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Pride

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The intriguing looks from the other employees went unnoticed to him on his way to his father's office. His breathing is still unstable from all the shouting he did, along with the frustration bottled up in his chest. When he reached the huge office, his father is already sitting behind the desk, both palms on his face. It travels down the bridge of his nose as his eyes fall on Kyungsoo.

If it is any normal child, he would've begged in an instant. Beg for his father to do something. But then, he's always been a different case. Kyungsoo knows the man wouldn't move a finger to help him. So he keeps mum because there's no point speaking anymore.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with you anymore." his father starts off when he doesn't say a word, "Are you really going to embarrass me all the time?"

"If you didn't hear what I said back in that room, I didn't steal anything. Those are my designs." he says with certainty, "That woman is the thief, not me."

"Then where the hell is your proof? Why did you stand there looking so stupid then, Soo?" the Chairman grits his teeth, "Being a mediocre talent in this field is more acceptable than stealing. You could've settled there!"

Kyungsoo chuckles in disbelief, yet there's a clear pain that flashed through his eyes.

"How ironic..." he says weakly, a bile forming in his throat. "I bet you were praising Soojung when she presented, weren't you? I bet you thought her designs were good."

He takes a step closer, looking at his father with testing eyes.

"It's good, after all. It's good that she neatly stole my work and made you believe it's hers because I bet it would be so difficult for you to accept if it was from me." he seethes, "I bet you'd be angry, Dad. That you were wrong all this time. I bet your ego would be so wounded if you see me succeeding."

The chairman lets out a deep breath before looking at him in defeat.

"How could I let someone like you take over all of this one day? Everything I've worked hard for?" he coldly asks without even taking Kyungsoo's words into consideration. It's like he didn't even hear him at all.

Soo hastily drops a folder of his work on the floor, his eyes piercing through the man in front of him.

"You know what? Forget it, Dad. Forget I asked for a second chance from you and your stupid panel. I don't fucking want it anyway. Shove this goddamn company of yours along with your illegal businesses down your throat!"

This seems to pull a trigger for the older man, who walks around his table to take big steps towards his son before grabbing his collar. Soo doesn't bat an eye as he looks directly into the Chairman's angry face.

"Say that again." he seethes, gripping his collar tighter. "Say that again, you ungrateful bastard!"

"I don't fucking want your company or your name! I'd rather starve on the streets than take over this hell hole—"

The harsh sound of a hand heavily landing on his face echoes within the room. Kyungsoo almost gets thrown away if it wasn't for his feet quickly keeping his balance. There's a stinging pain all over his right cheek, but he swallows all of it. He swallows all the pain and bitterness stuck in his throat because he's not going to cry again. He makes sure of that. Not in front of his father, at least.

The Chairman looks equally stunned of what he did, watching him with heaving chest. But when Soo looks at him again with the same strong eyes, his jaw hardens.

"I'm going to say this for the last time, Do Kyungsoo." his father hisses through gritted teeth, "If I don't have a choice, then neither do you. You'll be working hard to be worthy of this firm whether you like it or not." he says with a finger pointed straight to his son's face, "I don't care how long it takes. If I have to put you in every internship program and every fucking position in this field, I'll do it. If that's what I have to do to pull you out of being a big disappointment, then so be it."

He doesn't respond anymore. Soo only grits his teeth hard and keeps a driven face even when he knows it's the last thing his father wants to see. So the old man slaps him again, but this time, with the harsh truth.

"You can rebel all you want but you can never escape this life, Kyungsoo." his father says, calmer yet with the same certainty, "Just like how I can't escape having no other choice but you."

Soo gulps hard because of this. His chest feels like bursting any minute.

He has always thought that he got used to the Chairman's ruthless words. He thought he's over with the phase of taking them seriously but now, reality proves him that they will never cease to crush him. He's just good at suppressing, but one can only take so much.

"Get out of my office." his father commands, straightening his suit while walking back to his chair. "Go home. Come up with an apology both for the board and for Miss Jung. Then make new and original designs. I want them all this week."

He stood there, fists tightened on both his sides. Soo looks at his father with so much rage, yet he doesn't utter another word. As always.

The Chairman clicks his intercom, "Get this kid out of here. Prepare for my next meetings." he says and doesn't spare him another glance anymore.

He walks out of there before a secretary leads him out. Unlike his chest, his mind goes blank while slowly walking in the hall. Kyungsoo feels some sort of relief when he spots a familiar tall man from the distance, but it's all short-lived when he sees the little commotion behind Jongin.

