Chapter 10. 8 Thousand Tael Coins
Smoke filled the air from the firewood burning in the main room.
“The former crown prince is here.”
Shihoon, who hadn’t seen his father in a long time, was surprised by his words.
“By former crown prince, you mean…”
“Yes, the man who lost his position and became blind after eating a poisonous plant. Seo Jihak, the crazy prince, is here.”
The Minister of Defense took a sip of alcohol. As Shihoon quickly refilled his cup, he checked his father’s expression.
“Is this bad news for you?”
The Minister of Defense clicked his tongue and looked at his son, who had no interest in politics.
“Why do you think that?”
“Because your expression doesn’t look good. You seem worried about something.”
“I still don’t know if his presence will be a good or bad thing for me. But I need to put him under surveillance.”
“You want to put the former crown prince under surveillance?”
“Yes. There are many things I need to figure out. I need to confirm if he really lost his sight or simply lost his mind. I also need to make sure he’s not planning to re-gain his former position.”
‘It’s time to put an end to this conflict…’
The Minister was gazing around the room when something caught his eye. A scroll hanging on the wall. In particular, the handwriting was soft and delicate, an indication that the author was unlikely to be a man.
“That’s not your handwriting.”
Shihoon blushed at the Minister’s question.
“I hung it up because it looked beautiful.”
“It is very beautiful indeed. Does this handwriting belong to a woman? Is she someone you hold in your heart?”
The easiest way for him to get married was to take the civil servant exam and become a government official. Although he was more than ready, Shihoon delayed taking the exam with the excuse that it wouldn’t be fair to his older brothers.
Watching Shihoon lower himself in order to avoid conflict with his brothers, despite being the most intelligent, filled the Minister with guilt.
“You can tell me. If she’s from a good family, I will try to arrange a marriage.”
“I am unsure of the identity of the author as I came across it by pure coincidence. Once I grow bored of it, I will probably take it down. Therefore, there is nothing for you to worried about, Your Excellency.”
As the lie fell from his lips, Shihoon’s jaw tightened and he grew nauseous. He smiled, hoping to mask his uneasiness.
The author of the poetry on his wall was Eunha. Last year, Eunha came to see him on his birthday and presented it as a gift.
— I really didn’t know what to get you… This is a poem that I like. If you don’t like it, feel free to throw it away. I’m really sorry for this lackluster gift. Once I make a lot of money, I promise to get you the best ink.
He wouldn’t change her gift for anything in the world.
That’s why he averted his gaze from the wall. He knew that the more affection he showed towards Eunha, the more she would suffer.
“Oh, by the way. Another exam is scheduled to happen soon. Your brothers have already passed the exam, so now it’s your turn.”
“I still have much to learn.”
“You’re very good at lying. I know my son. Take the exam and come work for me, I will recommend you for a good position.”
Shihoon smiled bitterly and bowed his head. He couldn’t refuse his father’s wishes anymore.
“Yes, I will start preparing for the exam.”
Early the next morning, when Eunha went to see Simdeok, the scent of blood was still in the air.
She didn’t get a wink of sleep the entire night she spent locked inside her room. She didn’t want Yongi to see her like this, nor did she want to explain the situation to her.
She already knew what Yongi would say if she saw her, dressed like a courtesan, with an expression as pale and empty as a corpse.
It seemed like the owner of the courtesan house also hadn’t slept all night. She lit her pipe and stared at Eunha, who was once again wearing men’s clothing.
“Why have you come to see me so early in the morning? It’s not like you came to greet me, right?”
Eunha restrained herself, ignoring the sarcastic remark, and kneeled,
“I’m here to ask for a favor.”
The room was full of plants and ornaments from foreign countries. There were also many books that she still hadn’t been able to read. In the middle of this luxury, Simdeok was wearing a simple robe, her eyes widened in disbelief.
“You know I won’t listen to any of your requests, right?”
“I don’t completely understand what happened yesterday. I just work for that man as a reader. Please, don’t get the wrong idea.”
“A reader, huh? Of course, you read to him with that sweet voice of yours. Eventually, you will open your legs and take his seed. So, what do you want from me?”
Eunha knew Simdeok’s words were intended to humiliate her. The house owner wasn’t the type to think twice before spouting such crude words.
