The Road AheadFox Bread
This is…really long. I went a bit overboard. Grab a coffee and snack to go with the read, lol.
“Y-you…you were a drug dealer?!”
For how sweet and lovely Minjeong’s voice normally is, it’s amazing how loud the baker’s panicked voice is, even without Jimin’s heightened gumiho hearing.
Seated at the dining table while Minjeong stands in front of her, Jimin winces from the baker’s shrieking before she tries to calmly explain to her, “Yes. I had no other way to make money. Matthew said that I needed money for a plane ticket and that it was quite expensive to get a guy to forge a passport for me.”
“This is f-forged?” Minjeong shrieks, dropping the little green book as if the illegal pieces of paper actually burned her sweet, innocent hand. Back in grade school, Minjeong was the kind of student who could barely even fathom the idea of skipping class, so the thought of Jimin participating in such criminal activities makes her head feel like it’s about to explode.
“Of course it’s forged. It’s not like I have any type of ID to apply for a passport,” Jimin explains.
“I-I…I still can’t believe you were a drug dealer!” Minjeong continues to gap, reeling from Jimin’s tale.
“I watched a lot of movies at the library and I think the only faster way I could’ve made money was if I worked as a stripper?”
Minjeong squeaks, horrified by the thought.
“Matthew yelled at me a lot when I suggested it.”
“Good!” Minjeong shouts. She has no idea who this man is, but she’s extremely grateful that Jimin had someone fallen into decent (well…decent-ish) hands upon returning to the mortal realm.
“I can’t believe you never taught me about the internet before,” Jimin growls, now lightly shaking Minjeong’s phone in her hand. “I could’ve contacted you months ago,” she grumbles, sulking in the dining room chair before folding her arms over her chest.
Minjeong scoffs. “How was I supposed to know that my gumiho girlfriend didn’t know what the internet was?” she teases. “I couldn’t have known that you were a billion years old and never bothered to look into human technology.”
Jimin pouts before grumbling under her breath. “I thought you humans only made stupid things.”
“Hey, when you were…d-dealing…did you ever… s-smoke any?” Minjeong suddenly asks. “Cause if you did, they can detect it in your body like weeks—I think even months—after, you know?”
“No, of course not,” Jimin honestly says. She’s never liked intoxicated humans to begin with and the idea of dulling her mind like that isn’t one bit desirable. “You don’t need to worry.”
“Of course I’m worried! You were around it a lot, right? W-what if you inhaled a whole bunch by accident?! Oh god, there must be so much in your system!”
“Don’t you think that you’re overreacting?”
“This is serious!” Minjeong snaps, stamping her foot. “It’s a really serious offense here if it’s detected in your body!” she cries out. “Jimin, y-you just came back! I can’t have you go to prison!”
Jimin sighs, finding the blonde’s reaction a little melodramatic. Still, she feels bad about the girl’s severe worries. “Do…your police officers drop by randomly to do drug tests?” she questions.
“W-well, n-no—but still! It’s serious!”
“It’s not like I actually flew into the country.”
“SHH! D-don’t even say it!” Minjeong hushes before going right back to pacing a hole into her floor as she traverses back and forth. “Seriously, I’m going to turn the ovens into self-cleaning mode and dump all your clothes in there to incinerate them. We have to—”
As Minjeong whirls around, she finds Jimin suddenly standing in front of her. The fox halts the girl in her pacing by grabbing Minjeong by her shoulders before kissing her, silencing her rambling.
When they pull apart, Minjeong feels all of her previous panic completely forgotten, dizzy from the warmth of Jimin’s lips. “Wh-what was that for?” she whispers.
A soft smile forms over Jimin’s lips before she gently hugs the baker. “It just…feels really nice to have someone worry about me like this.”
As Jimin sits at the edge of the bed, while rubbing her sleepy eyes, she feels a smile naturally form on her lips as the bed dips, followed by arms that embrace her and a kiss that gets pressed onto her cheek.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Minjeong greets before pulling away.
The fox looks up at the baker who is already dressed for work. “Morning,” she greets back, loving how something so simple like this feels so pacifying.
