“The medicine is bitter…”
EunSeo woke up just before dinnertime.
After having had a long nap, her complexion looked a lot better.
Was it because she finally found someone she could confide in? Or was it because she no longer had any thoughts of killing herself? Her eyes looked much more relaxed now.
EunSeo received the medicine from MuGyeom. She could barely gulp it down due to the bitterness. MuGyeom recalled the old housekeeper’s warning that EunSeo hated anything bitter.
“You must take your medicine in order to get better.”
“I’m not even sure if the medicine works…”
EunSeo took another gulp and turned her head away.
“It’s too bitter.”
“I heard that bitter medicine is good medicine.”
“If it’s so good, why don’t you drink it?”
EunSeo glared at him.
“My two legs are sturdy.”
“How nice. You have a pair of good legs.”
Her voice was dripping with resentment.
Hey, why did she hate him?
MuGyeom stared at EunSeo with confused eyes.
Was it his fault that her legs had become like that?
Or was having a pair of perfectly fine legs considered a crime?
“It must be nice having a pair of healthy legs.”
Tears welled up in EunSeo’s eyes as she said these words.
She bit her plump lips as she tried to hold back her tears. Dumbfounded, MuGyeom hurriedly opened his mouth.
He needed to say something in order to soothe her.
“I-If you finish taking the medicine, I’ll make it so that you can walk today.”
EunSeo’s wet eyes widened.
Now that things had become like this, there was no turning back.
EunSeo tightened her grip on the medicine bowl and brought it up to her lips.
She didn’t pull it away from her lips until she swallowed every drop. MuGyeom watched her and couldn’t help the chuckle that burst out of his lips.
Watching her drink the medicine with such determination, MuGyeom couldn’t help but feel that she was quite a stubborn lady.
* * *
“This is walking?”
EunSeo’s eyes, voice, and face were filled with dissatisfaction.
In order to help her walk, MuGyeom placed her feet on top of his and held onto her hips as he walked them around.
EunSeo didn’t do anything.
She didn’t have to press down on her legs in order to walk. No effort was needed at all.
With her legs tied to his and her hips within his grasp, MuGyeom slowly walked around the yard.
“I feel like I’ve been turned into a scarecrow.”
Even as she said this, EunSeo didn’t seem too upset.
Actually, she seemed to be enjoying it.
Having an unfamiliar man like MuGyeom holding onto her hips must have been uncomfortable, but she didn’t show it at all.
“As long as the scarecrow can walk, it doesn’t matter, does it?”
“What did you say your name was?”
She seemed so smart, so why was this lady having such a hard time remembering his name?
“That’s right. It was MuGyeom.”
“Are you going to ask me again tomorrow?”
“My memory isn’t that bad. How old are you?”
“But you haven’t married.”
“How can a servant get married without his master’s permission?”
“Just wait 2 more years. If I can truly walk in 2 years, I’ll help you get married.”
While he was grateful for the sentiment, he didn’t really feel like getting married.
But if he told her this, she’d ask him why he felt that way.
And that would be too troublesome.
MuGyeom was tired of saying it, so he kept his mouth shut.
Suddenly, EunSeo shook MuGyeom’s arm.
“Stop for a minute.”
“Are you feeling any discomfort, my lady?”
“No, it’s just that the sunset is so pretty.”
MuGyeo raised his head.
Over the tiled roofs and walls, they could see the sky dyed in red as the sun began to set over the mountain ridges.
Until now, MuGyeom had never thought the sunset looked pretty. No, he never thought to stop and look at the sunset, so he’d never truly seen one before.
But, for the first time in his life, he thought that the sunset looked beautiful…
Just as EunSeo said, the sunset was beautiful.
And sunset drenched everything in red, and everything it touched looked beautiful.
And the reason why EunSeo looked so beautiful in this moment was probably because of that as well.
It was because of the sunset.
If it wasn’t, there was no reason why she should look so beautiful to him.
MuGyeom and EunSeo stood there for a long time.
Although she wasn’t standing on her own, EunSeo still liked that she was on her feet. And MuGyeom merely enjoyed watching the evening landscape as the sun began to set.
Because of this, both of them stood there for a long time as they watched the sun set behind the mountain ridges.
* * *
The next day, MuGyeom got up at dawn and began to work diligently before EunSeo awoke.
In the past, MuGyeom had seen a crippled man get up and walk.
This was back when he had been living in a different province. Back then, the man had been a carpenter. Due to an unfortunate accident, he had lost the use of both his legs.
He had been around forty years old and had a young wife and three children under his care.
Finding himself in a situation where he couldn’t continue his work as a carpenter, the man’s situation was dire. Either his family would starve to death or he would have to sell himself as a nobleman’s servant. In order to avoid this fate, the man managed to miraculously walk within three months.
Although the cripple was a man, it didn’t matter. Whether one was a man or a woman, as long as they had the will to walk, there was always a chance.
If she had the courage to try and kill herself, she should be able to find the courage to try walking again.
MuGyeom had spent the entire night trying to remember what that carpenter did to walk again. When dawn broke, he got up and began to make something for EunSeo.
Of course, he knew that the carpenter had lost the use of his legs due to an accident while EunSeo had become unable to walk due to the lack of yang energy. However, they were the same in that they both couldn’t walk.
But all they could do was do everything they could.
MuGyeom made posts and installed them in the yard. On top of the posts, he attached a long pole.
The posts were spread apart so that a person could fit between them, and the pole was installed as a handrail.
“He walked through this every day. Even if his legs were dragging on the ground behind him, he practiced walking every single day. At first, his hands did all the work and his legs dragged on the ground, but at some point, when he tried to bring his legs forward, he began to walk step by step.”
That’s what the carpenter had told him.
He was right.
