Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 2
“Nothing. I mean, Cha Yeowoon. I’m looking for Cha Yeowoon.”
When I hurriedly corrected myself, Glasses, who had called out to me, blinked again with a vacant expression. On top of my already bad reputation, at this rate I might even hear rumors that I had slightly lost my mind.
“But class is about to start…”
Indeed. As soon as Glasses finished speaking, the school bell rang suddenly.
It sounded just like the high school bell from my memory.
If I was really 19, I might have ignored the start of class and rushed out of the classroom, but I was 29 years old.
Unlike my days as a hot-blooded youth, I had become more familiar with the endless cycle of going to work, leaving work, going to work again, taking a brief break on weekends, and welcoming another dreaded weekday.
Reminiscent of the spinning daily life of a working adult, I sat obediently in my seat like a well-behaved servant…or so I tried.
“By the way, buddy. Where’s my seat?”
Glasses stared at me as if I was strange and pointed to the corner by the window.
Wasn’t that the typical spot where the troublemakers sat? How absent-minded could I have been? Earlier, I sat there and solved problems without even realizing if I was by the window or in the center.
Just as I settled into the perfect spot to doze off, the wind blew in from the slightly open window, causing the curtains to flutter. It felt like a scene from a youth drama.
The white curtains gently fluttered and settled. The sight of the classroom came into view again.
A blackboard and teacher desk, and the timetable and handouts attached next to them. Backs of children sitting amongst the rows. The smell of dust in the classroom gave rise to a strange sense of nostalgia.
Memories surged back like fishes swimming against the current.
I noticed the grooves that had been cut into my desk with a utility knife. When I scratched the part where the wood had splintered with my fingernail, the wooden splinter pricked my skin, causing a sharp pain.
Red droplets formed in a round shape at my fingertip. It hurt, and it was bleeding. The pain sobered me in a straightforward manner.
I was here now. My worst 19.
To change Cha Yeowoon’s 18.
* * *
High school classes I hadn’t taken in a long time made me drowsy. Of all things, there was also the addition of English class.
In my sluggishness, coming down to the 2nd year students’ hallway wasn’t easy. Everyone subtly avoided me, perhaps fearing we might make eye contact.
I couldn’t follow the children into their classrooms, so I barely managed to grab someone who was dragging their feet.
“Do you know which class Cha Yeowoon is in?”
I got straight to the point as soon as I grabbed the child. The student I had detained was very timid and seemed to be already looking for a chance to escape.
“He’s in my class.”
“Really? Where is he?”
I was wondering if I should at least explain that I wasn’t going to hit him, but it would be strange to say such a thing without being prompted. I also had the thought of letting him go quickly. At least, if I could find Cha Yeowoon.
“Cha Yeowoon didn’t come to school today.”
The response shattered my thought.
Really? Cha Yeowoon wasn’t that type of person. Was he attending a competition or something? But the hesitant response felt ominous.
“His grandmother passed away. So he’s busy with the funeral.”
The sentence that had followed was like a blow to the back of my head.
I was aware that Cha Yeowoon’s grandmother had passed away while he was in high school. But I never imagined it would be happening now.
“Do you happen to know where the funeral hall is being held?”
I asked urgently. The student hesitated before faltering.
“I only found out after some classmates and the teacher came back. Cha Yeowoon will be back at school tomorrow.”
They had already been to the funeral hall. Cha Yeowoon would return to school tomorrow. When I pieced together what I had heard, something clicked in my head.
My heart started racing.
It pounded loudly, as if it was hitting my eardrums.
“Where does Cha Yeowoon live?”
“I don’t know, really.”
“Do any of your classmates know?!”
“I-I don’t know! I’m not even close to him. I’m sorry.”
The student who had been grabbed by both shoulders cowered and sobbed.
A transparent window appeared in front of my eyes.
[ Would you like to find ‘Cha Yeowoon?’ ]
It was strange.
As if it knew exactly what I wanted, the transparent window, emitting a faint light, was asking me.
Beyond the rectangular system message, a student who was scared and had his eyes tightly closed was reflected.
After taking a deep breath, I patted the student’s shoulder and turned toward the stairs.
The transparent window, which had been floating in front of me, became more transparent and seemed to cover me as it grew larger.
Shining lines drew the surrounding roads and buildings. It was a rough map.
I knew it instinctively.
The blinking point in the middle of the intersection was undoubtedly Cha Yeowoon.
Running down the stairs two and three steps at a time, my view changed rapidly. I heard the school bell signaling the start of class as I exited the school lobby, but I didn’t turn back.
Cha Yeowoon’s high school days were briefly described in the novel.
His mother had passed away, his father was a terrible person, and he lived with his grandmother.
The only adult he could rely on, his grandmother, passed away from a chronic illness before he graduated from high school.
After his grandmother’s funeral, he became involved in a car accident and injured his leg, which left him forever unable to run.
His plans to enter college as a scholarship student for athletics were naturally canceled. All the money left after the funeral expenses went into his medical bills.
Cha Yeowoon’s high school days were, in other words, just as dark as mine.
That was why I supported him.
Because he was just like me.
I saw the large school gates. It seemed to be securely closed, probably due to security measures.
“It’s been a while since I climbed over a wall.”
In the old days, I used to skip over the walls when I was bored. I looked around to see if there was anything to use as support under the secluded wall, but there was nothing, so I stepped on a tree instead.
I stepped on the tree trunk, grabbing the wall, pulling my weight up, and jumping down. If it was like a gymnastics routine it would have been skillful enough to score around 8 points out of 10.
My motor skills hadn’t died. Maybe it was because I had a healthy teenage body, but I felt like I was moving better.
Once I came down on the other side, I saw an apartment complex and a crossing.
