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The Billion-Dollar Bride

Chapter Text

The front door opened violently and slammed shut, causing something to crash in the hallway. Jae Joong’s mother, Kim Hye Won, startled in dismay.

- Jae Joong, is that you? – she called from the living room. – Where have you been all day long? And why…

Jae Joong showed up in the corridor, angrily undressing on the way to the room. He tore off his scarf and other accessories and casually threw them on his way. He was not at all up to personal belongings and their careful storage.

- I want to rip and tear! Destroy! Destroy everything! – he swore aloud. – How dare he talk to me in such a tone! What self-confidence was it, what arrogance… Does he think that if he is a son of a rich daddy, then he can behave like the son of a king?! Pompous, shameless impudent!..

Hye Won cautiously peered into her son’s room.

- Jae Joong, what happened? – she asked. – You seemed to meet with Yoochun?

- I saw him! – Jae Joong blurted out. – I saw Jung Yunho, this cynical parody of the hero-lover from the dramas!

- What? Did you see… Jung Yunho?! – Hye Won asked with a gasp. – Fiancé of Jae Hee? Oh, my God! Where did you meet? Doesn’t he know that she has disappeared yet? What did he say? Omo, Omo… Tell me more! Why are you so mad?

Jae Joong sank down on the bed exhaustedly and took a deep breath, letting off steam. Perhaps, speaking out, he will feel better.

- Mom, – he began. – The fact is that… this person, the fiancé of my dear sister… could not even distinguish her from his own brother.

- How it’s possible?! – Hye Won exclaimed indignantly, clearly missing something. – Maybe you misunderstand something, Jae Joong? Did you talk to him? How could he… not tell the difference between a girl and a boy?

Jae Joong grimaced as if he had licked a lemon and lay back on the bed. He didn’t want to remember this day anew and retell today’s events.

- Ah… – Hye Won spoke again. – There was no news… from Jae Hee?

Jae Joong, who closed his eyes, opened them again and shook his head. He understood himself the disappointment and feelings of his mother, but it was temporarily push into the background because of some shameless individual…

- I had a call from Jae Hee’s friend, – confessed Jae Joong. – But, unfortunately, I couldn’t answer the call and call back… But, if there was something important, I’m sure that I would have been given a hundred times to know. So, please, don’t worry too much.

- They called today… – Hye Won said, interlocking her fingers. – Jung’s family has set a date for lunch together. They want to hold it on Tuesday.

- What?! But previously you were talking about a family’ dinner at the end of the week!

- I know!.. But they want to speed up the process of preparing for the wedding. How wonderful it would have been if Jae Hee hadn’t escaped! And now… If there will be no news about her by Tuesday, I don’t know how long we can hold this situation and delay the wedding’s preparation… They will suspect that something is wrong.

Jae Joong jumped out of bed and darted around the room. All his plans are down the drain! Everything he and his mother did for his father’s company, how much efforts they put in it… Everything is about to collapse like a house of cards.

- Well, Jae Hee, well, you made me a wonderful “favor”… – Jae Joong muttered. – Just cut and run! If you will return, because the money on the card have run out, you will fulfill duties as a maid for a month! And then I will marry you to a Chinese one!

- Jae Joong, – his mother said timidly. – Maybe Jae Hee will return at the most crucial moment? She used to do such things before… But her conscience always woke up in her, and she returned.

- But we haven’t been in such dire straits yet, mom, – Jae Joong objected sternly. – What if we do not receive the promised investment?..

Jae Joong hesitated for a moment. It was only now that he remembered Yunho’s words: “Jae Hee, you were just sold”. At that moment, Jae Joong didn’t think much about it, but now he could finally fully realize how monstrous and wild the fact uttered by the lips of the heir sounded. He, Kim Jae Joong… easily and simply agreed to give his sister in exchange for a huge amount of money. And let it be for the good… but still his sister is not a commodity. Although, what kind of pride could there be if it all ends up for them being on the street?

