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    Han Naeyung was the first to reach for the soju bottle. The sound of the cap twisting open made Jin look over at Han Naeyung, surprised by the unexpected action.

    “I often have this instead of dinner,” Han Naeyung said as he poured the soju halfway into a paper cup.

    “Soju on an empty stomach… That’s pretty rough,” Jin remarked.

    “When I can’t sleep,” Han Naeyung added, then abruptly fell silent. Jin wasn’t the type to force a conversation with someone who was naturally reticent, which made Han Naeyung feel like he was saying more than he should.

    “Veterinarians must have a lot of emotional struggles too,” Jin commented.

    “Yes…” Han Naeyung responded in a barely audible voice. He was cautious with his words to avoid making mistakes. As the saying goes, the tongue is like a knife. His brother’s tongue had wings and was cut off. Now, his own tongue was a knife, and in front of him was a man who was carefully observing him. The bitter and sweet taste of soju lingered on his tongue, burning down his throat and spreading to his chest.

    Han Naeyung quickly emptied his paper cup and refilled it with soju. Jin also filled his cup with the transparent liquid.

    “They say if you pour your own drink, it brings three years of bad luck for the other person. We’re both in trouble,” Jin joked.

    “Is that so?” Han Naeyung asked, belatedly realizing he had never heard such a superstition before, even though it was common among those who drank frequently.

    Jin thought to himself, this doctor is alone. Given his apparent OCD, it made sense. Jin easily drew that conclusion.

    As they continued their meal in silence, the food was only half gone while the soju was nearly finished, mostly consumed by Jin. Their chopsticks collided over the stir-fried glass noodles. Han Naeyung, who typically avoided stir-fried glass noodles, left his chopsticks there awkwardly. Jin quickly withdrew his chopsticks and handed over a new pair wrapped in paper.

    Han Naeyung set the new chopsticks on the table and continued using the original pair. Jin noticed this and furrowed his brow slightly. It was then that Jin dipped his blood sausage into the salt for the first time, seeing Han Naeyung doing the same without any reaction.

    “That’s unusual. Usually, people with OCD wouldn’t eat with others, let alone tolerate shared utensils,” Jin observed.

    Han Naeyung grimaced slightly, perhaps due to the soju’s burning sensation.

    “Surprised?” Han Naeyung asked, his tone uncertain.

    Jin poured the remaining soju into his cup. “Well, kind of.”

    “You’re not exactly ordinary either, prosecutor,” Han Naeyung retorted.

    That stung, like a shard of glass cutting into his skin. Jin couldn’t quite pinpoint why, but he knew for sure that his attempt to observe had been noticed.

    “If I offended you, I apologize. I wasn’t intentionally trying to pry,” Jin said.

    Han Naeyung’s expression remained indifferent, as if it didn’t matter. Suddenly, a soft, mournful whimper broke the silence. Both men looked down. Nari, having finished her food, was panting and looking up at the table with a longing gaze.

    “Are you hungry?” Jin asked, as if Nari understood, she wagged her tail. Jin picked up a few pieces of blood sausage and fed them to Nari. She eagerly ate them and nudged closer, wanting more.

    “Chocolate…” Han Naeyung started to say something but then stood up. The lab coat that had been draped over the sofa slipped off. He could have caught it, but he waited until it hit the floor before picking it up. Though his face didn’t show signs of intoxication, his careful movements suggested he was trying to maintain control.

    Han Naeyung went to the snack shelf, grabbed a can of beef, and emptied it into Nari’s food bowl. Nari abandoned her longing gaze at the blood sausage and devoured the treat instead.

    As Han Naeyung returned to his seat, Jin asked, “Is it bad to give them human food, not just chocolate?”

    “It seems you have a lot to learn,” Han Naeyung replied with a hint of reproach in his voice, though it oddly sounded pleasant to Jin.


    “It’s not an excuse, but where I grew up, leftover rice was dog food.”

    The term “where I grew up” was peculiar, as he didn’t refer to it as “home.”

    “Where would we have money to buy dog food when even feeding the kids was hard? Literally, the dogs’ food was porridge. Now that I think about it, he was a handsome dog, not ugly like this one. But around the time of Boknal, he disappeared. After that, I had several dogs, but every Boknal, they vanished without a trace. It turns out they were boiled and eaten every Boknal.”

    His tone conveyed the trauma he experienced in his childhood.

    “Worse than animals, they were. The dogs we raised….”

    His ending was quite harsh.

    “There are worse people than that.”

    “Yes. Even as a prosecutor, dealing with all sorts of criminals, I rarely met someone as vicious as him. But in the end, he didn’t meet a good fate.”