Seeing Soojung being surrounded by a few employees while she tries to catch her breath through her inhaler doesn't give him the slightest sympathy for her. If anything, he wants to go over there and strangle the shit out of her. If it isn't only for the people around who've been kissing her ass constantly.

As if Jongin heard his spiteful thoughts, the tanned boy turns to his direction, his face relaxing when he spots Soo standing in the far corner. He mumbles something to the secretary assisting Soojung before walking to where Kyungsoo is.

He doesn't say anything even when he's already standing in front of him. Neither is there a smile on his face. Fear slowly succumbs in Kyungsoo's chest, as he blinks rapidly and forces a small smile at him even if it's the hardest thing to do right now.

What is he afraid of? Why is it just completely resurfacing as soon as he faced Jongin? He did nothing wrong. There shouldn't be anything to be scared of.

Even if everyone thinks otherwise. And by everyone, he means...everyone.

"S-Shall we go now?" he tries to sound casual, eagerly praying that Jongin would smile and nod as they leave this place. That it would be that easy, because it's not.

There's a bitter thought swirling around his head—how often does people let him down? Because Soo can't find the urge to be optimistic about anything anymore. He always expects the worst responses, worst outcomes, constant rejection.

Yet when Jongin lets out a sigh, it doesn't hurt any less.

"Mr. Han will be driving you home today, Soo." he says seriously, "I already gave him the keys."

He didn't even ask what happened in his father's office. He didn't even ask if he's fine.

"Why?" Soo forces a small smile even when the reason is eventually becoming known to him.

"There's an emergency."

"And you need to be there?" now the distaste in his tone can't be concealed, "It's more important than getting me out of this place?"

Jongin looks straight into his testing eyes.

"She needs to be brought to the hospital, Soo." he says with a hint of disbelief as if Kyungsoo's words just sounded too inhumane for him, "Are we seriously going to argue what's important and what's not?"

More employees call for assistance to attend to Soojung, gaining back Jongin's attention as he looks behind to check. But Soo just needed to ask. He needs to hear it straight from him.

"You don't believe them, do you?" he asks even when his voice is close to breaking. Jongin looks at him again because of this.

"What?"

There's huge bile reforming in his throat, but Kyungsoo swallows it down to repeat his question.

"You don't believe that I stole those designs..." he pauses to take another gulp, "right?"

He wants to crush his hopes himself. That way, maybe the pain wouldn't be this much. It wouldn't hurt as much as seeing Jongin taking a while to even give him a response.

Despite hearing approaching footsteps behind him, his eyes never left the same man. Even when his question was never answered.

"Sir."

"Soo, Mr. Han is here." he tells the shorter while glancing at the company driver beside him, "Take a rest for now, okay? I'll see you the soonest I can."

If only he can laugh at himself because of how stupid he looks. He even has the guts to watch Jongin run back to the girl he hates with his whole heart. Despite his eyes warming with tears, he grits his teeth hard to prevent them from falling.

Gasping another breath, he successfully keeps them at bay after blinking repeatedly. Mr. Han simply trails behind him on their way to the elevator. And even when they reach the car, the driver doesn't say anything, as if scared to pull some trigger.

The huge shrine in front of their building stands proudly. It's one of the most well-known trademarks of their stand in the country. The tall sculpture looks like an abstract art the first time you look at it, but if you watch closer—those are all the famous landmarks and buildings the firm designed for the past years, as if molded into one. Their family's empire. His father's 'hardwork.' Kyungsoo smiles bitterly as his glistening eyes linger on it.

The car has been moving for more than a minute, with Soo spacing out the entire time. Although Mr. Han almost hits the brake when he suddenly speaks. Fortunately, he didn't do it or else they could've caught an accident.

"Wait!" he looks apologetic when the driver looks at him through the mirror, chest heaving from the sudden interruption. "Sorry...c-can you drop me off at the diner? I'm not going home yet..."

The man still looks jumpy when he nods at him. Kyungsoo couldn't believe he just remembered it now. They agreed to meet at the diner after the presentation. He was too preoccupied of everything and Jongin must've forgot to remind him as well. At least he hasn't reached his apartment yet.

Despite looking a little reluctant, Mr. Han drives him there without any complaints. Soo appreciates the peace and silence he lets him have. He might be scared first and foremost, but he also seems to know it's what the chaebol son needs after all the chaos this afternoon.

He sends Jongin a text on his way, but he doesn't receive any response yet even after reaching the diner.

"I'll just park the car while waiting for you, Sir—"

"No, you can go back, Mr. Han." Kyungsoo tells him, "I'll be fine here."

The driver blinks at him, "How will you go home?"

He smiles at him reassuringly, "I'm meeting Jongin later so we'll go home together."

