The gentle smile on Minho's face slipped away.
As they stood face-to-face Jiyeon felt worse.
His expression was both intense and fragile.
She felt like an invisible hand was squeezing her heart.
An ordinary women wouldn’t have been able to make eye contact with his charisma, but Jiyeon was different.
She had dealt with criminals, murderers, gangsters, and all manner of terrible people.
She looked directly into Minho's eyes as if to interrogate him.
His red lips opened and the secret came out.
"One summer nine years ago."
It was the height of summer.
The sun was blazing as if it were tearing apart the sky and the sea was brimming with people.
Haeundae Beach was teeming with tourists for the season.
However, Minho was far from such a crowded place.
He was on a yacht with his friends.
One of them was the son of the man who owned the nation's largest shipping company.
The hierarchy among the children of the conglomerate families naturally followed the ranking of the companies.
Minho, the prince of the number one business Eunseong Group, was deemed the leader among his friends.
However, he did not care about the position.
He followed his friends on the yacht, but only half-heartedly.
They were lucky only because of their parents, he thought.
All of his friends were in their mid-twenties and would be taking the lead in their respective companies in a few years.
The subject made them nervous, and they moved on from talking about their businesses to talking about girls.
It was mostly about entertainers and other women from conglomerate families.
A guy said he met a successful girl group member and bragged about introducing them to another member.
Another one of his friends contacted a model he knew in Busan, and soon after a group of them came up on the yacht.
"Wow! Thanks so much for inviting us here,"
a bikini-clad girl enthused as they toured the luxurious yacht.
The men brought up bottles of expensive champagne.
Minho was bored.
The lively company of his friends, the laughter of the girls…
Even the sound of the champagne cap popping was boring.
Finally, Minho stood up from his seat.
"I'm going to take motorboat out for a while."
He wanted to run the boat over the sea.
"It's getting stuffy in here for me too."
Dongsik followed Minho.
Dongsik was the successor of DS Group, which manufactured boilers and heating systems and was nicknamed Grasshopper Boilers.
Although it was the number one company in its industry, their friends made fun of Dongsik for being the "boiler house son."
So Minho rode the motorboat with him.
On the boat, his friend shouted,
"Oh, the wind feels great!"
Dongsik had a cheerful personality but he couldn't open up properly among his other friends.
Minho smiled as looked at the sea, then turned his head towards the beach.
He saw the crowd enjoying themselves as they swam there.
As Minho remembered the party on the yacht, he muttered,
"I'd rather have fun on the beach."
Dongsik's eyes lit up.
"Shall we have fun there? Like ordinary people?"
Minho had never swam in the sea like that before.
As a child he stayed at a country villa owned by the Eunseong Group, and even after the age of 20 he vacationed at oversea resorts and other villas.
He would visit those places with a girlfriend when he had one, or his friends, or in some cases alone.
He never swam among a crowd of people he didn't know.
His curiosity was piqued.
So the both of them went to shore.
Minho docked the motorboat, then they went to the beach and rented an umbrella.
He ran into the crowd and rode on the waves.
He felt a burst of joy at the sound of people enjoying themselves.
He let himself soak in the atmosphere of a life he never felt among his other friends.
"It's so fun to play like this."
Dongsik was beaming too.
It was also the first time Minho knew that he could have chicken and beer delivered to them on the beach.
After swimming in the ocean, he took a nap under the umbrella shade and just like that, it was soon evening.
The darkened beach turned into a meeting spot for young people.
Groups of men and women would walk around and talk to each other, and there were scenes of people drinking together and engaging in conversation.
Minho felt content just watching them, but Dongsik had a different idea.
"Oh! Doesn't that look fun? Let's try it out too!"
"Let's meet some girls."
"No thanks. That's bothersome."
Minho just wanted to take in the lively atmosphere of the beach.
"You don't have to walk around. Just wait."
Dongsik shrugged with his hands on his head then left to scour the beach.
He was tall and good-looking and could hold an easy conversation, and in a matter of minutes he came running back to Minho.
"Okay. Let's do it!"
Minho had no choice but to follow him.
Against the beautiful glowing horizon, two girls were sitting on the sand drinking beer.
They seemed to be relatively young.
They all greeted each other awkwardly.
Both girls were twenty years old and new university students.
Dongsik hid the fact that he was from a conglomerate family, and said he was a student as well.
Minho was inevitably roped in.
One of the girls was bubbly and had a bobbed haircut, while the other had long straight hair and wore no makeup.
Most of the conversation was led by Ju-eun, the girl with bobbed hair.
The girl with the long hair, Jiyeon, kept on drinking.