    If Han Naeyung detected a hint of satisfaction in Jin’s smile, was it just his imagination?

    Han Naeyung snapped out of his focus on Jin’s story. He put down his chopsticks and drank the soju that had seeped along the rim of his paper cup. Jin also downed the last of his soju.

    With no food left, the remnants were all put back into plastic bags. As people living alone, they were quite quick at cleaning up. Jin grabbed Nari’s leash, who was already licking the empty bowls.

    Many dogs have a strong appetite, but this one was particularly voracious. When they first brought her in, she seemed constantly hungry, so they gave her plenty of food, and she ended up vomiting. Likely, she wasn’t fed properly at the dogfighting ring.

    As Jin tugged the leash, Nari walked over with a lingering glance. Han Naeyung wiped the table with a tissue and put the plastic bag in the trash.

    “How much for this dog’s treats?”

    “No need to give me anything.”

    “I insist.”

    “Then, I’ll take it as payment for the meal.”

    Han Naeyung, now wearing his gown again, stood calmly with his hand in his pocket. Jin abandoned the idea of paying any further. He wanted to say he was leaving. He had already thrown away all the chocolate in the house to prevent any unforeseen accidents.

    Animal hospitals weren’t as common as convenience stores, so they probably wouldn’t see each other for a while after today.

    Should I suggest another drink since it’s not even 10 o’clock yet? My house is nearby, and it wouldn’t be bad to make a friend in the neighborhood, even one with a strange obsession with cleanliness…

    However, Jin had a premonition. No matter what he said, he would be rejected by the indifferent gaze looking out the window.

    Han Naeyung’s hand in his pocket was entirely hidden. Though he stared blankly outside, it felt like an intense internal struggle was occurring. It was a reaction often seen in victims of violent crimes.

    During interrogations, victims are forced to recall horrific incidents. Their eyes, filled with memories of the past, reflect a mix of indescribable emotions. Just like Han Naeyung’s now. No, that was overthinking.

    His mouth felt dry. At times like this, smoking a cigarette was the usual course. Just as he was about to set aside any interest or curiosity, a message arrived on Han Naeyung’s phone on the desk.

    “I think I’ll be going now.”


    Glancing at the phone, Han Naeyung didn’t move from his spot.

    Jin held Nari’s leash short and walked to the door. Then, Han Naeyung picked up his phone from the desk.

    “By the way, Dr. Han.”

    Feigning nonchalance, he put his phone in his pocket and looked at Jin.

    “Today, you were a victim of my whims. I didn’t want to eat alone today.”

    With his mouth slightly open, Han Naeyung seemed to struggle with how to respond. Jin, looking at him, was reminded of Ophelia on the autopsy table.

    “Isn’t it fascinating? Sometimes there are bodies that look mysteriously like they’re sleeping. We call those corpses Ophelia. They’re more beautiful in death than in life, as if they’re exuding the last remnants of vitality just before they decay.”

    That day, just as the coroner said, the body lying on the autopsy table was staring into the void with half-open eyes. The cause of death was suicide, but the face was unnervingly pale, almost translucent despite lacking any makeup. Han Naeyung’s paleness resembled the scene from that day.

    He was overly sentimental and overly sensitive. Jin turned his head towards the darkness outside and left the hospital. Thus, he didn’t hear Han Naeyung answer, “Me too.”

    Only Nari, who was trotting along to match Jin’s pace, kept turning her head back. Han Naeyung had lost all color in his face ever since he grasped his phone.

    Could it be that he, like the suicide victim seen at the National Forensic Service, had received a breakup notice from a lover? But it’s unlikely that someone with OCD would have a lover… Then again, considering he used the same chopsticks they clinked earlier, sex might be a separate matter. Jin erased the eerily pale beauty from his mind. Han Naeyung was alive, not one of those corpses they called Ophelia.

    He thought he would shake off unnecessary thoughts on his way home, but like a medicine packet rolling around deep inside, Han Naeyung’s afterimage lingered. Jin let Nari roam freely as she enjoyed being back home after a few days.

    After taking a cold shower, his head felt considerably clearer. In hindsight, the doctor was always so white he seemed almost pale, and given his OCD with humans, it was natural he didn’t have a criminal’s aura.

    Jin threw himself onto the bed, still damp. As he stared at the ceiling, Nari approached with her mouth full of tissues. She jumped onto the bed and curled up at his feet.

    It was unusual for her to move from the living room even when sleeping. Jin grabbed her front paws and pulled her onto his chest. Nari, who had become used to human company in the two days she spent with the doctor, settled down quietly.

    As Jin stroked her soft fur, a sweet scent spread around. Somehow…

    “You smell like the doctor,” Jin said, unable to hide his bewilderment as he laughed.


