“Well, well, well, it looks like I have guests.” said Jaejin, who suddenly threw the door wide open.
Sunghoon who was frightened by Danny’s story, walked slowly. Using Jiwon’s back as his shield, trying to hide his body using Jiwon’s.
“Oh, hello,” Jiwon said while he tried to hide his surprise because of Jaejin’s sudden appearance.
“I’m Eun Jiwon and this…”
“Kang Sunghoon.” said Jaejin with a smile. “No need for introductions since the whole school knows who you two are and that you are looking for me.”
“Oh.” Jiwon scratched his head. He glanced at his back, to the hiding Sunghoon and said
“Then you already know why we are here?”
“I know a little but I still have questions to ask later if we agree.”
“Agree on what?” Jiwon asked, trying to ignore the fact that Sunghoon is now gripping his arm tightly, trembling with fear when he heard ‘agree’.
“I will agree to join the project boyband, if you both grant my wish.” He said looking straight at Sunghoon who was hiding behind Jiwon, “Don’t be afraid Kang Sunghoon, I just want to ask you both to be my painting subjects.”
“Your painting subject? Oh…okay. I agree.”
“Hyuuungg ~” Sunghoon whined from Jiwon’s back, “I’m scared.”
Jiwon turned to face Sunghoon and asked, “Why?”
“Hyung forgot that Jaejin hyung paints without any clothes?” Sunghoon whispered as he was worried Jaejin would hear his whisper.
“Oh shit, I forgot.” said Jiwon, who turned back to face Jaejin, “Do you always paint topless?”
“Topless allows me to be freer to paint without having to worry that I’ll mess up my clothes with paint.” Jaejin said clearly, who later realizes Sunghoon is afraid of the fact that he’s always topless when painting, “but if Sunghoon minds, I’ll try another method.”
Sunghoon grabbed Jiwon’s arm and whispered, “Is that method as strange as the topless painting method?”
“Well, Sunghoon-ah, there’s nothing to be afraid of! You already know why he paints topless.”
“Hyuuuunngg, you promised to protect me if he did a strange thing right?” Sunghoon’s whined.
Seeing Sunghoon sulking, Jiwon had no choice but to turn towards Jaejin and ask, “Can you explain what that other method is like?”
“Oh that. All I need to do is take a picture of you two and I’ll paint from the picture I’ve taken.”
Jiwon stared at Sunghoon who finally stopped gripped his arm and said, “There’s nothing else you need to worry about okay?”
“Hyung, you’re too quick to come to a conclusion.” Sunghoon whispered, “We do not know what Jaejin hyung’s attitude is during the project, so please, Hyung must protect me until the project ends.”
“Keeping an eye out for a troublesome boy like you is the responsibility of a leader, stupid!”
Jiwon said while messing up Sunghoon’s hair.
Jiwon may have fallen asleep for a moment or he must have hallucinated because he thinks he saw the photo Jaejin took fifteen years ago. Jiwon is not so sure…Jiwon rubbed his eyes and tried to sort out his mind. His hands grabbed the report Jiyong had sent him earlier that day. ‘Too coincidental,’ he thought. Suwon and Jaejin have been talking to him about the rumors that Sunghoon has been in Japan for the past month. And the results of the survey is obliging him to go to Japan is making him hesitate if he could still trust all the nonsense that Sunghoon said before he disappeared.
Jiwon sighed, and pressed the dial button on his cell phone.
“Jiwon hyung? Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Uhm, Jiyong-ah.” Jiwon said hesitantly, “I want to ask about the survey results.”
“What’s with the survey results?”
“I mean, are the results accurate?”
“Oh.” said Jiyong and finally understood, “Hyung must be accusing me of scheming with Suwon and Jaejin hyung so we can immediately make you go to Japan, right?”
“You must be surprised why the survey results did not include Kyoto at all, right?”
“I mean, Saitama has never been popular as a tourist destination, it’s obviously less popular than Nagano.”
“Indeed, but as the closest city to reach from Tokyo, Saitama has an important role, hyung.
Saitama offers a mountainous and serene scene that we cannot get in Tokyo.” Jiyong said patiently. “Also, Saitama became more popular since Jung Joonyoung recommended Saitama as a vacation spot on Battle Trip a few weeks ago.”
Jiwon paused for a moment and said, “Okay, I understand, that means my suspicions are completely unfounded.”
“You can see the raw data if you want,” Jiyong pretended to be offended, “I am being professional, despite the rumors that Sunghoon is in Japan and being tempted to death to manipulate the survey results.”
Jiwon chuckled and made Jiyong felt a little relieved, “I know you will not be that conniving, Jiyong-ah”
“Indeed.” Jiyong said, “That can destroy my reputation as the number one survey agency in Korea.”
“Hyung, I can drink with you whenever you want.”
“Thank you, but I think I’ll be busy in the next few days or months.”
“I understand hyung, but hyung can we talk again later?” I have dinner with my boss.”
