Chapter 6. Danger (2)
That warning seemed hostile, but Eunha silently nodded in agreement. The most important thing for her right now was to earn money.
This important person, supposedly, was going to pay her one thousand tael coins. Judging from the pile of books the shop owner had brought, Eunha could tell that she’d be able to get at least 500 coins. Her throat would probably get hoarse, but she could endure that.
“My Lord, I’ve brought the reader.”
“Let her in.”
The voice that came from the other side of the door gave her goosebumps. It was a low and sleepy voice. Among the scent of paulownia wood everywhere, there was a strong smell of tobacco mixed in it, but beyond that, there was a heavy odor of ink. It reminded her of the pages of a book, wet with food and drinks, that hadn’t dried correctly.
The door opened quietly and a soft, dim light illuminated the room.
A man was sitting with one leg up on top of a seat made of silk. He smiled gently while looking in the direction of where she was standing.
He was wearing a blue robe, which was wide open. Around his top knot, she could see a crownless hat made of gold. He had noble facial features. His lips were red and had a beautiful shape, just like a woman’s. On the other hand, it was hard to tell the color of his eyes, which were like those of a wild animal.
Eunha felt like she was a prey animal walking towards its demise. She tried her best not to feel intimidated, but she was still afraid because she knew what the sword underneath his right hand represented.
Eunha couldn’t shake the feeling that she was walking into the cave of a tiger. It wouldn’t surprise her at all if this breathtakingly beautiful man suddenly transformed into a tiger and devoured her.
‘How can this man be blind?’
Eunha started to think that the bookshop owner had lied to her, because this man was definitely looking directly at her. Therefore, he couldn’t be blind.
Eunha stopped approximately ten steps away from him. As she began to kneel down, that low and sleepy voice called out to her,
Eunha stood up, reluctantly walking forward two or three more steps before stopping again. However, each time she paused her steps, the man, who had a grin on his face, would ask her to come even closer.
Finally, when Eunha was only one step away, she kneeled and spoke with a trembling voice,
“If I get any closer, I’ll end up touching My Lord’s legs.”
Opening his eyes, he leaned forward in his seat and got closer to her face. Then he placed his hand on her cheeks, which startled her quite a bit.
“M… My Lord…”
“Oh, you’re a girl… And a very young one too.”
“E… Even if I’m wearing a skirt or pants, reading is still reading.”
His fingertips were soft, but the palm of his hand wasn’t. Firm calluses rubbed her cheek as his thumb touched her lips. While he was touching her face, she kept her eyes closed tightly.
“If you don’t want to hire me because I’m a girl, I’ll go back.”
“Who said that?”
“I never said that I didn’t want to hire you. I was just surprised. So, how old are you?”
“I… I’m eighteen years old.”
“Are you married?”
He dropped his hand after she had finished answering his questions.
Eunha took a deep breath and backed away a little bit. She started to question his blindness even more, but he would certainly punish her if she asked about it.
Eunha couldn’t help to think about how beautiful he was, even amid the current situation. Could she compare him to the sight of a dewdrop clinging to a leaf in the early morning? Or the moment the charcoal began to glow scarlet red in the middle of a pile of ash?
It was hard to find the correct words to describe this man’s beauty. Eunha felt that if she looked away, he would simply disappear.
Recalling the warrior’s warning to not ask questions, she silently waited for him to request something of her.
The man was touching his lips with the same fingers he had just used to touch her before he pointed to a bookshelf.
“Go to the bookshelf and bring me the book that’s on top of that pile.”
Following his directions, Eunha located the book, and as she presented it to him, she noticed that the title was, ‘IL PRINCIPE’. It was a book she hadn’t read yet, but the title filled her with even more confusion than before.
“My Lord, here it’s the book you asked for.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself. I need to see how good you are before deciding on how much money to pay you.”
“H… How should I proceed? Do you want me to interpret the content or read it as is?”
“That sounds interesting. Do it both ways.”
Eunha could feel that the man was having doubts about her abilities. He probably thought there was a chance that she was trying to take advantage of his blindness by pretending to know how read and take his money without doing any actual work.
She slowly and carefully turned the pages of the book. He was so close to her that she could feel his breath on her forehead.
‘It’s not like he’s deaf. Why do I have to read with him at such a close distance?’
