SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 16

October 12, 2014 in moonrise31, SOSHI, The Roads We Have Taken by moonrise31

…But all the clocks in the city
 Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
 You cannot conquer Time…

‘In headaches and in worry
 Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
 To-morrow or to-day…’

W. H. Auden

Chapter 16: In which decisions are formulated, pondered, and eventually made—for better or for worse.

“Sooyoung!”

She heard Sunny’s yell from down the hallway, but she’d already turned the corner. It was easy to ignore when Do Shibak’s words were filling her mind in every way possible: ringing in her ears, rolling off her tongue, flashing on the backs of her eyelids whenever she blinked.

“Yeah, the guy who hired me? His name is Choi Jeongnam.”

She’d suspected it. Known it, even, from the start. It only made sense, after all—her dad had taken over one of the city’s most prominent drug gangs in a matter of weeks. Hell, she’d even told him about it, because that’s what a daughter does: tell her father how her day had gone, what she’d done, what was in store for tomorrow.

Of course he’d know about Kim Kwangsoo dropping his name in court like it was some kind of lifesaver. Of course he’d want to keep at least an ear on the investigation Sooyoung was legally obligated to never let him hear too much of.

But bombing the city? All those lives? Gone?

It’s not like he did it personally.

“But he might as well have,” Sooyoung said out loud. And ignored the tiny voice in her head that whispered, yes, all those lives lost…but if you had to choose: him? Or…

“Soo?”

She barely heard Yuri’s question as she burst into the office. She blew past the tech’s cubicle, stopping at her desk to cast around for her purse and anything else she’d need to grab.

“Unnie?” Seohyun asked uncertainly, reaching out to touch her shoulder.

Sooyoung flinched, quickly straightening. “I’ve gotta rush. There’s something I have to do.”

“Is everything alright?”

She could hear Jessica’s frown, so she shot them a brief grin over her shoulder that almost reached her eyes, she was sure. “Everything will be.”

Sooyoung was out the door before any of the others could reply.

She was two turns and one flight of stairs away from the building’s exit when Hyoyeon suddenly appeared in front of her. The blonde crossed her arms, feet planted firmly on the ground. “Hey, Soo. Calm down, will ya?”

Sooyoung huffed. “I’m calm. I’m calm.” She gripped the strap of her bag even tighter.

Hyoyeon immediately shifted her gaze to stare at the movement, even though they both knew she really couldn’t stare at all. “You know, the last time someone said that, it was Taeng earlier today, right before she almost caused a traffic accident.”

“Look, Hyo,” Sooyoung exhaled, trying not to let her voice become too strained. “This isn’t the time, okay? I just need to take care of some things. It’s really urgent.”

Hyoyeon blinked once. Twice. Then tilted her head so her eyes met Sooyoung’s. “Do you know the difference between me and your dad?”

Sooyoung actually had to take a step back. “…What?”

“When this happened,” Hyoyeon pointed to her blankly staring pupil, “When I woke up and couldn’t see anymore, I didn’t go around deciding to sell drugs to all of Seoul. I didn’t decide to let a bomber run rampant through the city or bug my daughter’s workplace just so I could be prepared to save my own skin.”

Sooyoung clenched her jaw. Every one of Hyoyeon’s words rang true, and that was what hurt the most.

“I accepted what happened,” Hyoyeon continued as if she hadn’t heard Sooyoung’s teeth grinding together. “I learned to cope, to deal with it. Losing my sight wasn’t the end of my life, as much as it felt like it was at times.

“But you know what? Sometimes I wish I hadn’t.”

Sooyoung blinked. “I…I don’t understand.”

“You know what maknae told me?” Hyoyeon paused. “She told me that giving up would be letting my loss get the best of me. If instead, I moved on and learned to live with it, then I’d be a winner. But you know what? Winning required a sort of giving up, too. And you know me—I don’t like to give up at all.”

The corner of Sooyoung’s lips twitched. “Yeah.”

“Yeah.” Hyoyeon nodded. “Your dad? As different as we are, we’re still the same. Because he’s accepted what’s happened as well. And he’s certainly not going down without a fight.”

“So what you mean is,” Sooyoung said slowly, “that what he’s doing is okay?”

Hyoyeon waved her hands frantically, an offended expression on her face. “Oh goodness, no. No, no. What I mean to say is, just because he has accepted what’s happened to him, doesn’t mean you have to accept any of it. If you don’t want to.”

