Sunwoo looked out the car window. The car they were in was circling the bustling streets of Seoul. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like she was being taken to any strange place.
“17 years… I spent 17 years trapped on that island. Without knowing the reason, I lived hearing only that I shouldn’t go outside. I lived hearing that if I went out, I would be beaten to death.”
She really believed that her stepmother had pitied her and had taken her to Umyeon Island. But then came her new mother, and her daughter, Kwon Kyung-sun. This old woman, the chairman, whom Kwon Kyung-sun serves. Her father. Everything was connected.
She gritted her teeth.
“But you expect me to willingly enter the house of the person who made me like this? No, no matter what you say, I won’t do that.”
“I heard that you live together with Dan Taeju-ssi.”
At the mention of Taeju’s name, she turned her head in surprise. Park Eui-rye smiled at her with a knowing look.
“You may not know, but our families have had quite a deep connection for a long time. Dan Taeju-ssi’s father, Dan Ki-hwan, used to work under me. So, I’ve known Dan Taeju-ssi since he was young. He’s quite ambitious and has a lot of guts. He’s useful. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t know his limits.”
He’s too valuable to be discarded so easily. Park Eui-rye muttered to herself as if he was someone insignificant.
“I don’t understand what Taeju-ssi has to do with my story.”
She was familiar with people like that. People used their words to suit their own interests and treated her as disposable prey.
She wanted to escape from this car right away, but she couldn’t help but be curious about what she was trying to say. From the moment Taeju’s name came out of Park Eui-rye’s mouth, Sunwoo had no choice but to sit there with a stern face until she finished speaking.
“I intend to marry you off to Taeju-ssi as my granddaughter.”
What is this person saying?
“But for that to happen, it wouldn’t look good if you continued living in Taeju-ssi’s house, right? Come home now and calmly prepare for the wedding. You’ve lived recklessly all this time without learning anything, so now you need to start learning things properly, step by step.”
“What are you doing? Who gave you the right to decide?”
“Well, if you’re living in the same house as Dan Taeju-ssi, I think that you two must have a strong bond. Isn’t that the case?”
“That’s not the issue. Whatever we do, it’s my problem, not something the chairman needs to worry about.”
For a moment, she thought that maybe she had come to apologize on behalf of her father. Even if it shouldn’t have happened, she hoped there would be some excuse, some unavoidable circumstances. She wished she had said something like that.
How foolish and naive her thoughts were.
“You are my granddaughter.”
“Granddaughter? Ha… Since when?”
She turned her head as if avoiding the topic.
“No, I’m not the chairman’s granddaughter. From the moment my father made my mother like that and rejected her, it has been that way. If the chairman really thought of me as her granddaughter, she wouldn’t have left me on that island. I searched for my father because I wanted to know the truth, not because I wanted to repair our relationship. So please stop this. It’s really uncomfortable for you to suddenly appear like this. If you’re going to say things like that, please don’t come again. I’ll pretend I didn’t hear what you just said. Please stop the car. I want to get off.”
She poured out her words and pounded on the partition with her fist.
The fact that they thought they could manipulate her as they pleased made her furious to the point where her stomach churned.
“Is that so? Dan Taeju-ssi seemed to agree. He said it was fine.”
But at that moment, Sunwoo looked at Park Eui-rye in utter disbelief.
She widened her eyes in astonishment and for a moment, she seemed frozen, unable to move.
“Don’t lie to me.”
Suddenly, a wave of nausea washed over her, and she felt a surge of anger. It couldn’t be true. He knew best how much she struggled to escape from that island.
This person must be lying.
“He wouldn’t do that to me.”
“Tsk tsk, how pitiful.”
Park Eui-rye clicked her tongue as if mocking her. It was as if she had the face of a kind grandmother who had found her lost granddaughter and was pleased with it.
“Do you trust Dan Taeju-ssi that much? How well do you even know him?”
“At least I trust him more than I trust you. He’s a good person.”
“A good person?”
In response to her words, Park Eui-rye burst into laughter.
“Your voice is trembling and your gaze is waving. Deep down, you know what kind of person he is. Alright then, what about you? Can you honestly say that you love him without a trace of impurity?”
“From the beginning, you must have relied on Dan Taeju-ssi because he’s a powerful man. You must have thought he could hide from you. There’s a calculation within you too, isn’t there? Isn’t that right?”
It was a cutting remark, albeit delivered in a sneering tone.
