Chapter 448. While He is Gone (5)

“How are you feeling? Better?”

Yoo Seonhwa asked while fixing Seol Jihu’s crumpled hospital gown.

Today, Seol Jihu had an appointment with a therapist. A patient suffering from severe depression naturally needed to get their mental illness treated.

But in truth, no such appointment had been made. The therapy was only a pretext to take Seol Jihu out. The reality was that he wasn’t going to see a therapist, but a visitor.

“Let’s go.”

Yoo Seonhwa grabbed Seol Jihu’s hand and led him outside. She glanced sideways stealthily while walking down the hallway.

Seol Jihu was still showing zero reaction. This obviously wasn’t a good sign. He used to at least act like he was annoyed, but now he was completely emotionless.

He was walking, but it was more like he was being dragged on his feet. He seemed to be suppressing his emotions forcefully.

And if his pent-up emotions ever burst out one day….

Yoo Seonhwa secretly did not want Seol Jihu to meet anyone from Paradise. Given how things turned out, she wanted him to forget about everything and start a new life on Earth. But recently, she had a change of heart.

She expected Seol Jihu to be in a bad state after losing his memories of Paradise, but she did not expect it to be this bad. His condition didn’t improve after being hospitalized. In fact, he was developing aphasia and was becoming more and more reliant on drugs….

Judging that this couldn’t go on, Yoo Seonhwa accepted the request of someone who was asking to see Seol Jihu just once.

She was clutching at straws, hoping that this meeting would initiate even a small change in Seol Jihu.

“Over here.”

Yoo Seonhwa stopped at a reception room. Because they were on the hospital’s VIP floor, there weren’t that many people in the area.

“I’ll be waiting out here in the hallway. The therapist wants to talk to you one on one before the official session.”

Seeing Seol Jihu just standing in front of the open door, Yoo Seonhwa gently pushed his back.

“Don’t worry. It’s nothing serious. Just pretend like you’re talking to a friend.”

Seol Jihu stepped inside. The door closed behind him. Inside the reception room was someone wearing a white suit and open-toed shoes. The person’s long hair and fair skin made it evident that she was a young woman.

One thing Seol Jihu immediately noted was her pulled-down hat and sunglasses.

The woman raised her head and looked at Seol Jihu. Seol Jihu also stood still and looked at her in a daze.

An awkward silence flowed in the air. Soon, the woman took off her hat and sunglasses. When Seol Jihu saw her eyes that were slightly tinged red, he frowned without even knowing why.

[Haven't we met somewhere before?]

He suddenly remembered what the woman he met on the rooftop said.

That was how Seol Jihu currently felt.

At first, he thought the woman was Yoo Seonhwa. But upon taking a closer look at her face, he realized they were clearly different. They gave off a similar aura, but it was only similar, not the same. But then again, with seven billion people on Earth, it probably wasn’t surprising for one or two people to be alike.

The reason Seol Jihu frowned was that he felt like he had seen her somewhere before, even though this was definitely the first time he was seeing her.

‘Again….’

Seol Jihu pressed his forehead, feeling an intense headache swirling inside his head. It was the same phenomenon that came whenever he tried to force himself to remember.

Just by meeting her eyes, a powerful headache tormented him.

“Are you alright?”

At that moment, he heard the woman’s voice. Seol Jihu panted with a pale face and lowered his gaze. He no longer had the confidence to keep looking at her.

Once he stared at the ground for some time, he felt his headache subside a little.

“Your face….”

A grunt escaped Seol Jihu’s mouth.

“My face?”

The woman blinked in confusion before doing a double-take and putting back her sunglasses. Shortly afterward, Seol Jihu barely managed to look at his therapist again.

“By any chance….”

Seol Jihu collected his breath and eked out a sentence.

“Have I… seen you somewhere before…?”

If Yoo Seonhwa knew, she would have jumped high in surprise. She had never seen Seol Jihu talk on his own accord after his hospitalization.

Seol Jihu himself was surprised. The words had practically come out subconsciously.

The woman also seemed surprised. Though she covered her eyes with her sunglasses, a faint smile could be seen from her lips.

“Why do you think so?”

She asked after fixing her posture. She sounded like she had her hopes up slightly.

Feeling her expectation, Seol Jihu suddenly felt pressured.

