Chapter 3 part 1
“Are you, Mr Park Shin Woo? But, how do you know me?”
Asking such silly questions, a trait that entirely belonged to Manager Do, seemed to be starting to affect Joo Hee too.
It took a moment for her to realise that Park Shin Woo might have investigated the person who made the mess in the lobby.
“Of course, I asked them to investigate. It’s not common for lizards to appear in the Hansung lobby.”
Sure enough, the story of Seok had spread across the entire Hansung group.
“I’m sorry, but if you don’t mind, can you release my arm so that we can talk freely?”
To be honest, Joo Hee couldn’t focus on his words due to the feast in front of her eyes.
The gleaming expanse of Shin Woo’s bare skin had dyed her face red as she apologised and made a vague effort to move away,
“Oh…sorry, I forgot.” Shin Woo said while releasing her from his embrace, “I don’t know why you were hiding in the warehouse, but if you just pop out like that, you will get seriously hurt.”
However, even after being released from his arms, Joo Hee’s strangely pounding heart did not calm down as if she was still running a marathon.
Of course, she had to explain why she was hiding in the warehouse.
But, luckily a deep sigh of relief came out when she realised that Shin Woo didn’t notice the goblin’s road.
“I’m sorry, but if you had searched about me, then you might know that I came to talk in person about the lease contract. I know that Grandpa Park had signed a ridiculously cheap contract, but the sudden notice of lease termination had put us in trouble.”
Joo Hee cut the chade and brought up the issue of the lease contract since she never knew when she could meet her building owner again.
“If that’s the case, then I heard it from Secretary Cha. I think the lawyers are cleaning up some unnecessary assets.” He attentively nodded and picked up the document from the table,
“I heard there is a slight difference in market price than what’s written here. Is that right?
When Joo Hee figured out that the document Shin Woo had been looking at was her contract with Chairman Park, her face heated up in embarrassment.
In fact, writing the lowest rate of the lease itself was a scam.
“Yes, that’s right.” Joo Hee’s voice lost its strength as she spoke and kept her head lowered in disappointment.
There was nothing to refute. She came to discuss the lease terms, but if she argues it was unfair, the situation might go against her.
It will be winter soon, and the thought of shifting the house had already made her feel cold.
“Do you have any other place to go?”
Shin Woo asked when he saw the pitiful woman who stood before him.
“We need to find out.”
Her problems might settle if she kneels and begs for help, but Joo Hee simply couldn’t do so.
He was Chairman Park’s grandson.
Chairman Park was a person who had taken care of her for a long time, and it was not fair to make things difficult for his grandson.
“Why aren’t you insisting that you will stay until the contract period ends?”
“I would have done it if Grandpa Park was here, but he’s not here anymore. And it was written as ‘forever’ as the valid contract period.”
“Ha Ha.” The tip of Shin Woo’s nose wrinkled at the thought of Chairman Park smiling while adding such a quirky condition to the contract.
“Well, you can interpret it that way too.”
Park Shin Woo muttered under his breath as he went through the contract as if he saw it for the first time.
“I apologise for coming here without any prior notice. But, can you let me stay until I find a place to move?”
“When is the deadline?” As if he was waiting for her to request it, Shin Woo replied with another question.
With the current financial situation at Lee family books, there was no chance of moving to another place without looking for a way to handle their issues.
However, no matter how hard she tried, Joo Hee could only conclude that she had no other option but to shut down the store and find another job.
Just thinking about shutting down the store made Joo Hee sigh in helplessness.
“I’ll find a place as soon as possible.”
As soon as Shin Woo heard her request, he silently raised his eyes and stared at her for a long time, making Joo Hee wonder if she had something on her face.
“Can I make a suggestion?”
“Suggestion? What is it?”
“I have made a promise to my grandfather, but unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it. I think it will be possible if you helped me.”
Joo Hee was going to ask what kind of promise it was, but at the very last moment, a piece of paper flapped out in front of her.
“Contract for a Blind date…This, this.”
I, Lee Joo Hee (Party A) promise to go on a blind date that Park Joo Ho (Party B) arranges and pledges to meet the ‘suitor’ three times without any preconceptions.
It was the same contract she had signed with Chairman Park by agreeing to fulfill it without any fail.
The moment Joo Hee’s eyes fell on her signature, her face not only turned red but into the shade of a well-ripened tomato.
