To You Who WIll Kill Me – Chapter 1.4

The initial club activity was to group off into pairs and draw portraits of each other.

Noah insisted on being paired with Scarlett since he was worried that her condition might worsen.

“You should draw first.”

At Scarlett’s suggestion, Noah had no choice but to comply. He wanted to avoid showcasing his disastrous skills again, but he remained calm.

“If you start after me, you’ll be even more embarrassed, so just do as I say.”

“Okay, I will. Where should we go?”

“The B-8 building is often vacant. The light is on, so we can draw inside.”

“I see.”

They found an unoccupied classroom, pushed aside the desks, and unfolded their easels.

Scarlett pulled a chair in front of her easel and tidied herself, smoothing her long hair and clothes.

“I don’t understand why they’re asking a person who doesn’t even know the basics of drawing to complete this assignment, but it’ll be a good experience. Can you do at least this much?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s okay.”

“You can’t do this poorly, you have to pay attention to detail and draw well.”

“I’ll try.” Noah smiled faintly, his eyes twinkling as if he was speaking with a close friend.

At that moment, Scarlett realized the discomfort between her and Noah had decreased considerably.

And it was the same for Noah.

However, even though his guilt was deep, his friendship with Scarlett had also deepened, so he dismissed it, thinking she was unaware of her kindness. He picked up the pencil, realizing he should be more cautious in the future.

“Draw me beautifully.”

A golden light came through the closed window, illuminating the transparent dust floating in the air.

Scarlett’s gray eyes turned towards Noah. She studied him with a peculiar expression that was neither a frown nor a smile.

Scratch Scratch

The sound of the pencil on canvas filled the awkward silence between them. As classes commenced, the hallway also became quiet.

Noah suddenly noticed his hands shaking. In fact, he wasn’t nervous, but due to the subtle tension in the air, he could feel the pulse in his wrists.

Noah’s gaze alternated between Scarlett and the canvas.

He found it ridiculous to have to draw someone when he couldn’t even draw an apple.

‘How can I capture that rich hair in a drawing? No artist would be able to depict that cynical, yet fragile gaze.’

Scarlett watched him, her gaze was unfathomable.

Suddenly she brought it up again.

“Don’t hate me.”

Noah’s hand seemed to stop momentarily, but it began to move again.

“Don’t hate me. Even if you don’t like me, have pity on me,” Scarlett repeated.

‘Only then will you not kill me.’

Feeling depressed, Scarlett lowered her gaze.

Unaware of his own strength, Noah nearly crushed the pencil in his grasp.

Nevertheless, he resumed his task.

As he drew a meaningless line he replied, “I don’t hate you. I…”

‘I’m not sure who you are or what haunts you in your dreams.’

“You.”

Usually, she couldn’t speak too much without relying on lies in the end. But now was the perfect moment to appease Noah.

This was the perfect time. Her dislike for Noah had diminished. Plus, now she had a reason to give him a chance.

This could save her life down the road.

Scarlett had no choice but to acknowledge that Noah had come to her rescue, so she finally decided to accept it.

An angry Scott had messed up and hidden things from her, but Noah Ashford had risked his life to save Scarlett White.

That was the reality of the situation.

“I want to forgive you.”

She spewed out a lie mixed with a drop of diluted sincerity.

Noah’s eyes grew wider and his lips parted. Suddenly, Scarlett noticed how Noah’s gentle expression did not match his personality. In fact, Noah was only pleasant to Scarlett, but his mask was so thorough that he was not conscious of it.

“But I still hate you.”

“I understand.”

Scarlett’s heart began to race.

As long as her heart continued to beat, she would yearn for vengeance and Noah Ashford’s death. It was like a fate set from birth.

Therefore, revenge would always remain in her heart.

“Nonetheless, I want to forgive you.”

“Forgiveness…”

‘How dare Noah Ashford dream of receiving forgiveness.’

Noah was paralyzed by Scarlett’s stare. At the same time, he felt an odd sense of joy.

