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Gaon, who was unwittingly delighted, soon bit her lips with a troubled expression. Her expression looked like a child, who was allowed only one candy a day, suddenly had the chance of having another candy and seemed at a loss. Haa, what do you mean a child? It was a description that lacked objectivity to the extent that Ji-Won thought he was being stupid. I’m so scared of my own feelings. I was aware of the disease, but sadly I didn’t know the cure.
“If Mrs. Kwon finds out, I’ll get in trouble. I didn’t sleep well last night.”
You didn’t sleep again? Come to think of it, her chin has become sharp in a few days. When I was with her, she managed to eat well and sleep well…. What are the people doing next to her day and night? Don’t they think she needs a breakthrough improvement plan? Ji-Won, who had his mouth closed tightly to avoid showing his irritation on the people beside Gaon, closed his eyes and laughed a little when he saw Gaon’s desperate expression that could not take her eyes off the coffee.
‘Why doesn’t anyone know what she thinks shows on her face? And why do I feel like I’m running around like crazy for a girl? I wasn’t always this moody, right?’
“It’s light, so you can drink it.”
“Yes. I only put in half a shot, and while I brought it, a lot of ice melted. But if you’re really worried, just eat half. In London, you drank coffee thicker than this.”
“Then…, shall I?”
Gaon bit the straw in her mouth with a bright face. She honestly checked the amount left after every sip without confirming she intended to drink only half or not. Ji-Won’s sorrows melted together the ice as he looked at the coffee being getting smaller and smaller. I feel so bad for her. A hundred cups of coffee, if you like…. No, I’d buy you a coffee farm.
“I heard you were in the library all morning.”
“Yes, it’s been a long time since Jungcheon was this quiet.”
“When I saw you coming in, you didn’t look so good…. Did something bother you?”
“Something bothered me…?”
Gaon, who was repeating the words of Ji-Won in a low voice, shook her head lightly. It is always burdensome to delve into a person’s life, but she didn’t think it would be a headache because it was her daily routine. Maybe because she had been focusing for a long time, her eyes were a little dry and her neck was stiff, but she didn’t feel uncomfortable. It’s been a long time since she had been physically exhausted, so she didn’t even care much anymore.
“There is no such thing. It’s just that one of the deceased meter was balanced. So I came here to think about his future destination.”
“Do you usually think about it for this long when such a deceased comes?”
“That’s how it should be, for the future of one soul depends on me. It’s absolutely irreversible.”
A heavy sigh was mixed with Gaon’s drowsy voice. In fact, this is what Gaon finds most difficult when performing her duties as a judge.
No matter how thoughtful and careful she makes a judgment, Gaon’s decision does not always bring about desirable results unless she, the CEO of Jungcheon, is also a perfect being. Sometimes happens when after a long thought, she gives such a person a chance to reincarnate, and in the next life, they appear as a rare killer. And sometimes when she sends them to hell for punishment, the fragile soul, which has been hurt irreparably deep after experiencing the rigors of hell, ends its new life early on its own.
Moreover, due to the nature of humans living together, a person’s life affects many people around him. The murderer inevitably creates victims, and the person who takes his or her life causes an indelible wound to the heart of the family or lover. Sometimes a very sensitive person carries the wounds engraved in the soul whenever he or she receives a new life. Therefore, before making a judgment, she has no choice but to think carefully before making a decision.
Ji-Won’s eyes, which were watching Gaon deep in thought, became a little sharp. Gaon’s calm expression was the same as the stern face as the CEO of Jungcheon, but a small sigh at the end of the speech vividly reminded him of the weak sound he heard only once.
“Director Cha. I’m not a god. I’m just struggling to pass my term safely because I played the role of a judge. Now I’m getting more experienced and more sensible, so even though it looked as if I recognised the old man with only his hand, at first it was a real mess.”
Yeah, it wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be normal to just hold on to your senses like this. Actually, dealing with people is tiring in itself. Furthermore, the people the CEO meets face to face are especially fierce and brutal. No one in the world deals with such people more than the CEO.
‘By the way, people who roughly deal with the dead like us are regularly consulted with a psychologist due to emotional fatigue, but who cares about the CEO? Or just she keeps everything to herself?’
“CEO. If you don’t mind, may I ask you a question?”
“How did the CEO become the Head of Jungcheon? Did you choose the position of the Head of Jungcheon from birth?”
Gaon, who was suddenly asked an unexpected question, felt a little surprised. It was the first time she had received such a fundamental question in nearly a thousand years of her life. Humans simply worship or admire her as the CEO of Jungcheon, and they were not interested in the process of how she became the CEO.
“Why is that?”
“I’m just curious. Before becoming the CEO of Jungcheon, you never said what kind of life you lived. If you wanted to become the CEO of Jungcheon, or if you had a term of duty. How long you have left, what happens after your term is over, and so on.”
If it was before I became the CEO of Jungcheon. Hmm… Gaon was once a daughter who grew up being loved by ordinary parents. No. In an era when parents were treated as incompetent if they did not have children on time. But her parents can’t be considered so ordinary because they just had their daughter over 20 years old in their arms. Gaon, who was thinking of her parents’ faces after a very long time, smiled bitterly. It was such a distant past that the outline of her memory was blurred.
“Director Cha must be very curious.”
