SOSHI: Aesop’s Twisted Fable – Chapter 4

October 3, 2013 in Aesop's Twisted Fable, moonrise31, SOSHI by moonrise31

Chapter 4: Loyal

Loyal: adj. Giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

“Director?” Taeyeon rapped on the door.

“Ah, Agent Kim. Come in,” was the reply.

Taeyeon stepped into the room and made herself comfortable in one of the chairs facing Lee Sooman. She leaned back and crossed her arms. “So, Director. You called?”

The director nodded, propping his elbows on his desk and lacing his fingers together. “It concerns Lee Sunny, the agent who transferred to your unit a couple of days ago.”

Taeyeon exhaled, running through the script she’d agonized over all night. Sleep hadn’t come easily to her, so she’d found other ways to occupy her mind until morning came. In retrospect, she probably should have attempted to get at least a couple of hours in; she’d have to pay Jessica back later for the coffee she’d nabbed from the tech’s desk on her way to this meeting.

Now she opened her mouth, hoping that the caffeine wouldn’t distract her from her train of thought. Focus was everything in this situation. “Look, Director, I’m sure that whatever Sunny did, there’s some logical explanation.” No, I sound too stubborn. ‘There should be some logical explanation’ is more reasonableDammit, Taeyeon mentally berated herself, but it was too late. She fixed her expression to cover her inner distress.

Sooman raised his eyebrows. “Well, it’s not exactly anything she’s done—”

“Oh, good.” Taeyeon felt relief immediately relax her shoulders, and she continued before she could stop herself. “Because believe me, Director, I’ve known Sunny since our academy days, and I know she wouldn’t ever get into trouble on purpose.”

But even as the supporting words fell from her lips, Taeyeon heard the question whispering, taunting like it had been all night long:

Do I really know Lee Soonkyu?

Four years isn’t such a long time, she reasoned. Well, okay, a lot can happen in four years. Hayeon finished all of high school. But she’s still the same—more or less. I guess she changed a little bit. Not that much. But no, that’s not even a good example, because she’s still a kid. Sunny and I are adults; adults don’t change—

“Taeyeon,” she suddenly heard Sunny speaking in the back of her mind, a remnant from what seemed like ages ago. “I tell you all my secrets. You know that, right?”

She couldn’t remember when it had been—two years since they’d met? Three? But that was the day they had been sitting in a café after classes, soothing strained muscles and crammed brains with mocha and tea.

“You look worried,” Taeyeon had commented beforehand. Casually said it as she watched Sunny frown at her phone and flip it over so the screen met the table.

Sunny could’ve brushed it off then. But they’d already been through a lot together, endured more than their fair share of late nights at the gym, dozing off in the library, and people who only made life more complicated. So instead, Sunny had told Taeyeon her secret: “I’ve got an overbearing uncle, and he just wants me to do well. But sometimes it seems that he wants it more than I do.”

“Ah, that’s right.” The director suddenly smiled. “I’d forgotten that you two were already good friends. This makes my job much easier.”

“It’s okay, Soonkyu.” Sitting in that café, Taeyeon had reached over and clasped one hand firmly over Sunny’s knuckles. It hadn’t really seemed like a secret to Taeyeon, but it was clearly important to the other girl. And seeing Sunny’s distress had instilled a fierce desire to protect. It had burned in Taeyeon’s chest and fueled her next words: “No one will make you do something you don’t absolutely want to do.”

And now, here they were. How much had changed since then?

Taeyeon blinked rapidly, thoughts racing. From what the director had said so far, it didn’t sound like Sunny was in trouble. Although in her experience, Sooman wouldn’t call her for a meeting just to say good morning. “I’m sorry, Director. I don’t think I’m following.”

Sooman chuckled. “You can stop worrying, Agent Kim. I just wanted to make sure that whatever you heard about Sunny doesn’t get in the way of your work, but I suppose you already knew anyway.”

“I…” Taeyeon was now utterly confused. I really should ask Fany to keep me updated on whatever nonsense is being passed around the building. She tried again. “I haven’t heard anything about Sunny. What do I already know, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“That she’s my niece,” Sooman answered. “When word got out in the previous department she worked in, things got complicated, so I had her transferred. I was hoping talk of it would be removed from the grapevine then, but I think it’s gotten around everywhere by now. I was concerned it might confuse your interests as well.”

The information clicked into place one piece at a time, but it was his last statement that stuck. “Confuse my interests,” Taeyeon repeated slowly. Indignation flared for a moment, but she quickly dampened it. Even so, it managed to tighten her smile. “I’m not that sort of person, Director.”

Sooman studied her intently, but the reflected glare on his glasses from the fluorescent lights above made it hard for her to read his expression.  “You didn’t know,” he concluded. “I apologize for burdening you with this.”

Taeyeon immediately shook her head. “It’s not a burden,” she said firmly. For all his perception, the director had misread the reason for the anger she hadn’t managed to conceal completely. “Sunny’s in my unit now,” she heard herself saying.

Taengoo, you’re with me now,” Sunny had laughed after they’d ended their first class together; along the way, they’d discovered a rare, mutual camaraderie in each other. So this was how Taeyeon had found herself here with Sunny, who was reaching for the sky with one arm while the other was wrapped snugly around her shoulders.

