"Pyeha." A messenger approached as the King was practicing as the shooting range.
"What news do you bring?" Jin Heung inquired, narrowing his eyes as he examined where the previous arrow had landed. Huffing softly, the King nocked another pinching the string as he drew back.
"It's about the war with South Buyeo." The messenger announced. Jin Heung sucked in a breath, prematurely releasing the arrow and grazing his cheek.
"What about it?" The ruler asked, retrieving another arrow.
"We won, pyeha. It's a miracle!" The messenger announced. Jin Heung swallowed thickly as he released another arrow. "The people now have a new song for the two of you." He went on excitedly. "Glory to Jin Heung, glory to our King, and his heaven sent General Sun Woo."
"Paeksang wie Wang. Wang wie Shin." Jin Heung chuckled, fists tightly clenching. "And so, I made him a god." Jin Heung turned to the messenger. "Tell the guards to prepare. No. Call the Hwarang to the palace. Sun Woo is not a heavenly warrior. He is, a traitor. Whomever objects shall share his fate." Nobody stands above the King. Not when it took him so long to get that high.
"But..." The messenger fell silent upon seeing the vicious glare.
"Send orders! From now on, Sun Woo and his men are traitors!" The messenger lowered their head, bowing respectfully.
"Pyeha..." Pa Oh whispered, offering his ruler a silk tissue to wipe away the blood on his cheek. The King glanced down the ornated, expensive piece of tissue, his vision blurring due to the tears. "You can still change your mind." The soldier whispered gently.
"Anyo." Jin Heung replied. "I will do, what must be done."
"Very well." The soldier simply replied. "Let us go. You must change before Sun Woo appears." The King nodded, letting the older man lead him back to the castle.
Exhausted, the newly appointed general still sported a gentle smile upon seeing the people. Waving back at those who came to greet him back as he entered the capital. While the crowd seemed so cheerful, the male felt unbelievably cold and shallow. He'd seen enough loss for a lifetime, and was ready to hand back the blade offered. Ready to surrender and trust his friend would go beyond anywhere he ever would. Sun Woo might have leadership qualities, but he was too good of a man to be a good general. He simply felt like some sacrifices weren't his to make. Asking others to put their lives on the line for little more than a cause he wasn't certain to fully believe in? That would ultimately break his heart. He'd much rather pick his fights or fight under the orders of someone he believed in, as a Hwarang. Before the male could realize it, the palace came to sight. Smiling brightly at the mere thought of seeing his friend again, the male was eager to face his King, eager to report that he didn't die just to return. Sun Woo had wanted to return to say it in ways he couldn't write it, tell Jin Heung, Sam Maek Jong, Ji Dwi, whatever his name, tell his friend that he surrounded their future to him and trusted him fully with it. He was done, carrying the sword of a King.
"Traitor Sun Woo!" The male heard upon approaching the doors.
"It is general Kim Sun Woo!" One of the soldier yelled. "Show him respect or I'll—" Sun Woo gestured for the soldier to stop upon seeing who it was.
"Ban Ryu..." Sun Woo whispered.
The Hwarang brought a trembling hand to his blade. "Please, hyung, remove your armor and enter alone. If you..." He swallowed. "If you don't, they will shoot all of you." He announced, gesturing at the archers that stood atop of the palace's rampart.
Sun Woo got off of his horse, clutching his ruler's blade still as he entirely took off his armor. "It's okay, no blood shall be spilled today. It's a misunderstanding." He said calmly.
"I wish it was, hyung." Ban Ryu replied, gesturing for the doors to be open.
"I'll explain it all and it will be fine. I do not resent you." Sun Woo reiterated, offering a gentle smile to his brother in arms. The other Hwarang nodded, hoping his friend was right.
"Kneel before your King." A voice yelled. Sun Woo chuckled, ignoring it. He focused his gaze on Jin Heung, climbing a couple of steps towards him. But he was stopped by some Hwarang.
"We said kneel!" The voice yelled again.
"Really?" Sun Woo asked, looking only at the ruler.
Jin Heung looked away. "Make him." He yelled, himself.
