Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 5
I gave Cha Yeowoon a towel, a pot full of boiled water, and even clothes to change into. After looking at my cramped room with just two blankets, I quietly slipped my feet into the room next door.
“Grandma, are you asleep?”
The worn-out floral blanket with patches rustled and the curly white hair resting on the pillow moved.
It meant my grandmother wasn’t asleep. I approached the blanket and sat down. The uncomfortable-looking bed rustled, with only her heading turning toward me.
“Nonsense. What are you doing not sleeping?”
“I’m waiting for the child I brought to wash up. I came here because I missed you, Grandma.”
At my words, my grandmother suddenly sat up. The floral blanket fluttered and smacked my cheek.
“Did you eat something bad? Where did you get hit?”
This time, my grandmother’s hand came down on my forehead. It wasn’t just words, it was almost like a slap. The two hits made me stunned.
“Why do you keep hitting me?”
“You damn child. You have a fever. Ehm? Myeongha, go to the hospital in the morning.”
“What are you talking about? My body’s naturally warm.”
“Oh dear. How sick does someone have to be to say all this crap they’ve never said before in their life? When someone changes so suddenly, it means their days are numbered.”
“Is it nonsense that I miss my grandma?”
I grumbled but didn’t say more. My grandmother and I were never the type to exchange such embarrassing words.
Neither me nor her showed affection even if it killed us. I could say that we were two peas in a pod.
I regretted it.
Even if it was embarrassing and awkward, I should have said something. I should have said thank you when I was grateful, yes when I was happy, and most importantly, said it to her instead of sitting at the funeral hall talking to myself.
“I missed you.”
As I grasped my grandmother’s hand, which was still probing my forehead, I could feel her withered hand. It was warm.
If I, at 19, was a hot-blooded youth, my grandmother was the kind of person whose blood never had a day when it ran cold. She and I had frequently fought because of our short temper.
Looking back, they all felt like good memories.
At the time, it felt tough and exhausting. But just knowing that I was with someone who truly cared about me had made the memories beautiful.
“Anyway, I’m happy to be with you, Grandma.”
Why were some things you didn’t realize until you lost them?
“Did you get possessed by a ghost…”
“Ah, I’m perfectly sane. Your grandson is fine.”
I quickly pulled away when my grandmother also grabbed my hand, fearing she might drag me to a shaman house. She had even taken me to visit a taoist when I was in the midst of fighting with the other children in the neighborhood.
“I think the child has washed up. I’ll go wash now.”
Just as I heard footsteps coming inside, I straightened up and stood. I shouldn’t overdo the sentimental moments. Too much could be awkward.
My grandmother called out to me as I was about to leave.
“Are you sure everything is okay?”
I couldn’t help but to smile when I heard her concerned voice.
Before closing the door, I gave a quick wave to let her know I was fine.
Coming outside I immediately ran into Cha Yeowoon who had a towel on his head. After a quick shower with water that was gradually cooling down, he looked slightly wet and radiant.
“Did you wash well?”
Cha Yeowoon didn’t answer but nodded slightly, then entered my room. The borrowed clothes hung loosely, revealing his shoulders.
Despite being an athletic child with well-defined muscles, why did he look so thin? Was this what my grandmother felt when she kept trying to feed me?
Haa–I sighed and headed to the bathroom with a towel.
A question came to mind when I read the abstract phrase “Make Cha Yeowoon happy.” What did it mean to make him happy?
Even if it was just one person, if I had someone who knew me and cared about me, a lot of things would be okay.
At least, that was how I felt. If I had someone like that, I could have spent many days with a much lighter mind.
So, until Cha Yeowoon felt a little better, I wanted to be that one person.
I thought there was no rush as I quickly washed up in a bathroom that didn’t have proper hot water.
Did the shower feel slightly less cold while having warm thoughts? Maybe?
Walls or not, I could vividly feel the wind. It was uncomfortable when the cold wind touched my wet skin.
The showers when I was 19-year-old were like this. I was like a beggar, really.
It was easy to romanticize past memories. My 19-year-old self seemed more sad, hungry, and miserable than I had remembered.
I dried off with a towel while shivering. The shower on the rooftop was probably better than here. I wondered if I shouldn’t have brought Cha Yeowoon here to suffer.
When I returned to my room, Cha Yeowoon had already covered himself with the blanket and was lying down. I quietly dried my hair, being cautious not to wake him, before lying down on the bedding as well.
Naturally, I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I wasn’t as tough as to fall asleep the first night I was thrown into a novel out of nowhere.
What was going on? What should I do? Of course, staring at the ceiling and asking myself wouldn’t change anything.
There was mold on the ceiling. Was that a water stain? It was leaking there. How should I fix the leak before summer…I gradually started thinking about trivial thoughts.
While lost in these thoughts and just as I was about to fall asleep, suddenly, a message window appeared.
