Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 3
I heard the cheerful tune again.
[ Favorability: -20 ]
Not plus 20 but negative 20? I was startled and double-checked the numbers, but the bright red negative was still the same.
“Who are you?”
Cha Yeowoon asked coldly.
It was a genuinely frosty tone. Those who looked like this boy might have had a voice like melting cotton candy, but even his natural voice couldn’t hide his raised vigilance. No, it actually sounded colder.
Didn’t I just save him? Even if I did interrupt abruptly?
“Oh? I’m your senior from school…”
“How do you know me? Why are you here? And…”
The end of the sentence wavered slightly. Contrary to Cha Yeowoon’s aggressive tone, he was trembling. I was bewildered. Should I pretend not to know? Should I try to comfort him?
“Please let go of my hand.”
Cha Yeowoon said as he pulled his arm. I only now realized that our hands were still tightly clasped together.
I let go of it quickly, but my fingers hurt from how tightly I had held. Any longer and there might have been bruises.
Although I apologized hastily, Cha Yeowoon only fidgeted with his reddened hand. There was no sign that his vigilance was easing up.
Actually. I knew him, but to him I was a stranger.
And to anyone, it would have been very unpleasant to be caught in a vulnerable moment by someone you had never met before.
What should I say in this situation? That I had somehow felt like he was going to jump today, so I came here? Or that I had fallen into this world with the mission to make him happy?
The favorability might drop to around negative 100 with a statement like that. What should I do?
“Your grandmother had asked me.”
I barely managed to come up with a plausible answer after scratching my head.
Cha Yeowoon asked skeptically. Of course. I had never met his grandmother.
“Your grandmother and I know each other, and she had asked me to look after you.”
“My grandmother never said anything like that.”
Of course not. I had made up the story.
“She’s from Gyeongsang province and likes to eat Gaengsigi.”
But I knew Cha Yeowoon’s grandmother really well.
“She says Gaengsigi is eaten on rainy days, but you don’t like it that much. She has a habit of not liking Seoul food, and because she did menial work for a wealthy household that had a picky eater when she was young she became good at cooking and scolding.”
Lies flowed effortlessly. Of course, the content of my story wasn’t a lie. It was the same as what Cha Yeowoon had said about his grandmother.
“We spoke frequently when I would bump into her at the market. Noting I was the same age as her grandson, she would often talk about you.”
Cha Yeowoon’s expression slowly softened.
After falling in love with the heroine, he would often talk about his grandmother. He would repeat stories about her as if there were only fond memories.
I remembered thinking it was somewhat pitiful. Even more so because I was similar to him.
“Why didn’t you come to the funeral service?”
An unexpected counterattack. I thought Cha Yeowoon was trying to find out if I was lying, but instead, he gave a resentful expression.
It was a look I knew too well. An expression that showed what he was thinking.
Because in an empty funeral hall, I once cursed every human being who didn’t come to my grandmother’s funeral. I didn’t need any help financially or the like. I just hoped that anyone who remembered my grandmother would come, but no one did.
I felt like crap.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.”
I apologized, not wanting to tell more lies. Cha Yeowoon frowned as if suppressing something, then averted his gaze.
Again silence fell between us.
His eyes, looking down at the floor, were red. It certainly wasn’t just because of the sunset.
What should I do to comfort him? I should have taken the chance to sit down and talk to an 18-year-old over the past few years.
“…Do you want to go get some ice cream?”
Cha Yeowoon looked at me with a dumbfounded expression. I smacked my lips like a returning summer student who struggled with flirting.
My first meeting with my favorite was slightly ruined.
* * *
These days, ice cream prices were expensive. When I was in high school, it seemed like they were 40 cents each, but now they cost over 80 cents.
“I’ll just buy your share.”
Cha Yeowoon stared at the two coins I held out. It was quite embarrassing.
“I’ll buy my own.”
“No. I’ll buy it.”
“Then let’s just buy for each other.”
“No. How can I let an 18-year-old treat me to ice cream?”
Cha Yeowoon, who seemed speechless, quietly sighed and then dragged me to an ice cream discount store near his home.
Fifty percent off was displayed prominently on the store’s wall. After a 10-minute walk to the store, we finally each had an ice cream in hand.
“You like red bean ice cream?”
“You have an unbecoming taste of an old person.”
Cha Yeowoon, silently eating his ice cream, sighed again as if for me to hear it.
“Why did you suddenly want to eat ice cream?”
“It’s not that I wanted to eat it.”
“Then why did you suddenly suggest we come here?”
“Don’t children like ice cream?”
When I spoke without thinking, Cha Yeowoon narrowed his eyes. Clearly written in his two pretty eyes was the thought there might be something wrong with me.
“How old is senior?”
“That’s right. You’re a child.”
“Senior is only a year older than me.”
I didn’t know why it felt like an insult when he called me senior. Maybe it was because I could feel the spirit of rebellion in every word.
“Anyway, I’m older than you.”
“You’re not so much older as to treat me like a child.”
I wasn’t? Wasn’t I ten years older than him? Couldn’t I almost be his uncle?
“Is senior in the sports club?”
“That’s surprising. I often see that kind of ego there.”
“You don’t look like it, but you’re rude.”
“I hear that a lot.”
Cha Yeowoon’s face, which spoke without care, looked like an angel. Sharp and proportionate features, spotless skin, and ears that were even round and pretty. But the substance was slightly crooked.
As we talked, I began to realize that my favorite was more rude than I thought.
He would act like a giant puppy around the heroine. However, it seemed like the tail-wagging was reserved for her.