“It seems like you also failed to keep your promise. So, what do you think? I want to keep my promise with my grandfather, anyhow.”
“But that’s just…”
“If you go out on three dates with me as mentioned here, I’ll think about rewriting the terms of the Lee family book’s lease contract you signed with my grandfather.”
Shin Woo’s voice, which sounded like a suggestion at first, had gradually changed to an arrogant tone as he negotiated with her.
“I’ll do it.”
However, Joo Hee accepted it with a straight face without any second thoughts.
“Let’s go out three times without any preconceptions.”
“Sure. Three times with no preconceptions.”
Shin Woo affirmed with a smile, but Joo-hee, who was excited by the thought of ‘Lee family books’ might continue existing in the same building, failed to notice his joy.
“Yes. Let’s do it.”
This time, Shin Woo’s smile appeared increasingly bright and wide as if he achieved a satisfactory result.
The study room’s door opened as if it were breaking and Manager Do rushed in with a huff.
“Master!!!!! Let go of me…let go! I need to check if my Master is okay!”
Manager Do recklessly shouted as he tried to shake off Eungsan’s hand that restricted his movement.
“Let him go.”
As soon as Shin Woo ordered him, Eungsan immediately withdrew his hand from Manager Do.
“Master, are you okay?”
“I’m alright. What about you? Are you okay?”
Earlier, Joo Hee’s mind was busy with the idea of cancelling the contract, but now that her issue got settled, she finally had the time to worry about her poor Manager.
“Master, Let’s go, this place is not good.” Manager Do pulled Joo Hee’s arm recklessly.
“Please take them home safely”.
It was only then Joo Hee remembered that she didn’t bring her wallet. Luckily Shin Woo offered to help them in advance as if he had noticed her worried face.
“I will get back to you.”
Shin Woo said meaningfully as if he was reminding Joo Hee, who seemed sincerely grateful towards him, of her promise.
“You don’t have to take us home. We can go on our own.”
Manager Do quickly refused while looking at Eungsan without hiding his offended expression.
“Of course, Manager Do had a car and we will go home in it.” Joo Hee said as she walked towards the door, slightly bowing her head in gratitude.
“Ma…Master, let’s go together.” Manager Do called out loudly while following Joo Hee with a visibly confused face.
As soon as Shin Woo watched the duo escape like a low tide leaving the shore, his expression quickly darkened.
His narrowed eyes slowly turned in the direction of the warehouse from where Joo Hee and Manager Do had popped out earlier.
Another week had passed.
But still, Park Shin Woo had not contacted Joo Hee to inform her about their meeting.
“Did I hear it wrongly?
Joo Hee, who seemed desperate to hear back from her building owner, began to feel uneasy as she blankly stared at the door.
She wanted to believe his words since there were no further lease termination notices from Hansung’s legal team.
“Master! Please get me some zucchini from the mart.”
Manager Do, who suggested making kalguksu, put his head out of the kitchen and shouted.
A few days ago, he was nervous and worried about the termination of the contract, but ever since their visit to Hyunwawon, he had not talked about it.
He acted more brave than usual as if nothing had happened.
“And chilli peppers too. Whenever you are stressed, you have to chop chilli and eat something spicy. So, hurry up and get the vegetables while I make the broth.”
After finishing his order, Manager Do’s head disappeared back into the kitchen without hearing her answer.
Joo Hee was feeling lazy going to the mart and was about to say let’s just eat without pumpkins. However, now that Manager Do had added Chilli peppers in the order, she could only grit her teeth in dismay.
Well, it’s better to go to the mart instead of listening to Manager Do’s long food philosophy lecture.
“What did you say?”
Though Joo Hee murmured in a low voice, Manager Do still asked from the kitchen, just to show off his sharp hearing abilities.
“It’s nothing. I’ll be back.”
“Don’t wander around and get possessed by ghosts, Master. Just look straight ahead and come back.” Manager Do said as if he was sending a seven-year-old for an errand.
Joo Hee picked up her coat and left the store, pretending not to hear Manager Do’s instruction.
The sudden gush of cool breeze made her zip up her thin coat without even realising it.
Since she spent most of her time in the book store or at home, she often forgot the changes in the weather and season.
However, whenever she came out on the street like this, she couldn’t help but enjoy the view.
