"Rein-- I can't run... anymore..." Jae breathed through his mouth.
Rein knew. She was the only one pushing forward through the twigs and dried leaves, he was pulling her backwards. She could feel it through their linked hands as they ran.
Jae stumbled, and gasped as he fell to his knees. Rein stuttered to a halt beside him, sucking desperate gulps of air into her burning lungs. Leaning forward over her knees, she offered him a hand. She knew they couldn't afford to stop now. The guards were surely right on their heels. Rein shuffled on the spot while Jae leaned on a tree, shoulders heaving up and down from the exertion.
"Why not... you just run, Rein? I... can stay here," Jae glanced over at her.
"Are you nuts?! I'm not gonna abandon you, Jae!!" Rein hissed in hushed tones. "In any case, I think we should start running now... or at least walking," she grabbed his hand and pulled him on through the dark forest. It was so dark, she couldn't even see a few inches in front of her. Drat those soldiers for coming in the night to terrorize the village! Couldn't they have come in the morning instead? At least it would make escaping easier.
"Hey, I think I found them! Guys!" a shout sounded not far off.
Rein's legs started pumping immediately. Run! That was all she could think now. Run and don't get caught!
Unfortunately, Jae couldn't anymore. His legs buckled yet again and he crashed to the ground, dried leaves fluttering everywhere. Great... The guards, even if they were blind and deaf, would never be able to miss that.
Fine then, she would fight. Rein grabbed a sturdy-looking branch and crouched low to the ground.
"What are you doing Rein?! Run, just leave," it was Jae's turn to hiss at her now. He pushed at her legs roughly. Rein ignored him and concentrated on her surroundings.
There, at Jae's three o'clock. She swung her stick in that direction as hard as she could. By luck, the tree branch struck at her opponent's head and he collapsed with a muffled expression of pain. The leaves crinkled again.
All of a sudden, Rein's legs were swept out from beneath her. How..? She hadn't even sensed him. Strong hands grabbed her from behind, twisting her arms so that she could barely move. An arm went around her neck, choking her.
Everything turned red then. Her legs started lashing out of their own accord, her kicks connecting with her captor a few times although there was hardly any response from him. She bit the hand covering her mouth but she was only rewarded with a grunt and a rock-hard punch in the head.
Memories were flashing through the red haze she was seeing through, blindingly fast. Mom, shoving both Jae and her out the back door, signalling for them to run. Dad, speaking desperately to the soldiers, begging them not to take the children. It was all to give them time to make their escape and it was all in vain. She hadn't managed to rescue Jae, hadn't managed to fulfill her parents' wish that they escape. Rein had failed them. All of them.
Rein dimly felt the sensation of falling, her memories spiraling upwards away from her reach. The red tinge slowly turned to sheer darkness.
"Don't touch her!! Don't hit her!" Jae hollered desperately.
Rein's eyes were blank after enduring the blow to her head. Fourteen-year-old Jae pulled pointlessly towards her. The hands securing his arms were too strong for him to make a difference. Jae grunted with the effort he was exerting.
"There ain't no point pulling, kid. Don't worry, they ain't gonna harm your girlfriend if she's no longer kickin'," the guard told him. He began to lead him through the forest. There was nothing for Jae but to follow him. He started walking sullenly. Behind him, he could hear one of the soldiers saying, "Careful of this one, rookie. She's a fighter and she bites."
"You're not separating us," Jae tried to keep his voice from shaking but it cracked at the word separating.
"That depends on who buys you and who buys your girl," the guard said. Jae bit his lip at that. He thought of Rin and what she had said before, "Please, promise me, Jae. Keep my Rein safe. For me and Cor."
So far, it had been Rein keeping them alive, escaping from the soldiers and even fighting them. Jae clenched his jaw. In the future, he would try his best to protect the both of them.
He would live solely for her safety. He owed them that much at least.