    Han Naeyung was troubled by Jin’s stern expression just before he left the animal hospital. Jin was sharp. He was used to observing people, and the conclusions he drew were often close to the truth.

    Anyone who had seen him frequently could easily tell he had OCD, but it was rare for someone to deduce, like Jin, that it was a selective OCD. So, there was no harm in being more cautious.

    After tidying up the animal hospital and going up to his apartment, Han Naeyung took out his phone. The unlit room was visible only by the light of his phone. He looked closely at the incoming text.

    As soon as Han Naeyung read the short message, he gripped his phone tightly.

    Location confirmed


    Since morning, the woman had been busy. She couldn’t hide her excitement about meeting her son after a long time, smiling all day. Carrying a lunch box filled with side dishes that would last for a while, the woman widened her eyes.

    It was because her husband, who had left the house in the morning saying he was meeting a friend, returned home earlier than expected. Seeing his wife’s well-made-up face, the husband lowered his gaze to the lunch box.

    “Where are you going?”

    “I have a meeting today.”

    “Why are you taking the lunch box if you have a meeting?”

    The woman felt a pang of guilt at her husband’s piercing gaze, typical of a former judge.

    “Is it a heinous crime to take a lunch box? We’re having a gathering at Seong-kyung’s place. Everyone is bringing food. I’m in charge of the vegetables. Do you need proof?”

    The woman shook the heavy lunch box and looked confidently at her husband.

    “I wasn’t doubting you, no need to get so worked up.”

    Her husband softened his sharp gaze.

    “Great. I was looking forward to leaving in a good mood, and now look at this.”

    Muttering under her breath, the woman grabbed her car keys. She sighed deeply only after putting on her low-heeled shoes and heading to the garage. Because her husband prevented her from visiting their son, she hadn’t seen her child for quite some time.

    Even her son didn’t think to visit home, only sending gifts during the holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok, so she had no choice but to go herself. She shivered in the cold as she turned on the heater.

    It took at least an hour to get from the countryside house where her husband started living after retirement to her son’s hospital. Since she wasn’t a skilled driver, it actually took longer.

    Several impatient drivers honked at her as she strictly adhered to the speed limit, but she didn’t waver. She had never broken the law in her life. So, she figured a little white lie to see her son wouldn’t hurt.

    Thanks to the navigation system, finding the animal hospital wasn’t difficult. As soon as she arrived, she took the lunch box and walked lightly to the door of the animal hospital.


    Lee Seolhwa, who was greeting the customers, exclaimed, “Oh!” in surprise. The woman with the lunch box was Han Naeyung’s mother, whom Lee Seolhwa had seen before. Recognizing her quickly, Lee Seolhwa greeted her warmly.

    “It’s been a while!”

    “Indeed, it has. Good to see you again, Ms. Seolhwa.”

    The woman looked around the animal hospital and spoke kindly. She had chosen a quiet time to visit, so there were no other customers around. She briefly worried about the hospital’s business but knew she could help financially if needed. After all, Han Naeyung was her only child.

    “Is Naeyung— I mean, the doctor, here?”

    Lee Seolhwa came out from behind the desk to take the lunch box from her. The lunch box was heavier than expected, causing Lee Seolhwa to slump her shoulders slightly.

    “Unfortunately, the doctor is out on a house call.”

    “Does he make house calls?”

    “Yes, he does. Please, have a seat here. The house call is for a critically ill cat, so I’m not sure when he’ll be back.”

    The woman’s eyes drifted to the firmly closed consultation room. The sign indicated that a consultation was in progress.

    “Your name was Seolhwa, right?”

    Though Lee Seolhwa had a name tag on her chest, the woman spoke while looking only at her face.

    “Could you open the door to the consultation room?”

    “Uh, well…”

    The woman, with a determined click of her heels, walked to the consultation room and flung the door open. Inside, only an empty chair was sitting conspicuously. The consultation room was indeed empty, just as Lee Seolhwa had said.

    “I’m sorry. I guess I’m getting paranoid.”

    The woman’s confident demeanor faded into an embarrassed smile.


    “It feels like my son is avoiding me.”

    “Oh, that couldn’t be true.”

    When Lee Seolhwa waved her hand dismissively, the woman’s expression brightened noticeably. She had almost been deeply hurt, thinking her son might have warned Lee Seolhwa in advance to avoid her.

    Lee Seolhwa placed the lunch box on the doctor’s desk and returned to the waiting area with the woman. She handed the woman a cup of tea.

    “It’s very cold outside, isn’t it?”

    “Yes, this winter seems particularly harsh.”

