Five years ago, a sudden case of artist’s block nearly killed Nicholas.
He left even the emperor’s portrait unfinished under the pretext of a slump.
The angry emperor threatened Nicholas to cut off his hand if he did not complete the painting immediately.
But Nicholas said, ‘I’d rather lose my hand than paint an insincere picture.’
An angry emperor tried to execute Nicholas.
However, officials who could not lose their genius managed to save his life.
It was Nicholas who suffered from such a severe lack of motivation. But then, the inspiration hit him when he painted Kian.
Considering such post-war circumstances, it was understandable that he asked to see Kian again.
“Are you really going to grant me this favor?” asked Nicholas, who was humming as we crossed the street.
I spoke while leaning against the soft back of the carriage.
“If Kian agrees. If he says no, give up and go back.”
“Okay. So…the young man’s name is Kian,” Nicholas sighed with a sweet face that clearly showed he was suffering from lovesickness.
“Ha… it’s as pretty as his appearance.”
Can I let this man meet with Kian? There was a slight anxiety reverberating in my toes, but the carriage had already passed through the ducal gate.
Because of his clean appearance, Kian did not recognize Nicholas immediately.
Yes, the tramp you met last time is actually this person.
I was going to introduce you two that way, but Nicholas was a step faster.
“Kian, I’ve missed you a lot.” With a look heavy with emotion, Nicholas clasped Kian’s hand.
Kian seemed a little bashful when a strange man grabbed his hand.
He asked, carefully pulling out his hand.
“Excuse me, but who are you….?”
I spoke, separating the two and keeping the excited Nicholas away from Kian.
“I know how you feel, but please keep the appropriate distance. Or Kian will feel troubled.”
“Oh, I think I went a little too far.” Nicholas took a step back and admitted his mistake.
Seeing his behavior reassured me.
I guess he did have a bit of common sense.
But that was my illusion.
Nicholas took off his hat and bowed on one knee.
He said with a desperate look at Kian.
“Will you please be my muse?”
The stare was so burdensome that Kian stiffened like stone.
Muses, they are inspirational beings for artists.
Sometimes a lover of an artist, a disciple, an artistic comrade······. No, it’s not important right now.
Once we moved to the drawing-room, I asked Nicholas, with my arms crossed.
“You don’t mean to burden Kian, do you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why did you kneel?”
“To convey my true feelings.”
“Don’t you think that if you do something like that to someone you’ve never met before, the person will feel burdened and will refuse?”
“I’m sorry, but no one has ever rejected me. The assumption of rejection in the first place is worthless to me.”
Nicholas, who has been famous since his youth, had a big head, but I didn’t know it was this big.
“Wow, what bad luck, ····.”
My inner thoughts were unintentionally mumbled out loud.
Nicholas was furious at my careless remark.
“What did you say just now—?”‘
It was Kian who stopped us arguing.
“I understand your situation. You want me to be a model for a painting, don’t you?”
“Yes. You know, I have been suffering from a long slump. If you refuse, I’ll fall into the depths of despair again,” stated Nicholas, pitifully, pretending to be helpless—trying to stir his sympathy.
I tried hard to hold back my tongue.
Kian, who had been pondering for a while, sighed as if he couldn’t help it.
“If you need my help, I’ll help you.”
Nicholas rejoiced and jumped.
“Thank you, Kian! You are my life’s benefactor!”
Unlike Nicholas, who was thrilled, my face crumpled by itself.
Said Kean with a bitter smile.
“You looked desperate, so… I couldn’t refuse.”
I whispered to Kian in a small voice.
“I know. You just want to save a poor man, didn’t you?”
Indeed. Nicholas’ strategy of generating compassion was valid.
Nicholas mockingly smiled at me.
My fists shook. I was resentful, but I couldn’t help but admit defeat.
“Is this my studio?” inquired Master Painter Nicholas, as he inspected the workstation with easels, canvases, brushes, palettes, and colorful pigments.
“It’s not so bad.”
Maybe he was born with a self-confident attitude.
I didn’t feel comfortable with Kian going to Nicholas’s house every time he wanted to paint, so I set up an art studio in the workshop, but I don’t know if I made the right decision.
From that day on, Nicholas stayed in his studio all day long, except for meals, his random sleeping hours, and drawing Kian.
Nicholas’s health was none of my business, but it was Kian I was worried about.
“If you’re having a hard time, you can quit now.”
I told him late one night while handing a warm cup of tea to Kian, who had returned to his room after a modelling session.
Kian blinked his gentle eyes and sipped the tea.
“It’s all right. I said I’d do it, so I’ll take responsibility until the end.”
Kian smiled reassuringly at me.
How can such a sweet man become so bad?
But I brought myself back to reality.
I’m trying to live. Being selfish helps one’s rate of survival.
It would be nice if he awakens himself a year later and gets his hands on his full power. Or maybe if he was as gentle as he is now, he would get used by people with bad intentions and then blacken anyways?
Is it better if he hardens his heart so he wouldn’t get used?
Maybe not all of the heart, just half.
That night I pondered over such nonsense.
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