The summer breeze gently blew Gyuri's silky long hair as she tip-toed down the backstairs of Arts building. Hugging her small brown leather backpack cautiously, she slowly looked about her. Students were not allowed in this part of the campus, but she knew the hidden pathways to this area. A few meters away, kneeling and digging the soft garden bed was the dear old gardener of the institution, her father, Hyun Woo.
"You've come, despite me telling you not to visit me," came his gruff response. He straightened his back, harrumphing loud enough for her ears only.
With a cheeky smile plastered on her face, Gyuri approached him, "You forgot to bring your lunch and Eomeoni reminded me at least a dozen times to give it you." She took the stainless-steel container out of her bag, waiting for him to take it. Hyun Woo just eyed her wearily, but Gyuri wasn't going away, "Abeoji! This is Eomeoni's order, I am just doing as she asked." Gyuri eyed the container and then glared at her father. Oh, she could be bossy when she wanted to, especially with her dear Abeoji.
"Alright," Hyun Woo took the container and looked about him before he ordered, "Now off you go. You know Gyuri, I don't want anyone to know that you are my daughter." He guided her briskly towards the stairs.
"Abeoji, what's wrong with being a gardener's daughter?" asked Gyuri stopping on her tracks. She'd asked the same question many times in the past.
"Now don't start this again Gyuri dear," Hyun Woo stopped and his old eyes looked at her with immense love, "Its just that this institution is for the filthy rich of Seoul, and if someone discovers your identity, then you'll be bullied."
"Then let it be, I don't care. I can deal with bullies on my own," Gyuri responded a little frustrated, looking about her as if the bully were lurking in the neatly trimmed green hedges nearby.
"We did this for the past month, this is your first year in Korain University, and we can do this for the next four years till you become a graduate of this prestigious university. Now off you go," he gently pushed her towards the stairs and glared at her till she was out of sight.
An hour later, when the Information Technology lecture was over, Gyuri went to the library to look for her friends. For the past month, Jimin and Hayoon were her two best friends. Jimin was the nerdy type with short curly hair and black rimmed glasses while Hayoon was the most sort after first year student in the whole Korain University. The latter had gorgeous straight hair, an hourglass like figure and extreme charisma to charm the boys. Well Hayoon could flatter any boy and make him fall crazily in love with her. All it took her was to batter her fake lashes and speak in her velvety silky voice and boys became smitten in no time. Seriously Gyuri thought it took Hayoon seconds only to fix a boy.
Humming softly, Gyuri nodded at the security officer at the library's entrance and entered the triple story building. The scanner beeped green, opening the automatic transparent doors, signaling her to walk in. There were a lot of things not allowed in the library such as water bottles, cosmetics, or sharp metallic objects. Hence, to avoid all the hassle Gyuri usually took only the library books with her.
This afternoon Gyuri had her brown leather bag with just one library book that was due today. She went straight to the second floor, where her friends usually sat, that is, the rows of neatly arranged white tables for four readers. Unfortunately, each table had a board in the front edge to prevent the students from chatting or looking at the other reader's face. Ah well whispering and passing notes under the table partitions was a widely known secret practiced by every student at Korain University's library. And so, did Gyuri and her friends.
Gyuri silently scanned the rows of occupied tables as she walked past them. Suddenly a curly haired head bounced up the other side of the petition making Gyuri smile broadly.
"Here," whispered Jimin waving at Gyuri.
Gyuri walked quickly towards her, "The lecturer didn't discuss much today." Sighing heavily Gyuri put her bag on the opposite desk.
"I knew it, that is why I didn't bother going. Instead I did a lot of research on our upcoming Information Technology assignment. Now this is what you call a smart productive person," Jimin declared proudly tapping her own shoulder.
"Ok Miss Brainy, I salute you," giggled Gyuri saluting her friend. Someone cleared her throat next to them, and Gyuri realized her voice was perhaps getting louder. "Oops!" exclaimed Gyuri in a soft whisper and kneeled next to Jimin, "Where is Hayoon?"
Lately Hayoon had been aloof and withdrawn from most of her lectures and their girlie get togethers. She'd easily come up with a reason to see someone or go somewhere.
"She's in the toilet, dolling up for the nerds in the library I guess," Jimin rolled her eyes mischievously.
"I'm bursting too," informed Gyuri and walked towards the toilet on the second floor.
This University had excellent infrastructure, even the toilets were like those polished perfumed ones in five-star resorts. Gyuri always thought that her kitchen and living room could easily fit into the Ladies Washroom in the library. Not to forget each massive floor had its own washroom. "Well this is 'The Rich Spoiled Brats University' Gyuri," she mumbled for her ears only and walked into the silent Ladies Washroom.
Suddenly a tall blond-haired girl in black hood and sunglasses bumped onto Gyuri. "Oh sorry," said Gyuri immediately stopping on her tracks. She had a delectable cologne smell on her, sensed Gyuri. Without sparing a second glance the girl hurried off. Shrugging Gyuri looked about her and noticed that one cubicle door was shut. "Hayoon are you in there?" asked Gyuri.
