Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 39
“Good child, Cha Yeowoon.”
As I tousled Cha Yeowoon’s hair, he blinked his eyes in a daze.
He was a good child.
The 18-year-old Cha Yeowoon, who I spent time with in person, turned out to be a much better person than I thought.
“I’m not that nice.”
“Good children always say that.”
“I really am not nice.”
Cha Yeowoon strongly denied it.
“Senior can say things like that because you don’t know what I’m thinking.”
Actually, I knew everything. At least the fact that he wanted to do this and that to me.
But it was somewhat troubling how I felt indifferent about it.
“Let’s go. We need to use the ticket for Jebuland. You worked hard to get it.”
“If you don’t feel like going, we don’t have to. Just look at the sea.”
“I want to go.”
I pulled myself up first, clasping our overlapping hands.
“Really. I want to go and have fun with you.”
Cha Yeowoon looked up at me intently.
“I think it would be fun if I go with you too.”
I tickled his held hand with my thumb, and only then did his expression soften. After he stood up and dusted off his pants, we briskly headed in the direction of the amusement park.
“I’m looking forward to the rides.”
Cha Yeowoon’s footsteps, walking beside me, slowed down slightly. I didn’t realize the meaning of his action until later.
* * *
The already pale Cha Yeowoon was very pale. As he clutched his knees, I patted his back.
“Hey, if you can’t ride the Viking, just say so.”
I said as I rubbed his back. He shook his head at my words.
“It’s not that I can’t ride it. I rode it.”
“It looks like you’ll die if you ride it twice. There’s also the mini Viking over there. We should have ridden that.”
“I’m not a child.”
Cha Yeowoon spoke confidently, still pale with blood drained from his face.
The ticket consisted of three courses and a fishing experience. As was typical of tourist amusement parks, Jebuland only offered a few courses. Among them, the Viking had seemed the most promising.
There weren’t many people riding it, so we were able to sit anywhere.
After we sat down energetically in the last seat, Cha Yeowoon remained silent, and that should have been my realization.
He persevered, despite me reassuring him that it was okay if he couldn’t ride it. Unlike the couple in front of us, he didn’t scream and just froze like an iceberg. As soon as we got off the Viking, he sat down and this was the situation.
“Do you want me to buy a drink? What do you want to drink?”
“It’s okay. I’m fine now.”
“Let’s sit and rest for a moment…”
“Let’s ride the next one quickly.”
Cha Yeowoon stood up abruptly, full of enthusiasm.
“You’ll collapse again.”
“I didn’t collapse.”
“Didn’t you act as if you had half a foot in the grave just now?”
“I don’t want to waste time since I finally came with senior. You said you liked amusement rides.”
Another admirable remark.
Seeing him burning with the determination to accommodate me, I thought it would be much better for us to enjoy ourselves than for me to stop him.
“Let’s ride that one. The merry-go-round.”
“It’s because I want to ride it.”
It was amusing watching his wounded pride evident in his demeanor. Despite protesting that he wasn’t a child, he didn’t resist when I grabbed his hand and stood in line for the carousel.
In front and behind us were children who barely reached our chest.
The line wasn’t long, so we were able to get on the carousel soon after. Once I got on one of the unicorns, Cha Yeowoon chose the unicorn right next to me.
Along with the old-fashioned melody playing, the carousel slowly spun. Laughter erupted here and there from the children.
“This isn’t scary, right, Yeowoon?”
“Senior, you’re annoying at times like this.”
“Aren’t I thoughtful? Where else can you find a senior who thinks of his junior like this?”
I felt his gaze. When I looked to the side to see if he was cursing me with his eyes, he was staring at me with a scary concentration.
The speed of the spinning carousel suddenly slowed down. Maybe it was just my feeling.
As the carousel continued to turn, the surroundings continued to change. Instead of seeing the spinning world around me, Cha Yeowoon’s axis seemed to be fixed on myself.
“It’s so nice.”
The gaze that persistently scanned my skin felt hot.
Whenever I looked into Cha Yeowoon’s eyes, I felt like I was being sucked in.
My fingers on the plastic unicorn curled and my throat felt itchy.
As expected in May, the surrounding area was vividly green and vibrant.
The flowers and leaves lost their shape and only their colors remained, tying Cha Yeowoon and me around like a ring.
My lips tingle. It felt like something was about to jump out of my throat.
“When the carousel comes to a complete stop, please unfasten your belt and carefully get off.”
An employee holding a microphone broadcasted the announcement. The carousel stopped. The song also stopped.
Unbuckling the thin safety seat belt and getting off, I felt an inexplicable sense of relief.
Just for a moment, I almost got swallowed up.
“What should we ride next?”
“Whatever senior wants to ride.”
“Are you going to keep giving that answer? Then I’ll choose the mini train.”
There was a slight change in Cha Yeowoon’s expression when I pointed to the brightly colored trains more suitable for children.
“…If senior really wants to.”
“Forget what I want. Bumper cars, mini Viking, shooting range. What do you like?”
