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    “Ah, when did this bastard get out?”

    “Who is he?”

    “He’s a person of interest.”

    “Is he like Bin Laden or something?”

    “No way, Bin Laden’s been dead for ages. This guy pretended to have repented and got caught again after a few years. I was already boiling with anger when he only got a 5-year sentence last time. I wonder how long it’ll take for him to get caught again this time.”

    Seon Wookjae flicked the monitor he was looking at with his hand.

    “What’s the charge?”

    “Attempted murder.”

    “There are plenty of those kinds of guys. Five years is a pretty long sentence for an attempt.”

    Being part of the violent crimes unit, Lee Inyoung’s sensitivity had also dulled. Jin smiled bitterly at her remark about how a mere attempted murder charge wasn’t anything special.

    “He got 5 years because it was his second offense and he was given an aggravated sentence. And this was the first case I handled after joining the prosecutor’s office, so I remember it well. There’s no scumbag worse than this one.”

    Seon Wookjae closed the database window. Lee Inyoung soon lost interest and put her wallet into her bag.

    “Prosecutor, I’ve handed over all the materials for next week’s trial.”

    “Good job.”

    Jin also turned off his computer. Even while preparing to leave, work conversations never ceased.

    “As much as we’ve handed over, we’ve also received more materials.”

    Monday didn’t have many trial schedules, but the new investigations kept them busy. Jin stood up after sorting the documents that could and couldn’t be taken home.

    “Let’s call it a day and go home.”

    Two chairs scraped back at the same time.

    “Oh! That’s music to my ears.”

    “Prosecutor, Chief, since we’re finishing early for a change, would you like to have dinner together?”

    “I need to rush home to see my lovely daughter. Sorry.”

    “Then, next time.”

    Although Jin and she could have dinner together, she politely postponed it. Nevertheless, she couldn’t hide a hint of disappointment. Jin knew that Lee Inyoung had more than just a professional interest in him. However, she usually kept her personal and professional life distinctly separate.

    The three of them went down to the parking lot together and then went their separate ways. Jin had recently changed his route home to pass by Han Naeyoung’s animal hospital. Of course, nine times out of ten, the clinic was closed.

    Every time he saw the thick blinds, he wondered why he felt disappointed. It was just past 7 o’clock, so the clinic should be open today.

    As Jin expected, the inside of the animal hospital was bright. He passed by without stopping at a red light, but even if he had stopped, he wouldn’t have been able to see Han Naeyoung in the examination room.

    Han Naeyoung’s voice echoed in his ears. Despite expecting a prison sentence for the parricide, the first trial resulted in probation. The jury was split 5:3 between probation and prison. This meant Han Naeyoung was one of those five. Perhaps he had a softer heart than Jin thought.

    What lingered more in his memory than Han Naeyoung’s cold voice was his face illuminated by the streetlight. Jin had recalled Han Naeyoung’s face several times. That was why he had changed his route home.

    Jin was greeted by Nari as he entered his house. It had only been a month since he took her in from a dogfighting ring, but she had already become very attached to him. Today, the familiar, comforting smell of cheonggukjang (fermented soybean paste stew) filled the house.

    Though it had been a faint smell for a while, today it was at its peak. Unless some fairy godmother had come and cooked it, the source of this smell was clear… Nari.

    Jin picked Nari up and brought his nose close to her. He marveled at his own patience for not throwing her far away. The scent of Han Naeyoung that he used to detect from Nari was now completely gone.

    Of course, it’s a human’s job to wash the dog, so he couldn’t blame the clueless dog wagging her tail.

    “People say even humans shouldn’t eat that stuff.”

    Jin crossed his arms and looked down at the dog emanating a strong smell.

    “Shampoo must be the same. And I don’t have any dog shampoo at home.”

    Mumbling to himself, Jin smiled deeply.

    He put a leash around Nari’s neck and immediately left the building. He planned to walk to the animal hospital, giving Nari some exercise along the way. Although he walked her early in the morning and after work, he felt a bit guilty about how much time she spent alone.

    Nari wagged her tail, showing interest in everything around her during the walk. The timid past was gone, and she walked confidently with a bright expression. She was simple. Still, it was much better than her trembling in fear.

    As they approached the animal hospital, Nari’s steps quickened. She strained against the leash, whining as if asking why they weren’t moving faster. Jin’s pace had slowed.

    The closer he got to the hospital, the more his stomach tightened and tingled. It was probably nervousness. The same feeling he got when he had a solid suspect in front of him, or when he felt an emotional connection beyond professional interest.