The faded leaves under her feet looked like they were announcing that winter was almost there.
If she didn’t hear from Park Shin Woo, she might wander in the streets looking for a new home in this season.
Just thinking about it felt like a cold wind blowing over her head.
“Should I give my father a word in advance?”’
If she had to move, it is better to discuss it with her father first, but it would be like dumping her worries over to her father, who knew nothing but archaeology.
But that’s the worst-case scenario. She still had hope. If everything goes well, the contract shall remain as it is.
Joo Hee did think about contacting Shin Woo because she was frustrated, but when she thought about how busy his schedule was, she decided to wait a little longer.
As she anxiously trudged along the path, she somehow reached the crossroads facing the mart.
When the traffic signal turned green, she hurriedly crossed the crosswalk.
Perhaps it was due to daytime, there were very few people in the streets, and among them, Joo Hee’s eyes caught the sight of a child as she stood in front of the mart.
A girl around ten years old, who was supposed to be at school this time, sat on a bench, shaking her legs and playing around.
In addition, the child was wearing short sleeves in this cold November weather.
Maybe it was because she stood there staring for a while, but the child, who was preoccupied, shifted her eyes to Joo Hee and began to move towards her.
Watching the girl waiting in the cold weather, Joo Hee felt like suggesting to sit inside the mart.
“Joo Hee! Where are you going?”
All of a sudden, someone called her name out loud.
Just as she turned around, a patrol car stopped along the road and Police Officer Kim happily waved his hand from the driving seat.
“Why are you here at this hour? Going to the mart?”
“Yes. Manager Do’s errand. He needs pumpkins.”
“Wow, I guess you’re making something delicious today. Manager Do’s cooking skills are too good when he makes buckwheat kalguksu..….”
Officer Kim, who sometimes ate at Lee’s family books, made an ecstatic expression while smacking his lips, but in a flash, his facial expression changed as he quickly got out of the car.
At the same time, Joo Hee felt that someone was approaching her and when she turned around, a woman in her early 40s was holding out a flyer,
She naturally extended her hand and accepted the flyer.
“If you see her, please contact me. Please, make sure to do it.”
It was a woman with a tired face and hollow eyes.
“Madam, it’s cold outside. Why are you dressed so thin? At least put this on.”
Officer Kim placed a coat around the woman’s shoulder as if he was already familiar with her.
“It’s okay, Officer Kim. If you give it to me, then what will you wear? Please keep it ….”
The voice of the woman who refused Officer Kim’s kindness sounded so weak, it was as if it would break at any time. Her sunken eyes showed much earnest expectation when she gave a flyer to him.
“I will be the first person to contact you if I meet her.”
Police Officer Kim, who forced the woman to accept his coat, sounded more polite and compassionate.
The woman’s eyes, which had been sparkling with anticipation, turned empty like a patient who was declared dead again.
The woman walked away like a lifeless ghost and suddenly stumbled in her steps.
“Madam! Let’s not do this. Come, I’ll take you home.” Officer Kim caught the woman who was about to collapse onto the floor and took her to the patrol car.
“Gi Ran? Are you okay?”
A man approached the car in hurried steps and bumped into Joo Hee’s shoulder as he rushed towards Officer Kim.
Joo Hee, who staggered in her steps under the effect of the hard bump, swept her shoulder without realizing it and stared at the stranger.
He was an ordinary middle-aged man.
However, his faded old safari jumper and dirty sneakers reminded her of her father for some reason.
But the one thing that caught her eyes was a badge with an unusual pattern that glistened on his old collar.
“Didn’t I tell you to stay at home? If you go out in this weather, you’ll fall sick very soon.”
“You live in the same apartment as your wife, right?”
Officer Kim was staring at the middle-aged man with a frown on his forehead and looked worried.
“Yes. You must be busy, I’ll take her to the apartment. Officer Kim, please continue with your patrol.”
“I’d appreciate it if you do that. May I give you a ride to your apartment?”
“No, I’m fine. I parked my car in the parking lot over there.”
“Oh then, please get home safely…”….”
“Gi Ran, let’s go!”
Even before Officer Kim could say something, the middle-aged man urged the woman to move away.
Joo Hee stared at the people who walked away from them and tilted her head without realising it.
