D Minus Chapter 16

Author: nicotine

The corner of Hajin’s eyes curled. There was a laugh coming from below. It was a little late but it was time to listen to Jonghwa’s story.

“…I don’t know what you’re thinking but my hyung was a good man.”

Jonghwa covered his eyes with the back of his arms and talked softly. Calmness didn’t suit someone who was always rude and impulsive. Hajin looked at me and laid sideways, without saying a word. He knew the person Jonghwa referred to as “hyung” was never a good person but he didn’t want to cut him off in the middle so he decided to keep quiet.

“My hyung was the only one who took care of me. He fed me, paid me, and treated me when I got hurt. He said I was like a shadow so if I wanted to live like that then I should. I said I would. If I did whatever my hyung asked me, I would somehow survive even if I wasn’t registered as a citizen.”

Shadow. Not the shadow we have, but the shadow that hangs under someone else. That was Jonghwa’s life.

“Actually, as you said, I could have been a gangster if I wanted. No, I was a gangster. My hyung was a gangster. I just watched TV at home and went out whenever my hyung asked for me. Everytime I did that, I would get beaten up or get stabbed…Well, whenever that happened, I felt like shit.”

 

“…Was he cleaning up after himself?”

“Well, similar.”

“What kind of a good man is he? He shouldn’t use you as his shield.”

“Shield or whatever. He just had to feed me and put me to sleep.”

“Ha…”

“One day, I got stabbed in the back here, there and in the thigh with a sashimi knife.”

Jonghwa rustled in the dark and showed me his thigh. Hajin couldn’t see anything but nodded as if he could. He knew what the scars looked like even if he didn’t see them.

“The knife came through my thigh.”

The sparkling eyes of Jonghwa were similar to a child explaining the plot of a cartoon. Hajin was at a loss of words and only sighed and couldn’t answer. Meanwhile, Jonghwa’s story began again.

“It was a rainy day but I crawled away because I thought I was going to die. I hid behind a huge trash can. Thinking about it hurts my pride.”

“…”

“It was a food waste bin. The smell was awful and it was the first time I smelled something like that.”

“…”

I listened to it but I could easily imagine what the situation was like at that time. On a heavy rainy day, Jonghwa desperately ran away, holding onto his bleeding thighs. His trembling fear while he was hiding behind the trash can.

“What is even funnier is that I fell asleep there. I thought I was going to die because of all the blood loss but I didn’t. I crawled home after that. I couldn’t walk. I cried for the first time that day. I crawled up the stairs and managed to get home but as soon as my hyung opened the door, he said…”

In darkness and silence, Hajin swallowed loudly. Jonghwa laughed loudly.

“Why did you come so late? Fuck…”

“…”

“He told me to get out because I smelled. He told me to wash myself in the rain, that bastrd…”

Jonghwa burst into laughter as if he was despondent and Hajin blinked because he couldn’t find anything to say back. He shouldn’t have asked and he regretted it afterward.

“But I don’t hate my hyung.”

“Because he fed you and put you to sleep?”

“…Yeah.”

Jonghwa said a beat late. Hajin sighed softly so Jonghwa could’t notice. It was because he felt that Jonghwa’s life was even sadder than his, whose time became shorter just when he turned thirty. Jonghwa folded his arms up and put her palm under the back of his head and calmly continued to talk.

“I shouldn’t betray my hyung.”

“But he’ns not human either.”

The words that had been rolling on the tip of his tongue popped out impulsively. He was such a fool. Jonghwa who defended the other person who scratched his limbs with a knife several times was a fool. It was so frustrating that Hajin couldn’t help but cry for no reason. Hajin held his rising anger back by pressing his stuffy nose with the back of his hand.

“Hey. There is Seojeon-ri on the way from Gyeonggi-do to Gangwon-do. Have you heard of it?”

“Seojeon-ri? No.”

“When people go there, they buy and sell people. It’s so disgusting.”

Jonghwa’s voice, which grew an octave louder, spoke faster. Hajin’s eyes opened wide as he was getting used to the darkness.

“Is it human trafficking?”

“Use easier words please.”

“What’s hard about that? Buying and selling people is human trafficking.”

“Anyway, there are many men and women who have been sold off because of debt. They are raped, beaten up and have their limbs cut up. If they run away, they kill them. They just kill them straight but hitting their head repeatedly with a wooden stick.”

“….”

Hajin’s mouth opened wide. It was because his story which had been flowing like water suddenly became a scary story. Jonghwa pounded his chest as if he was suffocating and rose up with a big sigh before sitting with his back resting against a wall. Hajin crept up beside him.

“I could die if my hyung asked me to but I couldn’t do that.”

“…”

“That’s not true. Say it’s not.”

“Hm.”

Hajin’s voice seemed to be longing for an answer so Jonghwa barely opened his tight throat and answered.

