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    I quickly denied it, laughing awkwardly before pausing to ask,

    “You really did quit being a police officer, right?”

    “Yes,” he nodded with a smile. Feeling unnecessarily guilty, I added,

    “It’s not because I did anything bad.”

    “I know, hyung.”

    “…Ah, okay.”

    And that’s how I started speaking informally to him. Trying to hide my discomfort, I took another sip of my drink. Suddenly, I remembered him looking at my waist earlier. There wasn’t anything unusual about my waist…except for the pen that was habitually stuck there. As if reading my mind, he sipped his drink and mentioned,

    “The pen.”

    A triangle pen with the store logo from my part-time job popped into my mind. Just in case, I used a different pen today, but I quickly changed the subject in case he was referring to the triangle pen.

    “I worked in the materials department at my previous job for several years, and there were so many parts to manage. I had to keep track of everything, so I got into the habit of carrying pens in every pocket to jot things down and check them off. It’s a kind of occupational hazard.”

    I said it seriously, but he laughed again. He laughed a lot. My heart fluttered like a butterfly for no reason.

    “A cute occupational hazard.”

    “Is it?”

    “Yeah. I have the habit of suspecting people when I see them.”

    Ah, right, he was a police officer…so did he check my fingerprints?

    “I’ve never done anything wrong in my life.”

    He turned his head to the side, seemingly trying to suppress a laugh, and nodded, saying,

    “That’s why it’s cute.”

    “My occupational hazard? Sure. If I had the habit of carrying a chainsaw in my pocket, it’d be scary.”

    “Chainsaw,” he chuckled, smiling broadly. He genuinely seemed amused and happy. The park surrounding the library had many tall trees, and at that moment, cicadas were filling the air with their sounds by rubbing their wings together.

    Despite the cicadas’ noise, his laughter sounded clear and loud to my ears. He rubbed the corner of his mouth with his thumb, seemingly out of habit, while looking at me with a serious expression, making me tense up.

    “Don’t you use the pen from your part-time job?”

    “Oh, that one… It’s triangular.”

    It was a ridiculous excuse, but he didn’t press further and just sipped his drink. I felt he might be laughing again, though I could have been imagining it. I downed the rest of my drink in one gulp. Just as I was about to say, “Let’s go once you’re done,” he swirled his half-full can and said,

    “That’s a shame.”

    “The drink?”

    No, he shook his head and finished his drink. Before drinking, he seemed to murmur something.

    “Time.”

    [CLEANING IN PROGRESS]

    A sign was placed at the central staircase, and two cleaners were mopping the stairs with lots of water.

    “There’s an emergency staircase at the end.”

    I led him across the lobby, but it was closed off for fire safety checks. We had no choice but to wait by the elevator, where many others were also stuck. Worried we might miss the next one, we hurried to the corner as soon as the elevator doors opened. People crowded in, filling the space quickly with body heat.

    I found myself standing right in front of him. It seemed like a group of middle school boys were around us, perhaps on a study trip during summer break. The boys in front of me kept bumping into me as they played around.

    But I couldn’t move back; he was right behind me. Feeling self-conscious, I tensed up from the back of my head to my heels. At that moment, a hand from behind grabbed my arm and pulled me gently.

    “Come closer.”

    Pulled by his strength, I took a step back, but there was hardly any space between us. Despite my desperate efforts to keep even just 1cm away, I had to put strength into my outstretched leg to barely stop myself.

    But it really was just 1cm. His clothes brushed against my back, and our shoes touched against the wall. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

    I tried to freeze my movements as much as possible, putting extra effort into keeping my body tense in case his body accidentally touched my back or buttocks. I stared fixedly at the arrow pointing up in the elevator. The middle schoolers inside were louder than cicadas.

    However, all my attention was on the sound of his breathing from behind, feeling like his body was brushing against mine with each breath. Maybe my face felt warm because of the heat. And the feeling that he was so close and tilting his head towards me was surely just a misconception.

    My neck felt hot because it was summer, that’s why. But despite my efforts to relax, I couldn’t say anything even though I was older and we were peers. I was embarrassed at how self-conscious I was of him.

