The light of the scorching sun knocked on Seol Jihu’s eyes. With blurry eyes, he gazed at his tilted room. He closed his eyes and pulled the blanket up to his head, but now that his mind was awake, sleep didn’t return so easily.
In the end, he let out a deep sigh and pushed his blanket aside. He dazedly smoked a cigarette by the window and headed straight to the bathroom. Once he doused himself with cold water, he finally felt alive.
He was drying his hair with a towel when - Tang! Tang! - he heard a knock on the door.
“…Who is it?”
That reply was just as out of the blue as the morning visit itself, but Seol Jihu could easily tell who it was.
‘She’s here again?’
He put on his clothes even as he tilted his head curiously.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera. That was the name of the car Kim Hannah brought with her.
Seol Jihu glanced at the driver’s seat as he listened to the deafening exhaust sound. Light persimmon-colored sunglasses and a blue dress that matched her skin tone. She wasn’t wearing her usual formal business attire, but it was easy to tell that she took great care in choosing her outfit.
“What are you looking at?”
Kim Hannah asked as she gently turned the steering wheel.
“Do you need to be suspicious of everything? I already told you~ We’re just having fun today.”
Kim Hannah talked as if she was singing.
“As a protector, I have a duty to lighten up the mood of a depressed client in my care.”
You say that when you’re the one who made me depressed? Seol Jihu was about to snap back at her but swallowed his words.
He was the one who made the decision to go, and he didn’t want to be the type of person who would fault someone after buying stocks on a recommendation and losing money. So, he changed the subject.
“Don’t you have work?”
“Taking care of you is my biggest work… is what I want to say, but don’t you know?”
Kim Hannah’s car came to a stop at a red light. She turned to the passenger seat with a grin.
“It’s Saturday today.”
“Even if it’s a weekend-”
“Going to work on a weekend? I could go if I wanted, but no one is going to force me to. Sinyoung Pharmaceuticals has a strict 5-day work week, its employees only need to clock in by 10 a.m., and it has a set closing time of 6 p.m.”
Seol Jihu shook his head at a loss for words.
“Yeah? Well, it’s great to know they wipe their employees’ asses.”
“That’s not something you should say to a lady.”
Kim Hannah snickered and turned back front.
“Anyways, I’m proud of you. I thought you’d grumble and say, ‘Please leave. I want to be left alone.’”
“Am I a kid?”
“You’re like one sometimes. You didn’t know?”
Kim Hannah giggled, and Seol Jihu immediately retorted while feeling wronged.
“Is it just me or are you in a good mood today?”
As far as Seol Jihu could tell, Kim Hannah was laughing and smiling ever since she came to visit him this morning.
“Do I look that way?”
She lowered her sunglasses slightly and asked. Seol Jihu simply nodded.
“You’re right. I feel like I lost ten years of fat weighing me down.”
Kim Hannah agreed while snickering. Did she eat something wrong? Or did she finally go crazy? Just as Seol Jihu was beginning to worry, she suddenly straightened her neck.
“I dealt them a blow.”
“You know~ Those sons of bitches who are constantly eyeing other people’s things.”
Kim Hannah explained in a roundabout way, but Seol Jihu immediately understood who she was talking about.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing much. I just spread the rumor that you might join Sinyoung.”
Kim Hannah continued.
“Those bastards have been pressuring me because I couldn’t get you to join Sinyoung before, and I just proved them wrong. I’m sure they’re realizing now that they were barking up the wrong tree.”
Spread the rumor? Proved them wrong? Seol Jihu thought about her words carefully before raising his hands.
“I don’t get what you mean.”
“Wait and you’ll find out. Just sit back and enjoy the show.”
Kim Hannah spoke confidently as she stretched hard.
“Aaaaah~ So, where do you wanna go?”
Seol Jihu stared at her dumbfoundedly.
“Hm, well, there’s the saying that a well-plated dish tastes better, so why don’t we go to the beauty salon I frequent?”
“So I’m a plate of food to you.”
The traffic signal changed at that moment.
“Yeah, like a plate of gold.”
Kim Hannah smiled brightly and stepped on the accelerator.
After being dragged around for the entire day, Seol Jihu finally came back home after dinner.
The moment he entered his room, he threw the shopping bags in his hands to the side and staggered sideways until he leaned against the wall.
‘W-What kind of girl….’
He lost count of how many shopping malls they visited. Looking at the dozens of shopping bags lying around him, he made an exhausted expression before grabbing two of them.
Inside them were a pair of white sneakers and white workout clothes Kim Hannah told him to bring to Paradise. His eyes flickered with light as he stared at the items worth hundreds of thousands of won. When he thought about training in new workout clothes and shoes, his heart pounded a bit in anticipation.
It was then that he finally remembered his main reason for returning to Earth. He had forgotten about it until now because of the shock he received yesterday. In all honesty, he wanted to jump back to Paradise now.
