Side Story 9. Shadow

There was a saying, curiosity killed the cat. It meant you could get yourself in trouble by being too inquisitive about other people’s affairs. It was also Kim Hannah’s motto when she was doing investigative work. After all, the deeper one dug into something, the more dirt they would find.

However, this time was an exception.

‘Goh Yeonju, Jung Hayeon, Jegal Haesol, Han Soyoung….’

The corners of Kim Hannah’s lips curved as she read the list of names Seol Jihu gave.

It was quite interesting. Even while being in prominent positions such as the CEO or chairman of famous businesses, universities, and research laboratories, these women were having a secret relationship with a man—the same one, to boot.

Of course, Kim Hannah knew her place and had no intention of leaking this information to the public. She was just curious about their relationship.

After all…

‘...Kim Hanbyul.’

Her cousin’s name was also included in the list.

It wasn’t too difficult to find the home of famous people. One could simply look up their information on the internet. However, such easily found information was hard to trust and sometimes downright false.

“Oho.”

But Kim Hannah wasn’t the type to rely on such simple methods. With a grin, she took out her cellphone.


*


Meow Entertainment. It was the company Valhalla hired to help its members go back and forth between Paradise and Earth with ease. With the management having undergone Kim Hannah’s review, the way the company functioned was similar to Sinyoung. There were even security guards in the company building both day and night so as to look like a real company.

Late at night, Kim Hannah entered the company building, humming. Soon, a computer screen lit up in the otherwise dark office room.

“Alright, let’s see now…. Hmm?”

As Kim Hannah sat down on the chair after plugging in a flash drive, she felt her coat pocket vibrate. When she took out her cell phone, she saw the name ‘Kim Hanbyul’ on it.

“What’s she calling me for…? Hello?”

—What are you doing, Unni?

A sharp voice rang out as soon as she picked up the call.

“Hmm? What do you mean?”

—What have you been up to lately?

She even sounded a little angry.

“What am I doing? I’m getting ready to leave work.”

Kim Hannah was a little surprised but replied nonchalantly.

—...Unni.

A low voice rang out.

—Are you trying to pull something because the matter from last time didn’t go so well?

“What? Are you crazy? Why would I involve myself with that person?”

Kim Hannah jumped.

“I told you, I’m getting ready to leave work. What are you on about so late at night?”

—….

A heavy silence flowed out from the phone from the other end.

—...Don’t go too far.

“What?”

—I don’t know why you’re doing this if that’s not it but don’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong. Do you know how many people are bothered by you right now?

Kim Hannah’s eyes narrowed. Kim Hanbyul was being rather direct, almost as if she knew what she was up to.

“Because of me? Why? I can’t understand what you’re saying!”

—I warned you.

Going beyond Kim Hanbyul’s usual coldness, Kim Hannah could even feel a hint of menace. It was as if she was being served a stern warning.

Kim Hannah drew a small breath.

“Hanbyul, I’m hanging up.”

Tk. The call ended. Kim Hannah stared at the phone with a dumbstruck face.

“...Damned girl.”

Kim Hannah gritted her teeth.

“What was that? Don’t go too far?”

She threw the phone on the desk and grabbed the mouse.

“It looks like you’re mistaken here.”

Murmuring to herself, she moved the mouse. Click, click, click. The clicking of the mouse rang out.

“I’m only—”

Then, as she opened the USB drive folder and tried to open a file…

“?”

Kim Hannah abruptly turned her head.

It was because she felt an intense gaze fixed on her.

However, there wasn’t anyone else inside the dark office.

“....”

Her breaths sounded louder than usual. Kim Hannah closed and opened her eyes twice before slowly getting up.

Clack, clack, clack. She walked toward the door and looked out into the moonlit hallway. As she thought, there was nothing of note.

At that moment, Kim Hannah frowned. Unless she was mistaken… her shadow, which was reflected by the moonlight, twitched.

Kim Hannah’s expression was exceedingly tranquil. Her following action was also nothing out of the ordinary.

She turned on the lights and went back to her seat.

The problem was… Tak! The lights she just turned on turned off again.

