Yeon Woojeong was busy.
Although he originally always came late, he was frequently on his phone even after coming home and looked particularly tired.

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Is it because this is at the end of the year? The last day of the year is tomorrow.
Strangely, I was getting anxious.
In case the day when the year changed Yeon Woojeong wouldn’t be here.

It wasn’t a special day in particular.
The front digit of my age would change from 19 to 20, and I became an adult, but it wasn’t that amusing.
I was only anxious because I achieved nothing, and had no plan or future.

Though nothing would change even if Yeon Woojeong was next to me…

The puzzle didn’t give much help in organizing my thoughts.
Rather, it gave me a headache.
When my head twitched, I turned the page and saw the gomoku that I played with Yeon Woojeong.
If I chased after his traces, thinking why did he leave the circles here, I could empty my head for a moment, so I liked it.

Along with the sound of the door being opened, Yeon Woojeong came out of the bathroom.
The water didn’t drop as though he dried his hair well.
My eyes chased the lazy movement that looked slower than usual, and I saw Yeon Woojeong coming this way, so I glued my eyes back to the puzzle.

Yeon Woojeong sat on the sofa and turned on the TV.
Listening to the sound of the channels being changed, I asked.

“Will you come earlier tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow? Why?”

“Nothing.
You’ve always come late nowadays.”

“I’m not sure… It’d be good if I can go home faster.”

There was a sigh mixed in his voice.
I didn’t know if he took care of his food properly.
Still, he looked like a normal person when he obviously looked tired like that.

The sound of the channel changing stopped.
When I looked up, various letters popped up on the black screen, it seemed like a movie was playing.
He stood up and took a canned beer from the refrigerator.
After taking the can, he sat comfortably on the sofa.

I couldn’t concentrate because he was next to me.
I stared at the feet next to me and then turned my eyes.
Yeon Woojeong’s figure was reflected in the black screen that flashed once in a while.
There was I next to him.

I imagined myself becoming a mannequin.
A mannequin without eyes and lips, and can’t feel anything.
Then how do I look at Yeon Woojeong? Actually, under the skin that looks normal, there are eyes hidden.
Then, Yeon Woojeong won’t know that I’m looking at him… It was a weird imagination.
Looking down, I saw the numbers on top of the remains that were erased.

The puzzle was hard but it was convenient.
The right answer had already been decided, so I just needed to find that.
If I couldn’t find it, there was a method of looking at the answer key.
But that could make it boring.

When I took a glance, Yeon Woojeong was deeply immersed in the movie.
Is it fun? I turned my head to the TV.
I didn’t know the detailed content since I didn’t watch it from the start, but overall, the screen kept radiating green light and a wet atmosphere.
The main character was a woman, and a monster came out.
Yeon Woojeong really watches movies like him.

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I didn’t know if it was interesting.
It was just stuffy and sticky.
Also, the content was weird.
The woman looked like… liking the monster that looked tall but disgusting.
Yeon Woojeong was still focusing on the movie.
I looked at the emotionless and cold face and asked.

“Why does she like the monster?”

Yeon Woojeong’s response came a beat later.
When his gaze came to me, somehow, I felt that stuffiness was a bit freed.

“Because it’s lovely.”

“That thing is lovely?”

“It’s not about monsters or not.
What’s important is whether it’s lovely or not.”

So, how come that monster is lovely? I couldn’t understand it at all.
Yeon Woojeong smiled as he looked at me.
It was an unpleasant smile.
He focused back on the movie.

Let’s say the woman could love the monster because a movie is a movie, but is that thing lovely in Yeon Woojeong’s eyes? If so, then his standard was really strange.
But perhaps he took me in because his standard was awful.
Then, is that a good thing for me?

I had a childish imagination of becoming such a monster.
Even if everyone avoided me and threw stones at me, would Yeon Woojeong treat me like now? I got a hunch that might be possible.
Things like that didn’t seem to be important to him.
Then, what’s important to him?

“Mr.
Yeon…”

I opened my mouth without thinking.
I quickly stopped talking, but Yeon Woojeong’s attention was directed to me again.
I could just say it was nothing, but my impulse took the lead.

“What’s lovely to you?”

I drew a meaningless line on the paper.
I purposely rubbed the pencil lead on the paper without looking at him.
I felt his gaze.
He said ‘passionately’ to me or whatever it was, but did he know that actually, his gaze was hotter? His trace always left heat.

“Who knows.
For example…”

He dragged out for a long time.
I couldn’t help but turn my head.
The corners of his lips slowly went up.

“Unforeseen things are lovely.”

“Unforeseen things?”

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“Yeah.”

“What’s that?”

“Popping out from nowhere… something like that?”

What is he talking about? When I furrowed my brows, he smirked and turned his gaze.
This man’s way of speaking was irritating.
Well, that must be a requirement for a prosecutor to knock off the lawyers or criminals.
I’m sure Yeon Woojeong is really good at his work.

“You’re applying the medicine well, right?”

“Yes.”

I forgot to apply it after having dinner, but I lied.
It was fine as I would apply it once again before sleep anyway.

I put down the pencil.
I couldn’t focus anyway, so I wondered if I should just watch the movie.
Though I didn’t know what kind of movie it was. 

I practically never watched movies.
No, let’s just say that I never watched movies.
Thus, I obviously didn’t know what kind of movie I liked, and based on this movie alone, it looked like Yeon Woojeong’s taste and mine were different.
First, the dark screen sucked, and I hated it if everyone died or something wrong happened to them.
I lived in a gutter-like reality already, and I didn’t want to smell the nasty smell even in the movie.

