Chapter 48: The Hidden Devil Notifies the Innocent Boy and the Leader Battles Forward
There was typically no one who visited Junsu during work unless he or she was hoping for a free meal. Thus, when Changmin arrived at the restaurant, Junsu first greeted, “No free lunches, okay? We’re going to go bankrupt if I keep giving you food at no cost. The last time I did that for you, my dad went crazy, saying how there’s a recession so we shouldn’t—“

“I’m not here to steal your food,” Changmin scoffed. “I’m not a free loader. I’m here to talk to you and to have a lunch, for which I will pay.”
Changmin walked to a free table that could have seated four people instead of one. He didn’t want others to believe that Junsu and he were having an intimate date. He was positive that the two of them needed room. What he was about to reveal would not please Junsu. In fact, his words would probably enrage Junsu.  
“So lunch first or the talk first?” Junsu asked while handing Changmin a menu.
“Lunch, of course,” Changmin replied.
He’d rather enjoy his meal first before facing a potential volcanic eruption. Junsu chuckled, knowing that his guess was right. Changmin always picked food over most matters. Only after Changmin had finished his meal did Junsu sit across from Changmin.
“What do you want to talk about then?” Junsu first asked.
“I have to warn you that what I’m about to tell you may cause you to experience a variety of emotions,” Changmin instructed before stating the issue. “Now, I don’t know exactly what emotions you’ll be feeling, but I can guarantee you that happiness isn’t one of them.”
Junsu wasn’t sure how he should be feeling. In a way, Changmin’s warning was humorous, and in another way, it was menacing. Changmin was rarely solemn.
“Okay,” Junsu mumbled.
“Now that I’ve cautioned you,” Changmin continued. “Here’s the thing. Your girlfriend is crazy.” Knowing that Junsu would instantly refute Changmin’s claim, Changmin added, “She’s crazy because she’s obsessed with me. She’ll do anything to get me.”
Junsu scowled in disbelief and even shook his head, thinking that Changmin was being immature again. In fact, Changmin had always been judgmental, maybe even too opinionated. Junsu still remembered that time when the two of them, along with Rhett, were volunteering at the food bank. Rhett, like Changmin, wanted to volunteer to have a better resume for entrance at universities, but unlike Changmin, Rhett had actually cared about doing a proper job. Rhett didn’t slack off or complain, whereas Changmin tried his most to get away with the work.
“Changmin . . . I think you should stop making that face,” Junsu whispered before plopping a spoonful of rice onto an old lady’s tray.
Changmin grumbled, “What face?”
“The sort of face you get whenever Rhett forgets to finish his can of pop and leaves it in your locker overnight,” Junsu explained.
“It’s just . . .”
Changmin’s eyes never left the plates of food. It was as if he was afraid to look straight ahead at the people he served. Junsu hadn’t spoken of this incident or asked Changmin for an answer. It wasn’t until a homeless person had crashed into Changmin when all of the boys were out that Changmin had realized what had happened.
“Fuck, I have to wash my clothes now,” Changmin murmured under the winter breath.
“What do you mean?” Junsu asked.
“That hobo touched me,” he said with his eyebrows furrowed and his stare almost “That’s gross. Who knows what they’ve done?”
“But they might not have even wanted to be living on the streets in the first place,” Junsu argued.
“Right,” Changmin scoffed. “They were just caught up with drugs or just too fucking lazy to work.”
“I know you don’t believe me, but she has been forcing me to be her lover. She said that if I’m not with her, she’d dump you,” Changmin further explained. “Now she has pictures of me and they’re going to spread around the school if I don’t date her. Do something about her, Junsu, please!”
It was unlike Changmin to use the word, please. It was more like him to use threats or demands. That one word made Junsu question Naomi’s fidelity, but Changmin was known to be sly.  Changmin could say anything to fulfill his own intentions; He believed in the survival of the fittest. The most important part that Changmin lacked was proof. He could only offer words, instead of evidence. Changmin, Junsu concluded, was being foolish again.
“You’re being immature,” Junsu sputtered. “I-I-I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were one of my best buds.”
“Wes, I’m not joking here. Why would I be joking about this? Why would I waste my time to talk to you about this? I have better things to do in life.”
