"Hey, Grace, you're alright? You look pale," Yichen, my classmate, asks when we walk out of the classroom. In fact, he isn't just my classmate. He is also my childhood friend.

The only one that I have.

Since our fathers work together, Yichen and I have been hanging out ever since we were kids. And we still do even now. I didn't know he was coming to study here in the States until he made a surprise appearance by sitting next to me on the plane. He said he wanted this as a surprise. That was why he did not tell me in advance.

Some friend he is, keeping me edgy about having to come here all alone. If I had known he was coming too, I did not have to worry myself to death.

"I'm fine. Just a lack of sleep, I guess," I reply with a shrug, pretending like I am alright.


"Might be."

"Or is it because you study too hard? Please, it's just the start of the semester. Don't take things too seriously, okay?" he rolls his eyes and taps my shoulder.

I only smile at his comment. The fact is, my lack of sleep has nothing to do with my study schedule. It is because of a dream I have been having ever since that night before leaving my hometown.

The very night I met the peculiar man in the middle of the road.

There is something about those piercing silver eyes that I can't put my hands on. And every night when I drift off, those eyes keep flashing before my closed eyelids, keeping me awake.

"Well, any plans this evening?"

His question brings me out of my thoughts. "No," I reply. "I'm going back to my apartment."

"Nonsense. You're going with me then," he swings his arm around my shoulder as if preventing me from running away.

Yeah, I've never been treated like a lady. There is nothing surprised about this. Most of my family members and close-knit people are guys. I guess I am automatically blending in as one, too, even though I have a female's body.

"Why? Are you going somewhere?" I ask, stop fidgeting, knowing full well I won't be able to escape.

"I just made some new friends this morning. They invited me to dinner at a Japanese restaurant not far from here."

"What does that have to do with me?" I turn to him with my brows furrowed, confused as to why it has anything to do with me.

"You're serious? I'm taking you with me. Why don't you get it?"

"Yeah, I know that. But I don't get why you tag me along? They invited you. Not me. They don't even know I exist," I try shaking his hand off my shoulder, but he is too strong for me.

"Who doesn't know the existence of the Asian heiress Gracie Kim? You're too humble, my friend."

"And you're exaggerating," I say, rolling my eyes.

He chuckles. "Yeah, whatever. Anyway, back to the topic. I am bringing you with me so you can make new friends too. Friends start from strangers, Grace." He rolls his eyes and tightens his hold on me. "Besides, you're going to manage a big conglomerate in the future. Get used to this. Ya know, about getting to meet new people and socializing. It's beneficial to build up a connection."

He's got the point, I thought to myself.

In the future, I will have to meet lots of strangers for business purposes, whether I want it or not. I should start practicing getting to know people and be familiar with how to make conversation.

"Alright then," I say, defeated, before letting Yichen guide me into a taxi that he called.


Since we come early, it is without a doubt that we are the first to arrive. Picking a table at the corner, Yichen and I sit down and wait for the others silently. Half an hour later, a group of young people around my age walk in and turn their head sideways as if looking for someone.

"Oy! Over here," Yichen stands up and waves to get the group's attention, to which they nod back once they spot him waving.

Once the four newcomers fill up the table, the waiter comes and leaves us the menu before going back to the kitchen to bring glasses and a jar of water.

"Are you ready to order?" he politely asks once everything is set.

"Yes, um," I smile before scrolling my eyes at the menu. "Well, I'd like black garlic ramen, please."

The waiter nods in understanding, without taking notes, before turning to Yichen.

"I want this spicy ramen, but I want to add one more egg yolk. Oh, and give me this combo set too." He turns the menu to face the waiter and points at the picture.

After everyone places the order, the waiter collects the menu and says, "Thanks for your orders. Please wait patiently for your dishes. They'll take ten to fifteen minutes." With a polite bow, he walks away.

Once we are left alone, Yichen starts the conversation, which is, of course, introducing me to everyone.

"Okay, guys, before you ask, let me introduce a new face. This is my best friend, Gracie. But she prefers to be called Grace. Eighteen years old and a Cambodian. She studies in the same university as us, pursuing a business management degree, preparing to take her place as the future heiress of The Kim conglomerate. She is single and available. Currently isn't being wooed by anyone. Done. Any questions? "

"Yichen!" I tug at his shirt, hoping to stop him up from blabbering too much. I have a feeling that my name is already enough for an introduction. There is no need for more.

Oh, The Kim conglomerate that has subsidiaries all across Asia?" The girl with long, wavy blonde hair and a body compatible with a model asks me. Her blue shades compliment the white skin-toned of her oval face-shaped and full red lips so well. With a t-shirt that is a little too small for her size, her breasts are standing out from their place, protruding to the point of almost reaching the table, clearly showing off one of the female's prideful possessions.

Why are we so much different, despite both of us being female? Mine is flat as a chessboard, and hers are shapely perky! I can't help but let out an inward sigh to myself while gazing at her stunning figure.

As I am busy admiring her beauty and forget to say something in return, she forms an O-shaped with her mouth and extends her hand. "Oh, forgive my rudeness. I was overjoyed to share the table with such an opulent person that I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Steph, short for Stephanie. "

"Oh, Um, nice to meet you, Steph. I'm Grace," I reply, reaching out for her hand after snapping out from secretly admiring her beauty. Hopefully, she doesn't catch me doing that.