Mr. Han still seems to be reluctant about it, "Are you sure, Sir?"

"Yes. Don't worry. Thanks." he says with the same smile. He doesn't wait for his response and walks inside. True enough, Soo hears the engine of the car as it drives away.

Chanyeol greets him with the same cheeky grin, though it slowly falters as soon as he noticed how forced the one Kyungsoo gave him is.

"Hey..." now his greeting tone rather sounds worried, "you okay?"

Soo beams bigger, "Yeah." but the gulp he makes after doesn't go unnoticed, "Chanyeol, I can wait here right? I'm meeting Jongin."

"Of course..." the taller's gaze is still filled with concern, "though he didn't mention it to me beforehand. He always gives me heads up first if he's dropping by outside his work schedule."

"Oh...we just talked about it today, that's why." he assures Chanyeol with the same smile.

"Ah. Of course, you can wait here." he smiles back, "How's the final presentation? That's today, right?"

His smile drops again when he sees the quick shift on Kyungsoo's expression, but the shorter shrugs casually, not dwelling on it even further.

This should be his burden alone.

"Fine." he says without looking at the taller, "So...I'll just order when Jongin comes—"

"Wait..." he blinks rapidly when Chanyeol walks around the counter to look at him closer, "what happened to your cheek? It's red..."

Kyungsoo quickly moves away before he could look closer. He gulps before smiling at Chanyeol again, who's now looking even more worried.

"I fell asleep in the car. Bad position. That's probably why." he says with a shrug, "I'll go there now."

The forced smile eventually leaves his lips as soon as he turns around. He picks the usual table and sits there. Chanyeol is still watching him even after settling himself, so he gives him another smile.

He checks his phone and sees the same wallpaper on it. No new messages. With a heavier chest, he types another one.

Hey, I'm here now. =) Chanyeol's on duty tonight, though I told him I'll wait for you before ordering

He sends it, continuously blinking before sending another one.

Send me a message if you're on your way, okay

Kyungsoo waits for a few more minutes, looking around the place even if there's a sharp pain in his chest. Even without holding his phone, his glance drops on it every now and then, as if he's not crushed enough to see nothing new coming in.

Inhaling deep breaths every now and again is becoming more difficult to do. What is he doing? He's seen this thing. It used to make him laugh, and now he's doing it. Being pathetic had been the last thing he'd bring himself to be. But what now?

This is a scary thing, after all. Because despite the strong urge inside him to leave, his own voice yelling in his head that he's waiting for nothing—Kyungsoo remains on the same spot, dismissing everything with the same forced smile and gritted teeth.

There were a lot of internal conflict, but he listens to this one gentle voice of him instead of all the other rational ones.

It's okay, Soo. He tells himself, he'll come. Just wait.

 

 

"Kyungsoo?"

Soo flinches from the gentle tap on his shoulder, hastily tilting his head up from his arms just to see Chanyeol standing in front of him.

"S-Sorry..." he mumbles weakly and grabs his phone in a heartbeat, "Did I nap too long?"

He checks it and tries to conceal another disappointment that could be shown through his eyes when he sees the same last messages sent by him alone. No response.

"No... just probably around thirty minutes ago when I saw you checking your phone." Chanyeol says in a low voice.

Kyungsoo chuckles lightly, "I thought it was a long sleep..."

Chanyeol tries to smile back but it doesn't reach his eyes. He sits in front of Kyungsoo, who's obviously exhausted from sitting and hoping for hours and hours.

"Kyungsoo-yah..." he calls gently.

"Are you closing?" Soo asks when he looked around and realized there's just him now, "Should I move outside?"

"No...it's still an hour before closing." Chanyeol says, looking conflicted.

"Ah...then I can stay here 'til then, right?" he asks with a relieved smile. The taller sighs because of this.

"I don't think Jongin's coming..." Chanyeol tells him, "You've been messaging him for the past four hours. I tried texting and calling him, too. You should go home and rest now, Kyungsoo. It's been a long day."

Soo swallows before shaking his head, smiling a little.

"He went to the hospital so maybe he just got stuck in traffic. Phone battery drained. You know Jongin...he often forgets a charger." he chuckles despite Chanyeol's serious look at him, "He knows your closing time, so he'll probably try catching it. He'll be here."

Silence engulfs them when Chanyeol simply stares at him, both in awe and disbelief.

"I don't know if I should laugh at you or be concerned, you know?" he tells Soo with a sad smile.

Soo chuckles again, but the way he clutches his own hand on his lap implies otherwise.

"He told me we're meeting here. He'll come." he says again, holding on to nothing but words.

