Ace of Swords

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Cool wind whisked by my shoulders sending ripples of chill throughout my body. Goosebumps sprouted on my skin. I turned around startled and saw that the bay window was open.

Strange things often happened around the palace, not because it was haunted, but it was a natural occurrence living in the southern palace of Wang.

"Ying Yue?" I gasped, picking up a quiet stride. I walked toward the window to see if anyone was there, finding no one at all.

It must've been one of the servants cleaning on this floor. She must've forgotten to close the window when she finished and hurried to get out of here. I reached for the window panes, trying to close them myself when the wind blew again, disturbing the stationary drapes and sending it flapping on my face.

I struggled to gather the fabrics away from my face when for a split second, I thought I saw someone standing on the other end of the hall.

"Who?...."

When I looked again, the girl who stood there had since disappeared.

I knew better than to chase her, Jian had warned me about stray demons that could take forms of humans, so I turned around with hasty steps trying to get away.

I ran as fast as my legs can carry me. Oh, how I regretted my decision of getting rid of Jian's sentries because now, I realized why he'd been so adamant about having me surrounded with guardsmen. It was for my own safety, for when times like this happen. 

I am not safe, not anywhere outside, not anywhere inside the palace. Not with princess Li still at large, especially with her taste for revenge, her violence, her motivation to get back at me.

I ran faster, and before long, I heard the echo of the girl's footsteps joined me. She ran faster than I am, getting closer and closer until the thud of her boots became louder finally catching up to me.

A hand yanked me from behind, slowing me down. I fought to free from her grasp, but she was strong, a lot stronger than I am. Her fingers ripped part of my dress while her other hand reached for the space between my head and my shoulders. She grabbed my neck and trapped me in the tightest choke hold with her arm. 

Princess Li held me to her chest. 

I gasped, choking and fighting for air while she dragged me back towards the shaded area of the hallway where no one can see us, hear us, as she takes her revenge on me. 

"You didn't think it was going to be that easy, don't you?" She snarled, reaching for a dagger hidden beneath the clothes she wore. "You don't think you're going to sit back safe and sound, get married to a prince while the rest of us die around you?" She pressed the pointed end of her dagger on my rib, making me wince in pain. I tried to scream but her palm barred my mouth and my screams became muffled trapped behind her hand.  

She pressed her dagger harder, forcing the blade to enter my skin. I writhed in agony as I fought to get away from her. 

"Are you so special that you think you can cause a war and not pay for the consequences?" She taunted.

No, I did not cause this war, you caused this war. You started it when you decided to behead your own husband in front of his wedding guests.

The sharp blade dug deeper inside of me and made me kick my legs. I saw nothing but the growing blotches of darkness, spreading as the intense pain took over my screaming nerves.

Princes Li pulled the blade and freed it from my flesh giving me a moment of relief, when she drove it back in again, stabbing me over and over until blood sprouted like fountain escaping through my open wounds. 

I convulsed from under her grip and kicked my feet, yanking whatever I could hold on to as I tried to salvage what remained of my life.

I reached for that blade in her hand, trying to snatch it from her, when I felt this intense coldness reaped through my body and coaxed me to sudden calmness.

It felt cold. So cold and relaxed that I forgot what I was fighting for. Everything brightened as though the roof of the palace vanished and I'm now staring at a bright cloudless sky during a clear summer day.

"Jian?" I moaned, reaching for my husband's back. I can see him. I can see Jian clearly as he fought his final siege against the Sui army.

He was inside the courtyard, blood rained everywhere. Lifeless body scattered, covering the ground. It was a slaughter of people. I've never seen so many dead people in one place. Not like this, not the gruesome way like this.   

"Jian..." I called out to him again. 

He lifted his head, searching for my voice. "He Lian?"

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