.

Ban Yeo Ryung lived up to her reputation as the female protagonist. She was a person who did not ignore others who needed help. That was what I truly liked about her, but this was a different thing. I shook my head and looked at Yi Ruda again.

I said, “Even if we heard your reasons, we won’t be able to help you out, and we don’t have anything to do with it as well.”

“That’s true.”

Yi Ruda, who gave that short response, exhibited a strange look on her face under the bright headlight. It looked as though she had hundreds of personas she kept within her head, but she couldn’t pull out the appropriate one for this moment. Her face would reveal the reason why everything would make her look so awkward right away.

While I looked at Yi Ruda, who was having an unfamiliar expression that was neither cheerful nor horrifying, I slowly detached my lip.

“Then there’s no need for us to listen. If we do, it will just make us concerned and feel awkward. You would feel the same too since you’re the one who would have to explain your side of the story.”

“…”

Yi Ruda, who had her eyes on me, showed a cold-hearted expression to me for the first time. I heard Ban Yeo Ryung calling me from the side with a nervous voice; however, I tried to ignore her call.

Ban Yeo Ryung already knew that the way I spoke right now was way off from how I would usually speak to other people. I was neither the kind of person who would attack other’s logic with a sharp tone nor did I have the ability or the guts to make others feel upset.

However, I tried to turn back adamantly. Without even saying, ‘see you tomorrow’, I continued my words.

“Be safe.”

It was an addition to our farewell thinking of the possibility of Yi Ruda getting attacked again by the men in black. She made no response.

Yi Ruda took a different direction to her way compared to both Yeo Ryung and I. While we walked toward the subway, Ban Yeo Ryung had a confused look on her for the whole time.

She then asked, “Donnie, why were you acting like that?”

“Oh.”

“He didn’t look like a bad person. He even tried to protect us, and…”

“Ruda was the one those men in black were chasing, to begin with. Not us.”

I said with a sharp tone to articulate the uncomfortable feelings I had in mind. Ban Yeo Ryung, however, still looked unsatisfied with my response. Not that she did not understand my behavior, but she felt strange about how I was acting since my behavior earlier differed from how I would usually handle things.

Like Ban Yeo Ryung, when I saw people who needed help, even if I was not actively engaged in their situation for me to resolve their problems, I would at least try as much as I could to support them. I heaved a long sigh while touching my fingertips.

The subway arrived. Ban Yeo Ryung’s hair waved through the wind. She then spoke with a hesitant tone.

“It wasn’t you… the way you talked.”

“…”

The door opened. I walked in with no words. There weren’t many people inside and there were numerous empty seats.

Until we sat alongside each other, nothing went between Ban Yeo Ryung and I. I just stared at Ban Yeo Ryung’s beautiful profile while her red lips closed tightly. Her black hair was scattered around her red coat. Soon, the silence weighing on our shoulders felt painful.

We rarely minded the silence hanging around us. Though there was a gap between our memories, the relationship we had for the last 3 years was firm and deep. We did not need an ongoing conversation to feel comfortable in the company of one another. Ban Yeo Ryung and I could happily hang out, remaining silent with a cup of coffee for hours. The silence between us right now was, however, a painful one.

It might be because the stillness we were sharing was similar to the days we had before when I showed Ban Yeo Ryung a completely different side of me from the girl she once knew in order to escape her clutches.

Ban Yeo Ryung was still so sensitive about the changes in my mood. Normally, she would try to say something but right now she said nothing at all.

* * *

My mind was still uncomfortable at home. I buried my head into the pillow to get some sleep, but every time I close my eyes, I would see Yi Ruda’s troubled face.

“Even if we heard your reasons, we won’t be able to help you out, and we don’t have anything to do with it as well. Then there’s no need for us to listen. If we do, it will just make us concerned and feel awkward. You would feel the same too since you’re the one who would have to explain your side of the story.”

The face she had when I drew a clear line between us looked bitter or was she expressing how offended she was with her expressions?

No one in this world could live without getting hurt. I went through many times feeling hurt and I would have offended many despite myself.

However, it was my first time to state clearly how much I wanted to stay out of someone’s way on purpose.

It was respectful that Yi Ruda was being so cheerful even though those men in black were chasing her. I would never think that that kind of situation could stand as a reason to exclude someone firmly.

But… I murmured clenching my fist.

“But… I can no longer behave as planned in the scenario.”

The world inside a web novel where Ban Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings were the protagonists… My struggle to escape them over the last 3 years had been for nothing.

They were already inside my heart before I knew of it. In fact, they became everything to me in this world. I couldn’t imagine a life without them and just thinking of a world where they wouldn’t exist left a painful pang in my chest.

If this was a play that would someday end, and everything would soon disappear, having these people as the main character was enough. I did not want to welcome other people in this narrow stage with us.

Of course, for the writer, this stage would not be small at all. There was no limit in a fictional world.

Depending on the writer’s preference, hundreds and thousands of characters might appear. It was my mind that was small and narrow.

While staring at the ceiling with my arms while cuddling the pillow for quite some time, things got rather complicated rather than having them organized well in my head. The thoughts I had in the past and in the present entangled at a slow pace.

Wasn’t it a little weird? When I was a freshman in middle school, the time I fell into this world, I could have made any excuses to transfer to another school in my neighborhood. I could easily tell my parents that I was getting bullied or something like that.

Although Ban Yeo Ryung, who was in the same school and class as me, would have said it was not true, what could she do if I told her that people were bullying me undetected? However, that did not happen.

I was too young at that time. I was too young that I never deeply contemplated what it meant to become close friends with the characters inside the novel.

I once had a will to set a distance from them; however, as I got closer to them, that would slowly fade out. It was all because they were so cool.

The closer we became, the more I found it unbelievable for such gorgeous people to exist in the real world. Moreover, it was inconceivable to think they would hold my hand and spend some time with me if they were to exist in the real world.

I was too young; therefore, I was too foolish to understand. The kindness they offered to me was planned in order to appease the plot of the novel which was something I never put into consideration before.

I heaved a sigh while hugging my pillow. My breath scattered away through the chill air of the night.

The stage I had in my head was small and narrow. When there came a day where all these people would force me out of their space as if they broke out of the spell, it should not surprise me. Therefore, I was only preparing myself for it.

However, it was tough for me to endure having my three friends turn into a group of four and then five, but now, Yi Ruda was trying to intervene that balance. I was sure it would be too intolerable for me.

Suddenly, I felt so constrained that I stretched out my hand to pick up the phone on the side table. When I opened my phone, I saw that I had received two messages. One was from Yeo Dan oppa.

Sent by: Handsomest Yeo Dan oppa

“Back home safe”

He rarely used emojis or punctuation marks in his texts, so I was not sure whether he was asking me, or if he was talking about himself.

I was deeply in thought, frowning my brows and concluded that he would never report his safety to me whatsoever. Having that in mind, I replied to him.

To: Handsomest Yeo Dan oppa

“Of course ☺ Goodnight, oppa”

When I glimpsed at the clock after sending the message, it was already past midnight. God damn, I feel like I’m having insomnia. I pressed my crease firmly and checked the following text. It was from Yeo Ryung.

Sent by: Ban Yeo Ryung

“Why did you talk like that?”

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