Chapter 54.2

Having completed the overtime that had become a routine, Hyun-seong grabbed his document bag. He had texted Yi-soo before lunch, yet as usual, silence met his attempt at communication.

…What should I do?

It was evident that Yi-soo was reluctant to communicate with Hyun-seong. He desired to know the exact reason, but recklessly plunging in seemed likely to inflict irreparable wounds. Yoon Hyun-seong opted to endure the solitude while he waited.

However, waiting had its limits. As the two-week mark since their last encounter approached, the longing to see Yi-soo became overwhelming.

Was she okay? Was she eating well? Was she sleeping properly? It felt imperative to look into Yi-soo’s eyes directly, with his own two eyes.

Hyun-seong let out a soft sigh as he stowed his laptop in the document bag. At that moment, a beep chimed in, and the phone resting on the desk vibrated. Turning his head instinctively, he fixed his gaze on the screen—an eagerly awaited call. After a brief pause, Hyun-seong swiped the green answer button to the right.

“Prosecutor Seo.”

“Attorney Yoon… Where are you?”

“I’m still at the office… Have you been drinking?”

“Well, a little? Not too much. Just a bit. A bit.”

A light, carefree laughter resonated, suggesting the onset of intoxication. Glancing at the time on his left wristwatch, Hyun-seong promptly left the office. Pressing the elevator button, he narrowed his eyes and asked, “Where are you?”

“Here… um, near the Prosecutor’s Office.”

Unusually, Yi-soo’s sentence trailed off for a moment. As if grappling to pinpoint her location, she sighed before speaking in a subdued tone.

“Attorney Yoon… I miss you.”

I miss you. That singular sentence pierced through Yoon Hyun-seong’s heart like a bullet. The elevator doors, having just arrived, opened on both sides. Swiftly pressing the close button, he shut his eyes.

“I’ll be there soon.”

***

In a quiet pub, Yi-soo sat alone, indulging in her drink, a haven nestled a brief stroll away from the Southern Prosecutor’s Office. The atmosphere lacked vigor, with Yi-soo as the sole patron in attendance.

Upon a table draped in blue plastic, an ensemble of a beer bottle, soju container, and a bowl of udon lay. Yi-soo poured alcohol into her beer glass with deliberate slowness, her blinking eyes betraying signs of surpassing her typical drinking boundaries. As she struggled to lift her weary eyelids with her right hand, a languid realization dawned.

“Excuse me, ma’am. One more bottle of beer… Huh?”

“Stop drinking, Prosecutor Seo.”

“Are you with someone? Should I bring another glass?”

“It’s okay.”

Just as she contemplated placing another order, a gentle grasp on Yi-soo’s wrist interrupted her thoughts. Hyun-seong, having arrived straight from Yoon & Kang by car, materialized before her.

As Yi-soo’s gaze met the familiar face she had yearned for, an involuntary smile played on her lips, her eyes squinting with delight.

“It’s Yoon Hyun-seong… Really, Yoon Hyun-seong.”

“How much have you had? Let’s go home,” Hyun-seong urged.

Yi-soo shook her head. “N-No, there’s still a bit of alcohol left. Just finish this. It would be a waste.”

Witnessing her flushed and animated countenance, an involuntary sigh escaped. Someone unaccustomed to heavy drinking was now immersed in solitary revelry.

Hyun-seong, fingers pressed against his temples, settled beside her. It appeared she had only filled an empty stomach with alcohol, paying no heed to the udon that sat neglected like a mere side dish.

Whether or not Yi-soo was aware of Hyun-seong’s sentiments, she continued to release carefree laughter. In the daylight, the urge to cry overwhelmed her, yet in his presence, an involuntary smile would unfailingly grace her face.

Tilting the nearly depleted soju bottle to replenish her glass, she extended an invitation to Hyun-seong. “Want to have a drink?” she asked.

“Seo Yi-soo.”

“If you don’t want to drink, that’s fine… You know? Mr. Lawyer, you make me cry and laugh. Just do one of those. You’re a strange person.” Yi-soo muttered, bringing the glass to her lips to drink. However, her attempt was gently intercepted by Hyun-seong’s touch. Holding her wrist, he awkwardly broached a question.

“Have you finally decided to tell me what’s going on?”

“…If I tell you, Mr. Lawyer, you might be disappointed in me. No, from the beginning, we met for our mutual benefit, so there shouldn’t be that kind of thing. But rather… yeah. I might end up disappointing you, Mr. Lawyer.”

Yi-soo, rambling unfiltered words, bowed her head deeply. Despite the looming possibility of his involvement in Su-jeong’s case, an unsupported trust that he wasn’t that kind of person stubbornly persisted.

Seo Yi-soo, typically guided by rational judgment rather than emotions, found herself yearning to stifle that very rationality in the present moment. In the end, she swiftly downed the contents of a glass brimming with transparent soju, allowing the bitter liquid to cascade down her throat.

“Haah…”

It felt as though the tether supporting her rationality had frayed. In the thick haze, Yi-soo, gazing at Hyun-seong with moistened eyes, compressed her thin lips. Her mouth contorted, caught between a semblance of laughter and the edge of tears. The nature of the response that would reverberate remained elusive. Yet, one certainty lingered; she harbored a fervent desire for their connection not to metamorphose into a tragic destiny.

Her voice quivered faintly in its concluding notes. Yi-soo, finally succumbing to a self-deprecating laugh, shut her eyes. She couldn’t summon the courage to meet the gaze of Hyun-seong.

“I… I got engaged to you to use you, Mr. Yoon Hyun-seong.”

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