After following Yul Jae inside, Eun Ha grabbed the hem of his robe with an anxious expression.
“Sir, just so you know, the bruise on my face is my own fault. I slapped my cheek too hard while trying to calm myself…”
“I cannot lie to my Lord.”
“If you must say anything, tell him I hit myself… Please do this for me.”
Eun Ha held Yul Jae’s robe in her tight grasp. Yul Jae looked quietly down at Eun Ha, who barely reached the tip of his chin, and sighed briefly before opening the door to the inner room.
Seo Ji Hak was sitting by a window overlooking the yard and the garden when he turned his head in the direction of the sound.
“Ah, it’s Eun Ha.”
Although Ji Hak hadn’t asked, Eun Ha approached him with her head bowed. Surely, if her steps had faltered, he would have noticed immediately and called for her. While the man was blind, he had clearly developed his other senses…
Eun Ha stopped only after the hem of Ji Hak’s robe entered her vision.
As Eun Ha fell to her knees, he gently put down his tobacco pipe and lowered his gaze.
“That’s right… As expected, you are a quick learner. This is your place now… Be sure to remember this.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Eun Ha raised her eyes just as the clouds parted and a bright light poured into the room. For a moment, a portion of Ji Hak’s face was bathed in a golden light. His eyes and even his lashes seem to sparkle due to the sun.
As Eun Ha lowered her gaze again, her eyes moved along his jawline, which was smooth without any imperfections.
She didn’t know whether to thank him for saving her yesterday or to feign ignorance.
As the snow-filled clouds obscured the sun again, a chill quickly circulated in the room. Concerned about the cold draft coming in, Yul Jae approached and closed the window.
“Yul Jae, have you checked the girl’s face? Is it still the same or has she been injured?”
Yul Jae stood behind Ji Hak and looked down at Eun Ha with furrowed brows. Eun Ha looked up at Yul Jae with her hands clasped together and quickly shook her head.
‘Sir, please,’ she mouthed wordlessly to prevent Ji Hak from noticing.
After reading the words on her lips, Yul Jae knelt before Ji Hak with a troubled look on his face.
From the moment she foolishly tried to deceive him, Seo Ji Hak did not take his eyes off her.
“There is a bruise on her cheek, but she says she did it to herself.”
“She did it to herself?”
“Yes, in order to calm herself down.”
The warrior’s tone was dry, making it difficult to grasp the true meaning of his words. While he didn’t lie about the bruise, he didn’t explain or say anything further.
Eun Ha closed her mouth after hearing Yul Jae’s blunt words.
“No. Since you agreed to be mine, you can’t hurt your face like this. I warned you that the flowers would not bloom if there was even one scratch on your face.”
Ji Hak’s smooth hand touched her cheek in the exact spot she had been hit by the owner of the courtesan house. Eun Ha stiffened and looked up at him, startled by the unusually cool body temperature.
“I am fine. It’s not…”
Eun Ha had to stop herself from staring at Ji Hak’s lips, which had curled up arrogantly, as she explained herself.
“It was terrifying. That night, for unknown reasons, two people died. I was panicking, so, to calm down…”
“You hit yourself?”
“Yes…! I thought it would help me come to my senses and avoid making any mistakes….”
Ji Hak laughed in response and decided it was better to not give Eun Ha any more trouble. If he pushes her further and she refuses to work, he will cut her throat immediately.
But… To do so would be such a waste.
He gently caressed her cheek and then withdrew his hand.
“All right. I’ll let it go this time, but not a second. If you understand, get up and grab that book.”
Eun Ha stepped back like a beast avoiding a trap and picked up the book on the floor. It was the same book she had read last time. It was full of scary words and sentences.
In the meantime, Ji Hak picked up the tobacco pipe that had been set aside for a while and spoke to Yul Jae, who was still kneeling before him.
“Send Eun Ha back and prepare to receive guests. When you’re done, bring her back in.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Meanwhile, Eun Ha was standing in a daze. When Yul Jae nodded at her, she quickly stepped back, opened the door, and went outside.
Eun Ha fled from the room at a pace close to running, her footsteps gradually fading away. Ji Hak then burst into laughter as if he found the situation quite enjoyable. After being by his side for over 10 years, it was the first time Yul Jae had seen Ji Hak with a broad smile and pleased expression.
During his time as the Crown Prince, due to the customs, he couldn’t truly laugh. But there was nothing to laugh about because he was disillusioned by everything.
“She joined the hunt for a tiger.”
“Yes. That girl’s gun and self-defense skills aren’t normal. She also has a good reputation in town. Although, they avoided me out of suspicion.”
“Hmm… We have found ourselves very good bait. If she is well-known and has a good reputation, it will be easier to spread rumors.”
Ji Hak had stopped smiling, shaking his head as he glanced out the same window Yul Jae had closed earlier.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been on a Tawi….”
Yul Jae’s tone was sharp.