“Would you like to take a seat?”

The woman offered gently. However, Seol Jihu did not budge from the door. The longer his silence went on, the more anxious the woman’s expression became.

“What’s your name?”

She asked out of the blue. No, perhaps it wasn’t so strange for a therapist to ask for her patient’s name. However, Seol Jihu narrowed his eyes in a frown.

For some reason, that question just now seemed….

“My name is Seo Yuhui, by the way.”

Seo Yuhui…. Seo Yuhui? Seol Jihu repeated her name in his head and was suddenly struck by a strong sense of déjà vu.

“What’s your name?”

She asked again.

“…Seol… Seol….”

Seol Jihu stammered.

“Seol? Your name is Seol?”

Seo Yuhui’s tone became sharp as if she wasn’t satisfied with his answer.

“That’s not your name. Seol is your last name. I’m asking for the name you go by.”

Speaking with her hands clenched, she sounded solemn as if she made a resolute determination.

It was because she couldn’t accept it.

[…It’s Seol.]

[…Seol. My name’s Seol.]

The fact that he was hesitant to reveal his name meant that he really forgot everything and returned to the way he was.

Seo Yuhui could not allow this to happen. He had to be able to say it. Being able to say his own name confidently was the first step.

However, Seol Jihu, who did not know what Seo Yuhui was thinking, could only feel flustered. It looked like she knew his name. He just didn’t understand why she was so insistent on making him say it.

“My… my name is…”

Wouldn’t it be okay to just gloss over it?

“Seol….”

But despite this…

“Seol….”

For some reason…

“….”

…He just couldn’t.

Just saying a name shouldn’t be a big deal, so why was it that “Seol” stuck to his mouth more? And why did he hesitate to say his own name?

There was one thing for sure. The inexplicable sense of déjà vu he felt when he first met the therapist was raging like bugs were crawling on his skin. If something went wrong and this feeling burst, he felt like he would be swarmed with an overwhelming amount of pain.

And so, he wanted to run away before that happened. How else would he avoid the terrifying sense of emptiness that came along with the painful headache?

“Go on. I’m sure you can say your name…?”

Seo Yuhui flinched just as she finished her sentence. Seol Jihu didn’t seem to be in a good state. He was convulsing to a noticeable degree, and half of his body was already turned toward the door.

“Hold on.”

Seo Yuhui got up. Just as she took a single step toward Seol Jihu… Kwang! The reception room’s door burst open.

Seol Jihu ran outside after throwing the door open and ran as fast as he could. He heard the woman cry out to him longingly, and he also heard Yoo Seonhwa call his name in a startle.

Despite this, Seol Jihu kept running. He did not pay attention to anything else and just ran.

He was frustrated at himself for not even being able to say his name. He was disappointed at himself for being scared without even knowing what he was scared about. It was so ridiculous and pitiful… that he felt like he was going crazy.

Seol Jihu ran aimlessly without a destination. Then, he stopped just before he jumped down the stairs.

A few nurses, who were coming up, widened their eyes when they saw him.

Seol Jihu turned around immediately. He ran up the stairs without a plan. Plowing his way through the people who were dodging left and right, he arrived at the hospital’s rooftop.

When he came to a stop after running like a raging bull, glares fell on him from the surroundings. Seol Jihu looked around with an agitated face before fixing his gaze in one spot.

Beyond the guardrails that were like the steel bars of a prison, he saw a blue sky filled with leisurely flowing white clouds.

His panting subsided.

“Ah….”

For some reason, the vast azure sky beyond the guardrails looked more limitless and refreshing than ever before.

The stuffy feeling in his heart popped open. The flowing, beard-like clouds seemed to be beckoning at him to jump.

A trip.

[To somewhere no one knows.]

A trip to the sky.

Then, just as he began to walk as if he was enchanted by something…

“JIHU!”

Seol Jihu’s body suddenly fell forward.

Yoo Seonhwa, who had followed him to the rooftop, pounced on him. Nurses then ran up to him and put restraints on the struggling Seol Jihu’s body.

“What’s wrong? Hmm?”

A small scuffle broke out.

Despite being dragged away at the end, Seol Jihu’s eyes remained fixed on the clear, azure sky beyond the guardrails.

