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You'll Never Be Alone

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I took one last painful look around my shared bedroom. After four years, I couldn't believe that this was why I was saying goodbye. I frowned at my stripped bed and bare desk. My side of the room looked so empty in comparison to my roommate's side, filled with Kakao Friends-themed office supplies, and posters of kpop idols and theatre stars. I wheeled my monstrous suitcase into the main room of the house. Two of my four housemates where already up. My two best friends, Eun-i and Hwa.

“Come have breakfast before you go,” Eun-i, my senior by a year, said over the sizzling pan in front of her. She'd been in this house since her freshman year of college.

I stopped the suitcase by the table and slumped onto the bench seat. “I can't believe you're really leaving,” Hwa wrapped her arms around me and buried her head into my shoulder. We'd moved in at the same time, but were at different grade levels. She'd be graduating next semester. I, however, graduated six months ago. It was like a dream. Not only was I immediately hired at C&R, Korea's largest corporation, but I worked on the team overseen by the Chairman himself.

I was ecstatic. I'd been fortunate enough to intern for them my six months before graduation. Try as I had during that time to be recognized by the team headed by Jumin Han, the Chairman's son, I'd been unsuccessful. I'd employed a variety of tactics, from bringing the overworked Chief Assistant lunches, to helping the team recover profits on a “Paintings by Cats” initiative. I'd recommended spinning the shop into a cat cafe, offering paint and wine night events. From what I heard, Mr. Han was wildly impressed, as it pooled all his favorite things into one. It had even gotten homeless cats off the street.
It was, honestly, something that anyone could have come up with, but the fact that I had taken an interest despite being data entry, and as I was exiting my internship, meant Mr. Chairman wanted me to keep around. That's how I secured my position in the company.

My recruiter replied, when I expressed which department I'd like to work in as a statused employee, that Mr. Chairman thought it'd be better to have me learn under him. I could potentially transfer to Mr. Han's department later. I had wanted something faster paced with more of a sense of purpose, as Mr. Chairman often delayed tasks by talking extensively with the female staff. It also seemed that most of his division's ventures where what his mistresses seemed to like that week. Just as well, a classmate that was hired with me would complain at lunch about the constant cat hotel pitches, and the other ridiculous projects and hand-me-downs that his team would get placed on. Our team always got the sophisticated and popular projects. I had a solid job with a great company. That was, until Mr. Chairman's assistant saw me.

She'd dealt with my boss directly, and not really made rounds with the team. I didn't even realize she was in that role either. We, in short, did not get along in college. She'd had a falling out with a mutual friend, and I'd embarrassed her at a party when she'd gotten nasty with him. It was all years in the past, but she, obviously, wasn't over it. And well, when Mr. Chairman received her catty request, he shockingly suggested, nay, literally paid me, to find a new company to work with.

“I don't have a choice,” I slumped forward until my forehead touched the cold table.

“Move it!” Eun-i yelled as she came around with a hot pan. I adjusted the folded towels in the middle for her to place it on. Hwa slid a bowl of rice at me and went in for some omelet, “So what did your parents say?”

“Are you kidding me? They don't know what happened.” I picked up my chopsticks and glanced over the pan.

“What do they think is going on?” Eun-i said, already with a full mouth. “They didn't ask why you're moving home?”

My head shook in response, “I told them that I want to save some money for my own place. I do have savings from working through school, and I've got the cash from C&R. It'll get me through for a while, but I'm hoping to find something fast. If I can, before you guys get another roommate. Then I'll just come back.”

“Jeonju is not close,” Eun-i deadpanned.

“No,” I took a bite of egg, “It's about two and a half hours.”

“You're going to commute?! How expensive!” Hwa had gotten up, headed for the refrigerator.

“Standard on KTX isn't awful. I told my parents that I have a week off for holiday. I'm going to use it to find places that are hiring,” I slid my glass towards Eun-i, who handed it to Hwa to fill with the jug of juice she was shaking in question at me, “I'll be back in town after that for tests. Go back for the weekend, then come back, either for interviews or more applications.”

“But where will you stay?” Hwa sat back down, handing me my drink.

“The jjimjilbang down the street from us. When I get actual interviews, I'll stay in a hotel so I look more fresh. But I'm not worried about the exams. What I'm worried about-”

“Is the fact that only an idiot would leave C&R right after hire?” I narrowed my eyes at Eun-i and chewed my lip. She was totally right. Mr. Chairman could have come up with some bogus reason to fire me. He let me tender a resignation in an act of mercy; and he'd offered private compensation because he knew he'd screwed me over.

“I still don't get how Unnie was able to get you sacked.” Hwa angrily shoved more eggs in her mouth.

“She's his chief assistant,” Eun-i pointed her chopsticks at her.

“That's not why,” I mumbled down at my rice bowl, “she came in during our meeting. She was checking a project and didn't know he had someone in his office,” I glanced up, “She called him 'Oppa', when she came in. I'd bet my buy-out that they're sleeping together.”

“You didn't tell me that!” Eun-i shouted.

“Do you think they're actually together?” Hwa looked quickly between us, “Maybe he just has relaxed working relationships with his inner circle?”

I turned slowly towards her, unconvinced. “Mr. Chairman literally stole his son's assistant to date her. He's absolutely notorious for cycling through women. Regardless of who they are or where he's found them...”

“I thought he was married!” Hwa covered her mouth.

“Aigoo, you're so naïve.” Eun-i chased a big bite with my cup of juice.

“Evidently, that doesn't matter. I heard Assistant Kang can't even have long hair because Mr. Han is afraid of losing another assistant to his father.”

“Not a bad idea though....”

“What, Hwa, dare I ask,” Eun-i stood and gathered some dishes before continuing, “is, 'not a bad idea'?”

She turned on the bench to face me, “If you had a boyfriend in Seoul, you could just stay with him.”

“Ha.”

“It's been a bit since you've dated. It's not a bad idea.” Eun-i agreed from over the sink.

“I'm not dating someone just to use their house,” I said loudly back to her.

“I don't mean to live with.” Hwa corrected, “But you do have more time now, and your parents will be driving you nuts. Coming into the city with someone to greet you would be nice! Not to mention you can go on dates when you don't have appointments, and he can buy your meals so you aren't spending as much!”

“I'm not against dating. It's the concept of doing it to lower my bills that makes me realize how you've managed to save so much all these years.”

“The more I date, the less extra shifts I need.” She winked, but crossed her arms defensively. “Give me your phone. I'll download the app I found my Chul on.” I dug my phone out of the purse I set on my suitcase. It was true I'd been dating less while falling into a routine with work. It would be nice to see someone again.

“Only because my biggest fear is settling for a job in Jeonju. Anything that keeps me heading back into the city is a plus.” Hwa pulled the phone out of my hands.

“Oh, here it is. The logo changed since I used it....” She glanced up at the wall past me, “Oh! The time! Is everything packed?”

I glanced up at the clock over the sink. I needed to leave for my train now if I didn't want to rush. “Yes, I double checked my area. But I think some of my wardrobe might still be-” I got close to Hwa's face, “in captivity.”

“It's how I'm ensuring your return?” she asked sheepishly, "Plus your black dress is the nicest thing any of us own. And I need to look good for that dinner with Chul and his coworkers, Thursday."

“This is the worst,” Eun-i said as the two of them embraced me in a group hug.

“I will see you two in a week. Okay? Tell the girls I said bye?” I headed to the door, stuffing the slippers I was wearing into the suitcase and slipping on the lone pair of flats I had left on my shelf onto my feet.

“Oh, your phone! It's downloading that app.”

“Thank you,” I took the phone as Eun-i reached around Hwa and handed me a tupperware full of food. I smiled at her and walked to the door, turning back to wave at the two. “Ah~, this sucks. I'll call you when I'm home!” I spun and hurried out the door.

I still had more than enough time to take the bus to the station instead of a cab. I wandered down to the stop and sat down. I'd managed to come down just in time for a bus arriving in about five minutes. I was ahead of schedule after all. Pulling my phone out of my bag I saw that the app had finally downloaded. What a way to kill time. I didn't have any new books. So scrolling through profiles would hopefully occupy me on the train. I clicked the button to load the application marked 'RFA'.

“I wonder what that stands for...” It was supposedly a popular download. I knew many people who used it for dating these days.

[Enter Username] flashed on the screen before letting me progress.

I hesitated before putting “MC” into the phone. After filling out the other info, phone number and address (I lied and used the share house address), the app began to load a chat room.

“Seriously, there's no one in here” I stared down at the phone for a minute. This wasn't set up the way I had expected at all. The chat room looked like it was booted in safe mode. It seemed cheap for its popularity. Then, I didn't see any ads or anything. Maybe that was why.

Everyone around me began forming a line, signaling that the bus was in sight. I hopped up and pulled my suitcase in front of me, tucking the tupperware Eun-i had given me safely in my purse. My phone buzzed with a notification from RFA. It seemed that someone had entered the chat after all. I pulled the screen back up.

***Unknown has entered the chatroom.***

Unknown: ...Hello...?

I tried clicking on his avatar, but it didn't pull up anything. His avatar, as it was, was a generic silhouette to indicate that no photo had been chosen. I imagined the way he must have said “hello” out loud. Usually people are more confident behind a keyboard. Given his username and profile photo, I had to assume he was shy.

MC: ?

I stepped up onto the bus, hauling up my suitcase behind me before scanning my card and sitting down. I was lucky. Not many people took this route at this time in the morning. I had a seat, and wasn't surrounded by people for my luggage to inconvenience. I pulled my phone back out.

Unknown: Can you see this?

MC: Yes, I can.

Unknown: ...Finally connected. Thank God.

I wasn't totally sure if he was referring to my lack of immediate response, or if he was just as confused by the app as I was.

Unknown: It's not everyday you get a text from a stranger. I'm a bit flustered myself. I found a smartphone at the subway station, but all it had was this messenger app.
I want to find the owner, but I don't see any contact info or call records... I've been sending messages with this app but no reply...
All I see is an address and some important-looking numbers saved in notes.
I'd like to go there myself but I'm currently abroad...

The messages rapid fired onto my screen. The description immediately made me think of the work cell I'd been given for C&R when I came on full time. It was meant to be separate from our personal device. So it was empty except for the user's address for returning if lost, and work numbers. Mine had an application that C&R employees could access for clocking time outside of the office, and managing projects. I wouldn't have been brazen enough to download a dating messenger on mine. Too many IT checks.

MC: An address?

That's where he should take the phone, if only he weren't out of the country...

Unknown: Yes. There's a Korean address and a long number. I think it's a password.
Do you mind going to the address?
That's all that's saved on this phone.

“Wow” I stared at the text, a woman across the bus glancing over at my sudden vocalization. Honestly, I would tell anyone else not to bother. Only so much can actually be accomplished as the third party messenger in this situation. I didn't even have means of getting the phone. But I felt bad about a potential new employee losing something so important. They were probably anxious over it. I would be. And honestly, I so did not want to go home already. I hadn't purchased my ticket yet, I was waiting to buy it at the window, so missing the train I'd meant to board wouldn't cost me anything but time. I could let the phone owner know that it was in the mail. Save the finder the postage fee. And maybe... maybe this person could refer me to wherever they work if they're thankful enough, too.

Unknown: I know you're surprised to have someone suddenly pop up and ask you a favor like this. But still... I'd appreciate it if you could help.
I saw the street view through the internet, and I've been there before.
It's an apartment in downtown, Very crowded.

It wasn't an office? I looked up at the ceiling, contemplating if it truly was worth it. My phone buzzed in my hand. Another reply.

Unknown: It's really a safe place. If you feel unsafe, you can turn around. I know the area, it's developed.
Please?

I was heading downtown anyway. I could get off, potentially speak to the owner and get to the station before my originally intended train even left. Or, I could nope out of the situation and ghost without an issue. I looked like a tourist, having my bag with me. He has no reason to suspect me of being the helper if he's some strange man trying to lure me.

I picked at the corner of my phone case. I really didn't want to go home yet. It would have just been a lot of making kimchi with my mother and hearing about my shortcomings. And that would be without actually having admitted my shortcomings.

MC: Fine... I'm leaving right away if it feels sketchy.

Unknown: You trust me...
Thank you!
Just a sec, I'll send you the address.
Found it!

I knew that area. There were a lot of shopping locations and cafes, with apartments on the south side of the street, and offices over the shops on the north side. I figured out which stop I'd need for the new destination. I wasn't on the most direct bus, I'd have to trek it a few blocks from the stop. But, it was probably safer not to get off the bus on that street, if I was being phished.