    As the woman savored the tea, her youthful appearance, marred only by the wrinkles around her eyes, made her age hard to guess. Her features were large and distinct, whereas the doctor’s were more delicate. Lee Seolhwa thought to herself that Han Naeyung must take after his father.

    Despite his cold appearance due to his pale skin, she was sure he was a kind person. The fees he charged were barely enough to avoid running a deficit.

    “Is there something on my face?”

    “Oh no, you’re just very beautiful. The doctor is handsome too, but he doesn’t seem to resemble you. Ah! What I mean is, you’re both beautiful in very different ways.”

    Lee Seolhwa laughed pleasantly.

    “In a way, that makes sense.”

    The woman suddenly brightened and stood up, setting her tea down. Han Naeyung, carrying his medical bag, had just entered the animal hospital.

    Han Naeyung approached his mother, saying, “You’re here,” with a nod. The brief feeling of disappointment at her son’s indifferent reaction quickly passed.

    “How was the house call? You look so pale. Skipping meals again, I see. At least you’re dressed warmly, thank goodness.”

    A typical mother’s nagging continued unabated. The only difference was that she spoke from a considerable distance from her son.

    “You’re going to kill yourself saving all these animals.”

    Han Naeyung gave his mother a small smile.

    “Come in.”

    Han Naeyung opened the consultation room and nodded to Lee Seolhwa, a silent request to buy some time even if a customer arrived. His mother followed him into the room and pointed at the lunch box.

    “I brought some vegetables and kimchi, so make sure to eat regularly. You look like you’ll be blown away by the wind.”

    “It’s not that bad.”

    “Are you seeing anyone these days? That young lady seems nice.”

    “Mother, it’s rude to talk about Ms. Seolhwa like that.”

    Han Naeyung curtly cut off his mother’s words.

    “Ah, you don’t like arranged dates, and your father says to let you do as you please. You two make it very hard for me. Other friends’ husbands are still going strong at their jobs, but why did your father retire early?”

    Han Naeyung’s expression hardened momentarily.

    “He worked hard.”

    “Everyone works hard. Is he the only one?”

    “You came all this way; please stay for dinner.”

    “I’d like to, but…”

    She stopped herself from mentioning that she had sneaked out to see her son without her husband knowing. She worried her son might be hurt by his father’s inexplicable coldness.

    “I’m happy just seeing your face. You have work to do, so I’ll be on my way. The weather is cold, so the food might spoil quickly. Make sure to put it in the fridge tonight.”


    As Han Naeyung escorted his mother out, he glanced at his medical bag. Then he firmly closed the consultation room door.

    At the entrance of the animal hospital, his mother waved at Han Naeyung and Lee Seolhwa.

    “It’s cold, so go back inside, Ms. Seolhwa.”

    “Yes, see you next time. Take care.”

    Lee Seolhwa went inside first, giving Han Naeyung and his mother a chance to talk more.

    “You don’t need to come out any further. My car is just out front.”

    However, Han Naeyung accompanied her to the end. Looking down at her white gloves a few steps away, she took in her son’s face. His eyes were the same as the first time they met.

    He was a child who would avoid people approaching him, standing expressionless. She hadn’t forced herself on him but had watched from behind until he opened his heart. The white gloves she wore showed the result.

    “Naeyung, I…”

    “It’s very… cold.”

    White breath puffed out. Han Naeyung removed the scarf from his neck. He stepped forward, wrapped it around his mother’s neck, and stepped back again. She buried her face in the scarf, not caring that it smudged her makeup.

    “Yes, it really is very cold.”

    She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears from spilling.

    The child her husband suddenly brought home over ten years ago.

    The woman had a congenital ovarian issue and couldn’t have children. She wanted to raise the son who seemed to have fallen from the sky as well as she could. She had watched over him as he screamed and thrashed every night, clutching her heart, and mentally embraced the young body that rejected her with bloodshot eyes.

    She never asked her husband where their son came from or why he had to suffer so much. To her, Han Naeyung was simply her son, born from her heart.

    “I’m sorry I can’t visit more often…”

    Han Naeyung barely managed to speak to his mother, whose eyes had reddened.

    “There’s nothing to be sorry for. Don’t say such things. I’m going now, so take care of your animals.”

    His mother turned away somewhat brusquely.

    Han Naeyung stood in the same spot until she was out of sight after getting into her car. The cold wind seeped into the place where the scarf had been. If he hadn’t worn it in the first place, he wouldn’t have felt this cold. Those who have known warmth acutely feel its absence. You did too.

    Twin Animal Hospital

    Han Naeyung stared at the sign for a while before entering the warm hospital. Lee Seolhwa looked like she wanted to say something, but she quickly picked up the phone when it rang.

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