Chapter 7

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JADE and Hosun sat in the carriage together, their journey from Littoriana starkly different from their journey to the city.

Jade was in shock, her mind still trying to process all that had happened. She would be exiled. She would have to leave her kingdom, the only home she'd never known, her friends, her family-

She would have to leave Hosun.

She knew that, given her rank and Hosun's position, something could have been done to prevent the occurrence. But the servants had all seen. They did not know how to hold their tongues.

Already, the news had spread. Their footmen, the guards, even their carriage driver—she had seen the looks they wore on their faces. It was too late.

She looked up from her worrying fingers and found Hosun's gaze trained directly on her. His normally steady eyes now looked. . . fractured. Broken.

"Hosun?" She said, biting her lip. Hosun started, snapping out of whatever daze he had seemed to be in.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. Jade let out a breath. Ever since the catastrophic event, Hosun had seemed incapable of uttering words other than for apologizing.

"It's not your fault, Hosun," her voice cracked at the end, and she knew he noticed it too.

"It is. I should have been more alert, that man should never have got so close to me—you shouldn't be in this position."

"I was supposed to protect you," he said, bowing his head.

"Hosun—" Jade gave up on her words and at next to Hosun, holding his hand tightly. As tight as she could, as though that could prevent her from leaving him, "There's nothing that can be done," after a short pause, she added, "If these are my—are my last days with you, then—I don't want to spend them in sorrow. I just want to be with you."

"No. No, I will talk to the Emperor—something can be done," Hosun argued.

Jade looked up at him, her eyes wide, "Hosun, please. I cannot deal with false hope. You are the General, you know the Laws better than anyone else. There is no escaping this."

Hosun opened his mouth to argue, but Jade cut him off, "It is your duty to obey the Laws."

That made him quiet. For Hosun, duty was first, above anything else. He started to shake his head, but Jade couldn't bear any more protests. "Please, could I just have this moment with you?" She whispered.

Hosun swallowed, and Jade knew that he was masking his emotions to be strong for her. "Alright," his voice was low, and shaky, but Jade pretended not to hear, instead burrowing into his side and wishing that his strong arms could keep her safe.

Tears burned behind her closed eyelids as Hosun kissed the top of her head, again and again and again. As though he couldn't stop. As though these were the last kisses he would ever get.

Which was true.

"I love you, Hosun," Jade whimpered, even as the sobs shook her body.

"I love you, Jaden," he answered, holding her tighter than before.

Jade ignored the uneasy glances as she and Hosun got onto the boat that would take them across the Frimen. It had only been two days ago, but it felt like a different world. It was the same boat that had taken them across, and she caught the pity on some of the sailors' faces, especially Edric, who could barely lift his eyes to see her face.

Edric gave them an early lunch, this time silently coming and going. Jade felt gloomier as the time passed. The news was spreading so fast, how was it possible?

"Do you wish to rest?" Hosun asked, after they were finished eating stew- the same stew that they had had for dinner, one the same boat, in the same room. The thought caused a lump to lodge itself in Jade's throat.

She shook her head violently. She didn't want to waste even a moment with Hosun. Not when. . . not when they were so close to losing each other.

Hosun took her hands and gently pulled her up, leading her over to the bed and making her sit on it. He knelt down and removed her shoes before saying, "Lie down." As Jade opened her mouth to protest, he shook his head, "I will be right beside you."

She complied, and watched as Hosun slid in beside her. There were too many words to be said, but Jade couldn't force them out her throat, and apparently, neither could Hosun. Saying them would be accepting that this was happening.

"Can we just pretend? For now, can we just pretend like nothing is wrong?" Her voice was so soft it was a miracle Hosun could hear it, but he nodded, the sorrow in his face turning serious.

"For you, Jaden, anything," his arm encircled her waist, and Jade did the same, and they pulled themselves so close together that a sliver of air could hardly pass between them. So close that nothing could separate them.

But then reality interrupted.

"Jaden. . . " Hosun's voice was rough, and Jade had the feeling that she would not like what he was going to say next. "I can't pretend. I can't believe, like you do, that everything will be alright."

Jade shook her head, but Hosun wasn't finished, "And I wanted you to know that if, wherever you go, if you find someone who is more capable of protecting you than I—if you find someone who you grow to care for—" He shut his eyes, as though the words gave him physical pain.

"Then don't let my memory hold yourself back."

"Hosun—"

"You are young, and you have your whole life ahead of you. I don't know who you may meet, but I wish for you to find happiness, in whatever form."

"Hosun," Jade's voice was soft, but steely, "If I asked you the same thing—you are young as well, and have no heir—would you agree?"

His eyes flew open, horror written in them, "No. You are the only one, Jaden, that I ever have and ever could love. How could you—"

"How could you think that I would do so, then? My answer is the same as yours. You are the only one for me, and I shall love you forever."

Her next words were quieter.

"Don't ever forget that."

He took in a shaky breath, "I won't. And neither will you." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. Jade nodded in reply.

And then their arms wrapped around each other, and there were no more words.

I'm sorry it's so depressing, but I hope you're excited for what comes next! Don't forget to:

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