Morning broke, bringing with it the aftermath of the night’s revelry. Hyun-seong slowly lifted his leaden eyelids against the onslaught of harsh light. It forced him to quickly shut his eyes again, a dryness parching his mouth and throat as though he hadn’t sipped water in three days. The urgent need for hydration clawed at him.
An excruciating headache accompanied his awakening. He released a deep, suffering sigh while shielding his throbbing forehead with his forearm, as if a metal hammer relentlessly pounded against it.
This, he knew, was the familiar pain of a hangover. Yet, unlike usual, he couldn’t simply reach for a painkiller to ease his discomfort. Just how much had he imbibed last night? The lingering effects of alcohol still clung to him like a stubborn shadow.
He could vaguely recall the moment he uncapped the second bottle of whiskey, but after that, memories became elusive. It was as if he had tilted that bottle of over 40% alcohol without pause, and no matter how formidable his tolerance, conquering such an onslaught on an empty stomach was a futile endeavor.
Five long minutes crawled by, yet the relentless headache showed no mercy. He had sworn never to indulge to the point where he’d be paying for it the next day, but there was a reason why humans were often called the forgetful creatures of habit.
With painstaking effort, Hyun-seong began to piece together the fragments of last night’s memories. It all started after the conclusion of Seo Jae-young’s trial when the victim took a fatal leap. That event had shaken him to his core.
In response, he had sought solace in a glass of whiskey at the bar, eventually reserving the entire space to escape prying eyes…
In that instant, a conversation he had shared with someone flashed across his mind. The voice was strangely familiar, with wild, curly locks cascading down to the chest and plump, inviting lips. As he contemplated these details, the haze that had veiled his thoughts began to dissipate swiftly. Fragments of recollection, once scattered, merged together to form a coherent narrative.
Hyun-seong still shielded his throbbing forehead, releasing a brief, contemplative sigh. “…I must be out of my mind,” he muttered.
The memory of the passionate kiss he had shared with Yi-soo played out in his mind like a scene from a movie.
At that moment, Hyun-seong had been unable to resist the magnetic pull drawing him towards her. His desire for a deeper connection with Yi-soo had intensified, mirroring the intensifying throb in his head that he had been trying to suppress.
Regret was absent in his heart for that impulsive kiss. In that moment, an irresistibly potent attraction had enveloped him, the likes of which he had never experienced before in his entire life.
The predicament lay in the fact that they had kissed while under the influence of alcohol. The most crucial part, how Yi-soo had reacted, remained a blank space in his memory, fueling his anxiety.
In that very moment, a gentle tap on Hyun-seong’s arm brought him back to the present. Could it be Seo Yi-soo? With a blend of uncertainty and curiosity, he lowered his arm and cautiously opened his eyes, allowing the piercing light to pierce through the previously impenetrable darkness.
“I’m not Prosecutor Seo. I’m Secretary Kang. Are you finally awake? I’ve never seen a lawyer snooze for such an eternity. You, who could barely manage four hours of sleep even with those sleeping pills.”
“Secretary Kang. What are you doing here?”
For better or worse, the hand that had roused Hyun-seong belonged to his secretary, Tae-jun. He pushed his glasses up his nose, his expression a mix of disbelief.
“Why am I here? Seriously? I’ve been working overtime without extra pay past midnight,” grumbled Tae-jun.
“…How did you even know I was here at the bar?” Hyun-seong asked. “You’ve got some serious detective skills.”
“Am I supposed to play Sherlock Holmes tracking your every move? Maybe I should consider fitting you with a GPS tracker. You’re a wild card, Hyun-seong. Prosecutor Seo gave me a call. She said Yoon Hyun-seong, the lawyer, is acting like a total weirdo, so pick him up.”
“…Did Seo Yi-soo really say that?” he muttered.
Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be shocking if she was flustered. Tae-jun, his expression a whirlwind of emotions, handed Hyun-seong an ion drink. It was refreshingly cold, thanks to a quick stint in the fridge.
“Down it. If the madam sees you in this state, she might just keel over.”
“Why is my mother’s name even in this conversation?”
Hyun-seong, quickly reverting to his cynical self, popped the lid with his thumb. As the icy liquid coursed down his throat, sending a shiver of coldness through him, his insatiable thirst found some relief.
Having drained the can in a single swift gulp, he set the empty container on the bedside table. Tae-jun glanced at his chilly wristwatch and then gently nudged Hyun-seong’s shoulder, as though coaxing him to rise.
“If you keep lazing around like this, you’re going to be late. Well, even if you are late, you don’t have a boss who’ll ride you about it. But you haven’t forgotten about the 10 o’clock meeting with Assemblyman Seo, have you?”
“Secretary Kang is on strike. Please, spare him the search.” Tae-jun nearly added, “Give him a raise or let him have his strike,” but wisely decided to hold his tongue. Negotiating under these circumstances was already tricky, especially since he was drawing a salary that some might deem excessive. Well, he’d have to grin and bear it for the sake of those earnings.
Whether or not Hyun-seong was privy to Tae-jun’s musings, he reluctantly heaved himself from the bed, his body protesting with aches. An immediate urge for a steaming hot shower washed over him.
“Speaking of Prosecutor Seo, was she at the bar until you arrived?” Hyun-seong inquired.
“Yes, indeed. I’ve heard you’ve got quite the remarkable fiancée,” Tae-jun replied. “No mockery intended; it’s the truth. If I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t be out so late, especially when I have to work the next day.””
“…Did she mention anything else?”
“Sure, sure. She just said she’s counting on you. She took a taxi after she spotted you squeezed into the lawyer’s car.”
“You sent her a taxi at that late hour?” Hyun-seong furrowed his brow, already contemplating a call to her once he reached the office. Tae-jun, sporting an expression that suggested he held a valid excuse, awkwardly scratched his head.
“Do you think I refused to give her a ride? I didn’t make that decision lightly. I must’ve tried to persuade her at least five times. But it’s just… awkward, you know? I even clapped my hands, but what else could I do?”
“…Next time, just drop me off near my place.”
“Go get yourself a shower. I didn’t sign up to be my boss’s personal chauffeur…”
Muttering these words audibly enough for Hyun-seong to hear, Tae-jun disappeared. Hyun-seong checked his phone, but there was no special message from Yi-soo, even though their engagement was just a week away. He let out a deep sigh and ran his dry palm over his face, a torrent of thoughts swirling in his mind.