At the same time, her computer screen flickered off.

In an instant, total darkness enveloped the office.

Kim Hannah’s breath stopped.

“...Is there a power outage?”

After sitting still for a moment…

“Damn it, not a good day, huh.”

Kim Hannah stood back up.

She pulled out the flash drive with slight hesitation. Then, when she threw it back into her coat pocket, it hit the ground, seemingly having missed the mark.

The sound of the flash drive hitting the ground rang out. Kim Hannah pulled her handbag over her shoulder, pretending to not have heard the sound. Then, she stealthily took out a small paper from her pocket.

It was then.

“!”

Kim Hannah’s eyes shot open. Her face stiffened. It wasn’t that she saw something. In fact, she did not even feel anything. She only noticed that she could not move her hands and feet.

They weren’t frozen because of mental pressure but had actually stopped moving, almost as if something was holding them in place. There was only one thing that was certain in this situation.

“Funny.”

Hohoho. A soft giggle rang out abruptly. Crack. Along with the sound of the flash drive being crushed, the paper slip in Kim Hannah’s hand was stolen.

Kim Hannah shut her eyes. Just as she thought, someone had been watching her.

“That was a nice show.”

“...Who are you?”

“Hmm, do you want to take a guess~?”

The voice giggled playfully.

Kim Hannah let out the breath she had been holding in and then took another deep breath. Like the saying went, keeping calm was the first step to escaping from a tiger’s den unscathed.

However….

“If it were me, I would have dropped the flash drive toward the soft seat of the chair.”

“....”

“It doesn’t make much sense to pretend you didn’t hear the sound when it hit the ground so hard, right?”

Kim Hannah began to panic as she realized she got herself into a more frightening place than a tiger’s den.

Ssss. Her back tickled. Kim Hannah shuddered. However, knowing that her life was at risk, she mustered up her courage and eked out some words.

“Why don’t you stop here?”

“Oh? And what if I don’t?”

An intrigued voice flowed out.

Kim Hannah clenched her teeth.

“Keep at it if you want to see. I won’t stop you.”

“Why, are you going to scream?”

“I don’t see why I wouldn’t. Why? Do you want me to?”

“Sure. Try it.”

“What?”

“Try screaming. Or are you too scared to do that?”

The voice laughed.

“Do you want me to do it for you? Help!! Somebody help!!”

The voice yelled before Kim Hannah had a chance to reply. The screaming voice echoed out into the hallway.

However, the building was dead silent. Kim Hannah did not even hear the sound of anyone running over. She became dazed.

“Nothing happened.”

The voice laughed.

Kim Hannah’s pupils shook strongly.

“W-Who are you?”

Then, the laughter stopped.

“Just how did you—!”

“Quiet.”

Kim Hannah shut her mouth unwittingly.

“You should know you’re not in any position to be asking questions.”

A languid voice mixed with a nasal twang whispered into her ear.

“I’m going to ask you just one question. All you have to do is answer it truthfully. Got that?”

“What question?”

“Why are you investigating us? For what reason?”

“Investigating you? I don’t know what you’re talking ab—”

Kwang!

A loud noise rang out in the office. The desk shook strongly.

“Kak…!”

A painful groan escaped Kim Hannah’s lips. Her face had been thrown onto the table in an instant.

“I was being nice since you looked like a smart person. If you’re going to be like this, my old personality is going to come out.”

“Euk!”

“If you were going to investigate us, then you should have done it more openly. Then I might have thought it was just another paparazzi desperate for a story or an immature fan.”

“Eeeeeuk!”

“But you were secretive to the point it even missed me. How could I not look into it then?”

Kim Hannah struggled to escape. However, she was shackled down by something invisible.

“A wily fox shaking her tail as if to taunt us~ How could I not get mad?”

Kwang!

Kim Hannah’s forehead struck the desk again. Then, a cold blade touched her neck, along with the feeling of liquid running down her throat. Kim Hannah stopped struggling.

“Listen, honey. Consider yourself lucky. If it wasn’t for the phone call I got on my way here, I would have started by cutting off your arms and legs. It’s pretty fun talking to a person’s head and torso only.”

