Chapter 13: The Revenge of the Son

He had never known his father. When his mother thought him old enough to know, she told him.

He had turned 18, had finished school, and Geu-Roo Kwon had decided he was old enough to hear the story. “Sung,” she said, “I don’t know, of course, but perhaps you’ve wondered about your father, who he was, and how we met?”

The son, slurping up noodles, slipped the last one past his lips and laid down his chopsticks. He said nothing, but his eyes focused intently on his mother’s face.

Geu-Roo took this as an unspoken prompt to continue.

“I knew your father from the time we were very small, from when we first entered school. We grew up together, and we were best friends. After we finished school, I went to work at the bank, but your father announced that he was going to see what life would be like in America. The last I heard from him, he had sailed to Hawai‘i. His final letter was a simple note saying that he’d found work.”

The boy continued to stare at his mother.

“Then, suddenly, your father came back to Seoul. I don’t think he would have found me if I’d not lived here in my childhood home. Your grandparents had, of course, already passed on, but I was determined to keep this house.”

“It is a wonderful home, Mom. I appreciated that you have held onto it for us.”

His mother smiled. Sung was such a polite young man. Everyone said so.

Geu-Roo cleared her throat. “I think you are old enough to know that in the few days your father was here with me, I became pregnant with you. Some women would see this as disgraceful. I did not. Had your father stayed with me, we would have been married. We’d always know we were very much in love. I believe that I did not marry because I hoped one day he would come back here. He had never married either. Perhaps for the same reason.”

Sung said, “I’ve never known you to be ashamed of anything, Mom. You’re a strong woman. Everyone you know, it seems to me, regards you highly for your strength.”

Reaching across the table, Geu-Roo, patted Sung on the shoulder. “You are such a kind person,” she said. “I could never have wanted a better son, Sung.”

“But why did he leave?” asked the boy.

Geu-Roo sat back in her chair and a faraway look came to her, the kind of gaze that almost blots out a moment in time. And then she came back to herself.

“Your father did not share many details of the work he did in Hawai‘i, but I gathered it might have been dangerous.”

“Dangerous how?” asked the boy, a light of excitement in his face.

Geu-Roo reached down to the floor, produced a small leather bag, and laid it on the table. “Here,” she said, “be careful. Open this and see what he brought with him.”

Sung carefully slid the bag toward him and slowly undid the clasp. It opened up like a book. The knives gleamed in the lamplight.

“Knives,” exclaimed the boy. “Why knives? What are they for?”

“Your father explained that they are special knives. Ones meant not so much for cutting, although they are certainly sharp enough to do so. But these, he said, are special. Specially balanced. They are for throwing.”

The boy slid one of the knives from the leather strap that held it. Holding it in his hand, he could tell that it was not your average kitchen knife. The feeling of some kind of special weighting was immediately obvious.

“Wow, Mom, these are great.”

She smiled. “I’m glad you think so. You’re old enough, Sung. They are yours. Please always be careful when you take them out. They are not for play, okay? They are what I would call legacy pieces. It is a gift, in a way, from your father to you. Please take good care of them.”

“I’ll take excellent care of them, Mom, don’t worry.”

Geu-Roo nodded. “I know you will, Sung.”

“But what about him leaving you?” asked the boy.

She cleared her throat again. “Your father had come here, I believe, to escape something he’d done in Honolulu. He said that he was waiting for word to travel to Wanhei. There, supposedly, a very powerful man, a man named Yu Kang-ho, would take him in. He said he would be going there for protection and that he wanted me to go with him.”

“Why didn’t you, Mom?”

“I never had the chance,” she said. “One night, not even a week after he arrived, your father got a call from a man in Honolulu. I believe it was the same man who called him the second day he was here. The man asked him to meet a contact of his. Your father went to that meeting and never returned.”

“Do you think he went to Wanhei without you?”

Geu-Roo shook her head. Her eyes watered a little. “No, I do not. What I fear, Sung, is that your father was killed that night.”

“You mean because he wasn’t able to get to that place of protection in Wanhei?”

“Yes, I think so. If he’d gone to Wanhei – if we’d gone to Wanhei, I believe he would have lived, as he said, protected from whatever he was trying to get away from in Hawai‘i. I think whatever he was running from caught up to him that night. I could tell in my heart that his spirit had moved on.”

Sung nodded, feeling his mother’s anguish as if it were his own.

Finally he said, “Mom, have you ever talked to or gone to see this Yu Kang-ho in Wanhei?”

“No, Sung, I saw no need after that.”

The boy stood and went to his mother’s side. He knelt and put his arms around her, hugging her tightly. She began to sob. Sung sensed it was the kind of grief that would never end, no matter how many tears were shed.

Although he’d known nothing about his father, this information somehow made him feel very close to the man.

“What was his name, Mom?”

Through her tears, Geu-Roo was able to say, “Sung, like you. His name was Wang Sung-min.”

The boy hugged his mother even tighter. She had given him his father’s name. It was time to follow in his footsteps. It was time to find out who had killed him, and to kill whoever that was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s