*


Seol Jihu returned to his hospital room. Perhaps because he was given a sedative, he became quiet again.

“That was rude, you know.”

Yoo Seonhwa feigned a smile as she looked at Seol Jihu, who was lying on his bed, staring out of the window.

“The therapist… she was crying, you know. She went back, crying her eyes out. The shock must have been great.”

Yoo Seonhwa spoke jokingly, but her expression didn’t seem like she was joking in the slightest.

“It wasn’t easy… for her to come all the way here….”

Seol Jihu remained silent. Yoo Seonhwa felt like she was talking to a wall, so she stealthily lowered her eyes and grabbed her handbag with a sigh.

Then, just as she was about to say something…

“Dream…”

Seol Jihu muttered a word.

“…Huh?”

Yoo Seonhwa’s eyes widened.

“What was that…?”

“Dream… I think I had a dream….”

A hoarse voice escaped his mouth.

“A dream?”

Seol Jihu nodded his head at Yoo Seonhwa’s question.

“But… I don’t remember it…”

Yoo Seonhwa’s eyes spun. She wanted to respond but didn’t know what was appropriate to say. She spoke after a brief hesitation.

“Isn’t that how dreams are? It’s not like they really happened, right? It’s normal to forget once you wake up.”

Seol Jihu’s eyebrows twitched.

“…No.”

“Hmm?”

“It wasn’t… a dream…”

Seol Jihu’s eyes turned hazy.

“I’m sure of it….”

After muttering like fleeting wind, Seol Jihu closed his mouth shut.

Yoo Seonhwa listened absent-mindedly and asked him to clarify what he meant, but Seol Jihu’s sealed lips did not re-open.

“…I’ve gotta go for today. Uncle Seol will be here soon.”

“….”

“Also… I won’t be able to come all that often from now on. There’s an urgent matter I have to take care of. But it won’t take long. I’ll come as soon as I’m done with it.”

Yoo Seonhwa got up. She glanced back to the hospital room before leaving. Seol Jihu was still lying on his bed, blankly staring at the ceiling.

As if he was dreaming.

Yoo Seonhwa quietly left the room and took out her phone. Her finger hovered above the recent calls button before she ultimately pressed it and hit the call button.

The call connected before the dial rang twice.

“Yes, hello, it’s about what you said before….”

After talking for a bit, Yoo Seonhwa took a deep breath and spoke.

“Where should I go?”

*


Roe Scheherazade was looking outside with a bored face.

Next to Yun Seora was a severed head with a distorted facial expression. It was the head of Sinyoung’s chairman, Yun Seojin.

How could she forget? He was the one who was responsible for her current state.

Roe Scheherazade apathetically gazed at Yun Seojin’s face, distorted with pain before moving her gaze to Yun Seora.

A hint of interest flashed on her otherwise bored expression.

“Can I ask you a question?”

Roe Scheherazade struck up a conversation while tilting her head.

“Looking at you, I suddenly got curious.”

She continued while looking down at Yun Seora.

“When it came to Sinyoung, I despised almost everyone. There were only two people whom I didn’t hate.”

Yun Seora listened carefully while holding a blood-smeared longsword in her hand.

“One was Sung Shihyun. The other is you.”

Roe Scheherazade rested her chin on her left palm.

“Sung Shihyun… had a terrible personality, but the reason I didn’t hate him was that I coincidentally found out about the reason he defected and sympathized with him.”

“Of course, we also rarely made contact,” Roe Scheherazade added with a smirk.

“As for you… how should I say this, I felt like I was seeing myself in you.”

Roe Scheherazade suddenly tapped on the wall with her finger.

“You were hated without doing anything wrong. You learned about my situation and tried to help me, but only got mocked by the executives for being a gutsy toy of the Yun family. You wandered around like a stray dog without a place to call home….”

Roe Scheherazade continued while staring at Yun Seora fixedly.

“Executing Sinyoung’s executives, your sister, and your father without hesitation… was that related to the way you were treated until now?”

She was asking if Yun Seora was exacting revenge for the poor treatment she received.

“I don’t know the details, but your family seems to have had quite a complicated relationship. Two mothers, right? I doubt it ends there given Chairman Yun’s behavior.”

Roe Scheherazade snickered.

