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    Late at night. In a room where even whispered voices could be heard clearly. Two people who are lovers even though one of them has no memories. Both were men. One was on the bed. The combination felt so dangerously close that it sent shivers down my spine, making me feel like I needed to escape. But my body wouldn’t comply.

    “If you’re sleepy, go to sleep.”

    “…”

    I shook my head instead of answering. I wasn’t particularly sleepy; I just had the habit of going to bed early with grandmother. I planned to lie down for a moment and then get up. I’d contact home and… Something lightly touched the palm of my outstretched hand.

    Ah, he’s doing it again. This guy… If he tried to grab me, I would shake him off. This was at a level too embarrassing to say he just brushed against me. There’s something about him that makes people’s hearts weak. The lingering sensation made my fingers twitch uncomfortably.

    I should tell him not to do that again. But as soon as I resolved that, he suddenly grabbed the tip of my ring finger. I found myself seriously contemplating. Would it be too harsh to shake him off? If he were just some guy, maybe, but he claimed to be my lover, even if I didn’t remember…

    Moreover, I saw just how big this person’s hands were, and he was gently clasping just my fingertip with that large hand. How endearing and cautious his gesture was. Ah, the affection of this man holding my fingertip was too profound.

    After burying my face in the pillow for a while, I turned my head and blinked slowly, seeing his handsome face right there. It was truly amazing. Just looking at him cheered me up. This must be why they say people should only look at good things in life.

    “…”

    “…”

    Suddenly I realized I was staring at him quite rudely. Yet why was he smiling like that? Did he not care about my gaze? Or did he just smile a lot? Or maybe he liked me that much… Could he like me so much that just me looking at him made him happy? What did he see in me that made him so obviously happy…

    ***

    …Huh?

    My consciousness flickered back. I hadn’t intended to sleep but must have dozed off. I didn’t even know when I had fallen asleep. I tried to wake up, but my hazy mind felt like a dying battery, flickering off, making it impossible to open my eyes.

    Just as I was about to drift back into unconsciousness, I felt my left arm being tightly squeezed. My fingers twitched from the ache, but not enough to wake me as I hovered between sleep and wakefulness. However, the sound of footsteps on tiptoes, muffled whispers, lingering gazes, careful yet distinct movements, and a steady mechanical noise made my heart race.

    My startled heart started pounding. This was not a sound that would occur in everyday life. I tried to turn my body over but couldn’t even move a finger. My back felt chills and the inability to move made me feel pinned down, filling me with dread.

    Then something cold and damp touched my skin. Startled, my previously motionless eyelids twitched open.

    “It looks like he’s waking up.”

    Through my blurred vision, a familiar voice accompanied by a large hand approached. The hand that touches my forehead with pleasant pressure is rough yet warm… I felt somewhat reassured. The fingertips that brushed my eyebrows were so gentle that even my wildly beating heart calmed down.

    “He’s fine. He’ll fall asleep again.”

    There seemed to be at least two people in the room. I stared blankly at the shadow flickering at the edge of my blurry focus. It was the doctor I saw earlier in the evening. Behind him were unfamiliar people and strange machines. This looked like the room I had fallen asleep in, but… what was all this…

    I let out a couple of ragged breaths… I slowly lowered my gaze due to the strong pressure pressing on my arm. A needle… A sharp needle pierced into my skin. It was from then on that time, which had been passing slowly, began to rapidly speed up. My lazily blinking eyes opened wide, and my arm jerked up involuntarily.

    “…!”

    Before I could refocus, I flailed my arms and legs wildly, knocking something over with a crash. Why was I acting like this? The rational part of me quickly dissolved, leaving only an instinctive terror that drove me out of control.

    It felt like a strong current was surging through every nerve. Dazed yet lucid at the same time. Despite my efforts to push them away, I continued to swing my fists madly in the air, and I noticed I glimpsed the figures retreating warily. Seizing the opportunity, I crawled frantically on the bed. Escape, I had to escape.

    But that was short-lived. My ankle was grabbed and I was dragged down. I screamed in my head, but what came out was actually a gasping sound. My eyes were shaking with fear. The shadow changed from a person to a dog, and the voice telling me to calm down changed into the sound of a dog howling harshly.

    Soon even those frantic noises cut off abruptly, leaving my ears ringing in deathly silence. It felt like being thrown into a hellish void. I’d experienced this once, no, many times before. The mountain. That damned mountain. Wandering endlessly within that inescapable mountain until at some point my hearing would suddenly cut out.

