۩۞ڨۼChapter 14 ؤۼ۞۩

If hell froze over, WooJin was sure that it would definitely resemble his current predicament.

I can't believe I'm stuck in a bus stop.

What had been merely cold when he first started out on his walk had turned into a bone-chilling freeze. The wind had suddenly picked up and was diligently painting the night street in an impenetrable wall of white flurries. It was nearly impossible to see more than three feet in front of him, never mind making his way back to the hotel. Unconsciously, WooJin pulled up the scarf around his chin, but it did little along with his sorry excuse for a coat. If he was more aware, he might have found the fact that he could lick the generous amount of ice forming on the scarf from his moist breath quite disgusting. Each lash of the whipping wind that found its way into the tiny shelter felt like a thousand needles pricking his body.

But he welcomed the pain. It brought a certain numbness and distraction to his thoughts.

Without distraction, his thoughts may very well drive him crazy.

It had been half an hour since WooJin watched Jaesuk's car drive off into the distance…along with Lee Minae. For one of the rare moments of his adult life, Shin WooJin was unsure of what it was that he wanted. Directionless, he found himself unable to move from where he stood. It was only because of the primitive survival instinct in him that he had finally taken cover in the bus shelter.

[I]One month,[/I] she had said. WooJin closed his eyes and roughly let his head fall back onto the cold walls of the shelter. When she had turned to him with pleading in her eyes, he had felt a sudden and dizzying surge of anticipation. It was a kind of anticipation he was afraid to name.

There is still something she wants from me, he had thought.

Then she had asked him, "Just one month…"

It was not an unreasonable request….

…for any employee unexpectedly taken off the job.

"I should grant it. I should let Young Jae know. I don't need to bother with something so trivial," he heard himself mumble emotionlessly.

She had asked him and left with Im Jaesuk.

"…. and I'll be out of your way forever."

"Damn it!" WooJin's fist suddenly shot out and repeatedly punched the adjoining wall of the shelter. "Damn it…" Suddenly exhausted, he let his forehead rest against the cold surface of the wall. Blood was roaring in his ears and his ragged breathing sounded loudly in the snow-muffled air. He ignored the warm liquid slowly trickling down his fingers. "Damn it, why is this happening again?" His voice trailed off.

Who he was cursing…he didn't know anymore…

WooJin felt his eyelids become heavier and heavier.

"Boss! WooJin! Wake-up!"
WooJin felt someone his shake him and slowly opened his eyes in confusion, "Mmm…?"

"Wake up! What are you doing sleeping here?" the familiar voice asked him. "Good thing, Ryu, here, was out clearing the snow and found you here."

Ryu? His head hurt.

"Get up already. Are you trying to freeze to death?!" A hand moved to poke his jacket, which made a crinkling sound. "Wow, man, you're like frozen."

WooJin's vision finally began to clear and he could make out the features of the speaker in the darkness, "Jaesuk?" He brought up his right hand and rubbed his eyes, "Ouch."

"Yes, who else would bother with- oh, my God, why is your hand bleeding like that?!" Jaesuk started fussing with his hand, but WooJin waved him away.

"Let's get out of here. I'm freezing my ass off." WooJin made to get up in one smooth motion, but ended up stumbling as his legs were numb.

"Hey, you okay?" Jaesuk reached out to steady him, but was once again waved off. "Should I give Dr. Choi a call?"

"I'm fine," WooJin told him firmly and made his way to the waiting car.

Jaesuk shrugged. Knowing how stubborn WooJin was, he knew there was no changing his mind when he used that tone.

Once he reached the car, Hyesung collapsed into the warm leather seats and closed his eyes. He heard Jaesuk enter from the front and into the driver's seat before the car door banged shut.

Jaesuk glanced into his rear mirror at his boss and friend sprawled listlessly like a damp rag against the car door. This wasn't the leader of the powerful Shin Empire, this was a WooJin from a older and darker past. He was worried and he wanted to ask what happened, but instead all he said was, "Shinae's worried, you know?"

"Yeah," was the reply.

WooJin knew that Jaesuk was worried, but he wasn't one to explain his actions. He knew there were people who cared for him, but found it difficult to fully reciprocate those feelings.

Besides, he was too exhausted to even think clearly.

Perhaps it was a type of mercy granted for a good deed done in his past life.. Whatever it was, he was grateful that the cold weather had exhausted him enough for him to drift right away into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I wonder if he's all right.

No matter how she tried, Minae couldn't get the disappearing image of WooJin standing under the streetlight as she and Jaesuk drove away. She couldn't stop worrying about him having to make his way back to the hotel in this cold weather either. Especially now that the wind had picked up and it had started to snow so badly.

Maybe I should have asked Jaesuk to offer him a ride back.

But no, she was too afraid. Too afraid that he would refuse her request right away. She didn't think she would be able to bear it if he refused her right then and there.

Even if it's only one month…

Minae bit down hard on her lip.

'Hey, Minae, isn't that road ahead? Minae?"


"I was saying if that road ahead is the way to your house?"

Distractedly, Minae looked to where Jaesuk's finger was pointing. There seemed to be a number of vehicles blocking off the exit to the path of her hometown. "Yeah, it is," she breathed. A middle-aged man wearing a reflective patrol vest were waving them over and Jaesuk moved to park his car at the side of the road.

When the man, an officer judging by his uniform, reached them, Jaesuk rolled down his window, "Hello, Officer, is there some sort of accident ahead?"

"Yeah, it looks like an unlucky night. One of the water pipes ahead broke because of the cold, and brought one of the sheds down over the road. We're trying to clear it, but it's going to take awhile because of the poor visibility in this weather. It's going to take a few hours at least, so you might want to find yourselves a warm place to cozy up and wait it out." The officer peered into the car and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at them.
"We'll do that. Have a good night, Officer."

