“What’s your name?”
“Alright, Sunwoo-ssi. How old are you?”
“How many years have you been on this island? Can you count the numbers?”
She didn’t answer. It was unclear whether she was scared or if there was something slightly off about her. At that moment, they heard the sound of people murmuring from outside the entrance.
Behind the opaque glass door, the figure of a person loomed and soon knocked on the door. Startled, she quickly stood up and stumbled backwards.
“Sir, are you there? Please come out for a moment.”
It was the voice of the village chief. Her face, as she looked at the entrance, was filled with terror. It was as if she had seen a ghost right in front of her, to the point where one would think that such an expression wouldn’t be possible even if she actually saw one.
At his call, Jin-hyuk quickly took the woman and went upstairs to the second floor.
When they opened the entrance door, an elderly woman and a middle-aged woman were visible, with the village chief standing behind them.
“What’s going on?”
“Aigoo, sir. It seems like you were preparing to leave.”
The village chief stumbled and chuckled, briefly glancing behind him.
“What’s going on at this early hour? And who are these people?”
He instantly recognized the old woman as the shaman he’d seen on the mountainside earlier in the day, but Taeju pretended not to know.
“This person here is the esteemed shaman of Umyeon Island.”
The shaman’s physique was thin and frail like a dry branch, and her white hair was disheveled, but her gaze was anything but gentle.
“I mentioned it yesterday afternoon as well, but the young lady, the daughter of our village’s bodhisattva, is not in her right mind. She wanders around and causes trouble, and the people in the village are extremely worried about her. Whenever she sees an outsider, she insists on being taken away. She’s also very beautiful. She ran away from home just now. The shaman is always very concerned, so we’re currently searching for her. We thought she might have come here…”
“No one like that has come here.”
Taeju interrupted his words abruptly. Annoyed, he tried to close the entrance door, but the old woman, with her bony and thin hands, held onto the door.
“Are you sure you didn’t see her?”
The wrinkled corners of her eyes trembled.
“No, I’m certain you saw her. That child is in your eyes right now.”
The old woman spoke in a slow, disjointed manner. Her murky gray eyes strangely flickered like glass beads. She was a disagreeable old woman.
In this isolated place, it was common to encounter individuals who had become absorbed in their delusions of grandeur. And people, even when faced with pitiful and obvious lies, often blindly immersed themselves in them.
Taeju shifted his gaze towards the village chief behind the old woman.
“What do you want from me right now?”
“What do you want?”
The village chief opened his mouth cautiously at Taeju’s cold tone.
“Well, you see… There’s nowhere else for her to go, so that’s why I’m saying this. Are you really sure she didn’t come here?”
“It’s quite unpleasant. Do you think I came all the way to this island to play games with you and your village? I don’t care what you’re looking for, but take this old woman and leave. Right now.”
He had received 1 million won for renting out this house for two days and providing meals. If he were to stir up any more trouble, he felt like he would lose the opportunity to make a big profit. The Village Chief quickly whispered something in the old woman’s ear and went down to the courtyard.
“I was just worried about the girl… I’m sorry, sir. I apologize for the intrusion.”
Taeju closed the entrance door. After a moment, they heard the sound of the iron gate being opened with a creak.
At his call, Jin-hyuk, who had been waiting on the second floor, brought Sunwoo down.
“Come here and have a seat.”
She walked slowly and sat on the sofa. The hand that held onto her skirt was still trembling slightly.
“Do you want to go outside the island?”
Surprised by Taeju’s words, she jerked her head up.
“I’ll take you.”
Her expression showed uncertainty about whether his words were true or not. Jin-hyuk, who was also staring at her in surprise, felt the same.
“Yeah. But why do you want to go outside the island?”
“Just look around outside.”
To look around? Taeju smirked and gestured to Secretary Seo.
“Secretary Seo, don’t just stand there like a fool. Go and get a towel or something.”
Taeju sat at the table in front of the sofa. And as gently as possible, as if speaking to a child, he said,
“Those people hit you, didn’t they? Let’s go out and report it to the police. Sunwoo-ssi, those bad people who hit you should be punished, shouldn’t they?”
“I don’t want to. I don’t need that.”
“You don’t need it? Why?”
“I got hit because I did something wrong… I’m really okay with that. As long as you take me outside, I’m fine.”
“Did those people tell you that?”
At his suddenly calm voice, her large almond-shaped eyes cautiously examined Taeju through her disheveled hair.
“No matter how much they hit you or do disgusting things to you, it’s your fault, so you don’t say it hurts? You just endure it? Apologize and beg for forgiveness because you did something wrong?”
Taeju twisted his lips into a smirk.
“No, d*mn it. What the h*ll kind of b*llsh*t is that?”
“Boss, please watch your language…”
Jin-hyuk, who had approached from behind with a wet towel, was startled and quickly stopped him.
