Chapter 189. Intrusion

After organizing her thoughts, Kim Hannah took out a paper envelope from her handbag.

“Alright, give it a try. I’ll support you.”

Of course, she didn’t forget to address her concerns.

“I understand the employment contract and a checking account with an overdraft line of credit, but what do you need the company’s cafeteria menu for?”

“I think I’ll need it.”

Seol Jihu, who had already finished the box of chicken, took the envelope from Kim Hannah.

“My brother is the most meticulous member of my family. He probably has all kinds of doubts, so he’s bound to ask tough questions. I can almost guarantee it.”

“Oh yeah?”

After carefully listening to Seol Jihu, Kim Hannah suggested a tactic, saying that it was a commonly used one in the company. Seol Jihu smacked his lips.

“I don’t know if I need to go that far.”

“Didn’t you say that he was meticulous?”

“Yeah, but…”

“People like that won’t stop doubting just from a few pieces of paper and readily available data. You’ll need to incorporate a more realistic scenario. Someone from the company specializes in this, so just try talking to him.”

Seol Jihu was reluctant at first but nodded his head when Kim Hannah insisted.

“Okay, I’ll give it a try. Thanks!”

“Perfect. I’ll let you know when the preparations are done. Rest up until then.”

Kim Hannah dusted her butt and got up. Seol Jihu blankly looked up.

“You’re leaving already?”

“Of course. Do you know how busy I’ve been lately?”

“Did something come up?”

“Yep.”

Kim Hannah smiled.

“You don’t know about the September Halfway Point, right?”

“The September Halfway Point?”

Realizing that she was talking about the Neutral Zone, he went “Ah.” Quickly checking the date, he saw that it was now the middle of October.

“It’s already October…? How many people got in this time?”

“Don’t even mention it. The place was crawling with newbies, with all sorts of childish competitions going on. Well, we all expected it since the number of active Earthlings decreased these past six months.”

Kim Hannah licked her lower lip as she lifted her handbag.

“Anyways, if it’s like this in September, I can’t imagine how it’s going to be next March…”

“Next March?”

“Ah, you see, the recruiters for September didn’t have a lot of time to do their job because of the sudden war. We recruited who we could, but we didn’t meet our quota. And because we were in such a hurry, the standard is lower. On the other hand, we have lots of time until next March.”

She was saying that there was more time to recruit people and more time to increase their chances of hitting a jackpot.

“Anyways, the organization that will be in charge of next year’s March midpoint is going to strike gold. Just thinking about it makes me jealous.”

‘Strike gold?’

Seol Jihu tilted his head.

“Wait, I don’t get it. I remember hearing that it takes contribution points to activate the Halfway Point. Is there a benefit to being in charge of it?”

“Oh, are you asking that for real!?”

Kim Hannah looked dumbfounded.

“Of course, there is! Which organization would spit out their hard earned contribution points if there wasn’t a benefit to be had!?”

“So what, they get small bonuses?”

“Small bonuses? Think bigger. There’s a reason why everyone is lobbying to take that particular role. Plus, you can recover more contribution points as more people enter.”

When Kim Hannah began to list out other benefits of being the host of the Halfway Point, the topic piqued Seol Jihu’s interest as well.

“So how do you get to host the Halfway Point?”

“You have to fulfill a few requirements, but it ultimately comes down to an auction at the temple. Why? Are you interested?”

When Seol Jihu nodded his head in affirmation, Kim Hannah grinned.

“Unfortunately, the organization that will be in charge of the March Halfway Point has practically been decided already. Well, that’s only if that organization is interested in it, though.”

“Oh really? Which organization is it?”

Hearing this, Kim Hannah stared at Seol Jihu fixedly.

“Mm, who knows?”

She then gave him a wink before turning around and telling him to “think hard about it.”

“I’m leaving now. You don’t have to see me out.”

Clunk. As the sound of the front door closing rang out, Seol Jihu wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

‘Is that woman taking after Gula?’

Why can’t she be clearer about it?

Grumbling to himself quietly, he turned his attention to the paper envelope Kim Hannah left behind. She was certainly good at her job, as the information he requested was all there.

Seol Jihu leaned against the wall, then awkwardly examined the employee identification card with his picture on it. He then took out the cafeteria menu and began to memorize it.

