Author: nicotine

“Who is this? The famous man from Winchester FC’s number 12, who is now in a relationship?”

As Yoon Chahyun entered the club training center locker room, he cursed his astonishing misfortune upon encountering Jude Ingram. It was expected to meet someone from the same club sooner or later, but this was too fast, even for Chahyun. There was no time to prepare mentally.

Chahyun stumbled into the locker room like a child who had made a mistake. However, the fact that Jude’s locker was right next to Chahyun’s was another cruel twist of fate. While Chahyun fumbled with his hands, missing a high-five, Jude looked at him with a stern expression, resembling a judge at the entrance.

“Heh, hey, Jude…”

“What shameless liar mocks someone with no shame?”


Jude’s sarcasm was as sharp as a defense attorney handling a criminal case. The contrast between his intense choice of words and the cold tone represented his discomfort. Unable to find the words, Chahyun closed his mouth like a guilty person.

Even while unbuttoning his shirt to change and sitting on the dressing room bench to put on workout socks, Jude remained silent. Chahyun felt as if he were being whipped with a thorny whip rather than just sitting on a bench. It was incredible to feel such guilt without having done anything wrong.

Before he knew it, Jude had changed into his workout clothes, standing in front of the locker and putting on indoor sports shoes. Watching Chahyun, who finished changing clothes almost at the same time, it seemed like an awkward situation, but the connection formed over a long period of shared breaths didn’t seem to disappear.

Chahyun, bending over and tightening the shoe laces, looked at Jude with a slightly awkward dilemma. Waiting for him to finish preparations in such an awkward situation would make him seem too hesitant, but leaving for the gym first might annoy Jude.

In the meantime, Jude, who had finished all his preparations, threw his remaining clothes into the locker. Watching his intense gesture, Chahyun took a deep breath and realized that he needed to confront and resolve the issue, whether it led to a fight or a resolution. As the saying goes, it’s better to strike first even if you’re going to lose.

Being a constant companion, if they didn’t resolve the conflict now, this agony would surely last all day, or even longer. Chahyun blocked Jude’s path, who was about to leave the locker room with a cold face.

“Jude, I’m really sorry for not saying anything. It wasn’t intentional… There were circumstances.”

“What circumstances?”

“It’s a very complicated…”

Jude squinted his eyes even more. It seemed to make his mood more uncomfortable rather than soothing it, but there was no other way. Explaining the situation required more determination.

“Anyway, I’m sorry. I mean it.”

Jude looked at Chahyun in silence for a while. As the quiet silence began to get on Chahyun’s nerves, Jude’s calm voice resonated.

“You’re upset because you think I’m angry just because you’re dating someone.”

Well, isn’t that partially true? Chahyun glanced at Jude’s expression without much thought and quickly looked down. Whether Jude noticed Chahyun’s unspoken words or not, he narrowed his eyes.

“Of course, that’s part of it! You, just a month ago, were calling me your soccer ball lover!”


“But what angers me more is that you didn’t just escape from being single; you hid that story from me.”


“Am I so pathetic that I couldn’t even talk about it? Afraid I might get jealous?”

“It’s not that…”

“And imagine how I felt hearing about Yuan’s problems from someone else’s mouth.”


“I’m really hurt this time. It was really bad of you.”

From the intimidating face just a moment ago to a completely different, truly lonely expression on Jude’s face, Chahyun felt like a deer caught in headlights. The situation was bizarre enough, being scolded for something that didn’t happen, but Jude’s appearance seemed genuinely hurt.

Moreover, Jude’s comment about not being able to share even one secret hit Chahyun’s feelings accurately, coincidentally or not. There was indeed something he couldn’t bring himself to say.

“I’m really sorry. I know it’s painful. I would’ve felt the same…”

Chahyun awkwardly grabbed his arm.

“Let it out, Jude.”

“… It’s over. There’s no need to drag it out.”

Jude sighed as he looked at Chahyun, who was now only looking at the floor. Perhaps seeing Chahyun’s softened demeanor, Jude’s heart seemed to soften a bit too.

His human nature, which couldn’t stay angry for even a day, was the factor that brought Jude and Chahyun closer than anything else. Jude, who had been silent for a moment, opened his mouth with a much more relaxed expression.

“So, how long have you been dating?”

“2, 2 weeks… or so?”

“So, what you told me a month ago wasn’t a lie.”


“Is she Korean?”

At the sudden specific question, Chahyun rolled his eyes. If he says she’s British, Jude might suggest bringing her to the center at least once. Blocking such possibilities seemed like the better option.

“Uh, yeah…”

“Then, when you went to Korea last time?”

“Uh, yeah. That happened.”


Jude slapped Chahyun’s shoulder suddenly with a proud face. If he sets his mind to it, he’ll do anything! Despite the annoying expression, Chahyun’s spine was covered in cold sweat. Lies tend to snowball the more you tell them… Adults are never wrong. Now that Jude’s heart seemed almost melted, he finally stood next to Chahyun.

“But it’s been a while since you stopped hanging out with Misha, right? I saw you yesterday, and it seemed like you were keeping secrets from each other.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah. I know you can’t drink vodka and about your girlfriend problems…”


“And did you take her home well?”

“It was a bit challenging.”

“Did you sleep at the doghouse because she was mad? I saw you at the front earlier, and your whole body was covered in dog fur.”

Having already forgotten the terrifying scolding, Jude laughed heartily. Worried that he might touch a nerve again, Chahyun quietly went along, leaving the locker room together. Truly dynamic.

After resolving the conflict with Jude, Yoon Chahyun thought he had roughly overcome the major hurdle, but the true aftermath began as soon as he left the locker room.

