‘D*mn, d*mn it…!’
As he searched for her, Tarhan uttered every curse he could think of in the world.
In the midst of the overwhelming pain and frustration that felt like his chest would explode, he desperately called Enya’s name and meticulously scoured through each of the abandoned huts he had come across throughout the night.
Everything was a mess. Although he had expected it to be a miserable night, he hadn’t imagined it would be this dreadful.
How many of these abandoned huts had he searched frantically? It wasn’t until he reached the pitiful hut they had first inhabited upon coming to Aquilea that he finally stopped his frantic footsteps.
Tarhan, panting in sadness and tension, slowly walked inside.
It was a dimly lit interior with no light. Within it, there was a feeble object trembling with cold and fear, like a frail animal.
He felt the startled shadow flinch and dart to a corner in terror after sensing a presence. Seeing the small shoulders quivering and trembling without making a sound, he felt a sharp pain as if someone was stabbing his heart with shards of glass.
“Enya… It’s me, Tarhan.”
With an indescribable sense of powerlessness, he let out a groan that felt as if it were choking him. He kneeled as he crumbled at the doorway and called out to her once more.
“I’m sorry for coming late. I’m sorry, Enya.”
Then, as if encountering a demon in the darkness, the small trembling figure let out a sharp sigh. With a scream almost like a sob, the shadow suddenly leaped out as Tarhan knelt before her and met her gaze.
Seeing Enya’s appearance after almost a month, he didn’t know what to say.
She looked equally astonished as if she couldn’t believe him in front of her.
The two of them couldn’t take their eyes off each other for a moment, just gazing like that. Her shoulders, which seemed like they couldn’t shrink any further, were now visibly thinner. Tarhan’s gaze traced the torn lips from how badly she had bitten them and the swollen and bruised cheek.
Traces of dried tears painfully stuck to her skin. Her eyes, swollen and reddened, were staring at him in shock.
During his recovery period, Piache had done her best, but the new wounds on his body, the marks sewn with needles, the dried blood, and the bruised and discolored skin were impossible to hide even in the dark of night.
Enya’s lips pursed, and Tarhan could do nothing but stare blankly at the sight before him.
Having stayed up all night, all the words he had struggled to say when he met her again flew away, leaving his mind empty.
“Ah… Tr, Tarhan…”
She hesitantly reached out her hand, then withdrew it, opened her mouth again, blinked her eyes, and contorted her face as if she were about to cry.
Tarhan was the one to reach out first and pull her into an embrace.
At that moment, he couldn’t help it any longer. With her limp body wrapping around him, he embraced her mercilessly, exhaling deeply.
Her body was so weak that she couldn’t even face him.
Tarhan held her small head against his chest, tightening his grip even more before Enya finally clung to his neck, letting out a small sob. Both of them held each other’s trembling bodies as if they were about to die, and they stayed like that for a while. They didn’t know how much time had passed.
As he held her body on the bare ground, Tarhan finally felt the intense fatigue washing over him. His body relaxed. He could have fallen asleep on the ground while holding her in his arms. But that’s not possible?
“Now let’s go, let’s go home…”
Speaking in a voice that trembled foolishly, he gently lifted her from the sitting position. Normally, she would have struggled and cried to be let down, but this time, she remained still, hugging him as his neck stiffened.
He didn’t know what state of mind he was in to make it back home.
The house, upon their return, was a mess. The scented candle and the disheveled flower petals from the wreath were rolling on the floor.
Enya’s eyes widened at the sight.
Filled with a growing anger, Tarhan kicked them to a corner. Then, carefully, he laid her down on the mat where they used to sleep together.
He called out her name, telling their safe arrival. However, the grip of the arm around his neck didn’t loosen.
Tarhan swallowed the dry lump in his throat, feeling an indescribable surge of emotions. Suddenly, amidst the surge of movement, he felt her burying her nose into his shoulder, her lips quivering as she whispered. Simultaneously, with her nestled in one arm, his body, half-bent to lay her down, froze abruptly.
Feeling a confusion bordering on worry, he recalled her words in his mind. Yet, she didn’t give him time to process his thoughts.
In the darkness, she murmured.
