Chapter 18: The Leader Encounters the Ideal Girl and the Leader and the Queen of Spontaneity Prepare for Their Exam
Already known for his perfectionist behaviour for work, Rhett was firmly imprinting that image into his employees’ and coworkers’ minds. Today, his tolerance for slowness and mistakes was at a low. Why? He was already frustrated by what had happened with Kannei and him. He knew he was digging his own grave, and he hated how he was lying. The thought of living a lie had never crossed his mind. In fact, lying had never been a part of his life. He was going against all that he had believed in and that was exactly what irked him.
To forget all that he could, he worked, but he expected everyone to work at his pace. He was ordering his staff to prepare for the Christmas campaign, and what was worse was that the problems had all surfaced that day. Now, the phone was ringing constantly. Apparently, on several of the flyers, the ending date of the anniversary sale was printed a day late. Rhett had remembered checking the flyers, yet his employee had made this silly error. Now, he was to pay.
“Mr. Jung,” one of his workers, Reina, had answered, “The CEO is seeking you. He wants you to meet him now at his office.”

Rhett could only agree with a gulp. As the director of marketing, he was constantly under pressure, especially due to his age. Normally, at his age, he shouldn’t have held such a high position, but of course, because of his diligence and his family connections with the department store, Hoketsu, he had been promoted a year ago by his uncle. His uncle had taken over his father’s position as the CEO after his father had retired when Rhett had entered the company straight from university. Since his uncle had promoted him, he couldn’t bear to disappoint the family.
Up, and up, he went to the highest floor. As he watched the elevator climb higher and higher, he felt his palms grow sweaty. He wondered how he was going to explain to his uncle about what had happened. His father had reminded him too many times that he could never falter, especially in front of his uncle.
“Yunho,” his father uttered in the hospital bed, “if it weren’t for this weak heart of mine, I would still be working.”
“Uncle Henry is taking over for you,” Rhett mumbled.
“As expected . . . that sly brother of your mother’s has persuaded the board to elect him,” his father explained. “He’s always been greedy and selfish, but of course, your mother says otherwise.”
“Dad, I’m sure . . . Uncle isn’t as bad as you’ve—“
“Son,” his father uttered while placing his hand on Rhett’s shoulder. “Don’t let him rule Hoketsu. I’m depending on you.”
“Ah, Rhett,” Uncle Henry greeted Rhett once Rhett had opened the door, “I wanted to talk to you about something, or rather, someone important.”
Rhett still stood close to the door. The office had changed so much after Uncle Henry had moved in. None of his father’s belongings remained and instead, the latest furniture and gadgets filled the once minimalistic room. Rhett could only weakly smile before answering, “What is it?”
“I’d like you to meet someone special,” Uncle Henry, who had been facing the large, glass windows, announced. He pressed the intercom and stated, “Gladys, bring in the guest.”
Within seconds, in came a beautiful, young lady with an amazing figure. The simple, grey suit she wore had displayed her curves at the right areas. Ashamed that he was observing her in that manner, he innately blushed and told himself that it was the tightness of her attire that had attracted him. Simple was her outfit, but beautiful was her aura. She was probably the only female that could challenge his favourite actress, in terms of beauty for now. When she had lifted her head to smile at Uncle Henry and him, she had subsequently flipped her long, straight hair. Rhett, thus, felt his heart beat faster and his cheeks reddening further. Trying to keep his poise, he too greeted the woman with a courteous grin, and even introduced himself, “Hello, I’m Jung Yunho, the director of marketing.”
Uncle Henry instantly said, “This is Mikazuki Hana. She’ll be your intern for the year.”
Intern? What? You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t have time to manage some . . .
“Mr. Jung, I will do my best,” Hana declared. “I promise I will not disappoint you.”
“You know . . . Yunho, you always worry so much.” Uncle Henry cackled, revealing his wobbly teeth. “What’s the trouble with having another member on your team? Isn’t it the more the merrier?”
Rhett’s other hand clutched onto his other wrist, resisting the urge to punch someone. “Of course, our department is willing to accept a new member to the family,” Rhett replied with another professional smile. “You don’t have to worry, Uncle Henry. Ms. Mikazuki will definitely be at ease.”
Hana quickly bowed and then hugged Rhett. Rhett had to admit that being in her embrace was nice. She had such soft skin and her perfume was also so alluring. “Thank you, Mr. Jung,” she answered. “I really appreciate your help.”