But he knew he couldn’t do that. If he wanted to go back to Paradise even a day earlier, he needed to make the best use of his time on Earth.
Thinking about Paradise, he felt a shot of endorphin rush through him. Seol Jihu’s eyes shone as he turned his laptop on.
Seol Jihu endured the time he spent on Earth thinking only about Paradise. To be exact, he made Paradise the focus of all his thoughts. By doing so, he could forget everything else.
Every morning, he put on the workout clothes Kim Hannah bought him and headed to the gym.
‘Having workout equipment really is convenient. It’s more efficient too.”
Now that he thought about it, he first thought he wanted to join Carpe Diem when he saw their first-floor training ground. Since electronic equipment couldn’t be brought into Paradise, they didn’t have things like treadmills, but they had dumbells, pull-up bars, and other non-electronic workout tools.
Seol Jihu reminded himself to look at the list of non-prohibited items as he grabbed the lat pulldown bar. His scapulae tightened as his back muscle protruded.
‘Bring the bar down until it’s almost touching the collarbone. Use the latissimus dorsi muscle, not the arms….’
He focused on maintaining the posture and breathing that Agnes taught him. Because of this, he didn’t notice that a woman sitting on a yoga mattress was stealing glances at his lean and muscular body.
Once he finished his workout and left the gym, he headed straight to a large bookstore. He purchased three books: ‘Javelin Throw’, published by an athletics competition committee; ‘Analysis of Techniques for Javelin Throw Delivery’, a DVD-included book published by an athletics research group; and ‘Traditional Acupuncture’, something he got to prepare for an acupuncture license.
When he brought the three books to the counter, a young woman who seemed to be a part-time worker opened her mouth hesitantly.
“H-Here’s your receipt.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Um, I don’t need the receipt.”
“N-No, I think it’s better to keep it.”
She put the receipt in the plastic bag containing his books and handed it to him with both hands. Although it was somewhat forced on him, it didn’t really matter, so he just walked out of the bookstore while scratching his head.
‘Why are books so expensive… hm?’
He was looking at the prices of the books on the receipt when he found a phone number written at the bottom and tilted his head. Seeing as how it was written with a pen, it didn’t seem to be a printing error.
Seol Jihu tilted his head confusedly before putting the receipt in his pocket and making his way to the local library.
Sitting down inside the library, he opened the book on acupuncture only to be taken aback. Pictures of the human body strewn with complex dots and lines, traditional Chinese characters, and countless technical jargon…. All his eyes recognized was black ink on top of white paper.
He expected it to be difficult, but he didn’t think it would be to this degree.
‘Do I have to go this far?’
Considering the amount of contribution points he had saved up, he could instantly acquire the Level 2 skills without a problem. Although he was tempted briefly, Seol Jihu quickly shook off the thought.
He remembered what Agnes told him. Although it wouldn’t be easy, he believed he would be rewarded handsomely for acquiring the skills on his own. Since he firmly trusted Agnes when it came to training, he doubled down on his resolve and raised his mechanical pencil.
‘I don’t need to study everything.’
He told himself he didn’t need to be intimidated since he only needed to learn the core concepts. Moreover, he thought of himself as a quick learner.
‘It’s been a while since I last studied, huh.’
After a brief chuckle, he began to display a frightening level of focus.
‘If the human body and the meridians were to be compared to trees…. The Eight Extraordinary Meridians, the eight vessels connected to the extraordinary organs…. The 24 conception vessel acupoints consist of the Sauce Receptacle, Celestial Chimney, Chest Center, Turtledove Tail, Central Venter, Spirit Gate, Sea of Qi, Origin Pass, Meeting of Yin….’
On a desk illuminated by bright sunlight, a handsome youth was focused on studying with his sleeves rolled up. A heartwarming air naturally filled the atmosphere. Although it wasn’t so important now, Seol Jihu was a graduate of Soyoung University, one of Korea’s top four universities.
Other than going to the restroom once, Seol Jihu’s butt stayed on his chair the entire time. It wasn’t until dinner time that he finally got up from his seat.
He quickly headed home. The book on acupuncture was a chore to get through, but the books about the javelin throw were easier than he expected. Of course, there was a limit to how much he could absorb just by reading. Thankfully, one of the books came with a DVD.
He was thinking about watching the DVD once he got home, but his eyes were glued to the book as he walked.
‘I see…. Throwing doesn’t mean I should only be using my hand. If I use a tool called the spear-thrower, I can propel the spear much faster than farther than throwing it by hand alone….’
Seol Jihu was muttering to himself when he raised his head after hearing someone block his path.
“Are you Mister Seol Jihu?”
He was almost home, but there was a man standing in front of his apartment’s main parking lot.
“Yes, I am….”
Immediately, he went, ‘Ah, shoot!’ A formally dressed man was waiting for him at this hour in front of his house?
He activated Nine Eyes.
After checking his color, he raised his guard and opened his mouth.
“Who are you?”
“Ah, this is who I am.”
