“What if she keeps a spending diary?”
This information had been buried in the corner of her mind. Jimin remembered hearing about it from some parenting show.
“It’ll be possible if she knows basic addition and subtraction.”
“Shinhae still hasn’t learned all her hangul. Her knowledge of numbers is a bit limited too.”
Jimin's idea was ruthlessly sunk by rebuttals from Chelsea and Sungyoon. It was to be expected. Shinhae had just turned six years old.
“As expected, someone should manage the money for her.”
Jimin placed a hand on her cheek as she fell deep in thought. Sungyoon crossed his arms. Both of them didn’t want to take back the money, but from an educational point of view, it would be very bad to give so much money to a child. It seemed they both agreed on those points.
“I’m sorry to ask this of you, but can you manage Shinhae’s money?”
Sungyoon was careful as he spoke to Jimin. Due to his work, he barely stayed at home, so he couldn’t afford to give monetary lessons to Shinhae.
“It can’t be helped. We can’t just let Shinhae go at it alone.”
Jimin didn’t hesitate as she nodded.
“I’ll ask in a roundabout way a little bit later. She is too happy right now, and if we take the money right now, it might backfire.”
The two of them started to brainstorm ideas on how they could avoid hurting Shinhae. Chelsea watched all of this, and she had this thought.
‘They are completely acting like a married couple.’
They looked like parents discussing the future of their child.
Shinhae returned after hiding her money in what she considered to be a great hiding spot. Sungyoon immediately grabbed her into his arms, sat down on the bed, and placed her on his knee. Then, he looked towards Jimin and Chelsea.
“What brings you here today?”
He had been caught up in the heat of the moment on who received a sebae or not. This was why he hadn’t heard why the two of them had come for a visit.
“Let’s go ring the bell.”
Chelsea always spoke nonsense. Jimin, who stood next to her, pressed her hand on her forehead. She was dealing with a significant amount of stress these days because her friend did whatever she wanted to do. Of course, Sungyoon was also baffled by the suggestion.
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Today is New Year’s Day. Isn’t it called the Bosingak? They hold a bell-tolling ceremony every year. I want to strike an Asian bell.”
It seemed Chelsea wanted to travel and experience everything Korean culture had to offer. It had been a long time since she had received a vacation, and she wanted to take advantage of this overseas trip.
“I can strike a bell?”
“Yes, yes! You can hit it!”
Shinhae also showed a reaction to Chelsea's words. Chelsea knew this was it. She started hyping up the bell-tolling ceremony in front of the little girl. It didn’t matter how much she begged, threatened, or bargained. She knew that a single word from Shinhae was more effective than anything she could do.
She was correct. Her prediction became reality.
A twinkle appeared in Shinhae’s eyes as she pulled at Sungyoon’s sleeve. Sungyoon immediately stood up. When his daughter said that she wanted to go to the bell-tolling ceremony, all the annoyance within him disappeared in an instant.
“Yes! Let’s go!”
Sungyoon fell for it. Chelsea made a little fist, and then, she observed Jimin’s reaction.
Jimin saw through her friend's little plan. She glared at Chelsea with narrowed eyes, but she also couldn’t ignore Shinhae’s opinion.
In the end, she was swept up in the little plan too. Chelsea was letting out a silent cheer when Jimin gave a hard slap to her arm.
* * *
Hanging by sturdy chains, a large and thick wooden pole was swinging back and forth. Sungyoon’s party stood next to the wooden pole and swung it backward. They used the massive weight and the momentum created as a weapon to strike the bell.
A very low and resonant sound ran out. It felt as if the soundwaves were hitting their skin, and they got a little bit of goosebump.
However, it didn't faze Shinhae at all. She burst out laughing. A piece of metal much bigger than her had collided with a wooden pole, and an odd sound rang out as a result. The little girl found all of this fascinating. She placed her hand on the wooden pole, watching the still vibrating bell.
She pointed at the bell as she spoke.
“The bell rang!”
“Yes, the bell rang.”
Sungyoon smiled. Shinhae rang the bell once again, and then, she looked towards him.
“I rang it!”
She stamped her feet in joy as she laughed out loud. It was a laugh capable of purifying even the darkest of emotions.
“What do you think? I think we did well by coming here.”
Chelsea had helped ring the bell. She nudged Sungyoon with her elbow as she crowed. Sungyoon had to nod. He almost hadn't moved as he thought the trip would be tiresome. But if he had done so, Shinhae would have missed out on this fun experience. He wouldn't have been able to see his daughter's amazing smile.
“Thank you for recommending it.”
Her nose went high into the sky, and she turned to look at Jimin. Jimin had scolded Chelsea to cut back on her annoying behavior, so she sent the same gaze of smugness towards Jimin.
However, Jimin was different from Sungyoon.
“How much money do you owe me from the food I bought you on the Moon?”
Chelsea lowered her eyes in a coquettish manner.
Shinhae wanted to continue to ring the bell, but other people were waiting for their turn. She had to retreat. There was a look of loss in her eyes as she continued to look at the bell.
“… I want a bell.”
It was something a normal child might say. She was sad, but she didn’t fall to the floor and cry like other children. However, Chelsea couldn’t breathe easily. The adults were more of a problem than the child.
