The meeting ended earlier than usual. As Taeju walked out into the hallway, he checked his messages.
「11:00 Apartment bldg.. Waiting.」
「13:30 Fig Bookstore. Waiting.」
The two messages were sent with a time gap between them. They were updates from the bodyguard he had assigned to monitor her location.
“What’s my next schedule?”
“At 2:40, you have a video conference with Ann Hardy’s team about the third draft.”
As he entered the elevator, Secretary Seo, pressed the button for the cafeteria on the underground 2nd floor and followed behind him.
“Looks like we have some free time today.”
If he had known, he would have invited Sunwoo to the company for lunch. Taeju stepped out at the entrance and sent a quick message using his phone’s shortcut.
After a few rings, an unfamiliar woman answered Sunwoo’s cellphone. He glanced at his phone for a moment.
“May I know who I am speaking to?”
– Oh, I’m a friend. Sunwoo-ssi went to the restroom, so I’m answering on her behalf. Who should I say is calling?
He thought it must be the bookstore owner.
“Why would you casually answer someone else’s phone?”
“Isn’t that rude?”
– Someone asked, and it turned out to be that person. The one who behaved so rudely on the street. She said you are the CEO of a major corporation that supports Sunwoo-ssi. No wonder things have been going so poorly.
As much as he didn’t think highly of the woman, she didn’t even try to hide her disdain for him.
– It’s not like there was another sucker who donated because of you, right? Why would big corporations invest without a reason? Sunwoo-ssi is naive and hasn’t fully adapted to the dirty side of society, so she just thinks it’s cool and is grateful. You know that too, right? If you were an ordinary person, would she be so enthusiastic?
– If I went too far with my words without realizing it, I apologize. I don’t like rich people much because I’ve been mistreated while living as a commoner.
Hyo-in spoke in a voice that showed no remorse. It wasn’t just insults, the woman was openly berating him.
He admitted that he had been acting unreasonably sensitive because of Sunwoo last time. However, this woman’s response seemed too excessive to attribute it solely to that.
“Let her answer the call.”
– Sunwoo-ssi, there was a call for you, so I answered. It was the CEO.
Whether she had come out of the restroom or not, the sharp voice of the woman on the other side of the phone faded away and soon changed to a warm and gentle voice.
– Oh, hello?
“The CEO of a major corporation? The one who supports you?”
– What about it?
“It seems like you introduced me that way to the bookstore owner?”
– I didn’t have any other explanation. It’s not like it’s a false statement.
At first, it bothered him. It annoyed him, made him angry, and worried him. And now, he felt jealous of everyone around her. It seemed so unrealistic.
– I’m going to eat now.
Before he could finish talking about the meal, she interrupted him. The faint sound of her humming some unknown song could be heard from far away on the phone, which bothered him. He wished she would just shut up.
“Who is she, the woman in the bookstore?”
– I’m with the bodyguards. I didn’t run away.
Her voice sounded anxious, as if she was worried about what he might say.
She’s even bringing her bodyguard along for the meal?
Perhaps it was because there were no people in her life that she could consider her own. She placed excessive importance on the new connection she had made. The problem was that she became sensitive and anxious, fearing that he might say something harsh to them even with the slightest frown.
Moreover, he couldn’t argue with them. Right now, he could only step back.
“I’ll be finished by 7 PM today. Let’s meet at the apartment.”
“Why aren’t you responding, Sunwoo-ssi?”
He suppressed his anger and asked as kindly and affectionately as possible.
– There’s an exhibition by a painter who’s good at painting birds. I didn’t even know there was such a thing…. Hyo-in said she’d take me there, so I’m going to go today. I’m going with the bodyguards, so don’t worry, go home.
“If there’s such an event, then I…”
– Ah, I’m going to hang up. The jjajangmyon I ordered has arrived.
Before he could say anything else, the call abruptly ended.
Passing by employees who were about to greet him with a smile, they saw his face and froze, then quickly backed away, bowing their heads and hurriedly entering the cafeteria.
“Boss, what’s with that face? Please relax your expression. What on earth is happening?”
As he entered the restaurant and sat down, his secretary looked at him with surprise, then let out a long sigh and began to lecture him.
“If you have that kind of expression, strange rumors will circulate within the company again. Who did you capture and bury in a drum yesterday? Who are you going to capture next? Why are you like this, seriously? If you have spare time in the future, go outside. It’s making employees uncomfortable.”