The man took out a business card and handed it to Seol Jihu respectfully. The word ‘Sinyoung’ was clearly printed on the card.
“What business does Sinyoung have with me?”
“I know this may be sudden, but can you come with us?”
The man cut to the chase and pointed at his sedan. Seol Jihu only stared at him blankly.
“It’s for the fake employment we will be handling, but….”
Seol Jihu shook his head.
“I don’t think this is the right time. It’s too sudden.”
“There’s something I need to take care of urgently. I’d like to put this off to a later time.”
“It won’t take long. I promise.”
Hearing this, Seol Jihu closed his book.
“That sounds like you’ll take me no matter what.”
“I apologize if that’s what it sounded like.”
“It doesn’t look like the fake employment is the only reason.”
“I won’t deny that. But, I promise, the meeting will be short.”
The man seemed strangely impatient. Seol Jihu asked bravely.
“If I say no, will you take me by force?”
“Not at all. I was told to treat you with the utmost respect. I have no intention of forcing you to do anything. But if possible, I would really like you to come.”
“And if I say no?”
The man blurred the end of his speech and let out a bitter smile.
“I will back off here, but our miss will be extremely sad.”
When Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed, the man bent his back.
“Please. It’s fine if you only stay for a cup of tea, so….”
Seol Jihu clicked his tongue. He didn’t want to go. To be exact, he didn’t want to involve himself in this problem. But Kim Hannah advised him not to do anything that would create suspicion. If he declined here, there was a huge chance Sinyoung would not see him favorably.
‘For the fake employment, huh…. Damn it.’
It was true that he needed to meet with them about it. The only problem was that Kim Hannah wasn’t here.
‘I don’t want to burden her any more than this….’
After careful deliberation, Seol Jihu put his book away.
‘If I only need to meet with them….’
Nine Eyes did not reveal the color of danger. As long as he stayed sharp, he figured he wouldn’t be in any life-threatening situation. He would just need to hear them out and nod his head a couple of times.
The man straightened his back as if he was waiting for these words.
“Thank you. This way, please.”
He guided Seol Jihu to his car. After personally opening the door for Seol Jihu, the man got in the driver’s seat and said as he turned the engine on.
“Pardon me for being rude and thank you for being so understanding.”
Seol Jihu didn’t say anything. The man continued as he stepped on the accelerator.
“In truth, Director Kim Hannah warned us not to approach you, Mister Seol Jihu, as you are having trouble due to a family matter. That’s why our miss waited patiently….”
Vruaaaang-! He couldn’t hear the rest of the man’s sentence because of the engine sound.
Seol Jihu meant to ask him to repeat what he said, but he seemed to have understood him differently as he nodded his head.
“I’m not lying. Because she’s been having trouble sleeping, she’s getting weaker and weaker by the day….”
What was that supposed to mean? Seol Jihu blinked repeatedly with a confused face.
Although he had never met Yun Seohui before, in his head, she was a mastermind hiding behind the curtains, dressed in black with crossed legs and a glass of wine in her hand. The vampire-like woman was smiling seductively while murmuring, ‘Hoho, I wonder when I’ll get my hands on that toy.’
But this person was having trouble sleeping at night because she couldn’t wait to see him? Rather than a mastermind, she sounded like a maiden in love.
‘He likes to exaggerate quite a bit, huh.’
Thinking that this might be a ploy to make him lower his guard, Seol Jihu reminded himself to stay sharp.
The man drove him to a high-class Chinese restaurant.
‘I thought I only needed to stay for a cup of tea?’
Seol Jihu wondered as he walked through the VIP area, but when he saw their menu hanging on the wall, he jumped in surprise.
They had tea, but….
‘60 million won per cup?!’
He felt like he was in a completely different world. The man guided him to the top floor of the restaurant before carefully knocking on the traditional-style sliding door.
“I brought him, Miss.”
A sweet, melodic voice rang out. The voice was high-pitched but light on the ears.
—You can take your leave now.
The man glanced at the youth behind him before bowing respectfully and taking his leave.
‘It feels like I’m here to meet the daughter of an esteemed family. Ah, well, I guess I’m not that far off.’
Seol Jihu muttered inwardly when… Drrrk!, the door shot open as if the person inside was sure that the man had left.
The person inside wasn’t a vampire nor a maiden dressed in traditional Korean dress. When Seol Jihu met her bloodshot eyes, he couldn’t help but drop his jaw.
Whish. The red-eyed ghost, no, woman ran up to Seol Jihu wearing only her pantyhose. Her bloodshot eyes glistened as they looked up at him.
Her lips pursed as if she had much to say. She got on her tip-toes and grabbed his arms.
Her voice was completely different than before. It now carried a hint of yearning that made Seol Jihu snap out of his daze. However, he couldn’t hide his shock.
He expected to see Sinyoung’s First Lady, but the woman shining in a brilliant golden light wasn’t Yun Seohui, but…
“I wanted to see you….”
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