Chapter 3

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THEY had stopped at the Marina Chief's house for a quick lunch before departing again. Marina wasn't the largest city, but it was still a long way across it. Their path was very close to Ellävuor.

Jade stared in awe at the massive rock structure as they drove past it. Ellävuor was such a large mountain, just plain rock but so tall she couldn't see the top of it.

"Awe-inspiring, isn't it?" Jade turned her head to find Hosun peeking out of the window as well, staring up at the enormous thing. She nodded silently and stayed there, feeling the fuzzy warmth from his hair, though it wasn't quite touching her.

Hosun shifted and leaned back into his seat, and after a moment, Jade did the same. "What do you expect to find in Littoriana?" Jade asked.

She could see Hosun chewing the inside of his cheek, and he sighed. "I'm not sure. Perhaps some clues as to how they attacked. . . but the Gongjensu are rather good at covering up their tracks." After a pause, he added, "Still, I must at least go there, if only to pay my condolences to the families."

Jade bit her lip, imagining the grief that the loved ones of the dead must be going through. If Hosun was killed in battle . . . she didn't want to think about it. "Can I come with you? Just to comfort them," she asked tentatively.

Hosun tilted his head to the side, evidently pondering over her question, "I suppose so. It will be safe."

Jade gave him a small, sympathetic smile. She wanted to know the particulars of those who had died but knew that it was best not to ask such a question. So, she changed the topic.

"So, when will we reach Littoriana?"

"Late night, I should think. We are close to the Frimen, and it is not too large," Hosun said. Jade nodded, glad that they wouldn't have to spend the night somewhere else.

She watched Hosun carefully, and could see that his shoulders were still slumped, his eyes still haunted. This was the first large battle Tsuchengko had had, save small disputes with Dezhaya. And civilian deaths must weigh heavily on his shoulders.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She said, biting her lower lip. Hosun's head jerked up, and his eyes were surprised. He exhaled heavily.

"No."

"Oh," Jade said, her cheeks heating up. She looked away, pushing the curtain of the window slightly, putting her face behind it in an effort to hide.

She pulled her head out from behind the curtain when she felt Hosun's presence beside her, and she looked at him, startled.

The right corner of his lips turned upwards, though the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "But I would like it if you just held me."

"O—of course," Jade said. Hosun rarely showed vulnerability, and she knew that the stone-hard veneer had been adopted for his role as General. But he occasionally let down his guard around her.

Hosun was taller, but she managed to put her arm around his shoulders as he leaned into her, resting his head on top of her smaller one. Jade breathed in his familiar Hosun scent as their breaths came in unison, peace shrouding their little space.

It didn't take her long to realize that he had fallen asleep, and she slowly maneuvered his head into her lap. There was enough space for him to be relatively comfortable, and she leaned down to place a gentle kiss on his forehead.

She had seen the dark circles beneath his eyes, what with his late nights and early mornings nowadays. She was relieved he was getting some rest. Hosun's job wasn't easy, but that was why she was there. To support him and take care of him while he took care of the rest of the kingdom.

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