SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 10

September 7, 2014 in moonrise31, SOSHI, The Roads We Have Taken by moonrise31

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave…

Anne Sexton

Chapter 10: In which old friends return, new fears arrive, and the future remains in the dark.

None of them asked what exactly Krystal had experienced in the interrogation room. But the question loomed over their heads, threatening to blanket and smother them the entire trip back. Fortunately, Amber brightening and rushing over to wrap Krystal in a hug as soon as they walked through the door of “Shock Electronics” was enough to break the unspoken tension.

“They found you!” Amber grinned, stepping back slightly, arms still tight around the younger girl. “You won’t leave again, right? ‘Cause if you do, there’s no way I’m letting go ever again.”

“You’re hurting me,” Krystal grumbled, but she made no move to pull away.

Sunny’s phone beeped. She pulled it out and glanced at the screen. “Yuri says we can get back to Seoul whenever. Wow…” She frowned, continuing to read silently.

“What? What is it?” Tiffany leaned over, trying to catch a glimpse of Yuri’s message.

Sunny pocketed her phone. “A lot has happened. Seems like our case back in Seoul might actually be connected to this.”

Jessica raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. Instead, she quietly guided Krystal up the stairs once Amber had relinquished the younger girl from her embrace. Sunny gestured for Tiffany to follow them. “I’ll explain more later.” She took a step forward, ready to climb up after the rest, but then Amber grabbed her arm.

“Is Krystal going to be okay?”

Sunny put on her best grin. “Hopefully. I’m going to be honest and say it’s going to take some time.”

“What even happened to her?” Amber frowned. “I mean, she looks fine and everything, except…she doesn’t really, you know. Look fine.”

“Well, there’re a lot of interrogation methods that aren’t physical, but.” Sunny let her smile fall. “You wish they were. Bruises, broken bones…a couple of weeks, a couple of months of healing, and you’re fine. The mind, though? If only it was that easy.”

Amber’s expression darkened. “Wait. You said you were going to visit Senior Agent Kim again to try and get her back. So he has everything to do with this, doesn’t he?”

Sunny winced inwardly—she could hear her uncle now: Lee Soonkyu, when I had you transferred, I expected you to be making less trouble for my organization. And now you’re practically inciting rebellion against my senior agent!

Not that he doesn’t deserve it, she thought. But she kept that sentiment to herself, settling for patting the other agent’s shoulder. “It’s not really my place to tell. I’m sure Krystal will give you an answer when she’s ready.”

Amber stepped back, rubbing the back of her neck. “Yeah.” She smiled weakly. “When Krystal’s ready,” she repeated.

“It’ll be sooner than you think,” Sunny assured her. “Especially with a team like you guys around to support her.”

Amber’s grin grew a little stronger. “Thanks for the faith.”

“Hey, that’s what I’m here for,” Sunny called over her shoulder as she headed up the stairs. “Sometimes a little faith is all we need.”

“Fany.” Sunny poked the other woman in the cheek. “We’re boarding.”

“Oh.” Tiffany blinked for a few seconds before closing the lid of her laptop and slipping it into her carry-on. She stood up. “Right, let’s get going.”

Sunny stared at the bag thoughtfully for a moment. Then she reached out to pat Tiffany’s arm. “Hey, I’m sorry we didn’t have enough time to look into your mom’s accident at all.”

Tiffany flashed her a smile. “Oh, it’s fine. We’ve got a more pressing case back in Seoul, don’t we? And that’s where the bomber is apparently, anyway. And Jessi got me an entire flash drive of stuff we may or may not have illegally taken from Senior Agent Kim, so I’m in no rush.”

Sunny blinked, registering what Tiffany had said, and then pretended to smack her palm into her forehead. “Why did I even agree to come here with you guys?”

“‘Cause Taeyeon doesn’t trust the two of us alone, for some reason,” Tiffany answered brightly, her previously distracted mood now fully abandoned. “Come on, or else the plane is gonna leave without us!”

