The Assassin Vet and Memories of Gildal – My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox, Part 2

This time I’ll be covering two more chapters from My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox (김성연,홍정은 & 홍미란의”내 여자친구는 구미호”). It has been a busy month, and I haven’t gotten as much read as I hoped to. We’re introduced to two characters that were very intriguing in the TV series but that weren’t fleshed out that well, Dongju Park and Gildal, but hopefully the book delves deeper into that side of the story. I’m crossing my fingers. Before I begin, let me give you a photo of them in their historical garb from the back of volume 1.

Dongju and Gildal

Dongju and Gildal

Chapter 3, “A Human-like 9-Tailed Fox,” picks up immediately where chapter 2 left off as Miho and Daewoong’s lips touch, and the jewel’s energy is slowly sucked out by Miho, proving that she gave it to him to save his life after the wild boar attacked him. He admits he is indebted to her. One cute detail is Miho’s tails spread when their lips touch. But even so, Daewoong is nervous about having her around and wants her to leave. As he runs out to the fire exit to get away from her, his ringing cell phone falls out of his pocket near Miho, and she picks it up. His grandfather is on the phone sounding very severe, demanding to know why Daewoong isn’t answering him. She tells him she’ll get Daewoong on the phone, but his grandfather is shocked to hear a woman answer and demands to know who she is. Daewoong talks to him but is caught up in some parachute or something in the warehouse of the action school where he is staying, and he can’t get free for some reason I didn’t quite understand. He’s so upset that she is a man-eating fox spirit that he is too nervous to be around her.

Later, he gets her chicken to eat as his way of thanking her for saving him, but when it’s time for bed, he’s still worried she can eat his liver. He finds some armor in the warehouse from a historical drama to wear to protect himself so he can sleep peacefully. She sees it and asks if he’s still afraid of her, and he says he is just cold. Miho goes with a gloomy expression to the sofa to lay down. He wonders why she’s sleeping since she’s not human. The armor is very hot, and he’s sweating, but he doesn’t take it off.

The next day, Miho complains about being hungry, and he takes her out for some meat. When he uses his credit card to pay for it, he discovers that it is suspended since his grandfather had the limit lowered. He calls his aunt to ask about it, and she asks if he has a girl with him. His grandfather told her about the woman who answered Daewoong’s phone. His aunt suggests he bring the woman over to the house or have her pay for their meal, then hangs up. The owner of the shop overhears and tells him he owes 12,000 won because Miho just ordered beef rib soup! Daewoong only has 1,600 won in bills in his wallet. He flees with her after they disrupt the restaurant with an exploding can of soda pop that causes the other patrons to yell for them to go.

Daewoong takes Miho to his school, and she is enchanted by it since she heard about people attending school when she was confined to the temple. He goes in search of friends to bum money off of, and they all rebuff him. Miho reveals a few of them are lying because she can smell the money in their wallets and picks their pockets to show what they really have. She wants to make money herself, but since she isn’t human, she has no name, registration number or anything that would allow her to work. Daewoong leavers her and goes to the library to read up on the 9-tailed fox, but he finds everything but the fox folklore. He tries searching the internet in the computer room and finds a photo from the temple where he met Miho. It is part of an article explaining how a fox vanished from the painting, and he realizes he helped her escape by drawing on her tails.

He goes back to Miho and drags her off to a place where they can talk in private, and he confronts her about the painting. She admits that it was her and that was why she wanted him to draw on the tails. He is troubled by her answer. Byeongsu and Seonyeo interrupt them, and Daewoong quickly lets go of Miho’s hand so they don’t get the wrong idea. When he asks Byeongsu to loan him some money, his friend lectures him on the need to save money to live off of and asks why Miho doesn’t contribute some money. Daewoong vaguely mentions some sort of obligation to Miho and calls her his sister-in-law, and Byeongsu notes how unusual Miho’s name is. The scene is cut short when Daewoong gets a strange phone call saying he has a package waiting for him.