[ Calculating Cha Yeowoon’s favorability. ]
[ Favorability: -10 ]
Along with a ding sound, the number changed from negative 20 to negative 10.
What was this all of a sudden? Out of nowhere. As I stared at the message, a plausible explanation suddenly crossed my mind.
Could it be that Cha Yeowoon was thinking about me right now?
“I know you’re not asleep.”
Cha Yeowoon didn’t move at all. Only his flat breathing could be faintly heard. Oh, he really seemed to be asleep.
“Are you thinking about me right now?”
“What are you saying? Senior is really weird, always like this.”
Cha Yeowoon, who had been pretending to be asleep, immediately responded. He had taken the bait. No matter what he said, I knew that he had grown to like me slightly more. It made me feel good for no reason.
Negative 10, wasn’t that some liking?
Well, whatever. Life was relative. As long as it was better than before.
“Sleep well, Yeowoon.”
Cha Yeowoon didn’t respond.
This guy was subtly cute.
* * *
A dawn of a new morning, and I, who had decided to become a new person.
“How is it? Doesn’t it look delicious?”
Even before the neighborhood chickens crowed, I had woken up, cooked rice and stew, and set the table. My grandmother had a rather pensive expression.
“Did you really make this?”
“Are you moved?”
“Oh my. Has the sun really risen in the west today?”
Perhaps because Cha Yeowoon was present, my grandmother didn’t slap my forehead out of the blue like she had done last night. Instead, she stared at the stew with a bewildered expression and then picked up a spoon. Anyone who saw it might have thought it was poison rather than kimchi stew.
Cha Yeowoon, sitting awkwardly at the head of the table, also picked up a spoon. It was a somewhat surreal and satisfying sight to see my grandmother and him eating the meal I had prepared.
“Is it delicious?”
Cha Yeowoon, who had been silently scooping the rice, nodded. It felt even more satisfying knowing that he had acknowledged it, especially since according to the official setting he had a picky palate.
“When did you learn to cook?”
My grandmother asked. Considering her personality, this was a perfect ten out of ten in terms of praise.
“I was a cook.”
In addition to my experience living alone, I had also worked part-time at a restaurant. A meal like this was nothing.
My grandmother and Cha Yeowoon exchanged silent glances before turning their attention back to their meal. I could see why Cha Yeowoon’s rude attitude seemed familiar to me now. In many ways, he resembled my grandmother.
I felt proud as I cleaned up the empty table. I felt like I was participating in a typical weekend drama, where a guy who had returned after living as a scoundrel suddenly shed tears of regret and set up a meal for his poor mother. There was a reason why it was often portrayed on television. Clichés were classics. And affection was expressed through food.
As Cha Yeowoon and I awkwardly changed into our school uniforms, my grandmother gave me a lecture about studying diligently and not falling asleep in class. Once we were ready, we stepped outside where the weather was nice. The air was fresh, and there were hardly any clouds.
“What about your school bag?”
As we walked side by side to the bus stop, I asked a question that had been on my mind. Cha Yeowoon shrugged his empty shoulders.
“Hey, a student without a schoolbag…”
“Senior dragged me here all of a sudden, so I couldn’t bring it.”
I see. I was about to lecture him, but I had nothing to refute.
“Why didn’t senior bring your bag?”
“I couldn’t bring it because I came to see you.”
Cha Yeowoon smiled vainly. Seriously. He had no idea how urgent I was at the time.
Nevertheless, my bag should still be hanging where I had left it. Cha Yeowoon wouldn’t have anything once we got to school, so what should I do? As I thought to myself, he shook his head.
“It’s fine. I keep my books in my locker anyway.”
“So you don’t study?”
Cha Yeowoon immediately glared at me. I couldn’t even make jokes. He was too sensitive.
“Right. This is for the bus fare.”
I deliberately pulled out a bill and offered it, but Cha Yeowoon didn’t accept it.
“It’s fine. I already got a meal.”
“That’s one thing and this is another.”
“Senior can use it to buy ice cream.”
This little brat. I wanted to say something, but just then, the bus stopped right in front of us. The timing was perfect.
Cha Yeowoon got on the bus before me and nonchalantly swiped his bus card. The jingle “I’m a Youth” played. As the cheerful announcement rang, I followed by handing over a bill.
Afterward, Cha Yeowoon took a single seat by the window. He really liked sitting alone. Of course we weren’t acquainted enough to sit side by side on the bus, but still.
If we weren’t going to sit side by side, we could sit front and back. I came to that conclusion easily and sat down while looking at the back of Cha Yeowoon’s head.
He didn’t even pretend to look back. A cold-hearted guy.
The bus quickly filled up with students. At each stop, groups of students in school uniforms piled onto the bus.
It was when “I’m a youth” sounded…
Ding. The clear chime sounded strangely discordant.
[ Favorability: -10 ]
[ Debuff triggered due to negative favorability. ]