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    “Jin, do you believe in things like gods?”

    At Prosecutor Park’s question, Jin exhaled cigarette smoke bitterly. It seemed to be because of a case that had turned the prosecutor’s office upside down. Park grimaced, perhaps finding the cigarette bitter.

    “There are no gods, only the law.”

    “Honestly, Jin, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m glad I didn’t take that case.”

    Park also handled violent crimes.

    “Do you remember this from our training days?”

    Park posed as if holding something in both hands. It was easy to infer from his posture; it was the statue of the goddess of justice standing in the library at the training institute, holding a double-edged sword and scales, symbolizing the law.

    “So what.”

    “Remember, we said back then that Dike should be blindfolded.”

    On reflection, the statue of Dike at the training institute had both eyes wide open. There had even been debates about it at the time, though Jin couldn’t recall the details. Jin took out a new cigarette, indicating for Park to continue.

    “Back then, I thought it was wrong too. If Dike sees crimes with her eyes wide open, she might develop personal feelings. Imagine a close friend committing a violent crime. You’d naturally lean towards thinking he had his reasons. But in this case, it’s right to see with both eyes open. That man should have trusted you more, why did he do it?”

    “He said no matter what punishment the perpetrator gets, it wouldn’t bring his son back.”

    “…He’s not wrong.”

    A few days ago, the father of the late Yoo Jihyung killed Lee Wootae.

    The case, on the verge of indictment, dissolved as the suspect became the deceased, and a new murder case took its place. Jin tossed the empty cigarette pack into the trash.

    If he had viewed the case blindfolded, as Park suggested, it was an unambiguous juvenile murder case with no room for sympathy. However, the extenuating circumstances, as the victim’s father, made it impossible to apply a clear-cut standard.

    He hoped at least for a competent lawyer. Someone skilled enough to reduce the sentence, like those who could pull off a suspended sentence in a parricide case.

    Jin recalled a recent missing lover’s murder case. The man, who hired a lawyer from a reputable law firm, would keep appealing until he got a not-guilty verdict. It was indeed the rich go free, the poor get convicted.

    “How about a drink later? My treat.”

    “I just caught my breath, I should go before it gets too late.”

    “Where to?”

    “To get some shampoo.”

    “What? You’re ditching drinks for shampoo?”

    “Yeah. That’s the only excuse I have. See you later.”

    Jin easily ignored Park’s suspicious gaze.

    Did Han wait that day?

    The night the incident with Yoo Ji-hyung’s father broke out, an all-nighter was inevitable. He did call, though. Since Han didn’t answer, it seemed he had already closed up and gone in. Yet, oddly enough, Han Naeyung, who had turned him down, didn’t seem all that cold.

    Did he have a masochistic streak? Even if Han Naeyung rejected him more harshly, he felt he could endure. Though he did wish Han had a bit more interest in him.

    With his sharp intuition, he had always been able to discern others’ sexual orientations just by the atmosphere. Honestly, judging by Han Naeyung’s vibe, he didn’t seem heterosexual.

    Isn’t it evident from how indifferent he is even when alone with Lee Seol-hwa at the hospital? It might be a ridiculous leap in logic. Perhaps it was just his wishful thinking that Han Naeyung had an interest in men.

    Anyway, on a day like today, he wanted to have a drink with Han Naeyung.

    ⋆. ݁⭒

    Han Naeyung stared quietly into the mirror. Occasionally, his own face felt unfamiliar to him. His long eyes and tightly closed dark lips would have been identical to his brother’s if he were still alive. The only way others could distinguish them was by their height.

    He softly repeated, “Hyung.”

    Inevitably, he looked for traces of his younger sibling in his own face. The only way to remember a sibling who no longer existed in any photo or warmth was to look in the mirror. But even that, he couldn’t do for long.

    Han Naeyung shifted his gaze to the shampoo on the examination table. It was an item he had already paid for. He had left in a hurry and hadn’t picked it up for quite some time.

    He looked at the wall clock and grabbed the shampoo. He had no choice but to place it back on the display shelf. If Jin ever came back, he could just retrieve it from there. But what was the reason for setting it aside separately? No, saying it was set aside wasn’t accurate.

    It was simply left in the same spot where he had placed it that day. After placing the shampoo on the display shelf, Han Naeyung turned off the heater. Although his home was just upstairs, he tightened his coat.

    Han Naeyung hung the ‘Closed for Regular Holiday’ sign and locked the door as usual. He looked at the flickering neon sign of the building across the street.

    The sign had been flickering precariously for the past few days, as if its life was coming to an end. The reason the sign caught his eye was because of his bedroom. The bar, which stayed open until late at night, had a flickering light that would seep through his bedroom window.

