Disclaimer: I do not own the manga nor the characters.


He heard her softly crying in the corner. He leaned against the paper thin wall as he listened to her trying to hide her tears.

Young Ling at age thirteen, knew about it. He heard about it, Fu's boasts about his young granddaughter having her first kill. Her beginning steps in becoming a warrior of the Yao clan.

He continued to hear her cries, her soft wails as she tried so desperately to be strong. Ling gripped his hands into fists.

Be strong.

"Lan Fan."

The said guard jumped at his entrance, hastily wiping her tears with her sleeves. Quickly, she fumbled to find her mask and put it on. She spun her heel and bowed deeply. Ling observed her silently, with a scowl on his face.

"Young Lord," She greeted, her voice still hoarse and slightly quivering. The prince bowed his head, before sighing deeply and plopping down on the floor. He looked up to her with a kind smile and patted to a place beside him.

She tilted her head in confusion, "My…Lord?"

"Sit."

She obeyed.

Both stayed in silence, the atmosphere was tense. Both looking forward at whatever is in front of them. Both having thoughts, Ling strayed his eyes to his guard.

Though most of her face was covered by her mask, her eyes were bloodshot. She must have rubbed them really hard. And not to mention, it is still teary.

"Lan Fan," Ling spoke up, grabbing her attention. He smiled softly, cocking his head to the side. He held his hand up, "Give me your mask."

"But Young Lord I-"

"Please," Ling chuckled, his smile still there. Lan Fan hesitated before slowly slipping off her mask. Trying not to look at him, she handed it over. Ling took it gratefully.

He observed her, bags were on her eyes. Her cheeks wet from tears, her lips looked bruised because she bit them too hard. She looked far from the strong Lan Fan he knew. She looked so fragile- like a vase.

He set down the mask on his lap as he slowly reached up to her. She flinched causing Ling to hesitate. She held no rejection so he caressed her cheek. She looked at him, locking her dark orbs with his.

"You're strong," Ling told her with a soft smile traced on his lips, "I'm so proud of you.". She blinked at him, a blush spread across her face like a wildfire. She could only nod slowly, her lips cracking to a small and genuine smile.

"Thanks to you, I'm still here," He added on, still smiling. He opened his eyes to reveal intense orbs. Lan Fan's eyes locked into his. Both telling the others apologies and thank yous. Slowly, her eyes fluttered to a close as she leaned on his hand. A smile formed on her lips.

"Thank you…"

For you, I'll be strong.