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Ye-Rim wiped her tears with her sleeve. “My Lady, I did not know how tough your life had been… That’s terrible… What you had to go through…”

I chuckled. “There’s good and there’s bad, just like everything.” Reaching my hand out, I grazed my fingers across her cheek. “You had a difficult life too, Ye-Rim. Life is difficult, but we have to keep pushing on for the people we love.”

The younger woman was still sniffing but she managed a nod. My smile widened. The first day we met, Ye-Rim had been cast out of her household for birthing a bastard child. With no money to her name, she had gladly agreed to be Ji-Sung’s wet nurse in exchange for a place to live. Even after all that she had to go through, her heart remained gentle and pure.

I lifted my feet off the basin while Ye-Rim grabbed them with a towel. She was kneeling next to my bed and helping me through my daily morning routine. A few flower petals from the foot bath spilled over to the floor.

“But the rebellion ended up being rather successful, did it not?” Ye-Rim asked as she wiped my feet dry. “I am not too informed about politics, but the current King is a different one from five years ago, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yong-Min will know more details, but as far as I know, there was a major upheaval. A new King, a new… Queen.” I let out a small sigh. “But I do not think that they are who the rebellion wanted as rulers. I believe the rebellion is still ongoing. After all, I had not heard from the Marquis at all. He was supposed to fetch Ji-Sung after things are settled, but he has not done that yet. Yong-Min is still here too, and I know he is only here under his loyalties to the Marquis.”

My gaze traveled towards the door. I could hear Ji-Sung’s laughter even with the door closed. Yong-Min had been teaching him how to fight with a sword, and the young boy loved it. Right now, he could be beaten to a pulp by his adopted father, and he would still be chortling with joy.

“Is it bad I don’t want Ji-Sung to be taken to the palace, My Lady?” Ye-Rim admitted bashfully.

“Not at all, because I feel the same way.”

We laughed.

It had been five years since the four of us moved into this house together. Yong-Min and I had to pretend to be Ji-Sung’s parents to avoid suspicions. At some point, Ji-Sung started to call Ye-Rim “Umma”, and we accepted it since then.

He might have lost his biological mother, but now, he had a father and two mothers to take care of him. Life worked in strange ways.

“Do you still miss her, My Lady?” Ye-Rim asked, returning to the story.

My eyes fluttered. “Every single day,” I whispered. “I… see her in Ji-Sung sometimes, and it… it hurts.”

Not just Ji-Sung. I saw the Queen in everything. The toy bear I had kept, the food I made, the flowers outside. I longed for her so badly that the wound in my heart still felt… fresh. As if it was yesterday that I had run away from her.

I had stopped crying though. I had cried so much for her that year that I must have used up all my tears.

“Ji-Sung will grow up to be a good man,” Ye-Rim said.

“He will. I have no doubts about that.”

Speak of the devil, Ji-Sung barged into the room and exclaimed, “Umma! Eomeoni!”

His face was bruised and battered, and his clothes were drenched in sweat. Still, he held the biggest grin in the world as he bounced up and down. “Can we please go to the marketplace today? Please, please, please?”

Yong-Min appeared from behind and scooped the boy into his arms. “Come on,” he grunted. “Go get cleaned up first before bothering your mothers.”

“Can we, can we, can we?” Even while in the air, Ji-Sung did not let his father stop him from pleading. “Eomeoni, please?”

Ji-Sung directed his question at me, knowing I was the one who went to the marketplace every morning for groceries.

Ye-Rim chuckled, but I pursed my lips. “Listen to your father and get cleaned up first,” I chided. “And then I will think about it.”

The boy sulked and slumped into Yong-Min’s body. Nonchalantly, the older man carried him out of the room and closed the door.

Ye-Rim looked up at me with a cheeky smile. “You’re always so strict, My Lady.”

“Am I? You are just too nice, Ye-Rim. You’ll spoil him.”

She chuckled again and patted my feet one last time. “There, My Lady. All done.”

“All clean?”

Ye-Rim bent down and planted a soft kiss on the top of my right foot.

“All clean, My Lady,” she whispered. Her breath was warm against my skin.

I took in a sharp gasp. She smirked at my reaction before kissing my ankle, my shin, and my thigh.

“It’s daytime, Ye-Rim,” I warned.

“The boys are washing up,” she urged, lifting my robes.

My eyes flickered close; a silent consent.

I had forgotten when our affair had started—three years ago, or perhaps four—but shame and guilt plagued me every time. After everything that had happened, after the deaths I had allowed to happen, did I deserve to be loved like this?

Did I deserve happiness?

Her tongue swept my clit, and I let the pleasure take over my warring mind.

***

The marketplace had used to be such a strange and foreign world, but it was my second home now. The bustling crowds, the constant chatters, the lingering smell of street food—the liveliness of it all made me feel more alive than ever.

Ji-Sung skipped next to me as he held my hand. When we reached the toy cart, he broke off from me to check it out.

He had been pestering me to buy a new toy for him, and I had refused every time. After all, he had the best one on earth: the Queen’s bear. I was willing to buy new clothes, new shoes, new books—anything he requested—but I was adamant about never buying another toy. After months of tears, he accepted my decision and resorted to playing with the toys temporarily at the seller’s permission.

As I watched him from afar, I heard a familiar voice.

“Don’t hang out with these hooligans, Min-Ho.”

I froze. That was a voice I had not heard in years. A voice that had been a mere whisper in my mind. But now, the memories gushed back into me.

It could not be…

Slowly, I turned around. My eyes widened.

And there she was.

Seul-Na.

Her extravagant regalia screamed nobility. A row of servants stood behind her. They were all carrying bags of purchased goods; one of them held an umbrella over Seul-Na.

A boy, around the same age as Ji-Sung, sulked as she berated him.

“This village is full of peasants so don’t get too close to anybody.” Seul-Na sounded older. More forceful. More… pompous. “Once your father is done with his business, we will head home.“

Questions inundated my mind. Why was she out of the palace? Did the Bin Concubine lose her position during the rebellion as well? Even so, why was Seul-Na here, and rich, and with a child?

Before my mind could sort itself out, my long-lost sister turned around. Our eyes met.

Her face turned ghostly pale.

Unni.”

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