The sun was slowly reaching higher in the pale autumn sky. The city of Seoul was bustling, indeed never quite as quiet as the country, bursting at the boundaries with life, vivacity and light. The September day was nippy, the chill seeping into one’s body and cooling the bones easily. The wind engulfed with icicle embraces, leaving cold kisses on reddened cheeks and noses. The cold was crisp, sharp and, yet, at the same time, it was also invigorating, filling one’s lungs and reminding a person that they were alive.
For one individual, however, he had only experienced the weather’s contradicting natures for only a brief moment, when he was briskly escorted to one of the family’s town cars and then when he was rushed from the town car to the company building. He had just a few seconds to see the pale fingers of light stretching through a sky of purest, palest blue; had just a few seconds to feel tips of cool wind; had just a few inhalations of the air that startlingly cleared the lungs.
It was on beautiful days like that, that he hated his life. Perhaps hate was a strong word. Dislike greatly, he decided upon then.
As the world was out in the sunshine and beautiful, albeit cold, day, he was inside a boardroom. The youngest present, he sat at one end of a long, oblong-shaped table, as other suited, distinguished men and women sat discussing the results of the company’s revenue from August and the plans for October. Dressed in all black – pants, blazer, shirt and tie – he sat, leaning back in his black-leather, office chair, arms folded about his torso and his dark eyes briefly settling on the current person speaking.
They had been there an hour already, monotonous voices droning on and on about numbers, rates and, in truth, everything he already knew. He had seen the numbers, had gone over weekly reports from the finance departments personally, but he remained a silent sceptre, monitoring the proceedings and giving an air of ignorance to the company’s previous numbers.
This particular boardroom was located on a high corner of the office building, indeed, two sides were made of pure glass looking out on Seoul. Unfortunately, when the meeting began, all the blinds and shades were closed to hide the beautiful scenery and sun. He briefly glanced to a small space between two lengths of shades that showed just an inch of the outside world, allowing a narrow beam of happy sunlight into the electrically-lit room. When he glanced back at the suit currently talking, he silently, cynically commented at how they took for granted the natural beauty found on the other side of those floor-to-ceiling windows.
When his gaze had moved, it caused a cascade of problems for him. Suddenly, his vision blurred, his head felt light and shaky. He momentarily tilted his face down, briefly closed his eyes as his eyes finished their bout with the shakes. He opened his eyes slowly, but as the room’s light hit his pupils, he felt a sharp pain in his head before his stomach began to roll.
Damn, he thought, I got at least four hours of sleep last night, why is this happening?
He had laid in bed for two hours before his body was lethargic enough to fall asleep on his own. He had slept four hours, the most in weeks. So, when he had awoken that morning, he was sure he wouldn’t be feeling the usual pains and ills of his body. He was sure he would be attentive and alert for that morning’s meeting. Indeed, he had felt fine on the drive from home to work and, thus far, had not felt any usual symptoms.
A slight brush at his shoulders had him raising his head and glancing to the side. Just in time, he saw a hand retracting away from a newly placed glass of water before him. He glanced over his shoulder at the man who stood just diagonally behind him. Dressed in black slacks and a white button-up, the man stood straight, eyes forward focusing on nothing with his hands clasped behind him. As if sensing his curious stare, the man slowly met his gaze with a knowing one of his own. The man gestured to the glass of water with just eyes and eyebrows, a slight twitch of his facial muscles and he, in return, mouthed a silent thank you.
Turning back in his seat to the suits sitting around the table, he casually reached out for the glass and brought the cool surface to his lips. He sipped slowly, tentatively; sometimes, even water could cause his gastric contents to want to escape. The cool liquid splashed around his mouth for a minute, allowing the water to gently warm closer to his body’s temperature before he swallowed the small sip, feeling each drop slide down his throat. He paused, his eyes switching to the next person who was speaking as he waited for his stomach’s response. As it seemed to settle rather than rebel, he took another sip.
He tried desperately to remember when he didn’t have to be so cautious; he failed.
As his musings rolled around in his head, his attention wandered dangerously away from the business meeting. A subtle noise from behind his shoulder pulled him from his reverie, his gaze sweeping over the suits, silently startled to have all of their attention on him.
He cleared his throat as he put the glass down and sat forward in his seat, “I expect a copy of all of your presentations on my desk by tomorrow morning.” He stood from his seat, meaning to leave.
“Young Master,” one suit spoke up, “About the plans for next month –”
He raised a single brow, “Did none of you check your inboxes prior to attending? I’ve already sent out a copy of my advised plans for next month.”