Between the mini trains and the shooting range, Cha Yeowoon gladly chose the shooting range. We easily won a prize there. Was he the infamous Jebudo’s sharpshooter?
Although the courses were somewhat crude, it was a lot of fun. After going through three courses, there was one remaining.
“Do you know how to fish?”
“I’ve never tried it before.”
“We didn’t even bring a change of clothes.”
“I did bring something.”
Seemed like I was the only one who had come unprepared. Cha Yeowoon opened the bag he had been carrying and handed me an umbrella. Maybe to shield me if water splashed. He was a funny guy.
I thought time would pass with just the fishing rod hanging in the water, but Cha Yeowoon surprisingly turned out to be a dark horse. With the borrowed fishing rod and cheap-looking bait, he raised the rod several times, attracting the attention of people around us.
Of course, we didn’t have an icebox, and he was the kind of child who would eat the clam kal-guksu with a stubborn expression, so we ended up releasing everything we caught.
Except for one.
It was a big catch just by looking at it. Just as we were about to release it, a guy beside us purchased it for $2.25.
The $2.25 that Cha Yeowoon had earned from fishing was now transformed into a delicious ice cream held in our hands.
“Is this what Ahn Sia meant by an instinctive sense? Can you feel the moment you need to reel in the line?”
After returning the fishing gear, we came back to the entrance area near the amusement rides.
Seated on a bench and munching on a popsicle, the mini trains passed beside us, while disco music blared loudly ahead. Laughter erupted among the small rides.
“It’s beginner’s luck.”
“And me? I’m a beginner too, you know?”
“That’s because senior was only focused on me and not the fishing rod.”
The ice cream lump went down my throat. What kind of statement was that? But I couldn’t refute it because there was some truth to it.
“You were focused on fishing, right? Gosh, you did well.”
“Because senior was watching, I had to do well.”
Cha Yeowoon said it seriously without a trace of a smile.
No wonder he had worked so hard. I had thought he was simply enjoying his first fishing experience.
[ Buff triggered due to positive favorability. ]
There was that.
Fishing buff. It made me think about the concept of the buff. Was the buff to impress me? Anyway, there was some effect since he had caught a big one.
Well, either way, if he enjoyed it, that was all that mattered.
“Ah, it was fun.”
“Was it really fun?”
“Of course. Didn’t you enjoy it?”
“I’ve never had this much fun before.”
Cha Yeowoon’s smile was so beautiful that I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a moment.
The most fun he had in his life was riding a few old rides and clumsily fishing. It might be an exaggeration, but it somehow sounded sincere.
Maybe it was the place or the atmosphere, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. Since it was a tourist attraction, there were quite a few people on the weekend. Most of them were either families or couples.
There was even a child who jumped off the carousel and ran towards their parents, hugging them.
I used to think that a place like this didn’t suit me. I only came because Cha Yeowoon wanted to, and I didn’t think it would be fun.
“Let’s come again.”
I stood up, throwing the ice cream stick into the trash bin. It was time to slowly head back.
“Move up 10th again?”
“We can hang out without setting conditions between friends.”
Cha Yeowoon, who was leaving the amusement park entrance by my side, stopped.
Behind Cha Yeowoon, a small carousel was turning. I took one more step away from the joyful amusement park.
“Well, aren’t we?”
“I don’t know.”
Cha Yeowoon bit his lip, looked at his shoes, then back at me. Beyond that were the colorful rides, excited children, and the horizon.
It was an unrealistic scene. An island where I had come wanting to meet my mother, wanting to be accepted, and then immediately ran away. Now, it was a place where I was with Cha Yeowoon.
Where was this?
It was neither my past when I was 19 nor the world of my 29 that I knew.
Although it was easy to mistake it because of the similarity, it wasn’t reality.
I reached out my hand to Cha Yeowoon.
“Just one year difference, so we’re just friends. I consider you a good friend.”
Friend. Cha Yeowoon mumbled. His gaze was on my hand, but he hadn’t taken it yet.
A friend who gave strength in difficult times. That was good enough.
Even if we lose contact after graduation, it could remain as a good memory.
[ Calculating Cha Yeowoon favorability. ]
“I’ll be counting on you in the future too. Cha Yeowoon. Let’s be friends.”
As I shook my hand I had been extending, Cha Yeowoon finally grasped it.
[ Favorability: 25 ]
The palm I held was very warm.
Watching the number that was rising clearly, a sense of anxiety slowly crept up.
Cha Yeowoon hadn’t answered the question of us being friends.
* * *
It was difficult soothing Cha Yeowoon on the bus ride back as he dozed off on my shoulder and insisted he wasn’t tired. I managed to persuade him to go home after he stubbornly said he would drop me off first.
The way home was both familiar and unfamiliar. It was a scenery I had forgotten for too long.
A road I hadn’t walked in nearly a decade before falling into this strange world.
Similarly, my home. The carefully pulled door creaked.
Even the person inside.