Chapter 49: < Protect – Episode 48 – Audition  >
On the day of his 25th birthday, he went through an unexpected break-up. He feels unfamiliar with himself as he unknowingly agrees.
“I wish you happiness.”
He was unable to hold onto her. Even though he was in pain, he was unable to reach out his hand. He would regret today’s decision one day. However, no matter how many times he asked himself, his answer didn’t change.
‘Can we ever be happy?’
He found out about the world too soon.
The breakup might have been something planned all along. He felt embarrassed about the hand he hid behind him. The girl who used to smile at even just a single rose would no longer smile at him. He tried to dispose of the rose, but was it because he was unable to let go? Even though there was no one to give it to, the bright rose was too beautiful to put in the garbage. When he thought about the money he wasted, he just smirked.
“Am I this cold-hearted?”
Did they really love each other? No one could be certain of that. The memories that remained after the breakup remained empty. Looking back on it, it was just vague. No tears were shed. The air he inhaled turned into a white breath.
The two people who were hugging and hopping were full of vibrant life.
‘This is unfair.’
A horrible day for someone could be the best day for someone else. Did they take away his share of happiness? He laughed bitterly at the ridiculous suspicion.
The best way to forget about misery was to resent and hate someone else. He gagged at the pathetic excuse. He approached the people who were hugging in happiness. Did people shed tears when they were too happy?
What would they think if an utter stranger handed them roses on the streets? They would probably think that he was crazy. It didn’t matter. He tried to put on a bright smile, but it was uncertain how it would actually seem. Who cares? It wasn’t like they would see each other again.
He felt a little less frustrated. He disappeared into the crowd. Where should he go? If he goes home too early, someone would catch on. He was afraid of facing his family who would sigh with worry. He didn’t want any sympathy.
‘I’ll just walk.’
If he kept wandering about, wouldn’t the road end sooner or later?
“What’s this? Do you know them?”
In contrast to the friend who was dumbfounded, Soo Jung was following the person’s shadow with a possessed face.
“No…nothing. Let’s go! It’s on me today!”
She pulled her friend by the arm, but she couldn’t forget the backside of that person. His face was smiling, but his eyes looked very sad.
‘He was crying inside.’
That was her first time seeing someone crying on the inside.
“Cut! That was great!”
When the producer called cut, Lee Jung Hoon clapped his hands and bowed to everyone.
“Good work! Good work! Thank you!”
“Jung Hoon, your acting is great. Who’d think you’re a rookie?”
“Not at all, Sir. I’m still lacking in many ways.”
“Let’s go for a drink sometime.”
“Sure! Please let me know.”
“I like your attitude. Don’t lose it.”
Lee Jung Hoon, who received praise from staff and actors and returned to the break room, sat in a chair as if he was collapsing.
“Was I okay?”
“You were unbelievable!”
Following his first sitcom role, he landed himself a role in a one-act show as the younger version of the main character. Even though it was just a short part, the many famous actors that were a part of it made the show the topic of conversation.
“That’s it for today’s shoot. Go home and get some rest.”
“That’s a relief. I’ve been working too much these days.”
“The team leader took your stamina into consideration when he made the schedule, so don’t worry.”
“Should I say goodbye one more time?”
“That will give them a good impression.”
“It’s hard to be a newbie.”
Even while grumbling, Lee Jung Hoon got up, went around the break room, and said goodbye to the staff and fellow actors. Lee Jung Hoon, who was leaving to the parking lot with his manager and stylist, was stopped by some people.
“Are you Lee Jung Hoon?”
“Who are you?”
His manager instinctively stepped in front of him.
“We’re the police, Mr. Lee. You must come with us.”
“You should tell me why first. You can’t just expect me to follow you.”
The manager looked at the stylist and acted in a composed manner. The stylist made a call.
“We received a report about a sexual assault.”
“By our Jung Hoon?”
“We can’t tell you that.”
“Wait, how does that make sense? He’s never been charged before. You should need a warrant. Show me your warrant.”
He pulled out a piece of paper as if he expected that.
“This is the arrest warrant.”
The manager was startled. Even if he would take a look at the arrest warrant, he wouldn’t understand what it said. The manager let go of Lee Jung Hoon’s arm and watched. He even wondered if Lee Jung Hoon really got himself in trouble. He was at his prime, and the team leader said a sponsorship came in, so he probably felt on top of the world. However, he also trusted his own actor.
‘Jung Hoon isn’t the type to do that though…’
He was a greedy kid, but he wasn’t reckless.
“Just follow them, Jung Hoon. And you call the team leader.”
The manager talked Lee Jung Hoon out of throwing a fit. It was obvious from his face that he was innocent. Lee Jung Hoon was about to go crazy. Sexual assault? What kind of nonsense was that? It chased away his tiredness.
The sound of the tires against the concrete rang throughout the parking lot. As soon as Lee Jung Hoon and his manager got into the car, two SUVs stopped in front and behind them. No one was able to react to such a quick occurrence. Men in black sunglasses got out and surrounded the car. They didn’t leave any room for responses. The police officer from the driver’s seat got out and shouted.
“Who are you?”
“Let me see your warrant.”
“Let me see your warrant and ID.”
