It had nothing to do with Jisu. She was not her brother, and there was no reason to hold her accountable for what her brother did. And if Jisu was telling the truth, which she liked to believe was the case, she didn’t even have a clue of what he’d done.
Ryujin told herself this over and over again, but she couldn’t not remember it whenever Jisu popped up in her mind, which was once every couple minutes.
She had to tell Jisu. No matter how hard it could be, she had to know. No matter what would happen next, Ryujin had come so far, she couldn’t afford this to ruin everything she had sacrificed and worked so hard for.
But first, she would put up her strongest mask in front of Yuna, make her breakfast, and take her to school. And when Ryujin was back home, despite her body aching and the fatigue weighing down on her, she couldn’t sleep.
She went back downstairs and put on her favorite movie on the DVD. Watching The perks of being a wallflower always made her cry, but it never failed to make her feel better. So, after cleaning her eyes, she laid down again and grabbed her phone.
Let’s meet up asap.
She texted her before closing her eyes and hoping she could now fall asleep and not have nightmares.
Ryujin tried to distract herself on her phone, but her feet kept drumming the floor as she waited for the bell to ring. She was glad Yuna was still at floorball practice and she could have the house free, because she couldn’t even imagine how that conversation was going to go.
The bell rang at last, and Ryujin bolted from the couch. She opened the door and there she was.
“Hi,” Jisu said, and it didn’t matter what happened, Jisu would always manage to rip a smile from Ryujin’s lips.
“Hey.” Ryujin stepped aside, letting Jisu step inside.
They sat, and Ryujin couldn’t lift her head.
“Is Yuna around?”
But the question made her meet Jisu’s eyes.
“Then, can I...?” Jisu approached, her eyes already fixed on Ryujin’s lips.
Even if for a second, Ryujin would allow her mind to empty from everything that had been bothering her and savor the moment. Savor Jisu’s lips on hers, and the gentle touch on her neck.
Ryujin pulled away but kept her eyes closed, and rested her forehead on Jisu’s, her thumb drawing circles on her cheek.
“What happened?” Jisu asked.
“I asked my boss what happened to your brother.”
The warmth against her forehead and neck disappeared, a cold chill running down instead at the way Jisu looked at her when she opened her eyes.
“Did he tell you?”
“I wasn’t expecting him to, but he did.”
Jisu said nothing, but her eyes screamed anticipation. There was really no easy way to say what Ryujin had to say, and it didn’t matter how many times she could have prepared. It was still going to be hard.
“He was involved in street races, and...” Ryujin took one, two, three deep breaths.
“And? Please Ryujin, just spit it out.” Jisu grabbed her hands, squeezing them hard.
The strength around Ryujin’s hands disappeared.
“What do you mean?”
“He sabotaged his opponent’s car.”
Ryujin forced her head to rise, to look at Jisu. Her face was blank, not an emotion transparent.
“He wouldn’t,” she said, her lips barely moving.
“It’s what my boss told me.”
“That’s impossible. Junsu, he... He would never do that.”
"What if he did?”
Jisu’s eyebrows twitched. “What are you trying to say?”
“Maybe it wasn’t his intention, but what if-”
“He wouldn’t do that!” Jisu’s voice rose.
Ryujin’s heart clenched at the pain in Jisu’s voice and eyes, but she couldn’t stop her hands from balling, and the rage bubbling inside her.
“We can never know.”
“That’s right. But I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that he didn’t.”
“But if, if, he did... someone died, Jisu. On the streets. Because of ing street races.”
Ryujin fought her hardest against the memories, the images she had never seen but her mind made sure to show her.
“I remember what you told me,” Jisu said, her voice as soothing as ever. “About your mother.”
It was not the time for that. That wasn’t about Ryujin, or what happened to her mother, or her past. But she couldn’t just forget it.
“And I’m sorry, Ryujin. But not all people are the same.”
“I know. I am sorry. I want to believe that as much as you do.”
Jisu fetched her phone from her bag and typed fast.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m telling him I know what happened.”
“W-Wait! You’re not supposed to know about this.”
