72 – Murky Waters
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'Sorry, Unni. But I'm not letting you take Oppa.'

Seora frowned and then looked up at the man sitting next to her.

A face that wouldn't be out of place among pop idols or actors. A trained body that would impress any bodybuilder or athlete, perfectly displayed by a fully tailored business suit. And lightly tousled black hair that, paired with his kindhearted smile, gave off a mysterious but charming air.

Jihu. Her Jihu that she owed everything to.

And the one who Unni had just tried to snatch away for herself.

Seora's frown deepened.

Jihu blinked and shook his head. "Sorry, Seora. I didn't mean to laugh at you."

"It's fine." She reached over and plucked a piece of tuna from the tray before popping it into her mouth.

...Dammit. It seemed like Unni didn't leave any expense trying to woo Oppa, did she?

Jihu frowned. "You know, most of the time when women say it's fine-"

"It's *fine* Oppa."

Jihu held up his hands. "Okay, okay. It's fine. In that case... I'm glad to see you, Seora. Though, meeting like this is a bit unexpected."

Seora scoffed. "I'm your Boss. Of course I'll show up when another department head tries to headhunt you."

Jihu paused and then put his hand on his chin. "Right... I forgot that internal politics are a thing."

Seora sighed and leaned on the table. "Just what am I going to do with you, Oppa? What were you even thinking, walking into the lion's den like that by yourself?"

"I was thinking that your older sister seems more like a cute kitty rather than a fierce lion?"

Seora punched Jihu in the side.

"Gah! I'm on rehab, you know! What'll you do if I get injured?"

Seora rolled her eyes. "If you're well enough to try and outwit my older sister during a date in the battlefield she chose, I think you're well enough to take a few jabs, Mister Hero."

Jihu let out a dry laugh. "Ah. I'm guessing you know how the chain of events went, then?"

"Obviously." Seora frowned and said, "You need to be more careful, Oppa. Unni is..." She paused to mull over her words and then said, "...Unpredictable. She might seem charming and beautiful, but she's a poisonous lily that's drawn countless others to their doom. I don't want that to happen to Oppa."

Jihu picked up his glass of water and took a sip. "A poisonous lily, huh...?"

Seeing Jihu's strange reaction, Seora's frown deepened and she said, "Did Unni offer you anything?"

Jihu shook his head. "No." He frowned and said, "It seemed like she really just wanted to go on a date with me."

Seora's eye twitched and then she reflexively swatted Jihu's arm.

"Ow!" He rubbed his arm and looked at Seora. "What was that for?"

"...Stupid dense Oppa."

"Hm?"

Seora sighed. "Whatever. Since we're here already... Could you secure the area so we can talk? We might as well make the most of this time."

"Oh, sure. Give me a sec."

xxx

I left the sushi restaurant lost in thought.

From what Seora told me, the situation was going well. Because I made such a big fuss in Paradise, most of the important and influential people were over there trying to calm things down. 

That left room for Seora to make her move.

Even so, she told me that it would take time. Her father was more deeply entrenched than she expected... and not just on Earth. Furthermore, there was a big variable that was keeping Seora from making too many drastic moves.

Yun Seohui. 

I frowned and placed my hand on my chin, lost in thought. Seohui was a mystery. No, a puzzle that didn't make sense.

I knew about her from the story. While my memories of what I read had mostly faded... which was a good thing since I didn't want to rely on something and get thrown off when it was wrong, I remembered that Seohui was a person who obsessed over Seol. Someone who did everything she could to wreck all he cared for when she couldn't get him.

In short, a crazy sociopath- No, a woman who was like a young girl who threw a temper tantrum when she didn't get her way.

But this Seohui was different. At least, when she was talking to me.

I could sense that she was interested. I could tell that she felt a desire towards me... which was evident by the crimson threads floating around her.

But it was weird.

From what I knew, and from how both Seora and Hannah acted, Seohui should be emotionless. A doll without any real emotions who acted on whims and had a bad temperament. And also one who was likely responsible for driving Sung Shihyun away to the Parasites.

Even if she wasn't, from what I remembered of her from the novel, she was at the least mentally like a young girl who broke everything around her when she got upset.

But I didn't get that from her. At least, not the Seohui I met.

She was dangerous. That much was still true. Seohui was way too observant and sly to take lightly. But at the same time, there were moments where she slipped up. Where she acted like an awkward teenage girl who didn't know any better.

Normal. No, someone who didn't know what normal was.

I stuck my hands in my pockets and looked up at the sky.

A clear blue, with only a few clouds in sight. And around me, the usual buzz from the crowd of people milling about the city.

A peaceful day.

...One that Seohui likely never experienced.

Reflecting back on our little 'date', I realized it. While we exchanged probing words and had a small tit-for-tat exchange to try and get info out of each other, Seohui hadn't been seriously trying to.

Considering that she was the one in charge of Sinyoung at such a young age, and considering the amount of manipulation and cunning required to keep such a tyrant in check, Seohui could have been a lot more subtle.

But she didn't try to be. Instead, she blatantly laid out the cards and what questions she wanted to know.

And all the while, she was genuinely enjoying the conversation.

I frowned and lowered my gaze, continuing my walk through the busy streets.