EunSeo hadn’t been able to walk for several months now.
MuGyeom wasn’t a doctor, but even he knew.
From what he’d heard, ever since she had gotten ill in the summer, she hadn’t been able to walk and remained sitting the whole time.
That was several months ago.
Even if a perfectly healthy person didn’t walk for that long, they would eventually forget how to walk.
In EunSeo’s case, she hadn’t broken a bone, so all they’d have to do is just help her legs remember what it felt like to walk.
She’d continue to drink the medicine and replenish her yang energy as she practiced walking. If she did all this, she might truly be able to walk again.
In the past, she may not have been able to do this due to her noble status, but over here, there was no one to see her.
This house was secluded, and there were no passersby. The walls were tall, so no one could see over them.
Therefore, EunSeo wouldn’t be humiliated.
What was so embarrassing about a person trying their best to live?
“It’s been a while since I put shoes on.”
EunSeo spoke bitterly as MuGyeom put her shoes on her feet. She couldn’t walk, so there was no need for shoes.
They weren’t her usual silk shoes. Instead, he was putting on some straw shoes. MuGyeom thought that straw shoes would be a lot more comfortable for walking than her silk shoes.
“Did you make these?”
“They’re quite sturdy, so don’t worry, my lady.”
“What would I need these for?”
“Starting today, I think my lady is going to have to endure some hard work.”
The breakfast this morning wasn’t porridge. Instead, he served her a proper meal. He filled the bowl with a heap of rice. As soon as she saw this, EunSeo felt that something was off.
Although she couldn’t eat that much, MuGyeom stubbornly made her finish the whole bowl.
Everything became strange from then on.
She thought that he was acting strange, and now she found out that he had made something strange and planned on making her do something strange as well.
“Please get on my back for now.”
“On your back?”
“Of course. Then are you going to crawl all the way over there?”
MuGyeom was right.
She wasn’t sure what he was planning on making her do with that strange tool over there, but if she wanted to get there, she’d have to be carried there on MuGyeom’s back.
When EunSeo settled on his back, MuGyeom stood up.
He thought this on the first day she came to this house, but MuGyeom was reminded of how light she was once again.
She was as light as a feather.
How could someone be this light?
He felt that she was so light that she’d be blown away with the wind.
Her hands were small, her body was petite, and she was very light.
He could hardly believe she went up to the temple every day at dawn to offer up her prayers for 2 years.
How did she feel as she did that?
For 2 years, she had gone up to the temple to offer up prayers for the groom whose face she had never seen. How did she feel about that?
She poured all her heart and soul into doing this until she had grown ill. And in the end, the groom’s family kicked her out. How did she feel?
If MuGyeom had been her groom, he would never abandon a woman who had endured all that for him.
Although she had never seen him, she had spent 2 years going up to the temple every single day to beg the heavens on his behalf. How could he abandon a woman like that?
Even if she couldn’t move her whole body, he would care for her and stay by her side. He would never pretend that he never knew her.
MuGyeom didn’t know what a noble and pure heart looked like.
He had never seen one before.
Had EunSeo loved the groom whose face she had never seen before?
Could anyone fall in love with someone whose face they hadn’t seen?
“You just need to tightly hold onto these.”
MuGyeom placed both of EunSeo’s hands on the poles.
“I can’t stand up on my own.”
EunSeo’s wrists were relaxed in defeat.
MuGyeom knew that she wouldn’t be able to do this on her own right now.
He needed to help her.
At first, he’d need to support her. However, he’d slowly pull that support away, and EunSeo’s own strength would replace it.
There was no need to hurry. They’d take it slow. Very slow.
And then one day, EunSeo would be able to hold onto the poles herself and walk on her own.
And once she was used to walking with the poles, she’d probably be able to let go and walk on her own two feet.
“I’ll hold your waist. I’ll hold onto you, so don’t worry, my lady. All you have to do is hold onto the poles and move forward.”
“But my legs won’t move.”
“You can just drag them behind you.”
“That wouldn’t look good.”
“There is no one here to see you.”
“What about you? You’ll see it.”
“How can a servant be considered a person?”
Saying it out loud with his own mouth made him feel a bit bitter.
How can a servant be considered a person?
A servant was considered to be his master’s possession.
Not a person.
And because he wasn’t a person, he was an item that could be bought and sold. He could be killed at a whim.
“Who told you that a servant wasn’t a person?”
EunSeo spoke as she grasped the poles and began to move her right hand forward. She pushed her hands forward, and her legs began to drag on the ground behind her. As she pushed herself forward, MuGyeom stepped back.
The distance between them was exactly one step.
MuGyeom needed to hold onto her hips or else she wouldn’t be able to keep herself up.
Little by little, her right hand moved forward followed by her left. Every time she moved forward, her legs dragged on the ground behind her.
Every time she moved forward, MuGyeom took another step back.
Whenever she came closer to him, he stepped back.
Slowly. Very slowly.
She barely reached his chest. Every time her hand moved towards him, MuGyeom moved his foot back.
Tired from all her efforts, strained breaths began to escape her lips.
Those breaths brushed against the hems of MuGyeom’s clothes.
After a while, MuGyeom noticed her reddened face and the beads of sweat on her forehead.
Her ragged breaths, her red lips…
His eyes never left her red lips.
At that moment, EunSeo’s forehead bumped against MuGyeom’s chest.
He had forgotten to step back because he had been staring at her lips.
“Why are you just standing there?”
EunSeo raised her head and looked at him with her clear eyes. Suddenly, MuGyeom felt a warmth rise inside his chest.
It all happened in an instant.
He felt the warmth rise up, and the nape of his neck grew hot. His hands unintentionally tensed on EunSeo’s hips.
He had never felt this way before in his whole life.