Sooyoung really should have realized this sooner. And she already had, to an extent. But the urge to avoid confronting her father would rear up each time, battling down her common sense and morals each time because really, wasn’t family the most important?

That’s what her father had taught her, after all.

“I’m not saying you have to do the right thing,” Hyoyeon said quietly. “You just have to do what you think is right.”

Sooyoung snorted. “I can’t tell if that was you being really wise, or you just tripping over your words again.”

“Hey, I’m trying to help you!” Hyoyeon protested. But then she grinned, punching Sooyoung lightly in the shoulder. “But really, if maknae’s taught me one thing besides to avoid touching her lab equipment, it’d be that sometimes you have to lose some things in order to win everything.”

Sooyoung managed a full smile this time. “I guess we can’t argue with the good doctor.” She reached out to pull a surprised Hyoyeon into a tight hug. “Thanks, Hyo.”

“No problem,” Hyoyeon replied a bit breathlessly. “Just know we’re here for you, okay? I know it might get a bit crowded if the eight of us went with you, but we’re there in spirit. You’re not alone. Ever.”

“Not alone.” Sooyoung grinned. “Ever.”

When she finally exited the building and jogged towards her car, her stomach still twisted at the prospect of finally facing her father.

But maybe, just maybe, she’d be able to do it.

“Soo!” Her mom answered the door, eyes widening. “What’re you doing here? Did you get off of work already?”

Sooyoung shifted her weight from one foot to another. “Actually, I have something really important to talk to Dad about. Is he in his office?”

Her mom nodded. “Are you staying for dinner, then, sweetie?”

She managed a smile in spite of the whirlwind in her gut. “Maybe.”

Sooyoung made her way up the stairs she’d climbed so many times, counting each step like she’d done since she was four. This time, she dreaded reaching the twenty-sixth step, because that meant she’d arrived at the second floor. And her dad’s office was only fifteen more paces—twenty-one when her legs had been a bit shorter.

She knocked on the door twice before turning the knob and peeking inside. “Dad?”

“Sooyoung!” Her dad looked up from his desk and grinned. “What a pleasant surprise.”

She returned the smile weakly, gently closing the door behind her. “I’ve got something really important to discuss with you.”

“Ah, sure. Sit down, sit down.” He motioned to the chair on the opposite side of his desk. “What do you want to talk about?”

Sooyoung took her time settling into her seat, smoothing her pants and setting her bag down on the ground beside her. Then, she inhaled, as if the extra air would get rid of the knots at the bottom of her stomach. After she’d exhaled again—remembered Hyoyeon standing so defiantly in the hallway—she felt a little better, a little calmer. So she was able to look her father in the eye and say, “Dad, I know everything.”

His initial reaction was to chuckle. “I seem to recall you saying that when you were about twelve, after I’d asked you whether you were prepared for your math exam.”

Dad,” she insisted, her serious tone causing the amusement to drop from his expression. “I know it all. Why Kim Kwangsoo said your name in the courtroom. How you were involved with BAM. And now apparently Do Shibak, the guy who’s responsible for the ‘engine malfunctions’ and other unfortunate mishaps plaguing Seoul as of late.”

“Sooyoung…” he started, before trailing off again.

“I figured it out a long time before any of that, of course,” Sooyoung went on, unwilling to stop now that she’d started. It was as if the dam had finally been broken; now all of her words, all of her thoughts were flowing off her tongue with no intention of pausing for even a millisecond. “But I kept it to myself. Because I know it’s hard, Dad. To think that one day, you won’t be able to see anymore.”

His sharp intake of breath echoed throughout the room.

Sooyoung continued. “I know you’re not even doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for us. For Mom, for unnie. For me. And I want so much to appreciate it. And I think I do.

“But.” She curled her fingers into fists, twisting the fabric of her pants that she’d so meticulously smoothed before she’d sat down moments ago. “But. Don’t you realize that this isn’t the only way? Don’t you think that this isn’t necessary?” Her voice cracked, but she pushed on. “Don’t you think that you’ve gone too far?”

Jeongnam said nothing. He only looked back at her, gaze soft with sadness and regret and love.

It almost broke Sooyoung right there.

Instead, she whispered, “Do you know how many lives have been involved in this, Dad? How many drug addictions you’re fueling, how many mad bombers you’ve let loose, how many people have died? Do you think if Mom or unnie knew about this, they’d want the future you’re trying so hard to provide?”

The air became thick with silence once more. Only Sooyoung’s hitched breathing broke the quiet.

