Chapter 30: The Mom Helps the Leader and the Leader Becomes Jealous
Kannei thought she would be late meeting him at the subway entrance of Shibuya. She thought he would probably scowl at her with his folded arms, and then forgive her after she gave her reason for being late. However, she had arrived fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled. She also happened to be the one folding her arms, complaining acrimoniously to herself about his tardiness. He was already thirty minutes late, and by that time, she decided to phone him and she did, but to no avail. So, she phoned again, and again, and again. He, on the other hand, did not answer over, and over, and over again. There was only one word to describe Kannei’s mood at the time: angry.
How could Yunho be so irresponsible? How could he ditch her here without even giving her a call to cancel? How could he make her a fool? How could he . . .
She held onto herself with more vigor. Standing there alone, she suddenly felt lonely, especially when there were so many couples walking past her. At least, it wasn’t raining. It didn’t have to be that pitiful or dramatic. The only thought that kept her waiting was that she needed to yell at him when he finally arrived. She was sure that he would come at some point. He was responsible, wasn’t he?
He better come, she threatened in her mind. Then, she gently reminded herself that when she had a real boyfriend, he would never treat her this way. He would call her a day before if anything happened and he would beg for forgiveness. He wouldn’t just leave her here to hog a spot on the sidewalk. Jerk Yunho. Stupid Yunho. Ugly Yunho. Prick Yunho. Bird Poo Yunho. Female Dog Yunho. Liar Yunho.
She didn’t care if people thought she were insane since she was giggling to herself about all the swear words or the words associated with negative connation that she would use before Yunho’s name. She also didn’t notice a man sprinting towards her. She was so distracted by her thoughts that she wailed when she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder, “Ahh!”
“I-I-I’m . . .”
He was having trouble catching his breath. Exercise was never his forte. Kannei stooped down to identify the panting man. She was utterly stupefied to find him here.
“Jaejoong?” she confirmed.
“Yeah, that’s my name.” He now squinted at her.
 “Why are you here?”
After Jaejoong caught his breath, he explained, “Rhett just called me to come. He said that he’s sorry that he couldn’t make it because he suddenly got caught up with work.”
 “Oh, is that so?”
Detecting Kannei’s anger, Jaejoong clarified, “Rhett does feel very sorry that he couldn’t come. He really begged me to come. Just make sure you explain to him later why you’re angry. If you’re not clear with him, he’ll never know.”
She pouted and scoffed, “Now, why would I get mad at a stupid guy?”
They both knew that those words already carried a sense of umbrage. Despite being an advocate of truth, Jaejoong settled on being oblivious to her emotions. He placed his arm over hers and cheered, “Let’s mingle with some ramen now! Let’s be ramen fans! I’ll be the fan boy and you be the fan girl, okay?”
Almost collapsing onto the ground from laughter, she managed to utter, “All right.”
Because there was practically no one at the museum, they were able to have their ways: taking odd pictures, ordering and tasting all sorts of ramen, and buying souvenirs at the gift shop. The day was loaded with hilarity and amusement. Jaejoong was the perfect substitute, she thought. She almost forgot about Yunho’s blunder, but once they exited the museum and she glimpsed at the sidewalk ahead, she remembered everything. She recalled her waiting. How deplorable. How pathetic.    
Noticing her abrupt silence, Jaejoong suggested, “Hey, what say you to some ramen making?”
 “Oh, I see you’ve read some Shakespeare.”
“In high school, but other than that, I rip lines from Changmin,” Jaejoong confessed. “Actually, all of us do.”
“Since you’re so honest and so nice,” she elucidated. “I accept your offer.” Then, she held out her hand. “What say you to an honourable handshake? A handshake of our agreement,” she gaily mimicked him.
At first, he extended his hand, but the scheming side of him prompted him to pinch her cheeks instead. While he stretched her cheeks as far as he could, Kannei was struggling to ward off his relentless hands. “I think pinching your cheeks is more amusing,” he enlightened. “I think it’s like mochi. Wouldn’t that be a good nickname for you?”
She had the urge to kick him, but she didn’t want to create chaos on the streets. He had been a good replacement, probably much better than Yunho would have been. This action of his, however, irritated her. Who knew how filthy his hands were? Bacteria were hard to identify without an electron microscope. Surely, she was going to grow pimples because of this and that was going to be his fault. Trying to diminish her irritation, she inhaled just two breaths and then attempted to tickle him.
“Attack!” she hoarsely yelled. “Prepare to suffer!”
Caught by surprise, Jaejoong could no longer continue with his squeezing of her cheeks and thus, succumbed to her assaults with laughter. He was awkwardly shifting his body to avoid her while demanding, “S-stop. S-s-stop, Ahaha!”
She chuckled at the sight of his frightened eyes. He too laughed, but out of misery. He could never conquer his fear of being tickled, and this time, he didn’t mind losing to this fear. He couldn’t help thinking how nice it was to laugh again.
