Side Story 21. Coming Back

After his talk with Seo Yuhui ended, Seol Jihu went out to catch Phi Sora on her way home. This, of course, wasn’t his idea, but Seo Yuhui’s.

—How much time do you have left? Why don’t you try talking to Miss Phi Sora before you leave?

—I already know more or less what happened that day. Miss Phi Sora talks about it every time she’s drunk.

—She won’t know you’re you. You should at least try.

Seol Jihu waited for Phi Sora in a park near the apartment complex. Some time went by, and just as he nervously raised his cell phone to check the time, he saw a familiar woman near the front gate at the foot of the hill. She was wearing a pair of high heels and a suit that he thought didn’t complement her.

“Sweetheart?”

Phi Sora, who quickly walked up the hill, seemed surprised to see Seol Jihu there.

“What a coincidence. Were you on your way somewhere?”

Seol Jihu shook his head.

“So then why are you out here? You couldn’t have been waiting for me…. Oh, I thought you had a meeting today?”

“Yes, I did. It went well, and now I’m back.”

“That’s great. But….”

Phi Sora scrutinized Seol Jihu before suddenly narrowing her eyes.

“Why do you look so nervous? Could it be… that you’re having an affair again?”

Seol Jihu’s shoulders slumped. He’d heard this accusation so many times that it didn’t even surprise him anymore.

“No. Um…. Look, can we talk?”

“Here?”

“Yes, here, and now.”

Phi Sora tilted her head. A look of suspicion crossed her face. Seol Jihu could tell that she was thinking, ‘What did he do this time?’ Followed by ‘Is it Yi Seol-Ah? No, wait, it has to be Miss Yun Seora. I’m sure of it.’

“This isn’t about women. I just want to talk to you.”

Seol Jihu assured her, and she finally answered him.

“…Okay. But we should sit somewhere first.”

The pair settled on a nearby bench.

“Today, Sohu made me naengmyeon.”

Seol Jihu followed Seo Yuhui’s advice and mentioned naengmyeon.

“It wasn’t perfect, of course… but he improved a lot since the last time.”

Because Seo Yuhui asserted that as long as he tied everything to naengmyeon, Phi Sora wouldn’t be suspicious.

“Wow, really?”

Phi Sora’s eyes widened.

“Yes, it was fascinating. The moment I tasted the soup, an old memory came rushing back to me out of the blue….”

“What kind of memory?”

“The memory of… the first time we slept together.”

Seol Jihu did as he was advised but doubted it would work. This was too random, even by his standards. He gulped nervously. And then, just as he finished counting till three in his head….

“Ha! Why did you suddenly think of that? You’re such a weirdo.”

It worked. Phi Sora snickered but didn’t seem to think what he said was absurd.

“Maybe it was because Sohu made it….”

Seol Jihu continued, studying Phi Sora’s face.

“Then, I remembered all the things I did wrong by you….”

“Kik. Sohu really must have improved a lot for you to be saying stuff like this.”

Phi Sora smirked.

“You’re right. You did hurt me back then. Just thinking about it now makes me….”

She sighed and leered at Seol Jihu.

“What were you most hurt about?”

He asked carefully.

“Do you really have to ask?”

A sharp reply came back at him.

“I mean, how could you be so cold? You just walked away.”

“But you asked me to leave.”

“You could’ve looked back at least once! And you pretended to be asleep while I was dealing with that crazy neighbor. Then you saw me getting sick and didn’t even ask if I was okay! I even made breakfast for you that day!”

Phi Sora said all this very quickly, like a machine gun firing.

“There’s more. I was lying in bed, sick, the neighbor kept bothering me constantly, and even after having the morning-after pill, the test still came back positive. And when I tried to talk to you about it, you were too busy looking for Miss Seo Yuhui! Then you suddenly go and have a mental breakdown and break up with her.”

“So that’s what happened…. Wait. What?”

“Why did you think I went over to your place every day? I was trying to talk to you about the test, but you didn’t even look at me.”

Phi Sora snapped, her face full of emotions she had been holding in for a long time.