    He often woke up several times because of the light, as he was used to light sleep. His insomnia had gotten worse, probably because of it. They would replace it someday, he thought as he turned away.


    It was a cool voice, different from the cold wind. Jin, wearing a gray coat, was getting out of the driver’s seat. He approached Han Naeyung, wearing black leather gloves.

    “You’re here.”

    As he took out his key, Jin stopped him.

    “I’ll get the shampoo next time.”

    “No, take it now.”

    Han Naeyung shook his head and opened the door. Then he went inside the still warm clinic and brought out the shampoo. He handed it to Jin, who was adjusting his gloves. The white gloves and black gloves intertwined.


    Han Naeyung nodded first.

    “Dr. Han.”


    “Do you have any plans later?”

    Jin glanced at the ‘Closed for Regular Holiday’ sign and continued.

    “If you’re free, could you comfort me a bit today?”

    At the mention of comfort, Han Naeyung hesitated, looking a bit troubled. It was a rare sign of vulnerability from him.

    “Don’t you have any friends… around here?”

    “Neighborhood friends, yes.”

    Han Naeyung looked at him in silence for a long time.

    “I guess it’s not possible?”

    Jin gave a bitter smile, ready to give up cleanly today.

    “Let’s go to a street food stall.”

    Han Naeyung put his hands in his pockets and walked ahead. Jin, momentarily taken aback, quickly caught up to match his pace. Feeling his heart pleasantly race at Han Naeyung’s unexpected gesture, he said,

    “Actually, I’ve been waiting in the car since 8 o’clock.”

    Han Naeyung, blinking calmly, looked at Jin.

    “Why didn’t you come in….”

    “I felt bad. For not keeping my promise.”

    “That’s alright.”

    “But why were you here so late today?”


    Han Naeyung fell into thought. Why did I stay late… Not just today, but for several days, he had sent Lee Seolhwa home early and stayed alone. Since when was that.

    “Is it because of me, by any chance?”

    Jin asked jokingly. Han Naeyung, watching the creases around Jin’s eyes, slightly parted his lips.

    Come to think of it, on the first day, he had stayed behind because Jin might come a little late. The same happened the next day. And even today. Although Han Naeyung was surprised by this realization, he soon nodded.

    “Yes, it seems so.”

    Jin stopped abruptly. Then, with his gloved hand, he touched his lips. Han Naeyung looked back at him with a puzzled expression.

    “I thought I made it clear that I’m interested in you.”


    “Is it because my attitude is too passive? I mean, how could someone as pretty as me just be interested, not even like you, and decide to seduce you properly or something?”

    At his smoothly flowing words, Han Naeyung furrowed his brow.

    “Why do you think that?”

    “Because right now, Dr. Han, you’ve set my heart on fire.”

    He chuckled mischievously. Han Naeyung recalled his reflection in the mirror. Unlike his expressionless self, Jin was bright in every aspect. He thought the term “pretty person” suited Jin more. Though, in truth, Jin was more handsome than pretty.

    To Han Naeyung, Jin seemed to lack nothing. Perhaps that’s why he could smile like that.

    Han Naeyung stood silently, unable to find the right words.

    “It’s cold, let’s go.”

    Jin spoke first and took the lead this time. The street food stall Jin introduced was to Han Naeyung’s liking as well. Although he rarely went out, he had once sat alone in a corner, drinking.

    The owner had only made one remark about his sorry state and didn’t engage further. This was another reason he liked the place. Jin opened the plastic door of the stall.

    Today, it was crowded as expected for a weekend. However, the corner seat was vacant. The owner seemed too busy to welcome them. Jin, as before, offered the seat facing the tent. Han Naeyung sat in the same spot where he had drunk alone before.

    “What do you want to eat?”

    Jin handed over the menu.

    “What we had last time is fine.”

    “Not the adventurous type, huh?”

    Han Naeyung wasn’t much of an eater to try new appetizers.

    “You’re not picky?”


    “Then let’s try the stir-fried bean sprouts. It’s good.”

    After Jin ordered, a bottle of soju and some sliced cucumber and carrot were served as basic appetizers. Jin bit into a long piece of cucumber. Meanwhile, Han Naeyung opened the soju bottle. He poured it into Jin’s glass and then filled his own.

    Han Naeyung drank first. Jin didn’t clink glasses before drinking.

    “By the way, Nari.”

    After wetting his throat with soju, Han Naeyung spoke. He seemed genuinely worried, thinking that if Jin was too busy to pick up the shampoo, he wouldn’t have time to care for Nari either.