If she were by my side, then . . .
His laughter had jolted, and Kannei too had stopped tickling him. “Jaejoong, what’s wrong?”
How could he tell her what was wrong? That thought of his . . .
Jutting his tongue out, he snickered, “Ha! My chance for revenge!” He lifted her petite body over his shoulders and chirped, “Now, you can’t do anything.”
While he stormed in the direction of the subway station, Kannei pounded her fists on his back and wiggled her feet back and forth.
“Argh! You asshole!”
He could feel her chest pressing against his shoulders. His arm had tightened around her waist, securing her to his body. He couldn’t allow her to move anymore; he might have turned into a wolf and devoured this lamb.
“Kannei, stop it,” he warned.
“Only if you let me go.”
He almost dropped her when he heard that phrase. Why did she have to say that? Why? Although he had stopped walking, he had now constricted her body further until she winced.
He gently made sure her feet had landed properly on the ground. He even straightened her ruffled jacket. “Jaejoong . . . I’m sorry too for teasing you so much,” she murmured.
Seeing her sympathetic look, he flashed a warm grin and then leaned forward to tug at her cheek. “I forgive you.”
“Then, you’ll still t-t-teach me how to make ramen?”
He pinched her other cheek, thinking about how stretchy it was. “Of course, mochi, as long as you behave.”
The two of them had forgotten that they were in public and any seemingly intimate gesture could have been interpreted as a couple’s amorous act. To Yumi, who happened to be walking on the street opposite to them, this was certainly a couple’s playful banter.
So he found a new girlfriend. So much for the breakup. So this was how he behaved with his girlfriend. So this was normal to him to fool around with girls.
The two had no idea though that someone else had been watching. For Kannei, this could probably be one of the happiest days of her life because she had finally fulfilled something on her list of what she deemed as, things to do before she passed away. What was it then that she had ticked off of her list? She was learning how to make ramen with the help of Jaejoong. She, being studious, took out a small notebook from her bag and jotted down notes as he instructed. Jaejoong was usually patient, unless she made a grave error. Once that happened, he would snap, maybe scream a bit, but he always apologized right away. She didn’t mind his sudden yaps; she knew she wasn’t the meticulous sort. She was clumsy at the simplest aspects of life and Jaejoong too noticed. He didn’t mind her either; he found it funny after he had lectured her.
As they waited for the salted cabbage to sit for four hours, Kannei on a spur of the moment requested, “Can I ask you a question, Jaejoong?”
He was watching over the soup, making sure that it didn’t boil too rapidly. “Yeah? What’s up?”
“This may seem weird, but what do you think is the best way to get revenge on Yunho?”
He didn’t know why he felt irked to hear her say Rhett’s name, especially his Korean name, but he still confirmed, “Revenge . . . for not—“
“Keeping his promise.”
“I suppose you could do this,” his tone altered to a wily one.
He beckoned her to come closer to him and she obeyed him. He then sneakily whispered in her ear of his plan. He was sure this would help her win over Rhett. It was too obvious that she only had eyes for him.  
 “Are you serious? He’ll butcher me!”
“Nah,” Jaejoong disclosed, “he’ll probably get mad first and then just prank you back later.”
“B-but, he’s the one that started this! He can’t retaliate! That’s unfair!” she blazingly vented. Jaejoong snickered and whispered again in her ear, which resulted in her stuttering, “N-N-No, I can’t. I can’t.”
 “It’s the only way to stop him from attacking back. I assure you that.”
Before she could respond, Rhett had unexpectedly walked into the kitchen with a shout, “Yeah Jaejoong . . . Kannei?” From what Rhett could decipher, Jaejoong was snuggling too close to Kannei and Kannei was flustering. What was going on, he asked in his mind. How did they become so close all of a sudden?
He was quite positive that the two had only seen each other twice or maybe even three times at most, so how could they be acting this way? Why was he even feeling this way? Shouldn’t he be happy that Kannei was becoming closer to Jaejoong? Wouldn’t that have solved all of his problems?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Rhett’s startled look now evolved to a galled one. Jaejoong just smirked and lugged her arm, pulling her even closer to him. Then, he whispered in her ear, “Just follow my plans.”
He then handed her a permanent marker that was lying on the counter. Kannei turned her head to face him, to show her confusion, but that only resulted in her being a few centimeters away from Jaejoong’s lips. This movement stirred more ferocity in Rhett. Now they were about to kiss? He shook his head in disbelief because he could not understand how young people these days could behave in this manner. He forgot though, that he was not so old as well. Unable to cope with the interaction between the two, he stormed up the stairs and entered his room with a loud slam.
“Is he mad at me?” she pondered.
Jaejoong just nodded.
