Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 4
This message window had been appearing for a while. I didn’t know what it was or why it continued to appear.
Favorability from before too, wasn’t that something usually seen in games?
So, was this not a novel but a game world?
And what the hell did Love Supremacy Zone mean? Wasn’t that the title of the novel? Judging by the distance displayed, it seemed like there was a fixed zone, probably around Cha Yeowoon’s vicinity.
Right now, he was at the front of the bus, and I was at the back, so I guess it was roughly the radius of a shuttle bus.
I decided to look up the dictionary definition of love using my smartphone.
: An intense feeling of deep affection.
Or was it this one?
: A great interest and pleasure in something.
While I was at it, I also looked up ‘Love Supremacy.’
: An attitude or tendency that claims that love is the ultimate goal in life and is the only essential condition for marriage.
So, roughly speaking ‘Love Supremacy Zone’ was a place where love was supreme, or something like that?
But I didn’t have any intention of falling in love with Cha Yeowoon…?
More importantly, he was 18 and I was 29.
When Cha Yeowoon was a fertilized egg, I was solving problems related to geometry in my math book.
“The student sitting in the back!”
Back? When I lifted my head, I saw the bus driver, who had withdrawn his head from the driver’s box, looking at me.
“Student, are you deaf? Aren’t you going to get off?”
Right. I was a student.
Just until yesterday, I was at an age where I wasn’t asked for my ID, so I had forgotten.
The bus had come to a stop before I knew it. The last passengers were getting off, and Cha Yeowoon was already looking at me from the rear door after swiping his bus card.
“Yeah. I’ll get off. Thank you.”
I quickly bowed and got off the bus. The cool night air flowed through the bus stop.
It was the last stop so there were only a few people. I took a good look around the familiar yet new scenery.
“Why are you absentminded?”
“Huh? No reason.”
I couldn’t say that seeing the place I used to live a decade ago was a new experience.
“But to get to my home, we have to walk from here.”
My home was further up from the bus station. When I pointed to the steep road, Cha Yeowoon looked at me with a blank expression.
Without saying that he wouldn’t go or that he didn’t want to, he followed me silently. Perhaps he thought if he refused to go from here, it might be interpreted differently. He might have just given up after coming this far.
The path I pointed to led to an unauthorized shantytown. It was surprising that the shantytown, which hardly existed in Seoul anymore, still existed in the same way as it did 10 years ago. This place was really a strange world.
Walking down the path after a long time felt both unfamiliar and familiar. The more I walked, the more my memories came alive.
The road leading to the hillside was narrow and steep. It smelled of spoiled food and sewage.
Small shanties with slated roofs were lined up like crab shells. Moss-covered stone steps and abandoned garbage were entangled like flesh in the alleys.
I was fed up with this place. I really hated it when I was in high school.
“Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve been here.”
As I stepped inside the home, I found myself speaking to myself unconsciously.
It was just before I joined the military when people who used to live here were chased out, cranes were brought in, and everything was demolished. The demolished buildings were vivid in my memory, but the neighborhood remained exactly as it was when I had lived here.
Then, a thought crossed my mind.
This place was a world from a novel.
But it was also a place where I had actually lived during high school. So, maybe…
When I looked at the dimly lit window, my heart began to race. My throat thumped loudly.
I opened the unlocked door and invited Cha Yeowoon inside. The door was small, so we had to bend down to not bump into it. I realized that he was quite tall.
I greeted nervously while taking off my sneakers. The interior of the home was just as I remembered it. A narrow kitchen leading to two rooms.
“Were you just going to come in without saying a word?”
As the sliding door to the master bedroom opened, a shadow of a hunched back appeared.
My throat tightened.
Most would probably react the same after seeing their grandmother who had died 10 years ago.
In addition, at the age of 19 I was a rotten grandson. You know, those children in dramas who would appear in scenes where tears are shed.
All I had were memories of us fighting, and only regretting it after she had passed away.
I used to think about what I would say if I could see her again, even just once. As I was about to open my trembling lips, my grandmother grabbed my forearm.
“What were you doing all this time before crawling back in here? Always getting into fights without any sense!”
“Ah! Wait a moment. Why are you hitting me suddenly?”
Whether I was lost in emotions or not, my grandmother wasted no time in smacking me on the back of my head. The taste of her hand was still spicy after all these years.
The loud sounds reverberated in the small home. I wriggled and escaped, unable to bear it any longer.
“Stop hitting me. It hurts.”
I thought I would be happy to get slapped on the back after all these years. I thought I would happily shout for her to hit me more, but that was that and this was this. It still hurt.
“You’re an adult, stop making a fuss. Who’s the guy behind you?”
Cha Yeowoon awkwardly bowed. My grandmother suddenly let go of my sleeve and approached him.