“Niccolò Machiavelli to the Magnificent Lorenzo de’ Medici.”
As she began to read about a monarchy, his eyes started to shine while watching her from above.
Reciting paragraphs filled with words she had never seen before embarrassed Eunha, but she was able to grasp of the meaning almost immediately.
The text was a letter that a subordinate had written his king and it wasn’t meant for everyone’s eyes.
As she continued to read, the man smiled at her in satisfaction.
“I hope hearing a person of low status read to you about how to rule over a territory doesn’t annoy you.”
Her eyes shook while reading a book full of heavy words that shouldn’t be spoken aloud.
When Eunha slowly decreased the speed of reading and looked up, the man raised a brow as he held a long cigarette in his mouth.
“You’re doing well.”
“I’m glad you’re satisfied.”
“Who taught you how to read?”
“Someone close to me was a good teacher.”
“Then, what is the price for your voice?”
At the man’s question, she lowered her gaze.
A chance like this would never happen again. If she let this opportunity go, she would probably regret it for the rest of her life.
“I think that my voice is worth at least a thousand tael coins.”
“A thousand coins, huh?”
He probably thought that she had asked for too much.
‘Should I lower my price to seven hundred coins?’
Eunha wondered, until he suddenly touched her chin with his finger.
He asked, raising her chin and smiling,
“I’ll pay you the double. No, let’s make it quadruple. But, you have to read at least thirty books to me. Once you’re done, we’ll renegotiate the price for the next batch.”
“But before that, there’s something you should remember.”
Eunha gulped and nodded. Her hands were trembling. He had just given her a rope that would help her climb the social ladder.
If it was quadruple the amount she had asked for, it would be more than enough money to buy her sister’s freedom. She would also be able to buy a house and even open a shop. That’s how significant that amount of money would be for her.
Then suddenly, he stopped smiling and lowered his head to whisper in her ear,
“I am now the owner of your voice. If I want to hear it, if I feel the urge to listen to it… You will be here, always. Understood?”
Jihak was smoking while staring at the spot where Eunha was kneeling until recently, reading the book he had asked for. The smoke slowly escaped from his lips.
He used the cigarette holder to turn the pages of the book. He had read it so many times that he had it memorized. The last copy of this book was so worn that he bought a replacement. Since he had already memorized the entire contents of the book, he knew she hadn’t lied about her abilities.
If she had tried to fake the reading or lie about the contents of the book, he would have snapped her neck right then and there. That pale, slender neck was so delicate that one of his hands would be enough to crush it.
But she tried her best until the very end.
“My Lord, the reader has already left.”
Yuljae kneeled before Jihak, while smirking, and directed his gaze towards him.
“Yuljae, have someone to spread a rumor. The former crown prince, Seo Jihak, has hired a reader. Make sure they describe how she was dressed in men’s clothes, and he just had her read for him.”
Jihak opened the window next to him and the smoke that filled the room went out, and his sight became clear.
“If that rumor spreads to the capital city, the corrupt officials will probably believe the lie about my blindness. They will think that she’s my weakness and try to locate her. Things are going to get interesting.”
Seo Jihak smiled maliciously,
‘What was her name again? Eunha?’
There was only one reason for choosing someone as small, soft, and mentally weak as her. To use her as bait.
He needed bait that was intelligent, but frail enough that she’d be easy to kill. Once he had no more use for her, he didn’t really care what happened to her. While she was too beautiful to simply throw away after using, the fact that she was from a lower class didn’t change anything.
Even if she died, no one would bat an eye. But, when he remembered the look in her eyes, he started to feel strange.
“Will you just sit by and watch her be endangered?”
Jihak had been staring out the window but turned towards Yuljae and gave him a cold gaze upon hearing his question. Yuljae bowed down while trembling.
“Pardon my intrusion, My Lord.”
Jihak stood up after tapping the ash from his cigarette. He was more than 6ft tall, and had wide shoulders. For a moment, Seo Jihak looked down at Yuljae with the majestic presence he once had back when he was still the crown prince.
“Aren’t you interested in who will try to approach her first? Well, it doesn’t matter who it is. They won’t be able to kill her. After all, she agreed to become mine. So, whether she lives or not, that is something I will decide. Don’t you agree?”