Red Mansion Chapter 7

Author: nicotine

“Phew.”

The breath extended for a long time. Sung-kyung, as he did at the convenience store checkout counter, only sent a persistent gaze. He focused on the broad shoulders always hidden by the shirt, the well-defined chest muscles, and the sturdy arms.

There were surgical scars on the thick waist and shoulders. It was the first time he had seen them. Why were there surgery scars? When and how were they injured? Sung-kyung squinted his eyes, scrutinizing the scars, as if determined to engrave them in his memory.

“Mero, I brought this, but he didn’t even come out to see me.”

He muttered to himself quietly. Whether he was laughing or not, his shoulders twitched a few times, and he exhaled a long breath again.

“Oh, was there a convenience store here?”

As if he just remembered, Cheongrim, who had been bowing his head all along, finally raised his head. Drops of moisture fell from the ends of his disheveled hair, covering his forehead.

“But why did you come here?”

The end of his words trailed off. His eyes were still unfocused. Sung-kyung, without realizing it, tightened the grip on his lower abdomen. Even if it wasn’t a big deal, seeing Cheongrim’s vulnerable appearance inevitably brought unnecessary excitement from the tip of his toes.

“It’s because of the interest.”

“Oh.”

Even the nodding was slow. It was the opposite of his usual behavior. His movements were sluggish, much like the gray cat she had seen earlier. At this rate, he might realize she’s watching him too slowly.

Sung-kyung relaxed and scanned him. A firm upper body, thighs barely covered by a towel. The part where the white towel was tied was uneven, and one thigh was clearly exposed. Even inside the covered thigh, the thick outline extended in the same direction.

“Right. Did you really say you wanted to come?”

Shouldering into the conversation abruptly, his shoulders twitched again. The gaze that lingered between the waistband had to be quickly withdrawn.

“Damn, annoying….”

Mumbling like that, Cheongrim reached under the living room table. In the direction he was in, there was a drawer. When his arm, stretched out to rummage through it, moved, the muscles swayed. Sung-kyung subtly swallowed the hot saliva. Cheongrim pulled something out of the drawer and tossed it onto the table.

“Oh, this isn’t a cigarette.”

It was a tone devoid of any intonation. He reached into the drawer again. Sung-kyung’s gaze shifted to what was clumsily placed on the table. It was an expensive condom that wasn’t sold at the convenience store.

“… ”

Sung-kyung felt uncomfortable, as if he had witnessed Cheongrim having sex. If there were condoms in the living room and not the bedroom, did that mean they had done it here too? With whom? When? … Did they only do it here? Since she first saw him two years ago, he always had the same scent of cologne. She couldn’t sense the scent of anyone else.

Sung-kyung’s gaze sharply focused on the corner of the living room. He mentioned they were being monitored with that. Still, did they really do it? Or why are condoms here? Sung-kyung’s dilated pupils wavered anxiously behind his long bangs.

Click. Meanwhile, Cheongrim took out a cigarette and a lighter. With indifferent gestures, he tore open the package and carelessly threw it on the floor. From inside, he picked up a cigarette. The filter was neatly moistened between his red lips. As he lit the lighter, he opened his eyes for a moment to gaze at Sung-kyung’s face.

“Maybe I’m not awake enough.”

Looking at the face with the twisted lower lip, Sung-kyung involuntarily swallowed dry saliva. Even if it wasn’t him, anyone who looked at that face wouldn’t be able to resist. Sung-kyung lowered his head. Even if it wasn’t him, the wound, if he had hit Cheongrim, would never have healed, whether it was a month or a year.

“Still, the convenience store face is really messed up.”

He had asked about it before. Maybe he forgot while drunk.

“Oh. Did I say that?”

The smile was completely incongruent with his usual demeanor. Sung-kyung raised his head. Even if it wasn’t him, he would have made sure the wound didn’t heal, whether it was a month or a year.

“Yeah, we just had a little fight.”

“Right, right. I think I heard that.”

Cheongrim, muttering vaguely, swept his hair back with the finger that had the cigarette filter. That was all. Sung-kyung continued to stare at Cheongrim’s lips. Just like before, why didn’t he ask more? Aren’t you curious? Again, he sucked the filter deeply, then exhaled a breath.

The hazy smoke spread thickly. Sung-kyung immediately recognized that it wasn’t a cheap cigarette. After a long time, he smelled a refreshing and strong aroma that made his blood vessels throb. The feeling of cells beneath the skin expanding as if they were about to burst. The inside of his throat became warm.

“Hoo.”

A long exhale followed. Cheongrim looked at Sung-kyung, who was staring at him with wide eyes, and grinned faintly. The smoke circled around him as he enjoyed the rich scent.

“You want one?”

He offered him a cigarette. Sung-kyung hesitated for a moment, then nodded. Cheongrim took out another cigarette and handed it to him. The filter, still moist from his lips, touched his fingertips.

“Here.”