Tormented by controversy, Jae Joong tossed and turned all night. He was torn apart by a sense of duty and his own dignity. Mind stubbornly and inexorably repeated that Jae Joong is doing the right thing and he is on the right way: first of all, he is a businessman and the lives of numerous workers and the fate of their families is depending on him. However, Jae Joong’s heart screamed desperately that Jae Hee was not just his own sister, but a part of himself. And she was terribly hurt by the thought that her brother chose to humiliate himself in front of the richer and more powerful of this world, than to stand up for the pride of his sister…

Sunday began broken and dull. Jae Joong couldn’t put eyes together at night as the worm of doubt and uncertainty ate inside him. With bruises under his eyes he went downstairs to the dining room, where was Hye Won drinking empty coffee.

- Already awake? Today is a day off, you could still lie down, – she said softly with weariness in her voice. Apparently, she also slept badly.

- Thought to work a little, – Jae Joong reluctantly shared his plans, trying to concentrate at least on his primary duties. – Where is ajumma?

Hye Won looked away and sighed.

- We had to cut our expenses… But don’t worry. I paid her well and gave recommendations, she will quickly find a new job. In the meantime, we will have to manage in the house ourselves.

Without a word, Jae Joong walked over to the stove and tied an apron around himself.

- Don’t drink empty coffee on an empty stomach. I’ll cook rice, – Jae Joong said without turning to mother, and began cooking. – At least we should eat properly.

After a silent breakfast, diluted by the clinking of cutlery, Jae Joong’s cell phone rang.

- Hello, – he said shortly.

- Jae Joong! – stretched out the name of the young man on the other line. It turned out to be another friend of Jae Joong – Kim Junsu. – What are you doing today? Any plans? I suggest you come to me for a cup of tea.

- I was going to go to the office to unload blockage at work before the start of the working week.

- Fie! How boring. Forget about your workaholic status for a while and have some fun!

“Yesterday I had fun for the month ahead…” – Jae Joong thought, but Junsu’s cheering voice cheered him up a little.

- I’m sold. I’ll be soon.

Junsu was a mega extravagant personality and combined a fashion designer, stylist, visagiste and hairdresser in one person. A very creative person with 4D personality habits and flashes of a wide variety of behaviors from adorable cutie to formidable fury, if properly pissed off. Jae Joong and Yoochun were his closest friends, and therefore only the two of them could endure a fickle friend at such moments.

- Welcome! – chanted Junsu in the doorway when Jae Joong arrived at his apartment. – Come in, come in. I also called Yoochun. It is not often that the three of us get together and have a peaceful chat.

Yoochun and Jae Joong liked to sit in some trendy bar, as well as drink a bottle of something expensive and strong, but Junsu didn’t share their passions, persuading a correct and healthy lifestyle. Therefore, getting together like this and spontaneously was not very common.

Today, Junsu’s hair was dyed red with reflections of gold strands that the avid fashionist curled slightly. The plaid shirt contrasted with the striped ankle-length trousers, which made Junsu’s entire image look a little ridiculous, but nevertheless everything looked great on the young man, even if it didn’t really fit together.

- What wrong with your glance? – Junsu noticed the frowning expression on the face of his friend. – Or are you just hungry?

- No reason, just some family’ matters… – Jae Joong brushed aside. – How are you?

- Quite good. Tea, coffee, juice? It was not without reason that I called you for tea, because one friend brought me the best variety of green tea from Hangzhou…

At that moment, the latecomer Yoochun joined the friends with some gifts.

- Guess why I was late! – he asked enigmatically. – Ta-dah! Chicken and beer! The best Sunday snack ever!

Junsu glared at him. Chicken and beer in the residence of sacred teas from the remote plains and mountains of Asian corners! What barbarity! And Yoochun will grow a beer belly, no less! No sophistication!

- Hey, Jae Joong, – Yoochun turned to a friend, placing snacks on the table. – What did you do yesterday, when I had to leave? Did you manage to speak with that designer?

- Oh, that tasteless guy came? – Junsu interrupted the conversation, wincing. – I don’t like his style at all. I have no idea why everyone is so crazy about his rags.

- His collection is not bad this time, – Jae Joong remarked cautiously, deciding to let Yoochun’s question go deaf ears.