I hardly read the subtitles and fixed my eyes on the screen, ignoring the sounds.
The atmosphere in the movie suddenly turned strange.
My shoulders tensed.
I turned my eyes as soon as the woman took off her clothes.
There was Yeon Woojeong at the end of where I turned my gaze.
He looked nonchalant.

It seemed like it was a movie for adults.
Why is he looking at something like this in the living room with a big screen? The screen flashed chaotically.
I felt awkward. 

It was stuffy in my heart.
I felt like getting angry.
I didn’t know the reason for that.
A strange feeling… that burned hot around the pit of my stomach.

When I barely turned my eyes, I saw the monster’s body.
It wasn’t lovely at all, but if that thing was lovely… Suddenly, the veins crossing on top of Yeon Woojeong’s feet caught my gaze.
A color that was similar to the monster.

I was out of breath for a moment.
My stomach felt tight.
I jumped to my feet at the sensation engulfing me and left.

“Going to sleep?”

“…”

“Good night.”

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I clearly heard Yeon Woojeong from behind, but I ignored him and walked upstairs.
The second floor was dark.
I buried my body on the bed.

I felt like my body was quaking.
After laying down, I pulled over the blanket.
The sounds from downstairs were oddly heard loud.
I slowly breathed out.
It was strange to feel like this from watching a monster movie.
Will my body automatically take care of this damned thing once I become an adult? I closed my eyes and forced myself to sleep.
I couldn’t sleep.

***

I didn’t know whether Yeon Woojeong would come earlier, but I thought it wouldn’t be bad to have dinner together.
Still, he didn’t come even though it had passed 7 p.m.

I wondered if I should just eat alone, but I realized there was nothing to eat.
There was still remaining canned ham, but I wanted to eat something else.
Rice cake soup.
It had no meat or dumplings, but there was a time when I wanted to get old eating it every day because it was so delicious.
I didn’t know how to make it.
When I was short, I didn’t know how to make it even though I looked from the side, and when I got taller, I waited outside the kitchen because the kitchen was too cramped.

Originally, the rice cake soup should be eaten tomorrow, but it should be okay to eat it tonight.
I have passed the age to believe that eating rice cake soup will make me one year older, so it doesn’t matter even if I eat as much as I want.
Yeon Woojeong won’t eat anything I make anyway, will he? But, we can trade.
Just like that time.

I took the credit card and went outside.
I saw the smoking booth on my way to leaving the officetel.
I recalled Yeon Woojeong smoking there like a picture.

I grabbed the phone in my pocket.
I stood still for a moment, then I took out the phone and called Yeon Woojeong.

—Yes.

“It’s me.”

—Yeah.

“You’re not going home?”

—Mhm, not yet.
Why?”

“Nothing.”

I heard light laughter in my ear.
This person had a habit of laughing at something random.

—Erm, I think I’ll be late today.
Don’t wait for me and sleep.

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“I’m not waiting for you.”

—I’m sure you are not.

“Bye.”

—Yeah.
Good night.

The voice letting out the last greeting turned deeper.
I ended the call and scratched my ear.
The distance to the mart suddenly looked long.

I’ve come out anyway, so it’d be good to fill the refrigerator with anything.
With the disappeared motivation, I headed to the mart.

I looked around inside the mart and caught sight of a rice cake soup package.
It was packed with rice cakes, egg garnish, meat, and broth.
They sell everything now.
I thought it wasn’t bad, so I took one and immediately went to the cashier. 

I went back home with it in my hand, but I didn’t really feel like eating.
I put it on the refrigerator and took out Yeon Woojeong’s lunch box.
After eating that, I took a bath and went to the book room to read the first volume of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but I couldn’t focus, so I took out the book he had studied.

What time did he mean by late? At dawn? He would surely come before the sunrise.

After folding up the laundry, I applied the medicine while looking in the mirror.
The bruises gradually turned light, and my lips had healed.
Indeed, it seemed like they healed faster because I applied the medicine.
Though I couldn’t help but apply it because Yeon Woojeong asked if I applied the medicine whenever we met. 

For no reason, I touched everywhere in the clean house that was cleaned by someone every week even though it didn’t need to.
After spending time like that, midnight was approaching, so I turned on the TV.
There was an award ceremony on TV.
In this cold winter, celebrities dressed in thin and colorful clothes were congratulating each other and accepting trophies for dramas I had never heard of.
It was like a different world.

It was crowded over there, and I was alone.
It wasn’t surprising, but the reason I felt exceptionally empty was that this house was big.
Was Yeon Woojeong okay with it because he used to live alone here? I sometimes flinched because the space that entered my sight was big and empty. 

When an actor walked down, there was a small video playing on the big screen.
It said it would broadcast the scene of ringing the New Year’s bell.
The bell in the middle was crammed with people around.
It was amazing for them to be there at this time to watch and listen to it even though it was cold.
What’s the difference when you hear it in person? Far from hearing it in person, from some point, I couldn’t even see it on TV, so I heard the bell for the first time in a long time.

Does Yeon Woojeong also look at this? I don’t think he does.
But if he looks at this… we’re looking at the new year together.
Now, only a few seconds later, I’ll become an adult.

—Let’s count down together.
5! 4! 3!

I checked for the time following the decreasing numbers.
As ‘23:59’ changed into ‘00:00’ the digit in the year changed.
The heavy bell rang, fireworks sparked on the stage, and people cheered, but nothing changed.

Adult.
I wanted it the most, but it was the moment I feared the most.
I spread my hand wide and then folded my fingers.
I still achieved nothing.
I terribly felt the time I had passed by.
But…

I opened the book on the table.
I felt the blackened circles with my fingertips.
It wasn’t there then and it’s there now.
A person.
I rubbed my fingers even though there was nothing on my hands.
I felt like something was lingering over and over again

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