Silence was the only response that Gyuri got. Since she was bursting, Gyuri rushed into one of the many empty cubicles to relieve her extra full bladder. Once she finished off her business, sighing in relief Gyuri marched out of her toilet cubicle to wash her hands.
There were some unusual muffled sounds that reached Gyuri's ears. Curiously Gyuri faced the closed cubicle on the far right. "Isn't it, that this door was shut before I came here?" Gyuri asked herself. She took a step closer, somehow the door wasn't locked, in fact slightly ajar. "Hello, is anyone there? Hayoon is that you?" Gyuri asked a little tensed now.
It was then Gyuri saw the pool of blood under the door, progressing slowly towards her shoe clad feet. Gyuri's stomach churned but the rush of adrenaline made her push the door just enough to see inside.
It was Hayoon laying unconsciously on the floor, hair spread about her lifeless face, her eyes were open while her body bathed in her own blood. Gyuri was stupefied and forgot to even breathe.
Suddenly a couple of giggling girls walked into the washroom and horrifically screamed their guts out for the whole library to hear them. Gyuri recovered from her shock, and cried, "Hayoon!"
The terrified girls ran out of the Ladies Washroom, screaming hysterically in unison, "Someone has been murdered!"
The next several hours was the longest and saddest in Gyuri's life.
Two days later, Gyuri silently slipped into the common room of Korain University. Several small groups of standing students caught her attention as they were watching campus news on the high wall mounted TV. The campus news presenter, a young woman in short hair and professional blue suit spoke in a serious tone, "Police have confirmed that Hayoon was murdered and the suspect is yet to be found. There are leads which the officials will be following. Another interesting thing that has come to light is, Kim Ji Hyun, a first-year student who was reported missing 2 weeks ago is thought to be linked to Hayoon's case..."
A boy ahead of Gyuri exclaimed, "Looks like we are looking at a serial killer here."
"Shut up Dong Jun," a girl next to him cut in.
Gyuri could sense fear encompass the group of students. Even she could feel a chill on her backbone, because the police had pointed out that the girl in hood who'd bumped onto Gyuri could've been the murderer. But the police had not been able to locate that girl. It was as if she'd vanished. The sad part was people thought Gyuri had made things up as some even believed that she'd murdered Hayoon, her own friend. Fortunately, the police didn't think so, instead they considered her as a witness and allowed her to come back to Korain University.
A girl called, Lucy, not far from Gyuri spoke aloud, "All this media attention means that the board of directors for Korain University must be flabbergasted and will be trying to solve this problem asap..."
A tall boy interrupted, "Yeah this investigation could mean that the University will lose its reputation and parents might even pull their children out."
"Nah I don't think so," said a chubby girl while rolling a lollipop in her mouth and then added, "Korain University is too popular and prestigious, it cannot be easily tarnished."
The tall boy added to the conversation, "I've heard the Korain Enterprise has a new CEO."
The first girl, Lucy, cut in, "Interestingly he's grandfather the current Chairman is the largest shareholder of Korain Enterprises. I have also heard that he's young yet has completed his PhD in Programming from Oxford University."
"Oxford!" exclaimed two girls joining in the conversation.
"Yes, he's one of those super talented kids," Lucy replied.
"Let's search him up," suggested one of the two girls.
Lucy with an air of Miss Know It All replied dryly, "No point, you won't find a picture of him on the internet. Just wait for the day when he's officially taking the CEO's position." She hugged her bag and walked away from the crowd.
Just then the students noticed Gyuri, they all became silent or murmured something under their breath or in their neighbour's ear and hurriedly walked past her. Gyuri winced inwards, it hurt to see the students' attitude towards her.
The two girls who wanted to search the young CEO's photo, walked towards her with a smirk and one of them said, "Korain University is doing an internal investigation and you may not be here for long."
"Hayoon was my friend, her death has nothing to do with me," replied Gyuri in a calm voice. She tried her best to control her bubbling anger at the two girls. Oh, heavens she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
"So, you say," sneered another girl.
"If it was me, I'd start looking for another University." Having given their unasked advice, the two meanies walked away laughing loudly.
Gyuri felt like a sore thorn that everyone was trying to avoid.
For the first years at Korain University, two classes; English and Physical Education was compulsory. Group of twenty students were allocated to a class for the whole year, this meant that one interacted with these students on a regular basis, like in a school.
Since it was Thursday morning, Gyuri headed to the English lecture room. It reminded Gyuri of a typical classroom in a school system with a large white board and rows of paired up desks. However, English wasn't her favorite subject, Gyuri just did enough to be able pass the exams.
Suddenly Jimin caught with Gyuri, and asked, "Is everything alright?"
"No," responded Gyuri looking at nothing in particular.
