A/N: I had a question about Yi Jeong and Lee Rang looking similar (ie. 'like twins'). Obviously, both characters were played by Kim Beom, but I'm not making that a plot point in a story this short. They're two separate people, so that's why I didn't have Ga Eul comment that they looked similar.
Yi Jeong will not appear in this story, though he will be briefly mentioned in a later chapter.
"Someone's got an admirer."
"Where did you get that?" Looking up from the game on his phone, Rang eyed the plastic container of kimchi Yu Ri had slid over to him from the end of the kitchen counter.
"Soo-oh's teacher must have a crush on you." Yu Ri smiled, her eyes twinkling. "She told me to give this to you when I picked Soo-oh up today."
What? That human? A crush?
Oh, really, what had he done to her? Wasn't the fancy coffee assortment he'd sent her enough to make up for the coffee date she'd missed while she was looking after Soo Oh?
But now she had to make him owe her something else.
"It looks really yummy." Yu Ri started prying open the container lid, but Rang popped it shut.
"Doesn't matter. I'm taking it back."
He got up from the barstool at the counter and hurried back to his bedroom to grab his suit jacket. Yu Ri's protests trailed after him.
"School's already out for the day," she was saying when he reentered their shared living space.
"So?" He looked at his watch. "She should still be in her office. And, luckily, I intend to walk."
Chu Seonsaengnim was not in her office when he arrived, but he did find her in her classroom, cleaning up a mess of crayons and scrap paper from the child-sized tables. She didn't notice him enter the room, focused as she was on scraping something sticky and, frankly, disgusting off of a tabletop. He took only one step inside before clearing his throat.
"Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't see you there." She stood up awkwardly, smiling, and bowed. "Hello. Mr. Lee Rang, correct? How are you today?"
"Perfectly fine, thank you." Without delay, he placed her container of kimchi on the table she'd been cleaning. "I'm returning your gift. You seem to have gotten the wrong idea."
"Wrong idea?" Chu Ga Eul frowned.
Lee Rang sighed.
"I have no interest in you that way. Now, if you'll excuse me—" He turned to go.
"W-wait a minute. In what way are you referring?"
Rang turned to face her again.
"Your little crush on me. I'm ending it."
"I don't have a...a crush on you. You sent me an apology note with all that coffee, which was very good by the way. The kimchi was just a 'thank you'...Wait. You don't have a crush on me, do you?"
"No. Why would I have a crush on you?"
The teacher's eyes widened slightly, no doubt taken aback by his tone, but he honestly didn't care if he'd offended her. Maybe she'd stay far away next time.
"Well...at least we got that out of the way," she finally answered.
"Look, the bottom line is, I don't want you doing me any more favors, okay?" He turned on his heel once more and resisted the urge to groan when she spoke again.
"Personally, I find that impossible."
Rang rolled his eyes. This time he turned only his head to face her.
She smiled, an impish smile that meant she wasn't taking him seriously.
"Because it seems to me that by taking back this kimchi"—she lifted the box from the table and shook it at him—"I'll be doing you a favor."
He narrowed his eyes. Well, that didn't seem logical, and yet...somehow it did.
"Fine. I'll take it then." He stepped towards her and grabbed the box, but she gripped it tighter.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous. If you really don't want it, you don't have to take it," she argued, tugging it back. No doubt surprised he was playing into her little game.
Well, games were Rang's specialty, and if anyone was going to be playing them—and winning—it would be him.
"I'd let go of that box right now if I were you," he said nonchalantly as they played tug-of-war with the container.
"Oh no, I changed my mind about you. You don't deserve any of this kimchi. It's my mother's recipe, and you can't have it."
Oh, her mother? Her stupid human mother with her stupid kimchi recipes?
He'd had enough of this.
Summoning his superior strength, he easily snatched the box out of her grasp, but unfortunately the lid chose that moment to pop open, and the contents of the box exploded all over the floor between them, splattering both of their shoes.
"That...was an accident," he said as the woman stared down at the mess.
Chu Ga Eul took a deep breath, like she was summoning strength from within. Then she spoke in a quiet voice of faux-patience he could only assume she used with the small children in her class: "It's quite all right. Let me just...get some paper towels." Stepping over to a cabinet, she took out a roll. She tore him off a few pieces, and he cleaned his shoes quickly.
When she'd disappeared into the small bathroom off to the side of the classroom, he tossed his balled paper into the trash and made a swift exit.
Screw all the damn rules of his existence. He'd returned the kimchi, hadn't he? He'd tried, at least. Now he was going to get the hell out of there.
"You did what?" Rang glanced from Yu Ri to Shin-joo, hoping—praying—he'd heard them wrong.
"Chu Seonsaengnim agreed to give Soo-oh some private lessons to get him caught up with the rest of his grade level. I think he skipped school a lot before. So I invited her for dinner," Yu Ri elaborated cheerfully from her seat next to him on the couch. Naive as ever.
"Seriously? How many humans do we have to have traipsing through here?" Rang gestured around the living room of their apartment.
"We're a bunch of foxes trying to raise a human kid." Yu Ri sat up straighter on the couch and leaned toward Rang, as if that would help her case. "Don't you think we should get help from an actual human?" She lowered her voice as she glanced over at Soo-oh's closed bedroom door.
Rang did not lower his.
"Well, why don't you ask Ji-ah? Isn't she sick of my brother by now?"
"Ji-ah's smart," Shin-joo chimed in from the kitchen, "but she's not exactly a schoolteacher."
"At least she's a human we're already stuck with," Rang countered, glancing at Shin-joo and throwing his arm over the back of the couch. "I don't know why we're sticking ourselves with another one."
