D Minus Chapter 22

Author: nicotine

“It’s nice to hear the sound of water.”

“I know.”

The place where the two escaped was deep in the mountains. It wasn’t a place where people came at all, but it wasn’t a conspicuous place either. It was a place he came to know through a colleague who was close to Hajin when he was a teacher, but fortunately, Jonghwa was quite satisfied with this place.

A tree soaring high into the sky completely covered the back of the old hut, and a clear valley flowed in front. Firewood was provided in the yard for a bonfire, and smoke billowed from the square chimney on the roof. It had already been more than 15 days since they came here.

“Isn’t it quite cold even though we are burning plenty of wood?”

Everyone was satisfied, but if Hajin had to pick one downside, it was that it was too cold. No matter how early winter it was, there was no way it would be warm in the mountains. Knowing that Jonghwa was restlessly walking around him, Hajin did not budge from his seat. The bonfire burning in front of him was so pretty that he wanted to watch it a little longer.

“It looks like the kind of house I saw in fairy tales when I was young.”

“The Little Mermaid?”

“There is no house like this in The Little Mermaid.”

“Then?”

“Hmm…Was it Pinocchio? There was a bonfire in front of the cabin, smoke coming out of the chimney, and the light coming through the windows was yellow like this. That’s how pretty it was.”

Hajin muttered as he leaned her cheek on Jonghwa’s shoulder. For a moment, his eyes, which had returned to their innocence, shone brightly. It reminded him of Hansel and Gretel’s candy house, and also of Pinocchio and Geppetto. Ah, thinking about it, it seemed to be the most similar to the house of Heidi, Girl of the Alps.

In fact, Hajin just liked whatever I imagined. Hajin’s heart skipped a beat as he felt as if he had returned to his childhood. He missed the time, where he could never go back even if he was desperate. The time that passed, memories which were forgotten.

“I like the sound of the wind. Doesn’t it feel like whistling?”

“…Really?”

“Do you know how to whistle? I can’t. I have wanted to whistle since I was young, so I tried a lot, but I never succeeded.”

Hajin curled his lips and tried to whistle. He tried hard enough to whiten his lips, but the whistle that was said to resemble the wind did not come out, and only white breath spread.

Jonghwa lowered his eyes and looked at Hajin, who was leaning on my shoulder and slowly blinked.

“Just whistle.”

“Try.”

“What…If I whistle at night, snakes will come out.”

“Tell them to come out. I will roast them over the campfire or whatever.”

“What the…”

Hajin, who threw a boring joke, laughed weakly. Now he didn’t even have the strength to laugh out loud. Jonghwa blew a breath at the end of Hajin’s laughter, which turned into a cough, and then successfully blew a whistle.

“Look…You are singing Firefly.”

A familiar melody flowed from Jonghwa, who rounded his lips. Hajin, who was prying his heavy eyelids forcibly, curved a faint smile on the corners of his lips. It was a song he really liked as a child.

Even the singing birds are flying away.

Don’t go Don’t go Don’t go

Sing a song for me just once

Nana- Nana Nana- Hugging my bitter heart.

I cry like that tonight and fall asleep.

Hajin, who was reciting the lyrics inwardly, bit his lip. Something stirred up inside him. In an instant, his eyes turned red and the tip of her nose tingled. Was this song originally this sad? Hajin hummed it many times, but I don’t remember ever sobbing over the lyrics. If Hajin had known it was such a sad song, he wouldn’t have liked it.

“Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go…”

I heard the lyrics that I had been repeating in my head. Hajin, who was weakly leaning on Jonghwa, slowly raised his head. Jonghwa, who threw a piece of firewood into the fire, sang the song with almost no high and low, without a change in expression.

“Please hold my hand just once for me.”

Jonghwa’s song did not continue until the end. It seemed that the first two paragraphs were all the lyrics he knew. Hajin, who was staring at Jonghwa with wet eyes, reached out his hand toward him. As he spread his palms facing upwards, Jonghwa covered his palms.

“Jonghwa.”

“Hm?”

“I don’t think I have much time left.”

“The doctor said half a year at most. Come to think of it, I started counting the D-days from that day on, but at some point, I stopped counting. Since when…”

As if thinking hard, Hajin’s eyes turned to the sky. Jonghwa remained silent without saying a word.

“Ah, I think it was the day when you said you would die together with me. I haven’t counted D-day since that day. Before that, whenever I slept, I would count my days. I have this many days left and such…and I calculated the day I would die, but I just forgot about it after that.”

“Yesterday I counted after a long time, and now there are only 30 days left. They said six months is enough to live long…Do you think this is a good thing?”

Now it took quite a while to complete a sentence. Hajin’s voice cracked, and his breathing became short. Jonghwa held Hajin’s hand tightly and closed his eyes. The narrowed brow seemed to represent his feelings. Hajin stroked his dark eyebrows with his frozen fingers.

“I guess there really isn’t much left now.”

“I can feel it. I don’t think I’ll wake up after I fall asleep, and when I open my eyes in the morning, I check to see if I’m alive. It doesn’t hurt as much as I was prepared for, so I’m more anxious. I’m afraid I’ll die suddenly when I don’t expect it.”

Hajin said calmly without crying. He didn’t want to spend the precious time he had left sobbing. Hajin wasn’t sure if it was a life without regrets, but now that he met Jonghwa, all of his time was just a waste.

Jonghwa was of a different kind. Tears welled up in his tightly closed, wrinkled eyes. Hajin laughed out loud.

“Jonghwa, when I die, you will go abroad, okay? Don’t live in Korea and go far away from them. Have you ever been abroad?”