A hush fell into the classroom as soon as Gyuri and Jimin entered the room. As usual Gyuri sat at the last desk all by herself while Jimin sat just at the desk in front of her. The desk next to Jimin was where Hayoon used to sit. Today it was empty, reminding the two girls of their lost friend.
Quickly Jimin turned around, peaked through her glasses, folded her arms over the back of her chair and asked, "I've heard that the Chairman of Korain Enterprises will be visiting our University tomorrow. Do you think it has something to do with the latest incident?"
"Maybe. No one has said anything to me yet." Just then Gyuri remembered, that when she was at the police station, someone made a telephone call and informed the officers about the surveillance clip. Soon after that call a USB stick was delivered to the police station which revealed that there was a tall girl in black hood that came out of the toilet before Gyuri entered. The clip matched with Gyuri's statement. Based on this piece of evidence the police considered her as a witness. Maybe a possible suspect too, however she was allowed to go without any further questioning.
Before Gyuri and Jimin could talk further, Mun-Hee, a girl with shoulder length brown hair asked, "Gyuri who do think murdered Hayoon." She walked closer to Gyuri's desk, her demeanor that of a wolf in sheep's skin and added hastily, "I mean you are the person who may have seen the killer." Her eyes said it all, Gyuri knew that her comment had a double meaning. Mun-Hee was indirectly hinting that Gyuri was the culprit.
"Mun-Hee the important fact is that the killer is at large. It can be anyone around us," Won-ho a tall boy with beautiful features answered for Gyuri. He was in good terms with Gyuri, in fact Won-ho was the top ten admirers of Hayoon.
Before Mun-Hee could retaliate, the English lecturer walked in and everyone quickly sat quietly at their seats.
The following day the lecturers were well dressed in suits and hurrying about as if their bottoms were on fire. All in preparation for the Chairman, Ho-sung Lee's visit.
Around 10am, three black Genesis cars drove into Korain University's long driveway. Ho-sung looked out of the window of his car like an excited teenager. This University reminded him of his early twenties when he was a student here. He clutched his stick as the car smoothly rolled to a halt. His long serving secretary, Jae- hyuk, turned around from the front passenger seat and said in a polite voice, "Chairman would you like to meet the Chancellor or look around the University grounds first?"
Ho-sung responded a little annoyed as he pulled his wrinkly brows together, "Oh he's standing right in front of me. How can I walk past him?" harrumphed Ho-sung Lee and moved out of the car as his driver opened the door for him.
The Chancellor, Kyung-mo Park, stood with other half a dozen staff on numerous lengthy stairs that led to the main administrative building. The other half a dozen staff including Ho-sung's bodyguards joined the existing group of people.
After greetings with the Chancellor, Ho-sung said for everyone's ears, "My secretary will speak to the Chancellor on my behalf." Surprised Jae- hyuk, pointed at his face, abruptly changed his expression to that of a smile when the Chairman glared at him.
Nodding vigorously Jae-hyuk pulled the Chancellor's hand for a shake and said, "Yes, Mr. Park, I would like to hear your report about Korain University. Hope all is set?"
Instantly Mr. Park straightened his shoulders, gave one confused look to the Chairman before excusing himself.
Chairman, Ho-sung Lee, then ordered his bodyguards, "I'll have a look around. Keep your distance."
The guards in black and white suit, nodded and briskly followed. One came forward with a black umbrella but Ho-sung waved him off.
Ho-sung walked at leisure, observing his surroundings. Students silently walked past him, without a clue who he really was because the guards were scattered around, surreptitiously following him from a safe distance.
After a quarter of an hour of strolling in the campus's beautifully manicured yard, Ho-sung made his way to the restricted garden. No one was allowed in these parts of the University except the gardener who maintained it. He had personally made that rule.
Unexpectedly a young girl with long black wavy hair caught up with him, she politely bowed and greeted him, in fact, she was the only student who had so far stopped to greet him. Then she skipped to a man tending a nearby garden. "Good manners," murmured Ho-sung to himself still watching the girl talk to the gardener. Sighing Ho-sung diverted his attention to the prohibited garden area.
Every year Ho-sung came to visit Korain University's garden because this is where his love had blossomed. Years ago, he had met Tae-won's grandmother in this garden, henceforth they'd spent hours everyday here.
Ho-sung unlocked the arched vine entwined gate and slowly walked with the support of his stick on the pebbled pathway. It was like walking in a memory lane as visions of him and his wife danced in front of eyes. Numerous trees heavily shaded this secluded garden, wines wrapped around taller trees and flowers hung from everywhere. The artificial waterfall ran smoothly over the rocks into the aquamarine colored pond. Ho-sung silently sat on a stone bench next to the pond as his eyes became moist with emotion.
Suddenly a sharp known pain shot through his left arm and shoulders. He should take his medicine and he grabbed the tiny plastic bottle in his blazer pocket. Unfortunately, the pain intensified, and the bottle rolled off his hand. His face turned crimson and perspiration covered his stained wrinkly weak face.