    Jin took a deep breath of the cold air and exhaled slowly. Let’s just call it attraction. After all, the doctor’s face was handsome.

    Jin opened the door to the animal hospital and greeted cheerfully.

    “Long time no see.”

    Han Naeyoung, with the same expression as that night, looked at the monitor on the desk indifferently. Despite the sudden visit, Han Naeyoung showed little surprise, barely parting his lips.


    “Where’s the veterinary assistant?”

    Without looking around, Jin asked directly.

    “They’ve left for the day.”

    “So, are the consultations over? This one’s smell is…”

    With a snap, the leash broke, and the dog ran towards the desk. Nari panted and jumped around Han Naeyoung excitedly. Jin looked at the broken leash, thinking he might need to replace it with a metal one.

    Han Naeyoung knelt and petted the dog. Nari licked Han Naeyoung’s face eagerly with her long tongue.

    “You must have taken good care of her.”

    The habit of watching nervously was completely gone. Han Naeyoung thought back. Jin hadn’t visited in about three weeks, and it had been quite some time since they met at the courthouse.

    “Maybe because I fed her a lot.”

    Han Naeyoung, who was petting Nari, wrinkled his nose.

    “She smells pretty bad, doesn’t she?”


    Han Naeyoung bent down to sniff and frowned. Jin laughed out loud.

    “I brought her here because I was worried using human shampoo might cause hair loss.”

    Han Naeyoung nodded and picked up the dog, not minding the strong smell. He opened the door next to the examination room and pointed to the sofa.

    “I’ll wash her quickly and bring her right out.”

    Thinking about watching, Jin sat on the sofa when he saw the door close.

    The sound of running water came through the crack in the door. The water ran for a while before stopping. The waiting room was completely quiet, even though playing some classical music would have been nice.

    Jin leaned back on the sofa and crossed his arms. Staring at the ceiling, Jin closed his eyes. As he had felt before, it was a comfortable place.

    ⋆. ݁⭒

    Han Naeyoung wiped shampoo off his face with the back of his hand. Lee Seolhwa was right. Dirt was pouring out of Nari’s short fur like a spring. Nari seemed to enjoy the rare bath, relaxing under Han Naeyoung’s touch.

    After shampooing twice, her fur regained its original color. Being short-haired, it dried quickly with a few passes of the pet dryer. Han Naeyoung patted the now-clean dog, muttering with relief. Animals with scars don’t open their hearts easily.

    Dogs, being highly familiar with humans, open up relatively quickly, but it still required more attention than one might think. Contrary to Lee Seolhwa’s concerns, it seemed Nari was doing well with her new owner.

    As Han Naeyung opened the door, Nari scurried out. Wiping his hands, Han Naeyung followed and fixed his gaze on the sofa. Jin had fallen asleep with his arms crossed, oblivious to the dog wagging her tail eagerly, seeking attention.

    From a distance, Han Naeyung called out to him.


    However, Jin’s eyelids didn’t even twitch. Han Naeyung stepped closer.

    “It’s all done.”

    Still no reaction. Jin was deeply asleep, so still that Han Naeyung almost wondered if he was dead if not for the steady breathing. Then, a pained expression appeared on Jin’s smooth forehead. It seemed like he was either about to wake up or was dreaming despite his uncomfortable position. Feeling inexplicably anxious, Han Naeyung spoke again.

    “Nari… is waiting.”


    With a strangled sound rising from deep within, Jin’s eyes snapped open. At the same time, he grabbed Han Naeyung’s wrist. Their startled eyes locked.

    Han Naeyung tried to pull his wrist away, but Jin released his grip faster.

    “…I’m sorry. I must have been dreaming.”

    Jin, now awake, muttered in confusion, quite unlike his usual self. Han Naeyung stepped back, biting his lip. He couldn’t bring himself to say it was okay.

    “Thanks to you, she’s all clean.”

    Jin, trying to gather himself, picked up Nari and sniffed her.

    “The leash broke, so could you recommend a sturdy one?”

    Han Naeyung’s hands, now gloved, trembled slightly as he took out a leash from his pocket. He stood before the leash display, clasping his hands tightly until the shaking stopped. He then selected a leash for large dogs.

    Placing the leash on the sofa, he headed back to the desk, hoping Jin would finish the transaction quickly and leave. Jin fitted the new leash on Nari and approached the desk, pulling out his wallet.


    “…As I said before.”

    Jin stifled a small sigh. He had been pleased that Han Naeyung hadn’t treated him like an outsider, but now, with one mistake, Han Naeyung was showing complete rejection. Jin wiped his forehead in frustration but didn’t give up.