“What’s wrong with my face?”
“Do you have to ask because you don’t know? You look like the Grim Reaper.”
“It’s noisy, just eat your food.”
He ate tasteless soup.
“What’s the matter?”
He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
He would rather go and throw someone against a wall if it were a man. He had no idea how to deal with a woman.
Surely, the bookstore owner doesn’t have feelings for Sunwoo beyond friendship.
“Ha, d*mn it. Should I just kill her, woman or not?”
The surrounding employees looked at him with fear in their faces.
“Secretary Seo, do I still have some spare time?”
Seo Jin-hyuk nodded with a face that indicated he should send him away before he uttered any more terrible words and made all the employees uncomfortable.
“Of course, whatever you do is sufficient.”
“Let me know 10 minutes before we go. I’m going to the gym.”
Taeju stood up from his seat instead of finishing his meal.
The company gym was located underground on the 1st floor, along with a fitness center. He had instructed it to be built so that he could occasionally loosen up, but he had never had the chance to use it himself due to his busy schedule.
As he entered the gym, he noticed quite a few employees gathered there to exercise during lunchtime. It was divided by transparent glass, with a fitness center on one side and people practicing light boxing or martial arts on the other.
He could feel the tension among the employees as he walked in. Without entering the changing room, he took off his suit jacket and tie, hung them on the wall, and climbed onto the mat.
Before he could run straight to the bookstore and act despicably, he felt like he needed to break something.
“If you can last 5 minutes against me, you’ll get two days of paid leave and a 100% bonus.”
“What happens if we win?”
One of the employees raised his hand and asked. He appeared quite tall and seemed to weigh well over 100kg.
“You’ll get four days of paid leave and a 200% bonus.”
He nonchalantly said as he loosened his wrists and shoulders on the mat. He used to run in the neighborhood every day, but it had been a while, and his joints felt a bit stiff.
“Really? Will you remember my name and position and not give me any disadvantages or anything? Can you promise that?”
The employee’s eyes sparkled, showing that they were quite confident. The bonus and vacation were tempting, but as a man, there was also a desire to defeat the notorious CEO of the company. Some of them had heard the rumors and thought they were exaggerated.
“Write a contract.”
“You won’t even bother looking at it. Just promise you won’t have any complaints later.”
The employee rolled up his sleeves, preparing to step onto the mat.
“Boss, this guy is a judo black belt. He’s been training at a Jiu-jitsu gym for three years. Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
“Hey, someone keep track of the time.”
Interrupting the unnecessary words as if they were pointless, Taeju unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up to his elbows.
“Are strikes and grappling allowed?”
“Why are you talking so much? Just come and see?”
As he bent his waist and extended his arms forward, the opposing employee also prepared his stance.
The employee was tall, and as expected, his reach was long. As the employee reached out to grab Taeju’s collar and lift him up, Taeju dived underneath, grabbing his waist and using his weight to flip him onto the mat.
At the heavy sound of the opponent falling, the attention of the employees who had been lightly stretching around them all turned towards them. The startled employee tried to grab Taeju’s shoulder and escape, but Taeju twisted his wrist, trapping it between his legs, and applied an arm-bar.
“Ahhhh! Tap! Tap! Tap!”
The employee screamed, striking the mat with his other arm. It hadn’t even been a minute.
He stood up effortlessly, not a drop of sweat on him. However, the people in the gym were different from the average individuals. Instead of being intimidated, knowing that he was the CEO and didn’t need any special treatment, the eyes of the employees who just wanted to exercise burned with a competitive spirit.
Jin-hyuk, who remained alone in his seat, turned around at the commotion. Some of the employees who were just eating in the cafeteria were now rushing outside.
“What’s happening outside?”
Jin-hyuk grabbed a passing employee and asked.
“Oh, Secretary Seo. There’s chaos in the gym right now because of the CEO. Didn’t you know?”
“What? Oh, I see.”
Jin-hyuk let out a sigh, as if he knew what was going on. Since he hadn’t been to the gym himself, he wondered what could have happened to cause such a commotion.
Deliberately practicing Jiu-jitsu during break time… He couldn’t understand him from the start.
“Why? Is the CEO throwing all the employees around?”
Normally, it was wise not to provoke him when he was living peacefully like a human, but when Taeju’s eyes suddenly flickered with a dangerous glint, it was best not to provoke him.
If you engage and get hit, it will be your own responsibility.