Yona rubbed her arm nervously as she watched the horizon. This was the sunset of the third day Hak had been missing and she was beginning to fear the worst. After the battle alongside the pirates they had all needed rest but during that time Hak had said he needed to clear his head on some things so he was going out for a bit.
He never returned.
Yona nearly jumped out of her skin when someone rested their hand on her shoulder. “He’ll be back.” It was Yun. “I’m sure of it, he cares too much about you to just up and abandon you.”
“Yeah…” Yona sighed weakly, while what Yun said made sense she still couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened.
That her Hak wasn’t coming back.
She pushed her hair out of her face more by habit than it actually being in her way, she couldn’t hide her worry for her missing friend and all three dragons had noticed, they stuck closer to her than normal because of this.
“What if….” Her voice cracked, not wanting to voice the thought, not wanting to admit that it might be true. “He… never comes back? If he did abandon us. Or something happened and he’s hurt or….” Her voice failed completely as tears welled. or dead. She couldn’t bear the thought but it had been pulling at the edges of her mind, trying to drive her mad.
“Hak is strong, I’m sure he’s fine. Besides. He is too annoying to just roll over and die.” Kija offered.
Shin-ah patted her shoulder to get her attention and then motioned towards the fire.
“You're right… It’s getting cold.” She mumbled numbly and followed, the others walking with her. She hadn’t felt this way since she had first left the castle, this numbness that made it hard to think, hard to function, impossible to feel. She couldn’t seem to shake the unpleasant thoughts and visions of Hak dying or abandoning them from her head and it made her heart ache.
Why though? Why did it pain her this badly? While she was terrified of losing anyone else she cared about this seemed different somehow, like the wound ran deeper and was just waiting for confirmation to rip wide open.
She didn’t remember sitting down or being handed a bowl of stew but soon found Ao poking her face and then pointing down to her bowl, all eyes at the camp worriedly set on her.
She offered them a weak smile and gave Ao a half hearted pat before starting to eat, she couldn’t really taste it, her mind quickly wandering back to it’s darker state.
What if he was dead and they never found him? What if he was fine but taking his time to come back? They couldn’t stay here too long, it wasn’t safe to stay in one place like this, besides, they had one more dragon to find. He knew this and yet he was still gone. That alone should bring warning to her shouldn’t it?
Yona let out a long, troubled sigh, glancing down at her mostly empty bowl and then back up at the now low embers of the campfire, everyone but Shin-ah and herself was asleep. The blue dragon was standing watch, something seemed to have his attention and that caused a note of hope to stir within the depressed princess. She stood and walked over to him quietly so as not to disturb the others. “What do you see?”
He jumped slightly before glancing down at her, seemingly already knowing what she was hoping for and pained to tell her it was otherwise. “Just young animals at play…”
“Oh.” Yona’s shoulders slumped so hard for a moment it seemed her arms would simply fall out of their sockets. She quietly slipped back into camp, to her blanket and laid down, watching the stars as the others slept. Sleep would not come to her though, her mind refusing to rest. At some point she realized even Shin-ah had gone to sleep.
Just as she was slipping into her misery again she heard the sound of footsteps and focused on them, listening close and not daring to move. Hope swelled, filling her chest in an almost painful manner. Sitting up and looking in the direction of the sound she spotted a figure in the shadows, the same height as Hak and carrying a weapon like his but it was too dark to see clearly, still, her hope rose higher as she began to believe it was him.
A few more steps.
She shifted around to see him better.
It was Hak.
Yona nearly fainted from the sudden wave of relief but that was quickly filled with anger as she hopped to her feet and stomped over to him. “Where have you been?” Her tone was quiet so as not to wake the others but also harsh and stern, irritated.
“I got lost.” He stated matter-of-factly.
Yona stared back at her bodyguard in disbelief.
“Just don’t tell the white snake.” Hak added, crossing his arms and looking away.
“I feared the worst!” her anger reappeared in a flash and she forgot to keep her voice in check, waking the camp.
“Sorry…” He grumbled, glancing back at her.
She caught his eyes for a moment and was suddenly chilled, chilled to her core, her blood feeling like ice as a creepy feeling ran down her spine. Something was wrong.
Something about Hak was wrong.
She couldn’t put her finger on it but she also couldn’t push it aside, it felt dangerous but at the same time she told herself Hak would never hurt her.
“Stop staring at me, it’s annoying.” Hak snapped, glaring at her.
She flinched and nodded, looking away.
“WHAT WAS THAT? HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HER THAT WAY!” Kija roared, suddenly in Hak’s face.
“Why don’t you mind your own business, White Snake?” Hak snarled back.
“Lets not fight in the middle of the night in enemy territory, okay?” Yun spoke up, quelling the building argument.
With that everyone settled back down to sleep again. Yona however still had trouble sleeping, something about Hak bothered her greatly but she couldn’t place it.
Morning came and they were finally off in search of the last dragon. Yona found herself quiet and walking farther away from Hak than normal. Whatever it was that seemed off about him felt more obvious in the daylight though no one else seemed to notice. More than anything it was his eyes, she couldn’t tell if it was the look in them or if something else was wrong. Whatever it was, she was starting to find herself a little afraid of him.
He wasn’t right.
He wasn’t her Hak.
