75 – Within Bright Light, Dark Shadows
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Flone brushed her hands on her dress and walked back inside Jihu's apartment.

Jinhee looked up from her place on the sofa and frowned. "You took a while, Unni. Did you get lost on your way to the trash container?"

Flone shut the door behind her and smiled. "Sorry to worry you, Jinhee. I saw a few bugs along the way, so I panicked a bit and made a mess."

She didn't know for sure if those men were bad people, but considering the malicious intent and lecherous gazes they were giving her when she passed and the fact that they were mumbling about Jinhee, it was better safe than sorry.

Besides, it wasn't like anybody would find those guys when she buried them alive a dozen kilometers below ground, right?

Ah, but Jihu said to not go overboard... Well, he should be fine if they were dangerous.

"Bugs?" Jinhee wrinkled her nose and said, "Some high class apartment this place is... Oppa should just look into getting a house. With the money he's making now, he should have enough for it, right?"

Flone frowned. "Maybe?"

That was a good idea. A bit of privacy would be good... A tiny room like this didn't have much. Especially if she wanted to play a bit rough with Jihu when he finally decided to stop holding himself back.

Flone hummed and said, "I'll bring it up with him later."

"Mm..." Jinhee sat up and then pulled out her phone. "Where *is* Oppa anyway? It's already 11 PM..." She looked up at Flone and said, "You don't think he's out with another girl, do you?"

Flone giggled and then hopped on the sofa next to Jinhee. "You worry too much, Jinhee. Jihu isn't that type of person."

"You say that, but you haven't seen how Oppa is around girls, Unni... Or how much of a pervert he is."

Flone blinked. "Pervert?" She frowned and tilted her head, thinking about that.

Jihu... he definitely was shameless in how he acted around women. He also gave lavish gifts, threw out flirty compliments like they were going out of style, and teased all the women in his life on a daily basis... but she didn't remember him ever acting like a pervert.

"Oh yeah." Jinhee nodded and said, "I don't know how he is around you, but with his past girlfriend he would always be copping a feel or stealing a kiss when he thought no one was looking."

"R-Really?!"

"Mmhm." Jinhee frowned and said, "It was awkward too. His ex is someone who's close to our family, so when they got together and started doing it..." She sighed. "And his ex was really bad at staying quiet."

Flone paused and then she narrowed her eyes. "So you're telling me that Jihu's already gone that far with a woman?"

Jinhee blinked and tilted her head. "He hasn't with you?"

"No!" Flone huffed and crossed her arms. "I've tried a lot too! But he's been nothing but a gentleman with me! Too much of a gentleman!"

Jinhee blinked again and then laughed.

Flone narrowed her eyes. "What's so funny?!"

"Nothing. Just..." Jinhee smiled and said, "If that's true, maybe he's serious about you."

"H-Huh?"

Jinhee stretched and then said, "Oppa used to be pretty impulsive, but now he's pretty rational. If he's been with you for a while and you haven't done that... Even though you're clearly okay with it. Right?"

"Of course!"

"Then he's probably waiting for the right time." Jinhee shrugged and said, "Oppa knows what it's like to rush into a relationship, so I think he's probably taking things slow." She paused. "That, or he's trying out different women at once and waiting to see who he wants to commit to... No." Jinhee shook her head. "I tease him about it, but Oppa's too nice to do that..."

Flone frowned and muttered, "Definitely too nice."

The number of women that were interested in Jihu were starting to number two hands now. Not only that, but while all of them were hesitant to take the next step, all it would take would be for Jihu to just suggest it, and they would.

That Miss Claire was already willing to be his mistress. Chocho was head over heels for Jihu even if she wouldn't admit it. Resa said that she would drop everything for Jihu the moment he asked. That loud and greedy Maria had shut her mouth and ran after Jihu because she was worried about him and was even starting to earn an honest living. Then there was that overly flirty Sora, the clingy Yuhui, and that new girl wielding that jade spear. Not to mention the two that Jinhee had mentioned... and others that Flone might be forgetting about at the moment.

It was obvious. Even though some of them might not realize how they felt, if Jihu asked, they would get together with him. And while he played dumb pretty well, Flone knew that he was aware of how all the girls felt about him.

After all, she was the one who understood him the best.

Flone fiddled with the ring on her left hand and hummed. "Maybe I should help Jihu out...?"

