An elite private house in the Gangnam area. In the spacious, bright living room, a woman walked indifferently from side to side, unconsciously twisting a long strand of bangs on her finger, when all the other hair was pulled into a high hairstyle. Her gaze constantly returned to the coffee table by the sofa, on which some note lay alone.
- Mom? – called Jae Joong, entering the room. – Something happened? You look very worried.
- What? – the woman returned from her thoughts. – Oh, are you back already?
The young man frowned as he took off his jacket and loosened the knot of his tie.
- When you’re so absent-minded, something definitely happened. Where is Jae Hee? Does she has fun somewhere with her friends again?
- Jae Joong-ah…
The woman looked anxiously at her son, and then gestured to the coffee table.
- We're lost, Jae Joong-ah, – she said with a tremor in her voice. – Jae Hee has disappeared. She refuses to get married. All our hopes that the company could be saved… crumbled to dust.
Jae Joong stared at his mother in shock, then briskly walked over to the table and grabbed the note.
“Dear mom, dear oppa, don't look for me. I realized that I do not want to live my whole life in a golden cage with a person who will never love me, and whom I will not love. I know that I am acting selfishly, dooming you and my father's company to complete obscurity, but I want to dispose of my fate myself, and not as others want to force me.
Love, Jae Hee. "
Jae Joong crumpled up a note and sat down on the sofa exhaustedly.
- She just ran away… – he stated. – Almost from the wedding!
Mother covered her mouth with her hand, restraining her emotions. Now the Kim’s family was going through hard times, and the only way not to go bankrupt and stay afloat was the marriage of the only daughter to the heir of a major company.
- I was so surprised when Jung's family agreed to this marriage… – the woman said. – I thought it was a sky-sign and now we are saved! But… – She covered her face with her hand, completely desperate.
Jae Joong looking depressed somewhere to the side, then stood up and put his arms around his mother’s shoulders. Once their company has a leading position in the market, but over time slowly retreated entirely further and further – particularly after the death of his father. This news shattered the whole family, but his mother do all the best to rectify the situation and to give her children a better education. It was Jae Joong's turn to take care of his family, but when the chance fell on his sister, she simply dropped her hands and chose to run away cowardly!
- I can understand Jae Hee, – Jae Joong said, soothing his mother. – But she had to be aware of this! She was not born into an ordinary worker's family and ыру is obliged to fulfill her duty as the only daughter of a famous family! Father's company is our brainchild, and we need to protect it… After all, he spent the best years of his life on it! How does he is feeling somewhere out there, in a better world, that we have lost a part of him?..
- At the end of next week we have a family dinner, – the woman said. – If Jung's family find out that we want everything to cancel… Oh, I do not want to think about it! What a scandal! The daughter of Kim’s family escaped just before the wedding preparations! I have to lie down, something is not good for me…
Jae Joong accompanied his mother to her bedroom.
- Please don’t worry too much… Dinner can be rescheduled, but for now we need to start looking for Jae Hee. I'll get her wherever she hides!
- Everything is fine with me, Jae Joong-ah, – the woman waved aside. – I try not to blame Jae Hee, but… I also put a lot of effort into managing the whole company. It’s just… I feeling hurt that she didn’t think about mine or your sacrifices.
"Jae Hee does not really think about anything…" – Jae Joong sighed. He loved his sister, allowed her numerous whims, encouraged caprices, but in this situation she acted ugly, not warned anyone and not discussed her decision with anyone. Even with him.
Going into his room, Jae Joong sighed wearily and dressed in home clothes. Taking off his shirt in front of the mirror to replace it with a pleasant-to-touch purple V-neck sweater, he froze for a moment. In the mirror, an indifferent reflection looked at him, which was losing in the struggle with the oppression of harsh reality and piled up problems.
Where could Jae Hee be? The phone is unavailable, all her friends do not know about her possible whereabouts, all what was left was to go to familiar places by himself, which his sister often visited. Also it would be nice to call to the airport…
Jae Joong fell into a deep sleep and woke up very early. Although it was a day off, his body worked like clockwork, each time waking up before the alarm clock. Given the circumstances that yesterday put Jae Joong right in front of the collapse of expectations, he still has a long way to get a good night's sleep…
Besides of searching for his sister, Jae Joong already had plans for today, which he at all costs intended to fulfill. A meeting with his best friend Park Yoochun, with whom they intended to attend the show of a new collection from a famous designer who came to Seoul for just one day.
