Life, Once Again! - Chapter 815
“It’s that one,” Dongwook said as he pointed at the flower shop across from them.
Before they departed from Daebudo, Dongwook made a phone call somewhere. From the looks of it, he seemed to be calling Choi Miyeon. After that, he told Maru the address of this store, so it was probably safe to assume that Choi Miyeon was inside.
He got out of the car and entered the store. Choi Miyeon, who was cutting off branches with a pair of floral shears, greeted him warmly,
“Long time no see.”
“Yes. How have you been?”
She did not reply and turned around instead, saying that she was going to clean up. Did she not reply because the question was just a formal one? Or was she expressing that she had not been doing well? She put away the flower vase on the desk before bringing some tomato juice.
“Nice interior, by the way.”
“I put quite a lot of effort into it. My aim is not wholesale, so the atmosphere is pretty important.”
“Do you usually deal with flowers or vases usually given as presents?” Maru asked as he looked at the vases.
Most of them were cacti, which were considered easy to raise. There were a few herbs as well, and they seemed to be reserved for people as they had names in front of them.
“I’ll give you one as a present.”
“I’ll buy it. I have someone to give it to. Also, you don’t need to be so formal with me.”
Maru stood up with the glass cup. It didn’t look like she was going to spit out the things she experienced during the past five years. He looked around the store until she spoke,
“You want to hear about Lee Miyoon?” she asked after rubbing her glass for a long time.
Dongwook, who sat next to him, looked at her worriedly. He seemed like he knew how hard of a time she was going to have by talking about it.
“If you find it difficult then it is okay if you don’t. It’s not like there’s an immediate problem.”
“No, this is a good thing. I thought it was about time I spoke about it properly.”
To whom, it was probably Dongwook. Maru sat down. It was time to listen to why she, who was more eager to dig up the truth behind this matter than anyone, was running this flower store now.
“I should have told you about it before; I told you about how Lee Miyoon is acting as a broker for prostitution.”
“I kept investigating that. There was a sense of duty in me as well, but it was more to do with how I couldn’t look away from the pain one person has experienced.”
She took her hands off the glass and sat up.
“Five years ago, I was having a deep talk with an actress who sold her body through Lee Miyoon. Let’s call her A for now. A was an actress in her forties at the time. A long time ago, when A was in her twenties, she gets into prostitution. She was threatened that she would not be able to debut if she didn’t accept, and although she tried to refuse, she ended up doing it due to pressure from people around her as well as verbal and physical violence. Back then, I was an idiot and asked why she didn’t report them to the police. A told me that she didn’t dare to report when she thought about what would happen to her afterwards, especially after she got involved in it. She was well aware that her acting career would be finished if she did report. Strictly speaking, she was the victim, but the fact that she involved herself in it seeking compensation haunted her a lot.”
“It’s hard. It might decide her life after all.”
Even if she was threatened into doing it, A must have known that there was an opportunity to wash herself of it, but the sense of guilt, because she chose to do something shady for compensation, must have sealed her mouth shut. The sense of shame must have restrained her from taking action as well. It wasn’t that she was foolish. It was the reaction of a normal person. It would instead be rather special if a person clashed head-on in order to win the thing they wanted.
“Despite doing such a thing, the role she was promised was not given to her, and although she played one of the lead roles in a drama after that, the reaction wasn’t that good. In the end, A retired and lived an ordinary life until she eventually got married and had a child. However, she soon got divorced and was living with her child until she eventually committed suicide five years ago due to hardships in life. I thought about a lot of things: Why did A’s life have to end so sadly like that?, where did the problem all start?, and above all, why did I not listen to her more back then?”
Maru had a look at her hands. Her interlocked hands had turned blue from gripping too hard.
“Do you remember that an actress’ prostitution matter was buried under the rug due to the commotion caused by The Five’s slave contract?”
“Yes, I remember. I also know that it disappeared without a sound.”
“A’s suicide pushed me forward. I couldn’t stay still, so I decided to take the deeply rooted problem of the entertainment industry into my own hands. Back then, I approached that young actress and asked many things, but I wasn’t able to hear the answer to most of the things. That girl was afraid of things becoming public, and above all, she had already come to a deal with the offenders. I couldn’t blame her. The things she experienced were too terrible for me to tell her that we should pull out this dirty problem by the roots. I didn’t dare ask for her help when she told me that she wanted to lay low. So I acted by myself. I invested all the time left after writing my articles for the magazine. Back then, I felt like I was something. I thought that it might be hard for now, but if I tell the truth to the world, it would be a small consolation to the ones who suffered and be the trigger to erase that evil cycle. It was meager heroism and journalism but they were the motivation that moved me.”