The weather had been beautiful lately, and if it weren't for the massive luggage, I'd have really enjoyed the walk.

When I reached the building I put my phone into my purse. I could remember the info, and I didn't want to appear like I was trying to find something.

“I wish I lived here,” I muttered to myself. I had to lift my head all the way back to remotely view the top of the building. People were going in and out, which I took comfort in. It was tall and blue, and right across the street from a cafe Eun-i and I had visited quite a few times. It had a convenience store right next to it, and a few food places scattered around the street. If it wasn't for work, you'd never have to leave the street.

I entered the corridor for the apartment building. The address was on the 14th floor. I entered the elevator next to the open stairway, pressing the highest number it offered. The buildings nearby weren't quite as high. So, this one must get spectacular sunset & sunrise views.

When the elevator doors opened I headed back towards the north side of the building. This floor only had two apartments on it. The hallway split across the front of the building. Each apartment in its own corner. I glanced at a placard denoting which apartment was in either direction. I headed to the west side and pulled my phone out, reloading the app.

Unknown: Are you there? ^^ See. Nothing strange.

“Famous last words” I muttered playfully to myself. The building didn't have paned windows, rather, the air blew freely anywhere that an apartment wall didn't block. When I rounded the corner towards the correct door I noticed a CCTV camera positioned to view who came and went. I waved at it as I approached. The camera was angled to see the whole hallway, but it was set in such a way as to get a clear shot of this apartment's visitors specifically.

Unknown: Is there a password lock on the door?

There was. I left my stuff and jogged over to the other end to inspect the opposite door, which had a regular key lock. “Authorized Personnel”, was hand written just above the handle anyway. It apparently wasn't rented out.

MC: Yes.

Unknown: I'll send you the digits. Try it.

I audibly laughed at the text.

MC: Shouldn't I ring the doorbell first?

Unknown: Hmm. You're right!
Sorry, I wasn't thinking straight.
Then ring the doorbell.

I did, twice. Even after a knock, no response.

MC: I don't think anyone's inside...

Unknown: Hmm. No choice then.
I guess the place is empty. Why don't you press the code?

This was admittedly creepy and invasive, but it was this or leave completely. I just wanted to leave a note for the person with contact information. The door had a weather strip at the bottom, so it wasn't like I could just slide it underneath.

MC: Uhm... Okay, I will.

Unknown: Good.

I pressed the key code in, the door chiming and unlocking without a problem. I pushed it open slightly.

“Hello? Is anyone home? I'm trying to find the owner of a found cell phone?” There was no response.

MC: The door's open

Unknown: Good. Why don't you go inside?

Adrenaline made my hands feel like ice. I set my foot out to prop the door open as I began to type back.

MC: Can I just enter a stranger's house?

Unknown: You can just leave a note. I'll give you my info.
If something happens, you can just show my messages. That'll do.

MC: Then... Alright.

I propped the door with my bag, and headed a few more steps down closer towards the CCTV, digging around my purse. I held my identification card up to it, then the phone. Scrolling our conversation down in front of it. I was sure the camera wouldn't pick up the text well. But, just in case it helps my case, later.

Unknown: Th
ank
you...

“Excuse me, I'm coming in.”

No one was home, I was fairly confident about that. I carefully took my shoes off near the door and made my way inside, leaving the suitcase at the step and letting the door softly shut behind me.

It was a beautiful apartment. It had to get amazing afternoon light, just as I'd suspected. The main room was a studio set up. I liked the way they separated the living space from the bedroom area with a lattice screen. I would have put the office area somewhere else, as it was currently sitting in an area that disrupted the apartment's flow, but it wasn't my home. A thought that was currently the only thing really occupying my mind.

Just past the entryway was the office setup. A desk with some cabinets next to it and a workspace counter and drawer set pulled up close behind the chair. The owner must work from home to need all of this file storage. I thought again about how easy this street must make that kind of life.

Although, that threw off my assumptions about the phone a bit...

There was a big area rug to the right to distinguish the living room. Three sliding doors fit down the entire west wall. Two were in the main room area. A couch sat against the lattice and the television was to my right along the wall shared with the hallway. I wondered if the owner did yoga in the morning? It'd be so meditative with the view, and with some airflow on warm days with low pollution. The balcony ran the whole length of the apartment.

“Hello?” I called out again as I passed the lattice. The room opened up a bit. There was a pocket door to my left, and the bed directly in front of me. Next to the bed on the right side was a safe and two lockers. A dresser and closet lined the far wall to my left. There didn't seem to be anything in terms of personal belongings here, aside from some limited women's clothing I could see in the closet.

I passed into the kitchen, the western-style bathroom at the far end of it. I still had a bit of concern about surprising someone. No one was here either though. I turned around and went back to the computer desk. I'd hoped to find paper and a pen lying out, as rummaging through someone's things was not on my list of errands today.

Of course, the tidy apartment had nothing sitting out. I moved to set my phone down on the desk to try and look in a drawer for office supplies.

“Ew,” I instantly pulled my hand away from the desk, letting the phone thud on the glass desktop. Marks from my fingers surrounded the phone through thick dust. “Holy-” I left it there are walked back into the kitchen, running my finger across the counter.

Sure enough, I hadn't noticed at first but this whole place was filthy from lack of occupancy.

“Does anyone even live here?” I wandered back to the main area, taking it in. Maybe this place was owned by a company, and not used often? You would think they'd cover the furniture then... I grimaced at my feet, noticing the prints on the wood floor. “Ew.” My socks were acting as dusters.

I reached for my phone to reply to Unknown. What was I supposed to do now? I nearly leapt out of my skin when as I lifted it, my phone started making loud, strange, dial up tones and flashing. I accidentally dropped it in my surprise. Using my existing footprints, I headed over to where it's case had bounced it to.

“What the hell?!” I reached down and unlocked it to see my chat log going haywire, “Why is it?-”

***You have entered the chatroom.***

Chapter Text



 

 

***You have entered the chatroom.***

“Shit.” I cursed, “Why did it reload a chat? I need that guy's info.”

I turned the phone over in my hands as if 'Unknown' was hiding behind it and started to back out of the current chat room. It was odd though. This chat room looked so much more put together than the one I was in previously. There was a proper background, and the users had actual screen names and even personalized emojis. It actually looked like other mainstream messenger applications.

The sudden influx of comments streaming in distracted me, however. It looked like I'd entered a chat mid-conversation. Something about midterms...

Jumin Han: If you want to work for our company, you should take care of your GPA.

Yoosung: I’m still on the list?! +_+

“Wait...” My gaze turned critical. This was a dating app.

Why would people use a false persona? That avatar, along with the name... What would Jumin Han, corporate heir to C&R, possibly be doing using a dating app? “There's no way.”

Jumin Han: Yes.

707: Nice~ Can’t believe u get to work straight after college lol
In this day and age!

Zen: Lame. It’s nepotism.

Another impostor. I couldn't believe it. Zen was the stage name of a popular theater actor. I knew this, because even if Hwa didn't blast the music from his Youtube videos constantly, his face had been plastered all around our room since we moved in.

There were four people going back and forth in the chat, it seemed. The Jumin and Zen wanna-bes were bickering, while a '707' and 'Yoosung' interjected periodically. I pulled up Line and shot Hwa a message asking how to pull up old connections before pulling the RFA tab back up.

707: Wait!!

Yoosung: Why?

Zen: ??

707: Think someone entered the chat room;;

Jumin Han: MC…?

Blinking at the sudden pomp and circumstance over my arrival, I was sort of glad for the acknowledgment. I'd had been sitting in this chat for couple minutes by this point, just watching them go on about nothing. So far it looked like a bunch of guys palling around in a dating app.

Zen: Wtf. How did it get in here?

I blew my bangs out of my face. I'd been reduced to an “it”. I didn't have time for this nonsense. I knew I didn't have time for this.

707: Hacker!

Yoosung: Hacker!? Therae’s a hacker in ouer room!!!
Sevnee do somethign!!

Zen: Hey, typos. -_-;;

707: Wait a sec. I’m searching.

“Hacker?” I saw why this foursome needed an app to date. Were there private chats? Could they even reasonably have that kind of reaction to my being there? I should have just ghosted, but their panic pulled at my interest.

Jumin Han: Who are you? Reveal yourself. Hey, Assistant Kang.

“YOU'RE KIDDING ME,” I audibly gasped at the screen. I squinted down at the avatar that popped up. It was just a picture of paperwork. Completely unhelpful, but also kind of spot on. The name Jaehee Kang was kind of synonymous with overwhelming amounts of work.

Jaehee Kang: Yes, I am here.

Zen: You were so quiet I thought you went somewhere.

Jaehee Kang...Chief assistant to Jumin Han. Either these people's thing was having famous fan accounts, or I really was in a chat room that I shouldn't have access to. Maybe that noise was the app glitching me into a private chat? Did I really seem like a hacker? I suppose I would, then... But surely, I wouldn't just 'accidentally' appear in this kind of chat room.

If I can place three of the five users in this room, then should I know the other two as well? Were they all elites in some way? Does Mr. Han even know Zen in real life?

Jumin Han: Why is a stranger in our chatroom?

Jaehee Kang: No one can enter this chatroom without installing the private app we use… It seems someone has downloaded the RFA Messenger.

She wasn't wrong. RFA was definitely the name of the messenger I had downloaded. If this was an off-limits room, I certainly didn't want to impose, but I was primarily worried at how they sounded like this entire app shouldn't have been accessible to the public. I shifted my weight and chewed my lip. I had just spoken to someone through this app, though. It couldn't just be me. Had Hwa downloaded something else by accident?

They had used the term 'Hacker', but none of that added up...

MC: Hello…

Yoosung: Gahhhh it’s talking!!

Jaehee Kang: How did you find out about this place? Where did you download the application?

I imagined Assistant Kang's calm voice speaking over the panic of the men in the room. I so did not want to be in trouble with a Han again, let alone so soon... Maybe Assistant Kang could be a voice of reason though.

A notification tab dropped down across the top of my screen, 'Hwa: Sorry girl, gotta save those hotty's profiles if you want to store their info!'. So there was no salvaging the previous conversation. A quick glance at my lack of options in this chat however implied that I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. I was convinced we weren't dealing with the same app after all... I swiped the notification to dismiss it. My eyes focused back on that 707's updates.

707: I traced the IP…
It’s from Rika’s apartment.

Yoosung: Rika’s apartment?

My eyes shot up towards the dark door at the front of the apartment, “Shit.” Well this was a horrible development. He could tell that I was in this apartment?

Jumin Han: Where was it?

Jaehee Kang: The location is not revealed. I know it to be classified.

Classified? This was rapidly becoming a more distressing situation. I started to pace in the small space in front of the desk.

I pulled my braided long brown hair to the side of my head. Rolling the ends of my hair through my fingers, I ran through everything in my head. I hadn't seen the app Hwa downloaded against the other similar options in the app store. I didn't even know the dating application's name past it being some letters. A stranger had immediately linked up with me, directing me to this apartment. Now I'm in a chat room with people who personally know the owner of the apartment.

I suppose, it could all still be a mistake in download, and that 'Unknown' has this person's device... But where have they been so long that everything is covered in this thick dust? I glanced at an old post-it taped to the monitor of 'Rika's' computer. It said 'R.F.A.' with 'Rika's Fundraising Association' written in smaller print under it. It looked like a doodle of a logo. It seemed a bit familiar.

Now that I'd thought about it for a second... I ran across the apartment to the front door and pulled it open. Sure enough, engraved above the door handle, 'R.F.A. Rika's Fundraising Association'. I gasped and slammed the door, locking it in front of me. I glanced down to acknowledge the barrage of buzzing that had been going on. I HAD to be in the wrong app.

707: Anyways, someone must have broken into her apt.

“I didn't... I was trying to help...”

Yoosung: So it hacked the program, Seven?

707: Yup

“I DIDN'T. They lost their phone.” My hands went cold and started shaking from the adrenaline. I sat down on the edge of the hyeon gwan.

Yoosung: Who are you?! How did you get into Rika’s apartment?!
How did you get this app?!
Gah~ So scared right now…

“He's scared. Ha~.” He isn't the one who tried to do a good deed, somehow let themselves be stupidly convinced to enter a stranger's apartment, and then got caught. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. There was really no end to my bad luck this month.

Yoosung: I thought the apartment has a passworh lobk?

Zen: Typo

Jaehee Kang: I assume it was a break in.