“Seriously, if it weren’t for Sohu….”

It was then that shock swept through Seol Jihu. He struggled to keep his jaw from dropping. He felt as if he had been hit on the back of his head with a hammer.

‘Wait a minute, so this means…!’

Suddenly, he remembered what Black Seol Jihu had said.

—You get drunk and make a mistake, you get swept away by the mood, and that leads to another…

So Black Seol Jihu knew everything.

‘Oh my god…!’

Seol Jihu covered his face with both hands. A myriad of emotions overwhelmed him, but mainly he felt terrified of the inevitability of fate.

The truth was that Seol Jihu wasn’t serious about going back in time. He was afraid there could be repercussions, and also Black Seol Jihu was against it. But after hearing what he’d just heard, his thoughts completely changed. Now he wanted to change the past no matter what, despite knowing it was impossible.

“…Miss Phi Sora.”

Seol Jihu began in a dejected voice.

“If that incident never happened….”

“…Happened?”

“You’d be so much… happier now….”

“Why are you calling me that again? …Wait.”

When Phi Sora saw Seol Jihu with his head down, she began to blink rapidly.

“H-Hold on!”

She quickly turned to him.

“I’m not saying it’s all your fault. Frankly, I made a lot of mistakes, too. It’s just that I didn’t feel like I was your top priority, and that hurt a lot.”

“…”

“…Oh, come on!”

Phi Sora’s voice shot up a notch.

“You have a brain, so use it! You’re always so dense.”

Seol Jihu raised his head slightly.

“I have standards, too. You know what I’m like. If I weren’t interested in you, I would have just gone my separate way. I said this already, but why do you think I went over to your place every day?”

Seol Jihu’s eyes widened.

“It’s just… I don’t think even I understood my feelings back then…. But I kept finding myself looking at you, wishing you’d look back at me…. Damn it. Are you really gonna make me say this?”

Phi Sora snapped at him.

“Anyway, you’ve changed a lot since then… you put up with my constant nagging, and I know you tried hard….”

She glanced at Seol Jihu.

“And….”

She looked down at the bench they were sitting on.

“After we had our second child together, you told me right here, on this very bench….”

“?”

“Let’s live together like this forever, Sora….”

Phi Sora’s lips curled into a soft smile.

“Jeez, you’re making me say all sorts of things today.”

She closed her eyes as if to recall the moment and rested her head on Seol Jihu’s chest as she did that day.

It was then. Looking at Phi Sora with a dazed look on his face, Seol Jihu suddenly felt his eyes tighten. A white light stealthily began to block his view. Phi Sora didn’t seem to suspect anything was wrong, and this phenomenon seemed to be affecting only Seol Jihu.

‘Ah.’

He realized that his time was almost up.

“Um!”

Seol Jihu asked urgently before his vision turned completely white.

“Tell me just one more thing. Are you happy right now, Miss Phi Sora?”

Phi Sora’s eyes widened slightly. Her eyebrows lifted as she looked up at Seol Jihu.

“…What kind of question is that?”

Phi Sora gave him a sidelong glance. And then….

“Look at me.”

She smiled the most beautiful smile he had ever seen.

“How do I look?”

When the light faded, Seol Jihu was sitting in front of Gula’s statue.

—Welcome back.

Gula’s voice echoed in his head. Seol Jihu turned his gaze to his hand. He felt as if he had just awoken from a vivid dream.

‘…This isn’t the time to be resting.’

Seol Jihu got to his feet.

Black Seol Jihu was right. Nothing dramatic happened in the future. The trip didn’t offer him a magical solution. But he did gain something from the experience. He knew what he had to do right now and how to do it.

Seol Jihu dashed across the temple, toward the warp gate portal.


“What a bitch!”

KWANG! Phi Sora slammed the door behind her. She threw the plastic bag on the floor and crawled into the bed.

She’d had a horrible morning. Not long after Seol Jihu left, the doorbell rang again. She thought Seol Jihu might have returned and happily went to open the door, but it turned out to be her angry neighbor standing on the other side of the door. Infuriated that Phi Sora forced her out, she had brought in a police officer. After dealing with them, Phi Sora fell asleep, unable to overcome her fatigue.

