Chapter 22: The Leader Experiences the Oddest Date
Rhett didn’t remember what exactly happened after their embrace, but somehow, they had agreed to learn more about each other by actually going on a few dates. Rhett did remember suggesting that they experience each other’s idea of the perfect date, yet he hadn’t expected himself to be at home, reading manga and manhwa with Kannei. She had brought her vast collection of manga, which was stored in a black, over-sized luggage, over to Rhett’s place.

“So, what would you like to tackle?” Kannei’s arms were placed on her waist. Rhett, at that time, felt electrocuted; it was almost as bad as someone claiming to be his son, not that that ever happened. “Why don’t we start with romance then? I have this manhwa that I want you to translate. I think your mom mentioned that you were fluent in Korean?” Kannei proposed after seeing an expressionless Rhett.
Manhwa . . . so much manhwa. How long has she been reading these? Some have even faded yellow . . . Hold on . . . translate. Did she say translate and Korean?
“W-w-wait a minute!” Rhett lifted his hand in desperation. “What’s going on?”
She now folded her arms, explaining, “Well, you’re the one that said we should experience our ideal dates with each other.”
“But, but, but . . .”
He had no idea how to craft his argument. This was not what he would ever imagine a date to be. This never even happened in romantic comedies. Where was the romance? Where was his candlelight dinner? Most importantly, where was that sweet girl with whom he should have fallen head over heels? Instead, he had to be shocked to the point where his intelligence drastically decreased, where he felt as if the floor had grumbled beneath him. Yes, he wanted to scream now, using all the “Ahs” he could.
“But what?” Kannei harked. Rhett could tell that she felt like throwing one of her books at him, yet probably thought they were too precious to be tossed around. Her tightened fists told him that, along with her bickering. “You’re not even a man of your words? And to think I thought you at least had . . . Please excuse my foul language, but I thought you had the testicles to try something new. But no, you’re just like all those donkeys, stubborn like hell!”
Rhett did not enjoy or tolerate anyone questioning his manhood. He was definitely a man of his words; his father had taught him much about responsibility, particularly in the area of keeping promises.
“Son,” his father said while handing him a large dictionary, “I want you to learn this word.”
He was rather young, almost three. He remembered playing with his toy dinosaurs when his father had took those away, saying that those were not “educational”. Instead, he held onto this gigantic book and looked at his father quizzically.
“This word,” his father continued to state, “is called responsibility. It’s spelled R . . . E . . .”
Kannei stared at him intently, waiting for his response. Rhett, though, was reminded of that disappointed look his father always wore whenever Rhett made a mistake.
            “Where were you off to?” His father sat in the leather couch with his arms and legs severely crossed. “Why are you in casual clothes? Weren’t you at the school library?”
            That was the one time Rhett had forgotten to switch back to his school uniform. In middle school, he had become fond of break dancing, and secretly practiced with a group of friends. He would pretend to be studying or peer-tutoring after school whenever he had a rehearsal or a competition. Even the boys would cover for Rhett.
            That was also the first time Rhett had witnessed his father’s look. That look of disdain infused with anger was what caused him to blurt, “I lied. I’m sorry. I was practicing with my—“
            Slap. Kick. Punch. Throw. Beat. Any words related to violence could have been used to describe what had happened. He should have expected that this was his punishment. He deserved it either way. Lying. Throwing away his promises to excel for his studies. Choosing to play.
            He lay in bed for days; his parents told the school he had laryngitis. Even his sister was scared to visit him for their father had ordered him to be confined in his room until he had reflected on his faults. Indeed, he had thought a lot, about his life, family, and future. It was then that he knew that he could never follow his dreams like Jaejoong or Yoochun. He had to be responsible. He had to follow whatever his father had in mind for him. There was never going to be a choice. He had been born, and so he was meant to be committed.
“Okay,” Rhett mumbled. “Pass me that manhwa.”
“You sure?” She now hesitated. “You don’t seem very . . . willing, and I seriously don’t want to be dealing with an annoyed face.”
He articulated fairly clearly and gave his widest, yet most insincere grin, “Sure, I’ll do my job. I always get work done.” Unexpectedly, she was walking to the front door, dragging her luggage, and even bending down to slip into her flats. “Wh-what are you doing? Where are you going?” he stammered.
“Home. Where else?” She turned to reply. “If you’re not willing to help, then don’t give people false hope by saying you’re willing to try anything.”
False hope? Was that what he had been doing all this time? He furrowed his eyebrows, not knowing how to respond. As he watched her reach for the door, he barked, “Wait!”
“What? What’s the problem now?”
“I . . . I want to do it,” he announced.
“It?”
She eyed him rather precariously, making him blush as soon as he realized what she thought he had meant. “No, no,” he rambled, “I meant, I want to translate the manhwa for you.”
