When I opened my eyes, I saw an unfamiliar ceiling. Rather than unfamiliar, it was more luxurious than anything else. Catholic frescoes adorned the walls and ceilings, and when I focused, the murals’ colors became clearer through resonance of mana.
It was quite a mysterious mechanism.
While I was staring at the frescoes in a daze, a voice rang out. Turning around, I saw Boss sitting on a chair.
She sipped on her tea and looked at me.
“You slept for two days.”
Hearing these words, I quickly raised my upper body. Many things could have happened in two days.
However, Boss was calm.
“Don’t worry, the cover up was perfect.”
There were many things I wanted to ask her but couldn’t. After looking at me for a while, Boss smiled lightly.
“The funeral is starting today.”
A dazed voice came out of my mouth. At the same time, memories of the moment I pulled the trigger resurfaced.
Chae Jinyoon’s funeral.
Did I have the right to go there?
I clenched my teeth. Suddenly, a strong urge overwhelmed me. I rummaged through my pocket, but I couldn’t find my pack of cigarettes.
“Your weapon is here.”
Misunderstanding my motion, Boss pointed at the shelf. My Desert Eagle was sitting on it. I carefully grabbed it. Likely because it was clad in Aether, it wasn’t broken anywhere.
“…So where are we?”
As I said that, I put the Desert Eagle into Stigma’s magic power. Seeing the handgun transform into a current of mana and seep into my arm, Boss widened her eyes.
“That’s quite an interesting storage method.”
“It’s nothing much.”
I shrugged. Boss grinned and continued her explanation proudly.
“This is my mansion built on an island in the East Sea. Ah, just in case you’re misunderstanding, this entire island is my home.”
“…Wow, that’s amazing.”
Since Boss liked being praised, I exaggerated a bit.
“Huhu, why don’t we open the windows?”
Boss opened the windows proudly. I looked outside at the gem-like ocean, clear sky, and salty breeze.
It was indeed a scenery worth bragging about.
“…Wait, then how do we get back?”
“Hm? You don’t have a Personal Portal?”
Boss was clearly bragging.
It was a system for the rich. If I remembered correctly, there was one in Busan.
“Then I’d like to head home.”
“…You can stay a bit longer.”
“There’s someone waiting for me.”
Boss reluctantly led me outside.
The unknown island I was on had many attendants running about. However, none of them were humans. They were puppets created by Boss’ magic power that could only perform set tasks.
Boss was living amidst puppets she created herself.
“It’s a lonely place.”
“Sometimes, you need to get used to loneliness.”
I walked through the garden towards Boss’ Personal Portal.
After walking for about 10 minutes, enjoying the island’s beautiful scenery, I could see the so-called Personal Portal in the distance.
Although it was smaller than what Portal Stations had, it was still a high-tech magical tool that could perform as well as other Portals.
“I just have to go in?”
“Yes, it should be connected to Busan. I’ll come with you. There’s something I need to take care of in England.”
Boss made a call. Soon, the Portal was activated, and we stepped inside.
Once we arrived in Busan’s Portal Station, we went through the VIP-only path and stopped at a crossroad.
Boss’ destination was England, and mine was Seoul.
“Then I’ll see you later.”
After exchanging a light goodbye, I walked away.
Closing my eyes, I felt the magic power of the Portal engulfing my body.
When I opened my eyes, I could see the now familiar sight of Seoul Portal Station.
I left the station without much thought, then bought three packs of cigarettes at a nearby convenience store.
Chae Jinyoon’s funeral should be held in Daehyun’s funeral home. I located it using the Book of Truth and walked there.
I could see the silent and somber funeral home.
But I couldn’t bring myself to go in.
I also didn’t think I could break through the guards standing outside.
So, I just decided to watch from the distance. I told myself that I’d go back once my heart calmed down.
Standing under a nearby tree, I took out a cigarette. After lighting it without a lighter, I took a deep breath. A puff of smoke entered my lungs.
One, then two… I subconsciously began to smoke again and again.
Then suddenly, a fourth visitor came to pay respect to the deceased.
I saw Yoo Yeonha walking into the funeral home.
Although I didn’t meet her eyes, I felt an unknown sense of foreboding. I felt like I had to leave before it was too late.
However, it already was too late.
A dazed voice came out of my mouth.
Chae Nayun walked out of the entrance. Looking around the funeral home, our eyes met.
Her eyes were filled with tears.
When I saw her face, my feet refused to move.
Chae Nayun walked towards me, wearing a mourning dress.
Her movements felt slow, and the sound of her footsteps were all too clear.
She arrived in front of me before I noticed and called my name.
Not knowing what to do, I maintained my silence.
“How did you find out? Did Yoo Yeonha tell you?”
