Chapter 2. A Son of a Bitch (1)

When he was young, he thought that the entire world was green. That people were green, that roads were the refreshing color of grass, that animals were dark green, and that the sky was light green. Green colors danced no matter where he looked.

One memory he had of his childhood was the time he went to the zoo with his family. Rather than walking around and watching the enclosures, they entered a safari, where visitors rode on a bus to tour an artificial wilderness. Paper bags filled with raw meat hung on the side of the bus.

The eldest brother sat on the seat next to the window, and the two-year-old sister took the mother’s lap. He recalled being a bit down, unable to sit together being neither the oldest nor the youngest.

The bus stopped. The wild animals lounging around the field sauntered up to the bus. The green animals jumped into a fierce competition for food. The way they pounced on each other reminded the boy of the game, Whack-A-Mole, so he laughed faintly.

It was then.

A single animal. Just one. It sat on top of a boulder like an emperor, reflecting the shining sunlight.

The boy’s smiled disappeared. Why?

‘Its color…?’

Unlike any of the other animals he had ever seen, that one animal wasn’t green.

Did it feel his gaze? The beast stared into the boy’s eyes. As if enchanted, the boy became afraid. He averted his gaze instinctively and stopped breathing. Both his hands and body trembled, and his heart pounded crazily.

Even as he was swallowed by a terror that no boy his age was able to withstand, the boy raised a question.

Why wasn’t that animal green?

No, I must have made a mistake.

The boy took a deep breath and looked out the window again. It was then.

Pang!

The window shook violently. The beast had been far away, but it had approached the bus before the boy even noticed. But why was it ignoring the food hanging at the side of the bus and sticking to the window?

The beast opened its mouth and revealed its fearsome teeth, while repeatedly trying to chew on the window.

The boy didn’t understand what had transpired. Still, he flinched and shrunk back.

I have to run.

Why isn’t the bus moving?

I’m scared. I want to get away from here.

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom….!

Just as the boy was about to burst into tears, a warm hand carefully covered his eyes.

“It must have frightened you a lot.”

The voice was as silvery and gentle as a spring breeze. Just that single sentence made the boy feel relaxed and relieved. The boy jumped into the woman’s embrace without checking to see who it was.

“There, there, everything’s okay. The scary lion isn’t here anymore… Ah, the bus is moving again.”

Pat, pat. The woman gently patted the boy’s back, and his stifled breathing became relaxed. Only then did the boy raise his head to take a look.

“Eh?”

Suddenly, the woman’s hands stopped. She drew closer to the boy, studying him carefully. Then, she gasped in surprise.

“Oh my goodness… Really….”

When the boy tilted his head in confusion, the woman smiled.

“Your eyes are beautiful.”

My eyes?

“Yes, they’re beautiful. In the seven colors of the rainbow.”

The boy stared at the woman curiously, but she only smiled in return. Then, she let out a sigh, as if she found something to be a great loss.

“If only you were a little older… No, perhaps it’s better that you grow up unaware.”

Before long, the safari tour ended. Tourists got up one by one, but the boy showed no sign of leaving. The woman also hesitated, as if she wasn’t ready to give up.

The woman whispered into the boy’s ear.

“What’s your name?”

“Se- Seol….”

“Seol? That’s a pretty name.”

She then met the blushing boy’s gaze.

“Hey, once you grow a bit older… and we somehow meet by coincidence, will you come to me?”

“To you, Noona?”[1]

“Yes, I’ll be there if you ever need my help.”

Although the boy couldn’t understand what she meant, he still nodded his head in her embrace. Soon, the sound of his mother and younger sister looking for him rang out.

“Here, promise.”

A soft sensation touched the boy’s forehead before disappearing.

“Let us meet again, little prince.”

As the boy held his mother’s hand and walked out of the bus, he looked back longingly. The woman was smiling brightly and waving her hand, all the way until the boy disappeared.

Time passed, and the boy became an adult. He had grown until the special memories from this day turned faint.

With age, he lost his fear of wild animals, and he began to research the phenomenon he experienced that day.

What was this ability of his?

Why did he have a power that no one else did?

In the end, he could not arrive at an answer, but he began to figure out the conditions where the green color appeared and disappeared.

His life began to change as he began to apply this power to his everyday life. And when this ability suddenly disappeared one day, his life rapidly spiraled out of control.

**

Seorak Land was a casino located in Gangwon Province’s Sokcho City.