Chelsea had to stop the silly father that was searching ‘How to make a bell’ on his smartphone. Chelsea had to stop her best friend, who was acting like a silly mother. Jimin was looking for ways to acquire the raw materials needed to cast a bell. She felt like the aunt trying to stop the foolish parents. What made it scarier was that Sunggyoon and Jimin had the means to purchase a bell.
Shinhae had been vivacious as she played, but it seemed she was thirsty. She started looking for a drink, so Sungyoon went to search for a nearby convenience store. Chelsea was participating in the commemorative rites for the ancestors that came along with the bell tolling ritual. Naturally, Jimin was left behind with Shinhae.
Shinhae pulled at Jimin’s clothes.
“I want to buy a present with the money I got today.”
Did she already want to spend her money? They had decided to set up a plan to confiscate the money from Shinhae later on, so Jimin felt a bit uncomfortable hearing these words. However, the next words from Shinhae’s mouth wiped away any worries she had.
“Yes. I want to buy a present for dad.”
Shinhae raised her head. She watched Sungyoon’s back as he entered the distant convenience store. There was a faraway look in Shinhae's eyes. There was a look in her eyes that shouldn’t be present in a child her age.
Jimin gulped. The little girl’s expression, attitude, and eyes… Everything reminded Jimin of her younger self. In fact, whenever she received her allowance, Jimin had always bought a present for her father first.
“Dad went through a lot for me.”
Until a moment ago, her smile had rivaled the sun. However, it was gone. Gloomy dark clouds appeared on the child’s face.
“Mom, grandpa, and grandma said I didn’t matter. They said they don’t need me because dad’s company went bankrupt. He didn’t have any money. They said…I’m a burden.”
Jimin became surprised. Her jaw hurt. She had subconsciously gritted her teeth way too hard. Jimin was that mad.
‘Those sons of bitches!’
She knew Shinhae’s mother was trash, but she never expected the grandparents to be trash too. It seemed the whole family was trash.
‘I guess it is to be expected. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’
As she had this thought, Jimin knew it had been a hundred times better for Shinhae that her bitch of a mother had let go of her.
“But dad didn’t throw me away. He continued to raise me. He kept giving me love. He didn’t have money, but he lived with me. That is why I want to buy dad a present with the money.”
Shinhae looked up towards Jimin.
“Do I have a lot of money? Will I be able to buy dad a present?”
Jimin felt so much anger towards Shinhae’s maternal side of the family, and she felt such poignant feelings when she witnessed Shinhae’s angel-like heart. Jimin hugged the child.
“Of course, you can buy it. You can buy a really good present.”
Jimin quickly wiped away the small tear she shed. She faced Shinhae.
“Shinhae is amazing. I can’t believe you came up with such an idea.”
“Yes! Ah! You have to keep it a secret from dad!”
The two of them let out a bright smile as they looked at each other.
“I’m going to ask dad to put the rest in the bank. I’m going to show it off to the other kids.”
As expected, Shinhae was a bit different from the other children. She didn’t know when it would happen, but if she decided to have a child in the future, she wanted a daughter like Shinhae.
It didn’t take too long for Sungyoon to return with the beverages he bought. Chelsea had also experienced the ritual, so she looked satisfied. The two of them headed towards Jimin and Shinhae.
“Huh? Did something happen?”
It was obvious to Chelsea that both of them were in a very good mood. Jimin and Shinhae looked at each other once again.
“It’s a secret!”
They placed their fingers on their lips, making a zipping motion. The two laughed when Sungyoon and Chelsea looked at them with confusion in their eyes.
* * *
The New Year’s event was enjoyable. Chelsea had proposed a plan, and Shinhae had readily agreed to it. Sungyoon and Jimin were skeptical in the beginning, but in their own way, they had fun.
However, Chelsea’s visits to Sungyoon’s house hadn’t come to an end. They were swept-up in Chelsea’s tour of Korea once again. Chelsea carefully coaxed Sungyoon and Jimin to go on various trips for Shinhae’s enjoyment. After playing to their heart’s content, the car containing Sungyoon’s party slowly entered into the apartment complex.
Evening had arrived, and the sun was starting to set. Unlike the other trips, they were coming home pretty early. Still, Shinhae was soundly asleep. It seemed she was tired. Sungyoon put her in his arms, and he exited the car. Chelsea had bought a lot of toys for Shinhae this trip, so he wouldn’t be able to take everything up in one go. If there were a couple of heavy items, he would have managed it somehow. However, there were too many items this time. Even if he had become much stronger, he only had two hands.
They got on the elevator. The party entered the familiar corridor leading to Sungyoon’s house.
But Sungyoon came to a stop as he was about to head towards his home.
“You are Mr. Woo Sungyoon?”
The man had slicked-back hair, and it revealed his handsome forehead. He had also worn horn-rimmed glasses. At a glance, he looked like a typical businessman. The man was standing in front of Sungyoon’s house.
It was clear that he had been waiting for Sungyoon, but this was Sungyoon’s first time seeing this man.
“Who are you?”
“Ah. Please wait a moment.”
He excused himself as he took out a business card from his wallet.
“This is who I am.”
Sungyoon was very careful to not awaken Shinhae from her sleep. He took the offered business card. Sungyoon’s eyebrows twitched when he saw the business card. Jimin and Chelsea, who were witnessing everything from the side, hardened their expression.
It was the name of a famous moonstone gathering company.
The inside of Jimin’s head turned white.
He was a scout.Previous Chapter Next Chapter