"Hello. I'm Kiro from Japan. Happy to make an acquaintance." The boy in jet-black hair and rectangle navy blue glasses stands up and extends his hand to me, to which I mirror the gesture.

"Hi. I'm Lina, and this is my boyfriend, Ronald," says a girl in black bob hair, waving her hand in my direction.

Her skin-tone and facial structure are quite similar to mine. Are we from the same origin?. I am hesitant, thinking whether it is appropriate to ask this question when, fortunately, the answer is laid bare when she picks up her words.

"I'm from Cambodia, too. It's so good to meet someone from home finally. For now, I don't have to take time explaining where or what Cambodia is. The more we have Cambodian students here, the more our country can be heard, "says Lina as she tries to hide her sad smile.

"I know. I'm also struggling in explaining if Cambodia is even a real country. It's quite stressful. To have to introduce not yourself, but where you're from in detail? Then, people shrug and lose interest, saying they don't even know where that is. "

"Yep, yep. Exactly." She nods and sighs. "I remembered spending almost an hour explaining to Ronald about where I came from when we first met. And you know what? Even after that, he still had to go to Google and looked it up."

Lina eyes her boyfriend with a pout. Ronald only chuckles as he pats her head affectionately before turning to look at me and wave.

"Hi," says Rylan.

"Hello," I return the greeting, to which he nods in acknowledgment.

"Grace, if you don't mind what I'm asking, your conglomerate just opened its first European branch in Italy, right?" asks Kiro politely, helping to break the silence once the round of introduction finishes.

I turn to him and nod. "Yes, my adoptive uncle wants to open a branch in Europe, but he isn't sure where. When my foster parents suggested Milan, he just agreed right away. My foster dad manages the brand new branch in Italy, whereas my adoptive uncle manages Cambodia's main office. "

"Your adoptive uncle is Mr. Sakada Kim, the CEO, right?"

"That's right."

"He's one of my well-respected businessmen. Talented and gentlemanly."

His words make my lips curve up into a smile. Indeed, uncle always has that kind of aura that draws people in. Contradict to my dad's cold demeanor, which drives people away.

"Does your uncle have any plan of expanding into other countries?" Kiro continues with the topic.

"Not sure yet. I haven't taken part in the business, so I have limited knowledge regarding the matter."

"Oh, I see."

When Kiro parts his lips again as if wanting to ask another question, a sigh from Steph beats him to it, making the whole table go silent. Everyone turns to look at her in time to see that she is rubbing her temples.

"This is what happens when business major students meet. Always business talk. We come here to relax, okay? Can we not talk about the business, please?"

"Sorry," Both Kiro and I utter an apology simultaneously and drop the topic.

"Then, let's find something new to discuss," Yichen steps in, lifting the mood immediately. "But what's to talk about?"

"Something leisure, please. My computer science class is killing me already. Please don't bring up anything that involves more complications," Lina suggests.

"Leisure? Relaxing? Hmm," Ronald speaks for the first time since he is here. "Something like sports and outdoor activities?"

"That's great, Ronald. Since you mention outdoor activities, something occurs to me," Steph flicks her fingers before dropping an unexpected suggestion. "Let's go hiking this week."

"What?" everyone asks in surprise.

"We just get to know one another, so I suggest having a bonfire and talking our hearts out. What do you think?"

We look at each other in silence as if thinking whether we should take this suggestion or not.

"Well, I don't think it's a bad idea." Lina is the first to break the silence. "Will you be available?" She turns to her boyfriend.

Ronald takes out his phone and scrolls through it for a minute before he finally nods. "Yes, I'll be free this week."

"Perfect. Then, both of us are in," says Lina enthusiastically, voting out the first result.

"I'll be free at the end of this week too. There is any harm in joining," says Kiro with a shrug as he adjusts the glasses on his nose bridge.

Yichen raises his arms enthusiastically. "I am without a doubt in," Then, he turns to look at me. "Grace?"

I want to say no, but Yichen seems to be giving me a don't-you-dare-saying-no look.

Why bother asking me if you're going to threaten me with your eyes? I almost roll my eyes at this thought but decide against it.

"Okay, count me in," I say, at last, earning a woo-hoo from Yichen.

Perfect! Everyone is going!" exclaims Yichen enthusiastically before he puts his excitement under control and asks, "But where is the destination?"

"I just found the perfect place while surfing the internet this afternoon," Steph fishes out the cell phone from her bag. "Let me show you the picture. It's called..."

"The food is here. Be careful. It's hot." The waiter's arrival cuts Steph off before she can finish her sentence.

"May I help you with anything else?" The waiter politely asks after he places the bowls on the table.

"No, thank you," I reply.

"Then, enjoy your meal." He leaves us to our dinner and walks to the table nearby to get an order.

"So...," I turn to Steph and ask her to finish what she has left unfinished, "What's the name of the place you're going to say?"

She turns her phone in my direction and shows me a picture of mountains, valleys, and other breath-taking views. Enthusiastically, she replies, "Yosemite. Beautiful, isn't it?"

As I look at her phone's screen, I feel a collywobbles rise within the pit of my stomach. To me, the pulchritudinous scenery appears like a fantasy world that may have enigma beings unbeknownst to the world.

And something tells me I am going to be the first one to discover it.


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