The sound of Su-jeong’s voice pierced through the air, instantly capturing Yi-soo’s attention. Her eyes widened, and she brought the phone closer to her ear, as if trying to bridge the distance that separated them. It was undeniably Su-jeong, the voice she had desperately longed to hear over the past few days.
“Unni? Is it really you?” Yi-soo’s relief was palpable, her heart soaring with joy.
“Oh, thank goodness. I can hear you…” Su-jeong replied, her voice carrying a sense of urgency.
“Where are you right now? What’s with the USB and the memo… What’s going on, unni?”
Yi-soo was eager to understand the situation, yet she could sense something amiss in her sister’s voice. Her brows furrowed as she brushed her bangs aside, trying to piece together the puzzle.
“I don’t have much time, Yi-soo. I left the country a few days ago. Did you receive the package I sent?” Su-jeong’s words came in a rush, leaving Yi-soo with even more questions.
“Yes, I received it, but please tell me where you are,” Yi-soo pleaded, her heart pounding with concern.
Su-jeong hesitated before replying, “I can’t go into detail about the situation, but it’s a country not too far away. …I might be able to return to Korea in about two or three months.”
Yi-soo’s emotions swirled inside her, leaving her feeling both worried and frustrated. Her sister had never asked her for such a favor before, and the sense of helplessness gnawed at her. Su-jeong had always been the one to shield her younger sister from worries, and now, the roles seemed to have reversed.
In the past, Su-jeong used to approach Yi-soo with an air of nonchalance after resolving her troubles. It was precisely why Yi-soo knew that when her sister urgently reached out for help through that memo, it must be something of utmost importance. She had made up her mind to take action as soon as she received Su-jeong’s message.
“The USB you gave me, what’s in it? And what are you really investigating, unni?” Yi-soo’s mind raced with concern and curiosity.
“It involves major law firms, including Yoon & Kang, and even the judiciary… The situation is far more dangerous than you can imagine,” Su-jeong replied.
Yi-soo’s heart sank, her brow furrowing with anxiety. The gravity of the situation was beyond her initial vague speculations, leaving her feeling suffocated by the weight of it all. Yet, on the other end of the line, Su-jeong’s voice remained surprisingly calm.
“Shouldn’t we report this to the police right away? Get some protection?” Yi-soo suggested.
“No, you mustn’t involve the police. We need to endure for a couple more months. I believe it will be resolved then. Please, try to handle it discreetly within Korea, but be careful not to attract too much attention,” Su-jeong cautioned.
Yi-soo reluctantly agreed, promising to act cautiously. “Can I at least contact you on this number?”
“No, it’s not safe. I’ll call you again soon. I’m sorry, Yi-soo. I have to end the call now. We’ve been on for too long.”
With those words, Su-jeong hung up. Yi-soo leaned back against the backrest, staring at the darkened screen with a sense of helplessness.
“This is insane, seriously…” Yi-soo muttered, her mind clouded by a whirlwind of emotions. Her sister’s face persisted like a haunting illusion, and in that moment, memories of a winter long gone resurfaced, when the world had turned white.
Twenty-three years ago, their lives had taken a heartbreaking turn. At the tender age of five, Yi-soo and her sister Su-jeong found themselves alone, not abandoned, but left with no one to care for them after their father tragically lost his life in a fatal accident. With no other options, they were forced to live in an orphanage, where their bond as sisters grew stronger amidst the desolate surroundings.
Su-jeong, only ten at the time, shouldered the burden of adulthood to protect her younger sibling from harm. Her maturity surpassed her years, her outlook becoming resolutely pragmatic. Despite the harsh circumstances, their blood bond prevailed, and Su-jeong’s unwavering love for Yi-soo shone through. She would selflessly offer her snacks to her sister, and every night, they clung to each other in their narrow bed, finding solace in each other’s presence.
Within the cold walls of the orphanage, they became each other’s lifeline. Sworn to stand together through every difficulty, they clung to their vow, determined to persevere and face the world as one.
But life had other plans, and their sacred promise was soon put to the test. One day, while they were adapting to life in the orphanage, a couple paid a visit specifically to see twelve-year-old Su-jeong. Yi-soo, young and frail, clung to her sister’s clothing with trembling hands.
“Hello, Su-jeong? We’ve met before, right? You’re… Yi-soo, right?” the kind-hearted couple approached the sisters with warm smiles.
“Yes, that’s right… Hello,” Su-jeong replied, her heart racing with uncertainty.
“Well… how do we explain this? Su-jeong, the lady and the gentleman here want to welcome you as part of their family,” the director of the orphanage explained delicately.
The word “family” struck a chord in young Su-jeong’s heart, causing her eyes to widen with a mixture of hope and apprehension.
“Family?” she repeated, the weight of the word sinking in.
“Yes. They want to adopt you as their daughter. You’ll be family,” the director clarified.
“Family…? Um, what about Yi-soo? Yi-soo is my little sister,” Su-jeong anxiously asked, instinctively clinging to the bond that had kept them strong all this time.
“That’s the thing…” the couple hesitated, finding it difficult to address the issue.
The director, with her warm smile and gentle demeanor, intervened, leading them to a quieter space with the promise of coffee. She gestured for Su-jeong to sit down, creating an atmosphere for a calm conversation.
“Oh, yes. But, you see, Yi-soo is here too…” Su-jeong’s voice trembled as she spoke, unable to suppress her worry.
“Director…! Are these people planning to adopt me? But what about Yi-soo? Aren’t we going together?” she implored, the thought of being separated from her little sister causing her heart to ache.
“Su-jeong, the thing is…” The couple hesitated, knowing the gravity of their words.
After what felt like an eternity, they finally revealed the painful truth. Due to certain circumstances, adopting both Su-jeong and Yi-soo together was impossible. They assured Su-jeong that she could still stay in touch with her sister, and they would facilitate their meetings.
At seven years old, Yi-soo couldn’t fully grasp the complexity of the conversation unfolding before her. All she could do was cling to her sister’s clothes, her young eyes brimming with anxiety and confusion.
Despite Su-jeong’s protests and reluctance, the sisters were forced to part ways. Until the day they left the orphanage, Su-jeong remained adamant, refusing to go without Yi-soo by her side.
Since their father’s passing, Yi-soo had always witnessed her sister’s unwavering strength. Su-jeong, determined to shield her younger sibling from pain, had hidden her tears, keeping them locked away even when they threatened to overflow.
But on that fateful day, the weight of their imminent separation proved too much for Su-jeong to bear. With a heart-wrenching expression, she crumbled under the weight of her emotions, tears streaming down her face. The child who had already experienced the loss of her parents was now facing the heartbreak of losing her newfound family, leaving her utterly alone.
“Why do old memories suddenly come back?” Yi-soo questioned, her voice filled with anguish. She covered her eyes with her trembling palm, her head bowed low. Emotions tangled within her like an intricate ball of thread, impossible to unravel. Every breath felt like a struggle, suffocating her from within.