The temperature dropped as night fell on the bustling city of Seoul. A trip indoors suddenly felt like an escapade.
In the apartment that Li Jingjing lived in, Lin Ruoxi pulled down her hat before she sat down on the couch.
“The interior design is pretty cozy, I think it’s rather comfy for someone living alone,” Lin Ruoxi complimented.
Li Jingjing promptly left to prepare two cups of warm tea, placed the saucers down on the coffee table, before she took a seat across Lin Ruoxi herself.
“It’s under Chairman Park Cheon’s arrangements. Perks for being close to the Park household I guess.” Li Jingjing replied with a smile.
“Huh, then he could have arranged for you to move into the estate.”
Li Jingjing shook her head. “Might be part of the household rules. Besides, I’m a private educator, not a guest or a servant.”
“Right…” Lin Ruoxi nodded.
The conversation lasted only several seconds and the women found themselves back in the awkward situation they were in not long ago.
Lin Ruoxi lifted her cup of freshly brewed tea, took a polite sip, and leisurely placed it back on the table.
The living room was back to pin-drop silence.
After a long while, Lin Ruoxi carefully walked the fine line as she made the inquiry. “Jingjing...are you...dating Park Jonghyun?”
“Was it Yang Chen’s idea to have you stop by to ask?” Li Jingjing appeared to have expected the question as she replied with a question of her own.
Lin Ruoxi was caught off guard as she contemplated for a moment before she answered. “It was on all our minds.”
“Because Park Jonghyun is a lot more complex than he looks. We are worried you would buy into his appearance and might get hurt down the line.” Lin Ruoxi truthfully made her point.
Li Jingjing seemingly found her earnest response funny, as she grinned. “H..urt?”
“Mm-hmm.” Lin Ruoxi nodded. “I’m not sure if you knew, but Park Jonghyun attempted to seize the inheritance and dated Yoo Yeonhee as part of the plot. When he realized she was less valuable to him than he first thought, he heartlessly tossed her out of the fray!”
Li Jingjing seemed rather unwavering as she looked her in the eye. “Yoo Yeonhee is Yoo Yeonhee and I’m me. I am worthless in his fight for the crown inheritance, so how are we equivalents?”
“But...don’t you think that presents him as a man with questionable morals?” Lin Ruoxi anxiously followed up.
Li Jingjing stared begrudgingly back at her before she reasoned. “Ruoxi...big sister, here’s something you should know about Yang Chen too. Big brother Yang, before my very eyes, ripped someone’s brain out of their body. So, according to your logic that would make him no less a murderer, but also a vile and tyrannical man.”
“How can you put him into comparison! Yang Chen doesn’t kill for the joy of it, he does that to protect you!” Lin Ruoxi was visibly displeased.
“But Park Jonghyun, for his own benefits used Yoo Yeonhee as a pawn to achieve his goa. That makes him worse than detaching someone’s head?” She confronted with a rhetorical question.
Lin Ruoxi was perplexed, she would never have expected their conversation to be where it was at the moment.
Capitalizing on Lin Ruoxi’s silence, Li Jingjing continued, “I know the both of you mean well. You’re genuinely worried that I might be used, played, and thrown away like a rag doll.
But Ruoxi, have you ever considered that even if Park Jonghyun wasn’t here, there might be someone else too.
Let me be a little thick faced here. If I was a normal, ordinary-looking woman, I might settle down with a mundane desk job, and peacefully spend my days.
Yet here I am, enticing the prodigy child Park Jonghyun, which would prove that I am not meant for the ordinary.
Here’s a fact that you probably wouldn’t know. Back when I was in my ancestral home back in Zhonghai, if it wasn’t for Big brother Yang, I would likely have fallen victim to the then leaders of the Zhonghai West Union Society Chen Dehai and Chen Feng.
If it wasn’t for Brother Yang, I might have been a hostess in a night club. Ruoxi, my parents had poor health for as long as I’ve known, which meant our family had always needed money. Besides those jobs, I was really out of options…”
Lin Ruoxi clenched her fists, gripping tight on the edges of her shirt, biting on her lip.
Li Jingjing dried her tears, forcing a bitter smile before she continued, “Ruoxi, you’ve always had the best conditions. But some days, when I walk by those shady nightclubs, I would look at all those pretty girls working in there and think, most of them had no choice but to be here.
Maybe they’re just kids like me. At one point they were teachers, college students, or office employees, some I’m guessing might even be rich folk. But when they were forced upon by the unpredictable wrath that is life itself, do you really think we could have avoided these options?
If it wasn’t Park Jonghyun today, it might be Li Jongyeon, Kim Jonghyun tomorrow. If I were to return to Zhonghai. I would have to build a family of my own too, wouldn't I? And the man that I’m interested in, who knows what his background and aspirations are? Can I promise myself that I would actually meet my true love?”
Up to this point, Li Jingjing self-depreciated. “Sure, the world isn’t all that dark all the time. I’m just thinking of the worst-case scenarios. At the end of the day, I genuinely...envy you, Ruoxi…”
Lin Ruoxi was left speechless as she watched the girl, her mind filled with an array of conflicted emotions.
Li Jingjing bitterly added, “Ruoxi, you could brazenly come here on your own to warn me, because you know everything is under control. You’re assured that Big brother Yang would come to your aid whenever you need to.