“What? Why is he the one that’s mad at me? I’m the one that has the right to be mad at him! That asshole!”
Jaejoong pursed his lips to ease his grins. “Well, why don’t you go up and show him your anger? I mean, he has to understand that he was wrong.”
“I know right?” She bobbed her head in agreement and huffed, “Sigh, such a loser. Excuse me then Jaejoong. I must go educate a jerk-face.”
Jaejoong watched her practically leap from her seat to saunter up the stairs. As he looked down at the soup, he smiled at himself. He was doing the right thing. He was being a good friend. At least . . . he wasn’t letting someone else down.
Kannei knocked on the door twice and then opened the door. “I’m coming in regardless of your silence.”
The room was spacious and minimally decorated. There was only a glass desk for work and to her right there was a modern queen-sized bed. She then noticed that the bed sheets were light green, quite feminine in her opinion. There was also Rhett under a large blanket, seemingly hiding.
“Yeah, Yunho,” She stated while lifting the blanket away from his head. “I still haven’t gotten the chance to yell at you for ditching me, so I’m going to warn you, since I’m so nice, that it’s going to get ugly. Okay, so how could you just leave me there without even calling me? Are you stupid or are you just thoughtless? You know, I’d rather that you’re stupid because at least that means that you have some compassion. If you’re thoughtless, then . . . I don’t know what to do with you!”
She had even ripped the blanket from his whole body, leaving him vulnerable. Rhett didn’t say anything, remaining as still as Sleeping Beauty, a male version that was. His stillness bothered and further enraged Kannei.
She continued to shout, “Why aren’t you saying anything? If you’re mad at me so you’re not replying, then that’s just pathetic! You don’t have any right to be mad at me! And if you’re wondering if I’m mad at you, no I am not mad at you. I’m just frustrated at your pathetic . . . wait let me think of the right word. Argh, I can’t! It’s all your fault!”
Rhett couldn’t take anymore of her shrilling, so he finally uttered, “I didn’t mean to leave you there. I had a busy day at work and I forgot about this. And how is this all my fault?”
“Because you make me so frustrated! And gosh, I hate it when I can’t find the right word!” she sputtered. “Plus, you still could have called and just a few minutes ago, you were ignoring me! Good people don’t ignore other people!”
“Then, what am I supposed to do?” He now sat upright. “Yell back at you?”
She huffed while taking a seat on the edge of the bed, “You could have said something without yelling. Oh, and guess what?”
“You owe me seven slaps and a kick in the region where it really, really hurts for a guy,” she steadily claimed.
“W-what? Why?”
She used that all too familiar glare on him. “Because you just left me there and refused to answer my phone and also did not even call me beforehand or even returned my call! And damn you for making me create a sentence fragment!”
Rhett felt that guilty gulp pummel down his throat. He, indeed, was irresponsible that time, and so he pensively pondered, “Is there some way that I can reduce the number of slaps?”
She put her finger close to her chin to think before finally deciding, “Why don’t you take me shopping? I’ll cut down one slap from my list.”
“Fine. Any other methods?”
She plastered a foolish grin, which Rhett knew meant nothing good would happen.
“I could . . . remove three slaps if you let me . . .”
“Can I write something on your arm with a permanent marker? You can’t ask what I’m going to write!” she asked, knowing that perhaps the faster she posed this question, the more likely he would agree due to a lack of coherence.
 “F-fine, but reduce four slaps then.”
Immediately, she clapped her hands in joy and took out a permanent marker from her pocket. Uncapping the pen, she proudly smiled, knowing that their plan was working well. Very well. Rhett, on the other hand, felt uneasy while rolling his left sleeve up, bearing his defenseless skin. Within a minute, she had already inscribed in capitalized letters: LOSER. He was petrified by the monstrosity of her work. It was dark, blotchy and too noticeable. It wasn’t going to wash off in a day. He had to wear this sign for at least several days. He wanted to explode in fury, but before he could, Kannei decided to listen to Jaejoong’s suggestion and did what she had initially refused to do.
She gave Yunho a peck on his cheek and then muttered in a mortified tone, “Don’t butcher me, please.”
Miraculously, his rage had faded away, especially when he saw her frightened visage. It was then he realized that he could never hurt her or even strike back. It was then he realized that his heart would soften for her and that he wanted more than a peck. He lulled her body towards him and softly placed his hand on her cheek, inching his lips closer and closer to hers.
“Hey guys!” Jaejoong barged in without even knocking. “I just wanted to tell you that I made some spicy cucumbers!”
Kannei backed from Rhett, pretending as if nothing peculiar had occurred. She hurried out the room, saying, “Sweet Jaejoong! I’ll meet you guys down there then!”
Rhett, feeling irritated again, glowered at Jaejoong, who had a bold grin.
“Man,” Jaejoong saw the writing on his arm and then concluded, “I think you’re really falling for her.”