Chapter 4. Marriage Partner (2)
“A marriage partner?!”
Eunha stood up while clenching her fists. Lee Yongi already knew that her little sister would react like this, so she dropped an incense pouch in the bathwater. A sweet flower aroma started to spread through the bathroom.
It was the aroma the courtesans used while primping. Eunha had never like the scent of the incense and immediately started looking for the pouch. Lee Yongi sighed and grabbed her little sister’s arm,
“Listen to me!”
“Sister, why are you looking for my marriage partner? Is it because I don’t listen to what you say? I’ll change my attitude, so please stop. I’ll earn a living by only running errands, and I won’t get into trouble anymore.”
“Eunha, you need to get married now. If you get older, you won’t be able to find a good partner. You’ll have to settle with being a concubine of some old man.”
Lee Yongi answered firmly. She didn’t care about Eunha’s promise.
Eunha lost strength. She didn’t know whether it was because of what Lee Yongi had just told her or it was steam from the hot water.
As she got older, she started to act more and more like a man. Who would want a wife was skilled in martial arts and enjoyed hunting with a gun? Not only that, but Eunha thought Lee Yongi also wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, but now she is suddenly trying to find her a marriage partner.
Eunha gathered her knees, placing her chin on top of them, and started to cry,
“I’m not going anywhere without you. If you want me to get married, you’re coming with me.”
Lee Yongi smiled at her sister’s words. She poured some water on top of her head,
“Don’t be silly. You are very smart and like to read. Maybe a merchant would be a good partner for you. Eunha, I want you to be free.”
“Why? Do you want to become a courtesan too?”
After hearing the word courtesan, Eunha lifted her head. Lee Yongi picked up a towel and wiped away the tears on her eyes.
“I’ve been working as a courtesan for more than ten years. During this time, I developed a sixth sense. I’m really worried about you. I know what I’m talking about, so please listen to me.”
Eunha didn’t know how much time had passed. She was starting to shiver due to the cool water, so she stood up and left the bathroom.
After returning to her room, Eunha grabbed the new books she had gotten from the bookshop owner. Usually, she’d be thrilled to read and learn something new, but right now, she just couldn’t focus on the words written on the pages. It seemed to be a story about a girl falling in love with a boy from a rival family, but she wasn’t sure.
Eunha stood up and sat down with the wall at her back because she felt uncomfortable. That’s when she discovered that the nighttime work had begun.
She could hear the seductive laughs of women and the thick voices of men. While she was used to these kinds of noises, it bothered her tonight. Eunha grabbed the books and went outside of her room.
The vast courtesan house was illuminated as if it were still daytime. The courtesans were wearing very light clothes as if they couldn’t feel the cold weather and the servants were very busy serving food and alcohol. Eunha put on cotton clothes to protect herself from the chilly weather and sneaked out.
During these busy hours, the guards didn’t seem to care about what she did, which made it easy for her to escape.
Eunha called out the bookshop owner.
He seemed to be surprised by the late-night visit.
“What are you doing here so late at night?”
“I need a place to read some books without being disturbed. If you let me stay here for a little bit, I’ll pay you back.”
Eunha had come here at the right moment. The bookshop owner had been planning to visit her to fulfill the request of the blind customer that had been there earlier that day.
He began to tremble as he recalled the customer’s dangerous aura.
“It seems like you’ve sobered up!”
The bookshop owner told her in a sarcastic tone.
Eunha took out the headdress and smiled,
“Was it that obvious?”
“It wasn’t just the smell of alcohol. You also smelled like gun powder and roast pork.”
“Really? Do I still smell like that?”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
“I smell like make-up, right?”
“The scent is so strong that I can taste it.”
Eunha smelled her arms. There was still a little bit of the scent of the incense left on her.
She became embarrassed and pulled down her headwrap again. Then she took out the books she’d brought to read. The bookshop owner gave her some candies and proceeded to sit down in front of her. He took out a long cigarette.
“It’s unusually noisy tonight. I came here because I wanted to read in silence.”
“Is that rich guy harassing Lee Yongi again?”
The cigarette smoke started to spread throughout the room. Eunha was eating the candies with an annoyed expression on her face.