Chae Nayun smiled forcibly. She was trying hard to pretend like she was fine.
“By the way, are you a delinquent? Why are you smoking?”
However, her forced smile made her face look all the more contorted.
“Why aren’t you answering… hey, let me have that.”
Suddenly, Chae Nayun reached out to take my cigarette.
“What? Are you crazy?”
I blurted out subconsciously. I threw the cigarette on the ground and stepped on it. Chae Nayun didn’t look down at the cigarette. Her gaze was fixated on me.
“Does smoking make it better?”
Chae Nayun suddenly asked.
Her voice was shaking, and a stream of tears flowed down from her eyes.
Immediately, my vision turned hazy.
“…Why are you crying?”
Only when she told me did I realized I was crying.
I wiped my tears with one hand.
Chae Nayun walked up to me one step at a time.
Soon, she was only a single step away from me. Our bodies were practically touching.
I had to push her away, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
My heart couldn’t follow what my brain was telling me to do.
Chae Nayun was crying. In front of her tears, my body was frozen and unable to move.
“What… what should I do now?”
Sobbing quietly, she lowered her head to hide her flowing tears.
Then, her forehead touched my chest.
I couldn’t breathe.
Suddenly, I remembered what I thought about before.
That as long as I wasn’t found out, I could maintain this relationship.
But seeing Chae Nayun crying like a child, I realized that that was impossible in the first place.
Chae Nayun put her arms around me. Our bodies touched, and she cried in my embrace.
I was in pain. It felt like my heart was going to burst. I tried to push her away, but she didn’t let go. In fact, she drew even closer. The pain I felt only grew stronger by the second.
“What, what do I do about Oppa?”
She finally burst into tears. Unable to hold herself back any longer, she trembled uncontrollably.
“Oppa, Oppa, Oppa….”
Her grief-stricken sobbing became poison that seeped into my body.
“Poor Oppa… what am I supposed to do… uaang….”
I couldn’t bear to watch her sorrowful trembling.
Her body weighed down on me.
I knew all too well that I had no right to comfort her. I was someone who didn’t belong here… However, before I even realized what I was doing, my arms were tightened around her. Chae Nayun dug into my body, as though she was trying to fill the emptiness in her heart with me.
“If I, if I… Huaaang—”
Chae Nayun’s tears wet my chest.
My tears flowed down to her shoulders.
The cold winter breeze blew against us, and the bitterness of the cigarette smoke engulfed us.
Chae Nayun wasn’t able to withstand her sadness. Her legs gave out, and soon, she crumbled down from the depths of her heart.
It was then that I finally found what I could say.
That was the only thing I could tell her.
Yoo Yeonha watched the two from a distance.
The situation was too melancholic and somber to be called a touching reunion.
All sorts of complicated thoughts flashed through Yoo Yeonha’s head.
If one day, Chae Nayun found out the truth.
If one day, Kim Hajin found out the truth.
Would their story come to a sad ending?
Or would they overcome all odds and achieve happiness?
Yoo Yeonha didn’t try to come up with an answer.
She put the matter of the future to rest.
When she was about to go back to the funeral home, Chae Nayun suddenly lost strength and collapsed.
She had undoubtedly fainted.
Yoo Yeonha quickly ran up to them.
“Is she okay?!”
The moment she yelled out, her eyes met Kim Hajin’s.
Yoo Yeonha shuddered inadvertently.
His eyes were frighteningly hollow.
Leaving Chae Nayun to Yoo Yeonha, I came back home.
An apartment in Seoul’s Seocho District, the home where Evandel and Hayang were waiting.
Standing in front of the door, I pressed the password.
Before the door even opened, I could hear a bustling sound inside.
I didn’t go inside on purpose.
—Who is it?
Hearing the password go through but the door remaining closed, Evandel murmured quizzically. I grinned and opened the door.
From my perspective, not even half a day had passed since I last saw them, but from Evandel’s perspective, she was seeing me for the first time in two days.
Evandel smiled brightly and ran into my embrace.
I got on my knees and hugged her.
Evandel was light and warm.
Then, I suddenly wondered.
Did I hug Evandel? Or did Evandel hug me?
I felt something rising up from the bottom of my heart.
I shuddered at the constraining pain.
“Hajin, why were you so late? I was waiting.”
“…Sorry, something came up.”
As Evandel tried to get out of my embrace, I held her tighter.
“Did you eat well?”
“Un, we ordered food. By the way, it’s getting stuffy.”
“…I’m glad. And you went out on a walk?”
I continued to ask. I loosened my arms a bit to not hurt Evandel.
“I went with Hayang. Oh right, I even built a sand castle with a new friend!”
I couldn’t say anything more.
Because of the lump in my throat, my voice didn’t come out.