“If you do this again Changmin, I don’t think I can live in the same household as you,” Junsu coldly announced. “I’m giving you another chance, man.”
Changmin couldn’t believe how stubborn Junsu was. Changmin always thought that Junsu would trust what his closest friends said. Their years of friendship seemed nothing in comparison to Junsu’s love for Naomi. How long had Junsu known Naomi? Not even a year. Still, love prevailed. Fuck this, Changmin muttered in his head. He wasn’t going to settle without a result. He was going to provide inevitable proof to belie Junsu’s belief.
“Then, I’m giving you another chance to believe me,” Changmin affirmed. “If you need proof, then meet me at the Grand Hotel on Saturday at 8 pm. You just need to sit your ass at the lobby and watch carefully.”
After his suggestion, Changmin paid his bill and exited the restaurant, leaving Junsu to reflect. What should he do? Was there a point in listening to Changmin? Junsu wasn’t sure. He didn’t know. He didn’t know who to trust anymore.
Because he had missed dinner with Hana, Rhett had received verbal threats from Uncle Henry. Uncle Henry didn’t like to be clear with his words, and instead, preferred to squeeze in condescending remarks every now and then. Of course, he also liked to torment others for their betrayal. For Rhett, these were in the form of unattainable goals. Already faced with enough pressure, Rhett felt his stomach ache as he was forced to report to Uncle Henry much earlier than was scheduled.
“Ah, Rhett, on time, this time, aren’t you?” His uncle brutally patted Rhett’s back a few times, making him feel nauseous. “You see, I was worried that you’d delay or even . . . forget about this meeting,” His uncle said while squeezing onto Rhett’s shoulder this time.
“I wouldn’t forget about anything,” Rhett muttered.
“So, you didn’t go on purpose?”
Uncle Henry now strolled to the windows of his office. Although his back was towards Rhett, Rhett could still see his blurred, stern face from the reflection of the glass.
“My friend needed my help,” Rhett confessed.
“You do understand that every decision comes with a price?” Uncle Henry turned to face Rhett, who could only nod. “Then, you leave me no choice but to transfer you to Osaka.”
Osaka? Transfer? That couldn’t have been possible for Rhett. Out of all of the possibilities he had considered, transferring to another city in another province wasn’t what he had anticipated. His uncle was surely trying to isolate him from the company. Not wanting to give up without a fight, Rhett wondered, “Are there not any other options?”
His uncle cackled too happily, noting, “Of course there are other options, Yunho. You could let Richard take over your project, or you could go to another country, or you could . . . even resign.”
            Rhett felt too much weight resting on his already tense shoulders. He couldn’t possibly follow any of the options that his uncle had suggested. Those routes were meant to push him towards death. He would have died before surrendering. Knowing that there wasn’t much to do, Rhett uttered, “What about . . . taking up your original offer?”
            “You mean, the one that you already rejected?” His uncle snubbed.
            Rhett cleared his throat before confessing, “I-I wasn’t thinking . . . clearly then.”
            “So . . .” his uncle intentionally turned to say, “so how can I be sure that your mind is clear now?”
            Rhett lifted his head up to look directly at his uncle. “What . . . do you want me to do then?” he wondered.
            “I want you to . . . get on your knees and beg . . . for this opportunity,” His uncle clarified with a devious smile.
            Clenching his fists and biting on his lower lip, Rhett slowly, but surely, bent his knees. No matter how pitiful he seemed, he knew that there was no other way around this obstacle. If he didn’t obey his uncle, he would be fired. After being fired, he would have too much difficulty in finding another job. Uncle Henry would make sure that no other large companies would hire him. So, with his eyes closed, Rhett plummeted onto his knees.
            “No, I want your forehead to touch the floor,” his uncle demanded.
            Rhett felt his throat constrict, and his muscles ache. His heart told him that he couldn’t do this. He wouldn’t be able to stand this. He didn’t have to endure this. His mind, though, forced him to go lower, and lower. He had to listen to his uncle to keep his status, and to keep his father pleased. He couldn’t disappoint his father. He couldn’t. Cold. He felt the cold, marble floor touch his forehead. There, he had done it.
As he was about to lift his head up, his uncle ordered, “You didn’t say what you were going to say.”
