The sound of pitiful wails floated through the quiet playground. Father Jin Sang paused and listened, it was unusual to hear much of anything this late in the evening. The small church and orphanage sat outside of Seoul close enough that they had some parishioners who came for service, but far enough away that there was stillness to the night that was lacking in the city. Which was why the sounds of crying seemed out of place. Setting the empty basket down on the ground and he headed into the small ill repaired playground outside of the orphanage. It did not take long, Father found a small huddled form tucked under the slide trying to find some protection from the cold wind and the thin layer of snow which now covered the ground.
It seemed the child was oblivious to his arrival, she cried weakly and shivered horribly. Gathering her up into his arms the first thing he noticed was how small she seemed, and he had a sinking feeling that she had gone hungry for several days if not longer. With hurried steps Father took her into the orphanage and was greeted by Sister Claire, they had worked together for ten years and needed no words. Soon after a doctor had been called and the young girl was being cared for in one of the small beds, the other children watched quietly. The girl child didn’t speak and they were unsure if she understood as she was not Korean. Other than the dirty and worn out clothing she wore the only other thing on the girl was a note written in English, “May the song of God protect this child.” Finally it was determined that she would survive and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
In that first month Father Jin Sang and Sister Claire did their best to help the girl, thought to be approximately four years old. From her broken English they made a guess that she had come from America. The church staff searched for the girl’s parents, but the little one could not remember her name nor could she remember anything other than the color of her mother’s hair. Since the girl had no name which she could remember they needed a name for her. The only words which they understood on the note were God and song, so she was gifted the family name Song. As her given name they chose Hyun Ae, because she seemed wise beyond her years as she looked at them with soul-weary eyes and yet she was sweet and kind to the other children no matter that she could not understand them.
Months passed and Hyun Ae surpassed their expectations. Her health returned to her rapidly and she grasped the Korean language with an ease that surprised them all. Soon the only thing separating her from the other children was her porcelain white skin, green eyes, and blonde hair. Hyun Ae grew into a sweet, loving, and excessively intelligent woman. Even though Father Jin Sang and Sister Claire worried about her often, she seemed to have completely recovered from her traumatic beginnings. The only thing which worried even her was the fact which she could not remember her life before coming to the orphanage. Yet, she did not allow that to hamper her, Hyun Ae worked hard and did her best to enjoy the life she’d been given.
Soo Min was twenty years younger than Dae Ho, the current President and Chairmen of Royal Lee Exports. However, she loved him and he loved her. It had been a love match that angered the Lee family and caused a war which raged for nearly five years. After much betrayal and heartache Dae Ho managed to close his parents and brother out of the business for good. It had been a long and bloody battle which had worn Soo Min down. Though she was often sickly and bedridden, Dae Ho never left her side.
Four years after the family war had passed Soo Min became pregnant. At forty nine Dae Ho worried he would not be able to be the sort of father a baby would need. He was getting on in years. Soo Min knew that he would be perfect and with her support he faced this new chapter in his life with excitement and anticipation. With his wife’s health issues the pregnancy was a long and exhausting road. But the day that In Su arrived was the happiest they had ever known. That exhilaration and joy was short lived. Three days after In Su took his first breath Soo Min took her last. Her heart was unable to recover from the difficult pregnancy and she passed away with a sincere smile while holding In Su for the last time.
This was not the last of the of the travesties to visit the new Lee family. A few months after he was born In Su suffered the first of many Grand Mal Seizures. With the very best of doctors at his fingertips Dae Ho made sure that his son had the best. Through diligent care and the most expensive treatments the seizures were kept under control. But not before he lost most of the use of his legs at the age of seven. Two years later the doctors, and there were many of them, discovered that In Su also suffered from a heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Even though he had all the privileges, wealth, and love in the world he could not prevent his body from breaking down. At nine this angered him to a point that he could hardly cope.
Dae Ho did his best to mold his son into a man that the company would respect, In Su became moody and egotistical. He knew that being restricted to a wheel chair and always fearing that his heart would give out at any moment caused such a negative personality, but Dae Ho struggled with the knowledge that he had somehow failed Soo Min. In Su wanted to hear nothing about his mother, in his anger he assumed that she had just not had the will to survive… perhaps she had not loved her new son enough. The pain of seeing his son grow into a miserable young man was enough to make Dae Ho age beyond his years. In Su had a determination to overcome his illnesses with just the force of his will, and even Dae Ho believed that he could manage it.