She hardly felt refreshed after waking up. Still, she dragged her aching body out and went to the pharmacy. But while waiting for the elevator, she ran into her neighbor again. Phi Sora tried to ignore her, but her neighbor began provoking her about her attitude earlier that morning. In the end, they got into a heated argument once more.

Later that day, Phi Sora received a call from her landlord. He explained that her crazy neighbor has had problems with other residents, too, and that she was a known troublemaker. She just hadn’t had a chance to pick a fight with Phi Sora so far because until now, Phi Sora hadn’t been home very often.

“Seriously, I’d move just to get her off my back….”

Phi Sora sighed, pitying herself for having to put up with useless nonsense.

Then she saw that her dining table was still a mess from this morning.

“…”

She glared angrily at the empty bowl.

“…Asshole.”

Hmph. She snorted.

“Wait a minute. Why am I feeling sorry for myself? I’m the one who asked him to leave.”

She shoved the thought aside and was about to close her eyes, when suddenly….

Ding-dong.

The doorbell rang again.

Ding-dong. Ding-dong!

Phi Sora’s face distorted with rage.

“…Fucking bitch!”

She crossed the line. This time I’ll end her for good! Phi Sora pledged to herself and jumped to her feet.

She swung open the door with the mindset of a warrior who was about to begin the most important battle of her life.

Then, she flinched. Because the person standing in front of her was not the one she expected—it was Seol Jihu, with shopping bags in both hands.

“…Wha-what are you doing here?”

Seol Jihu stared at Phi Sora for a moment before turning his gaze to the living room. He clicked his tongue when he saw that the table was in the same condition as when he left.

“You still haven’t cleaned that up? You said you would.”

He stepped inside.

“Hey, hold on!”

“Hurry up and close the door. The cold air’s getting in.”

As she closed the door, he grabbed Phi Sora’s hand and pulled her toward him.

Seol Jihu moved in silence. He put his bags down in the corner of the room, cleared the table, and started washing the dishes. Phi Sora stared at him dazedly. Then suddenly, she frowned.

“I said, what are you doing here?”

“I came back because I was worried about you.”

“Worried? Why are you worried about me?”

Phi Sora’s voice shot up an octave. She immediately flinched, recalling a moment too late that her neighbor was on the lookout for her.

Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong!

And the doorbell rang almost immediately as expected. This time it was her neighbor who was standing on the other side of the door.

“Fuck, I’m so stressed….”

“I’ll deal with her.”

Seeing how stressed Phi Sora was, Seol Jihu hurried to the door.

“Oh, so now she’s sending out a man?”

As soon as he opened the door, a voice full of malice echoed out in the hall.

“I’m sorry if we were too loud.”

Seol Jihu bowed his head and apologized.

“Don’t you think you're apologizing too late?”

“We’re truly sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“Whatever. Let me talk to her. She’s the one I want to get an apology from.”

“That’s…. Could you please let it slide this one time? I’ll compensate you for the discomfort we’ve caused.”

“Do you think I care about money?”

“It’s just that she’s sick and not in the best mood right now. We’ll be careful from now on, so please forgive us.”

“Don’t make me say it again. Of course, you’ll be careful, that’s a given, but I also want her to look me in the eye and apologize.”

Seol Jihu lowered his head and exhaled.

“Did you sigh just now?”

Seol Jihu didn’t answer. He only took out the cell phone from his pocket.

“Yes, it’s me, Miss Goh Yeonju. I know it’s sudden, but I have a favor to ask….”

“Oh, so now you’re calling your friend here? Okay, fine! Call her. I’ll have to call the police, then. Let’s do this. Let’s see who wins.”

With a condescending sneer, the neighbor also raised her phone.

Suddenly, everything became quiet.

Phi Sora, who had lost all hope for a peaceful resolution by then, couldn’t help but doubt her eyes. Because all of a sudden, her neighbor left without a fuss, and Seol Jihu turned around, closing the door behind him.

“…What did you do?”