“No? Of course, I knew that. I’ve only been there once, and it was great. Since you don’t speak English, go to a country with many Koreans. LA or Japan…Oh no. Just go somewhere like Guam or Saipan. Learn to swim, teach Korean to tourists who travel, and make money. It will work out well. You are in good shape.”

More and more tears flowed down Jonghwa’s cheeks. Hajin continued his words as he held onto Jonghwa’s hand with one hand and gently brushed his hair with the other. Hajin thought he’d let him cry to his heart’s content.

“You said you would give me your stomach, right? I will give you money. I can’t help it even if you hate it. I’m not going to take the money to the grave, so it’s much better to give it to you than throw it on the ground. So don’t say no. Got it?”

“Anyway…Go abroad and live happily. Don’t do dangerous things like in Korea and eat a lot of delicious food. Drink cocktails while swimming in the pool at night, and go snorkeling during the day. Do you know how pretty fish are when you see them in the sea?”

Hajin was getting out of breath. He continued to speak even though he struggled badly. The moment he could catch his breath, he felt like the tears he had been holding back would explode. Jonghwa’s face was distorted. From the corners of his mouth, which drooped in a straight line, a sound of holding back a sob escaped. Hajin forced his eyes closed and smiled.

“Our Jonghwa is still a baby. Come to think of it, you’re a year younger than me. Until now, you only spoke impolitely to me and were mannerless.”

Hajin placed a hand on his trembling forehead. Watching him in pain made a corner of my heart ache.

“…Let’s go together.”

A choked voice was heard. Hajin, who looked up at the sky to hide his reddened eyes, bit his lips. Jonghwa, who rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, spoke again.

“We will do something good together. Let’s go together. Was it Saibin or Saipan?”

“Hm…”

“…”

“Jonghwa.”

“… What.”

“Let’s meet in our next life too…”

“…What the fuck, what do you mean next life…”

“Just. There might be another life. Let’s meet once then, okay? Just once.”

If Hajin hadn’t been on the verge of death, he wouldn’t have met Jong-hwa. No, even if they did, They wouldn’t have gotten this close. No, even if they tried a hundred times…

“So let’s love each other then….just once, to our heart’s content.”

I wouldn’t have loved you this way.

The moment Hajin admitted that he loved him, Hajin felt all the time he wasted. If he had gathered up the courage a little earlier, if he had admitted it even a day earlier, he wouldn’t have regretted it so much.

Even if it was a hasty love that someone who was walking toward death had, he couldn’t be sure the shape of his love was any different from someone else’s.

It had been quite a while since she couldn’t sleep properly due to sudden pain. Thanks to that, Hajin was able to see the face of Jonghwa, who was soundly asleep.

At first, I really hated the scars on her dark eyebrows and the sharp eyes, but now he just wanted to stare at them. Hajin, who was staring at Jonghwa, kissed his long eyelashes.

“You woke up?”

“You didn’t sleep again?”

Jonghwa was also unable to sleep properly. The corners of his eyes were black as he stayed awake until past three in the morning to put Hajin to sleep. Hajin, waking up from a brief sleep, pressed his lips to Jonghwa’s cheek as if he were fooling around.

“Jonghwa, let’s go downtown today.”

“Downtown? Do you need anything?”

“Yeah. There are things we need and things to do.”

“What? If you tell me, I’ll buy it for you.”

Jonghwa immediately got up without showing any displeasure at Hajin, who woke him from a sound sleep. Hajin shook his head. Hajin wanted to visit the town with him today and had a lot of work to do. He had to move as soon as possible because he didn’t know when his body would get worse. Jonghwa pretended to be worried for a while as if he was reluctant, but he couldn’t break Hajin’s stubbornness.

“Now this is yours.”

The first thing Hajin did was stop at a bank and open a bankbook in the name of Jonghwa. A few months ago, he and Jonghwa filed for family registration, and fortunately, it was processed promptly.

The second place to go, as Jonghwa flipped over his bankbook, was an insurance company. After completing the process of changing the beneficiary of the insurance money to the Jonghwa by filling out the power of attorney, he felt relieved because it seemed that the preparations were really complete.

When Hajin would die, the insurance money would come into this bank account. Jonghwa’s expression suddenly darkened as he belatedly realized the purpose of their outing today. Hajin made direct eye contact with him and said firmly.

“When I die, 300 million won will come into this bank account. Go abroad and live with that money. Got it?”

“What…Fuck. What are you talking about?”

“No, it’s important. So answer me.”

When pressed for an answer, Jonghwa accelerated his pace as if he didn’t want to hear it anymore. Hajin grabbed his strong forearm and pulled it back.

“Jonghwa. It’s not something you can avoid. So please let’s prepare for it.”

“Prepare what? Stop talking nonsense and let’s go and get something to eat. I’m hungry, fuck…”

“I can’t stand having someone else have my money. Even after I die, I’ll be pissed off and I won’t be able to ascend to heaven, so be sure to take it with you. Promise.”

“I don’t need money.”

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t need it. Just take it Promise.”

“…Fuck…”

“You promised. You can’t break it.”

“Do as you please.”

Hajin was entirely sure if he succeeded, but he liked it nonetheless. Even while holding onto Jonghwa’s forearm and walking with a limp, a smile appeared on Hajin’s lips. His remaining life shouldn’t be long, so he just wanted that time to be happy.

Notes:

  • The song Jonghwa was whistling to is 이무진 – 개똥벌레. You can listen while reading the scene. It might help you immerse yourself in their emotions even better.
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