Chanyeol lets out a sigh, "Just one more hour. And then go home, please Kyungsoo?"

Soo looks at him, swallowing hard before nodding.

"Just one more hour, promise."

And so it passed.

At 10PM, Soo hugs himself in front of the closing diner. The breeze of air is colder than it usually is, but he doesn't complain. He watches the almost empty street with a hollow feeling in his heart.

For another time, he checks his phone. When he sees the same emptiness he's been seeing for the past few hours, he ends up putting it back in his pocket, finally deciding it's time to stop.

Maybe he forgot. He tells himself, maybe he needed to fix some things, and his phone got drained so he totally forgot. Yes. Repeating it over and over again, for sure he'll be fine.

Chanyeol comes out of the diner with his helmet and keys on his hands. He gives him a small smile before pulling the roller shutter down. When he completely locks it, he faces Soo, waiting for him to say something. But the shorter only stares back at him.

He wants to cuss at Chanyeol. He realized he prefers him to be the stupid playboy he is, because he'd rather see the smug grin on his face rather than the same concerned smile he's been sporting since this afternoon. It pierces something in his chest.

The tall, blonde guy wordlessly hands him the other helmet. He remembers it from the first time he introduced Baekhyun to him, which was quite a long time ago. Kyungsoo didn't even realize how fast time had gone.

"Are you sure? I'm not on the way." he grins a little but Chanyeol is already hopping on the motorcycle to start the engine.

"Someone will strangle me to death if I leave you here." he says while putting his own helmet. Soo chuckles with humor. He'd like to think it's either Baekhyun or Jongin, but after everything that happened today, maybe not.

"Don't worry, I don't think they'd care that much." he mumbles while hopping behind him. He doesn't know if Chanyeol heard, but the latter doesn't respond immediately.

He tugs onto his shirt when they start moving.

"I do, don't worry." Chanyeol tilts his head a little to tell him even from underneath his helmet, "Now I know you're tired, but try to hold tight, okay?"

Soo can only nod, because speaking would've gotten him busted. He feels like a hormonal fourteen year old all over again. How can simple and harmless words from Chanyeol make him want to break down?

It's his first time riding a motorcycle but it's one of the rides he appreciated the most. It's different from the small, confined spaces of his expensive cars. For the first time that day, Soo felt like he could breathe. The harsh wind against his face made him braver to let go of the tightness he's been keeping in his chest, allowing him to tear up because no one would see. The wind will quickly dry them up anyway.

Chanyeol subtly tilts his head to the side every now and then, sometimes glancing at him through the mirror. The helmet makes it hard to see the shorter's face but he can tell something's up just by the way Kyungsoo's grip on his shirt tightens.

They reach the village of his apartment, with Kyungsoo slowly hopping off. The exhaustion is evident on his face, as if he's sick of the façade and finally frees himself from pretending most of the day.

Chanyeol watches him while he takes the helmet off.

"I'm gonna try calling Jongin again as soon as I get home."

Soo looks at him before shaking his head, "No need. Maybe's he's asleep now, just let him rest."

The taller chuckles without humor, "Then I'd like to do it even more."

"It's fine, Chanyeol." he says, voice strained, "Maybe he really just forgot. It happens. I make him wait for me every day so it's not a big deal."

Chanyeol nods once, even if the last few words are far from believable.

"Take a rest now." he tells Kyungsoo, "You deserve it more than anyone. Stop thinking about it too much, okay?"

Soo nods with a small smile, "Thank you."

"Good night, Kyungsoo."

He lets the chaebol son enter the apartment building first before leaving. Soo hears the motorcycle driving away before taking the elevator.

When he reaches his dark and empty apartment, the awful feeling latches onto him even more. Soo couldn't find the strength to do anything else. He lets his bag drop on the floor before falling on his bed without bothering to change his clothes.

He stares at the ceiling for quite some time, hoping that the weight in his chest could finally subside now that he's in a much more comfortable position. But it stays there like a heavy block, making him take and release continuous deep breaths through his lips.

His gaze doesn't leave the dark ceiling as he reaches for his phone in his pocket, gently tossing to the side when he sees no response at all. He blinks rapidly when he feels it all coming up again.

Kyungsoo tries to figure out how his day perfectly started, just to end in a complete wreck. For the last time that night, he tells himself that Jongin didn't intend to forget. He won't purposely hurt him like that. He repeats it over and over again until weariness consumes him completely. And with his heart heaviest than it has ever been, he falls asleep, hoping it would be a much more bearable day when he wakes up.

×

The weight seemed to settle itself under his eyes when he woke up the next day.

