Translated by Translated by Raven
Edited by Edited by Raven
Even though Kwon Lee-Hyun had made eye contact with me, he did not look away. Instead, he locked his gaze on me and lightly tilted his chin, making me feel uncomfortable.
He read the pamphlet on his lap and listened to the secretary’s report. In the meantime, he took his time to raise his eyes to meet mine several times and smile gracefully. Did he really smile? And that also at me? By any chance, does he recognize me? Even though I was seated with an extremely composed look, my mind was in chaos.
If he recognizes me, that is going to be a problem. I tried not to give Kwon Lee-Hyun attention as much as possible, but it wasn’t easy. Whenever my eyes met his, I felt like he could see to my soul, and whenever I felt his stare, it felt like sparks rippling on my skin. It seemed as if I was drowning in dark waters. With all the nervousness piled up inside me, my hands started to become clammy.
He didn’t even try to hide the arrogance lurking in his impeccably neat expression. The way he would smile with only the tip of his mouth raised while staring at me with those sharp dark eyes gave out his whole personality. Literally, his whole aura screamed out dominance and arrogance.
“Aah, I thought I was going to die from nervousness,” Soo-Wan exclaimed, approaching where we sat.
“Good job, good job. You did well!”
Soo-Wan returned to his seat and high-fived the staff before taking a seat next to Director Ko. His face, which was overflowing with joy, hardened for a moment when his eyes met mine, to break the uncomfortable stare, I looked away first. But soon after, he began to laugh brightly again and stroked his red cheeks as usual, until he heard a distinct voice.
“Mr Lim Soo-Wan. Congratulations.”
A sudden masculine deep voice interrupted my train of thoughts. I looked up to see who it was and saw a tall man standing behind Soo-Wan, he placed his hand on top of Soo-Wan’s shoulder. Perhaps due to the appearance of the unexpected intruder, Soo-Wan, who turned pale, jumped up from his seat and shook his hand.
“How did Executive Director Kwon know I was…”
Aah, so it was Kwon Lee-Hyun.
“I am personally acquainted with Artist Kim. I’ve heard a lot about the villa design.”
Soo-Wan’s jaw dropped open, and his eyes crossed back and forth between me and Kwon Lee-Hyun without cease. Everyone was surprised by his sudden appearance. With no way to control the excitement, Director Ko mumbled something to Manager Yoon, asking if this was a conspiracy to steal the talents from their architecture office.
I was staring at Kwon Lee-Hyun, his hawk-like eyes calmly reading all of their expressions. With a seemingly invisible smile, he looked over the group and lowered his voice.
“I have a commission request. It’s personal, so I’d like to work with Lim Soo-Wan if possible.”
“A commission? Of course! I’m flattered. It’s the greatest honour! Please contact me anytime!” Soo-Wan exclaimed excitedly.
“I’m glad you have time. I’ll get in touch with you.”
Soo-Wan bowed his head with his hands clasped together.
As Lee-Hyun turned to leave, Director Ko, who stretched out his hand to shake just in time, pinched Soo-Wan’s thigh. Soo-Wan smiled and screamed silently, and the director grumbled with a solemn face.
“What the hell are you doing, Lim? What’s the point of putting your foot in a big company? Just shake hands and end it!”
“Ah, Director. It’s SR, how can we pretend not to know them, yeah?”
“Why not! Don’t you know that being involved with a big company is equivalent to ‘one-man sows and another man reaps? He’s trying to steal your designs.”
“Does that even make sense? It’s a personal request. Whatever it is, there’s nothing bad about working with Kwon Lee-Hyun. Don’t you think so?”
“Damn it, that’s what you think! What’s gotten into you? Let’s go! Everyone’s going out, there’s no need to watch it until the end.”
With a huge frown on his face, Director Ko left the room without hiding his anger. Manager Yoon followed the director out and I went over to sit next to Lim Soo-Wan. With his head down, he glanced at me and then quickly averted his eyes.
“Do you think I’m selfish?”
“It’s not that selfish.”
“It’s unconscionable. I submitted the project we worked on together under my name.”
On the other hand, I, who sat with my legs crossed, scratched my side with a subdued expression and grabbed his hand.
“Stop talking about it, alright? If you keep doing that, I’ll feel uncomfortable. No matter what choice you make, it’s up to you. Don’t get stressed.”
I could see my words failed to alleviate his guilt, but like everyone, I also hated the exhausting situation and wanted to leave the venue as soon as possible. Earlier, Kwon Lee-Hyun said he had something he wanted to ask, an extremely personal request. The way he behaved this whole time, specially the reason we had made eye contact, was not because he recognized me, but simply because he was curious about the employees of SIN. Upon realising I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself there. What kind of an embarrassment was that. I got caught up in my excessive self-consciousness and made an assumption.
Lim Soo-Wan followed me out of the venue and when we came out, Director Ko, who was smoking a cigarette, patted Soo-Wan’s shoulder with a softer expression. As if nothing had happened, the men got on the shuttle bus heading to the dining hall, shouting out comradeship.
“Director Ko, you’re being more sensitive because I’m still in a lawsuit with the bastard who stole the blueprint from a big company last year.” Said Soo-Wan.
“That’s still going on? I didn’t know.” I asked.
“As long as the law of preserving the total number of idiots exists, you’ll probably have to deal with me for the rest of your life.”
I held back my laughter as I got on the bus with Manager Yoon.
If the law of preserving idiots was true, does it mean that out of all the idiots around me, I should be keeping the less idiotic ones close? That way, there would be no change in the total amount, and the amount of preservation will also be maintained.
“But it’s bizarre. There are a lot of design and construction offices. I’m sure there are dozens of affiliates and subcontractors under SR alone…why to us, who have nothing to do with it?” Soo-Wan said.
