It was Tuesday morning, the day of the scheduled photoshoot. Minho had been exercising his military discipline more than usual. Not because he felt overwhelmed or anxious, but because today was the day he would commute with Eunha just as promised last week.
Before going to sleep he had even read up on international issues relating to political studies such as Ukraine affairs, the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Protests, armed forces in the Middle East, and the Western power conflict and dilemma. With this he would be able to converse with her sufficiently during the time he was traveling with her in the car.
He was sleepy and tired but he overcame it thinking about seeing Eunha’s shining photoshoot. He prefered to be a confident cool guy rather than being embarrassed in front of her. He was able to endure this much for her. Minho got in the van and his voice was as loud as his brave and confident spirit.
Manager Gong laughed and replied as Minho opened the door and greeted him.
“Good morning, Mr. Minho Kang. You’re very energetic today. I’m looking forward to it!”
As he climbed in Minho sprayed the perfume he had prepared and spread it throughout the van with his two hands. He looked like a peacock preening each feather.
As he turned on the engine, Manager Gong asked,
“Did you see some good results from concentrating on your training yesterday?”
The Pentastorm schedule for the second half of the year was set so Minho had to start intense game playing rather than playing for fun, but it was something he had always experienced so it wasn’t tiring. Also it was a special privilege for those who made it to the quarterfinals to train this passionately. Those who were disqualified couldn’t get themselves fired up like this even if they wanted to.
“It was worthwhile.”
Minho’s smile was filled with confidence and Manager Gong nodded deeply.
“You’re definitely reliable. I always trust that you’ll have good results. I’ll head over to Eunha’s house according to schedule.”
The meeting with the beautiful Eunha! Minho kept shifting in his seat because he was half excited and half anxious. Then Manager Gong said something strange to him.
“There’s something you have to be cautious of when you get to Eunha’s house. Well, I should say ‘someone’ you have to be cautious of.”
“Is there someone scary?”
“Yes. Ms. Eunha’s Father.”
Manager Gong shuddered as he drove.
“You can never look into Eunha’s father’s eyes for more than three seconds.”
Minho thought ‘It’s not like he turns people into stone or curses them, what do you mean don’t stare at him?’ Minho asked Manger Gong this and Manager Gong replied concisely. Minho was now nervous in a different way.
“He’s currently a violent crimes detective.”
It was probably because it was an occupation Minho wasn’t familiar with, but Minho looked for his identification card and straightened out his clothes even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. It was also because Minho was interested in Eunha and he was her father.
“His gaze has an oppressive feel, maybe because he deals with criminals. I was confident that I’d met a lot of people but even I was nervous when I met him.”
“Looking at Eunha, I would’ve thought her parents would be in education.”
“It’s a bit unexpected, isn’t it?”
They finished their conversation with Minho’s nod and Manager Gong concentrated on driving again. The knowledge about politics that Minho had squeezed into his head was getting tangled with thoughts of the scary detective.
The road was clear and they soon arrived at an apartment complex in Gangbuk district. .
“Oh no, he’s already outside waiting.”
Manager Gong gulped loudly, seeing the tall man standing in front of Eunha’s house. Minho pretended not to look but glanced at him from the back seat. He didn’t look fearsome or monstrous. He had an ordinary face and was wearing a men’s T-shirt like you might see anywhere.
But as the man stood with his arms folded and looked at the approaching van, Minho unconsciously placed his hands neatly on top of his knees. He could feel to his skin what having a ‘sharp gaze’ meant.
Chuljoong Seo, the head of the investigations unit 2 of the Gangbuk district police department.
The van approached the front gate that the man was guarding and slowly rolled to a stop as if it were crouching. Manager Gong ran over to the man as soon as he turned off the engine.
“It’s been a while, Mr. Seo.”
“Welcome. You’re here to pick up my Eunha?”
Chuljoong Seo’s voice was deep. There was a weight to his tone as if he were reporting a case after seeing a horrendous scene. Manager Gong quickly and concisely gave a report to Chuljoong, who took him in with one look.
“Yes sir! There’s a schedule overlap so I came to pick her up with this car. Is Ms. Eunha inside?”
“She’ll be right out.”
Chuljoong pointed to a faint yellow stain on Manager Gong’s shoulder.
“Seems your child at home has an upset stomach.”
“She’s getting used to the baby food, that’s why…”
“That’s hard work. But who is this?”