“Why?” she retorted. “Why . . . the sudden change?”
Why? He wasn’t really sure why. Was this out of fairness or liability? Was this out of guilt? He didn’t know anymore, and he didn’t feel like finding out. So, he answered, “Why not?”
She kicked off her shoes, dropped her luggage, which inevitably created a loud slam, and applauded, “Sweet!” Then, she unzipped her bag to fetch a set with eight volumes of manhwa in total. “Here you go!” She gave him the first volume. “There aren’t any translators yet for any of the languages that I know, so go ahead and translate them for me! I’ve been dying to read them!”
Seeing her anticipation, Rhett adjusted his tone and his frown, “Okay. I’ll translate page by page.” He then sat on his favourite couch in the living room and turned to the first page.
She skipped towards him and landed to his right, taking full advantage of reading from right to left. “You’re awesome and I’m sorry for doubting you!” she smiled and pressed the book downwards. “There, now we can both see!”
Rhett couldn’t help imitating her smile. He never knew manhwa could bring such joy to people . . . or maybe it was only to her and some adolescent girls. He never knew, too, that helping someone else out could be so satisfying. “Okay, so the girl called Hyeri is a new student and she . . .” Rhett had already begun to translate.
By the time, he was at mid-way through the seventh volume, he felt like exploding in frustration. It was not because of his dry throat after all his speaking. It was also not because of the constant questions that Kannei posed, which basically all carried the message: “So, what happened next?”
It was because the protagonist of the manhwa, Hyeri, had decided to be with the boy, who treated her with the most disrespect and frequently made her cry. Rhett was clearly the supporter of the childhood friend, Minwoo, who was always by Hyeri’s side and comforted her whenever the jerk hurt her. Rhett refused to refer to the jerk by a name, so during his translation, he always emphasized on the word, jerk.
“I can’t stand this anymore!” He hurled the manhwa to the ground. “Why would she choose the jerk? What’s up with girls having fetishes for jerks?”
She managed to catch it before it completely fell to the ground. “Hey!” She glared at him. “Don’t you dare hurt my manhwa! And to answer your question, I think it’s because the jerk was her ideal guy. I mean, who knew her ideal guy turned out to be a jerk?”
“So? Minwoo was the one that was there for her!” Rhett furiously disputed as he stood up in anger.
Kannei lightly pushed him back onto the couch. “Calm down.” She started to chuckle. “It’s just a piece of work. Anyways, I think I can understand why she picked the jerk. She had liked him for such a long time that she had only focused on her vision of him being the ideal guy. I mean, I agree that she and Minwoo are practically meant for each other, but . . .”
Rhett’s face was fixated on sternness. “But?”
Kannei knew that no matter what type of explanation she had, Rhett was probably going to reject it. His piercing eyes made her think that way, and so, she carefully and slowly enlightened. “The guy of her dreams finally accepted her. She wanted to seize . . . that dream guy. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
Simultaneously pouting his lips and swaying his head side to side, Rhett grumbled, “Hell no. She’s still stupid to me.” He rose from his seat and proceeded to leave the living room.
Before he could go any further, Kannei yapped, “Hey! Where are you going? You’re not done translating and how can you just leave a girl here? Haven’t you learned anything from reading this manhwa?”
Rhett turned on his heel and ruthlessly criticized, “Well, Minwoo did wait for her, but guess what she did? She still went for the jerk and d-don’t tell me you’d choose the jerk too.” He was expecting her to agree; he always felt girls were attracted to bad boys. 
“No, silly. I’d choose the guy that waited, the one that’s there for me,” she corrected. “I doubt that I’d ever have this dilemma though.”
He could sense the disappointment in her tone. He had forgotten how simple it was to inflict sadness onto someone. He went back to the living room and before sitting down again, he gently patted the top of her head.
“Hey, hey, don’t be discouraged now. You’ll get your chance one day.” Rhett’s voice reverted to his normal quality, gentle with a touch of hoarseness. “Come on, let’s forget about this stupid manhwa. Say, aren’t you hungry?”
She abruptly sat up with her eyes widening to the size of golf balls. “To tell you the truth, I was hungry ever since the clock hit four thirty. I usually have dinner around that time!”
“You eat too early. In fact, I don’t even think restaurants are open that early for dinner.”
Slightly irritated with his remark, she bolted, “I have my ways!”
“At least now’s the right time for dinner.” He checked his watch. “You should treat me to some ramen.”
He felt he deserved the reward. After all, he had been acting as a translator all this time . . . free of charge. He rarely performed favours without some type of reward in sight unless his actions were for charitable causes. Emotional dependency was not what he was after for friendships. 
“Why should I treat you? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” She folded her arms in displeasure.
