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A painful prick in her stomach struck Catherine all of a sudden. She curled into the fetal position at the familiar pain. She felt nauseous and found it hard to breathe properly.
The pain that began nine years ago still hadn’t let her go.
–When did you start to vomit blood?
-I started experiencing it recently. Is this condition severe?
Catherine had visited a doctor secretly in the past.
-I couldn’t figure it out before you started vomiting, but since it has started now… this is an incurable disease in Hernia.
-Yes… I think you have to prepare yourself.
She had to ball up her trembling fingertips after hearing the appalling diagnosis. She was prepared to some extent from the moment she realized that she had vomited blood, but it wasn’t that easy to accept reality.
-If it can’t be cured in Hernia, do you think that I can cure it somewhere else?
Catherine asked the doctor as if holding on to a last hope.
-I’ve heard that there are medicines and medical practices that can cure it in the East. However… nothing has been confirmed.
-I assume you mean the Ryeo Empire in the Eastern Continent.
-It’s not entirely clear where.
The doctor, who was competent, was realistic and precise. However, the problem was that his knowledge and experience did little for Catherine.
-…No, it’s fine.
Catherine replied while pulling the brim of her hat down over her eyes. The doctor didn’t try to pry into her business despite her suspicious behavior. The former Imperial family’s doctor was wise to pretend that he didn’t notice anything.
In the end, all she got was the cold reality that she was about to die and a painkiller worked well for her.
Catherine heaved a deep sigh when the rush of emotions washed over her. She felt so hopeless that she would die at such a young age, and became gloomy about her future that vanished in a blink of an eye.
She also felt resentful. There were still a lot of things she wanted to do. She wanted to have a family of her own, get married, and make a masterpiece that would last forever…
However, all those things were meaningless when she faced death. Death doesn’t distinguish between those who have a lot of things to do and those who don’t.
Catherine wanted to live.
She couldn’t even go home at once because her tears kept falling. Her carriage wandered around the Capital without a destination until her tears dried up.
-Catherine, isn’t it time to start working?
-Right. You haven’t drawn for a while, Cathy.
-Young Lady Godner has been constantly asking about your new work.
-Wow, your new work, sister? I can’t wait to see it! Uh… But why are your eyes so red?
During dinner that evening, the Roem family talked about Catherine’s new work. Their faces were laced with visible expectation and pride.
Catherine Roem was the pride and pillar of the family.
-Oh… My eyes? I guess I haven’t been able to sleep because I was thinking about my new piece.
-Oh, you were already thinking about it!
Catherine nodded at Chloe and stared at her parents again.
-I’m actually going to start working on it soon.
She didn’t know what she was so persistent about, but she couldn’t show her weak side to her family at that moment. She didn’t know that it was just her arrogance, but she thought her family wouldn’t be able to hold up on their own if she gave up.
Being young and foolish, Catherine thought it was her way to protect her family. The scary and difficult things could be managed by herself.
“…It’s an excuse.”
Catherine let out a huff as she buried her face in the fluffy pillow. She couldn’t help but heave out a sigh at her past self for making excuses.
“I actually wanted to be free.”
If you love without having a sense of responsibility, can it be called love? Catherine was someone who considered love and responsibility interchangeable.
However, the excessively burdening responsibility made her treat the things she loved as shackles.
Before she realized it, her paintings became something that were evaluated by the world, her fame as a painter became a confinement, and her family’s expectations and pride became a burden she had to carry on her shoulders.
She thought she had been doing well, but it turned out that she just endured it well. When she boarded the boat heading to Ryeo Empire, she felt a greater sense of freedom than sorrow.
Catherine was, in fact, desperate. It was said that there was medicine and medical practice that could cure her illness in the East. It was a journey that she sailed on, only believing in that word.
However, her life unexpectedly didn’t end and she met Gaon.
‘I would have died without Gaon.’
Although Gaon was younger than Catherine, he was tough and strong. She didn’t know how to rely on someone, and learned how from him.
In the beginning, Catherine’s mind changed several times a day. She wanted to live, but she didn’t want to either. She wanted to live when seeing the beautiful world, and she wanted to die when she felt the pain.
-Don’t even think about leaving me behind, Rin. I’ll go anywhere with you.
It was Gaon who held her back every time.
-I’ll be your family, Rin. Please don’t cry.
Gaon was the one who wiped away her tears when she cried at the thought of her family.
“I miss him.”
Catherine already missed her husband when she was the one who pushed him to return.
When the pain in her stomach subsided, her whole body began to tremble. She tossed and turned for a moment before slipping into a dream where pain couldn’t follow her. Hoping that her husband would have returned before she woke up.