    “How was the food last time?”


    “There’s a food stall I frequent. Would you like to go there with me today? It tastes better to eat there than to get takeout. You said you drink, right?”

    “I have work tomorrow.”

    “Sorry for touching you. It won’t happen again.”

    Han Naeyung felt even more apologetic at Jin’s sincere apology. Jin hadn’t done anything wrong. The problem was his own inability to handle others’ proximity and touch.

    “You don’t need to apologize.”

    “What should I do, Dr. Han?”

    By now, the trembling in Han Naeyung’s hands had subsided.

    “I’m starting to feel hungry.”


    Han Naeyung, about to say something, fell silent at Jin’s smile. When Nari shook her body, the metal leash made a clear, tinkling sound. Watching the leash jingle, Han Naeyung spoke.

    “That will be twenty thousand won.”

    Jin frowned slightly, then paid in a way that required no change, placing the bills on the desk instead of handing them to Han Naeyung.

    “Is business done for today?”

    As Han Naeyung put the money in the cash register, he answered softly, “Yes.”

    Jin, wrapping the leash around his hand, walked toward the entrance. Just when it seemed like he would leave, he lowered the blinds over the large window. Han Naeyung looked at him with puzzled eyes.

    “You said you were closed. Get ready to leave.”

    Without explicitly inviting Han Naeyung, Jin spoke confidently.

    “If having a drink with me is utterly unbearable, I’ll leave. But if not, let’s have a drink together.”

    Jin thought to himself that his approach was quite petty. Since he had come this far, it felt insufficient to just bathe Nari and leave. Changing his after-work plans felt like a half-measure to him.

    “Is it really that dreadful?” His eyes seemed to ask as he watched Han Naeyung duck under the desk. Surely, Dr. Han wouldn’t do something as cute as hiding, right?

    Jin asked, “What are you doing?”

    It took a moment before Han Naeyung stood up, holding a black plastic bag.

    “I packed some dog food.”

    Jin bit his lip to stifle a laugh. Although he had pushed the matter, he had expected to be ultimately rejected. Han Naeyung could be impenetrable at times, yet occasionally, he could also be surprisingly easygoing.

    Jin watched with curiosity as Han Naeyung locked the examination room door and checked around the animal hospital. He waited until Han Naeyung finished his routine before pushing open the glass door. Han Naeyung, buttoning his brown overcoat up to his neck, searched his pockets.

    “And this.”

    It was Jin’s handkerchief, which had been kept at the desk to return whenever possible. Jin took the handkerchief, noticing it was neatly ironed.

    “Thank you.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    With gloves on, Han Naeyung locked the glass door, double-checking it with a couple of clicks. He then put his hands in his pockets and looked expectantly at Jin, as if to say, “Aren’t you going to lead the way?”

    “It’s not far from here.”

    Jin tugged on Nari’s leash and started walking briskly, with Han Naeyung following behind. Jin glanced back several times, unsure if Han Naeyung was actually following since he couldn’t hear his footsteps.

    The two men maintained a distance that suggested they had only recently met and were still somewhat awkward around each other. As Jin had said, the food stall was about a ten-minute walk from the animal hospital.

    As Jin lifted the thick plastic curtain to enter, the stall owner greeted him warmly.

    “Prosecutor, you’re going to wear out my door. Have you been hitting the bottle lately? And you brought a friend today!”

    The owner’s familiar greeting made Han Naeyung nod politely.

    “I’m actually an alcoholic,” Jin joked, looking at Han Naeyung. Han Naeyung responded nonchalantly, “Is that so?”

    Around 8 PM, the food stall was relatively quiet. Jin chose a secluded spot and tied Nari’s leash securely to the stainless steel table’s leg. Han Naeyung sat across from Jin, with the tent right behind Jin’s back. Han Naeyung stared intently at the menu placed in front of him.

    There were no people around, and even if someone sat nearby, they wouldn’t see or notice him. Han Naeyung realized why Jin’s persistence didn’t bother him as much as it might have.

    Despite being pushy, Jin showed a fundamental level of consideration. He was the kind of person who apologized immediately after grabbing someone’s wrist. Although this wasn’t why Han Naeyung had followed him, he didn’t feel the need to reject Jin’s request as adamantly as he might have otherwise. Given his current situation, it made sense.

    “The gizzard is good here. Shall we get some?”


    “One bottle of soju, two orders of gizzard, and two orders of blood sausage and intestines, please.”