The child, who sat on the bench, was now following the people with a harsh expression, unfitting for a 10-year-old child.
“Sigh, my heart aches every time I see that lady.”
Police Officer Kim could not take his eyes off the two people who were already circling the corner and sighed as he turned to face Joo Hee.
“You might have heard about it. A girl named “Sojung” went missing..….”
When she heard those words, Joo Hee quickly opened the flyer that she held in her hand, only to stand there speechless.
In the flyer, she saw the smiling photograph of the girl whom she saw on the bench.
“It’s their daughter, Sojung. Do you remember the heavy rainy day of last summer? She disappeared on that day. Actually, I didn’t tell the lady, but police have closed the case since there was no clue.”
Joo Hee knew that her suspicions were correct when she saw Police Officer Kim sigh deeper.
At that moment, she felt the ground beneath her feet begin to move, and she almost swayed to the side.
“Joohee! Are you okay?”
Officer Kim stared at her with his eyes wide open in shock as he held her shoulder.
“… It’s okay. I’ll leave now.”
“Oh yes, you said you were going to the mart. I’m sorry, I’ve been holding you for too long. Please, go ahead.”
While Police Officer Kim talked to her with a puzzled look on his reddened face, Joo Hee quickly bowed and left in a hurry.
“What is this?”
It wasn’t a new thing for her to run into ghosts, but there was never a time when she failed to tell apart whether they were ghosts or ordinary people.
It was the first time that she almost talked to a ghost.
Joo Hee’s expression hardened without even realising it.
She wasn’t sure why it happened to her, but one thing she knew was that the grim reaper who was supposed to guide the souls to the afterworld had failed to do their tasks properly.
“I know it’s a huge task, but this thing…it is a complete neglect of work!”
It was natural that the arrow of her resentment flew to the tall and lean grim reaper she had seen before.
Joo Hee touched the mart’s door with trembling fingers, but almost stopped in her tracks when she remembered the woman’s empty eyes.
At that moment, she felt a heavy rising from her heart that it would be better to tell the woman about the child’s death.
However, at the very next minute, she shook her head and forcibly recalled why she got punished.
In addition, the reason why her only friend Sammy no longer visited ever since she reincarnated as a human also came into her mind.
“It’s none of my business.”
Joo Hee, who got reminded of those memories she didn’t want to recall, concluded coldly and nervously scratched her flowing bangs.
Obviously, no one was supposed to intervene in the matter of life and death, especially someone who had already been punished for saving the dead.
* * *
“It’s okay, Professor. I can send it by courier in case you are busy. Okay. I’ve packed it well. You can come anytime tomorrow. Oh, thank you.”
“Professor Jang, you are coming tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, he is busy these days. Yes, I think it’s time for him to come home.”
Joo-hee, who was surprised every time the phone rang, gave up on her expectations for today after Professor Jang’s phone call.
“Let’s wrap this up. I’ll lock the door, so just go home.”
Manager Do, who was arranging the newly trimmed books, suggested without looking back.
Joo Hee, who was unusually free, was staring out the door all day long as if she was waiting for someone.
However, unlike her, the Manager never had a moment to rest as he busied himself with work.
“I’ll lock the door.”
For some reason, Joo Hee woke up from her dazed state as if someone stabbed her conscience, so she quietly stood up and went toward the door.
The door didn’t even open, but suddenly the bell rang above the door.
The instant Joo Hee’s eyes fell on the man draped in all black, who suddenly appeared over the glass outside the door, she stepped back in shock.
“Oh my god!
Manager Do, who inadvertently turned at the sound of the bell, was left equally surprised by the stranger’s sudden appearance.
Even the sleeping Seok jumped up and raised his tail.
The stranger, wrapped in black clothes top to bottom, passed through the glass door without even opening it and stopped before Joo Hee.
“As expected, you can see me.”
With a pale face that lacked any emotions, the tall and skinny man stared down at Joo Hee said.
“No, no! My Master is still young!”
Even before Joo Hee could say anything, Manager Do stepped forward and shouted urgently.
“You must have no fear to stand before a grim reaper.”
“Manager Do, please step back.”
Joo Hee, who saw the stranger squinting his eyes, pulled the hem of the Manager’s shirt just in case.
“I know that this person is a Grim Reaper. Since I’m the only human being here, you probably came to pick me up.”