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    A World Beyond / So We Are Told
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    That’s it.


    I sighed again. Finding the old man’s home was a huge undertaking. Few people remember what happened nearly 30 years ago, and once we finally found a clue, the man’s whereabouts were mysterious. Anyway, for now, all we can do is wait for the old man to contact us.


    Back to square one.


    Yi Wen’s shoulders sagged, unable to hide his despondency. The cafe was unlit. The owner, an old woman, must have gone to bed early. Careful not to wake her, he entered through the back door and exchanged his dusty shoes for slippers.


    He didn’t have the energy to do anything more today. Let’s get cleaned up and go to bed. Yi Wen thought to himself and climbed the creaky stairs as quietly as he could. Exhaling the breath that had been stuck in his throat after he’d managed to get the still-obnoxious lock to open, he turned to go inside but paused. Something had been left on the floor.


    An envelope that someone had obviously pushed through the doorway was the least suspicious of all. Tearing the envelope open, he stumbled straight to his bed and flopped down, absentmindedly searching through his pockets but soon stopping. Thoughts of cigarettes filled his mind, but unfortunately, he didn’t have any left. He had already smoked the entire pack on the way back.


    With a bitter sigh, he looked inside the thin envelope and frowned.


    …Is this…?


    Inside was a single ticket. Looking down at the ticket for the ballet at the Bolshoi Theater, Iwon frowned and looked inside the envelope again. There was only one ticket, and it was for the next evening’s performance. He found a thin business card inside the envelope and soon realized what it was.


    – Caesar.


    Recognizing that it was the same business card he had received earlier, he remembered that tomorrow was the deadline for the date he had declared. What were you thinking, coming all the way here and leaving your ticket behind? Looking down at the ticket again, Yi Wen put it back in the envelope and set it down on the table. He had no intention of going to the show, but there was no reason to avoid meeting the man. Whether Caesar said yes or not, he had a backup plan.


    Hopefully, they won’t waste each other’s time.

    Yi Yun thought to himself, took a quick shower, and soon went to bed. The hard work of the day is behind him.


    As the night wore on, the cold weather began to set in again, and the sky darkened from time to time. Yi Yun adjusted the collar of his coat and braved the bitter wind, barely reaching his destination.


    The tram, which often broke down, had once again stopped two stops away. Standing there, waiting for the next one, was torture. Yi Yun gritted his teeth and ran frantically between the two stops.


    “Welcome home.”


    When he finally arrived, Yi Wen was out of breath, his shoulders hunched, and his face red. After a quick hello inside and a coat drop at the entrance, Iwon finally woke up. He looked around the room, feeling his cold brain start to move.


    The theater, as grand as it was old, was quite crowded with people who had come to see the performance. He wondered if he would find the man amongst all the people milling about and chatting, dressed formally for the performance.


    My fears were unfounded. With one quick scan of the hall, Yi Wen spotted the man at once. Sitting cross-legged on a couch off to one side, reading a pamphlet, he was unexpectedly very recognizable. The man’s movements, which consisted only of slowly flipping through the pages, were enough to elicit a sigh of relief.


    His well-tailored dark brown suit was a simple yet classy choice, but the reverse diamond tie pin that held his neat tie seemed to say it all. Yi Yun could see it all too clearly as each passerby frantically stared at him. I wonder how their reactions would change if they realized he was a mafioso. He wondered inwardly, but he didn’t know the answer. Yi Wen wasted no time and walked straight to him. When he stopped straight in front of him, the man’s hands stopped flipping through the pages of the book. He looked down at the man’s hair, which glistened gold in the room’s light, and opened his mouth.


    “Mr. Caesar.”


    The man’s gaze lifted at the sound of his voice, his dark silver-gray eyes reminiscent of a snowy sky in an endless blizzard. The man didn’t react; he just closed the pamphlet and gave a short laugh.


    “There you are.”


    The unexpected smile caught him off guard. The thin smile on his face was so unexpectedly innocent that it made her doubt that he was an executive of a large mafia organization, even though she already knew that he was.


