Side Story 30. An Unexpected Help

Seol Jihu was deeply shocked that Seol Jinhee had followed him. He understood to some extent why she did what she did but still felt bitter.

One thing he learned from all this was that Seol Jinhee still didn’t fully trust him. He needed to prove himself to her.

Seol Jihu ended up going on a tour across the country.

In the meantime, Kim Hannah’s abilities shone clear. Each time they visited a factory or office in Daejeon, Gumi, and Daegu, Seol Jihu actually had to work. She handled everything with just one phone call, and he witnessed how meticulous she was with her work.

Kim Hannah also ordered her men to track Seol Jinhee’s every move. To be honest, every time she was briefed on Seol Jinhee’s whereabouts, Seol Jihu became increasingly frightened.

It was the morning of the second day that the unexpected change took place.

They were in Busan and checking the goods when suddenly Kim Hannah’s phone rang. Seol Jinhee watched them for two hours but finally left, her men said.

But Kim Hannah did not let her guard down. She waited until Seol Jinhee got on the highway and then let out a long-held sigh.

“Jeez. What is wrong with your sister? She’s like the reincarnation of Descartes.”

Kim Hannah clicked her tongue.

“I thought she was the type to just blindly follow her instincts, but she’s more patient than I thought. She takes her enemy by surprise, but once she’s shown herself, she hides again and lies low…. That’s the most difficult type to deal with.”

Kim Hannah praised Seol Jinhee.

Seol Jihu said nothing.

Kim Hannah glanced at Seol Jihu and suggested that, although his sister might have left, they should grab lunch at a nearby place, just to be safe.

Seol Jihu followed her without any objection but barely ate.

Toward sundown, the duo set off on their way back to Seoul.

Seol Jihu was quiet throughout the ride. Kim Hannah tried to strike up a conversation, but he barely said a word in response. Most of the time, he just nodded. She couldn’t tell whether he was lost in thought or plain sad.

“Your sister must have trusted you a lot.”

“She did, a long time ago.”

“The higher the trust, the greater the sense of betrayal. Still… this is nothing compared to what you did to her.”

Kim Hannah consoled Seol Jihu.

“And, technically speaking, you are deceiving your sister.”

Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed.

“Deceiving? It’s not like I’m doing anything illegal.”

“You’re right. You saved a world. No one is going to criticize you for that. But let’s be honest. It’s true that you quit gambling, but it’s not like you’re actually an employee at our company.”

“….”

“I know her type well. She wants to believe you, but she can’t because you’ve disappointed her too many times. She’ll translate even the slightest discrepancies between your words and your behavior into grounds for suspicion. I’m sure she’s feeling confused by all of this.”

“You’re saying I should be more understanding?”

“Understanding? Well… I mean, you gave her a reason to doubt you. I think this is something you have to endure.”

Seol Jihu flinched at Kim Hannah’s honesty.

“Or you could try to relieve your sister’s suspicion.”

“How?”

“I think you should consider telling her about there.”

“She’s looking for a job, isn't she? Now that all the bugs are gone, what could be a better place to work than there?” Kim Hannah added, hoping to persuade Seol Jihu.

Seol Jihu scoffed.

“You must really like my sister.”

“Oh, you noticed?”

Kim Hannah laughed.

“She reminds me of myself in my younger days. Anyway, I suggest you pay attention to my advice. If your sister is truly like me, she will never trust you again as she did in the past. And that’s not by her choice. She’s just that kind of a person.”

Kim Hannah emphasized again. Suddenly, her phone vibrated. The call was from one of Kim Hannah’s men to inform her that Seol Jinhee had arrived home.

“You were still tracking her?”

“Yeah, just to be sure. You want me to stop?”

“I do. Everything’s over now.”

“Well, sure, if that’s what you want.”

Kim Hannah continued as she turned the steering wheel.

“But we still have to go back to the office. Don’t go home right away just because you think she’s gone. Wait a few hours. Okay?”

Seol Jihu nodded without objecting.


*


Once back in the office, Seol Jihu waited for a few hours before leaving as Kim Hannah advised.

It was already past seven o'clock when he arrived at SY Apartment. Wearing the same suit he wore when he left this morning, Seol Jihu ran into a man and a woman—his neighbors, Kim Soohyun and Goh Yeonju—in front of Building 101.