No no no no no. My leg bounced uncontrollably. They would call the cops for sure. And I'd given the cctv all my info. I slid my shoes back on and waited for developments. I couldn't flee, right? It was officially too late to nope-out. I had to deal with this, but how?

Jaehee Kang: Username “MC”, I recommend that you confess.

Zen: Jaehee, would you voluntarily confess to everything if it were you?

Jaehee Kang: No. But it is good to ask first.

707: Lolol

Jumin Han: Quit shitting around.

My stomach flipped. That read just like the real Jumin Han. “Oh my God....”. I covered my eyes with my hand and tried to compose myself.

Jumin Han: MC… Who are you?
Reveal yourself, stranger.
If you do not reveal yourself, you will pay.

Zen: Stranger you will pay? Lmfao
omg~*so scary*~

I let myself chuckle at Zen mocking Jumin Han. It was partially my mental state breaking, and a lot of my never imagining someone would have the balls to do that. I got up and walked over to the white couch in front of the television. It wouldn't matter if I left my shoes on in this house. I flipped a dusty cushion before lowering myself into the seat. I was doomed either way, legally. No use in being uncomfortable while I wait for authorities.

I needed to calm down. Maybe I can explain all of this. I wish I had that chat record... After all, I really was here to ask the owner about a lost phone.

Yoosung: Zen, when do you start your next piece?

Zen: ;;Don’t know. It’s up to the director.

Yoosung: He’s a celebrity lol! I’m gonna tell everyone at school.

Wow. My mouth twisted in unexpected surprise. They seemed to be easily-

Jumin Han: Hey.
Don’t get distracted.

Nevermind. Of course Jumin Han has no room for fuckery. How could I have been so foolish?

Yoosung: Oh, right. Username MC…

Jaehee Kang: … An abrupt stranger.

So dramatic, but I guess it all was pretty dramatic.

707: My hands r shaking as I hack.

Ha~ HIS hands were shaking. What about me?

Jumin Han: Who are you? Reveal yourself right now.

Yoosung: Yeees! Who are u?!

707: If it doesn’t say anything I’ll hack in and find out.

I thought about what to do as Zen fantasized about me being a fan. This whole situation is so backwards, and I'm certainly not without fault, but I really was given this address with good intent. Were these the real people, for sure? How did I get into the wrong app if it was secret? Why did I decide on my way out of town to meet a cute guy? Should I call my brother for help? I certainly couldn't call my parents until there were police to protect me from my mother's wrath. Oh man, this would ruin my family's reputation...

I squared my shoulders. I couldn't just give out info. This could all just be some stupid initiation tactic for their group of weird fans.
'Unknown' popped into my head again... something was off, or they wouldn't react like this; we were all suspicious.

MC: Reveal yourselves first. I’m the most confused one here…

Jumin Han: How fierce.

Zen: Are you a woman?

707: Zen. Be more serious, plz?
And wait a sec on the woman thing.

Looking it up.

I hadn't really thought it over, but maybe waiting inside was actually an awful idea. My level of trouble was high, but I didn't need to help matters. I'd end up looking much less suspicious if I wasn't inside when the police arrive.

I headed over to the door, and drug my bag out behind me, without looking back. I took a few steps towards my right before slumping against the wall next to it. That way I'd still be visible to the camera, and could easily turn to see the elevators around the corner. The messages hadn't slowed down in my moments away.

Yoosung: Still…Won’t it tell us about itself if we tell who we are first?

I put my phone in my lap and cradled my head in my hands as I read. Someone was... hacking me? That Zen guy seemed thirsty enough to be an actual celebrity. The C&R team were acting as expected. No one seemed to be bringing police into this yet, though.

Zen: To be honest… I agree with Yoosung.

Jumin Han: More like you want to show off who you are.

Yoosung: Should we… introduce ourselves?

Jumin Han: Are you serious…?

Jaehee Kang: I think it is a bit too early for that.

Zen: Hi. I’m Zen. (24 yrs old) Musical actor… Don’t look me up on the internet.
It’s embarrassing.

Yoosung: Zen, you’re so brave!

Jumin Han: Guess he wanted to show himself off.

Zen: No way~!

Zen posted a photo of himself in a blue shirt. Meant to be candid, the shot was obviously well thought out. I recognized him without the introduction though. He had white hair that looked short in the front, but had an incredibly long ponytail. I used to tease Hwa by saying he had the most elegant mullet I'd ever seen. I did enjoy watching his dvds with her, despite my teasing purely to get a rise out of her. His acting was great. He had an amazing voice. I'd consider myself a fan, though nowhere near Hwa's level.

He looked like an idol. His jaw was sharp and you could get lost in those eyes. That photo didn't show it, but I knew from a certain Zorro poster that was visible from my bed, that his body was amazing. His skin glistened a bit in the photo he had just posted. That checked out with the already hot and humid weather today. It was still so early, but the temperature was already rising fast.

Was this the real deal or just someone who knows whose popular?

Jaehee Kang: My eyes have been cleansed.
Wait. I can’t be like this…

Ha, she sounded like my roommate.

Jumin Han: I see that he has zero interest in his privacy.

707: Lolol
My nickname’s 707. Real name is a secret.
Fyi, Zen’s real name is Hyun Ryu.

I actually knew that, thanks to living with an Official Zen Fan Club member. Technically, I knew where his house was too. He used it as the fan mail address on his website.

Zen: Your name’s a secret but not mine?;

707: U don’t care anyways lol.
Just remember me as the 22yr old young hacker lol
Where I live is also a secret.

Zen: So many secrets;;

Yoosung: I’m Yoosung Kim! I’m a college student… 21 yrs old.

Jumin Han: I don’t know why everybody’s introducing themselves. You don’t even know who that person is.

I couldn't help but nod in agreement with Jumin. Couldn't blame him especially for being guarded, either.

Yoosung immediately posted a selfie of himself in a coffee shop. He was wearing a worn out hoodie with an LOLOL button. LOLOL, or League of Loneliness of Life, was a pretty popular MMORPG. Even Hwa played it. Not that that meant much. She was a nerd through and through. Another roommate of ours was in a guild with her. I didn't care to learn about it, but knew enough by default. Yoosung had dyed blonde hair, and held the bangs back with a barrette. His eyes were bright purple. He looked like he was probably a really friendly guy, honestly. Close to my age, although not my type.

707: So warm and fuzzy here

Zen: Lol. Seven, you don’t have any selfies to show?

707: Nothing recent.
Oh and also! Jumin’s the heir of a pretty famous corporation and Jaehee is his assistant. 27 and 26 yrs old respectively.
You have a better sense of who we are now, MC?

Jumin Han: Why did you say that…?

Would Jaehee's age be public knowledge? I tried to think about it. I suppose maybe an article could have shown her with Mr. Han since they like to attempt to force him into relationships via gossip.

707: Doubted you’d do it yourself.

Jumin Han: Stop shitting around.

707: Oh, fyi, Jumin has the cutest cat.

Jumin Han: Hey. Why are we talking about Elizabeth the 3rd to a stranger?
I chuckled a bit. That 707 guy was ballsy for being so seemingly secretive himself.

707: The cat’s name is Elizabeth the 3rd.

He posted a photo of who I already knew to be Jumin and Elizabeth. Mr. Han was tall in person, although he was crouching in the photo. He had dark hair and eyes and was well dressed in a vested suit. Mr. Han typically wore a cold expression around everyone at the office. Not that it made him any less attractive. He definitely looked like someone due to inherit a massive corporation. But I was caught off guard to see him smiling softly in the photo. No surprise, he was smiling down at the white fluffy Persian that he was petting. Elizabeth the 3rd had graced the office a few times. She was allowed to roam the eleventh floor, where Jumin's office was. I'd seen her twice, but only during my internship.

707: Oh. U already said lol.

Yoosung: That info’s a bit useless…
We’re not even close with this MC person yet lol

I caught myself stress-laughing at them again. The cat would be where they drew the line... what a goofy bunch. If it were a different circumstance I was meeting them under, I'd probably get along great with them in a casual setting. Well, maybe not with Mr. Han, but the rest seemed great.

They went back and forth about the cat for a bit. Jumin accused 707 of abusing his Elizabeth, posting a cctv screen capture of a man in glasses playing with a cat. There was no color to the photo, but I knew from his avatar that 707 was a redhead. He was sitting in the still, but his legs looked long. No doubt he was a head or so taller than me. The reflection of his glasses covered the majority of his face with the camera angle. Very mysterious indeed.

Jumin obviously took the cat very seriously. He had gotten into it with everyone by the time the topic passed.

Zen: Stop talking about cats. Giving me goosebumps.

Jaehee Kang: I suggest that we take care of this stranger first.
Could it be that we have a security breach?

Zen: True. MC, how did you get in here?

Yoosung: Is it really in Rika’s apartment?

707: Yup. It’s for sure…
How did it get the apartment password?!

Zen: Where the hell is the apartment?

I finally offered up a reply. I wasn't about to argue the fact that I shouldn't be there. It was more than obvious.

MC: I am flustered too. I was connected to a stranger through a messenger app and he sent me the address.

Jumin Han: Chatting with a stranger… How naive.

Zen: So cute lol
Went to an address from a chatting app lolol

Yoosung: Don’t listen to strangers~ The world is dangerous.

Jaehee Kang: I agree.

“God,” I let my head back until it hit the wall behind me. I looked like a complete idiot. I was just trying to do a good deed. “I'm such a moron”. I smacked the phone against my forehead, jumping when it buzzed against it.

707: Wait.
Do u have that person’s username or chat record?

The question came across my screen as a wave of relief. Did he believe me? Were they willing to listen? My position returned to dire when I remembered that it didn't matter without evidence.

MC: The username was ‘Unknown’. And the record was deleted.

Jumin Han: Does the username not exist? Why is it ‘Unknown’?

707: I made it impossible to log in without setting a username.

707.... made it? Is he so good with computers that he created the application?

707: Nothing’s in the log…

Woah, that did seem like a hacker situation then.

Yoosung: What’s a log? Is it a job title for online games?

Jumin Han: Tree trunk

Jaehee Kang: It refers to past records;;

Zen: Tsk tsk everyone’s so dumb

Jumin Han: Never thought I’d hear that from you

707: Omg lolol can’t believe Zen just said that

I adjusted myself. My butt was starting to fall asleep.

Jaehee Kang: Everyone please calm down. Let’s look at the situation at hand.
Who do you think that ‘Unknown’ person is?

707: Maybe…
A hacker…?!

Yoosung: !!!

So, what? I agreed with it being a hacker, but I'd been... lured here? I glanced around the corner to look down the hallway, suddenly nervous about where was actually the safest place to be. Maybe I should head to the cafe across the street.

707: A hacker! No way. I have everything covered!
Hey, MC. So he told you the password for the door lock?

MC: Ya. I know nothing

Jumin Han: …Ya?

Forgot the people I was speaking to... I did, however, stand up and situate my luggage situation. I'd stay in contact with these guys, in case we got to a police scenario. However, I did not care for having been tricked by a third party into coming.

Zen: Cute lol

Yoosung: But..
How did you end up chatting with that person?

Jaehee Kang: I see.
Where did you download this messenger app?

MC: just got it @ app store…

I began wheeling myself to the elevator.

707: I should trace the person who distributed the app.

Jumin Han: If what she is saying is true.

Jaehee Kang: I think it would be a good idea to contact V.

707: Already on it lol

Zen: Fast.

Yoosung: Seven seems talk to V pretty often.

“Who's that?...” I pressed the first floor button and typed back as the doors shut.

MC: Who’s V?

Zen: V is… like our boss.

707: The evil mastermind.

Jumin Han: …or not. He’s the person who has control over this chat room and the organization we’re in.
I hope V comes and takes care of all this.

Zen: V’s too busy these days to come chat… We’ll get to talk to him because of this~

Jaehee Kang: V should know that MC is here so let’s just wait.
Seven, are you calling him?

707: Ya.

Yoosung: But shouldn’t we tell MC what this chatroom is for first?
She has to know how serious it is that she’s here!

Answers were exactly what I wanted. I was aware that I didn't necessarily deserve, nor was I owed any, though. However, whatever was going to happen, I wanted some idea of how deep in it I was.

Jumin Han: What’s more serious is that she’s in Rika’s apartment.

Yoosung: That’s true…

Yea, being in someone's apartment was definitely serious. I rubbed my forehead, immediately wincing at the fact that I'd applied foundation earlier. Priorities and all. I glared at my hand in disgust of my flighty mindset so far that day.

Jaehee Kang: I am always ready to call the police.