Elsewhere on campus, Dongju is waiting for student Daewoong Cha to show up at Han River Film School. He has the Buddhist priest’s cell phone with Daewoong’s guesses of his aunt’s number, so Dongju was able to trace Daewoong’s friends and his school registration and to see his photo. Now, he’s waiting for him to appear, keeping a famous knife used in hunting 9-tailed foxes concealed on him. He sees Daewoong coming down the corridor toward him, but Dongju notices the knife doesn’t react. The fox isn’t with Daewoong, and Dongju wonders why. Daewoong brushes up against him as he passes by.

As Dongju passes through the lobby, he notices the knife’s sudden reaction and knows he’s in the vicinity of the fox. A long-haired woman flounces in. He found her! It’s the fox. She looks around, aware of a strange noise and trying to locate its source. The knife is reacting to her energy, a first after many hundred years. Dongju notices that the fox has a face just like Gildal’s. It shocks him so much, it makes him too ill to even stand. He returns to the animal hospital with some difficulty and puts the knife on his desk in its leather pouch. All he can think of is the fox’s face. His assistant comes in and, noticing how upset Dongju looks, tries to soothe him.

Daewoong goes to his classroom after the crank call about the package. After class, he and Miho go to eat deep-fried chicken to show they are back on good terms. Miho tries some beer and likes the foam. He can’t help but notice Miho is more beautiful than the girl he loves, his classmate Hyein. They agree to be friends, and Daewoong is pleased.

Later they discuss Miho’s fear of water, which is related to her having the jewel or not. She also protests that although foxes are similar to dogs, she is better than a dog. They meet Byeongsu near a lotus pond, and their discussion leads Daewoong to think of a way to make money so he can buy Miho meat: sell the expensive carp his grandfather raises. Later, his grandfather catches him as he tries to pull one of the fish out of his grandfather’s pond, and his grandfather correctly guesses his plan. He surmises Daewoong is spending so much money because of this woman, and he asks if Daewoong intends to marry her. Daewoong says that’s a crazy idea.

Daewoong tries to throw Miho out because people think she’s his girlfriend, and he doesn’t want the girl he really likes, Hyein, to get the wrong idea as well. His friend Seonyeo comes by and mentions seeing Hyein, and Daewoong asks her not to tell Hyein that Miho is his girlfriend. He doesn’t even want Hyein to see Miho since she is not.

Chapter 4, “The Sunshower,” picks up with a confrontation between Miho, Hyein and Daewoong. He tries to explain the situation so Hyein won’t misunderstand. Hyein says it doesn’t matter since she isn’t in a relationship with Daewoong anyway. She reminds him he hasn’t called or written her in a while and that they don’t date, but he wants to explain the situation with Miho. When Hyein mentions hearing about how he ran away to the countryside from his grandfather, it comes out that he was wounded. She is concerned, but he tells her it’s nothing. Miho looks displeased as she hears him tell Hyein that Miho isn’t his girlfriend. Daewoong asks Hyein out to dinner, planning to leave Miho behind. Miho demands to know who Hyein is, bringing up her jewel that he still has in his chest and how another woman’s energy can damage it. She wonders if she should take it out, though he isn’t completely healed and could die. He has to choose between the woman he loves and his life. Hyein has started the car for them to go and is yelling for him, so he goes with her.

Once Daewoong leaves with Hyein, Miho rides the bus around and sees photos advertising hanoo Korean beef. She licks her lips thinking that the beef tastes as good as it looks in the photo. Here is a brief description of hanoo beef:

Daewoong apologizes to Hyein, but this part I can’t make heads or tails of that well. I think Miho ends up at the restaurant where they are and sees them, there’s a confrontation between her and Daewoong, and then she is somewhere else borrowing some woman’s phone to call him.

The next section returns to Dongju, and it’s one of the most significant parts so far in the novel. Dongju is sitting at his desk at the animal hospital looking at a photo of the tailless fox painting from the Buddhist temple. He heard her say she doesn’t have her jewel when she was standing at the bus stop. His assistant comes in, and they talk about the painting, and how it is based on an old nursery tale. He explains to his assistant the ideas behind the myth and how the fox is a liminal creature:

구미호는 원래 신을 수호하는 동물인 신수여요. 인간의 모습도 가지고 있으니까 신과 인간과 동물의 경계에 있는 존재죠. (p. 127)

The 9-tailed fox by nature has the appearance of a guardian animal of the gods. Also taking the form of a human, it exists at the boundary of gods, humans and animals. (My translation)

Dongju explains to his assistant that the idea that the 9-tailed fox is a ghost who eats men’s livers is the stuff of uninformed people. After their discussion ends, Dongju is upset that the fox gave her jewel to this guy who could betray her just as Gildal was also once betrayed.