“Oh? Good evening, Jihu.”

Goh Yeonju recognized Seol Jihu and greeted him with a smile.

“…Ah, yes, good evening.”

Seol Jihu replied a little late. His head was a jumble of thoughts, and the constant feeling of being on edge had left him restless.

“Did you just get back from work?”

Kim Soohyun asked with a kind smile.

“Well, yes.”

Seol Jihu smiled weakly.

Kim Soohyun tilted his head. He asked carefully, his eyes scanning Seol Jihu from head to toe.

“Is something wrong? Your face is pale.”

“No, I’m fine. It’s just that….”

Seol Jihu forced a smile and turned his head away. Kim Soohyun’s gaze was starting to make him feel uncomfortable. He felt as if the Martial God could see through him and read his mind.

It was then.

Right as the elevator arrived, Seol Jihu felt his phone vibrate in his hand.

“Huh?”

His eyes widened.

“Why is she…?”

The name on the screen was Seol Jinhee.

Perplexed, Seol Jihu nevertheless picked up the call.

“Jinhee?”

—Hey, Oppa. It’s me.

The word ‘oppa’ sounded awkward, coming off her tongue.

—Are you still at work?

“Hm? Why do you ask?”

—About yesterday… I think I crossed the line.

“Oh….”

—I wasn’t myself yesterday. I’ve had some time to reflect on what I did, and I feel embarrassed by it.

Seol Jinhee continued.

—I feel like I should apologize. I’d like to drop by if you’re still at work. Is that okay?

“Ah, you don’t have to worry about that. I already took care of everything. And I’m home right now. I got off work a little while ago.”

—Really? But I still think I should apologize.

“It’s alright. You don’t have to come. Just don’t make the same mistake next time.”

—Okay, if you think that’s for the best… but I still feel bad. I prepared some gifts as a token of apology. Can you at least accept that?

“Gifts?”

—It’s nothing fancy. If you don’t want me to visit your colleagues, maybe you could pass these over to them for me?

“I… I guess I could….”

—You said you got off work?

“Y-Yeah.”

—Good. I’ll head over to your place right now. I’m just gonna drop the gifts off and leave.

“What?”

—See you soon.

The call ended abruptly.

‘Ah.’

Seol Jihu realized he’d just made a mistake. His family didn’t know he had moved, and he just dug his own grave, trying to keep his sister away from the company.

“Fuck.”

Seol Jihu quickly dialed Seol Jinhee’s number, but it went straight to voicemail. He texted her, explaining that he was actually working away from the office, but there came no reply.

“Did something….”

Kim Soohyun said something, but Seol Jihu’s ears blocked his voice out.

“Damn it.”

He turned around and ran toward the entrance of the building.

‘I need to get there before Jinhee…. But even if I’m a little late, I can always tell her that I was out taking a walk or something.’

As he dashed down the hill, he felt confident that he could somehow fix this. But as soon as he passed through the gate toward the main road, he stopped.

He saw a familiar figure standing in front of him.

She also noticed him and took off her hat and sunglasses.

“You…?”

“You said you got off.”

One of Seol Jinhee’s eyebrows raised slightly.

“You said you were home.”

She broke into a triumphant grin as she slowly walked toward Seol Jihu.

“Yet you’re here…. Care to explain?”

Seol Jihu froze in place. He realized he had just walked into a trap.

“I saw you working, and I almost fell for it…. But the nagging feeling at the back of my head just wouldn’t go away.”

Seol Jinhee continued.

“So I followed you. And you know what’s weird?”

“….”

“You’re working, but you don’t seem like you’re actually working. ‘Look, he’s working! You don’t have to worry!’ It’s like someone is trying to pummel that thought into my head.”

Seol Jihu’s lips opened, but no sound came out.

“And with that fox by your side 24/7, I just couldn’t find an opening. So I decided to change my strategy.”

“Your strategy?”

Seol Jihu managed to ask back.

“Yup. I had a feeling that you’re not the only one I’m up against. Also, I suspected someone was watching me…. So I decided to assume the worst I could think of.”

“…”

“‘What should I do?’ I wondered. After some thought, I followed you to Busan and then turned the car around. On my way back to Seoul, I called a friend and asked her to wait for me at my house.”

