Red Mansion Chapter 13

Author: nicotine

Breathing in with a rhythm, Cheong-rim raised the corner of his mouth as he tilted his head. A mischievous smile appeared on his previously expressionless face.

“Get on.”

“What?”

Sung-kyung asked with a dumbfounded expression, unsure if he said “go” or “ride.”

“I said ride, since it’s on my way.”

“What?”

Ignoring the repeated question, Cheong-rim forcefully tilted his head again. In the meantime, he quickly threw in a ‘fast’ and raised the window. Sung-kyung stood there awkwardly with a perplexed expression. He could take off the raincoat, but it would take some time to bring the bicycle to the storage. He couldn’t make him wait, but…

Cheong-rim’s figure lingered on the spot where the wiper wiped and passed. He leaned on the handlebars, facing this way. At this hour, there probably weren’t many people around, and in this rain, no one would dare to steal a bicycle. Sung-kyung, with a face devoid of worry, placed the bicycle near the utility pole. Then, he unbuttoned her raincoat and headed towards the car. The front passenger window was halfway down, and Cheong-rim’s voice could be heard.

“Load it in the back seat.”

It seemed to point at the raincoat. Does that mean he should ride beside it? He bit his lower lip, unbuttoned his raincoat, and took it off. Raindrops fell straight on Sung-kyung. After shaking the raincoat thoroughly, he placed it on the back seat floor. In the meantime, Sung-kyung’s head got soaked in the rain.

“Hey, stop that and get in.”

“Yes.”

After closing the back seat and opening the front passenger door, a refreshing scent wafted in as he pushed himself in. As soon as he entered the narrow space filled with Cheong-rim’s scent, his heart tightened. He used to bring people who drove when coming to Red Mansion, so why was he alone today, and at this hour? There must be some reason for him to come here. Though he had many questions, he kept them to himself. It wasn’t close enough for that yet.

“If I ride the bike, I would have reached there quickly… Thank you.”

Cheong-rim glanced at the wet Sung-kyung and threw a few tissues toward his thigh. Then, he carefully watched him wiping the wet arms and hair. It was a quaint face that suited a bicycle better than a car.

It was an obvious teasing, but Sung-kyung remained unfazed. Nevertheless, the fact that he was in Cheong-rim’s car, especially in the front passenger seat, was crucial. Here, only one person could sit, after all. Not knowing where to dispose of the damp tissue, he stuffed it into the pocket in front of the handlebars.

“Still, it’s rideable.”

Cheong-rim gave a fleeting glance to Sung-kyung and slowly reversed. Beep, a faint alarm rang. Sung-kyung looked around, not sure where the sound was coming from. Cheong-rim, on the other hand, didn’t seem to hear it and stepped on the accelerator right away.

Thunk! He ran over the bicycle standing on one side in one go. The old bicycle crumpled easily and tumbled to the ground. The worn-out wheel, which had been losing air, spun round and round in the air. The orange light pouring from the utility pole illuminated the defeated bicycle.

Sung-kyung blinked stupidly. Raindrops hanging from his hair flowed down his cheek.

“Now it’s impossible to ride, right?”

Cheong-rim reached out with a smirk. Sung-kyung took a deep breath at the suddenly approaching hand. A refreshing scent was felt as he leaned towards him. As he slowly breathed in, his chest began to swell.

He persistently followed his hand that pulled the front passenger seatbelt. Black pupils followed the movement of his hand, slowly rolling from the right to the left, diagonally down.

“You should have ridden quickly when I told you to.”

After fastening the seatbelt, Cheong-rim leaned back. It seemed like he was blaming Sung-kyung for not getting on quickly. Sung-kyung silently pledged not to be told twice. If something is asked, do it right away. If not, he might be discarded like that bicycle.

“Where are you delivering?”