Ji Hak smiled slightly, touching the sword on his right as if he was gently caressing a woman’s body.
“Today a trap will be set. When the sun goes down, bring the girl in here and let them hear her voice. I’m looking forward to seeing how fast the news of my blindness reaches the ears of deceitful people.”
Eun Ha placed a mark in the middle of the book she had been reading and frowned.
After concentrating for hours, her eyes were sore, and her head was throbbing.
‘Why does he want me to read such a terrible book?’
Sighing deeply, Eun Ha closed the book before she had finished looking through half of the book. After lying on her bed, she stared blankly at the ceiling.
Even in this situation, she still felt hungry and tired.
The room was located quite close to the Lord’s bedroom. So close that she would be able to hear if he called out her name. A small but cozy room. Unlike the room she shared with her sister in the courtesan house, this room seemed to belong to a scholar rather than a woman.
On one wall, there was a bookshelf filled with amazing books, and there wasn’t a single Gyeongdae, which was common in a courtesan’s room. There was a thick boryo perfect for lying down, a personal writing desk, and a folding screen with a painting of the sagunja on it.
But strangely, she felt this place suited her more than her sister’s room. It seemed to resemble the room of Young Master Shi Hoon, which she had peeped into by chance.
‘Now that I think about it, you must be very worried after hearing the news…’
Young Master Shi Hoon loved and cherished her like his own younger brother. Once he heard she had disappeared without a word, he would go and search the entire village. Shi Hoon was definitely the type of person to do something like that.
He’s such a sweet person, that’s probably why Young, her older sister, loves him with all her heart.
If the two people got married, only happy days would follow. The young master also seemed to be fond of her older sister. He must have visited the courtesan house under the pretext of seeing his mother, the owner of the courtesan house.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t have always escorted her to the entrance of the house. Eun Ha clenched her fists, recalling the last expression she had seen on Young’s face.
‘But… The Lord…who is he? What kind of high-ranking person couldn’t be influenced by Shim Dok?’
In addition, Shim Dok did not report him to the government officials despite the guards’ deaths. Instead, she quietly buried the case, pretending as if nothing had happened, and even forced her subordinates to do the same.
With her mind burdened with heavy thoughts, Eun Ha got up and stepped outside with her book in hand. Since she hadn’t seen the interior yet, she decided to look around until the Lord called for her.
It was fascinating to see the view of the house with its back against a dense forest of pine and oak trees. She passed through the kitchen, where a delicious scent lingered, and looked around the jangdokdae, which was lined with hundreds of jars. As she walked around aimlessly, she came across what appeared to be the main house.
She snuck a look at the pavilion facing the forest, where a flock of servants could be seen serving the important guests.
It was a marvelous place that didn’t lack anything. You could possibly lose your way if you didn’t pay close attention.
When Eun Ha returned to the men’s quarters, a frightened Mr. Kim was waiting for her.
“Why did you leave without saying a word!”
Mr. Kim suddenly shouted and looked around in fear. He pushed Eun Ha inside of the men’s quarters and lowered his voice.
“The Lord is looking for you. Go quickly.”
“In that short period of time?”
“That’s why I told you to wait in your room!”
“I’m sorry. I was feeling uneasy, so I decided to take a look around the house…”
“Hey, I told you to not walk around recklessly.”
Eun Ha took off her shoes and dashed across the wooden floor. Then, in no time at all, she stood in front of Ji Hak’s door.
“It’s Eun Ha, my lord.”
But no words of permission were heard. She didn’t even smell the smoke from before. She stared at the door in confusion and wondered if she should try to open it.
“Who are you? Why are you standing in front of the Lord’s door like a thief?”
Eun Ha turned to the woman’s voice and smiled awkwardly when she found a female servant holding a vase.
“I’m sorry. I’m a reader and I was summoned by my Lord, but I don’t know where…”
The female servant glared at Eun Ha, then pushed her aside, and opened the door.
“He is in the bath. But are you really a reader? You look like a girl….”
“Yes. So, if you want, I can come back after he’s done in the bath…”
Eun Ha asked the servant girl as she entered the room. The maid skillfully arranged the cushions, set up the table, and sat on the left side before shaking her head.
“He will be here soon. I need to take care of my Lord’s meals, so keep your distance and don’t talk to me.”
Tawi – a 1–2-day hunt conducted by mobilizing soldiers and organized by the Crown Prince.
Gyeongdae – A case with a mirror attached inside of the lid. Usually has one to three drawers where cosmetics can be stored after doing one’s makeup.
Boryo – a traditional Korean mattress that is thick, stuffed with cotton or fur, and then covered with a fine cloth.
Sagunja – Chinese art known as the ‘Four Gentlemen’ or ‘Four Noble Ones’ which refers to the four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the chrysanthemum, and the bamboo.
Jangdokdae – an outside space, most frequently a terrace, used to store or ferment food.
Thank you for reading!