    Fortunately, the elevator finally reached the fourth floor with a ding sound. The kids moved ahead to the door, and I tried to step away from him, but the hand that held my arm didn’t let go.

    Then I heard his voice close to my ear. This time it wasn’t a misconception. He had tilted his head towards me.

    “Hyung, you smell nice?”

    Ding, the door opened. I don’t remember how I got off the elevator. All I knew was that I reached the lobby on the fourth floor, separated from him, and finally relaxed. I pretended everything was normal, didn’t acknowledge the elevator incident, and replied earnestly.

    “Oh, I showered this morning. I always shower twice a day. I’m very thorough with my hygiene.”

    He looked at me for a moment, then turned his head slightly and curled his lips.

    “Nice.”

    Why did I feel embarrassed even though I take good care of my hygiene? Perplexed, I quickly returned to the study room. He seemed to be following me, staring at my body.

    Man, I really froze up. At least I don’t smell sweaty. I need to shower even more thoroughly.

    That evening at home, determined, I meticulously scrubbed myself in the shower, when body shampoo caught my eye. My younger sister had bought it when shopping for herself, and usually, when she gives something like this, it’s because she didn’t like it.

    After marriage, my stepmother played this role, but this time she bought so much that it was difficult for her to use it alone. It doesn’t matter what body shampoo you use. I’ve never cared about the smell of body shampoo.

    Of course, I didn’t even know what scent the body shampoo my younger sister gave me was. But now I was curious for the first time. I found the answer easily in the pink tube.

    ‘Peach scent’

    I looked at the words for a long time and sniffed my nose covered in foam.

    “Do you like peaches?”

    Rain Shower

    Due to the end of the rainy season, the ground was ripening under the sun, but there was not much rain. While preparing to go to the library early in the morning, good news came from the radio, which was playing in the background.

    ‘Rain clouds are developing mainly in the central region. The daytime temperature will rise to 34 degrees Celsius, but there will be showers in the late afternoon. It’s welcome rain to cool down the heat temporarily.’

    I need to take an umbrella. After eating breakfast and leaving the house, I took out my umbrella and realized that my long umbrella was broken.

    I didn’t have another umbrella. I found a 3-fold umbrella that my younger sister had left behind while searching. I hesitated for a moment before deciding. It was an umbrella with a cute brown bear drawn all over it.

    Ah, it won’t be noticeable if it’s dark. I tucked it deep into my bag and quickly went out to catch the bus.

    I’ve been going to the library to study for a few months now, but there hasn’t been a week when I looked forward to going as much as this week. Of course, I will never expect to figure out what to do with Shin.

    “No way. I have a conscience. And it’s not my style either. I’m just glad to have made a friend at the library, well, that’s all.”

    As the bus I boarded started moving, I tried to relax my expression, which had been tense with anticipation and excitement, and put effort into my face. I kept my eyes wide open, worried that I might be grinning unintentionally.

    Shin would get off the bus at the intersection a few stops ahead.

    This place was familiar to me because I had worked nearby before. It must have been before I enlisted. I had worked at a store that stayed open until dawn, trying to save some money somehow. I remembered walking here every time since there were no buses at dawn.

    Oh, and there was a motorcycle accident here once that I reported. It was probably a runaway teenager who had the accident… As I looked closely at the bus stop and reminisced about the past with my face near the window, the bus stopped.

    I quickly straightened my head and looked straight at the opening front door. Thud~ My heart was already pounding at the sound of the compressed cylinder opening the bus door. The first person to get on was an elderly lady and then a tall man who slightly bowed his head.

    He recognized me as soon as he got on. Whenever we met, he always smiled like he knew me, so I also prepared well today. I should naturally smile back. But my smile stiffened awkwardly. He approached with a puzzled expression without smiling.

    “Standing, huh?”

    It was an unexpected question. Come to think of it, Shin would know that I would definitely sit down at the end of the bus ride. The reason I stood today was that I didn’t sit in the chair except for the first day. I found out why yesterday.

    It was uncomfortable to sit down because of his tall stature. His legs were cramped because the chairs were low and narrow. So, even if there was a seat, he always stood. However, there was no reason to say that I wanted to go with him.