- What about your sister? – Yoochun kept up, not paying attention that Jae Joong wasn’t answering on purpose. – Did you teach her a lesson? She will no more digging into your wardrobe?

- He-he, – Junsu throwing in his two cents’ worth again. – Clothes will always fit better on girls, because they are feminine and sophisticated.

- You’re raving! –  Yoochun argued to the lucky of Jae Joong. – Are you saying that even in well-shaped clothes on men do not look very good? Not worse than this clown outfit you are wearing now!

- Clown? – Junsu asked indignantly. – Be careful with words! I designed this design and sewed it myself! It is invaluable compared to the expensive dowdiness on the shelves of brand shops and boutiques!

- Then what did you mean about the fact that the clothes sit well only on women?! – A little dumb Yoochun was not catching up. – This is discrimination!

- Maybe I was a woman in a past life and I know better about it? – Junsu suggested, throwing his head up mannered.

- Okay, okay, break! – Jae Joong interjected, separating his friends. – Enough to talk off-topic nonsense. Maybe we will watch soccer or, at worst, a culinary show?

The perfect excuse to stop an impending quarrel. Relaxing a little in the warmer atmosphere, Jae Joong managed to escape from the thoughts that were eating him up. He felt guilty that instead of looking for his sister, he was playing the fool, but he continued to assure himself that the best way was to do nothing. When Jae Hee runs out of funds, she will return home herself, it’s not even needed to send anyone for searching of her. And then she will do what she is prescribed.

These thoughts brought Jae Joong the image of Jung Yunho. Imagining that his sister would marry this lump of sarcasm… Jae Joong understood that his sister was spoiled and she was primarily interested in how much she would be provided with money in marriage, but still she remains a girl. After all, every girl, whatever she is was, deep inside dreams of a happy and loving family with husband and child.

This is confirmed by her escape. If Jae Hee was guided only by the size of the wallet of her future husband, then without a twinge of conscience she would jump the broom – for her own joy and for help of her family. But there was something else. She not only didn’t think about the family, but she did it to her own detriment – she disappeared in an unknown direction. Where she was now and what she was doing? Does she have a roof over her head and a hot food? After all, Jae Joong was very worried about her…

What could Jung Yunho have done to make Jae Joong’s little sister get so scared and disappear? There was definitely a hitch in him, and now Jae Joong was slowly becoming aware of it. Did Yunho force her to flee so as not to invest in the company? But, given into account the behavior of Jae Hee, you had to try very hard to win her over to your side – here you can’t bribe with simple dresses or jewelry.

- Jae Joong? – friends called. – What’s the matter? You are so shuddered…

- I need to… Guys, have you heard anything about Jung Yunho?

- About that very same Jung Yunho? – Yoochun clarified while rubbing his chin. – Of course, I’ve heard of him. More – I even know him, saw him briefly. He is one of a kind… Why? Is this between him and your sister arranging a match?

- The most eligible groom in all of South Korea, – Junsu joined the discussion, crossing his legs. – And the most inaccessible. He is known for his outstanding ability, as he helped the company double its profits over the past year. And, as you know, these are billions of dollars… Hotels, restaurants, shopping centers… there is nothing that YJ Group would not controls.

- Wow, what a review! – Yoochun clapped his hands and then added sarcastically: – But we know that, too. Is there a fresher info?

Junsu turned his head to the side and examined his friends. Sometimes he looked very strange, like a shaman summoning spirits, and at such moments it was impossible to tell what he was thinking.

- He’s cold and shrewd businessman, – Junsu finally said. – Inaccessible like a mountain. Was not involved in any scandal with the girl. The one who is lucky enough to become his wife is like receiving the title of first lady. She will be a respected mistress, and all other women will be terribly jealous of her and dream of being in her place. However, this is an image only from the outside. In reality, everything will be quite sad… Since Jung Yunho is the kind of person who puts work first, and even his wife… he will never belong to her completely.

- Why? – Yoochun wondered. – How do you know so much about him? Oh, Jae Joong, I even feel sorry for your sister…

Jae Joong remained calm, even though everything inside was seething. According to Junsu, this Yunho was like of some kind of global villain and breaker of fragile girls’ hearts. But then one can explain the disregard in his voice and deeds, which, as Junsu’s story confirms, did not seemed to Jae Joong yesterday.