According to the map displayed, it was straight ahead. It would be quick if I could catch a taxi. It seemed simple but as soon as I reached into my pockets, I realized something.
I was a poor 19-year-old.
What money. There was nothing to grab except for two 40 cent coins.
Let alone a taxi, I couldn’t even afford the bus fare. My shoulders deflated.
“What should I do now?”
What should I do? If I didn’t have teeth, I would use my gums. I needed to do what I could right now.
Thankfully the rough, blinking map showed the remaining distance.
[ 6km to Love Supremacy Zone. ]
Just 6km. If I ran, it would take roughly 30 minutes.
I caught my breath lightly while turning my ankles. Thirty minutes until I could meet Cha Yeowoon. I didn’t have time to hesitate, not knowing when an accident might happen.
My worn-out sneakers kicked off the ground.
It had been a long time since I ran with all my might like this.
I was quickly out of breath. Passersby glanced at me as I ran along the sidewalk in my school uniform.
[ 500m ahead. ]
The distance was steadily decreasing. After running for over 20 minutes my back was drenched in sweat.
My face felt hot. It felt like my heart was bouncing around inside my chest.
It was a strange feeling. Running and running, enduring the pain as if my lungs were being squeezed, while looking at the shining goal point.
[ 100m ahead. ]
I wanted to fall down and catch my breath, but the fact that Cha Yeowoon was just 100 meters ahead kept me going.
It was the fact that he might get hurt today.
I abruptly stopped in front of the densely packed multi-unit housing. Thick drops of sweat rolled down along my eyelids.
Cha Yeowoon’s home was an apartment in the form of a container on the rooftop. He hated living in the 71sqft rooftop. That was what he himself in the novel had often said.
I looked up, blocking the sun with my arm. Before I knew it, the setting sun had already slid down the roof of the square building.
As the shining point on the map almost overlapped with my location, the transparent window suddenly disappeared.
The map had turned off, but I immediately knew where Cha Yeowoon was.
[ Entering Love Supremacy Zone. ]
Because the only place where he could be felt frighteningly vivid.
The low brick wall, the iron rooftop railing, the stairs leading up there, and the separate lighting as if it was separated from the rest of the world.
After taking a deep breath to endure the pain in my chest, I ran up the emergency staircase without hesitation.
It was the beginning of spring.
In the sky where the daylight was starting to lengthen, yellow and orange intertwined. The last ray of sunlight shone golden along the silhouette of a person.
Standing precariously on the rooftop railing was Cha Yeowoon. He seemed so fragile, as if he would fall at the slightest gust.
Cha Yeowoon, bathed in the setting sun’s glow, turned to look at me.
Tears glistened on his wet cheeks. His unfocused gaze fell in a random direction.
A gaze that wasn’t seeing anything clearly. A look of resignation etched like an old stain.
My heart, which had been pounding from running nonstop all the way here, sank heavily.
The circumstances of Cha Yeowoon’s accident was never mentioned in the novel, but I couldn’t help but to know once I got here.
He had tried to kill himself.
And luckily, or unluckily, by chance, instead of his life, it was his leg that was injured, forever scarring him.
The rooftop door behind me creaked shut.
Cha Yeowoon faltered. His body, thrown off balance, appeared to slowly tip over the railing.
Again, I sprinted like crazy.
My heart, already at its limit, screamed. I couldn’t even tell if my heart was about to explode because I had been running with all my might for too long or because I was terrified of losing Cha Yeowoon.
As I grabbed Cha Yeowoon’s hand, who was about to fall, the skin I touched tingled weakly.
His body, which had just crossed over the railing, suddenly hit the side with a thud. Our weight leaned sharply.
I was determined not to let go, even if it meant risking my life. Both my arms stiffened under the load, and the soles of my sneakers, which were firmly planted on the floor, quickly heated up.
As I held him, he looked up at me.
It felt like I was being drawn into his eyes.
Swirling light poured into the black pupils. Like a sinkhole with no end in sight, only a black hole in the middle of the irises.
In fact, the reflections in people’s eyes were murky and hard to see.
But my reflection in Cha Yeowoon’s pupils now was strangely vivid.
From above, a bell sound rang.
[ Cha Yeowoon recognizes you. ]
It was a cheerful sound that didn’t fit the situation.
“Please don’t die.”
I squeezed out every last ounce of strength I had and pulled Cha Yeowoon up with all my might. At first, it was hard, but as I felt him coming up, joy surged through my muscles. My sneakers were dragged against the floor, bearing the weight.
His weight, which was dragging me down to the floor, poured over the rooftop’s edge and into my arms.
[ World Transformation ]
For a moment, it felt like the world had flipped over smoothly.
Cha Yeowoon had been pulled up, but my vision was spinning.
My back touched the cold cement floor. I could see the sky and Cha Yeowoon’s face in my field of view. He was looking down at me.
Time seemed to stop for a moment.
The air felt as if it had stopped.
Confusion spread across Cha Yeowoon’s reddened face. His boyish features were unrealistically beautiful.
It was the first time I could put a name to the word beautiful. Above all, his eyes.
His eyes, bathed in the fading sunlight, appeared pale and golden.
A golden color of a warm sandy beach overlapped the transparent retina. It was like golden sand swirling beneath water.
For a moment, I felt breathless as if I was being hit by a falling rock.
If this was really a novel, and I was one of the characters, this very moment would be the most intense introduction.
The moment the world changed.
Cha Yeowoon slowly moved away from me and stood up. His gaze turned to the name tag on my school uniform.
Emotions slowly filled his beautiful face as he looked back at me again.
[ The world has been revised because of your actions. ]
It was followed by a series of ding sound effects.
[ Calculating Cha Yeowoon’s favorability. ]
[ Favorability… ]