    “I have two legs in good shape, so I have to stand.”

    His lips twisted. This time I smiled, too. I didn’t practice, but when he laughed, I laughed spontaneously. It shouldn’t be. I hurriedly managed my expression, and when I looked up slightly, there was a smile on his lips.

    “Do you usually avoid riding a bus?”

    I asked, eating early lunch in the library underground restaurant. He looked up at the food, unlike me, who was eating a lunch box.

    Because of the job as a police officer, he had short hair behind his ears and neck, but his bangs covered his eyebrows. It wasn’t flowing hair, but it was natural and messy, making it look softer than when I first saw him at the library.

    It could be because of the light clothes of the sports brand logo T-shirt and dark jeans. The biggest cause might be his smile, which became more frequent as we became closer.

    However, his long eyes with thin double eyelids were cold if he didn’t smile. It was like that now. But the caution I felt melted like ice in his soft voice.

    “Is it uncomfortable for you to ride with me?”

    “No. It’s uncomfortable for the bus to be my car.”

    I pretended to be calm and quickly ate my meal. He also put the rice in his mouth, but he looked at me with his eyes.

    “From the second grade, I didn’t ride the bus.”

    From the second grade? Surprised, I looked at him.

    “Was it three minutes’ walk to school?”

    He chuckled and looked at me with smiling eyes.

    “I didn’t ride the bus. What did you do?”

    “Bike.”

    Oh, I exclaimed to myself and stopped. Perhaps it was because of the early memories recalled on the bus in the morning, the accident happened at that time.

    “After the accident in the third grade, I couldn’t ride for a while.”

    Ah … Again, the memory of the old accident came to mind, but I erased it because it was an unrelated event.

    “Your parents must have been surprised.”

    “Not really. My father was happy to have an excuse not to ride a bike.”

    The voice was a little cold. I tried to change the mood on the bus.

    “Then what did you ride when you couldn’t ride a bike?”

    “A car.”

    “…You drove in high school?”

    He turned his head to the side with a slight twist of his lips and then faced me.

    “My grandfather sent a driver. Of course, my father didn’t like it, but my grandfather won because I injured my leg.”

    His voice as he talked about his grandfather was warm, and I inadvertently asked a personal question.

    “Are you close with your grandfather?”

    “Unlike my father, he always supported whatever I wanted to do. Even in high school.”

    “What did you want to do in high school?”

    He chuckled slightly and turned his gaze to the side, seeming a bit embarrassed. Was he a comedian?

    “Music.”

    “Wow, that’s cool.”

    I exclaimed without realizing it. And then it came to mind. There was a guitar at the house he visited when he was a police academy student. It was an electric guitar, probably. It must have been him playing. But he shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal.

    “I wasn’t good at it, but I stubbornly insisted because of rebellion against my father.”

    “Still, you liked the guitar, so you insisted.”

    He looked at me with a puzzled expression.

    “How did you know I played the guitar?”

    “…Just. It seemed to suit you.”

    He still seemed puzzled, but I smiled and replied.

    “Does singing not suit you?”

    “It does. How could it not, looking so cool. If you really express your feelings, it can be a burden, so you shouldn’t. I have a conscience.”

    “Your voice is good, so you’ll do well.”

    “My brother is good at it too.”

    What are you talking about? When did you hear my song? I’m tone-deaf, so if we go to karaoke for a company dinner, I’ll never get a mic. It was so comfortable.

    “No, I can’t. Tone-deaf. No one wants to hear.”

    “Lucky.”

    What?

    “I just need to hear.”

    I hadn’t known Shin for even a week, but it was clear that he was a really good person. Because I’m tone-deaf, he kindly comforted me. But the thought of it made my heart pound.

    While he went to return the dishes, I waited at the entrance of the restaurant and made up my mind once again. Nothing will happen. Let’s focus on studying without causing trouble.

    “Yeonwoo hyung!”

    Suddenly, a loud voice startled me, and I turned my head. I didn’t expect to hear my name in the library, so I was puzzled even when I saw the man approaching me. A man with a large build and a square face came towards me with a bright smile on his face.

