Chapter 16.1

An unsaved number flashed on her phone, accompanied by the international call symbol at the top. It could only mean one thing – the long-awaited contact from her sister. Besides emergencies, nobody else ever called her internationally. Without hesitation, Yi-soo swiped the green answer button to the right and brought the phone to her ear, her eyes widening with excitement.

“Sister! Why couldn’t I reach you? Where are you right now?” She couldn’t contain her emotions, and her voice sounded unnaturally loud. Quickly realizing her surroundings, she glanced around to make sure no one was watching. Being cautious was a must, especially within the Yoon & Kang building.

Covering her mouth slightly with her palm, Yi-soo lowered her voice and continued, “I was worried. Huh? Sister, please answer.”

The silence on the other end of the line only intensified her anxiety. The elevator, which she had stopped on the 25th floor, continued its ascent. “Sister?” Yi-soo called out again, but only her own voice echoed back at her.

Then, without warning, the call abruptly disconnected, leaving her staring at the screen as it indicated the end of the call.

“Huh?” The abrupt disconnection left Yi-soo feeling like she lost touch with her sanity as well. Did she accidentally press something wrong? Anxious and trembling, she pressed the green button again, hoping to hear Su-jeong’s voice. But all she got was the endless dial tone, and the anticipated call never came.

Her eyes flickered with agitation, but Yi-soo refused to give up. With determination, she tried calling for the third time, and just then, her phone emitted a small beep. A text message from Su-jeong appeared on the screen.

“Yi-soo, I’m sorry. I can’t call right now. I’ll contact you soon.”

“Sister? What’s going on? Are you okay?” Yi-soo quickly replied, her focus entirely on the phone.

As the elevator reached the 25th floor, the doors opened on both sides, but Yi-soo remained fixated on the messages. Time felt like it stretched endlessly, though only a few seconds passed before another brief text came in.

[Yes. Just as a reporter came in… The timing was really off just as I wanted to hear Yi-soo’s voice after a long time.]

Yi-soo’s mind raced with questions. Where was Su-jeong, and what was she doing? What secrets did she keep from her closest sister, and what danger was she facing? The answers were elusive, leaving Yi-soo to hope desperately for her sister’s safety.

The problem is… Yi-soo couldn’t help but harbor suspicions. Manipulating text messages was simple, and anyone, not just Baek Su-jeong, could send one. Smoke-like suspicion clouded her thoughts, and she knew she needed to hear Su-jeong’s voice to find some relief.

Yi-soo let out a sigh of frustration when it became evident that making a call was impossible. Without hesitation, she began tapping rapidly on the phone’s keyboard with her thumb.

“Sister. When we were at the orphanage, remember I said I want to eat freely when I grow up? Do you remember what it was about?” Yi-soo chose this method to confirm a shared memory. If the person on the other end was truly Su-jeong, there was no way she wouldn’t know the answer. Within a minute, the phone vibrated twice, signaling a response.

[Fish-shaped bread. In the winter, you always bugged the director to buy us each one. Cream-filled, not red bean. And the street vendor ajumma would give us one or two extra because she thought we were cute.]

Relieved to receive the response she hoped for, Yi-soo finally let out a sigh of relief. Stepping into the long-stalled elevator, she pressed the button for the first floor, and the LED numbers started counting down.

Her eyes, once filled with worry and anxiety, now held a determined gaze. Baek Su-jeong, despite being a dedicated reporter, knew nothing about sparing herself. How could she ever give up her mission to expose all the vile giants in South Korea?

Bitterness filled Yi-soo’s mouth as she realized there was little she could do, except to support her sister and ensure her safety.

“Got it, sis. When things get better, contact me right away. I’ll be waiting.” Yi-soo sent the message, and the phone fell silent. The elevator chimed, signaling the first floor as Yi-soo prepared to head back to the newsroom. Although she felt a bit hungry, the relief of knowing Su-jeong was safe seemed to quell her appetite.

At least there’s no trial today, so that’s a relief, she thought, grateful for the break.

With a purposeful stride, Yi-soo made her way towards the building’s entrance. She knew there wouldn’t be enough time for a leisurely lunch, so she planned to grab a quick snack once she reached the office. In her student days, she could sometimes endure without eating, but now she understood the importance of staying fueled to concentrate on her work.



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