Her last memory was being curled up like a shrimp and lying beside Kwon Chae-woo’s side at the hospital. She moaned as the sunlight tried to pry open her closed lids. Something shaded the brightness that blinded her.
“How is that? Is that better?” Kwon Chae-woo’s voice pulled her completely into a state of alertness. Her eyes opened. He was smiling faintly at her, with his battered face. The morning sunshine was beaming through the thin curtains of the hospital room.
“Why did you take so long to come back. I was waiting. Lee-yeon, I’m hurt.” Lee-yeon could see the dried tracks of tears on his cheeks.
Lee-yeon realized why she had the temptation to wake up Kwon Chae-woo. He might have been left alone, trapped in his nightmares. Lee-yeon pulled her sleeve down, without saying a word, and wiped his eyes.
“You’re the end of this nightmare,” Kwon Chae-woo whispered to her. She stared at him in shock. “You’re always the end of my nightmares.”
Looking at the man’s hopeful eyes, she realized that he saw her as the only person that could wake him up from his nightmares. But for Lee-yeon, the words horrified her. There was something in the back of her mind that was telling her this was all wrong. An anxiety that she just couldn’t place. It had something to do with herself.
Her life with Kwon Chae-woo played out through her mind. From their first meeting in the forest, to bondage in bed, the day he grabbed a live chicken, and on and on. She saw them in front of Hwang Jo-yoon, on top of a 30m tree, in front of a boar, at the smelly drug farm, on a shaking boat.
There was a power that made her do things she wouldn’t normally do. It might be because Kwon Chae-woo lived in a world of terror. So, she gets surrounded by that terror, gets used to it, and gets absorbed by it. She sat up, shaking.
“Lee-yeon, where are you going?” Kwon Chae-woo asked.
As Lee-yeon turned around and met his brown eyes. His eyes travelled over her body, taking her in. They had power over her, and she couldn’t come out and say what she has been feeling. Her heart was being torn in pieces. She was supposed to be meeting with Choo-ja today, to be introduced to “normal” men. She needed to see if her feeling for Kwon Chae-woo were real or if they were just a product of fear. If she couldn’t figure out the truth about her emotions, then she would be lost.
“You’re not going to the mountain alone again, are you?” Kwon Chae-woo asked.
“No,” she assured him.
Kwon Chae-woo had always been sensitive to Lee-yeon going out to the wilderness for work alone. Thanks to that, she had to let Choo-ja do most of the work, at least until Kwon Chae-woo until recovered a bit.
“Then where are you going?” Kwon Chae-woo pried.
“I’m going to meet a friend.” She simply said.
“You have friends?”
Lee-yeon blushed as she didn’t know how to take that question.
Kwon Chae-woo quickly realized his mistake and tried to explain. “It’s just that no one else came to see me, and you never brought a guest. I had always assumed that it was just the two of us, relying on each other.”
His gaze stuck into her like a harpoon. Her heart started beating hard. The anger quickly dissipated in his eyes, and he lay back on the hospital bed. “They’ll be releasing me today. I’ll have dinner ready for you when you get home. Come back early.”
Lee-yeon forced a smile and quickly moved to the door of the hospital room, as if she had been freed from a trap. As she was about to leave, she heard his voice from behind her.
“You look pretty today, Lee-yeon.” Kwon Chae-woo glared at her with cold eyes and a twisted grin on his face.
“Three police officers were replaced, and eight others got fired.” Jang Beom-hee, wearing his earphone, was still staring out the window at Lee-yeon’s house.
The project, secretly operated inside a remodeled fishing boat, was in the middle of the ocean. They were completely devastated by the youngest master of the Kwon Family. A drug boat, photographs of a plastic house, and the Korean-Chinese who oversaw the fields. There were plenty of incriminating evidence.
Everyone on the boat was arrested and handed over to prosecution. The only article that was ever published about the incident encouraged the public’s hatred towards the Korean-Chinese. They were the scapegoats so that the real masterminds of the crime were sheltered.
The case was made against the Korean-Chinese for secretly cultivating and smuggling harmful drugs.
What should I do with Chae-woo? Director Kwon sighed. Jang Beom-hee’s face hardened.
Some of the police officers who had discovered the crime and were unyielding were punished. While others happily accepted the hush money to sweep the case under the rug.
However, the person who was in real trouble was Kwon Chae-woo.
My customers were offended. It’s my job as his older brother to punish him for what he did, isn’t it?
* * *
Kwon Chae-woo stood by the window and watched Lee-yeon as she slowly walked away. His face was indifferent, but his eyes remained unwaveringly focused on her until she disappeared from his sight.
He sat upright on his sofa. His hands rested on his knees. He didn’t move. He was frozen as if someone had turned off the power switch inside him. The only way of knowing whether he was alive was his slow blinking eyes. The moment Lee-yeon left, Kwon Chae-woo felt as though time had stopped for him.
Existing in a space without Lee-yeon was strange for him. He felt the gravity weighing him down as he imagined her face in his mind.
‘Where are you going without me? Who are you meeting? Is it a guy? Who is he? How did you get to know him? He clenched his fist so hard that his knuckled turned white. These questions seemed highly immature, and he wanted to be calm. But he couldn’t restrain the anger boiling inside him.
The light-blue blouse and jeans she wore was perfect for the summer. Kwon Chae-woo had watched, captivated. He had never seen that outfit before. When she got ready in a hurry and rushed to the door to leave, he had almost wanted to grab her arm and make her stay.
When are you coming back? He bit his question down. He ran his hand through his hair and leaned back on the sofa as though he would collapse any minute. It was hard for him to think of a life without her. After all, he had no memory to fall back on.
Memories form a huge part of a person. Without it, Kwon Chae-woo felt unreal. He did not seem to exist tangibly. He felt that his emptiness was only filled by Lee-yeon. So, he rushed to fill himself at her every move and her every word.
So Lee-yeon’s husband. As far as he knew, that was his only identity and his only value.
Occasionally, he was filled with doubts and distrust, but he brushed them off. If Lee-yeon was by his side, he didn’t care. However, So Lee-yeon would still show her back to him as if trying to test his patience.
Kwon Chae-woo got up from the sofa. He needed to clear his head.
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