I move away from the ordinary street that caught my eyes and take a step again.
The stairs appear not long after walking.
Fortunately, it is a downhill road, but the place that is barely lit by the streetlamps gives off a gloomy atmosphere.
An alley in Ihwa-dong, which is crowded with people on weekends or holidays.
Originally, there was a painting on this staircase, but the residents, who couldn’t hold on against the disturbances made by the tourists whose own memories are more important than the peace of the village, erased the painting.
But that doesn’t mean the number of people visiting decreased.

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The weekday night is quiet.
The house in the alley, where people have to squeeze in during the weekend, opens quickly.
After taking off the shoes in the entrance full of small shoes, I stuffed 3000 won inside my pocket.

As I walk in the short hallway, I feel it is quieter than usual.
The fact that the kids that usually come out showing their presence are being quiet means that Lee Sugeol is here.

I can’t eat then, tonight.
I am an idiot for going home despite knowing that.

“You, fuck, where did you go?”

Lee Sugeol sits in the kitchen.
After giving a meaningless gaze at the kitchen tile with oil grease, cupboard with scarlet sheet torn off, and worn-out sink, I met Lee Sugeol’s gaze, who is lowering his upper body and glaring at me.

“I get caught while doing the work.”

“What?”

Lee Sugeol suddenly jumps to his feet with a menacing face.

“You go, to work, and get caught?”

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Every time he pauses, a rough hand flies without hesitation.
Even though I clench my teeth, there are sounds of flesh being torn.
I feel dizzy.
As my body gradually pushes back, the merciless hand finally stops when I hit the refrigerator. 

“You fucking bastard.
Even the kids stop working because of you, and do you know what I heard from that fucking fox?”

Fucking fox.
The neighborhood policeman whom Lee Sugeol feeds money on.
It seems like the reason for the uproar this time is the order to bring in more money.

Lee Sugeol said pride should be like a rabbit’s liver, which can be taken out and put in.
In fact, the liver is not an internal organ that can be taken out and put in, but just like the turtle that believes so, we should bow down pretending to have no organ that is perfectly fine.

The important organ in life is not something like pride.
It is money.
Lee Sugeol isn’t angry because of what that fucking fox said, but because of losing money.

“The money you bring every month is barely near 2 million.
But, fuck, the expense more than 2 million.
Huh?”

Lee Sugeol pushes my forehead with his finger.
Unlike Lee Sugeol, my pride is not a liver.
I don’t care if Lee Sugeol is fine to have no pride just to have more things in his hand when he already has a lot of things, but for people who have nothing like me, what should we live for if we don’t have pride? My pride is my heart.

When I slap away the unpleasant hand, there is a brief silence.

“Huh? You hit me?”

“…”

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“You don’t like it? You look like you don’t like it, huh, this fucker?”

I know that if I just stay silent and get hit it will end quickly, but whenever I follow Lee Sugeol’s words, I always get hit.
The palm that is full of calluses endlessly hit my head.
Slap, slap.
The unrealistic sounds fill the kitchen.

My view turns dizzy, and my empty stomach roars.
I raise my hand, trying to cover my head but I am helpless.
My mouth is torn and there is a smelly taste.

“Do you, huh? Fuck, think what you’re good at? I brought in a beggar, gave him clothes, and foods, but this fucker doesn’t know how to be thankful!”

I am used to his continuous violence.
Even if it feels like it won’t end, it will end.
I am at ease when I know there’s an end.
However, because I don’t know when it will be, my anger also rises whenever his fist flies.

I clench my fist.
Our height is similar, and for the build, Lee Sugeol is a bit bigger.
He may be better at fighting, but I may make it if I do my best to run.
But because I can’t do that, I clench my teeth.
Sometimes, sometimes it will end.

My head is dizzy.
The afterglow after being hit is more unpleasant than when I was hit.
Lee Sugeol, who can’t control his anger, raises his foot and kicks my shin.
My bone is in pain.
There’s no place to take a step back, so I barely standstill as I am about to fall.

“You, fuck.
Just get out if you keep doing this.”

“… what?”

The lips that I close tightly because I am in pain, but I don’t want to show it, open up.
The shock strikes my head.

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Get out?

When I raise my head and look straight at Lee Sugeol, he slants his lips upward.

“Make up your mind before the end of this week.
The offer I gave you when I first picked you up.
Accept that, or leave this place.”

I never expected that I would hear Lee Sugeol order me to get out.
I have clearly seen the fate of the kid that ran away from this place.
He returned with his hair dragged and begged desperately.
Looking at that, I thought I can’t leave this place.
That’s why I live here and do not run away.
Even though I can easily leave, unlike the kids that still know nothing about this world.

But turns out, all of that was my misunderstanding.
A bigger headache than when I was hit by Lee Sugeol strikes my head.
I have to get out of this place? I am not needed here?

“Think carefully.
Do you think a hopeless bastard like you can live outside?”

After talking as if coaxing me like that, Lee Sugeol walked past me.
The cold that I have been forgetting for a while surging in.
The refrigerator buzzes and makes a sound. 

I took a fruit knife out from the cutlery holder.
Holding Lee Sugeol’s shoulder as he was about to leave the facility, I turned him and stabbed his stomach without reserve.
Blood gushed out as I stabbed the flesh that was more firm than I thought.
The dropping blood covered my sight.
The big build fell like paper, and what came out from Lee Sugeol’s lips was only “ah”— a faint and weak scream.
The discolored wallpaper turned red.
The corpse said nothing and couldn’t give any order to me.

“Brother, are you fine?”

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I automatically smack the hand holding into my sleeve and come out of the illusion.
As I lower my head, I see round eyes filled with worry.
The kids that are hiding behind the closed door hesitantly come out.

I stare at the small heads.
Some have disabilities, and some do not.
The kids with disabilities panhandle, and those who don’t, make something like accessories to sell in the alleys.
Although it can’t make a big sum of money, it isn’t the weekly revenue for these kids.
In addition to revenue and subsidy, profits from fundraising with children are “good income.” He said these kids would get adopted once they get older and hard for him to handle, but actually he was saying he just needs to sell them off. 

On the other hand, I’m not a missing child, nor a young kid.
In fact, I’m at an age where I have to get out even in the normal facility, and compared to the money I make to merely keep these kids here, it is definitely lacking.

I was fired from my part-time job, and after leaving the youth shelter, I had nowhere to go, so I wandered around the street.
I was starving since I hadn’t eaten anything, and I saw a plump back pocket of a man walking on the street.

I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t control myself.
Thinking that someone, who nonchalantly put a plump wallet in their back pocket, might let it pass if they lost a few won, I chased after that man.

It was night, and people were crowding, but it was a red-light district that looked like it would not turn noisy just because someone’s wallet was stolen.
The man only looked ahead as he walked leisurely.
I came closer, grabbed the edge of the wallet, and was about to run away.

The man turned back and grabbed my wrist.
His sharp eyes quickly scanned me from head to toe.
I thought it was the end.
I wasn’t afraid to go to a police station, but the man didn’t look like he would end it easily by sending me to the police station.

However, the man, Lee Sugeol, asked with a smile.

“Do you want to follow me?”

I didn’t have any futile hope that my life would get better if I followed him, but it was a problem that I had no other choice.
With a belief that I had nothing to lose, the place I followed him to was this facility.
A few kids were wearing pajamas and huddling together.

It was a home.
There was a kitchen, and even though it wasn’t sufficient, I could eat a warm meal.
Lee Sugeol wasn’t a kind man, but at least he didn’t like that teacher in the youth shelter who came to my bed at night and took out his junk and shook it in front of me. 

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