Translated by Translated by Raven
The next day, it was Director Ko who encouraged me to spend time touring around the city. He handed me the plane and train tickets to Munich in front of the staff, saying it is a must to see Neuschwanstein Castle when you are in Germany.
The trip takes about 5 hours from Berlin to Fussen. After getting off the plane for Munich and moving to Füssen, we arrived at Neuschwanstein Castle after the evening sun had gone down. We all got off the Marien Brook Bridge amidst the rush of tourists, I was astonished by the sight before me.
The white marble-like exterior walls, the navy blue roof, the pointed spires and numerous windows captivated my eyes. Neuschwanstein Castle was like a place from those fairytales where Rapunzel would poke her head out from one of those windows at the top of the tower. I was staring at it like I was in a trance. For a while I escaped from reality and fell into the world of fantasy, my thoughts were everywhere and my feet were glued to the same spot. The air felt chilly but refreshing, the cold breeze blew gently across my face making my bangs ruffle.
“How about getting a beer on our way? This place looks like a village. Shall we have a look around?” Manager Yoon suggested.
“Of course how can we forget the beer when we are in Germany! Please someone do a quick search for a good restaurant. Let’s fill up our stomach before boarding the plane.” Director Ko said excitedly.
“It is a night flight, isn’t it? Wow, our schedule is super tight.” Manager Yoon gave a shrug.
“After all, people do have to travel. Enjoy the moment, and look how cool it is! My daughter would’ve gone crazy if she saw this.”
Jumping from place to place, Director Ko couldn’t stay still, he took pictures here and there without a break.
We were standing at the castle bridge. There was still time until the tour inside the castle, so our group decided to move slowly. I planned to stay at the same spot for a little longer enjoying the scenery in front of me. Director Ko pulled my arm, telling me to move with them towards the castle.
“I’ll stay here for a while and join you guys.”
“Oh, okay, but remember to come quickly though. Try to come in ten minutes.” Director Ko said.
“Sure, I’ll come.”
“Are you really okay by yourself?”
“Yep. I have something to think about. The view here is kind of great.”
Soo-wan, who was quietly hanging out with the group, snuck a glance at me every now and then. His eyes were filled with guilt as he was sorry for last night, he didn’t say a word all day. It is fine to act brazenly with him. I looked away, getting uncomfortable from his gaze and leaned against the railing of the bridge.
After they started to move towards the castle, the silence surrounded me, I got lost in my own world. Did I come to Germany for nothing, I wondered. Lim Soo-Wan wasn’t the type to dig his own grave, but he also wasn’t strong enough to face blatant inconveniences head-on. Maybe I followed Soo-wan here because I wanted to witness with my own eyes how he felt guilty and restless.
“It seems to be really bad,” I said to myself.
Perhaps it would have been better if I had said it was my work from the very beginning. Look now, what kind of a mess I have fallen into. To tell the truth, I hated that I had to give credit to others when it was me who did all the hard work. This whole situation is uncomfortable. I felt like more of an evil person than Soo-wan, who was unconscionable.
I leaned against the railing of the bridge and stared at the castle engulfed in the setting sun. I wanted to get lost among the bustling tourists and be a part of the crowd itself. It would have been nice and less depressing if I could get rid of these overwhelming emotions that weighed on my shoulders. I sighed and checked the time.
“The castle looks more stunning if we had come in winter.”
I was surprised by the sudden intruder to my stream of thoughts.
“The owner of that castle was Ludwig II, but it was built by Christian Jank, he was a stage director. Perhaps the real dreamer was not an architect. Ludwig died without even seeing it completed. In the end, it would have been built according to the will of the architect.”
I was surprised twice by the familiar voice. I turned around to see who it was. When I saw the man approaching me, my mouth gaped open. Kwon Lee-Hyun was standing a few steps away from me. Different from yesterday, he was dressed casually, he looked at me and smiled. Dressed in a thin sweatshirt, leather jacket, slacks, and a pair of sneakers, he looked like a self-indulgent, powerful man.
It was really odd to see him dressed in this way, it didn’t suit the stereotype I had for him. I cleared my throat and took a step back.
“No need to think too much, it is a pure coincidence. I’m not the kind of man who has enough time to stalk after a woman.”
He grinned and took a sip from the drink he was holding.
“Did I say hello to you, Ms Lee Ji-Eun?”
“Umm… You already did.”
Even though I tried to act cool, my voice trembled when I talked.
“Ah, I did.”
“I never thought you would come to a place like this…” I said, trying to strike up a conversation.
“I always stop by when I come to Germany. The view here is great in all four seasons.”
“Oh, I see…”
The words ‘It doesn’t suit you’ almost slipped from my mouth. I instinctively looked around. The two secretaries, the same pair I saw yesterday, were also dressed casually. They seemed to be really wary of the surroundings. I realized once again, he is a man living in a bloody world. Moreover, he is one of the most prominent and influential figures in the Korean business industry. He is much like a Hollywood celebrity, the clothes he wore, things he used, his private life as well as public life, everything was consumed by the masses.
People have been pointing their fingers at Seoryang, who is conducting image marketing with Kwon Lee-Hyun, but they couldn’t give up their strange liking for the young entrepreneur. To that point, this man was impeccably handsome and also, difficult.
“Umm… My team is waiting for me, sorry, I have to go now.”
“Okay, then…” I was to turn around when he spoke again.
“Before you go, I have to ask you something.”
His tone was insignificant.
“While you were working with artist Kim, did you hear anything? I got to know that, you had a pretty close time with the architect.”