I swallowed hard in response. “Please don't.” The words came out in a whisper. The elevator doors opened and I headed straight out of the enclosure to the street.

Yoosung: Jaehee’s scary T_T

Jumin Han: Until we figure out who MC is I don’t want to reveal anything.

Jaehee Kang: I agree.

707: Wecan.
Sorry
callingvandtypingwithonehand

Yoosung: Type after you finish the call.

707: Lookedintoownerofdevice.
she’scutelol

My entire face flushed in response. I wasn't expecting the compliment. It was especially surprising given the position I was in. I stopped to wait for the crosswalk to free up as I pulled my braid forward. This guy really did have computer skills if he was able to pull me up and find my location. I wondered what photos he had found.

Mostly, I had my info hidden online since I had been working to be in C&R's good graces for the last year. I wouldn't come up in regular searches, even if he'd managed to figure out my number and reverse search.

Yoosung: You did a background check on her!? So MC is definitely a girl?

MC: Where did you get that info!?

Zen: He’s a hacker. He probably saw your fb page already.

707: notthereyet
 iwillifineedtotholol

Jumin Han: What? It’s really a girl?

I sighed, annoyed. The WALK symbol finally lit up, and I started across the street.

***V has entered the chatroom.***

I hesitated after reaching the sidewalk. So this was the guy who ran the entire... I glanced back at the apartment complex. ...Foundation?

Zen: Show me a photo

707: Nope~
How dare you try to violate someone’s privacy like that.

I rolled my eyes at Zen as I pulled the heavy door to the cafe open. It was a vegan cafe, and I'd tried about half of their menu items already with Eun-i. It was filled with plants and recycled furniture. I got at the end of the short line, not wanting to loiter.

Looking down, I was surprised to see that 707 had in fact posted a photo. It was of a woman, but not me. It was Jaehee Kang. Her short hair and smart business attire were giveaways, even if you couldn't see her face behind sunglasses. I knew that she had gorgeous eyes. All of us female interns used to go on about how jealous we were of her long lashes. She had an extremely feminine face, but always kept a serious expression. Her mandatory short hair made her look, at first impression, like she'd be difficult to work with. People only found this to be true if they wasted her limited time, however.

Jumin Han: ?

Zen: Is that MC!?

Yoosung: omg I thought we were respecting her privacy?

I winced at the phone on Assistant Kang's behalf. I had assumed they all knew each other in real life the way that they spoke about member's homes and careers. Maybe they hadn't all met? Still, Mr. Han should have noticed...

Jaehee Kang: ;;;;;
That is a photo of me.

“I knew it.” The man in front of me glanced over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow. I held up my phone as an excuse apologetically, dipping my torso slightly as he turned back to the menu.

Yoosung: Oh right! Sorry I was too excited;;

Zen: So..sorry for not recognizing you;;

Jaehee Kang: Mr. Han, you can’t recognize me either?

Jumin Han: 

So they must know each other in person. Poor Assistant Kang. She works so hard, and is never shown proper respect.

Jumin Han: Now what are we going to do?

707: V’s coming here soon. He just hung up.

V: I’m already logged in.

707: Oh, V! You’re here ^_^

Zen: Finally he’s here.

V didn't come with a complimentary photo, but in his tiny avatar he looked very attractive. Definitely older than me, but probably still in his twenties. His hair and eyes were a mint color. He looked like he came from a good family. His avatar was less of a cropped candid photo, and more of a professional headshot.

V: How is everyone? Jaehee, you’ve been well?

Jaehee Kang: Yes. It’s been a long time, V.

Yoosung: Hey V

V: Hey.
Well, I heard about a situation.
MC is currently in Rika’s apartment with info from a stranger and logged into this chatroom.

Jumin Han: Who disclosed the password for Rika’s apartment?


V: Well. No one knew the password. I don’t even know.

Yoosung: …Thought V knew.
She never invited me to her apartment.

Jumin Han: It’s the same for everyone else.
No one’s been there before.

Yoosung: Tell us the address. I’ll go there… I want to check who MC is myself.
Seven, you know right? You traced the IP just now.

707: Uhm. Sorry but…
 I can’t tell you that.

Yoosung: ??
I’m her surviving family.

Surviving family... So that was a dead woman's apartment? I took a step forward as the line moved up. That explained the dust, although I was surprised that it hadn't been cleared out. It explained even more, everyone's shock at my being there.

Zen: Maybe because you’re just her cousin?

707: Not even her immediate family can go.
And the apartment doesn’t belong to Rika.

Yoosung: Then who?

V: Me.

I winced at the screen. This would be the guy that gives the order to contact the police.

Yoosung: You don’t even know the password!

V: I just respected her privacy.

Yoosung: …Were you really in a relationship with her?

Jumin Han: I can’t believe you never knew the password.

V: I’ve never even been there. I just know where it is.
Anyway, the apartment is in my name.
Rika usually worked there. There are a lot of documents in there that must not be damaged.

I can’t reveal the address because all the classified information about this organization is stored there, plus other sensitive materials.

Jumin Han: I didn’t know the place contained sensitive material.

Yoosung: You don’t trust us enough to let us go, right?

Jumin Han: Don’t take it personally. It’s better to be ignorant sometimes.

V: Yes, for the reason that Jumin said.
Anyway, I can’t tell you the address. I’m sorry.

I leapt out of my skin as my phone buzzed and blacked out the screen for an incoming call from Hwa. I hit cancel and went back to the conversation at hand. I felt like I was watching a drama.

Yoosung: Then how did Seven know that the address he traced is Rika’s apartment?

Jaehee Kang: Since he’s responsible for the organization’s classified information.

707: Yup. That’s true, but also I’m the one who developed this app.
Rika wanted to take care of some work through this too. I went to her place to link the app with some of the documents in her computer.

So out of all of them, 707 was the only one who had been here. He was the only one who knew the address. I gave my order to the woman behind the counter. I hadn't had much time at breakfast that morning, and who knew how long I'd go without food again if I got arrested.

I was a criminal, just hanging out in a coffee shop...

I ordered a vanilla latte with almond milk and a breakfast sandwich made with some sort of new egg substitute, and headed over to a table with my number placard.

V: Only Luciel and I know the address.
I repeat, since the information must be protected, please do not attempt to find the apartment. Do not ask MC about it and MC, please do not reveal the address.

Wait, how many people were a part of this group? I left my things at my table and headed towards the counter with water pitchers while typing on my phone.

MC: Luciel?

Zen: That’s 707’s real name. ‘Luciel Choi’

Jaehee Kang: lol

Yoosung: omg Jaehee just said lol

Jumin Han: I think it’s his baptismal name?

707: I’m going to go pray for a moment.

MC: What’s classified information?

I tried bringing them back to the topic. Thinking back on the apartment, there were lockers and filing cabinets all over the place.

V: All the information there is classified.
So MC… Is that what I call you?
Please do not touch anything there.

I let the phone plop onto the table as I lowered myself into the chair, taking a sip of ice water.

V: For example, if you try to force open one of the drawers…
The alarm will ring.

Zen posted a shocked emoji version of himself.

Yoosung: What do we do about her apartment?
Can MC stay there?

V: First…
No one here is going to go to Rika’s apartment, right?
Since the information involves everyone around us, there might be trouble if we are not careful.

Jumin Han: Yeah yeah. You can stop explaining. Classified information. Got it.
But it is a mystery how a complete stranger could end up there.

V: If it’s someone who knows the password… It might be someone that Rika trusted.

Jumin Han: Someone Rika trusted?

That seemed like a reach. I didn't know this Rika or Unknown. It appeared I wasn't the only one confused.

V: I am only guessing…

707: So then that ‘Unknown’ person… knew Rika!?
I can’t believe she trusted someone more than V.

Yoosung: I don’t believe that. She couldn’t have trusted anyone more than us…

Zen: That is… a bit surprising.

V: It’s hard to believe myself… But we shouldn’t assume that we knew everything about Rika.
She…had a deep world of her own.

Yoosung: 

This was derailing quickly. I glanced up to thank the teenager who brought my meal.

Jumin Han: …Anyways, V, continue.

V: If I am right.
MC being at her apartment right now… Rika must have wanted that.

I choked on a hot sip of latte as I read that.

Jumin Han: Rika called in a complete stranger from up in the sky?

V: I’m not saying she wanted MC to be there… but maybe…
Rika wanted someone to do the work she did before. At the place she worked before.

Jumin Han: What…?

Zen: No way…

Jaehee Kang: The work Rika did before…

707: Hosting parties?

Zen: You mean Rika’s party.

Yoosung: Do you really think… that Rika planned this?
If she made that decision when she was alive…

V: That’s my guess… but yes.
Since she didn’t leave a will.
According to the information Luciel provided, MC doesn’t seem dangerous.

Jumin Han: I’m not sure about this to be honest…

V: Besides, she’s basically in the same boat now that she knows about this messenger app.
Whoever she might be.

707: But still…

Seriously though. What is he talking about? I took a bite of my sandwich. It was a bit tough but luckily I managed to keep the contents from spilling out the back of it as I tore into it. So was I off the hook?

MC: I just came here to find the owner of the phone… What is going on…

707: Owner of the phone?
You were phished lol
According to V’s guess, Rika… the person who used to live there had the person ‘Unknown’ convince u to go to the apartment.

Not liking to be spoken down to, I sighed angrily. Yes, THAT I understood. But this “same boat as us”, what was happening?

Jaehee Kang: Wait… I understand… that everyone values V’s opinion. But…this chatroom is strictly prohibited to strangers.
If I may say so, I think that we must verify what MC has said. For all we know, MC could have simply made up that ‘Unknown’ person.

707: I feel like Jaehee’s glasses are glinting right now.

Jaehee Kang: ?

V: Thank you for your opinion, Jaehee.
But right now, I would appreciate it if you could trust me. If MC is not to be trusted, we can deal with it then.

Trusted with what exactly? I rolled the tips of my hair in my fingers. General knowledge of this place and this app?

MC: Please explain.

Zen: How chic…
Cute is nice but chic women have their own charms.

Jumin Han: He’s gone insane.

707: Lol excited because she’s a girl?

Zen: Yup.

Jaehee Kang: omg

Jumin Han: -_-

Yoosung: MC, you may not be interested right now, but won’t you listen to what we have to say?
You are involved now that you’re here. Regardless of whether you like it or not.

707: Ya. If you don’t cooperate, we can all team up to put u in trouble.
First, we all know that u trespassed on the apartment^^

My breath hitched, and I choked on my sandwich a bit before slamming some water in response.

Zen: Is that a threat?

707: Yup. I will threaten anyone in here who doesn’t follow V’s decision.
I am V’s slave.

V: …Uhm. Thank you?

Yoosung: Is that how we roll now?

707: Uhm. No lol

Glancing at the time, I'd already missed the train I'd hoped to get on. At this point, it'd be a few hours wait until the next. I might as well ride this wave. I was feeling a lot more confident in my defensiveness than I was earlier.

MC: Oh… Alright. I’ll listen for now.

707: Thank you for ur cooperation.

Zen: Rika is…V’s old girlfriend.

Yoosung: Rika hosted parties regularly for a good cause. She organized a group called RFA to plan the party and manage participants.

MC: A party?

707: Ya. She hosted a fundraiser to help those in need and introduced the guests to one another to arrange business deals.
The six of us who knew her personally joined the organization and helped her host the parties.

Yoosung posted a photo of a woman directing matters in, to be fair, a party-like setting. She was very beautiful. The photo was black and white, but she looked blonde like Yoosung, although it was the only feature they seemed to share.

Yoosung: She was an amazing person… She always sparkled.

Zen: And Rika… is no longer here with us… She passed away a year and a half ago.

Yoosung: 

707: MC has to know this anyways…

Jumin Han: I still can’t believe… that Rika knew she’d pass away and planned all this.
But I’ll just consider it as true for now since V thinks so.

Yoosung: …I can’t imagine… someone else taking over what Rika did.

Zen: But if we continue on like this, there’s no need for the party or our organization to continue.

Oh, I realized what they were getting at now. They expected me to magically pick up this woman's work because I'd idiotically strolled into her apartment.

Jumin Han: We don’t even know who she is though.

Zen: Just the fact that she’s in this chatroom makes me trust her a bit though;;

Jumin Han: Not because MC’s a girl?

V: Everyone… I know that this is confusing. But… Maybe MC was chosen by Rika.
707 will look into that person called ‘Unknown’. So for now, please just believe in me and wait.

707: I guess ur busy right now. Ur replies are really late.