You could get mad at him, mess around with him, make lists after lists of strenuous demands and he would make sure to keep you satisfied. And honestly, that’s the kind of relationship that I’ve been looking for too. I need a man for me to rely on, to lean on whenever I need. But I’m not you. Not even close. Like most people out there, we’re just not as lucky as you.”
Lin Ruoxi took a deep breath. “So from your tone, I’m guessing you’d still be with Park Jonghyun right?”
Li Jingjing shook her head. “If he wanted to flirt with me, who am I to tell him off? I’m nobody. He’s the regional head of an international corporation. He hasn’t tried to tease me into submission, so why should I oppose his advances?”
Lin Ruoxi was tongue-tied. She knew full well of what Park Jonghyun is capable of if he was provoked.
Lin Ruoxi was just about to say Yang Chen could come to her aid, but that would place Li Jingjing right into Yang Chen’s arms!
Li Jingjing noticed Lin Ruoxi’s perplexity as she giggled. “Ruoxi, you’re in the crossroads exactly because of how drastically different our perspectives are.
Hence, regardless of what you’ve said or are about to say, it would be just like opposite ends of a string. The harder you pull the tighter it gets. And eventually, it snaps! Try putting it into context.”
Lin Ruoxi, shellshocked, looked speechlessly at the person across the table, confused by what she had become.
“Looks like you’ve truly grown a lot the past year. I’m honored to be the one here listening to you.”
Li Jingjing added. “Men often lie to themselves. And if it wasn’t for a certain man in your life, I bet you wouldn’t have met me here alone.”
Lin Ruoxi denied in response. “Good guess, but it’s the other way around actually. It was my idea thinking that Yang Chen might go easy on you, so I held him back in the nick of time. And here I am convincing you instead. Even though you sure got me sympathizing, there’s still a selfish side of me in here.”
Whilst speaking, Lin Ruoxi stood up and adjusted her coat. “I’m leaving. It seems like my efforts to stop by have proven futile. Since you know exactly what you were doing, I believe it’s your choice to decide the road you’d like to take. There are plenty of pitiful women in the world. My husband has no obligations to care for each and every one of them that he values, while I have withering patience for any more of his ‘passions’.
Jingjing, you take good care of yourself. And if you need help, you can always dial me up. I will assist you whenever possible, given our decent acquaintance.”
Upon finishing, she stood up and turned towards the exit, shutting the door behind her.
Li Jingjing sat on the couch staring at the now-closed door.
Exiting the apartment compound, Lin Ruoxi made a quick turn into the pavement. In the shadowy spot not far ahead, a familiar face revealed himself.
Yang Chen with a warm smile on his face brought himself towards her and gave her a tight embrace.
“Nice of you to come and pick me up.” Lin Ruoxi was as emotionless as usual, albeit with a tinge of carefreeness.
Hand in hand as they strolled, Yang Chen quickly asked, “So how did it go?”
“Jingjing said she knew what she was doing. She should be the one deciding how her life should go.”
Yang Chen nodded. “If she needs help in any way, do me a favor to watch out for her? Maybe you can talk to CEO Park, to open up the option for her to return to Zhonghai or even to America. Besides, you guys are acquainted aren’t you, wouldn’t it be nice to have a good friend around every now and then?”
Lin Ruoxi smiled in response, as their voices were gradually consumed by the dark of night.
Later that night, over at the Gong clan estate study in Gangnam.
Gong Gyechung sat by the leather revolving chief executive chair, enthusiastically chatting away through the phone.
Lee Eunjeong and Gong Woo were both standing by the study desk, motionless.
As the phone call ended, Gong Gyechung announced, “The heart CEO Park Cheon needed has been located. When the day of the surgery is decided, we will collect it from the Second Hospital and swiftly deliver it to the University Hospital.”
Lee Eunjeong frowned in response. “Sir, pardon me, do you really want to allow that Jane girl to operate on CEO Park Cheon? Wouldn’t this be the best opportunity to offer a huge hand in aid for the Park clan?”
“How tactless,” Gong Gyechung replied. “Simultaneously conducting both the liver and the heart, on a weak, feeble old man is impossible. What do you think the chances of success are?”
“This…” Lee Eunjeong was drenched in a cold sweat. “Probability wise, less than twenty percent. But truthfully speaking, even with all odds against it, the chances are probably less than one percent.”
“And you were saying before? It’s an obvious failure in the making. If we forced ourselves into a competition, what would the outcome be for us? If Jane wants to do it so bad then let her be. It might be a pity that CEO Park passed away at a relatively young age, but we’re not cynical to blame his death on Jane’s operational mishaps, would it?”
Gong Gyechung smirked. “All we need to do is to provide full support whenever necessary, to gain the gratitude of the Park clan. Then, our proposal for an alliance marriage will go swimmingly.”
Gong Woo licked his lips, with a sinister grin on his face. “Dad, that Zhenxiu sure is a marvel. She’s leagues better than the sluttish girls out there. I have to marry her!”
“Dimwit. With the marital promise alone, marrying Zhenxiu will be the first step. After Starmoon enterprise loses that sly old fox Park Cheon, the corporation is ours for the taking. Think a little further, you idiot.”
Gong Woo was inspired, enthusiastic for the bright future to come.