“So…do you want to come downstairs today?” Minjeong cautiously asks.
On the fox’s first day back, Jimin had been absolutely exhausted from her travels and from jet lag, so she had slept all day while Minjeong worked downstairs with their friends.
On Jimin’s second day back, she had refused to go downstairs. She had told Minjeong that she needed another day to adjust, just one more day to physically and mentally rest, but honestly, she was terrified of the other bakers’ reaction about her return—despite Minjeong’s assurance that everything would be okay.
So on Jimin’s third day home, she sits on the edge of the bed, nervously chewing on her lip as she contemplates Minjeong’s question.
“M-maybe tomorrow would be best. I think I should just stay up here for today,” Jimin suggests.
“You can’t hide here forever,” Minjeong replies with a sympathetic smile on her lips. “It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows that you’re back. It’s going to be hard to hide my girlfriend upstairs,” Minjeong says, thoroughly enjoying the ability to refer to Jimin as such.
The raven-haired woman casts her eyes to the floor. “I’m nervous…” Jimin mutters.
Surprised by the vulnerability of the fox’s words, Minjeong kneels on the ground and folds her arms onto Jimin’s lap, forcing her head into the fox’s line of sight. “What’s a nine-hundred-year-old gumiho have to be scared of?” Minjeong teases.
“That’s not funny,” Jimin huffs. “What if…they don’t want me back?”
Taken aback by the gumiho’s sensitivity, Minjeong softly sighs. “Oh, Jimin…everyone’s worried about you, you know? I’m sure they’ll be happy to have you back.”
Still, worry continues to crease the fox’s brows and lips. “It was already a miracle that you accepted me for who I am. I doubt very much normal humans would react the same way,” Jimin says.
“Normal? What are you saying about me, huh?” Minjeong huffs, inflating her puffy cheeks cutely.
Jimin softly laughs at the reaction. “You’re not normal, Minjeong.” She reaches out to poke the baker’s cheek. “You’re special.”
The flattery immediately makes Minjeong smile and turn her gaze away in embarrassment. “You’re special too, Jimin,” she says, reaching out to playfully toy with the fox’s fingers. “And that’s why everyone will be happy to have you back. Don’t worry.”
“You said Aeri and Yizhuo didn’t react well when you told them about me though,” Jimin argues.
Minjeong laughs at the memory. “I mean, I was bawling and ranting like a crazy woman when I told them, but yeah, they were pretty shocked when I told them. But I was pretty shocked too when I found out, you know? It’s…a pretty wild story.” She gently shakes her interlaced hands with Jimin. “Look, it’s just Aeri and Yizhuo that are in this morning. They’re the only ones who know about you being a gumiho. The others won’t be here till opening. Come downstairs, please.”
“Aren’t you worried that they’re not going to approve of me being back? Yizhuo said that she was going to beat me up if I hurt you.”
Minjeong rapidly blinks before laughing. “She said what?” smiling warmly, touched by her friend’s empty threat, when she knows just how impossible it would be for someone like Ning Yizhuo to beat up Jimin.
Jimin nods. “Really. She said that she’d beat me up if I hurt you…which I know I did.”
The baker sighs. “Look, I’m just…so excited to have you back.” On her knees, she shuffles in a bit closer and gently bumps her forehead against Jimin’s. “I just really want to share that excitement with my best friends too.”
Jimin softly huffs, closing her eyes as warm lips brush against her own in a tender kiss. How can she deny anything Minjeong requests of her? “Okay,” she whispers. “But promise you’ll save me if Yizhuo and Aeri want to kill me though.”
Minjeong snorts, rolling her eyes as she pulls away. For a former demon who used to butcher humans and feed on them, Minjeong finds it strangely sweet and endearing that Jimin is terrified by the approval of two human girls, both smaller than her, and probably about as threatening as two yappy puppies.
With an amused chuckle, Minjeong assures the fox, “I promise, I’ll protect you.”
“Ugh,” Yizhuo cringes, pulling the coffee cup away from her lips. “What the is this?” she gasps, smacking the grossly spiced sugar from her lips.