Scarlett stared at him. Noah returned her gaze with an empty look, not knowing what expression he should make.

Noah remained silent for a long time before eventually opening his mouth.

“……Only you can save me.”

“What does that mean?”

A subtle crack was heard in Scarlett’s voice.

It was difficult to face her, so Noah continued to speak calmly, paying attention to the tip of Scarlett’s pencil, rather than her stormy gray eyes.

“I’m the one who committed a crime against you. So, your sincerity determines where my soul will go. With your words, I may fall into hell, but with your eyes, my soul can enter an earthly paradise.”

He was trembling as he spoke. After some time, he took a deep breath and continued.

“I will not force you to be merciful. My point is… I’m sorry. I apologize if my existence has harmed you.”

Noah’s words were like the confession of a wounded soul that had been denied the freedom to exist. His tone was calm, but the words were strong and carried the impact of a storm.

Scarlett felt burdened. Her mouth had a bitter taste as if she was on the verge of vomiting.

‘How did it feel to have your existence denied? How painful would that life be?’

Scarlett had merely sought to blame Noah and had never attempted to understand him.

However, Noah’s flesh was suddenly exposed, all the way to his skin and bones. Scarlett had finally caught a glimpse of the real Noah Ashford.

His words and expression clearly showed his misery.

For the first time, Scarlett suffered heartbreak, and it was because of Noah.

Rather than sympathy or pretense, it was pure regret.

“……What am I supposed to say when you put it that way?” Scarlett’s face contorted painfully.

Meanwhile, Noah continued drawing as if nothing happened.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t. You have nothing to apologize for,” Noah replied, smiling faintly.

His smile was indistinguishable, torn between sorrow and laughter.

His drawing began with her eyes.

Noah carefully observed Scarlett’s eyes, eyebrows, nose, and lips.

While her eyebrows rose sharply, the eyes underneath emanated a fragile impression. Furthermore, they seemed to be clouded by a misty fog.

Her eyes were framed by long lashes. Her nose was straight and beautiful, which was a source of envy for many. In addition, her lips were plump with a pinkish tint.

However, her beautiful features didn’t entirely define her.

Apart from her upright posture, her presence was very noble. With her haughty attitude, her slightly arrogant gaze, and her fragile, but delicate aura, she easily turned the heads of many.

The striking contrast between her pure, fragile face and bright red hair made her unforgettable.

Objectively, Scarlett was an amazing beauty.

With a pale skin that glowed beneath the sun, she never looked dull.

Rather, she seemed completely free from everything.

No, that was his own perspective.

From her aura and scent to the atmosphere around her, Scarlett had transformed in Noah’s eyes.

After a period of hesitation, Scarlett made a confession.

“I don’t know how to forgive you.”

It was a truth that did not contain any lies.

If forgiveness was the only solution, then she was completely at a loss.

‘I don’t know where the road began or how I ended up walking along it either.’

At this point, Scarlett was aimlessly searching for the end of the road.

“There’s no need.”

Noah had given up on forgiveness.

After witnessing how much damage his mother had inflicted upon Scarlett, he had come to terms with the truth of his existence and was ready to accept the consequences.

Now, however, regret had formed on Scarlett’s face, and Noah didn’t know why.

‘Why do you look like that?’

“Don’t you want to be forgiven?”

“If you feel more comfortable hating me, then it won’t bother me.”

‘You can speak ill of me and hate me. I’m not shameless enough to ask much of a dying girl.’

He wanted forgiveness, but at the same time, he knew he shouldn’t because it would be too much.

‘Since I have thrown someone’s life into the mud, a part of my life should always stay in the mud.’

“Why? Why do you want to give up on seeking forgiveness?”

“No. This is something I can’t force. I have to leave it up to you because it’s your choice. I want you to have the freedom to choose without influence.”

Noah’s opinion was of little importance.

He would never escape Scarlett White’s clutches. Even if she forgave him and his mother, he would always live in Scarlett’s shadow.

Because the scars he had left on her were so apparent.