“Now, Hana, Gladys will lead you to your department, and Yunho, here, will join you shortly. I just need to speak to him privately for now,” Uncle Henry directed. Once Hana had left, Uncle Henry snickered. “You probably think your dear uncle is tormenting you, but you should thank me instead. Do you know who Mikazuki Hana is? Maybe, I should ask, do you know who Mikazuki Shin is?”
Mikazaki Shin was known among the large companies and even among the public. He was the CEO of a famous beauty and health retailer, Chou, which he had named after his wife. With these facts in mind, Rhett wondered aloud, “What do you have in mind?”
“Yunho, as your uncle, even I worry for your love life,” Uncle Henry elucidated while patting Rhett on the shoulder. “I’ve met Hana a few times, and I felt she would be perfect for you.” His uncle then chuckled before adding, “We . . . all know what type you like.”
Rhett’s cheeks flustered to a bashful roseate shade. Was he that easy to read? Had his uncle devised a plan to eradicate the Jungs completely? Truthfully, Rhett couldn’t have blamed his uncle for wanting that to happen. His uncle was the only male heir of the Hoketsu family, whereas his father was not only a foreigner, but also an outsider of the family. According to the Hoketsu family, the bloodline had been tainted. However, to Rhett’s mother, she had fallen in love with a brilliant man. Of course, no one could deny his father’s abilities; his father had graduated as the valedictorian of a prestigious university and had much experience in the business world. He was a man, who had earned his right to manage the Hoketsu Department Store.
Knowing that he had to be on his best behaviour, Rhett inhaled a deep breath and then cleared his throat. “I think we should separate business and feelings from each other,” he noted.
“I like how business and feelings can meld together,” Uncle Henry argued. “Wouldn’t it be perfect if the department store joined with them?”
“Father would prefer to keep things separate,” Rhett refuted, “and besides, there are cosmetics found on the first floor.”
“Ah, I see it will take some time for you to understand.” Uncle Henry placed his other hand on Rhett’s shoulder before handing Rhett a forceful pinch. “I’m only giving you a safe route to follow, my dear nephew, but surely, if you can’t accept what I have to offer, then I . . . can’t assure your well-being here.”
Rhett shrugged his shoulders, took a bow, and turned his heel. As he glanced again at his uncle, he declared, “Thank you for thinking of me. I assure you that I am old enough to take care of myself.”
Uncle Henry lifted a half grin while remarking, “Oh, and I’ve heard about your mistake. I was surprised . . . that that even happened to you.”
Upon hearing the door shut, Rhett stomped his foot and slammed his hand onto the wall. During his walk back to the office, he kept thinking. He knew, he knew, he knew that he wouldn’t have made such a stupid mistake. Someone in his group was a mole, but who could it be? Who could be sabotaging his career? He didn’t know who to blame or where to investigate. Maybe, he should have accepted his uncle’s offer, yet that would mean he had betrayed his father and that he had succumbed to his own weakness. Knowing that he just had to try his best, he entered the elevator without even looking.
“Ouch,” a lady moaned.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he quickly said. “I didn’t mean to—“
“Mr. Jung?”
Rhett found himself dumbfounded. He was staring at a pair of angelic eyes, the exact pair he had been seeking for ages. She had that warm grin that could light up his day any time. From her voice, he should have known that it was her: Mikazaki Hana.
“G-g-good to see you again,” he mumbled under his breath while pretending to watch the elevator descend. “What brings you . . . up here?”
“Your secretary, Rachel, said that you were taking too long up there, so she asked me to find you,” Hana clarified. “I wanted to start helping out, but the staff said I should wait for you to give me orders.”
“Right, err . . . about that—“
“Sorry to interrupt you, but Rachel also said that I should remind you that you have a very important appointment at 1 pm.”
“Oh . . . sh-shi-su-sure.” Rhett blended the two words together in one go. “Thank you for informing me of that.” Then, he pressed for the lobby and once she had departed at the appropriate floor, he paced back and forth in the elevator while cursing all the swear words he knew. He couldn’t be late now. He didn’t want to hear any complaints or groans. He couldn’t bear for any more blunders. Yes, perfection . . . perfection had to be attained . . . somehow.