V: Yeah, I think… I have to leave right now.
MC, it is best not to touch anything in the apartment. It won’t be good if the alarm rings. Everything that you have to do will be linked with this app installed on your phone.

MC: I thought this is just a messenger app?

V: I know there to be other features.

707: Yeah. If you have a laptop I can connect the e-mail program to it too. I can call her about it, V

V: Then there’s no need for MC to touch Rika’s old things.
I’m sorry… But I have to leave.

707: Okay. See u later, V.

V: Jumin.

Jumin Han: ?

V: Please take care of things for me.

Jumin Han: …Alright.

***V has left the chatroom.***

707: …V’s gone.

Zen: Yup. What’s he so busy with?

Jumin Han: None of your business.

707: Anyways, let’s do what V said. MC, u can log into this chatroom from time to time right?
This still didn't make a ton of sense to me. They all seemed nice enough. I'd been scammed already this morning, but I did remember news coverage of big parties that Jumin Han had a hand in that raised tons of money.

Jumin Han: Why doesn’t everyone stop stalking and Assistant Kang can invite her to the organization.

Jaehee Kang: Alright.
RFA is an organization Rika created so that anyone can freely make donations regardless of class or nationality. At the time, she hosted quite large parties once every two years, and they were very successful.
That lined up with what I remembered being on tv.

Zen: Those were busy days. I thought people were going to trample me.

Jaehee Kang: This chatroom was used to discuss plans for the party.

707: I created this chatroom lol.

Yoosung: Everyone knows that already…

Jaehee Kang: Because this chatroom contained a lot of information that cannot be publicly released the app was distributed in secret only for RFA members.
But ever since Rika passed away, we have not hosted a single party

Jumin Han: Yeah… not a single one.
We wanted to, but without Rika, we couldn’t proceed.

Jaehee Kang: …And this chatroom became a place for us to talk about personal matters.

707: We check that everyone’s alive with this chatroom and literally just chat.

Yoosung: We shared our memories of Rika too.

Jaehee Kang: …MC, I think you were led to that place without any explanation.
If V is right, it seems that someone sent you there to fill Rika’s position. Considering that you knowing about the existence of that place as satisfies the conditions for joining the organization, following V’s orders…

Jumin Han: Fyi, currently there are six members. Me, V, Zen, 707, Yoosung, and Assistant Kang. Everyone in the chatroom.

Zen: If MC joins, it will be seven.

Yoosung: Is she… really becoming a new member?

Jumin Han: We didn’t hear from MC yet. 
MC. All we are trying to do is host parties, raise funds, gather people… and things like that. Our organization has done a lot of good so far.
…You will never regret joining.

I could manage tracking guests and sending e-mails. My organizational skills were pretty fantastic. I was employed by the Chairman of C&R after all... Also, i was not opposed to the prospect of fabulous parties...

Jumin Han: MC, will you join RFA?

MC: What do I get if I join?

Jumin Han: This would be a time consuming role in the foundation. Like Seven, you'd be paid for your position.

Zen: Seven gets paid??

Yoosung: Of course he does. He's in charge of security.

Zen: Join, MC. If it means taking Jumin Han's money, I'm even more in favor of you joining.
Do you want to talk privately? I’ll give you my number.

707: Zen, why are u being so aggressive lol?

Zen: Haha…

A paid position, working from home. Things, very abruptly, began looking up. I finished off my latte and excitedly typed into the phone.

MC: Alright. It looks fun. I’ll give it a go.

Yoosung: That’s a fast decision..

Jumin Han: Ha. I like it.

Jaehee Kang: I wonder if you have thought this through.

Zen: Welcome, MC. Oi, Seven. Register her info asap.

707: Ya. I have to register her before she changes her mind.

Yoosung: Even the processing is fast…
MC must be a positive person, seeing that she made her decision so fast.

“MC is a desperate person” I muttered as I crumpled my sandwich wrapper and pushed it down into my paper cup.

Jaehee Kang: She may not be a careful person.

“Obviously.”

Jumin Han: Assistant Kang, is there something you do not like about her?

Yoosung: Hey~ Jaehee, don’t be like that.

Jaehee Kang: It is not that.

707: Good. I’ve registered her as a member! Oh. We don’t really need ur signature.^^… Since it’s a verbal contract.

Yoosung: You’re going to collect all the info so she can’t run away, right?

Zen: …Don’t collect anything without MC’s permission.

707: Ya.
I’m gonna leave for a sec. Need to check sth.

Zen: Background check on MC?

707: Nah~ It’s work. I have to make a living somehow.

Yoosung: Stop it. You get paid enough. By everyone, apparently.

707: How do u know how much I get paid?

Yoosung: I saw the picture of your new car...

Yoosung posted a screenshot of a text from 707. It was a photo of a garage with a plethora of nice looking sports cars in it.

707: lol, good. I’m gonna peace out.

Jaehee Kang: Well, since she has joined, I think everyone can leave if they need to.

Zen: Yeah?

Yoosung: Okay.

707: Anyways, welcome MC.

Yoosung: Welcome!! Good luck to us.

Zen: Glad you joined, MC ^^

Jumin Han: We’ll see how you do.

Jaehee Kang: For now, I look forward to working with you.

***Jumin Han has left the chatroom.***

***ZEN has left the chatroom.***

***707 has left the chatroom.***

***Jaehee Kang has left the chatroom.***

***Yoosung★ has left the chatroom.***

I clicked my phone screen off and sighed at the empty containers in front of me. I had work again now but, I did not understand what all that entailed. Not really. Could I do this all from my parents' house? Should I be reporting to C&R? Can I even go back to C&R?

I picked up the trash and threw it out before returning for my things and heading out the door. Once outside, my phone rang. Hwa would never believe this.
“Hello~,” I answered without checking the number, sure it'd be her trying again.

“Uhm Uh,” a male voice replied, “Your bank account has been used for a fun prank.”I stopped dead in my tracks. I was ready to chuck my phone into the street. How had this week gone so sideways? Was it a full moon today or something? “Uh... Were you aware of this? I must first verify your cell phone number for identification purposes. So, please calmly follow the instructions.”

“Oh,” At that, I realized that I was being duped. Nice to see my brain was catching up, finally. Thank God for two shots of espresso. “I'm hanging up-”

“No! You're so cold!” The voice on the other side was panicked and quick. “I just called to check your number! Don't hang up! It's me, Seven!”

“Oh.... Hey.” I stepped out of the way of some people coming down the sidewalk.

“Hey. So, you left the apartment.” He sounded much more relaxed and down to earth than I'd expected from the chats.

“I'm just across the street. I figured if the police were going to be called on me I'd look better, you know, to not be inside the place I'd broken into...” A woman shot me a look before abruptly opting to continue down the street rather than cross the road with me at the signal.

“Haha, I saw that. I have access to the camera in the hallway. As in, it's my camera. Are you coming back? I made you a member already?...”

“That V guy seemed pretty serious about me not being there.” I looked up at the tall apartment building in front of me.

“Well, where are you living right now?”

“Well... I'm actually in the process of moving out of Seoul. It's kind of a long story, but I lost my job.”

“Lucky you.”

“Excuse me?” I stepped inside the lobby of the apartment after all. The hot sun was just too much for me. The apartment hallways weren't enclosed, but the shaded breeze was very nice.

“That this ended up happening, I mean. Jumin even said you'll get paid for this. V bought the apartment for Rika, but it's C&R that funds it as a tax break and general investment since the parties did so well. Jumin had Rika on the payroll. She was a department director in that regard. He probably wouldn't give a stranger that position, but he did mention paying you, so~... Where are you moving?”

“Jeonju. It's... far. I'm moving in with my parents.”

“I've heard of it. Seems easier to just stay in Rika's apartment...” he trailed off. I could hear an insane amount of typing going on in the background.

“Can I... do that though?” I nodded politely at someone who made eye contact with me on their way to the elevators.

“V is fine with it, so long as you don't touch anything. I checked with him.”

“That sounds inconvenient.”

“Come upstairs. I hacked the street surveillance. I know you're at the building.”

“That's very creepy. Thanks for the invitation.” I walked to the elevator and hit the floor button marked, 14.

“Hehehe, I have reason to believe you do best with creepy proposals.”

“Misconception.” I replied after a long pause. “And how do I know that you aren't that Unknown guy? You both seem abnormally talented with programming.” 707 chuckled at the other end of the line. “Also, I was fed enough information to believe I was doing a good deed. If your only errand for the day was to move back in with your mother, wouldn't you opt for procrastination?”

“I'd avoid it at all costs.” He said coldly.

“You get me then.” I stopped in front of the door around the corner, “Shoot. I can't remember the passcode...”

“It's 6-1-1-2. The first part is my birthday.”

“Oh,” I punched it in, waving at the camera before stepping in, “What's the last part?”

“Oh hey~. I just like to square things.” I could hear the sounds of an office chair swiveling in the background, “But now that you know it's June 11th, I'll expect a gift.”

“Ha,” I went to slip my shoe off before noticing the footprints in the dust again and deciding against it. “I'll get you car wax or something.”

“We've just met and you're already speaking to my heart. So, as far as the apartment goes...”

“Yes?” I stepped in, walking far enough back to be able to see a pretty full view of the place from one spot.

“Essentially, don't open the lockers, safes-... as if you could. ...Wait, can you?”

“Crack a safe you mean? I've never tried?”

“Oh, I can. Don't try though. Or the drawers in the main room. That is all off limits. Sensors. Police. I'm incredibly serious when I tell you not to touch those.” He sounded incredibly serious too. Would it call the police or the military?

“Got it.”

“Leave her computer alone too.”

I leaned over to look underneath the desk, “It looks unplugged.”

“Perfect. Leave it alone. Anything in the kitchen or bathroom is fine. The closet is fine. Just if it looks like it was used for business, don't touch it. Or her bedside table. I learned once that you never go into someone's bedside table.”

“A good rule of thumb, honestly.”

“Yep. Anyway, the apartment is yours to live in otherwise.”

“Wow, this is.... actually really amazing on a ton of levels.” I took in everything around me. “You have no idea how big of a stress reducer this is.”

Even unpaid, this meant I didn't have to go home while looking for another job. I could see how much time this took up, and potentially still go back to a full-on office job. This gig could network me into a better job than I'd had before. And the references would be amazing. To say nothing of how incredible this apartment was in general.
“Do I pay rent to V or C&R, then?”

“No, he's not worried about it. He never turned the utilities off either, so you're good. You just have to exist there and do the work for the RFA party.” He hesitated, mumbling something to himself as I heard a computer mouse click repeatedly through the line, “Oh. And you absolutely cannot ever have anyone over. Like, they cannot stand inside the door waiting for you, if you get delivery, meet them outside at the lift. You cannot bring anyone in no matter what. Just call it V being neurotic about people being in his late fiance's apartment. But I'll see from the camera if you do it, and there will be consequences. So please promise me you won't. Again, it's a serious thing.”

“I'm good at going with the flow and respecting space. No drawers, no visitors, no problem.”

“Fantastic. I really have to get back to work now. I'll give everyone your number. They'll be able to call you through the app, so don't be worried if you get calls from it. You'll see them often from now on, so don't be shy. Please take good care of the RFA, okay? We're looking forward to it! I'll reach out later to really explain your role to you. Well then, bye-bye!”

And just like that, he hung up.

I wandered around the apartment a bit. Before anything, this place would need to be cleaned up. I wondered how much new stuff I'd need to buy. At least I owned a few things already.

“Oh, shit.” My things! I ran out of the kitchen, grabbing my purse as I darted out the door, running for the elevator.

I pressed the 1st floor button and pulled the phone out to call Eun-i, when a text popped up through the RFA app from 707.

'Everything okay?'

'Yes' I typed, remembering that he had access to the camera, 'I'm trying to stop the post office from sending my boxes all the way home.'

'Ah. Don't worry about it. If you think of anything other information with the hacker, please let me know.'

I backed out of the app and hit the call button for Eun-i while jogging down to the bus stop.

“Hwa tried calling you earlier.”

“I know” I panted, lining up with the others for the bus, “I was busy.”

“Where... are you?”

“Oh, uh, Seoul... Hey-” I walked up on the bus and scanned my card before taking a seat, “can I possibly keep some boxes in your storage unit for a bit?”

“Uhm, yes?” Eun-i sounded confused. Which was understandable, “Did you come clean with your mom or something?”

“No, uhm.... I got a job. Somehow.” I plopped into a seat, dropping my head into a hand I'd propped on my knee. I was careful this time to support my head at my hair. I could already feel my makeup melting.