As if there was nothing more to see in Manager Gong, Chuljoong’s gaze turned towards Minho who was getting out of the van.
Minho saw Manager Gong unfold three fingers behind his back and bent down to give a deep bow.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Eunha’s coworker, Minho Kang.”
“Ah, so you’re Minho.”
Articulately and calmly. Minho continued the conversation by not looking at Chuljoong’s eyes for more than three seconds at a time.
“I heard from Eunha. You helped my daughter often?”
Minho hastily waved his hands.
“Not often. I only listened to her when she had to write a report.”
“If you helped her with a report, you’re more than just a coworker.”
Minho felt he had said the wrong thing as he saw Chuljoong mumble this. It sounded like it was the first time Chuljoong had heard this so Minho was certain that Chuljoong hadn’t heard anything from Eunha. Which meant that saying he had heard a lot from his daughter was just bait for his questioning.
“I have more I’m curious about.”
Minho was flustered and found himself looking at Chuljoong’s eyes for a long time. It was as if Chuljoong’s gaze was curtly saying ‘I do not tolerate any lies spoken to me.’ Minho felt like he was being choked but also felt a sense of duty, as if he had to cooperate and answer all questions.
He probably would have been angry if it were the police questioning him but Chuljoong’s gaze was different. The thought crossed his mind that this must be how a rabbit feels in front of a tiger.
“What’s your occupation now?”
“I’m a professional gamer.”
“What about marital status?”
“I’m not married.”
“Do you have a fiance?”
“No, I do not.”
“Any trouble you caused?”
Minho hesitated here so Chuljoong grinned.
“Everything shows up when I search you online.”
“I…I’ve lived an ordinary life.”
Once Minho’s spirit was crushed, he had no choice but to frankly answer like a machine responding every time a button is pressed.
In this uncomfortable situation Minho kept glancing at Manager Gong for help, but this was something that even Manager Gong couldn’t solve. He could only wait for the storm to calm down.
“My Eunha is pretty?”
“She’s very pretty.”
Minho didn’t need to think twice about this. The problem was the next question.
“So what do you think about Eunha?”
‘If I say I’ve been studying my butt off to make her my girlfriend, I’ll be…!’
It was as obvious as knowing the outcome of a fire. Minho recovered his senses and thought more quickly than he had during the tournament when he had to make a decision in 0.5 seconds to block a rush in the first half.
“She is a wise young lady. She’s very honest and has a clear goal. I believe there’s nothing for you to be worried about because it’s difficult to have a conversation with her unless you’re on the same level as her.”
Chuljoong had become an interrogating detective and looked over Minho’s entire body. Minho strained to hide it but was found out.
“So you’re still at the stage of interest, that is.”
“It’s only an admiration for your daughter’s intelligence…”
“So, my daughter is known for her beauty and you’re saying that you only see her intelligence?”
At this casual yet calculating question, Minho felt his hair stand on end. He would have been nonchalant if he didn’t have any other intentions but in fact he was interested in Eunha, and being in front of her father like this was making him more and more nervous. His brusque and eccentric manner wasn’t helping.
At the moment of crisis, an angel came to the rescue.
The front door opened and Eunha ran out.
“Hey, my daughter~”
The frigid atmosphere disappeared and the tightened rope loosened in an instant. The cold wind of Siberia changed into the warm winds of spring. Manager Gong and Minho both relaxed slightly without making it noticeable.
“What are you doing here? Didn’t you say you were going out to get a newspaper?”
She was in simple attire with a bag on her shoulder and looked like she was about to go to school.
“Did you bother the manager again?”
“What do mean bother. I’m not that type of person.”
“That doesn’t seem like a lie. So then it’s someone else, isn’t it? It’s Minho.”
As Eunha frowned, Chuljoong gave a dry cough and opened the newspaper pretending to look at it. Then he secretly pointed two fingers at his eyes then at Minho’s with an ‘I’ll be watching you’ gesture.
Minho flinched but he felt like he had to keep his face composed so he looked at Eunha as if nothing had happened. Today, she was more beautiful and more pleasant to see than ever, probably because she had helped him escape the crisis.
“Sorry I made you wait. How have you two been?”
“We didn’t wait long at all. Haha.”
“How about we go right away.”
The atmosphere seemed to have become brighter due to her greeting but Minho honestly wanted to get away from that place as quickly as possible. Manager Gong seemed to feel the same and replied accordingly, then immediately opened the car door for Eunha.