The smile disappeared from his face. So he finally brought up the main point he wanted to talk about. I knew he lied when he said he came here during all four seasons. Wasn’t he a man who lived without wasting a single second of his life? He gave me a tight smile and waited for my answer.
“What?… Rather than spending time together, we kind of became friends. But I’m sure Artist Kim thought of the architect as Senior Lim Soo-wan.”
“No, that’s what I misunderstood. I thought he was talking about Lim Soo-Wan because he was the one who was in charge of the project. But later only I understood, Mr Kim spoke with Lee Ji-Eun in mind.”
I stared at him blankly for a moment, as it took a while to process what he told me. His sharp gaze moved from the crown of my head to my lips, then to my shoulders, and stopped at my eyes again. My mouth completely dried out from his intense gaze, I swallowed unconsciously.
“I don’t know. Most of the time I talked about work with him. He told me some interesting things about architectural structures and his worldviews.”
“By any chance did Artist Kim talk about his family?” He asked.
“Ah, yes. He said that he would give the villa as a gift to his granddaughter later. I kind of feel sorry for her because she is really a reserved person and it seems she has gone through a lot of hardship.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“I guess no.”
He nodded his head a few times as if he was lost in thought. I was impatient as I didn’t have much time, the only thing I could do was wait. I secretly rolled my eyes when I saw Lim Soo-Wan coming towards me from afar. He moved his lips and waved his hand.
“I apologise for my behaviour yesterday. I have a really tight schedule. Mr Kim’s granddaughter wants to ask Ms Ji-Eun for a design. She is somewhat stubborn and that’s why I wanted to do it as soon as possible. Also, there is a reason to hurry, that’s why I pushed you.”
“Umm, if it is a request, it’s better if you can first go through the office…”
“Sorry, I don’t want to. I don’t need SIN, I need Ms Lee Ji-Eun. You can tell me your conditions and I can give you enough time, I am ready to accept all possible offers.”
SIN. (T/N: SIN is the name of the company Ji-Eun works for, and 宸 (sin) means God.)
He just said he didn’t need God, but me. I know he referred to the office but anyone could have misunderstood it for something else. It was embarrassing, I could feel a blush spreading across my cheeks. I tilted my head and fiddled with the nape of my neck.
“Even so… I’m not that great of an architect, I’m still a newbie and I just got my architect licence. It’s a little frightening.”
“Then you can think of it as a request from a woman of the same age as yours, not a request from Seoryang. And, it’s a small country house that will be built on a 200-pyeong** estate at most. Please consider carefully and I’ll be waiting for a positive answer. If you refuse…”
(T/N: (pyeong) is a Korean unit of measurement for the area. 200-pyeong is roughly about 7,116 square feet.)
He stopped talking and let out a huge sigh. Then he looked at me and gave me a tight smile.
“Things can get pretty complicated. I guess I’m getting a headache right now.”
I suppose I have got a bit of a clue on this whole situation. Artist Kim visited the site every day throughout the construction period, imagining spending time with his granddaughter whenever he had free time. He vaguely talked about making a small chair, easel, and a low fence. He smiled contentedly as he said that he needed a large space for the child.
To cut a long story short, artist Kim’s granddaughter must have been impressed by the completed villa and wanted to make another request. So Kwon Lee-Hyeon, who was very close to her, tried to make contact with the architect instead of her, but a brief misunderstanding occurred because the whole project was submitted under the name of Soo-Wan. However, he overheard the conversation between me and Soo-Wan and got to know I was the designer of the villa blueprint. So in conclusion, it was me who fell into this mess by myself.
Even though now I got the whole situation, I was quite anxious. I felt as if I had missed something important.
“I… Please give me some time. I think it is a matter that shouldn’t be decided in a hurry.”
“Of course take your time. I’m waiting for a positive answer from you.”
“Then I’ll get going.”
I gave him a small nod and turned around, suddenly he caught my hand. With my eyes wide open I looked down at his hand holding a business card.
“Does the office staff know who you are, Ms Lee Ji-Eun?”
“My family is not a family to be proud of.”
At first glance, the only thing written on the business card was a name and a phone number. After giving him a cold reply I accepted the business card. He politely bowed his head as if he had ever done so. I turned around and walked away from him, feeling my own heartbeat in my ears.
How on earth did he recognize me? Did he visit the construction site? Or have we met somewhere else before? ‘Why can’t I remember anything!’
I was practically running away from him, I crossed over the bridge and walked along the walkway. Even though I saw Soo-Wan somewhere here before, he was nowhere to be seen. I only joined the group after coming closer to the ticket box, and eventually saw Lim Soo-wan there with them.
“Didn’t you come up to the bridge earlier?”
He gave me a nod and plugged back his earphones.
“Yeah, I thought you guys were talking about something important, so I came back. Since when did you and Kwon Lee-Hyun become so close? You guys looked pretty close. Don’t you think it’s a little inappropriate?”
He tried to pretend he was mean and didn’t hide his sarcasm.
“I would say Lee Ji-Eun, you have good skills.”
“What do you mean? I lost a pair of high heels in front of your room on the day of the dinner party. He was the one who found them by accident.”
I emphasised to him that it was a pure coincidence. He looked back at me and averted his gaze and clenched his jaw. I had a feeling that something bad was about to happen.
As I walked along with the group I discovered a wall between me and them I had never been conscious of. As we toured the insides of the castle with the local guide, I lost in my own thoughts. I felt like the darkness inside me was mocking me saying “I’m getting sick of pretending to be nice.”
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