“What?!”

“Yea, but it came with a place, so I'm moving there, but I don't want to move everything in, just in case it doesn't work out.”

“Your new job... came with lodging?”

“Yes.”

“A sharehouse?”

“No.”

“Alone?” She sounded increasingly skeptical.

“Yes.”

“Included....”

“Yes.”

“Are you a nanny now?”

“A party planner.....I think.”

“You think.”

I pushed the button for my stop and stood up. “Yes. That's how it was explained to me.”

“By whom?”

“Jumin Han?”

“Jumin Han of C&R?”

“Well, his assistant, but yes. It's kind of all confusing and I have stuff to take care of, but it seems like a good thing if I can get it to stick. I'll give you better details later. I have to go into the post office for now though.”

“I'll text you the code then I guess.”

“And the address for the place. Thank you.”

“Sure...” She hung up first. I had called during her shift and was lucky she picked up. It was in her character to let me use some of her storage unit. She didn't use much of it, and would probably like to split the fee for a bit. She'd do anything to help a friend though.

I headed into the post office, sighing at the clock on the wall. They'd promised me that the stuff would be sent out at 9am so that I could get it at my parent's house with the evening drop off. It was cheaper and easier than taking it onto the train with me, since it was 4 years worth of belongings.

“Welcome. How can I help you?” The woman behind the counter sounded sweet but looked frazzled.

“Uhm, I'm actually hoping that you haven't sent out your morning shipment yet? I brought a lot of boxes last night, but circumstances changed and if possible, I need to cancel them.”

“Actually,” she looked down at her computer and sighed, “We've been having some major system issues with our computers for the last ten minutes and it's delayed things. As long as your identification matches what we have on the paperwork I can return them to you.”

“Awesome!” I pulled out my ID and set it on the counter, while pulling up an app to call for a taxi. I sent a quick text to 707 in the messenger as well.

'They still had my boxes!' The day was definitely looking up as it went along.

“Oh,” the woman behind the counter flailed her arms, “Now the computers come back up. They'll meet you out front with them. I just need a signature.”

I thanked her and headed back out as an SUV taxi, matching the description on my app, pulled up.

Chapter Text


 


 

I gave my cab driver directions to the unit and settled in. The drive there going to be lengthy, as the cheaper ones were in a different part of town. I pulled up the chatroom and took a look. Surprisingly, Jumin and Zen were both online.

MC: Hello.

ZEN: Welcome MC~

JUMIN: Hello.

ZEN: So lame that you responded to her with another hello lol

JUMIN: I have to be polite to a member of the RFA.

ZEN: Aha. I see you’re helpless in front of V.

JUMIN: Isn’t everyone in this organization?

I tucked a piece of my long, brown hair back behind my ear. I'd need to rebraid it soon. My sprint to the bus earlier had me a bit out of sorts. I was surprised to see that Mr. Han hadn't left yet, though. That interested me.

MC: But Jumin, don’t you have to go to work?

I immediately froze. I wrote Jumin because I was staring at his username. I never would have been that rude normally. I braced for backlash.

JUMIN: I was about to.

ZEN: No one’s going to give the executive a hard time for being late.

JUMIN: Assistant Kang will say something though.

ZEN: Oh, right.

Was I... was having a casual conversation with Jumin Han and Zen? 

My week had started by getting let go from one of the most coveted corporations in Korea, over something incredibly petty. I moved out of my home that I shared with my best friends, and was going to have to move back in with my parents over two hours south of the city. 

I thought I had downloaded a 'dating app' to get my mind off the situation and kill time scrolling through profiles on the train. 

Stupidly (something I wasn't going to let myself ever live down), I had trusted a stranger who casually asked me to enter a stranger’s apartment... which I did.

I should be in jail. Or at the very least, on my way to making kimchi while being berated by my disapproving mother. 


But just a couple hours after giving up on my 5 year plan, I suddenly had a job. I obtained a REALLY nice high-rise apartment in my favorite part of the city. And to top it off, am currently, casually, PRIVATELY, chatting with Jumin Han, attractive corporate heir, and Zen, gorgeous musical star.

When I did finally recount this to Hwa, she would murder me out of jealousy for sure.

MC: What were you doing, Zen?

ZEN: I was about to get breakfast. I’m an actor so my schedule is flexible. I’ll go to rehearsal in the afternoon lol.

JUMIN: What are you doing at this hour, MC?

MC: I was actually moving out of my share-house today. So I'm kind of scrambling to switch things around.

ZEN: Aren't you staying in Rika's apartment!?

JUMIN: She is.
Do you need assistance with anything? I can have Assistant Kang contact you.

MC: No, thank you. I've picked up my things that were going to be shipped. I'll store some in my friend's storage unit, and take the rest back to the apartment with me.

ZEN: If I knew where the apartment was, I'd come help

JUMIN: Zen keeps an open enough schedule to be able to help with any stupid task that may present itself.

ZEN: MC, let’s ignore him and just talk amongst ourselves.
Nothing good will come from talking to him.

I giggled. Zen deserved to take a shot at Mr. Han after that. I, however, would never ever be able to speak to Mr. Han that way. It was like I'd entered an alternate reality, seeing someone with the gall to actually sass him.

JUMIN: I will just brag about Elizabeth 3rd then. Since I'm still home with her.

ZEN: Whatever;;

I smiled down at the screen. These two did not seem to get along well. Which surprised me, since they seemed to probably be on the closest wavelength in terms of fame and reputation. I set the phone in my lap and pulled the hair-tie out of the bottom of my braid.

A photo of a white Persian cat, obviously Elizabeth the 3rd, on her back, was posted. I dropped the sections of hair I'd begun separating and picked the phone back up.

MC: Wow! So pretty.

JUMIN: Thank god at least one person appreciates her beauty.

We were getting close to the storage units. I quickly braided my hair back together, likely no better than it already was, while the two argued over ego for a moment.

JUMIN: Elizabeth 3rd is the only one who sees me off to work. She’s the only one I need.

ZEN: What are you talking about;; You make all of your maids see you off.

JUMIN: What I mean is… Elizabeth 3rd is the only one who sees me off with a loving soul.

ZEN: Loving soul lol
If you treated your employees with a loving soul, they’d polish your shoes and lay out a red carpet.

JUMIN: It’s a waste giving yourself to people you’ve employed. It’s a business relationship. Money should be all there is to it.

ZEN: Well. That depends on the person.
What do you think, MC?

Mostly, in that moment, Mr. Chairman specifically popped into my head. Rather than cater to his personal and frankly, fleeting personal interests, he could have kept a really valuable employee. I could respect company-first mindsets, but there's still a human in there who will either work for and improve for you, or will just take from you. 

MC: It’s better to treat people like actual human beings than to be so strict.

I leaned forward and directed the driver to the unit that I needed.

ZEN: The director that I work with is really nice to the actors. He buys us food with his own money and stays late to encourage us, so I enjoy every show.
One director I worked with before just did his job and took his paycheck… And the result was just that too.

JUMIN: That’s a good example. It’s not my style, but I should acknowledge that society is diverse.

I smiled again at them. For how cold Mr. Han could seem, he also appeared to be the one more willing to bend between them.

MC: I'm sorry you two. I just got to the unit. I have to pop out for a while. Bye!

***You have left the chatroom***   

I hopped out of the cab, sliding my phone into my purse. Eun-i had a corner unit. I typed her code into the lock and pulled the garage door up. She was incredibly organized. Everything was in clear totes, as well as labeled. Different stacks, denoting separate categories.

It was a great system for organizing a storage unit. I'd been moving though, so my things were haphazardly scattered between my boxes. I frowned back at the brown boxes that the driver was pulling out of the SUV.

“You want all of them out?” He asked, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead.

“Eh, yes and no.” I winced at how difficult this was going to make things. “I actually need to go through a few of these and separate and consolidate. Some I know for sure I don't need, but not all of them...”

“Oh...” He looked put out.

“Oh! Sorry. You don't have to wait. I can call a different taxi. I don't want this to take long, but it'll be at least thirty minutes. So I understand you wanting to go.”

“Actually, I just normally hit the express mart for some food right now. How about you pay me for this fare, and I'll run up and do that while you do this. Then I can just come back and get you.”

“That would be great!” I clapped my hands together. It was hard to find the right vehicle on the app. I would be better off with him returning.

He scanned my card to pay the current amount. “Got some cash on you? I can grab you a drink while I'm up there? You won’t last too long, in this heat, certainly not comfortably.” He glanced up at the sky, his arm across his forehead.

I dug in my purse, pulling out my wallet. The smallest bill I had would cover more than a couple drinks, but not an excessive amount. “Here. Use the change towards your meal, please. I appreciate you going out of your way.” He smiled warmly and got back in his vehicle, waving as he pulled off.

I turned back at the boxes. There were only seven of them, but I'd opted to keep so many knick knack items from over the years that most boxes were junk. At least in the new space, a minimalistic approach would be best for me. Our share-house had off limit areas, but the apartment disallowed bedside tables and filing cabinets that I could use for the role, not to mention they were in the way. Maybe if this worked out I'd gain clearance. Or I could always still move into my own place. Either way, for now I had no intention of fully decorating with a bunch of trinkets I’d obtained throughout college.

I kicked at a few of the boxes before coming to the one that was obviously my bedding. That was a keep. I moved it to the side, in the shade of the unit, but easy to grab when the truck came back. 

I pulled open three of the denser boxes. The luggage I'd hauled around all morning had my toiletries in them to save them from potentially being crushed and leaking, since my baggage was a hard shell design. It also had my nicer clothes in them to keep them from being lost or damaged. These three boxes held my regular clothes. I managed to condense them down to two after several minutes.

The remaining boxes were crammed with miscellaneous items. I reminded myself to be picky in what I chose. I mostly grabbed office items for my desk. My laptop was also safe in my luggage, but my stationary and other electronics were all here. I pulled out my make-up mirror and organizing bins. Some of my personal kitchen items that I took with me would be helpful, like my water kettle and favorite mug. Some jewelry, hair accessories and photos also made the cut. 

“That was surprisingly quick.” I brushed some pebbles off of my hands after dragging and moving the boxes to better locations. I was taking four boxes back. It almost felt like a waste to have even come, but I liked the idea of not cluttering the place too much.

About half an hour had passed, but no taxi. I sat on the edge of a box that I felt had the best chance at supporting my weight. I was tucked just under the door of the unit to try and get some shade without sacrificing airflow. The blacktop just outside had some serious heat coming off of it by this point.

A ping specific to my mother's cell number chimed in the purse across my chest.

'Did you make your train? I know you were going to walk, but your father wants to pick you up for some reason'

“It's called parental affection...” I muttered at the screen, “Foreign concept, I know.”

'I won't be home tonight. Sudden development. I'll call you later.'

I sighed at my reckless optimism. “One.... Two...Th-” The phone started ringing in my hand. 'MOM'. “Hello?”

“What do you mean you aren't coming home? I set up your room. I bought food. Your father is picking you up. What do you mean?” She was speaking a mile a minute. Ever the martyr, Ma had to make every person’s situation about herself. 

My mother was just barely shorter than my 5'4”. The shortest in our family, but certainly the most terrifying. She was the type of person who gossiped at the drop of a hat. She didn't mind being on people's lips, so long as they were envious of her. My father had been successful enough, but my big brother was her pride and joy. She didn't have much of a maternal sense, so much as a desire to make sure we were worth our weight.

Far be it for her to go through trouble on my behalf. I was putting them out, after all, and she had to show that. I was game to kill some time by calling her bluff. 

“You told me I'd have to set up my room. That my bed was still there, but I had to move boxes, and to leave Papa's gym equipment. You suddenly cleared it?” 

“No, but I opened the windows today to air it out.” I hummed. Knew it.

“What food did you buy?”

“We have to make side dishes.”

I sighed. “Yes, it's Monday. The day you always make the sides. Did you buy extra because of me? I can send you money.” I squinted at the sky. I was sticky and uncomfortable. Her silence was a fleeting victory. She was powering up.

“...... Why aren't you coming home?”

“I got a promotion,” I lied without missing a beat.

“.....” I wasn't prepared for silence.

“Mom?”

“To?” Her voice was annoyed. She was waiting for me to gush about it. Meaning, she wasn't buying this at all. “Project leader? People work under you now?” She offered some examples of what she'd like to hear.

“Well, uh... I report directly to Mr. Han-”

“You mean, Mr. Chairman. You already did, didn't you?”

I exhaled sharply, “I work for Mr. Han.” 