Like him, his phone is drained when he got up. He fell asleep last night without charging it, but it's not like it mattered because he hasn't received the message he's been waiting for since the previous day. Soo stares at his screen and unlike yesterday, the feelings arousing in him today are more unrelenting rather than hopeful.

So what was so hard about contacting him? What's an acceptable reason to have him waiting like this? Because Jongin better have a good one.

Probably because he feels sick ever since he got up, it's like all the burden has made him too exhausted to even move a limb. But he pushed his luck and was able to take a shower and go to school despite his throbbing head.

When he got there, it seemed to get worse.

When he stepped inside the meeting room, there's a loud buzz over something. Although it's too quick to die down when his presence gets known. He looks around at everyone but most of the org members either avoid his gaze or share meaningful glances. There's not a single joke or enthusiastic greeting that welcomed him.

Since he's not in the mood, he doesn't ask about it. Soo proceeds to putting his bag down on his table and the people take this as a chance to leave the room immediately.

One person remains on the same spot, however.

"What's happening?" Soo looks at his friend who's only watching him seriously, "What is the fuss all about?"

Baekhyun only exhales a heavy breath. The way his jaw hardens doesn't go unnoticed to Kyungsoo, but he takes this as a sign to urge him even more.

"Baekhyun."

"They heard the news, too." his brows crease, unable to figure out what Baekhyun is pertaining to, for a moment. Baekhyun slightly raises his brows, "About what happened yesterday."

"Wh—" he chuckles in disbelief. He finds it ridiculous that the word has spread that fast when it only happened yesterday. When it's not even true, "Who told you about it?"

Baekhyun only stares at him blankly but Soo isn't having any of it anymore. He's asking, yet he already has the idea who possibly did.

"The word was just spreading as soon as I arrived today." now the sharpness in Baekhyun's tone becomes even more noticeable, "The members have been talking about it since this morning."

The thought of Baekhyun giving vague details just to keep Soojung away from the conversation comes across his mind. It pinches something in him, and everything they've talked about before the presentation is making its way back to him as well, as if it's not enough.

"So that bitch went on to badmouthing me as soon as she recovered." Kyungsoo grits his teeth, "She's actually multitalented, isn't she?"

Baekhyun stares at him with the kind of look that he doesn't like. So he looks back at him with testing eyes, as if challenging him to speak his mind. But Baekhyun stands up from his seat and shifts away from him.

"I'd do the same."

His back is facing Kyungsoo now, but the latter heard the words clearly. There are only the two of them in the room to be mistaken.

"What?"

Baekhyun looks at him again, his eyes squinting this time.

"I'd do the same, if my work was stolen."

Kyungsoo blinks before letting out a sarcastic chuckle, "I can't fucking believe this."

He grits his teeth hard in between smiling. Kyungsoo doesn't bother saying anything else as he hastily grabs his bag from the table, but Baekhyun blocks his way even before he could step out.

"Soo, what has gotten into you?"

"I don't want to talk to you anymore, Baekhyun."

"You've become desperate for a man!"

It felt the worst. Kyungsoo could take tons of mocking words and insult from other people. But seeing the look on Jongin's face that day, and now hearing Baekhyun's words crushed him even more. He thought having a very few people to trust will save him from heartbreak, but he realized he should've just settled for none.

"Shut your fucking mouth."

"It's true. You badly wanted Jongin that you resorted into this!" Baekhyun heaves, like he's hoping to get some sense into Kyungsoo's head. "There are so many ways...too many of them, and you...you came up with stealing?"

Soo looks away with the same sarcastic grin on his face. But in reality, he takes this time to swallow the lump forming in his throat. He takes this time to ask how hard it must be to hear his side without any judgment. No one seems to be capable of doing it.

"I worked hard for those designs." he pauses when he feels like being choked around the neck by something so sharp, "She's the one who stole them while I helplessly watched them humiliate me. But then again, why should I bother explaining to you? You've already chosen a side."

"Then where's the proof, Soo?" Baekhyun asks him desperately, "Why does she have all the legit evidence? You make it so hard to believe."

Soo only wanted a little more time. A little faith he could pull some strength from. He's willing to prove them they're wrong but reality finally hits him. It was his last straw.

Because even the people he loves have always seen him like this. No matter what he does, they'd see him as a bad person. That's just how it is. Trying to change it wouldn't be worth the try.

"I would've bothered investigating." he says, his smile shifting into a weak one. "But for whom shall I do it for? For the panel who mocked me? For my father? For you? When you didn't even think twice to believe all her lies?"

