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    The place Jeong Hee-seo took Ji-an was a humble soft tofu stew restaurant down a small alley quite far from the company. Its run-down appearance seemed out of place amid the forest of high-rise buildings. Despite it being early morning, there were quite a few people there for breakfast, suggesting it must be a renowned restaurant.

    Ji-an consciously looked around at the people and sat across from Jeong Hee-seo. Fortunately, he didn’t see anyone wearing JM’s employee ID card.

    “I know what you’re worried about… ”

    Jeong Hee-seo picked up a piece of pickled radish and placed it on Ji-an’s spoon.

    “Don’t worry about the rumors. Even if rumors spread, nothing you’re concerned about will happen. I can prevent it all.”

    The milky soup with floating perilla powder looked inviting. A drop of kimchi juice fell into it, creating a small red circle that quickly dissipated.

    Ji-an pouted, feeling a little disappointed.

    “But that’s not what I’m worried about…”

    While he was worried about rumors, contrary to Jeong Hee-seo’s assumption, his concerns weren’t solely self-centered.

    Did Jeong Hee-seo not eat breakfast?

    Jeong Hee-seo was eating the soup without saying anything. Even though he ate the hot soup calmly and quietly without blowing it, it looked strangely delicious. Forgetting his grievances, Ji-an’s eyes were drawn to the food disappearing into Jeong Hee-seo’s cavernous mouth and the movement of his jaw.

    “Do you not like this kind of food?”

    “Oh, no. I like it.”

    Ji-an started eating as he did. It was topped with chives and served with salted shrimp. As Ji-an sipped on the hot soup and savored its nutty flavor, sweat quickly formed on the bridge of his nose.

    “By the way, hyung-nim, did you drink alcohol last night?”

    It was a question that suddenly occurred to Ji-an.


    Jeong Hee-seo’s calm confirmation only fueled Ji-an’s curiosity.

    “With whom?”

    Last night referred to Sunday evening after they had dinner together and parted ways. Did Jeong Hee-seo want to drink but couldn’t with Ji-an, so he sent him home early to meet someone else? The imagination unfolded rapidly in his mind.


    Ji-an imagination…completely deflated before it started. Ji-an asked flatly:

    “Why drink alone? Next time, drink with me. I can just eat the snacks…”

    Jeong Hee-seo wiped his mouth and looked at Ji-an. Moving his lips as if to say something, he seemed to reconsider, but instead just placed another radish slice on Ji-an’s spoon.

    The radish in this restaurant was fantastic.

    “… Thank you.”

    “Eat a lot, baby.”

    “The baby might not like this. He doesn’t have any tastes yet. I’m the one being picky…”

    Ji-an muttered peevishly, prompting Jeong Hee-seo to cut him off nonchalantly:

    “Not the baby, you.”

    Has anyone ever abruptly snorted while eating soft tofu stew? That was Ji-an. Grabbing his stinging nose, he frantically searched for a tissue. As he wiped his nose and mouth, he still felt the sting of spice. He could sense Jeong Hee-seo trying hard not to laugh.

    “… That’s the problem. Do you know?”

    Jeong Hee-seo tilted his head as if telling Ji-an to keep going.

    “What will people think of you, the general manager? You keep fooling around and joking constantly… It’s work time, but you hang out with me like this… ”

    “Do you care that much about office gossip?”

    “Rumors wouldn’t be good, would they?”

    “I’m your mentor and you’re my mentee, what does it matter?”


    In fact, Jeong Hee-seo’s grandmother, Myeong Hyun-sook already knew everything. From the moment Jeong Hee-seo announced that he was participating in some mentor program, the rumor spread so quickly that it even reached overseas branches. It was enough to have Jeong Hee-seo’s brother-in-law’s youngest brother, who was studying at an Ivy League university, call and ask about it.

    Myeong Hyun-sook actually enjoyed watching her grandson’s antics, so anything that Ji-an worried about would never happen. If anything, she feared that interfering might extinguish the spark… She was experienced, quick-witted, and, above all, knew her grandson’s personality very well.

    But there was no need to tell Ji-an everything. Jeong Hee-seo smiled and called Ji-an.

    “Ji-an-ah. Are you anxious?”

    “… Yes.”

    Ji-an nodded.

    “But you need my pheromones. We have to meet every day.”


    “There is another way, right?”

    Ji-an’s face flushed even more. Thinking Jeong Hee-seo was about to make another mischievous joke, Ji-an’s eyes quickly narrowed. Jeong Hee-seo covered his mouth with his fist clearing his throat to avoid laughing. But Ji-an’s reactions were so amusing, he couldn’t resist teasing him further.

    “A different way than what you imagine.”

    Ji-an seemed interested once he clarified. What is it? His upper body leaned forward, prompting Jeong Hee-seo’s warm smile.

    “For now, let’s just eat.”

    * * *

    You must have forgotten, but we can just live together.’

    When Ji-an heard that, the first thought that came to mind was “Is that possible?” Not the definitive “No” from before. His resolve had weakened due to Seo Ji-hyuk’s pregnancy, the desire to stay close to Jeong Hee-seo, and the panic attacks that would flare up whenever they were apart.