“I did waste many hours translating this for you,” he argued what he felt he deserved. Rewards were supposed to follow after hours of hard work.
She, on the other hand, did not believe in handing him his prize. After all, he had refused to translate what she wanted the most, the ending. “Yet you refuse to translate the ending. Some type of translator I have.”
Feeling irresponsible for his actions, he resentfully gave in. “Fine! I’ll finish the job. First, ramen.”
Rhett checked his pockets for his essentials: wallet, car keys, and cell phone. Knowing that they were all there, he already got up and swiftly strolled to the front entrance, leaving Kannei rather stunned.
“So, I’m actually paying?” she finally asked when his head shifted to verify her whereabouts. Rhett noticed that vexation planted on her face. Her hands were also pressed on her cheeks, flawlessly expressing her awe.   
He scoffed once before caving in, “All right, all right. Stop guilt-tripping me! I’ll pay for all the meals we have together okay?”
“Yay!” She readily expressed her uplifted spirits as she hopped off of the couch and trailed behind him. “Now I can enjoy my food without feeling really, really awful.”
“And people say that I’m cheap,” he inaudibly moped and opened the door for her.
“Pardon me?” She prodded his arm with her index finger.
He looked downwards at her, uttering, “Nothing.”
As he walked towards the garage and she followed, she suddenly stopped to shout, “Liar, liar pants on fire!”
He tagged along with her halt and taunted, “And do you know what follows afterwards?”
“Nope.”
 “Man, you suck at these. It’s ‘Liar liar pants on fire. Hanging on a telephone wire!’” For some reason, he took pride in correcting her errors. It was rather amusing seeing her struggle to win his arguments.
“Well,” she stridently appealed while continuing to follow his steps, “do you know the origin of this saying?”
“No, who would know that?” He snickered and then pressed the button on his keys to open the garage door.
“Me!” She raised her hand. “Me!”
Unlocking his car with the same remote, he remarked, “I don’t get how your parents stand you.”
“They don’t. That’s why I’m here in Tokyo!” She raced to the passenger’s seat. “Just kidding! I don’t show that side of me to my parents. They already think I’m semi-crazy.”
“Stop saying that you’re crazy. You’re not crazy,” he properly reminded. “You’re just different in a refreshing way.” He started the engine and exited the garage.
After putting her seatbelt on, she replied, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“It was.”
“Then, thank you, Yunho. You’re nicer than I thought you’d be. Did anyone tell you that you look quite intimidating if you’re not smiling?”
“No?”
“Well, I just did,” she added. “Don’t take it the wrong way. It’s not a bad thing!”
Following a right turn, he rebutted, “Did anyone tell you that you switch topics really quickly and that you talk a lot?”
“No, but I know that I do those things.”
“I’m glad you admit to your habits.”
 “But I won’t change.”
“A hardcore addict, I see.”
“People get used to my way of talking, and if they don’t, it’s their loss. Also, I don’t change for other people. They change for me.”
“No wonder you said you’d never face that dilemma, having to choose between two guys. Finding one is already hard enough!” he joked too heedlessly.
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re an asshole?” She glared at him. As soon as he shook his head, she supplemented another phrase. “Good, because I just did.”
After changing lanes, he grumbled, “I’m sorry all right? I shouldn’t have said that joke.”
“It doesn’t even count as a joke if it’s not funny,” she disputed with much irritation.        
Rhett sighed before adjusting his statement. “Fine, I shouldn’t have even said that comment.”
“It’s too late you already said it.” She puffed her cheeks once.
For some reason, Rhett didn’t want her sulking. Perhaps, he was too kind and also too responsible. He thus offered, “How about I translate another series? Would that be better? I’ll also finish up volume eight after dinner.”
“Really?” She almost jumped from her seat. Her eyes widened and gazed into his, looking for a concrete answer. As soon as he nodded, she raised both of her fists in sheer joy. “Awesome!”
Although it seemed as if she had forgotten their original argument, Rhett still decided to say, “Yeah Kannei.”
“Mhm?” She was peering into the landscape from the car window.
There was a moment of stillness prior to his remark. “I’ll try to think before I act.”
Again, the silence persisted, making him unsure of what he had said. Did he make her recall why she was frustrated in the first place? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her still staring at the outside world. He was tempted to ask what was so interesting out there, but he stayed hushed. After he had finished parking the car and was about to unbuckle his seat belt, she tugged at his sleeve and proclaimed, “Don’t do that. You don’t have to . . . change for me. If you do . . .”
“Yeah?”
She glanced at him, and then concluded, “Nothing.” She then unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the car door. Rhett, on the other hand, was still puzzled by her statement. Seeing his stillness, she quickly reminded, “Aren’t you coming out?”  
Even though he listened to her and got out of the car, he still remembered a particular phrase that she had used on him: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”   
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