“?”

“After I got home, I had her change into my clothes. Then I handed her my car keys and asked her to drive around town pretending to be me.”

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened with shock. He couldn’t believe she had gone that far just to escape Kim Hannah’s surveillance, which she didn’t even know existed for sure.

“I stayed home for a while and went to your company. I was prepared to wait for a day, but you came back much earlier than I expected.”

After that, she followed Seol Jihu home.

“Why would you….”

“Because I’m fucking tenacious like Seonhwa Unni.”

Seol Jinhee chuckled.

“My friend suggested I’m sick in the head. But when I said I was doing this for you, she agreed to do as I asked.”

“…”

“Well, I did catch you in the act, didn’t I? Guess I’m not so crazy after all.”

Seol Jinhee lifted her chin and stopped in front of Seol Jihu.

“Now.”

She asked, a touch of arrogance in her voice.

“Would you care to explain how you’ve come to live in the most expensive apartment in Korea?”

Seol Jihu pushed his brain to its limit.

‘Should I tell her that I moved in with a rich girlfriend? No, she’ll know I’m lying once she takes a look at the registration….’

Excuses popped up in his head and then disappeared. None of them would work on Seol Jinhee. He felt his mouth go dry.

“…I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

After a moment of silence, Seol Jihu began to speak.

“Misunderstanding? You said you were home. You said so yourself.”

Seol Jinhee replied sharply.

“Hold on. I just had a little something to take care of. I was going to go straight home after I was done here. I sent you texts explaining this. Did you not read them?”

Seol Jihu explained calmly.

“So you’re saying you were here for business?”

“That’s right.”

“Really?”

Seol Jinhee smirked.

“Then prove it.”

“What? How—”

“I heard the security is really tight here. If you’re an outsider like you say, security guards will stop us, right?”

Seol Jihu fell speechless. Seol Jinhee dragged Seol Jihu inside without a moment’s hesitation.

“Look at that. No one’s stopping us.”

“That’s because I was just inside.”

“Sure, sure. It’ll all become clear soon enough. All I have to do is ask the staff.”

Seol Jinhee said, almost teasingly.

Seol Jihu bit his lips as he climbed the hill. He couldn’t even make a phone call, because his sister was next to him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t think of a way out of this.

‘Wait a minute. What if we go to a different unit….’

“I’m going to visit all four units. Just letting you know.”

Even the last idea that he squeezed out of his brain was destroyed by Seol Jinhee in less than a second.

At last, they arrived at Building 101.

Seol Jihu took a deep breath as he pushed through the revolving door.

All the staff at SY Apartments were professional. As Seol Jinhee said, they maintained vigilance against outsiders but remembered the names and faces of all residents they served. He recalled that the receptionist greeted him by his name just one day after he moved in.

It was then that his eyes met the eyes of a man in a suit standing behind the front desk.

Seol Jihu clenched his eyes shut.

He knew everything would be over now.

However….

“Oh, man.”

All of a sudden, he heard an annoyed sigh.

“Why did you come back?”

The man stepped from behind the counter and walked threateningly toward Seol Jihu.

“I already told you. You can’t be here. Do I have to throw you out again?”

Seol Jihu wasn’t sure that he heard it right. But he did. The man looked at the siblings with an annoyed frown.

“W-Wait.”

“What do you expect us to do? He doesn’t want to meet you.”

Seol Jinhee tried to cut in, but the man stopped her and continued.

“Please leave. Don’t make me call the others for this.”

The man pushed them out by force.

A light flickered in Seol Jihu’s eyes as he was helplessly pushed out.

He looked over the man’s shoulder and saw two familiar faces. Goh Yeonju, who sat on the sofa reading the newspaper, winked as she turned her head. Kim Soohyun, who was standing near the elevator, gave Seol Jihu a thumbs-up.

Seol Jihu finally realized what was happening. He wasn’t sure how they figured everything out, but it was clear they were trying to help him.

“This is the last warning. I’m going to call the police if you come back here again.”

Just like that, Seol Jihu and Seol Jinhee were thrown out of the building.

Of course, Seol Jihu did not forget to send the pair a look of gratitude before leaving.

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