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Jihye had not yet developed the ability of recollecting points in time when her mother was pronounced dead. She was merely a newborn, already deprived of her mother and left to the care of a nursemaid.

Tales would be told of the woman who went from rags to riches— as the many servants who attended to the Queen's needs prior to Jihye's birth. Her mother would be depicted as a different person depending on who Jihye listened to. Those who were fond of her only ever said pleasant things, sometimes even claiming they had been close friends. While those who noticeably despised the woman, created vicious fables to degrade her character.

Jihye never believed either side, and since her Father hardly ever spoke of his late wife, she never formed an opinion or image of her. That was until Jihye saw the portrait in her Father's study. With only one gaze, Jihye was able to engrain the chilling portrait to distant memory. A young woman, clothed in a gown of purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and precious jewelry. And in her arms was Jihye herself, the proof that her mother had once existed and walked the world.

Jihye had always been eerily amazed by the woman. But she was only a flat canvas. A mask plastered onto a lifeless mannequin kept in her memories to fill the absence of a mother since birth. Perhaps things would have been different now with her mother next to her. Perhaps Jihye would have more freedom to make her own decisions without the constant opposition of her Father. But the reality was she was indisputably dead. Or so Jihye was led to believe.

Aware that it just very could be Sunghoon's cruel way to coax her out of focusing on what he had done, Jihye stayed stubborn and took what he said with a grain of salt.

At last, Jihye muttered rather somberly, "What kind of sick joke are you playing?" She replied rather harshly and quickly as if absolutely furious but it was far from that. On the contrary, her own doubts that have etched themselves into her once concrete truth had caused the timbre of her voice. "My mother's dead." Jihye said, spitting out the three words through a tight jaw.

"So I've heard. But it was her." Sunghoon's voice was chipped, he didn't beat around the bush nor did he coat his statement with bias.

His statement had caught Jihye off guard at first but she had a reply right on the tip of her tongue laced with venom of her own. "You've never even seen her."

"You look just like her. That painting— you're the spitting image of your mother." Sunghoon's placid demeanor usually didn't bother Jihye, but today it's nothing but frustrating.

Jihye lifts her chin, holding his attention. "What were you doing in my father's study?" She asks, a slight tremble in her voice.

Sunghoon's brow raised slightly, not expecting Jihye to ask that question. He assumed Sunoo had already informed her of what had happened. But apparently, the two of them didn't tell each other everything. "A handkerchief incident." He told her vaguely.

"But as I said earlier— if Regeneration and Elemental Magic worked, then surely everything else is true." Sunghoon sounded so sincere, so reasonable, a boy who believed he was doing the right thing for telling her and less for the liar that Jihye was trying to make him out to be. Despite all he'd done and all he intended, Jihye did almost believe him.

Jihye's mouth dried yet salivated at the same time. "And here I am repeating myself, my mother passed away years ago." Her reply spilled from her lips as if thrown like a dart and yet there was little emphasis in them.

"Is there any solid evidence that your mother truly died?" Sunghoon had asked as if he knew the plain truth, and wasn't saying anything to neither spite her nor put honey around her ears. No guilt, no hesitation— and it was what set Jihye off even more.

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⏰ Last updated: Oct 03, 2022 ⏰

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