Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 35
Cha Yeowoon, who had been quiet, suddenly interrupted the conversation. Maybe we were talking too animatedly, just Ahn Sia and me. I belatedly felt embarrassed.
“Yes. We’re close.”
Ahn Sia responded cheerfully. Cha Yeowoon was far from lively when he heard it.
What kind of question was that? It wasn’t like we needed to divide our closeness into scores.
Ahn Sia, seemingly bewildered, suddenly turned toward me while looking amused.
“I don’t know. Big brother Myeongha, how close are we?”
“I don’t know either. Let’s say we’re quite close.”
“Are you closer to her than me?”
What was wrong with every question that Cha Yeowoon asked? It felt as if we were in a situation where one needed to raise their hands to show who was closer in front of the parties involved.
“I’m curious too. Between us, who’s closer?”
Ahn Sia tapped my foot under the table. I knew what the signal was just by looking at her raised lips as if she was dying of laughter.
The idea was to roughly match the rhythm of Cha Yeowoon. It seemed he was the only one taking this kind of question seriously in this situation.
Cha Yeowoon. A childish guy that contradicted his appearance.
“…I guess I’m closer to Yeowoon.”
“Ah! Too sad!”
Ahn Sia sighed, lamenting in a sad tone.
“I’m less close to big brother Myeongha than Cha Yeowoon, so can I get your autograph?”
After checking Cha Yeowoon’s relaxed facial muscles, she picked up a box containing running shoes and a marker she had left on a chair. Contrary to Cha Yeowoon’s hesitation, her movements continued like water as she opened the box and held out the marker to motion for an autograph.
Despite only being 18 years old, she was sociable and savvy. I hoped Cha Yeowoon could take after her slightly.
“Can I just call you Yeowoon? We’re the same age like big brother said.”
“Okay, Yeowoon. Please take care of me too.”
Ahn Sia casually brushed off Cha Yeowoon’s refusal and put the shoebox into her bag. Cha Yeowoon had attempted to speak, but was dismissed before he could reply.
“You guys are playing better than I thought. I didn’t need to interfere.”
“I’ve never played. Senior, when are you leaving?”
“What’s that way of talking? Are you planning to leave as soon as you sit down? The coffee hasn’t even arrived yet.”
“Right. I’ll buy you coffee as a thank-you for the autograph.”
Ahn Sia quickly responded. Cha Yeowoon seemed displeased, but he stayed put when he saw I wasn’t making any move to leave.
Anyway, Ahn Sia, despite being a big fan, didn’t seem particularly upset or bothered by Cha Yeowoon, who kept his mouth shut and seemed occupied with other thoughts.
Instead, she enthusiastically talked about subjects she had wanted to discuss with him.
“So! Short distance is all about power. How fast can you accelerate? Athlete Cha Yeowoon, you can explode in an instant!”
Ahn Sia exclaimed, hitting the table. She seemed like the type who expressed herself physically when she was excited.
“During those moments, it feels like even the surrounding air changes.”
“I felt that too. It does feel that way.”
“Doesn’t it seem like his instinctive timing is better than other athletes?”
The person with an instinctive timing was completely absent from the conversation.
“So, by the way, what do you think about before you run?”
Ahn Sia suddenly turned her shoulder toward Cha Yeowoon. Cha Yeowoon, who was suddenly ambushed, didn’t even have time to react.
“You didn’t answer properly in the interview.”
“I guess so.”
The vague answer didn’t deter Ahn Sia. She waited patiently, giving Cha Yeowoon a glare that was almost too much to bear.
Cha Yeowoon answered as if he felt it was inevitable.
“Imagine a large alligator running from behind.”
“Or like a car chasing me and I’m about to be hit.”
It was an imagination that teetered between cute and scary. Ahn Sia became speechless as if she wasn’t sure what to say.
I understood what Cha Yeowoon meant.
He ran with the idea of running away. Just like when he started running for the first time, running aimlessly around the schoolyard.
“It’s different these days.”
Cha Yeowoon glanced at me.
“How has it changed?”
“I run thinking that someone is waiting for me at the finish line.”
“Wow, that’s romantic.”
The rhythm of the conversation matched perfectly. I never thought Cha Yeowoon would be capable of such a flowing conversation.
I didn’t need to put in much effort. From then on, until coffee and dessert were served, it was mostly Ahn Sia asking questions and Cha Yeowoon answering them, with me occasionally chiming in between. Surprisingly, it was a fun time.
Ahn Sia left after exchanging numbers with Cha Yeowoon. This was a child who would become big. She was full of entrepreneurial spirit.
There was a cool breeze when we left the cafe. While Ahn Sia had taken the taxi, Cha Yeowoon and I had decided to walk together to the bus.
“Let’s be friends from now on.”
After playing to our heart’s content, Cha Yeowoon looked at me as if what I had said was strange.
“Why? You played well.”
“I endured it because senior said you were close to her.”
Endured. The two had played around a lot. Anyway, if Cha Yeowoon said he endured it, then let it be so.