He also handed him a lighter. Sung-kyung accepted both and followed his lead. He lit the cigarette and took a puff. The strong flavor filled his mouth, and he felt a rush of warmth. Sung-kyung exhaled the smoke, his expression gradually relaxing.

“Feels good, doesn’t it?”

Cheongrim chuckled. Sung-kyung nodded, taking another drag. The two of them sat in the living room, surrounded by the hazy smoke, sharing a moment of quiet indulgence.

As Sung-kyung became more accustomed to the taste, he glanced around the luxurious living room once again. The chandeliers, framed paintings, and expensive decorations created an atmosphere that seemed incongruent with his presence. He felt like an intruder in this lavish space.

The gray cat from earlier appeared in the doorway, cautiously observing the scene. Sung-kyung’s eyes met the cat’s greenish gaze. He found himself smiling at the feline visitor.

“Looks like you have a companion.”

Cheongrim remarked, glancing at the cat. Sung-kyung nodded.

“Yeah, I noticed it earlier. It seems comfortable here.”

The cat remained at a distance, but its curious eyes never left Sung-kyung. He took another drag from the cigarette and exhaled slowly.

“By the way, why are there condoms in the living room?”

Sung-kyung couldn’t help but ask the question that had been bothering him. Cheongrim raised an eyebrow, seemingly surprised by the sudden inquiry.

“Oh, those. Just in case, you know. Never know when you might need them.”

He responded casually, taking another puff from his cigarette. Sung-kyung felt a mix of relief and curiosity. It was a straightforward answer, yet it left some questions unanswered.

“Anyway, do you often bring girls here?”

Sung-kyung asked with a playful smile. Cheongrim chuckled.

“Not as often as you might think. Privacy is essential.”

As they continued to smoke, Sung-kyung felt a sense of ease in Cheongrim’s presence. The initial tension between them seemed to dissipate with each exhale of smoke. The gray cat, apparently losing interest, turned away and disappeared into the corridor.

The conversation shifted to various topics, ranging from mundane daily life to their past experiences. Sung-kyung learned more about Cheongrim’s habits, preferences, and the complexities of his relationships.

Eventually, Cheongrim stood up, stretching his arms.

“Well, I should get going. Got some things to take care of.”

Sung-kyung nodded, extinguishing his cigarette.

“Thank you for letting me visit. It was… different.”

Cheongrim grinned.

“Anytime. Just don’t make it a habit to drop by uninvited.”

As he walked her to the door, Sung-kyung couldn’t help but wonder about the mysteries surrounding Cheongrim and the Red Mansion. The encounter had left him with more questions than answers, but a newfound sense of connection lingered between them.

As he stepped out of the opulent apartment, Sung-kyung glanced back one last time, his thoughts swirling like the dissipating smoke.

However, he had to endure for a while. Whether it was alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, Sung-kyung needed to be patient. There were debts to pay, and he had to cover the security deposit, living expenses, and medical bills. His parched lips, as if craving for something, moved several times, opening and closing. Sung-kyung, who had barely regained his composure, pulled out a crumpled envelope that popped out of his pocket.

“Here.”

Without even counting the money, Cheongrim casually pushed the envelope aside. His gestures were quite rough. Beneath the white socks, Sung-kyung’s toes curled. Cheongrim, squinting his eyes, tilted his head. The moment he faced his cold expression, his breath caught in his throat.

“Hey.”

“…”

Cheongrim often referred to himself as “the convenience store.” The convenience store. The first time he called himself that, Sung-kyung felt an inexplicable pleasure. It was a special nickname used between them. But now it was different. The playful tone and teasing manner were gone. A sharp gaze pierced through the disheveled hair, locking onto Sung-kyung.

“Why are you standing?”

His voice sank coldly. Sung-kyung’s anxious eyes dropped to the floor. The front of his shorts revealed a bulging shape. He quickly pulled his knees together. It was impossible for Cheongrim not to notice that he was aroused, given the proximity.

“Whew…”

After deeply inhaling from the filter, he swallowed his breath. The sound of his breath and the audible movement of his Adam’s apple were distinct.

Sung-kyung kept his mouth shut. He tried to pull down the hem of his T-shirt to cover himself, but it was futile. He couldn’t come up with a suitable sentence for justifying his situation. All he wished for was that he wouldn’t be fully aware of his circumstances. So, in silence, time passed.

“…”

Cheongrim bent his finger, tapping the table like knocking with a knuckle. Sung-kyung snapped out of his thoughts at his gesture.

“No,”

His gaze, lowered in an attempt to explain, couldn’t reach Cheongrim’s eyes. It only focused on the vicinity of the filter.

“Why? Do you want this?”

Due to the smell, his blood had heated up, but that was just a side effect. The clear reason for his excitement was undoubtedly Cheongrim. Still, Sung-kyung shook his head. It might be better to blame it on the cigarette.

“…Yes.”

Even though he had endured quite well until now. After answering, the desire for a cigarette became too urgent. As Cheongrim didn’t respond, the silence lingered. In the meantime, the nauseating smell of smoke blended in.

“Look at this.”

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nicotine

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