“It’s not meager at all. Generally, people flee when they’re faced with such a thing.”
“No, I’m a meager person. No, perhaps calling me ‘meager’ is an overstatement.”
She laughed self-mockingly. She reached out for the juice, saying that she needed something to drink. It was at that time that Maru noticed the thin scars on her wrist. Maru averted his eyes away and drank the juice. The position of those scars didn’t allow him to ask. After taking a deep breath, she continued to speak,
“I did achieve something. Perhaps it was luck, but I found out that there was some sort of a deal between Hong Janghae and Lee Miyoon. I also knew that the colossal company known as YM was involved in it.”
“Did you have physical evidence?”
She ‘did.’ Did that mean that she didn’t have it now? She paused just as she was about to speak before placing her hand on her chest and breathing heavily. Next to her, Dongwook told her to stop if it was too hard for her. Her peach-colored expression paled, just like her hands.
“Wait a sec.”
She went to the counter before taking out a long plastic container. It was a container with medicine in it, divided into weekdays. She took out some medicine and put them in her mouth before gulping down some water. She then breathed calmly before returning to her seat and sitting down. Her eyelids twitched minutely.
“Sorry. It’s stress-induced dyspnea. I’m also taking antidepressants.”
“If it’s too difficult for you, you can stop here.”
“No, I have to do it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to talk about it again if I don’t do it today. Above all, Dongwook-seonbae has to listen to this until the end.”
Dongwook crossed his arms as though he understood and looked at her.
“I looked everywhere in order to find the connection between YM and Lee Miyoon. As with the victims of all cases, they are afraid of being exposed to the surface. Not only that, this was about prostitution. I knew that I would not have any hopes of winning against a big company, so I gathered information as carefully as possible. However, everything I got was circumstantial evidence or predictions. The women who secretly told me that they were involved in prostitution all cut off contact with me when I asked them if they can reveal their names and testify. I felt stuck. I was just thinking that I reached my limit when I was contacted.”
“Did that person say she would testify?”
Hearing Maru’s question, she nodded.
“It was that young girl who was swept under the rug five years ago thanks to ‘The Five.’ She called me and told me that she gained the courage to speak and that she wanted to take revenge against those people who tried to do as they wished with her. It felt like a dream. I finally felt like I found a path forward. She told me that she had a recording that she kept secret. She said that she recorded it during her call with Lee Miyoon five years ago. She said that she had it on her phone and told me that we should sue her first.”
“She’s pretty knowledgeable about what you were up to considering that she hadn’t contacted you for five years as well as the fact that you haven’t given up and were still investigating.”
Choi Miyeon faintly smiled. That smile seemed to disdain herself.
“It was my mistake as I was exhausted because of not being able to gain anything for five years. I’m supposed to be a journalist, but I only confirmed the source of the evidence, not the feelings of the person who had it.”
“When you said you had the evidence, does that mean that the recording existed?”
“Yes, it did exist. I wasn’t an idiot, so I checked for myself the next day. That was a year ago. I heard Lee Miyoon make threats before trying to coax her inside a café. It was definitely recorded on the phone. When I asked if I could get a copy on the spot, she said she was too afraid. She said that she couldn’t trust me fully. I was persuaded when she said that I might make her testify after I revealed that evidence. I could understand where she was coming from, and I was in a hurry as well, which was a problem. I should have confirmed everything before I started it.”
She bit her lips.
“Back then, I thought that we should cause a ripple first. There was no way to topple a sturdy castle in one go, so we decided to strike the surface of the moat first to see their reaction. I thought that if Lee Miyoon’s recording is exposed, Lee Miyoon herself would have to stand in public and that Hong Janghae or YM, who she had connections with, might help her out. I was under the dream that I would not only be able to take Lee Miyoon out but everyone above her as well if I managed to observe her and prove her connections with YM.”
“Did that actress cut off all contact at the most important moment?”
She nodded heavily.
“All of my hypotheses were grounded on the physical evidence in her possession. With that out of the equation, my articles were nothing more than speculations, and the result was pretty obvious. There wasn’t even a mention of my article. No one knew about that matter. However, I received a letter requiring my attendance very quickly. I got one lawsuit after another.”
“Does that mean that people other than Lee Miyoon sued you?”
“The magazine company I worked for as well as the businesses I did interviews with. The main reason for the lawsuits was that I wrote malicious articles in order to wrongfully harm perfectly fine businesses and a capable actress. The people who were helping me changed their attitudes in an instant. My social life came to a complete halt. The human known as Choi Miyeon, who was alive and fine until just yesterday, was socially buried, quickly and easily.”
Her lips trembled. She seemed like she was still buried underground; she was buried underneath the gloomy depths of society where even breathing was difficult.