Chapter 2 - Conflict
“Maybe there’s something between you and Doguk, but not with me. I was against it,” Sehun stated.
Yoonshin thought all the discussions were done and over. Was that not the case?
He was told that Mihee Song and his sister dealt with the matter about his employment at the firm. It was still fresh in his memory that Mihee and Sehun came to watch his trial a few weeks ago, so he had no doubts about it and believed it wholeheartedly. He had already moved to the company residences at this point, but hearing that the walking billboard of Doguk was against him was quite a shock.
Yoonshin couldn’t say that out loud, so Sehun continued. He sounded composed but his expression and tone were vaguely cynical. “I enjoyed the trial. I also enjoy Charles Dickens. The excerpt from Great Expectations was very fitting. Your arguments were concise.”
“Thank y—” The naturally polite Yoonshin almost involuntarily expressed his gratitude.
However, the other cut him off sharply, “Hold your thanks until I’m done talking. You might not want to thank me after.”
“I don’t have anything personal against you, but in my view, you’re not a good fit for a large firm. There are still many people out there who have been pushed to the brink of freezing to death. Helping those people is better suited to your personal sense of ethics, isn’t that right?”
Yoonshin didn’t like the sarcastic nuance in Sehun’s tone, but there were no holes in his point, so Yoonshin couldn’t refute. It was true that working at Doguk conflicted with his personal moral sense and duties.
However, the world didn’t revolve around an individual’s wishes. Yoonshin didn’t get into this firm because he desperately wanted to. There was no way an experienced lawyer like Sehun didn’t know this. There was only one reason such a man called out to Yoonshin to say these things to him.
It was a warning of sorts.
“Why tell this to me when my employment has already been decided?”
“I hate when things with no causal link to me happen. I wanted to let you know that I hope that we don’t need to see each other on a professional level. Let’s keep it to passing by each other infrequently around the apartment—just coincidentally.” Apparently, that was all that Sehun had to say because he silently nodded, signaling his departure, and turned to leave. This all happened before Yoonshin could gather his thoughts. Naturally, he missed the right time to reply.
Yoonshin wanted to retaliate since he was suddenly barraged by the other, but he could only bite his lower lip as he watched the other grow farther. Sehun took a few more steps and turned into the hall of Building A. Yoonshin saw him walking toward the elevator beyond the transparent glass door of the hall. Soon after, the double doors of the elevator opened their maws and carried the other away from their short rendezvous.
When Sehun disappeared from his sight and he was now alone, Yoonshin’s calm face morphed slowly into one of incredulity.
‘His expression, tone, and audacity… Urgh.’ Yoonshin shuddered and looked in the opposite direction from where Sehun disappeared—Building C, Yoonshin’s destination.
He grabbed the elevator with patience and finally returned home.
Yoonshin loosened his tie and called his sister’s secretary. The person on the other end of the line picked up almost instantly. “Yes, Mr. Do. How can I help you?”
“Hi, it’s Yoonshin. I just wanted to ask you something. I ran into Doguk’s Sehun Kang in the apartment’s parking lot lobby. But he told me he was against bringing me here.”
“You see, it seems like there was a slight conflict of opinions between Ms. Song and Mr. Kang, but… Your matter will proceed smoothly. You don’t need to worry.”
Yoonshin frowned when he heard that.
Back in the lobby, Sehun conveyed a lot of information in just a few words. These were Doguk’s private residences. Saying that they should only meet by coincidence meant that Yoonshin’s employment matter was already decided, so Sehun would turn a blind eye to it. So, when Sehun said he hoped that they would not need to meet professionally, this implied that coincidentally meeting was Sehun’s limit to how far he would tolerate Yoonshin, so Yoonshin should do his best not to get in Sehun’s way outside of the residences.
Yoonshin already knew that he wouldn’t get along with someone like Sehun. Strictly speaking, Yoonshin got his job through nepotism, so perhaps that was why Sehun—who valued skills and ability—did not approve of Yoonshin. But no matter how unfortunate the circumstances, an almighty partner holding back a small-time lawyer like himself to give him a warning came across as significant.
Sehun clearly did not welcome Yoonshin and reacted quite sensitively.
Yoonshin had originally planned to quietly bear with it for a few years as his sister had hoped, but Yoonshin got a bad feeling about this.
“He didn’t seem to like me at all. I heard that the hierarchy in a large firm was very distinct. Do you think he could put me at a disadvantage? I heard that, at Doguk, Attorney Kang’s word is the law.”
“If you really feel bothered, should I convey this to Mrs. Do? She could come up with a solution,” the secretary offered.
“No, I could be placed in an even worse position if they misinterpret me… I’ll think about it a bit more. Anyways, is Ikyung doing well? After our last meeting, I haven’t really heard from her. How is she?”
The other person, who had answered readily, suddenly fell silent for a moment as if hesitating. Then, Yoonshin heard the calm voice answer, “Of course. Mr. Do, I’m really sorry, but if that’s all you wanted to ask, could I hang up? I was in the middle of some important business. If there is anything else you need in the future, please feel free to contact me again.”
“Oh, I must have interrupted you in the middle of work. I will. Good luck on the rest of your work.”
The secretary politely said goodbye to Yoonshin, who was dwelling upon the secretary’s answer, then hung up. The secretary clearly hesitated when Yoonshin asked how his sister was doing. Moreover, it seemed like the other was afraid that this topic would continue and rushed to end the conversation. Yoonshin couldn’t deduce the exact reason.
Yoonshin tried his best to repress this dubious feeling and went into his study instead of his bedroom. He perched on the edge of his long desk and stared at the acrylic board that was propped up against the wall. The board had a directory of names of the lawyers at Doguk, international lawyers, accountants, and patent attorneys with their profile pictures. He had set this up so he could memorize at least the important people in the firm that had the most power.
“Sehun Kang… He has quite a colorful career.” Yoonshin traced his eyes from the bottom to the top and affixed them on the partners right below the director. Sehun was the only young lawyer amongst the middle-aged lawyers. Perhaps it wouldn’t be very surprising if he were a young partner in a relatively newer firm, but he was visibly young for a partner at a huge law firm. However, this fact alone proved that Sehun was on the up and up.
After he enrolled as the youngest student at Korea University, he graduated from law school and entered Doguk. For the years after, he stood out with his skills as a junior associate before going to study abroad in America. After he was admitted to the Bar in the state that he was in, his net worth increased significantly by the time he returned.
At the time, most other large law firms attempted to recruit him, but he chose to return to Doguk where Mihee, his senior from his alma mater, was. Afterward, his income was significant enough to swiftly rise to the top as a partner of the firm.
In a law firm, a skilled partner’s words were absolute, especially to an associate.
Naturally, Yoonshin thought back to the words aimed at him.
“I hate when something that has no causal link to me happens.”
Sehun looked like the type of person to be bothered about it, as he had said. He looked like a cold and rational person who detested all things that couldn’t be explained logically. Yoonshin had heard many things about him over the years and wondered if any of them were true, but after meeting him in person and conversing, Yoonshin started to think that Sehun was colder than the rumors claimed.
Yoonshin already knew that he would have a hard time at the firm even if everyone welcomed him there, but for Sehun to have a bad first impression of him made the situation even worse. Sehun was a valuable partner at the firm, so Yoonshin sincerely hoped that he wouldn’t run into Sehun at work. On top of that, they lived in different buildings, so as long as the time they went to work didn’t overlap, there weren’t very many chances for them to cross paths.
Strangely enough, Yoonshin still got a bad feeling about the situation.
“What a predicament.”
Yoonshin tapped on Sehun’s picture and sighed softly.
* * *
On the small reception couches in Mihee’s office, the room’s owner sat across from Sehun. Sehun, watching the other side sitting with her legs crossed, looked completely astonished. Behind his head, the monitor was displaying the news. On-screen was the sharp and fierce face of the second son of Soohan Group, who was also Yoonshin’s brother-in-law.
The reporter’s voice flowed out of the screen, “This afternoon, in a conference room in Soohan Group’s headquarters in Gangnam, Director Jeongwon Yoo of Soohan Holdings opened a press conference addressing his position regarding the recent controversy on the assault of one employee.”
Beep. Mihee turned off the television monitor playing behind Sehun with her remote. Sehun spoke when the tranquility of the room was restored.
“I don’t understand why you chose the associate that I would supervise without consulting me first,” Sehun spat out in a sluggish tone.
Mihee grinned awkwardly. “Sehun, I heard that Yoonshin is quite meticulous. Not only does he see things through to the end, but he is also detail-oriented, good at finding precedents, and great at reading investigation reports on file. Plus, he says everything he needs to without getting intimidated by seniors with more years of practice. You like associates like that, ones who are good at work and are tenacious.”
“Of course, I admit that I do—that is if they understand what I say.”
“Sehun, how about having an open mind…”
“If you wanted my mind to be open, you should have asked for my opinion. You already gave him an apartment.”
Mihee couldn’t retort to that, so she stopped talking. Sehun took that chance to add, “I clearly told you that I didn’t want him. If you were going to recruit him while ignoring my opinion, the least you could do is not send him my way. Can’t you gauge his personality at all? He can’t work under me. ‘This is against the law.’ ‘This is against professional ethics.’ ‘Don’t you feel sorry for the other company that will be absorbed in this M&A?’ He’s going to interfere with each and every little thing. I can’t stand an associate on the lookout coming at me and wasting my time like that. Send him away.”
“See, that’s not possible,” Mihee replied.
“Then send him to the litigation group. That, at least, would be a better fit for him. I can’t keep him. Is work a joke to you?”
Sehun was coming out pretty strong, and Mihee replied, trying to persuade him, “Senior Attorney Kang—no, Team Leader Sehun Kang. There are jobs for juniors to do in each team. But your team is the only one without any junior lawyers. I repeat, the corporate law group, the most important team in our firm, has no junior associates. Guess why?”
“Because none of the b*stards meet my standards.”
“Exactly! All the lawyers that I sent to you raised their white flags! Because of your twisted personality, they become unconfident, cry, and quit. It’s happened so often that there are no young lawyers, and only durable senior lawyers survived, you know? I recruited and accepted Yoonshin Do because I sized him up, and I think he’s a good fit. Don’t you think that you need at least a couple of juniors to assign small and tedious tasks to?!”