Jae Joong was quite an interesting personality and had his own quirky hobbies and weaknesses. If he went to work in the company in strict business suits – without denying himself any fashion accessories – then in his personal life he often could not be recognized. And now, keeping the whole situation under control, Jae Joong dressed up like a top star from the catwalk: he wrapped his head in a snow-white cashmere snood scarf, as if he was going to ride a camel in the Sahara; chose sunglasses, watches, rings and chains from his numerous collection, put on a gray folded T-shirt, and threw on top of a leopard cape in pink and without fasteners; to match the style of narrow, lightweight trousers with a wide buckle at the belt, designer moccasins on the legs. His whole image screamed about the status of a Hollywood star. In truth, for some people this outfit could seem too eccentric.
With the speed of the wind, reaching the meeting point in his Lamborghini, Jae Joong met up with Yoochun, who was already waiting for him.
- Well, look who decided to show up! – Yoochun whistled. – You look even better than usual today. The attention of all guests will be focused only on you.
When something got out of Jae Joong's control, he had a habit of throwing his head up proudly and facing adversity in his most irresistible splendor.
- Sister messed up a little… – Jae Joong hinted and hurried to change the subject of conversation: – How are you? I heard you signed a lucrative contract?
As soon as asked Yoochun about his work, it could take hours and a lot of details. Sighing with calmness, Jae Joong went with Yoochun to the entrance to the show with the accompaniment of Yoochun's never-ending story.
- Jae Joong? – Yoochun called. – Why are you staying?
- Come and take our seats, – Jae Joong asked, looking at the screen of his phone, on which one of Jae Hee's friends was calling. – I will answer the call and catch you up.
- As you say.
Jae Joong turned sharply, looking at the cell phone, and immediately bumped into someone's shoulder, dropping the phone from his hands. The object hit the floor loudly and bounced against the wall.
- Aish! – Jae Joong swored.
Putting the back of the cell phone on the right place, Jae Joong remained on his haunches, turning on the phone and intending to immediately get up and say to the unlucky stranger everything he thinks. However, at that moment, he turned to him first:
- Kim Jae Hee? Didn't expect to meet you here, dear bride-to-be. You still wear these rags?
Jae Joong froze, then raise his head and from the bottom upwards glanced at the figure in front of him. Jung Yunho. The fiancé of his twin sister.
In front of Jae Joong stood a chaebol in the third generation of the Korea's leading company – YJ Group, with whose family there was an old agreement on marriage between their children. The Kim’s family and the Jung’s family. And now the time has come to fulfill the promise.
“Is he kidding? – flashed through Jae Joong's head. – How could he have mistaken me with a girl?!”
- So, you will crawl in knees any further? – Yunho addresses to Jae Joong with a dispassionate expression on his face, without even blinking an eye that it might not be Jae Hee at all in front of him. – Didn't think that you are from the category of those persons who wear the same thing twice… and still came here?
“One thing I understood for sure: my sister was carrying my things again!!!" – Jae Joong guessed, wondering how to behave in front of this rude man.
Jae Joong stood up and defiantly brushed off the invisible specks of dust.
- For your information, Mr. Jung, this is the first of the only two pieces of Mr. Rossini’s design, and I’m the only one in Korea, who… – Jae Joong wanted to finish the rep, but Yunho cut him off with a mocking tone:
- Did you spent the whole night in karaoke? What's with your voice? However, what to expect from such a flighty girl… You can not to make excuses and not go into details – I'm not interested anyway. – With these words, the heir proudly walked past the stunned Jae Joong.
“What's wrong with this guy?! – Jae Joong astonishment inquired himself. – Sorry, Jae Hee, I got overreacted when I blamed only you…"
Deciding to call his sister's friends back after the fashion show, Jae Joong soon joined Yoochun, who had already searched for him. The performance began without delay, but, to the disappointment of Jae Joong, this pompous Jung Yunho sat exactly at that distance, where Jae Joong could see him well.
