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“He is handsome. It’s not a joke, right?”
The recording ended shortly after 7 p.m. Eungyo’s lips curled into an awkward smile at Seonggeun’s comments, which were spoken right next to her. She then hoisted her 500-cc beer glass.
The dining room of the recording team was a tavern that offered menus in both Japanese and English. The evening dusk lingered blurry beyond the thin pane attached to the lattice frame. Eungyo and Sunggeun shared a bar table and sipped beer together.
“What have you been up to lately?”
“Writing, working at a cafe, and occasionally travelling are some of my favourite things to do. I almost do a lot.”
“That’s cool, The real winner of this era was you, Jung Eungyo.”
“What winner. That’s too much. I’m feeling powerless, and I’ve lost my passion. Simply live a life that is clear. Like every day.”
Eungyo serenely observed the situation behind her by looking into the palm-sized wall mirror in front of her. Perhaps it was because of her job or just her innate inclination, but she had a tendency to look intently at things.
There were times when she observed swarms of ants effortlessly breaking through the softened soil, while at other times, her focus would be drawn to ivy firmly establishing its roots in the hard cement. Occasionally, she would sit on the café terrace and quietly observe the customers, some of whom were speaking loudly.
However, she did not make an effort to broaden her imagination or consider the other person’s situation more holistically.
It feels somewhat dazed. As usual, she found herself gazing into the mirror absentmindedly when she suddenly became aware that the person on the other side of the mirror was also staring back at her.
Upon their eyes meeting, the other person instinctively averted his gaze. Lee Jaeheon beamed with a bright smile as he raised his glass to clink with the people seated at the table. She discreetly smiled as she lifted the beer glass to her lips.
If there were to be a Korean Eye Smile Contest, it would be a given that he would be selected as the winner, and the grand prize would be a prestigious target to strive for. His smile, a fluttering of hearts.
That type of thing was too obvious.
Lee Jaehyun was the kind of person who had a natural ability to win people over and capture their hearts through his simple actions, whether he intended to or not. Eungyo categorised these types as “benign narcissists.”
Of course, it was not a common case, but Eungyo happened to know another man who shared similar characteristics.
‘Is it summer now…’
She suppressed the name on the tip of her tongue and ordered another glass of beer. The food at the tavern was delicious, even though it wasn’t the beef that Kim Haeda mentioned. Unknown foods seasoned with sweet soy sauce and with a pungent aftertaste made her fatigue sweet.
“Here’s your beer.”
The tavern owner, who had short hair and wore a headscarf, kindly smiled as they placed a refreshing glass of Thin Ice Beer on the table. Eungyo took the cold beer and gulped it down. She wiped her mouth with a delighted sigh that leaked out, and she saw Lee Jaehyun’s side face over the square mirror.
She wondered if boys nowadays were like that.
If she continued to gaze at him, there was definitely something there. A sense of perverse curiosity arose within her as she contemplated the possibility that the seemingly innocent smiles and friendly attitudes she saw in others might not be genuine.
“Wow, I also like climbing! Should I move to the place where Jaehyun is going?”
A person sitting next to Jaeheon Lee exclaimed in amazement and clenched their fist. The opponent was Lee Jaehyun. However, Lee Jaehyun just smiled and nodded and did not respond any further.
Look at him. That was his inherent nature.
Eungyo smiled like someone who correctly guessed the number on a dice and placed a perfectly roasted ginkgo nut into her mouth. She turned her head towards it, rubbing her slim and soft chin into the mirror.
A black gaze passed by in the reflection of a small mirror. This time, Eungyo naturally avoided eye contact first. Her lips seemed a little dry for no reason.
At that time, Kim Haeda’s name shined brightly on her phone placed on the table.
“Sunbae, I need to talk on the phone.”
“Is that Kim Haeda?”
Yes, I think he has already closed it.”
“Are you two going out? You two stay together for a long time.”
“This is at the level of a disgusting family, right?”
“Well, I admit it.
Eungyo stepped out of the bustling, cramped tavern and picked up the phone.
– Why are you asking? Have you not finished yet?
She checked the time and it was 9 p.m. As she recalled tidying up the basement, she involuntarily stamped her foot and exclaimed, “Oops!”
“I am coming over. I was having a beer.”
– With whom?
“With my seniors and the recording studio staff.”
– I’ll come to pick you up.
“Now? No, I can go by myself.”
– Anyway, I am near the recording studio. Don’t waste time, and tell me the location.
Why feign concern without cause, pray tell?
In a burst of surprise, she erupted into laughter and exclaimed the store’s name. After Kim Haeda stated that he would arrive in three minutes, she abruptly ended the call.
The street lights flickered to life in the darkened alley, and the number of people passing by increased. The brightly lit stores are filled with people, while the night streets are filled with the sound of loud music and chatter.
Eungyo, who had been standing blankly, suddenly felt a surge of anxiety. Although she had snacks and beer left, she couldn’t allow Kim Haeda, the mood killer, into the bar, so it was unfortunate that they went to waste.
If she were Kim Haeda and happened to meet the senior, it is likely that he would ruin the atmosphere by saying something like, ‘Why are you doing something that doesn’t make any money?’ or ‘You’re talking nonsense like a passion payer.’