Ahead of them, Jessica and Krystal had already stepped into the cabin. Jessica immediately noticed the way the younger woman’s eyes nervously flicked left and right, grip loosening and then tightening again around the handle of her luggage.

“Soojung, are you okay?” Jessica asked softly. “Do you want the window seat?”

“Thanks,” Krystal murmured, reaching up to open the carry-on compartment and slide her bag inside. “Here, unnie, give me yours.”

Once they were both seated, Krystal continued to fidget, this time buckling and unbuckling her seatbelt.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Jessica tolerated the incessant clicking for a few minutes before she reached over to gently grip Krystal’s hand in her own.

“I’m fine,” Krystal said immediately. She must’ve realized how not fine she sounded, because she coughed and then added, “really, unnie. I’m alright.”

Jessica just raised an eyebrow. She withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap.

Krystal exhaled, turning away to glance outside. “I thought being by the window would help,” she muttered.

Her sister waited.

“I just feel kind of…stuffed,” Krystal finally explained. “I can’t even stand up straight in here.”

Jessica frowned. “You didn’t used to be claustrophobic.”

“Are you sure?” Krystal asked meekly, averting her gaze. Her fingers inched towards the seatbelt clasp again. “Maybe you just have a bad memory, unnie.”

Click.

Click.

She felt Jessica’s warm hand envelope hers once more. “I’m here, Soojung,” was all her sister said. So quietly that no one else would be able to hear them above the hum of the air conditioning and the soft babble from the passengers still boarding.

But Krystal felt herself relax all the same.

“So, maknae,” Hyoyeon said as she followed Seohyun into the latter’s apartment, “how soon can you get out of that sling? ‘Cause I don’t think I can take another gripe from Agent Choi over here.”

“I do not gripe,” Sooyoung retorted as she closed the door behind them. “Any right-minded person wouldn’t want your stinky feet all over their dashboard. It’s a distraction while driving—maknae will tell you that.”

“My feet are clean enough, thank you very much,” Hyoyeon sniffed.

Sooyoung wrinkled her nose. “Right.”

Hyoyeon stuck a finger in her face and wagged it. “Don’t think I don’t know what face you’re making.”

“Was the sarcasm in my voice not a clear enough hint?” Sooyoung shot back.

“My shoulder should be alright in another week or two,” Seohyun answered belatedly as she emerged from the kitchen, nonchalantly walking between the two agents and forcing them both to take a step back. “It would be sooner, but factors like stress and lack of sleep get in the way.” She glanced meaningfully in their direction before setting a tray of mugs on her coffee table.

“Maknae’s trying to tell you something, Hyo,” Sooyoung said as she bent down to pick up a mug. She handed the drink to Hyoyeon before picking up another for herself.

“I’m pretty sure your driving is cause enough for anyone to be stressed,” Hyoyeon retorted readily before taking a sip. “Hey, is this from Seven Springs?”

“Yes.” Seohyun nodded after drinking from her own mug. “I’m glad you remembered, unnie. It’s a nice business, shady connections to the former drug gang excluded.”

“Hm.” Hyoyeon rubbed the handle of the mug thoughtfully as she smacked her lips together, contemplating the taste. Then she raised the tea to her lips once more.

“Are the reporters still bothering you, unnie?” Seohyun asked.

Sooyoung shook her head. “I guess I scared the rest of them off; or more likely, they don’t know where to find me anymore. But they’ve been leaving my family alone so far, so hopefully it’ll stay that way.”

Seohyun nodded, pulling out her phone from her pocket and scrolling through her messages. “Strange. Taeyeon-unnie hasn’t said anything yet.”

“Were you expecting her to?” Sooyoung raised her eyebrows.

“Well, the director did call her in for an emergency meeting because of the unnies visiting the States to get Krystal back,” Seohyun reminded them, “and she hasn’t complained about it one bit. I think that means he talked to her about other things as well.”