“That’s why I betrayed him. If my hyung finds me, he can burn me alive and kill me.”

“…”

“It will be on the news soon. It’s long overdue.”

I could see Jonghwa grinning in the dark. Hajin hugged his knees and covered his beating heart with his palm. He couldn’t describe what he was feeling. Was it fear, surprise, sadness or…

“I betrayed my hyung so there’s nothing to say even if my hyung kills me.”

“What kind of betrayal? He was only using you from the beginning. I told you. Feeding and putting some to sleep isn’t a good person. How are you so simple? Will you die if I tell you to just because I cooked you food?”

That time, Hajin’s voice grew louder. An excited and puffy voice was infused with anger. Jonghwa raised his eyebrows as if he was a little surprised and soon laughed. The cool laughter was a little sad today.

“It’s because I didn’t know it well.”

“I told you I will teach you.”

“You already taught me enough. I can even read now.”

“Not only words but other things as well.”

“Well…is there anything else to learn except words? I also learned how to hold a pen and chopsticks.”

The corners of Jonghwa’s mouth rose above and couldn’t think of anything. While talking about it, Hajin looked at him with swallowed eyes as if he wasn’t satisfied with what he taught.

“I should make you into a proper person while I’m still alive.”

“Huh…then am I an animal now?”

“Stop nagging. This isn’t it. I should make you into a man until I’m alive.”

Tears welled up in Hajin’s voice which didn’t match his firm voice. Jonghwa might ask why he was so noisy but he was the only comfort to Hajin and the only one who was watching him slowly die. Jonghwa thumped the wall with the back of his head a couple of times and gently curved his eyes.

“Hey.”

“What?”

“Then I’ll die the day after you die.”

“…Huh?”

“I will only live a day longer than you. To reward you for your teachings.”

It was still dark but Jonghwa was clearly visible as if the lights had been turned on. Hot breath flowed through Hajin’s teeth which were hardened like stones. With his chin slightly raised, Jonghwa’s eyes folded beautifully. The pale brown eyes looked straight at Hajin, strangling him.

“….Don’t spout nonsense.”

“What did I say again?”

“Why do you keep saying you’re going to die? You’re in good shape.”

I tried to shoot back defensively but my voice trembled terribly. It was already a failure to pretend nothing happened. Hajin sniffed and wiped his tears with the back of his hand.

“We’re special to each other, aren’t we?”

Tears burst before Jonghwa could even laugh. Hajin had his face buried in his knees and cried loudly. Jonghwa approached him and stroked his hair. Hajin didn’t know why but he felt sad under that rough touch.

“…Hey.”

“What?”

“Why do you make me want to live?”

Hajin deeply realized why he was becoming more and more anxious of his upcoming demise. Hajin thought it was just because he didn’t want to die but he knew the real reason today.

It was because he wanted to live. The reason why that fear grew day by day b was because he wanted to live.

Hajin lifted his face covered with tears and sniffed at Jonghwa. That time, Jonghwa narrowed his eyes and blinked as if he was quite embarrassed. Hajin hit Jonghwa on the shoulder softly.

“I have to die even if I want to live so why do you make me want to live?”

“…”

“…”

“Then you…”

Jonghwa’s silent mouth opened. Hajin swallowed the sobs caught in his throat and focused on the shape of his mouth.

“Why do you make me want to die?”

Jonghwa laughed bitterly.

“Hu…”

A lump of hot flesh met together. The kisses of two inexperienced people were clumsy. Jonghwa was pushing his lips hard against Hajin enough to bite him with his teeth but stopped soon once he heard Hajin groan. Hajin was struggling due to the lack of breath but laughed helplessly as if he was dumbfounded.

“You have to let me breathe.”

“You couldn’t breathe? You should tell me so.”

“You pressed your lips like so how can I?”

Hajin’s lips exhaled a small breath and were shiny with saliva. Jonghwa was looking at with a serious look that didn’t suit him and covered his head with his rough palm. That time, their lips met softly. Hajin crumpled the blanket as hard as he could with his hand stretched out behind him. His heart was beating so fast that he thought it would stop like that.

“Hng…”

Whenever there was a gap between the lips, a sweet breath escaped. Jonghwa stuck his tongue as if to prove it was his first time. Hajin was the same, given it was his first time as well, and rolled his eyes without knowing what to do with the tongue that invaded his mouth.

“What should I do after this?”

The situation was ridiculous. Hajin rolled his tongue around to avoid Jonghwa’s tongue that suddenly came in. In the end, Jonghwa became a person who couldn’t do this or that and narrowed his eyebrows awkwardly. Hajin’s earlobes were red and couldn’t even make eye contact so he only breathed.

“Why are you avoiding my tongue? It’s a kiss where our tongues get tangled.”

“…What do you mean by that?”

“Let’s try again.”

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