Yuki felt her body being carried away from the festival. She could see trees taller than most houses.
She realized she had not been through this place before, which was unusual since as a child she had traveled throughout their small town.
Thick vegetation and the howling of the wolves. There was no hope except for the moon shining above her.
Several shadows were moving beside them. Shadows faster than the speed of light.
"What do you plan to do to me?" There was no answer from the man wearing a festival mask with a painted face smiling at her.
"Who are you?" she asked in an even tone, not betraying her emotions.
"It would be disrespectful to not answer the lady." Jiro was standing, blocking their path.
The man stopped and so did the shadows following them.
She felt herself touching the ground. Two shadows were behind her, holding her, stopping any attempt to flee.
Jiro looked at her, concern written all over his face. His domineering voice was heard loud and clear.
He unsheathed his sword and motioned with his other hand for his opponent to come forward.
The man launched at him, conjuring from the thin air a sword made from the finest steel.
Who is this person conjuring a sword out of thin air? Yuki wondered, fear filling up her heart.
She has never seen anyone exhibit such sorcery.
Her eyes looked at Jiro, his raven hair tied in a ponytail, his handsome face looked dangerous underneath the starless sky.
Jiro's sharp features stood out in the middle of the night. His eyes the color of molten gold searched her face with worry.
He was fighting a deadly opponent and yet all he was worried about was her.
He smiled at her to reassure her, a habit he had formed throughout the years.
'Jiro!' She felt an indescribable amount of pain at the thought that his very life is in danger.
Her childhood friend, the man she loved for so long, fighting for her with his life on the line.
Jiro's opponent attacked first. His motions were fast and unexpected.
Yuki has never seen anybody else match Jiro's speed except for Kaede, but this man easily dodged Jiro's sword and matched every strike.
Yuki prayed for Jiro's safety as she noticed Jiro was being forced to use both his hands. The masked opponent was simply too strong for him.
And then, a strike from the masked man sliced into Jiro's flesh. The skin of the prince's right forearm was cut by the conjured sword.
As she shouted out his name, his head turned to look at her, giving her one of his smiles to tell her everything was going to be okay.
At that instant, the opponent's sword struck Jiro's abdomen. The blood gushed from his kimono. The blue cloth was stained with his blood.
Yuki struggled with her captors who held her at bay as she witnessed the bloom of red spreading, taunting her for her lack of strength.
"Jiro," Yuki almost fainted when she saw the blood gushing out from Jiro's wound. She had never seen Jiro beaten up like this.
He had always been the perfect swordsman, always on the winning side in any battle. It pained her greatly to see him like this, suffering in someone's hand.
Jiro, having heard her speak his name, countered the attack and sliced up the masked man.
The masked man fell instantaneously, the shadows behind her and surrounding the area
Yuki ran towards Jiro, holding him up as his knees buckled under him.
Jiro's head was gently placed in her lap and his golden eyes met with hers.
"Are you okay, Yuki?" he asked, concern still evident in his voice.
She nodded, unable to answer him. Satisfied that she was unharmed, he traced his fingers on her cheeks.
"I missed you so much," he said, his warm voice filling up her senses making her sob.
"Can you ever forgive me, Yuki?" Jiro asked, his eyes never leaving hers.
"There is nothing to forgive," Yuki's tears started to fall, like rain from her cheeks.
"Don't cry Yuki," Jiro wiped away her tears. "I want to tell you. If you allow me. I want to tell you a secret."
Yuki nodded, unable to open her lips for fear that she wouldn't stop sobbing if she did.
"I have always loved you. For so long, I have loved you. Even now, now that you hate me. I still do... I still love you,"
Jiro reached out for her face, bending her head for their lips to meet.
He kissed her, as gently as he possibly could, telling her his sincerity in that kiss.
Then he pulled back, his gold eyes shining brighter than the stars. "This is the best way to go," he said, teasing her even at that moment.
Yuki nearly smiled, having forgotten the situation they are in. "You are so beautiful, Yuki. Breathtakingly, achingly beautiful," his voice was strained as his hand fell to his side.
"Jiro, I'm sorry. Jiro!" Yuki cried out his name, praying for someone, anyone to hear her plea.
'Please, let there be someone...' Her shoulders shook uncontrollably, shouting at the top of her lungs the crown prince’s name.
When Jiro finally opened his eyes, he found himself inside a hut, with Yuki's head placed on top of his chest.
He smiled at the thought that the poor girl fell asleep watching over him. His wounds hurt, almost a gut-wrenching pain, but he could tolerate everything as long as she was beside him.
He had been bandaged using his kimono, and herbs and other medicinal plants were sticking out close to his skin.
He felt proud of her, of the strong woman that she has become. She will be an impressive healer one day, he thought, and his lovely wife.
Jiro smiled, the young prince's heart was overwhelmed with happiness. Right now, his bare chest was in contact with the warm cheeks of his beloved.
It had been so long since the last time he had been permitted to even hold her hand. The distance almost killed him.
He had been forced to watch on the sidelines as the atrocious general's son lingered by her side.
But he would forgive her, for they had, after all, a misunderstanding.
He would focus on the fact that Yuki has returned to his side where she rightfully belongs.
If it took risking his life again, then it would still be worth it.
Jiro caressed the girl's hair as he turned and took note of his surroundings.
They were inside a small hut, just enough to contain their bodies. This place was the kind of shelter the farmers stay at during the harvest season.
But the harvest season had just ended and winter was already here.
Jiro looked out the window beside him. The first snow was starting to fall, cooling the place and covering the window sill with white frost.
The crown prince's eyes focused on the woman sleeping soundly. He felt all his worries disappear when Yuki's eyes fluttered open.
"Nice to see you, Yuki." He smiled at her as he placed his arms around her waist.
Yuki tried to struggle from the prince's embrace, "How long have you been awake? I must inspect your wound."
"Don't worry, I'll be fine now. For as long as you are with me," the prince kissed Yuki's hair and pulled her closer.
"Let's stay like this for a while," Jiro whispered as his arms tightened around her waist.
"Don't you want to know what happened after your fight? How I brought you here, and where we are exactly?" Yuki asked since the prince didn't seem to care.
"It doesn't matter. I'll stay in the abyss, if it means I can be with you," the prince smiled, his eyes telling her the emotions he could barely contain.
"What are you saying, your highness?" Yuki asked, her voice almost inaudible.
"Let's get married, Yuki. Be my wife, and stay with me for all eternity," Jiro's warm baritone voice reverberated in the small abode. He was confident that Yuki will agree to his proposition.
"I can't be your wife, Jiro. You are the crown prince,"
Jiro felt a stabbing pain in his heart when he heard her say that. 'No, she can't reject me, she just needs to be reassured.'
"I don't care about that anymore, Yuki," the prince confessed, a feeling of happiness permeating through his body now that he had his treasured lady close to him.
He comforted himself with the fact that soon, he would have her destiny intertwined with his forever, he would make sure of that.