Kim Hannah shuddered again.

“Now, let me ask you again. This is your last chance.”

A gentle voice touched her ears.

“Why were you investigating us?”

“...Just because….”

“Just because?”

“Yeah….”

Kim Hannah spoke with a suppressed voice and then twisted the corner of her mouth up.

“I was curious….”

She chuckled with her head still planted on the desk.

“...Oh, is that so?”

The gentle voice turned cold in an instant and pierced her ears.

“I guess you two really share the same blood. You’re both quite resolute.”

With a snort, the owner of the voice suddenly grabbed Kim Hannah by her ponytail. Kim Hannah’s head turned sideways forcefully.

“Speak.”

At that moment, within the pitch-black darkness, Kim Hannah could clearly see it.

“Who ordered you?”

Faced with a pair of bright yellow pupils, Kim Hannah’s head turned blank.


*


Seol Jihu was training Baek Haeju and Seo Yuhui as always.

“Again!”

As he shouted ‘again’ for the 6,478th time today, the doorbell chimed.

Opening the door, one person staggered into the restaurant.

“Kim Hannah?”

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened. It was easy to tell that she wasn’t well. Her hair was disheveled, and her forehead was bruised. He could also see dried up blood on her throat.

“What’s wrong? What happened!?”

When Seol Jihu approached here, Kim Hannah fell into his embrace.

“Kim Hannah!”

“W-Water….”

Seo Yuhui hurriedly brought a cup of water. Kim Hannah gulped it down before heaving out a heavy breath. As soon as Seol Jihu sat her down on a chair, her upper body fell limp on the table.

Seo Yuhui chanted a healing spell before Seol Jihu said a word. However, nothing of note happened. Although her external injuries healed, she was still in the same state.

“What happened?”

Seol Jihu asked while grabbing onto Kim Hannah’s shoulders.

“The thing… you asked me to do….”

Kim Hannah raised her head, panting.

“I can’t do it….”

“What?”

“I found out some things, and….”

“And?”

“I was going to tell you after I read through it, but….”

Kim Hannah’s voice trembled out.

“I don’t remember….”

Then, she dropped her head again.

“I feel like something happened… but I don’t remember anything… and I was so confused when I woke up…. Then I got scared….”

“Kim Hannah?”

Kim Hannah did not say anything else. She took heavy breaths before taking out a notepad. She jotted something down and then tore the page out.

“Here…. It’s my cousin’s phone number and address….”

“Kim Hanbyul…?”

“It might be a coincidence… but I highly doubt they just share the same name….”

“....”

“This is all….”

Kim Hannah struggled to continue her words.

“...I can give you…. Sorry….”

Kim Hannah’s face contorted in indignation.

Seol Jihu shut his mouth. It was because he could see an indecipherable fear in Kim Hannah’s bloodshot eyes. He wanted to ask her what happened, but it didn’t look like she remembered either.

—Shadows.

At that moment, a voice rang out in his head. It was Roselle.

—I can see traces of shadows on her body.

‘Shadows?’

—Yes, and also traces of it having entered her mind.

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

‘Then is Kim Hannah’s mind…!’

—No, I don’t think it’s been contaminated.

Roselle spoke sharply.

—Whoever did this is very experienced and skilled. I can also see that the person was very careful with her.

‘Careful? The perpetrator was?’

—Yes. In any case, this is truly a frightening energy. Just this tiny trace of energy is far more vicious than the Parasite Queen’s….

Roselle took a deep breath.

—I don’t know why, but I can say one thing for certain—the perpetrator showed her mercy.

‘....’

—It’s hard to say Kim Hannah escaped…. It’s probably more believable that she was sent back as a warning.

Seol Jihu’s face stiffened. He had more than a few questions, but helping Kim Hannah was the more urgent matter. After all, she had suffered unnecessarily because of him.

“Hannah, take a rest. Do you want to lie down on a bed?”

Kim Hannah shook her head.

“Do you want to go to the temple’s resting room?”

Kim Hannah shook her head again.

“Or do you want to eat something? Tell me if there’s anything you have in mind.”

