Hee-won pointed at her and whispered something to the employee. The employee nodded with an overly bright look in their eyes.
“Don’t worry. Ma’am, would you come this way?”
Hee-won left her there and went somewhere.
“What did he say to you?”
In response to Sunwoo’s question, the employee smiled and took a selected dress off the hanger and held it out in front of her. The dress she saw in the mirror was not a dress, but literally a piece of cloth.
“He asked for the most provocative and expensive dress in the store.”
“He thought you wouldn’t like it… If you don’t wear it, you can’t get in there. He said you would understand if he said that. It seems like you’re going to a really nice place. Is he your boyfriend? I’m really envious. He’s so handsome.”
“Oh, no. That’s not it…”
Unable to think of a particular excuse, she just closed her mouth.
The employee, excited for some reason, went around the store and returned with clothes and shoes.
“Go to the dressing room and try it on. You seem to have a very pale complexion, so I think red tones will suit you well, or this very bright green dress might be nice. You can’t wear this color if your skin is even a little dark.”
Sunwoo came into the dressing room as if being pushed, holding the clothes. She put the red dress down without even trying it on. The dress that was supposed to hang around her neck had no fabric at all on the back.
“Sigh… Does he really expect me to wear this?”
The green dress was better than the red one, at least. It was embarrassing to call it a dress since the sides were completely open, but at least it had fabric on the front and back.
Changing into the dress and putting on the white shoes the employee gave her, she looked in the mirror and sighed. It seemed like her underwear would show if she bent her waist even a little. It was unbelievable that she couldn’t get in unless she was this scantly dressed.
“Wow, it really suits you. Ma’am, just for a moment.”
As she stepped out of the dressing room, the employee ran somewhere and brought back some accessories and wrapped them around her neck. A black band with a cubic zirconia sparkled in the middle.
“What is this?”
“It’s called a choker. Look in the mirror. It goes really well with the dress, doesn’t it? Ma’am, could you come over here for a moment?”
The employee took her to a cosmetics shop next door.
“Excuse me, can you do makeup for this customer now?”
“Of course. Would you like to sit over here?”
The cosmetics store employee guided her to a chair. A moment later, her face in the mirror had completely transformed. Her eyelids were painted with green eye shadow the same color as the dress, and her eyebrows seemed to have doubled in length.
“Can you make it darker?”
Sunwoo liked the dark green eye shadow. The long-tailed eye shadow made her softened features look sharp and fierce.
“Oh, you’ve become a different person.”
Hee-won, who seemed to have arrived at some point, glanced at her once and passed by behind her. When she turned around, Hee-won, dressed in a suit, was checking his reflection in the mirror. His hair was slicked back with something, and his shoes were perfectly shiny.
“How do I look? Totally freaking awesome. Even I think I’m excessively handsome. No wonder women fall for me.”
While Hee-won was pleased with his reflection, she staggered to her feet.
“T-these shoes are like ladders. How do you walk in these?”
At her words, Hee-won laughed. The employee next to him grabbed her flailing hand.
“Omo, of course. Is this your first time wearing heels? I can even run up stairs and sprint in 11cm stiletto heels. You’ll get used to them soon. I would change them to lower heels if I could, but look in the mirror.”
There was indeed a different woman in the mirror. At least she didn’t look like the depressed woman of Umyeon Island who only hid in fear.
She took a deep breath as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. She hoped that when she met Lee Sang-cheol, she wouldn’t sob like an idiot or stutter.
“You’re perfect right now. You look just right.”
“Yes, I’ll go like this.”
In the end, she went out in terrifyingly high heels recommended by the employee.
She couldn’t ride a motorcycle in a short skirt, so she took a taxi from there. As she passed through downtown Seoul for about 30 minutes, a street with a different feel than what she knew appeared. The streets were full of flashing neon signs and foreign cars.
“Please stop ahead.”
As soon as she got out of the taxi, she saw the sign for Rain Avenue and the entrance where people were lining up.
The place was obviously glamorous, from the people’s clothes and everything else. As Hee-won had said, she probably wouldn’t have been able to get in if she had worn her original clothes.
“What on earth is this place?”
“It’s where the filthy rich have fun.”
Hee-won extended his arm, and she looped her arm through his.
“There is such a place. Don’t be scared. If anything happens, take off your heels and hit them on the head. Got it?”
“Don’t worry, I won’t be scared.”
Hee-won headed straight to the front without lining up. When a large, bulldog-like man blocked their way, Hee-won handed him a few 50,000 won bills and something else while whispering something.