    “I left her at my brother’s place for a few days. I need to pick her up tomorrow.”

    “…You have a brother.”

    “Yes, one older brother. How about you, Dr. Han?”

    “I’m an only child.”

    Usually, people say they’re an only child, but Han Naeyung’s way of saying “I’m alone” sounded lonely. Jin downed his soju and refilled his glass. Han Naeyung’s glass was also empty. Although they had drunk together only once or twice before, judging by the pace, Han Naeyung seemed to be quite a drinker, not unlike himself.

    “Hey, thanks to you, Prosecutor Jin, we might have a new regular.”

    The owner brought over a plate of puffed rice and set it down with a thud. More than the unpleasant nickname from the bearded owner, it was another comment that irked him.

    “A regular?”

    Jin asked.

    “Yeah, the other day he came alone and downed three bottles of soju. Prosecutor Jin, you need to take better care of him. Yes, I’m coming, hold on!”

    At the call of a heavily intoxicated customer, the owner left the table. When Jin put his glass down, the sound of his leather gloves rubbing together was audible.

    “Did you come here alone before?”


    Jin imagined Han Naeyung sitting in the corner, sipping soju. Though it was a fitting image, it didn’t make him laugh. Instead, it made him feel slightly uneasy. He wondered if something he didn’t know was troubling Han Naeyung.

    “When that happens, call me. What’s the point of having a neighborhood friend?”

    “Aren’t you uncomfortable?”

    Han Naeyung asked, as if trying to avoid the topic.

    “Hmm, this?”

    Jin raised his hand. Although Han Naeyung himself was wearing gloves, they were thin cotton ones that didn’t restrict movement. Jin’s leather gloves, on the other hand, looked uncomfortable.

    “No, it’s not uncomfortable. Plus, I can do this.”

    Jin suddenly grabbed Han Naeyung’s hand, which was holding the soju bottle. Han Naeyung’s hand flinched, but that was all. He could only feel the roughness of the unheated leather through the thin fabric.

    “I’m actually good at taking risks.”

    Jin pulled his hand back. Han Naeyung poured the soju himself, his hand steady. Han Naeyung wondered what it would be like if they weren’t wearing gloves. Perhaps he wouldn’t have dropped the bottle the moment he felt another person’s warmth.

    “I just realized that too.”

    That they were fine with the gloves on. The unspoken words were conveyed clearly.

    By the time they ordered another bottle of soju, the appetizer had arrived. The stir-fried bean sprouts on the plate were just the right amount of wilted.

    “Did something happen?”

    Han Naeyung asked as Jin moved his chopsticks. Jin had said he wanted comfort. Although dealing with people was burdensome for Han Naeyung, he couldn’t just stay silent after coming this far. Despite thinking he shouldn’t get involved with others, his actions were contradictory.

    “You’ve surprised me several times today.”


    Jin downed his drink.

    “Since this morning, I’ve been thinking about the statue of the goddess of justice. You know the one, right? The goddess holding scales and a sword.”


    “Yes, in Greek times, she was called Dike, and in Rome, she became Justitia.”

    The word ‘justice’ is derived from ‘Justitia.’

    “As uninteresting as work talk is, let me vent just this once. This current case is so bitter I want to wash my hands of it. The scales inside me have tipped to one side.”

    Jin spoke in a frustrated tone, but his expression remained calm, to lessen the worry of those listening. He looked around the noisy surroundings before speaking quietly.

    A victim of school violence had died, and the victim’s father had taken revenge on the perpetrator. And the case was assigned to Jin. Although he didn’t go into detail, Han Naeyung could understand what was weighing on his mind.

    Han Naeyung took another shot of soju. The story was as bitter as the soju burning down his throat.

    “Does he regret it?”

    “No, he doesn’t.”

    Jin replied, looking rather relieved. He raised his hand and ordered another bottle of soju. Han Naeyung watched Jin open the new bottle.

    “Prosecutor, did you know?”

    He spoke while staring blankly at the pouring soju.

    “Next to Dike is always Nemesis, the goddess of revenge.”

    “Are you saying justice and revenge are two sides of the same coin?”

    “I don’t know… It’s just mythology. It’s up to people to interpret it as they like.”

    “Do you also believe there’s no god, Dr. Han?”

    Han Naeyung clutched his glass. Drinking faster than usual and on an empty stomach made his head heavy quickly. Perhaps it was also due to the heavy topic brought up at the drinking table.

    “There probably is a god, just not on my side.”

    That’s enough… Han Naeyung repeated to himself, restraining his thoughts.