“So you are ranked lower now? You were in the Chairman's department. Now I have to tell people you work for his son.”

My teeth instinctively gritted. There would be no pleasing her, as usual.

“Do you make more money? You think you don't have to save now?”

“No.” I stated, losing all fight.

“That's not a promotion.”

“I get that, Mom. The Chairman and his son, to be fair, are different departments. It's not fair to imply that I'm ranked lower than an employee in Mr. Chairman's department. Plus, now I'm in line to potentially run an entire department after a probation period. It also came with my own apartment. Which, you know, could be considered a huge bonus, or something. It's an amazing situation. Please, just be excited for me?”

“Mi Cha~, your brother is doing very well. When he started out like you, he got a promotion right away. A real one.”

“I'll call Dad later to apologize. I have to go.”

She finally let me hang up after reminding me that my brother calls home almost daily. My reluctance to communicate, her words, was a trait she couldn’t figure out where I’d acquired. I humored her with the promise of a fully detailed email after pretending to speak to someone who required my urgent attention. 

Finally, I was left to sit there in silence. I was thankful for cell phones, because there was no way I would have put a land line down gently. My mother had always been notoriously hard on me. It'd been like that since middle school, but my older brother becoming a biochemist when I was in high school did not help matters. 

College was wonderful in that I'd been accepted to a SKY university with scholarships. I easily moved the two and a half hours away, coming home only for holidays and important family events. My acceptance into a good school did please my mother, but my major hadn't, and when it became clear that I was just going to become a salary person, she decided I wouldn't amount to anything.

The truth was that I enjoyed that work. I liked organizing and researching. Writing reports was something I was good at with my journalism degree, and I liked sharing information with others. I got joy out of being a cog that kept the clock functioning. Did it feel menial? Yes. Was I expendable? Yes. But there was room for promotion, or even being moved into positions where I ran an entire division. Being reliable and relied on brought out my best work ethic.

I wiped at my forehead, foundation transferring onto my hand. “Shit...” Where was that driver? He was right about the heat being torturous. I needed a distraction from it. I flicked at the screen to pull up the RFA app. It was 707 and Mr. Han in the room now. I was surprised to see Mr. Han still online.

MC: Hello, 707.

707: Wow! If it isn't the infamous MC! Welcome~!

JUMIN: Our lady of the hour.
My driver isn’t here yet. Thanks to that I can’t go to work.

707: lol take the subway.

JUMIN: I don’t know where that is. And I don’t have cash.

707: Knew it lol.
Oh. MC, you know that Jumin has a cat, right?

MC: Lol, yes.

JUMIN: I’m worried that there are a lot of people who don’t understand the beauty of cats in this world..
I should have the company carry out more cat related businesses.

I laughed out loud, thinking of his entire floor of employees simultaneously sneezing at the impending work-load. It caused me to look up and notice the SUV pull in.

“Sorry I'm late!” The man jumped out with sports drink that was dripping with condensation.

“It's okay,” I said, hopping off the boxes and dragging the ones I wanted out. He helped before handing off the drink and loading them into the vehicle. I shut the door to the unit and climbed into the back seat, squirming as my sweaty legs stuck to the leather as I tried to slide in. 

JUMIN: I do not like that term.

I scrolled up a bit to see what was said. 707 called him a cat mom. I giggled to myself as the driver got in.

MC: Lol cat mom

JUMIN: Please do not call me that.

707: Then how about cat man?

JUMIN: Call me by my name.

I leaned forward and gave the driver an address as he typed into the gps.

707: Trust fund baby cat? Director cat since you’re a Director?

JUMIN: Call me by my name.

I took a big swig of the sports drink before deciding to defuse.

MC: The cat’s pretty.. haha

JUMIN: Of course.

707: I know right? She’s a pretty chill cat.

JUMIN: She is not cool. She is very picky.

707: Ya? She’s not picky with me.

JUMIN: I don’t even want to talk about it.
707, this is a chance for you to use your corrupt money to do good. 
Donate some cat food.

707: Should I? Then will you let me play with Elizabeth 3rd?

JUMIN: I will never give her to you even if someone points a gun at my face.

707: Can’t I go over to your place?
You have a huge TV in the living room, and a Play Station and an X Box too. And also, Elizabeth 3rd lol

JUMIN: The Play Station and X Box are not there for you.

Jumin Han has gaming consoles? I stored the information away from possible later use.

JUMIN: Don’t come over. Never come over.
I have footage of you biting Elizabeth 3rd’s neck on security tapes.
If you come near my place, security will stop you.

707: Alright, so all I have to do is hang around with this security guard and then go in lol. Okie dokie.

JUMIN: -_-
MC, 707’s a dangerous man. Because… He never listens.

Maybe it was because I'd heard 707's voice that I had some bias to side with him. He did have a nice voice... I snapped myself out of my imagination. Either way, I liked this guy's personality. I appreciated a goofy balance. This chat room must get so stiff when he isn't online.

MC: Haha, he seems like he just likes to joke around.

707: Wow! You're like, the only one who gets me in this group.
You don’t have to be careful of me haha

I felt my cheeks warm up, and I wasn't sure if it was from his reply, or that we'd turned so that the sun was glaring through my window suddenly

JUMIN: The jokes of a dangerous man and the jokes of a not-so-dangerous man are different.

707: I am not dangerous~!
 Your cat is alive and well haha

JUMIN: Barely. She is alive for now.

707: I want to play with Elizabeth again haha

JUMIN: Whether you are careful or not 707 has the ability to get his way.

707: Ya?

MC: 707, what do you do?

JUMIN: He’s a hacker.
But no one knows which organization 707 works for.

707: Hmm… Aside from hacking…
I am also very devoted to my religion.
My heart is full of love and peace!

JUMIN: It’s his trait to give you generous amounts of useless information.

707: Why can’t anyone recognize the love inside of me?

JUMIN: If that’s love, then you’re a sadist.

707: What’s that?

“Hahaha!” I met eyes with the driver in the rear view mirror. “Sorry” He turned on some music in response.

JUMIN: Don’t ask. You know already.
Also don’t ever come near Elizabeth 3rd again. You’re dangerous.
You’ve been to Rika’s apartment, and you kept quiet all this time.

707: Well, I had no choice because it was top secret.

JUMIN: How many secrets do you have? You give me goosebumps;

707: I’m in charge of managing top secret information lol.

MC: Have you been here?

707: Ya. But it was just once, and I don’t even remember where it is now~
I was only working hard for the organization T_T

JUMIN: I don’t believe that you don’t remember the location.
With that gigantic brain of yours.

707: Is my brain that big? lol

JUMIN: 

707: lol well, I guess… I do have secrets.
Since I take care of classified information~!

JUMIN: It’s funny to you too, right?

707: Ya, a bit.
I am a bit of the secretive type.

JUMIN: People with secrets are always dangerous.

707: Don’t be like that, Jumin~ Don’t fear me.
If u come over to my place, I’ll give u a smothering hug.

MC: I think he’s funny.

707: Wow! She thinks I’m funny.

JUMIN: Whatever; ; I’m really going to work now. I just stuck around because my driver’s running late. You two, you have a good day.

707: I’ll give u the proper cat mom send off.
Good bye for meow~★

***Jumin Han has left the chatroom.***

I stifled a laugh. That's more like the Jumin Han I was familiar with.

707: No one knows how affectionate I can be lol
I hope you believe me.

That time, the blush was definitely from the conversation.

MC: I’ll believe you.^^

707: Thank you. You're a nice person, MC!
I’ll peace out now. I have to work T_T

MC: Laterz

707: Laterz ^^

***707 has left the chatroom.***

“Which one?” The driver spoke up.

“Oh!” I leaned forward, shoving my phone into my purse, “The tall blue one halfway down.”

“I hope you were texting a boyfriend to help you bring these boxes up.”

“Oh, uh,” I didn't like the thought of people thinking I was living alone, since I'd always had the comfort of other roommates. “He'll be home in a minute. So I'll bring them up”

“No,” he sighed and pulled to the side, taking the card I handed him and swiping to pay the fare, “I have a daughter your age. I wouldn't feel right leaving you to fend for yourself on such a hot day. Besides, you've got some heavy ones in there.”

“It's really fine,” I waved my arms. “They'll slide fine on the floor. Plus, uh, he's on his way. I'm just taking them to the elevator, and he'll help with the rest.”

He handed my card back and glanced over his shoulder, “Well, that's not too bad. I'll help you move them in there.”

I let the driver help me load them into the elevator. I'd narrowly avoided him insisting on helping me bring them all the way inside. Once the last box was dragged into the apartment, I checked my phone, plopping down on the only spot I'd dubbed clean enough.


I looked my phone over. I really wanted to tell my friends what was going on, but it all felt too bizarre to explain. I was surprised not to have any more attempts at contact from Hwa, too. After debating calling her back I tossed the phone onto the couch and got up to head into the kitchen.

I'd need to pick up a lot from the store. Times like this I wished I had a car. I had all the toiletries and makeup I needed. Food would be an issue though. I opened the refrigerator, fearing the worst but was pleasantly surprised to find it both empty and on. 


I checked the cupboards in the kitchen. There were a few cleaning supplies under the sink, but nothing very helpful. The upper cabinets held a few bowls and plates and some expired teabags. All in all, it looked like the apartment had everything I would need to make meals though. I could buy another pan, and some containers to store side dishes in. I'd need some plastic drawers for my own storage since all of the current furniture was off limits.


I pulled up the RFA app and hopped up onto the counter, forgetting about the dust layer on it. Both Yoosung and 707 happened to be online.


***You have entered the chatroom***


Yoosung: Seven, what are you up to?


707: Researching


MC: What are you researching?


Yoosung: Are you doing a background chekck?!


707: Not a background chekck


I giggled at the response. 


Yoosung: It was a typo;


707: lol type slower


MC: Did you find anything?


I knew full well there was nothing to find. Well, maybe aside from my having worked for C&R already...


707: Just the cup size and number of pantyhose in the drawer?


“Bullshit,” I muttered to myself. I was already one step ahead of this guy. I was sure he was teasing. Although, I did have a credit card to a certain underwear store that he could have pulled up receipts for. 


Yoosung: OMG!! How could you look into something like that!?
How did you find out?


707: Jk. I wasn't digging up her personal life. I'm looking for the person who sent her to Rika's apartment. 


I shook my head. He really likes to get a rise out of people. It felt comforting to know he was looking into the mysterious Unknown, though. For everything having gone so well, Unknown being so unknown was a bit unnerving. 


Yoosung: If you find out, will you tell everyone?


707: That depends on what V says. As always~


MC: I think I have the right to know.


Yoosung: Yea, she does. She was kidnapped!


“Uhm...” I said aloud, awkwardly laughing at Yoosung's remark. 


MC: It was my choice to come here;


707: Ya, If u just deleted the app in the first place, we wouldn't be having this conversation.


MC: Ya.


I frowned at the screen. He must think I am such an idiot. I wanted them to think highly of me. Yoosung brushed it off though.


Yoosung: He makes it clear that he knows everything but never gives anything out.


707: I can't help it tho T_T That's why it's called 'classified information'.


Yoosung: Still... Even when it came to her death, I wasn't happy with the information V gave me. 


707: Well... I didn't get a lot of information about how Rika left the world either.
But sometimes it's better not knowing.


I hesitated before responding. Zen had kind of warned against it, but I was in her apartment. Didn't I deserve to know how she died to some extent? Especially with a mysterious person giving out her apartment info?


MC: How did Rika leave this world?


707: I don't think it's a good idea for Yoosung or me to explain that. We still have questions and different thoughts about that matter. 


Yoosung: I have to go to class anyway

MC: Good bye, guys


Yoosung: Yup~


707: laterz ^^


I closed the app and slid down off of the counter. My face heated up. I felt stupid and embarrassed. I hadn't necessarily done anything wrong, but it just felt like I'd made everyone on edge about an obviously sensitive topic. I slipped my phone into my pocket and noticed the bare dust mark on the counter, prompting a good patting down. I had a ton to do yet, and it would be best to just focus on that. Before I unpacked, it was definitely best to get shopping done so I could properly clean. 



It was a short walk to the H Mart down the road. This street really did have everything on it. I grabbed a cart and headed for the home & kitchen section first, since I was most likely to forget the non-food items. The cleaning supplies were obsessively looping in my head. From inside my purse I could hear a ring tone I didn't recognize.


Of course, it looked like the RFA was going to keep me busy.


“Hello?”