“...Ramen.”

Only then did Kim Hannah quietly reveal her true thoughts.

“Make me ramen.”

“O-Okay, I’ll whip one up immediately. Wait here.”

Seol Jihu ran to the kitchen.

“Eh? This is….”

As he turned the stove on and put a pot of water on it, he could hear Seo Yuhui murmuring something from the table.

She was looking at the paper Kim Hannah handed over.

Seol Jihu also took a peek, his eyes widening immediately.

—Kim Hanbyul
—010 - 5882 - 4545
—SY Apartment, Building 101 Suite #5201

SY Apartment. Seol Jihu had gone to this multi-use, high-rise apartment built by Korea’s famous SY conglomerate.

“Yuhui, isn’t this…?”

“Yeah, it’s where I live. The building number is different though.”

Seo Yuhui nodded her head.

“But Building 101 Suite #5201….”

“What about it?”

“Ah, SY has four apartment buildings.”

Building 101, Building 102, Building 103, and Building 104. The price of living in each of these apartments went up in reverse order, and living on a higher level naturally meant it cost more.

Seol Jihu was just about to ask Seo Yuhui whether she could pay this apartment suite a visit, but after glancing at Kim Hannah again, he immediately crossed out that thought.

After pondering for a moment, he said.

“It won’t be easy to get in, right?”

“You won’t even be able to enter the lobby if you don’t live there. Their air-tight security is one reason, but Building 101 is the most expensive building, and the 52nd floor is also the penthouse floor….”

“Hm…. Do I need to move to this building or something then? Maybe I can say I came to visit as a neighbor.”

“That won’t be easy either.”

“Why not?”

“Well, it’s not a matter of money or availability. The exact requirements haven’t been released to the public, but I heard you need to meet a very particular set of conditions to live here.”

Seol Jihu blinked. He knew Seo Yuhui lived in Building 102’s suite 4702. Just what kind of family background must she have?

“...Miss Seo Yuhui is right.”

Kim Hannah also chimed in with a groaning voice.

“It’s not because of this matter… but I also tried to look for a place here… and was rejected not too long ago….”

“You too….”

Seol Jihu gasped inwardly. After finishing Kim Hannah’s ramen, he quietly fell into thought. Suddenly, he remembered what Gabriel said. She had apologized profusely for asking him to do this.

He did not think much of it at the time. After all, saying a word or two didn’t seem so difficult. But now, he thought differently. Of course, he still wasn’t sure exactly what happened. But there was one thing he knew for sure.

‘Maybe….’

That this matter might not end simply at delivering a message.

No, just delivering this message could be an extremely difficult task. Perhaps even more so than killing the Parasite Queen.

“Do you want to try coming to the apartment complex? If I invite you, you’ll be able to enter Building 102. Building 101 will be a different story though….”

“Ah, yeah, thanks.”

Seol Jihu nodded his head at Seo Yuhui’s suggestion. That was the only method he could think of for now.

That said, he could not just go unprepared. Roselle had said that the perpetrator possessed strength surpassing the Parasite Queen’s. If that was true, it meant the perpetrator surpassed Heaven-rank 7.5.

The current Seol Jihu was incapable of defeating such a person, especially on Earth, where many of his abilities were restricted.

‘I don’t feel too good about this….’

He needed a weapon. A secret weapon that would allow him to break through the roadblock up ahead.

‘What should I do?’

There was one thing Seol Jihu could rely on.

Slurp! Slurp!

Seol Jihu stared fixedly at the overjoyed Kim Hannah, who was slurping up his ramen as if her previous fear-stricken state was a lie.

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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

I know you guys are curious about Memorize, but please do NOT spoil Memorize beyond what is revealed in the chapters. The chapters are written in a way that they can be enjoyed even without knowing what happened in Memorize.I know it's kind of dumb to say "don't spoil Memorize!" when the chapters already do that, so my editor and I will be a little lenient in regards to our usual 'absolutely no spoilers' rule, but please do not spoil too much. Only do so if you think it will add to the explanation of the universe + make it more enjoyable for readers.