The couple which sat in the small office of the orphanage looked out of place. They were dressed in expensive clothing, wore arrogant expressions, and it was obvious they wished to be anywhere but here. Father Jin Sang sat across from them, behind a desk that was so old it sagged in the middle. “I see you have come here to adopt Song Hyun Ae. Since you have never visited our church or orphanage before might I ask why?”
With a disdainful expression the woman spoke before her husband could, he barely restrained a retort. The woman wore too much makeup trying desperately to appear younger than she was. While her husband was obviously her junior. She spoke in a clipped manner, as if she didn’t want to waste her time here. “Just because we haven’t met the girl doesn’t mean we don’t want to adopt her.”
“It is customary for potential adoptive parents to…” The woman flicked open a fan with a sharp crack, Father Jin Sang stopped mid-sentence.
Clearing her throat and doing her best to moderate her voice she spoke in a very deliberate manner, “the girl is ranked at one-hundred, in the nation. She already speaks several languages, has been talking with universities, and isn’t terrible to look at. We feel she would be a good fit in our family. Are you going to deny us?”
It took all of Father Jin Sung’s patience and kindness not to chase these two from his office on the spot. However, there was nothing in their paperwork, their background checks, or the reports from the investigation that indicated that they were not fit to be parents. Nothing except the evidence they were providing right now. These people were the worst sort, but legally he could not deny their petition. With much sadness Song Hyun Ae was adopted by Sim Bong Cha and Na Kyu Bok. At fourteen years old Hyun Ae fought against it, even let out her anger on Father Jin Sung, but he could do nothing.
Bong Cha and Kyu Bok immediately began tutoring her to become the perfect catch for a rich husband. They lived beyond their means, because it was all about perception. Hyun Ae’s new parents ran in rich circles, clung to people they could never be equal too, and hung all their hopes on marrying off their new daughter to someone who would shower them in money.
In Su hated the way the wheel chair sounded in the large hallways of the house he lived in with his father. The rumbling of it against the hardwood and the grinding against the expensive carpets. Against the orders of his army of doctors and his father’s wishes he was often found walking using two specialized crutches. But what worried the doctors more was his demanding routines in the gym. Regardless of the very real fact that his heart could fail because it could not handle the stress of blood flow caused by a workout. It was all to keep him out of the damned chair.
Because of his determination he was already working with his father at sixteen. Every day after school he was to be found somewhere in the giant Royal Lee Exports building in the heart of the Gangnam district of Seoul. Any and every task he could get his hands on he did with a verve that frightened even the most seasoned businessman. In Su was irritable, narcissistic, egotistical, and cold. Every day Dae Ho watched his son travel further and further from him and his late wife. Yet he was at a loss on how to bring back the sweet boy they had brought into the world. The only thing which seemed to make In Su happy was work, so Dae Ho gave in and taught him everything he knew about the business.
As time passed In Su showed a great affinity for the work and when he took over as Vice President at the tender age of twenty he became an instant phenomenon to the rich. The more work he took on the more he needed to use the wheel chair. It angered him and often his assistant Mr. Park was seen shooing people out of In Su’s office apologizing for his boss’ sudden outbursts. Additionally, the more work In Su took on the less time that Dae Ho dedicated to the business. By the time In Su was twenty-four he had become the President of the company leaving his father as the Chairman.
It was a month after In Su was named president that he had his first heart attack. It rendered him comatose for seven weeks. There were a flurry of news and magazine articles and the company suffered as a result. When he recovered it was a relief to Dae Ho, and it also acted as a wake up call to them both. No matter how determined In Su was, his disease was real and could strike at any time. It was sad that such a horrible thing brought about a change for the good in both father and son. As they began to rebuild their relationship they were unaware that Young Ho, Dae Ho’s brother, had started to dig deeper into the legal paperwork which had exiled him from the family business. With In Su’s health failing he had decided to put his plan into action.