The car was empty. After a man in his fifties, who was lying on the elderly seats at the end, got off, only Maru and Bangjoo were left in the car.
“It’s like we have the whole train to ourselves.”
Bangjoo looked around before lying down on the floor and took a photo of himself. Maru chuckled when he saw that.
“When else would I get to do something like this? The train is so quiet.”
“Give it to me. I’ll take a good photo of you.”
Maru took a photo of Bangjoo, who got into a proper pose, from the other end of the car. At his age, events like this would become memorable moments. Bangjoo smiled in satisfaction after looking at the photo.
“Are you going to upload it to your cy?”
“I don’t do that.”
“That’s unexpected. I thought kids these days all did it.”
“I don’t really want to tell others what I’m doing. It’s fine as long as the ones that need to know, know about it.”
Maru nodded once. For a brief moment, Bangjoo had a mature smile on his face. Perhaps it was natural to think about the world differently from those of his age since his sister was a top star.
“Didn’t you feel angry back there? If it was up to me, I don’t think I could’ve done that. I mean, you were hit. Quite strongly at that.”
“You get upset about all sorts of things.”
“Eh? You’re not upset about it?”
“If it’s a matter of being angry or not, then yes, I do feel angry. I’m not a pervert, so there’s no way I’d feel pleased when I get hit. But there’s also nothing to gain by becoming angry.”
“Nothing to gain?”
“No matter how crappy someone’s personality is, you should really hold back if that someone’s higher than you. Going against him like what you did back there is not that good.”
“I… don’t think I can do that.”
“Well, I guess it’s definitely hard for you if you have the same traits as your sister. Your sister is a ‘right’ person after all.”
“That’s not all. She’s also amazing. Normally, people can’t do that. If I was in that situation, at least, I wouldn’t be able to do it. People’s gazes, right? Those things definitely don’t have any physical power. No matter how many death glares I give you, you won’t die after all. But for some weird reason, when those powerless gazes combine, they suddenly possess the power to bury a person out of existence without breaking a sweat. Your sister, she fought against the media, didn’t she? Moreover, she also fought against the people that insulted her. She still might be at odds with people who ask bad things of her, you know? Not anyone can just do that.”
“...I’m not sure about her being right, but I agree that she’s amazing.”
“People like you and your sister will end up fighting. You don’t care about the opponent’s weight class. You will enter the ring based on absolute values such as whether something is right or wrong. Those people don’t worry about getting hit. They’re solely focused on solving the injustice in front of their eyes. They are great people worth admiring, and they’re people that should be cheered for. But if I was asked if I want to be like that, I would shake my head.”
Maru looked at Bangjoo with a smile. Bangjoo scratched his head with an awkward smile. He seemed to have understood a little of what he said.
“You know. You’re like… an a.d.u.l.t.”
“An a.d.u.l.t? I’m just a man with a lot of fears. In fact, it’s you who’s more like an a.d.u.l.t since you’ve been living alone since middle school. Wasn’t it hard?”
“It wasn’t that hard when I thought of it as just doing some more bothersome things. Oh, it was a little hard when I had to lie down in bed due to sickness during the winter.”
“There’s nothing harder than being by yourself when you’re sick. But it should be better now that your sister comes home frequently, right?”
“She’s coming home too frequently. I don’t think she has any plans on getting married. She never brought home a boyfr….”
Bangjoo stopped talking and made a bitter smile. Maru didn’t say anything and just looked out the window on the other side. The train was just exiting a tunnel.
“Do you think it’s better to just hold it in when something like that happens?”
“If you can, it’ll be better. In the perspective of good or bad rather than right or wrong, I mean. However, there are times when you must get angry.”
“And when is that?”
“That’s when someone’s trying to take something away from you. That’s when you get angry. You have to flip the table and cause a huge ruckus. Even if you usually submit to one person, you need to get angry when that person wants to take something away from you. In that context, the scariest people in the world are those that always seem to suck up to others.”
“Because no one can be sure of the size of that person’s anger if he or she does erupt. Scammers don’t look like scammers, right? Scary people don’t look scary. They are polite and usually very generous. They look like they’re making losses from what they do. But the more a person acts like that, the better you should act towards them. You never know what such a person is thinking. Of course, there are also people like Daemyung who are gentle down to their bones.”
“Daemyung-seonbae-nim is really kind.”
“He’s worryingly so.”
“Hm, then I guess you’re a dangerous person in a sense.”
“Yes. You held back last time.”
“I just told you, didn't I? I’m just a man with a lot of fears.”
“Is that how it is?”
“That’s how it is, Mr. Ahn Bangjoo.”
Maru straightened his back as he tapped Bangjoo on the cheek with the back of his hand.
* * *
“You should go back first.”
“What about you, hyung-nim?”
“Damn kid, just go when I tell you to. You’re terribly disobedient.”
Lee Hyuk slapped the manager on the back of his head before getting off. Only after seeing the van disappear into the distance did he calm down and start walking. He walked past the hotel lobby and grabbed an elevator. He got off the elevator while muttering the room number and checked the number on each door as he walked.