“Ambition is the same. Making a decision now is about anticipating what it will bring to me. It’s about predicting the outcome in advance. What is possible and what is impossible? Calculating how to make the impossible more possible. In that calculation, there is only choice and the result, the heart is unnecessary.”
The old woman spoke with her eyes.
“You are merely a pawn, at best, in this place. No matter how much you try to escape, the outcome is already determined.”
“To Dan Taeju-ssi, you may be nothing more than a burden, but the moment you become my granddaughter, you become a valuable asset. Is there really a merchant who would refuse that?”
“But I don’t need such a thing.”
She didn’t want to show any fear or trembling to this old woman. Sunwoo tightly clenched her hands, revealing the knuckles on her skirt.
“Don’t you think from the beginning that’s what Dan Taeju-ssi wanted?”
Sunwoo shouted, trembling.
“I know you’re lying. I don’t believe your words! I don’t want to hear it, let me get off! Stop the car!”
Thump! She pounded on the partition with all her strength.
“Tsk tsk, when you come home, we’ll have to fix your manners. Pull over.”
The car, which had not stopped despite her struggles, came to a halt at the old woman man’s firm command. Without looking back, Sunwoo jumped out of the car.
“It’s a lie.”
It can’t be true.
She murmured in a trembling voice as she took out her phone and pressed the speed dial button. She had no idea where she was. Descending from an unfamiliar place, she walked forward without any direction.
Thump, thump. Thud.
But no matter how many times she pressed it, there was no answer from Dan Taeju. The more the dial tone continued, the more anxious she became.
“Please just answer.”
Answer and tell me that what that grandmother said was a lie.
She was terrified.
She was afraid that he would really send her to that house, as the chairman had said. Afraid that he had plans to marry her as the old woman’s granddaughter. It couldn’t be true. She believed it wasn’t true, but the fact that her belief wasn’t 100% was devastating. It felt like her heart was breaking.
Because Dan Taeju…
– Hello, is this Sunwoo-ssi?
Startled by the sudden voice, Sunwoo looked down at her phone screen and then brought it back to her ear.
“This is Dan Taeju’s phone number. Why is Jin-hyuk-ssi answering the call?”
– More importantly, where are you, Sunwoo-ssi? I was so surprised when I couldn’t reach the bodyguards and you disappeared.
Sunwoo looked around her.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like I’m too far from home… It’s a place I’ve never seen before. There’s a department store next to it.”
– Why are you suddenly in an unknown place? No, we’ll talk about that later. The department store? Are you talking about the City Hill department store? I’m right in front of your apartment, so I’ll come pick you up soon.
A sense of unease twisted her nerves, accompanied by a bad premonition.
“What’s going on? Where is Taeju-ssi? Why is Jin-hyuk-ssi answering the call? Switch it over. I have something to ask.”
“I’ll tell you when we meet. I’ll be there soon.”
“I don’t want that! Tell me first. Why? Secretary Seo, why?”
Chills ran up her arm and a wave of terror washed over her, causing her voice to tremble.
“Please… listen to me without getting scared. The car we were in had an accident. That’s all I can tell you for now. I’m also in a state of confusion…”
The image of her bloodied mother overlapped with Taeju’s face.
“Just wait a moment. I’ll come to where you are, Sunwoo-ssi.”
“Until the contract is resolved, no matter how much you try to escape, you will eventually crawl back under my control. The prey that comes from the front may be deceived, but no one can stop the predator that comes from behind.”
She covered her ears, blocking out the empty air. Suddenly, her stepmother’s voice echoed in her ears.
“No matter how much you struggle, it’s impossible. Absolutely impossible.”
“Sunwoo-ssi! What is happening to you? Are you listening?”
Even though Jin-hyuk was calling from the other end of the line, it didn’t feel real.
It felt like all the blood was draining from her fingertips. Something distant was rising up in her chest. It felt like it was filling up tightly, appearing pitch black all the way to the sky. Dizziness set in as the world spun around her. Each step she took felt like a struggle.
As she stumbled, she collided with someone walking on the street.
The man she collided with offered a half-hearted apology and continued on his way. In the process, her phone, which had fallen to the ground, bounced off somewhere due to the recoil.
She felt a piercing pain in her chest, as if stabbed by a long needle.
How could it hurt this much? The things she had considered pain until now were nothing. No matter how much she struggled, the noose around her neck tightened. She felt her body weakly giving in.
Screams echo from the surroundings. It felt like someone was shaking her. Sunwoo closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see anything.
She wanted to know nothing.