“Are you heading straight home?”
“No. I’m heading to training.”
“Even though the midterm has ended, you don’t want to have some fun?”
“I don’t want to lose.”
Cha Yeowoon, after uttering words without revealing the subject, firmly sealed his lips.
He had said he wanted to quit at some point. I didn’t know what made him change his mind, but I guess good things were good things.
I decided not to ask. He would do well on his own.
“The midterm, did you do well?”
“That confident? You must have really done well.”
“I worked hard.”
It was a simple answer that only someone who had truly worked hard could give. As Cha Yeowoon walked with his back straight like an athlete, he looked even more admirable.
Now that I thought about it, I realized that I liked his attitude of always giving his best when he set his mind to something. Even after he couldn’t run anymore, he continued to find his way in life with determination.
“I’ve already decided on a favor to ask senior.”
As we approached the bus stop, Cha Yeowoon stopped in front of me.
“What is it?”
“I want to go somewhere with senior this weekend.”
Cha Yeowoon had stopped abruptly, so I was curious what favor he might ask, but it was a cuter request than I expected.
“Good. Where are we going?”
“When I got injured in the last competition I participated in…”
Wasn’t the last competition held in Hwaseong? I suddenly had a bad feeling.
Cha Yeowoon handed me an envelope as if he had prepared it in advance. It was just the size of a ticket.
Jebuland Amusement Park – B Package Fast Pass. For 2.
Reading the printed text on the paper, wise words came to mind. Why were ominous feelings never wrong?
I had no problem with Jebuland itself. I also liked the sea, and I had a lot of desire to go there and play on the rides with Cha Yeowoon.
The problem was Jebudo.
“Come to think of it, you might not have even reached 10th yet.”
I made a casual excuse and handed back the envelope containing the ticket. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Cha Yeowoon’s rank to improve, but my feelings were complicated.
“If I’ve improved, we should go.”
Cha Yeowoon said earnestly as he held the envelope dearly. Did he want to go to Jebudo that much with me?
“I promised, so of course we should go. The bus is here. Work hard with your training.”
I pushed Cha Yeowoon, who kept looking back, onto the bus.
Honestly, I could have gone with him even if his midterm results weren’t great. Seeing him fidgeting made me troubled.
If only it wasn’t Jebudo.
After parting ways, I discreetly searched for the name of a store I remembered. Since this world was similar but different from my own, in particular during my uncertain period of 19, it might not exist.
However, it was there.
The store name I remembered exactly.
Seosin-myeon, Hwaseong-si, Gyeonggi-do. After checking the name of the store representative listed under the address and contact information, my feet sank.
I didn’t want to go if I could avoid it.
Recalling Cha Yeowoon’s excitement, I felt a lump in my throat.
* * *
“I told you. I did well on the midterm.”
Cha Yeowoon had kept his promise.
I checked the numbers on his report card. It was 9th, not 10th or 8th. He had landed precisely on the rank he had promised.
“You worked hard. Congratulations.”
Cha Yeowoon stood in front of me with a very proud expression. Bright eyes and slightly flushed cheeks. If he had a tail, I thought it would be swinging passionately behind him.
“This really happened.”
Surprisingly, Cha Yeowoon had not only followed the curriculum well, but his understanding was also exceptional. However, the significant improvement in his grades in such a short time was due to his efforts.
“Good work. You must have been busy training, but you worked hard.”
I decided to give Cha Yeowoon all the praise I could think of. Anyone would want to do the same if they saw a child running down the 3rd year students’ hallway holding out their report card to them as soon as it came out.
Him, standing in front of the window, looked especially radiant today. Perhaps it was because of his bright expression. When I patted his shoulder, his head tilted slightly as if he wanted me to touch it.
As I gently touched his naturally silky hair, Cha Yeowoon’s lips curled up slightly. He seemed to enjoy it.
Such a cute child. It felt like a case of puppy love ever since his favorability increased. It was described this way in the novel, but perhaps because he was currently much younger, he had a youthful cuteness to him.
A transparent window appeared over Cha Yeowoon’s messy head.
[ Sub-Mission: Raise Cha Yeowoon’s midterm ranking to 10th. ]
[ Sub-Mission cleared. ]
There was this. Come to think of it, a promise was a promise, but I had also cleared a mission. I didn’t realize it until I saw the message.
“We’re going this weekend.”
[ Reward triggered. ]
The constant messages appearing made it hard to focus on my conversation with Cha Yeowoon.
[ You can hear what Cha Yeowoon want most right now. ]
[ Would you like to check now? ]
What was this? I was initially bewildered by the new message but quickly understood. Completing a mission would reward me. It was a natural result in games.
What did Cha Yeowoon want most right now?
I hesitated, glancing at him with a slightly anxious feeling, as if planning something mischievous. Was this some form of voyeurism?
Curious about his thoughts, I wondered what he was contemplating.
Yes. As I mumbled silently, a faint click like clicking a button was heard.
There was a moment of static as if an old cassette tape was starting to play. I felt a sensation similar to a frequency being tuned.