Scarlett took a deep breath, clearing her thoughts

“Freedom…”

She reflected on Noah’s words for some time. Her hands started shaking, perhaps because she was close to spewing something unpleasant.

Afterward, her shocking declaration rang in Noah’s ears.

“Then, with my forgiveness, I’ll allow you to be a humble beast on earth, despite my feelings of resentment. Depending on your own actions, you can go to hell or heaven. Congratulations, Noah Ashford. You’re free. You don’t have to follow me anymore.”

‘Ah…’

It wasn’t the end of the world, but at the same time, it would be the end of some of the suffering in his life.

Scarlett had finally broken his shackles.

Despite everything, Scarlett had suffered the most damage, but she buried those deep feelings of loathing, anger, and hatred she had for him.

After that, everything felt strange.

It was as if she and Noah had just met for the first time.

As if he had never existed in the world before.

Everything had changed.

His world had turned upside down. The air shifted around him and even dust particles were seen under a new light.

His senses were no longer dull and now the world around him seemed completely new.

The sunlight was dazzling, and the dust particles in the classroom floated about like flower petals in the wind.

And Scarlett was the reason for it all.

It all started with a whisper of false forgiveness.

The moment was bright, but woefully beautiful.

Noah memorized that precise moment because he wanted to lock the memory in his heart forever. He allowed himself to feel every sensation. The warmth of sun and the dryness of dust.

Scarlett’s complex expression looked pained, yet peaceful. He took it all in and etched it deeply in his heart.

He had been intertwined with Scarlett since birth. Noah was convinced that regardless of how their paths changed, he would always be swayed by Scarlett.

That was their fate.

Thus, Scarlett became the center of Noah’s world.

 


 

Several weeks later, Noah returned home.

He looked at the rotting door, which was more appropriate to call a curtain rather than a door.

The state of his house had deteriorated. If Scarlett hadn’t paid their debt, Noah and his mother would be on a slave merchant ship headed for Natalia by now.

Knock, knock, knock.

After a series of steady knocks, the door suddenly opened.

Julia Ashford, Noah’s mother, was on the other side of the door. She looked better than before. She hugged Noah with a big smile plastered on her face.

“How have you been? Oh my god. You look thinner.”

“You seem better. The medicine… You took it, right?”

She still looked thin and unkempt, but Noah noticed that his mother had a healthier complexion. Julia caressed his cheeks, her smile twisted.

“I didn’t know if I should take the medicine from Ms. White, but… There was a letter. She said that if my health improved, she would pay off our debts. If her only requirement is for my health to improve, I can give her that.”

Back then, Scarlett had wanted revenge.

Noah recalled those sparkling gray eyes. The biting remarks, paired with her burning red hair, were like sharpened blades.

Perhaps Noah still didn’t know how Scarlett actually felt. Nonetheless, Scarlett had forgiven him.

That was a fact.

‘I’ll allow you to be a humble beast on earth.’

Those words saved Noah.

Since he was bound by her, it was his destiny to be saved by Scarlett alone. Now that his fate had been rewritten, the second act could begin.

Scarlett White’s shackles, which used to be wrapped around his ankles, had now slipped into the depth of his existence.

“Have you eaten?”

“Oh, yes. You don’t have to worry about that. By the way, I’ve learned how to legally reinstate our status…”

Noah’s words were cut off by Julia’s terrified cry.

“No!”

“There’s no more loan sharks looking for us. Scarlett… I regret that she paid off all our debts.”

“No, no. That’s not the problem. You must live as Theo Grisham. Mr. White is no longer here to protect you. You should remain as Theo Grisham and I will be Ann Thompson.”

Noah’s expression fell, he suddenly felt ill and exhausted. However, a deep frown line formed on his forehead, and his eyes glinted intensely.

It was true that Mr. White shielded them from the White Family. The only reason they had been safe during that time was due to the White siblings being young and ignorant of their whereabouts.

But Noah’s mother still believed Scarlett’s father, Alex White, had been the only one keeping them safe.