- Something is wrong? – Yoochun whispered to his friend.
- Everything is okay, – Jae Joong said reluctantly.
- Are you worried about your sister? What did she do?
- Well… – In addition to putting the family’s company under the threat of ruin and in a hopeless position of her mother and brother – absolutely nothing special, Jae Joong wanted to say, but aloud, of course, he said something different: – She took my clothes without asking again.
Yoochun suppressed a chuckle, but no one would have heard him with loud music around anyway.
- Does she steal your stuff? Male-female rags? Maybe you two have the same foot size, too?
Jae Joong shot a murderous look at Yoochun, who figured it was best not to joke with his friend for now. Although Jae Joong with his sister were twins – almost similar like two drops of water, but still they had different physical features.
Jae Hee was quite tall – she lacked literally a couple of centimeters to 170, but with her love for high heels, which sometimes reaching almost 20 cm, she stood out noticeably among her friends and sometimes even males. Jae Joong, being a man, respectively was higher than his sister – about 177 cm, and still couldn't understand how Jung Yunho didn't notice the difference between them.
Also Jae Hee loved wearing all sorts of dresses and skirts, do not hesitate to demonstrate her well-built shape. Jae Joong’s mind was already seething with the ignorance of potential fiancé of his sister! He couldn't even recognize a male shape?! And the voice? "Did you spent the whole night in karaoke"?! Unbelievable!
But, considering that this "subject" even not aware of the relatives of his bride, what to say about their relationship in general… Jae Joong was so lost in his thoughts that he did not notice how the show was over and the designer went to the podium by himself.
Yoochun nudged the neighbor with his elbow.
- Did you know that the YJ Group is one of the main sponsors of today's show?
- What? – Jae Joong came to his senses.
Designer Jerry Kim – Korean American – has already managed to say something and summon Jung Yunho to join him on the stage. The young heir, emitting a vibe of charisma and barely caught cold politeness, went up to the podium and shook hands with the creator of the collection. Jae Joong watched the scene dispassionately, crossing his arms over his chest and crossing his legs.
- Look, – Yoochun addresses to Jae Joong. – I've already been called on the cell phone several times, I have to leave you. It’s OK?
Jae Joong nodded, partly ignoring his friend's words. Yoochun hurriedly left the room while all the other guests slowly started to leave. The creator of the collection was talking about something with Yunho already on the sidelines in an informal setting.
- I heard, Mr. Jung, – the designer began with a slight accent, – that you are going to get engaged? Congratulations! Such an enviable groom!
- Not at all, – Yunho said modestly. – By the way, my fiancée is also presenting at today's show. I can introduce you.
And then Jae Joong, who was going to talk to the designer himself in private, but suddenly changed his mind due to the presence of his sister's unlucky fiancé in the dangerously close proximity, get into trouble.
- Kim Jae Hee! – Yunho called. – You're not even going to say hello to us?
Jae Joong instinctively turned to his sister's name. And then he got through his head: I am done for!
- Oh, this is from the collection of Mr. Rossini! – Jerry Kim beamed. – It is designed for both women and men, but how good it looks on you!
Jae Joong smiled, but his lips curled treacherously with awkwardness. Yunho without a trace came up to him and, not noticing any difference with his sister, hugged him around the waist.
- What are you doing?! – Jae Joong was indignant.
- Oh, she is very modest and shy, – referring to the surprise of the designer explained Yunho. – As everyone's say, everything is after the wedding, ha-ha!
“Damn you, fucking blind bacon! – Jae Joong swored; he was ready to stun the unlucky fiancé by revealing his person, but remembering the upset face of his mother and her lamentations that no one should find out about the disappearance of Jae Hee, otherwise a scandal would flare up, restrained himself and sighed deeply. – If Jae Hee hadn't escaped… I wouldn't be silent about my identity right now!"
- What are you show off? – Yunho irritated whispered right to Jae Joong’s ear. – There are hundreds of paparazzi here prowling like a pack of bloodhounds. Are you a smart girl?
