Chapter 3 – At a Shabby Inn
The wedding of Leah and Byun Gyongbaek of Oberde was arranged. To her frustration, her opinion was not heard, it being given no importance in this political marriage. She received the news without any prior discussion.
Isn’t Byun Gyongbaek a faithful hero of Estia? The best expression of gratitude from the royal family is you, indeed!
I told you that your body belongs to the royal family. This is a duty a royal princess must bear.
This is for the sake of Estia.
Words that were supposed to comfort her further fueled her ire. To tie her to her duties, people started whispering to her ears, gauging her to submit to the royal decree. Byun Gyongbaek won’t want a hesitant wife, after all!
Upon finding out that her existence was only for the sole purpose of gearing up a beneficial treaty, she felt despair. And as soon as the immeasurable sorrow left her, anger took its stead.
As her gaze raked over the official document notifying her of her union with Byun Gyongbaek, she had made up her mind. She decided to leave a long-lasting disgrace to the royal family of Estia, even if it meant an untimely death for her.
As she refused to resign to the fate the royal family painted for her, a wicked plan started to take its course.
Tonight, she would have an overnight company. The royal family would then be accused of giving a deflowered bride to the high and mighty Byun.
For a moment, as her decision took precedence, she held her breath. Her fingertips trembled badly as fear slowly crept in… Her hair stood on ends and legs slightly wobbled.
However, this slip of vulnerability quickly faded; her determination remaining undampened.
The night was young. Leah bit her lower lip tightly and continued to grace the street shrouded in nothing but darkness and obscenity.
Drunk people walked in faltering steps underneath the lit lamps that hung between old buildings. Giggles sounded as vulgar, filthy jokes were delivered in boisterous tones.
Leah squeezed her cloak tight around her body. After she carefully checked each establishment that she passed by, she finally found her target place—it was a shabby inn which looked like it would collapse anytime soon.
The knob felt cold under her palm as she hesitantly pushed open the wooden door.
The inn was already full of tipsy, intoxicated people. Naturally, she attracted some attention upon her entrance. But soon, few of those who turned their gazes to Leah lost interest in her and they continued chattering among themselves.
Before coming here, she already made arrangements. Her company would be seated in the most concealed corner of this establishment, wearing a dark ensemble for the sake of discretion.
Her gaze darted to every nook and cranny of the place and it was not long until a man donning dark cloaks in an inconspicuous corner caught her very attention. He was buried in the shadows, away from the bustle and hustle. At a quick glance, the man seemed to blend in darkness—the shadow and him merging into one body difficult to differentiate.
Leah slowly started to draw nearer the mysterious man. Upon reaching him, she tapped the table where he was seated and instantly, the lone hand that held the wine glass froze in mid-air…
His hands, wrapped in leather gloves, were so big the glass it held looked like a mere toy.
“Are you my company tonight?” She asked boldly.
An agonizing second passed before the man’s lips parted and uttered, “It seems so…”
It was a low and rough voice that seemed to scratch from his inside. Leah blinked hard. She heard that men of such pitch are gentle and beautiful.
But his voice that reverberated in her ears was different from what she had imagined. Though suddenly surprised, she soon pulled herself from her musings. Anyway, once things are done right, this will soon be over.
“Follow me.” The man directed, to which she subserviently nodded in return. He soon led her to a flight of stairs heading to the second floor of the building.
The wooden stairs creaked with her every step. After passing through a long hallway, they entered a room at its most end. The man opened the door for her and let her inside first.
Surprisingly, the rented room was the best one in the inn. Heavy draperies and cozy furniture—if anything, it looked romantic and deserving of couples wanting their first night to be memorable. Such a waste though, for this night was never intended for romance. But rather, she came here with a clear agenda.
Entering the room after her, the man closed and bolted the door. Its clicking sound sounded like a death sentence to Leah.
There is no going back now…
Mustering courage, she turned around and faced him. As she did so, she drew a sharp intake of breath.
A while ago, the man sat in the shadows and slouched low by the time he stood up, making Leah miss his towering height. Now, facing him in all his glory, an ample height difference between her and his chin was hard to ignore. Despite the dim light in the room, she could clearly see his broad shoulders and strong physique.
She was candidly embarrassed by the stark contrast in their frames. The man must had noticed as his lips slowly twisted to a faint smile. He loosely threw his heavy cloak with one hand to the floor, revealing his face.
What welcomed her was a healthy-looking bronze skin, dark brown hair and dull yet fierce eyes.
In the dark, his piercing golden eyes remained clear and bright, reflecting the wildness of a beast…
Though angular, his features were brutally beautiful. Filled by an overwhelming fascination for this man, she unabashedly fixed her curious gaze on him.
Leah’s heart raced. Her throat dried as a realization hit her.
The man was not human.
“…Kurkan?” She muttered unconsciously to herself. Her mouth trembling so slightly as this taboo word was spewed carelessly. Dark skin, huge physique and golden clear eyes with intensely colored pupils were the special characteristics of a Kurkan.
He raised his eyebrows and coolly conceded.
“It has been a long time since a person has called me a Kurkan. Nowadays, we are normally called savages.” He said, slurring the last word.