“I, I regretted not saying anything before letting you go. If you come back again, I will make sure to tell you.”
Even in her shaken expression, her resolute voice dug into his ears.
She opened her lips again.
This time, it was a voice so clear that no matter what he did, he couldn’t deny it.
“I love you, Tarhan.”
Even amid the trembling and quivering, the meaning of her embrace was as clear as her words.
Tarhan remained speechless, his mouth slightly open. He felt her body digging into his embrace, trembling uncontrollably. At first, he didn’t know if the pounding of the heart was his or hers. The strength in his body that had not wavered before any monster was suddenly gone.
He slumped to the ground, his head hitting the floor. Despite her trembling, she burrowed further into his chest.
It was impossible for his mind to be any more muddled. It felt as if he had been drenched in blood.
He was unable to respond.
The cowardly woman had just spit out those words and had already fallen asleep, burying her face into his clavicle. It was an undeniable defeat for him that he could never recover from. Or was it a victory?
No, it was another defeat.
As if questioning when he had lived with the constant thought of death, Tarhan was now lost in the invading satisfaction and happiness. He had no idea what to do with her burrowing into his arms.
Amidst the surging waves of various emotions, he knew only one thing for certain.
…He couldn’t live without this woman.
Eventually, even after she had peacefully exhaled in his arms, it took him a long time to fall asleep.
The dawn seemed to vaguely emerge, the sky still dark.
Someone was wiping his forehead. Thinking it was a dream again, he jolted awake, recalling the events of meeting her last evening.
The hand that had fallen off his forehead recoiled in surprise.
Tarhan blinked as he tried to compose himself from the overwhelming scent emanating from where she had knelt. Even in the darkness, he could see that her hair was slightly damp. It seemed she had taken a bath at dawn. The light moisture was sprinkled on the thin robe she was wearing, accentuating her bare shoulders.
“I’m, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. You were sleeping so soundly… Go back to sleep, Tarhan.”
Her cheeks blushed, and she opened her mouth in a whisper.
Suddenly, he remembered falling asleep last night without properly washing up and just holding her in his arms.
An indescribable embarrassment washed over him at that moment. He quickly got up and left the room. He headed for the water.
He stripped off his clothes and scooped up the water she had left in a basin, using it to wash every nook and cranny of his body. There was a small lump of the scent she had used and left behind.
She wouldn’t leave such things lying around the house.
Come to think of it, it seemed like one of the ridiculous items the woman had left behind last night.
As he reflected on the bewildering memories from last night, he chuckled and scrubbed his body with it. Even so, he resolved to procure similar items, thinking of the pleasant scent that had wafted around when Enya had approached earlier.
After washing away all the dust built up from his search for her yesterday, he put on his trousers and returned to the room where she was.
The bed they had slept on had been neatly arranged.
Tarhan stared dazedly at the sight, suddenly realizing that the room, which had been a mess the previous evening, was now tidily organized.
There were layers of animal skins, feathers, and dried flower petals piled to create a soft, fluffy pillow. There was even a strange-smelling incense burner. The unpleasant items left behind by that woman now exuded a strangely alluring aura.
Tarhan saw her sitting among those objects, not knowing what to do. His neck shook unexpectedly.
Only then did he recall why he had been so nervous when he went to the house where she would be waiting for him last night.
It was very late, or rather, it had already become a mess for a long time. They were about to have their first night together.
In that instant, an indescribable sense of distant fear, coupled with an unidentifiable excitement, began to flow through his entire being. Tarhan hurriedly scolded himself for harboring such dirty thoughts and clenched his jaw, trying to push the feeling away with all his might.
With a baffled feeling, Tarhan wiped his face and staggered towards her.
As he approached, it felt as if her body, sitting quietly in the space decorated like a ceremonial room, flinched and shrank for a moment. Immediately after that, he stiffened his body as if struck by lightning, feeling the chilling sensation and tingling that pierced his chest.
Just seeing her frightened appearance made his mouth feel dry.
Feeling devastated, he calmly opened his lips.
“You don’t have to worry. I won’t… do that to you. I never intended to do so from the beginning, so don’t worry.”