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Chapter 3: The first client is someone familiar

"Amazing," Ji-ho loudly declared when the reaper brought her to the Afterlife Facility. The place was located in a valley surrounded by high mountains. A heavy blanket of fog swirled around the mountain chain where daylight did not exist. It was always just the fog, the night, and the full moon watching over the facility which was strangely lit up by electricity.

"Miss Park, you already have a guest waiting for you," Ji-ho was told as they broke through the edges of the fog. "Your first assignment begins now."

________

Park Ji-ho was seated in the centre of a sprawling garden where blood-red spider Lillies grew by the hundreds. Across a white table which she occupied sat another ghost facing her. This spirit was a very beautiful girl and Ji-ho knew exactly who she was.

"Jessica, what are you doing here?" She asked the infamous ex-pop star who had disappeared from the public eyes not too long ago.

Jessica was her stage name but the young lady had been born as Sun Young-mi. She was the main dancer for the group called Genesis. The group wasn't even a year old but had become embroiled in various scandals, the only reason that Ji-ho had heard about them.

"Ah, you know me..." The eighteen-year-old Jessica replied. Her voice was calm and she spoke slowly.

Park Ji-ho emphatically nodded. Who didn't know about Jessica? Her nude pictures had been leaked all over the internet by someone whose identity remained a secret. This final scandal was what had caused the group to stop all activities and take a hiatus.

"I'm sorry, Jessica. What happened to you was awful," Ji-ho told her. At that age, everyone made mistakes. So many girls of her age were exchanging risky pictures with their lovers but Jessica had paid a most terrible price because she had been in the limelight. The teen had been denounced as a slut and a terrible role model by the netizens who didn't stop harassing her online.

Jessica's lips quivered like she was about to burst into tears. She could tell that Ji-ho's words were sincere and it made her want to cry. When she was alive, why did she not have friends who cared about her enough to show even a sliver of pity towards her?

"Don't cry, I'll make it alright, Jessica," Ji-ho told her as she extended her hand to wipe the tears that were falling. It was her duty to help her clients move on but Ji-ho hadn't taken into account how much emotional baggage the spirits would bring with them.

"Thank you," the ghost softly replied. "What can I call you?"

"Ji-ho, or unni. Whichever you like." She smiled warmly at the spirit.

Jessica's answering smile brought some relief to Ji-ho.

"Unni," the spirit replied. "Please avenge me. I want to see the people who did this to me suffer the same fate that I did."

______

Jessica was soon left to her devices with the other ghosts at the facility. She would move on after seeing vengeance taken on her behalf. The young lady was aware of the karmic retribution that would follow her but she still wanted to go ahead with vengeance. It was up to Ji-ho to ensure that the karmic debt for revenge was kept minimum. This meant that she couldn't cause any intentional deaths while acting as her client.

"Miss Park, it is inadvisable to act so familiarly with your clients," the reaper told her. He would be monitoring her till the end of the assignment since this would be her first.

"Why?"

Park Ji-ho wasn't the first kind soul to be hired by the facility. The statistics didn't lie when they showed how high and early the burnout rate was amongst those like her.

"Just a word of advice you may ignore," he replied. It wasn't his job to micromanage her. Ji-ho would either learn or burn out in time. "Are you ready to leave?"

"Ready."

The young woman noticed that moonlight seemed to reflect off her boss' eerie silvery eyes. The reaper was a beautiful cold thing like the moon.

_____

Ji-ho floated in the mind of Jessica, seeing snapshots of her life since she was a baby.

Sun Young-min was born a cute little girl with a bubbly personality. Dancing was the love of her life and the reason she was able to pass the audition of company Y. Years of hard training had paid off and she was ready to debut with three other girls, one of whom was her best friend, stage named Aizee. The other two were called Sky and Yu-ri. Aizee was their leader and lead vocalist. She was the prettiest of the four and would become the most popular one when they would debut.

Jessica had been so excited for their debut but right from the start, everything had gone wrong. Their first single had hardly made a blip on the radar and was forgotten not even a week into its release. Agitated by the reception of their song, sky had snuck in alcohol and gotten drunk with Yu-ri. When the bottles were found, Jessica had unfairly taken the blame. It was the first among a set of incidents that led to the breakdown of her friendly relations with Aizee.

In a span of nine months, Genesis went through several turbulent episodes. To pay off her debt to the company, Yu-ri had begun to have an affair with a married high ranking government official. Rumours about it began to circulate but the netizens didn't have a name, only a blurry picture of a girl wearing a hat and a mask while accompanying the middle-aged man. It was at this time that Jessica's alleged alcohol incident was leaked and it immediately led the netizens to accuse her of being the girl in the picture.

Despite Jessica's denial of the incident, she was incessantly bullied online for it. Her own company had been losing interest in promoting the group because of the lukewarm response they were getting for all their songs. Genesis had then been booed off the stage so many times that the company completely stopped promoting them. What followed was the boss forcing the girls into paying back their debts by performing for every invitation they received no matter how cheap and demeaning it was.

Unlike the other girls, Aizee came from a very well to do family and was able to pay off her debt and break away from the unlucky group. Her abrupt departure left Jessica distraught and lonely.

Broken-hearted and depressed, the young teen easily fell for the charms of an older much established male idol who liked to manipulate and prey on younger naive girls. Jessica was thoroughly ensnared in his web of lies and fake affection. The young were allowed to be stupid because of their youth but sometimes it ended up costing them more than they could pay.

A few pictures of Jessica wearing nothing but an underwear was splashed all over the internet under several lewd and derogative titles. She became the talk of the town, the Scarlet letter that fed the hateful and jealous netizens who were ready to gobble up idols for any weakness they found.

Her past was dug up and exaggerated, fake stories made up about her were repeated like they were proven truths. Yu-ri and Sky distanced themselves from the pariah that Jessica had become. Nobody wanted to talk to her or be seen with her for fear that they would be hurt by the rumours that surrounded Jessica.

The final straw was when Jessica's older boyfriend was seen cosying up with another young and more famous pop star at one of the most expensive sky top restaurants in the country. He hadn't even had the decency to break up with her. Jessica soon came to realise that she had been blocked by the man she had fallen in love with.

Abandoned cruelly by the adults who were meant to protect her, the debt-ridden and depressed teenager fell into some bad company and she was further taken advantage of. On her 18th birthday, Jessica overdosed on drugs and was dumped into a lake by the people who she had been partying with. Her body would only be discovered the next day by a jogger doing his morning routine.

Ji-ho was shocked by all the information she was getting. How could someone be so unfortunate? She even recognised the male idol who had used and discarded Jessica like tissue paper.

"My god," she whispered to herself. "Blue, I was a fan of your music but you turned out to be such a scum!"


CREATORS' THOUGHTS
winterblossom winterblossom

Disclaimer : None of the people mentioned in the chapter allude to any k pop stars in real life. Not even Jessica!

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