“Is this the place?”
After gulping several times in order to ease his throat, he took out his phone and called someone. After checking that the signal repeated itself three times, he quickly hung up. He had to be as careful as possible.
Soon, the door opened. The one that opened the door was a cute girl with a bob cut. She seemed to be just past 20. Lee Hyuk put on an awkward smile at the girl who flinched after seeing his face.
“There are people inside, right?”
“Is this your first time here?”
“I can tell that you’re a trainee, but let’s not pretend we know each other. You should know that this is a masquerade without the masks. I’ll also pretend that I never saw you when I come across you outside, so don’t worry about that.”
The girl nodded. She was wearing a black silk one piece dress, which revealed her cleavage every time she moved. It didn’t look like she was wearing any u.n.d.e.r.w.e.a.r either.
Normally, he would have pleased his eyes to the utmost, but right now, he didn’t have the leisure to do that. The calm music that flowed out made him tenser. This was a party room that required millions if not tens of millions of won to rent per day. He didn’t have the leisure to appreciate any of the pop art on either side of the corridor as he walked in. While he was walking, he heard a woman’s m.o.a.n from his left, but he ignored it. He didn’t have the courage to open the door and look inside.
The first thing he saw when he went in was the large glass window which allowed him to see the entirety of Seoul, and the second thing he saw was the people who were appreciating some drinks lightly. The man that was giggling with the ladies on a white sofa looked at him. Lee Hyuk tried his best to ignore that gaze and walked around in order to find the person that called him here.
“Oh, my. If it isn’t Lee Hyuk.”
One of the girls he met eyes with approached him with a smile. Lee Hyuk did not know who this girl was. However, just from the fact that she acted so boldly here, he knew that he had to be polite with her. If it was before he screwed up his business, that is, four years ago, he would’ve held his head up in pride, but right now, he had to be an obedient dog.
He lowered his head at the girl who touched him like a toy before walking further inside like he was running away. Just as he was looking around like a foreigner in a new place,
A voice could be heard inside a room with a bed in it. Lee Hyuk put on a smile and walked towards that place. The woman sitting on the bed puffed on a cigarette before putting the cigarette on an ashtray.
“One of the CEOs of my business partners enjoys appreciating the smell of cigarettes like this, and well, it is quite decent. It’s horrible when you do it with domestic cigarettes, but the imported ones have a good smell. Oh, please sit. I guess I was talking too much by myself when there’s a guest around.”
Lee Hyuk obediently sat on a chair when he heard the woman’s words. His mouth felt very dry. The woman was in her late twenties. She was younger than him, but around ‘here’, age was merely a number that did not have any significance.
“Come here, have a drink.”
“Oppa. You’re a lot older than me so don’t use polite speech towards me. Let’s drop the honorifics, alright? I think it’s been four years since we met.”
“This is more comfortable for me.”
“Haha, there you go again, oppa.”
Lee Hyuk pretended not to have heard her say ‘you’re pretty good’ right after that. He put down the glass after drinking it.
“How was the shoot?”
“Good, thanks to you.”
“How is it thanks to me? It’s all because of your efforts. Come and sit over here.”
The woman spoke as she shifted her c.h.e.s.t length long hair to one side with her hand. Lee Hyuk sat obediently in front of her.
“Oppa, you really become more my style every day. This is really a problem. I’ve never been engrossed with a man for such a long time before.”
Lee Hyuk clenched his teeth when he felt the hand that stroked his neck.
“Looks like you’re still working out?”
“Oh my. Look at that sturdy c.h.e.s.t. Men are really attractive when they’re past thirty. Oppa, I really like you because I don’t get fed up with you. You’re so good at managing yourself.”
“Because I’m an actor after all.”
“Aha~n. Actor, you were an actor, that’s right. I almost mistook you for a dog I raised. Haha, then I’m a woman who gets horny for a dog, huh? How l.e.w.d.”
Lee Hyuk flinched when a hand reached inside his pants, but he relaxed after seeing the woman’s gaze becoming sharp.
“I am really tired these days. I mean, work keeps screwing up. So, I want to relieve some stress this time. Oh, before that, though. There’s something I need to do. Let’s give the kind oppa a present for now.”
The girl handed him a box. When he opened the box, there was a watch inside.
“It’s a limited edition, apparently. It costs around 80 mil. Put it on.”
He smiled even though he felt insulted as well. He put the watch on and showed it to the girl. The girl smiled back at him.
“It suits you. You should wear it from now on.”
“It’s almost time too.”
At that moment, a boy opened the door and entered.
“Hey, what are you going to do if this noona was doing something strange?”
“At that time, I’ll just quietly close the door and leave.”
“Geez, how bold of you.”
Lee Hyuk nodded towards that boy.
“We meet again, Lee Hyuk-seonbae-nim.”
Lee Hyuk licked his lips as he spoke.
“Mr. Kang Giwoo.”
 Referring to Cyworld, a popular social network service that is no longer in service today.