1 pm. That was the ideal time for Rhett to meet Kannei. It was a time where none of the other boys were at home since most of them were still at work. Changmin was teaching at his school, Jaejoong was working with his new entertainer, Yoochun was at the studio for once to present his song, and Junsu was discussing the restaurant’s renovation with his father. Rhett should have stayed at work like usual until eight the earliest, but he had taken a few hours off. This meeting had to be held quietly and secretly, especially without the disturbance from the other boys. The two had to practice first, practice to be a couple.
So, they started with the rudiments: getting to know each other. Although their first date had already consisted of questions posed by Kannei, Rhett hadn’t focused on her answers at all. Plainly put, he knew nothing about her and all the boys knew that if Rhett had a girlfriend, he would know everything about her. As a result, Rhett had brought two one-inch-and-a-half binders that contained dividers labeled with the titles: interests and dislikes, dreams, pet peeves or habits, and ideal qualities for the other. In between the dividers were sheets of lined paper and blank paper just in case they wanted to scribble or draw. When he handed those supplies to Kannei, it wasn’t a surprised that she was stunned by his behaviour.
“So, when it comes to work,” she first acknowledged, “you’re very dedicated.”
“Of course. I take pride in my work,” Rhett mumbled and flipped to the first page.
 “So, are you expecting me to record all of your answers and then memorize them?”
Rhett nodded and added, “We have to be able to know everything that will be in here by heart. There’s no room for errors.”
“I spy with my little eye an inner perfectionist,” she quietly snickered before following Rhett’s action.
 “So, let’s start with ideal qualities for the other.”
Kannei listed, “I want someone honest and responsible. He has to be able to carry a conversation with me. He needs to be able to listen to my complaints, but also provide feedback when I ask for input. He should be funny, but shouldn’t make dirty jokes. He should have goals, but he can be dorky. Mhm . . . what else?” She then scratched her temple and muttered, “I can’t think of anything else for now. What about you?”
Rhett, who was hastily jotting down all she had said, replied, “I like tall girls. I’d prefer if the girl can cook. I also think that she has to have a good heart. She can lead me, but she has to know that in front of other people, I’m in charge. She should be calm and elegant, but most importantly, she has to be good at details.”
“I . . . err. . . don’t think we’ll work out fine,” Kannei reminded. “I don’t mean to be rude, but how are you going to explain to your friends why you picked me when I don’t even fulfill half of your ideal requirements?”
He flicked his pen back and forth. “Never mind about them. I’ll deal with them somehow. Let’s move on with pet peeves.”
Her eyes sparkled and even clapped her hands. “That’s easy! I hate people who don’t even try to listen to what I’m saying. I hate it when people lick the corner of pages with their hands and when they bite their finger nails. I despise people who break their promises and when also people ask me to repeat what I’ve said many times. I hate it when they keep nagging at me. Most of all, I hate people who make assumptions.”    
“Anything else?”
“Oh! I hate arrogant people, who don’t deserve to be arrogant. I think you can only be arrogant if you have the skills. Also, I hate it when I’m wrong, so don’t rub things in my face. I’ll definitely snap at you and it won’t be pretty,” she rambled, which amazed Rhett. He couldn’t believe that she could speak her mind so freely and how someone could have such a vast number of pet peeves.
Not wanting to lose to her, he noted, “I don’t like lazy people. I also don’t like aimless people. I hate being called cute. I hate rudeness, and I think that’s about it. So, what are your qualities?”
She laughed without even covering her mouth. “Don’t we find out about qualities after dates or whatever?”
“So, I see you’re impatient.” His pen moved on a page.
She huffed a sigh, “Yes, you find out someone’s personality like that, through showing. Oh, did you know that that’s also a literary technique? Showing?”
“Oh . . . okay.”
He didn’t dare tell her what he jot down, weird. Kannei knew that he was writing an undesirable adjective; his hesitant and dawdling hand movements told her all she needed to know. “Let me guess what you wrote. I’ll guess three times,” she suddenly broached. “Weird, odd and strange. Three wonderful synonyms.”
Rhett almost dropped the pen in his hand. How did she know? How could she know? How could everyone know what he was thinking or feeling?
“So, silence means that I’m right, yes?” she confirmed. His head slowly and reluctantly bobbed due to his embarrassment. Noticing the slight redness on his cheeks, she lightly comforted him. “It’s fine. I get those a lot.” She let out a warm smile. “I’m practically immune to them, aha.”