Baekhyun's eyes are glistening, his chest heaving. He looks at Kyungsoo with so much conflict in his eyes like he doesn't know what to believe anymore. But for Soo, he already made his choice.

"I am very worried about you. I have always been. It's the reason why you keep hearing this harsh truth from me. You didn't need to stoop this low, Soo. If you felt like there's no other way, I could've helped. But I always felt like you're reluctant to trust me with your true feelings." there's an evident pain in his voice, "I thought...I was your friend."

Soo has completely felt his heart sinking on the floor. Baekhyun blinks rapidly when he sees the transparency in Kyungsoo's eyes. The chaebol son looks completely pained and disappointed, and he doesn't bother concealing it anymore.

"I thought so, too." he says with shortened breath, "I thought you were my friend, Baek. But when you judged me that quick, I..." his voice breaks so he pauses briefly, still trying to keep that damn smile on his lips.

"I realized I was wrong. It's you who didn't trust me, so stop with this fake concern, please."

Baekhyun's shoulders droop down, unable to retaliate. Soo fixes the strap of his bag on his shoulder so that his trembling hand won't be noticed, then he looks at Baekhyun for the last time.

"Go on and kiss Soojung's ass. You're no different from the people I trusted before." now the spite in his tone comes back, "Chanyeol was kind enough to send me home last night, by the way. Maybe I'll just fuck him to get over my desperation over Jongin. What do you think?"

He forces a little grin even when Baekhyun's eyes rounded with what he said. Soo doesn't wait for his response anymore and storms out of the room.

Catching heavy breaths on his way out, Soo decides not to push through attending his classes anymore. The heaviness in his whole body is almost too much to bear. He exhales shortened breaths while keeping his tears from falling. No way he's going to cry over this. He's not going to shed a tear over anyone again today.

His tears actually pull themselves back when he sees a different driver waiting for him. Mr. Han isn't there.

Because of his consistent headache, he doesn't bother asking anymore.

"I'm going back to my apartment."

The driver opens the door for him before he even could.

"There's an order from the Chairman, Sir." he says sternly, "He instructed to bring you back to the mansion in case you're going home."

Kyungsoo frowns. He doesn't have the time for anyone's stupidity but he tries to keep a proper response.

"I'm going back to my apartment because that's where I live." he says sharply, "Now, go."

"He already had some of your things brought back to the mansion." Soo finally stiffens because of this, "Strict orders, Sir."

"What?" he tries not to panic, but his father doing this has to mean something. He shuts his eyes to keep the tiny bit of patience left in him, hoping he could fix this all within the day. He's not sleeping in that big cold house.

"Drive me to his office then."

The driver complied without hesitance, making him think if his father actually expected him to react like this.

Throughout the ride to the firm's tower, he's in deep thought. Kyungsoo thinks of possible reasons as to why his father would throw him back home. He would've mentioned it right on their last argument and be done with it yesterday, so why now? Why does it have to be so sudden?

He's afraid, for some reason. He's already suffocated by everything recently, going back home will completely take his already limited freedom.

Soo shuts his eyes. Everything is piling up for him and his head hurts even more. Let it be over.

The driver hops out of the car as soon as they arrive, but Soo doesn't wait for him and opens the door himself. He doesn't need anyone to do that for him and they should know that. This is why he prefers having the same driver for himself. Without another word or glance, he enters the building with big steps.

As soon as he reaches the top floor, he's swiftly blocked by a secretary.

"Sir—the Chairman is in a meeting..."

"Get out of my way." Soo gave the employee a dangerous look that made her look on the floor. He nonchalantly walks past her. Although he hasn't opened the door for an inch when the voice inside becomes recognizable to him.

"—advised me to rest, but I needed to tell you that." he pursed his lips tight when he confirmed it's Soojung, "Thank you for letting me speak to you, Sir."

"No worries, I hope you fully recover." his father says. Opposed to his stern tone whenever he speaks to Kyungsoo, he sounds more approachable to the lady. "As for your presentation, they all liked it. Expect to hear from my secretaries soon, you and Jongin."

Soo clenches his jaw, his chest heaving.

"I hope you don't mind that I brought Jongin's other documents myself. He was still asleep when I left."

This time, his grip on the door tightens. The mention of a certain name stirs shit up in him. His father's meaningful chuckle doesn't even help.

"It's okay." Soo needed to pull the door a little so that it won't be that opened to be noticeable. He still makes sure he can hear what they're saying, "You're all tired from yesterday, it's good that he's getting a rest. His service isn't needed as of the moment, anyway."

It's never his hobby to eavesdrop on anyone's conversation but he made an exception for Soojung. The woman has already made enough lies about him and she's very much capable of making more.