Even in the midst of undergoing regular tests to measure strength, endurance, and jumping ability, Chahyun could feel fleeting glances directed at him from somewhere. Whenever he turned around startled by this eerie sensation, Aloys and Winston were always there, pretending to have casual conversations…

Standing beside them, Leroy, unlike them, had an endlessly sad expression. But that made things worse for Chahyun, triggering guilt as if he had committed some grave offense against him.

He couldn’t bear it out of fear. Kids, I’m just like you! I’m also struggling in this harsh world… He wanted to shout that, but Chahyun was currently a voiceless person. He messed up a visual test due to being distracted by persistent gazes, leaving training coach Martinez bewildered with a puzzled expression. Worried that it was on the level of a 10-year-old child.

When he threw himself into strenuous training, he could forget about such pressures to some extent. But when mealtime arrived, the situation changed again.

“Yuan, you have a girlfriend now. That’s really nice.”

Sitting at the table with scrambled eggs, Chahyun almost choked on his drink when he heard someone whispering in his ear. Lucy looked at Chahyun with a playful smile and secretly nudged the plate in his hand against his side, as if sharing a secret rendezvous.

It wasn’t unexpected that such an incident would happen in front of the most talkative players at Winchester FC. However, the speed at which the news spread was beyond imagination. If they knew about everything from the club’s cafeteria to the staff room’s main dietitian… Just how far had it spread? Despite receiving a dessert from Lucy as a rare gift, Chahyun couldn’t taste anything.

When even Doctor Alana, who came to check on the players’ condition, smiled faintly at Chahyun, he finally realized. At the very least, dating within the team in this lifetime was out of the question… He never had any intention of actively pursuing it in the first place, but now that it had come to this, he felt strangely conflicted.


After enduring numerous intrusive comments, Chahyun returned to the dressing room feeling several times more exhausted than usual. Mental exhaustion was far more draining than physical exertion. It was the same with matches. Playing for 90 minutes and winning was less tiring than playing for 20 minutes and losing.

While the players finished training, showered, and changed clothes, Chahyun collapsed on the dressing room bench like a wet butterfly. His teammates, clad only in towels, teased him playfully, but he had no energy to respond, so he just scowled menacingly.

In the morning, Misha, who arrived at the club with Chahyun, parted ways at the front desk to go to a different floor. And since then, they hadn’t crossed paths once. She sat silently on the left passenger seat like a silent masterpiece.

Thinking about their last conversation made his chest feel heavy. Strictly speaking, all of Chahyun’s recent hardships were his own fault.

“Now I should just forget about it…”

Absentmindedly reaching into his pocket, his hand touched his phone. Whether it was from last night or this morning, the sensation of holding his phone, which he carried everywhere, felt like it had been a very long time, perhaps because there had been no messages. Chahyun raised his phone to check the accumulated messages, expecting inquiries about the well-being of friends and family, colleagues’ life updates, and intrusive messages from a rude media outlet that managed to get the direct contact number of a player. Among them, there was one noticeable message.

▶ [Player Yoon Chahyun. I’m glad I could help. I’m busy now because of the deadline XD. How about returning the handkerchief during a meal this weekend? I won’t charge for the interview 🙂 — I.P]

It was a reply to the message he sent to Ilya yesterday evening. The use of emoticons like XD and 🙂 by an actual person… In Chahyun’s inbox, filled with the rough swear words and consonants of the typical sports players, it was an unusual message. Whether it suited his inbox or not, it caught his eye, maybe because of that.

The message arrived this morning when Chahyun was in the middle of training at the gym. Judging by the time gap between the sender and receiver, the claim of being busy seemed true.

The weekend was two days away. Despite the important schedule looming, it seemed acceptable to have dinner after training. Where should I go? Should I buy the meal? Where should I go… Lost in thought, Chahyun raised his heavy arm to tap the screen.

▷ [Alright. Where should we meet?]


Yoon Chahyun stepped into the agreed meeting place. The restaurant, with its subtle orange lighting, created a comfortable atmosphere. It was a Chinese restaurant that had become trendy among the members of Winchester FC recently. Not only was it easily accessible, but it was also known for its delicious food. Although some players had been there before, there wasn’t a single player who had only been there once.

Yesterday, three hours had passed since Chahyun’s message asking what Ilya wanted to eat, and he received a response. Even in the exaggerated world of dramas and movies, the scenes of reporters taking nutritional supplements and working overnight on their articles seemed accurate. Nevertheless, Ilya’s enthusiastic reply, [I want to try the restaurant that players often go to :D], revealed his passion for his profession to some extent.

As it was still early in the evening, the inside of the restaurant wasn’t too crowded. Thanks to that, it was relatively easy to spot the silhouette of the person sitting with his back turned at a table inside.

“Mr. Park, hello.”

“Player Yoon Chahyun! You came early. Please sit down quickly.”

Chahyun casually took a seat across from Ilya. Observing Chahyun’s casual attire – a white t-shirt, jeans, and a black baseball cap – Ilya chuckled.

“It feels different from when you’re wearing a suit.”

Saying so, Ilya’s demeanor wasn’t much different from the last interview day. He still had the same atmosphere, resembling a young eccentric professor, with his black horn-rimmed glasses and white shirt. His impression seemed more inclined towards intellectual pursuits than sports. Well, just like grumpy and silent grandpas who would rush to a local pub for beer when the league games were on, one couldn’t judge someone’s enthusiasm for sports solely by appearance.

“Have you ordered the meal?”

“Um… no, I wasn’t sure what to get. I waited until Mr. Yoon Chahyun arrived. Do you have any recommended dishes?”

“The creamy shrimp here is delicious. It’s trending among the players these days.”

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