“Oh, okay, take care.”
Jiyong presses the red button on his cell phone screen, and put the phone back on the table.
“He guessed you were manipulating the survey results?”
“Wow,” Jaeduk said admiringly, staring at Jaejin who chewed his chicken with a flat expression, “You can guess the contents of the conversation?”
“Ck,” sneered Suwon, who chuckled at his chicken, “Working with Jiwon hyung requires you to speak to the facts.”
“Is that why you guys have been pushing me to work on the survey since last month so Jiwon hyung is pushed to go to Japan?”
“Yep.” Said Jaejin who drank his beer, “We’ll never know how long Sunghoon stays in Japan before he disappears again.”
“Never mind, we just need to pray that Jiwon goes to Saitama as soon as possible.” Jaeduk said lightly
“Yeah.” Said Suwon who just took a sip of beer, “That is, if Jiwon hyung does not dream tonight.”
YG Academy, 1997
“I heard you made a requirement for Jiwon and Sunghoon, right?”
“Yes songsaenim.” Jaejin said calmly as he handed the photo that he had just printed yesterday afternoon to Mrs. Park.
“What is this?”
“The terms I have for Jiwon and Sunghoon.”
“So, songsaenim,” Sunghoon said quietly, “Jaejin hyung is willing to join the boyband project as long as Jiwon hyung and I agree to be the subject of his painting.”
“Painting? But this…”
“The way he painted it was like that. He took pictures of his subjects and then painted them based on the photographs.” Jiwon said.
“Oh.” Said Mrs. Park, flicking through the photos she held, “I admit you have good sense, Jaejin. Can I use this photo for future projects?”
Jaejin nodded, “I have tons of photos of them if you need more.”
“You can give it to me later.” said Mrs. Park pleased, “And maybe I’ll need your help again later.”
“Oh, I’m glad I can help.”
“So,” Jiwon interrupted, “Has songsaenim decided who will join the project next?”
“Well, I guess Sunghoon will recognize this guy.” said Mrs. Park while handing a photo to Sunghoon.
“Eh? Ko Jiyong?”
“Ko Jiyong? Who is he?” Jiwon asked curiously.
“He’s very famous in our class.” He explained slowly, “as the most unlucky basketball team captain of all time.”
“Yah yah yah! Since when did the student council room turn into YG Academy’s boyband training room?” Danny exclaimed when he saw Jaejin dancing in the middle of the room.
“Since you agreed with my aunt to make me a boyband member.”
“Are you still mad at me, Eun Jiwon?”
“Of course stupid ass! How many days do you think I’ve had without a nap?!”
“Oh, my goodness, that’s nonsense.” Danny lost his words once he realized Jiwon and Sunghoon were watching a video of a basketball game between YG Academy and HIGHGRND Private School.
“Wait.” He said slowly, “The fourth member is…the unlucky captain?”
“Bingo.” Jiwon replied wearily, while Sunghoon was still focused on his video, “What a miracle he has not been removed from the basketball team after this match.”
“Well, I’m not sure you can make him leave.” Danny said, “He’s incredibly stubborn. He’s so stubborn staying as a captain even if he cannot lead his team.”
“He is the person I want to avoid the most,” Sunghoon said suddenly, “and I did not think I would be involved in a project with him.”
Danny turned his face to the television, focusing on the basketball game video that Jiwon and Sunghoon were watching, and said, “I suggest you guys go and see their practice this afternoon. I have a good feeling Jiwon will find something interesting later.”
“Like you are a psychic.” Jiwon grumbled. He got up from his chair and signaled to Sunghoon and Jaejin to follow him. “But at least your suggestion makes sense.”
After waiting for Jaejin to put all his painting tools in his bag, (“because I might get a good painting object” he explained) they finally walked to the school gym that is located on the west side.
“Oh!” Sunghoon said, surprised to realize something, “They’re having a match with Black Label Technical School!”
“So what if they have a match?”
“The gym will be full, hyung, we might not get a seat.”
Jiwon ignored Sunghoon and went straight inside. Snaking through the crowd, he successfully stood as close to the court as possible. Sunghoon and Jaejin stood on either side of him, covering their ears as the audience behind them noisily swore at Jiyong who just lost his ball.
Jiwon stared intently at a confused Ko Jiyong because his ball has just been stolen by an opponent. There is something strange about Jiyong’s movements.
“Do you have a camera?”
Jaejin shook his head firmly but said, “But I have a camcorder”
Jiwon smiled and said, “Give it to me. We’ll trap Ko Jiyong to quit the basketball team to join us.”
“Are you kidding me?”
Suwon who had just entered the room, stopped walking towards his desk and approached Jaejin instead, “What happened?”
Jaejin choose to ignore Suwon and looked at Jiwon who blatantly avoided his gaze and said, “Sapporo?”
“Sapporo?” Suwon blurted out suddenly while snatching the official travel note Jaejin held.