“If it wasn’t for that, then was it for power? To use this chance to become Sinyoung’s representative?”

“….”

“Brothers and sisters killing each other for the throne is common in this world as well. And it’s not like you really die in your world when you die in this place, right? They’d become a cripple after losing their memory and ultimately kill themselves. You won’t even get caught or anything.”

Roe Scheherazade twirled her hair.

“If it isn’t this either… then was it to save Sinyoung, which might lose its influence in Paradise after this incident?”

She threw out several possibilities as if to play a guessing game. Then, she shrugged.

“I’m just wondering. It’s pure curiosity. I didn’t really think you’d help me exact revenge, you see.”

Yun Seora remained silent.

Roe Scheherazade smacked her lips.

“…Well, I guess the reason doesn’t matter at this point. You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to.”

“…told me to do it.”

It was then. A low but mana-filled voice entered Roe Scheherazade’s ears.

“Oppa…”

When Roe Scheherazade craned her neck out, Yun Seora slowly raised her head.

“He told me to beg for your forgiveness and do whatever I can.”

“Oppa?”

Roe Scheherazade blinked. Then, she nodded her head with a realization.

“Him, you mean. Come to think of it, what is Paradise's hero up to nowadays?”

“Oppa is….”

“Well, I’m sure he’s busy, given how talented he is. Anyway, you went this far all because of what he said?”

Yun Seora nodded her head quietly.

“How scary~ Perhaps I don’t have the right to say this, but to go so far just for love… I didn’t expect that, really.”

Roe Scheherazade chuckled. It was then.

“I first met Oppa… in the Tutorial.”

Yun Seora began to speak.

“I entered Paradise with nothing but my pride guiding me… Nothing worked out at first. One of my arms got crippled, I got beaten up and almost raped…. Oppa appeared back then and saved me.”

“Aha, so it’s a story of a princess falling in love with a knight in shining armor.”

“It’s not that…”

Yun Seora smiled bitterly and continued.

“I just liked it. It was fun. I never knew it could be so enjoyable to spend time with someone. That must have been the first time I had a dream.”

“A dream?”

“Yes, it’s nothing big, though. I wanted to repay the kindness he showed me… and if I ever met him again, I wanted to have fun as we did in the Neutral Zone…”

Roe Scheherazade tilted her head.

“Why couldn’t you?”

She asked as if she couldn’t understand.

“It’s not like you didn’t have a chance. There wasn’t a place for you in Sinyoung anyway, so you could have just left. At the very least, you could have gone to visit him after he created that huge force in Eva. If you pleaded with him to help you rise to the position of Sinyoung’s representative in return for giving him your wholehearted help, I’m sure he would have agreed.”

“I didn’t want to.”

Yun Seora smiled bitterly.

“…No.”

But then, she dropped her head with a sigh.

“You’re right. I thought about going to see him whenever things got hard. When I heard the news about all the incredible things he was doing… I wondered if he would come and get me, if he would reach his hand out to me too… and I sometimes wished that he would.”

Roe Scheherazade’s face stiffened slightly.

“But no matter how much I told myself I wanted that… I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“…Why not?”

Roe Scheherazade’s voice sank low.

“Because Oppa already had a lot of weight on his shoulders.”

Yun Seora spoke calmly.

“It must have been difficult enough to fight the Parasites, but not only did he have to deal with things like slave hunt and organizational power struggles, but he also had his family threatened on Earth….”

“…His family?”

“Yes. His younger sister was shot. Sinyoung was responsible for it too.”

Roe Scheherazade laughed dumbfoundedly at the last bit.

“Whenever he took care of a problem, another one would pop out of nowhere. Whether it’s on Earth or in Paradise… I’m sure every day must have been a blood-drying challenge.”

Yun Seora tightly clenched the longsword that was dripping with blood.

“That’s why I couldn’t go see him.”

“….”

“He already had so much on his plate…. I didn’t want to burden him any more just because I was lonely. I couldn’t. I’m sure he would have said yes to helping me out, but then things wouldn’t be any different from the Neutral Zone.”

Roe Scheherazade found herself listening to Yun Seora keenly.

“Rather than standing still and waiting for help to arrive, I wanted to build up my strength and be of help to him…. I wanted to lessen his burden even if it was by a little….”

“….”