Maybe it was because of her earlier display of smacking me like a dried fish, but he flinched and hunched his shoulders when he saw my grandmother. My grandmother’s gaze deepened as she looked at him.
My grandmother concluded after closely examining Cha Yeowoon for a while. She was only admiring his face?
“Are you a friend of Myeongha?”
“I’m his junior.”
“Did you come to play?”
“I brought him here to sleep.”
“Where? Is he going to sleep in your room?”
“He can’t sleep in the kitchen, can he?”
Under normal circumstances I would have been scolded for such a rude response, but instead, my grandmother brought out a blanket from the master bedroom.
“What can we do? I washed the sheets today, so there’s only one blanket cover now.”
“Let’s share it, then.”
“Okay. Or give him the blanket and you can sleep however you want.”
“Excuse me. Am I your grandson or him?”
While my grandmother and I spread out the blanket in the small room, Cha Yeowoon just stood there awkwardly. After my grandmother said a few more words and went back to sleep, it suddenly stopped like a broken machine.
“This is my room.”
I approached the absentminded Cha Yeowoon and said. It was a room with nothing but a desk my grandmother had found from somewhere–saying I needed a desk to study. I used to feel awkward when I was 19, but now it strangely felt welcoming.
Cha Yeowoon rolled his eyes sluggishly. He stared at the two blankets stuck together and neatly spread out on the narrow floor. It was obvious what he was thinking. Where am I, and how did I end up here?
What could he do? Complaining about being dragged here wouldn’t change the situation. This was my home. It was night now. The blankets were already laid out.
“Right. The bathroom is outside.”
“Need a toothbrush?”
“…Is it only senior and your grandmother living here?”
“Is that why you’re being nosy with me?”
There was a subtle sting to his words. Actually, not subtle but outright.
Maybe it was because he was a sensitive teenager. Or perhaps he couldn’t help but lash out at the slightest provocation. I used to be like that too. I would pick a fight with anyone that would glance at me.
“I’m sure you’ve never met me before, but I’ve known you for a while.”
It was absolutely true. Although I was seeing Cha Yeowoon in person for the first time, I had been observing him the past year.
He might not know this, but later on, he would fall head over heels for some woman and would end up doing anything for her. His already handsome face would become more attractive as time went by, and people would turn to look at him as a certified super handsome guy. His personality would soften a bit too.
And his life, which now felt so hopeless that he wanted to die, would get better.
I wanted to tell Cha Yeowoon.
That he would be okay.
Receiving my unwavering gaze, Cha Yeowoon wrinkled his brows. Well, who would appreciate the affectionate gaze of an annoying older brother?
“You know me? From my grandma?”
“I’m your fan.”
“You’re good at running.”
Cha Yeowoon’s perplexed face slowly turned bright red. It was an unexpected innocent reaction. This child was really innocent.
“What are you talking about, seriously.”
Cha Yeowoon, who suddenly got angry, opened the door and left. Less than three minutes later, he returned.
“…Where can I wash up?”
“Yeowoon, when you’re not rude you’re kind of cute.”
Cha Yeowoon didn’t say anything and simply chuckled. This brat.
The building where the bathroom was located was like a puzzle, with a shower, a rubber basin, a washing machine, and a toilet squeezed together. It was a one-room building with haphazardly constructed partitions, so it was drafty.
“You’ll have to wait for the hot water. If you want to shower, I’ll boil some water for you.”
“It’s okay. I can shower with cold water.”
“You’ll catch a cold. Aren’t athletes supposed to take care of their bodies?”
“Saying something like athlete…”
“Hey, you’re the representative of our school. A national track and field athlete. I’ll be back.”
As I stood up, the cold wind hit my face. The sun had set, and the air was quite chilly. It seemed like I would have to concede the blanket to Cha Yeowoon.
“Has your personality always been like this?”
A question came from behind me.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you always meddle in other people’s business?”
My footsteps, which had been busy getting water in a pot, stopped abruptly. What did they call this? A preemptive attack? No, not really. Pretending to be aggressive while self-inflicting?
I remembered as a child being embarrassed if someone helped me. I felt embarrassed for being worse than others and ashamed for being pitiful, so there were times I had actually preferred that people were rude to me. It was more comfortable to be miserable than ashamed.
“Hey, Cha Yeowoon.”
When I turned around, Cha Yeowoon was sitting there, looking pitiful as ever. A red light bulb illuminated him. Squatting in front of the red rubber basin, he still looked handsome as shadows beneath his eyelashes wavered.
“Just, it’s okay to say thank you.”
Cha Yeowoon’s lips quivered at my words.
Maybe it was too difficult for him to say a simple thank you because he was going through so much. So, I just chuckled and turned away.
A chilly wind blew. In the clear night sky without clouds, the moon shone brightly. It was a cold and clear night.
On a night like this, I thought it was fortunate that Cha Yeowoon wasn’t alone.