Daewoong dreams of Hyein coming to see him at the rooftop house, has more concerns about Miho eating him, and wakes to find Miho wanting free chicken that they have coupons for. She goes about collecting more coupons. When she is outside looking in the trash for more coupons, a man wearing a trench coat is sitting in his car nearby and notices her chasing after a coupon blowing away in the wind. She grabs it in a way that he considers superhuman, and he is excited to see “real action,” deciding he needs to find out who she is. She’s too busy smelling the empty chicken box in the trash to notice him.

The next day is Daewoong’s audition, which he tells her will make them money so he can feed her, and he tries to decide what to wear. Miho helps him, ranking her choice from his closet and referencing the garments’ colors by names of animals. She tells him to choose the cow-colored one. His grandfather appears at the door, which is ajar, and hears Miho’s voice. He thinks she’s bringing about a positive change in Daewoong, that she’s making him responsible, but he goes away without revealing he was there. When Miho and Daewoong go to the subway, she explains to him that when it rains on a clear day, it’s the tears of a sad 9-tailed fox, her tears. They get off the subway and enter a department store where there is lots of beef and chicken that they can’t afford to buy. She goes to one corner of the store to shop, and the next scene is one of the most suspenseful in the book so far.

As Miho is shopping , she hears a man’s voice asking her if she thinks the human world is interesting, making it clear that he knows what she really is. She doesn’t recognize the voice but knows it isn’t Daewoong. There are too many people around her to figure out who is speaking, and she keeps asking where he is. He mentions how she was confined to the painting until recently, which alarms her more, and she tries more urgently to figure out where he is. Finally, she sees him sitting at a table in the corner of the coffee shop, reading, and she walks over to him.

As she touches his face, she notes he isn’t human either. He tells her she looks like Gildal and that he knows she no longer has her jewel. She wonders how he knows that. His voice is warm and reasonable, even seductive, as he suggests they go look for her jewel at once so she can run away and escape Daewoong. She says she won’t, and he asks if she can really trust the human Daewoong Cha. He advises her that it’s not possible to trust or make promises to a human. The scene ends abruptly. It has the same wonderful pacing as the phone call when Miho guides Daewoong to draw on her tails, though this time she is the vulnerable party being guided by another non-human entity of some unspecified sort, and the scene has a similar sense of something threatening about the encounter. It’s a good parallel to the other scene.

There is another confusing scene where Daewoong is looking for Miho, he finds her, and they meet with Hyein before the audition. Hyein is dressed in white since she heard the director is looking for information on a woman in white, and she’s worried she’ll spill coffee on them and ruin them. Miho is preoccupied and irritated with Daewoong’s clothes for some reason. She thinks about how supportive she has been of him and feels unhappy and unappreciated. She feels their connection is an evil fate that she wants to escape. Dongju’s menacing words are clearly doing their work on her now.

When Miho and Daewoong arrive at the audition site, Miho decides she doesn’t like the place and excuses herself. He tells her to come back quickly, but she takes off. Suddenly, Daewoong notices it is starting to rain although it is a clear day, and he remembers what Miho told him about sun showers. She is on a bus, crying, which is where the chapter ends.

I think so far Dongju’s character is much more interesting in the book. I’ll have to go back when I have time and look at the episodes that cover this part since I don’t recall them well enough for comparison. I do remember that Dongju didn’t have quite the same intense, magnetic feel in the show that he does here, and I don’t think he ever came off as a serious contender for a love triangle with Miho and Daewoong in the show either. So far, the book makes the triangle a little more interesting. We’ll see next time how that develops.

Part two of a five part series.

About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization from 2007 to 2018 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her gothic horror novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and earned the 2018 Story Monsters Approved Seal in the Tween Category.
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