“Pumpkin spice latte,” Aeri laughs, stealing her cup back from her friend. “It’s good! You don’t like it?!”
“Not at all,” Yizhuo grimaces, sticking her tongue out into the chilly air in an effort to blow the flavor off.
“Your tastebuds are dead,” Aeri teases, knowing that girl simply prefers her boring black espresso. “You got the tastebuds of an old lady.”
Like every day, Aeri passes the drink tray of coffees into Yizhuo’s hands while she thumbs through her keyring for the bakery’s key to let the two of themselves in.
Unlike every day though, is when Yizhuo passes through the kitchen curtain and bumps into a tall, raven-haired woman, which spooks both of them.
Yizhuo glances up, her eyes popping wide as her jaw nearly falls right off at the sight of Jimin whirling around.
“M-morning! I-I didn’t hear the door open over the music,” Jimin says.
With her huge eyes, Yizhuo rapidly blinks while wondering just how tired she is this morning. “J…Ji…”
Aeri runs right into her friend’s back, knocking the tray of coffees from Yizhuo limp fingers.
“Careful!” Jimin snaps, reaching out to keep the tray from tipping out of the redhead’s hands.
“Oh?!” Aeri screeches, now stepping around the other girl to get a better look. “OH?!” she dumbly repeats, now pointing a finger at the former gumiho.
“H-hi.” Jimin swallows the pulsing in , but unable to look the other two girls in the eyes, she nervously darts her gaze around. She eventually lands her attention on the counter where she goes to set the tray of coffees down onto, giving her the ability to take a few steps away. “I, um, just got back.”
“MINJEONG?!” Yizhuo suddenly shouts.
Jimin flinches and covers her ears. She might not have her gumiho ears anymore, but—Gods—does Yizhuo have a voice.
“YEAH?” Minjeong shouts before exiting the pantry.
Yizhuo visibly lets out a huge exhale of relief. “Good, you’re alive.”
That makes Jimin wince and shrink back. They really know, she nervously thinks.
“Oh…um, surprise!” Minjeong laughs. “Jimin actually, um, came back a few days ago.”
“A few days ago?!” Aeri snaps, livid that they weren’t informed sooner.
“Y-you…where were you?” Yizhuo asks, staring hard at Jimin.
“I-it’s…a long story.”
Yizhuo closes the distance between them in slow stride and Jimin holds her breath. This is it. This is the beat down that she was warned about. The one she deserves for having hurt Minjeong so much. Jimin winces as Yizhuo reaches out, but is met with a firm poking of the girl’s index finger.
“You’re…” Poke. “Really.” Poke. “Back?”
“I-I…yes, I am.”
“Are you really a…?—I mean, Minjeong told us that you were a-a…you know?” Yizhuo mutters, still reaching out to poke the taller woman.
“Yes—I mean, I was. I’m…not anymore.”
“What do you mean not anymore?” Aeri asks.
“It’s a long story,” Jimin softly laughs. It took almost a whole day and night to catch up with Minjeong alone. “I’ve had a very busy year.”
“I see that. Well,” Yizhuo pauses before she finally smiles at the fox. “It’s about time that you came home.”
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Aeri sweetly says. “So, um…I don’t have a cola for you this morning, but you should try my PSL! It’s so bomb.”
“She’s lying!” Yizhuo butts in. “It’s disgusting! I don’t think it’s even coffee! Don’t let her trick you.”
“It is not disgusting!” Aeri argues back. “You just have no taste!”
Yizhuo gasps. “How dare you! I—oof!”
Jimin suddenly pulls both of them in, hugging them tight in a double embrace. “I really missed you guys,” the fox whispers, squeezing them tight.
While Aeri and Yizhuo are aware of the former gumiho, Minjeong decides not to speak of the Jimin’s true past with anyone else when the reality is so difficult to grasp. She chooses to be vague with Seungwan, Yoona, and some of the new part-time hires by telling them that Jimin had to ‘tie up loose ends’ of her complex past before returning.
