Red Mansion Chapter 18

Author: nicotine

It took a while to get from the rooftop to the convenience store. Sung-kyung’s back was damp with sweat. He wanted to stop by home to shower, but he was worried the convenience store might have been completely emptied. And that worry became a reality.

“Look at this mess.”

Through the wide-open convenience store door, scattered items were visible in a chaotic manner. Cheongrim, who entered first, kicked over a cup ramen that lay on its side inside. The contents seemed to have been taken out as the empty container rolled round and round.

“Looks like your convenience store is ruined. What are you going to do now?”

The laughter was not laced with any sympathy. Leaning against the counter, Cheongrim carefully searched the inside. Anything edible or valuable seemed to have been taken. The empty cash register was rolling on the floor, and all the drawers under the counter were wide open.


Perhaps because it was expected, there was no more anger than anticipated. Since life was already a mess, it felt like a resignation, not wanting to show more failure.

“You have to pay back the money and the deposit. What are you going to sell to pay now?”

With a clenched fist, Cheongrim tilted his head sideways.

Though it was a pressing question, it didn’t feel like coercion. Sung-kyung took a long breath. Cheongrim’s gaze kept going to the bottom drawer, which was open beside the rotten foot. There were notes and tips that Cheongrim had given, and although he had almost used them up to repay debts recently, there should have been some money left.

Wiping away the sweat on his chin, Sung-kyung lowered himself in front of the drawer with difficulty. Again, there was nothing left. It stung a bit to realize that Cheongrim had taken the money his hand touched. Sung-kyung quietly accepted this fact.

“Want me to find a place to sell organs?”


“It won’t be a problem buying a plate.”

After organizing the mess with hands that didn’t have much strength, Sung-kyung stood up. Those passing by stared at the convenience store. It seemed more like a check to see if anything valuable was left rather than a concern. In the eyes of those who were looking greedily, Sung-kyung checked the remaining beans of failure.

“I-I’ll pay back.”

“There are many people like you. Either pay up or disappear.”

He casually scattered the neatly stacked pile of papers that Sung-kyung had painstakingly arranged. The counter was once again cluttered with ledgers. An action with no guilt or malice. Ironically, Sung-kyung envied Cheongrim’s personality.

“I’m not like that.”

I won’t run away. I won’t die. If I were going to run away, it would have been when I was at least a year younger, and if I were going to die, I would have died long ago. That was the day when Sung-kyung took over the convenience store when his parents fell ill. Since then, he endured, wondering how he survived until now. Why would I run away?

“I’ll find the money.”

Sung-kyung neatly stacked the papers that Cheongrim had disheveled. His face showed no signs of being hurt. Watching this, Cheongrim felt an untimely sense of mockery.

“Even sell my body.”

The hand, filled with scars, paused for a moment. Was there hesitation? Cheongrim’s eyes, reading the indecision, flickered fiercely. Then he stared at Sung-kyung with an expectant gaze. What kind of reaction would he show?

“To you…”

His words were cut off as he swallowed saliva mixed with blood, causing a temporary pause. Unable to endure even that moment, Cheongrim hastily questioned.


“Can I sell it to you?”

This kid is going too far, really. Cheongrim bent down and even laughed. The more they talked, the more painful it became. Almost as if his head was hit hard.

“Do you really want me to buy this vulgar thing from you?”

Abruptly, he reached out and roughly brushed Sung-kyung’s disheveled bangs aside. Sung-kyung stared only at Cheongrim’s fingertips without blinking. The uncaring touch revealed a neatly symmetrical forehead where dried blood clung.

Slowly scanning the face filled with wounds, he descended. Perhaps because he had lived only in the Red Mansion, his skin was exceptionally fair. There was a dark brown spot under his left eye. The jet-black pupils still relentlessly chased the tip of his own finger.

So, you tried to steal a glance at me with those eyes? In this expression? A hot saliva gathered under the tongue.


Instead of answering the soft summons, Sung-kyung rolled his eyes and met Cheongrim’s gaze. Normally, Cheongrim might have responded by raising his eyebrows in arrogance, wondering where the audacity to gesture like that came from. However, he wasn’t particularly angry or displeased. It was quite strange, really. Cheongrim reached into his back pocket and pulled out the phone he had stashed there.

“Try dialing the number.”

Sung-kyung, unusually compliant, nodded slightly. A number, a number. He mumbled softly, then opened his mouth.

“Is the store number okay?”

“It’ll work.”

Cheongrim nudged Sung-kyung’s shoulder with the edge of the phone. Sung-kyung, who was pushed back with little force, stuttered in response.

“W-Well, it’s not there anymore….”

He was definitely the type of person who did annoying and irritating things, didn’t understand words, was persistent, and crude. It was clear that he was the type of person you wouldn’t want to compromise with. But why did Cheongrim keep feeling curious about Sung-kyung?

Did he enjoy what they did last night so much? Was penetrating a guy’s hole to his liking? Otherwise, there was no way he wouldn’t feel such aversion.

“Why is it not there?”

Unless, he was just being lenient with him.

“I got rid of it a while ago. It’s too expensive, between the fees and the cost of using someone else’s name…”

Well, among those living in the Red Mansion, how many had intact identities? It would be fortunate if they even properly registered their documents. Cheongrim roughly estimated the situation and shook his head.


Without any lingering sentiment, Cheongrim took back the phone and stood with both feet on the ground. As if he was about to make a gesture to leave, Sung-kyung quickly grabbed him.