Originally a sweet and affectionate pure-hearted guy who couldn’t be seen without tears, toward me he had turned into an ice prince. An unruly cat that would raise its claws at the slightest touch.
“Are you just sensitive and moody right now, or is this your normal personality?”
“This is my normal personality.”
“Do you have any friends?”
“None. What about senior?”
“Plenty more than you do.”
Let alone a friend, today was my first day back at school. The only name I knew was Cha Yeowoon’s. I smacked my lips and bit into my milk-flavored ice cream again. It was delicious in the midst of everything.
“Why don’t you have any friends? Is it because you’ve always had a bad personality?”
I asked out of genuine curiosity. The Cha Yeowoon I knew wasn’t like this.
Of course, he was rude in the novel, but it wasn’t overly. He was a rash youth who would do anything for the heroine, even if she didn’t ask for it.
A true embodiment of pure love. A guy who loved too much. It was enough to break my heart as I watched his silent, unrequited love.
He was handsome, kind, capable, and in short, excelled at everything. But…
“Yes. I don’t have friends because I have a bad personality. Senior, don’t you want to go home?”
He was a total jerk now.
Look at that freezing, frigid expression. If it weren’t for his good looks…Well, he was handsome either way.
As we walked and ate ice cream, we soon found ourselves back in the residential area. We were near his home, but he showed no intention of going in. Instead, there was a strong sense of urgency coming from him, as if telling me to quickly leave.
“It’s getting late.”
The sun had set, and the sky was gradually turning purple. Since it was our first meeting I couldn’t ask to sleep over at his home.
“Can I sleep at your place today?”
I asked him with nothing to lose. He looked at me like a madman. Nevertheless, I was relieved that I didn’t hear any sounds indicating a decrease in favorability.
“Then do you want to stay at my place?”
Cha Yeowoon’s mouth twitched at the following crazy proposal. It looked like he wanted to curse me.
But still. I had seen that scene earlier, so I couldn’t just leave him alone.
“I know what you’re thinking, but I won’t die.”
Cha Yeowoon stopped.
I also stopped and looked back at him. A street lamp beside the road drew a long shadow between us.
“Anyway, leave me alone and go.”
With his back against the dark blue sky, he stood there alone, grounded.
Unlike the rooftop, there was nowhere to fall, but it felt like he would fall down any moment.
[ Current favorability: -20 ]
[ Debuff triggered due to negative favorability. ]
Another strange message.
A sinister-sounding word debuff appeared in red, and a shadow on the asphalt began to crawl upwards.
It crept up like sticky, coal tar and wrapped around Cha Yeowoon’s ankles. His ankles, protruding from the short gray pants, became engulfed by the shadow.
If left at it, it looked like the shadow would wrap around his legs.
“No, this won’t do.”
Taking a step forward, the shadow that was as thick as a lamppost caught my feet and fell behind me.
I grabbed Cha Yeowoon’s arm.
This time both arms.
His eyes, wide open, were drawn toward me. I looked directly at his incredibly handsome face and spoke.
“Come with me.”
* * *
“Stop making a fuss.”
“Is that what it looks like?”
Cha Yeowoon gritted his teeth.
“How could you drag someone to the bus stop all of a sudden? I thought my arm was going to bruise.”
“Is it funny?”
“That’s why if you had just come along willingly. You made me waste a lot of energy by resisting and not coming.”
“Why are you dragging someone against their will?! I told you I didn’t want to go in the first place!”
Eventually, Cha Yeowoon shouted. He had quite the vocal cords.
While picking my ear, I looked at the night sky that could be seen through the cracks in the ceiling of the bus stop. The sky had turned dark after our wrestling.
“The bus will be here in 5 minutes.”
“Ride alone. I really won’t go with you.”
“Go, come on. I bought you ice cream didn’t I?”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
“I don’t have money for the bus anymore because I bought you ice cream.”
When I turned my school uniform pockets inside out, a handful of dust came out. It had been a while since I was without a credit card.
“Do you have money for the bus?”
“Are you going to extort money from me now?”
“What are you talking about? I’ll pay you back as soon as we get to my home. Really. I promise.”
“I’ve said it several times since a while ago that I won’t go with you…”
“Oh, the bus is here.”
The shuttle bus arrived at the bus stop. It had been a while since I last rode the bus.
Without giving Cha Yeowoon a chance to say anything, I grabbed his hand against his will and boarded the bus. He tried to get off again, but the bus driver, who had seen that there were only two of us at the bus stop, mercilessly closed the doors without hesitation.
The doors closed and the bus was preparing to move.
“Students, what are you doing?”
The bus driver, who was impatient enough to close the door as soon as we got on, didn’t give us a moment to settle down. At the urging to pay the bus fare quickly and go sit down, Cha Yeowoon took out his bus card with an annoyed gesture.
Hmm. Just as expected. Although he didn’t have manners, he was a good guy inside.
“Wow, you paid for mine too.”
“Don’t talk to me.”
Cha Yeowoon, who walked past me without hesitation, slumped down in a seat at the front. The only other empty seats were in the very back row, so his seating choice could be seen as intentional.
“Let’s sit together in the back.”
Cha Yeowoon leaned his head against the window without even pretending to listen.
Although he was a good guy inside, he didn’t have manners.
I was about to stand next to him, but I decided to move back because I was afraid that staying might further lower his non-existent favorability.
The bus rattled forward. My face was reflected in the window as the darkened landscape outside passed by.
So, what the hell was this?
Sitting down in the back seat of the bus, I continued to read the floating letters in front of me.
[ Currently in Love Supremacy Zone. ]