Seungwan and Yoona are a little wary of the raven-haired woman’s return, obviously worried about what secrets she has to hide and that Minjeong’s judgment is probably impaired by infatuation. And Jimin doesn’t blame them. They probably imagine some wildly dark scenarios, yet none of them would be as hard to swallow as an ancient fox spirit reborn into a human body. Jimin doesn’t mind their skepticism. Part of it comforts her knowing that Minjeong is so loved to have such protective friends and the fox is fine with proving that all she is now is a simple human baker.
Things are tense in the bakery for a few weeks after Jimin’s return when there’s so much suspicion hanging in the air. But day by day, Jimin does nothing to fuel such doubts. As the fox herself grows more and more comfortable with her new human identity, it gradually helps wash the doubt from the other bakers’ minds too.
“They’re called rusks,” Jimin explains, snapping the thin, almost cracker-like slice of cake in her hand to show the other bakers. “You slice up old bread or cake, hit it with some sugar, bake them so that they get a nice snap to them like this, and they’re rusks. So far, I think the Japanese cheesecakes make the best rusks. The flavor’s really good, but really, you can use any bread or cake. You can virtually eliminate all day-olds like this, bag them, and still sell it at a decent profit margin.”
When Jimin is met with nothing but agonizing silence from the other bakers around the table, she starts to feel herself grow self-conscious, worried that she’s just said something stupid.
Eventually, Seungwan is the first to burst out laughing. “What the hell? Are we stupid? Are we bad bakers?!”
“I think I’m a bad business owner,” Minjeong mutters, both simultaneously annoyed and pleased by the fox’s product proposition.
“How come we’ve never thought of this before?!” Yoona shrieks, laughing in disbelief. “It’s so simple! And it’s so smart!”
Jimin’s brows lift up, genuinely surprised by the kind of enthusiastic response that she’s receiving. Being such a novice baker in comparison to the rest of the girls, Jimin is so proud to have brought this forward to them. “I lived in a rural area for a bit and people there sometimes did this to the milk bread that I baked from them,” she explains. “It’s a good way to preserve bread since going into town to buy ingredients was a very long trip.”
“This is a really good idea, Jimin,” Yoona praises, warmly smiling as she pats the back of the fox’s head.
It’s such a simple gesture, but Jimin can practically taste the acceptance. And it’s delicious, nourishing, and satiates her very being. Yoona once told her that ‘good people and good food does wonders for the soul,’ but the fox didn’t understand the gravity of that statement until recently.
“Thank you for helping teach me how to bake,” Jimin tells the woman. “I really like it.”
As months pass, Jimin grows more and more in love with the baker’s life. There’s something comforting about seeing familiar faces come and go from the shop, each one with bright smiles on their faces as they pick up daily baked goods and cakes for special occasions. It’s fascinating that even though Jimin’s life with most customers only crosses for a few minutes every week or less, the fox still feels like a part of their lives and connected to them.
Jimin normally is nothing but warm smiles at work, but today, her eyes feel like they’re on fire as she glares at the woman across the register counter and the customer stares back at Jimin just as hard.
“Hey,” Minjeong sharply whispers, butting into their uncomfortable staring contest. “Cut it out, you two. Don’t be weird. I have other customers in the shop.”
“May I…please get two cinnamon rolls and a loaf of milk bread?” Joohyun tersely requests, never breaking her gaze with the fox.
“Can’t you go to a different bakery?” Jimin bites back.
“Jimin,” Minjeong warns, keeping her voice down from the other customers in the bakery. “Be nice. Behave.”
With an annoyed eye roll, Jimin continues to frown as she goes to retrieve the shaman’s order. “Here you go,” she flatly says, now tapping the cardboard box closed. “Cash or credit?”
Joohyun suddenly smirks and Jimin feels so irritated by the crooked grin. “Wow,” the shaman whispers. “, you really are just…some employee at a bakery, aren’t you?”
The fox rolls her eyes. “Are you seriously going to come in and check every month?”
The other woman laughs. “Look, when I’m in town, I come here for bread. It just so happens that I get to simultaneously,” she drops her voice into a hushed whisper while cupping her hand around , “Check up on my favorite demon-turned-human.”
