Three: The One With The Knight in Distress

Jae Kyung stared at the phone for what seemed like hours, various thoughts circling through her state of mind. This whole online frenzy made her want to hop on the next plane out of Seoul just to escape media attention. As the loud buzz of the doorbell snapped her back to reality, she opened the front door to the sight of Cha Ga Eul who brought along So Yi Jeong and Song Woo Bin for company.

“Unni,” Ga Eul said, gesturing towards the guys. “They wanted to see you.”

“We heard what happened from Jan Di and Ga Eul,” Yi Jeong explained. “Jun Pyo was pissed, of course. But he’s coming up with some strange plan for this.”

Jae Kyung’s eyes sought Woo Bin’s reaction but he was carefully avoiding her gaze. Realizing they were still standing at her doorway, she led her guests to the sitting room before serving up some refreshments. Ga Eul explained they were here to pick her up and meet up with the others at the Goo manor for some damage control.

“Jun Pyo-sunbae‘s orders,” said Ga Eul.

“We can always track down the source of that article if you want,” Woo Bin spoke, the first since he arrived. With Il Shin’s vast network of contacts, anything was possible once they offered to investigate.

“No,” she countered. “I can play their game if they want to. I just need a plan that will put me one step ahead of those netizens.”

“Very well. If that’s the case then we’d better get going,” advised Yi Jeong. “Ji Hoo’s meeting us at the manor.” He got on his feet and motioned for the rest to follow.

Jae Kyung quickly gathered her things and followed them to the door, fervently hoping that all of these would be over by tomorrow.

~ o ~

“Geum Jan Di, would you please stop pacing back and forth? You’re making us both dizzy!” Jun Pyo chided his fiancee.

“A press conference?” asked Jan Di, her expression still unsure of Jun Pyo’s decision. “Are you absolutely sure about this?” She couldn’t stop herself from double-checking.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “You, me and monkey girl. Just to put these rumors to rest once and for all.”

“That’s fine with me,” said Jae Kyung.

“Then it’s settled! I’ll have Mr. Jung prepare Shinhwa Regency’s conference hall for this. We’ll do the press briefing in an hour.” He was now saying things in rapid succession.

“AN HOUR?!?” The girls chorused.

“And what? Wait for tomorrow?” Woo Bin answered on his friend’s behalf. “It’s better we do it early. The press will like the idea of Shinhwa reaching out to the public… of a chaebol explaining his actions.”

Yi Jeong playfully patted his friend’s shoulder in approval. “Spoken like a true businessman, my friend.”

Ji Hoo, on the other hand, remained quiet in his seat. He had spoken with Jun Pyo privately prior to their friends’ arrival and had hoped whatever he shared would somehow help solve the problem.

~ o ~

Shinhwa Regency conference hall… (one hour later)

A number of press people promptly showed up despite the short notice. Upon Mr. Jung’s advice and after careful consideration, it was decided that only Jun Pyo would be speaking to the press while the rest of the group gathered at a secluded room watching the event through a monitor.

Everything started as scheduled. The official statement was brief and direct to the point. Jun Pyo simply asked the press to respect their right to privacy and to spare him, his fiancee and their friends from any intrigues since they are not celebrities. All they want is a life free from the public eye. When one reporter asked if there’s any truth to the rumors that his ex-fiancee is back to win him over, he quickly dissed the accusations.

“No one is here to ruin the wedding,” he answered coolly. “Geum Jan Di and I are getting married and all those talks about trouble in our relationship is rubbish.”

Another reporter spoke up, again addressing a question about Jae Kyung. “But is Ha Jae Kyung dating right now? Reports have surfaced seeing her at Dongdaemun with someone.”

The statement struck a chord with what Ji Hoo told him earlier at the manor. “I believe that’s none of my business since I am not privy to Ms. Ha’s life,” he quickly replied refusing to say anything else regarding the topic.

Several questions followed after and he breezed through them with ease. Within thirty minutes, the presscon was done and he quietly sneaked out to meet the rest of the group.

“That was great,” Jan Di told him as he entered the room. “Do you think they’ll leave us alone after this?”

“I hope so,” he answered, loosening his tie while carefully observing the rest of the group.

Jae Kyung had a look of gratitude all over her face as she approached the couple. “Thank you, Jun Pyo.”

“Hey,” he blurted. “If that reporter never mentioned it then we’d never know about Dongdaemun, right?”

“I guess,” she paused, trying to be cryptic. “It wasn’t even a big deal to begin with. Just a story blown out of proportion.”

“Isn’t that right?” Jun Pyo countered, feigning ignorance, all the while preventing a half-smile from ruining his act. “Who’s the unfortunate guy this time?”

Jae Kyung opted to keep her mouth shut concerning that matter. But Jun Pyo noticed something else, “Oh, have you seen Woo Bin-ah?”