"Yes. About that, Sir..." even the timidity in her voice infuriates the hell out of him. He's reminded of the time when he's one of the people she easily deceived, "that's also one of my concerns today."

She pauses briefly and Soo feels the urge to listen even more intently.

"Jongin has been telling me about the opportunities he's been receiving from you and he's grateful." she sounds so hesitant based from the slow pace of her words, "But since he's graduating, and he landed a position in your firm, he doesn't really need to do extra work for your son, right...Sir?"

Kyungsoo looks down on the floor, his breath hitching. He's scared. He has a strong feeling that he'll hear something that will scar him for life, and therefore he needs to run before she could even continue. Yet here he is, listening to more of her words without his eyes blinking.

"I took the courage to ask you because he doesn't know how to tell you himself. He thinks that you'd probably take it the wrong way if he says that he doesn't want to continue the favor you asked him regarding your son. You've given him a lot in return so he doesn't want to sound ungrateful." he can tell she's sporting her fake kind smile that gets everyone, "But if he can repay you now by working in this firm, he doesn't really need to worry about that anymore, right Sir?"

No. Soo tells himself repeatedly. No.

"Ah..." his father responds considerately, "Yes, I understand."

"I hope you consider, Sir." now Soo is completely still on his spot, "Jongin has always been kind and he never complained about it even when he obviously wants bigger opportunities. He never took the payment you've been giving him for granted."

She's a liar. Kyungsoo needed to convince himself harder that this is the same woman who stole his hard work and manipulated everyone. He shouldn't believe a word that slips through her lips. Jongin will never lie to him like that. Never.

But maybe that's just naturally how he is. Because he remembers how long he waited for nothing yesterday. Those times when he was confused of the vague signs he's getting from Jongin. The hesitance on his face when he asked him if he believed those people who mocked him. He remembers them all. And just like that, he feels short of air.

Bigger opportunities— he thinks about all the ambitions Jongin has for himself. He had never seen himself included in those. Soo only realized it now when he's already been planning a bunch of his goals with him in it.

He never really learned.

"I totally understand, Miss Jung. Tell him he doesn't need to worry about it. I can get someone else to do the favor I asked him." the Chairman says casually, unaware of his presence at the door. "I'm aware how difficult it is to deal with my son."

Soo inhales a deep breath, collecting himself when he realized the conversation is being wrapped up and she could go out anytime soon. It's not like he cares about being caught listening. What he doesn't want is to look bothered by it. It would be another win for her.

"Thank you so much, Sir." he hears Soojung saying, "I should get going now."

"Alright. Thank you for telling me your concerns."

Kyungsoo remains standing outside his father's office when the door opens. He sees her brows raising at the sight of him before the side of her lips subtly curves.

"Good morning." Soojung smiles, not even shaken by the intensity of Kyungsoo's gaze.

"Where's Jongin?"

She completely smiles this time, making it look like a harmless one.

"Resting." she sighs, "He had a long day yesterday."

This got Kyungsoo's lips pursing into a thin line, adding more satisfaction to the girl.

"Understandable." he nods with sarcasm, "Dealing with a lying bitch like you must be tiring."

Soojung chuckles, and Soo just had to fight it. Fight the strong urge to pull her down by the hair until she couldn't breathe again. Soojung looks at him in disbelief.

"Are you going to make a scene again?"

He takes a step closer, gaining courage from all the pain she has caused him for the past twenty-four hours to look at her straight into the eyes.

"Once I get the evidence that you stole my work, I'm going to give you so much worse than a scene."

For a moment, Soojung loses her smile. But she gains it back and squints her eyes mockingly at him.

"Then find the evidence." she tests him without blinking an eye. Soojung starts walking away but stops again to look back at him, "Oh...and don't ask for Jongin. He doesn't have anything to do with you anymore."

He forces a grin, but she gives it back as if she can see through him very well. She can see how her words affect him right into his core.

"And I should listen to you, because?"

Soojung crosses her arms over her chest before shrugging.

"Cause you're probably there long enough to hear everything I relayed to your father." she smiles sweetly, "And you probably heard his response. You're a difficult person. Jongin and everyone else think the same."

His hands balled into fists.

Soojung grins, "See you at school?"

She fixes her hair and completely walks away, leaving him out of breath because of the rage he tried to keep in.

But he can't take it anymore. He needs answers.

With teeth gritted hard and his chest still heaving, he goes inside his father's office. The man is standing up from his seat as if he's already on his way to a meeting, interrupted once again by his favorite child.

"Tell me the truth." Soo speaks right into the point.