    I knew that if I stayed still, I would return to normal again. I had been through this several times before, but the hands in the darkness trying to grab me made me too scared to stop fighting. The embrace that held me was heavy and terrifying. I struggled hysterically to break free, but the arms holding me were too strong.

    Damn it, why when I said no? I said no, why aren’t you listening? No matter how much I screamed and flailed, they wouldn’t let go. To make matters worse, the smell of blood filled the air, intensifying my anxiety. I couldn’t hear anything, everything felt heavy, I couldn’t move, and all I could smell was blood…

    Soon I was feebly twitching my limbs like a dying insect. My head hurt like it had been slammed against the floor. I could believe I was dying right then. I didn’t want to die. I rolled my eyes wildly. But I couldn’t see, only feel the crushing pressure.

    Get me out.

    Get me out of here.

    I took a deep breath and screamed. I didn’t know what I was saying. I just cried for help. I sobbed and whimpered incoherently. But no sound came out. Where had my voice gone? Where was I now?

    For a moment, my vision whited out. Something bitter and nauseating surged up my throat and I seemed to black out briefly. As my dark view flickered back faintly, an urgent yet calm low voice pierced through the ringing in my ears.

    “Seo Seung-won, Seo Seung-won. Wake up.”

    I gasped, concentrating on the voice that was slowly coming out. What… I think he was saying something. I don’t know what he’s saying, but the deep voice sounded nice. I wished he would keep talking.

    Staring vacantly at the shirt covering a solid chest, I exhaled heavily like someone lacking oxygen. It hurts. I felt exhausted, thirsty, tired. My muddled mind loudly pleaded. Damn, it hurts so much.

    Did I pass out? Maybe, maybe not. It didn’t really matter. After a while, my spinning vision seemed elevated. My head felt heavy resting on his broad shoulders. Why was it so hard to keep my own head up? And who was this person?

    I tried sluggishly turning my stiffened neck and tried to sit up, but immediately gave up. My back, no, my whole body was so sore that it wouldn’t be surprising if I passed out like this. I could barely hold on, but suddenly a large hand was gently rubbing along my back… I don’t know how long he started stroking it, but thanks to that, the pain in my back was slowly easing.

    Now that I was conscious of it, my head resting on his shoulder felt less dizzy, and my body being firmly embraced stabilized my body. Even my dangling legs hurt less. As my tears dried up, my ragged breathing gradually evened out. When had someone ever held me like this before? When, who… When, at seventeen, probably in fall, that person in the fall of my seventeenth year…

    “… Sunbae(Senior)?”

    My voice sounded like it had been scorched in hell. My throat, from which such a sound came, felt like it had been shredded. I trembled with pain, but the hand that had stopped suddenly concerned me more.

    “Sun…bae…”

    “…”

    “It is you, isn’t it Sunbae…”

    Even that brief silence made me restless, so I asked again. I knew how unrealistic this was right now. This was someone I hadn’t seen in years, so why was he here? But whether this was real or not didn’t matter. Even if it was just a dream, it was okay. I sometimes dreamed of him but never felt his touch like this before.

    The you I remember always remains in the past. While I’ve taken off my school uniform, grown older, and moved forward, you still wear your school uniform and stayed in the past. You embraced my former self but I never embraced you back. You looked at that former me but never at the present me.

    Yet you, what wind blew to make you hold me now? This dream holds such fantasy.

    “Sunbae.”

    The strained voice made it feel like my throat and heart would shred into a thousand pieces, but why? Why was there no reply?

    Perhaps you don’t answer because I’ve forgotten your name. Maybe it’s also because I’ve forgotten your face. I guess you don’t want to answer because I’ve even forgotten what expression you smiled with and what your laugh sounded like. Or is it because I didn’t go to your graduation that day, the day I was supposed to answer your confession?

    You knew my feelings for you and understood the circumstances that prevented me from easily expressing my affection. That’s why you said, “Because it’s the last time. Please come. Just say anything.” You wanted to part ways after seeing my face no matter what answer I gave.

    You were someone who cared for me until the end. And I made the worst possible choice regarding such a person. It was the worst choice, enough for even the kindest person to resent.

    I didn’t do anything. I didn’t honor the promise I made to someone who cared for me. In the end, because of me, we had an ambiguous ending.

    Ignoring the precious and beautiful emotions we had cautiously built was almost like a betrayal. It was only natural for you to be disappointed. Yet I was so greedy that I hoped you would give me one more chance.

    As I struggled to open my lips, enduring the churning in my stomach and dizziness, you finally spoke.

    “Yeah. That’s right. Seung-won, it’s me.”

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