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like blood isn't on our hands

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She has known him for a long time.

He fought under the red moon, slavishly glad to serve a general. She, Hwa Soo In, has never had much use for masters, though she knows where all her brothers and sisters run and sleep.

It is the unity of power.

(She has always had power.)


He was a boy, then. Now, she knows him to be a man. She has admired the way he grew into his broad shoulders for years. She is not without imagined uses for his still-graceful hands.


She has never liked him better than in the first chill of his binding grief. He was broken and lawless, before the Wu Dal Chi, after his lover dangled dead by her own hand. 

A fighting man.

With fire in her blood and hands, with fire in whatever throbs in her chest, Hwa Soo In wants him.


She has him (for a time, for a moment).


It happens like this: he roams in search of purpose above revenge, and she trails him. Her brother has grown too quiet in Gi Cheol's shadow, has begun to hide behind his pale hair. She wants fresh blood.

(Let it be Choi Young's.)


They are both ensnared—that is to say, he is waylaid, and she leaps in with bared teeth—by a band of warrish monks who hate all unnatural things. They chant guttural curses, but the lightning singing along the lines of Choi Young's bones will not be vanquished.

He cuts an efficient path through his attackers. Only when she is about to scorch the rest to black ash does he acknowledge her, does he touch her.

His fingers, gripping her wrist, burn. She is unused to receiving the feeling.

"Did your dead warriors teach you mercy?" she sneers, because she will always hurt what she finds beautiful. Always. 

The light behind his eyes is a blank and empty light. She supposed that other men and women, unlike her, would call it grief.

"No," he tells her. "They taught me to save my strength. You should do the same."

He leaves the gasping survivors behind.

She follows him.

When night falls, she smiles at him, a red smile, crescent like a blood moon. "I can think of better uses for our strength," she murmurs.


His hands are on her face and her nails tear at his hair. His mouth is hungry, even if his eyes are lost. She lets her power simmer beneath her skin, and saves the true heat for her lips.

They are in a grove of trees, cool silent pillars that she could bring down in a sudden mass of floating, star-like embers if she wanted to. Her shoulders press against smooth bark. His arm is against her waist. She drags her hand down his collar.

The world stops.

(He stops.)


He leaves her there, and she laughs at herself, because she cares for nothing. This is always a game.



(Later, she will hear him say that he loves the wide-eyed wench from heaven, and the world will stop.)