The room fell silent.

Hyoyeon took another sip from her mug, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. Her slurping echoed in their ears nonetheless.

Finally, Sooyoung spoke. “You think he decided to take Kim Kwangsoo up on his lead with Jeongnam?” She barely stopped herself from choking on her father’s name.

Seohyun shrugged. “Just a thought, unnie.” She gave Sooyoung a sympathetic glance. “Maybe Taeyeon-unnie just decided to save us all from a round of complaining, so her not saying anything is really nothing at all. More tea?” She held up the kettle.

“I dunno,” Hyoyeon cut in with a smirk. “I’d believe the gut of the kid with four hundred thirty-six diplomas, if I were you.”

Seohyun sighed. “Unnie, why is that every time you count the number of my degrees I have, it gets exponentially higher?”

“Hey, you’re still in school,” Hyoyeon pointed out, quickly waving off the doctor’s protests about teaching classes not being quite the same as taking them. “I would expect you to be doing something worthwhile with your time.”

Unnie,” Seohyun protested, sitting up straighter as she prepared herself to engage in another lengthy debate that always seemed to crop up whenever Hyoyeon was concerned.

“Wait.” The agent held up her hand, the sudden frown on her face causing the other two to pause. Hyoyeon licked her lips. “I remember now.”

“Remember what?” Sooyoung prodded.

“This taste,” Hyoyeon continued. “I didn’t just encounter it in that tea shop.”

“Have you drunk this kind of tea elsewhere?” Seohyun suggested.

Hyoyeon shook her head. “No, no. I shouldn’t say taste, actually. Rather, this taste reminded me of a smell that was in Seven Springs, but also somewhere else.”

“Well?” Sooyoung crossed her arms, impatient. “Spit it out, Hyo.”

The other agent hesitated, doubt briefly entering her expression. “You guys will probably think I’m crazy.”

“Unnie, if there was a time for that, we’re a long way past it,” Seohyun pointed out, one corner of her lips quirking upward.

Sooyoung laughed. “Oh wow, maknae. I’m gonna have to high-five you for that one.”

Hyoyeon chuckled as she heard their palms clap against each other. “Okay, okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“We don’t have all night.” Sooyoung gave a mock yawn. “If you’re not gonna hurry, we’ll have to end up sleeping over here…for the next week.”

“Alright.” Hyoyeon shrugged. “It’s just…drinking this tea reminded me of the smell from Seven Springs. And I just remembered that I smelled the same thing at the U.S. embassy bombing, under all that ammonia or whatever maknae says is often in fertilizers.”

“Woah.” Sooyoung raised her eyebrows.

“Ammonium nitrate, but it is the ammonia you were smelling,” Seohyun automatically corrected. Then she asked, “How sure are you, unnie?”

“Like, 90 percent? 94?” Hyoyeon shrugged. “You know I was never good at math. But I’m pretty positive, even if the scent is really faint. I know my nose has gotten better, but to have it be like, better than a bloodhound’s or something…”

“No worries, Hyo.” Sooyoung slung an arm around the other’s shoulders. “We believe you. Or your nose, rather. Even if it can’t smell the stink of your feet every time you prop them up on the dashboard of my car.”

“I’ll text the others about it.” Seohyun was already unlocking her phone. “I guess you unnies will have to go check out the back rooms of Seven Springs again. Or maybe even pay another visit to BAM at some point; it certainly wouldn’t hurt.”

Sooyoung winced. “Great. Ask a bloodthirsty gang for information on a bloodthirsty bomber. I really can’t think of anything better to do with my time.”

“The sooner, the better.” Hyoyeon reminded them as she set down her now empty mug. “If we don’t stop Dae Koyu soon, we won’t be prepared for whenever he decides to strike next.”

…My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.

Some could kill for this, or for not as much.