After silently eating the candy for a while, she closed the book and asked something.
“Mister, there’s something I was wondering. How much does it cost to free a courtesan from the house?”
“Why? Are you planning to free Lee Yongi?”
“Why not? You know that’s why I’m working so much, right? It’s all so I can free my sister from that courtesan house.”
The owner tapped the cigarette to get rid of the ashes and exhaled while trying to think of an answer.
“Let’s see… Usually, to have a courtesan become your concubine requires a payment of 300 tael coins. So, for someone like Lee Yongi, you’ll probably need at least a thousand.”
The owner was playing with his beard while observing Eunha. She was definitely the younger sister of Lee Yongi. Whenever she was dressed up as a boy, she just looked like a very handsome young man. But once she changed clothes, her beauty really stood out.
The man, who asked to be introduced to Eunha, mentioned his blindness, so there’s no way he could’ve seen her beauty. He probably only needed someone that was able to read for him.
Eunha was shocked by the massive amount of coins she needed.
“I knew that freeing my sister would cost a lot of money. But I never thought that it would require a thousand tael coins.”
“Are you seriously going to tell me that you didn’t know? Do you know how many people want to get their hands on the number one flower?”
“Mister, my sister is not a flower. She’s a human.”
“I know, I know. I only used that expression because everyone calls her that.”
The bookshop owner said that while waiting for the opportunity to share the message he had.
“Do you want to work as a reader?”
“Yes. There’s someone who needs a person who can read him books written in Western Language.”
The owner nervously explained.
Eunha seemed confused but also curious, so he decided to make her a proposition she couldn’t refuse.
“He told me that he would pay you a lot of money. So… Are you interested?”
Lee Yongi stopped smiling. She was clenching her fists hard enough to leave marks on her hands.
“My little sister isn’t destined to become a courtesan. So why are you…”
Simdeok laughed while watching Lee Yongi’s trembling lips. She took a sip of water.
“How do you know whether she’s destined or not? Thanks to her beauty, there’s a lot of people that are asking me about Eunha.”
“That’s not a reason good enough to force someone into this lifestyle. I will not allow my sister to live as a courtesan.”
Lee Yongi’s nightmare had become a reality. Simdeok was someone who didn’t care about the will of others and was perfectly capable of forcing someone into this lifestyle.
When Lee Yongi was younger, she used to fear looking into Simdeok’s eyes, but in that moment, she wasn’t scared. This place was open thanks to her, not Simdeok as she was the main source of income. Lee Yongi had always thought that Simdeok wouldn’t dare touch Eunha for that reason alone.
“Lord Jo Youngho has asked me to give you to him. He wants you to become his concubine. Since he has helped me a lot in the past, I just couldn’t refuse immediately, but I should give him an answer soon. So, it’s your choice. You can become his concubine, or I will make a courtesan out of Eunha.”
Lee Yongi laughed at the words she had just heard.
“He’s not the ruler of the country. He has seven sons and five concubines. You want me to become the sixth one? How dare you make such a ridiculous proposition to me?”
Simdeok put down her teacup angrily and glared at Lee Yongi. Meanwhile, Lee Yongi glared right back.
“It seems that Young Master Yoon has that commoner in his heart. I gave both of you a place to stay and food to eat, and this is how you pay me back?! I already told the both of you that a line needed to be drawn between him and yourselves! Do you think that she acted this way while being ignorant of his feelings?!”
Lee Yongi closed her eyes to think. Eunha wasn’t aware of Young Master Yoon’s feelings. She was someone who had never been with a man, hence there was no way she would’ve acted in such ways while knowing Shihoon’s feelings.
After calming down a bit, Simdeok filled her cup with tea. The white tea leaves gave a very pure and clean scent. Clean, unlike this place.
“I’m going to search for a marriage partner for Eunha. I’m also bothered by what you’ve just said. However, she isn’t aware of the feelings between men and women, and furthermore, she has no feelings towards Young Master Shihoon. How can I not know when she’s my little sister? Give me some time. After I get a good marriage partner for her, I plan to live a silent life as a nun, so please…”