In Yoon Hyun-seong’s life, change was a rare visitor. He wasn’t one to chase novelty and excitement every day; he took solace in the embrace of familiarity. Yet, this didn’t mean he shied away from challenges.
He was a man who preferred well-trodden paths over venturing into the uncharted wilds of uncertainty. This philosophy didn’t just dictate his work; it colored every facet of his existence.
Cheongdam Arter, a haven nestled in the heart of the city, was Hyun-seong’s refuge. It was the place he frequented most since donning the mantle of a Yoon & Kang attorney. It was stocked with spirits that matched his refined taste.
But what truly set this place apart was its staff. They could read his needs in the lines on his face, sparing him the rituals of unnecessary pleasantries. Time was a valuable commodity for Hyun-seong.
“Your usual bottle of Bartolo?” the bartender inquired, a knowing gleam in his eye.
Hyun-seong shook his head. “No. Today, something peatier, please.”
The bartender didn’t waste a moment. “Sure thing. Call me if you need anything else. I’ll be here.”
As the bartender vanished into the shadows of the bar, Hyun-seong claimed a seat and poured himself a glass of whiskey. The Glencairn glass, with its delicate floral shape, sang as it received the amber liquid. It was a formidable spirit, peaty and potent, with an alcohol content that soared past fifty degrees.
Yet today, the strong drink flowed down his throat like a tranquil stream. Hyun-seong imbibed it with the ease of drinking water, forsaking even the thought of a small appetizer.
The gentle jazz that typically painted the backdrop with its soothing notes was conspicuously absent today. As the bottle tipped and clinked against the glass, the sole symphony gracing Hyun-seong’s ears was the hushed cadence of alcohol-laden breaths.
It had been a mere forty-eight hours since that chilling suicide incident. The image of that life ebbing away, drenched in crimson, had seared itself into Hyun-seong’s memory. It wasn’t just the brutality of the act that had shaken him; it was how it had triggered an unexpected surge of ancient trauma.
But there was no room for him to be ensnared in the tendrils of the past. Hyun-seong ruthlessly quashed his instinct to recoil from the situation. His fingertips, gripped tight with mental strain, bore the mark of a fierce struggle. But in the end, he had done what was necessary.
Then, like a bolt of lightning in the dark sky of his thoughts, a memory from a decade ago pierced Hyun-seong’s mind. Dealing with the loss of the person who had cared for him like a surrogate parent in place of his biological ones had been a Herculean task. Yet, at the tender age of twenty-one, Yoon Hyun-seong had shouldered that burden alone. No one had granted him respite to grieve for Mr. Jang’s passing.
“Hyun-seong, can I talk to you for a moment?” The voice of his aunt, tinged with weariness, had once been a refuge for the young man.
“Yes, Aunt. What’s the matter?” Back then, the Hyun-seong of twenty-one was not the stoic and resilient figure he was today. He recalled her as a woman etched with the deep wrinkles born of tireless housework and the ceaseless march of time. Yet, her unwavering love and devotion, as if he were her very own child, had always been his anchor.
“It seems like our son… has been facing some really tough times lately,” Mrs. Jang began, her voice carrying the weight of a mother’s worry. “But he doesn’t want to open up to me. Hyun-seong is around the same age as our son… I thought maybe I could seek some advice from you.”
“Why do you think he’s going through such a rough patch?” Hyun-seong inquired.
Mrs. Jang sighed, her eyes clouded with concern. “Well, it’s not about any specific reason. He keeps repeating the same things—about not having enough money, about how life is just too difficult. But I want to help him somehow; it’s just… it’s almost like he’s hit puberty late. I’ve been worried enough to call him a few times, but now he won’t even pick up my calls.”
In the recesses of Hyun-seong’s memories, Mrs. Jang’s face bore a bittersweet smile. She attempted to hide it, but her deep sorrow was as plain as day. Hyun-seong gently closed the textbook he’d been engrossed in and spoke with care.
To him, Mrs. Jang was as good as a second mother. He understood that even requesting her to speak her mind was a heavy task for her, yet he sensed the respect she held for him.
“If you ever find yourself in urgent need of money, even if it’s a small amount, I’m here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
Mrs. Jang shook her head fervently. “Oh, no, it’s absolutely not that. Really. No matter how dire my situation gets, I’d never burden Hyun-seong with it. Please don’t say that. It’s just… I guess I needed a place to vent this frustration. But I know nothing will change.”
With a gesture that clearly signaled her lack of intention to ask for financial assistance, Mrs. Jang extended both her hands.