“I don’t care. Maybe he’ll answer me if he knows that I know about it. Also, I need to hear it from him. His version of whatever happened.”
Ryujin didn’t answer. Jisu had all the right in the world to hear it from him, if he eventually answered her. Jisu tossed her phone aside and turned to Ryujin again.
“What now?” Ryujin asked.
“Now we wait.”
A sigh escaped Ryujin’s lips, her body sinking into the couch. Byullie jumped to her side and meowed at her, rubbing his head on her arm.
“What is it, cutie? No food?” Ryujin scratched the fur behind his ears. “Wait just a second, alright?”
Jisu nodded. The second Ryujin stood up, Byullie jumped down the couch and ran to the kitchen. Ryujin giggled at his impatience, and rolled her eyes when she noticed that only the center of the bowl didn’t have food.
“You silly cat,” Ryujin mumbled with a small smile as she rearranged the food in the bowl and watched as Byullie now ate the food, even though it was already there. “But I love you.” Ryujin gave a long on his fur, from his head to the tip of his tail.
When Ryujin came back to the living room, her pace slowed when she noticed Dallie in Jisu’s lap. Jisu was so immersed in playing with him, she didn’t notice Ryujin approaching. Ryujin fetched her phone from her pocket and snapped a good picture, not noticing the big smile on her lips. A couple more pictures later, and Jisu finally noticed her presence.
“Dallie normally doesn’t approach people, you know.” Ryujin plopped next to her, joining Jisu in petting him.
“Well, he literally jumped to my lap. I didn’t even call him.”
“He trusts you.”
Jisu irked an eyebrow. “What did I do for him to trust me?”
“Cats are smart. He knows you’re trustworthy.”
“Oh, thank you, the both of you. Now, Ryujin, show me the pics.”
Ryujin gulped. “Hm?”
“I know you took pics, show me.”
Ryujin pouted at her.
“You’re cute, but that won’t work.” Jisu pinched her cheek.
Giving up, Ryujin handed Jisu her phone. Jisu smiled, swiping to see the other ones.
“They’re great. Send them to me.” Jisu handed Ryujin’s phone back.
“Doesn’t matter, you take amazing pictures, no matter if they’re just me with your cat.”
Warm crawled behind Ryujin’s ears, as she sent Jisu the pics. “Thank you.”
Jisu grabbed her phone and smiled, and Ryujin peeked to see she was still staring at the pics she just took. Did Jisu like them that much?
But then Jisu’s smile faded.
“What is it?” Ryujin asked.
Ryujin let out a small gasp, letting Jisu read the message. Jisu’s eyes started shining, and soon, she let her head fall to Ryujin’s chest, and when a sob interrupted the silence, Ryujin hugged and squeezed her body against hers.
“Don’t hold anything back,” Ryujin soothed against her hair, close to her ear.
Jisu nodded, clinging onto Ryujin’s sweater. More sobs echoed in the silence, as Ryujin caressed her hair. Jisu had always been strong, and never broke down despite everything going on around her. So, this time, she was the one that was going to be there for Jisu, and not the opposite, like it always had been so far.
Ryujin let Jisu take her time. She pulled away and cleaned her eyes, sniffing.
“So?” Ryujin urged.
Jisu grabbed her phone again, cleared , and read. “I didn’t do it, I swear, please believe me, sis. I admit I was involved in the race, but I didn’t do anything they’re blaming me of. I’m sorry for not answering before, I’m sorry you got into this and got hurt because of me, I’m sorry for being a disappointment. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“But if he answered you, it means he’s safe, right?”
“I don’t know.”
Ryujin sighed, and more tears rolled down Jisu’s eyes. Ryujin cupped her cheeks and wiped the tears with her thumbs.
“What do we do, Ryujin?” Jisu let out an ugly sob, that felt more like a punch to Ryujin’s chest, stronger than any physical punch one could land on her. “It’s like up until now, nothing felt like it was really happening. I’ve always been one to keep my cool no matter what, but I just can’t do it anymore.”
