“Are you feeling better now?” I asked as I unwrapped my arms from him.
Kian’s eyes were red. He nodded instead of answering.
It made me recall the novel…Now that I think about it, Kian shed many tears before blackening.
The Kian in my dreams was a man without blood or tears.
It was disconcerting to juxtapose these two different visages and then amazing to realize that they were the same person.
He wiped the tears from the corners of his eyes with the back of his hand.
“I shouldn’t have let you see me like this. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head firmly.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” I’m just grateful that you haven’t been radicalized by it.
I patted my shoulder and said:
“If you’re having a hard time, you can cry here as much as you like. Here, like today, I’ll lend you my shoulder.”
Kian’s cheeks turned red as if he had been burned by fire. He shook his head and mumbled to himself, “I’m not going to cry now.”
The cute silhouette of him trying to compose himself tears made me smile gently.
The night was deep when Kian found some peace of mind.
Sounds of crickets crying came from the open window.
I pulled myself up to go back now.
“It’s late. I’ll go.”
“Oh, master…” Kian called me abruptly as I tried to leave the room.
After hesitating for a moment, he opened his mouth.
“Good night,” he said shyly.
“Good night to you too, Kian,”
Kian saw me off with a feverish smile.
His smile looked softer than before.
I wanted to keep seeing that smile.
Internally I vowed to protect him from his fate.
I’ll stop him from becoming twisted and make him happy.
It was the pledge I had made when I first met him at the auction house.
Recalling it, I left Kian’s room behind.
A few days have passed since that day.
As I was going down to the dining room for breakfast, I ran into Kian in the hallway.
“Good morning, Kian.”
Kian glowed with a gentle smile and asked:
“Did master have a good night’s sleep as well?”
When I saw his vibrant countenance, I felt relieved that he had slept soundly.
Servants carried in the meal, and the room soon became full of the smell of delicious food.
I spoke as I spread apple jam on the brown bread. “I have some work to do outside today.”
I had an appointment with the Duchess of Wedgewood in the afternoon.
She was vital in our Ashford’s art export business.
Since long ago, neighboring countries have been fascinated by the Empire’s unique culture.
The increased interest in our food, clothes naturally meant the increased interest in our art.
Even the Queen of Genoa had a special love for Imperial culture. The rich woman spared no expense in buying art.
The Duchess of Wedgewood was the very same Queen’s niece.
Versed in high art, the Queen trusted the Duchess’s taste and often bought pieces after a few words.
If the Duchess and the Queen were involved, it was an easy sell.
I called the carriage before breakfast and had the carriage wait for me so as not to be late for the appointment.
Kian saw me off to the front door of the mansion.
“When are you coming back?”
Kian asked as I was getting into the wagon.
I looked back at him and saw an expression that reminded me of a worried puppy.
When Kian had that face, it was hard to leave.
“It’ll be over before dark, so let’s have dinner together.”
“I’ll be waiting. Good-bye, Master.”
The carriage took off.
After some distance, I looked out of the car window and saw Kian still standing on the porch.
I vowed to finish my meeting with the Duchess as soon as possible.
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