Even though they had the same destination, it seemed like he was worried about Sung-kyung getting wet. Cheong-rim appeared to be unconsciously concerned as well. Sung-kyung, feeling as if he had penetrated his hidden thoughts, felt a tingling sensation around his chest.

Sung-kyung mentioned the elementary school directly. Cheong-rim responded promptly, seemingly satisfied. Sung-kyung had learned how to cater to his taste by now.

“There it is.”

Sung-kyung looked around. There weren’t many people passing by, likely due to the heavy rain and late hour. Thanks to Cheong-rim, he arrived quickly, but there wasn’t much time to spare until the agreed-upon time. He quickly got off and twisted his body as if preparing to take out an umbrella.

“Use an umbrella. Don’t turn the back seat into a water world.”

Because he had left the umbrella open for a while while organizing it earlier, there was still rainwater in the back seat. Unbuckling the belt, Sung-kyung replied, “Yes,” even though he didn’t have an umbrella. What did he mean by not opening the back seat door? Should he quickly get wet in the rain and go? …But then he would be soaked. Maybe he should walk back when going to Red Mansion. Sung-kyung didn’t want Cheong-rim’s space to get dirty because of him. Amidst his somewhat serious and intense thoughts, Cheong-rim’s voice continued.

“Open the door.”

Sung-kyung moved as instructed.

“Press the round thing next to the door.”

Not knowing the meaning of the command, he followed it directly. As he did, the umbrella handle popped out next to the door. Perhaps it was in a car this expensive. While Sung-kyung marveled at it, an annoyed voice pushed against his back.

“Hurry up. If you’re late, I’ll leave you behind, got it?”

It was quite brazen to make a perfectly good bicycle difficult to return and then say such impudent words. However, when Cheong-rim pretended to check the time by looking at his wristwatch, Sung-kyung quickly took out the umbrella.

“Yes.”

Even though he could unfold the umbrella and get out of the car, he waited until he was completely outside to avoid rain coming in. His already softened body got wet in the rain again. Still, Sung-kyung was pleased. He had taken one more step into Cheong-rim’s space.

The raindrops still showed no signs of letting up. After a few steps, he turned around. Cheong-rim was leaning on the handlebars, staring in this direction.

“…”

He really seemed to be waiting. Sung-kyung bit his lower lip to suppress a laugh. Cheong-rim was waiting for him. Who among the residents of Red Mansion had ever felt this way? A small laugh was mixed with the raindrops and disappeared. Just in case Cheong-rim might leave first, Sung-kyung hurried his steps. The umbrella was large and sturdy, so even when he tilted it on his shoulder, rain didn’t hit him.

“One, two, three.”

He stood in front of the third flowerbed indicated by Cheong-rim. It was a dimly lit place where the streetlamp light didn’t reach.

He abruptly reached into the middle of the flowerbed, adorned with yellow and purple flowers. With rainwater-soaked soil, he dug into the damp earth with his fingertips. The surrounding flowers trembled, as if their roots were disturbed.

He felt the sensation of sand grains digging between his fingernails. Nevertheless, Sung-kyung did not stop his touch. Holding the umbrella, he used only one hand, but the work was not difficult as the soil was wet.

“This should be enough.”

He created a rectangular space between the lined flowers, and at a glance, it seemed like two lumps would fit in. Realizing it was Cheong-rim’s umbrella, he hesitated to grasp the handle with his soil-covered hand. He couldn’t dirty his belongings.

After roughly wiping off the soil on his pants, he opened the backpack. Taking out the securely packed items, he neatly arranged them and covered the road with them. The slightly raised mound looked like a grave. It was noticeable, but it didn’t matter. On a rainy dawn between the third flowerbed in front of the elementary school gate, there wouldn’t be anyone interested.

“That’s enough.”

After carefully burying the medicine, Sung-kyung cautiously observed his surroundings. Occasionally, he saw a car passing in the distance. Quickly wiping off the soil on his pants, he walked toward the seemingly expensive car.

