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    The afternoon of the same day.

    Secretary Yoon, who had submitted the report Myeong Hyun-sook heard, was excited for the first time in a long while. How long had it been since he’d taken a half-day off?

    He couldn’t believe he had written it himself, checking multiple times. Still not feeling at ease, he was stuck to his seat even past 3 PM.

    “Oh, please just go quickly. You said you have nothing to do.”

    Lee Hyun-joo urged him, unable to understand Secretary Yoon’s reluctance.

    “Yes. I have nothing to do, so why am I so anxious… Hyun-joo, did you do everything I asked you to check?”

    “Yes. Yes, yes, yes. How many times do I have to tell you? You know, Secretary Yoon, you’re surprisingly similar to the General Manager.”

    “Whew…”

    Secretary Yoon took a deep breath and turned off his computer. When the screen suddenly turned off, he flinched and shuddered. He stood up, mentally going over his tasks two, three times to ensure he hadn’t missed anything.

    It had been several years since he left this company before sunset. The unfamiliar time zone made Secretary Yoon nervous. Perhaps he was so excited that it made him anxious. As he stood in front of the elevator with his bag, his heart started racing erratically. Secretary Yoon pressed the button with a prayerful mind.

    After waiting for what felt like an eternity, a “ding” sound finally rang out. The metal door opened on both sides, and Jeong Hee-seo appeared.

    “Hello, Secretary Yoon.”

    “…”

    As Secretary Yoon stood frozen, at a loss for words, Ji-an peeked out from behind Jeong Hee-seo. His face, which greeted him, had a strange flush.

    Why is he dressed like that? Secretary Yoon’s pupils trembled. Three unprecedented events had occurred in one day since he had known Jeong Hee-seo: him taking a vacation, appearing at the office in casual clothes and slippers…

    Especially the third event was hard to believe even though she saw it with her own eyes.

    The two walked quickly past Secretary Yoon. Jeong Hee-seo seemed to have no interest in Secretary Yoon at all. Ji-an whispered as he hurriedly caught up with Jeong Hee-seo’s long strides.

    “Come on, we don’t have to go there starting today. We could go home and sleep today, then look around and decide tomorrow. Right? Isn’t that right, hyung?”

    “Didn’t you agree not to talk about going home anymore?”

    “Did I?”

    Jeong Hee-seo seemed to have abandoned even the slightest will to hide their relationship. Everyone in the General Office’s annex looked at the two people passing by through the partition with surprised rabbit eyes. The exchanged glances couldn’t have been busier.

    After Jeong Hee-seo and Ji-an entered the General Office’s office and the glass door closed, Secretary Yoon, feeling like his soul had left his body, trudged back to his seat.

    Tsk, tsk, Lee Hyun-joo couldn’t hold back and clicked her tongue.

    “I told you to run away quickly when the opportunity came.”

    “He’s like a tiger. He shows up when you’re least expecting it.”

    “I wondered why he suddenly took a day off.”

    “Then shall we do the weekly report now?”

    “Should I take my stomach medicine? Are we really doing it?”

    “Ah… the nightmare of Monday. I thought we could skip it for once in years.”

    The staff in the office whispered their comments one by one.

    “Who knows? Maybe he’ll leave again…”

    No sooner had someone voiced this hopeful remark than the door to the director’s office swung open. While the staff stood frozen, Jeong Hee-seo, with Ji-an trailing behind him like a goldfish’s poop, passed through the corridor like the wind and disappeared as quickly as they had come.

    Only the afterimage of Ji-an bowing repeatedly remained.

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    What was that?

    What just happened?

    Why did they even come here?

    Those two are wearing couple outfits, right?

    Amidst the murmuring, only Secretary Yoon tilted his head with a thoughtful expression. With years of experience handling Jeong Hee-seo’s affairs, Secretary Yoon’s sharp eyes didn’t miss it. What Jeong Hee-seo had rushed in to grab was clearly the key card to the new house.

    On the day he took possession of the house, Secretary Yoon had personally bought a glittering jeweled toad key ring and attached it. Though Jeong Hee-seo had hated it, he accepted it without complaint, promising not to lose it as he tossed it into a drawer. Yoon remembered that moment clearly.

    So he had just seen that jeweled toad dangling from Jeong Hee-seo’s fingertips.

    * * *

    Jeong Hee-seo’s car slowed down shortly after leaving the JM Building. Just as they seemed to be entering a huge park right in the heart of the city, they wound up a hill.

    Ji-an only realized what he thought was a park or forest was actually private property when the wall appeared. He had been surprised when he first saw his own house after crossing over to this world, but he had managed to maintain his composure then.

    “… Wow, wow.”

    Ji-an was speechless in front of the dense forest and fortress-like walls.

    The wind blowing from the forest, as tall as the walls, made one forget this was the middle of the city. Just turning his head, he could see the urban landscape of matchbox-like apartments and buildings clustered below the hill. To have one’s own forest in such a city – there could be no greater romance than this.