“I’m not angry at you, Sunwoo-ssi.”
She looked down at the floor, gripping her skirt as if scared. He grabbed her ankle and placed it on his thigh.
“If someone tries to hit you in the future, bite them.”
As if comforting her, he removed the leaves stuck in her hair and cleaned her knee, which was covered in blood and dirt.
“If you do something wrong, you should be hit.”
“That’s not right. If you do something wrong, you correct it, you don’t get hit. Ah, there are some b*stards who need to be hit occasionally to come to their senses. Sunwoo-ssi, are you one of those b*stards?”
She said that if she did something wrong, she should be hit, but she didn’t like being called a b*stard.
Unable to respond, she hesitated for a while, seemingly pondering it. Her ears turned red.
“I’m not a b*stard.”
It was a soft voice that could hardly be heard if one didn’t pay close attention.
“Right? They think they can hit you because you quietly accept it. If anyone tries to hit you in the future, rush at them and bite them. Whether it’s their ear or their d*ck, bite it off completely.”
“That sounds more like a dog.”
Even though she seemed a bit intimidated, she felt the need to speak up. At her faintly muttered words, he couldn’t help but chuckle.
After wiping her face and brushing her disheveled hair, her face was finally fully visible. At first, she seemed so thin that he thought she was only sixteen or so, but her face was quite mature. Above all, she was stunningly beautiful.
It was a strange feeling.
“Boss, it’s about time for the Village Chief’s wife to… wow… arrive.”
Jin-hyuk seemed surprised by seeing her as well, his words trailing off.
“Sunwoo-ssi, can you stay quietly on the 2nd floor?”
“What if ahjumma comes up to the 2nd floor?”
“She won’t be able to come up, so don’t worry.”
When she was about halfway up the stairs, they heard the sound of an iron gate opening in the garden.
As Taeju opened the front door, the village chief’s wife, who had come right up to the door, was startled and took a step back.
“Aigoo, you scared me. Why are you standing there like that? It’s going to give someone a heart attack. I’ll prepare the meal. I just need to heat up the soup, so please wait a moment.”
The village chief’s wife entered the kitchen with an awkward smile. Meanwhile, Taeju and Jin-hyuk were sitting in the living room looking at aerial survey photos.
This is the result of yesterday’s GCP (Ground Control Point) shooting. The wind and poor GPS reception on the island make it difficult to reach a fix. Even using a 5-meter pole has its limitations… What should we do?”
While precise measurements require a specialist, they usually launch a survey drone for a rough check.
“Take two points with the laser and survey the surrounding area. If the signal flies away, it will be a headache, so save it immediately.”
At the cautious voice of the village chief’s wife, they looked up to see breakfast prepared on the kitchen table.
“Thank you for the meal. We will have instant noodles from the supermarket for lunch, so you can come back in the evening to prepare dinner. You can go now.”
At Jin-hyuk’s words, the village chief’s wife quickly nodded.
“Oh my, how can you say that when you are our precious guest? Don’t worry and go about your business. I’ll clean up and take care of things.”
While she was in the kitchen, the village chief’s wife pretended to wander in and out of the bathroom, glanced at the back yard, and peeked into the open room. It was a very transparent act.
“We have a lot of valuable items in the room, so it’s not suitable. You don’t need to clean, just go. And this is a theft alarm. You see this red laser? It’s a sensor. If there’s an intruder, it will immediately contact my phone.”
Taeju casually set up a transit (height angle measuring device) at the front door.
“Don’t think about coming in with a spare key.”
Seeing the expensive-looking survey tools scattered around the room and on the floor, the village chief’s wife turned her head uncomfortably.
“Do I look like someone who would touch other people’s things? What did I do for you to speak so harshly? I came here with good intentions because I was asked to prepare a meal for the guest.”
“Yes, so go and rest comfortably.”
He waved his hand dismissively at the village chief’s wife. She grumbled, took one last suspicious glance at the unexplored second floor, and left.
“Will it be okay?”
Sitting at the dining table, Jin-hyuk lowered his voice so it wouldn’t be heard outside, even though it wasn’t necessary.
“What if she comes in and takes Sunwoo-ssi?”
“She won’t. Stop talking nonsense and go upstairs and bring the girl.”
There’s an easier way, so she wouldn’t bother him and came into this house. On an island with nowhere to escape, they would probably think that all they need to do is check the exit.
She looked like a small animal, completely intimidated. In front of her, Jin-hyuk was earnestly instructing her to hide well, even placing a spoon in her hand, as if she was a primitive person encountering civilization for the first time.
“Until 6 o’clock…”
Does she know how to read a clock? Taeju gave her a rather kind smile as she sat huddled in the chair.
“We’ll be back at sunset. Just stay quiet.”