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    I swallowed a sigh and reflected. I shouldn’t have looked at people I didn’t know well through tinted glasses. Even if they were gangsters, it was rude to question their character. However, they were gangsters, after all. Still, I thought it was wrong to think like that about the people who came to find me, so I reflected once more.

    More than that, it was an incredibly grand and large hanok (traditional Korean house). Was this a hanok village? Or some kind of high-end accommodation? He had said his home was far away, so I guessed we were staying overnight in the end. Well, it was quite late. With an elegant large pond and sculptures blending well with the surroundings, it must have been extremely expensive even for one night, making me inadvertently exclaim in admiration.

    “Are we staying here? This place looks really nice.”

    “Do you like it? Is it to your liking?”

    “Yes. It’s beautiful.”

    “Is that so… Hearing you say that makes me think so too.”

    Why was his response so lukewarm? Though he was carrying me, I leaned my upper body away from him, yet found myself unconsciously bending forward to speak to him.

    “Why? The hanok was pretty, wasn’t it?”

    “Well, I guess so. I got tired of seeing it for so long, but looking at it again, it did seem nice. 

    The hanok was pretty.”

    “…If you don’t mind me asking… Was this your house, hyung?”

    “Not yet.”

    His meaningful answer made me utter a meaningless sound. Was he the son who would inherit this house? I felt a sense of distance and scratched the back of my neck. I didn’t know where this feeling of distance came from, but it just felt awkward. He acted so friendly that I didn’t expect him to be someone incredibly important.

    “Right. Well, the house seemed really nice. That’s great.”

    “Do you want it?”

    “What? …This house?”

    “Yeah. Want me to give it to you?”

    He was talking about giving away this house like it was some snack. I thought he wasn’t all there, but now I wondered if he was really missing a screw.

    “Oh, why would you give me this?”

    “Why not? If the owner wasn’t still alive, I could give it to you. Just wait a few years, and I’ll transfer the title to you.”

    “What are you talking about? Wasn’t this your parents’ house?”

    “They adopted me, so I was in the family register. But it was time for me to leave. The problem was I couldn’t change the ownership immediately, but you could stay here as you pleased. They couldn’t wake up anyway.”

    What a blasphemous thing to say! Flustered that someone might overhear, I hurriedly covered his mouth with both hands. Fortunately, unlike outside, no one seemed to be around, but you never knew who might be listening. For all I knew, someone could have been eavesdropping from somewhere in this house. He seemed to have been adopted and become their only child, but his words felt so cold like he had no affection for his family.

    His profession must have been the family business then. Anyway, my heart was pounding rapidly. As I barely caught my breath, a smacking kiss sound came from inside my palms. Flustered, I pulled my hands away, the soft sensation of his lips lingering and giving me goosebumps.

    “Stop! Don’t do stuff like this! How many times do I have to tell you?”

    Despite my scolding, he just smiled and nodded. If nothing else, he seemed to hear me perfectly when I told him to back off.

    “You put ointment and bandages on today, so don’t take a bath, just wash up. I would help you.”

    “You didn’t need to help. I could wash up myself.”

    “Just lie down. I had bathed you many times before.”

    “Please, just don’t say anything…”

    Again, he just laughed. Meanwhile, I was too embarrassed to even lift my head.

    The house was as big as a small village and as quiet as if I had stepped back in time. No matter where I looked, there were only beautiful hanok buildings, walls, trees, and well-kept grassy areas – total silence all around. We passed through a maze-like path to reach a building with a wooden floor, and I vaguely expected the room inside to have a similar tranquil atmosphere. But the interior was closer to a Western style. Intrigued, I needlessly fidgeted and opened the fancy window, then collapsed onto the warm floor like falling onto a bed.

    Ah, I didn’t know anything anymore… I was full, sleepy, and now even warm – it was perfect…

    Then, I suddenly woke up to the sound of water. Realizing he might actually have meant to help me wash, I figured it would be better to wash quickly myself. Following the sound of water, I saw him running the bath and hurriedly stopped him.

    “I could wash up myself, so please go out. Quickly!”

    I firmly locked the bathroom door after declaring that, but…

    “Call me if you need anything.”

    “…You’re right outside the door. Why are you standing there? Go away.”

    “What if you fall?”

    “I’ll get up on my own.”

    “But I’m here.”

    “I have legs, you know.”

    He chuckled as I wiped my arm with a wet towel. It suited him not to force his way in and let me wash in peace. I thought he was being considerate, but he kept talking even while I was brushing my teeth, making it seem he wouldn’t give me any respite. When washing my face, I considered opening the door for him but steeled my resolve and left him be.