“Well, do you guys think I’m just doing a survey for Saitama? Of course not, there are some things that I…”
“What did you just say?”
“I said you’re a coward.” said Jaejin mercilessly as he placed Jiwon’s official travel note on the table, “I’m disappointed you trust your interpretation of your dream more than the information Suwon and I gave.”
“Jaejin-ah, I have to be professional.”
“Oh, come on.” Jaejin said, “Who used to work at a Hyundai factory and desperately looked for an opportunity to do an outside service in Europe and look for Sunghoon like crazy?”
Jiwon paused for quite a while until finally he said, “I’m waiting for the info from Myeonghoon, his brother works at the Korean embassy and he’ll help me figure out whether Kang Sunghoon really is in Japan or not.”
Jaejin just opened his mouth when Suwon finally burst out in anger, “Then why do you have to wait until the survey results come out? Why did not you start looking for it when my girlfriend saw Sunghoon at Saitama station? You should have been suspicious when Jaejin hyung’s cousin also saw Sunghoon In the same area!”
“I thought so much of Hyung’s love for Sunghoon, but it turns out,” Suwon sucked in his breath, “for you, Sunghoon is just a friend.”
Jiwon was still silent, staring at Suwon with a cold expression, letting Suwon finish the sentence.
“Now I know why Sunghoon is hiding from you, because you’re never worth fighting for.”
Suwon turned around, picked up his bag and stuff from the table and hurriedly went home.
While Jaejin silently waited for Jiwon to react.
Jiwon sighed and said, “I still cannot change my travel schedule, Lee Jaejin, if you stand here just because you want to see me change the schedule, you better go because I will not change it.”
“You know, Suwon’s right, you never really liked Sunghoon the way he likes you.” Jaejin turned, leaving Jiwon who just threw any item he could reach to the corner of the room.
Suwon’s words really made Jiwon angry. He is too scared to believe that Sunghoon is in Saitama. He did not know if Sunghoon is still the same Sunghoon he knew fifteen years ago.
And most importantly, does Sunghoon still like him as he said fifteen years ago?
Saitama, Nishikawa House
The dark-haired man opened his cell phone, slightly reluctant. It’s been three months since he moved to Nishikawa’s house, leaving his strategic apartment in Tokyo. But there is no other choice, since his adoptive mother, Terumi Nishikawa, died three months ago, and required him to temporarily take care of all Terumi’s assets, while he waits the decision of Terumi-san’s closest family to divide her assets later.
The Nishikawa house is located on the outskirts of Saitama, making it a bit quieter, away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo that sometimes makes him wonder whether his hometown also gives the same busy impression. The man wore his glasses and read the email that just got into his cell phone.
To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Homestay Survey Request Hello, Mr. Nishikawa Your application to become one of the homestay service providers in Saitama has been approved. For the next step, we will conduct a survey to see the condition of the house that you proposed as a homestay. Please confirm if you are willing to be surveyed on: Day: Friday - Sunday Date: 6-8 May 2017 Please reply to this email as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention. Regards, Lee Jaejin Clover Travel Agent
“Oh…” he said surprised, “I have to ask for Sayaka’s help to clean up. It’s less than a week.”
The man pressed the dial button on his cell phone, waited for a moment before said in relieved tone, “Sayaka..”
“Why, you want to ask for help, right?”
“My application was approved, they want to see the house this Friday.”
“Oh.” said Sayaka slowly, trying to think the words that the man has said, “Wait, Yuu. You said, Friday?”
“YAH STUPID! FRIDAY IS TWO DAYS LATER!”
“Sayaka, calm down.” Yuu replied, a little panicked, it could be disastrous if Sayaka wouldn’t help him, “I just want you to judge whether Nishikawa’s house is worth it or not.”
“You say that now but at the end you will ask me to help you clean Nishikawa’s house right?”
Yuu laughed. Sayaka has never been wrong in guessing some of his habits. “So will you?”
“Well, since you have almost no friends here, it means I have to help you.”
“Thank you, Sayaka.”
“By the way, have you made up with Kaoru?”
“Ck, I think you’ve made up somehow, considering you’re finally doing Kaoru’s suggestion to make Nishikawa’s house a homestay.”
“I admit, it’s a pretty good suggestion, but I’m reluctant to hear her nonsense about my first love.”
“Yes…yes…yes…” cut Sayaka, “I do not think I want to hear it too, Yuu.”
“Can you come here soon?”
“Only if you buy me sushi.”
“Okay, okay. I need to have a good image Sayaka.”
Jaejin glanced at Suwon, who was pacing back and forth in the room, and said, “What’s with Nishikawa?” Suwon looked at Jiwon’s desk and said, “You told me, that Jiwon hyung is going to survey Nishikawa’s place, right?”
“Uhhh…this is complicated”
“Suwon, just say it straight.”
“Hyung, I think we made a big mistake.” said Suwon as he swallowed, “I think the Nishikawa family has a special relationship with Kang Sunghoon’s family.”