Rhett could hear the minor splitting in her voice, so he apologized, “I’m sorry.”
“I already said I’m okay!” she proclaimed and walked forth to tap his shoulder. “I’ll tell you when I’m not, all right?”
He could see through her smile, a heartrending one. Without much thought, he grabbed her hand that was still patting his shoulder. Pulling her whole body towards him, he wrapped his arms around her, offering a tender hug. At first, she resisted by attempting to push him away with her arms, but he adamantly held onto her. He closed his eyes, trying to forget what had happened before, yet closing his eyes only made those images clearer.
He had slipped once on the old tatami floor. He had been running then. For what reason, he had forgotten. He just recalled falling hard and then bursting into tears.
“What is this racket?” his father had appeared from his room to shout. “Jung Yunho! What are you doing? Crying?” He felt his father’s hands grasp onto his weak wrists, and within seconds, he was dangling in the air.
“I-I-I’m not . . . crying,” Rhett sniffled.
“Now you are lying?” his father screamed. “What kind of man cries and lies?”
“Now you are arguing with me?”
Slap. One loud slap slammed across his cheek. Pain. Pain seeped from his now burning skin. Shock. Shock halted his tears. His eyes widened to see his enraged father. His mouth gaped to only say, “I-I’m sorry.”
“Sorry,” his low, soft voice mumbled close to her ear, causing her to languish in his affectionate embrace. For a while, she let him be, wondering how he managed to detect her coveted feelings, and why she permitted him to hug her. She always despised intimate gestures or actions, yet she felt at ease in his arms, a sense of security with a pinch of trust.
Trust, she believed, was the first step to a relationship. Perhaps, she thought, this could work. So, she too wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on the edge of his shoulder blade. Feeling weary, her eyes slowly closed. She thought of nothing, but felt harmony.
“It’s okay,” she croaked.
It’s okay. A frequently used phrase, one that had become like magic to make him forget everything. All of the pain, sadness, hardship could be forgotten with that one sentence. Nothing could hurt him because it was okay. Life would unravel itself, and he himself would make everything okay.
“Don’t lie anymore,” he whispered in her ear. “Don’t pretend to be strong anymore. You can cry if you want. You can be angry when you should be. You’re fine just the way you are.”
He felt her arms hug him tighter, and a damp sensation forming on his chest. She too whispered in a scratchy tone, “Y-Y-Yunho, I wouldn’t . . . want you to be someone other than yourself either.”
“What is this poor mark?” his father had thrown his report card onto the table. “A B plus in English? How are you going to go to be successful in the future? We sent you to an international school for a reason!”
“I’m sorry.” He was on his knees begging. “I’m sorry. I was too busy reviewing for—“
“I don’t want to hear it!” his father roared. “In life, there are no excuses! Who cares about the process when it’s the results that matter?”
“I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Is that all you know?” his father grabbed at his collars and threw him against the wall. “When I was your age, I was already an intern at a reputable company. You? You don’t even have any job experience? Why can’t you be more assertive? Why can’t you excel more?”
He didn’t care anymore. He didn’t care, and so he let everything go. He let his tears roll down his cheeks. He sobbed aloud in pain. He didn’t mind if someone else could hear him. At least, there was someone beside him, suffering with him. So, he kept still, wary of each trifling movement she made, from her change in breaths to her occasional shifts in body position. He knew that she needed him to stay, to be there for a moment in time, as a means of healing her frail heart. She knew too that he needed her to stay, to be there for a short while, in hopes of hearing his wounded soul. He now understood that even with her way of words, she was really as delicate as her appearance showed. It was then did he realize that she was not so weird anymore. She was like any lonesome person, who just needed to be embraced with an extra tad of love. She now understood too that even with his uptightness, he was just as gentle as his smile was. It was then did she realize that he was not so cold anymore.
He would, therefore, open his mind and heart to first accept her ways, and then to grow to care for her. He would be a gardener, who always remembered to water his plants, to add fertilizer, to snip unwanted leaves, and to be on the lookout for pests. She would be a rose, who was clad in spikes, but still needed much concern. She, on the other hand, would tolerate his flaws and differences. She would be a tree, who always provided shade, shelter, and care for him. He would be a treasure hunter, always searching for the right one, but still needed time to rest.
Whatever role they had chosen to act for each other, they would make sure that everything would actually be fine. It was okay for the two of them to be themselves and just themselves when together.