Red Mansion Chapter 11

Author: nicotine

Sung-kyung no longer came every four days. The times he searched were no longer as regular as before. Sometimes he unexpectedly walked into the Red Mansion and stayed for a long time, while other times he quickly returned. However, he never skipped stopping at Shop 3.

Sung-kyung’s rules, which were written in the notebook, had long been disrupted. As he frequented the Red Mansion, Sung-kyung began to make more frequent notes. It was because he started forgetting and missing things more often. Moments that seemed to respond only to Sung-kyung’s memory became increasingly blurry.

“Come out to the common area at 12 o’clock.”

The tangled cord hanging under the handset felt heavy. Holding the handset between his ear and shoulder, he gripped a pen.


He wrote ’12 o’clock common area’ on a square slip of paper. It was for a medicine delivery. Going out for delivery took a lot of time, was prone to danger, and was tiring, but it paid quite well.

When his parents managed the store, they could take turns doing delivery work day or night. However, now that Sung-kyung was managing the store alone, the frequency had clearly decreased compared to before.

“Don’t tailgate, and don’t be late.”

“Got it.”

He tore off the slip with the time and reached it towards the desk calendar. The finger that was moving to find the date stopped at one place. He attached a sticker on the boundary between today and tomorrow.

“Oh, and you bastard, why aren’t you at your post when we try to leave something? We’re not leaving it as a freebie. We did something for the boss and his wife, so we’re going to 3 instead. Do you have to leave it empty so often?”

“I understand. Won’t leave it empty now.”

Sung-kyung gave a curt answer and put down the handset.

“How long do you think it takes to empty a spot?”

Except for the day he went to repay the interest, he returned within 5 minutes most of the time. At most, he would go to the bathroom, send a basket up, or go to the warehouse. He couldn’t leave the spot empty for too long because he even ate his meals here. If someone hears, they might think he’s away for hours.

Annoyed, Sung-kyung muttered again and picked up the chopsticks. He poured the fried rice in the disposable container and chewed thoughtfully.

Sung-kyung ate a meal once a day from a restaurant close to the convenience store. It was much cheaper as it was made from leftover ingredients from the previous day’s sales. His parents ate only one or two meals a day, and that was all they could afford, so the rice quickly ran out. He couldn’t afford to spare rice for himself. Anyway, as long as he could satisfy his hunger. He forced himself to chew the barely seasoned fried rice.

“Really tasteless.”

While saying that, he scraped the bottom with disposable chopsticks, gathering the remaining rice. It was the only meal he bought with money.

“Is that lunch?”

It was when he was finishing the last spoonful. Cheong-rim suddenly appeared in front of the checkout counter, leaning his upper body. The two of them met eyes through the wide-open glass door. Somehow, he felt embarrassed under Cheong-rim’s astonished gaze at the empty container. Holding up the empty container, Sung-kyung quickly chewed and swallowed whatever was left in his mouth.

“…It’s edible.”

“You said it’s tasteless.”

When was the last time he heard those words? Sung-kyung’s cheeks flushed briefly.

“I guess I didn’t have a good appetite today.”

Cheong-rim nodded vaguely. Sung-kyung took out a toothbrush and toothpaste that were stuck in a pencil holder. Since he had gone to deal with the downstairs matter, he thought he should brush his teeth quickly. It was a bit amusing to think that if Cheong-rim had come a little earlier, he might have had to rinse his mouth like a side dish while eating.

“Wait, I’ll finish brushing and come back.”

“Why. Afraid I’ll ask you to blow me again? Is that the only thought in your head?”

Sung-kyung’s hurried movements to tidy up the disposable plates momentarily froze. Well, wasn’t it?

“I didn’t come to check because of that.”

Through the glass window of the checkout counter, Cheong-rim could be seen moving leisurely. His eyes, filled with accumulated fatigue, stubbornly followed his gestures.

“I’m busier than you think.”

Just as Sung-kyung was about to resume his actions, Cheong-rim’s attention shifted to the ice cream freezer. Every time he moved his arm, the outline of the wing bone beneath the tightly pulled shirt became evident. His large body awkwardly rummaging through the freezer looked strange no matter how many times Sung-kyung saw it. That subtle imbalance gave rise to a lingering sense of regret. Perhaps he would extend such a touch even to his shabby and pitiful self.

As always, he returned with two ice creams, his regular purchase.

“If you eat it outside, it doesn’t taste the same. Strange.”

No matter how expensive desserts he tried, they didn’t taste as good as the old ice cream he bought from the convenience store. It was strange. Cheong-rim tore open the ice cream wrapper, covered with sticky fingerprints. Sung-kyung was still standing awkwardly in the middle of the convenience store.

“Have one; it’s for you.”

He threw the unopened wrapper into the checkout counter. Sung-kyung, who was hesitating, picked up the ice cream. He didn’t eat it right away, just fiddled with the packaging. Disappointment was evident on his pale face, as if he had expected something.

Lighting up, Cheong-rim extended his tongue and licked the ice cream. He felt the gaze sticking to his lips. Maybe it was because his mouth was warm, or maybe it was because of the hot weather. The ice cream melted too quickly.

“Oh, you have the ledger, right? Do you also record debts?”

“Yes. Debts are recorded separately.”

“Show me that.”

Why is he so interested in the ledger? It couldn’t be understood, but Sung-kyung’s body naturally followed his command. Sung-kyung gently placed the moist ice cream wrapper aside and bowed his head.

