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Near the end of the National Diplomatic Training, Song Ryu Hwan, head of the army, was honorably discharged from the military. He saluted to his parents in uniform. Ryu Hwan seemed to be no different from two years ago, except the short trimmed hair and a handsome face that had matured over the months to come. The only change over the past two years was his father being elected president and Jae Hee, his sister, now a celebrity.
“Father, mother. I’m home.”
When he finished the salute, the first lady waved her hand gently and embraced Ryu Hwan in her arms, caressing his back. Tears came coursing down her cheek seeing her son that she had not seen for an extended period of time.
“How are you? Did you have any troubles?”
“Haha, no mother. It’s hard work, but I’ve been well.”
“Ryu Hwan, shall we go out tonight and have a drink? We have much to talk about.”
President Jeong Wook’s lips curved upward before dissolving into laughter, his body leaning against the desk at an angle. Bright, firm eyes and confident bearing, Jeong Wook was proud when he saw his son.
“But where did Jae Hee go?”
Ryu Hwan’s countenance turned gloomy, feeling a sense of emptiness as he searched for his sister’s presence. Ryu Hwan had much to ask her; during his time in the army, he read an article of Jae Hee meeting a guy named Seo Hanul. Later they separated and got back together after Jeong Wook became president.
Jeong Wook looked at Ryu Hwan, his eyes squinted, lips shabby and unclear.
“I’m not too sure where she is.”
Jeong Wook held a position of power to find out where his daughter was, but was unable to use the people under him to find Jae Hee’s location. It was because Jeong Wook felt an unspoken pressure from Jae Hee to leave them alone.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know. Seo Hanul secretly flew abroad with Jae Hee.”
“Hanul went out with Jae Hee? Father, where are they?” Ryu Hwan’s forehead grew dark.
(TN: The author’s style of writing often changes into first and third pov. but I will continue to keep it in third person so it won’t lead to confusion.)
“I-I’m not sure either.”
Jeong Wook was tongue tied and looked over at his wife’s eyes. Hanul’s behavior was much like him in his youth, a young man alone with a beautiful woman. Those precious and innocent memories shattered to pieces when Hanul eloped with his beloved daughter, an action he was far too familiar with. That damn bastard acting like me!
Ryu Hwan checked his watch and turned to leave the building.
“Where are you going?”
“To find Jae Hee, father.”
“Ryu Hwan!” Min Kyung called out to Jeong Wook, her lips frowning.
Ryu Hwan smiled softly seeing his mother’s visage darken; her lips curved downwards, eyebrows furrowed, and nose scrunched.
“Relax, mother. I won’t be gone for too long. I’ll see you soon.”
His parents were unaware that Jae Hee had already met Seo Hanul in Seoul three years ago, rather than recently. After that, Jae Hee continued to chase after him but was ignored. During his father’s election did Seo Hanul began to meet Jae Hee again. This made Ryu Hwan feel uneasy. He needed to look for Hanul and find out his true intentions. In addition, Jae Hee knew her brother was being discharged and yet continued to follow Seo Hanul. This made him upset. The bottom line is, he needed to find the two immediately.
“Why must you irritate Ryu Hwan? You’re doing it on purpose, are you not?”
Min Kyung, after confirming her son had left gazed at her husband, who had strong familial affection, smiling happily. Jeong Wook was sensitive to Jae Hee’s feelings. He knew that she would have gone back under his own bidding, but he held back.
“Haha, why not? I love to play with my son. Haha! Look at him, not even asking where to go. Hahahah, Jae Hee truly has a very trustworthy and reliable brother.
Two days later. Leonardo Da Vinci Airport.
Ryu Hwan wore a black and white striped tshirt, a forest green trench coat, retro inspired RayBan’s sunglasses, bronze colored ankle boots, and a dark navy jeans which stuck to his long legs smoothly. Walking out of the airport gate, Ryu Hwan stretched his arms wide and breathed deeply. He took out his phone, turned it on and pressed the number on the recent calls list. It was Jae Hee. Ryu Hwan left a message to Jae Hee previously in Incheon Airport and still, no message was received.
“Haha… I do not accept this.”
When the ringing tone transferred to the voice recording system, Ryu Hwan ended the call. It’s possible Hanul interfered with the phone call causing Jae Hee unable to answer. Without her, Ryu Hwan would not be able to know their location.
Hanul had tens of millions of fans worldwide, and some of them were likely to know where he was, so Ryu Hwan searched for Hanul’s official fan site. The name of the fan site was called Hanul Sky. After completing the small procedure of signing up, Ryu Hwan was given the status of a novice. Although he felt uncomfortable upon seeing the message of celebrating being the slave of Hanul, he accepted this incomprehensible status in search of Jae Hee.
Ryu Hwan, at the speed of light, ran through the titles of the posts on the board. His thumb which fell to the bottom of the screen stopped at a certain point, his eyes enlarging as he saw the title on the bulletin board. I just saw Oppa in a Venetian restaurant!!! The contents of the article described Hanul inside an intricate and lavish restaurant having an evening meal with Song Jae Hee.
Within the comments section were various statements of envy and angelic praises of Jae Hee’s death. Ryu Hwan raised his thumbs on the keyboard to comment, defending his sister’s reputation.
After seeing the amount of followers Hanul had which ranged in millions, he turned off the phone not wanting to witness the vicious backlash of Hanul’s slaves.
“Anyways, it’s good that Jae Hee is well.”
Compared to the sense of despair the fans felt seeing Hanul with another woman, Ryu Hwan was relieved even though Jae Hee failed to contact him. Besides Hanul and Jae Hee are within public eyes. He was comforted by this fact.