“That’s why I stayed here and worked so hard…”

Roe Scheherazade and Yun Seora simultaneously clenched their teeth.

“If I knew things would turn out this way, I would have tried to talk to him more. I’m full of regrets.”

“What’s there to be regretful about?”

Roe Scheherazade asked, with her eyes narrowed.

“Didn’t your dream come true with this matter?”

“…No.”

Yun Seora sniffled.

“It’s too late.”

“?”

“Oppa is….”

Roe Scheherazade’s eyes widened at Yun Seora’s following explanation.

“He… died?”

She couldn’t help but be surprised as this was the first time she heard any outside news.

“…Yes.”

Yun Seora’s shoulders shook faintly.

“Like always, he pushed himself too far…”

She raised her head, which was just as shaky as her voice.

“He fell into the Parasites’ trap… and…”

A teardrop fell from Yun Seora’s eye. Roe Scheherazade stared fixedly at Yun Seora as she cried soundlessly.

‘Why?’

Roe Scheherazade realized just what it was that was picking at her nerves.

Seol Jihu had fallen into the Parasites’ trap and died, and she was someone who helped the Parasites create this trap. Despite this, Yun Seora was continuing to help her exact her revenge rather than stopping midway.

All this time, without even saying a word about it. Even after Seol Jihu died.

To Yun Seora, shouldn’t she be a sworn enemy who caused her loved one’s death? It wouldn’t be surprising if Yun Seora wanted to tear her limbs out, so why did she continue capturing and executing Sinyoung’s executives?

Roe Scheherazade could not understand this no matter how much she thought about it.

…No, Yun Seora had already given her answer.

[Oppa told me to beg for your forgiveness and do whatever I can.]

Because that person wanted it.

Roe Scheherazade finally realized what was bothering her so much.

She loved a man. She despaired at that man’s death and her own pitiful situation. She became blinded with vengeance and forgot all about Gairos’ request.

It was the same with Yun Seora. The man she loved with all her heart had died. But she did not despair, she did not rage, and she did not try to exact revenge. On the contrary, she did not forget about Seol Jihu’s request and cried in regret for not being able to help him sooner.

Despite being in similar positions, the choices they made were completely different. In truth, Roe Scheherazade felt a prick at her conscience when Yun Seora said, ‘Rather than standing still and waiting for help to arrive.’

There wasn’t anyone in this world without a story.

The difference was between someone who didn’t try to learn about others’ circumstances and someone who did.

“…I know.”

Remembering Gairos’ request, Roe Scheherazade spoke a little meekly.

“I know that I am wrong…. I’m sorry that I’m not as strong as you.”

Outside the city were dozens of corpses, including that of Yun Seojin. They were all people whose names were on her list. With this, her personal revenge was 100 percent complete.

Then what should she do now? What was she supposed to do now that her revenge was over?

“…I appreciate you telling me all this.”

Roe Scheherazade spoke quietly after staring at Yun Seora for some time.

“And I’m grateful to you for swinging the blade for me. You took care of them all cleanly…”

She continued while rolling her eyes.

“But after thinking about it some more, I realized my revenge isn’t complete.”

She sighed and raised her upper body.

“Even if they didn’t harm me directly, wouldn’t it be right to punish those that indirectly provided the cause for my suffering?”

If it weren’t for them, I would have been living peacefully with Gairos, after all.

Roe Scheherazade tilted her head up and looked at the huge barrier enveloping the city. The barrier’s light was fainter than before, and its thickness had decreased as well.

“It seems Gorad Boga will be lifted soon…. You said before, right? That you would do anything to earn my forgiveness.”

Roe Scheherazade played with her necklace and glanced at the crying Yun Seora.

“I’m… different from you.”

Their paths had split up long ago. Roe Scheherazade had no intention of following Yun Seora’s path at this point.

She had already gone mad with vengeance, and now that she started it, she planned to put an end to it.

To all that made her and Gairos suffer such fate.

“Anyway, if your thoughts haven’t changed, come to the royal palace on the day Gorad Boga is lifted.”

Yun Seora raised her head. She wiped her eyes and looked up at the city wall. Roe Scheherazade had already turned her back and was walking down.

“You best come as soon as possible before anyone else does.”

Only leaving behind a mysterious comment.

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