I’m curious because it’s you. Men tend to want to know everything from shampoo scent to shoe size of the woman they are interested in. They think differently than women. They don’t care how they live but the person they like has a smooth life or not.
“How did I become the CEO of Jungcheon…. The reason why I became the CEO is because I was born at the end of my predecessor’s term. Sang Cheonyi, who was looking for a successor, selected several candidates, and King Yama said he chose me from them. If you ask me if I took the position because I wanted to, I don’t know. I didn’t force myself to do it, but I would have refused if I had known in advance what would happen.”
“Do you regret it?”
“I did it countless times. Especially in the beginning.”
Now she can talk casually like this, but when she looks back, it was a distant and old time that didn’t seem to end at all. She can see the end now. Exactly how many years are left…. Gaon, who was still counting the years, suddenly checked the time and opened her eyes a little wide. I’ve only had a few sips of coffee, and it’s been 30 minutes? When I talk to Director Cha, strangely, my words get longer.
“I’ll tell you the rest next time. I have an external schedule tomorrow, so I must decide the fate of the deceased by today.”
“Where are you going?”
“Taebaek*. Recently, there have been several missing cases near Taebaeksan Mountain, and there is a place where the guide who was chasing after the deceased could no longer access.”
[T/N: Taebaeksan, also known as Mount Taebaeksan or Mount Taebaek, is a South Korean mountain with several important peaks of the Taebaek mountain range, or the Taebaek Jeongmaek Range. It is an important mountain in the Baekdu-daegan Mountain-system Baekdudaegan, the point where it turns west after running along Korea’s east coast for a long distance. Its territory stretches from the city of Taebaek in Yeongwol-gun County, Gangwon-do Province to Bonghwa-gun County, Gyeongseongbuk-do Province.]
When Gaon finished the conversation simply and opened the file that she covered again, Ji-Won, who was listening to Gaon’s words, became impatient. If he left like this, he didn’t know when the opportunity of ‘next’ would come.
‘How much time and effort did I put into coming here today. Taebaek, Taebaek…. I’ll have to catch up with her somehow. I need to make a plausible excuse…. How many art museums are there on the route from here to Taebaek?’
Ji-Won, who drew a map of Gangwon-do Province in his head while running his brain at a formidable speed, quickly proceeded to erase the places one by one. Gyeongseong is close to Taebaek, but the route does not overlap, and Wonju is too far from Taebaek, so it is hard to ask her to go with him on his way. Chuncheon and Gangneung have completely different directions. What’s left is…, It’s Yeongwol.
Ji-Won breathed lightly in order not to make an urgent appearance, and spoke with his voice as faint as possible.
“CEO, then how about I take you with me? I was going to go to the ceramic art museum in Yeongwol this week. There’s a special exhibition that I really wanted to see there.”
“Huh? Shouldn’t Taebaek go a long way from Yeongwol?”
“It’s not that far. I thought it would be too boring to go alone, so I didn’t dare, but it would be great if the CEO could accompany me. The CEO only needs an hour on the way back to Seoul after finishing her business. I saw that you like pottery in London…. It’s not very large, but it’s worth seeing at least once because it’s an art museum with a lot of cute pottery.”
Gaon didn’t nod her head willingly, even though she looked tempted at Ji-Won’s proposal.
“I don’t know how long it will take in Taebaek. You can’t go to the art museum if it’s too late.”
“Then let’s just eat Kalguksu in Taebaek. There is a very famous Kalguksu restaurant in Taebaek. I remember it sometimes, but I couldn’t go all the way to Taebaek to eat one.”
[T/N: Kal-guksu (칼국수) is a Korean noodle dish consisting of handmade, knife-cut wheat flour noodles served in a large bowl with broth and other ingredients. It is traditionally considered a seasonal food, consumed most often in summer. Its name comes from the fact that the noodles are not extruded or spun, but cut.]
This time, a much more positive response came back than when he brought up the art museum. As expected, people react the fastest when they target their taste buds. Since she likes ramen and pasta, Ji-Won thought she would like Kalguksu and he wasn’t half wrong.
“Yes. It’s embarrassing to go in alone because there are so many people.”
“Don’t you have anyone to go with?”
“I don’t have an unemployed friend who can go to Gangwon-do during the day on weekdays. The potato pancake there is also crispy and very delicious. No matter how many restaurants you visit in Seoul, it doesn’t taste like that.”
When Gaon flinched at the sound of potato pancakes but did not easily give permission, Ji-Won, who was determined to win the final match made a gloomy expression.
“If you think it’s annoying for me to follow you….”
“That’s not true. I’m comfortable if Director Cha accompanies me. As Director Cha knows, I am a person with little living wants…. It’s nice to have someone as attentive and friendly as Director Cha next to me. It’s because I feel sorry to bother busy people every time.”
“I want to accompany the CEO because I want to, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
“The CEO should sometimes eat delicious foods and enjoy beautiful scenery. A change of pace is also essential for the efficiency of the job.”
Is that so? Gaon, who was only used to giving instructions and implementing the instructions without hesitation, eventually fell for the persistent persuasion of Ji-Won. The fact that the London business trip with Ji-Won left a good impression also played a part.
“I’m going to leave around 7 in the morning. Is that okay?”
“Yes. I’ll pick you up at your house by ten to seven.”
“Director Cha will drive himself? You can go in my car.”
“No, I feel awkward and uncomfortable if I drive someone else’s car. It would be better if I take my car.”
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