A Hwarang moved forward, seemingly hesitant for a second before he slashed at the newly appointed general's leg to force him to kneel. "Pardon me, hyung." Kim Ki Bo whispered.
"It's fine." Sun Woo replied through gritted teeth. "I came to say this again: I would rather be your friend than being King!" He yelled to Jin Heung.
The ruler rose from his seat. "IT WAS NEVER A CHOICE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE!" He yelled, angrily marching towards Sun Woo. Then stopping halfway. Time to test loyalties. "Kill him." He told Kim Soo Ho. The Hwarang's eyes widened. "Did you not hear? Raise your blade and kill him. It's your King's order."
"But I am a Hwarang, I must think for myself." The male argued. "Hyung," He daringly called the King that once shared his bedroom. "do not do something you will regret. Do not kill one of your most devoted and skilled soldier, Pyaeha."
"So you're on his side? Disobeying your King's direct order?" Jin Heung asked, tears blurring his vision. His gaze turned to Sun Woo. "Do you not have something to say? Tell them! Tell them you're not a god!"
"Why?" Sun Woo asked. "They know I am not. I bled enough beside them. But you think they believe I am. And I cannot change your mind, can I?" He inquired, a matching glaze in his own gaze.
"You can't." The King agreed. "Kim Soo Ho, obey your king and kill that man, kill that traitor."
The Hwarang shot a panicked looked to his kneeling friend but move forward still, unsheathing his blade. "It's okay." Sun Woo said, lowering his head to expose his neck. "It's okay that my life, who isn't yours to take, will end by your hands, my friend. It's okay that the King is once again a coward, too scared to do what must be done himself." He spoke loud enough to be heard by all.
"Wait." Jin Heung said, progressing towards the two. "I know you are provoking me not for your sake but for his." He chuckled. "However, you are right. It is time I, slay my own monsters. Rise." Sun Woo did as instructed, struggling on his feet. He clutched his King's blade tightly still.
"I surrender it to you." The general said, handing the King back his blade. "Build your future for this country."
"I don't need your blessings to do so." Jin Heung replied, taking ahold of the sword. He unsheated it and sighed. "Why couldn't you die away from my eyes."
"Because I refuse to hide from you, when we know each other's hearts best." Sun Woo replied, closing his eyes as he braced himself.
The King brought a hand to the General's cheek. "Let me see those eyes. One final time."
Sun Woo obeyed, reopening his eyes and realizing just how close he was from the ruler. He offered a tentative smile. "It's okay. I would have hated to die at the hands of anyone else."
"How can it be okay? I made you a traitor..." The King argued, tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Because I might be the one who dies, but you will be the one who remains heartbroken. I will not punish you further than what you are already doing to yourself." He replied.
"You were always so merciful. So good. With everyone." The King's traits hardened at the words. "Shin Sun Woo, I shall turn you back into a mortal today. May the heavens be deserving of you." He spoke, before taking a long step back.
The King let the tip of his blade graze the male's neck, considering decapitation before he realized that he wouldn't be able to bear the sight. Instead, the sword trailed down to the male's chest and Ji Heung burried it to the hilt in a prompt move. Holding the man close to him one last time. Tears started to freely roll down the King's cheek as he held the other male, feeling the tremors that moved his friend's body. "It's okay." Sun Woo choked out, coughing up blood against the royal garment as the King held him close. "We will meet again. I, I know it. Sa, sa, sarang, saranghaeyo, Wa,Wang. Jin. Hu,Heu,Heung." The King's eyes widened upon hearing the admission. His fingers dug into the fabric of the other male's shirt as he held him closer, a litany of 'no's pouring out of his mouth.
Pa Oh slowly marched to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. A reminder that people were watching more than a sign of affection. Slowly, Wang Ji Heung let go of the body, before standing again. He met the gaze of General Isabu.
The man slowly climbed up the few steps that still separated him from the King, a small smile on his features. "Baeksang wie Wang. Wang wie Shin." He quoted. "King above the people. God above the King." He chuckled. "A King who only spills blood when he must but is aware that spilling blood, often the most precious to him, is necessary." The General heaved a soft sigh of satisfaction. "I have chosen. My blade is yours, Pyeha." He spoke, before kneeling in front of the ruler.