At the rate things were going, it would only end in heartbreak. Since Flone moved first, Jihu would feel guilty about the other girls and break it off with all of them rather than have Flone feel guilty. Or if not that, he would be half-hearted about it at best.

But Flone didn't mind. Jihu was too much for her to handle by herself anyway... And she knew that he secretly wanted to be with all of them. Not only that, but he always lit up when around each of those girls. And Flone knew that if he couldn't meet one of them anymore, Jihu would be sad.

So it was best to start picking some allies and sorting things out to prevent that. Claire and Resa would be willing to share... and Chocho would go along with whatever Jihu said even if she pretended to resist the entire time. Yuhui was iffy, but she seemed like she just wanted Jihu to be happy, so it might be okay. The other girls though...

"Hm?" Jinhee glanced at Flone and said, "Something wrong, Unni? You suddenly got quiet."

Flone smiled and said, "No. Just thinking about how your big brother is too selfless."

And how he needed some help sorting out his women because of it.

Jinhee sighed. "Tell me about it. Oppa needs to take care of himself more."

Flone nodded. "Mmhm! But enough about Jihu. You said you wanted me to read your book, right?"

"Oh yeah! It's still just a work in progress, but the story I'm thinking of is about this guy who's the last reader of a web novel. Like, a lot of others read it, but he was the only one who read to the very end. And then, boom! The web novel comes to life, and only he can see how the story ends. But it turns out-"

xxx

Lights flashed past, the nighttime cityscape of Seoul reflected across the glass buildings.

I looked away from the car window and towards the two people sitting in the front. After that, I spoke in English and said, "So what brings you two down to Seoul? And so late at night too?"

Hao cracked open a beer and held it out to me. "Want one, Bro?"

"I'm good." I held out my hand and made a can for myself. "See?"

"Tch." Hao pulled it back and took a sip. "You really are a crazy bastard. And we're here because of you, obviously."

I frowned. "Did the situation get that bad?"

Claire glanced at me through the rearview mirror and said, "It has yet to reach that point. But it would seem that some fools are in a rush."

Hao laughed. "Fools... Sounds about right. But forget about them for now." He turned around to look at me and said, "You're really good at English, Bro. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were an American."

Claire slowed the car down as we reached an intersection and then glanced back at me. "Yes. As Mister Hao Win says, you have impeccable English, Jihu. Have you studied overseas?"

"Nah..." I looked to Hao and said in Mandarin, "Languages just come easy to me, Bro." Switching to Cantonese, I added, "And it's always good to know what people are saying behind your back."

Hao's eyes widened.

I glanced at Claire and spoke in Italian. "I didn't, but if it helps me talk to the people I care about on Earth, it's good to learn, right?"

The car swerved.

Hao braced himself and then quickly reached over to correct the steering wheel. "O-Oi! Miss Agnes! I get that Bro is awesome, but you can't be flustered!"

Claire took a deep breath and nodded. "My apologies." After that, she pointedly avoided looking at me, keeping her gaze on the road. Though from how red her face was, it seemed like she didn't get over her embarrassment yet.

Hao turned back around and then spoke in Cantonese. "Ai, my crazy brother. Women are creatures of emotion, but there's a time and place for everything! Especially this one! I don't know what you did to get the bloody hawk as coy as a dove, but we're not as durable as you immortal!"

I nodded and responded back to him in Cantonese. "I know. But I didn't expect that. She's usually more composed."

Hao let out a sigh and responded in kind. "Brother. You transcended the heavens and slayed two great immortals in that other realm, but you did it with everyone thinking you died. Women are emotional creatures! You gave her a ring, and you expect her to be rational after seeing you in that half-dead state for two months?"

I coughed. "Right..."

Claire glanced at Hao and said, "Quite a long conversation you're having there, Mister Hao Win. Anything I should be concerned about?"

Hao turned back and took a sip from his beer can. "Don't worry about it, Miss Agnes. Just catching up with my Bro and scolding him for being an idiot. Right?"

I nodded. "Right. And sorry, Claire. I didn't mean to worry you."

"Mm." Claire nodded. After that, she glanced at Hao before looking at me in the rearview mirror. Then, in Italian, she said, "Then take responsibility."

"P-Pardon?!" I instinctively responded in kind, but... "M-Maybe I'm misunderstanding since I'm unfamiliar with this language, but-"

"I said, take responsibility." Claire repeated it in English.

