The Promise

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I was by his side every day since. I took the place where the wives and the women in the palace sat and stood in the throne room. I accompanied him everywhere when he refused to leave me in the care of his guardsmen. He said he it would be best for me to stay at his side since the strongest man in the palace is away.

It made me wonder whether he's the second strongest man, but never found the nerves to ask. He might take it as an insult and I might regret ever asking.

He maintained his silence most times, speaking only when he needed to, and I found his solemn presence relaxing. I kept to myself, keeping close by, easily seen by him. I found that his gaze constantly searched for me, calming only once his eyes found me.

He was not a bad company after I got used to him. I found out that the prince does not have the loud and outspoken personality like Jingam or eldest brother Yuanji. Those two was loud and could entertain me throughout the day with their tireless chattering and endless stories.

Prince Wang Jian was different, he was serene, and it made me more intrigued with him the more I spent time in his company. Prince Wang Jian was the strong and quiet type, he was sincere, and I liked that. I never put a thought on what I like on a man before, but since being with him, I became more aware of men. Their manners, personality, what made them more special than the other.

I found myself paying more attention to those things - much like grown women did.

Although there were times when he anxiously stirred me away from dark corners of the palace. Then, immediately apologize. The panic he wore whenever he yanked me away told me there are more chapters in the story he's slowly telling me.

I gasped and yelped as I was stirred away from the long shadow that loomed from the dark corner of this stone palace. It was unexpected, and it got me scared, though I felt safe being held by his arm. The prince had his sword drawn out pointed to the tall shadow shaped like a silhouette of a man. His pulse pounded beneath his skin that pressed on my back and I felt each thump pushed against my flesh.

"What is it, my prince?" My eyes drawn to the same patch of shadow loomed over us.

Prince Wang Jian sheathed his blade back, he closed his eyes as he calmed down. "Forgive me, lady He Lian. It was a false alarm. I know I shouldn't worry about shadows anymore, but I spent years watching every shadow in this palace. It still rouses me occasionally."

I can't help but worry about him, too.

"If you don't mind me asking, what's with the shadows?"

He opened his eyes and gaze at me, his eyes shone with a hint of dread in them. The prince looked like he was afraid of losing something/someone. "It was the enemy, it watched and cursed me. It promised to take away what's important to me."

"What's important to you, my prince?"

He blinked, and I felt his pain resonated into me when he spoke again. "It was Ying Yue at the time."

I smiled at him. "At the time?"

The prince made no further response, though suddenly aware of his arm around my shoulder. He let go, his stare that was on my shoulder moved over to the soft curve of my neck, to my chin, then to my lips. I swallowed as I became aware of the movement of his eyes. I've been around Jingam long enough to know what's inside the prince's mind - even though he may not be aware of it himself.

Prince Wang Jian groaned rearranging his robe and went on walking as if nothing had distracted him. I followed behind.

"Have you heard anything about my brother?" I asked it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask

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"Have you heard anything about my brother?" I asked it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask.

"A raven came with a message from your bother, Jungjie. He's holding me to my obligation to your family."

"...and?" I said eagerly, my footsteps quickening trying to get closer to him.

"I relayed a message that I had you in my custody safe and sound. I also let him know about my men scouting the walls outside the Sui palace. Your brother wanted to know if I was going to send an army up north to join him in his rebellion. I'm afraid, your brother had developed a taste for bloodshed."

"So, are you going to send an army to rescue the eldest brother?"

He paused and turned over his shoulder, his soft eyes on me. "No, I will not risk my men's lives for this war. This is not my war and there are other ways to resolve this without bloodshed. Your brother need not be so hasty with his thirst for blood."

"But what about the Changi clan? Hasn't the middle kingdom killed off the entire clan?"

Prince Wang Jian breathed. "No, the remaining leaders managed to escape and go in hiding, some made it all the way up north and promised their faithful alliance with the northern kingdom where your brother Jungjie is a warlord."

I know Jungjie is a young promising warlord, he is strong but he's also in it alone. He has nothing but the scattered clan members of the house of Changi and his own army. That's not enough men to bring into battle with the strong army of the Sui clan.

"Those people killed my future husband and taken my brother hostage!" My voice rose unable to keep it in control. My frustration mounted, prince Wang Jian doesn't know what it's like for me to worry day after day wondering if my brother is doing okay. "How can you not expect me to worry about my family! The Sui clan are bloodthirsty animals!"

"I will get your brother back to you, He Lian." He touched my cheek and smiled. "That, I promise."

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