Chapter 3. Marriage Partner (1)
The cold weather outside forced her to sober up. With the courtesan house on the horizon, she lifted her head and looked at the sky. Even if the sunlight hurt her eyes, she couldn’t stop herself from gazing upwards.
The sky was full of clouds that resembled cotton candy. During the spring, the trees that surrounded the courtesan house, would have branches covered in cherry blossoms, but due to the cold, the trees were now dormant.
When spring arrives, will she be able to leave this place with her sister?
“Welcome back, Young Master.”
The guards of the courtesan house saluted Shihoon. They were the ones who oversaw the security of this place. Their job included things like kicking out rude patrons or capturing runaway courtesans. Eunha clearly hated these people.
“Is mother inside?”
“Yes, she is. But…”
“Then ask her to open the door. I want to check on how she’s doing, and then I’ll go back.”
The guards only cared about Young Master Yoon. So, she took the opportunity and ran inside.
The garden of the courtesan house was illuminated with a gentle light. Here, there was an unusually high amount of camellia flowers. Because of that, most people who stepped inside, often said it had a dreamlike ambience. However, for Eunha, since she had spent ten years inside this place, it didn’t feel special at all.
It was a beautiful place indeed. But it was often frequented by drunk men who came here to play with women. Each time she saw her sister forcefully smiling, her hatred towards this place grew.
Eunha walked towards the room, in front of where was a white camellia tree. After looking around, she carefully opened the door.
It was her older sister, Lee Yongi, calling her with an angry expression. She had finished her make-up and was wearing a beautiful skirt in a jade color.
“What’s wrong with you? Tiger hunting? You should already know how dangerous that is!”
“S… Sister… Why you still here?”
Eunha had never seen her sister so angry.
“How could I work after you ran off to go tiger hunting without telling me?!”
Lee Yongi looked at the dirt-covered Eunha and summoned a servant to the room.
“Seohee, please fill the bathtub with hot water. I need to wash this walking pile of dirt.”
Seohee stopped combing Lee Yongi’s hair and left the room. Lee Yongi quickly thought of excuses she could use.
“You really thought that I’d put myself in danger? I was following the hunters around while checking out if there was something that I could sell for a profit.”
“And why did you need money, huh?”
“I wanted to buy this book. Also, today the weather was warmer than yesterday. So, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to find tigers. That’s the only reason why I participated in today’s hunt.”
It’d be nice if she just let it go, but today, Lee Yongi wouldn’t.
“How can you be so shameless? Today, I’m not letting you off easily. Anyway, go take a bath. I’ll catch you up there soon.”
Eunha put her books down and quickly walked away from the room.
Lee Yongi recalled the pale hands and cheeks of her little sister. She’d tried to give her everything she could. That’s why it hurt her to see Eunha putting her life in danger like that.
“Lee Yongi, please don’t be so hard on her. After all, I was with her.”
Lee Yongi lifted her head, after hearing Shihoon’s voice, her chest was tingling.
“I’m sorry my little sister bothered you, Young Master.”
“She didn’t bother me. I went with her because I wanted to.”
“She’s bothering you because young master should be focusing on his studies. That’s why if you see her hunting again, please scold her. She’s at the age of marriage. If she keeps up with that behavior, no one will want her.”
She gazed into Shihoon’s eyes, and for a second, she could feel her face blushing. His shapely lips and curved eyes made him especially handsome.
But these feelings of hers were forbidden. Even if Shihoon was born from an affair, he was still the son of a minister. A commoner like her had no chance with someone like him.
“How could I scold someone as cute and precious as her?”
“Your mother has strictly forbidden you from coming to this place. Why are you pretending to be ignorant of the reason behind that?”
“Of course, I’m not, but there is a face that I want to see.”
Shihoon glanced at the books Eunha had left behind.
Seeing the kindness in his eyes made her chest hurt. Was she jealous?
Even these types of feelings were forbidden to her. If the minister discovered how Shihoon felt towards Eunha, there would be trouble.
“Young Master needs to learn how to control himself. Now that everyone knows that you’re here, your mother will be here at any moment.”
“Even you are trying to kick me out of here. Okay, fine I will go back.”
Shihoon stared at Lee Yongi after she had said goodbye and turned away.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
This was a place where you could find flowers during every season of the year. And the person who was in charge of this place was his mother, Simdeok.
“I’ve told you many times that you shouldn’t come to this place. Why is it that you never listen?”
Upon hearing a friendly voice from behind, he turned around. There he saw his mother accompanied by two servants approaching him. Shihoon smiled and closed the distance between them. The stars were reflecting along the surface of the frozen pond, illuminating their surroundings.
“Mother, I need to see you regularly in order to feel calm. It’s obvious why I come to this place, so who’s going to dare point their fingers at me?”
“You need to take better care of your image. When your father hears that you’ve come here again, he’ll get angry with you.”
“He’s always angry, so don’t worry about that. I’m just fulfilling my duty as a son. Now that I’ve seen that mother is doing fine, I’ll go back.”
Simdeok called the guards and asked them to accompany Shihoon. She constantly told him not to visit her. Not only that, but she had also forbidden him to call her ‘mother’. But he never listened. And she was secretly happy about that.
He was her pride and joy.
Once he was gone, Simdeok went back inside and headed towards Lee Yongi’s room. There she saw the books that Eunha had brought. She looked at her servants and asked,
“Hold old is Eunha this year?”
“She will be eighteen soon.”
“Lee Yongi always treats her like a kid. So, we were surprised by that as well.”
“She’s already at working age, huh?”
Chunhee, a servant, was horrified at Simdeok’s words. Simdeok knew that Lee Yongi wanted to prevent her sister from experiencing a lifestyle like this, yet she was trying to make her a courtesan as well.
“Tell Lee Yongi to come to my room tonight.”
Simdeok walked away, crushing camelia flowers that were on top of the snow under her feet.
Eunha immersed herself in the bath while trying to escape the gaze of her sister.
Lee Yongi asked the servant to wash Eunha. Every time the hot water touched her body, Eunha’s skin began to resemble a pearl. Her unusually dark eyes shimmered like jewels. She was always dressed like a boy. But beneath those men’s clothes hid a body with beautiful curves. If she dressed appropriately, men would go crazy about her.
Lee Yongi wanted to free Eunha from this place before Simdeok discovered her sister’s hidden beauty.
Eunha could see that Lee Yongi wasn’t angry anymore, so she lifted her head and smiled brightly at her sister. In Lee Yongi’s eyes, Eunha was still the same little kid that was holding her hands the day she first entered this place. And that filled her with sadness.
“I’m going to start looking for a marriage partner for you.”