Director Ko, who sat diagonally from them, answered Yoon Sun-Wan’s question.
“He said he’s close to Artist Kim. Maybe he wants to build something similar.”
“Is that so? But is that the only reason?”
“Oh, I don’t know. How would I know what goes on inside his head?” Director Ko shrugged.
Even I thought the same, but I too was as baffled as they are.
After the event, there was an after-party called Winner Diner. The event was at the hotel’s sky lounge where we stayed. They allowed all of its guests to get drunk with free drinks, food, and music. Way too excessively.
“Oh, our Lee Ji-Eun! Our Ji-eunnie!”
“Get a hold of yourself! Senior Lim. Senior!”
I helped Lim Soo-Wan, who was terribly drunk, get on the elevator. Unlike the rest of the office staff assigned to the 8th floor, Soo-Wan was staying on the 10th floor. When I put his card on the sensor, the button for the 10th floor automatically lit up. However, Manager Yoon, who helped me to carry Soo-Wan, saw Director Ko reeling from a far distance and ran over to help.
“Senior, walk a little. Get a grip on yourself, ok?” I was frustrated.
I shook Soo-Wan’s hand, which was holding onto me. The soft carpet on the 10th floor was slightly darker than the 8th floor, and the hallway was wider. Egon Schiele’s paintings hung along the dark red wall. Normally, I would have taken the time to appreciate it, but right now it is not the time.
Why was he so heavy, dammit!
“I collaborated too, right? Ji-Eun, I actually worked on the design harder than you. But why am I so annoyed? What good are these plaques at all!”
Soo-Wan’s voice rang out loudly as he talked with a twisted tongue. I had no strength to speak, I just dragged him to the front of his room. As I loosened my grip on him to insert his key card into the slot, he collapsed onto the hallway floor.
Fuck… Are you kidding me right now!!!
I swallowed all the curses that came to my mouth that instant and opened the door. Now I have to pull this man off the floor. Suddenly, Soo-Wan, who was lying on the floor with his eyes closed, pulled my arm.
I lost my balance and fell on Soo-Wan, but just in time, my one arm shot to the floor before I sprawled on top of him. But due to the impact, a heavy pain passed through that arm. I sat on the floor pulling my knees towards me, clutching my throbbing wrist.
“Get up if you’re in your right mind. Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? For god damn sake, this is the hallway!”
Hearing my voice, he blinked at me blankly.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” I exclaimed frustratedly.
“If you’re sober, I’ll just go. I’m tired of this nonsense.”
“Do you really like me?” Out of nowhere, he asked sprawling on the floor, looking at me with those drunken eyes.
What the fuck? Has he gone crazy in his head?
“You have gone crazy, old man.”
Soo-Wan got up abruptly and grabbed me by the shoulder with a clear, sober look on his face.
“I stole your blueprints! Why aren’t you mad at me? Or are you planning to stab me in the back? Agh, you’re driving me crazy! Say something!”
This was why I didn’t like to deal with people who are drunk. I’m exhausted and couldn’t keep up with his bullshit any longer. I shook my head and pushed Soo-Wan away and picked up my handbag from the floor. At that moment, Soo-Wan’s eyes, which were glued on me, gleamed with lust.
“Ji-Eun, do you want to go talk in my room?”
There was a threat instinctively felt by the gliding hand on my cheek. I mustered up strength in my voice.
“I will forget what you said senior, considering you are drunk right now. Just go and get some rest.”
“What is wrong with you! Would you be satisfied if I called you trash? Do you think I’m okay? Now stop it because I’m getting annoyed.”
Twisting my hand out of his clutches, I ran towards the elevator. I then forced the half-closed doors open and threw myself in, quickly scanning my key card.
Soo-wan, who ran over to the closing doors with an explosive face, shouted my name. I was so scared that my heart missed a beat. I kept on pressing the close button until the doors were closed and I was within the safety of the elevator.
What the hell was that? My already chaotic mind was entangled in a messy net, and I felt nauseated. I wrapped my arms around myself to help with the rising chills, I felt a throbbing pain in my wrist.
While rubbing my aching wrist, I raised my head. As my mind was in turmoil, I didn’t notice another presence when I got on the elevator. It was at this moment that I saw a man’s figure reflected in the metal door.
“I’m going up to the 15th floor. You should get off, you’re on the wrong ride.” The stranger said while taking his key card from his pocket.
To my surprise, it is the infamous Kwon Lee-Hyun. His cold gaze glided down to my bare feet. I bit my lips and looked around for my missing high heels. At that moment I realised in my haste, I ran without even knowing that they came off. I was beyond embarrassed and wanted to hide in a hole, but I said with a resolute voice.
“I’ll take care of it.”
With a slight nod of his head, he drew his gaze away from me.
The man’s bright features were apparent despite the low light and high-pressure atmosphere. Lee-Hyun sat in the dark bedroom reading the report and looked up when Secretary Kim opened the door and walked in.
“Was it there?”
“Yes. As you said, it’s a pair of women’s shoes.”
He stared at the high heels brought by Secretary Kim and smiled. Then he looked at the report again and calmly signed his name.
“I guess I was mistaken. The designer was Lee Ji-Eun.”
“So, what do you want to do, Executive Director?”
“I’ll have to change it to her.”
Covering the file, he put down his pen and the corner of his mouth quirked up, then he laughed. Kim Eung-Soo’s villa designer was, in fact, someone else? Standing up, Lee-Hyun stared at the high heels with calm eyes, then took out a cigarette and said.
“Lee Ji-Eun, find out her number and report it to me.”
Opening the balcony door, he laughed as if it was fun to see the high heels in Secretary Kim’s hand. The face of the woman, who couldn’t hide her shame with her pale face, was as clear as it flashed in his mind.
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