Jae Joong winced as Yunho's whisper tickled his ear, but Yunho only pulled the young man closer to him.
“I AM GUY! GUY!!!" – Jae Joong’s whole being protested, but due to his attitude and the prevailing circumstances, he only smiled exhaustedly and exquisitely said:
- The collection is amazing. I don't even know how to describe the feelings that overwhelmed me during the show. You are just a virtuoso.
- Not at all… Ms. Kim? – the designer burst out laughing, and then winked. – What a pity that Korean women do not take the surnames of their husbands… I would be delighted to address you as the future Lady Jung.
- Don't feel sad, – Yunho brushed aside. – As soon as she joins our family, she will be known exclusively as the daughter-in-law of the YJ Group… Which means she will become part of the Jung surname.
When the heir paused before the last sentence, he gave Jae Joong an icy look full of secret contempt, but after speaking immediately after that, he smiled softly again. Jae Joong decided that he had imagined it for a moment. Where does so much hidden anger come from? What did Jae Hee do to deserve such open neglect?..
- I hope you will not refuse the offer to have a dinner with me? – Jerry Kim inquired.
- I also wanted to offer you the same thing, – Yunho pleasantly surprised. Or just pretended. – Jae Hee, where are you going?
- I… I have… – Jae Joong mumbled. – I already have plans…
- So cancel them, – Yunho snapped. – Our guest is leaving tomorrow.
"Not ours, and only yours, – Jae Joong corrected Yunho, but all he could do in reality was to purse his lips slightly. – Okay, this stupid one, BUT HOW THE DESIGNER could not distinguish a man from a woman?! Or do they, the creative ones, have their own 4D atmosphere?"
Jae Joong was thin and skinny, and in his designer rags he looked like a hanger: the outerwear, fortunately, did not fit and did not emphasize the noticeable parts of the body, which could be instantly exposed, but also put him in a stupor – even the models had similar shapes… And from other side, one could count him as a tomboy or a slightly masculine girl… yes, a little. So far, Jung Yunho hasn't shown a single suspicion. The designer only looked at clothes on Jae Joong.
- I can't, – Jae Joong tried to gently refuse, hiding himself more tightly with his wide scarf, completely hiding his neck and hair, and also imperceptibly covering his mouth. – I am very sorry… But this case is urgent.
Jae Joong apologized to the designer in embarrassment, intending to get out of this situation as soon as possible, but as soon as he turned to leave, he was stopped by a strong grip from the side. Jung Yunho is not used when things not going according to his plan, and someone disobeying orders.
- Honey, you probably misunderstood something? – the heir kindly suggested, smiling dazzlingly at the bride, but at the same time, Jae Joong's body was thrown into the cold – an obvious threat was felt in the voice of the sister's fiancé. – Shouldn't a man make decisions in a couple? We already agreed with you before, didn't we? If we have to go, then we will go.
The intonation is certainly not tolerate delay, not that weak excuse of Jae Joong. At the moment he gave himself up the slack and allowed to give up, excusing that for some time he could not reveal himself (especially when the designer Jerry Kim is a witness!) and give reason to believe that Jae Hee has disappeared. Given that she is not found earlier, of course.
- So, are we going, honey? – Yunho asked with a feigned sweetness, not removing his mask of benevolence.
"What's wrong with this guy?!" – Jae Joong was indignant, but the sense of duty to the family turned out to be higher than his own pride.
- As you wish, Yunho-shi, – he conceded reluctantly.
It was the most ridiculous of all situations with which Jae Joong ever had an experience. He did not feel so awkwardly even when he participated in a activity for LGBT rights in order to sign one lucrative contract with Thais, because the brother of the chairman's wife was one of them, and she highly appreciated this action and persuaded her husband to cooperate with the Kim’s company.
And now Jae Joong was pretending a woman and not even by his own choice. But thinking of this as another sacrifice as a salvation for the company’s sake, anger and resentment gradually calmed down in Jae Joong's soul. But yet he shouldn't be taking the rap for Jae Hee completely!