“It’s okay to feel things. Don’t feel like you have to hide what’s going on inside your head and keep your cool all the time. Your brother’s missing and scared, of course you have the right to be worried.” Ryujin smiled lightly as she rubbed Jisu’s temples. “Let’s think. If he didn’t do it, someone was trying to set him up. The ones after him are not the police, the case was closed as an accident. The dead guy’s family are the ones that are after him, seeking revenge. That’s why they went to my boss. So, he’s not in trouble with the police, but has people after him. Tell him this, and ask him where he is, and what he thinks could have happened, or who tried to set him up.”
Jisu nodded and proceeded to type on her phone again, turning it to Ryujin when she was done.
“What if he doesn’t answer again?” Jisu said after pressing the send button.
“He already did, and he will. He knows you’re trying to help him.”
“Even if he does... What now? What are we supposed to do now?”
Ryujin stared at her, at Jisu’s shining eyes. “I don’t know.”
“This was all a bad idea. I’m sorry Ryujin, I should have never made you do all this.”
“Jisu,” Ryujin called as soft as she could, holding her face just as softly. “You didn’t make me do anything. I agreed with you, because what we are doing is the right thing. I can’t really tell you what’s gonna happen now, but I know everything will be fine.”
Jisu showed a small smile. “It feels weird hearing that coming from you.”
“Yah.” Ryujin pinched her cheek, making Jisu giggle. “I know I’m not the most positive person, but I’m trying. It pains me to see you like this.”
In the following silence, Jisu rested her hand on Ryujin’s neck, scratching on the roots of her hair behind her ear. She approached and kissed Ryujin’s lips, a cute, quick peck. Then another one, and another, making Ryujin a giggling mess. Jisu buried her face in Ryujin’s neck, and she could feel her warm breath on her skin.
“Thank you, Ryujinie. For being in this with me.”
Ryujin’s heart thumped harder on her chest with the nickname.
“I-I should be the one thanking you. You’re the one that decided to help me, to get me out of this, without even knowing me.”
“And I’m so glad I got to know you. Despite how I did, and... everything.”
“We don’t have to associate all of this to us, and our feelings. It’s not fair for us.”
“I agree. I always thought if it was so wrong to think about you like this. Like, if we had met under different circumstances, it would be normal and feel right. Then, why couldn’t it still feel right?”
“I felt the exact same.”
Jisu pulled away, just enough for them to look at each other, and for Jisu to kiss her again.
“I’m sorry every time we’re together it’s so talk about it and be worried and wonder how all of this will turn out.”
“Let’s keep our hopes up that everything will be fine and all of this is will be over soon, and then we can officially put everything behind out backs and live our lives as we want.”
Ryujin nodded and was about to hug her tighter when Jisu’s phone rang. Jisu mouthed an apology and grabbed her phone. Ryujin waited for her to read it, not needing to ask if it was Junsu.
“I know who’s after me,” Jisu read, “that’s why I can’t go back to Korea, or else they’ll find me as soon as a put a foot there. I’m hanging on, I just don’t know what to do. I can’t be running away all my life when I know I’m innocent. But I can’t let you stay there and get used as a pawn to get to me. I would lose it if you ended up getting even more involved. I don’t know what to do with myself and I have no idea how I can protect you. Is there any excuse you can make up to go back to mom and dad without letting them know what’s going on?”
They stared at each other in silence, waiting for the other to say something.
“Maybe it’s best if he doesn’t come back until we are done,” Ryujin broke the silence at last.
“My parents can get him a good lawyer, and maybe if he comes back and we take this to the police and explain everything, they can help us.”
“But if he does, he will be punished for the street races.”
Jisu sighed, looking at her phone once again. “But even if we take the shady business down, the ones after him will keep looking for him. They will not stop until they get revenge.”
Ryujin didn’t know what to answer to that. Jisu took her hands to her face with another long sigh.
“I think he’s right,” Ryujin said. “That you should go back to your parents. To Canada.”
“What? No, I will not do that.”
“You’ll be safe there. I also can’t let you get hurt. I don’t know what I would do with myself if something happened to you, so it would be better if you go and I will take care of--”
“What if something happens to you?” Jisu interrupted her. “How would I feel if something happened to you? I got you in this mess, I would never abandon you here.”