The police officer rolled his eyes in response to the men in sunglasses who looked ready to fight. At that moment, the man in front of the driver’s seat threw a punch through the car window.
That was how it started. The so-called police officers tried to make a run for it, but it was too late to dodge the men in sunglasses.
They moved swiftly, but to those who survived the battlefields, they were so slow that they elicited yawns. They were helplessly dominated after some struggle. One of the men in sunglasses walked toward Lee Jung Hoon and his manager who were frozen still.
“Don’t be alarmed. The president employed us.”
“The president? Our president?”
“Yes, one moment.”
He ignored the manager who wanted to say more and took out his phone.
“It’s me. Yes, they’re safe. Yes, Sir.”
After hanging up, he called one of his subordinates.
“Get the CCTV footage.”
“Okay. Keep working hard.”
After hanging up, Ahn Soo Ho looked at Logan.
“Did you hear from them?”
“Did you trace them?”
“They have nothing to do with those we’re monitoring. They’re just a bunch of thugs.”
“Why did they try to kidnap my little brother?”
Someone tried to kidnap Lee So Hye too. But in Lee So Hye’s case, they were blocked before they got anywhere near her.
“We’re looking into the details…but it’s likely to be connected to Kim Min Jung.”
“Who’s Kim Min Jung?”
“Lee Hyo Geun’s ex-wife.”
“Oh, that damned ex-wife?”
Lee Hyo Geun’s ex-wife, Kim Min Jung was a temptress of men. Shallow Lee Hyo Geun could possibly be pushed around by her forever. It was even questionable whether or not the kids they had were actually Lee Hyo Geun’s.
“She’s quite the maneater. Even after her divorce with Mr. Lee, she had relationships with quite a few men. I heard among them are pimps and gangsters from Gyeonggi-do.”
“So she’s a matchmaker.”
“She must have been taking care of the young women who were under the pimp.”
“Are you saying there are strings that can be pulled?”
“We’re limited to fraud… but yes.”
Ahn Soo Ho laughed bitterly. Neighborhood thugs wouldn’t have heard about his name or reputation.
“Even thugs have family members.”
“He’s an errand boy for the fourth organization in Myeongdong.”
“Fourth organization? That’s so low in the food chain. How does he make a living?”
“Contract violence, illegal monitoring, fraud, theft, and anything that makes money, really.”
Most good people insist that they had nothing to do with crimes. However, in cases where all existing laws were applied, not many could slip out. In particular, laws regarding money were often broken without him realizing it. Financial authorities could charge anyone for tax evasion if they really wanted to.
“I smell something fishy.”
“Do you think it’s not Kim Min Jung?”
“She might be greedy, but I don’t think she would have ignored Daesan Group and my name and employed thugs. That’s too farfetched.”
“But their attempts were really pathetic. Professionals would have planned it a lot better.”
“Logan. Not everyone is like us.”
If everyone were geniuses about crimes, this place would have changed into hell already.
Ironically, they were having a serious conversation at a show. The colorful stage outfits look a little embarrassing, but they were Girls Roofed, who was pretty popular in Japan these days. When a famous producer and GTV saw potential in a street band, they turned them into a project girl group.
Ahn Soo Ho got the chills when he saw fans covered in fancy goods. He felt as if he ran into Islam fanatics ahead of their suicide bombing. Crazy people always have a lot in common.
“I feel like I’m surrounded by Muslim terrorists.”
Ahn Soo Ho smirked at what Logan said. He wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Thanks to the dark seats, no one was able to see his rotten face. Producer Oda, who split the Japanese idol world into two with Claris 11’s Eyes 10 after helping Girls Roofed grow, was in the middle of giving an explanation.
“As J-Pop leaders, Girls Roofed is very competitive in Asia. We opened official shops in China, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, and Thailand, and their albums are bringing in steady profits. Each member has secured activities such as movies, dramas, and commercials, and we cultivated a tar line that will be trusted by any advertiser.”
Oda raised his voice while sweating buckets. There was a reason why he couldn’t miss out on the Korean investor. Money was important too, but it was mainly because the person who introduced him to Ahn Soo Ho was from Japan’s Ministry of Health.
“Thank you for the explanation, Mr. Oda. But I have one question.”
Oda was surprised by Ahn Soo Ho’s fluent Japanese. He almost felt wrong for using his broken English until now.
“Japan’s future stars. How do you pick promising aspirants?”
“Are you talking about casting? We pick them through competitions and auditions.”
“What about street casting?”
“We do that too, but it’s hard to judge based on only good looks.”
There were more than 125 million people in Japan. In numbers, they had 2.5 more than Korea. Having a big population meant there was a big pool of talented people.
“May I sit in on one of your auditions?”
“Of course. There’s one happening today. Would you like to join?”
When they got out of the performance, Logan asked a question with a confused face.
“Why do you want to sit in on an audition?”
“Where would you find pretty and naïve girls? On the streets? Or in front of a girls’ school?”
“There are only a few clean agencies. The rest are dirty human trafficking rings. And they play a role in building a worldwide network.”
Ahn Soo Ho flicked his finger and stuck out his thumb.
“The pleasure world is very secretive.”
They didn’t rust outsiders easily.
< Protect – Episode 48 – Audition  > The end.