    After changing into the clothes I had brought in earlier, I went out and he followed behind me as if he had been waiting.

    “Aren’t you going to wash, hyung?”

    “I cleaned up a bit before filling the tub.”

    “But you didn’t shower.”

    “I’ll do it later. Do you want me to dry your hair? Come here, I’ll do it for you.”

    This guy… It seems like he really has no intention of breaking up with me. I thought seriously while resting my head in the warm wind and his hands. However, the problem for me was that I had no intention of dating anyone for the time being. Since neither side seems to have any intention of backing down, I wonder what to do with this.

    I zoned out with my eyes half-closed, enjoying the pleasant sensation of his hands.

    “Should we go to the emergency room now? Yeah, I should have taken you right away.”

    “The doctor told me to come tomorrow…”

    “But you got hit in the head twice.”

    “It was just once…”

    I only hit the rock one time. I yawned and waved his hands away. After gently ruffling my dry hair, I burrowed into the bed. The looming shadow in front of me caught my attention, so I opened my eyes to see him squatting under the bed, staring at me intently. I hid my head under the covers.

    “Sleepy?”

    “No… ”

    Though I sounded a bit sleepy even to myself, I was just tired. Not sleepy, just completely drained of energy. I let his hand gently stroke me, avoiding the head wound, and then looked up.

    “There’s something I’m curious about.”

    “Yeah?”

    “How did we first meet?”

    “We? We…”

    “…?”

    “I was scolding someone. Probably.”

    “Probably?”

    What kind of answer was that? I let him mull over his words and asked another question.

    “Why did I fall for you?”

    Was it also his face?

    “You said you liked how good I was to you.”

    “…”

    I couldn’t believe it. I’d rather he said it was his face. Who falls for someone just because they’re nice? When I laughed without realizing it, he poked my cheek as if this was important and I should point it out.

    “Precisely, I was good to you. Not just generally good, but good to you specifically.”

    “Oh… Really. What did you do so well that I fell for you?”

    When I spoke indifferently as if I had lost interest, he folded down one of his five fingers.

    “I bought you delicious food.”

    “I have good fortune with people, so I get treated to meals everywhere.”

    The implication was that buying me food wasn’t anything special, but when he was about to fold down the second finger, he lowered his hand and got irritated.

    “Why do you eat so recklessly?”

    “What does it matter?”

    Was this something to scold me about? It was absurd, but since he was my boyfriend, I understood somewhat and gestured for him to continue.

    “You… remember how far your high school was from home, right?”

    “Yes.”

    I originally intended to go to a prestigious school with dorms as my father wished. But somehow I ended up at a high school without dorms. Ah, I chose it to follow my senior.

    “Every time I asked where you were going, you said you were studying at the reading room. So I often gave you rides there and back, waiting until night to take you home too. It took 40 minutes walking. Do you remember the playground on the way? We played there sometimes when we had time.”

    “…”

    “Are you upset? Why?”

    “Because you’re lying. That’s the story of the senior I liked, right? Don’t lie and say you don’t remember.”

    He almost stole the memories of my first love. After getting close to my senior, the good thing was spending more time together. Around when summer ended, my senior unfailingly took me home every day.

    There were even days I couldn’t study properly at the reading room because I was thinking about my senior waiting for me. It wasn’t every day, but it was quite often. I loved those times.

    “As I said, I’ve forgotten people’s faces and names, including the one I liked. But I remember he was cooler than you.”

    … That being said, this person is also cool. The mark from his pierced ear is cool, his clothes fit him well, and his slightly long hair is cool too.

    “Aren’t I cool?”

    “…You are, but the senior was kinder.”

    “I’m kind too.”

    “…”

    I had to admit he was kind, as he said. Most people wouldn’t say that about themselves, but his confidence made it a fact I couldn’t deny.

    “More hand…some…”

    My voice trailed off as I buried my face in the pillow. Damn, I can’t remember my senior’s face.

    Even though the rumors about him weren’t great, people always said he was handsome first. But since I couldn’t recall, I couldn’t compare. Ah, the more elusive my stolen memories, the more poignant my first love becomes.

    “Let’s just say both were good-looking. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

    I expected him to insist he was more handsome. Maybe I underestimated him. I felt like I was acting more immature than him. No matter what, for a lover to not get upset at being compared to their partner’s first love, and even accommodate it – especially when said partner is a nineteen-year-old high schooler, much younger than him. Unlike me, he seemed to have a generous heart, which made me feel a bit embarrassed.

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