As lips slowly parted in awe and jaws physically dropped in shock, the Young Master, as he was known to all outside of his family, slipped away from his chair and exited the boardroom, the other man just steps behind him.
The Young Master walked steadily towards the location of his office, the familiar sound of echoing footsteps just seconds after his own, a body that was never more than two feet away from his own while he was working. The other man was his personal assistant.
“Is your head hurting?” The words were light, casual, inviting no curiosity from anyone they passed by.
“How did you know it was hurting?” The Young Master inquired,
“You tilted your head down,” the Assistant replied simply as if it were the most obvious answer in the world; “You only do that when you’re head is hurting.” As the Young Master digested that acute, correct observation, the other man prompted, “Did the water help?”
“Some,” he conceded; “Is there any –”
“There’s tea in your room waiting for you. If it’s not warm enough, I can heat it for you,” the Assistant interjected immediately, “I know you prefer cold drinks, but if you have a headache, then perhaps something warmer would help.”
The Young Master merely nodded. His assistant was a godsend, hired by his parents when they moved to Seoul a year before. One of the only reasons he made it through each day was because his assistant was there facilitating most aspects of his day, not to mention he made a great buffer between himself and his father.
When they reached the Young Master’s office, the Assistant gestured him towards his desk. The Young Master went to his desk and practically collapsed in his chair as the Assistant moved to retrieve a mug of the cooled tea. It was moments like these when his head was pounding and he felt ready to drop when he appreciated that his office was in the centre of the second-from-the-top floor of the company building. Without windows, he had one lamp on in the room as he laid his head on his desktop, allowing the wooden surface to cool his heated skin.
Damn it, he thought, Don’t tell me I’m getting sick again.
A soft thud landed near his head. He opened his eyes weakly as he saw a ceramic mug just inches from his nose. He slowly sat up as he pulled the mug to his lips. The sweet smell of the tea filled his nostrils. He brought the rim to his lips and sipped almost greedily, the delicious liquid filling his mouth, his taste buds rejoicing. He swallowed deep gulps of the tea and before long, he realized he had finished his mug. His stomach settled even more so and his entire body seemed to relax.
He replaced the mug on the table as he sighed with relief, “That really hits the spot, Mijoon, thank you.”
“Of course,” His assistant smiled as he gracefully sat in one of the chairs before his desk, “Now, shall I call the town car to pick you up at the front of the building?”
“You are not fit to remain at work any longer,” Mijoon stated simply, “You have a headache and that’s usually a precursor to you getting sick. It’s better for you to be sick at home than sick at work.”
“I can’t leave –”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Mijoon waved away his words as he took out a cellular phone, “You’ve given me this speech before, Young Master.”
“And it is because I’m that, that I can’t go home,” He stressed, his palms slamming on the top of the desk; “It’s bad enough I’m the damn heir to this entire company, but it’s hard enough to gain any respect when my father cuts me down every chance he gets!”
“That’s not true, I do believe he gave you a nod just last week,” Mijoon insisted as he began to dial a number, “And you said your mother buffers him at home.”
“That’s easy considering he’s hardly home. He practically lives here,” Young Master hissed, “And he just loves to rub it in that I don’t, that he’s here almost double the amount of hours I am. Damn it, if I could be, I would be!”
Mijoon’s thumb hovered over the ‘call’ button. He glanced at the Young Master and raised a single brow, “I know that all already, so why are you yelling at me?”
“I’m not yelling at you, I’m yelling in your direction,” Young Master muttered before sighing heavily, “They’re two different things.”
“Look, you’re getting sick and you’re even looking paler than when you first came in this morning,” Mijoon stated matter-of-factly, “You’re going to be under the weather until your next hospital appointment.”
“Not like that helps a damn,” He said angrily, “Is it any wonder that they stopped testing me? Now they’re just giving me random medications to keep me alive a little bit longer, but we both know I’m dying.”
Mijoon slowly dropped his phone to his lap, his eyes wide and reflecting what the other could only see as pity. “S-Sir…”
“Don’t call me that,” he practically spat, “That’s what they call my father.” He spun his chair around, giving the back to his assistant, “Call for the car… I’m going home.”
He could hear Mijoon’s soft murmur. He stifled a sigh as he dropped his head into his hands. He didn’t mean to upset the other man, didn’t mean to yell, but lately, he just couldn’t seem to find any joy in life anymore.