“He disappeared as soon as the presscon ended,” Jae Kyung told him. “I’d say it looked like he was bothered by something after we arrived here.”

The F3 eyed each other with concern creased on their features. Ji Hoo quickly made some phone calls while Yi Jeong grabbed his coat and made a mad dash for the door. The ladies were suprised, but only Jae Kyung was clueless about the entire thing.

“What?” she asked. “Is there something wrong?”

“It’s nothing, unni. They’re only checking if Woo Bin-sunbae‘s alright.” Jan Di explained.

“I have to go,” Ji Hoo said, clicking his phone shut, addressing Jun Pyo as he walked to the door. “Seo Hyun’s expecting me at the Institute. Call me if you here anything from Yi Jeong, okay?”

“He’ll come around,” Jun Pyo assured him.

With the same blank look on her face, Jae Kyung asks… “Why?”

“Don’t bother asking,” Jan Di whispered.”It’s an unspoken rule among the F4 not to rat about each other’s lovelife.”

‘So it was a girl’, Jae Kyung thought. She was convinced there was something more than what they’re letting her on. If no one would tell her outright, she will just have to find it out for herself.

~ o ~

“Seo Tae Ran?” Jae Kyung asked, carefully navigating the Seoul freeway. She blew the horn twice when one car attempted to cut their lane.

Ga Eul nodded as she gripped her seatbelt for support. Being the good soul that she is, she couldn’t resist telling Jae Kyung about what set Woo Bin off earlier when the former realized she could never pry anything out of Jan Di regarding the issue. Jae Kyung appreciated the effort by dragging Ga Eul off to an impromptu road trip to find the guys.

“She was Woo Bin-sunbae‘s girlfriend,” Ga Eul confirmed. “They dated for almost a year before she unceremoniously dumped him and married this Chinese oil tycoon who’s old enough to be her father.”

Jae Kyung was all ears. No wonder the press had so much interest in the F4’s love affairs. But then she felt sad for Woo Bin as well. It’s never too easy when you’re the dumpee.

“We’re here,” she said after another five minutes of driving. She made a right turn and then parked a block from where the drinking strip was located. If her instincts serves her right then Yi Jeong and Woo Bin should be just around the corner.

~ o ~

So Yi Jeong found his bestfriend at the exact drinking spot where Jae Kyung took them a few years ago. He knew that Woo Bin only frequented the place whenever he was upset and that chance encounter with Tae Ran at the hotel must’ve caused it. Rolling up his sleeves, he joined him at the corner table just as Woo Bin quietly downed a shot of soju.

“You disappeared quickly,” he said to him. “The ladies were worried sick.”

“And the F4?” Woo Bin asked, sounding quite drunk. Yi Jeong wasn’t suprised. Woo Bin, like him, never held his ground well with alcohol.

“Jun Pyo wanted to talk to you about something during the presscon,” said Yi Jeong.

“Oh, the Dongdaemun thing?” he replied, looking lucid enough while narrating the details. “It was nothing. I saw Jae Kyung there and we decided to grab a bite. Nothing fancy.”

“You fool! So it was you! Why didnt you say something?”

“It’s not like we’re dating,” he drawled. “She’s not even my type.”

“Who’s not your type?” a female voice came from behind.

Yi Jeong turned to see Jae Kyung and Ga Eul approaching with a disappointed look on their faces. The latter was eyeing the place with hesitation as it wasn’t the typical F4 hang-out. He stood up to acknowledge the new arrivals but Woo Bin simply sat there in a drunken stupor. Jae Kyung quickly fussed about how Woo Bin shouldn’t be drinking by his lonesome. If he was upset, he can always talk about it with friends. But he wasn’t listening.

“I guess I’d better take him home,” Yi Jeong offered.

The headstrong girl in Jae Kyung surfaced. “Oh no, let me do that instead. Why don’t you just take Ga Eul home and give me directions to mafia boy’s place?”

“But unni, are you sure you’re okay?” Ga Eul asked.

“I’ll be fine,” she replied. Yi Jeong reluctantly tossed her the keys he fished out of Woo Bin’s pocket and made Jae Kyung promise five times to call him once they reach his unit. But being the concerned friend that he is, Yi Jeong never left with Ga Eul until he saw his friend off to the car.

As she drove out of the parking lot, Jae Kyung couldn’t help but stare at the inebriated Song Woo Bin who was now fast asleep in the passenger’s seat. She thought she heard him murmur a name but she couldn’t quite get it as she was driving with the car’s top down.

~ o ~

Song Woo Bin woke up the next morning, confused.

The familiar wall decorations assured him he fell asleep in his own room. But how? He was quite wasted last night he never even remembered driving.

“Damn!” he cursed, bringing his hands to his temples. He tried to remember details but they seemed blurry at the moment.

Woo Bin’s head ached like a migraine squared and he flipped over, hoping he’d feel better after another ten minutes of sleep.