“That doesn’t make sense. We can’t live with these fake identities forever. And never speak of Mr. White again. You know how terrible he was.”

“No. It’s dangerous. It’s too risky. Don’t do it, ever.”

“Kravitz knows everything. Isn’t that how Scarlett found us in the first place? There’s no point in hiding. It just makes us look more cowardly.”

“You don’t understand. That’s not what I’m saying. Oh, it’s true, they were cruel, but….it’s not over. Also, I’m not afraid of them.”

“Then what is it? What are you so afraid of?”

After Mr. White had passed away, Noah’s mother became obsessed with their safety. They moved several times a year, bought security supplies, and lived like fugitives.

Noah believed it was because she was wary of the White siblings. With their rough demeanor and cruel personalities, they had the power to do anything.

“You don’t need to know. I can never say it. You are….”

Julia immediately shut her mouth. As if there was dirt on her hands, she vigorously rubbed her hands against her skirt as if she was trying to wipe them clean.

As long as Noah could remember, his mother had hidden many secrets from him, especially during his childhood.

“Okay, but we have to restore our status. I can’t continue living as Theo Grisham. As long as we pay a fine…….”

“I don’t know. Do we really have to do this?”

“Mr. White is dead! He passed away more than 10 years ago! How long will you mourn him? Do you think we ended up in this state because he wasn’t here? No! Mother, your excessive spending and poor investments are the root cause of our present situation! You don’t have to live like this! Let’s live normal lives.”

Julia frowned, releasing a forlorn sigh, and took a step back.

“You– You know nothing! Do you even understand the risks?!”

“What risks? Tell me! How many more secrets will you keep secrets from me?”

“Noah…”

“Yes! I’m Noah Ashford. Not Theo Grisham!”

“Oh, my god… Noah. Not now. We can’t expose ourselves to the world yet.”

Julia pulled out a chair and sat down, rubbing her temples. Noah swallowed a sigh.

Noah lit a candle. Candles were only used by the lowest class. It was neither a mana stone, nor a lamp, but an ordinary candle.

Wasn’t it a relic of the old times?

Winter was coming. His mother had amassed piles of newspapers because she had no money to buy firewood.

Noah eventually let out another sigh.

“I’m earning money by working as a helper at the school. I’ll send you some money, so use it to buy firewood in preparation for winter.”

“Okay. I’ll take care of it.”

Noah sat across from his mother. With his arms on the table, he gestured towards his mother as he wanted her to hear him clearly. When he spoke again, he spoke each word carefully.

“I will be successful.”

This was also a pledge to himself. He was sick and tired of living in poverty and shame. He wanted to elevate his status to the point where no one could bring him down.

“I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

Julia buried her face in her palms. But Noah did not budge.

“And I want to live as Noah Ashford, not Theo Grisham.”

“…….”

“I have a question.”

“What is it?”

“Am I truly… Mr. White’s son?”

Julia raised her head, fear flashing in her eyes.

“Of course, he’s your father! Why would you ask me that? Does it have to do with Scarlett White?

“I look nothing like him.” Not even in the slightest.”

“No, you resemble him a great deal.” How can you say that when he passed away when you were four?”

“Because I don’t have the same features as Scarlett or Scott White. It’s what I think when I look at myself in the mirror. How could someone have traits from their mother, but none from their father? Please be honest with me.”

“Noah Ashford!”

“I remember Mr. White saying I ought to be his son.

Julia took a deep breath and clenched her fists. For a brief period of time, Noah’s powerful confession left her speechless.

This was their first conversation about Mr. White.

“There is something.”

“When he said that, he meant… It’s probably because, back then, another man claimed you as his biological son. He must have meant to say that you are his son and cannot be taken away.”

Julia blushed. Seeing that, Noah’s face sank with disappointment and his tightly-closed mouth formed a deep scowl.

Noah looked at the shadow of the candle swaying in silence. Watching the flame made him think of Scarlett.

‘I wonder what she’s doing now?’

“I’m leaving.”

Julia wanted him to stay a little longer, but Noah left the house without another word.