“What about the medicine? The guy who took it, we saw him yesterday in your car.”

He had definitely seen him together in Cheongrim’s car last night. A man in blue sneakers. The man who, without using raincoat or umbrella, was getting soaked in the rain while digging through the flowerbed. Though somewhat blurry, Sung-kyung remembered his face.

“That? Just…”

Cheongrim dragged out the end of his sentence. He glanced over Sung-kyung’s face and limbs, filled with scars, while estimating the situation.

He vaguely remembered the person who took the medicine. It was the person Cheongrim had arranged. Yesterday’s mistake was a trap deliberately set by Cheongrim. It was a plan to create confusion and incidents in the medicine delivery to reduce orders. If both delivery and supply were cut off, the Red Mansion would quickly fall into chaos.

It was the first day of the actual operation that began yesterday, so the way to check if things were going well was to go out on the road. Meeting Sung-kyung was purely coincidental. If he started scheming like this from behind, someone was bound to become prey, and unfortunately, Sung-kyung happened to be the first victim. Really, so unlucky.

Seeing the scars tightly clinging to his thin body, Sung-kyung briefly wondered if he should have just let it slide yesterday. Cheongrim scratched his forehead with his index finger.

“Don’t bother.”

Pulling out his wallet from the back pocket, Cheongrim grabbed a handful of bills. Sung-kyung just stood there, staring blankly at the thick wallet.

Though they didn’t seem to have a big age difference, he carried so much cash and adorned himself with expensive things. Even with a ten thousand won bill, Sung-kyung’s living world was completely different. Sung-kyung asked sharply, as if the sore spot had been struck.

“For the delivery fee and bicycle cost. Am I sure about the calculation?”

A mocking laughter, reminiscent of a back alley hoodlum, followed. Even though he had clearly taken out a bunch of bills, Cheongrim’s wallet was full of checks and cards.


Did he even drink some mold earlier? The taste in his mouth turned bitter, and Sung-kyung couldn’t offer any response.

“I’m going.”

He watched the tall figure of Inyeong leaving the store for a long time. Like twins, he didn’t touch anything. Although he didn’t completely clear Sung-kyung of the false accusation of stealing the medicine, he didn’t hit him or hold him accountable either.

Suddenly, he realized that the phone he had abandoned a few months ago wasn’t so regrettable. It was a chance to know his number. Sung-kyung clenched the stack of bills on the counter. Even here, he could still smell his scent fully. Standing still until Cheongrim’s footsteps couldn’t be heard anymore.

It wasn’t until sweat started trickling down his back that Sung-kyung finally moved. He tidied up the mess that had become the store and collected the money. Strangely, his mind felt numb. All the worries about how to run the business from tomorrow, where to get the money to take off the goods—all those natural concerns were erased as if they never existed.

Even though both the store and Sung-kyung were in disarray, they couldn’t afford to close the store. Thanks to locking up the freezer, they could salvage ice cream and drinks. Since the weather was hot, those items sold even better. Sung-kyung, wiping blood with a stained towel, sat at the checkout counter until 10 p.m.

Some might criticize it as harsh, but for Sung-kyung, it was a necessary task. Spitting out the grass was more important than the pain itself. Before turning away, he compulsively checked the closed door of the closed convenience store several times. Feeling uneasy, he locked and opened the door twice, three times, before finally climbing up to the 4th floor, sweating profusely. Then, he stood in front of the entrance for a while, pressing his ear against the door. It was like a habit.

After spending quite some time, the room 422 he entered was a mess. It seemed like nobody had touched it since the gang from earlier had turned it upside down and left. Of course, it was impossible for the parents lying down to clean up the house. Maybe he should have stopped by for a moment to clean. No, selling a bottle of water during that time was more profitable. Sung-kyung stiffened his neck.

Fortunately, his parents seemed to be without any visible injuries. Whether it was out of consideration for the patient or he didn’t want to mess with someone with a face, Sung-kyung couldn’t tell. Sung-kyung chuckled.

It was time towards midnight, but Sung-kyung was still busy. Sweating profusely, he roughly organized things and opened the small refrigerator. When he opened the vegetable compartment, he found that about 200,000 won, which had been wrapped in a newspaper, was gone. He couldn’t help but curse.

“Crazy bastards.”

Not only did they not pay the delivery fee, but they also stole from him. Sung-kyung took out a large side dish container filled with kimchi. There weren’t many side dishes, only broth and seasoning. Pouring that into the sink revealed a bundle of plastic bags that had been hidden there. He rinsed the bag with water, opened it, and checked the stack of bills with plastic wrap. Thankfully, this hadn’t been taken. It was a vague amount, both for replenishing the items in the convenience store and paying the security deposit, but it was the only emergency fund left for now. He hid the money in the vegetable compartment and cleaned up the sink.

For someone, it was a time to finish work and enjoy a comfortable rest. However, Sung-kyung couldn’t rest. Not even for a moment since entering his home.

After washing his parents once, sweat poured out like rain. Even after washing off the body soaked in sweat, Sung-kyung had to move quickly. He cleared away the porridge spilled on the floor and did the dishes. Then, he opened the medicine bottle and took out two half-pills.

“Father, please wake up for a moment.”

Supporting the man’s back, he raised the upper body slightly. Slowly opening his eyes, Sung-kyung’s father blinked his lips.

“Se, Sung-kyung. The, the guys, came… and…”

“I know. You should take the medicine.”


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