“You shouldn’t yell out so loudly in this place. It isn’t dignified.”
The name of the lady who had spoken was Hahn Aiin. She had long hair, and a solemn air surrounded her. The bubbly bobbed-hair woman was named Yoo Hweeyoung, whom Hahn Aiin was scolding.
“So what? This place is noisy anyways. Also, I wasn’t that loud.”
“It was loud enough. The fact that others are loud doesn’t give you the right to be loud also.”
Suddenly, the two women started a light verbal sparring. Jimin let out a bitter laughter.
‘The two of them haven’t changed at all.’
They bickered with each other, but it looked like playful banter between close friends. Even though both women had opposite personalities, they didn’t clash. They supplemented each other’s shortcomings, and they had looked after Jimin’s father Jungbum in the past. They were the ideal mothers in her mind. They were completely different from her real mother. She thought about these two step mothers that were standing in front of her.
‘If these two were my real mothers...’
It was a sentiment she had felt all through her childhood. This feeling once again quietly washed over her like a rising tide. At that moment, she felt a small hand tug at her clothes.
Jimin turned towards the direction where her clothes were being tugged. Shinhae looked a bit shy as she looked toward Hweeyoung and Aiin. The two of them also picked up on Shinhae’s presence, and they turned their gaze towards the child.
“What’s wrong, Shinhae?”
Shinhae pointed towards the two ladies.
Suddenly, Shinhae closed her mouth. She placed her hand over her mouth. She was deep in thought as she directed her gaze towards Jimin, who looked at her in puzzlement.
‘Unni hated it when I called her ajumma, right?’
She was about to ask who these ajummas were. However, she remembered the incident where Jimin had really hated being called ajumma. Shinhae once again turned towards the two ladies. They looked a bit older, but they were very pretty. They were on that borderline of being called ajumma or unni, and for Shinhae, it was an ambiguous situation.
But she firmed her resolve as she opened her mouth.
“Who are these unni?”
Shinhae made the best possible choice by choosing that word.
Hweeyoung and Aiin looked surprised. Shinhae wondered if she had chosen wrong, and she shrank back a little bit. Soon, Shinhae’s body was rocked.
“Kyaaa! What the heck? Unni? Did you just call me unni?”
Hweeyoung suddenly hugged Shinhae. She didn’t care if Shinhae had spaghetti sauce around her lips and started to rub her face against the child’s cheek. The little girl did not know what was going on. If she were a cartoon character, her eyes would have been spinning at this moment.
“Jimin! Who is this kid? I don’t know who she is, but her parents taught her well!”
Jimin could only let out an awkward laugh. Age was a topic that had a profound effect on women. It was especially true that after a certain age, women became really happy when one told them they looked young. Hweeyong and Aiin were starting to feel their age, and the feeling of getting old was coming on stronger in recent days. That was why Shinhae’s words were sweeter than honey to them.
‘This is the result of me reinforcing the word unni to her.’
Jimin correctly guessed Shinhae’s inner thoughts. However, she felt a complicated emotion. She had put in a lot of effort so she could hear the term unni from Shinhae. But now she was also lumped in with these women.
“Look! Isn’t this kid really cute?”
Hweeyoung showed Shinhae to Aiin. The child was being swung around by Hweeyoung like a doll, and Aiin could see that the girl was overwhelmed. Aiin let out a sigh, and she lightly slapped Hweeyoung’s hand.
“You are causing a lot of trouble for the little girl.”
“Oh my! Really?”
Finally, Hweeyoung let go of Shinhae. Shinhae shook her head a couple of times to recover her senses, and then she immediately jumped down from the chair. She ran to Jimin’s side. She hid behind Jimin as she warily watched Hweeyoung.
“Look what you did.”
Hweeyoung could not respond to Aiin’s admonition. She just smacked her lips.
“You lose all control when someone talks about your age. What kind of clothes are you wearing? Do you think you are in your 20s?”