            Keeping his head low, Rhett stammered, “I-I-I . . . I-I-I’m sorry. Please give me this chance to redeem myself. I would really appreciate your help.”
            His uncle brutally grabbed him by the chin, compelling him to make eye contact with his uncle. “Well, if you put it that way, then,” his uncle cackled, “I guess I have to help you.” Then, Uncle Henry strolled towards the door. He kept laughing and laughing, but before he left, he barked, “I’ve already scheduled dinner. It’ll be on Friday at seven at the Hyatt Hotel.”
Rhett kept still. He didn’t dare move nor did he want to do much. It wasn’t until he heard the door close did he stand up. No matter how sore his throat was, he swallowed down the pain. This was nothing, he kept chanting to himself. He had endured more aches than this. Bowing was nothing compared to studying for his past exams, devising new plans, meeting expectations . . . but why did he feel like he couldn’t even stand anymore? He couldn’t even be sure of himself anymore. He wasn’t himself. He was back to that time where he was all alone, just him battling against the world.
He had been the new student at elementary school, and was now known as the Genius. He hadn’t talked to anyone in particular ever since the teacher had introduced him to his classmates, and that time when Jaejoong, that annoying kid, had made fun of his name. All he cared about was his studies and his extra-curricular activities until the day of his elementary school graduation.
 While he was taking photos with his family, Junsu had accidentally knocked over the photographer, who was holding onto Rhett’s prized camera. Junsu, Jaejoong, Changmin, and Yoochun had already scheduled a water fight to celebrate the end of the school year. Junsu, though, had been too endorsed in the game that he didn’t even see where he was going. In the end, Rhett’s camera was shattered and broken.
“I’m so sorry!” Junsu kept apologizing. “I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry.”
Rhett, although fuming in anger, didn’t say a word. He just bent down to pick up the pieces and threw them away in the trash. He hadn’t wanted to make a scene. This was the mature, and the right thing to do. He wasn’t supposed to be angry.
Junsu, thinking that everything was fine, continued to play. Rhett just scoffed at the group’s foolishness, and throughout the ceremony, he remained composed. It wasn’t until he was asked to buy a few groceries by his mother did he curse, and rant during his way out. Unfortunately, he had encountered Jaejoong and Yoochun, who were headed for the arcade.
Although the situation was more than awkward, Rhett still pretended that nothing had happened. Jaejoong, on the other hand, had shouted, “You’re so fake! If you were mad at us, then be mad in front of us! Don’t talk behind our backs!”
“Jaejoong . . .” Yoochun was trying to prevent Jaejoong from leaping onto Rhett, who remained hushed.
“What? Now you’re afraid? Now you want to act all innocent and good?” Jaejoong yelled. “You’re no better than any of us!”
“Jaejoong, stop it,” Yoochun murmured.
“No! I can’t take it anymore!” Jaejoong hollered. “You’re so annoying! No one likes you, you know that? You may be smart and all perfect, but no one likes you!”
Rhett threw a punch towards Jaejoong. Using all of his Hapikdo knowledge, he overtook Jaejoong easily. Jaejoong was being bruised and etched in cuts. Rhett continued to kick, punch, do whatever it was necessary to release his anger. He didn’t care anymore. He was just going to do what he had always wanted to do to that punk.
It wasn’t until Rhett saw Jaejoong’s weak smile did Rhett stop. Even when Jaejoong was in excruciating pain, he was still smiling at Rhett. Immediately, Rhett backed away and said, “I’m sorry.”
“Whatever,” Jaejoong snickered, “at least you’re not so fake anymore. You’re not like some robot.”
“Robot?” Rhett shrugged.
“Don’t you know that’s what everyone calls you?” Jaejoong slowly pulled himself up from the ground. “Everyone calls you Robot Rhett or Robo-Rhett.”
“Why?” he pondered.
Yoochun stepped in to say, “Well, you’re always first in class. You’re good at every subject, and at every sport. You’re never angry or sad or even happy.”
“I thought,” Rhett muttered, “you’re not supposed to be . . .”
“What?” Jaejoong shrieked. “You’re supposed to be yourself! How else are you going to be Rhett?”
Yes, how was he going to be himself? He couldn’t . . . do much anymore, but to do what was right. That was to attend the dinner.