"Well, if you don't want to see her that much, you don't have to be here when she comes," Shin-joo said; he was at the stove, stirring something that had Rang's mouth watering. Of course, that damn teacher had to get between him and such a delicious meal.
"But she's coming, and that's final," Shin-joo continued in a stern tone that almost made Rang laugh. Shin-joo would always be as intimidating as a field mouse. Rang didn't know why he bothered.
"Whatever." Rang sighed and got up from the couch. If he protested too much...well, he didn't want them to get the wrong idea. A wrong idea like that Chu lady had gotten. No matter how much she'd protested, he knew she found him attractive and had probably been wanting him to be into her. Otherwise, she wouldn't have been blushing the whole time they were fighting over that stupid exploding container.
"Where are you going?" Yu Ri had followed him to the door, where he was slipping into his dress shoes.
"Shin-joo just said I don't have to stay for dinner. So...I won't disturb your little human fest."
Yu Ri started to stammer something, but Rang shut the door in her face and made his way to the elevator, alone.
It looked like he had about three hours to kill while that annoying teacher desecrated the sanctity of his home.
Maybe he'd find some humans to entertain himself with as well. He might not have a vengeful vendetta against them anymore, but there were so many amusing practical jokes he could play, and humans were so easily outwitted.
He smirked at his image in the reflective silver elevator doors as they closed.
Yes, he did enjoy ruffling a few human feathers every so often.
Yu Ri texted Rang around nine o'clock to let him know that 'Chu Seonsaengnim' was 'leaving' their apartment.
He'd been wandering around the park disguised as a celebrity—some actor named Kim Beom who happened to have his face on a billboard nearby—and had managed to attract quite a crowd, along with some pastries and chocolates, which almost made up for him missing dinner. He'd learned that impersonating a celebrity could often garner him as much attention as Lee Yeon used to receive as a god back in the old days, and although he didn't do it often, sometimes it was amusing to watch the humans—especially the female ones—fall all over themselves to be in his presence.
It was doubly amusing to watch the media coverage of such events, especially when the celebrity ended up in a place they definitely should not have been, doing things they definitely should not have been doing. And then, of course, there was the inevitable fight between the celebrity's management company and whatever tabloid had propagated the 'deep fake.'
Ah, yes. Walking back to the apartment, Rang was actually in a decent mood for the first time in a week.
Unfortunately, all hope of that mood continuing vanished when he turned the corner to enter the apartment complex only to run smack! into the very human he'd intended to avoid.
Chu Ga Eul was carrying a container of food—one with as flimsy a seal as the one she'd given him, apparently—and when they collided, the container flew open, dumping its contents all over the front of her ruffled blue blouse and gray skirt.
She squeaked, then gasped when she saw it was him she had run into.
"What are you still doing here?" The words flew out of his mouth before she could say anything. He immediately regretted them. Not because they were rude but because he didn't want her to think he'd been absent from dinner on her account.
He didn't want her to think he'd do anything on her account.
"What am I still doing here? What am I still doing here?! I have kimchi all over my blouse, and that's the first thing out of your mouth?" Her face twisted in astonishment.
"It's a perfectly valid question," he drawled lazily. "If you weren't still here, you wouldn't have run into me, and you wouldn't have food all over your shirt, now would you?"
"I-I did not run into you. You ran into me!"
"Nice try. It's my apartment building. You're trespassing." He pointed to the stain on her blouse, and she knocked his finger away with her hand.
"What is your problem?"
"At the moment? You're blocking my way into the building." He looked her up and down, but instead of being intimidated, she drew herself up—she was still incredibly short—and glared.
"Oh, well, I have a problem too. You owe me a new shirt." She plucked at the neck of her blouse.
Rang sighed and pulled out his wallet.
"Fine. How much?" He pulled out some bills. "And don't try to trick me into paying you more than it's worth. I know that's not designer."
"H-hey." She batted his hand away again. "I was just kidding. It was an accident. But if you could let me inside so I can clean this..." She tilted her head and gave him an imploring look.
Inside? With her?
Oh, for the love of…
A few minutes later, he was inside the elevator with her, going back up to his apartment.
He stared resolutely ahead at his reflection in the door, intent on ignoring her for the next forty floors. But of course she insisted on talking.
"So, tell me again why you weren't at dinner tonight. Everyone tried to give me a different explanation, but I think you were embarrassed."
What was she on about now?
He didn't accede her an answer.
"I mean, you did run out and leave me to clean up the mess you made in my classroom," she elaborated.
"As I remember it, you refused to let go of the food you gave me," he bit out.
"Because you were being rude and immature." There was no bite in her statement. It was an observation, plain and simple.
Much like the observations his brother liked to make of him.
He scoffed like he'd never been spoken of in such a way in his life.
"Is this how you speak to all the parents of your students?"
"No. But you're not a parent, are you?"
"I'm a guardian. A guardian."
She raised one unimpressed eyebrow at his reflection in the elevator door.
"Look," he addressed her reflection, "maybe you think that coffee assortment cost a lot of money, but I assure you, it was nothing to me."
"Are you bragging now to try and make yourself look good?" she asked, giving his reflection a curious look.
"I'm stating a fact." He narrowed his eyes at her reflection.
The elevator doors slid open, and Chu Ga Eul slipped out first.
"Well, even if you are trying to make yourself look good, it isn't working," she called out. "From this day on, you will forever be remembered as the man who spilled kimchi on me." She turned at the door to his apartment and had the gall to smile at him. "Twice."