Hweeyoung’s clothes were clearly something the younger generation commonly wore. However, it wasn’t as indecent as Aiin made it out to be. She looked vivacious, yet she didn’t look cheap. At the end of the day, she wore clothes that suited her. She still retained most of her beauty from her youth, so these clothes looked very good on her.
“What is wrong about a woman that is sensitive to her age? Also, you have to work harder as you get older. If not, you’ll age faster. If I wore drab clothes like you, I’ll look much older.”
Hweeyoung wiped away the spaghetti sauce on her cheek, and she shot some sharp words towards Aiin.
At a glance, one could see that Aiin was wearing conservative clothes. Her clothes were unadorned and modest. However, this didn’t mean her clothes were bland. Her individual fashion style shone through the conservative clothes. These types of clothes looked great for her since she had an elegant look.
In the end, the verbal sparring started again. Jimin had experienced this countless times, so she stopped paying attention to it. They fought like cats, but they always made up. In the end, they laughed with each other as if the argument never happened. They shared a husband, so they were supposed to be in competition. They could be called rivals in love, but the two women had overcome that. They had become close friends, and they built up their friendship over time. In some ways, their bickering was an expression of familial love.
While Jimin waited for the light verbal sparring to die down, she tried to soothe Shinhae. Jimin smiled as she wiped away the sauce around Shinhae’s lips. She explained that the two women weren’t scary people. Shinhae had been especially suspicious of Hweeyoung. However, she accepted Jimin’s explanation and returned to her seat.
“Who’s kid is this?”
Hweeyoung stealthily sat next to Shinhae, and her eyes shone.
“She isn’t your daughter, right?”
There was a playful light in Hweeyoung’s eyes. She knew it wasn’t true, yet she knew she had found a way to tease Jimin.
Aiin looked at Hweeyoung as if she was pathetic. She sat between Jimin and Hweeyoung, and she looked on with a questioning gaze.
“She’s not. She is the daughter of someone that was hired by my company.”
Hweeyoung’s face stiffened a little bit, and the light in Aiin’s eyes also subsided a little bit.
“Are you still doing that?”
Jimin looked away as she answered Aiin’s question.
She really respected these two women, but she didn’t like talking about this topic with them. The two women were the main opponents of her plan to create a company and find Jungbum.
In the beginning, Jimin couldn’t believe it. She wondered if these two women were like her mother. It made her wonder if they married her father for his money. However, as time passed, her company wasn’t going as well as she hoped. But even though these two women weren’t related to her by blood, they continued to pour unending love towards her. It made her realize that she had been wrong.
They truly were worried only for her.
“It’s fine. This is the last one.”
This was why Jimin no longer wanted them to worry. She told them about her decision.
Hweeyoung asked in surprise.
“Yes. I came to the conclusion that my work is useless, and I’m starting to run out of money.”
She was barely able to squeeze out the words that she had accepted not too long ago.
Hweeyoung and Aiin stared into Jimin’s eyes. It was as if they were searching her soul. Jimin’s shoulders hunched a little bit. It was like the times in her childhood when she did something wrong. She remembered them scolding her in this fashion. It didn’t matter how old one was. Most children became nervous under the scrutiny of their mother. It was a natural reaction.
“Alright. If that’s your choice, I’m glad to hear it.”
Hweeyoung no longer scrutinized Jimin, but it didn’t sound like Hweeyoung had accepted her answer. In fact, the atmosphere around them became heavier.
“Is that what you really want?”
This time the question came from the other side. Aiin was looking at Jimin with calm eyes, but her daughter had shut her mouth. The silence continued for a bit.
“Don’t be mean to unni!”
A very cute voice broke the silence. Three pairs of eyes simultaneously landed on Shinhae. Shinhae had balled up her hands into cute fists, and she was glaring at Hweeyoung and Aiin. A mere five-year-old was glaring at them. Instead of it being scary, her glare looked really cute.