Jimin groans as she holds her hand out, waiting for Joohyun to just pay already and leave. Instead of cash though, Joohyun slaps a bujeok into the former gumiho’s hand. Jimin looks down at the bright yellow paper before looking back up at Joohyun with a fresh wave of annoyance furrowed into her brows. Without breaking eye contact, she tears the amulet in half before crumpling the paper into a ball, and then tosses it into the trash behind her.
She gives the human a forced, tight smile. “Happy?”
Joohyun has seen the former gumiho rip up a bujeok several times before, but it still makes her laugh in disbelief. “Amazing,” she murmurs before taking out her credit card to make payment. “Come on, tell me, how’d you do it? How’d you make the change?”
“None of your damn business,” Jimin softly mutters, still mindful so that other customers can’t hear how intentionally rude she is being. She hastily finishes the transaction so that she can slide the goods across the counter. “Thank you,” the fox forces through clenched teeth. “Have a good day.”
The shaman smiles again before taking her purchase. “You too. See you next time, Jimin-ie!”
Jimin growls under her breath while watching the shaman leave the bakery. Joohyun’s so annoying. So ing annoying that she still dare show her face around here. So smug with her dumb shaman amulet and her stupid bujeok—
“Hey,” Minjeong whispers, grabbing a hold of Jimin’s arm and shaking her out of her thoughts. “You’re gonna get wrinkles if you frown any harder,” she teases.
“Why can’t you just banish her from coming here?” the fox grumbles.
“Look, I get why you hate her, but she’s never going to try to hurt you again. She has no reason to. And even if she did, I wouldn’t let her,” Minjeong confidently says while giving Jimin a reassuring smile.
The fox looks over at her partner. It’s astonishing really, looking at Minjeong’s baby-ish face and thinking about how that innocent face is also ferociously capable of guarding her loved ones. Even though she’s smitten by the tiny baker’s duality, Jimin continues to pout. “I still don’t like her.”
“We’ll, we like her money,” Minjeong giggles as she hugs the fox. She rises up on her toes to press a kiss to Jimin’s cheek.
Jimin huffs. “That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
After a thoughtful pause, Minjeong cups her hand around Jimin’s ear before softly whispering, “How about I make you feel better later?”
Jimin knows that tone all too well. While Minjeong returns to bagging buns and humming to herself, the fox is so embarrassed knowing that her ears must look bright red as the next customer steps up to the counter to make their purchase.
“Jimin! Yah, Yu Jimin!” Minjeong shouts as she chases after her partner.
The fox didn’t even help the baker unload groceries from the car. She had simply hopped out, slammed her door shut, and is now stomping upstairs from the bakery back up into the loft.
“What is going on with you?” Minjeong demands once she catches up.
“Who was he?!” Jimin suddenly shouts, whirling around to face the blonde.
Surprised by the question, Minjeong blinks a few times before asking, “Who?”
“That…that boy that you were talking to for so long at the market! Who is he?!”
Jimin feels her whole face scrunch up as soon as he has a name. “Did you cheat on me? Did you kiss him?!”
Minjeong throws her hands up into the air. “Yeah, I kissed him like a hundred years ago when I was like twelve! We were just talking about how hilarious it was because I obviously grew up not into men!” she says, gesturing at her partner. “I didn’t cheat on you! You’re overreacting!”
Part of the fox visibly deflates a little, like she realizes that her feelings are invalid. She takes a sharp breath, trying to calm down, but Minjeong’s explanation still isn’t enough to quash her anger. Jimin folds her arms over her chest as she growls, “I should’ve killed him.”
“Wh-what are you talking about?!” Minjeong snaps, voice now escalating with Jimin’s incredibly dramatic response. If this were anyone else, she could forgive it as a hyperbole, but not Jimin. Not the former gumiho. “That’s murder—”
“I don’t care!” the fox stubbornly shouts back, pouting like a child having a temper tantrum.
Minjeong isn’t new to relationships. She understands that there are always difficulties when you’re sharing your life with someone else. When you have responsibility to and for another person, it requires a great deal of honesty, patience, and willingness to understand and compromise with each other in order to form a healthy interdependent bond.
Being in a relationship w