Montage of images from the night before shot through his head. The press briefing at Shinhwa Regency. Seeing Taeran at the hotel lobby with her husband and how she callously ignored his presence despite seeing him. The last thing he remembered was going out for a drink alone… Yi Jeong finding him… Jae Kyung’s voice… and everything went blank.

He grabbed a shirt from the cabinet and headed for the door despite the headache. But the door swung open and Ha Jae Kyung stepped inside carrying a cup of coffee.

“Good morning,” she greeted, looking annoyingly awake. “Coffee?”

“Ha Jae Kyung!” Woo Bin yelled, alarmed that the privacy of his own bedroom had been invaded. He hurriedly pulled the shirt over his head and quickly retreated to the comforts of his own bed. “How… why… what are you doing here?”

Jae Kyung flopped herself at the end of the huge bed and shrugged. “You know what’s funny? For someone who’s known to be a ladies’ man, you still have pretty low tolerance for alcohol.” Pulling her legs up on to the sheets, she faced him more closely. “How do you suppose you got home last night?”

His expression looked mortified and she had to keep herself from laughing in amusement. “Where’s my car?”

“Relax,” Jae Kyung said nonchalantly. “I’m a pretty efficient driver. Your car is still intact.”

They lasted a good two minutes in total silence before Jae Kyung mentioned that she had prepared breakfast. Woo Bin told her it might not be a good idea since he was still nursing a hang-over from last night.

“Suit yourself,” she said. She stood up and headed towards the door, resigned to eat the food she bought all by herself. It wasn’t until she was halfway across the unit when she realized that he had followed her. Just then the front door flew open and two teenage girls darted inside bringing some groceries. They stopped in their tracks upon seeing the two coming out of the master’s bedroom.

“Oppa?” One of the girls spoke, eyeing them suspiciously. With their similar features and fashionable outfits, Jae Kyung had no doubt these were Woo Bin’s younger sisters.

“Hey!” he greeted, rushing forward to meet the girls. “You never told me you were dropping by.”

“Omma mentioned you barely had anything here since you were always busy at work,” the other girl answered. “So Hye Jin and I thought of bringing you some groceries.”

As he laid the bags on the pantry, the twins flocked to their brother with a knowing look in their eyes. Jae Kyung felt out of place and momentarily contemplated on bolting until the friendlier twin cut her escape short.

“Hi! Are you a friend of oppa?” she asked. She looked so accomodating that Jae Kyung took an instant liking to her.

“Ah yes,” she heaved a sigh of relief. “I was just here to check if your brother was okay.”

“So you’re not his girlfriend?”

Both Woo Bin and Jae Kyung burst into fits of laughter. “Where is this nonsense coming from?” Woo Bin cut his sister off. Turning towards Jae Kyung, he looked apologetic for his sisters’ behavior. “I’m sorry. Teenagers can be quite a handful these days.”

She waved his apologies aside. “Hey it’s okay. I’ve never had any siblings, but I think they’re cool.”

“You’ve never introduced us yet, oppa.” Hye Jin casually mentioned. Her reaction towards Jae Kyung had softened a bit when she saw how friendly she was.

“Now where are my manners,” he smirked. “Girls, this is my friend Ha Jae Kyung. Jae Kyung, these are my twin sisters, Hye Jin and Hye Rin.”

“Nice to meet you, girls.” Jae Kyung acknowledged. “Why don’t you join your brother for breakfast? It’s not much, but he should at least eat it with some company.”

“But aren’t you joining us?” asked Hye Rin.

“Oh no,” she politely refused the offer, gesturing with her hands that she needed to go somewhere.

This didn’t sit well with the twins who looked crestfallen that their new acquaintance was leaving so soon. Feeling guilty, Jae Kyung promised to take the girls shopping one of these days. She scribbled her phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to one of the twins on her way out.

“Oppa, she’s pretty,” Hye Rin said, as soon as Jae Kyung was out of earshot. “Are you sure she isn’t your girlfriend?”

Woo Bin’s cheeks felt like flaming torches. His sisters sure knew how to pick on him. “No, she isn’t,” he answered non-committally. “She’s not even my type.”

“But she seems nice. I like her,” Hye Jin added, prompting a double-take from the other two. Hye Jin rarely liked people upon first meeting them. It even takes a lot of effort to get on her good graces.

Later, as the twins prepared to leave they break one more news to their brother.

“Ahbeoji returns from Taiwan this week,” Hye Jin said. “Clear your schedule for Friday since we’re all having dinner.”

“Great! I’ll be there,” he answered.

“You could bring Jae Kyung-unni if you want to,” Hye Rin added. “They wouldn’t mind.” She was referring to their parents.

“But I don’t want to.”

The twins merely shrugged and gave him a half-smile before they went on their way. Outside, Hye Rin palmed her twin a piece of paper hinting she knew what to do with it.

It was Ha Jae Kyung’s phone number.

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