The next time they stopped to camp Jae-ha waited until Hak was out of earshot ask Yona if he seemed off to her.
“He does…. I’m not sure why but, he’s just not the same.”
“It seems odd, he’s gone for days and when he returns he is not the same person.” The dragon rubbed his chin as he spoke.
“What could have happened to him?”
“I’m not sure but we should all watch our backs.” Jae-ha noticed Hak returning so he moved off to bug Yun.
Hak walked over and sat near her but didn’t speak as he adjusted the covering on his weapon.
“I DON’T ENJOY DRESSING LIKE A GIRL!” Yun roared at Jae-ha a few moments later.
Yona chuckled and shook her head, at least some things were normal. It was a comfort to have them around, had she been alone when this happened to Hak… She shook her head, not wanting to think about it.
“You are shaking your head a lot, are you trying to shake out your brains?” Hak asked her, something about his tone just wasn’t right and she couldn’t quite meet his eyes when she glared at him.
Just being near him was chilling and she hated it. Hak had been her childhood friend, they’d known each other for years and she had always been comfortable around him. Now though it was like being with a stranger who knew far too much while you knew so little. She wished that feeling would go away, that whatever had changed would go away. She wanted her Hak back! She’d lost so much already…
Night fell and everyone settled down, it wasn’t long before most everyone had dozed off and Yona was up to practice her archery, shooting two hundred arrows at a tree. This time by herself often gave her far too much time to think, so many things could run through one's mind while shooting a motionless target. Part of her knew she should be glad he was back and part of her was still disturbed by Hak’s actions and general aura, something seemed just… Wrong.
“You are missing more than usual.”
Yona jumped, sending her next arrow deep into the woods. She had not expected him to be watching her.
“Do you need help?” He asked, coming up behind her and gently running his hands down her arms to grip the bow around her hands. She felt his chest press against her back, the heat of his breath on her neck and it gave her chills and made her tense.
“Hak, please.” She didn’t like how weak her voice came out, she was afraid and didn’t want to show it but it seemed it would show anyway.
“Please what?” He purred, his tone making him sound like a hungry wolf.
“Stop!” She squeaked.
“If I don’t want to?” She didn’t like his tone, he was really scaring her now.
“Hak, please, just stop.” Her heart was racing.
“No.” He pulled her around roughly, causing her to drop her bow. “You have no idea how long I’ve longed for your touch.”
Her eyes went wide and she struggled in his grip, trying to escape. She was terrified now, this wasn’t Hak, this couldn’t be him. She tried to call out, to scream but her throat constricted in her panic. He tripped her as she pulled away, causing her to fall and knocking the wind out of her. Tears welled in her eyes as he sat on her, too heavy for her to wiggle away and he released one of her hands so he could grab her shirt.
She felt his fingers slip through the folds of the fabric and brush against her bare skin. He began pulling at the fabric, fulling absorbed in what he was doing. Tears rolled down her face as she struggled against him, trying to push his hand away with her free one but she wasn’t strong enough.
“Hak!” Yona cried, wanting him to stop and unsure as to why he was doing this to her, that is when she noticed a shadow behind him and the glimmer of a swinging blade.
In the blink of an eye the Hak who had been assaulting her was rolling away while a much more ragged looking, shirtless Hak was reaching out his hand to help her up. There was a scar across his chest from when the Fire tribe soldiers had tried to kill him. Their eyes met and Yona realized that this was indeed the real Hak, her Hak. She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet and into a tight embrace while the imposter stumbled to his feet.
“Hak? What is going on?” Yona asked, clinging to her real friend.
“Yona, stay behind me. That is a shapeshifter.” Hak explained, pushing her behind him as the thing regained it’s bearings and rushed them.
The shape shifter screeched like an animal, it’s eyes glowing silver in the light. It leapt at them, claws bared.
Hak swung and again sent it rolling, it’s body glowed as it did and Hak chased it down, ready to strike it again. It rolled to its feet and he froze.
It looked like Yona now.
“Please! Don’t hurt me!” The fake Yona flinched and sounded quite convincing.
Hak hesitated and it grinned.
“You can’t hurt me now.”
Yona snuck across the clearing as it spoke, picking up her lost bow.
“You have to protect me Hak.” The shifter whined.
“You… You’re not the real Yona!” Still Hak trembled, unable to strike at the thing that looked so much like his beloved Yona.
The real Princess carefully aimed her shot, this thing wasn’t human, she thought of what it had tried to do to her and shot. The arrow tore through the air, whizzing past the hesitant Hak and slamming into the distracted shape sifter. The tip buried itself deeply and the shifter hissed in pain, it’s eyes starting to glow once more.
There came rustling behind Yona and she glanced back to see her dragons and Yun all searing in confusion.
“It wasn’t Hak! Now it looks like me!” Yona cried, drawing another arrow as the shifter turned and darted past Hak, to strike her down.
Jae-ha’s throwing knives struck the thing before it could reach Yona and her arrow quickly followed. Before it could recover Hak’s blade slammed down hard in the middle of it, followed by Shin-ah’s sword.
The Shifter hissed and struggled as black smoke poured from it’s wounds. It grew weaker and soon lay motionless.
Yona dropped her bow to hug Hak again. “Where were you?”
“I was lost.”