"Hoh?" Hao grinned and then glanced back at me. "Did something spicy happen between you and Miss Agnes, Bro? Maybe a bit of licky licky, smack smack?"

"Imma smack smack you with my fists if you don't shut up, Hao. And no, nothing like that happened."

"It did." Claire nodded and said, "I can't be married anymore since you saw my bare form, so take responsibility and bring me into your family. I've already prepared my dowry and belongings."

"..."

Hao blinked and then turned to look at me. "...Oi. I was just kidding, Bro, but did you really snag the Evil-Hunting Tarantula?" He paused. "Wait. Miss Agnes only started wearing a ring after she met you, and she always fiddles with it when you come up in our talks... And Cinzia has been really accommodating with our requests for moving our forces out of Haramark..."

I started to sweat. "That's..."

Claire was right. I did see her naked when I was training with Coach. And she was Italian... so she was probably Catholic, right? I didn't know much about that, but I heard it was really restrictive on marriages and stuff like that. Then, if Claire really couldn't be married anymore-

But Flone...

Claire laughed. "My apologies, Jihu. I couldn't resist."

I blinked and then I realized what was going on. I sighed and said, "I guess I deserved that after making you worry."

"Ah. But I am being serious about you taking me in. Don Cinzia has already packed my bags and dowry and said that I can't return until I've become your woman."

"...Good one, Claire."

"I am not joking." Claire frowned and said, "She tossed my bags out the door and cleaned out my office. The keys have been changed as well, and she is refusing to return my calls." She shook her head and then said, "A mistress position is fine with me. To begin with, I am already happy to find someone that accepts me for who I am like you do. And it would appear that our manner of treating enemies is similar as well." She paused and said, "If that is insufficient, I am skilled at housework and preparing meals. While not to your caliber of cooking, it should be adequate. And barring that... I-I am prepared to warm your bed should you desire."

Hao stared at Claire with wide eyes and then turned to look at me. "Bro."

I sighed. "Yeah, Hao?"

"...I'm beginning to think I should never have taught you about women back in the Neutral Zone. At this rate, won't you have all of the world's top beauties in your imperial harem?"

"...So, where are we going?"

Hao laughed. "Fine, fine." He smiled and said, "Let's change the subject for now." He looked at Claire and said, "Are you fine with that, Miss Agnes? Not to interrupt your heartfelt appeal, but-"

"It's fine." Claire nodded. "I am already prepared and equipped to pursue Jihu to the ends of the Earth if necessary."

The moment she said that, the crimson threads around Claire turned into thick steel chains, wrapping around my neck.

...Okay. So maybe I shouldn't make fun of Seol so much when I see him next time...

"Good." Hao nodded and then turned to me. "Now, you asked where we were going, right, Bro? Well, the original plan was to ask you to take over Haramark as its new king, but since you've impressed Don Cinzia enough to send her precious daughter off to woo you... And since I don't want to bother my bro's future mother-in-law..."

Claire stopped the car in front of a shady building. The sort that Seol used to run into all the time to get loans.

Hao smirked and said, "How about this? Feel like becoming Korea's Shadow Emperor?"

I was quiet, simply staring at the building in front of me- No, at the status screen that popped up.

[Chong-ro Faction HQ]
Owned by Sinyoung (executive board).
Specializes in human and drug trafficking.
Plotting to import Paradisian goods and women to Korea.

I narrowed my eyes and got out of the car.

Hao laughed. "That's more like it."

"Don't misunderstand." I swept my hand out and cut space off. "I just want to live a normal life here on Earth. But if people are going about harming others for their own benefit... Well, karma might let them off, but I won't. Now, come on. I've been planning to test out one of my innate abilities... Guess it's not a bad idea to try it out making an organization."

I had been wondering what Karmic Binding did. How very lucky of me to find the perfect targets to test it on...

And thus the accumulated chapters end. Now you've all joined the realm of catching up with the author... Or in other words, I've got no more chapters up my sleeves, so I'll have to pull some out of the air. Not sure when the next chapter will be, but we'll see. I'm thinking it might be every other depending on how much I get written each day. I'd love for it to be a daily thing, but... effort. >.>

Anyway, thanks for reading everything up to here! I'll see you when I see you!

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