Chapter 9

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JADE sat, huddled up in a corner of room. Her temporary room, that was. She was currently on a ship that was sailing down the length of the Clemen river, and would then cross the Islamar Sea, the sea separating Tsuchengko from the other three kingdoms. The boat would cross Islamar all the way to Arrian. Which city in Arrian, she did not know.

She didn't think it would matter.

Jade felt lost. Just a small, soaked piece of driftwood, idly bobbing on a rippling sea. With no direction or purpose, just a remnant of what it used to be. That was Jade.

For she had nothing, anymore. No family, no friends, no Hosun. Not even a last name. No relation to anyone, at least not formally, and it didn't matter anyway, did it? Though there remained room in her heart for all the people she loved, it wasn't as though she would ever see them again.

No, Jade was alone. All alone.

A knock on the door jerked her from her reverie. She cleared her throat and stood up, brushing her dress, "Who is it?"

"Edric, my Lady."

Edric had volunteered, for some reason, to be part of the crew that would take her to Arrian. Jade wasn't quite sure why, but she appreciated the comfort of a familiar face.

"Come in."

The door opened tentatively, creaking as a small head- only the head- entered the room. Then, the rest of the body appeared, but stayed at the entrance.

"Would you like a meal, my Lady?" Despite having no real title, Edric insisted on calling her my Lady, a fact Jade would most urgently correct.

"Edric, I'm not a lady anymore," she sighed.

Edric shuffled his feet and looked up, his eyes shining. "Indeed, you are, my Lady. I have always believed that it is not the birth, but the person that deserves a title. And from what I have seen, you deserve it more than anyone else I know."

Jade sucked in a breath, the unexpected words echoing in her ears. Then she sighed again, her shoulders sinking, "Thank you, Edric. But I'm not truly anyone anymore. I'm not a Bo'ehr, nor a Nevin," she shrugged, her eyes dropping to the floor.

"Of course you are someone, my Lady. You are Jade-Lily. With or without a title."

Jade looked at Edric, and the younger boy nodded with all the seriousness of a soldier, "Please call for me should you need anything." With that, he stepped outside and closed the door himself, leaving Jade with her thoughts.

She stood silently for a moment, his words sinking deep into her bones and giving them new strength.

Edric was right, wasn't he? Whether a Bo'ehr, a Nevin or nothing at all, she was Jade-Lily. She always would be. And now she would decide what kind of person Jade-Lily would be. She would decide what her role would be.

Her shoulders straightening, she wiped the last traces of tears from her face. Yes, she had left everything behind. But perhaps. . . perhaps she could find something new.

***

Islamar was choppy that night, the waves strong and rapid. Jade could hear shouts from the deck even in her little cabin. She laid in her bed, the blankets pulled up to her chin, and her eyes wide open.

Despite Edric's encouragement, she was scared. Scared of what she might find in Arrian, of how the people there would receive her. She didn't know what she would see there.

She didn't know much about Arrian. Only that it was the Forest Kingdom, and that the Arrian people were quite fond of their forests, going so far as to construct entire settlements among the trees.

She had heard it was a good kingdom- the climate bearable, and the people tolerating. She also knew that Arrian didn't have a king, or a queen to rule them. Instead, they had some sort of Council, whom the people of Arrian themselves elected.

More than that, the kingdom was a blank.

She only hoped, more than anything, that she would find a friend there. Someone who would support her, now that all her support was gone.

"Don't worry, Jaden. Everything will be alright," she whispered to herself. It was her only way of consoling herself, those few simple words, a promise she had made. No matter what, she would be alright. She would survive for the hope that one day, things wouldn't be so complicated.

For one day.

Until then, she'd just have to brave it out. Grit her teeth and use some of that determination she'd seen in Hosun's eyes.

Hosun.

And maybe, just maybe. . . someday she would see Hosun as well. It would most likely never happen, but there was no harm in dreaming. There was no harm in hoping. Because his place in her heart was permanent, he was firmly rooted there. And she knew she meant the same to him.

How would he be doing? He was the General, after all, and had to protect Tsuchengko on top of losing her. Knowing him, he'd probably throw himself into his work. That was what Jade feared the most, and she could only hope that someone would take her place as his support.

She sighed, turning onto her side. Perhaps some sleep would help the journey go by faster. It was to be long, after all. Islamar was not the size of a river.

And yet, sleep didn't come. What did come was the expression on the face of the man who had tried to kill Hosun. The assassin. She had done the right thing in killing him, but. . . she couldn't get him out of her mind.

She turned onto her other side, feeling sick. It was the first time she'd ever killed a person, and she couldn't forget about it. His horror-filled eyes, gaping mouth, and, worst of all, bleeding neck kept swimming in front of her eyes. She didn't know how soldiers managed.

She shuddered, turning onto her back. Here, there was no Hosun, no strong, warm arms to hold her tight and keep her safe. Knowing that was like a blow to the stomach, but she couldn't help it. Hosun had to stay in Tsuchengko. And she. . . she had to go to Arrian.

Jade sighed and pulled on the blankets, hoping that sleep would come soon. She didn't want to be awake the whole night.

And sleep came.

And with it, nightmares.

Edric is cute, isn't he? Things are changing now, but don't forget to:

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Edric is cute, isn't he? Things are changing now, but don't forget to:

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