Kyuyoung laughed hollowly, then sighed as she saw the faint light leaking from Yoongun’s office. As always, he was the only person in the building until the very end of the night. The dry air caught in Kyuyoung’s throat, causing a light cough to escape from her lips. Her eyes were dry and tired from staring at a screen for too long, and there was a faint ringing in her ears. She clicked on another file that Yoongun had sent her. As the file opened and the scrollbar shrank to the size of her pinky fingernail, she couldn’t help but let out another sigh.
“Manager Kyuyoung Seo,” a male voice called out from behind her.
Startled, Kyuyoung whirled around to find Team Leader Jung staring at her. “Yes, team leader? Did you need anything…?”
Yoongun checked his watch quietly. “The rain is getting worse. You should head home for today.”
Kyuyoung’s eyes widened at this unexpected extension of grace. “I’m sorry?”
“You said you had something important to do tonight, didn’t you?”
“Ah… But I still haven’t finished my report…”
“It’s not that urgent. I was just over-sensitive during the meeting. Just finish the report by the end of the week.” Having said this, Yoongun turned around and walked back into his office.
Stunned, Kyuyoung blinked a couple of times before hurriedly saving her files. What had gotten into the team leader? All of this felt like one long dream. As she turned off her PC, Kyuyoung glanced at the team leader’s office. The light that had once seemed like hellfire suddenly seemed a little kinder than usual.
She packed her bag quickly, and as she waited for the elevator, she dialed Jihyuk repeatedly. Yet no matter how many times she called, it went straight to voicemail, driving her crazy. Jihyuk was a deep sleeper, so she figured he had just fallen asleep. He was exhausted with all his work responsibilities, and she could tell the wedding planning added to his weariness. When all of his stressors became overwhelming, he would flee from reality by sleeping.
Just as she returned her phone to her purse and glanced up to check what floor the elevator was on, a man rounded the corner and stopped in his tracks as he caught sight of her.
It was Yoongun. She was running into him quite often today. Team Leader Jung’s schedule seemed far more erratic than usual. He routinely clocked out at one of two extremes—he’d either leave at 6 o’clock on the dot, or he would work until 11 at night. There were no in-betweens. Most days, he worked until 11.
Yoongun bowed curtly and stood behind her. The air around them grew heavy with an awkward silence. The short wait for the elevator felt grueling and stifling.
Behind her, she could hear the sound of a tie rustling against a shirt. It seemed that Yoongun had also felt stuffy, and had loosened his necktie. Then, he let out a deep sigh. His fatigue was palpable. She felt something tingling at the back of her head. Kyuyoung couldn’t shake the feeling that Yoongun was staring at her very closely. She was fairly certain she must be mistaken, but she subconsciously straightened her back and fixed her posture. Yoongun had a knack for making people nervous.
Finally, the elevator doors opened with a ding. Kyuyoung stepped aside to let him in first, and Yoongun strolled into the elevator. Right as she was about to bid him good night, he held the door open with his hand.
“Get in,” he said. Kyuyoung’s eyes widened as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Manager Kyuyoung Seo.”
“Get inside the elevator.”
“Ah… alright, thank you.”
With a bewildered expression, Kyuyoung stepped into the elevator and glanced at Yoongun furtively. He was behaving strangely today. He was deviating from his usual routine, and he was doing her odd favors.
“Will you be heading home right away?”
Kyuyoung’s eyes widened as she stared at him wordlessly. Team Leader Jung never asked her personal questions.
“I said, are you going home,” he asked, his tone uncharacteristically casual.
“No, I have plans tonight.”
Something in Yoongun’s expression shifted as he nodded his head. He fell silent after that. For a brief moment, their eyes seemed to meet in the reflection of the elevator door. Kyuyoung quickly averted her eyes and let out a soundless breath. There was a sharp, vicious look in Yoongun’s eyes. It was possible she simply misread the fleeting glance, but the mere fact that they had made eye contact made her hair stand on end.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Kyuyoung said, as the elevator reached the first floor. Team Leader Jung did not reply and merely stared straight ahead. Of course he would. As Kyuyoung stepped out, biting her lip, she could hear the sound of the elevator doors closing behind her. What a terrible day this was.
“Manager Kyuyoung Seo,” a man’s voice called out, stopping her in her tracks.
Kyuyoung turned around to find Team Leader Jung looking at her, holding the elevator door open with one hand. “Yes? Was there something that you needed me to…”
“No,” he cut her off, not bothering to hide his blatant stare. She could see the chilling look in his dark eyes. The corners of his mouth curled upwards slightly into a thin smile. His features shifted precisely as if they had practiced this expression a million times. It was calculated and almost convincing, but it was ultimately a fake smile.
“Have a nice time.”
His sharp eyes turned into half-moons as he flashed a gentle smile at her. To others, his expression might have appeared sweet and charming, but to Kyuyoung, his perfect smile only seemed all the more inhuman. As soon as Yoongun had uttered the words, the elevator doors closed. Kyuyoung stared at the metal doors long after they shut, as if in a trance. A nice time. Somehow, those words felt threatening.
Perhaps Team Leader Jung had figured out why Kyuyoung was so anxious to leave all day. She had never told him that she was dating someone in the company, but she wasn’t exactly hiding that fact either. Maybe he had been playing a prank on her all day, and he was finally showing some mercy… but the probability of that was low. He was not the kind of person who spent his time on something as trivial as pranks, and he did not care enough about others to intentionally make them miserable.
Kyuyoung tilted her head in confusion, then walked across the lobby and out of the building. The headlights of passing cars reflected brightly in the wet asphalt, shining brightly into Kyuyoung’s eyes. The roads heading into Seoul’s nightlife districts were completely packed, but the roads heading out, thankfully, were less congested.
She was already resigned to the fact that it would take her forever to get anywhere, even by taxi. However, no matter how hard she looked, she could not spot an empty taxi anywhere. She considered riding the bus, before abandoning the notion when she realized that it meant making two transfers. Her shoulders slumped with exhaustion. Deciding it would be better to hail a taxi in the next neighborhood over, Kyuyoung set out in the direction of the next closest subway station.