"I didn't call you." his father starts off and completely disregards what he said. He goes through his files, "Don't you have classes?"

"What was the favor you asked from Jongin?"

This made the Chairman finally look at him, noticing his slightly clenched jaw and tightened fists.

"What are you—"

"I heard everything so please just answer my damn question."

Chairman Do sighs in defeat.

"I asked him to drive you every now and then." he says like it should be a normal thing, "Look after you and report if you're doing anything stupid."

Jongin's words are coming back to him, crushing his heart more and more.

"A-And..." he breathes, "And you've been paying him?"

"Why is it a big deal, Soo?"

"Please, a-answer."

His father narrows his eyes like he doesn't get the point of the conversation. But the desperation in Kyungsoo's voice intrigued him. It's not really common to hear the boy pleading him for some truth.

"I've been shouldering his school fees and allowances in return." he creases his brows when Soo began biting his lip, "Is that so surprising? I asked for his service, he should be paid. The boy didn't even want to do it when I first asked so I had to make negotiations."

The last sentence hits him harder than anything else. Things start to make sense now and he doesn't know how long he could keep himself standing. Everything is breaking him in a hard, merciless way.

"No need for payment." he mutters while looking at the distance, "You just have to ask."

Soo breathes heavily.

"And he's been telling you everything I do?"

"You would go wilding everywhere if you're not monitored, so yes." the older chuckles, looking impressed with a thought. "And quite frankly, he did a good job keeping you on a leash. I could've paid him more if I knew he was a tamer."

He blinks hard, not being able to speak now. Soo thinks of all the things he told Jongin. Every little secret he trusted him with. All the doubts he never considered when it came to him. Everything real about him.

Among everyone, he trusted him the most. He showed him his complete, raw self and there's a tiny hope lingering in Soo that Jongin wouldn't betray him like that.

His dumb, pathetic self hopes Jongin wouldn't.

"And Europe, huh?" his father says humorously that gives him another turning point, "You're really that hopeful to escape your responsibilities that you think about running away?"

He breathes through his lips, his voice finally breaking.

"H-He told you...about that, t-too?"

That was his only hope of escaping.

His father shakes his head in amusement, not showing any sign of sympathy. Tears are finally brimming in Kyungsoo's eyes.

"You could've been smarter, Soo." his father says, thinking that he's devastated over his busted plan. "I had your apartment closed this morning and I limited your cards. You're going back home and do everything I say. So you can kill that Europe dream of yours because you'll stay here for good."

He bites his lip, hard enough that it could bleed just to suppress an impending sob. His father's intrigued yet amused expression was the last thing he saw before storming out of the room. Soo can barely see the path he's taking because of his blurred vision, bumping into some employees while keeping his head down so no one would see how miserable he looks.

"I don't want you to think...that this is what I'm after."

He reaches an empty cubicle in the restroom, finally breaking down into loud, heavy sobs. Soo weakly leans on the door behind him while gritting his teeth hard to control his tears, but it only becomes worse. This time, he can't stop them anymore.

"I don't want you to think that you need to give me things like this just to keep me."

When those certain words made their way back into his mind, his crying becomes silent. But it isn't less agonizing.

Kyungsoo lets it all out in a cold, empty restroom, hoping that it would eventually falter. But if there was something he learned throughout this hellhole he's been living in, it's that the pain never subsided. He would only repress it deep down his heart again and again, until it would resurface when it's too much to handle.

But it never goes away.

This has got to be the worst he's ever been. He has always been good at keeping everything in, not allowing anyone to tear him apart. Jongin did everything so easily. He effortlessly had him wrapped around his fingers, gained his trust and even his heart, just so he could step and spit on them so mercilessly.

It all makes sense now. Why he befriended him. Why he always seemed so patient and understanding. How stupid was it for Soo to think it was all genuine. Worse—to think that he possibly feel the same way he does for him. He thinks of the times that Jongin seemed really concerned and how he encouraged him all the time when no one else did. The instances where Soo was almost sure it was never Soojung. That maybe it was him, after all. Jongin made it so believable. He was almost sure it's real. So fucking stupid. Soo repeats it under his breath while his heart shatters, so fucking stupid.

It was never right to think someone could genuinely care for him. After all, he's a mean, spoiled rich kid whom everyone hates. But Soo just had to hope. Jongin made it so convincing that he could trust his raw, real self to him. That his secrets will be secured and safely kept. And that someone will love him back, for who he really is and not as the manufactured person this life made him to be.

And now Soo pathetically cries while catching his breath, telling himself that making an exception was never a right choice.

It was all a joke. A sick and ruthless joke he wished he never went along with.