    “Yeonwoo hyung, hello.”

    I nodded in surprise, and although his face was still unfamiliar, there was something vaguely recognizable about him.

    “Hyung, I heard you study here.”

    “Who told you?”

    “Who else? Yura.”

    When he mentioned his younger sister’s name, a faint memory came back to me.

    “Oh, Yura, your high school classmate?”

    “Yes, I’m Kwak Sunggil . You remember, when I went to Yura’s house, you made tteokbokki.”

    Oh yeah, tteokbokki. That reminded me. Was it during vacation? Yura brought some friends over, and I made tteokbokki. Back then, I didn’t have money to order food.

    Being an older brother, it really bothered me that I couldn’t even order a pizza for Yura’s friends. He seemed to be quite close with Yura; he had come over a few more times after that.

    It seemed like we still met occasionally after graduation, but one day Yura came in confidently and started badmouthing his friend. And out of nowhere, he yelled at me, who was quietly in the room.

    “Yeonwoo oppa, don’t just sit around when you meet Kwak Sunggil!”

    I was dumbfounded. What, why should I meet his friend? Was he venting on me, I thought, and after that, I couldn’t hear the name of that friend from Yura. But there was still some contact.

    “Do you remember when I said your tteokbokki was too spicy, and you made it just for me again? I fell for you back then. Hahaha~”

    He laughed loudly and romanticized the past. He poured half a cup of water into his dish.

    “I heard Yeonwoo hyung was studying and I came to the library every time I was off. Wow, but we finally met today. Hyung, did you know I passed the firefighter exam?”

    I didn’t know.

    “I came here to study for the exam too, you know? Hyung, I could help you study…”

    Yura’s friend was happily chattering away, but his words faded at the end. His expression changed, and he looked not at me but somewhere else. Behind me. He had come. When I was with him, I felt comfortable and good. But he moved his eyes up and down slightly and glanced briefly at Yura’s friend.

    Maybe because of the chilliness that comes out when you have an expressionless face, even though it was a simple gesture, I felt a moment of oppression. I thought to myself that the police were different, but Yura’s friend’s face wasn’t happy. He frowned.

    “What?”

    “Your voice is loud.”

    “Hah! Where is my voice loud! Hmm… What’s so loud? This isn’t your house. It’s not a study room. Anyone can speak here.”

    Yura’s friend raised his voice, then glanced at me and muttered. But maybe because he felt bad, he still looked unpleasant towards Shin. Especially when he stood next to me, I felt uncomfortable.

    However, no matter how harsh Yura’s friend looked, Shin, who stood slightly askew, was much more intimidating. There was a coolness that chilled the heart rather than fear. Yura’s friend also swallowed slightly.

    He didn’t need to be a police officer. Although Yura’s friend’s voice was loud, it wasn’t much bigger compared to middle and high school students. Have I been lenient with them so far? But I couldn’t be so happy to be a good person. His atmosphere was cold, so I was stiff too. Why do you seem angry?

    “You’re not the librarian here. Why are you… to me?”

    “You talk a lot.”

    A low, short phrase came out, and I didn’t know why I was nervous. It was a low word, but there was something precarious about it, like it was about to burst. It was like a person who could fight with a sword quietly saying. Did Yura’s friend also feel the chill from him and turn his face to me?

    “Yeonwoo, do you know, know this person?”

    “Yes.”

    “Who is it?”

    It was vague to explain. And I didn’t want to explain roughly. If I revealed that it was a light relationship in the library, that would be all. Maybe because there was someone waiting for the answer in front of me, the answer came out of my mouth without going through my brain.

    “Someone I trust.”

    With slightly larger eyes, Shin turned to look at me.

    Someone I trust. Considering his job, it was not a wrong expression, but why did I say such a shameful thing? At that time, Yura’s friend asked me separately.

    “Hyung, did you borrow money?”

    A big deal. Even within the family, it is not a transaction. In the afternoon, Shin was quieter than usual, but he still smiled well when he looked at me. So seeing Yura’s friend was surprising and I thought I should be careful.

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