“It’s too late to head to Venice… I should find a hotel for tonight.”
The sun was about to set and Ryu Hwan was exhausted from flying long distances and sought to find a ride.
Minutes after leaving the airport building an oriental woman appeared in the front lobby. Among the many tourists pouring in the front of the gate, the oriental woman visibly stood out. Her porcelain white skin gave off the feeling of coolness. She wore a long skirt that reached below her knees, pale red cardigan, and a rose colored suitcase. She looked like a tourist but she did not look like everyone else. She walked out of the premise, pulled out her phone to call someone. The oriental woman looked up and saw the taxi sign hanging overhead. She began to walk towards the sign, dragging the suitcase with her.
“Dad? Yes, I just arrived at the airport…”
The woman turned her head and saw a man looking down at her. She opened her eyes wide, looking up at the man and the suitcase she was dragging. It seemed that as she turned her body to change direction, proceeding towards the sign, the wheels passed over the man’s foot. Facing each other face to face, the eyebrows of the man, his face covered with sunglasses, were collected in the middle.
“Sorry…” She leaned towards the him, head bowed slightly and spoke in Japanese. The man’s thick eyebrows rose up in curiosity.
“Are you Japanese?”
When fluent Japanese flowed out from his mouth, the woman shook her head.
She apologized once more and started to walk down the streets opposite of his destination. As Ryu Hwan watched her walk away, he stroked off his sunglasses and gazed at her features. Although unsure, he seemed to have heard her speak Korean in close proximity.
“Her back resembles Jae Hee…”
Ryu Hwan watched her figure disappear until it could no be longer seen. He laughed bitterly and began to walk the opposite side.
Ryu Hwan checked into a hotel. It was plain and lacking in decorum, moreover, the room was small but regardless, it had a bed and bathroom for his basic necessities.
Ryu Hwan took a cold shower, cleaning of the dirt collected throughout the day. Thereafter, he laid on the bed and found himself unable to sleep as his body had yet to adjust to the timezone.
He turned on his phone and entered Hanul’s fan site. Articles after articles of Jae Hee and Hanul poured out endlessly. Photos of the recent articles showed two figures departing from the airport. Jae Hee was wearing rimless sunglasses and one would find great difficulty attempting to figure out the expression she wore. She held her hands close as if afraid to lose it.
“This guy Hanul, I don’t like him.”
Looking at the photos of Jae Hee, he thought of the porcelain skinned woman he saw at the airport. Her back resembled Jae Hee. He burst into laughter recalling the woman who wanted nothing more than to flee from his sights.
Although short, her voice held a pure tone. Ryu Hwan dropped his phone to the side and closed his eyes, his mind vaguely recalling the woman from the airport and slept peacefully for the first time after being discharged from the military.
The next morning he arrived at the train station and rode the train for four straight hours before arriving in Venice, the small city water. Thinking he would be able to find Jae Hee by visiting famous landmarks and famous places, his countenance became a lot better. Ryu Hwan walked the streets of Venice at a snail’s pace, unlike a hunter who came to catch his prey.
In a city surrounded by gorges of water, the landscape looked like a pretty postcard. Ryu Hwan looked like a lost puppy with an interesting facial expression. The streets were filled with people donned in medieval clothing and masks on their faces. It was one of Venice’s biggest festivals held for a week each year.
Ryu Hwan walked in front of the shop in the alley and saw diverse sets of masks with vivid colorful decorations on display. He entered the shop with an appealing idea emerging from his mind. He would disguise himself so Jae Hee would be unable to recognize him.
Moments later, Ryu Hwan walked out with a golden mask covering half of his face. Now his mission to look for Jae Hee began.
“To San Marco Square.”
He stepped forward vigorously, crying out loud. San Marco Square, a landmark most visited by tourists when visiting Venice was his first destination. Ryu Hwan who was on a water bus heading to San Marco Square, slipped his head out, enjoying the cool breeze and admiring the old fashioned landscapes.
Venice, the city of water resulted in Ryu Hwan’s heartbeat rising exponentially. For the first time, he felt a pang of regret not being able to share his experiences with.
“That’s the bridge Casanova and Galileo crossed.”
After a while, Ryu Hwan arrived at San Marco Square, stepped off the water boat and looked back at The Bridge of Sighs. Prisoners who crossed The Bridge of Sighs to be imprisoned would have been craving of freedom through the small windows.
Looking back at The Bridge of Sighs, Ryu Hwan remembered the old saying “the bridge is not coming back” in the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Korea. Perhaps it would have been similar to not being able to come back once crossing it. The word Korean War, armistice, and division of labor were words the younger generation lack the ability to comprehend and sympathize with.
Little gondolas were passing under the bridge. Ryu Hwan looked at the gondolas flowing between his eyes. Suddenly, his eyes, gazing into the sights, peered back at the gondolas. His eyes shone brightly.
“Hahaha! I found you! Did you think I would not be able to find you by refusing to answer the phone? Huh?”
Ryu Hwan wrapped his arm around the woman’s neck tightly. He smiled happily and whispered in a low voice as if threatening her. Caught in the joy of finding her, he did not notice the absence of Hanul whom she was always near with. She, who was caught in his arms attempted to pull herself out of his bosom.
“Funny, what are you doing?”
She continued to untie herself from him. Ryu Hwan’s mood grew sour seeing his sister continuing to rebel so adamantly. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain on the side of his ribs.
Ryu Hwan grimaced in pain.
The woman, out of Ryu Hwan’s bosom, quickly turned around and glared at him with a blazing eye. Although he was unable to see her face due to the mask covering her features; but one thing was for certain, this woman was not Jae Hee.
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