On the way, only Jung Yunho and Jerry Kim spoke. Jae Joong preferred to remain silent, only making a small comment and laughing weakly at some joke once.
The car stopped outside the front gate of one of the city's most famous and luxurious fish restaurants. Doormen in impeccable suits and white gloves hurried to open the doors of the guests' car and collect the keys in order to park a car in a separate parking lot.
The head waiter, who had been expecting them in advance, bowed courteously and offered to follow him along an alley lined with beautifully trimmed bushes and trees. There was also a well-tended garden with an emerald lawn and a fountain with a sculpture of a mermaid in the center. The lighting hidden in the greenery and the lanterns on the branches beautifully illuminated and showed the way when twilight and night fell on the city.
The guests were ushered into elite restaurant building, inside which they seemed to be on a real ship: the interior was made exclusively of the best varieties of dark wood, mirrors created a play of shadows with candlesticks installed along the walls, and marine decorations and accessories gave a mysterious atmosphere in the semi-gloomy rooms.
Walking through the lobby, Jae Joong had to take off his sunglasses – it was too dark. Artfully glazed shelves were installed along the sides of the walls, behind which flaunted the best alcohol of the restaurant. Climbing the spiral staircase, entwined with ropes with sea knots and shells, the guests entered a large and finally normally lit hall, under the floor of which a real aquarium was hidden with live fish floating under their feet.
- Please come here, – the head waiter called politely, enticing visitors into a separate room for VIP guests.
Entered the room, Jae Joong felt himself like he was in the cabin of the ship: the same dark wood, there was a round table, designed for five people and covered with a snow-white tablecloth, on which were placed silverware, several crystal glasses and patterned napkins, masterfully rolled in boats. Also there was a smaller round table and two armchairs half-turned opposite each other, apparently for tea and private conversation.
In the corners of the room, two sculptures of naked Greek girls and floor lamps with dim lights were installed crosswise; from the ceiling hung a small candelabrum with candle lamps. On one wall a rostrum in the form of a siren was attached, on the other walls there were old maps, compasses and there was also an illuminated porthole, on the surface of which the water surface seemed to be displayed. And from the hidden speakers the quiet noise of waves poured. A little more, and Jae Joong was ready to swear that this cabin-room was even shaking on waves.
- You have a sophisticate taste, Mr. Jung, – Jerry Kim shared his thoughts, appreciating the interior of the restaurant. – I really appreciate such refinements. I hope to work with you in the future once more!
- Don't say that, – Yunho waved off in his humble manner. – We have not even started eating yet, and you already seem to say goodbye to us… Let's make an order. I hear this restaurant has exceptional black cod and the best freshest oysters.
- In that case, let me choose a wine, – the designer winked.
Only Jae Joong felt constrained in such an atmosphere. He could have been exposed at any moment, but so far nothing of this kind has happened. Jae Joong still doubted whether to continue this whole farce or meltdown and open up. But common sense has not yet left him, which is why Jae Joong decided to be patient a little longer. For his own benefit.
- Jae Hee? – Yunho turned to the bride. – What would you like to order, honey?
Jae Joong once again almost jump out of his skin, when Yunho called for him. There was so much deceitful pretense in the Yunho's words, that Jae Joong felt a terrible dislike.
- I… the same as you.
- Your fiancée is by no means fussy, – Jerry Kim said pleasantly. – How lucky you are, Mr. Jung! Such a beauty, a fashionista, and even completely in solidarity with any of your choices.
Yunho allowed himself a grin.
- Not at all… If you praise her like that, then she can become arrogant. I'm really embarrassed.
“Oh, you smart-ass flatterer! – Jae Joong was indignant. – If this day would be over as soon as possible! My eyes don’t want to see your face. And my ears don’t want to hear you. When Jae Hee will come back, I let her manage with you!”
- So, Jae Hee, – Yunho said, – shall we have some vongole pasta?
- I'm allergic to shellfish, – Jae Joong replied automatically.
Yunho fell silent for a moment, confused, but quickly pulled himself together.
- Oh, my work threw me off my stride. How could I forget that my precious bride is allergic to these sea creatures? I have no excuse!
