. He placed a blanket over her trembling body and he whispered soothing words, hoping they will protect her from further nightmares.
He made his way to the door, but he suddenly stopped as he was about leave.
He felt his heart pounding rabidly within his chest as he turned around to face her, but his hope was shattered to pieces when he realized she was still dreaming of him. He started to turn around again, but he stopped momentarily, his hand still resting on the door. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it would be fine if…I let her pretend…
He walked back over to Soah, settling down next to her. He placed his hand in hers, watching as her pained face gradually became serene.
"Mui," she whispered softly, no traces of hate or anguish evident in her tone.
He smiled bitterly, placing a chaste kiss on her cheek, the taste of her salty tears leaving their mark on his lips.
"Don't leave," she whispered again.
"Never, my mistress," he whispered, knowing she was referring to someone else, and wishing desperately that it was not true.
As he observed her sleeping form, he realized a startling truth: she was nobody's replacement, but he wished that he could be hers.