"Same to you. You can tune in to the local radio station for when the road is cleared."

"Thanks. Well?" Jaesuk turned to Minae with a raised eyebrow.


"Its really too late to head back to Seoul now., so know any warm places where we can cozy up?" Jaesuk imitated the officer, complete with eyebrow wiggling.

Despite her worry, Minae couldn't help but laugh, "Actually, there is somewhere close by that I would like to visit."

Fifteen minutes had passed when Jaesuk and Minae pulled up to the iron gates of a grand old mansion. Judging by the abandoned recreational fields, Jaesuk guessed that it used to be the vacation home of some well-off family. He peered into the more modernized security booth located a little before the gates themselves, but there was no one there. He pressed the intercom button, but there was no answer. He turned to Minae, "It looks like it's closed. What is this place anyways?"

Instead of answering, Minae pulled out a pair of keys, got off the car into the blistering wind, and started to fumble with the lock on the gates. Wondering what the heck she was doing, Jaesuk got off the car as well, "Hey! What are you doing?!"

"There's someone I want you to meet!" Minae shouted over the howling winds.


"Just come and help me!"

Shrugging, Jaesuk moved to block the wind with his body.

"Thanks." It took another few seconds before there was a satisfying click from the lock. "There. Now push on three. One, two, three!" The frozen hinges of the gates gave a huge groan and swung open. Minae grinned, "Come on, Let's go."

Together they got back into the car. "Crazy woman, are you going to tell me what we're doing here?"

"Like I said, there's someone , or rather someones, whom I want you to meet." And when she said that, Minae realized that it was true. Ever since that night, she sometimes saw something in Jaesuk's eyes that felt very familiar, and it was here and now that she began to identify what it was. "Just be patient."

Jaesuk threw his hands in the air, "Whatever you say, My Queen," and flashed her one of his infamous smiles.

It took them nearly a minute and a half to navigate up the icy pathway and pull up in front of the actual front doors of the mansion. Minae unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the passengar door, "Come on, what are you waiting for?"

With Jaesuk following behind her, Minae bi-passed the fancy doors at the front and made her way to the side of the mansion. Jaesuk was just opening his mouth to ask where she was going, when a stone stairway angling downwards revealed itself. It appeared well-shoveled, free of any ice, and was only covered by a thin layer of wind-blown snow. Minae and Jaesuk made their way down the six or seven steps and arrived at doorway covered by a regular found on any home in the middle of Seoul. Minae quickly uncovered a buzzer hidden behind an overgrown pine and pressed it without hesitation. Obviously, she knew this place well.

It took a second buzz before lights lit the window at the bottom of the stairs.

"It's me!" Minae shouted at the person on the opposite side of the door.

There was some fumbling and the click of locks unlocking, when the door flung open to reveal a slight and tiny lady with silver hair and a gray-blue nightgown. Her eyes grew wide before she smiled widely before she took both of Minae's hands in hers. "Minae, dear child! I should've knew. Who else would know to come through this entrance? Hurry and come in! Such dreadful weather out there." And before he knew it, Jaesuk was pulled in along with Minae into a very large, but homey kitchen.

Jaesuk watched as the two ladies chatted with each other and was slightly amused that they seemed to have forgotten him. It was when he accidentally bumped his head on one of the overhanging pans that they looked up. "Oh dear, where are my manners? You are Minae's friend?"

Minae smacked her forehead, "Mother, this is Im Jaesuk. Jaesuk, this is Mother Tessa, the Director of Comet Foster homes." Jaesuk's smile seemed to freeze momentarily and something unidentifiable passed through his eyes, but it was so quick Minae wondered if it was just her imagination.

"A pleasure to meet you, Mother," Jaesuk said, taking Tessa's right hand in his. He seemed to have recovered from his momentary lapse and turned his charm on full power.

The elderly director laughed, obviously charmed, "The pleasure's mine. Please sit. I'll put on some tea."

"Sorry for bothering you at this hour," Minae apologized.

"You know I'm more than happy to have you here, dear." Mother Tessa filled a nearby stainless steal kettle with water and put it over the stove in practiced movements. "I'll go and wake the little one up while the water boils."

"Maybe it's better to let her sleep."

"Nonsense. We don't know when the roads will be cleared and when you'll be able to visit again. She'll be sad if she knew you left without saying anything." Without waiting for Minae's response, Mother Tessa disappeared down one of the two hallways that connected to the kitchen.

"So…" Jaesuk said as he plopped down beside the already seated Minae. "Mysterious lady, don't tell me you're a witch and you lured me here, so you can bake me in one of those huge ovens over there."

"Nah, I'm on a diet. You're too greasy, Im Jaesuk."

"I see…not so afraid of me anymore."

"How can I be when I saw you that ni-" Minae stopped herself, realizing she was stepping into dangerous territory. Jaesuk was no longer flopping down in his chair and was sitting up straight.

"Minae," he turned to her seriously. "I…"

But before he could finish, a small figure launched itself at Minae and attached it self. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….you're here!" It screamed.

"Ssshh…you'll wake everyone up," Minae scolded, but she was smiling uncontrollably. Minae turned the figure in arms around to face Jaesuk to reveal a little girl of five or six years old. "Jaesuk, meet Sunbin."

Jaesuk gaze went from the child in Minae's arms to Minae and back again. It was undeniable and before he could control himself, he blurted in surprise, "She looks exactly like you."

To be continued

So you see...I suddenly felt too inspired.

Hopefully, the WooJin part didn't feel too angst-y...