 


 

The autumn wind was particularly cold, and the dry scent of fallen leaves made his stomach hurt.

After passing through the entrance of the villa, he walked across the courtyard. On an outdoor swing chair, Noah found Scarlett sleeping soundly. The color of the setting sun kissed her skin. Both of her cheeks were rosy, and her pale hands were tinged with red.

She was sleeping so peacefully that Noah couldn’t bear to wake her up.

It was getting dark, but Scarlett was sleeping like a baby. For this reason, the servants had covered her body with several layers of blankets. Noah carefully sat next to her.

Scarlett looked as innocent as a child. She looked free from any pain and anxiety as if the nightmare that had disturbed her every night no longer existed.

And the sound of her breathing felt like the only sound in the world.

There was still the whistling of the autumn wind, the rustling of the fallen leaves, the creaking of the withering trees, and the cries of crickets as the evening ascended.

However, all these sounds paled in comparison to Scarlett’s peaceful breaths.

Noah was sincere in wanting her to be at ease. Regardless of his status.

Even after she had said those words to Noah.

‘You’re free. You don’t have to follow me anymore.’

‘Scarlett.’

‘Scarlett.’

Noah tasted her name in his mouth.

Whenever her name, which he could not utter out loud, was on the tip of his tongue, a strange feeling resounded within him.

It was strange and unfamiliar.

He looked away in an attempt to stop the overwhelming emotions.

Noah clutched his chest.

The indescribable and overwhelming sensation he felt whenever he looked at Scarlett must be occurring because she had forgiven him.

Even if it wasn’t genuine forgiveness, it still meant a lot to Noah.

‘Scarlett.’

His younger sister, Scarlett.

His younger sister, but with a different surname.

Scarlett White.

The gentle cool breeze blew back her hair, exposing Scarlett’s neck. Noah’s eyes widened in surprise at the sight.

At the same time, Scarlett began to awaken with a faint moan. A dreamy gaze lingered on her face.

“Are you awake?”

“…Noah?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“You came back early.”

“I thought you went home.”

“Hmm. I’m afraid to face John right now.”

Scarlett yawned, rubbing her eyes, and pulled the blankets up, burying her weak, slender fingers under the blankets.

“Let’s go to sleep inside,” Noah suggested.

“I’m too sleepy to move.”

“You might catch a cold.”

“Hmm. Not that one. Abigail is in danger.”

Scarlett sometimes says incomprehensible things.

Like ‘Save me,’ and ‘Not Isaac.’ But this time it was, ‘Abigail is in danger.’

“You have to be careful, otherwise you’ll get a fever.”

Drowsy from her nap, Scarlett closed her eyes again, not willing to fully wake up.

The scent of autumn filled the air.

“I’ll carry you on my back. Let’s go inside,” Noah finally said.

Noah knelt down on one knee and bent his back. Even in her drowsy state, Scarlett still managed to climb on Noah’s back. It was the first time since her kidnapping that she was carried on his back, but this time, she didn’t resist. Apart from her feelings toward Noah, it was true that her sense of unfamiliarity and caution towards Noah had diminished by a large margin.

When Scarlett pressed her face into Noah’s shoulder, strands of her soft red hair brushed against his face. All the while, her arms were wrapped around Noah’s neck.

It was such a strange sensation for Noah.

Soft yet ticklish, it was the first time he felt something like this in his entire life.

‘Is this how it feels to have a younger sister?’

Once again, Noah tested her name in his mouth, this time in a low voice because Scarlett had fallen back to sleep.

“Scarlett.”

“Scarlett.”

Red flame, burning ashes. His sister, his family, his freedom, his salvation.

“Scarlett.”

“Scarlett.”

Such an overwhelming emotion made Noah breathless.

At that moment, Noah wanted to succeed, more than anything else. He wanted to be a brother that Scarlett could be proud of. He wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with her older sister and four older brothers.

Noah walked towards the villa with Scarlett on his back, not realizing that the unfamiliar emotion was love.

That day marked 170 days before her death.


 

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