“This is the ledger, and debts are recorded separately…”

The ledger with only debts recorded separately was in the top drawer. As Sung-kyung took out the worn spring notebook, Cheong-rim grabbed it as if snatching it away and quickly scanned with his eyes.

June 3rd / No. 313, 23,000 won

June 9th / No. 148, 4,500 won

June 14th / No. 223, 4,700 won

June 22nd / No. 201, 11,200 won

June 23rd / No. 148, 10,900 won

July 2nd / No. 354, 19,500 won

July 9th / No. 525, 12,600 won….

The meticulously recorded debt ledger by Sung-kyung was only a few pages long. Of course, although there was a separate ledger for debts, hardly anyone paid them back properly. So, he didn’t bother keeping track of debts properly in the first place. Most of those listed on the ledger had taken away items as if snatching, but Sung-kyung diligently assigned a value to each and recorded them. It was necessary to remember in case they claimed not to remember and demanded things back.


Cheong-rim once again extended his palm. Due to having the ice cream in his mouth, his pronunciation was unclear. Sung-kyung, who managed to understand the words, urgently rolled his eyes. Cheong-rim used his fingers to pluck a pen tucked under the safe and handed it over.

Nonchalantly, Cheong-rim tore the two pages with the listed debt amounts. Then, the faded spring notebook was casually thrown back inside the checkout counter. Watching his retreating figure without a word, Sung-kyung stared for a long time. The old fan continued to generate only hot air.

It wasn’t until a while after Cheong-rim suddenly disappeared that Sung-kyung snapped out of it. He hurriedly finished the half-melted ice cream and disposed of the trash. He went to the restroom, washed his sticky hands, and even brushed his teeth.

While rinsing off the foam, a question arose. Why didn’t he untie below today? Had it not been satisfactory the few times he tried it? Sung-kyung was sure he had become someone useful to him.

For the past few days, whenever Cheong-rim sought him out, Sung-kyung couldn’t shake off the feeling of becoming a special presence. All they did was engage in the act of rinsing off, at most. Sung-kyung easily wavered with every action of Cheong-rim.

Drip, thud. The water droplets from the toothbrush painted a trail towards the direction of the convenience store. As Sung-kyung looked out the corridor window, dark clouds were gathering. Soon, they appeared enormous, as if about to engulf the Red Mansion. He opened the convenience store door and went in to find his raincoat. He had to wear it if it rained during the delivery later. The weather wasn’t important for deliveries.

He hung the black raincoat on the coat rack and sat down. Despite wiping the checkout counter repeatedly, it remained sticky. Sung-kyung wiped his moist forearms and bowed his head deeply. While absentmindedly letting time pass like that, a refreshing scent brushed against his nose. Just like Cheong-rim’s scent.

“Take a look.”

Suddenly, a low voice penetrated. Sung-kyung jerked his head up.


The scent that had grazed his nose turned out to be his scent indeed. Now, even without seeing him, Sung-kyung could sense that he was nearby. Somehow, it felt pleasant. In the midst of this untimely joy, Cheong-rim tossed two wads of money and crumpled papers onto the checkout counter.

June 3rd / No. 313, 23,000 won

June 9th / No. 148, 4,500 won

June 14th / No. 223, 4,700 won

June 22nd / No. 201, 11,200 won

June 23rd / No. 148, 10,900 won

July 2nd / No. 354, 19,500 won

July 9th / No. 525, 12,600 won……

He unfolded the crumpled paper. It was the torn page from the debt ledger he had torn earlier. A black line was drawn firmly over the recorded debt amounts. He had received everything without missing a single one. The debt amount that Sung-kyung hadn’t been able to collect for two years.

“After reluctantly receiving it, you don’t even keep track. What’s the use?”


“There’s so much of it; it was almost suffocatingly hot. Do you think I’ll cover your share by running this sloppy business like this?”

Although it wasn’t exactly a reprimand, the tone was undeniably harsh. Seeing that Sung-kyung seemed to have no intention of collecting the money, Cheong-rim, with an urging gesture, pushed the wad of money further inside. Sung-kyung’s gaze, which had been lowered, slowly rose, and soon their eyes met. As if wanting to say something, Sung-kyung’s lips pursed.

“They say they’re almost there.”

At that moment, a large figure approached from behind. It was a hearty and loud voice.

Sung-kyung tightly closed his mouth. If that person hadn’t come, he might have asked a question. Did it mean he hoped to repay the debt quickly to avoid facing him? Such impulsive thoughts occasionally crossed Sung-kyung’s mind.

“Let’s go.”

Even if he didn’t know who it was for, showing that he received a call, he raised his phone.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

Sometimes Cheong-rim drew out the end of his words. As he passed by the convenience store as if he were going to skip it, he turned his back but halted his steps. Tilting his upper body slightly, he cast his gaze over the checkout counter glass. Sung-kyung and his eyes met once again, as if he were trying to say something.

“Did you enjoy the ice cream?”

It was only then that Sung-kyung realized that Cheong-rim hadn’t paid for the ice cream.


Cheong-rim, who had been blinking foolishly, straightened up. Since he hadn’t completely fallen for it, everyone ignored him, that arrogant guy. A smirk-like expression hung on the corner of his mouth.

“I’m going.”


As soon as he disappeared, Sung-kyung hastily opened the drawer. His touch was rough enough to dishevel the contents inside.

He immediately took out the notebook. Although the debt amounts given by Cheong-rim were piled up, he couldn’t concentrate enough to put them in the safe. He grabbed a pen lying on the checkout counter, flipping through the notebook absentmindedly. He glanced at the clock and noted the time.

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