Eunha struggled to suppress her pride as she bowed down.
“I want to take out my sister from the courtesan house. I will repay you for everything you have done for us. If you allow us to leave, we will go live someplace far away, and you’ll never have to hear from us ever again.”
Simdeok discarded the ashes by tapping her pipe and then smiled bitterly at Eunha.
“You’ll pay for Yongi’s freedom? Can you afford to pay for her?”
Eunha felt a cold sweat drip down her back.
For a brief moment, the only sound was the birds chirping outside the window.
“The price for Yongi is 4,000 tael coins… no 5,000 coins. Also, a very important individual has asked for her to become his concubine. If I deny his request, the cost of his forgiveness will cost another 3,000 coins. This brings the total to 8,000 coins.”
Simdeok smiled when she saw the blood drain from Eunha’s face.
“She’s my child. I took her in, nurtured and raised her. I might as well be Yongi’s mother. There’s no way I would sell my child for a small amount of money. Eunha, your sister will continue to be my child until I say otherwise.”
“That’s ridiculous! How can you ask for 8,000 coins?!”
Eunha was at a loss for words.
She was demanding the exact amount the Lord claimed to be Eunha’s value. Nevertheless, Eunha straightened her shoulders in defiance. Seeing this, Simdeok lifted Eunha’s chin with the end of her pipe and spoke quietly.
“This is revenge for yesterday’s humiliation. If you want to save your sister that badly, ask that gentleman for 8,000 coins. Who knows. Maybe you’ll get it if you suck him a couple of times.”
Eunha stood up and left Simdeok’s room with a devastated expression and eyes full of disappointment.
Standing in front of the entrance were two new replacements for the guards murdered yesterday. Eunha ran towards her room, making sure no one saw her.
Her breathing was harsh and uneven. She felt a sharp pain in her chest as if she was about to have a heart attack. She slumped to the floor as soon she entered her room and glared at the wall while panting heavily.
‘8 thousand… 8 thousand tael coins…’
It was as if she had fallen into an abyss. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself. She desperately wanted to leave before her sister could find her. Even if Simdeok had forbidden the servants from speaking about the incident last night, it was only a matter of time before the truth reached Yongi’s ears.
Eventually, she escaped from the courtesan house through the main door. Surprisingly, no one tried to stop her.
Eunha ran towards the bookshop, where the owner was anxiously waiting for her.
“Oh my god, Eunha! You’re safe!”
“Of course, I’m safe. Did I cause you to worry?”
“You have no idea how anxious I was! When I went to the Lord and explained what happened, I was trembling in fear that I was about to die! He ended up saving you, right?”
Eunha nodded, wishing she could forget everything that happened last night.
“Yes, and it’s all thanks to you.”
When Mr. Song smiled and patted her head, Eunha decided to spare him the details.
After all, two people had died.
Eunha, accompanied by Mr. Song, walked toward Seo Jihak’s estate. Along the way, she saw women making dumplings and preparing soups.
Eunha gazed up at the sky. The sun was hidden behind a mass of ugly gray clouds, it would probably start snowing soon.
At that moment, the sky resembled her hidden emotions.
“They say the rewards are sweeter after enduring harsh and trying times, so let’s do our best.”
After reaching the entrance that resembled a palace, Mr. Song grabbed Eunha’s hands. There were many things he wanted to tell her, but he was having second thoughts. Perhaps things weren’t as bad as he thought. When Seo Jihak, the former crown prince, heard that they had imprisoned Eunha, he grabbed his own sword and went straight to the courtesan’s house.
Which meant he considered her as someone useful. This could change her life for the better. He didn’t want to say anything since he was afraid of ruining this opportunity for her.
In the end, Mr. Song decided to keep Seo Jihak’s true identity a secret from Eunha.
‘I’m sure this smart kid will figure out the truth on her own.’
“Let’s see each other again soon. I’ll try to come here at least once a week, okay? Don’t forget to eat all your meals.”
“Of course, please take care.”
After bowing to him, she knocked on the door. Then, as if they’d been waiting for her arrival, a guard opened the door and greeted her.
When Eunha crossed the threshold, she could smell the smoke coming from the main room. When she looked in the direction of where to smoke was coming, she caught sight of the Lord gazing at her with a smile on his face.
“You’re finally here.”