“Nothing. The truth is, I didn’t want to go this far…. But at least she’ll be quiet for a while.”

Seol Jihu finished the dishes and started cleaning the house. Phi Sora shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts.

“Anyway, what’s with all these bags? …Hmm?”

Peeking inside the shopping bags that Seol Jihu had brought, she frowned.

How to Become Great Parents…?”

‘Ha!’ Phi Sora let out a laugh. She finally understood why Seol Jihu came back.

“Are you kidding me? Don’t you think you’re thinking too far ahead?”

Seol Jihu smacked his lips. That, indeed, was a normal reaction.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the future.”

“Look, I’m not an idiot. I bought a pregnancy test, and also the pills—”

“Pregnancy tests don’t work right away. You have to wait at least two weeks after you had sex.”

Seol Jihu said simply.

“Same with the morning-after pills. They’re not perfect. 95% accuracy means there’s still a 5% chance that you do end up pregnant.”

His logical arguments left Phi Sora speechless.

“…So, what are you saying?”

“We have a ton of stuff to deal with, but….”

Seol Jihu looked around the room.

“First, let’s get you out of here.”

“What?”

“Why are you living here? It’s not like you don’t have the money.”

Seol Jihu continued.

“And your neighbor is a wacko. Miss Goh Yeonju hypnotized her but said it wouldn’t last long. She’ll be back to her usual self in a few days.”

“Well, I am starting to think that I can’t live like this…. Wait a minute, hypnotized?”

“Yeah. Look, I know you’re being careful about the penalties, but there’s no way you’ll die there now.”

“Well, yes… but this is too sudden. I mean, where would I even go?”

“You don’t have to worry about that. You’ve heard of the SY Apartments, right? I live there.”

“You do? How?”

“I guess I just got lucky. It’s not too far from here and it’s very nice. I have a lot of extra rooms, too.”

“Wait. Wait. Hold on!”

Phi Sora raised both hands in front of her.

“What’s with the hurry? You’re basically proposing that we live together?”

“Yes, technically.”

“Are you out of your mind? It was just sex! Just once.”

Phi Sora looked dumbfounded.

“Are you from the Joseon Era or something?”

“That’s not it.”

“This is what young people nowadays do. We had some fun, so what? Ever heard of a one-night stand?”

“Miss Phi Sora.”

“And what about Miss Yuhui?”

Seol Jihu flinched.

“Yuhui… I’ll talk to her.”

“What are you gonna say to her?”

“…You don’t have to worry about that. That’s between Yuhui and me, and I’ll make sure you don’t get hurt in the process.”

“So, you’re dead set on taking me with you.”

“I won’t be able to rest unless I do. Please just do as I say for the next two weeks at least.”

Phi Sora looked confused. She couldn’t believe that the man in front of her was the Seol Jihu she knew.

“Anyway, it looks like we have to start packing….”

Seol Jihu rubbed his hands together. He seemed ready to begin at any moment.

“Hold on. My stomach’s upset, and I feel awful. I’m not in a condition to pack anything….”

Seol Jihu thereupon brought in a bowl of special ramen made from ingredients great for pregnant women.

“I’ll do the packing. You should rest, Miss Phi Sora. Don’t worry about anything, and call me if you need anything. Okay?”

Then he left to buy items needed for packing.

A dumbfounded look crossed Phi Sora’s face. She felt as if a storm had passed. It was strange that Seol Jihu was acting like he already knew she was pregnant.

However….

“Jeez….”

It didn’t feel too bad.

“What’s he thinking…?”

The annoying neighbor was gone, and her house was clean. She found a new home, and now she even had a bowl of delicious ramen in front of her. Phi Sora sat on the floor and grabbed a pair of chopsticks.

Slurp.

“Mm….”

She could feel the steamy soup running down her throat, warming her body. The ramen tasted even better than before. She figured that Seol Jihu must have put extra effort into it.

‘If I can have this ramen everyday… living together might not be so bad….’

It was so delicious that an optimistic thought crossed her mind.

A soft smile spread across Phi Sora’s lips.

She felt better now.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter