Chapter 1 – A Wound That Never Healed (1)
Separating flesh from the skin demands high concentration. In particular, due to the low-fat levels in aging bodies, the movement of knives has to be very meticulous and precise. The blade must glide between the red flesh and the white layer of fat at a steady yet rapid rate.
Although the temperature in the workplace had been intentionally set low, just enough to prevent decay, drops of sweat still formed on the forehead of the man who looked intent in his work. When he was about finished, he cast a glance at the nearby window, and in time, a crack of dawn greeted him.
Alas, immersed in work, he’d lost track of time.
The light creeping from outside soon enveloped his large silhouette and filled the room. His sweat glistened his taut torso, trailing from the deep ridges of his chiseled chest to narrow waist.
He straightened, lit his cigarette, and sat on the stairs allowing the acrid smoke to inundate his senses. After all, this was one of his sources of comfort at this particular time. It filled his lungs, gradually ebbing the obnoxious smell of flesh.
Lately, the number of cigarettes he consumed had significantly increased. The ashtrays in his office that filled in less than a few hours were glaring proofs.
Once a year, this happened to him… Like a fever that hits on schedule. He’d crumble in heaps—a disastrous feeling then raged inside him.
Here we go again.
His heart pounded. As if it had a mind of its own, his hands started fishing for his cellphone in his pocket. As they navigated to a folder in the gallery, his lips pressed into a thin line, especially when the screen revealed a picture of a woman sleeping peacefully.
The man looking down at the image froze. Like a sculpture, he stared at his phone unblinkingly. As he fixated, the memory of the time he had taken this picture drowned him in nostalgia.
As soon as he had woken up from a deep sleep, he had carefully taken a picture of the woman slumbering next to him. She always brought a sense of peace and calm to his turbulent heart.
Nevertheless, the woman in the picture was a person whose heart was beating and whose blood was rushing hot. However, things had long changed…
She’s no longer in this world.
Hotel Seoin – The Ballroom
Dozens of journalists, throngs of celebrities, luminaries from all walks of life packed the large ballroom. An engagement reception was in full swing and each wanted to make their presence felt.
“Have all the reporters left?”
Amidst the hubbub of the party, a rich baritone demanded a quick answer. His long fingers wrapped around the stem of the champagne flute looked rough and callous, apparently a result of yesterday’s ‘hard work’. Standing tall at a height of 180 centimeters, his sleek and sensual figure towered over almost everyone in the room. There was no denying that among the glamorous guests, he stood out. What’s more, tonight, he was the highlight of the engagement ceremony.
He was Tae-jun Seo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Seoin Group of Companies.
When asked by his boss, Chief Of Staff Jung-Su Yi quickly confirmed the departure of the reporters by looking at a long list.
“Yes, a little while ago. The K reporters were the last to leave.”
The fact that there were dozens of journalists who attended the engagement ceremony had everyone guessing what the upcoming nuptials would look like—it would be a massive event.
The engagement between the Seoin Group, which was into pharmaceuticals, distribution, and hotels, and the Daejin Group, which had reigned over the distribution market for generations was surely a scoop that lacked no eager ears.
With the exit of the nagging reporters, the mood of the party began to lighten up. Greetings from the members of each family reverberated as they began to strike conversations which would last until midnight.
Even so, Tae-jun was not entertained one bit. He was lost in his own thoughts, shutting out the din, when suddenly, a slap on his shoulder jolted him to consciousness.
“Why the straight face? You are the man of this evening!” said a cheery Jae-won Lee, Tae-jun’s cousin, flipping his thick brown hair to the back of his head—a habit of his.
As the planning director of the Hotel Seoin, he was also the event manager of today’s party. But having noticed Tae-jun barely socializing, instead, sulking in a corner in the company of his wine, he couldn’t help but approach him. Since he entered the hall, his cousin looked grim, quite contrary to what he had expected.
Jae-won Lee looked around and whispered into his ears. “Anyone would think Yoon coerced you into this… What’s the matter?”
Another person sharing the limelight today was Tae-jun’s fiancée, Si-yeon Yoon. Jae-won and her were close friends who were together right from elementary to school.
For Jae-won Lee, it was a surprise that Si Yeon would become a part of the family, not to mention, she would be Tae-jun’s future wife! But the man in question had no power to argue with his grandfather’s decision. He had been thrust into the ocean, and whether he could swim or not, no one cared… especially his grandfather.
Despite Lee’s persuasions, Tae-jun answered indifferently. “I went to the villa last night and came back in the morning.”
“I got word that Sebastian died.” He answered impassively.
With the mention of the familiar name, Jae-won Lee’s brows creased. “Ah!” He exclaimed upon remembering Tae-jun’s favorite English Pointer.
“The hound in the villa? I didn’t think he was still alive. He was too old.”
“Thirteen.” The other replied flatly.
If Jae-won remembered correctly, Sebastian the hound was Chairman Jung-ho Seo’s 22nd birthday present to his only grandson. The dog was a loyal helper who spent more than a decade with them.
“Don’t tell me you stayed up all night for a dead dog the day before this event? Since when have you been so sentimental…”
“You can’t skin it if it’s already decayed.”
Wait a minute! Skin it?!
For a moment, Jae-won almost dropped the champagne flute he was holding.
“Don’t tell me that you ‘stuffed’ the hound?”
“Yes.” His cousin replied like it was a very normal thing to do.
His pupils narrowed, seemingly about to flee from the expanding whites of his eyes. He fought the urge to scream.
“Are you out of your mind?!”