Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 25
Cha Yeowoon, looking at Cheon Sangwon, had a grim expression.
In his ears, there was a sound like a strong rope being snapped.
Anyway, now there was nothing more to lose and nothing to protect.
Now, there was no grandmother, no record to fall. Track and field? Suspension? So what?
His head clicked and blackened for a moment. His arms tightened. By the time he came to his senses, his hand was already up.
If he swung it like this, it would hit Cheon Sangwon’s chin. Adrenaline circulated through his brain, causing his veins to swell. Then came the sensation of a sudden plunge fluctuating in his stomach.
The fist that had been raised and was about to strike was caught.
A voice that couldn’t be resisted awakened Cha Yeowoon.
“What are you doing at school, both of you?”
Tae Myeongha pulled Cha Yeowoon’s arm back and then released it as if pushing him away.
Next, he grabbed Cheon Sangwon, mirroring his actions with Cha Yeowoon, but this time pulling him closer.
Cha Yeowoon unconsciously approached Tae Myeongha. He felt like he had to explain himself. It wasn’t what he had intended.
He didn’t want to disappoint Tae Myeongha.
“Don’t come closer.”
There was no time for an explanation. Tae Myeongha shook Cha Yeowoon away sharply like a knife. He didn’t even make eye contact.
“Don’t follow me, Cha Yeowoon.”
Tae Myeongha said sharply before holding onto Cheon Sangwon and disappearing down the stairs. As they left, he told the students who had gathered to move aside.
Cheon Sangwon, who had been watching Cha Yeowoon, seemed to faintly smile.
Cha Yeowoon, left behind at the end of the hallway, stood still. He couldn’t even blink his eyes properly. Tae Myeongha’s back was no longer visible.
He picked up the box that had fallen to the floor. The already crumpled corner was now severely deformed and unassuming.
Carefully opening the box, several vitamin candies rolled around the white padding paper. It was obvious who had put them there.
His face flushed, and tears welled up in his eyes. He closed the box as if closing his eyes.
The bell for class rang. However, he couldn’t easily return to class.
He hated it.
He really, really hated it.
As he repeated to himself, he tightly embraced the box with all his strength. The tough paper crumpled in his arms, and he could vaguely feel the shape of the shoes inside.
The messy box pierced his chest painfully, but he didn’t let go of his arms.
Too much, too much, he hated it.
* * *
I was doomed.
That was the only thought that came to mind.
Negative 99 favorability? Even toward the people on the field that day, Cha Yeowoon’s favorability was never this low.
Except for himself, of course.
He currently liked myself exactly 1 point more than he liked himself. In other words, he hated me almost as much as he hated himself. After organizing my thoughts, I became depressed. What was the problem?
“Brother, are you working today?”
While lost in thought, a tactless guy grabbed my shoulder from behind.
I struggled to shake off Cheon Sangwon. Even when I was just sitting in the classroom, he would come and bother me at every chance and make my life very difficult.
“Let’s go together if you’re going to the studio. I’ll give you a ride.”
“Shut up No-License. Gyeonghun, isn’t there any rule about unauthorized entry for non-employees in the studio?”
“I’m an employee, so there isn’t.”
“I didn’t ask you.”
Ahn Gyeonghun, sandwiched awkwardly between us, gave a hesitant smile. It had been a similar situation for several days.
On the day that Cha Yeowoon had almost hit Cheon Sangwon, I had separated them just in the nick of time.
It was divine timing that it was possible. I had overheard someone talking about Cheon Sangwon getting into a fight. As soon as I had entered the Love Supremacy Zone, I was greeted with a scary series of debuff messages.
And the moment I had grabbed Cha Yeowoon’s wrist and had stopped him…
[ Debuff reversal. ]
What had appeared was the familiar message.
The mush shadow that had covered Cha Yeowoon had immediately clung to me.
“Is your foot okay?”
“What’s it to you?”
“You got hurt while protecting me.”
“No I didn’t. Don’t be delusional.”
“Y-You shouldn’t force yourself for a while. Take a break, Myeongha.”
Ahn Gyeonghun, who had been quiet, made a valid point. I took off the elastic bandages wrapped around my ankle from under the desk.
It was covered by my shoes and socks, but if you looked closely, it was bruised from the top of my foot to my ankle.
This debuff was much more immediate and visible than previously. That day, while dragging Cheon Sangwon, I had fallen down the stairs.
My foot had twisted, my ligaments had stretched, and my entire body had been bruised. My grandmother, who didn’t even blink at anything and would slap me in the back, had even applied ointment.
Nevertheless, negative 99 wasn’t as bad as I expected. It wasn’t like anything was broken.
On the other hand, it was a different story when I thought about what could have happened to Cha Yeowoon. Wasn’t he a track and field athlete preparing for the competition?
Let alone a slump, in such an unstable state if he had been suspended, his situation would have deteriorated significantly.
“Now that you’ve bought Cha Yeowoon shoes, can’t you take a break from your part-time job? Is there anything else you need to buy him?”
“Watch your mouth.”