A poisonous lily. That was how Seora described her older sister. Something beautiful, but deadly.

But lilies weren't inherently poisonous. At least, not to humans. And if Seohui had become a poisonous lily, that meant that something... or someone changed her to be that way.

Seora explained that Seohui was the reason why the Executors and reinforcements didn't arrive right away. She also explained that it would be dangerous leaving her older sister alone like that.

But I wasn't sure. Well, to the second part.

Trying to stall the Executors was bad, true. And Seohui was indeed a dangerous variable considering her whimsical personality. Not only that, but it would be easy to get rid of her. If I helped Seora, with her talent and my resources, Sinyoung could change overnight and Seohui could be tossed out on the street. Then, it'd be a simple matter to take out her father and get rid of the ugly roots that had taken hold in Sinyoung.

Even so...

[Well my hero?]

...I couldn't forget that sight.

Pure devotion and a relaxed air around her, so different from the meticulously crafted masks she wore. A beautiful young woman who looked like she had found fulfillment in life. Calm, serene...

It would be easy to think that Seohui was the bad person here. That it was her fault for everything happening. And I was sure that she had ruined countless lives. But...

"Jihu?"

A voice called out to me, interrupting my thoughts. Male, and familiar. One that I had known all my life... even if I hadn't heard it a lot recently.

I blinked and looked over to see Wooseok waving at me. "Hyung?"

My older brother. He was wearing a business suit and carrying a silver case with him.

Wooseok walked over and then said, "I didn't expect to see you here. Did you get back from overseas?"

"Mmhm." I nodded and said, "I just finished a big project, so I figured me and my team could use a break so I sent everyone home."

Wooseok frowned and said, "You have a team already?"

"Yeah." I smiled and said, "It might not seem like it, but I'm a pretty big deal, you know?"

Wooseok nodded. "I figured. It's not every day that Sinyoung's Chairman sends a personal letter to our family to congratulate your work."

I chuckled. "Yeah. I've been- Wait." I frowned and said, "Sinyoung's Chairman?"

"Mmhm. Yun Seojin... Miss Seora's father?" Wooseok paused and said, "You didn't know about that?"

I shook my head. "I knew that she was that guy's daughter, but I didn't hear anything about a letter of congratulation..."

Wooseok shrugged and started walking. "That's because you take your efforts too lightly. You never know how far some small actions will ripple."

I walked beside him. "Tell me about it. Life's been nothing but a series of random ups and downs for the past few months."

Wooseok chuckled. "I know how you feel. But then again, that's what happens when you start making a life for yourself and take responsibility."

"Mm..." I gave a noncommittal nod and then looked towards Wooseok. "Anyway, Hyung. What are you doing out here? Out on a lunch break?"

"Yes." Wooseok nodded. "I've been really busy too. There's a big recruitment drive at my company now and I've got a lot of people to oversee and manage before the month's over."

I paused. "Recruitment drive? What was your job again, Hyung?"

He laughed. "Nothing as important as yours, Jihu, I'm sure. I'm just a manager at Haesol Research Institute."

A research institute...?

Something felt off, so I used Transcendent Insight to confirm his words.

[Seol Wooseok]
Your older brother. A smart and capable individual, but with a warm heart.
Feels extremely guilty about what happened to you and Jinhee in the past.
Working overtime to make ends meet and prepare for another potential family crisis.

"Jihu?" Wooseok tilted his head.

I shook my head. "Sorry, Hyung. Just lost in thought."

"Mm... Well, make sure to take more breaks then. It's not good to work yourself too hard."

"I should say the same thing to you, Hyung." I glanced at his suitcase and said, "You don't need to work too hard for our family, you know? I'm pulling my end now too, so it's fine if you take some time off for yourself. I mean, when's the last time you even took a girl out on a date? Everyone's been making fun of you for that, you know?"

Wooseok laughed. "It's fine. I'm not that old yet... And speaking of dates, you should be careful too. It's important to separate business and personal affairs. I get that you trust Miss Hannah and Miss Seora a great deal, but things get messy if you mix relationships like that. Especially with superiors."

I blinked. "That... sounds like you're speaking from personal experience, Hyung."

"I am. And anyway..." He glanced at a watch on his left wrist and said, "I should get going." He smiled and said, "It was nice seeing you, Jihu. Remember to check in with everyone more often."

"Ah, take care Hyung."

Wooseok waved and then mixed back into the crowd.

I watched him leave and then frowned. "Weird..."

I kept running into people I didn't expect to meet today. I was tempted to think that it was just coincidence... After all, Seoul wasn't *that* large when you considered where most of the business happened.

Even so, to run into not only the Yi siblings, but also Seohui, Seora, and now my older brother.

"...Something's up."

I couldn't tell what, but I had a feeling things were going to get messy soon.

And speaking of messy...

I pulled out my phone and checked my messages again. I had responded to most of them, but there was one that I left ignored. But after all that she did...

"...I guess I shouldn't put it off. Especially in case she decides to drop by my apartment while those two are there."

I firmed my heart and then tapped on her contact information before making a call.

One ring. Two. And then...

"Jihu?"

"Seonhwa. You free to talk in a bit?"

"...I'll close up shop early. And... thank you."

I sighed. "See you soon."

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