“Jeez! Jimin’s bodyguard is really scary.”
Hweeyoung’s shoulders shook from laughter, and Aiin also let out a small laugh.
Jimin silently held Shinhae’s hand. Her small hand was warmer than ever before to Jimin.
“I’m fine, Shinhae.”
Shihae’s wide eyes looked at Jimin.
“Are you ok? Aren’t these ajummas being mean to unni?”
Hweeyoung’s mouth fell open. In a flash, she had fallen in class from unni to ajumma. Hweeyoung read Shinhae’s body language, and she realized that Shinhae was showing signs of never using the term unni for them.
“If you can’t really accept his death, you can continue your work. If you really are out of money, we’ll support you.”
Jimin turned to look at Aiin. Aiin’s words had been really unexpected. However, she hadn’t misheard and saw even Hweeyoung nodding.
“Didn’t both of you oppose my work of finding father?”
“We opposed it.”
“It was obvious that you’ll go through much hardship.”
It was a thorny path. The Moon was teeming with monsters, so there was no way it would be easy to find a missing person there.
“At the time, you hadn’t accepted his death, and we weren’t showing any signs of looking for him. In your eyes, you probably thought us to be cold. However, your father had accepted the incredible risk that came with his work. There was an understanding that he might never come back to us, and we were ready for it. He told us to consider him dead if he didn’t come back for a long time.”
Jimin could hear the sadness in Hweeyoung’s words.
“Your younger siblings are Connectors. They’ve experienced the danger of being a Connector. They felt it to their bones. This was why they were able to easily accept your father’s death. That is why all of us tried to stop you. We didn’t want you to live under the shadow of his death. We hated the idea of it crushing you.”
“… so why are you offering money after so long a time?”
Jimin understood the feelings of her mothers now. She could understand the feelings of her siblings. However, she couldn’t stop it. A little bit of animosity entered into her voice.
“We never expected you to look for him for so long.”
The one to answer was Aiin.
“You were persistent, and you didn’t stop looking for him for the past couple of years. This might sound ironic, but we felt very thankful to you. If you thought we were watching your venture with discontentment, you were mistaken.”
Aiin let out a gentle smile as she spoke to Jimin.
“There is no way we could hate a child that is working so hard to find the remnants of our husband.”
At that moment, Aiin’s face was filled with love towards her husband, and it overflowed with affection towards Jimin. It was the same for Hweeyoung. The animosity, which had taken hold in the corner of her heart, melted away when she heard Aiin’s words.
“That is why you should ask for support from us anytime you need it. We can’t fund everything, but we can help you up to a point. You should continue your work until you are satisfied.”
“… thank you very much, mother.”
She was so thankful for their care and affection. Jimin subconsciously lowered her head.
“However, I’m fine. Money is a problem, but in truth, I’m really tired. I can’t hold on to this for the rest of my life.”
“Is that so?”
The two of them didn’t say anything. They didn’t praise her or berate her. They did nothing. They silently listened to what Jimin had to say.
“See? You saw us make up with Jimin unni. Can you call me unni again?”
It seemed Hweeyoung was trying to lighten the mood by speaking to Shinhae. Aiin, who had been anxious, facepalmed at Hweeyoung’s antics. Jimin couldn’t hold back a bitter laugh.
Shinhae looked back and forth between Hweeyoung and Jimin.
“Did you guys make up?”
“Yes. We made up! We made up!”
“You won’t be mean to unni again?”
“Yes, yes! We won’t be mean!”
Shinhae once again looked towards Jimin. Jimin gave a small nod.
“Yes. Ok, unni.”
As soon as she was called unni, Hweeyoung hugged Shinhae. The little body of the child was shaken like a rag doll in Hweeyoung’s embrace.
“Stop it! You are embarrassing me!”
In the end, Aiin slapped Hweeyoung’s back hard with the palm of her hand.Previous Chapter Next Chapter