Finally, Jeongnam leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desktop. “Sooyoung, I don’t think I can explain myself to you. You wouldn’t be able to understand. Not because you’re too young, or too weak. But because you’re too good.”

Sooyoung’s eyes widened. “…Dad.”

His lips curved upward, but she would hardly call the result a smile. “I made my decision a long time ago. Family comes first. Of course, you and Soojin have stable jobs. You can take care of yourselves. But what about your mother? I can’t just leave her while my daughters become the sole providers of the family. And when time is of the essence, the options are even more limited than you think.

“I know what I’m doing is wrong. I also knew that this would catch up with me. When I heard about that CEO saying my name, I knew the end would be near. I asked Do Shibak to bug your headquarters, but it came at the price of allowing him whatever supplies he needed and free reign of the city. But I’ve made my peace.

“My sight is finally going, Sooyoung-ah. The doctor told me I have maybe two weeks of any sight left. A month, at most.”

Sooyoung bit her lip, resisting the urge to say something along the lines of, Hyoyeon can’t see already! She hasn’t seen for more than a year. She did it. You can too, Dad. You can, too.

But somehow, she knew the answer would’ve been the same.

“Do you know the difference between me and your dad?”

Yeah, Sooyoung thought, closing her eyes as she felt a pressure building behind them. You like to win, Hyo. You don’t like giving up, but you’ll do it if you’ll come out ahead in the end. But my dad—

—my dad doesn’t even think about winning. Because he’s not afraid to lose.

Eight pairs of eyes immediately focused on the door when the knob twisted. Sooyoung stepped inside the office a second later, not disconcerted in the least at the intensity of the stares suddenly directed at her.

“So.” Taeyeon finally broke the silence. “How’d it go?”

“They’re moving to Japan,” Sooyoung answered tiredly, making her way to the nearest desk—Yoona’s—and slumping on top of it. The younger girl immediately reached out and began rubbing soothing circles into her back.

“So…he’s…leaving?” Sunny asked, tentative.

Sooyoung shrugged. “Whatever money he’s raised from all of this…I want no part of it. I told him he had to tell my mom and unnie about it too, and it’s up to them what they want to do. I just don’t want to know.”

Coward, she could imagine the others thinking. What kind of self-respecting agent are you?

“As for this case…” she hesitated. “I mean, of course you guys will have to go forward with the evidence.” She glanced up at Taeyeon. “I’ll have my letter of resignation for you by tomorrow morning.”

No.

The attention of the room shifted to Tiffany.

“No,” she repeated again, quieter, but her tone was no less intense. The bandage wrapped almost lopsidedly around her head made her seem even more defiant than usual—at another time, Sooyoung would surely have teased her about it. “We’re in this together, Soo. Whatever you decide, we support you.”

Sooyoung couldn’t believe her ears.

“That’s right.” Yuri nodded. “I’m sure there’re a lot of people with the name ‘Choi Jeongnam’ around, after all. And that’s just counting Seoul. And who knows…maybe one specific Choi Jeongnam will conveniently appear after I do some digging…and then disappear across the border to North Korea, never to be seen again.” She tapped her keyboard meaningfully.

Sooyoung opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Then, a few minutes later, she managed, “You…what about Do Shibak? His testimony?”

“Krystal’s certainly taking after a certain unnie,” Sunny observed, amused, nudging Jessica in the shoulder. “I think he can be persuaded into confessing only the necessary information.”

“As for the interrogation,” Hyoyeon added, “I might’ve accidentally overwritten some parts of the recording that may or may not have been incredibly important to the identification of Choi Jeongnam. Just me being clumsy again.” She shrugged nonchalantly.

“…You guys,” Sooyoung finally said. “You realize…”

“That the office isn’t bugged anymore?” Taeyeon interrupted. “Thank goodness for that.” She smiled. “It’s okay to break a rule once in a while, Sooyoung. We know you’d do the same for us, so it’s only fair.”

“Unnie,” Seohyun said very seriously.

Sooyoung looked up.

The youngest took a step forward, pulling her goggles over her head and setting them on the desk. Then she turned and wrapped Sooyoung in a tight, one-armed hug.

“What maknae said,” Yoona laughed, throwing her un-bandaged arm around Sooyoung’s shoulder from the other side.

The other girls slowly crowded in, pretending not to notice when Sooyoung ducked her head and made a few sniffing sounds.

“Whatever it is,” Taeyeon said softly, “we’ll get through it. Together.”

…’O look, look in the mirror,
 O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
 Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
 As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor

 Even with your crooked heart.’