Cheon Sangwon stuck to me more persistently after I was hurt. Even baby birds knew gratitude if you saved them, but this bastard talked to me at every turn when I didn’t ask or care.
“Why aren’t you hanging out with Cha Yeowoon these days?”
“We’re hanging out without your knowledge.”
“Brother is really terrible at lying.”
I wanted to punch him. If he wasn’t eleven years younger than me, I would have punched him at least a hundred times over by now.
Ignoring him, who kept chattering, I took out my phone and checked my texts.
There was a text from Tak Jungyeong, which contained the competition venue address, date, and time.
I could go whenever I wanted. It was just that I thought it might be a hindrance to Cha Yeowoon.
Just being near him at negative 10 favorability I was already being hit by debuffs. What if something similar happened again? I gingerly turned my sore ankle. Running for a few days was out of the question.
What if Cha Yeowoon got hurt because of me?
He was already in pain. I agonized over it until I got home from school.
Although we go to the same school, neither him nor I had encountered each other, as if we were subtly separated. Based on the fact that not even a message indicating he was approaching appeared this time, it seemed like the both of us were intentionally avoiding each other.
[Tae Myeongha] : Yeowoon, did you fix the front door?
[Tae Myeongha] : Are you eating well?
I continued to send Cha Yeowoon texts even after coming home, but there was no reply.
Nevertheless, I felt relieved knowing that he had at least read my texts regularly.
Feeling both reassured and annoyed by the fact that he had seen my texts, I had a childish thought of writing messages on his profile page. I didn’t actually do it, though.
I washed up and sent my last text of the day.
[Tae Myeongha] : Is the competition tomorrow?
[Tae Myeongha] : Fighting
Once again, there was no reply.
I should learn to give up, but I couldn’t let go of my silent phone, hugging it tightly.
“Why have you been staring at your phone all day? Your eyes will fall out.”
“Can I skip school tomorrow instead of losing my eyes?”
My grandmother slapped me on the shoulder with the backscratcher that she used to scratch her back.
“Are you really saying that?”
I got two more hits.
“Lose your shoulders, you rascal.”
“It hurts! You’re being too hard on your grandson.”
“You come home covered in bruises, and now you’re thinking about skipping school and causing trouble again.”
“That was a real accident. If I was going to cause an accident, would I have asked permission from you? I wasn’t going to skip school without telling you.”
The backscratcher swung hard again. I rolled to my side and barely avoided it.
“Wait. Look. My academic exam paper.”
I took out the exam paper I had prepared for this moment. It was half correct and half wrong, but considering my original grades, it was a satisfying result.
As my grandmother looked at the exam paper, her wrinkled mouth twitched.
I thought it would be suspicious if my grades were to suddenly go up, so this time I had calculated appropriately. If the exam paper was filled with circles, nevermind being moved, my grandmother would have used the backscratcher to discipline me more severely.
Although I was in my 3rd year of high school, I wondered what meaning my grades had.
[ Mission: Make Cha Yeowoon happy. ]
[ Time Remaining: 287 days ]
[ Penalty: Death ]
Maybe I would return to my world when time ran out.
Or maybe I would die. The penalty was death. Such a thought hadn’t settled in my mind yet.
I wondered what would happen to my grandmother once this mission ended. Would she be left alone? Would it be what had happened originally?
“Weird. So weird. I’ve watched you study your entire life.”
“Do you believe me now?”
“Even so, is not going to school something you can say?”
My grandmother spoke as if I had been a diligent student who had always gone to school. Although she spoke bluntly, she folded my exam paper neatly and placed it on the dresser.
I could have explained that I was going to Hwaseong to watch my friend compete, but I didn’t.
“Grandma, about Mom.”
My grandmother shifted uncomfortably, tossing and turning before adjusting the blanket. Then she started pretending to sleep soundly. Geez. She was trying hard.
“I sleep early these days. Goodnight.”
It was heartbreaking to pretend not to have heard, so I also decided to act like I had never brought up the topic of my mother.
I turned off the light and sat in my room. I didn’t have a single ordinary photo of my mother until after I had organized my grandmother’s keepsake. She had said there wasn’t any, but she had actually kept them hidden where only she could access them.
Maybe she was worried that I would want to see my mother and look for her outside, or that I would accidentally recognize her.
I used to resent her for it. Now I understood. My mother was my grandmother’s daughter. And my grandmother took care of me because I was her daughter’s son.
My grandmother likely held a bit more affection for my mother than she did for me. I couldn’t blame her.
I just never felt like I was anyone’s top priority, and that made me feel somewhat lonely. Throughout my life, I had lived with the inferiority complex that I wasn’t loved by anyone while burying such feelings. I was worried that someone would uncover it.
In other words, I was a person who didn’t know much about being loved. If I was making mistakes with Cha Yeowoon these days, it was probably because of that.
Despite Cha Yeowoon not liking me, I still wanted to support him. Even if it was excessive and clumsy.
Because he was similar to me.
I had hoped someone would watch over me when I had pushed them away.