After listening to what Gaon said, Chloe wanted to meet her sister at once.
“I should bring her to the mansion. So that she can be attended to by our family doctor and prescribed proper medicine.”
She couldn’t let Catherine stay at the inn when she knew she was sick. She wanted a proper doctor to examine her sister’s condition.
“I’m afraid that will be difficult.”
“I understand that there’s a guest in Blanchett’s mansion. Rin wants to avoid meeting others as much as possible because it’s difficult for her.”
Gaon didn’t hide the fact that he had investigated the Blanchett mansion. Although rumors had already spread when Leila barged into the Blanchett’s mansion and made a fuss.
“And it’s not as severe as nine years ago, so you don’t have to worry. She’s going to recover in a few days.”
Chloe agonized for a while at Gaon’s remark.
It was certain that Gaon knew her sister. However, she couldn’t trust everything he said.
She had no way to confirm the fact that he was really married to her sister or that she was really in the Capital.
However, it didn’t matter much for now whether his words were true or not. Before she could confirm the least possibility, she couldn’t let go of his hands.
“Then, I’ll write a check of supplies for you. That would be enough for her to receive treatment and live in the Capital, wouldn’t she?”
“Thanks for your consideration, but there’s no need to do so. I have enough money for both of us, and I have saved extra money for my wife as well.”
Gaon, who had been maintaining his flat expression the whole time, smiled as he answered. The answer had a twinge of innocence coming from someone who ran a big guild.
“Because I am just a merchant.”
On the contrary, he mocked himself by saying that he was a merchant.
Gaon knew that he had forcefully saved Catherine, who had no will to live, and despite knowing that she didn’t have any feelings for him, he was greedy and took her as his wife. He knew it all too well.
That was the reason it felt as if Catherine could leave him at any moment. When his wife cried at the thought of her family, looked up at the sky where Hernia was, and even looked for food that originated from her homeland, it made him afraid.
Therefore, Gaon was trying hard to keep his wife by his side and did his best for her.
‘A merchant who can even buy someone’s heart with money.’
A heart that was as special as herbs. A heart that was as fine as silk. A heart as precious as a jewel.
If he tried to win Rin’s heart bit by bit, he thought that he could get her heart completely one day.
He felt pathetic and silly for doing this. However, it was way too late to stop now.
Gaon remained stubborn until the end. In the end, Chloe was only able to get a promise that he would visit her after the hunting festival. After Gaon left, she decided to follow him. She couldn’t miss the opportunity to figure out her sister’s whereabouts after nine years not being able to see her.
Gerard returned home late at night. He had to check on a lot of things because the hunting festival would be held tomorrow.
“Welcome, my Lord.”
The old butler welcomed Gerard. It was late at night, so the butler greeted him with only a couple of servants.
“Thank you. Where’s my wife and Abel?”
Gerard asked while taking his coat off.
“The young master has just fallen asleep, meanwhile the Lady went to bed early in the evening. She was probably tired.”
“The Lady? Did something happen to her today?”
Gerard narrowed his eyes because he was worried that Chloe and Leila might have run into each other. Deducing his master’s worries, the butler immediately denied it.
“Nothing big happened. It’s just that she has been exhausted since she also had a private meeting with a merchant in the annex this afternoon.”
“The Baek Guild from the Ryeo Empire.”
Gerard was silent when he heard the butler’s answer. He was certain that the same merchant was mentioned yesterday. And she was alone with him.
He was getting irritated by the fact that the boss of the Baek Guild kept having an audience with his wife. The other fact was that he was from the East, so he didn’t know anything about the man’s identity.
‘I have to ask Aiden to find out about the boss of the Baek Guild.’
At that moment, Leila climbed down the stairs slowly while dressed in casual attire. She welcomed Gerard in a bright voice.
“Gerard, you came back at such a late hour?”
She came down the stairs with the help of maids.
“…Can you walk around like this?”
Gerard, who spotted Leila, asked with one of his eyebrows raised. It was the look when he didn’t like something he saw.
“I’m fine. I’ve been using the compress as well, so it should be fine to walk around like this.”
Leila’s ankle was still sore, but she simply ignored it and acted as if nothing had happened. She came out because she was getting anxious and didn’t want to return to her room just yet.
“You worked overtime preparing for the hunting festival tomorrow. You must be tired.”
Leila blinked several times at Gerard’s response. She felt he was somewhat off.
“But… why do you keep speaking in honorifics to me?”
Leila asked the one thing she was curious about the entire time.
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