    “Is this what you were tormenting the real estate agent for?”

    “Luck played a part too.”

    At this point, he had to admit it. The result of the man’s obsession was impressive. Ji-an gave two thumbs up as he got out of the car.

    The mansion was quiet, like a sleeping castle with its princess. As they stood before the tall iron gate – the seam connecting the walls encircling the mansion and the portal to this magical land – Jeong Hee-seo drew closer.

    “You promised, Seo Ji-an.”

    Jeong Hee-seo went to a corner of the heavy iron gate to deactivate the security. When he pushed the seemingly seamless black surface with his shoulder, a small door opened with a clanking sound. The inner courtyard that peeked through was splendid from the start.

    He smiled, spreading his palm towards the inside as if revealing a hidden birthday cake.

    “Now, this is your home.”

    Well… The splendor aside, when did I make such a promise? Ji-an scratched his cheek with a troubled expression, then reluctantly crossed the threshold as if giving in to persistent urging.

    Passing the stone path leading down to the parking area and climbing the stairs, a small hill-like lawn appeared. After passing the entrance beautifully decorated with small garden trees, there was a large swimming pool and a wooden deck with white sunbeds.

    The geometric-shaped mansion, which surely must have won some design award somewhere, had its front glass subtly angled, making the whole house look like a giant diamond.

    While Ji-an hesitantly looked around, Jeong Hee-seo turned on the power and moved the large iron gate. After parking the car and closing the gate again, Ji-an suddenly felt like a princess trapped in a castle.

    Jeong Hee-seo told him not to feel indebted. So, it was right to walk in with a good feeling.

    Ji-an instinctively knew that he could no longer endure his mother’s life of hiding secrets from him, or his grandmother’s verbal abuse. Although it hadn’t been long since he crossed over to this world, the pain Ji-an felt was extremely sharp as it was an extension of his original life.

    Nevertheless, Ji-an hesitated, burdened by the heart of the man who was so kind to him. Jeong Hee-seo simply showed a calm, smiling expression. He approached Ji-an, who was standing still, looking up at the house.

    Jeong Hee-seo was holding large luggage in both hands that they had loaded in the car. It was a bedding set they had roughly bought on the way, saying they needed at least this as a temporary measure since there was no furniture or household items.

    Jeong Hee-seo patted Ji-an’s shoulder, which couldn’t hide its tension.

    “Let’s go in.”

    We’ll sleep together starting today. Ji-an’s cheeks heated up at the whisper-like words.

    * * *

    Even yesterday, Sunday morning, Ji-an had no idea that they would suddenly end up sleeping together like this.

    ‘Shall we go somewhere nice and stay another day?’

    The question wasn’t to seek Ji-an’s agreement. The steering wheel was in his hands anyway, and Ji-an had nothing but his phone. Seen like this, it might seem like he was being dragged along with no choice, but in fact, Ji-an’s cheeks were also tinged pink with subtle anticipation for the surprise trip.

    The journey towards Sokcho beach was a trip at every step. Even at cute and pretty places, Jeong Hee-seo behaved much like usual. He first took care of Ji-an’s lunch.

    Ji-an could easily imagine that he would be exactly the same whether in the middle of some prairie or in the heart of a desert.

    “Oh, it’s delicious.”

    “It’s good. I’d like to have another one.”

    “Why don’t we just buy three?”

    “They say anything that tastes good is good for your health.”

    Their trip inadvertently became a food journey. The only lines Ji-an kept saying were, ‘It’s delicious,’ ‘I want more,’ and ‘What I want to eat this again?’

    They ate the famous soft tofu and even had soft tofu ice cream. Stopping at an incredibly pretty café, Ji-an drank a chocolate latte, leaving cream all over his lips. Jeong Hee-seo frowned and wiped Ji-an’s lips with his fingers.

    It seemed like there would be a lot of people because it was Sunday in the middle of summer, but that wasn’t the case. Ji-an walked relaxedly, and Jeong Hee-seo felt comfortable next to her.

    The peace was broken only once when they entered a clothing store to replace the shabby clothes given by grandmother.

    “I’ve been wondering about this for a while, what happened to your hand?”

    Jeong Hee-seo asked while holding Ji-an’s hand, just as he came out after changing clothes. The cut from the glass shard was quite deep, leaving a visible mark. Ji-an considered wearing long sleeves to hide it, but it was too hot for that.

    “It’s nothing, just got cut when a cup broke.”

    Jeong Hee-seo examined the wound with a thorough gaze, as if conducting an inspection.

    “…It’ll leave a scar if left like this. We should put a new bandage on it.”

    “It’s not a big deal, and who cares if there’s a little scar?”

    As Ji-an mumbled and turned away, Jeong Hee-seo frowned, sensing that something was being hidden.

    “Ji-an, why were you hit?”

    “I wasn’t hit.”

    “…I can tell just from your expression and the way you talk.”

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