Regardless of winning or losing, people pressed buttons like a robot and flipped cards, as both cries of joy and despair rang out together.

“….”

A young man looked down at a table with a nervous expression across his face. He stole a glance at the dealer, who remained expressionless. After glaring at the table like a hungry beast, the young man opened his mouth with great difficulty.

“Stop… No, double down!”

The dealer immediately put his hand on the deck, as if he had grown bored of waiting for the youth’s decision.

The young man’s throat dried up. His chin dripped with sweat, and his back was drenched as well. But unlike the anxious youth, the dealer flipped the card with apathy.

The young man wrapped his hands around his head. The sound of joy and despair once again rang out.

*

“Park Hyung, you got lucky today?”

“Ah, Choi.”

When a well-built man walked out of the entrance and greeted him, the bespectacled man shivering outside, while smoking a cigarette shook his head.

“Lucky? Damn, I’m barely even. What about you?”

“It’s the same for me. Guess today’s not my lucky day.”

“I came outside to take a short break. I have a small headache from staying at the same table for hours on end. I figured the cold wind would cool me off.”

When the bespectacled man grumbled, the well-built man grinned.

“Yeah, I feel you… Hm?”

Just as the well-built man began to rummage through his pocket, a loud shout suddenly struck his ears. With their eyes opened wide in surprise, the two men turned their heads to a young man on his cellphone.

Choi furrowed his brows before tilting his head.

“He kind of looks familiar….”

“Who?”

“That young man on his phone. You know him?”

“Him? Of course, I do. That’s Seol. I think he’s been coming here longer than you. I first saw him three, four years ago.”

Choi was inwardly impressed with how long Park had been here and stared at the young man with a shocked expression.

“T-Three, four years? But he looks so young!”

“Uh… He should be in his mid-20s now. He used to be famous around these parts.”

Park licked his lips with a tinge of regret in his face. But Choi simply shrugged his shoulders.

“Really? I’ve seen him a couple times. He didn’t look all that special.”

“He’s like that now, but for about a year, he was the real deal. Back then, some people fought to move to his seat whenever he left.”

“Oh? I guess he has some skills then.”

“No, no, I wouldn’t really say he’s skilled. He’s bold, maybe? He knew when to gamble like a demon. He kept strict rules for himself, not going overboard, always bringing a set amount with himself… It felt more like he was coming here to play, not because of an addiction. Anyways, he was a weird one.”

“How did he turn out like that, then?”

“Who knows? He suddenly started saying he couldn’t see anymore or something. It wasn’t long until he became that….”

Park clicked his tongue and resumed smoking his cigarette. The young man was still holding onto his cellphone. He seemed desperate as if he was pleading.

Choi snorted.

“It doesn’t sit well with me. A young man like him should go out there and work for his money.”

“As long as you’re an adult, you’re free to come here, no? If you put it that way, you’re a young man too.”

“Eii, it’s been ages since I passed forty.”

“Does age matter? A casino is just a gambling house with a fancy title. The moment someone sets their foot inside, they’re free to lose their mind, regardless of their age.”

“Haha, I guess that’s true.”

Bored of talking about the young man, the duo exchanged meaningless jokes and laughed.

*

“Father, please! Just this once! Just one last time!”

—I’m hanging up, you bastard!

“Father!”

Tk. The line cut off one-sidedly, and Seol immediately spat out a curse.

“Haa…. I’m going to go fucking crazy.”

He had lost what little money he had left. All he had in his pockets were four casino chips, and he only had enough bills in his wallet to cover his taxi fare back. For a moment, he even considered trying his luck at the slots to recover even a little bit of what he lost.

However, if he lost even that, he knew he would have to walk home.

His eyes scanned his contact list once more. When the name ‘Yoo Seonhwa’ showed up, he pressed the call button without hesitation. Unfortunately, it was still dawn, and no one answered the phone no matter how long he waited.

Seol accessed the banking app and checked his balance. But that only revealed what he already knew. He sighed as he stared at the minus sign in front of the numbers.

“Damn it, why aren’t you picking up your fucking phone….”

After seething in anger for a bit, he tilted his head up and looked up at the sky. The morning sky was still grey. With a sigh, Seol raised his hand.

“Taxi!”

“Where are you going?”

“Gangnam Station… No, Nonhyeon Station!”

“Get in.”

Soon, the taxi carrying the young man slipped into the darkness.

[1] A form of address for an elder sister by a boy.

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