The meeting with the lawyers didn’t take long; Young-do came into his Thursday morning meeting prepared with the basics of his second offer for the Barcelona property. He listened to Vice President Kwon’s input on how to tweak the bid—Sang-joong had far more experience in these kinds of negotiations than Young-do did—and then sent the lawyers off to draft something formal. It left him just enough time to have an overdue conversation with Sang-joong.
To his credit, Sang-joong made no attempt to leave once the lawyers were gone. He stayed in his seat, wearing his usual politely neutral expression, waiting quietly for Young-do to begin the conversation. It would have been more satisfying if the man had looked nervous or guilty, but Sang-joong was as placid as ever.
Young-do took a moment to remind himself that he didn’t need to go into this conversation looking for a fight. The story Eun-sang had told him about their brief encounter at YBS didn’t necessarily mean that Sang-joong had been trying to do something underhanded.
No matter how much it initially felt like it.
“Why did you visit Cha Eun-sang at her workplace?” Young-do managed to keep the question from sounding like an accusation. It felt like a very small victory.
“She is currently a liability to you. I wanted to neutralize that.”
Perhaps it was going to be more difficult to keep ahold of his temper during this conversation than he thought. “The love triangle story has been dropped. Eun-sang isn’t a threat to my public relationship with Ha-sun.”
Sang-joong frowned, just the slightest downturn of the corners of his mouth. His assessing gaze suddenly made Young-do feel like he was back in high school, floundering in those days after his father’s conviction and sentencing.
“Your romantic liaisons—whatever they are—won’t matter to the board, provided Ryu Ha-sun and Pyo Sook-ja stand behind you.” Sang-joong didn’t have to say that the board had stood behind Young-do’s father despite his many romantic scandals; Young-do could hear it well enough in the delivery of the vice president’s words. “Cha Eun-sang is a loose end to your days at Jeguk High School.”
“What do you mean?”
“She never agreed to a settlement. Which means—”
“Eun-sang isn’t the one blackmailing me.”
Sang-joong’s frown deepened. “Which means that, to your father’s supporters, it looks as if she resented what you did to her more than any amount of money we threw her way. Without a settlement to legally enforce her silence, your father or his intermediaries are free to go after her to see if they can get something from her to use against you.”
Young-do clenched his jaw against the dread welling up inside him. He nearly protested that Eun-sang wouldn’t cooperate with his father like that—but that didn’t matter. The idea of his father targeting, threatening, intimidating Eun-sang because of him made him sick. Sick with fear and fury.
And regret, that he had ever been on the same monstrous path as his father.
“You are at war with your father,” Sang-joong continued. “He will use every avenue, every resource, to his advantage. He won’t care at all about harassing Cha Eun-sang into compliance if he believes that she can help him wrest control of Zeus away from you. Imagine the public uproar if she confessed to even half of what you did to her in high school. The board would—”
Sang-joong fell silent, but the look he gave Young-do was eloquent enough. Young-do ran his hand over his face.
“I didn’t accept the money, because I knew if I did, we could never be friends.”
Their friendship now was new and largely untested. Would it ruin their relationship, for him to go to her as a friend and ask her to sign away her voice?
“I’ll handle it,” he told Sang-joong.
The question brought him up short, but whatever Sang-joong saw in his face was enough to get the vice president to his feet. He bowed slightly. “I’ll leave it to you, sir.”
Hyo-shin had just an hour between his two Thursday classes, which really wasn’t enough time to study at the library. He claimed an empty chair and table at the food court and ate the apple he had snagged from the Yoons’ home and the last of the protein bars he had bought for surviving on set. It wasn’t the best lunch, but he had spent today’s food money on Rachel’s dinner, so this was enough.
Last night had been nice. When Young-do wasn’t between them—physically or metaphorically—it was easy enough to have a good time with Rachel. She hadn’t sneered at the bibimbap restaurant, though it had taken a while for her to relax there, just like it had at the café. She was a clever conversationalist, with a dry, sharp sense of humor when she was in the mood. It had been nice to spend an hour just talking to her over food about school and work, instead of blackmail and corporate machinations.
It had been nice to forget, for a while, about everything in his life that was going wrong.
Since he had already finished the reading for the next class, Hyo-shin spent his break looking through apartment listings. The security deposit was going to be the biggest obstacle to him moving out of the Yoons’ place, even more so than finding a job. Even if he put all of the money he had squirreled away into a deposit, it would leave him broke and on the very outskirts of Seoul, in a share house with four or five roommates. Would that be better or worse than continuing to survive on the Yoons’ charity?
That was a question he probably ought to run by his therapist. Jae-sung was a patient sounding board and would be able to ask him questions that Hyo-shin wasn’t ready to ask himself yet.
A notification from Shin Yu-ri popped up on his phone. Hyo-shin opened the message immediately:
Student spot on light crew. Available for interview?
He had been on the light crew for A Daughter’s Revenge. Hope threatened to choke him. Yes, after three. Where?
Hyo-shin counted out the seconds until Yu-ri sent him the address. When she did, he stuck it into his navigation app and checked to see how long it would take to get there. If he snuck out of the last fifteen minutes of his next class, he should be able to get there before three. He texted Yu-ri back to let her know he would be coming. She sent him a thumbs up emoji and nothing else.
He grabbed his backpack and left the food court, tossing the apple core and protein bar wrapper in the trash on his way out. His next stop was the first bathroom he came across, where he spent a moment taking stock of himself in the mirror.
There wasn’t any time for him to go back to the Yoons’ and change clothes. An on-set interview, probably during a break in filming, wasn’t going to be the most formal of occasions. The jeans he was wearing were decent, and so were his sneakers. His shirt wasn’t the best, but if he kept his coat on, it would be fine. Looking like part of the crew would have to do. He could always tell whoever was interviewing him that he came straight from class for the opportunity. It would even be truthful.
Hyo-shin spent some time washing his face and combing his fingers through his hair. With any luck, his professor would show up early and he could turn in his overdue homework before class started and explain that he needed to leave early for an interview. Most of the professors in the film department were flexible for situations like this, especially for seniors, who had to juggle their on-set and classroom expectations.
He needed to be able to find work with a production company or broadcaster if he was ever going to be able to support himself. Hyo-shin needed this position so his last reference before graduation would be someone besides Assistant PD Go.
On the way over to his next class, Hyo-shin texted Chan-young that he needed to find his own way home for the afternoon. Once he explained about the interview, Chan-young sent back a cheerful message: Don’t worry about me. Best of luck, sunbae!
Hyo-shin hoped it didn’t come down to luck; his hadn’t been any good the last few weeks. He pushed that grim thought away and focused instead on the things that were under his control. The opportunity was there, and he just needed to make his best bid for it.