*

He expected Kim Hannah to take several days, but she contacted him just a day later. Seol Jihu took another day to fully prepare himself before calling her back.

After a long conversation, he finally set up an appointment. They decided to meet near a subway station, at a coffee shop in front of Sinyoung Headquarters.

Ding! Seol Jihu arrived 20 minutes before the appointed time, opened the door, and then looked around.

Given its location, it was bound to have lots of customers, but perhaps because lunchtime had already passed, there were a good number of empty seats.

‘Is he not here yet?’

His employee identification card was hanging on his neck, and he was wearing a wrinkly suit. And with the way he put his black bag down on the table, he was very clearly a new white-collar worker.

How much time went by?

Ding! While Seol Jihu was waiting with two cups of black coffee in front of him, the door opened with a jingle.

A handsome, bespectacled man wearing a white sweater walked in with a straight posture. Seol Jihu immediately stood up.

“Hyung.”

When he raised his hand and called out, Seol Wooseok paused. Then, he walked straight over to Seol Jihu.

“You…”

Glancing at the youth up and down, he frowned.

“What’s up with that suit?”

When Seol Jihu tilted his head in confusion, Seol Wooseok sighed.

“I know you live alone, but you should at least iron your clothes. If a newcomer goes to work like that, the senior employees will badmouth you.”

“Oh… um, I’ve just been too busy lately….”

Seol Jihu laughed awkwardly.

Seol Wooseok snorted, then moved the coffee in front of him to the side before sitting down.

When Seol Jihu sat down as well, he cut to the chase.

“I heard yesterday… but is it true? You really got in Sinyoung?”

Seol Jihu took out his contract. Seol Wooseok studied it carefully, then murmured while nodding his head.

“Well… you did graduate from Soyoung University with good grades….”

He asked a sudden question.

“Have you had lunch?”

“I did. At the company cafeteria.”

“What did you eat?”

“Samgyetang.”[1]

As Seol Jihu knew the cafeteria menu in and out, he answered without hesitation. Seeing a glint in Seol Wooseok’s eyes, he smiled on the inside with bitterness.

‘I knew it.’

Seol Wooseok was like the male version of Agnes. Clearly, he wasn’t someone to be trifled with. Even now, he should be synthesizing all sorts of information to determine the veracity of Seol Jihu’s statements.

And no one could blame him. After all, it was Seol Jihu who lost his trust.

Seol Wooseok stared fixedly at Seol Jihu’s employee identification card, then put the contract down.

“You said you paid off your overdraft loans?”

“Yep, here.”

Seol Jihu showed him his checking account and another bank account that his salary got deposited into every month.

Seol Wooseok took some time to study the accounts. After dozens of minutes, Seol Wooseok lifted his glasses up.

“You paid back quite a lot.”

“I’ve been throwing my salary at it, other than the minimum amount I need to live.”

“Your salary is higher than I thought. Didn’t you just join this year?”

“Well, you know, Sinyoung’s well-known to have good employee welfare. I got money from overtime work, holiday work, and pretty much any work I could do. They even told me to stop working overtime, haha.”

After saying that…

“Hyung.”

Seol Jihu interlocked his fingers.

“I really didn’t get that money from gambling. I worked for it fair and square.”

It wasn’t as if he didn’t feel guilty lying about working for Sinyoung, but he was proud to say that he worked for it fair and square.

“Hm….”

Seol Wooseok closed his eyes as if to organize his thoughts.

It was then. A person sitting at a nearby table watching the two brothers with interest stealthily got up and left.

And soon, the door opened, and a woman walked in.

She was wearing a white, long sleeveless dress that outlined her slim figure, a grey thin trench coat, and stiletto heels.

The woman walked as if to show off her long legs and waved her hand at Seol Jihu. He thought, ‘Who’s that?’, but then quickly realized that it was the helper Kim Hannah mentioned.

That aside, the woman had caught his eyes immediately. She was an incredible beauty.

Her skin was white as though it had been snowed on, and her long, black hair flowed down smoothly. She was also tall enough to shoo any model away, and anyone could tell at a glance that she took quite a bit of care in maintaining her figure.

It wouldn’t be an error to call her the ideal representation of a beauty. Not to mention, she was surrounded by a cool, autumn-air-like cozy atmosphere….