The two of them bent down 90 degrees and courteously said goodbye.
“Eunha’s father, we’ll see you next time.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you sir…Goodbye.”
Chuljoong didn’t show them the smile he showed his daughter and only replied ‘Sure.’ to their babbled goodbyes. It was now time for them to get in the van which was the escape pod.
But what was this?
Just as Minho opened the van door and put one foot inside–
“Dad, I have dinner plans with Minho. I’ll be late so don’t call me or anything. It’s embarrassing.”
Minho suddenly went cold. He felt his hair bristling and a sensation like a block of ice sliding down his back.
The one to save Minho, who had frozen in place, was of course the angel without wings.
“Why aren’t you getting in?”
Tap. Minho’s frozen body began to move as she pushed him. Eunha got in right behind him and the van doors closed.
“My dad comes on a bit strong, doesn’t he? Please understand. It’s because of his occupation.”
Minho laughed it off as Eunha said this.
“He was just like Manager Gong said. It’s okay. Haha!”
Minho was still in a cold sweat but he was able to push away the memories of Chuljoong with the help of Eunha’s warm smiles, just as he had overcome last night’s drowsiness. Just like that, the warm and pleasant mood that Minho had waited for filled the air in the van.
The company building of the fashion brand T was on Dongdaemun street which was filled with shopping malls.
Manager Gong anxiously drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. The van had been stuck on an access ramp in the morning rush hour traffic for more than twenty minutes.
“I didn’t think there would be so much traffic.”
Eunha spoke and Manager Gong looked at the clock.
“There’s some time till the meeting, but if it’s this bad you might have to go on ahead..”
Manger Gong replied then checked the traffic situation, the congested area and the arrival time. Then he leaned out the window and looked around, and shook his head.
“I don’t think we can help it.”
He forced his way into the next lane, passed the intersection, and pulled to the side amid honkings and cursings.
“Please get out here. I’ll park the car on the outskirts so it’ll be easier for us when we leave. Ms. Eunha, if i’m late…”
Eunha smiled and spoke before Manager Gong finished his sentence.
“I know where it is so I’ll go ahead with Minho.”
“Thank you. Then, I’ll see you in a bit.”
Minho and Eunha got out of the van. They talked as they went so walking side by side wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. Minho had prepared enough that he was able to guide the conversation for the time they were together. And when he started to run out of material he was able to turn to the topic of being a model.
“I have much more I want to hear from you, Minho.”
“I have more that I’m curious about from the modeling senior, that’s why. Please help me, sunbaenim.”
“Oh gosh. Okay. Ahem! Then what are you curious about, modeling junior?”
‘Anything but politics.’
He thought this to himself with all earnestness, then spoke about his feelings on the T fashion brand during the demo photoshoot, model poses, and just fashion in general. . And thanks to that, he was able to cheerfully keep up the friendly mood.
On their way to the photoshoot location, Minho was able to see many unique buildings. The street was busy with people as well.
‘It’s overflowing with cherished objects?’
The morning commuters all walked purposefully without looking around, their eyes on their own path. And maybe because it was the area where the nation’s prestige fashion shopping malls were concentrated, there were many more people who had items that gave off a faint glow.
Even in the bag of the salary man who ran towards the subway station, heels clacking.
Even in the white gloves of the traffic parking attendant who regulated the cars flowing in.
And even in the food cart that was preparing to close after the night’s business, all had the light.
“Wow, there are so many.”
When Eunha saw Minho, in the middle of their conversation, looking around in awe at all the lights only he could see, she thought it was strange and asked,
“Is this your first time in Dongdaemun?”
Minho shook his head as he replied.
“It’s just there’s so many people who seem to be working hard in their field. Like that person over there.”
Minho’s gaze was not so much on the person but more on the glowing bicycle, moving with its large load. It was amazing to see all those sacks of clothes stacked up like that. The man riding the bicycle moved towards the alley, leisurely pedaling as if it were nothing.
“Wow. He’s really good at controlling that bicycle.”
Eunha seemed surprised and watched as well.
“I want that too.”
“You want to ride a bicycle well?”
“No, I want to have at least one cherished object that will fit into my hands perfectly just like that.”
Minho made a decision and a pledge to himself. He noticed Eunha staring at him in surprise, and answered her with a bright smile.