“Think about your brother as well. If something happens and I can’t protect you, he can’t as well. Imagine how he will feel.”
“I’m making this decision, Ryujin. And I’m staying. We started this together, we’re ending this together.”
There wasn’t anything else Ryujin could add to support her opinion.
“Let’s think, then. Of how to end this,” Ryujin said.
“Thank you for trusting in me once more.” She kissed her cheek. “Do you have any ideas?”
Ryujin leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. All the shady stuff happened exactly where she worked, so, what could they do? Ryujin’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration, trying to come up with a plan, an idea, something.
Then, she straightened herself and looked at Jisu. “I think we’re complicating everything.”
Jisu irked an eyebrow at her. “How so?”
“All we need is for the police to catch them in action. If I call the police to the club on a night I know someone will be there to get beaten, they’ll easily have proof to arrest my boss.”
“But... the police will find out about you.”
“I know. That’s why my boss is not expecting it. He thinks he has me in his hand because he’s blackmailing me with reporting my living situation to the police. He’d never expect me to go to them.”
“Ryujin...” Jisu grabbed her hands, and her eyes grew red again. “You can be arrested because you’re working illegally.”
“I don’t care. I got myself in this situation, there’s no way we can bring it down without the police finding out about me.”
More tears ran down Jisu’s eyes as she pulled Ryujin into a hug.
“I’m gonna get you a good lawyer, everything will be fine, okay?” Jisu sobbed.
Ryujin cracked a smile, caressing her hair. “Even if you didn’t, everything would still be fine. And you promised you would provide for Yuna until she’s an adult. Will you still do it if anything happens to me?”
“Of course. For her and for you.”
Ryujin cupped her cheeks and kissed her lips. “Thank you, Jisu. I’ll try and find out when I will have a job, and we’ll act then. Tell your brother to stay where he is. If everything goes well, this might end sooner than we expected.”
Being at the bar brought now even more anxiety than it ever had. Now that they had a plan, Ryujin knew she needed to act. But how? Ask her boss directly? She didn’t want to give him any reasons to suspect what they wanted to do. Maybe if she got an excuse to ask?
Ryujin pretended she didn’t see the man at the counter, staring at his empty glass, probably waiting for a refill, and checked her phone. Jisu hadn’t answered her in a while. Maybe she was studying? It was not like they were talking about something important, but chatting with her about whatever helped Ryujin keep her mood up.
She turned, her body stiffening at the sight of boss Park. “Yes?”
“Come with me.”
, a job?! She stuffed her phone into her pocket, wishing Jisu had been answering her. But calling the police now would be no use. They wouldn’t arrive in time.
She followed him to his office and sat, waiting for him to do the same.
“I have a surprise for you tonight,” he said with his unsettling smile.
“It’s waiting for you in our special room.”
Ryujin frowned, anxiety prickling under her skin. She didn’t answer, and waited for him to hand her the mask and hoodie he always did, so she could go downstairs. But instead, he stood up.
“I’ll accompany you tonight.”
He stood by the opened door. Ryujin stood up without a word.
“Go ahead, I’ll be right behind you.”
Ryujin glanced at him, but obeyed, and lead the way downstairs, stopping in front of the door.
“Where’s my mask?” she asked.
“Oh, you won’t need it this time.”
“Excuse me, sir, but you said my identity would always be safe.”
Boss Park stared at her and let out a dry chuckle. “Don’t look so tense. This is not a job. You won’t be beating anyone tonight. So, go ahead.” He motioned to the door.
She eyed him first. He kept his smile on, and nodded at her. Ryujin took her shaking hand to the doorknob and hesitated. She couldn’t put a finger on what was going on, and what was waiting for her behind the door. So instead of letting her body be controlled by fear, she twisted the doorknob.
The second the door opened, two pairs of menacing hands grabbed on each of Ryujin’s arms, but if felt like she couldn’t even be bothered by it, when she took in the sight in front of her.
The sight of Yuna and Jisu tied to their chairs, with a cloth on their mouths, and big, widened eyes at her.