“Hello,” a sweet sounding and familiar voice came over the phone, “It's very nice to meet you. This is Jaehee Kang. Seven told us your number. I wanted to properly speak with you instead of chatting online. It'd be wonderful if we could talk in person, but since we can't, I thought this would be the next best option.”


I picked up a pack of Komax food storage containers and set them into the cart.


“Thank you, I'm glad there's at least one other woman in this group.”


I wandered the next few aisles. I grabbed some various chopsticks, both for cooking and for eating, since the apartment only seemed to have old wooden carry out ones that I didn't trust. I had my mug from the house packed in one of the boxes I'd kept, so I didn't need one of those.


“I see. I'm glad to be of help. If there's anything you feel uncomfortable speaking with the rest of the RFA about, please let me know.”


“I will,” I smiled into the receiver, tucking the phone between my ear and neck as I lifted an expensive Dyson vacuum into the cart and pushed it towards the Swiffers.


“Oh, but there is one area I cannot help you with. Pets. Including dogs, but absolutely not with cats. I don't want to, and I won’t help with that.”


“Haha, understood. I don't see myself needing assistance with animals.” I pictured her running the eleventh floor of the office building with her lint roller in hand whenever Elizabeth was visiting.


“I'll be happy to help you with anything other than pets.”


This store was bigger than I'd expected. We had an express mart near our house that we used. I was lost in all the options. I veered the cart towards a couple plastic drawer units that I was relieved to see they carried. Since I couldn't open anything in the main living area, I'd need some. Getting this all home was sure to be comical, however. I'd have to get a taxi, despite it being so close. Or maybe they'd let me leave it at the service desk and make trips. Better to just get it all in one go though, considering all the work the apartment needed.


“Anyhow,” Jaehee interrupted my thoughts, “weren't you a bit alarmed to join the RFA so suddenly?”


“It was definitely sudden and unexpected. But it sounds like it should be a positive experience.” This time I noticed a personal grocery cart out of my side view. It wouldn't help me get this mess home, but it'd help with trips into the apartment, and future shopping runs. I tossed that into my cart as well and forced myself over to the food section.


“I understand better than anyone how you'd feel. I too joined the RFA after it was founded. It felt strange, and even a bit scary. But everyone is nice. I can guarantee that. So, please don't worry.”


“Do you get along with everyone?” I shoved some leaves of lettuce into a bag as I spoke.


“There is someone who has a strange sense of humor...” I chuckled. I bet she meant 707, “but overall, I think everyone is nice. I'd meant to tell you as well, that I set up your employee identification for C&R.”


“Oh,” I drifted the cart slowly down a noodle aisle. “I needed to discuss that with one of you. I was employed with C&R...”


“Yes. When I was inputting information that Seven sent me I thought the name seemed familiar. You interned in our department. I recognize the name, but not the face. I apologize.”


“No need,” I picked out some packages and headed to find all the jang I could possibly need, “I worked there after my internship too though-” I let my sentence trail off to see if she picked it up.


“Yes. I showed Mr. Han that your file showed a very recent resignation from his father's department. I'm not sure if you're familiar with his father's reputation, but I assume you'd have to be. Being as it is, Mr. Han asked his father personally about it, and was filled in on the matter. Your employment has simply been reinstated through a different department. Rika was technically the department head, albeit only for the purpose of income, as it was her own enterprise. You simply are staffed within that department as the only team member. You report directly to Mr. Han and me. Your existing wage has been reinstated, if that's alright with you, with a slight variance. You'll be paid as salary in the amount of 45 hours per week, since your time won’t track at home.  And Mr. Han would like you to keep the payment his father gave you, as he's not too happy with that situation. Oh, I'm sorry, but there's a duty that calls for my attention. It was a pleasure to talk to you.”


I blinked a few times in disbelief at how easily the situation had rectified itself. I was also a little taken aback by how she seemed to say all that in one thought.


“You too Jaehee. I look forward to working with you.” I was so excited to finally say that to her.


I hung up the phone and looked over the cart. It appeared I'd grabbed everything important, as well as a few random items I might need for a new place. So hopefully trips after this would be significantly less expensive going forward.


Getting home and into the apartment was a bit of a comedic ordeal. A few neighbors offered to help, after seeing my purchase pile in the elevator. I declined so much they probably thought I had a social phobia. “Oh well,” I muttered to myself as I finally let the door fall shut.


I left everything in the entryway, save for the cleaning supplies, and headed into the kitchen. The refrigerator looked spotless, but it had been left shut for an obviously long time. I probably should have been more meticulous in cleaning it than I was, but felt pretty confident with a quick bleach-wiping down and the insertion of a baking soda box.


I put all my cold groceries away and wandered back out into the main area. I anticipated this becoming a longer project than I was currently prepared to undertake, so I started with the most essential bits. Deep cleaning the floors was my top priority.


I huffed in satisfaction before peeling off my disgusting socks and tossing them to a corner near the bed. I hadn't thought to purchase a hamper.  Speaking of which, I went over and pulled the existing bedding off and stuffed it into a garbage bag near my front door before vacuuming the mattress and remaking it with my items. I’d get Ruka’s bedding cleaned tomorrow and store it in the closet. 


“I can air it out for a bit...” I thought aloud, staring at the wall of glass doors. I wanted to let fresh air in, especially since I’d be bleaching the bathroom. At 2pm, at was a sweltering 35° C though. I shut off the aircon and slid the doors open before shooting a text to 707 to ask how careful I should be cleaning the off-limit area’s surfaces.


By the time I’d wiped down the white faux leather couch, 707 had told me that I’d be safe cleaning everything. The alarm would apparently only go off if I forcefully opened something. A bump, or even accidentally tripping into it, he oddly specified, wouldn’t be cause for concern. 


I quickly cleaned the other rooms before coming to the final cleaning task. I was admittedly obsessed with the lattice divider. On the living room side there were framed photographs hung. Some were of a man and woman, which I knew from some conversations in the chat to be Rika and V. I gently took those down and put them up in the closet. Surely V would want them, and I didn’t want to risk knocking them down in a clumsy accident. I had brought a few framed photos of friends and family, and they fit perfectly into the empty spots.

I drew the curtains and turned the aircon back on to quickly drop the temperature back down. 

I laid all of my belongings out on the living room floor, divvying them up by room. I set up my drawer sets. One in the closet, another on the opposite side of the lattice so I could do my makeup in the bedroom area. There was already a cheap floor length mirror propped on that side. I hung some of my own hooks on it for accessories.


At the end, it all looked pretty well put together. It was only then that I realized I could starve to death at any moment.


I went into the kitchen. It'd been hours since I'd spoken to an RFA member, so it was only right that one was calling me now. I was thankful for the timing. Cooking and chatting I could do. Cleaning would have been an interruption. 


“Hello?” I pinned the phone between my shoulder and chin as I grabbed some ingredients.

“Hello?... you picked up right away. I believe this is your first time hearing my voice, my name is Jumin Han.”

I should have checked the ID before answering. I wouldn't have been so casual with him. I smacked myself in the forehead. “Hello, Mr. Han.”

“Mr. Han... You sound like my assistant. Are you interested in being my assistant?”

“Ah~“I laughed to myself, “I mean, maybe?” I grabbed a pan off of the drying towel and set it on the stove while I tried to remember where I put my oil.

“I think Assistant Kang would have something to say about that. As it is, your current role is very important. Additionally, I encourage RFA members to call me Jumin.”

“Okay, Jumin.” My voice cracked, how embarrassing. Like, even in front of others? I set to work chopping some tofu and veggies.

“You must be glad to talk to me, but there’s really nothing to be glad of. I called you only because I wished to hear our new recruits voice. Nothing more.”

“Fair enough,” I replied, dumping the food into the sizzling pan. “What’s the verdict?”

“What do I think of your voice, you mean? I find Assistant Kang’s voice tiring, since I hear it every day. But your voice is very fine. I like it. I’d say it’s as pleasurable as Elizabeth the 3rd’s voice, which is the best compliment I can offer you.”

“Yea, uh, I know,” I frantically stirred as oil spattered all over, “Thank you Mr- uh, Jumin.” Was he hitting on me? I'd never heard him praise someone so highly, and I'd been allowed to personally pitch him the successful cat cafe idea as an intern. 

“I’m on my way home to see Elizabeth now. You may as well ask any questions you have. Traffic has provided me with some time to spare, and I’m quite bored. So it’d be nice to listen to your voice like a radio.”

“Oh. I don’t really have any questions at the moment.” I dumped a bunch of shiitake noodles into the pan and added some jang. “I did want to thank you though. I’m sorry if I created an awkward situation with your father.”

“Not at all,” he assured me as I turned off the burner and walked into the living room with the pan. “My father has a horrible habit of making poor decisions when it comes to women. I don’t lose sleep over holding him accountable.”

“Well, thank you all the same, Jumin. It was pretty devastating to lose the job I’d worked so hard for. Your decision turned today around immensely. As well as my foreseeable future, I’m excited to work on this project with all of you.”

“Glad to hear it. Your motivation will surely give us a positive outcome. I was glad to realize who you are. Your work ethic will prove valuable.” He paused for a moment. “Oh, we’re already home. That wasn’t too bad. I must go now, so if you don’t have any questions I think we should end the call.”

“That’s fine. Have a good night, Jumin”

“I’ll call when I next have the chance.”

I set my phone down and popped a big bite of food into my mouth. Today really had gone amazingly. I watched reality TV for a bit as I ate, really taking in the luxury that was not having to awkwardly sit with my parents as my dad watched the news, yelling about the Prime Minister being 'too good to be true'. I texted briefly with my friends in our own group conversation, informing them of my staying in Seoul. They seemed respectful of my inability to have guests over, although if I was interpreting text correctly, Eun-I still had her doubts about my sudden luck. Regardless, we made plans to meet up for dinner in a few days.

I put away the dishes from earlier and wash the utensils before starting my nightly routine. It felt so good to wash off the day. It felt even better to take my time, and not worry about four other girls needing a turn. I gave the locks a check before shutting off all the lights, opting to reopen the curtains so that it wasn’t pitch black in the apartment as I climbed into bed.

I’d just gotten my phone plugged into its bedside charger when it rang. It was upon looking at the caller ID that I’d realized I hadn’t told the girls about Zen also being in the foundation.

“Hey, where are you?” He asked, slightly annoyed, before I could answer.

I hesitated. Was he asking for the address? V and 707 were abundantly clear. “Uhm... I'm at the apartment?”

“What apart- Ah!” He caught himself. “What was I saying to a newcomer? I saved your number when Seven gave it to me earlier, and accidentally hit it when trying to call someone else. I am so sorry!”

“That’s alright,” I chuckled into the phone, pulling myself into a sit.

“Well, since we’re on the phone already, let’s talk. Do you have any questions?”

I stifled a yawn and pulled my phone back to look at the time. It was getting late, but if I'd had a regular day I would probably still be up. I could humor him for a bit. “Well, I don’t know who most of the group members are. Want to give me personality run downs?”

“Oh, that I can do.” He chuckled. “Yoosung is the maknae, so we’ll start there. He’s completely addicted to the game LOLOL. He’s in college, but I can't remember what for. Seven, can be best described as an alien. He’s always so hyper, but he’s really good at what he does. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I hear he’s the best hacker in the industry.” I found it interesting that he only knew overviews of these people if they'd been in the group together for years. Maybe Zen was as narcissistic as he seemed? “Jaehee is very hard working. She manages to deal with those strange cat related business ideas of Jumin’s. Seriously, she’s the definition of patience.” He took a deep breath, “Jumin is the CEO-in-line for C&R, but he’s a jerk. Don’t get close to him, just ignore him, okay?”

I scoffed at his blatant hatred. “And what about you, Zen?”

“I’m a perfect man. Honestly. There’s no other way to describe me. I’m handsome, I can sing, act and dance. I’m basically perfect. Well... except that I haven’t dated in like three years.” I winced at his commentary. “I’m super lonely. So uh.... are you interested, now? This phone call was a complete accident. Maybe it’s fate?” He chuckled at himself into the phone.

“Haha, maybe...” I said awkwardly before accidentally yawning into the phone. “I’m sorry, Zen. Guess I’m winding down for the evening.”

“Hey, that’s all right. I’m actually trying to find someone right now. Let’s talk often. If you ever want to be serenaded let me know. I’ll prepare a number just for you.”

“Thanks Zen, goodnight.”

I flipped the phone to silent and set it onto my nightstand. I expected to lie in bed and recount what I’d experienced, but once I finally laid back my eyes were too heavy to keep open. I smiled to myself, and within seconds, I was fast asleep.