    Jin raised his voice slightly without lifting his hand. Han Naeyung silently surveyed the food stall. If he turned his head, he could see the stall owner preparing food. The floor was asphalt, but the tent did a good job of keeping out the cold air.

    Han Naeyung took off his coat and placed it on the chair beside him. Then, he took a bowl out of the plastic bag along with the dog food and served some to Nari, who had settled down. The sound of Nari crunching on her food was the only thing breaking the silence around the two men.

    Jin poured soju, which had arrived before the appetizers, and filled both of their glasses. Only then did Jin speak.

    “Honestly, I thought I’d end up coming alone. I expected you to turn down my invitation, even if I insisted. It feels strange.”

    “I didn’t want to eat alone.”

    “So, you were lying about not having dinner.”

    “I’m hungry today.”

    Jin smiled at Han Naeyung’s straightforward admission, appreciating the small victory in getting him to join.

    Han Naeyung downed the soju on an empty stomach. Through the clear glass, his white gloves looked even more meticulously clean. His pale face seemed even colder, perhaps due to the chilly wind they had walked through.

    Suddenly, Jin clenched his cigarette pack in his pocket. He felt like he might reach out and touch Han Naeyung if he didn’t do something to distract himself. He pulled out the pack.

    “Do you mind if I go smoke?”

    “Go ahead.”

    Jin stepped outside and smoked several cigarettes until their ordered food was generously laid out on the table. His eyes kept wandering back to Han Naeyung inside the plastic tent. By the time Jin finished smoking, Han Naeyung had already had several shots of soju.

    Jin returned and drank as much as Han Naeyung had.

    ‘Do we need to get tipsy to loosen up?’

    He felt like he was trying to woo someone he found attractive at a bar. However, making light conversation while tipsy wasn’t his goal. If he were more honest, this tense atmosphere felt like facing a suspect in a serious crime. Jin couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of it.

    Han Naeyung glanced at Jin with a puzzled look before lifting the empty soju bottle. Jin considered ordering more but was curious to see what Han Naeyung would do. Given his meticulous nature and quiet demeanor, he didn’t expect Han Naeyung to make a loud order. Just as Jin was about to step in, Han Naeyung spoke up.

    “Can we get another bottle of soju, please?”

    Jin felt like he’d been hit on the back of the head. He realized he had underestimated Han Naeyung, thinking of him as delicate and pristine like whipped cream. But there was a quiet strength in his calm voice.

    Han Naeyung wiped his damp lips as he felt Jin’s gaze. A new bottle of soju was placed on the table with a clink.

    “You two don’t seem very close. Why so quiet?” the owner asked.



    Neither of them responded. Han Naeyung’s silence confirmed it, and Jin didn’t feel like making any excuses. The owner, undeterred, turned to Jin again.

    “Prosecutor Jin, what’s on your mind? You look so serious.”

    “Well, I’ve always prided myself on reading people well. But suddenly, I’m hearing my confidence shatter.”

    The owner tilted his head but soon left to attend to another customer calling for him. Nari, having finished eating, rested her head on her front paws, looking content.

    “Dr. Han, may I ask how old you are?”

    Han Naeyung brought his soju glass to his lips, paused, then set it down.

    “I’m 29.”

    “I almost treated a grown man like he was delicate… like tofu.”

    Jin quickly corrected himself from saying whipped cream.

    “Do I look weak to you?”

    Han Naeyung’s words were as soft as his breath. Jin felt a tingling sensation travel from his fingertips up his arm. He blurted out without thinking.

    “Well, you are pretty and don’t talk much.”

    Han Naeyung didn’t react as Jin expected. He merely followed Jin’s cigarette pack with his eyes. Jin thought he might have spoken out of turn, given the alcohol had hardly affected him yet.


    Jin, who had been about to get up, paused.

    “You smoke too much.”

    He put the cigarette pack back into his suit pocket.

    “Is it bad for the dog? I mean, I don’t smoke at home.”

    At the mention of the dog, Nari perked up her ears.

    “It’s bad for people too.”

    Han Naeyung said this as he took another drink of soju. Instead of lighting a cigarette, Jin chewed on a piece of sundae (Korean blood sausage) and washed it down with soju. They were already on their second bottle.

    “You drink often, don’t you?”

    Han Naeyung’s unexpected question made Jin smile.

    “My job is stressful. There are days like today when my temper reaches its limit. But work talk is boring. Tell me something about yourself.”


    Han Naeyung quietly watched as Jin refilled their soju glasses.

    “You didn’t buy the dog shampoo.”

    Jin blinked at the sudden change in topic, surprised by the unexpected comment.

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