“Sean, these two are in the VIP room.”
The bulldog man opened the red rope, and a slick-looking man came over and excessively courteously guided the two.
“What did you say to make that guy let us through like that?”
Sunwoo quickly asked Hee-won as they descended the stairs.
“I told him I’m Dan Taeju, the CEO of LUX. I gave him my brother’s business card. I stole it in case I needed it when I got home.”
Although it was underground, the place they entered was as spacious as a plaza. Amid the dazzling lights, people danced in the hall.
“If you need anything, feel free to ring the bell on the table and ask for Sean. Have a good time.”
The employee called Sean and guided the two to their seats, bowed almost 90 degrees, and Hee-won gave him a tip again.
“Do you always have to give money with every step you take?”
“Those people need to make a living too.”
“If they worked here for just one day, they could live for a month.”
Hee-won smirked at her words.
One side of the second floor was made of glass, so the first-floor hall was clearly visible. There were a lot of people, and as Hee-won said, they were all wearing provocative or extremely expensive-looking clothes.
“So now that we’re here, can you tell me? Why did you want to come here?”
“I came to meet my father. Lee Sang-cheol is my father. You know him, right? He’s a famous person.”
“Kek! Cough, cough.”
Hee-won, who was taking a sip from a water bottle, immediately spat it out and coughed violently. He was really shocked. His eyes were red.
“You’re really surprised.”
“Hey, wouldn’t you be? Y-you’ve been talking about being trapped on an island and stuff, and that’s related to that guy… No, how does this story even make sense? Don’t tell me? That guy, Lee Sang-cheol, is the one our father gets up in his sleep to grind his teeth about. Wow, this is crazy, really crazy. But is that guy really here?”
“They say he comes here every Friday.”
“So? What are you going to say when you meet him?”
Meet him? Sunwoo bit the inside of her mouth. The bitter taste of iron swirled on the tip of her tongue. Words she had been chewing over and over for 17 years.
The question that no one, absolutely no one, was interested in and that she had been holding onto alone.
“Why did you kill my mother?”
Hee-won muttered faintly at her words.
“Will you come with me to find him?”
Before she even got up, Hee-won rose abruptly from his seat with a stern face. As they opened the door and came out into the corridor, the music coming from the first-floor hall got louder.
“Wait here for just a moment.”
Hee-won stopped a passing waiter and asked for something along with a tip. The waiter pointed somewhere.
“He’s quite famous for coming here every week. Lee Sang-cheol, he’s in the room at the end of the corridor over there. What should we do? Should I come with me?”
“I think it’s better if I do this alone from here. If you know him that well, he’ll know your face too.”
Hee-won looked at her with a face that seemed to have a lot to say, then nodded.
“Okay. I’ll wait in the room… Be careful. Don’t rush in stupidly into the room on your own. Call me if anything strange happens. I’m saying this because I think I’ll die if anything happens to you. Just press the shortcut key on your phone. I’ll go and smash him. Dan Taeju may be a monster, but I’m also really good at fighting. Got it? Really, make sure you call me.”
Hee-won made her promise several times with a rather anxious face.
Sunwoo stopped the waiter who had just passed by and asked for guidance.
“Could you please call Lee Sang-cheol-ssi out of the room?”
“Please follow me.”
The waiter was politely smiling, but he quickly scanned her. She didn’t know what he was imagining, but it felt disgusting. At her cold gaze, the waiter quickly turned his head.
A room door opened, and a drunken woman staggered out, followed by a burst of women’s laughter. Inside, where she could barely see, half-naked women were dancing on top of men. Even at a quick glance, their faces were intoxicated by something.
Whether it was alcohol, or something else.
Sunwoo walked straight down that corridor, standing tall. The room where Lee Sang-cheol was supposed to be was right in front of her. She stopped there with the waiter.
“Please wait here for a moment.”
The waiter knocked and went inside. Through the crack in the door, a bitter smell of some kind of grass wafted out of the smoke. It was a smell she had smelled several times before. Marijuana. Sunwoo twisted her lips into a bitter smile.
How many seconds have passed? The room seemed to be more soundproof than it looked, as no sound leaked from inside. There was no way to know what the waiter was saying to call Lee Sang-cheol out.
Suddenly, she felt her phone vibrating in her clutch bag and was startled. There were only a few people who would call her. Among them, Hee-won was here, so were the rest… She took out her phone from her clutch bag and turned it off without even looking at the screen.
And then she turned around with a creepy feeling.
“I thought I was seeing things.”
Dan Taeju was standing right in front of her, holding a phone to his ear.