She came to her senses and went into the store.
“Senior, he said he would come to pick me up. I’ll go first.”
Seonggeun stood up with a sad expression.
“I have to do something with him today. He is in front of the recording studio right now. I think he’ll be right here.”
“Why don’t we have a drink together? Thanks for your help, I finished recording without any issues.”
“Kim Haeda didn’t drink. Instead, please buy me some when I see what we recorded today. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, but I’ll leave quietly.”
Eungyo said goodbye to Seonggeun, who slumped his shoulders and then left the tavern with her bag. Eungyo, who had been crossing the alley to escape the acrid cigarette smoke, was suddenly grabbed by the arm.
Kim Haeda wore an expression on his face that suggested he was not surprised.
“Is this where you drank alcohol?”
“What? When did you get here?”
“As soon as you hang up.”
Kim Haeda, who put his phone back in his pocket, scanned over the pane with an irritated expression. Kim Haeda smelled cleanly seasoned cigarettes along with the smell of soap. Eungyo sniffed and frowned as she stood on her tiptoes.
“Didn’t you quit smoking?”
“Ah. You don’t know shit about me, Jung Eungyo.”
“I hate the smell of cigarettes, as you know.”
“I know. Let’s just let me go for today.”
Kim Haeda smirked and playfully tousled Eungyo’s hair.
“Hey, don’t do it! Woah, I hate it!”
As her hand met him with a sharp slap, he couldn’t help but chuckle, his eyes drifting towards the tavern. Once more, Kim Haeda’s eyes twisted in an eerie distortion. It was the expression that Kim Haeda made when he suspected something.
Eungyo nudged his arm.
“Why? Do you know any faces?”
“Oh….No. That’s not it.”
“Alright, let’s go. I’m so full. Shall we take a stroll?”
“I don’t want.”
Eungyo pouted her lips and got into Kim Haeda’s car parked in the alley. Closing the passenger door, she fastened the seatbelt, catching a glimpse of the tavern’s entrance through the side mirror.
Once more, Eungyo caught sight of the man in the mirror.
Lee Jaehyun walked out as the door opened. He glanced to his left and right, hands casually tucked in his pockets, before fixing a stern gaze straight ahead. A person following him smiled warmly and offered him a cigarette, but it was just as expected. With a friendly expression, he waved his hand before returning inside.
That was a bit…strange.
She grazed her lips a little with her fingertips on her chin because she thought she would laugh at him. When Kim Haeda scoffed against the folly of laughter, she answered with a raised middle finger.
“Why is the light not turning on?”
Eungyo, dressed in comfortable clothes and wearing a hat, stood in front of the dark basement with the light turned off. Kim Haeda stood beside her, took out his phone, and turned on the camera flash.
“Please wait while I go to the switch box.”
“Can I go in first?”
“Do ghosts exist?”
“They are not coming out. Hurry up and look at the switch box.”
“Wait for me.”
As Kim Haeda ascended the stairs connected to the basement, his profanity-laden words faded away. She turned on the flash on her phone and unlatched the glass door adjacent to the roasting room.
Peering through the slightly open door, she saw a fairly large window where the glow of the streetlamp poured inside.
The building was constructed on a hill, causing the slanted windows to reflect the windows of another building.
In the dimness, Eungyo’s gaze landed on a disorganised pile of small furniture and stacked mattresses. A sigh escaped her lips as she noticed the disarray before her.
This is not Indiana Jones; what did they do? With a reluctant expression, she stood in front of the piled luggage. In the past, furniture used to serve a practical purpose, but these days it has become nothing more than garbage.
A suitcase that looked like an immigrant’s bag contained Lee Dohyun’s clothes, and a few intact spring notes were found in a drawer with wheels.
However, Eungyo closed the drawer, then squatted down and retrieved a box from underneath the large printer.
One of the reasons she didn’t want to come into the warehouse was because of this box. This box was full of regrets that she couldn’t throw away.
Because it was a photo taken together, except for the fact that it was with Lee Dohyun, it was a meaningful travel story to her, and it was expensive, so if he came back later… She has to return it.
Kim Haeda easily said that he could classify the item as waste and dispose of it, but she still had some hesitation.
As Eungyo opened the box and peered inside, she heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching from behind. It seemed like Kim Haeda had returned. Considering it was still dark, she couldn’t find out why the electricity went out.
With an innocent expression on her face, she picked up the ring case from her box and glanced behind her.
“The photo we took together was half…Kyagh!”
At that moment, the scene before her suddenly darkened, and she felt a powerful grip on her backside. Amidst her screams, an assailant forcefully pinned her body against the wall, exerting pressure on her neck with his forearm, and harshly scolded her.
“Shit, what are you doing… You entered someone else’s studio without permission and took my luggage…”
Clack. The fluorescent light emits a loud noise when it is turned on.
Eungyo’s heart dropped to the floor like a basketball and bounced back as she raised her hands to shoulder height in surrender. And her body began to stiffen.
The man, who had been suppressing her by pressing his arm below her neck, was also showing a look of surprise and embarrassment on his face.
A strong scent of fabric softener kept her on her toes all day long.
Before his eyes were black, they shimmered mysteriously beneath the glossy veneer of his irises.
And that, too, with a small babble of ‘shit…’