    The moment Ji-an heard Seo Ji-hyuk’s pregnancy announcement, he had recurring panic attacks, as if the stress that had been building up for several weeks had exploded. The doctor said it was because there was a lack of pheromones and because they did not use the ‘natural method’ that other couples do…

    This damn pheromone… Even though Ji-an was doing this, he felt like he was wondering a dozen times a day whether it was really just pheromones.

    Ji-an was trembling with anxiety and repeatedly grabbed the handkerchief that Jeong Hee-seo had given him, only to put it down again, his palms sweating. He had to be careful not to let his pheromones mix with Hee-seo’s, which would make Hee-seo’s pheromones evaporate quickly. Although the pregnancy was said to be in a stable phase, Ji-an’s anxiety was inversely proportional to that stability.


    Even on weekdays when he saw Jeong Hee-seo’s face daily, Ji-an would awaken in the middle of the night with surging anxiety. Unable to meet Jeong Hee-seo immediately on weekend mornings after those nights passed, his heart would race erratically. Moreover, Jeong Hee-seo mentioned having family matters today, so they might not meet at all. Ji-an easily guessed this Saturday would feel excruciatingly long.

    Buzzz buzzz, Ji-an’s cell phone vibrated. Since Seo Ji-hyuk announced that he was pregnant, there had been no calls from Jeong Han-joo, so Ji-an checked the caller’s name without even thinking about it. It was Woo-seok.

    “Hey, what’s up?”

    -What’s up? You little bastard, You’re always good at making requests but when I contact you, you ask why I’m calling as if I have no reason.

    “Oh… sorry. So, what is it?”

    -You shameless chihuahua jerk.

    Ji-an chuckled, already guessing what Woo-seok wanted to say. He closed the door tightly, locked it, and went into the inner dressing room, locking that door as well.

    “Tell me.”

    -It’s about Seo Ji-hyuk.


    Just hearing the name made Ji-an’s breath quicken and his anxiety flared up. Ji-an looked around for a paper bag. He had prepared it in case of hyperventilating while in his room.


    “You can tell me. What is it? Just say it quickly, it’s making me more anxious when you hesitate.”

    Over the phone, Woo-seok sighed heavily. “I should’ve just gone to meet you, chihuahua,” he muttered.

    -I’m afraid you’ll pass out if I hang up without telling you, so here it is.

    “Tell me quickly! You jerk. I really might pass out.”

    Ji-an fumbled and held the paper bag.

    -He wasn’t your mother’s son.


    As he stood still, Woo-seok urgently added one more word.

    -But he is your brother.

    “… What?”

    Suddenly, Ji-an felt dizzy. He knelt down and bent over, placing one hand on his forehead and leaning until his head nearly touched the floor. The darkened view seemed to calm him slightly. He stayed in that position for a while, breathing heavily.

    -You didn’t faint, right?

    When Ji-an said nothing, Wooseok muttered uneasily.


    -Hey. Are you okay?

    Haaa… Ji-an let out a long sigh.

    “What does that even mean? Ah, I can’t think properly right now. Please explain slowly.”

    -… Remember when I first got your mother’s sample and said, ‘Well, if that’s the case, why not just use your sample, you chihuahua bastard?’ but then I got a strange feeling… You know my intuition is usually spot-on, right? So, I checked yours too. I went through the clothes and blankets you left at my place. Do you know how hard it was to find a hair with the root still attached? I practically had to stick to the floor… Ah, come to think of it, I should’ve just yanked a clump when I met you. But you little brat, why don’t you come get the stuff you left? Is my house your storage?”

    “Just get to the point, Woo-seok.”

    -Gosh, you told me to explain in detail earlier. Anyway, so my conclusion is…

    He could already guess the conclusion without hearing it.

    “Yeah, you’re saying he is a child my father had with another woman.”

    Ji-an counted on his fingers. By age, his parents were already married before Seo Ji-hyuk was born… It meant his father didn’t hide an illegitimate child before marriage but led a double life during their early years of marriage.

    What Ji-an wondered was… Did his father do the same thing in the reality he lived in? Did his mother know and still raise Seo Ji-hyuk as her own?

    Probably the same. He was the only fool who knew nothing until now.

    In the second half of the drama, it was revealed that Seo Ji-hyuk was indeed the lost eldest son of the Seo family, but it was not mentioned that he was Yoon Ok-hee’s son.

    Ji-an wondered how his mother felt after watching the drama his older brother wrote. Ji-an hadn’t grown up receiving tender love from her, yet his chest ached deeply.

    -Wow… How did things get so twisted in your family? My father is a piece of work too, but your father isn’t ordinary either.


    Woo-seok’s sigh was clearly heard. Ji-an could tell without looking that Woo-seok was scratching his head in embarrassment on the other end of the phone.

    There was a flash from the small window in the dressing room, and then the sound of thunder rang out. It was the end of July, and the rainy season was making its final push. Perhaps because of the shock of what he had just heard, Ji-an’s heart was beating slowly.

    Well, what a twist😅 I didn’t expect that…

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