Hesitating for a moment, he folded the umbrella and placed it back in its original position. Unfamiliar with the process, Sung-kyung continued to be rained on throughout the slow procedure.

After pushing the umbrella all the way in, he hesitated. Due to the rain, if he got in like this, the car would probably get dirty.

“If you’re going to do that, why did you bother using the umbrella? Get in quickly; I’ll leave you if you’re late.”

At Cheong-rim’s remark, Sung-kyung quickly sat in the passenger seat. As soon as he closed the door, several tissues fell onto his thighs.

“I’ll wipe it quickly.”

As the cold air from the air conditioner wrapped around his body, the moisture seemed like it would dry soon. Sung-kyung first wiped away the moisture left on the car door and seats, more concerned about the car than himself.

Cheong-rim, leaning on the handlebars, stared at his stupid back. From the damp neck to the back and waist where the T-shirt clung, his gaze inspecting Sung-kyung was slow and steady. He didn’t know that he could do deliveries. It was an unknown whether it was unfortunate or fortunate.

“You’re here already…”

Sung-kyung was the first to notice In-yeong heading towards the flowerbed, breaking through the rain. It was only just past 1 AM. Sung-kyung squinted and stared at the man.

Cheong-rim’s persistent gaze finally averted. His sharp eyes observed the black In-yeong silently.

The man heading towards the flowerbed turned his head slightly and raised his hand towards the car. Blue sneakers, a circle formed by sticking the thumb and index finger together, thoroughly soaked by the rain. It seemed like he had observed Sung-kyung burying the medicine somewhere in advance. The delivery finished earlier than expected. Sung-kyung wiped around his neck with a damp tissue.

“No more deliveries?”

“No, just this one.”

“Then buckle up.”

Sung-kyung immediately pulled the seatbelt. Following Cheong-rim’s actions earlier turned out to be helpful. He fastened the clip as he did. Click. As soon as he fastened the seatbelt, the car started as if it had been waiting.

Due to the pounding of his heart, Sung-kyung slightly covered his right ear. Despite the tension, he tried to block out the noise, but it seemed difficult. Feeling the wet hair strands at his fingertips, Sung-kyung touched his ear a few more times.

The car drove in silence for a while. All of Sung-kyung’s attention was poured toward the driver’s seat. Sitting side by side seemed to be the problem. He couldn’t properly observe him. The raindrops falling off the car body were as loud as a heartbeat.

“How much do you earn from deliveries?”

“It varies each time, but usually starts from 20.”

“Huh.”

These guys were amusing. When you thought about it, this was the riskiest job, yet they were squeezing out only a small amount. Still, even if it was just that, they were willing to risk it. While turning the steering wheel, Cheong-rim sneakily glanced at Sung-kyung.

A large T-shirt and shorts. White socks covering the ankles and worn-out, wet sneakers. There was no corner that didn’t catch the eye. Covered in dust due to its age, not much different from melted and squashed lollipops.

“….”

Still, the taste wouldn’t be the same, right?

Until just a few hours ago, he wasn’t sure, but looking at Sung-kyung in front of him, his thoughts began to change. Unintentionally, a vivid image of Kim Sung-kyung engaging in explicit actions flashed in his mind. Cheong-rim gripped the steering wheel tightly. Veins popped out next to his temple.

“Crazy.”

Every time Cheong-rim sporadically cursed, Sung-kyung tensed up. What did he do wrong? Sung-kyung either stared straight at his own body or raised his arms to smell the scent of his T-shirt.

Glancing at Cheong-rim, Sung-kyung couldn’t guess the mood due to his expressionless face. Therefore, Sung-kyung subtly observed the large hands gripping the steering wheel or the knees and thighs caught at the end of the gaze.

“Stop staring and get out.”

They were already at the back entrance of Red Mansion. Was it this close? Sung-kyung took a deep breath several times. To remember the fragrance inside the car, different from the perfume scent.

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nicotine

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