- What a pity, – Jerry Kim sympathized. – You live in a country rich in a wide variety of seafood and delicacies, but due to allergic you cannot afford half of it… I love fish restaurants, but for you, Ms. Kim, it was not the best idea to come here. I apologize.
- It's okay, – Jae Joong presumed to speak. – You have only one day, designer Kim. And for me… along with my fiancé, it is a great honor to treat you with something that you really like. In addition, there is a large selection of fish. For example, bluefin tuna. Don't worry about me and enjoy the evening.
Yunho, who had been look daggers at Jae Joong during this little conversation, apparently calmed down and again pulled on a mask of all-consuming gallantry. The rest of the dinner passed without any problems and was successfully completed.
- It was a pleasure to spend time with you, Mr. Jung, Ms. Kim, – the designer thanked. – If you will visit US – do not hesitate to call me, we will meet for a cup of coffee or something stronger, perhaps I will have another show, I promise a VIP seats!
- Thank you, – Yunho replied with restraint, but smiled. – Certainly.
Jae Joong muttered something under his breath and bowed to the designer, who, in turn, kissed the back of the hand of the “lady” like a true gentleman, which made Jae Joong completely embarrassed. Then a car came for Jerry Kim, and, having waved goodbye to the couple, he disappeared behind the gates of the restaurant.
“Oh, it's really over, – Jae Joong thought with relief, not believing what was happening. – It's over, God, thank you! And I passed this test to the end. They not revealed me. What they are simpletons…”
But Jae Joong was deeply mistaken. He was going to slip away from the sister’s fiancé, but Yunho seized the initiative and grabbed the unlucky “bride” by the wrist again.
- What's your problem? – Jae Joong snapped, trying to free his wrist.
- So, we were left alone, – Yunho said coldly, grinning wryly. – What you pulled?
- What are you talking about?
- You're kind of strange today. Did you try to ruin this dinner on purpose?
Jae Joong frowned.
- What for? – he asked.
- To annoy me, – Yunho replied, not taking his eyes off. – You behaved like that on purpose? But what the rotten luck, with such behavior you will not add value to yourself. Do you know how much my company is ready to pay off your family's firm? Of course, you don’t know, but you can imagine. Only a few millions. Jae Hee, you were just sold.
Jae Joong turned scarlet and pulled his hand from the Yunho's grip.
- In what tone do you speak? Just a minute ago you were courtesy itself, but as soon as the guest disappeared from sight, how did you… how did you…
- How I what? – Yunho began to advance on Jae Joong, causing he to retreat.
The conversation took place in the garden next to the restaurant, twilight fell on the city, there was no one nearby, neither from the workers, nor from the arriving or leaving guests. Only the two of them. And soon Jae Joong was pinned to the wall.
- Why are you fell silent? – Jung Yunho asked, languidly lowering his voice and bending over the panicked Jae Joong. The heir was about seven to eight centimeters taller than him.
Yunho's hand pressed against the wall, blocking the Jae Joong's escape path to the left, then the other hand repeated the same movement on the right and completely cut off any escape attempt.
“What is he doing? What is he going to do? – Jae Joong wondered feverishly. – He's not up to anything strange, is he? He… he… won't…”
- Are you nervous? – Yunho guessed with a sneering smile and reached for Jae Joon's neck.
“I’m going to fly off the handle and hit him! What happened between him and Jae Hee?!” – the Jae Joong's brain shouted.
The heir's breath fell on Jae Joong's skin, forcing him to grit his teeth and close his eyes. Is it possible that a man will kiss him now?! His male pride won't survive it! Just a little more, and he will open up…
But instead of a kiss, a haughty grin followed in the very ear, and an ironic voice whispered:
- I wonder what you expected? I will never be attracted to a girl like you. You're marrying YJ Group, not Jung Yunho. Remember this. And no matter how big name or wealth you will get… you will never get me.
With these words, Yunho walked away, defiantly dust down his jacket and walked towards the gate to the exit from the territory of the restaurant.
- As a decent man, I will take you home. Hurry up.
Dumbfounded, Jae Joong could only breathe out and think completely about an extraneous thought:
“Damn! My Lamborghini!”
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.