One Hundred Ninety Two
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Seulgi looked at the phone number on the caller ID. It was from out of the country and one that she didn’t know. Being that she worked for an international company, international calls were not unusual, but directly to her personal phone was.

With a frown, she answered the line. “Hello? This is Kang Seulgi.”

A familiar voice said, “Seulgi, dear? I heard that you had an issue this evening. Is everything OK?”

“Good evening, ma’am. Well, good morning, for you, I suppose. Yes, there was a brief moment of excitement, but it was quickly resolved. May I ask how you heard of this? As I understand it, you are still out of the country, so that you hear about it at all is surprising.”

“Don’t be coy, dear. You know you are special to us and we have eyes everywhere.”

Blinking, she looked at her phone again.

The voice continued, “Is Yeji in the car with you?”

“Yes, ma’am. Should I put it on speaker?”

“Yes. Thank you.” The Bluetooth is connected to the car’s speaker system. “Yeji?”

As disciplined and unflappable as Yeji was, she still jumped as if she was poked somewhere sensitive. “Yes, ma’am?”

Seulgi turned around and motioned for her father to be quiet by shushing him with a finger over her lips. She did the same to her mother. Both of them nodded in agreement.

The woman on the phone continued, “Good. We have not found an accomplice, but we’re still looking. Just because we have not found anyone does not mean there is not anyone to find still.” The voice turned to diamond. “You will continue your duty. Do you understand?”

There was a quiver in her voice when replying, this was something that neither Seulgi nor Alfred had ever heard before. “Yes, ma’am, I understand. On duty until directly notified otherwise.”

Seulgi’s mother looked questions at her husband. He silently answered with a ‘Later,’ motion and she stilled.  Even with her narcissism, she understood that the person on the phone was dangerous and not to be trifled with. Even she had enough self-awareness that there were some people that you did not antagonize and this person was one such entity.

“I knew you were a smart child. I believe that you will do your job diligently. You also understand that if you fail, your entire clan suffers. You are also smart enough to understand that ‘entire’ means entire. You hold the fate of your clan in your hands.

The voice continued, “On the opposite side of this, so long as you are successful, we will owe your clan a debt of gratitude. If that time comes, I will present that award personally to your grandfather.”

Yeji audibly gulped at this. She had been in All-Or-Nothing situations before, but not on this scale. She could literally make or break her whole family. People who she does not even know exist could die if she does not perform to her highest ability.

Good thing that she was up to the challenge. It also helped that Seulgi took and held her hand. They looked at each other and nodded.

The iron-voiced woman continued. “Now, Seulgi, I understand that you visited the clinic I recommended. I understand that you had an interesting first session. We can discuss what happened there if you like?”

“No, ma’am. I think I’ll continue with the doctor for the time being, if that is acceptable with you.”

“That’s fine. After all, these extremely expensive sessions are for this sort of situation, after all. She’s the professional, I am just a dabbler.”  

“If you say so, ma’am.” Seulgi nearly laughs at this. This ‘dabbler’ had at least a Masters level, if not a PhD level of understanding in psychology.  

“We all know that you were very close to being murdered by that monster.” The irony of the person on the phone calling someone else a ‘monster’ was incredible. “I can promise that if there is anyone else involved in this in any way, they will be dealt with just as firmly. I will also offer you the first chance at pulling the trigger if you like. Of course, that might depend on who it is. I also understand that you will most likely decline, but the offer will be there.”

“I appreciate the consideration, ma’am.” Surprisingly, she was. It was a very strong indication of trust, with that offer.

“That is all the business done. I have just one last bit of personal conversation for you.”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I have said this before, but you are Family now. You know that we all love you. We will take care of you for the next several generations. You will never be alone again. You will be taken care of, mentally, physically, and even spiritually if you like. You will never be abused by those who are supposed to love you. You will never have the figure of a Mother try to score points off of you. Will never be forced into a marriage because someone is worried about ‘Face’. We will always be in your background, always watching over you, always protecting you like a Family should. Anyone else may find this ‘stalker-like’ or ‘creepy’, but we all know that you are smart enough to understand what this really means.

“You are not of or in our world, but you have been brought into it by circumstances beyond your control. Even though we did not cause this, we cannot apologize enough for the consequences of it.

During the confession of the warm love and admiration of another woman to her daughter shook Seulgi’s mother. The inherent protectiveness, the unwillingness to let her daughter suffer from any misfortune, to shield her from any harm struck her to the core. Why does someone else feel the need to protect her daughter? Protect her from whom? Surely not herself. However, it was still not quite implied that she had harmed her daughter. Preposterous!  

Even in her deep denial, a trail of tears left tracks through the blood on her face. Her eyes reddened in pain that had nothing to do with her smashed nose. This evening, her nose had been hit in the literal sense for something that she did, many years ago. Now, her broken nose has been rubbed even harder into her many failings. Her tears continued unabated. Her nearly silent sobs wracked her slight frame.

The final nail came abruptly and without mercy.

“You will always be my daughter, dear.”

And with one final parting shot, “Copy, Alfred?”

“Loud and clear, ma’am.”