Taeyeon had felt the wind in her face and the dorm rooftop under her feet. Most importantly, Sunny’s warm grip keeping her grounded and secure. “We can do this,” she’d agreed, more confident than she’d ever been.

No worries. I’ll take care of you.” Sunny’s wink had been full of trust in the future and the justice she believed in. Back when the world still seemed untainted and simple, their optimism fueled by fresh-faced naiveté.

To be honest, Taeyeon wasn’t sure exactly how much had changed since then. Sunny was still Sunny, Taeyeon was still Taeyeon, and that was that.

Well, time to return the favor. She looked the director in the eye, imagining that her stare broke through his glasses so there was no way he could misinterpret again. “I’ll take good care of her, Sooman-sshi.”

She’s a friend I’d go to the end of the world for.

Thankfully, this incredibly unprofessional thought remained unspoken. Because “professional” was going by the book, disregarding the heart in favor of logic, duty comes first, Kim Taeyeon. And she was professional in regards to the things that didn’t matter—Sunny’s relationship to the director? She should’ve seen it soonerNot that she really cared, since there was a reason she stayed away from breakroom gossip.

She had a reputation to uphold, after all: Agent Kim Taeyeon hadn’t become the leader of SOSHI because of anything other than her professionalism. But at the same time, Taeyeon knew that every last protocol that had been drilled into her head for years would be wiped from her memory in a moment if it were one of her SOSHI members holding the gun to her head—

No worries. I’ll take care of you.

—so she could only trust that such a situation would stay the stuff of her darkest nightmares.

Tiffany exhaled softly through her nose, disguising her sigh of exasperation. “You’re sure of the time you found Ryuhwa-sshi? Two in the morning?”

“Positive.” Youngsun nodded. “If you find those missing tapes, you’ll see that I’m right.”

Is she poking fun at us?  Tiffany narrowed her eyes, but decided to move on. “As soon as they’re recovered, we’ll let you know.”

When they’d first begun the investigation, Sunny hadn’t been amused in the least after Kwangsoo had led her to the security room and discovered that all the pertinent recordings from the previous night had mysteriously disappeared. Even now, police officers were scouring the mansion for possible hiding places, but at this rate, Tiffany didn’t expect them to finish for at least another week—and that was assuming that the tapes were actually still around and intact. That’s one lead gone. Which leaves us with…what?

Then she noticed Hyoyeon fidgeting at the edge of her vision. The other agent probably wanted to get this over with soon; patience was not one of her strong suits.

Sure enough, Hyoyeon cleared her throat. “Youngsun-sshi, it’s hot today, isn’t it?”

Tiffany held back a smirk. Bingo. It might not be the most tactful way to grab for a lead, but Hyoyeon was good at what she did.

Youngsun blinked. “I think it’s alright; we’re inside, anyway.”

Hyoyeon leaned forward in her seat, her expression intent. “Air conditioning in such a large building doesn’t carry very well, apparently. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little warm in here.”

The other woman let out an uneasy laugh. “I can have the aircon turned up higher if you’d like, Agent Kim. It’ll only be a moment.”

“Oh, I’m fine.” Hyoyeon leaned back in her chair again, waving her hand casually. “I was just thinking that it’s much too hot to be wearing long pants today.”

Tiffany watched Youngsun’s face, looking for the curve of the lips, the twitch of an eyelid. Yoona had taught her a lot of tricks for reading expressions when they’d been out in the field for the BAM case, and she intended to put these skills to good use.

“Thank you, but I’m able to choose my own wardrobe,” Youngsun answered. Tiffany figured that she should be indignant, maybe even offended.

Rapid blinking. One corner of her lip jerked in an attempted smile, but quickly came back down again.

Tiffany saw nervousness and panic. She took that as her cue to jump in. “We apologize, Youngsun-sshi. Hyoyeon didn’t mean to be so forward. But you’ll have to admit that it’s very odd to be dressed like that in this weather.”

“I get cold easily,” Youngsun mumbled.

“You were limping yesterday,” Hyoyeon cut in bluntly. “And today too. Is something the matter with your leg? Is that why you’re hiding it?”

“W-what?” Youngsun looked up, startled. “No, I’m fine. I just wore heels for too long and my feet are still sore.” She stood. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got a commitment I have to keep. So if you’ll excuse me, Agent Hwang, Agent Kim, I’ll be going now.”

Tiffany moved in front of the doorway, blocking her exit. “Youngsun-sshi, the office window was broken by someone’s kick. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Youngsun glanced to the side. “I’m sorry, Agent Hwang, but I really don’t know.” She squeezed past and continued down the hallway.

Tiffany could hear Yoona’s confident voice in her ear: “Unnie, she totally knows something. You can see it in her face.”

But there was something more, Tiffany was sure. Youngsun couldn’t be in this alone—they needed to track down Jungeun as well to see what she had to say about the matter. Either way, one of the sisters would have to crack. They couldn’t protect each other forever.

“You hear that, right, Fany?” Hyoyeon interrupted her thoughts.

Tiffany tilted her head obediently, listening as Youngsun’s uneven footsteps echoed in the silence.

An alternate definition—

Loyal: adj. Having faith that the person you are holding will never let go.