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?”
—It’s me .
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 .
“Hold on . ”
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 .
“Just curious . ”
“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 good 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 .
“Huk… huk… . ”
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 .
‘Ah . ’
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 .
‘Damn… . ’
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… . ’
“Excuse me . ”
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 .
‘Colorless . ’
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 . ”
“Please . ”
“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?”
“Then… . ”
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 .
“…Let’s go . ”
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 . ”
—Thank you .
A sweet, melodic voice rang out . The voice was high-pitched but light on the ears .
—You can take your leave now .
—I’m fine .
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 .
“Ah… . ”
Her lips pursed as if she had much to say . She got on her tip-toes and grabbed his arms .
“Finally… . ”
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… . ”
Yun Seora .
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