    Jin didn’t probe further. For a while, they emptied their glasses, listening to the noisy chatter of others. Just as Jin had said, the new dish tasted just as good as before. Suddenly, Jin clenched his fist tightly, then relaxed it.

    “These gloves are really warm. I should switch to thinner ones.”

    “They sell them at the supermarket. They’re cheap…”

    Realizing he’d spoken carelessly, Han Naeyung bit his lip. It wasn’t particularly useful information. Jin wore the gloves to be considerate of him, and Han Naeyung’s words seemed to take that consideration for granted. Jin, unable to hide his smile, glanced at the bottles piled up next to them.

    “You’re quite a drinker.”

    Now that he thought about it, Jin hadn’t even touched his usual cigarettes while talking with Han Naeyung. For some reason, he thought if Han Naeyung were around, he might even manage to quit smoking.

    “I’m not that strong.”

    “You seem fine for someone who claims otherwise.”

    “I’m just… enduring it.”

    Did Jin set aside time just for him, despite having something to do tomorrow? Jin remembered the sign announcing the regular closing day and asked,


    Han Naeyung lowered his eyes slowly. His voice, slower and more languid, escaped.

    “To survive.”

    In that moment, it felt as if a shard of glass coursing through his veins had lodged in his heart.

    Han Naeyung always seemed pale, almost transparent, like Ophelia in the morgue. He wore white gloves to keep his distance from people, yet he wasn’t entirely cold-hearted. When Han Naeyung had first agreed to have a drink, it was surprising; he seemed more ordinary than expected.

    The reason Han Naeyung hadn’t felt cold to Jin wasn’t due to any masochistic tendencies in himself. Jin tapped the table with his cigarette pack before opening it. It was the Ddodae brand.

    “I’ll be back from the convenience store.”

    Jin told Han Naeyung, who was quietly sipping soju. He put on his coat and stepped out of the tent. Snow had begun to fall in earnest while they were inside, covering the ground in a white blanket.

    The snowflakes grew larger, falling more heavily. At the convenience store, Jin opened his wallet. Although he could have paid for the cigarettes with cash, he handed over his card. He slipped the cigarettes and wallet into his pocket and lit one. He crushed the empty cigarette pack and tossed it into a lidless trash can. Cigarette smoke and his breath mingled in the cold air.

    The first time Jin had earned money was right after his college entrance exams. It was a simple job managing a study room for free use, so the pay was low. He couldn’t study comfortably because he had to do both cleaning and management duties. His monthly salary was a mere 300,000 won. Upon receiving his pay, he immediately went to the bank and exchanged it all for 1,000 won bills. Spreading them out on the floor, he laughed bitterly.

    There was a time he didn’t even have 3,000 won. He had begged others for that small amount, but no one had helped. That day, he stole money for the first time, barely securing a pack of medicine, and ran. The snow had piled up so high it clutched at his feet, and he resented the relentless snowfall.

    Jin stared at the fluttering tent of the pojangmacha. Snow settled white on his hair and shoulders. He finally understood.

    The reason he was drawn to Han Naeyung was the same impulse that led him to take in Nari. With sharp eyes, Nari initially distrusted human touch but soon softened at a second attempt and allowed herself to be touched on the third. But Jin wasn’t interested in taming anything.

    Han Naeyung simply reminded him of his first love, lost for a mere 3,000 won. This too might be a form of trauma.

    “It’s snowing outside.”

    Jin sat down again. Han Naeyung’s gaze turned toward the tent. His pupils slowly moved to the translucent tarp outside.

    “Should we leave before it piles up?”

    “There’s still… some left.”

    As Han Naeyung said, there was enough soju left for two more glasses. Jin poured them both and drank, then brushed off his wet shoulders. Prompted by the news of snow, Han Naeyung put on his coat, buttoning it up to his neck. Jin stood up to settle the bill.

    “I already paid.”

    Han Naeyung had done so while Jin was at the convenience store. Jin scratched his eyebrow with his gloved hand.

    “I’ll get it next time.”


    Han Naeyung didn’t refuse the casual promise. They lifted the plastic flap of the tent and stepped outside together. The snow, now ankle-deep, crunched under their feet. Despite the amount of soju they had consumed, their steps remained steady. Their footprints continued in an even pattern.


    Pojangmacha: street vendor stall

    Statue of Dike: The statue displayed in court or in the justice system, holding a pair of balance scales.The ancient Greeks worshiped the goddess Themis, the personification of divine law and custom, and her daughter, Dike, whose name means “justice.” Dike was always depicted carrying a pair of balance scales, and it was believed that she ruled over human law.

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