In any case, she was the type of woman Seol Jihu would pounce on without hesitation.

But when the woman lowered her hand, Seol Jihu felt that something was off. As he was expecting a department chief to show up, he was thrown off by how young she was.

‘Come to think of it, she looks kind of like Miss Yun Seora….’

“Mister Jihu?”

At that moment, the woman called his name and walked over with a bright smile. Seol Wooseok opened his eyes and turned around.

“This is where you were. …?”

When she met Seol Wooseok’s gaze, her eyes widened and her feet came to a pause.

“Oh, you were talking with someone.”

“Ah, yes.”

“And this is…?”

He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but he quickly decided to play along and got up from his seat.

After secretly glancing back and forth between the two, Seol Wooseok got up as well.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jihu’s older brother.”

When he offered a greeting with a deep voice, the woman exclaimed in surprise.

“Ah! Ah~ I see. I thought… ah, I’m—”

When the woman opened her small handbag, Seol Wooseok reached into his wallet as if he was used to such a situation. After the two exchanged their business cards, they reacted similarly.

The only difference was how strong their reaction was.

Seol Wooseok’s eyes widened to a circle, but the woman only had her grin change to nothing.

“You work at Haesol Research Institute?”

Seol Wooseok looked taken aback, but he quickly recovered. The woman put the business card in her handbag and smiled brightly.

“Then you might have heard of me.”

“I’ve… heard of your name.”

“It’s the same. Wow, what a small world! To think Chief Seol from Haesol Research Institute was Mister Jihu’s brother.”

Seol Jihu’s interest was piqued, seeing the woman and his brother talk like they knew each other.

“I was wondering where he learned to work with such passion. Now I know.”

“You flatter me. I should be thanking you for taking care of my foolish brother.”

“Foolish? That’s funny.”

The woman raised her voice slightly.

“I think hiring Mister Jihu was the best thing Sinyoung’s done this year.”

She gave him the highest praise possible.

Knowing who the woman was, Seol Wooseok couldn’t hide his shock.

The woman stepped closer to the blankly staring Seol Jihu and gently grabbed his arm.

“What he has done for us this time is priceless. He played a pivotal role in successfully negotiating the terms for a huge project.”

“Is that true?”

“Yes. The project was almost canceled several times, but he ran around saying he would do something about it, and lo and behold, he really did it! We were all surprised when he said he managed to get the deal.”

Seol Wooseok sent Seol Jihu a surprised look.

Seol Jihu smiled bitterly on the inside.

If the huge project referred to the war and the success referred to killing an Army Commander, then she wasn’t exactly wrong.

“He’s our company’s treasure. Truly.”

The giggling woman locked her arm with Seol Jihu, then tilted her head.

“But Mister Jihu, lunchtime is already over. Are you sure you can be fooling around here?”

“Ah.”

Seeing Seol Jihu was at a loss for words, the woman giggled again.

“I’m kidding, geez! You just finished a huge deal. Of course, you can rest!”

“No, no, I’ll head back soon.”

“It’s fine, really. I’m about to go to the sauna too. When else would we be able to rest?”

She suddenly broached another topic.

“Oh, do you want to go out for dinner tonight after work? I know a good sushi place.”

“Pardon?”

“Just kidding. The samgyetang we had for lunch was so good that I ended up eating two bowls. I’m still stuffed.”

The grinning woman then turned to Seol Wooseok and said how his brother’s funny reactions always made her want to tease him more.

Seol Wooseok laughed and played it off, but it was clear that he still had doubts. But a glint did flicker in his eyes for a second when he heard the word samgyetang.

“Ah~ I’m sorry for bothering you two.”

The woman reined in her laughter, then gently tapped Seol Jihu’s shoulder.

“You can go home early today. I’ll let Director Kim know.”

“But—”

“No, go home and enjoy dinner with your family. I’m sure it’s been a while. How can you work overtime every day?”

With a broad grin, the woman lightly bowed to Seol Wooseok and left the coffee shop.

The moment the bell on the door rang, Seol Wooseok heaved out the breath he had been holding in.

“Whew….”

He rubbed his forehead and slumped down on his seat. He then asked the youth who was still staring at the door.

“You… what happened?”


1. Chicken soup with ginseng.

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