    Yi Yun stared down at him in disbelief for a moment, wondering how a man like this could smile so innocently. Fortunately, the spell was quickly broken. The moment Caesar stood up, the man’s massive shadow fell over him, jolting him back to reality. Yi Wen was grateful for the return of reason and spoke in his normal tone.


    “Now answer me.”


    Just then, the bell rang, signaling the start of the performance. When Yi Wen turned her head to look back at Caesar, he looked at the theater and spoke.


    “It’s about to start; let’s get in.”




    The unexpected words left Iwon speechless. But Caesar was unfazed, holding the rolled-up pamphlet in one hand and grabbing Yiwen’s arm with the other. Caesar didn’t hesitate to drag him along as he walked away. Yi Wen stumbled as he was dragged along, but he quickly blurted out.


    “Wait, I only came to hear your answer. The idea of seeing the show”


    “I’ll answer you when you see the show.”


    Caesar’s words stopped her in her tracks. As Iwon looked up at him in confusion, Caesar continued nonchalantly.


    “The answer was until today. We still have five hours to go; don’t you have that much patience?”


    His tone hadn’t changed, but Yiwen suddenly realized that he was mocking him. If he thought he was going to get nervous and hysterical, he was wrong. She glared at him defiantly and replied.


    “I just don’t want to waste your time.”


    “Giselle is wasting my time; that’s too much.”


    Caesar, sounding neither disappointed nor surprised, glanced down at Yi Yun, as if to ask, “So what?” The answer was already given. Yi Wen glared at him stubbornly.


    “I hope it’s worth your precious time.”


    The corners of Caesar’s eyes tilted faintly, and Yi Wen instinctively realized he was smiling genuinely.


    “If it’s Giselle, it’s worth it.”


    The bell chimed once more, and just before the doors closed, they stepped inside the theater.


    The performance of the ballet, the pride of Russia, was mesmerizing. It was a shame that they had to see it under these circ*mstances. Giselle, a peasant maiden who has been tricked by a philandering nobleman, chooses death. The ballet was excellent, but Yi Wen couldn’t enjoy it.


    He couldn’t concentrate on the stage because he was impatient to see what the man sitting next to him would say and when he would say it. After a short intermission, Yi Wen managed to calm down. This man was going to talk to him after the show, and the more he fidgeted and fidgeted, the more he would please him. It would never be to your liking. Yi Wen made a mental note and focused on her performance.


    In contrast to the joyful and bright first part, the second part is gloomy and static. A ballerina’s fragile body becomes a spirit and floats through the air for a moment. A love that cannot be abandoned even after being betrayed and killed. The audience holds its breath as Giselle continues to struggle to save her man.


    When Lee Won, who had become mesmerized, cleared his throbbing nostrils, he heard a low whisper from out of nowhere.


    “I will answer your offer.”


    Caesar’s low voice snapped Lee Won’s attention from the stage to him, and he strained his ears to hear the words, waiting for a response, but after a deliberate pause, Caesar whispered.


    “There is no such thing as negotiation or reconciliation with me.”


    The lights went down, and the crowd erupted in applause. The performance was over. All around him, people were cheering and clapping their hands until their palms cracked, but Yi Yun remained motionless. Slowly, my head spun as I struggled to come to terms with my current situation.


    I forced myself to sit next to him and watch the performance, hoping to hear the words of rejection.


    Just then, Caesar stood up from his seat. I looked up at him, blinking with a dumbfounded expression, and Caesar looked down at him, too, and smiled thinly.


    “Do you want to eat with me?”




    An exclamation of delight escaped his lips, and his face instantly changed as he sat up and glared at him.


    “Do you think I’m going to sit down and have a casual dinner with you?”


    There was no need for politeness anymore. His tone was brusque, and Caesar opened his mouth.


    “Well, no?”


    At his rather strange question, Yi Wen completely ignored him and turned around.


    Bastard, I should have stuck a fountain pen in his heart right then.


    He couldn’t contain his rising anger, and his steps became uncontrollable. He gritted his teeth and stomped out of the theater. Watching him go, Caesar smiled strangely but didn’t try to catch up with him.


    A man who had been watching them from the shadows quickly dove for cover and pressed a button on his cell phone.


    “Yes, Senator Zdanov. It’s me. I’m calling to inform you of something, but…”



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