- He has money but doesn’t have a heart, – Junsu shrugged at Yoochun’s question. – You can agree, you cannot be perfect in everything. Each has a flaw.

- Then I have been haunted by one curiosity, – Yoochun continued. – How did the most influential family in Seoul agree to intermarry with our Jae Joong’s family? I do not want to offend or insult… You, Jae Joong, as we are with Junsu, of course, came from a wealthy family… but still not as fancy as they are. How did you do it?

- I am amazed myself, – Jae Joong dismissed, hiding the fact that there was an obligation between the families for a long time.

- Oh, what time is it! – Yoochun suddenly realized. – Guys, I terribly sorry, but I have to go. It was nice to meet and chat together! Call me, when you will have time! Bye!

He hurriedly geared up and went out of Junsu’s house, leaving two of his friends alone.

- Well, since now we alone… – Junsu began languidly, moving closer to Jae Joong, which forced his friend to swallow and awkwardly move away. – Why are you scared? I was not going to accost. Cough it up! She ran away, right?

- How do you?.. – amazed Jae Joong was taken aback by the insight of his friend.

- Ones have to be a little more attentive. Well, what are you going to do?

- I don’t know… I’m waiting when she will be back herself.

- When the viewing of the bride supposed to be?

- On Tuesday…

Junsu sighed loudly and leaned back on the couch, covering his eyes.

- Do you have a hopeless situation?

- More or less… – Jae Joong said in a strangled voice. – But now I’m not sure what prompted her to escape. Maybe Jae Hee should not be blamed at all, but this upstart…

- Do you have a plan if you don’t find her by Tuesday and she doesn’t show up on heself? – Junsu asked.

- I… haven’t figured out yet.

Junsu got up and crossed his arms over his chest and walked to the window.

- I’ll contact my acquaintances, – he said. – More people – the faster will be the result… But I promise nothing. Especially in such a short time.

- Junsu… – Jae Joong breathed. – Thank you.

- Not at all yet. If there is a completely hopeless situation, call me. And do not forget to notify before meeting with Jung’s family, maybe Jae Hee will nevertheless come up to show up…

- Of course, I will keep you in touch. Only you know. Please don’t tell Yoochun or no other souls. This is strictly between us.

- I know how to keep secrets. To accompany you to home?

Sunday flew by, followed by Monday. A lunchtime meeting with Jung’s family was approaching, but Jae Hee didn’t be evident of herself. Hye Won resigned herself sadly, deciding that there was nothing she could do about it. At lunch she will try to waste time… but next time it wouldn’t work.

- Mrs. Kim, mother of the daughter-in-law! Can we just call you by your name? After all, we will soon become relatives. How pleasant it is to spend time in an informal atmosphere! – Yunho’s parents greeted.

- I’m very pleased, too, – Hye Won responded. – Please, have a seat… And your son?

- He’s a little late, – Lee Ye Ran, Yunho’s mother, replied. – As far as I understand, your daughter is also delayed? And if I remember correctly, you also have a son...

- I’m sorry, he is delayed, too.

- Sorry for being late. – Yunho appeared in a formal business suit. He bowed gallantly to Mrs. Kim and sat down next to his parents. – It’s an honor for me to meet with you, my future mother-in-law. My name is Jung Yunho. And where is Jae Hee?

- She… – the woman hesitated. – Today… she can hardly honor us with her presence. The fact is that…

Jung’s family stared at Hye Won in bewilderment, not quite sure what she was trying to say. While the woman was looking for suitable words, there was a short knock on the door of the VIP-room, and someone entered inside.

- Jae Hee, finally, – Yunho said reluctantly. – And we already thought that today we will have lunch without you. What made you delayed?

All eyes were fixed on the incomer. Hye Won widened her eyes in surprise.

- Jae Hee? – she whispered, disbelieving her eyes. Her heart immediately relieved. The daughter came back right about at the most important moment!

- Sorry, I didn’t feel well… I’m Kim Jae Hee, nice to meet you.